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11 of the best gravel events to ride in 2017

Gravel riding is the cycling surface of the moment... and here are 11 of the best must-ride gravel grinders

Gravel is the cycling surface of the moment. There’s no getting away from the stuff. Everywhere you turn it seems like another gravel-based challenge is springing up. In a pub nearby there’s probably someone hatching a plan to start one on your local bridleway or canal path as we speak.

It seems as though something has happened in the last couple of years and now roads with buttery smooth tarmac just aren’t enough anymore. Collectively as cyclists we wanted a new challenge (apparently) and we decided to seek it out on the path less travelled.

Gravel riding is the discipline of the moment (pic: Kinesis-UK)

Never ones to shy away from a trend, we went in search of the best gravel events in the UK – as well as a couple from further afield.

Dirty Reiver

The Dirty Reiver is an absolute brute of a ride taking place in the wild back country of Northumberland across 200km of rugged off-road tracks.

The Dirty Reiver offers brutal riding, offset by stunning landscapes (pic: Dirty Reiver)

Much of the route uses forest access trails, providing stunning views of the landscapes around the English and Scottish Borders.

Inspired by the US gravel grinder format, both the full and shortened versions of the route carry with them strictly enforced cut-off times.

Key details

When: 22 April 2017
Where: Kielder Castle, Northumberland
Route(s): 200km, 130km
Entry fee: £45
Website: Dirty Reiver

The Distance

Part bike-packing adventure and part gravel race, the Distance from UK bike brand Kinesis combines pretty much everything that’s hip in cycling in 2017.

The ride is semi-supported and will comprise two days of riding. One very clever thing about the format is there are a series of checkpoints, with routes of varying lengths between them.

The Distance blends bike-packing adventure with gravel racing (Pic: Kinesis UK)

You won’t know how you’re getting from point 1 to point 2 until you arrive at point 1. Your next chunk of route is then assigned to you based on how long it took to get this far.

What this means is that ultimately, the faster you are, the further you end up riding – because you’ll get given the longer route from each new checkpoint to the next. And did we mention the ultimate destination is also a mystery? Fun, no?

Key details

When: 10 & 11 June 2017
Where: Galloway, Scotland
Route(s): Between 200km and 90km, depending how fast you are
Entry fee: £60 (including overnight camping spot, hot food and showers)
Website: The Distance

Dorset Gravel Dash

Run by a bike shop in Swanage, the Dorset Gravel Dash is marketed with with a certain mount of quirk – which we absolutely love. We were particularly intrigued by this line describing the route, “Terrain is mixed: dirt, mud, gravel, some road sections (sorry), chalk, tech, grass…. and if the tide is right… nudist beach”

The route is 160km or 100 miles, from one side of Dorset to the other then back, with the start/finish conveniently located in a public house – as with all good bike rides. Participants can choose to ride 50 miles on two days with a night of camping in the middle, or knock off the whole distance in a oner.

Key details

When: 29 & 30 April 2017
Where: Swanage, Dorset
Route(s): 160km, 80km/80km
Entry fee: £64.99 (two days) / £39.99 (one day)
Website: Dorset Gravel Dash

Grinduro

A single loop of the Isle of Arran in Scotland, combining pavement, gravel and packed dirt – Grinduro is a hybrid of gravel racing and MTB-style enduro. The race is conducted over four timed sections within the loop, which – taken together – should benefit a well-rounded rider rather than a particular breed of mountain goat or flatland smasher.

Grinduro is a hybrid of gravel racing and MTB-style enduro pic – S.Needham

Organisers are keen to stress that the Grinduro is a fun-focused affair, and there’s plenty to occupy riders when they aren’t actually on their bikes. Indeed, food and entertainment are all wrapped up in the overall entry price for the event.

Key details

When: 15 July 2017
Where: Lamlash, Isle of Arran
Route(s): 96km
Entry fee: £150 (including food and camping)
Website: Grinduro

Yorkshire True Grit

Mixing public bridleways and private tracks, the Yorkshire True Grit ride promises an unparalleled cycling experience in the North York Moors.

The Yorkshire True Grit ride promises an unparalleled cycling experience in the North York Moors (pic: Yorkshire True Grit)

The weekend’s riding is split over a weekend, with the two longer distances open on the Saturday, and the shorter 32km course available only on the Sunday.

And for those who want to make things especially difficult for themselves, there are special single-speed categories in all three distances.

Key details

When: 24 & 25 June 2017
Where: High Paradise Farm, Yorkshire
Route(s): 96km, 64km, 32km
Entry fee: £38
Website: Yorkshire True Grit

Evans Cycles Thetford Sportive Cross

At the other end of the cost spectrum from Grinduro, this Evans Cycles event offers a great way of trying out gravel riding, without committing massively to a whole new bike or epic 100-mile parcours.

We reckon the 68km, which promises a mix of road and off-road, could be just the thing to try out gravel adventuring before committing full gas – just stick some CX tyres on your roadie and see what you can do!

Key details

When: 26 November 2017
Where: High Lodge, Suffolk
Route(s): 85km, 68km
Entry fee: £22
Website: Evans Cycles Thetford Sportive Cross

CW Century: The South Downs Way

Just one in a series of off-road events run by cxsportive.com, we’ve selected the CX Century because of the iconic route it takes along the South Downs Way.

The CW Century offers challenging climbs and tough technical section (pic: CW Century)

Long held up as a rite of passage among MTBers, the challenging climbs and tough technical sections make this route a brilliant answer to the US gravel scene.

Key details

When: 8 July, 2017
Where: Winchester, Hampshire
Route(s): 160km, 100km
Entry fee: £49, £39
Website: CW Century: The South Downs Way

Eroica Britannia

A little bit of a curveball this one, in that you’re not supposed to do it on a bike that’s designed for gravel.

The Eroica event series is all about experiencing a little of what our cycling forbears went through, with vintage bikes, period clothing and lots of rugged gravel tracks.

Eroica Britannia offers a choice of three sportive routes in the Peak District on the final day of the three-day festival (pic: L’Eroica)

Initially founded in Italy and run along the famous strade bianche, the stable has since expanded to include events in Spain, Japan, the US and UK.

– Five reasons to head toEroica Britannia this summer –

Here, a lot of the ride takes place on old railway routes, while in Rioja, Spain it’s stone-strewn winery roads.

Key details

When: 16-18 June 2017
Where: Friden Grange, Derbyshire
Route(s): 160km, 88km, 40km
Entry fee: £65 / £45 (concessions)
Website: Eroica Britannia

And a couple outside the UK…

As well as the various Eroicas, there are a bunch of other gravel-based events for your bone-jangling entertainment and enjoyment.

 

Jereboam Challenge

With a full distance of 300km, the Jereboam Challenge in Italy’s Lombardia region is not one for the fainthearted. With 5,000m of climbing it ranks as possibly the most epic of all those included in this list. As the event’s own website puts it “We know there won’t be too many finishers”. Encouraging.

Key details

When: 20 & 21 May 2017
Where: Franciacorta, Lombardia
Route(s): 300km, 150km, 75km
Entry fee: €45 (£38)
Website: Jereboam Challenge

 

La Resistance

Ride the high altitude gravel roads around the truly stunning Lake Annecy in a ride created to pay homage to the brave members of the French Resistance who fought German occupation during the second world war.

La Resistance honours the men and women of La Resistance, and passes the Monument on the Plateau de Glieres (pic: La Resistance)

Key details

When: 16 September 2017
Where: Lake Annecy, France
Route(s): 130km, 90km
Entry fee: €70 (£60)
Website: La Resistance

Dirty Kanza

The self-styled ‘world’s premier gravel grinder’, the Dirty Kanza has been running for over a decade. You could say it’s the venerable old man of the gravel scene, making British and European equivalents look like young pups by comparison. The Kanza is so established now there’s a whole weekend’s-worth of activities around the riding itself – including something called a ‘gravel expo’.

Key details

When: 3 June 2017
Where: Emporia, Kansas
Route(s): 320km, 160km, 80km, 40km
Entry fee: €45 (£38)
Website: Dirty Kanza

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