Gotta Tri the Dirty Reiver - Kinesis Bikes

Gotta TRI the Dirty Reiver

We helped retired Pro triathelete Joanna Carrit make the transition to a proper sport (only kidding) by furnishing her with a PRO6 to ride off-road for 200km at the recent Dirty Reiver. So without further ado, over to Jo!

Following retirement from professional Ironman racing this year, I was keen to take a step back from that scene and free to explore other areas of endurance sport. With a barely used cross bike from a former sponsor in my shed, when my friend Emma Ossenton (Kinesis UK brand ambassidor) told me about a 200km gravel event “up north” in April, called Dirty Reiver . An event like this seemed like an opportunity to play on that unused bike, and not too far removed from the 180km rides that I was very used to as the middle part of my ironman racing. I didn’t give it much further thought, until about a month prior having returned from running our tri camp in Lanzarote. I began looking for off road routes local to me in Somerset, and heading out on some rides on the Blackdowns and Quantock hills…sometimes lucky to cover 10 miles in an exhausting 2 hours… Even though my handling skills were improving with these regular short rides snuck in when the poor April weather allowed, it was always hard work and I was seriously doubting my ability to get around 200km, let alone within the event cut-offs.


I’d spoken to Emma about these concerns and she steered me towards Kinesis PRO6, a far superior ride for someone of my size and weight, and with the support of Kinesis UK , arranged for to get one to me for the DR200– with a few mods from the standard build kit to make an off road novice’s experience over 200km of gravel and 4000m ascent more enjoyable (specifically; using a road-link to enable am 11-40 cassette, and swapping the front chain-rings for a 38 thick-thin, and fitting 40mm tyres). Please Note! this report is not intended as a bike review - there are far better informed and experienced riders out there singing the praises of the Pro 6 and the benefits of various components. Just to say that given that the first ride I’d do on it was the Dirty Reiver 200km gravel event, it was completely comfortable, handled fantastically and pleasurable unlike the rides I’d done at home on my carbon bike. And, I am not surprised that it was such a popular choice amongst the 300-odd competitors there…it almost felt like a Kinesis owners club, and I fitted right in with the beautiful blue Pro6.


The event itself was based from Keilder Castle, on the Scottish borders, requiring two days of travel from Somerset via Yorkshire, and three days in a tent through rain sleet and nighttime temperatures as low as -4 degrees. Plenty of time to fret about what had I let myself into, and realize how woefully unprepared for such an event I was as I spent time in the company of hardened off road endurance riders that Emma associates with. Obviously 200km off road will take longer, put greater demands on the body and the bike and expose the rider to more extreme conditions, requiring us to carry a lot more provisions, spares, emergency equipment, back up batteries, lights and food than I’m accustomed to. Sitting listening to the talk of clothing, gear ratios, bike set up I realized that these off roadies are every bit as geeky as triathletes, just obsessing over different things! Most of the conversations seemed to center on tyres – type, width, pressure- gearing and frame/saddle baggage. I just had what I had with me, which made my decision making simple….and as it turned out this was absolutely perfect for the day. In retrospect having seen the wide range of bikes, clothing, equipment out on the trails during the event, I had been in the company of a very elite and experienced set of folk that Emma knows from The Industry, and need not have been quite so daunted!


Likewise out on the ride itself…despite my own frustrations at lack of technical skills and pace on the handful of rides I’d done in training, starting mid-pack I found myself held up far more by riders in front of me stopping at difficult sections, than my own inability to negotiate the surfaces. I noticed through the day what a great benefit my wider tyres were – most people were on 33mm and complaining about the “ridiculous mountain bike” sections….which I’d found to be the more interesting parts of the ride! The wider tyres and comfortable geometry of the Pro6 also seemed to make the long fast sections of gravel more comfortable than most of the riders around me were finding it, and in combination of my time trial and road riding background, I was able to really make up some pace on these sections. The route was extremely well marked out and marshaled and I was in general riding in sight of a few other riders ahead, so barely had to think about the navigations, and able just to focus on pacing myself through the ride. Through riding alone for most of the day, there were a number of people that I knew through Emma and Kinesis guys that I saw regularly through the day, catching one another up at feed stations, which was nice.

The 200km was split into thirds by the feed-stations /checkpoints …and in my mind I was likening it to an Ironman. The psychology very similar anyway – the day starts full of nerves, a bit of stress, a lot of uncertainty other than that you are only at the beginning of what is going to be a very long day which will include a good amount of suffering! There are a lot of people around, all with “race face” on, very little chat, a bit of aggression even. This mellowed following the first climbs and the amazing views in the early morning sunshine across the vast rolling pine forest landscape, with snow-capped mountains of Scotland in the background, that we were treated to. I was aware of a huge smile on my face – and I knew that this was going to be a great day.


By the first feed stop at 60km, I’d ridden close to the extent of my training off road to date…and was beginning to feel it a bit. I had a pretty leisurely stop, which included coffee, enabled some socializing and a lesson from a mobile mechanic on the brakes on the new bike incase I had to change the pads later in the day ( I didn’t) . Revived, I set off again with a further 2-3hrs to ride until the next stop which would be 100km into ride. The terrain for this section was on the whole pretty easy going, the riders had thinned out a lot and I just focused on the ride a lot more. Much like the bike section of Ironman it’s about getting your head down pacing it out, keeping focus, fighting the growing fatigue I the legs, applying effort only in the right places and staying positive. Before I knew it we were halfway. Another brief stop – this was an outdoors set up and temperatures close to freezing .I was feeling fine and keen to continue the momentum. The section between this and the next stop at 130km ( no feed just check point) was extremely tough – lots of steep hills, difficult surfaces both up and down and muddy on the flatter sections – much like the back end of the Ironman bike ride – you just want to get off, really doing battle to keep the bike rolling along strongly…and knowing that the worst is still yet to come! At the 150km point, 3rd feed stop really weary. I was lucky that the hail storm began whilst I was inside the ladies toilet, preparing to get back on my way. So I delayed and hung around in the feed tent with a crowd of about 50 guys squeezed in for warmth with arriving and making a beeline for the shelter every few seconds! It passed within about 10 minutes and it was off again.


Just like the final section of the Ironman, the marathon, after 8 hours of being on the road as “rivals” those of us who are not in the run for the podium start coming together, supporting each other through the last two or 3 hours…everyone I in the same mindset – lets get this over with as quickly and safely as possible! There’s a lot of weary nonsense banter, working together, holding gates and support. Shared relief as we began to see the ned in sight. I rode the last 20 km around Keilder water with a group of 6 -8 guys…changing positions a bit as we each had strength in different areas (mine, unsurprisingly was on the road sections were they all tucked in behind my wheel before I lost them on the single-track) ….but regrouping just before the last hill sprint for the line.

Though finishing much further back in the rankings at just over 11 hours that I’m accustomed to, I was immensely proud of myself, had had a fantastic day…and really become “one” with the Pro 6. I even took it out for a ride around the lake the next day…

Sign me up for the next one!!!

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