Archive for the ‘Riding’ Category

Alvie Alive

We missed last Wednesday due to illness and a  lack of enthusiasm for riding in the rain (it had been so nice on Monday and Tuesday…)

This week was looking much better, so we thought we’d go for a classic starting from the Suie Hotel in Kincraig. The Suie is a great place to use as a base for riding: you can head over the Spey to the wealth of trails in Inshriach forest and Glen Feshie or do as we did and head over to Alvie for some rocky madness.

Suie Hotel Kincraig

The ride starts with a zoom along the Speybank Walk path. This features a rather large vertical drop to the River Spey below and is definately not the sort of place you’d want to meet a dog walker while you’re out on your Segway

We then headed over Dalraddy moor, following the line of General Wade’s road before crossing under the A9 to the start of the long climb up to the phone mast. There were ponies in the field here, so it would be a good idea to skirt through the neighbouring woods to avoid them.

The climb wasn’t as brutal as it can sometimes be, due in part to the NE wind which gave us a wee push up the top zag and also to both Jones riders (Phil and Andy) breaking chains on the climb. Coincidence? We shall see…

Fixing a chain on the climb

View from the mast

Last time we were here the cloud base was well below the summit; this time we has great views from Cairngorm over to the Feshie hills and Badenoch. It was a bit chilly so we didn’t hang around too long. When we held our first downhill race here in 19-oatcake we had to move the start down to a more sheltered spot as it was sleeting at the top (also in June!)

Overlooking Loch Alvie

Phil rolls over a rock

The descent was a blast, they have motorbike trials meetings there every now and then, so the track is always evolving in interesting ways. It’s tricky to find your way down if you don’t know the trail well. I’d definately recommend hooking up with someone who does know it, else you’ll spend a lot of time walking back up wondering where to go!

Phil descends

John conquers

All safely down, we returned via Speybank to enjoy the comforts of the Suie bar and reminisce about old downhill races and stuff.

Riders tonight were: Andy, Phil, Fraser, Dawid, Duncan, Ollie, John, Ian and me.

PS Plan A was to ride a different way up and come down the track on the W side of the Allt Each. Just as well we didn’t as someone could well have been decapitated by the zip wire which has been strung across the track. Not good…


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This weekend I went on an “Introduction to Bikerafting” course with Backcountry Biking run by regular Wednesday nighters Andy and Rob.
It’s been a very long time since I did any sort of paddling so I was slightly worried about spinning round in circles, capsizing and abandoning my bike forever to the cold, dark depths of Loch Morlich. Amongst other things…

However, Saturday dawned, and in keeping with the rest of the week it was a scorcher (as they say).
We (Dave, Colin, Jim, Sanny, Gari and me) met up at the Old Bridge Inn car park; packed our (incredibly light) Alpaca rafts and headed for Loch Morlich.

Jones and Horsethief at Loch Morlich

We were shown the correct use of the ‘Inflation Bag’, which is an incredibly simple way to pump up yer raft.

Inflation Bag technique dialled

All my own work

Soon we were out on the loch, the largest collection of Bikerafters in the UK… ever!

On Loch Morlich

After a play around we repacked our rafts and went for a ride around Loch Morlich; riding with a (deflated!) packraft on your back is much the same as with a loaded up 30L rucksac: the paddle splits into four bits for carrying, just make sure you don’t lose any of the bits…

Rob ridin’ the hood

Next we had a play around in the Allt Mor, to get used to paddling in moving water. This was fun!

Playing in the Allt Mor

Having a bike on your boat certainly invites interest, pretty much everyone who saw us felt moved to make a comment!

Is this Benidorm?

Aviemore had gained a lot of publicity earlier in the week for being the hottest place in the UK; as a consequence the beach at Loch Morlich was mobbed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so busy there… I was worried they might have sold out of ice cream, but thankfully the Boathouse Cafe had plenty.

The sun shines on the rafters

Andy promised us a following wind for the journey back to the far end of the loch; unfortunately this was not to be, but it was probably better to experience the difference a headwind can make to paddling time.

Nearly there…

Back ashore again, we packed up our kit (getting good at this now) and set off down the Old Logging Way back to the Old Bridge Inn for a well-earned pint.

On Sunday we took no time to pack our rafts and get ready to ride, this time heading for Inshriach Forest where we planned to ride some sweet singletrack on the way to a suitable place to join the River Spey.

Maybe next time…

Splashing through

As it happened, this included a stop off at Inshriach Nursery cake shop where we spent far too much time.

We chose cake…

After all that eating, some excercise was called for, so we headed to the Inshriach clifftop trail, which was riding soooo well. Unfortunatelty, Andy discovered his under-frame bottle cage system is incompatible with a particularly gnarly rock section, and had an over the bars episode as a result.

Getting ready to raft

Down by the Spey, we inflated our boats and put in at a nice gentle section, after being shown some hazardous bits from the river bank.

I absolutely loved paddling down the Spey… it was so relaxing, and so great to see stuff I cycle past every day from a different perspective.

We stopped in a few places where Andy and Rob showed us some fallen trees which looked pretty innocuous, but as it turned out could cause serious problems (such as getting trapped and drowning…) if you drifted into them. The stretch of river we did looks very easy, but there were plenty of tree-lined sections, submerged tree stumps etc which could catch you out. I’m glad we had good guides!

Kinrara from the Spey

Craigellachie from the Spey

Lairig Ghru from the Spey

I really didn’t want the journey to end, so it was cool to discover that the river takes a couple of huge meanders just before Aviemore. This also gave us some opportunities to practice our ferrying technique.

Back at the Old Bridge Inn, we packed up our gear for the last time, and, over a beer, started planning further bike rafting adventures.

I’m hoping to go on the next Backcountry biking packraft course, which won’t involve bikes, but will give an introduction to white water technique. Packrsfting is the best – I can’t wait!

Check out the following for more on the weekend and details of courses:



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I missed the last two rides after spending the daytime skiing (lost count of the number of hikes to the summit) but the gang went up High Burnside on the 9th and to Carrbridge on the 16th. Both great rides by the sound of things.

Here’s some pics of me and Fraser enjoying the incredible conditions on Cairngorm:

Fraser on Cairngorm

David on Cairngorm

This Wednesday Aviemore was the hottest place in the UK with a high of 26.9C , quite a contrast with last weeks snow!

We met at the Uach Lochan car park on the west side of Glen Feshie; it’s a great place to start a ride. There’s also a bird watching hide (never seen much from it though) and a nice walk around the Lochans over boardwalks.

Guess what bike they’re discussing

Our destination was the trig point on Creag Dubh, which we rode to via crispy dry singletrack trails. It was the first time I’d been back there since clearing the way in March (feels like last summer now…) and everything was flowing very nicely.

The first descent we did was very muddy at the top, perhaps we need to let that one lie fallow for a while… The main forest road to the top has been ‘upgraded’ part of the way and there’s lots of white tape around so it looks as if the area may soon be off-limits anyway due to timber harvesting…

Second run down was fabulous; there’s quicker ways off the Badan, but we took the scenic route for added value! Interesting to see that someone has removed the stone ramps from fallen trees below the trig point and chainsawed through the trees… I was looking forward to riding over them too…

Dawid on the solitude trail

Phil on the solitude trail

After that we headed up to the Lochans viewpoint where Dawid told us how to make a delicious cough syrup from pine needles. Hmm…

Top of the Lochans

From the summit we swooped down the clifftop path then turned off down an old track I hadn’t ridden for years. It was always a challenge to cleanly ride the rock garden halfway down, so I was really looking forward to giving it some 29er action. Unfortunately it’s been cleaned another way and instead of a rocky jumble there’s just a couple of steps. Oh well…

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Ok, today is not quite so marvellous (it’s cold, wet and windy) but last Wednesday we had one of those special spring evenings with wonderful dry trails and warm, sunny weather.

Braeriach looked stunning with a good covering of snow (maybe we should have gone ski touring) looking especially fine with the spring colours in the foreground.

Over the moor

Andy was demoing our Jeff Jones Spaceframe bike. Lateral thinking in bicycle form, the Jones is a fixed geometry (you wouldn’t call it rigid if you rode one…) all mountain bike. Andy reckons it is the most rideable, playful bike he’s ever been on and placed an order mid way through the ride! As you can see from the pics, it’s a bike that invites a lot of discussion!

Talking about the Jones

Still talking about the Jones

There’s lots going on with the Jones

We climbed up to the treeline in the gorgeous evening sunlight, accompanied briefly by a female Capercaillie who had been enjoying a stroll on the same path.

Follow that Caper

It’s always chilly at the top of the climb, so we didn’t spend too long looking for Santa’s pals… plenty of time till they’re needed though!

I have but not today

The Moon and Lairig Ghru

The descent was bliss. Swoopy, swoopy, joy, joy….

Full on John is happy

At the bottom of the trail, time was found for further Jones discussion…

I sense a theme to this ride

Then we rode to the Old Bridge Inn for fine ales and banter. I think we talked about ski touring…

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Last Wednesday (4th April) the usual suspects went for a ride up High Burnside and by all accounts had a fun time in the snow. I had an errand to run so couldn’t be there, but managed out for a quick blast in Inshriach Forest. It was such a glorious evening; with a decent covering of snow, the kind that’s easy to ride in!

Tallboy in the snow at Inshriach Clifftop

I rode up to the top of Creag Glas-Uaine and enjoyed the fabulous view over the forest canopy towards Kinrara. Descending the ‘Inca Trail’ (usually a climb) was fun, those switchbacks are a bit tight in the snow! I finished up making the most of the ‘Scholars Path’ variations between there and Lagganlia.

Argyll Stone, Creag Follais, Moon

This week (Wednesday 11th) I was, once again, delayed (this time I’d miscalculated how long it would take to wash the hire bikes…) but had cleverly arranged to meet at Feshiebridge, thus giving the waiting riders (Will and Iain) an opportunity to visit the Sculpture Park.

Frank bruce sculpture Feshiebridge

We set off via lower Dalnavert, where there’s been a lot of timber felling, and the bike path there is really a no-go. We used the stony track below the official path instead. A steady climb followed, up to the B970 then across to the ‘Dalnavert crossroads’, where we turned left up the track that leads to the Inshriach clifftop.

This week we chose the way down towards Tombain. The traditional way still has a lot of fallen trees, so you have to take what I think is the better descent. It’s got lots of corners, rock features and wee gnarly sections – good value! I was pleased that the ‘gravity drop’ (is there another kind?) works well and the trail seems to be bedding in nicely (it needed a lot of clearing, and some re-routing after last December’s ‘hurricane’)

From Tombain we headed over the ‘Merida bump’ and up to the fabulous ‘Cake or Death’ trail, which apart from the odd tree in the way, is riding really well…

I was keen to do the whole ride without using lights  so I managed to get us lost between Inshriach Nursery car park and the forest road we were aiming for. It’s incredible how wild an area of the forest just yards from the public road can seem when you’re dis-orientated. I’d swear we were in Narnia for a while…

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It’s the end of March and we’ve just experienced yet another week of glorious sunshine. What’s going on?

Once again we took advantage of Summery conditions and headed for the hills, our destination this week being the rough descent from the top of the Burma Road.

This weeks team were Fraser, Ben, Andy, John, Rob, Iona, Paul, Iain, Dawid and me (David)

People Get Ready

We were keen to get away promptly to make the most of the light, but of course things happened and we didn’t manage away until 6.30 Dawid also managed to lose us after less than 2 minutes riding, which has to be a record…

So… upwards and onwards… the Burma Road climb never gets any easier does it? Actually tonight it didn’t seem to take long as I was chatting with folk all the way up – including Paul from Cycletherapy on his first Wednesday ride in many’s a year.

We hung around just a touch too long at the top (getting chilly now) and set of through the gloaming. The track down to Balinluig has always been very braided at the top, not very pretty, but the infinity of line choices does make it interesting to ride.

Group near the top of the Burma Road

It’s a shame the fast grassy section that follows has become so cut up; most of the nice wee drops have been skidded through, leaving axle deep ruts. C’mon folks, if you’re going to venture out into the hills on your pushbikes, please learn to ride them properly first! Fraser, who certainly can ride a bike, was the victim of a hidden hole which a Black Sheep 36er might just have made it through! Witnesses say they have never seen anyone loop over the bars quite so fast…

The ruts claim a victim

The lower track is steep, rocky billy-goat path, with a drop to the stream below to add excitement. This bit of path (almost) always has water running down it, but bikes don’t seem to have had much of an impact here.

It was getting pretty dark by this point, but Paul hadn’t brought lights (rather optimistic about our ride time) and it would have been wrong to interrupt the flow of the descent so Andy, Paul and I kept on into the gloom.

Moonlander descending

We stopped at the gate above Balinluig Farm to regroup, then set off on somewhat gentler tracks for Lynwilg and the most dangerous part of the whole trip, the road back to Aviemore.

Now all we need are some papadums

We stopped off at the Old Bridge Inn for some refreshments, and some excellent roast potatoes, possibly the finest post-ride snack imaginable. Thank you!

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Magical March

This really has been the most amazing winter for off road bicycle riding. Trails are dry, dusty even, wind hasn’t been too bad, and there are no midges!

Last Wednesday (14th) we set of from Lagganlia seeking sweet singletrack. Trail pixies have been out clearing  fallen trees from many of the tracks, unfortunately not the route we chose to get to the top of Creag Dubh. The windblown trees covered every junction, and we ended up following forwerder tracks that led nowhere. We got so lost!! All that floundering around was forgotten on the whooptastic ‘Green Dream’ – is it possible to ride this trail without grinning like a maniac?

What should have been a relatively gentle meander back to Lagganlia was somewhat spoiled by an entire avenue of fallen sitka spruce trees, and we ended up bushwhacking again, grrr…

Never mind, off to the Suie Hotel for fine Cairngorm Beer and the usual 40 packets of crisps, and planning the following week’s ride which proved to be an entirely different beast.

So, a night ride on Cairngorm? Why not, let’s do it!

Glenmore Lodge was the base for our adventure, and we managed to resist the urge to play on their skills course (and the £10 ride and meal deal)

The Allt Mor trail is fun to cycle up, apart from the steep pushy bits and the anti-bike obstacles. If only there was a more bike-friendly way back down; hopefully this will happen in the not too distant future.

The sky was perfectly clear, and it was magical to see first Jupiter and Venus, then the brighter stars appearing. By the time we reached the top, it seemed every single star visible to the naked eye was out. Here’s Orion appearing to the right of the Goat Track (and Fraser’s forks)

Coire an t’Sneachda (Corrie of the Snows) isn’t living up to it’s name; there’s no way we could have done this ride until at least May in the last three years. Although it’s fairly accessable (especially from Cairngorm Car Park if you want to cheat) this isn’t a route to undertake lightly; there’s a lot of opportunities to hurt yourself and despite the fine weather it was pretty chilly up there.

So, not wanting to hang about to much, we set of back down to Glenmore. It’s an awesome descent. Sometimes trails feel easier at night, I think it’s because you just focus on where your lights are pointing (really?) and there’s no distraction. Well, tonight some sections I’d normally ride were frankly terrifying. Can I really ride down that? Not tonight. Fraser and Andy of course rode everything; Fraser on his first visit too…

Safely back down at Glenmore, we headed to the Lochain bar for afters, and forgot to plan next weeks ride. Should have time to dust my bike before then!

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