Bikepacking, Trails

The Shindig

This post continues from my previous entry for the Lakeland 200.

I woke up at 9:35 AM. For only two hours sleep, I didn’t feel too bad. I finished the rest of my olives and got dressed into some normal clothes. Rummaging around the van, I found some more food and began the process of replacing the thousands of calories consumed over the last 27 hours of riding.

The other objective for the weekend was to ride The Shindig, a social bikepacking event organised by by Bryan Dawson for Shand Cycles. The grand depart was from Milngavie (pronounced mull-guy), north of Glasgow at 2:00 PM. There was a strong likelihood I wasn’t going to make it in time, but I wasn’t coming this far north and giving up on it entirely. I figured if I could get myself to Aberfoyle for dark, I would pick up the rest of the riders in time to join them for the bivvy, then follow the route through to the finish on Sunday.

The drive up the M6 was fairly tortuous, mainly because of my sleep-deprived state. I stopped for a Burger King at one services and then for another sleep a bit further on as my body attempted to shut down everything not required in the processing of my last meal. Eventually I arrived at Bryan’s place and started to get my kit together for the ride.

Only eleven hours after finishing the Lakeland 200, I rode out of Strathblane up a long steepish piece of tarmac. All things considered, my legs were functioning rather well. The route picked up the West Highland Way at the top of the hill, and a corker of a descent took me down towards Dumgoyne. I took an easier route to Drymen and then picked up NCN 7 to Aberfoyle. This route follows its way through the large section of forest that lies between Drymen and Aberfoyle, and though is mostly on tarmac, climbs quite progressively for nearly 200m of ascent. Darkness came on my descent into Aberfoyle.

I stumbled into the first food-serving establishment I came too, and right into the middle of a hen-party. I did my best to blend in and made my way to the counter, where three large Scottish beer drinking guys occupied nearly all of the lateral space available. I waited patiently to not be served, and in the absence of any acknowledgement of my presence, quietly retraced my steps and back out of the door. The place next door was a chip shop. I ordered a pie and chips, and for once my luck was in, they had pies! In fact, I had the last steak pie. Get in. Inside were lots of tables with people sat at them, some eating, some not. I soon discovered why. Quite what they do between you asking for what you want and then getting it, I am not sure, but it takes a long time. It was like waiting at the Doctor’s. Eventually, I was called up and discovered that I had pie & portion of chips, and another portion of chips. It seems that a pie comes with chips whether you want them or not, and seeing as I asked for chips as well as pie, presumably meant I wanted extra chips with my pie and chips. Weird.

I sat outside to eat, and it wasn’t long before Bryan Dawson, Dave Barter, James and Alasdair McLean rolled into town. Two familiar faces and two new ones. With introductions out of the way, we chatted for a bit while I finished my chips and they all got cans of coke. Alasdair narrowly avoided getting recruited to the army by a passing Scotsman of short stocky build, whose accent was so strong Dave and I could only understand about every third word. And with that, we retreated quietly from Aberfoyle in search of peace and solitude at a place called Loch Drunkie.

So I found myself in an elite group that had left the rest of those doing the event scattered back down the valley somewhere between Aberfoyle and Inversnaid. There I was, nearly 30 hours of riding done in the last 42 hours, doing my level best to hang on to the back wheels of James and Dave as they battled for supremacy on the climb out of town. It was only 12 km for Loch Drunkie, but it felt like a lot more as it was nearly all up hill. That brought me up to 42 km for the second half of the day.

We each found our small bits of flat ground on which to lay out a bivvy bag or pitch a tent. I boiled up some water for a hot chocolate, shovelled down a bit more food and turned in the night. I’ve never slept so well. I woke up in exactly the same position I went to sleep in, 8 hours later. With my ear plugs in, I hadn’t heard the others get up, so I was still still in my bag when everyone else looked ready (or in some cases, had already gone). Dave and Alasdair wanted to be off early, so we bid him farewell. That left just James, Bryan and myself.

I hastily made up some breakfast and while that was cooking, I packed up the rest of my stuff. It was a fairly efficient display of packing up, and thanks to some faffing by the others meant they weren’t hanging around for me too long.

The route went through the forest to Callander on easy trails and some nice singletrack. I got to know James a bit better, where I discovered he had form for this kind of thing. Third place Kiwi Brevet kind of form, which certainly explained the pace and, in my present condition, my inability to keep up with it. We stopped at the bakery in Callander and had bacon rolls and my first cup of tea since Thursday morning. The next section took us up into Glen Ample. More pleasant forest track, before a distinctive turn up through the forest into the glen above. At the top of the forest the trail opened out to a nice varied hill track with a good mix of up and down and enough technical bits to keep it interesting.

James had the misfortune of ripping a tyre and denting a rim, which required a tube. Problem was he couldn’t get the tubeless valve out. As luck would have it, Dave Barter arrived from the opposite direction, having started the northern loop section the wrong way around. He had a pair of pliers that did the job and we were soon on our way again.

We stopped at a coffee shop at Mhor and refuelled again before heading southwards again back down to Callander. James left us at this point and Bryan and I continued back to Aberfoyle. The town is completely different in the daytime; heaving with tourists. Bryan and I elected to take different routes back. I went for the less hilly option and Bryan took the hilly route which I had used to get to Aberfoyle the previous day. With over 8,000 metres of climbing in my legs from the last two days I felt I didn’t need, nor could manage, any more climbing than was necessary. My chosen route was thankfully quite flat, albeit quite uninteresting. Things picked up when I got to what is known as the Pipe Track, which leads right back into Strathblane to where my van was parked.

The Shindig, for me, was done – 151km ridden, on top of the 214km from the Lakeland 200. It was quite a weekend.

Dave Barter has also edited a video and written up his account of the full ride, which can be found here:

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