“The wide World is all about you…”

11 07 2015

Over the last few years, wide rims for bikes (road and mtb) have become more common. Back in the day, wide rims were the norm until a certain Mr Bontrager came along and re-rolled Mavic MA-2 rims from 700c to 26″ wheel size. Why? quality and weight: the aluminium rims were much lighter and easily as durable as the poor quality offerings available at the time specifically for mtbs. With wheels, there is always a balance point between tyre performance, weight and durability.

This re-rolled rim heralded a general move to sub 25mm external width rims. Tyres at the time were relatively narrow for the most part and with inner tubes, you were running 25psi+ in order to avoid (frequent) punctures.

Fast forward to Surly releasing the Pugsley with the ridiculous Endomorph tyre. Yes, DH bikes had arrived and wider rims and tyres were not unheard of, but they were too heavy for XC use for the most part. The Endomorph was designed for truly questionable terrain: snow and sand. Even with the 50-60mm trials or the Surly rims of the day, sub 10psi was a *maximum*.

My first experience of a Pugsley was riding hot laps on Shaggy‘s Pugsley at Bristol Bike Fest. The race course is baked dry, usually, in the summer and was very rooty with low amplitude rocks and rough trail in places. On the Pugsley, you could charge into the roots, overtake other racers in the rough next to the smooth line and bomb the descents with abandon.

There was definitely something to this.

In the proceeding years, I experimented with light tyres and lighter tubes as I moved to 29″ wheels. It was’t unusual for me to ride 600g tyres with 100g tubes. I flirted briefly with tubeless systems, but struggled to get my tyres of choice (Continental) to seal well. The sidewalls were very porous and the interface with the rim bead seat was loose.

In the end, I began to use a small amount of sealant inside very light tubes, but I’ll admit I was plagued with punctures.

Many years ago, I had procured a 50mm wide Uma ‘snow’ 29er rim. This was heavy, singlewall and of questionable strength, but it changed the tyre profile out of all recognition and if the interface had been better, I would have relished the low pressures I was able to run with minimal risk of pinching.

I stopped using this set up because the angle of the spokes combined with the relatively noodly rim made me suspicious it would fold in use. That, or the tyre would roll off the rim. Still, it was interesting.

Wider hubs, or at least flange spacing, make all the difference.

When Surly, again, led where others follow and produced the Krampus I knew I wanted to try the new, 29+ wheel size out. The raison d’etre for this frameset was fitting the, frankly, ridiculous Knard 29 ‘plus’ tyre. 700c but 3″ wide. Huge. Having messed around with Endomorphs and then Nate tyres on the front of my bikes for a few years and the brief spell with a wide rim and standard 29er tyre, the likelihood was that it would work well.

It was a game changer.

The full-on fat bike tyres of the time were heavy 1300-1800g. The Knard offered a lot of floatation, shock absorption and did so with a relatively small weight penalty over a normal 29er tyre: they weigh 1000g or so.

Yes, the sidewalls were thin and the tread pattern minimal, but in fairly short order there was reasonable choice on the market and with the Chronicle from Maxxis, EXO sidewall protection. 9psi and 35-50mm rims is a magic carpet ride for a rigid bike.

Syntace offered a simple exlpanation for the benefit of wide rims, which I would recommend reading, here. There is more discussion of value on the Open Cycles blog.

I started using carbon fiber rims a number of years ago as it is a fantastic material to make a light, strong, stiff rim from and this pays dividends particularly as the rims become wider. Indeed, it allows the whole ‘plus’ tyre thing to be fully realised. One of the main detriments of plus bikes is the added weight of the wheel at the outer edge. With the development of improved tyre-rim interfaces and tyre construction, tubeless is a snap. Light, wide rims paired with wide tyres make for a superb system for covering rough ground.

Lately, for 29ers, I have been looking seriously at Kappius’ offering, the 46mm external/40mm internal, cross country orientated KR-XCW-29, with a weight of 435g +/-15g and a good looking profile to facilitate tubeless set up. I have appended some links regarding the Kappius offering at the end of the post.

Things were turned round again with the arrival of the WTB Trailblazer, a 27.5+ tyre – in essence a 650b bead size, with a 2.8 to 3″ tyre, designed to retro-fit in 29er frames, but offer much of the benefit of the 29+ Knard. In the words of Bob Poor: “the idea was hatched in a seine skiff while catching 20,000 lbs of salmon every hour in the remote waters of SE AK”.

I am very glad Mark Slate at WTB took the idea on and had the tyre mould made. The 29+ is amazing, but in some instances the huge diameter is a slight hinderance. I’m going to come back to this; I have been having some interesting conversations with bike designers on the matter that do not feel concluded and I am also in the embryonic stages of working with Sean at Vertigo Cycles on a 27.5+ bike, perhaps like this one.

As much as you hear complaints that there are too many wheel sizes available at the moment, choice is a good thing to have.

“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kappius on facebook.

Kappius in Mountain Flyer.

Kappius on Fat-Bike.

Kappius on empty beer.

Kappius on Pinkbike.

Kappius on Vital mtb.

Kappius on Singletrack World.

Kappius on Cycling Dirt.

Kappius review on MarathonMTB.

Kappius on bikerumor.

Advertisements




A loop around the Cairngorm.

27 03 2014

It is time to get some proper miles in the legs. Weather and circumstance kissed opportunity and the bike and bags were made ready. Some new kit to check out with the promise of a good few river crossings and a cold night on the proposed route.

Leaving Blair Atholl, I rolled up Glen Tilt. Still early, but the sun was out and it was entirely pleasant. As I neared the north eastern end, it was clear that there was going to be a fair amount of low snow to navigate.

Sure enough, as I passed above the Allt Garbh Buidhe gingerly placed feet were a necessity whilst manoeuvring the bike along the vague impression of the trail left in the snow on the steep sided glen. After a few challenging route choices to avoid the often hidden, crusted over frigid waters, the trail dropped to the ruins of Bynack Lodge and it was here that the first major obstacle was to be found: fording the swollen Geldie Burn.

I have learned that I am a softie when it comes to going barefoot in rivers, so I removed my socks and insoles, rebuckled my shoes and plunged in. Thinking about it too much was just going to lead to stalling. The water was cold enough to take my breath away, but it was keeping my bike out of the mid thigh deep water that became the real test as I scrabbled for purchase on the slippery boulders in the river bed. Glad to have made it, I drained my shoes, rubbed life back into my toes and donned the shoes whilst munching on some much needed calories. Onwards.

The Lairig Ghru was barely visible in the low cloud and precipitation: I was glad I had opted for a loop around rather than passage through. I passed Braemar and Mar Lodge after a brief flurry of snow reminded me spring didn’t yet have a solid grip on this land.

From here, I could drop into the gorgeous woodland of the Balmoral Estate. I had originally planned to take the trail up towards Lochnagar and then drop down to Loch Muick before heading out towards Aboyne and north, but given the amount of snow low down in Glen Tilt I decided to miss this part out and keep pedaling alongside the Dee. Before too long I passed the majesty of the castle itself and after pressing a curious button the gates opened to allow my exit.

Steady as she goes. I could tell some of the warmth was beginning to drain from the sun, but I knew I had a few hours of light yet. The aim was to get as far round my proposed loop towards Tomintoul as I could before bedding down.

Candycraig, then Aboyne, follow the off road trail to Tarland, then up, up, up.

After an age of climbing, then following the River Don, and with the light fading fast, I made it to Cock Bridge and Corgarff Castle. Here, I ducked over towards Glen Avon. The temperature was plummeting and I was in no doubt that my energy was going. Twice I rode off trail. As soon as I found a likely looking grove of trees, I unrolled the bivi. Shivering became uncontrollable so it was straight into the sleeping bag once divested of my cycling shorts and my wool longs were in place. I didn’t even crack open the can of Torpedo – or my hip flask.

The lights went out at 8.30pm…

…and came on again at 5.30am after lazing around in my bag for an hour. Rapidly, I danced around to get blood back into my limbs, making coffee and packing the bike.

The moon was still visible in the clear, blue sky as I rolled out of the woods down towards the River Avon and day 2.

As the sun rose more fully, I could strip a layer and really appreciate the landscape. Beautiful.

Unfortunately, as I dropped down towards the river, I dropped into shadow also. This meant it was colder. However, it did keep me honest and my speed up.

After Tomintoul, there was the usual hop-scotch down the Burn of Brown, before climbing up and over to Dorback Lodge. I knew the trail over to the Braes of Abernethy was vague, having failed to find it previously. But this time, I had a gps!

Let’s just say it is no wonder I couldnt find the trail…

A bit of grumpy tussock bashing led to the Eag Mhòr and after a couple of fairly deep river crossings that left my toes numb for the next 2 days, I popped out near Aviemore.

The route I had originally decided to try was through the Gaick, but again, the low snow led me to believe it would be a nightmare, so I opted for the national cycle route 7 alongside the A9 back to Blair Atholl. Of course, this also meant I had to grit my teeth into a fairly fierce headwind for about 50 miles. Ouch.

Once home and defrosted, it was time to make some notes.

Total distance 175 miles. 22.5 hours riding time. Well, there was 2 hours on day one and 1 hour on day 2 of pushing through snow.

The VBL I used as a liner in the sleeping bag was interesting. I did get warm quickly, but I didn’t particularly appreciate the soggy feeling in the morning. I need easier access to several small things whilst riding: I didn’t use the front pocket on the Revelate designs sweetroll for the fist time, which made for less rattling around on rough ground, but if I couldn’t reach something easily, I tended to ignore it. My life would have been made easier with easier access to certain bits of kit. The PHD sleeping bag is great, my riding kit was great, the GPS was worth it’s weight in gold. As my friend chris pointed out, it did randomly jettison. Glad I made a wee elastic leash for it.

I easily carried enough food for 2 days riding and although I refilled with water, this is never an issue in Scotland. I don’t know how much my kit weighed, I had very little on my back – thanks to the new revelate frame bag from Backcountry biking. Otherwise all my kit was as good as ever. My legs, however, were a little weak and I wouldn’t have complained if my overall set up had been a wee bit lighter. Always picky.





Character building.

17 02 2014

The F.B.R.O.T.Y is always a hard one, regardless of terrain or weather. For us, the ‘first big ride of the year’ came into being many moons ago and represented the transition from the limitations of winter to the promise of spring and summer. Over the years, more often than not, the F.B.R.O.T.Y has involved a route in the Trossachs and so it was yesterday.

It would be fair to say I am a little nervous of being fit and tough enough to do some of the things I am aiming to do this year, on the bike. The reason is that it seems very difficult for me to coordinate the time and effort to plug in long enough rides to gain the endurance in the legs, the far sightedness in the eyes, the resetting of the passage of time in the mind and the resistance to friction of the nether regions.

Others seem to manage this by heading out very, very early in the morning or in all weathers. I seem incapable of this.

Perhaps earlier than other years, with the sun shining, I took the bull by the horns and headed out for a long-ish ride yesterday. The aim was the ‘mangrunt’ loop. Named by Chris, if i rememeber correctly because of the amount of grunting required the first time we rode the route, it consists of a loop up and over Conic Hill, then Loch Lomond side, to the rather spooky Inversnaid Hotel, origin of the worst chips in Scotland. Next, it tracks around Loch Arklet into the Queen Elizabeth forest park and takes the ‘mustard’ loop into the forest plantations before finishing somewhere near Conic Hill again. The whole is ~63 miles/100km (100.9km according to my gps) and usually takes 6-6.30 hours.

The aim yesterday was to slip in under 6 hours, thus proving to myself I can still ride a bike and acting as an early season confidence booster.

Fo me, riding up to 4 hours or so is manageable at all times of the year. The first ride of the season that extends beyond this is usually fairly tough, but then I find it possible to gradually extend this to the 10-12 hour rides that will allow me to take on the slightly more daunting routes up north and indeed, the H.T.R.

Having started at Garadbhan, I made it up the improved Conic Hill track and then along Loch Lomond side in quick time, staring in awe at the super-charged waterfall next to the Inversnaid within 3 hours. As I wound round Loch Arklet, the temperature fell and with it my energy levels. Re-fuelling became almost constant, the cold draining energy from my limbs as fast as I could replenish it.

Then the long, winding climbs began and it was with a grim determination that I followed wandering vehicle tracks in the snow.

For the development of strength, I had brought the Krampus. It is by far my heaviest bike. Fortunately, the fat tyres gave me some reasonable purchase, at least initially and I made good progress.

Unfortunately this was not to last. The high route around the mustard loop was covered in 4-6″ of snow. Normally this would be somewhat rideable, however, the surface had frozen into a delicate crust that shattered immediately any weight was brought to bear.

This made for around and hour of on/off post holing and lifting the bike. I tried at times to ride in the drainage ditch alongside the forestry access road, but the frequent sink holes were frustrating. Occasionally, with a roar, I would charge the bike into the deeper snow, clicking up a few gears and using a slight downward gradient to aid my passage.

As with all things, the sun set and the worst of it was over and as I pedaled the last miles on tarmac, I breathed a sigh of relief: the clock showed 5.50hrs.

Tired, but content.

Now – for the rest of the year…





Standards.

8 02 2014

Over the last wee while I have been pondering bikes. Not so unusual, but things have been a bit more focussed than typical. The Vertigo Cycles fat bike is taking shape and some decisions regarding parts were required. It is not until you sit and look at the current state of play that you realise just how many ‘standards’ there are. One of the main decisions has been dropouts (front and rear) for this bike.

As Sean recently pointed out: “so just in case anyone is curious, fat bikes are made with the following FRONT axle “standards” 9×135, 15×135, 15×142 and 10×135 rear. Do you know where you can buy an aftermarket 15 x anything skewer? Me neither. 12×142 woulda been a good idea y’all if only because it already exists.

And the rear “standard” is: 10×135 offset, 12×142 offset, 10×170, 12×177, 10×190 and 12×197.”

Then things get more complicated still. This bike will have Paragon sliders, and I would like it to run a shimano saint derailleur as a direct mount (ie, the b-link is removed, the derailleur hanger is angled back rather than down and the whole shebang is stiffer and further out of the way for wheel fitting). Then, if i have my druthers I would like a 177mm thru axle, probably DT swiss. This means the drops have wee pockets to aid wheel placement and the thru axles are just great. But wait! The Paragon sliders are available with Maxle 12mm- a 1.75mm pitch thread- Shimano 12mm- a 1.5mm pitch thread and Syntace & DT swiss- a 1mm pitch thread. Some of these are available direct mount some with traditional hanger.

My head hurts trying to work it all out.

Then again, I have a 29+ bike coming from Kris at 44 Bikes. This will replace the Krampus, which I have enjoyed very much. Why replace it after barely a year of use? Well, the trick with the Krampus is that it was made to fit 73mm bb/135mm rear hub standard kit. Very cool, but if you take away this restriction, instead using an 83mm bb and a 150mm rear hub, add in a skilled builder experienced with fitting drive chain and fat tyres past short stays, you can sneak that fat knard into a 16.5″ chainstay.

Why wouldn’t you want to do that?

Truth be told, I don’t think I am going to fully realise the potential of 29+ bikes until better tyres become available. The Knard is fine until you hit wet roots, then it is an issue. It would be really nice to have a more aggressive tyre. The word is the Dirt Wizard will be around in spring – this new Surly tyre looks much more aggressive, but is likely to be a 2.75″ so we’ll see. If I had my druthers I’d have a 2.8″ Maxxis Minion DHF.

This bike will also have sliders. And a SON front hub, maybe 135mm, maybe 100mm.

So… here we go again….it is a *good* problem to have though!





Good stuff.

23 10 2013

Occasionally when I come to update my blog, the only things that spring to mind are domestic, work or even weather related issues. When this happens, it usually means that riding has taken a back seat for what ever reason. None of this stuff is of any interest to anyone, so the blog gets a bit neglected.

Sometimes though, there have been some intermittent points worthy of note: collected here are a few things that I have been messing about with and they may prove thought provoking to others. I know I would certainly value any opinions and input.

The bikes have all been working flawlessly. Several routine-maintenance-type updates were required, though. The Jones headset (a Cane Creek Jones ‘special’ 100) finally wore enough to begin creaking with a tiny amount of play after, what, 4 years? In this case, the angular contacts were a little worn, meaning that new bearings weren’t going to remedy the situation. After thinking options over, I decided to replace it with a dual griplocked King headset. Fitting this was very tricky indeed because the griplock system seems to grab the steerer tube under extremely minimal compression, easily done as you try to hold the truss and all the parts in the correct order, and pass the ‘floating’ steerer tube through. It is hard to explain until you try it, but eventually after splitting two of the green rubber o rings that help to fully snug up the griplock, I put a bigger chamfer into the steerer tube, which allowed it to pass through the second, lower griplock more easily.

The pewter colour is dark, but the sotto vocce graphic has been my favourite since it’s introduction. In use, smooth.

The next update was to pull the Knard/UMA snow rim/Paul Whub combo off the front of the Jones, replacing it with the original edge am rimmed wheel with a Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5/XC exo sidewall (rather than the heavy duty DH version) with dual compound tread. I have initially fitted tubes, because these rims are the older, non tubeless style, but even with a fairly beefy tube, it dropped 400g from the Knard/UMA combo. 400g! Initial impressions are that even running at 17psi, it is in no way as plush as the Knard set up, BUT the DHF has so much grip it may be worth persisting.

It is widely known now that fat bikes will take over the world and, as such, there have been a slew of carbon fibre rims shown at trade shows recently. In addition, various companies offer chinese made carbon 29er rims in various widths, including Derby, who offer a 35mm 29er rim.

In theory this would allow me to mount a Knard, whilst keeping the wheel weight down. I will wait to see how these rims perform for others over time. One concern I have is that they have drilled non-angled nipple holes, which makes them a bit tricky to build with a Whub, that has such wide flange spacing. I’m sure that before too long an even wider carbon fibre rim will be available, so I am going to keep my eyes peeled, and my mind open. 40-45mm would be ideal with the Knard I think. Meanwhile, the Rabbit Hole rims have been trouble free and once the wheels are rolling, the girth is maybe even a benefit, in a flywheel sort of way. After years spent trying to get light durable wheels, it is clear that there is a place for heavier wheels too.

Along with this on the Jones, I finally succumbed for the second time to making a bike tubeless. The Vertigo cycles Maul has the newer style enve tubless ready XC rims, which are a bit more puncture prone in the rough stuff than the AM rims, so I though it might be worhtwhile to try. I am using Conti Revo sealant, which is problem free at this early stage and a Conti MKII 2.2 bc/protection on the rear. I wanted to run a 2.4 version on the front but I couldn’t seat it with my Lezyne dirt drive, a ghetto set up, CO2 or a proper compressor. In the end I got hold of a 3C exo High Roller 2 which popped into place with minimal effort with the track pump and is superb in the mixed conditions I ride. I used to use Maxxis a few years ago exclusively and they are certainly back on the menu now. The High Roller is 900g or so and a real grippy tread and compound.

The Works Components thick-thin rings have been fantastic, finding their way onto BA and soon Maul as well. Several trouble-free months in the muck on the Krampus have been inspiring. If you need a high quality ring for a 1x build I would thoroughly recommend them. I have been researching the fitting of a 11-36 cassette with Saint 10 speed derailleur and I think I have a clear way to ascertain if this combo will strain the mech too much for these bikes. More on this in a stand alone post.

A very recent addition to a couple of bikes has been the new Jones 710mm loop bar. Basically this adds a bit (25mm iirc) to both grip ends, while keeping the looped section the same. I almost didn’t notice the difference after fitting them, which in some ways was good as I had anticipated lots of hang ups on the tight trees around here, but this has been a non-issue. However, when I look down, I do notice that my hands are around 1.5cm further back on the grips than I would normally be able to with the narrower, original bars. Overall, I like them a lot – a subtle improvement. Strangely, they are considerably better when it comes time to push the bike over very rough ground or up über steep pitches – very few strikes on my calf with the pedal. An unexpected benefit to me, but maybe not so strange. My understanding is that the Surly guys were keen to have the additional width when offering these bars with some of their bikes and this was off the back of a few gnarly off road adventures that involved a fair amount of off bike time as well as super tough, rocky terrain. In such circumstances, a wider bar is likely to shine for multiple reasons.

Last, but not least, I’m working on something new…a short trail. It will be called ‘Fearsome’. So far, I have cleared it once. More to add, but it will be a testing addition.





Learning.

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.





To return, so soon?

12 07 2013

Last week end, as Sunday evening began, I took to the road again and made my way to Bridge of Tilt. Extricating my gear and body from the car as the sun’s light waned, I cinched straps, adjusted my shoes and headed north towards the Gaick Pass. I was pretty bushed and had no idea how far I would get, not least because the sun was relaxing towards the horizon and I only had an LED head torch with me. The aim was to push through the Gaick as far as possible, bivi, and re-supply (namely with water) in Aviemore in the morning. If it was looking like I had enough time, I would head over Macdui, drop to Linn of Dee and then come back along Glen Tilt – basically another stab at the route I had tried to do some weeks ago, but punctuated by a sleep stop.

By 11.45pm I came to the end of Loch an Duin singletrack, which had been a wee bit challenging in the low sun and with a loaded bike. I climbed up onto the end of the estate track from the Louis Vuitton lodge, realising that this was the highest point that was both flat and open to the passage of the wind for miles. I was pooped and as the wind is your friend when there are midge to be downed, I unrolled the sleeping gear, popped open a beer and watched the hills in the gloaming. I’m not sure if Scotland ever gets truly dark at this time of year when you are as far north as I was, but the night was warm, and it took me no time to fall asleep.

At 3am I was awoken by some grouse squawking, perhaps there was a fox around or something, and it took a wee while to go back to sleep. I woke again, soon after, cold, but the vapour barrier sleeping bag liner I had brought to experiment with seemed like overkill, so i just cinched the shoulders of the sleeping bag in, and zipped up the bivi fully. Maybe I should have just got up and started moving because I ended up sleeping in until 7.30am. In addition, I had forgotten my coffee filter. The combination of my slow thought – working out if my midge net would work to filter the grounds in boiling water or melt in the process – and the arrival of the day’s contingent of midge, as well as the distance I needed to cover, got me on the bike within a few minutes.

Curiously, I was 45 minutes slower to Aviemore in total ride time than I had been on the Maul a few weeks ago, reinforcing the impression that I had been shifting it a bit that day, Along with the late start, I did some sums, coming to the conclusion that anything other than returning via Feshie was going to get me home later than required. Somewhat ruefully, I stared up at the inviting summits, nomnommed a bacon roll and headed back to Insh to take a different approach into Feshie. It was clear that the weeks dry weather would be kind to me as I covered the notoriously boggy ground of the Feshie/Geldie watershed area with relative ease on the fat Knards. Unfortunately, I must have represented the highest concentration of blood meal for miles around because there was an unprecedented amount of clegs paying me far too much attention. I nearly broke myself in the 30c heat pushing super hard across the moor land, all the while desperately slapping at the inch long, incisor wielding, nasty bastards as they went for any exposed, and even unexposed, flesh in their quest for blood. In the end, I got 2 bites, but killed 5. I think that was a reasonable score.

As I made my way across the Abhainn Rath, this time with shoes on, a fighter jet passed very low overhead, swooped lower and then west as it turned into Tilt. Amazing!

Soon enough, I was making my way into the glen myself when another came over, totally unannounced until it was directly overhead, so close I could see the pilot in detail, which I don’t mind admitting caused just a wee bit of jittering.

Although there was a headwind again down Tilt, I made good time, closing the loop in pretty much exactly the same amount of (riding) time as I had done the other week. Interesting in some ways, because on the boggy sections in Feshie, I could ride on the Krampus, just, and it was also generally drier than previously, so I made up for being slower in nearly every other section.

It took 2 hours 40 minutes to get to the Abhainn Rath from Aviemore, with the detour at Insh, and I was back to the car 1 hour 40 minutes or so after that. Useful, for future reference. A good day, but unfinished business…