8 11 2016

A little while ago now, it became clear things were afoot on the West Highland Way, with trail construction beginning near the edge of Loch Lomond, north of Rowardennan.

Three years later and it would appear the work is complete.

I used to ride the West Highland Way fairly often: it was Scotland’s first ‘made’ long distance walking route, stretching 96 miles from Milngavie to Fort William, passing some stunning West Coast scenery on the way. Around 80,000 walkers use the route yearly, concentrated in the summer months and for this reason, biking on the route is best out of season.

So I found myself trundling up from Balmaha the other day in glorious sunshine – although there was a serious nip to the northerly head wind – and on climbing past the Lodge at Rowardennan, found the left turn onto the new section.

Immediately, it became clear the plan was to emulate the singletrack, which is so festooned with natural features, that makes the section from Rowchoish north to Inversnaid sublime.

In saying that, they turned the dial up to 11.

Rock steps, rock step gaps over plunging water run offs, narrow and super steep wooden staircases, fallen tree up-overs, narrow gaps through sharp rocks and edge-of-the-loch trail all combined to leave me wondering if I enjoyed it or not.

I returned by the high route, giving me time to reflect. Yes, I enjoyed it but it is a serious undertaking, requiring skill, balance and confidence to tackle on a bike. To combine it into the whole route – particularly loaded – would need a serious amount of beard stroking.


The section i rode was 3.5 hrs. Do click for bigger pics and there are a few more on my flickr. I didn’t catch most of the techy sections as it was hard enough to do once, let alone scope for a pic…



22 06 2013

A few days ago, I decided to explore an area close to home. In order to make a day of it, I planned to ride out through Mugdock, poke around the triangle of uncharted territory in question and then follow the West Highland Way further until I could join a trail that used to be an old railway line. This leads to Croftamie, a small village west of Glasgow, where I could ride alongside a meandering burn I have always been curious about.

It was a beautiful day, with a brisk wind that kept the midge at bay, which was most welcome when I took the narrow trail through dense foliage between Strathblane and Glengoyne distillery. The trail is also on an old rail line and has a very steady grade, but it has grown in, no doubt due to the heavily used WHW being routed close by.

All in all, it was an interesting diversion. For a while, I followed the WHW, then turned, took a narrow bridge across a river and climbed up towards Croftamie. Another, higher, bridge offered fine views of the mountains and some gorgeous clouds. There was no rush, so I stopped to have a sandwich and watch as the little fluffy clouds rolled by.

The trail from Croftamie was short, but sweet. It popped out at Dalnair House, an old baronial mansion that later became a nursing home and has now fallen out of use. It is a beautiful building and as I watched a deer bound past a dilapidated tennis court I wondered what would become of it.

From here, I took the road up to Queens View and the Whangie, then back into Mugdock and home.

It is interesting to look more closely at what is under your nose. You may not always discover a gem, but it is always enlightening.

During the ride, the rear hub on the Krampus became considerably noisier than I have been used to. It slipped several times, which it has done on occasion since new, but this was worse. A few nights later, as I pedaled out on a group ride, it gave a loud crunch on a rocky climb and from this point on it refused to freewheel consistently. I needed to bail on the ride and by the time I got home I had to pedal continuously in order to avoid jamming the chain because the cogs would not allow me to coast. When I first got it, I was unsure what I would think about the Krampus, so I didn’t want to sink too much money on componentry. However, I recall feeling uneasy about using the M785 XT hub. I had heard rumours of problems with other recent XT hubs, but assumed it had been ironed out.

On inspection, the freehub body mechanism was toast, I was in no doubt that the pawls had shattered. With replacement of the freehub body being around the same cost as a new hub, and with no indication that Shimano has changed the design to remedy the part. I decided to invest in a better quality hub. A Hope Pro II evo will be built into the Rabbit Hole soon. Again, spoke length is causing me a bit of a headache, ideally the non-drive side would have 299mm spokes. I will perhaps go into this in more detail soon.

The situation is, of course, disappointing. The wheel has been in use for 3 months and I would not expect to have to rebuild a wheel within 2 years usually. It is a waste of money in terms of replacing spokes as well. XT level componentry is usually bomber and it looks like Shimano dropped the ball on this one, which is (fortunately) rare.

Along with rebuilding the rear Krampus wheel, I will be building a geared rear wheel for my ‘cross bike. The Iron Maiden lies unused for much of the year, a situation I want to change. It is a singlespeed specific frame, but I intend to use a 10mm thru axle rear hub (built on to a No Tubes Iron Cross rim) with an old Saint M800 rear derailleur, a Dura Ace bar end shifter, a 9 speed cluster (11-34) and a 48 tooth front ring. This will give me a broad enough range to tackle steep-ish climbs off road, but allow a good turn of pace on the tarmac. Hopefully, along with file tread 35mm tyres, this will make for a versatile set up.

More as it happens.

The Xtracycle has been in almost constant use. There is no doubt as to it’s versatility – dropping off Daisy and hauling stuff – but it can feel a little heavy up hill. No matter! you will grow strong, pedaling this sort of bike!

Lastly, I used Continental Revo sealant and a 2.2 Mountain King II Protection to go tubless on the back of Maul. It has been several years since I used a tubeless set up. Once I get some miles in, I will decide whether it will stay or not.