Sunday 20 November 2011

Critical Dirt: A Different Kind of Ride in Germany

In the December issue of TOUR magazine, which I received yesterday, there is a superbly-written article about a kind-of race across Eastern Germany, from Göttingen across the Harz Mountains, south through Leipzig and ending in Görlitz. "Kind-of" in that it has no official status and there are no start numbers given out to the participants. The whole idea of Critical Dirt is to avoid the tangled web of regulations so characteristic of German undertakings and to have fun.

The organizers have a sense of humour. The participant's package includes a cigarette for those wanting a relaxing smoke. Riders are given a rubber stamp with a number on it which they use at the finish to check in so that the organizers know who has made it and for whom a search party needs to be organized. The route is over paved roads, dirt tracks and forest trails, covering 500 kms over four days and involving around 1,000 m of climbing each day. It is ideal for cross bikes, but participants show up on mountain bikes, touring bikes and even fixed gear ones. Riders stay in youth hostels en route and at the finish line there is no banner or awards ceremony but a welcome case of beer.

The organizers are concerned about feeding the cyclist and have a serious chef. His recipes for the ride can be found at, and each day at the one food stop he serves up tasty meals at the Café GoGo, a moveable feast. The whole thing sounds charming and fun and is probably the only race I have heard of where the Chief Organizer shouts out "Be good to each other!" as the racers get underway.

There was a professional-quality film made of the 2010 Critical Dirt ride, which seems to have been a different route, only travelling in Saxony and involving race numbers. The food looks impressive. Enjoy!

CRITICAL FILM from e r t z u i ° film on Vimeo.


Groover said...

Sounds very interesting. Is this an annual event?

Sprocketboy said...

It seems to be. The article in TOUR suggested that the 500 km, 4 stage route that was used this year took two years to develop.

Anonymous said...

Hi guys,

thanks for the kind words. I'm one of the people who put this up.

We are a core team of six people, with lots of helpers and friends, so it was quite an effort to make this happen this year. It depends on the way you count it, this year's route took us 9 months (several weekends and map-time during those) to develop, last year's route has been developing in my mind for two years.

We are just a bunch of friends who like to put up stuff like this and have a good time with all the nice people rolling with us. One of our guidelines is to never do the same thing twice. Our personal situations (jobs and that) have changed so at this point, we really don't know what's gonna happen in the future. But we don't have to. For now, we are very happy with how it all turned out.

Hey, best regards and thanks,


Sprocketboy said...

I have actually gone to and put the four stages from this year's ride onto my Notepad there. I am seriously considering riding the route, which looks a lot hillier than the 2010 one, either alone or with a few friends. Of course, doing it with a group (and the really amazing food!) would be much better! It does not look as insanely hard as my l'Eroica experience in October.

Alex said...

Hi Leslie, thanks for that, and thanks to G, above, for initiating it: i'd love to try it! when are you thinking of doing it?

There's another, similar ride that follows the Berlin Wall, if i remember rightly, but tends to be much 'harder core', in that you have to sleep outside and fend for yourself.
check it out! could become a big event.

Alex said...

flickr user tetedelacourse has a good set of Critical Dirt photos . . .

Anonymous said...

Nice post! Thanks for sharing info about this event.