Subtractive.

17 01 2021

2020 wasn’t the best year for interesting routes on the bike. But, rather than dwell on the negative, I thought I might look back on some of the good things.

I have always loved the Cairngorm to Deeside area and if I have my druthers, that is where I aim for if I have time for an overnighter. The Deeside way trail is a great place to start and in July, I decided to try a pull at the whole route.

Over the last few years, I have invested a fair bit of time, effort and money on minimising the kit I take Bikepacking. I have also adjusted how I pack the bike, so the weight is distributed in such a way that it rides as ‘normally’ as possible. In addition, I have tried to carry as little weight on my back as possible. One of the key factors was reducing the amount of H2O I carry at any given time – in Scotland this is fairly easy most of the time as you are never far from water and as long as you have a way to purify, you can drop 1kg for every litre you *don’t* carry.

In July, the weather had been good and I was optimistic it would remain so for the 2 days I had earmarked. The Deeside Trail (as it is referred to when on the bike) has a high proportion of single track and fair amount of climbing. It parallels the River Dee, west into the heart of the Cairngorm, on the south side of the river, with a short and a long variation, before returning on the north side of the river. I would thoroughly recommend the route: there is no ‘filler’ trail here, it is all good stuff.

In July, I started around mid day after driving up in the morning. I did not have my usual ‘base’ of miles in the legs, but felt that as long as I didn’t push too hard I would get around just fine. My aim for the first day was to grab some food in the Hungry Highlander in Braemar before finding somewhere to bed down, perhaps around the Linn of Dee and returning the next day.

Unfortunately, the breeze I had hoped for (to keep the midge down) was entirely absent and the heat and humidity meant I was under attack as soon as the sun started dipping towards the horizon. I made the decision to try and sleep high, on the shoulder of Lochnagar, and although I did receive a fair few bites, it wasn’t too bad. I was sleeping in my FKT bivi and used my Monk DCF tarp as a sleep system and my new, minimal PHD sleeping bag along with a puff jacket, kept me cosy overnight.

The next day, the rain clouds started to gather and I made the decision to cut short the route, missing the initial loop at the north west corner that is the most exposed in terms of weather and one of the two parts of the loop I had not previously ridden. It as probably wise, as after a few hours the rain was so heavy I had to take shelter near an old farm building before just accepting I was going to be soaked and go for it.

I got back around and although I had some unfinished business, the route and kit decision had been informative and rewarding. I was using a G funk and Strap Deck bar roll system and it was so secure and light it never needed a second thought even while charging down the Fungle Road decent.

For this ride, the sleeping bag and spare socks were in my MYOG hybrid DCF bar roll, the puffy, bivi and sleep clothes in my Rockgeist hybrid DCF Gondola, and the cook system and thermarest were in a MYOG X pac bag held to the ever- ready Strap Deck under my downtube. Food and bivi pole and sundry camp items as well as spare tubes and tools were in the frame bag (a custom wedge in Litskin from Rockegeist) and trail food was stashed in the Mag Tank 2000 from Revelate. I also carried a bladder in a small- ish wing nut and really struggled with the traction on my lower back. It is so long since I used a rucksack of any sort riding and I wanted to address this for future adventures.

Next post, I will review my return to the Deeside area in September 2020.


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One response

17 01 2021
Simon Barnes

Excellent 🙂

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