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.