Gary’s Journey to the Dirty Reiver

Drop bars are not just available on road bikes and reserved for skinny fellas, shaved to within an inch of their lives and perched on tiny little carbon feather-weight bikes.

They are for big hairy blokes (and ladies) too…

I met Gary a number of years ago and ride with him regularly on mountain bike rides and I now blame him for me probably entering this next year!

Over to you Gary…

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My first year of riding a drop handled bike since I was a kid, got to say I was really enjoying it, I’d been riding mountain bikes for years and I was finding that the riding was getting more and more extreme, although I enjoy the exhilaration of flying flat out down the side of a mountain I was missing the big day out countryside adventure, and I’d had a couple of near misses where the outcome could have been so different.

Couldn’t see myself as a flat-out roadie so after a couple of Chats with Jim (Independent Bike Works) I purchased the Lapierre Cross Hill 500 Gravel Bike, perfect compromise.

One of the reasons for getting this bike was having the ability to ride from my door, 90% of the time I was having to put my mountain bike in my van drive somewhere, get covered in the you know what come back home spend an age cleaning the bike only to repeat a few days later, it was wearing thin.

Best reason for myself for using a local bike shop is that you get immersed in a community of like minded people, wiggle hasn’t called me on a Monday and asked me if I fancied a ride at the weekend, Soon I got into riding regularly on a Thursday night with a few mates, apart from it being winter I was thoroughly enjoying it, the mileage and the speed started to creep up, did my first hundred miler in April, come close to having a snooze while riding on the closing stages of that one, signed on to my first road sportive in May, Cogfest great friendly event starting in Minchinhampton.

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One of the bike shop conversations with Jim suggested that we ride to Stonehenge through the night to get to the stones in time for sunrise, what could go wrong, as it turned out nothing, riding across the Salisbury plane and arriving at Stonehenge at the crack of dawn with a bunch of mates was quite magical, although 115 miles of exercise put me off my breakfast when we got back (unbelievable).

Next big event was the Chavenage sportive, had a great idea to ride too this event and ride back when it was all done, after all the event was only 80 miles, there was some big ol hills early on in this ride which finished my legs off (that’s my excuse anyway) even a well filled ciabatta couldn’t bring my energy levels back.

More training needed, few guys I know from the mountain biking also ride road bikes with the Tetbury Velos, so I asked to join them, bit daunting this as they are some strong riders, no need to worry, great friendly bunch who ride some great routes through the Cotswolds and they stop for cake, what’s not to like.

Another 100 + ride with Jim into Oxfordshire and back, these 100 mile rides are great, good day out, seeing some great countryside which takes your mind off the fact that you are getting some great exercise.

On our Thursday night rides we did take on a couple of the gravel tracks around the lakes at South Cerney, which was great fun and got us thinking lets ride more gravel, so an event called the Gold Rush was entered, partial road and partial gravel tracks, starting from Salisbury racecourse and heading over to Shaftsbury, which has a delightful and famous hill called Gold Hill, that got me walking that one and then headed back towards Salisbury on a brilliant fast gravel road, the bug was caught.

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What could be the next challenge, quick look on the internet and there it was, The Dirty Reiver, a 200km gravel ride in the Northumberland country side, breaking into Scotland and back, got at least 6 months to train for it, plenty of time. Anyway, winter came, the weather was terrible and a 100 other excuses why I wasn’t getting out on the bike to train for this event.

April the 21st was getting closer and closer, but no worries, I’d ridden over 100 miles before, it’ll be fine. The weekend of the Dirty Reiver was with us, Jim, Dave and myself headed up North, checked into the B & B then went down to the pub to do some carb loading, woke up the next morning at stupid o’clock so that we could get to the start line for 7.00am. The weather was great, a little cold but it was dry, perfect riding conditions. Off we went 800 + riders, this event was on some of the best gravel tracks I’ve ever been on, scenery was stunning, hills went on for what seemed like for ever, decents were fast, riders were friendly, brilliant. One thing I underestimated was nutrition, 89 miles in I just run out of energy, talked nicely to the guys at the feed station and got a lift back, perfect. I will be back to this event to finish the business.

It’s been a great year, the Crosshill 500 has been an amazing bike, it’s took everything I’ve chucked at it (which is a lot) I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the riding, getting fitter and it has improved the enjoyment on the mountain bike because I’m fitter.

Roll on this year and all its events, looking forward to the White Roads Classic.

Go follow Gary on Instagram

Visit his local bike shop – Independent Bikes

And maybe enter the Dirty Reiver for next year




Sparks will fly

If you are a follower of my blog, facebook or instagram you will know I like to take photos, and my Gopro usually accompanies me on my trips too. Well it was only a matter of time before I got a flying camera wasn’t it!

I’m not made of money so the entry level Spark from DJI has been on my watch list for a while and I finally saw a great deal and went for it.

I was also on my way to Snowdonia and the Elan Valley with my mate and his van for the weekend so it was an opportunity to good to miss.

Day 1 I spent most of the batteries figuring out what to do and didn’t get much footage. Day 2 I felt I got a lot more efficient and managed the day with juice to spare.

I wasn’t quite brave enough to fly it out over the reservoirs in the Elan Valley or let it get too far from me in the mountains as I hadn’t quite worked out the “homing” settings.

What do you think of the results of my first drone edit?

I want to mix it up with GoPro footage in the future and think I’m going to have to invest in some decent video editing software sooner or later…

A weekend in the Yorkshire Dales

I had planned on a 2 month fitness improvement plan. I had planned on getting out a lot more. But the weekend of riding in the Yorkshire Dales arrived just ahead of my fitness.

Its easy to blame the long damp, muddy winter – so I will.

I struggled. Enjoyed myself but struggled for the first time in a while, maybe working at home and having too many biscuits with each cup of tea was taking its toll, or I’d simply been a fair weather biker!

Anyway – it was a cracking weekend…  Thanks to Tom @ MTB Guiding for organising and for Stu @ Dales Bike Centre for guiding Saturday and Sunday.

I made a detour to one of my sort of bucket list locations before meeting the gang on Friday to Malham Cove. It had featured on the ITV programme about Great British walks and I still need to go back for a “walk”.

We met in Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Tom and Steph took us on a trip around Pen-y-Ghent, the smallest of the dales 3 peaks. I’m not sure what it means but its sounds Welsh and I think could mean either “head of winds” or  “hill on the border” – who knows.  It was a great circular route completely circumnavigating the peak and set us up for the weekend.

It rained a little, but mostly we had to navigate wet spongy ground in between grassy slopes. Stunning scenery. Why have I never been to the Dales before?

Friday and Saturday nights we stayed at the Dales Bike Centre in Fremington.  If you’ve done one of the Ard Rock Enduro’s you’ll be familiar with the location and the terrain.

We were in for a big weekend.

Saturday it rained. And then it rained some more. And a little bit more on top. The weather was miserable, but the riding was immense.  Yes we slipped around all over the place, yes the rocks were dangerous, yes we got cold and yes I took a BIG tumble which no one photographed (cameras and phones stayed out of the rain mostly).

But we had a great time!

Sunday the weather was more cooperative and the trails on the opposite side of the valley were also drier. We gained some height very quickly and continued to do so, which meant we could spend most the afternoon coming down hill.

We did have a few hike a bike spots and but were also treated some of the best trails of the day, some sweet single track and some of us even got down to  just our t shirts as the sun tried to join us.

3 biggish rides mean the body and bike took a battering over the 3 days.

The numbers:
Distance ridden – circa 90km
Height gained – circa 2500m
Tea drunk – 20 cups
Pints of Guinness – maybe 10
Food eaten – loads!
Cake devoured – not as much as I expected…

I need to get back to the Dales, oh wait I’m booked on to the Ard Rock Marathon in August!  Better start that training now!


A Sort of Newsletter


I thought I’d put a kind of update blog post out ahead of the weekend, covering a few different subjects of what I’m upto…


It certainly has been a long wet Winter and I have to admit I’ve done far less riding than I should have.  I have wimped out on a few bike park visits (they aren’t as much fun in the driving rain or mud) and my local trails have become unrideable at times. So I’ve done more miles on my cyclocross bikes than I thought I would. Keeping the legs spinning but away from the  mud as much as possible.

My DJ has not seen the light of day for about 6 months!  I had so many plans to visit so many pump tracks but it just didn’t happen. This weekend I must – especially if I am to justify buying new forks for it!

My full suspension bike has been kept safe and clean (see the wimping out above) and my trusty hardtail has bore the brunt of the winter mud and elements.

Come on spring / summer I need you now more than ever!


I am a little bit ashamed of my lack of adventure the last few months. Putting the bike in the car to drive for a few hours only to get just as muddy and cold and wet as I can from home hasn’t been very appealing. The lack of a roof rack on my company car has probably been a slight barrier to this too as it is certainly better to stick a muddy bike on the roof rather than in the car that I do not technically own. New car coming next week and I will be getting a rack for it (and the Summer is coming!) so things should change in that department.

I have a trip planned next week (before I get a rack unfortunately) but I am so looking forward to it. Expect photos and videos on my return of a weekend riding with Tom Hutton MTB Guiding and the Dales Bike Centre.

Talking of Guiding

Talking of guiding, I finally put my British Cycling Leadership Award into action and set up a “business venture” doing some local rides. MTB Guide Wiltshire has so far run 3 rides (Jan, Feb and March) and I’ve brought a few riders out from hibernation, had a couple travel more than an hour to ride with me from Hampshire, and helped a few new comers to the sport get an introduction.


Including a booking on my 4th ride this coming weekend, I have now had 4 return customers.  The photo for this blog post was taken last Sunday when a hardy group of 6 came out for a tough mudder of a ride, 2 were returning customers, and 3 traveled by car for more than an hour to ride with me!


Showing some locals that there’s plenty of good riding in our little corner of Wiltshire and earning a bit of cash to keep the bikes maintained is very fulfilling. I’m making new contacts and friends, while networking and being “paid” to ride my bike – that’s the dream, the Holy Grail isn’t it?

My first ride outside of Wiltshire comes up in May and so far around 20 people are taking an interest in being guided around the amazing landscape near Blaenavon and Big Pit.

Tickets are on sale for the Ponds, The Pit and The Punchbowl now, and until 1st May they are reduced from £20 to £15 per person.

You can follow my guiding activities on Facebook or Instagram.

And finally…

No, that’s just about it..  Oh and if you’ve a story to share or subject to rant about please get in touch, I am very happy and eager to let some other voices be heard on my little blog…



What’s in a mountain bikers car?

Whats in your car?

MBR Magazine stole my thunder this week with an article entitled Seven things mountain bikers always have in their car. I had a similar article prepared, I have thought about not posting it but then my list is different to their’s so I thought I would anyway.

So here goes with the TimFromWales guide to a mountain bikers car contents – well mine anyway… Continue reading “What’s in a mountain bikers car?”