Two Stoke Newington brothers and self-confessed cycling geeks are organising a 68-mile bike ride to celebrate North London’s “backroads, short cuts, dirt tracks and gravel paths” – raising money for St Mary’s Church at the same time.
Andrew and Phil Diprose’s North London Dirt event on 21 July is a nod to the growing popularity of “gravel riding”, where cyclists seek out off-road routes and a reprieve from traffic.
The brothers, who run cycling magazine The Ride Journal, are inviting anyone who is up for the challenge to take part, but warn it is not a “hand-holding sportive”.
Andrew told the Citizen: “Phil and I have been Stoke Newington locals for almost 20 years now, and we’ve always been into bikes – and every kind of bike.
“We’ve mountain biked in Epping and in the Surrey Hills, ridden track at the Olympic Park and Herne Hill, ridden the road all round London.
“Yes, sometimes being a cyclist in London is tough, but there really are amazing spots to ride if you hunt them out.”
Andrew admits North London Dirt’s focus on backroads is “slightly off kilter”, but added: “We’re doing a lot of mixed-surface riding right now, and you can see why everyone is saying ‘gravel riding’ is getting more popular, especially in London.
“You can nip on and off-road, ride dirt tracks and canal paths and get away from that heavy traffic, even really close to the centre of the city.”
He says the route, a loop around North and East London, “shows off how amazing and quiet the riding can be – right out of Spitalfields”, but cautions that it is “surprisingly taxing”.
Tickets for the ride cost £22 each, and all proceeds will go to St Mary’s Centre, which is home to the Winter Night Shelter, Hackney Migrant Centre and the local food bank.
The church – of recent Three Billboards fame – is fundraising to redevelop the site, with a final £250,000 needed before work can start.
It is hosting a “community sleepout” event this Friday as part of the campaign.
Andrew urged everyone, even those who cannot take part in the ride, to back the cause.
He said: “Phil and I go to St Mary’s on a Sunday, we’ve used the centre and have volunteered at the Night Shelter in the past – it’s such an inclusive local asset, and it’s a no brainer to make it the best it can be.”
The brothers have also been “bowled over” by the support for their cycling event from local businesses.
Rapha’s Spitalfields Clubhouse has agreed to wave the riders off with coffee, and breweries Pressure Drop and Beavertown will serve up fresh beer to welcome them at the finish line.
Riders can also keep an eye out for a hidden brevet control along the route, as those who spot it can get a card stamped to qualify for prizes provided by Condor Cycles, Look Mum No Hands and Two Wheels Good, among others.
North London Dirt takes place from 8am-6pm on Saturday 21 July, starting at Rapha’s London Clubhouse, 61-63 Brushfield Street, Spitalfields Market, E1 6AA.
Tickets for the event, and more information about what’s happening on the day, are available now on Eventbrite.