Some of the tastiest meals I’ve ever eaten have been smash-and-grab food raids after a long day’s riding. Either seeing what will pair well with a Mini-BabyBel at a petrol station or searching through the fridge at home for what can be stuffed into a sandwich. What’s this got to do with 2020’s Brother In The Wild weekend, you may ask? Well, this year it seemed like no cycling events would happen. Our planned trip to Flanders? Cancelled. Grinduro? Cancelled. It looked like any riding for 2020 was going to be on local trails only. Which is fine up to a point, but who doesn’t yearn for something different every now and then?
And at this point emails began to appear. Rising like a Phoenix from the flames came talk of the event still going ahead (albeit a pared-back, slightly leaner Phoenix). Maybe this wouldn’t be the gourmet weekend experience that James and Will had originally planned, but I was hungry.
A month later my brother and I were planning the third running of North London Dirt, our annual 70-mile charity gravel ride in Northeast London. Knowing the ever-shifting situation and rules we were facing and the need to be flexible while hoping it was still possible makes me doubly impressed with what James and Will pulled off.
Looking back now, it seems like the Brothers chose the sweet spot between lockdown waves, and so it was that at the start of September a smaller group of riders from around the country descended on the Purbeck Hills to enjoy some prime gravel riding.
The weekend felt special because it was a time to meet up (responsibly) with friends from across the country. Usually, we’d already have numerous weekends of riding together under our belts by September, but this year sitting by a fire pit in the evening, drinking beer and talking rubbish with friends felt… normal. Normal in the best possible sense of the word. I’d genuinely forgotten how much I’d been missing this kind of thing.
Although the talks, films, and more social elements had to be pared back, the event still served up everything I need for a good weekend away. Hot showers to get cleaned up, good food and beer to fill my belly, and most importantly some cracking riding. Having sampled the Southern delights last year I was even more excited to come back again for a second helping. This place really is that cliched hidden gem of riding. I can’t think of anywhere in the UK that serves up such a selection of different trail types. From the wide-open headland with its views out to the sinister armada of COVID-grounded cruise ships, to narrow as hell tree-lined singletrack, to sandy fire roads and gorse-edged flint strewn descents.
And with the files safely loaded onto our Garmins, we were ready to roll. On Saturday, we headed out for the longest route, the fiendishly fun WTF route planned by the folk at The Woods Cyclery. Even the weather played ball, and despite the slightly ominous clouds, we stayed dry. And, more importantly, the trails were dry and dusty all weekend. The day took us from the tops of the cliffs down to the beaches and back up again in a seaside rollercoaster that slowly drained our legs until we rolled back late in the afternoon with a pleasantly tired but sated glow.
Having done the hard work on the first day, we had a shorter Sunday route. This day was all about halloumi rolls, paddling in the sea, and ice cream by Corfe Castle at the end of the ride. It was all linked together with the same mish-mash of paths, quiet roads, and open land. There may have been a couple of showers this day and a couple of tyres shredded on the flints, but that seemed a small price to pay.
The weekend brought out all kinds of riders, from those who were happy in full lycra to those whose pizza racks were heaving with… actually, I’m not sure what they were heaving with, but this weekend was full of a good mix of flannel shirts flapping and tighter team jerseys. Everyone just seemed happy to be at the campsite, and if you crossed them out on the trails, riders were simply having fun. Riding off road, stopping for photos or a picnic, and generally rebooting their souls in a way that only a weekend’s riding can.
If I didn’t already have a ticket for 2021’s event I probably wouldn’t disclose how much fun it was. Thankfully, I’m safe in the knowledge that I’m already guaranteed a spot next year. See you there.
Although lots of events have been cancelled or postponed, there are still many running as normal this winter. Check out our events calendar to see what’s happening.