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.
I had set the weekend aside for a bike adventure. I wasn’t sure what the plan would be but it would certainly involve a camp out in some shelter, ideally with a stove. Stu had planned a trip to the CTC hut and although laziness would stop me from riding straight from work on the Friday night I knew I would be able to piece together an exciting route of remote hills to fill the Saturday nicely. Having not yet visited, Thomas was also keen for a weekend pedalling and to get in on the hut experiences.
The goal was simple, we were to ride some bikes to commemorate the anniversary of our comrade Rich’s birthday. The route we set was 50 or so miles of easy East Lothian mixed surfaces following an Audax route. No hills paired with a gentle pace would assure a good time for all and that nobody would be broken physically and unable to enjoy evening beers and eats. What could go wrong, even the weather looked like it would cooperate.
It seems to be a running trend that if I need a day off work to go on an adventure something will get in the way to make sure that I can’t get it off. When the first group ride of the Badger Divide got arranged, I was fairly disappointed that I could not get the Friday off work to tackle the full route. The Badger Divide is the brain child of Stu Allan, a predominantly gravel route that connects up many pre existing tracks and trails to create a 220 mile route stretching between Inverness to Glasgow. Guaranteed to deliver on lots of dirty bike riding and eye popping views.
Short lived but already well established, Grinduro has quickly become an unmissable bicycle event held in the spectacular and sun soaked Sierra Navada. The whole thing is rich with Californian vibes, big days, stunning mountains and party atmosphere. There is no doubt that the pressure was on when they announced that they were going to hold a second event, especially considering it would be held on international soil. The location was announced and they had chosen the Isle of Arran, a small Scottish island on the west coast.
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.
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.