Highland Trail Race 550
After last year’s Highland Trail Race, one of my overriding feelings after completing it was that once was enough – I was not going to go through all that again. It was by far the hardest thing I’d ever done on a bike, and it pushed my physical and mental limits far beyond those I’d encountered in a “normal” 24 hr solo race.
Time is a good healer, it seems. My mind had shuffled all the gruelling bits to the back, and memories of good trails and heroic efforts combined to form a comparatively enjoyable experience, albeit one that didn’t involve a lot of sleep. The addition of another 120 miles for the route this year in the form of a northern loop around the Assynt placed it well and truly into the realms of Epic (a much overused words, but in this context it most definitely deserves the capitalisation), and this tantalisingly difficult section on top of what I already knew to be a tough route made it difficult to resist.
My final preparation was less than perfect, and nearly didn’t happen at all if it weren’t for the support of Shand Cycles. High drama even continued up to the day before the race when my bike came loose on the bike rack while driving to the train station, ruining a Jones H-Bar in the process. I boarded the train anyway, and set about trying to source a replacement while en route. Keep Pedalling in Manchester came up trumps with a new bar, even going as far as meeting me at the train station to hand it over so I could continue my journey north to Scotland with as little disruption as possible.
Race day dawned cloudy with a cool breeze from the North-east. It looked like a good day for getting the miles down, and with the 1 hour earlier start this year we would have a little less pressure to get to Fort Augustus before everything shut. I settled into a rhythm reasonably well on the opening section, but clearly not able to match the pace of some of the front runners. This was a long race, and I wasn’t about to blow up on the first day. (more…)
It was at Bespoked Bristol Bike Show in 2013 that I first met Steven Shand, owner of Shand Cycles. Wildcat Gear supplied Steven with some bags to display at the show, and that marked the beginning of the two companies working together to unite Shand’s superbly crafted frames with the high quality bikepacking luggage creations from Wildcat Gear.
When I first looked at the bikes in their range at the show, two things stood out to me; thoughtful, elegant design that instantly portrayed the true purpose behind each frames intended use and, secondly, a level of craftsmanship in the brazing and quality in the final finish that is best seen in the metal to be fully appreciated. (more…)
Not the Cairngorms Loop
It was never meant to be like this.
A fraught week gathering kit together in preparation for the Cairngorms Loop 300km ITT suddenly got a whole lot worse when on Wednesday night I discovered a problem with my “race bike” that I wasn’t going to be able to get fixed. Casting an eye around the garage revealed a cyclocross bike with 8 gears and a fat bike with one gear. I dusted off the 10sp clutch mech I bought last year, but had not got round to using and stripped the 8sp cassette off the cyclocross bike, mated the bar-end shifter to a Paul Components clamp and set about fitting it all to the fat-bike. If only it was that simple. (more…)
Against the Elements
I should probably get out more. I don’t mean out on the bike (though at times, even that can be a bit irregular). I mean out of Wales. I’m sure there are many many really good places to ride, but this is where I live, and for much of the time where I ride. A very large back yard that has kept me entertained for over two decades. I can nearly traverse the whole country east to west (and back) or from north to south without reference to a map.
This little video is about a trip I did a few weeks ago with some guys I know off the Bear Bones Bikepacking forum. Neil was at the winter bivvy with me and Gian was at the Highland Trail last year. Andy was the only one I’d not met previously. The plan was to ride from the tip of Great Orme south to the end of Worm’s Head on the Gower. It was an adaptation of a trip I did a couple of years ago, which I’ve been quietly improving to create a “definitive” Welsh Coast to Coast with some of Wales’ best riding trails.
The weather wasn’t quite what we’d hoped for, and in the end the slower pace and the prevailing conditions prevented us from reaching our goal. The journey though – and its all about the journey – was still a good one made in great company. Thanks guys!
Hope you enjoy the film.
The Road to Pont Scethin
Winter can be such a fantastic time of year to get out on the bike for an overnight trip, with cool clear air revealing some fantastic views. This video is about a trip I took recently to a place I’ve always wanted to visit, since seeing a photo a couple of years ago: Pont Scethin.
Pont Scethin is a bridge, built some time after 1762, that lies on the old Drover’s Road from London to Harlech. In the 18th century, this was the main route through this part of Wales (long before the existence of the coast road). The old road remains as a walking/ riding track now, and the bridge still stands in this wonderfully isolated position.
The sunrise in the morning was amazing, and it’ll be a trip I will remember for a long time to come.
He who lives by the sword…
He who lives by the sword, should go out and get himself a really nice sword.
– Lev L. Spiro
Of fat bikes and expeditions
Fat bikes seem to shout “get me loaded”… And “take me on an expedition”. We only have to follow our hearts, the call of mother nature and the call of our fat bikes.
– Gian Liesch
Singular Puffin – A Review
Now that I’ve been riding around on the Singular Puffin for a couple of months, I thought it was high time for a review. I have been blessed with an amazing playground upon which to give the bike a really good test – from high level rocky routes and wet moorland tracks to man-made rock-strewn built trails in the South Wales valleys. It’s fair to say that the Puffin has stood up easily to everything I’ve thrown it at and any limitations in ability have usually been with the rider.