FIXED GEAR GLENTRESS GRAVEL ADVENTURE

My Strava routes page is full* of half conceived rides, curious unknown paths and interesting looking routes pillaged from my feed or found on the internet. One ride in particular stuck in my mind, a route to Glentress that rando-bro and now industry insider Jack Luke once rode and wrote about.

As my shameful appreciation of gravel bloomed I became more and more keen to tackle this gravel/MTB hybrid. An oddly sunny weekend loomed and it seemed that this would be the perfect opportunity to complete the route while also testing my setup for Grinduro in the following weeks.


An enthusiastic Rich May was organised and the route was edited marginally from Jacks original. Bonus gravel pre Glentress and taking an opportunity to sample a section of the Capital Trail route after leaving Peebles.

There was no need to fluff around Edinburgh avoiding roads, much goodness lay ahead and green laning our way out the city would waste necessary shredding time later on. Quickly leaving the city behind, we past Bonnyrigg and ducked off the road towards Gore Glen.

A small trail danced with the river through clearings and little meadows had us brimming with summer feels. A mega steep push was followed by an abrupt end to Glen Gore in the form of a pointy fence between us and the road to Temple. This was very carefully climbed.

A short section of quiet road linked us to Gladhouse Reservoir and some farm track. After a wrong turn was corrected we passed Moorfoot Farm and followed a track up the South Esk. The very picturesque gentle climb took us to the end of the Glen and following a deeper than expected ford we were presented by a choice.

There was no path on the map but I knew there was a way over to the wind farm on the hill above us. When plotting the route I had just drawn a straight line and given it very little further thought. Something I had planned to figure out later but forgotten to revisit. We had an option, we could either push up a very steep track that seemed to point in the right direction or wiggle round North West-ish which was maybe less steep in the hope we could find our way through the heather. I wasn’t to be wasting time hike-a-biking around aimlessly in soggy bogs so made directly for the closest turbine. Nobody likes a hike-a-bike but Rich really hated this one. A necessary evil which soon positioned us amongst the spinning giants and back on solid gravel.

It was blowy at the top and the wind turbines were working over time. One last little climb to the top of Bowbeat Hill and we began our first earnest descent between the turbines and into the tree line. Rich was suspicious of the height we were losing and rightly so. Soon we were making it all back, grinding up through the quiet forest. Passing the occasionally oddly placed caravan in our sneak approach up the back of Glentress.

As spirits reached breaking point we crested a hill to find ourselves at the mast atop Dunslair Heights and to Rich’s relief I assured him it would be almost all downhill and we would shortly be rewarded with coffee and cake. This also meant that I now had to ride Spooky Wood, a red mountain bike trail, that I have ridden many times and mocked its tame and dulled features.

This time it would be a very different beast, relatively tiny 35c tyres and factoring in the constant pedalling would make it feel far from sanitised. I was forced to think about the trail differently. Luckily Spooky Wood is now so degraded there was very little risk of grinding cranks on rollers and takeoffs so I was able to dance around the trail avoiding most of the pointy or slippery rocks. I wouldn’t describe it as fun but it was far from the terrifying experience that I initially anticipated.

Betty Blue followed and filled with confidence I scandi flicked my way through the corners surprised at how much grip my 35c tyres allowed me on the wet surface now I was getting more comfortable with my setup. I decided that Hit Squad Hill with its steepish chutes and braking bumps would probably be too much and we opted to follow the blue route to the bottom. I hadn’t ridden the blue return route but on this easy trail I was able to open up and get some speed without too much concern.

That is until I snapped my chain ripping a skid on Blue Velvet. This presented me with the benefit of no longer needing to pedal on the following descents but also meant that I only had one rim brake to keep speed in check. I limped down to Alpine Bikes and they had 1/8th SS chains in stock, which was lucky as getting back to Edinburgh would have been a problem.

To Rich’s dismay the cafe was closing so we were unable to purchase anything more substantial than carrot cake. This was just enough to power a now very tired Rich to Peebles where we could buy more sustaining things. On leaving Peebles we picked up the Capital Trail to guide us back to Edinburgh.

This meant we were immediately hit with a steep climb (push) which quickly lifted us onto the hillside and above the busy main road. The grassy and gravelly sections were relaxed and in the warmth of the evening, the climbs we did have to push were pleasant as long as we were able to avoid the wheel clogging mud and cow poop.

With the day quickly running short of light we entered the Pentlands at Carlops. I had taken pleasure in telling Rich that at the top of this climb it would essentially be downhill all the way home and a chill 15 mile warm down to a good day.

The climb was greasy and proved difficult due to its narrowness which resulted in us pushing. On reaching the top we were surprised with a wide, freshly hard packed path on the other side. We were soon shredding down in high spirits that it was now the home straight and we were soon to be home for beer and pizza.

That is until I snapped a second chain and I discovered that I was in fact a lier. The rest of the way was far from downhill which I was quick to realise once my ability to pedal was removed. With a mixture of walking, dandy horsingย and being towed by Rich we made it back into Edinburgh. It wasn’t until 11pm that we got through the door. We were tired, in terrible need of beer and pizza but pleased that the ride for the most part was a success. Bring on Grinduro.

MAKE FIXED GEAR GREAT AGAIN.

*Strava please introduce some sort of folder or sorting method for routes.

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