The Salsa Frontier 300

Collage of three images of Steve Bate during his cycling expedition in the Salsa Frontier 300 in the UK.Photos by Steve Bate and Andy Hennings

 

Teravail rider Steve Bate MBE took part in the Salsa Frontier 300 in the UK this summer. Read his take on the epic event below, then watch the video at the end (starring Steve) to learn more about the Frontier 300 and get inspired to go ride.

It’s not often these days I sign up for cycling events, for one main reason: I’m selfish. I want the trails to myself or the selected few with whom I chose to ride. The thought of riding with 200 other people just isn’t that inviting — until Salsa Cycles are involved. Then I’m interested…

Steve Bate rides his bike down around a curve on a gravel roadPhoto by Stephen Smith
A sticker for the Salsa Frontier 300 is stuck to the fork on a bikePhoto by Steve Bate 

Other the past few years, I’ve watched (like I guess most bikepacking, gravel-riding UK folk have) the range of interesting events that happen across the pond with some envy. Most of them have a theme of distance or terrain, but the events that have grabbed my attention are the ones with random twists. Especially when Salsa get involved, such as the Chase the Chaise events. This random sofa planted in the middle of events has quite the reputation, so you can imagine that as I was flying down a long, sweeping gravel descent 100 km deep into the Salsa Frontier 300, I was delighted to see the UK twist on Chase the Chaise: giant deck chairs, sandcastles, buckets, and spades, all topped off with summer tunes and the welcoming smiles of Nils and Matt in pink flamingo outfits. I’m fortunate enough to be supported by Lyon, so there was no way I was passing up the opportunity to jump into a large chair, snap some pics, and take the load off my legs for a few minutes.

Scenic view of the beach lined with rocks and trees in the early morning
Photo by Stephen Smith 

The theme of Frontier 300 is, we live on an island, so why not ride across it at least once? We set off from Rockcliffe Bay, a sleepy little town hidden away on the Scottish coast. A relaxed start window of 0415–0445 gave people plenty of time to get up bright and early and get sorted before rolling to the start. Hopefully it didn’t put out the locals too much at this ungodly hour.

"I feel that the gravel in this part of the country is some of the best in the UK."

We couldn’t have asked for better conditions on the day. I rolled over the start line in my 7mesh bib shorts and a short-sleeve merino jersey. I know it’s summer up this end of the world, but it’s still the west coast of Scotland. Thankfully, the wind was our friend throughout the day, blowing all the riders west to east. Only a couple of times over the length of the route did we turn our handlebars back into the gusts, which felt like hard work for those short moments.

A group of cyclists on drop bar bikes ride down around a curve on a gravel roadPhoto by Stephen Smith
Steve's perspective from above the handlebars. The road ahead is gravel and lined with trees.Photo by Steve Bate

The route was labelled a 50-50 split of gravel and tarmac, and that description felt fair. The thing I love most about riding routes like this is that you can’t wait to get off the roads at the beginning of the day, but as the gravel takes its toll on your body, the smooth and fast road sections are a welcome relief to battered muscles, lifting your spirits and average speed later in the day. I was really impressed with the selection of roads that Focal Events used. They were never too busy, and the surfaces were pretty good, so I think a shoutout needs to go to the route finders of this event. I feel that the gravel in this part of the country is some of the best in the UK. Flowing tracks, forestry roads, and singletrack allowed us to cover the miles efficiently, enjoying some great views of the area. In some places, I felt I was in genuine wilderness — a rare feeling in this small country.

A van is set up at a checkpoint on the trail with Salsa brand flags and two giant beach chairs.
Photo by Nils Amelinckx

There was talk of a hike-a-bike section, and this didn’t disappoint. As I pushed my bike up the narrow, heather-sided, and loose rocky track, it started to rain near the top. I was glad not to be at the tail end of the field, as it would have been much harder work. Rolling past people after this, I heard a few grumbles about it, but I think it was worth having on the course. Yes, it was hard and did go on for longer than most would have wanted, but is this not the essence of Salsa’s tagline, “Adventure by Bike”? I bet people will never forget it, and we want these events to carry memories, right? We all know Type-2 memories are the ones we laugh about the most afterwards, sitting around the fire pit and recounting stories of the day.

Two cyclists smile for the camera as they ride around a curve on a gravel road.
Photo by Stephen Smith

Just before the 200k mark, climbing up a long, quiet tarmac road, a large cargo bike came tearing down toward me. Getting closer at a rate of knots, there were two gentlemen dressed up like Frenchmen screaming, “Allez! Allez! Allez!” at the top of their lungs. It was the mad bunch from Lyon Cycle, the headline sponsors. With Ed pedalling and Jordan in the cargo box, they flew past, then realised it was me, one of their riders. After some heavy braking and an awkward three-point turn, the large “box-on-the-front”-style e-cargo bike caught me at the top of the hill. I stopped for a quick chat, admiring their blue-and-white striped outfits topped off by cheap stick-on moustaches (at least I think they were stick-on). Riding the descent afterwards, I felt proud to ride for a brand who took their roles out here stupidly serious in supporting this event that had been years in the making due to that pesky pandemic. My stoke level at this point was still sky-high.

Steve Bate is visible in the distance on a stretch of gravel road with gray skies overheadPhoto by Steve Bate
Two cyclists ride on a narrow paved road through a hilly landscape.Photo by Stephen Smith
One cyclist pushes another on a cart style bike with Go By Bike written on the side
Photo by Stephen Smith

With four well-stocked feed stations and the route passing through small villages, you’re likely never caught short of fuel. And with a very small list of essentials to carry, you could move pretty light and fast. However, it must be said that this was a self-supported event, so you had to put some thought into food, route planning, and a backup plan in case a mechanical ended your day short. There was a time cut-off at the last feed station, which had a late enforced overnight stoppage, however blankets and a village hall were provided for folks to crash down in, so there was no need to lug a tent if you weren’t sure you could make the cut-off. I believe a handful of riders used this and arrived safely during the Salsa Beach Brunch the following morning to a grand round of applause from this new community of riders, showing their support for the last riders in.

A small sign that says This Way is posted next to a rocky pathPhoto by Nils Amelinckx
Two cyclists ride side by side on a paved road that runs through a grassy hillsidePhoto by Stephen Smith

A motorcoach made transport easy, with pick-up/drop-off service from the finish to the start. Every rider started with a tracker, and there was mobile medical coverage throughout the route, giving riders a feeling of safety and support. Great food and drink available at either end meant we weren’t worried about where dinner was coming from. Tepees, giant deck chairs, and fire pits at the finishing village and a range of products from Salsa, Teravail, Ortlieb, and 7mesh created a really nice family friendly environment to hang out in and share stories of that damn hike-a-bike section, all while watching the World Championship Teravail Tyre Toss taking place.

“Bottom line, without doubt, I’ll be back to ride this event again.”

I think the events team have done a fantastic job creating a unique event here in the UK that gives that “big American gravel ride” feel to these small and humble shores. I can see the Salsa Frontier growing into one of the biggest events on the calendar in the UK, which would be fantastic.

A closeup view of a riders cycling computer which shows 293 kilometers traveledPhoto by Steve Bate
Steve Bate sticks his face into a hole in a Salsa event sign, with his bike in the foregroundPhoto by Nils Amelinckx 

Rolling over the finish line in the sunshine was a great feeling. I knew I had been on an epic journey, and with a pat on the back I was given a bottle of Salsa Frontier ale and a patch for completing the event. I guess the final question is, “Would I ride it again and has it changed my opinion of these style of events?” Bottom line, without doubt, I’ll be back to ride this event again*. And I think with more and more events like this happening in the UK, I would be tempted to sign up to be a little more sociable from time to time. Thanks to all the riders who took part, shared some fun, looked after each other, and let me ride on your wheels. I hope you enjoyed the adventure. 

Steve

*Only if they promise a tailwind again!

View of the finish line at the event with large red Salsa flags, tents, and vans.
Photo by Nils Amelinckx

Finally, a quick couple of thank-yous: the team at Focal Events, Bryan and Neil, thanks for the wonderful invite and an incredible experience; my guys at Lyon Cycle, Nils, Jordan, Ed, and Matt for the support both on this ride and others; Your enthusiasm and your stoke to ride bikes are infectious, and I’m grateful to fly your flag for the good of bikes; Teravail tyres for making and allowing me to ride their amazing products; 7mesh for providing my clothing for the event; Salsa Cycles for doing all you do, I love riding the bikes you make, it’s a dream come true; Dave MacFarline from DMTWO Media, sorry for making your job a bit harder, mate; thanks also to Hunt, Peatys, Smith Optics UK, and Alpkit for your support in this event. Thank you, folks. It’s a real pleasure to know and work with you all. 

0:09 the 0:11 great thing about being in the outdoors 0:12 and certainly going on adventures is the 0:14 simplicity of what you do you wake up 0:18 eat you ride your bike until you stop 0:20 and i think when you eliminate all of 0:23 the little things in life that you don't 0:25 realize you know kind of nip away at you 0:27 you know when you're riding your bike 0:28 you're free of all of that and 0:31 and i think there's there's a lot to be 0:32 said for just being in that really kind 0:34 of transfix mindset of just traveling 0:37 journeying through nature 0:39 weather's really good it's a tailwind to 0:41 where to start with anyway so let's hope 0:43 it stays like that when i go on 0:44 adventures i want to test myself i want 0:46 to reach my potential i'm sure this is 0:48 why we put on this planet to find out 0:49 who we really are and 0:51 type 2 fun is the best way to do that i 0:52 think 0:53 [Music] 0:56 and i know there will be times on this 0:58 ride where you know like there probably 1:00 will be for most people where you're 1:01 going to hit rock bottom and just think 1:02 like what the hell am i doing this 1:04 that's the point that i want to get to 1:05 you know that's what i love is you know 1:08 when that voice in your head starts 1:09 going this is a dumb idea what on earth 1:11 were you doing this you know for me it's 1:13 almost like a 1:14 switch that happens it's like great i've 1:16 got myself here again 1:18 you know now now who are you 1:23 [Music] 1:25 [Applause] 1:27 [Music] 1:36 the frontier 300 it's a 300 kilometer 1:39 all road gravel and road event 1:42 and it goes through 1:43 multiple unique sectors of forest across 1:47 the borderlands of scotland and northern 1:49 england 1:50 the event has pretty much everything 1:54 that you can handle on a drop bar bike 1:57 frontier 300 is my passion having 1:59 adventure by bikers is the dream 2:02 when you go off and ride in the 2:03 wilderness in some of these remote 2:05 places is you know that kind of resets 2:08 me i think and it's kind of like oh yeah 2:09 i realize why you know why i love riding 2:11 my bike and it kind of recharges me i 2:13 suppose and gets me fired up for the 2:15 next thing that i've gotta i've gotta do 2:18 point-to-point riding i think for me is 2:20 the most exciting i spend most of my 2:22 life riding around in circles so you 2:23 know to ride from like a to b and that's 2:25 it is amazing you know that's um that's 2:28 generally what i look for an adventurous 2:29 bike ride 2:34 there with 2:35 2011 i was diagnosed with retinitis 2:39 pigmentosa which is a degenerative eye 2:41 condition which basically means i've got 2:43 tunnel vision is a very effective way of 2:45 putting it i don't have any peripheral 2:47 vision at all so i've got a very narrow 2:49 field of vision but what i can still see 2:51 in that field is still pretty good 2:53 it's a degenerative eye condition so 2:55 eventually i will go blind 2:58 i've just got to make the most of the so 3:00 i have while i've got it and 3:02 crack on and get events like this done 3:03 while i can 3:06 you know i think i used to be one of 3:07 those people like oh i'd love to do that 3:09 or that's my dream to go and do that and 3:12 i think at some point you just get a 3:13 well if you want to do something you 3:14 have to make it happen 3:21 [Music] 3:24 time's massive for me and i you know i 3:26 like to spin that very wisely i like 3:29 having time to do the things that i want 3:31 to do we need to prioritize time a lot 3:34 more and give ourselves a lot more time 3:36 than what we think 3:40 everyone's going to learn something 3:42 about themselves on this ride including 3:43 me you know that that's a given that 3:45 that's always the case and that's really 3:46 what i hope comes out of it you know and 3:49 i hope everyone has this experience that 3:51 is 3:52 life-changing in some ways you know it's 3:54 a it's a hell of a thing to ride 300k in 3:57 a day coast-to-coast 3:59 [Applause] 4:20