4 hrs into the ‘official’ part of my ride, staring at my rear mech wondering how the end of my gear cable had managed to get stuck in the jockey wheel, I had the feeling that I may have bitten off slightly more than I could chew.
I was riding a bikepacking route I had been designing during lockdown, the Dorset330, designed as a vague effort to train for ultra endurance racing. I was looking to get around 170km ridden each day to make it a two day adventure. My naivety about this was best shown by the fact that I’d decided to ride to the start in Dorchester, adding an extra 40km to make it a planned 210km day in total.
These 40km were fairly straightforward and all seemed well. The weather was glorious and I’d made it to Dorchester in around an hour and a half having drunk next to no water.
Changing to the official route at the glamorous start point of Dorchester South Train Station, I set off. The temperature was pretty high at this stage already, and given it was set to be one of the hottest days of the year, it was only going to go up. This, combined with my lack of taking on any water, would come back to bite me.
Having ridden this sort of distance before on a gravel bike, I figured this wouldn’t be too much different. Little did I know. Fully loaded with sleeping stuff and on big tyres, the going was much slower, something that I should really have realised. Ultimately what this meant was after 25km I was already hurting. The first of many caffeine shot blocks was consumed.
Despite being on the ropes after 25km, this part of the route was stunning. Riding along the coast on smooth gravel tracks, looking towards the Purbecks was brilliant. The next 25km blurred into one big load of shot blocks, hills and general suffering and I made it to Corfe Castle, having still only consumed around a litre of water in the last 5 hours and feeling a bit worse for wear.
Out of Corfe, and heading up 9 Barrow Down put me very deep in the pain cave. The climb doesn’t look too bad on paper, but it goes on for around 5km and with a heavy bike it was a serious grind. Starting to question myself ever so slightly, I was rewarded with a classic descent, the extra weight meaning that I barrelled down the hill, dodging tourists and generally being slightly out of control.
Straight after it was back up another hill. I was rationing water at this point and must have been quite the site for all the tourists at Old Harry’s Rocks. My jersey was crusty with salt and I can’t imagine the look on my face being that welcoming. The sea looked very appealing at this point.
Coming through Studland, my stubbornness meant to I didn’t stop at the shop there, despite having practically no water left and I pressed on to some heathland, assuming I could re-stock soon. This was a mistake. It turned out to be 20 slow kilometers before I could restock, and a mechanical halfway through had me ready to call it a day. Staring at my confused mech, it took me a good 10 minutes to work out all in need was the the tension taking off it to sort, and during this time I was ready to quit. The bike was back working however, and with more caffeine in my body than water, I kept going.
Riding into Wareham felt like I had just finished crossing a desert. Covered in dust and grease from my chain, I donned my facemask and went looking for lunch in the oasis that is Sainsbury’s. Straight to the meal deal section, ready to pick a gourmet sandwich and I couldn’t quite believe the empty shelves I was greeted by. There was nothing left. After confusing the one way system many a time, I’d cobbled together a vague lunch which consisted of a cheese twist, peppers stuffed with ricotta, a packet of prawn cocktail crisps, a bag of cookies, a bottle of coke and three litres of water. Sat on the pavement, water had never tasted so good and I started to feel slightly human again.
With still some distance to go, I couldn’t stay for too long and I was back on the bike in 20 minutes. Through Wareham Forest and into Wimborne, I started to get a sharp pain in my knee, but again my stubbornness meant that I refused to stop.
After 45 minutes of main road bashing (which has since been taken out of the route), I hit some more gravel. At this stage I was back in the pain cave, my lack of water for the first half of the route meant that I was playing catch up constantly. The only thing keeping me going was the fact that a friend lived at around 150km in and there was a pub there. Another petrol station stop at 120km had me buying more water and my goal changed to just making it to 150km.
Fortunately, from the petrol station onwards was relatively easy going other than a few muddy sections and the relief of approaching 150k was huge. Rolling into Cranbourne, I was empty. Pretty much everything hurt, especially my knee, I was coated in dust, sweat and sun cream and never has pizza and beer been more appealing.
Having enjoyed a big pizza, chips and beer I was set on not pedalling any further. My friends garden made for the perfect camping spot, and I even got to borrow to tent as opposed to my plan of sleeping out in the open.
After a luxurious breakfast the next day, I was planning on completing my route. My knee had other ideas, hurting with every pedal stroke. I made the decision to just ride home on the road. A disappointing end to the trip, but it just gives me another excuse to ride the route once my knee starts working again.
Find the route and more information here.