Races

Spectrum – Part 1


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If mountain bike racing in the UK had a spectrum, at the red end you’d have events like the Highland Trail with its duration measured in days. At the violet end would probably be something like downhill, with a duration measured in minutes and fractions of a second.

spectrum  /ˈspɛktrəm/
noun

1. a band of colours, as seen in a rainbow, produced by separation of the components of light by their different degrees of refraction according to wavelength.

2. used to classify something in terms of its position on a scale between two extreme points

I’m not usually one for racing at the violet end of the scale; something to do with not enough margin for error, and requiring more emphasis on outright skill than actual fitness. But, I guess it’s good to operate outside of your comfort zone once in a while.

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Bikepacking, Races

A Highland Tale – The Final Chapter


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Day 5

It’s light. Definitely more light than I was expecting.

I feel a bit disoriented. Where was I? My mind is slow to engage. I sit up and look at the view. Oh, yes… I remember now. The plan worked, sort of. I wasn’t cold, but there’s a heavy dew over everything. I pull my damp sleeping bag from the bivvy bag and stuff it back into the dry bag, hopefully for the last time. Today should be the last day.

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Carr Brae Viewpoint

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Bikepacking, Races

A Highland Tale – Part 3


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Day 4

“Wake up”

“Hmm, what..?”

“Wake up. You’ve got to get up right now!”

It was 4:00am, still overcast and barely light.

“Come on, quickly. You’ve not got long…”

It was my bowel talking. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go! I returned several minutes later and Andy was shuffling out of his bivvy bag. Kenny was still fast asleep, but he needed resupply in Ullapool, so was going to have a lie-in. We were away pretty quickly, dropping into Ullapool as the lorries were pulling out of town having collected last night’s catch of fish.

We span up the road taking a breakfast of sorts on the move. No resupply in Ullapool for us, but with what I had with me, I figured I’d be OK. At the end of Loch Broom, we picked up the Coffin Road – a steep and unforgiving push over to Dundonnel. Alan Goldsmith caught us up here, after his overnight stop in Ullapool. We chatted  briefly, and Andy said how hard it is to keep up with his planned daily schedule, and declaring that he planned to do 90 miles today.

“90 miles?!” Alan exclaimed, “Good luck with that!”

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Bikepacking, Races

A Highland Tale – Part 2


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Day 3

My eyes flickered open at the sound of tyres rolling over gravel. It was light. I looked round but couldn’t see any sign of anyone. Maybe I was dreaming. The wind had dropped, and the midges were out in force. Breakfast would have to wait. In conditions such as these, I was glad I had my sleeping set up well dialed. Everything was centered around a single 5 litre dry bag that mounted into my Wildcat Lion harness, and it wasn’t long before I was up, packed and back on the trail. It was 4:45am.

P1020481
More comfortable than it looks

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Bikepacking, Races

A Highland Tale – Part 1


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Unfinished Business

Hopefully by now, the Highland Trail doesn’t need much of an introduction. It’s in Scotland, it’s a chuffing long way, it’s very remote and you’re pretty much on your own. It’s also one of the most amazing multiday rides you can do in the UK. If you’ve been following the story so far, it’s been a mix of success and failure. It is more the latter than the former that has driven me back here for 2016, and that has been a strange motivator.

“Right, you’re on pole!”, said Alan Goldsmith as I tried to blend in among the other 50 starters for this years group ride.

“What, me?!” I said, somewhat surprised.

“Yes, well, front row at least”

I wasn’t really feeling front row material if I’m honest. Preparation for this event had not panned out as I had hoped due to sporadic illness and other commitments, but here I was anyway, very apprehensive and in full knowledge of the magnitude of what I was about to undertake. That sounds like an excuse, but is really a statement of fact. A few had speculated that I had been hiding my efforts on Strava as part of some strategic plan. If only that were true! (more…)

Homemade Gear

Switch oveR


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About 8 years ago, I organised one of the Welsh XC Rounds near to Brecon. After the race, while walking the course to retrieve the race signage, I found a short piece of carbon bar with a partially mangled bar-end attached to it, presumably where some unfortunate racer had collided with a tree. In much you same way as you find odd shoes around the countryside, you’d think one bar-end wouldn’t be useful to anyone, but I picked it up anyway and took it home where it lay in the bottom of my “bits and pieces” box ever since.

Back to the present day, I’ve been thinking for a while about how to charge electronic devices while on long bikepacking trips. Having acquired both a dynamo hub and an Exposure Revo, I’ve been happily enjoying not having to charge my light batteries all winter. But, during the day when you don’t necessarily need your lights off road, you could be putting all the energy generated by your hub into something else, like a buffer battery or, via a Cycle2Charge, direct into a GPS/Spot/Phone. (more…)

Bikepacking

Bach to Bach


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Getting motivated to head out into the wilds of Wales can be difficult at the best of times. Like much of the rest of the country, the weather lately has been particularly appalling;  the number of days without rain over the past two months could be counted on one hand. My coping strategy in these conditions was to head out infrequently and for short periods and spend the rest of my time indoors dreaming about all places I’d like to go on my bike when the weather was nice.

But… (more…)

Just Riding, Photos, Trails

Around Cairngorm


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The inner part of the Cairngorm Loop is but a small part of a longer 300 km self-sufficient mountain bike route.

At just over 100km for the part I rode, I discovered it’s not to be under estimated; the solitude of the Cairngorm mountains, the magnitude of the hills that surrounded me, the depth of the glens through which I rode, the beauty of the rivers, the colour of the trees and texture of the heather – they all far exceeded my expectations.

Here is a collection of ten photos from the ride. (more…)

Bikepacking, Races

5th Bear Bones 200


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When I was doing the 3 Peaks Cyclocross Race last month, somewhere around the top of Whernside, a chap said to me

“We must be mad!”.

“It depends”, I replied, before asking him how many times he’d done the event.

“Ten”, he said.

“Ah, well, this is my first time, so you’re the one who’s mad; I’m just exercising my right to try anything once…”

Fast forward three weeks and I’m stood in a car park in Llanbrynmair with too little gear strapped to my bike ready to embark on my fifth Bear Bones 200. Indeed, nobody has ever done all five, so where that puts me on the sanity scale, I’ve no idea. (more…)