Treading lightly.

13 09 2015

The irony wasn’t lost on me. I had literally just finished writing a piece for The Ride Journal, which – in part – touches on how seldom the weather is ideal for big rides in Scotland, when BAM! the weather was ideal for a big ride.

Often, when I run to the hills, I run to the Cairngorm and it was thus as I rolled the pedals, early in the morning, up the ski road towards Cairn Lochain and the edge of the Northern Corries. I had never ridden this section and I wanted to do so, go over Cairngorm itself and look at the various ridge line descents, as well as the new trail that has been dropped to Loch Avon.

The climb was particularly interesting because I was on the fat bike. The low pressure and large foot print allowed me to make many of the steppy-rock sections I had never cleared before and as I rolled towards the March Burn, I was nowhere near as fatigued as I have been previously.

I decided to avoid the climb to Cairn Lochain. I wanted to take the trail from Lochan Buidhe around Coire Domhain and then make my way up Stob Coire an t’Sneachda, the first Munro of the day.

The views opened up as I climbed the loose trail and there were many walkers who were basking in the sunshine. I had replenished my water at one of the wee streams that drains in to Coire Domhain but I had misjudged the strength of the sun for the day and forgotten to apply sun screen. I knew I needed to keep moving rather than soak up the UV.

The descent from Stob Coire an t’Sneachda was tremendous: slow, steppy, technical and at times risky. The adrenalin flowed as I came around the top of Aladdin’s Couloir. There is a descent directly down from here, but it was rough and very loose and also a bit early in the day to be heading down. Another time.

Instead, I took a look down Coire Raibeirt at the (improved?) new trail that eventually drops to the north side of Loch Avon. Part of a future project, there can only be a couple of hundred meters of tough elevation gain and this opens up the Etchachan descent to a smaller loop – missing Lairig an Laoigh, the sometimes boggy Feshie, or (shudder) the Lairig Ghru. More on this later. You can just see, in the photo above, the trail as it drops, steeply, to the Loch Edge.

After regaining the corries’ edge, I climbed up Cairngorm itself – the second of the days Munros and broke out the map, looking for a way to descend into Coire na Ciste. In the end I wasn’t confident that I would find a worthwhile way down so I took the slabby, rock armoured trail for walkers which was … interesting, then dropped off the far end of the Bathaich Fionndag car park into the bottom of Coire na Ciste and made it down to Glenmore Lodge purely on account of the wide tyres – it is a boggy route in places!

It was a great day.

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2 responses

15 09 2015
Ross

“I was nowhere near as fatigued as I have been previously”

Jon…this comment is something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I was up north the other week doing some of the Torridon trails with a pal (John) who’s riding a Shand custom rohloff fat bike. It’s no light machine.

We got to discussing the merits of fat v 29 in different types of terrain. In short John maintained that despite the extra heft, even with the associated bike & hike required up there, he felt he was significantly less fatigued at the end of a day’s riding. He put this down to the fact that less effort was required to go up given the additional traction. On my 29er I was having to really work to clean some of the lines and continue going whilst John just hunkered down and ‘ground’ his way up.

Do you agree?

16 09 2015
velopest

ross, i *think* there is somethign to it. there is a tipping point between wheel weight, roll over and fatigue in bike riding. fat wheels are unequivocally less snappy than normal wheels, but they take out so much buzz (on a hardtail, mind!) that you cover the same ground as fast (faster? perhaps!) with less fatigue. obviously riding a much heavier bike will add up in time. now, if you ask me what is more fun? that is a difficult one! taking an inappropriate bike, say a cross bike, or an off road fixed gear, onto tech trail can be buckets of fun. but this is a nebulous concept – it’s not about speed!
after being involved in the Singletrack magazine 650b+/29+ comment piece by Chipps, I was intrigued by Adam Craig’s opinion. I’ve ridden with Adam, albeit briefly, and blimey he covers ground fast. Really really fast. he is fit and strong and his ability to turn this into ‘touching the trail lightly’ is educational. he also uses high pressure and normal wheels and believes suspension set up is the key to bump absorption. he has a strong point! mere mortals such as myself and hardtail riders also hit everything on the way past and that is where plus tyres are a benefit. that and rough-ish distance riding. at least, that is my ground truth!
i have been too and fro with 29 rigid, 29 hardtail, 29+, b+ and full fat for a few months now and i am forming an opinion. i will expand on this soon. i live for rigid bikes and in some instances hardtails. there is somethign in it that i will always love. a connectivity to the trail. pneumatic suspension may be less controllable and plush than hydraulic, but plus tyres are where i will spend the majority of my future, for sure.

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