This year’s adventure and a change of plan

rannoch moorI had planned to head to France for this year’s bike tour and tackle the Grande Traversée du Massif Central, a 700km mountain bike route from Clermont Ferrard to Montpellier.

I bought the guidebook and had (nearly) sorted my slightly awkward logistics flying outbound and grabbing the Bike Europe Express coach service home. Naturally, I wanted to take the Surly ECR on this trip although this bike’s massive proportions would cause problems on both modes of travel. If you’re interested, Bike Europe Express will take fat bikes – be they half or full fat – classing them as ‘unconventional solos’. However, I think it’s a good idea to call them first if you fancy taking your monster truck.

Other factors have now conspired against France, however, focusing my attention back to Google Earth and my daydreams. Not for long though…

Each year we drive up to Scotland I snatch a glance along lonely glens and see stony tracks disappearing into massive landscapes. Each time I promise I will return with a bike, some lightweight camping gear and with a vow to simply spend some time. This year, in May, I’ll make good on that promise.

Previous experiences in the Highlands are feeding this ambition too.  I walked the West Highland Way a few years back and wondered then what sections would be like on a bike (although not the stretch north of Rowardenan; that’s cycling sadomasochism to make you weep).

Poring over maps a route is starting to take shape, although I am keeping things purposefully loose. If there is a narrative to this journey, it’s to ride the old ways such as General Wade’s military roads, drove roads, thieves’ roads… routes that have provided passage through this wonderful, fearsome landscape for hundreds of years.

I’ve plotted a roughly circular route from Glasgow that takes in the superb riding in and around the Rothiemurchus forest, the Great Glen, Glen Affric and, perhaps, an island or two I’m yet to visit. As I say, keep it loose.

The ECR will  be the ride of choice here too. Now equipped with a Rohloff hub and ‘bikepacking’ luggage, its impressive hoops should handle what will be tricky ground at times. I want to keep hike-a-bike to a minimum and yet will probably have to push on more occasions than any sane person would want. I’m not burdening my planning with this baggage, though.

I’m in similar denial about the weather. May has been very good to me on previous jaunts ‘north of the wall’ so I’m due some payback. We’ll see.

For the next few months, then, my daydreams will be filled with sunsets, lofty peaks, cobbled roads and singletrack, and wild camps near energetic burns. The weather will be set fair and the midges docile.

All hail the blissfully ignorant romantic.

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6 thoughts on “This year’s adventure and a change of plan

  1. I’d love to see the rough map of your route. Next trip across the pond will with luck include some time back in the highlands biking and hiking. It is I’m sure a trip that the ECR was born for.
    Cheers, John Q.

    1. It’s pretty much sorted on the outbound leg. Follow the West Highland Way to Lomond but skirt the Loch on the other side. Follow the WHW across Rannoch Moor and (maybe) tackle the Devil’s Staircase… maybe not! Up the great glen and then follow the Corrieyairack pass and trails to the Cairngorms. Spend some time here and then to Inverness before heading south either on the Great Glen or, if time, heading over to Glen Affric, Skye and a West Coast route back to Glasgow.

  2. Sounds good I have just mapped a route for bikepacking up Glen feshie and Glen tilt Blair Athol to aviemore – you using ride withgps or map my route – would you mind sending me the route??

    1. Was thinking of Feshie myself… i haven’t mapped anything yet and may not as the route will be fairly straightforward – just using the gps to confirm position if needed. However, if I do I’ll share.

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