27 08 2013

Thanks to some excellent route advice from Naegears, I enjoyed a great ride in the Grampians the other day. The starting point, as it has been so many times, was Old Bridge of Tilt car park. Suited up, I hit the trail, up Glen Tilt. This is not the way I would usually choose to go, as the classic guide book ‘Tilt route is MUCH better anti-clockwise. However, this was going to be a variation – involving Carn a’ Chlamain.

If you look on a map, you will see that there is a landy trail all the way to about 10 meters from the summit. It is a munro, but barely, so you’d be forgiven for thinking it would be a breeze to ride on up, turn tail and take the singletrack descent back to Glen Tilt, before going on to the rest of the ride. Well, actually, you wouldn’t be forgiven. You’d be kicked in the jacksie, because it is really pretty steep and loose – testament to what a landy will drive up. Soon enough I managed to get up to the top, and the view, although hazy, was worth the effort.

I could also see the next section of my preferred route – staright up the steep side of Meall a’ Mhuirich and from there onto Carn nan Gabhar, part of the Beinn a’ Ghlo massif, before taking the steeper still route up to Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain and then trying to find a trail I noticed the last time I was on ‘Ghlo, down to the Allt Coire Lagain. All these elements were somewhat ‘malleable’.

As soon as I saw how steep the entire climb would be, taking into account my seemingly low energy levels, I decided that it probably wasn’t on. I would reassess once I dropped to the valley 750 m vertical drop below.

The descent is up there with the best I have done in Scotland. Not overly technical, not overly steep, but it requires constant attention and rewards a positive riding style. You don’t want to be doing this trail if you left you’re riding chops at home.

Soon enough, I sat surrounded by bored looking sheep with my map in front of me and a decision to make. If I returned to the car, I would be home in time to mess around with Daisy before bed time, but it would perhaps be a slight waste of the beautiful weather and trail conditions. I was getting a bit low on water, had limited food and my legs were showing their age. No doubt the imminence of autumn was part of my decision to continue, but rather than slog up the brutal, heather slopes of Meall a’ Mhuirich, I climbed up to the Falls of Tarf and then onwards to Fealar Lodge, before hitting a head wind for the climb up the the pass that takes you down to Daldhu. It was at this point that my water ran out and I consumed the last of my calories. That packet of llamas was nectar, but unfortunately the 119 calories lasted until just shy of the top of the climb, with a fair amount of riding still to do.

All the while I had been hoping to get back in time to say night night to the grom, an aim that kept me driving harder than I really felt able. I could feel my limbs and back beginning to tighten up, odd pains invading my enjoyment of this golden evening. Nevertheless, I closed the loop in just shy of 6 hours, eased my tired body into the car and despite all that the A9 can throw at you, I did make it home to be greeted by a smiley wee face.



21 08 2013

Learning is an incredibly satisfying experience. Sometimes, as I get older, I feel like I am just treading in footsteps that are laid down in front of me. Inspiration lacks.

But an antidote is apparent. One look at Daisy picking up new skills, physical abilities (the high rope ladder to the tube slide at Mugdock park !) or mischief and I realise how useful the tools we humans have been given really are: brain and body.

Anyway, I have been making more bags. Firstly, a micro under-top-tube bag. This was a challenge for me. For a start, it has a water resistant zip incorporated. I have never sewn a zip in to a bag before. It was also very long, but slim. This was a pretty big risk for twist. In the end, the zip could have been done better and due to inadequate preparation, there *was* some twist.

Again though, I learned ! the next one will have a different arrangement around the zip. It will be wider and I will cut the pattern much, much more carefully. I cannot stress (as Trina told me before I even started) how important prep is in this game. You need to sew in straight lines and everything needs to be aligned. Having a very constant margin on your materials helps enormously in this endeavour. It is also extremely important (as in any physical task) to visualise your steps.

Next was an improved saddle bag. As my friend Biff pointed out, the first saddle bag had a fair extension behind the velcro saddle rail attachment. When I was riding on Carn Ban Mor, I purposely overloaded it and packed it poorly to see what would happen. I had 2 heavy duty tubes at the rear, with a waterproof stuffed into the front cone. After the majority of the steppy descent was done, the velcro gave out and the bag came partially adrift. However, no stitches were harmed. This was good and bad. In real use, this bag will only carry soft, light clothing. However, it gave me the idea to add a cam buckle to the seat rail loop, so it won’t come adrift without extreme force.

The new saddle bag extends further down the seat post, is marginally shorter, has a smaller roll top but is still very easy to pack. The volume ends up very similar, but it is better triangulated by the attachment points.

I feel sure this will act as a spring board to further iterations, but this one will see some proper use. My stitching and pattern was excellent, so it was much easier to make.

Next was a v3 of the UL feedbag. Shorter x-pac section, larger baffle made from silnyon, an oblong base and a daisy chain of polyamid webbing around the circumference in order to allow multiple possibilities for mounting. This is a good design and overall I executed it pretty well. However, the oblong base was hard to sew, making me think a square base, with angled off corners will be the better option. I have some pu coated super light denier cordura coming that will, I think, be ideal for the baffle.

These feed bags are SO useful! I got out for a ride into Glen Almond the other day no tech, no singletrack, but it was beneficial to see this pass between Crieff and Loch Tay. It is a bonny place to be. I used one feedbag to carry a tube, a mini tool kit and all the food I needed for the 3 hour ride. I am still investigating the possibility of a more complete bag that will fit within the loops of a Jones bar, but 2 feedbags rocks.

I am also planning a Wingnut style ruck sack. As you may note from previous posts, I hate carrying stuff on my back, but when needs be, a 1.5l bladder is no problem. Wingnut do make a tiny bag, which I have used for many years, both locally and in the longer 100 mile races I used to do. The bag will be based off this, in that it will be small, have space for a 1.5l antidote bladder, but it will be slightly taller, with modular waist band pockets and will have just a tad more stowage space. Exciting.


5 08 2013

Indecision paralysed me on Sunday evening. I had an opportunity to head off and camp somewhere, maybe get a bit of trail before a sleep then an early start to allow a good, full days riding on monday.

But I couldn’t decide what to do.

I had sort of mis-planned already: I was supposed to be going to Haugh Cross, but that was Saturday, not Sunday (Duhrrrrr!).

Anyway, after becoming increasingly frustrated, I failed to commit and as time marched on I grabbed my road bike in an effort to salvage some pedal time.

Off out to the Crow Road over the Campsies, where a favourable tail wind helped me to a ‘P.B’ of 14.30 mins for the climb, followed by a few more miles. I generally see road biking in good weather as a ‘fail’ I am afraid. When the weather is good, I like to be in the hills, but I could grudgingly appreciate the 2.30 hr of smooth road as a tonic against peering aimlessly at OS maps.

Monday was to be a different matter, though. I needed a taste of some hills. Some friends had hit a sweet route on Beinn a’Ghlo, which whetted the appetite, so I broke out the maps again and forced myself to decide on a route the evening prior, so I could get away sharp. After making my way up the A9 again, I turned into the car park at Lagganlia, quickly got ready and without fuss pedaled down the road past the gliding club to Auchlean. From there, I kept to the east side of the river and enjoyed some of the trail in the trees before turning up the Landy track to climb towards Carn Ban Mor. Despite this being a Scottish mtb ‘classic’ I had never tried it. I felt that as it was pretty rideable and relatively compact, it would allow me to get home in time for Daisy’s bedtime and I was also curious how the Coire Dhondail stalker’s path looked from the west side of Loch Eanaich: I have a vague notion it might come in handy some day…

The climb sucks. However, you just need to buckle down and get it done. Some good views open up as you clear the edge of Coire Garbhlach and from there it is not far to the top. I made good time, so decided to add Mullach Clach a’Bhlair (1019m) before taking the excellent quality Landy trail accross the Moine Mhor, before climbing to the start of the fabled Carn Ban Mor decent. As time was still on my side and the views over to Braeriach were so fine, I decided the dark cloud was no reason not to make a quick detour to the Carn Ban Mor summit proper (1052m), from there onto Sgor Gaoith (1118m). I had some fine views down to Loch Eanaich and the Dhondail path, as well as the plateau proper, before turning back as a squall hit.

The decent was fine. It has been improved, featuring many large rock water bars, that are at times fun, at other times annoying. The drop is welcome though and it was a good test of my saddle bag’s staying power – more on that soon.

Back to base with 3.20 hr on the clock. All good. Now if only the A9 hadn’t been standing between me and the cold beer in the fridge…


2 08 2013

I first heard Dean Frenkel‘s amazing voice on the ‘Salt’ documentary film. Recently, he shared a link to another film in which his singing is featured, called ‘Meta’, by Sandro Bocci. It is shot in Iceland, a place I hope to visit soon. Two videos to watch, the first, featuring Moon Bear Mantra is an excerpt from Meta, sit down, and soak it in. Mesmerising. The power of the place! the second is the trailer for Meta.

Meta 3,1/Km² | Extract: Moon Bear Mantra from Sandro Bocci on Vimeo.

Meta-3.1/Km² | Timelapse Teaser from Sandro Bocci on Vimeo.