The Distance is what I call a great introduction to bike packing/gravel riding. As they call it, ‘Self Supported with benefits’. This event allows cyclists to enter the world of gravel riding or bike packing with some additional benefits.
“From a single start point each rider will visit a series of checkpoints throughout the day. How they get between the checkpoints will be dependent on their rate of progress and the style of riding they choose. From ‘adventure roads’ to mountain bike trails, there are up to 3 route options at every checkpoint and your arrival time will determine which route options are open to you.”
With the route taken care of, food in the evening and breakfast the next day along with a designated camping area (with toilets and showers) this is a really great testing ground for riders who are just embarking on gravel/bike packing or those wanting to perfect their kit and setup for future events.
The route in total is 110km, 85km on the first day and 25km on the second day with the opportunity of taking shorter routes. There’s varying amounts of terrain, some really technical climbs and descents along with some classic loose gravel sections but nothing that’s going to put anyone off. There were a few moments of ‘I should hike this section’ and a few technical climbs which at times felt like I wasn’t in control but that’s all part of the fun!
The best bit about this event was the scenery on route. With 90% of the route off road, some of the scenery was absolutely incredible. It’s been quite a while since I’ve done an event with so much vehicle free lanes so it was a really satisfying feeling not having to worry about other vehicles on the road.
I did The Distance with 4 others and we all choose to take our own equipment rather then have the event organisers cart it to the camping spot.
Tarp vs Tent
In previous trips I’ve always used a bivy and tarp as shelter from the elements, for example Tour de Hawes TDF Komoot adventure. Having had a few trips where I’ve woken up cold or wet I decided to invest in a new shelter system. A Vango Helium 100 Force 10 1 man tent. Packs away small weighing 1.4kg and is pretty straight forward to put up. This was the perfect testing ground for a new piece of kit like this.
At first I was a little bit apprehensive as there isn’t any instruction on how to pitch the tent. There’s a few short videos online but don’t really going into specifics on where or how to peg some of the complex guide ropes. With a little bit of trial and error, I managed to pitch up within about 10 minutes. Given it was my first attempt I’m pretty confident the next time will be much faster.
Why moving from tarp to tent?
The last time I tarped was a lovely summers day, with a slight chill at night (TdY tour here). There was a breeze which kept waking me up throughout the night and prevented me from Sleeping/maintaining temperature. As a result I decided to go for something a little bit more sheltered that would protect me from the elements.
It’s a bit bigger then a tarp in terms of packing but to ensure a good nights sleep everynight I figured I could sacrifice space for that!
Over all the event was well organised and great fun for all – I’d highly recommend it to anyone wanting to perfect their setup or for those who want to try something a bit different.
This was similar to the Torino Nice Rally but with a few tweaks to both the equipment and bike setup. Two of the main points being I used a one man tent this time and I’ve switched to Compact Shimano Ultegra/Dura ace – It’s also worth while mentioning that for an over night camp I didn’t run a dynamo, I took a power pack instead.