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The mountain biking in the West Highlands is among the best in the world, but logistics aren’t always easy, and any trip up there requires planning, commitment and a few days off work. Our aim is to cram some of the best riding and scenery into a four-day trip that gives maximum riding for minimum time away from work.
Please note that this is totally dependent upon the weather and trail conditions and could alter considerably.
Devil’s Staircase and Ciaran Path, Glencoe
Exact meeting details will be confirmed nearer the time but there will be a rendezvous in Fort William between 9 and 10 and then a minibus journey back to Glencoe for the first ride of the trip.
After a bit of a briefing, we’ll push our way up the Devil’s Staircase for the long descent towards Kinlochleven.
We’ll then contour around the head of the glen to the Blackwater Reservoir and descend the awesome singletrack of the Ciaran Path to Kinlochleven, where the bus will be waiting for us ready for the 21/2 hour scenic journey to Skye.
Likely route stats are around 20km with 700m of climbing (over 900m of descent courtesy of the bus J)
Saturday night we will stay and eat on the Isle of Skye.
We have a couple of choices for the actual route so we’ll make a final decision on the day depending on the weather and how folks are feeling after Saturday – we still have a drive to Torridon to consider.
Either way, we will definitely enjoy a rocky climb and descent to the beach at Camasunary, and then take the reasonably easy but nevertheless wonderful, almost endless singletrack through Glen Sligachan, where we will get amazing views of the imposing peaks of the legendary Cuillin Ridge.
We’ll finish at the Sligachan Hotel, where no doubt a celebratory pint will be in order, and then it’s a 2 hour bus trip to Torridon.
Likely route stats are around 32km with just 500m of ascent.
Sunday and Monday night we’ll be staying in the Torridon Hostel and eating in the Torridon Inn.
We have 2 choices for the classic Torridon loop and we can make a final decision on the day based on the weather and how the group is feeling.
Ideally we’ll ride the four cols route, climbing from Annat to over 650m before dropping back to sea level at Achnashellac on one of the best descents in the Highlands.
It’s a big climb out from there. But it’s worth it for the return leg from Bealach na Lice to Annat.
The alternative loop is longer but stays a little lower, so is ideal if the weather isn’t on our side.
Higher Loop: 40km/1300m Lower Loop: 46km/1100m
Choices, choices again. We’ve only got half a day to play with here but we still have options.
These include Den Damph – very much a short version of the big mountain route of the previous day, or a point to point from Kenmore to Applecross.
Both are awesome – classics in their own right.
We’ll decide the night before. Either way, we’ll try and finish off with a pub lunch before we hop on the bus for the 3 hour saunter back to Fort William.
INCLUDED IN THE ORIGINAL TRIP PRICE
- All accommodation – 3 nights in shared private hostel rooms
- Cooked breakfast and packed lunches
- All travel in Scotland – 16-seat luxury mini bus with a dedicated professional driver and bike trailer
- All guiding with a 4-1 client to guide ratio
NOT INCLUDED IN THE ORIGINAL TRIP PRICE
- Getting to and from the meeting place
- Travel insurance and personal equipment
- Evening meals Incidental personal expenditure e.g. alcoholic drinks, laundry, etc
We have to be flexible as there aren’t a lot of options in the more remote parts of the Highlands.
We usually stay in comfortable hostels with private rooms – usually 2 to a room. Details will be confirmed before travelling.
A TYPICAL DAY
It’s quite likely that no two days on this trip will be the same.
But we can try… In an ideal world, we will have breakfast together at a time agreed the previous evening, and then rendezvous at a set time to load the bikes onto the trailer and hop on the bus (we may not need to do this in Torridon as we can ride from the door).
Most days, it would be good if we were pretty much ready to ride at this stage so there’s no major faffing when we are dropped off (where parking might be awkward for a bus and trailer).
But this won’t always be possible so we can always discuss it in the briefing or on the day.
Remember to pack an easy to reach bag with dry clothes etc for when you’ve finished riding. In the evenings, it will be ideal if we can meet for a pre-dinner drink and have a chat about the plans for the next day.
Armed with the latest weather forecast and a few maps we should come up with something that will suit everybody. And we can also discuss what we will need to carry etc.
We can then eat and have a few drinks J
No 2 groups are the same so expect a mix of riding abilities within the group, which will no doubt show both on the way up and the way down.
It’s worth being prepared for some big ups (including a fair bit of pushing for sure); and some technical downs (some of which almost everybody will probably carry/walk a few metres).
The logistics of the trip mean we won’t have many really long days but ideally the big Torridon day will see us on the hill for 6-8 hours at least.
In terms of technical riding ability, my best guess is that it wouldn’t really suit anyone who wasn’t 100% happy riding trail centre Blacks unless they had a huge sense of humour.
We’ll generally take more care than we would at a trail centre as a bad fall in a remote place is not good news. In terms of fitness, it’s going to be much more about stamina than speed or strength. The climbs are long so we won’t be racing anywhere.
We definitely won’t be leaving anybody behind. The idea of having an assistant guide on the trip is so we can cover the front and back of the group to try and cater for different speeds and ability levels.
I’m sure everybody will have their own strengths and weaknesses and perhaps even good days and off days.
The plan is to pull together as much as possible - a strong team will achieve loads more than a bunch of fit individuals.
This is rocky ground - a full-on x-country racing snake will probably be a bit lightweight, but a downhill rig will be a bit of a lump on the big climbs.
Most bikes in between will do the job – there is no ideal bike but it does need to be able to climb and descend reasonably well.
More important is that it is in good trail-worthy condition before we set out. It would be well worth having it fully serviced (or doing it yourself), and if there are any parts you are in any doubt about, change them.
If you don’t, you can be sure they’ll give up the ghost in the pouring rain 10km from the nearest road.
As a minimum make sure your chain, chainset and cassette are all in decent nick and your brake pads are new or nearly new (you can always carry the old ones as spares and slot them back in later).
Tyres can also be an issue as some of the ground is very rocky.
There’s no need for full-on downhill tyres and tubes but mega lightweight ones will probably be a hindrance too.
A typical mid-range all mountain tyre will be a good compromise – I use Onza Ibex or Maxxis High Rollers and prefer to run tubeless as it does reduce pinch flats – a real problem in rocky terrain - though I always carry tubes.
Note: There is a bike shop in Fort William but not a lot after
It is possible to do some laundry in some hostels – we can check before travelling if you feel this may be required.
We could experience everything from hot sunny days through wet and windy days to full on winter blizzards.
I have visited a few times at this time of year and have generally had good, clear weather and would hope for more of the same.
When packing, it’s best to cover winter and summer options and we can make more informed decisions about what to wear and carry on the day or the night before.
NOTE: THE MIDGE FORECASTS HAVE BEEN QUITE HIGH THIS YEAR SO FAR – DEFINITELY PACK SOME SMIDGE OR SIMILAR.