Britain’s first gravel bikepacking event is back for 2023 with a new documentary
Charlie Hobbs and Markus Stitz, the organisers of the Dorset and Dunoon Dirt Dashes, have announced event dates for 2023 and opened entries. The Dirt Dashes come in two variations: The Dirt Dash 50/50 is a 2-day event, with 50 miles of cycling per day and a night camping under the stars. The Dirt Dash 100 is a challenging 1-day event, with 100 miles of cycling in a single day. The Dorset Dirt Dash 50/50 and 100, both were sold out this year, will return on 27/28 May 2023. The Dunoon Dirt Dash 50/50 will return on 23/24 September, with a new Dunoon Dirt Dash 100 event on 24 September for faster riders, who want to tackle the route in one day. Entries for the 50/50 events are priced at £95, with a £5 discount for Cycling UK members. Entries for the 100 events are priced at £50, with a £2.50 discount for Cycling UK members. Places are limited and available now at www.entrycentral.com/dirtdash.
The organisers have also released a short documentary, which shines a light on small grassroots events like the Dirt Dashes, supported by Surly Bikes. Filmed at the 2021 and 2022 Dunoon Dirt Dash in Scotland and the 2022 Dorset Dirt Dash in England, the 8-minute film captures the spirit of the event, one of the first gravel events to hit Britain in 2013. Charlie Hobbs, who pioneered gravel riding when he was running his bike shop in Swanage on the Isle of Purbeck, comments: ‘Gravel cycling is just riding your bike in the countryside. You don’t actually need to be on a gravel bike. The neighbourhood around Swanage is rolling hills, the trails are not technical, there’s no drop-offs for example, and so I started cycling around here over 30 years ago. Before disc brakes, before V brakes, when we had canti brakes, and no one had suspension forks at the time. And it was perfect for this over the hills and far away cycling. Mountain bikes are developed so much that they’re now so capable. Riding around here on a full suspension bike is actually … it’s okay, but you’re way over biked. You’re better off on a gravel bike.’
The Dorset Dirt Dash has grown from a ‘few people sitting around a fire’ in 2013 to an event that attracts around 350 people over the two events, while still keeping its grassroots character. In 2015 bikepacking.com awarded the event with ‘Best New Ride’, and since 2019 Charlie has successfully teamed up with Markus Stitz to establish a second event in Dunoon, which was held for the third time this year. Markus comments: ‘No doubt the last two years have been challenging for everyone running events. But seeing people coming back to the Dirt Dashes and really enjoying both the Dorset and Dunoon events reminded me that grassroots events are hugely important. Both of us do loads of other stuff besides running our events. I have recently published a book about gravel cycling in Britain. Researching the book really showed me how colourful and exciting the gravel and adventure bike scene here in Britain is. There are people on all sorts of bikes, simply having fun and enjoying what they do. This year we had someone riding both events on a cargo bike, how amazing is that? In Dunoon Craig, who was riding the Surly Big Dummy, needed a few people to lift his (rather heavy) bike over a stile, but there were people to help him. It looked like a vintage picture from a Rough Stuff Fellowship book. And that’s the other thing about the Dirt Dashes, and about gravel in general. The camaraderie is why people ride those bikes, and also why they enter our events, and that is fabulous to see.’
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