Iceland 2016

The trip was almost a disaster before it even started, the bike I was due to take was damaged beyond being rideable the week prior to flying. I ordered a new frame( something I had been looking at for a while) as it was on sale, and the amount was what I had in my PP account, a sign I felt! I was pretty sure it would be tight, time wise, so just in case I rebuilt the CX bike with more appropriate gearing, tyres etc, just in case. Fortunate it was too, as the bike arrived 3 days before leaving, and although I could have built it up I would prefer to give it a good long day ride, at the least, before taking it abroad. So I left it in it’s box and packed the Tricross, which was renamed “planB” by a whitty friend!

I had booked a bus ticket to the airport, after reading the small print re bike carriage. I use the Citylink Gold service bus to Glasgow fairly regularly, and even when its really full there is usually plenty of spare space in the luggage bay, so I was reasonably confident.  Still, a bit of a risk as, if i couldn’t get it on, the whole trip would be over as I wouldn’t make it to the airport in time. As it turned out, on all 4 legs of the bus journey( 2 each way)the driver/host never once questioned size of the box, which was quite large. So that hurdle jumped.

I flew with Easyjet: and as with other small carriers, they charge extra for sports equipment, £70 return in the case of bikes. 32kg limit. I was unsure if they were happy for other stuff going in the bag, which there was plenty of room for, as some airlines don’t like it, possibly to hope to get more money out of you, if you want to take a cynical view. Well, I have to say they lived up the their name. When checking in at the outsize baggage desk, I asked the staff if they were ok me putting my bike luggage in the bag(I knew it was well under the max allowance) No problem at all, he even sat patiently as I pulled it out of my carry on bag and organised it into the bike bag. 10/10 so far. They let me check it in 4 hours before flying, as the way the buses worked meant I got to the airport really early. This one does go up to 11!!

So having divested myself of the larger bits of luggage I went in search of a spot to watch the wimbledon final and grab coffee/food, come on Andy….. I have flown with Ryanair quite a lot in the past, and while I have had good experiences with them too, one thing I would say is Easyjet has a far more streamlined checking in approach, online checking in and boarding cards that you can download to Apple’s wallet or the App, which means you just swipe the reader with your phone/tablet/ipod thing. With Ryanair you have to print a hardcopy pass, despite EVERYTHING ELSE being done online! (don’t get me started on the payment supplement for booking/paying online, despite there being no other way to do so!!!)

Anyway, Flight etc went without incident, and the approach to Keflavik airport was absolutely stunning, the aircraft slowing gliding in, along the south coast and lava fields of the Reykjenes peninsular. The cloud was pretty low, so we got a great “reveal” as we dropped below the cloud, the moonscape of the lava fields and hot springs suddenly coming into view. Touch down! cleared passport control in about 2 mins, my bike bag was even sat in the arrivals hall when I got through, presumably it was too big for the belt. No damage and everything still in the bag, when I got around to putting it together the next day.

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So a quick ride into town for some maps and fuel for the stove(red spirit) and we are all ready to get the show on the road, quite literally! Found this mural on a community building wall just off the high street, which basically started a theme of images of the bike leaning against random stuff….

A bit of a fraught run along he main road to Reykjavik for a few kms had me deciding to turn down the Grindavik road, the traffic was pretty busy, and despite a very wide shoulder I didn’t fancy about 45km of dual carriageway. turned out to be a good choice, effectively going downtime road I had planned to return tho Keflavik on, the road through the lava fields was amazing.

_DSF6591Bike leaning against a post, on the southern road around the Reykjenes peninsular.

_DSF6595Though it looks a bit like cowshit, it is in fact lava from the last eruption, as the whole area is effectively a giant volcano it’s apparently not unusual for there to be small lava flows!!

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I camped the first night next to this old bridge, crossing the main river flowing from Porsmork. One of the sources for this river is the now infamous Eyjafjallajökull. The road heads right, along the valley in the background.

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_DSF6642The track out was pretty rough in places, quite an effort on 35mm cx tyres, lots of concentration to pick a good line required! There were plenty of river crossings along the way, varying in depth and width etc. I had planned to go to a campsite/cabin park in the end of a small valley but the river to there was entirely uncrossable, over waist deep and really fast moving. The map suggested there was another site a few kilometres further along the main route, another crossing but hopefully I would get over that one. again to deep to cross on foot (though was drivable with a large enough vehicle, see photo of bus crossing). speaking to a bus driver he suggested that there was a series of mobile bridges for walkers, placed at suitable locations based on prevailing water levels.

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Though it is hard to tell in the photo, its about 8ft from the top of the steps. lots of fun with a loaded bike and not enough width to stand next to it to lift/lower said bike! oh what fun, especially for the amused onlookers. The site was at the end of the Landmannalaugar trails, and was ver busy with folks finishing the 4-5 day route. Bizarrely, there is a bus service all the way to the airport right at the moraine beach by the campsite!

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_DSF6636The bus is on a small gravel bank mid flow, having just crossed a channel that covered the wheels, and is just about to do so again. This is where I wanted to cross myself, before being redirected. this is the service between Keflavik and Porsmork, £40 each way…pretty good value I would say. The forecast was for a storm to pass through during the following day and night, with winds of 30-40mph. I decided I would head back down the road I had come and find a sheltered camp spot somewhere on the ring road around Skogafoss. The previous day had been really hard on the bike, especially the drivetrain and tyres. I live in the Cairngorms, which being made up of granite, can be quite hard on pads, chains etc. But it is nothing like the black sand/grit around the lava fields. Consequently; about 4km along the track I had a puncture, the kind that just deflates instantly, never a good sign. The rear tyre had a long slash in it, maybe 2 in long. A tyre boot kit was the one thing I had failed to bring too!! Fortunately a German couple in a 4×4 camper stopped to offer me a lift after a few kms of walking(amazing how many drivers just passed without checking if a walking cyclist needed a hand) They were heading around to Vatnajokull, which would take them through Vik, which was the largest settlement along the south coast there, must be able to get a new tyre etc there surely? A nice drive along the coast, with stunning scenery and interesting conversation had me in Vik in around an hour. Passing Skogafoss along the way, was looking forward to stopping there on the way back.

As it happens Vik isn’t that big at all, and certainly has nowhere to repair or replace bicycle parts of any kind. FYI, Iceland has very few cycle shops once out of the bigger towns/cities. Most locals can’t imagine going anywhere other than by car or bus, bikes are for kids it seems. Chatting to a guy in a gas station he rather randomly mentioned he had found a great offline mapping app for his phone. Actually it was very useful; not so much for the mapping, though that is good, but for the embedded info on services such as accommodate, fuel stations and stores etc. It was obvious that I would need to go to Reykjavik to buy a tyre, but the next bus wasn’t until 20:30, about 8 hours wait. Also it would get me into town in the middle of the night meaning finding somewhere to stay etc. I decided to have a coffee and have a think.

The fuel station was absolutely chaos, being the only fuel and cafe stop for miles it was rammed, with folks queueing in all directions. I came up with a plan to try and make a tyre boot using a soda bottle, and ride out of town to camp somewhere quiet, and get a bus in the morning. By now the storm was getting going properly, pouring rain and strong winds. But, they were tailwinds so would be pretty useful if I could get the bike sorted. I managed to get it patched and holding air by mid afternoon, and decided to set off and see how I got on. All was going well, so well in fact that after about 10km I decided I would try and get to Skogafoss, which is where the next stop for the bus was, and there is a campsite. Game on! The wind was amazing, I was humming along at around 20kmh, didn’t want to go any faster, what with the tyre and all. Figured I would be there by early eve at the latest.

Maybe 2km further along the front tyre goes flat too, another tear in the tyre right on the rim strip. When I took the tyre of to check it there was loads of grit in there and had just rubbed the tyre casing until it gave up. So now I was walking. The picture below is in the morning, but gives you an idea of how featureless it was, and how little cover it provided! not even a bush to hide behind for a pee…..

A long walk ensued that involved the wind now being a hinderance rather than a help, driving rain straight into my back. It was also strong enough to make the bike a real struggle to push, as it was constantly trying to blow the bike over! I walked for a few hours, hoping for somewhere to pitch the tent behind, and finally gave up after about 15-20km only to find some cable drums, the kind communication companies use, in a small park spot. An hour of pure comedy gold followed, trying various combinations of pitching, to get as much shelter as possible. In reality it wasn’t much, and I lay(cowered) in my tent for several hours. Bye about 0700 the wind had all but died, and the rain more or less stopped. The march to Skogafoss continued, I estimated about 15km, which was more or less accurate.

_DSF6644Picture taken on the walk to Skogafoss the following morning. The snow covered mountain is the back of Eyjafjallajökull.  Finally the bus came and I got a ride into the outskirts, managed to find a bike shop and all they had was a pair of Kenda 35mm road/tourer tyres, which were more like 32 or 33 maybe. About £90!. Still, I needed them and I was on holiday, so that was that. I found a coffee shop and got some lunch, after which I popped over the road and fitted the new tyres behind a fuel station, to very confused looks from the locals. Job done, finally back on the road. I hemmed for a while as to wether to stay in Reykjavik for the night, but as it was still only mid afternoon, and it doesn’t really get dark I decided to push on along rt1 and then down rt435 and on the road that goes around Pinvellirvatnvatn, and on to Pinvellir( pronounced “thinvetlir”)itself.

img_0205The turn off for Rt435, looking east along the ring road.

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following the route out to Pingvellirvatn was a pipeline, which at the time I wasn’t sure if it was an oil pipe( didn’t think they had oil inland?!) or maybe a water supply of some sort, which in fact it was, kinda. A bit of googling later on, and it is in fact a steam pipe from the geothermal plant along the road. Picture above is looking back toward Reykjavik. I reckon that the pipe was well over 50km long. Supplies heating etc for The capital and its satellite communities I believe…

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The road was pretty steep in places, this short rise was around 20%, fortunately it was just 80 or so metres long. Even the smaller back roads were in good condition, very ridable and often with a wide shoulder too. Though I have/had heard that the drivers were not particularly cycle friendly, I found the opposite to be true. The only close calls I had were hire cars, and even they were few. Speaking to a local he suggested that as drivers still aren’t that used to bikes on the roads, they are generally over cautious, giving cyclists a wide berth more often than not. I certainly had no issues, drivers and locals generally were incredibly friendly and helpful. Somewhat puzzled, though usually interested in ones exploits.

_DSF6665Pingvellir, considered the worlds first Parliament, was one of the places I most wanted to visit on the trip. As well as an interesting historic site, it is also the site where two tectonic plates meet. A quick google will furnish you with all the info you could want, so I won’t give you a lecture here. From a personal perspective, It was something of a moment realising that one was stood in a crack, between the two moving plates of the earths crust….. cliche maybe, but true non the less!!

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As with most of the popular destinations, if you are happy to wander a few hundred metres from the main attraction, or go early/ late rather than 9to5 it is amazing how much less populated it can be. Everyone has a wander along the viewing platform, as you would given that it affords a great overview of the fracture and the site as a parliament. But having walked the path that leads to the far side of the site, I took a turn onto a path that goes through the actual fault, and once about 50mtr in there was no one until I got to the other end, maybe a kilometre or so! I could see up to the platform above with its crowds, but as the path wasn’t paved and/or signposted no one was going down to see what it was….amazing. By far the most interesting part of the site for me too.

Next destination was Geyser, I planned to ride along rte36 and rte365 stopping in Laugervatn for the eve. Having camped the night before I was in need of a shower given the heat. I had been led to believe that it would be pretty cool for the most part, a little like a Scottish summer. Most days had been in the mid 20s if not warmer on occasion! What they lacked in midges they made up for in black flies, incredibly persistent. It’s not often that as a cyclist you hope for a head or cross wind, but if you had a following wind they could keep up with you as you rode, and would just fly around your head landing on your face at every opportunity!! very frustrating. Great hostel, surprisingly quiet and the breakfast was good value too.

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Geysir was a short visit, Staggering amount of coach parties and camper vans. While quite interesting it was hard to get too excited given how busy it was. Having read a few books since coming home there are certainly many other sites that would be more worth a visit, and given their locations would be considerably less attended. From here on to Gullfoss.

The ride to Gullfoss is a lovely section of road, with a short gravel diversion to avoid traffic I got to the falls around mid afternoon. Again the place was pretty busy.

_dsf6685 View back to the visitors centre, from the viewing platform

img_0202View from the platform. As you can see, an absolute sea of people.

A quick visit to the coffee shop, and a filling of water bottles had me heading up rte35, one of the roads that had been the original intention of the trip. I planned to ride up it for a while to have a look and get a feel for what the riding would be like for a future trip. I had spotted a small shelter just prior to the start of the gravel section, so intended to stay there for the night having gone as far up as I felt able/necessary.

_DSF6695The road looking north, just after the Gullfoss visitors centre. The route goes through the two main mountains, just left of centre.

_DSF6699The shelter, I was planning to come back here and stay for the night before heading back south tomorrow. Empty here when I looked in on the way past, when I got back a few hours later there were about 20 saddles in there, ready for a pony trek the following morning I guessed. I was awoken at about midnight by the sound of hooves, when I looked out of the window there was a couple of folks riding ponies, with a small herd of about 12-15 being driven into a small paddock about 1km up the track. Small van appeared shortly after and everyone clambered in and drove off. Again I guessed they were for the following days trek.

_DSF6701Start of the gravel section. It wasn’t has rough as I had thought it would be, I only rode about 10km of to but that was fine, even on the relatively narrow tyres I was running. I had planned to ride on nano 2.1s on the other bike, which will be perfect I think. You could get away with 40mm gravel tyres too, maybe a little less cushioning but fine non the less I imagine.

_DSF6702PlanB leaning against a sign suggesting not to drive the next section in a standard car, especially a hire car! While stood on the small hill taking these pics at least 5 hatchbacks went past. I could just imagine the conversation should one need to call the Icelandic equivalent of the AA/RAC!

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Quite the moonscape. From this small vantage point it was like standing on mars, in all directions. I can see why they filmed large parts of it here.  I headed back to the shelter and made myself comfortable, and made coffee and food. The inside of the hut was covered in graffiti, clearly a popular spot for folks coming of the route from the north. When I say graffiti I mean it in the positive sense, there were some great sketches, cartoons and writing, including a few from as far back as the 60s! really interesting wandering around the inside reading all the trip accounts etc. I was just getting ready to get my head down when a couple of Dutch cyclists appeared outside, looking in to serif it was habitable. figured it would be rude not to spend the eve chatting with them, and of course they were heading up rte35 all the way to Akureyri. They were certainly well loaded too, effectively the king to my yang, packing wise. They had fresh veg, bottles of whiskey and even a 3-4 cup Italian stove top coffee maker! Gotta love the European approach to cycle touring.

Leaving early the next day saw me at the Gullfoss visitors centre well before it opened. I had set my alarm for about 0600 in order to be out before the pony trekkers turned up, setting off about 0700. I figured about an hour of riding and taking photos, and I would be happy to hang around the car park for an hour or so, go down to see the falls without the crowds, fill up with water and use the loos etc. 2 problems, my iPod was still on uk time which meant it waist fact 0600 when I set off, and the toilet block was closed and no outside water supply on the outside of the building. Bugger.

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Walking down to the bottom track, it is possible to go right to the edge of the waterfall. A small rope barrier the only deterrent to going over the edge. Have to say that it was refreshing to be in a country where the government assume the population is capable of making sensible decisions. The lack of safety signage and “don’t” messaging really apparent when coming from the UK. Given that we don’t constantly read of another Icelandic citizen walking under a bus/of a cliff/waterfall you have to wonder if theres something in it?! Anyhow, stunning spot made more so with a perfect waterfall bow as the sky was clear and the sun rising as I was wandering about.

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The roar of the fall this close was pretty impressive. The viewing platform can be seen on the clifftop skyline. Breakfast was a sandwich of ham/chicken/salad and pepper (the sandwiches are somewhat odd by our standard, but very tasty) and some cheesecake. Given I was covering about 100km a day I wasn’t inclined to feeling guilty. By 0830 the coaches and campers had started showing up and by 0930 when I left, the place was heaving again.

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Having made my way down some of Rte35, I decided to take a detour east to pick up the bottom of Rte26. This would take me up the Pjorsa valley along Rte32, and then under Hekla, Iceland’s most active volcano. The ride along the Pjorsa was lovely, no traffic and very scenic. The road follows the river for most of the way, with a nice little climb out of the valley into the plain that the Sprenginsandur route runs through.

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The climb out of the Pjorsa valley, the road cuts back from the left side and climbs diagonally to the right of the saddle. Doesn’t look much now but at it is a steady 2km of 5-7% from memory( which may be flawed!) I stayed at a hostel a few kilometres down the road, as usual down a long track off the road. I had originally just headed down for coffee, but as it was about 3km down the track, and was a really nice wooden hut/lodge building I decided to stay the night. Surprisingly, even here in the middle of nowhere I was able to pay with a card!!! The view from the hostel was pretty cool, looking straight across the valley to Hekla, the road/track I would be riding tomorrow cutting under the range of hills, left to right. I was surprised by the amount of snow still on the summit, given it was late July. The summit is more or less the same height as Cairngorm.

_dsf6748The hostel at Bjarnaleakjer.

img_1908The view over to Hekla, the Rt26 basically runs under the volcano, left to right.

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After a night in the hostel I was off down the road to pick up Rte26 back to the ring road in the south. Again this road was part of the original plan, so I was keen to ride some of it ti get a feel for the conditions. I had watched a few vehicles form the hostel, which had a great view of the route, and had a rough idea where the road went, which was basically under Hekla itself. The road started fine, but soon deteriorated into a hell of washboard. Often the tyre tracks were the place to be, but once the washboard started it was the last place to be! I tried to ride down the middle but that was often where all the small rocks anded up so that had it’s own challenges. It was certainly more of an issue that I was on 35mm tyres that needed to be run at pretty high pressures, I imagine that 40mm would be a lot better, a 2inch or 2.2 mtb tyre would be even better. I wasn’t overly worried however given that most of the tour was on gravel or sealed roads. I figured it was a compromise that worked for this trip at least. I had heard from a few vehicles that the road was being resurfaced further along, and the road was quite a bit rougher where they were working. Given the current conditions I figured I would be ok, how much worse could it be? Yeh, lots it turned out!!

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Some of the washboard, not that bad here. Plan-B having a bit of a sulk at a small bridge!

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Hekla in the background, and the road here is where they are doing the work. They basically scrape the road into a level/even surface, and then cover it in hardcore(imagine what a railway line looks like). They then roll it flat and firm, then apply the sealed surface(tarmac). The section that was scraped and awaiting the hardcore was great, basically like the rest of the road with the rocks and washboard removed. However, once the hardcore was applied I couldn’t ride the road at all. Something like a Fatbike or plus bike would have been ok, but that was about it. I asked one  of the work men how far this section went on for, and was told about 5km or so……. Damn. That was going to put a dent in my plans for getting to the campsite at the other end of the road! I finally arrived at a campsite about 20.00. Decided to have a coffee in the bar at the reception, and saw some Caol Isla on the top shelf. What the hell, I am on holiday. I got a 1000kr note out to pay(about £8), to be asked for 1500….. About £13 for a single measure!!!!! last dram I was having on this trip I can tell you.

Following day was spent riding back to the ring road, and then heading to Sellfos. It was still pretty early when I got into town, and having had lunch at a bakery I found on the way east I decided to head on to Eyribakki, where I knew there was a really nice hostel. That would have me within a days ride of Keflavik for my overnight, ready to fly out the day after that. I had spent some time on the Reykjanes peninsular on the way out, but wanted to explore the coastal route through the lava fields, which for me was the highlight of this trip.

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The road along this section of coast was pretty quite, with very few settlements of any kind really. Some interesting black sand beaches, including some tidal inlets such as the one above. The sand was such a contrast to the vivid greens of the grass and the hillsides in the background. Pretty flat light helped with the rendering of the colour, too much sun would have made it too contrasty for my tastes. So I spent a lot of time pulling over and “doodling” with the camera.

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The Gunnuhver hotsprings was an interesting spot. A standing spout close to the parking area and a generating site in the background. The colours were amazing, such vivid ochres and red/browns.

The legend goes that a local woman, Gudrun Onundardottir, known also as Gunna, became enraged and sought revenge when her landlord took her only possession, a cooking pot, as she had failed to pay the rent. Dying shortly after, she was taken to the local cemetery for burial, and whilst carrying her coffin the bearers noticed that it became suspiciously light. While the grave was being dug the locals heard „No need deep to dig, no plans long to lie.” The following night, the body of the landlord was found on the heath, blue and with broken bones. The revenge of Gunna. Her ghost caused a great commotion in the area until a local priest set a trap which caused her to fall into the hot spring, where she is said to remain, to this day. It is said that if you listen you can hear her scream in the dead of night. The spring is certainly quite noisy and it’s not hard to imagine the more superstitious of us believing the noise to be that of Gunna!

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A little further along the road is the famous Atlantic bridge, built across the fault line that travels all the way from the SW corner of the island, along the peninsular and through into the highlands. Along this line is the hot springs at Gunnuhver, the Blue Lagoon and Pingvellir are all features. The rest of the day is spent slowly cruising along the road toward Keflavik, taking photos and generally just sitting by the roadside enjoying the view.

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I am suddenly aware that the trip is coming to an end, and my pace slows somewhat. Finally arriving in Keflavik at around 19.00 I head to the Burger/Pizza place on the road into town to hide from the rain that has started. A chance to reflect on the trip and dry out, the staff were pretty good about me dripping on their nice shiny floor!

The flight the following day was uneventful, as was the night sleeping on the airport floor before my bus back home. Gotta say that Easyjet continued their stellar service on the way back. No dramas at all, which is all you can ask for, right? It has taken me an age to write up this trip report, not particularly savvy at this stuff, or that driven to share every little adventure. But It has been great reliving the trip through writing it, and also trawling through the pictures to post up here. There have been times when I have scratched my head a little remembering details, using my small notebook would have helped there of course! Next time, and yeh I have booked flights for May next year. West coast maybe, those Highlands though…..

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Kyle to Aviemore

So having just got a new laptop and NAS setup for the flat I was cleaning up some hard rives for moving files etc over to the new drives and came across the pics of the trip from Kyle of Lochalsh back to Aviemore a couple of years ago! Entirely forgot about the pics and never got around to posting up here. With that in mind, here is a bit of an image dump and brief description of the trip, mainly as the details are (mainly) long lost.

The trip was an interesting one for me as it was the first time I tried touring on the fattie. For the most part it was a little overkill, feeling a little over tyred, the only exception was passing over the pass into Glen Affric form the Glen Lichd side. Though it was clear that for that type of terrain it was the perfect tool, the route as a whole was 95% ridable on 40-50mm tyres, if a little bumpy at times. For the majority of the trip I found the bike a bit of a drag (literally) rather than a help. YMMV as they say.

The other issue I had was that I was really struggling on the hills, slow and steady on the flat, but as soon as I started to climb (at all!) I would pretty much grind to a halt. I put it down to a combination of not having been out on the bike much and the tyres of the fattie at the time. Several weeks later, of having much the same issues overtime I went out, I finally went to the docs and was diagnosed with Graves disease. About a year of meds finally sorted it, I was finally taken of the meds in Jan of this year……

The trip itself was great: scenic and remote, enough supply points along the way with a few good passes to cross from glen to glen. A nice mixture.

The weather was fine for the most part, though I was slightly under equipped in the sleeping bag department, fortunately I had enough spare clothing to get away with it.

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Sat in the cafe at Kyle looking toward the Skye bridge. Cloudy but clear, rain never appeared so all good.

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Eillien Donan castle obligatory shot. Was great to see the faces of the tourist/coach parties trying to figure out what the bike was all about.

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Start of the ride into Glen Lichd, the route goes left through the pass under the snow covered hill. Short HAB and then some rough single track into Glen Affric proper.

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Route goes right at the back of this pass, if you look hard you can just make out the path snaking along the left hand bank.

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Bridge over the burn before the start of the HAB.

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Off the bike, on the bike, even with a fatback it was a mixture of ride and hike. Scenery was a welcome distraction.

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Looking back to the pass through from Glen Lichd. Just after Camban bothy. Spent the night with a couple of ladies walking through to Loch Affric car park. They were laughing at my tiny meths stove while getting their Whisperlight going, not so much when I had had 2 brews and started eating my camp meal as they were just getting the water boiled finally….

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Small bridge between the bothy and the hostel. I am a bit of a sucker for the whole “low rolling cloud” thing. I just love the look of the hills in these conditions and can never resist photographing numerous variations!

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Hostel at Alltbeithe, despite riding through here several times I have never managed to get a bed as it is always either full or booked up as a private use! very popular spot, not unsurprisingly.

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Looking down Glen Affric. Again, my kind of light. I find that as nice as it is to ride on a warm blue sky day, photographically it does little for me. Most of my acquaintances thing I am a little strange for having a preference for “inclement” weather!!!

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Looking back, we see a common theme now, right?!

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Crossing the bridge before joining the road to Tomich, and lunch.

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Sunday lunchtime, it seemed rude not to try and get a roast at the bar. Was half expecting to be frowned at given my attire, not so. Roast beef, apple crumble, coffee and an interesting ride back through the village to pick up the track over the Denny power line road. Bit of a struggle to bend over the bars properly TBH!

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Local laird built the well in the middle of the village for the estate workers, there is a plaque somewhere listing the improvements etc the family made to the local living conditions etc. The details long gone from my memory I am afraid, though that’s a good excuse for you to go ride out there to have a read  yourself.

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Heading up and over the Denny road, just above Tomich. I was really struggling at this point, hence the lack of pictures between here and Fort Augustus. Camped just above the village, heading into town early next morning for breakfast. Given how poorly I was climbing, the Correyairack pass was looming pretty large in my mind by now!

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The bridge at the foot of the pass proper, from here the climbing starts in earnest. Again the lack of images is a good indication of my state of mind. The wind was also an issue, once I finally got to the head of the pass I could barely stand, strong wind and an extremely exposed spot up there. The improvements to the track due to the line works made the descent a great distraction, even the water bars were a pretty easy hop over.

The road one joins after the track peters out felt like it went on forever. I was starting to thing I had managed to take a wrong turn (despite there being nowhere else to go) such was the distance. Bye the time I got to the Laggan junction it was pretty late in the afternoon.

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Local town map in Newtonmore!

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As with the map in the previous picture, there are several murals painted around the village high street in Newtonmore, inc some nice mosaics of local activities such as shinty.

 

All in all it was a pretty good trip, despite not feeling great. he scenery was absolutely amazing and as part of a longer C2C trip would be about 4-5 days of mainly remote riding. At some point I plan to have another go at the whole thing on the Gravel/Gnarmac tourer.

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Jones’n

Been a bit hectic here of late, hence the lack of posts, that and I am pretty lazy with this stuff!

Recently got a new frame set to build up as a lightweight tourer/gravel bike thing(more of later) and have been busy sourcing parts for that, however something crossed my path which I have wanted for a while now. A friend is replacing his Jones 29 with a 29+, and was looking to sell his old frame/fork. I have wanted to try one of these for a few years now but never got the chance, well, there's a demo at my LBS but I was always afraid of taking it for a spin and liking it as it would end up costing me a fortune, given my “must have” approach to these things!!! So when Phil offered to let me borrow the bike for a while I was only to glad to oblige, assuming it would be a more affordable option(it was, just, I went a bit mad with wheels etc too)

 

Being the plain black frame, and a little worn to boot, it is a very unassuming bike to look at, (though I do like flat paintwork) but it does look “all business”. It has a fat front, which I originally planned to replace with a 29 wheel, but having ridden it for a few weeks I am changing my mind. I will put a more standard wheel on it at some point but have to say that the front makes a lot of the chunkier trails around here a great experience, which is no real surprise given that it was one of the things Jeff designed the frame set for.

The only thing I haven't tried on it yet is bikepacking, though I don't really need to, I have done enough to know that it will work fine. The midges sap my motivation more than almost anything else so it may be a few weeks before I get to try it in earnest.

So all in all I am very happy with the new addition to the stable, just need to sell the KM to pay for the new wheels now!

 

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Dava Way-Moray Coast Trail-Spey Way tour

This trip was actually done about this time last year, I just never got around to posting it up. As I haven’t posted anything for a very long time I think this is a good way of getting some housework done! So to begin.

The trip was a circular affair connecting the Speyside way, Dava Way, part of the Moray coast route and Speyside way as a complete day from Spey bay to Aviemore. I did it over 3 days, as I was pretty unfit (which persisted for several months) and I wanted to get away from home/work for a few days!!

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The weather for the whole trip was pretty settled, slightly overcast on the first day, though nice light to finish the day off. Having followed the Spey Way as far as Grantown on Spey, I then picked up the Dava Way at the caravan park just off the high street. The route basically follows the old Grantown-Forres railway line, as such it is pretty flat for the most part, though it is a little convoluted for a little way north where it bypasses Cottartown, but once past this it is pretty easy going and very easy to follow.

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The going is a little loose/rough in places but certainly not unridable, even on a road bike given wide enough tyres, 32mm or so. The section across the moorland is has some fine views of heather and hillside with a few tracks cutting of in various directions. One of which was used by the red coats patrolling about the moor.

Riding along a flattish section I saw what I thought was someone walking a dog maybe, a few hundred meters ahead, not sure what direction they were going. As I got closer I was pretty sure I could make out movement, though they didn’t seem to be heading in any particular direction. Eventually I got close enough to make out the shape of what look to be quite a big guy, a good 2mtrs tall, pretty imposing looking too!  Bit of a comedy moment when I finally “caught up to him” to see it was in fact a large wooden carving of said red coat!!

 

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The final run down in to Forres was pretty uneventful, though the moor was very brooding with some lovely blue, dark cloud to the north.

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The wooden structure is known as the “halfway house”, I assume because of it’s location between Grantown and Forres, and is effectively a bothy. There are some seating platforms and a bench inside, with more than enough room to sleep a few folk. There is a small info board inside that mentions the last family to live here, Early 1900s if memory serves! Shame it wasn’t further along, or I was at the end of my day. Worth making a mental note as a stopping point if I was to start the route later for a half day overnight.

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I arrived in Findhorn in time to visit the bakery in town, run by the Findhorn Foundation. Great coffee and cake in the coffee shop, and some really nice artisan breads in the bakery side. I headed to the beach after the visit with a loaf and some fillings from the local store, sat on the bank overlooking and had a lovely picnic watching the sun go down.

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Finally, a short ride to the far end of the beach toward Burghead I found a small flat spot with a picnic bench, perfect for eve brew and pitching camp.

The following morning was a short ride into Burghead for breakfast, via these wind turbines. Not entirely sure who they belong too, the Foundation or the RAF at the adjacent Kinloss airbase? Still, the local artists have spent a lot of time and effort making them a little more visually attractive, close up at least.

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Not a great deal of this

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Plenty of this.

The ride between Burghead and Lossiemouth is torturous in places, to say the least. Landcover tracks over loose shingle, some of the stones the size of tennis balls! presumably made by the RAF patrols when the base was open, and some meandering tracks along the shingle/maram grass line at the back of the beach made for very slow going. As I was pretty tired by this stage, and quite hot, I passed through Lossiemouth directly onto the beach for the final run into Spey Bay. I used the footbridge that take you onto the strand as the tide was out, thinking I could probably ride most of it if I stick to the top of the tideline…. not so much. I basically walked the entire beach, barring a few hundred metres, all the way along to Kingston. It’s only about 9ml but after a hot day in the sun, no water to speak of and trudging on soft sand or shingle I was pretty knackered, hence the lack of pics toward the end of the day! I had a really good pub lunch in Garmouth and finally rode the cycleway over the Spey following NCR1 and then turned right, picking up the Speyside way once over the old railway bridge.

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About 5km further on I found a spot behind this shed, a fishing hut I presume, and pitched for the night. It made for a very good windbreak, as did the Gorse bush as there was quite a strong wind blowing down the river. It was a fitful night as just there was a road on the other bank, which was really popular with what sounded like the whole of Speysides boy racer collective!!

 

the final day was pretty much a grind back home on the road. I had been having some issues with the free hub for most of the previous day, which I suspected was down to the sand etc on the march out of Lossiemouth. The freewheel would suddenly disengage leaving me with a spinning chains and some interesting bruises more than once! I figured that if I could get it to work, which it would do intermittently, I could limp home if I just slowly span on the road keeping the hub under tension. For the most part it worked, there were a few sessions of taking the wheel off and trying to persuade it to re-engage, but we got there in the end. Can’t remember the milage but it took me about 12 hours to get from Fochabers to Aviemore!!

The road through the Spey valley is a very empty place in terms of services of any kind, I struggled to find anywhere to buy food and drink, just the garage at Ballindalloch. between here and Grantown there is nothing, not even a loo etc to fill a water bottle.

It was quite a chore riding through the valley with little food and finally no water until I got to Nethy Bridge, too late for the spar but at least there is a public loo there for water( which as since closed!) I also discovered that the saddle I had on the bike, though fine for mountain biking and off road touring, is something of a torture implement on a road ride! Sitting on the saddle for several hours at a time and not wanting to get out of the saddle to peddle lest I manage to disengage the free hub was “testing” to say the least. I didn’t walk properly for several days afterwards is all I will say on the matter….. Again, a lack of pictures will attest to my state of mind and my lack of interest in anything other than getting the day done.

Apart from the mechanical issue at the end it was  a great trip, the Dava/Speyside way loop is a lovely 3-4 day trip which I would like to try again. Though I would probably ensure I was a little better prepared on the final leg next time. A little slow to publish the write up, maybe the memory was just too painful eh?!

As an late edition, I did a road version following much of this route just last week, almost a year later. The section between Charlestown and Grantown is even more devoid of suitable rest stops. As I was a little later in the day the Garage at Ballindalloch was closed for the day(16.00!) and the Hotel in Cromdale is now closed down.

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2014, a year of frustration.

So I managed to do just 2 trips last year, and never got around to posting them up. I had a very poor year health wise, with a bad shoulder/neck that had me off the bike for the best part of 12 weeks during the summer. Having got over this I was starting to feel very run down at the end of summer, which I put down to lack of sleep etc due to the previous neck problems. Turns out I have developed an overactive Thyroid, which is pretty much the only thing that was anywhere near being active at all!! Consequently I did nothing beyond May time other than a few day rides. My motivation was left wanting when it came to posting stuff up here too unfortunately.

So I am going to post a couple of short trip reports from last year, draw a line under 2014 and move on. Best thing all round I think.

I am hoping to get out a little more this year having got my medication pretty much dialled, here’s hoping.

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Trips, image dump 2

Another trip into Glen Einich 

So this ride was barely a week after the previous posted trip, This time around it was a little more windy, but a lot colder and somewhat dryer. The ground was frozen in places though thawing by the time I got in there. Great light again and some lovely views across Brairiach and the Sgorans flanking the glen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Looking back down the trail to Rothiemurchus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen once out into the glen proper the drainage improves and we are back to nice dry double track. the ice is just in the obvious RH bend at the far end of this image.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe track saw much improvement last year, some for the good, some not so. From a bikers perspective leastways! The track has lots of drainages running across it like the one in front of the bike, some this size, some a little bigger.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust starting to see the Loch now, the small hanging valley on picture left has an old Gillie track going up it that takes you to the summit of Brairiach, allowing some great skiing down the ridges and corries when the conditions are right.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking across the Loch at the western flank of the Sgorans, though hard to find there is another Gillie track that runs along th fear shore and the diagonally up into the small corrie just to the right and above my helmet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALoch Einich and the amphitheatre that hems it in on it’s southern end. From left to right is: brairiach, Stob Lochan and the edge of Carn Ban mor. One of my favourite places in the park, great for a quick overnighter, providing you don’t mind the wind or midges. You will usually have one or the other!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Gillie track roughly crosses into the wide corrie at top left of this image.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the not so small drainages crossing the track, looking back down the glen as I head home for tea and medals.

 

Beach ride at Findhorn with the Pugs.

Having had very little snow riding this winter on the Pugsley I figured I could kill 2 birds with one stone, I wanted to cover some distance on fat tyres to try and get an idea of what might be realistic to cover in a day on the snow pack ( yeh, I know but I was pretty much out of options eh!) and also thought I would see what this beach riding thing was all about.

Ruining drivetrains is one answer, though not that unsurprising. Basically I rode along the trail along the edge of the beach/woods to Burghead, coffee, then back again along the beach, 20km all in I guess. Lovely ride, and despite the pictures looking a bit grey the weather was fine. Picture wise I do love these kinds of skies so I was fine with overcast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the far end of the beach at Findhorn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is what the Pugsley does really well, soft and rough.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust behind the Findhorn Community site there are a set of wind turbines that have been “Hippied”, not sure if they belong the the “Findhorn Community” or the Findhorn community, maybe even the airfield? one of the hangars of which can be seen picture right in the image below. Whichever, I quite like ’em.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Burghead in the background. Riding along the beach here one can almost imagine the war years, apart from the decaying emplacements it can’t have changed massively at the tideline. The old airfield is barely 300mtrs from where I am standing taking this picture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Picture slightly out of sync, you can just make out the fortification in the previous image just to the left of the treeline. The trail follows this woodland as far as the fortification there and then heads inland a little, with some lovely trail riding through to Burghead. I followed this trail on the Dava route, appearing later, on the 29er and the difference in riding that and the pugs is quite an eye opener. Somewhat slower but the Pugs was far less “deflected” and stable along this section of loose sand/gravel/pine roots.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking toward Findhorn on the return leg, along ways off yet!                                             The Endomorph tyres were great in the sand, as they are on a firm snow pack. Different story on the trail though, I find if the going is firm and you put some air in the tyre accordingly they self steer quite alarmingly! It’s almost like they have a mind of their own…..

 

A few random winter pics that have nowhere else to be!

And also in no particular order, though they are from the same 2 trips.

IMG_0376 IMG_0373 IMG_0368 IMG_0361These are a ride back from Braemar while I was over there working for a few weeks. I needed to get back and the roads were pretty poor so I “popped back” on the bike. Apart from the small patch of snow at the saddle by Corrie Etchachan there was just a dusting so I chanced the 29er. Lucky guess!!

In reverse order by the way.

IMG_0246 Fords of A’an shelter.

 

IMG_0242From the top of the saddle looking down the Lairig an Laoigh toward the fords of A’an.

IMG_0239Got away with it, fortunately.

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IMG_0324Loch Callater, from just outside the bothy.

 

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Trips, picture dump 1

So as I was quite lax late last year, and this year too really! I thought I would just do an image dump of the later trips I did last year but never posted. A short description just to separate them out from each other and let the pictures speak for themselves. Once this, and one other bit of house keeping is done I shall try and post up some of this springs trips.

So in no particular order:

Loch Ossian through ride

First trip us is a 3 day Jaunt through glen Ossian, loch Treig and through to Kinlochleven. A quick road ride to Fort William to sort out a brake issue, and then home via the East Highland way. The last day was a pretty long one and so I have very few images of the EHW itself. Nice ride if a little tame in technical terms, in conjunction with the WHW it makes a great tour through the Southern Highlands and along the edge of the Cairngorm/Monadhliath group.

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IMG_0133track through to Ben Alder (in the distance) just past Loch Pattack. the route cuts right through the glen, over a saddle into Glen Ossian.

IMG_0135Some of the best single track I have ridden in these parts…..

IMG_0144take you over the saddle…..

IMG_0146and on into Glen Ossian.

 

IMG_0149The hike-a-bike is as bad as it looks!

IMG_0150The end of the H-a-B section, estate track all the way to the hostel from here. A great night in the hostel, woke up to a bright sunshiny day.

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IMG_0159More H-a-B!!

IMG_0160Through the Abhainn Rath, Meanach bothy in the distance.

IMG_0162By this point my front brake was almost non existent, as there is a bike hit enlace in Kinlochleven I decided to ride there rather than continue with the H-a-B into Glen Spean, 7-8km I estimated.

IMG_0165No joy with the brakes but I did find this! It was incredibly cold and windy, and as I have always wanted to try a Hobbit house I figured why not!? A quick trip to the chippy and I was all sorted. The cabin had a kettle/microwave and even a wall mounted mini-tv. 10 minutes flicking through the channels did little more than reinforce why I don’t have one!!

IMG_0166 IMG_0168 IMG_0175 IMG_0178 IMG_0180Ruthven Barracks, great site and well worth the visit. Just 25km back home.

IMG_0184Insh Marshes from the view point. Amazing building set right into the woodland/hillside.

Glenfeshie-Braemar-Glen Geldie round trip

So this trip is a bit of a regular short notice trip, if I have a few days off unexpectedly I often do this route as it’s a good one, and as I Know it so well there is pretty much no prep other than packing. I stayed at the hostel in Braemar so went pretty light, even left some luggage at the hostel as the manager was coming over to Aviemore a few days later!

IMG_0196Cutting through to Feshiebridge from Loch an Eilein, lovely bit of single track that takes you past Drakes bothy.

IMG_0200The Nemesis of the whole trip. This section of Glen Feshie up to and a little beyond Eidert Bridge is often very wet, having been cut up by the Argo-cats that the estate use for stalking.

IMG_0205Eidert bridge itself. You can cross at the mouth of the burn but I find that the time saved is often wasted trying to pick up the rather faint path again.

IMG_0216No shit!

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAThe Dee at Invercauld bridge.

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SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAOnce through the Invercauld estate you follow the stalking track around Meall Gorm and down into Glen Gairn.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAThe bridge over the Gairn, just at the end of Glen Builg.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERALoch Builg, pretty ride-able along the edge, though a little “combat bikey” in places.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERATrack through to the river A’an and eventually on to Tomintoul.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAAt the head of Glen Brown is a signpost pointing the way back to Tomintoul.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAExit from eag Mhor, the next couple of km is some of the best woodsy single track in the park IMO. Leads out to Forest lodge and then into Ryvoan pass, and just 4km back home.

 

A cheeky overnighter over the Burma road.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERALochan Uaine, on the way to the Ryvoan Pass.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERARyvoan Bothy, the cleft in the hillside in the background is the now infamous Chalamain Gap.

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SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERASluggan bridge, very humpy bridge indeed!

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SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERALooking back to the bridge.

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SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAGlen Dulnain runs roughly parallel with the Spey at this point. Lovely meadow on a sunny day, Skylarks a plenty.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERABurma road can be seen cutting away to the left, Campspot is straight on. In the full size image you can just make out the red bothy roof.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERACan you see it yet?

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERALooking back at the bridge, Burma road cuts right through behind the ridge.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERASAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAMonument on the top of the road, pretty wet and cold, and a long roll downhill into the rain :-((

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SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERABy the time I got to the bottom my discs were almost glowing. Anyone who as done this descent will know why, it is a very fast track with no real technicalities so it is easy to let the bike run and then wish you hadn’t!!

Once back into town it was off to mountain cafe for there famous Jenga breakfast. Sorry no pictures, but I can assure you it was very good.

 

Glen Einich on the fattie

The winter was a mixed bag this year, we had plenty of snow high up but it was often too windy to get out and ski tour. Lower down we have a few days of snow, but for the most part it was wet and windy rather than snowy and cold/firm. Fatbiking therefore was pretty non existent, we had a little more snow later but again, it was often to warm and soft to get any decent rides on. I have planned a trip in the Arctic circle this winter coming so was hoping to do some multi day trips on the snow pack in prep, hence the rides through Glen Ossian etc as scouting trips. I did a great trip through the Laraigh Ghru last winter and was hoping to extend it again this year, but every time I went into the Ghru to was either too windy and/or too soft! so I just rode what I could.

This trip into Glen Einich was one of several attempts, again due to wind mainly. The glen is a real wind tunnel, especially if the wind is blowing Northerly, which it often is. It is not uncommon in summer to ride in against a head wind, when it is more manageable, and take almost 2 hours!, only to be back out again on the return leg in less than 30 minutes….

The wind today was pretty strong, but not enough to be unridable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASgorans sitting Sentinal over the glen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe squalls were coming in from the SE over Brairiach/Ben Bhrotain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALoch an Deo, just at the end of the Estate track that re-enters the Rothiemurchus estate.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been trying various ways to carry my DSLR on the bike for future trips, so far this is working out as the favourite. Pretty stable and with room for spare batteries and a charger, I can even get my Galaxy Note in the front pocket….

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