The Distance is a brand new gravel riding event concept and will be held on the weekend of June 10/11th 2017 in the Dumfries and Galloway region of the UK in the Galloway Forest Park.
This new event has been created in partnership between Kinesis UK and Focal Events to put together yet another type of adventure touring weekend. Kinesis bring their experience and knowledge from their support of long distance riding with riders like Ed Shoote, Laura Scott and round the world record holder Mike Hall, as well as producing the genre predicting and widely praised Tripster ATR and the more tarmac based long-distance hauler GF_Ti Disc, they also sponsors of The Transcontinental Race. Focal Events are the team behind the popular Kielder 101 mountainbike race and the sell out Dirty Reiver 200km long gravel challenge. So between them that’s some dirt track palmares.
The Distance is another addition to the increasingly popular range of self-supported events, and like many others it will require riders to pedal a combination of on and off road routes. But unlike other events where the entire route is known beforehand riders are only notified of the next section of The Distance at each checkpoint, details of which will be supplied on a printed map, and GPX if required. Riders won't be told which of the up to three route options they’ll be following but the faster they go the further they'll have to ride, which means that total riding distances on the day will vary between 100km and 165km. Riders will need to complete a Brevet card along the route and will be encouraged to photograph key points of interest for further proof (if needed) that they have travelled their designated route.
As well as bike spares and clothing riders will be required to carry a sleeping bag and shelter (tent, tarp, bivi) but food will be provided at the overnight stop, so cooking equipment needs to be carried on the bike as well. The catering will provide riders with a hot meal and drinks on Saturday evening which are included in the cost of entry, and there’s the option for breakfast/lunch on Sunday which can be paid for as an extra. There will also be hot showers, bike spares for running repairs and a covered social area with bar and music. A faux-epic soft introduction to bike-packing if you will. An added bonus is that the area is a designated dark sky park; Galloway Forest Park has a minimal amount of light pollution making for rare inky black skies and the potential for some amazing star-gazing.
Sunday will see a casual return to the start on gentle, scenic minor roads, past beaches, cafes and a midday ice cream stop over a distance of about 40 miles. The Distance has been designed to be a relaxed, sociable experience that caters for a wide range of experience, fitness and abilities.
The format of The Distance is a new concept that builds on the trend in rack-less touring but with a unique twist to help it appeal to as wide a section of riders as possible. Andy Williamson of Focal Events, a seasoned bikepacker himself, explains that “the general concept for the event is a non-competitive adventurous challenge, within a sociable weekend of riding. The test of riders will come from trying to complete the full route, and the adventure from not knowing where you'll finish up. Several intermediate checkpoints will guide riders to longer or shorter legs by using time cut-offs, with the aim of all riders arriving at the overnight camp hopefully within an hour of each other. Some will ride 90+ miles, some 60, but all will arrive to hot food, a comfortable camp and even a Gin bar with an opportunity to relive the day with friends old and new. In short the faster you go the further you have to ride to the overnight”
Bruce Dalton, Kinesis brand manager adds “If ‘a challenge’ is one where the outcome is uncertain", then this is slightly different, because a relatively comfortable and sociable night is the certainty of The Distance. However, an adventure in getting to the end of the day is guaranteed as the route you’ll ride will vary with the pace you’re travelling at. The joy of gravel riding challenges like The Distance means that thanks to bigger tyres and increased carrying capacity coupled with the developments of sleeping and bike packing kit means that adventure riding is becoming easier, simpler and lighter. Have bags will travel. When I’m not racing I love to stop and explore, taste the local food and drink and generally experience the joy of discovery by bike. It’s been great to work with Focal Events on a plan and location to make this a reality.”
In addition to Kinesis UK, support for The Distance also comes from other notable sponsors in the shape of Brooks saddles, Blackburn Design panniers, racks and bike-packing gear, WTB tyres and in a refreshing change to the stale bikes and beer format Crafty Distillery will be serving locally distilled gin.
Entry is limited to 150 riders but in the event that there is a sell out the organiser are looking at options to provide more places. The Distance is £60 to enter and you can find more details at thedistance.cc.
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.