Charlie The Bikemonger’s Dorset Gravel Dash

This was a rematch for myself and Sally, having done this a couple of years ago. If you want a truly bonkers day out, this is the one for you, and takes not taking itself seriously very seriously indeed.

Charlie Hobbs is well known on the off road circuit. Ex corporate bod, he called his boss to tell him he was sacking him, and set up Swanage based “Charlie the Bikemonger”, purveyor of weird stuff – fixies, Fat Bikes, drop bar mountain bikes, Surly’s, Salsa’s etc….. His “Gravel Dash” is a kind of antithesis to the mass participation Wiggle style sportives: loosely based on the long distance US “Gravel racing” scene, these are more long distance than technical; to quote the event bumff: “ Terrain is mixed: dirt, mud, gravel, some road sections (sorry), chalk, tech, grass.... and if the tide is right... nudist beach”. Basically what mountain biking was before suspension and stuff came along and it got all gnarr, and ideal on a CX type bike. There were 2 options – the one day 100 miler; or 2 days carrying kit with an overnight camp / piss up half way round.

So we duly gathered at the Red Lion in Swanage at 730am for non-materialising bacon sarnies, which meant brekkie was 2 bananas and a malt loaf. The briefing was as random as you get – rules were minimal (actually – I think there was only one – don’t be a d@ck); the number for “the broom wagon of eternal shame” was given out; and a weather forecast was provided – “we’ve checked the weather – there’s going to be some” – after 6 weeks of drought an all-day-monsoon-of-biblical-proportions was forecast. Charlie and co. seemed rather disgruntled that British cycling had somehow got involved which meant they’d had to do a risk assessment (it took bloody days……..) and at least make some attempt at marking out the route.


So on the dot of 8am-ish, and with a final exhortation for anyone fast to text before they finished so a finish line could be set up, we were off. Over the top of the Purbeck’s to Corfe Castle, Sally showing unusual restraint in not chasing a woman who came past, then along the Jurassic Coast before heading inland to somewhere in the middle of Dorset before heading back through Bere Regis, Wareham Forest, across Studland and over Ballard Down back to Swanage. The weather did come but not as badly as we feared, and navigation went reasonably okay, helped as we were generally with some other riders so could compare Garmin’s.

Back to a fairly quiet pub around 530 – the nearest we got to results was that about 30 were back, 20 had abandoned, and 70 odd were still out there somewhere. Beer and a burger for me; quick run for Sally – surely an injury waiting to happen??  - and a shower and snooze before heading back to the prize giving at about 8. This was possibly madder than anything else: prizes for best beard (apparently a woman won this last year by proudly displaying a particularly hirsute part of her anatomy); biggest belly; furthest ridden (a nutter had ridden down from London Saturday, camped in a field, ridden the event, and was riding back the next day) etc. etc. Then a loud cheer as a group rode in at about 830……. (apparently  the last group texted in beer orders form the top of White Cliff at 10pm).

Great laugh. There’s talk of a Devon one later in the year…………