Recently Scotland has been doing a great impression which people from less soggy places would recognise as summer. This has opened up the possibility for flappy jerseys, cultivating tan lines and diversifying rides. Rather than a head down character building pedal from shelter to shelter there are now opportunities to explore parched singletrack meandering off into woods, partake in outdoor cooking and other such activities.
I woke in a moment of panic. It was probably no more than an hour since I had gone to sleep. My stomach was making very loud, very angry noises. I leapt up as best you can when tucked up in a bivy bag and rushed to the toilet. My belly was far from happy. I limped back when it was safe, re-inflated my bed and returned to sleep. This process repeated every hour until I just didn’t get back into my sleeping bag as the sun was coming up.
I woke at 5am feeling a little perkier, carefully stepped over the sleeping PNT Army on the floor and made my way out. The sun was up but yet to begin warming the land. After fiddling with my GPS for a while I was going again, energy levels were low but the sickness from the day before had passed and I was looking forward to breakfast and a restock in Ullapool.
I didn’t have a great nights sleep, my mat had developed a hole and was struggling to stay inflated for longer than 3 hours at a time. The sun had returned and brought a good breeze so any damp clothing from the day before was hung out to dry before being re-worn or packed away.
Although the weather reports had been full of pleasant predictions of sunshine it had warned that the weather for day 3 would be a bit Scottish. Sure enough what had previously been dry and dusty was now soggy and gritty. We busied ourselves making breakfast and fixing punctures. Working towards, but trying to avoid, inevitably going outside. A last look around the bothy, a quick chat with the German’s in the room next door and we were out of excuses.
We had planned to get good early starts to maximise day time riding and allow a little chill/exploring quota if required. This plan was already off to a bad start, soon porridge was eaten, bags were packed again and we were on our way. Our day started easy as we descended the remaining section of the Corrieyairack Pass, Fort Augustus nestled below us. The high speeds blowing the last of the sleepiness out of us.
It was time. We got up, ate and faffed around making sure that everything was packed. Stu had lent me an extra gas tank last minute which was fitted and filled with extra snacks. The weather was a little dull and there was a morning chill although this soon left us as we pedalled out of Tyndrum.
I am a worrier when it comes to preparing for trips. I am also a procrastinator and these traits usually result in everything being a bit of a whirlwind come the weeks before any trip. I stress about my bike setup, about clothing, about spares, about tyres, about weather, about food and even about empty bag space.
Back in yester-summer of 2017 Rich and myself rode to Glentress and back when I was testing the feasability of off road fixed on the Steamroller in preparation for Grinduro. Since then I have been super keen to repeat this ride on a more robust bike so that increased rowdiness could be factored in. As Stu was yet to ride his Highland Trail 550 bike we decided to get out and put his sparkly single speed through its paces.
Gravel is the new frontier. The roads are clogged with speeding cars and the forests are crowded with artificial mountain bike trails yet miles and miles of gravel lie ignored waiting to be explored. There is an abundance of routes that are too bumpy for road bikes yet too far for mountain bikes which contain staggering views, lung busting climbs and ripping descents. It is no wonder that the gravel scene is exploding right now.