Dorset Dirt Dash 50/50 2023 key info
Distance: 94 miles
Location: Dorset, UK
Start/finish point: Swanage
When: 27/28 May 2023
The Dorset Dirt Dash 50/50 was my first organised cycling event, and it was a blast! It's a self-supported bikepacking event over two days, taking riders on a 94-mile route around the lovely terrain of Dorset, UK.
It’s not a race
What attracted me to take part in Dorset Dirt Dash event in the first place, was the format: it’s not a race... Sure, some riders may have been pushing themselves to beat their personal bests, but the overall atmosphere was chilled, friendly, and very social.
On Day 1, we started in Swanage from the beer garden of the Red Lion Hotel. As a newbie, I was impressed by how well-organised everything was. There was a chatter of excitement in the air as riders arrived and checked in. I made friends easily, as there were gravel enthusiasts of all levels, from super athletes to complete amateurs.
My Garmin recorded 87 kilometres and 1,700 metres of elevation gain on Day 1. The terrain was a perfect mix of gravel, country lanes, challenging hills, and some technical and steep downhill sections. We were blessed with excellent weather, which was a huge relief, as riding this route in wet or windy conditions would have been no fun.
There were several pubs along the route where we could stop to refuel, eat, and drink coffee (and beer!). I carried some food with me just in case, but as it turned out, it was unnecessary, as the dinner at the campsite was delicious and filling (a good portion of chicken or veggie paella + fresh bread).
The campsite was located at a farm near Shillingstone, north of Blandford Forum. It was basic, with just a few taps and port-a-loos, but it was enough for the over 200 riders. There was a kitchen serving dinner and breakfast, and a bar with a small but good selection of beer and other drinks. Our evening was decorated with a bonfire and stories about the great day spent on the Jurassic Coast. Only a few people stayed up late, as the next day was going to start with more hills to conquer.
On Day 2, we fuelled up with a sausage and bacon bap and coffee, packed up our camping gear, and set off again. The second day was meant to be easier, but my legs were still feeling the distance from the day before. The route included some big hills at the beginning, followed by some long downhill stretches through the farms and a nice Wareham Forest gravel. Food stop by the river and on to the final and very familiar sections on the Purbeck coast where the hills at the very end of the course took us to task. The variety of terrain was spot on!
We arrived at the Red Lion mid-afternoon, greeted by the crew and other riders with bravos! My Garmin showed 67 km and 880 m of elevation gained for the second day. Although we were not racing, it made me quite happy that we weren't the last on the finish line 😂
What a ride! I'm definitely hooked, and I'm already planning to sign up for the DDD again in 2024.
Here are a few tips for anyone considering taking part in the Dorset Dirt Dash 50/50:
- Prepare yourself. The route is challenging, so it's important to be in good physical condition.
- Make sure your bike is in good working order. You'll be carrying a lot of gear, so it's important to have a reliable bike - brakes especially. I’ve seen some pads literally boiled - leaving no braking power at some dangerously steep hills
- Pack light. Or heavy - whatever you fancy. Ride it as an athlete or casual with style. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re having fun.
If you're looking for a challenging and rewarding bikepacking experience, I highly recommend the Dorset Dirt Dash 50/50. It's an event that will stay with you long after you've crossed the finish line.