EURO FIXED GEAR ODYSSEY BIKE CHECK

One of the things I like about bikepacking is that each setup is unique to the rider. Each person will have different requirements or preferences which are ultimately reflected in their kit. Shaped by experience, setups become dialled in and what works for one person might seem ridiculous to another. There is no rule book to tell you that a setup is perfect other than the conclusion of the ride and even then there are always new lessons learned for the next trip. Even on an adventure where two similar riders tackle the same route on the same bike there are is so much scope for different approaches. This could not be any better demonstrated than by the setups that Stu and I ran for a 1000+ mile fixed tour across Europe which saw us covering the wide range of terrain and surfaces that span between Barcelona and Rome.

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GRINDURO – SURLY STEAMROLLER BIKE CHECK VERSION 2.0

Grinduro has come around again and you are probably thinking, “He is still riding that silly olden times/fashion trend fixed gear bike and hasn’t learned any lessons since last year”. Well you would only be half right. I am still riding fixed but this year I have made some vital upgrades to maximise shredding. Here is my Surly Steamroller Grinduro v 2.0.

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HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 KIT LIST

I could not get enough of kit lists in my HT550 preparation and poured over many blogs comparing and contrasting my possible setups against others. Some were super light while others not so and many options were considered. Stu and myself had planned to avoid the complications of camping and spend our nights in bothys or bivying depending on weather and enthusiasm. Our goal was to finish in around six days (full write up can be found here), far from speedy compared to those monsters who race the route but still a respectable mileage each day. We also had the advantage of a few extra days flexibility should things take much longer than expected. I finished packing minutes before leaving the house so didn’t have time to take any trendy pictures of kit neatly laid out on the floor so this will be a bit word heavy, deal with it.

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HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 PREP – STU ALLAN’S GENESIS HIGH LATITUDE SS BIKE CHECK

If you are a follower of this blog or my Instagram then you will be well aware of my enjoyment of riding impractical bikes on inappropriate terrain. I am not alone. When it comes to planning bike rides, simpleton bike lover and mile muncher Stu Allan takes an approach of choose ratio first, ask questions later. We will be riding the Highland Trail 550 together and this is his bike, a custom sparkled Genesis High Latitude SS.

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DIRTY REIVER – SURLY STEAMROLLER BIKE CHECK

For the last few years I have been super stoked to do the Dirty Reiver and then when it actually comes round to committing money to tickets I have faltered and backed out. No suitable bike, no time off work or lazy legs, I have probably ticked all the classic excuses. This year is different, I was organised(ish), equipped and fairly keen. I say equipped, in the eyes of most riders my bike choice is probably deemed as a form of sadomasochistic torture.

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HIGHLAND TRAIL 550 PREP- SURLY KARATE MONKEY FIRST RIDE & BIKE CHECK

It didn’t take much encouragement, the draw of the mountains is always luring and the Highland Trail 550 has patiently been waiting on my bucket list. So, when Stu floated the idea of giving it a shot this May I was all in. The Highland Trail has made a name for itself as an extremely remote, rugged and gruelling route but its 550 mile length offers rewards of all the lochs, peaks and untouched glens that you could ever want.

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BIKE CHECK – SURLY STEAMBALLER

The best bike is the bike that you enjoy riding however as each weekend approached I would look at my Genesis Day One and pray that nobody would invite me on a gravel ride just so that I had an excuse not to ride it. This resulted in a built up resentment of a bike that I had hoped would open me up to a world of dirty drop bar adventures but instead was banished to the back of my bike pile and ignored. I am still to this day unsure what it was that made me hate it. I suspect that it was a combination of a weirdly long feeling fit, the infuriating mechanical disk brakes and the fact it simply felt boring compared to my track bike. It could certainly get rowdy but it never felt like it actually wanted to.

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GRINDURO – SURLY STEAMROLLER BIKE CHECK

I first read about the Grinduro last year while reading all time adventure trenders the Radavist.com, a 60+ mile gravel stage race with mostly social riding and mixed with 4 furious timed stages. A swirling frenzy of bikes, beer, sun, gravel and good times, my attention was caught but due to reality (money and location) the feasibility of actually ever entering were slim to day dream.

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