2019 sees the addition of The Naughty Frontier to The Naughty Northumbrian Cycling Festival and we chatted to Tommy Wilkinson about the new event.

For those gravel/XC enthusiasts, The Naughty Frontier adds another string to the bow of The Naughty Northumbrian Cycling Festival. Pete had a chat with Tommy Wilkinson about the addition of gravel to the list of ingredients.

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How did The Naughty Frontier come about?

As the Naughty Enduro has developed into something verging on quite big now, we had to re-visit the routes, logistics and all sorts of wee hurdles that are involved in running an event on private land, in the national park, owned by various parties including the military.

The Enduro trails need spade work, and this is hard to do on this land, but the wide open spaces of the Cheviots are what make the Naughty what it is. So where we’ve had to cut down on the real wide open stages on the Enduro, we can now offer the chance to experience that with the Naughty Frontier in a sportive format.

What is unique about this part of Northumberland?

It’s wild man. There’s hardly anyone here, and those who are here are stoic, real salt of the earth types who you need to get to know before they are, or will even consider, being your mate. But once they know you’re OK, they are really accepting, genuine people. I really like that.

It’s also deceptive. People don’t realise how vast, or how high, the area is. The Cheviot Massif is 2700ft. I went out with Rampage Baz, a local legend, the other week. We rode up over Wyndy Gyle and down into Scotland, then back again. In about 22 miles we saw 3 people.

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How did you choose the trails to use for the race?

It’s more of a big ole’ day out this one. Big Bad Barry, our safety and land liaison fella who likes going up hills more than down hills, know’s the best gravel, single and double track in the Coquet. He’s even starting to get into descending since he’s been involved with the Enduro.

How many trail variations did you have before getting to the final version?

Just the one.

Was it easier to add this on to the Naughty weekend after the inaugural events?

It’s not easy, but all event organisers whinge about how hard they are to run and I’m not here to do that. Barry is a full time events guy, I run a media agency and Carl works for HMRC. So we had to add it on rather than set up a separate event, as we’d be too stretched.

Plus, it’s way better craic like this. We’ll have about 2500 people on site having a mint time in the middle of nowhere forgetting about all the shite that clogs up our lives these days. And anyone who knows me, knows I’m all about the craic.

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What challenges did you face organising a gravel/XC event compared to an enduro?

It’s tricky not to dilute the image of the enduro. We are still an event at the harder end of the spectrum, and while we want to be inclusive to a certain degree, we need to make sure that people know this is definitely still a rider focused event that is a step up from other events.

It’s not for everyone. It’s making it known that the gravel event isn’t just a jolly round the Mendips or somewhere like that , it’ll still need good fitness and a decent skill level. I mean this is Northumberland for goodness sake.

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What can people expect from this year’s event?

Same as ever. Beer from Wylam brewery, better food than before (last years vendor wasn’t great) , great coffee from North Shore coffee, music, cinema night, fire pits, maybe a slow bike race with prizes. And new trails.

We are trying to implement no single use plastics at the event, and see what we can do to be carbon neutral. It’s obviously complicated as the carbon of 2000 people driving to the event lies partially with us as well, along with everything they use and buy for being at the event. It won’t happen this year but it’s a work in progress.

I’ve been working with some cool estates that are really leading the way for future land management and re-wilding and it’s inspiring. If we can make our own areas really cool, maybe we won’t need to travel as much.

High and low points from getting a local race off the ground?

It’s just really mint inviting people up to this little corner of the country. It still takes people by surprise. Hearing the buzz around stage 4 was awesome last year.

The rider support is amazing as well.

I’d like to see some more industry support, as we keep getting told it’s a long way from anywhere, but that’s what makes it so great. It’s a chance to actually spend 3 days with no phone reception talking to new people.

Where next for The Naughty Northumbrian? How do you plan to go about getting extra helpers etc. etc.?

One step at a time I think. Things move a bit slower up here, and we’ll see where we’re at after this year’s event.

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Anybody to thank at this point in the Naughty journey? Long suffering spouses/parents/friends?

I think Carl and Barry get pretty fed up of me pushing them to do more all the time, but they know I’m just super passionate about this area and want to do it proud. We get on pretty well really which is cool.

Das Hand is such a trooper when it comes to helping out as well, and Skinny Mick helps out with course previews too. There’s loads of folk. Phil Stephenson has been a big help, he’s a proper Northumbrian good egg he is. Benji Cathro has been a handy fella too.

I love it man, and I truly think it’s the best place on earth.

Full details on The Naughty Frontier and the rest of The Naughty Northumbrian Cycling Festival, head to their website here.

Check out our interview with Tommy about the Naughty Enduro here.