I was already over 2000m of vertical climbing into the ride as I headed uphill further, the rough tracks had taken their toll with a puncture down and food was running out. The air was cold sapping calories and I was struggling. I was exploring a new track across the southern upland fells, a new route I had been told about but it wasn’t on any maps. At this point I was still deep in the rich green moss and lichen covered forest, the mist majestically swirling around the tops of the trees, if the trees faded into heather and I wasn’t where I expected it to be, I had a long way back home. I had my lights on already with the mid-winter afternoon sun already low in the sky, the mercury falling further and the wind blowing.
I pushed on, yes it was tough but I now had no choice, but mostly I kept going because deep down I was having fun; riding bikes in new places drives me forward. If there’s no challenge then why bother, it all becomes mundane and I guess that is what I fear the most.
BBefore i knew it a white Land Rover appeared, the first person I had seen in hours. The lady stopped asked if I was OK or needed a lift, “I’m fine but i don’t suppose you have any biscuits?” Was my cheeky response. She dug into her bag and found a bar of chocolate, I was ecstatic, this was exactly what I needed to get me home and with a big smiling thank you I scoffed it down. I filled my bottle from a stream and carried on rejuvenated.
Gravel riding is growing massively, there are new events and models of bikes dedicated to it popping up everywhere. For me what makes it fun is covering distance and going to new places, the thrill of speeding down tracks at 50kph with no grip and also the ability to link it all up with short road sections without the tyre buzz of a MTB tyre. To get the most out of gravel riding you need endless tracks to explore – without the gravel it’s not quite the same!
To add into the mix and excitement levels for this ride I also have a brand new pair of Lauf Grit leaf suspension forks to test out for the long term.
Here is my route on Strava – across the hills of the Scottish Borders;
The air had warmed up from the frosty week and the mist was bellowing out of the forest as the warm air hit the cold ground. I started in Glentress forest with the most amazing misty vistas;
Tt was then onto the Bowbeat windfarm for me this is becoming my gravel riding destination, there are endless climbs and descents in this wild series of hills and glens. I also love the idea that these towering monsters whooshing past are warming my home 20 miles away.
Back in the forest heading towards Leithen Water the forest mists were catching the sun again;
The tracks vary from rough stones to smoothish double tracks. All leading either up or down, there’s not much flat ground in the Tweed Valley!
From the Leithen Water valley I head up to Minch moor and the southern upland way. A slog of a climb but well worth it because the snaking singletrack descent is great fun on a gravel bike with drop bars, you feel close to the limits of the bike’s capabilities but never past it.
From the village of Yarrow it was a road section west to the friendly pub the Gordon’s Arms. I good spot to stop for a snack. The sun is low and picking out and silhouetting sheep in the foreground it’s a really beautiful scene;
Soon after I turn off back on the gravel past a herd of angry cows with calves. I slink past them trying not to annoy them as a few stand in my way feeding their young. Suddenly they all bolt in an explosion of slobbery milk as the calves are barged away.
I pass the Southern Upland way again as it heads south towards St Mary’s loch. Then I follow a track into the forest and keep faith it is the right one.
I finally turn right on the track I Think is right.I meet the lady in the land rover and a feeling refreshed I head uphill. In the distance I can see a mobile phone mast, I expect that is why the new track has been built and aim for the point.
Slowly but surely it gets closer as I pass 600m in altitude and keep going.
Finally I make it to the mast and the gate. I notice on the gate a bag hanging and see the following on the handle;
The amazing lady has either collected or found a bag of flapjack to leave for me. It makes my day as I am now hungry again and learning my lesson in not taking enough food. I also find it reassuring that there are such nice farmers out there helping make a stranger’s day!
I head down hill and puncture, it is my second one of the ride. I little later I get another slow flat, I suspect the new tube was dodgy. I stop pump up the tyre and ride and repeat for a while. Finally I see the lights of Peebles and take a short cut through the disused railway tunnel on the outskirts of town. A sad limping home end to brilliant day on the bike.
Test Kit List
Lauf Grit Forks – New for this ride, I was pleasantly surprised by how much they smoothed the rougher sections. On bumps up to 1.5″ they definitely smooth the ride, anything bigger and they don’t do so much.
Lezyne Macro Drive Duo – This is new light is awesome because it has a day flash rear light and front in the same helmet based unit. I am loving it this winter and is bright enough to ride off road at night.
Lezyne Super GPS (24hr battery life on a GPS lasted the weekend on one charge!)
Praxis Works Alba Cranks (Alba for those that don’t know is the local name for Scotland so appropriate!)