Here is a snippet of Sam Jones’s article, at Cycling UK, from his experience of riding the Dorset Gravel Dash bike ride in 2018. For the whole article follow the link.
This 100-mile organised off-road ride through West Country hills, with camping and feasting took place at 9am on a May morning, the beer garden of the Red Lion in Swanage was packed with a 100 or so bikepackers, and event organiser Charlie the Bikemonger was quoting William Shatner. “Live life… live life like you’re gonna die, ’cos you’re gonna,” he boomed. “I hate to be the bearer of bad news… but you’re gonna die.”
There was a cheer from the cyclists. Charlie’s words were part eulogy for veteran Gravel Dasher Oli Kemp, who had died recently in a car crash, and part encouragement for all of us to make the most of the next two days. The big group of strangers was indeed already bonding.
So began the Surly Dorset Gravel Dash, the most hospitable and enjoyable organised ride I’ve been on – not to mention one of the most challenging.
The 2018 edition was the fifth Dorset Gravel Dash. The brainchild of bike shop owner Charlie Hobbs, the aforementioned Bikemonger, it’s an off-road ride of just under 100 miles with 6,876ft of climbing. While you’ll need to be fit and determined to conquer every climb in Hardy Country, the emphasis is not on how hard you cycle but on how much fun you have. It’s not a race. Charlie describes it as “scouting for adults”.
The route encourages you to take your time and appreciate the differing landscapes you encounter, from Corfe Castle near the start, to the Jurassic Coast in the south, to the Iron Age hill forts in the north. Despite growing up in Dorset, and spending much of my time walking its trails, I was surprised to discover new gems as well as pleased to return to old favourites.
That’s down to the hard work of Charlie and his team, who have carefully plotted a route using existing rights of way and quiet roads, and then negotiated access with landowners where necessary. It’s clear they know the area well, and there’s a visible effort to give back to the local community.
Local suppliers are used and efforts to minimise conflict with locals and landowners are high – not just in the route directions but in the rider instructions. Ten miles from the finish, a group of us encountered a dog walker who held the gate open for us all to pass through. Yes, he knew about Charlie and the Dorset Gravel Dash, he said. If only all mass participation events could inspire similar local sentiment!
Read more at The Dorset Gravel Dash