top of page
  • alasdairdchisholm

The Dukes gravel ride at the Dukes Weekender 2022

The Dukes gravel ride

by Craig Beattie

So, for my first ever time attaching a number to my bike (that's right I've not even done a sportive before) I found myself in a field at Aberfoyle for the Dukes gravel ride at the Dukes Weekender. I've spent a lot of time in the Aberfoyle area over the years so kinda knew what was in store terrain wise but never had a bike with me to ride any of the tracks/trails.

This event was a gravel enduro so there is no timekeeping for the whole 45 ish mile route (other than course cut off times) but there was 6 timed stages and the overall combined time for these stages is your event time. I knew this going in and knew there was no reason for pushing round the whole route - more on this later...

Having parenting duties later in the day I got myself there for registration opening just after 7am and away in the 8:15am starting wave. Early morning fog meant it was a dull and cool start so trying to build a little heat I started off at a moderate pace and found I kept passing people in my wave who were all taking it easy and chatting away.

Stage 1 came and went with an uphill start and downhill finish on forestry roads.

Stage 2 again was a long section of forestry roads but with some logging activity made it bumpy even for a gravel bike.

Stage 3 was singletrack which was much better suited to those on mountainbikes and with a short sharp climb with very little traction (everyone I spoke to had to walk up it).

Stage 4 again was singletrack but a much more flowy and fast paced section.

Stage 5 was back to forestry road which started flat and fast but ended with a long climb which a lot of people didn't know was coming.

Stage 6 was a short singletrack on the hillside north of Aberfoyle (the Dukes pass side) but there was a lot of climbing to get to it (over 700 ft continuous climb) and a very fast descent back down the road - kinda felt like the put this stage in just for the name.

All the stages were linked by mainly gravel tracks or some road which added more climbing (just over 4,500 ft total) again there's no need to rush around the course and riders can just chill out between stages. However, I'd set off trying to get myself warm and the sun didn't even think about coming out until I'd almost made it back to Aberfoyle so I kept the arm warmers on and kept pushing on rather than stopping. This meant I wasn't able to push as hard as I'd have liked on the timed stages, especially the longer ones, although on all but stages 2 & 6 I passed other riders and didn't get passed by anyone on any stage.

After a very fun and fast descent back into the finish in Aberfoyle (disc brakes a must) I found out I was only the 20th rider home (I was in the 3rd wave away with up to 45 riders in each wave) due to not hanging around or stopping on the course. But this did mean I was often riding the course without another rider in sight so didn't have an "event" vibe at times. Whilst it was a good experience on a mostly good course and brilliant marshals I would definitely recommend riding it with other people as the long transitions would be more interesting with company. Oh and it would probably make you ride the transitions slower and saving the legs for the timed stages rather than pushing the pedals hard the whole way round.

Overall I finished just within the top half of the field with a time of 35 minutes 12 seconds and I look forward to going back next year to see what course they come up with.

39 views0 comments


bottom of page