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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.