2011 | fatbike | highlands
At some stage during the winter, while idly surfing on the Internet, I came across the fat bike... An Alaskan invention, it is essentially a laid-back mountain bike with 4"-wide flotation tyres for travelling across snow, although of course its utility is equally applicable to sand or mud or any other soft surface. The thought took hold, combining with a long-held yearning to return to the tracks and footpaths of the Scottish highlands, remote from all traffic, which were a central part of my teenage years. Last summer's trike ride along the west coast was wonderful, but I was restricted to metalled roads (I did venture onto gravel tracks twice, and thoroughly enjoyed that).
The route for the Highland Ride 2011 will be eight days of offroad cycling through the Lorn Mountains, Rannoch Moor, the Monadhliadh and the Cairngorm mountains: Scotland at its best, steeped in history and mountain lore. I shall start and finish at stations – Taynuilt and Blair Atholl – meaning I can base myself in Glasgow and leave my Landy there, taking the train to and from the start- and end-points.
Not having been on a mountain-bike expedition before I am guessing at the distances achievable per day, and guessing that with the climbs involved and the mixture of land rover tracks and footpaths (and a few trackless miles...), planning on the cautious side is prudent. I am not as fit as I should be, and have factored that in too; if the days are "too short" it will leave me with plenty of time for photographs, and as I shall be camping I can vary the distances as I wish anyway.
As planned, the route includes lovely wild campsites: high on the Black Mount overlooking Rannoch Moor, on the shore of Loch Ossian, nestled beside an ancient drovers' road in the Ardverickie Forest, in the old Caledonian pinewoods of Rothiemurchus Forest, beside the isolated River Avon, in the forest of Glen Doll and finally revisiting a favourite from decades ago, the watershed at the top of Glen Tilt. Special places along the way include Glen Kinglass, Rannoch Station, Strath Ossian, Lochan na h-Earba, Ryvoan Pass, Lochnagar, the Capel Road, Jock's Road, a munro, Crow Craigies at 3018' (!) and of course Glen Tilt.