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A Summery End to March

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!

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!

The last 2 rides

It has been a little while since we have updated our blog and a few Wednesday night rides have taken place. The weather has been pretty good while we have been out on the rides but a little windy in the open.

Last week we rode out along the old logging way to Badaguish, it was a good turn out for a cold winters evening with seven of us in total and a wide variety of bikes from a single speed rigid 29’er to 6″ travel full sus bikes.

We pedaled round the flowing singletrack of Badaguish which was in really good condition with only a couple of muddy sections to goosh through. Everyone re-grouped at the bottom of the Canadian trail to the sound of howling huskies from the nearby sled dog centre. We then raced back down the old logging way to the Old Bridge Inn for a nice cold beer and a  few bags of crisps.

Last Wednesday it pretty much snowed all afternoon which may have put a few people off heading off into the hills but as we left the shop it cleared up a bit.

Just three of us this week, winter Wednesday night regular Oli and Joe Barnes who was taking a break from building the mountain bike section of the Red Bull 50/50 race course which takes place on Saturday up Cairngorm mountain.

We decided just to head up High Burnside as the trails are pretty interesting up there with some fresh snow on them.

The ride went up the usual fire road and singletrack climb past the sheep skull which was very slippery towards the top and up to the trails which are skiers right of the rock slabs.

Oli and Joe in the snow

The three of rode some corners for a while on a new trail that is under construction up there and then slid and drifted our way down to the lower fire road through all the fresh snow. From there we headed up to Ed’s trail with the big swooping berms and the wooden North shore style bridges which we managed to slither our way across in the snow and made it over the streams and slippery rocks at the bottom without incident. We then all headed off to get some food from Costcutter as it was getting pretty late and were all fairly hungry.

Hopefully we will see you next Wednesday.

We had another superb Wednesday night ride – mild, clear skies and perfect trail conditions.

We headed out on the Speyside way, then over to the boathouse at Loch Vaa where the water level seemed high despite the dry weather of late:

After crossing the A9 we rode up through the forest below Beinn Ghuilbin, looking for a vaguely remembered singletrack descent which turned out to be fantastic fun, if a bit on the short side.

A quick contour around the hill led us to the top of some singletrack which roughly follows the line of an old stalkers path (I think) where we paused to enjoy the view.

Some fun was had putting names to constellations (is there really one called ‘The Wee Frying Pan’?) and trying to decide whether we were seeing lots of shooting stars in the same area of sky or one oscillating satellite or space station… Maybe Andy will be able to tell us next week as he was, coincidentally, away on an astronomy course in Fort William.

Back to the riding, we dropped our seats, and dropped down the bermtastic descent, which was in the best condition I’ve ever seen it.

We had energy left for one last climb, this time over to a crazy wee trail that just ends at the confluence of two streams. Not one to visit when the burns are in spate or if you’re not confident crossing scary streams on slippery rocks.

Here’s hoping next Wednesday is as clear so we can enjoy this:

Cold and Spellbinding

An allignment of planets

Bike Decals

I mentioned how rubbish I was at taking night riding pics. I just want to post something that gives a flavour of the ride, rather than works of photographic genius (although that would be nice), however last Wednesdays efforts were so bad they don’t give a flavour of anything, except that it was dark…

It was a fun ride, we (David, Andy, Fraser and Ollie) met at the Landmark car park in Carrbridge, and did a few nice loops using the off-road sections of Sustrans route 7 to get to the singletrack . The ground was frozen solid, with some choice icy patches here and there to catch us out. Still great riding though.

It’s always nice to visit the Cairn pub afterwards; they had Dark Munro on tap – new for me and very tasty it was too. We also ate far too many hand made crisps again.

Here’s some pictures I took of everyones bike logos when we rode here last April, seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe I should have had a match the bike to the rider competition…

A Surly Salsa ride

This Friday we had a visit from Patrick from Ison (distributors of Surly, Salsa, Rohloff, Identiti and lots of other good stuff) and John from QBP (Surly & Salsa distro in the USA)

They showed us Surly’s new-ish Ogre 29er – possibly the most versatile bike in the world! It’s based on the classic Karate Monkey and you can run pretty much any rack, brake and gear setup you want; use it as a commuter, off-road tourer, anything you like!

We’ve just got a Black Ops Pugsley in for stock – the ideal bike for those of you struggling to decide between a standard Pugsley and Moonlander!

The Black Ops Pug has wider rims (82mm vs Pugs 65mm) and Mr Whirly crank with offset double rings to clear the tyre. You also get a Moonlander fork up front and some neat wee thumbshifters.

The Salsa Mukluk has been around  a while, but this is the first one we’ve seen. It’s a very pretty bike. Sparklyness is always good! It’s designed so you can chuck on a 29er wheelset for summer singletrack trails, or whatever you want to do when you’re not going where no-one has gone before…

Anyway, Friday was definately a day for riding bikes rather than talking about them so Andy from Backcountry Biking and I took our guests out to sample some fine scenic trails.

Here’s Andy, victorious after doing battle with a stubborn Nate tyre:

It was so nice heading up the logging way, snowy hills shining in the distance; of course we told our guests it’s always like this here!

Usually the traverse from Rothiemurchus Lodge is a muddy mess,with a horrendous headwind; not a path we’d recommend at all. On very rare instances (like Friday!) it’s possible to actually ride without contributing to making soup. The only problem was the liberal covering of ice; it was sooo slippy, even the Nates couldn’t cope…

Thankfully, there wasn’t too much of this and we bumped on through the frozen footprints up to the path junction.

The descent was just fantastic. No need to rush, just swooping down, savouring every twist and turn. Riding through the dappled sunshine on the lower part of the track was a sublime experience. Needless to say, our guests were delighted!

It would have been rude not to return via the castle at Loch and Eilein to complete the guided tour. I was quite impressed with the signs advertising ‘warm springs’ and rather wished I’d brought my bathing costume.

Afterwards we returned to the Old Bridge Inn, and warmed up by the fire. And yes, we did talk about bikes. Just a bit.

David – Salsa El Mariachi, blinglespeed

Andy – El Mariachi fat front, 2×5 speed

Patrick – Surly Ogre, Rohloff 14 speed

John – Salsa Mukluk , 3×9 speed

Circles Round The Moon

Wednesday night was one of those when you really want to get riding straight away; no idle chit chat, map consulting or last minute fettling. It was really cold! C’mon, let’s just go, we’ll talk once we’re moving, oh why is everyone looking at Dawid’s bike…

Sooo… after a good 5 minutes of tapping brake hose, we discover the reason the brakes are so spongy is that the pads are missing. Oh, well, it’s only the rear brake, lets do some riding!

Andy had some great tips for getting circulation back to frozen fingers but I found the best way was to pedal uphill as fast as I could, job done! Only problem is you then get an attack of the ‘barfing screamers’ when warmth returns, aargh…

It’s been dry and windy all week, so the local trails are in excellent condition and frozen solid. Also, someone has done a great job of clearing fallen trees off the paths: thank you, whoever you are.

We rode on natural woodsy singletrack, a crazy path winding it’s way through and over massive fallen rocks, through icy streams and pretty much every kind of 95% rideable terrain you can think of.

This, however is the best picture I could come up with, and he’s on a climb! My night riding pics are always hopeless!

From the top of the hill, we had a fantastic view of the moon with an amazing halo around it. This is apparently caused by moonbeams being bent by ice crystals in the high clouds. The picture is from SpaceWeather, but was taken in Moray at the same time as we were riding, so it counts! It’s everybody’s moon.

The descent from here was wonderful: push off, plummet down a vertical slab, put in a quick pedal stroke so you don’t stall in the rocks, then hang on through a series of steep rutted turns, trying to remember which line you need to take to avoid the sheet ice round the next corner. Lots going on there – especially for Dawid with his one brake… That must have been scary.

Next we headed back into the woods for some lovely loamy singletrack, nice to relax and let go after the full-on-ness of the hill.

We finished up with a visit to the Silverfjord Hotel, and the usual post-ride crisp fest.

What a fantastic start to February!

Nana Grizol – Circles ‘Round the Moon (again!)