Mostly, this is random stories from my various trips as I collect them, but I've a wee backlog to get through too and those will pop up occasionally.

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Showing posts with label Ti. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ti. Show all posts

Monday 23 September 2019

Home to home

Piemonster (Shaun) had a plan that we should do a 2-day ride from his house in Burntisland to mine in Aviemore. I left all the route planning in his hands, other than adding a compulsory stop at Stewart Tower Farm. Shaun booked annual leave, I booked a train to Burntisland. Then Shaun contacted me the day before to tell me he wasn't feeling too well. Rather than let the plan be wasted I decided to do it solo, though Shaun accompanied me for the ride through Dunfermline. 

Bikes on trains are great. It always spells a.d.v.e.n.t.u.r.e.

Weather on the day turned out to be much better than forecast. It was weird to be looking at Edinburgh after having lived there for over 50 years.

We had a second breakfast at Aberdour before hitting the delights of Dunfermline (lots of houses but almost continuous cycle path), whereupon Shaun headed back and I headed up and over the Cleish Hills. It's a gradual climb up but gives great views over Loch Leven and a nice descent.

Soon enough I was on the shores of Loch Leven, following Shauns carefully mapped route and thus ignoring shorter/faster options.

I saw lots of these signs on the byways near Glenfarg

Almost every one was right before a climb  :roll: 

Before long, I was thinking about food again and considered stopping in Perth but I still had a goal in mind.

For those that haven't been, the cows that make the milk used in the ice cream are in the field next door. It's as close to zero food miles as you can get so I always "support their business".  :lol: 

Some of Shauns route choices were, err, eccentric.

I'd no idea of how deep this was going to be but escaped with just damp soles.

Not a bad gateway for a Sustrans route.

Just don't expect the same standards everywhere.

At Killiecrankie I took another Shaun bypass option.

By this time, I'd already planned to stop for food in Blair Atholl but was now left wondering what my next step would be. With no sparkling and witty banter to be had, I didn't fancy hugging the bar for a couple of hours, so the original plan of bivvying in Blair and then heading for breakfast at House of Bruar was cast aside. It was all now about how far it was worth pedalling on. I even considered just riding home. I'd likely arrive about 1 am. However, I really enjoy sleeping outdoors so, after finding out that the Newtonmore Grill opened at 6:30, I decided to head north and see how the legs were. 

You can check out, but you can never leave.

I obviously had a tailwind coming over Drumochter as I found myself reaching Dalwhinnie before 10. And then the rain started. That made up my mind and I decided to find somewhere to pitch. With two roads and a rail line to consider I reckoned on a spot at the end of Loch Ericht for a bit pf peace. While it hadn't been too windy, I now had a wind coming right up the loch. Ignoring thoughts of recent dam bursts I found a sheltered spot on the dam wall. 

In fact, it was so sheltered that I was even getting midged.

What followed was, I think, the worst nights "sleep" I've ever had. I was comfy, warm, tired and sheltered from the wind I could hear gently roaring over the dam but I just couldn't get to sleep. I reckon I had maybe 2-3 hours in total, broken up through the night. I was also getting various cramps, possibly from dehydration. Maybe I was subconsciously just wishing I'd cycled through the night and gone home.

By 5 am I was ready to strike camp (in the rain) and head north to Newtonmore.

I arrived just as the cafe was opening and sat eating my roll surrounded by drowsy truck drivers, obviously all wondering what the hell I was doing there. A constant light drizzle followed me home, with me getting there at 9 am. 

All in all, a funny old trip. Not as planned and a lousy nights sleep. Still, all good miles though and enough nice food to help make up for it all.

Monday 10 April 2017

Back round Ben Alder

There's a vast area of "wild" country south of the A9 and north of the road to Kinloch Rannoch that nevertheless has a large number of cross-country tracks through it. For years, as I've driven up and down the A9, I've looked down along Loch Garry and fantasized about exploring it. When I was doing lots of hillwalking I was looking at routes north from Rannoch-side but they all involved quite lengthy logistical issues. It always seemed simpler as a cycle but I just never got around to it. Planning a bivvy weekend for April, it looked like I'd finally come up with a good plan.

Neills steed

A fence. And a gate.

What the mature gentleman is pedalling this year

We left Dalwhinnie after a good lunch at the cafe and headed along NCN7, up and over Drumochter summit against a fairly stiff headwind before reaching the turn off for Loch Garry. 

That's not a smile, it's the headwind stretching my face back

Thankfully, it was a lovely sunny day. Imaging having dreamed of this and it being dreich!

As close as I've been

Once I got to the loch I was actually feeling quite elated. I'd experienced a similar feeling a few years back in Fisherfield as I stood on a little causeway after having seen it on maps for years. I had a few minutes to take it in before we headed along the very good track on the north side of the loch. 

Almost there

Looking back at the A9

This did, however, come to an abrupt end and we were then into a couple of km of hike-a-bike over some very soft ground until we reached a recently built hydro track.

That'll be the end of the track then?

This took us past Duinish bothy so I had a wee peek in. It looked pretty comfy inside - middling as these things go. 

Duinish. The North Wing needs some work....

In a fine setting though
Goodbye to Loch Garry, back on a hydro track

After a bit more hydro track we crossed the brow of the hill and saw the long descent ahead of us. I stopped for a wee nibble before heading down and off we went. Almost at the bottom, I had a look at the little food bag on my bars only to discover I'd left it open and my bag of chocolate nuts and raisins had bounced out. I was desolate, but not so much that I wanted to go back up to find them!

Early evening sun on Loch Rannoch

A brief stop at Loch Rannoch and we were soon on the turn-off for the "Road to the Isles". 

Off the tarmac again and onto the newly surfaced track

This track has been significantly improved since I was last here and is now a wide, smooth motor track. I'm a bit ambivalent about these developments. On the one hand, tracks like this are needed to aid hydro and wind schemes - a good idea as it's green energy and creates an income that isn't just tourism. On the other, they can scar the hillsides and remove some of the challenge of cycling in them. This particular one is to aid in another hydro scheme and the track will eventually be narrower again. There are already signs of erosion too so maybe we just need to give them a little time. 

Shaun on the track, just about to reach the lodge

Tucked into the side of the lodge

Neill with his supper

I'd had a look at our potential bivvy site on satellite imagery and it didn't disappoint. High above the moors, we had a stunning view out to the hills around Glencoe and over to Ben Nevis. 

My bivvy set up

A goods train looking a little incongruous in the landscape

It was here that Shaun announced he might have to head back the way we'd come in the morning as his GPS had ejected itself from his handlebars at some point. We discussed where and when we might last have seen it, even going through photographs we'd taken, but couldn't come to a definitive conclusion. Suspicion centred on the same track that my nuts had taken leave.

Dinner on a slate. How hipster.

Bivvys made, food cooked and we were in time to catch a cracking sunset.

The mountains of the West beyond the Blackwater Reservoir

Sunset behind Ben Nevis

The moon was also ridiculously bright. In fact, I was glad I'd brought me tarp as it was helping to reduce the glare when in my bag. 

Not quite a full moon but the thin cloud wasn't dulling it much

The winds of the day before had dropped off overnight and we awoke in a bit of low cloud, so much so that the tarp was dripping in condensation. Shaun decided that the GPS hunt might not be too productive and decided he'd complete the route. I'd planned for breakfast at Corrour Station so packed up relatively quickly, not bothering to eat. It was a damp, atmospheric, descent down to Loch Ossian and the warmth of the cafe was much appreciated. 

Loch Ossian appearing out of the morning mist.

Loch Ossian

A few teething troubles were apparent - no coffee grinder, no card payment - but I had the most awesome Venison Lorne Sausage. I mean, this was superb. I'm trying to track down the supplier so I can buy some for cooking at home!!

Corrour may be remote but it feels well connected!

After breakfast I took Shaun and Neill out to the wee bridge made famous in Trainspotting.

One of these is an effette arsehole. One of these is a wanker.

A relatively speedy transit along the south shore of the loch took us to yet another new hydro track. Again, this made for relatively fast cycling, until it too abruptly ended. I knew what was in store here though, a 6km hike-a-bike section up to the Bealach Dubh. I'd hoped we might manage it in 90 minutes or so but it turned out to be 2 hours of pushing and shoving, crossing peat hags and wee burns. We'd opted to take a steep climb out near the end to get onto a better track and that wee bit was lovely. In fact, I need to come back and explore it another time. 

Loch Ossian disappearing into the mist way below.

Quite a few folk had commented on the descent from the Bealach Dubh and we met some walkers as we were approaching it who also reckoned it would be great cycling down.

Neill about to start the descent from the Bealach Dubh

Thankfully, it didn't disappoint. There are loads of water bars though. Some I was happy to just crack on over, some made me wince a little and a few had me off and pushing over. It's all a nice, swoopy descent though and the three of us thoroughly enjoyed it. I suspect a repeat visit with an unladen bike (and in my case some suspension) is in order.

The Long Leachas of Ben Alder

Ben Alder and the Lancet Edge creating a fine backdrop

From there, it was a fairly straightforward ride over to Loch Ericht and then a tailwind-assisted sprint back to Dalwhinnie. Not long after we arrived, it started raining. Ah yes - it's all in the timing!

Shaun and Neill patiently await my arrival at Loch Pattack

Last look back along Loch Ericht as the weather starts to close in

A good loop then. Of 103km, only 8km or so was actually having to push the bike and, as a percentage, that seems pretty fair. Strangely enough, I didn't mind that as much as I did when encountering similar obstacles on the Speyside Way just a few weeks earlier. Maybe my expectations were just more correctly set.

103km and 1,435m of ascent

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Act 3: The Bike (caution nerdsville ahead)

The final push to restarting my overnight adventures comes in the way of a new bike. I say new, it's now covered over 1,200km so I've had a chance to get used to it round my local trails. I thought it might be worth explaining what it is - and why I've arrived at this particular design.

In previous posts I've told of my fatbike and where I've been with it. Truly a revelation, the fat tyres and frame have shone on "proper" fatbike terrain like snow and ice but have also shown their capability on other, more common, conditions where the amazing traction and wide floatation transform what's possible on a bicycle. However, it's impossible to deny that there is a weight and drag penalty in many other conditions. 

I was therefore intrigued when Surly launched the Krampus. 3" tyre width promised to be a good compromise between fat and non-fat tyres. Unfortunately,  with me being 5'7" the Krampus was never going to be suitable as a bikepacking platform - wee legs and tall wheels rule out many luggage hauling options.

My previous decision to buy a custom Burls Ti 29er for bikepacking was looking pretty astute until WTB came along with 27.5+ or 650B+, whatever you like to call it. Here was the 3" tyre option for those of us shorter in leg. Of course, as a new "standard" there was the question of how widespread it would be adopted but being the impatient sort, I immediately set about seeing how I could obtain it. 

Initial investigations showed that, despite the suggestion B+ might fit in many existing 29er frames,  my Burls was not amongst them. The chainstays were simply too narrow to permit anything larger than a 2.4" tyre. Shame - the frame was otherwise ideal and the cost of converting it was simply going to be too great.

The next option to consider was too look at what was on sale.  At this time, there wasn't much and, having gone the custom route already,  I felt willing to do so again to get just exactly what I wanted without having to compromise on details. 

Step up Brant Richards and Pact Bikes. Brant was offering to work with buyers to help them arrive at a good solution to their requirements without them having to know all the intricate details. This was ideal. I'd fire over some geometry, Brant would model it and together we worked out how to fit everything I wanted into something that could be manufactured. It's a good system. Too many times I'll look at a bike (or frame, or something not bike related at all) and it won't be just what I want, requiring some compromise or other. And with a bike designer in the loop between me and manufacturer, I was a lot less likely to end up with something that handled like a dog or had some other strange characteristic.

Some of the features I decided on were as follows;

  • Clearance for a 3.5" tyre. A range of B+ tyres was only just becoming and I wanted to keep all options open.
  • The ability to use a front derailleur (new Shimano side-swing). I still much prefer 2x gear systems to give me a range for uphill-loaded cycling and faster "road" transitions. The side-swing style creates extra clearance between the downtube and the fat tyre, though it requires a different cable routing.
  • Boost rear axle. This longer axle provides a suitable chainline for the wider tyres. As a "bolt-through" 12mm style it also creates a stiffer rear end, something I'd experienced on other bikes and appreciated.
  • Aimed at 100mm travel forks. I wanted the option of fitting rigid forks and these mostly come with axle-to-crown lengths to match a 100mm travel suspension fork. I also reckoned 100mm of travel was more than enough for the use of the bike.
  •  31.6mm seat tube with "stealth" cable routing for a dropper post. This was way down the list of my requirements but seemed to offer a "something for nothing" option.
  • No rack mounts. THis was a bit of a departure for me. Previous frames always had these and I'd specified them for my Burls. However, I never used them and have adapted to the soft luggage options completely now.
  • 100mm head tube. I wanted to keep this short as I knew the taller wheel would result in quite a high bar position anyway.
  • Small BB drop. A bit of careful juggling with numbers indicated that retaining a slightly higher BB would sit me slightly higher, increasing the space between saddle and tyre and reducing the possibility of the tyre rubbing on the bottom of a fully-loaded seatpack.
  • Three sets of bottle cage mounts. Two are internal to the main triangle and the third is fitted below. This has the triple cage mount suitable for the likes of a Surly Anything Cage, providing an additional luggage carrying option.

Other factors like stand-over height, bent downtube to ensure fork control clearance and tube shapes/sizes were arrived at between Brant and myself and, with a final check-over of all the numbers, the frame was ordered. made and delivered in a few weeks.

With all of that coming together, I also had to consider some of the other components. 
  • Rims; The first proper B+ rim available was the WTB Scraper i45 rim. This promised a nice wide rim and tubeless compatibility at a reasonable weight.
  • Hubs; Hope Pro2 Evo. I've used Pro2s extensively without issue and again there was little choice at this time.
  • Tyres; My original tyre choice was the Panaracer FatBNimble 3.5" front and rear. Light weight and a tread pattern similar to my beloved 45Nth Husker Dus on my fatbike.
  • Drive train; Shimano XT M8000 2 x11 for the gear range and suide-swing mech.
  • Brakes; Shimano XT M8000 again. I've always liked the fell of Shimano brakes and these offered a simplified brake/shifter arrangement to reduce handlebar clutter.
  • Forks; I found some rigid carbon forks through ebay that took a 15mmx110 Boost axle and had the correct A2C height. A bit of a long-shot but the only option I could find. Suspension forks are Boost Rebas. The only models available were 100mm travel with a bar-mounted lockout or 120mm travel with a crown lockout. The lockout isn't a feature I use a lot and I prefer not having that additional cable (bar clutter and bar bag mounting issues) so I opted for the 120mm to try out and reduce travel if necessary.
So - what does it look like and how does it go?

First build - FatBNimbles, rigid forks, Loop bars

Initial impressions were favourable. Light, easy rolling, seeming to pick-up and carry momentum from nowhere, comfy and grippy. Everything I was looking for really. And then it got wet. Frankly, the front tyre became a liability. With a profile wider than a standard MTB tyre but not as wide as a 4" fat tyre, the front end would just skate across any thin mud and I'd lose control. Luckily, salvation was at hand. Unlike the 29+ tyre market, B+ was coming on stream really quickly and I bought a 3" Nobby Nic for the front. This made a huge difference to grip - and therefore confidence - without it feeling like I was getting a lot of tyre drag. 

I also fitted the Rebas to replace the rigid forks. I'd been happy with rigid on my fatbike, though as I explored its capabilities on a wider range of terrain, I'd come to understand how suspension and fat tyres might work. As an initial option, I just fitted them with 120mm travel (in theory more than the frame was designed for) and again it just seemed to feel "right" from the first ride. As a result, I've left them on. With a few more subtle changes, the bike now looks like this.

Nobby Nic, Rebas, flat bars

Nice dropouts and the 12mm axle.

Additional bottle/Anything mounts

It had to have a name!

Tyre clearance ample with FatBNimbles

"Asymmetric" chainstays 

Plenty of clearance in the Boost Rebas

In summary, I'm really pleased with the frame - and the bike it has helped me create. Inevitably, there are a couple of minor tweaks I'd make if I was doing again, the most important being that I tend to clip both the chainstays and seatstays with my heels. This has been a problem with all my bikes and it's mainly because I pedal like a duck!

Some things I've still to play around with are; a more extended test using Jones Loop bars, fitting and riding the 29er wheels I also built, fitting the rigid forks again, trying a different rear tyre, maybe even fitting a B+ front and 29er rear. 

And the name? Well, though I like the look of Titanium frames, I do think the bare metal needs something to break it up. I ordered some decals from RetroDecals and was looking for something in addition to the Pact logo. Brant had taken to giving some of his frames names like Fatcat and Battlecat. I thought Wildcat was appropriate given that Speyside is a home to the rare Scottish Wildcat and the frame had been conceived - and would be largely ridden - here.

Loaded up

Cat and Dog