Tag Archives: MTB

April challenge: Dunkeld Enduro 

One day into being 40 injury strikes (again) with a sharp hot poker going through my hand, or that’s what it felt like when I woke at 3am thinking my hand was melting. Not good full stop but not good when you’ve got your first enduro race in two days time.

In the morning the burning had subsided but an alterered sensation progressed to pins and needs in both arms/hands and has remained ever since (now at 2.5 months). I cycled to work one handed to try and preserve the ‘worst’ limb. That’s a logical thought process, right? 

So, back to the race. I decided to give it a bash, expecting to bail after Stage 1, but didn’t want to miss out on the banter. The climb to the top of the first stage was a long one hour, one handed mission. 

The first stage was a blinder – straight into a crazy rock garden and it wasn’t long before I was over the bars after a bad line choice. Why on earth did I not see the freshly cut nice smooth berm? Lesson 1: look ahead more! 

I had another tumble further down on a flat bit a grassy traverse and managed to fly through the tape. Jeez, not sure what I can learn from that?! 

Stage 2 was much better and I felt pumped at the bottom. 

Near the start of stage 3 my chain came off and I must have had my race head on as didn’t want to stop and lose time. I rode pretty much the whole stage with no chain…….eat your heart out Aaron Gwin! Lesson 2: was my free hub still wonky? Need to upskill on the mechanical side of things.

Stage 4 and 5 were awesome. Pretty steep, gnarly and I was definitely riding faster than I should have been. Lesson 3: full face helmets = more risky riding. 

The adrenaline of the staged sections obliterated any thoughts of my arm/hand issue. I’d survived an enduro, was pretty pleased with my result and had good banter with my chums on the way round the course. 


I reckon the key to climbing the ladder is avoiding mechanicals (so many punctures around, thankfully not me) and riding slightly slower/more in control to avoid crashing! Not sure the latter is possible if you’ve got a wee racing demon that rears its head?! 

I’m not 100% sold on racing.  I ride my bike to discover new and remote places but guess it’s good to mix things up every now and again! 

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Carn Bán Mór, Cairngorms 

We’d been staying at Badaguish for my dad’s 70th and when everyone headed home, thought I’d go for a spin up Carn Bán Mór. 

Decided to do an anti-clockwise loop, starting at Auchlean and loosely following the River Feshie until I picked up the Land Rover Track just before the Ruigh Aiteachain bothy. 

The climb was a bit of a killer, skirting past Meall nan Sleac before hitting the plateau. 

   
 
Bumped into a couple of walkers who were tucking into an afternoon snack and kindly donated some rye bread and cheese. 

The plateau was a welcome relief before the final climb up to the summit. 

   
   
The downhill was over in a flash and pretty exhilarating. The path’s recently had a face lift and while the techy stuff has taken a hit, it’s still fun (and provides plenty manual practice!) 

  

Kinlochleven Easter biking trip

Last year’s Easter biking trip to Torridon was going to be hard to beat. The sandstone mountains burned sienna, the riding was epic and we were blessed with gorgeous spring weather.

This year, driving to Kinlochleven in torrential rain I wish I’d taken the plunge and bought a van.

With the cloud hanging well below the tree line, we decided on a wee pootle around the trails at Nevis.

Thankfully by evening the rain had stopped and we enjoyed the first of our warming fires on the shore of Loch Leven.

Saturday was still dreich but you can’t let the weather dictate so we headed over to Glencoe to tackle the Devil’s Staircase and Ciaran Path. Starting at 300m this is serious bang for your buck when you end up at sea level on the other side.

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We hit the snow line about half way up and carried the bikes but it probably only took about an hour to get up. Then the fun began…….

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Snow biking to start with and then a sweet flowy descent over some chunky rock.

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Before the bottom, we took a right onto a concrete culvert which carries water from Blackwater dam to the power station, and followed it for a few miles to the foot of the dam.

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Riding across the top of the dam was surreal; on the right the distant shores of the reservoir glistened in the sun while on the left was a sheer drop down the face of the dam.

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Then we hit the Ciaran Path which was techy and pretty challenging, especially when we arrived at the waterfall. Matt and Gregor took control and all bodies, bikes and dogs got over safely. Not the time for wearing Sealskinz socks though!

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The weather gods arrived by Sunday morning and we woke to a stunning morning with a glassy Loch Leven. I went out on the paddleboard and it was one of those moments where perfect reflections cause your mind to play tricks and the horizon becomes hard to place. Most folk had a shot on the board although had to be quick before the strong current at the Narrows kicked in.

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We then headed to ride the enduro trails above Kinlochleven. The sun was shining and the climb to Mamore Lodge was hot and sweaty.

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After refuelling a bit further up we continued past the start of the trail to check out the bothy at the start of Loch Eilde Mor for future trips. It was a dump, filled with litter from fishermen.

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This trail was awesome! Rocky and rooty with some committing drops, lines and gullies. I had major thigh burn and adrenaline was in full flow. Thankfully made it down unscathed (unlike some of the bikes) but almost came a cropper a few times. Wow, wow, wow!

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By Monday our legs were weary so we opted for a wee hike into the Hidden Valley and a chilled end to the trip.

I always find myself saying ‘Scotland doesn’t get better than this’ then I go on another trip and say it all over again. Once again awesome scenery, riding and banter.

Thanks to Gregor McMeechan and Rob Kerr for some of their photos

Torridon trails at Easter

Easter was spent up in Torridon and I couldn’t believe this was my first outing to such a stunning place. The 4 days of continuous sunshine obviously helped but even without this hardship, there was no denying the beauty of the dramatic and rugged sandstone mountains standing guard over the fresh water and sea lochs.

The 25 of us did a good job at taking over the Torridon campsite with bikes, vans, tents etc. This is a great facility on a dry weekend with no midgies!

Camp

Saturday was the ‘shorter’ of the MTB trails and after the customary faff, we set off from the campsite in search of Loch Damh.  The first big mechanical arrived just as we escaped the tarmac and someone discovered a worn jockey wheels and unfortunately was game over for two of group.

Route map

The singletrack was boggy in bits as it hugged the side of the loch and then opened out to a lovely snack spot towards the south end.

Beach

The path then climbed around Beinn Damh with a few bits of hikabiking along the way.

Climb

We reached the bealach between Beinn Damh and Beinn na h-Eaglaise and cleaned our bikes a bit in the lochan.

Beallach

The descent was pretty technical for the majority with a lot of loose rock.  I took a tumble which developed into a cracking bruise but it was great fun.

Descent

We then crossed a burn before a cracking section through the forest which conveniently pops you at the back of the Torridon Hotel where a cold pint awaits.

Before the forest

Most of the others headed off for the ‘big’ ride on Sunday (which incidentally took 9 hours!) but I headed up to the Ben Alligin circuit with Gregor and his dog Breach.

Breach

What an incredible day! We headed up into Coire nan Laogh and the steep ascent was a hard hit on the wearied legs.  We had our first food/chill out stop at the plateau and this set the tone for such a sunny day. From the summit of Tom na Gruagaich (922m) we had amazing views over to Skye and my obsession with Liathach began.

Breach was like a mountain goat as we followed her down the ridge to start the Sgurr Mhor climb. There is an impressive crack in the ridge revealing a dramatic gully.  From the top (986m) we got a great view of the Horns of Alligin.

Ben Alligin

Scrambling over the Horns was great fun and we managed another long stop to enjoy the views and sun. The descent is always my least favourite bit but on a day like this, the grumbly joints seemed subdued.  Lower down, the path passes some waterfalls and we couldn’t resist a paddle in the chilly water of one of the pools.  Definitely a spot for a future dip!

What a cracking weekend and Liathach definitely on this year’s list!