Kinesis Tripster ATR V3 Reviewed

Finally the wait was over and I took delivery of my new Tripster ATR V3. I’ve been riding a Tripster since it was launched as one of the very first gravel/adventure bikes with what was back then ground breaking geometry and tyre clearance. With that first bike I headed east and cycled to China and the rest is history. I have ridden across about 45 countries and maybe 60,000km on the V1 and V2. Given my miles on the bike I fed into both redesigns and it’s great to see a few refinements from myself and other ambassadors incorporated in the V3. My miles in Scotland and the rough gravel up here means I’m excited the V3 gets wider tyres and even more capable of adventures.

To give some context to this review I ride on smooth tracks right through to pretty rough gravel tracks, tarmac miles and blue/red MTB trails and that’s all on my daily gravel bike commute through Glentress Forest in Scotland! Then stripped down I need a gravel bike to go fast in events like the Dirty Reiver and finally built up as a reliable expedition bike to bikepack adventure into some of the remotest corners of the world. I wanted something fast, comfortable and reliable – after all ATR stands for Adventure, Tour and Race.

What has changed from the Tripster V2 to V3?

Having ridden the bike it is clear a lot more has changed than I thought. I think it immediately looks more stylish than the comparably utilitarian V2 and the other ‘evolutionary’ steps forward include…

  1. The geometry has been tweaked, the reach and wheelbase measures about 15mm longer than the V2 in 60cm with the small sizes getting lower top tubes too. As mountain bikers will know the longer reach allows a shorter stem for snappier gravel and off road handling while a longer wheel base adds stability at speed. I wanted this change as I liked running a shorter stem on the V2 but this impacted the reach measurement of the bike.
  2. Somehow they have made the rear triangle even MORE compliant with pretty novel flattened and snaking seat stays. It was immediately noticeable as soon as I got on the V3 and the V2 was already super comfy. This complex design is why it costs a bit more too I suspect.
  3. Lazer etched decals – I’ve no idea what this actually means but all I know is they look awesome and means the graphics don’t rub off from bikepacking bags as easily.
  4. The Range fork – I really wanted a fork with anything cage bolt holes and 700x50mm clearance and Kinesis have delivered both. Anything cage bolts let you store bags, water bottles and pretty much…. well anything on the fork and great to see this spec’ced.
  5. Flexible bottle cage bolts. It still has bolts for 3 cages but the V3 lets you better use all the frame space with a frame bag. This is by shifting bottle cage locations, simple but makes a huge difference to what you can carry inside your frame.
  6. New seat tube joint and chainstay braces to improve strength and aesthetics. I do think it looks sleeker than the V2.
  7. The Frame also uses an improved cold drawn tubeset too, this removes possibility of the heat causing weakness.
  8. The cable routing has been improved, the V2 was a bit fiddly. The internal cable ports are also redesigned to be more reliable.
The picture shows how the bottle cages can be located super efficiently around a frame bag if you want.

My Build kit

I opted for a build with speed but also comfort to match the frame’s intentions. I wanted to test out the new Shimano GRX groupset too;

Wheels – Reynolds ATR 650b (Reviewed) or Sector GCi 700c

Tyres – WTB Resolute 42x 650b or Teravail Sparwoods in 2.1″ or WTB Riddler 45 x 700c (yes my 700 setup is wider!)

Saddle – Brooks C17 in aluminium rail and octane blue with matching Brooks bar tape

Bars, stem and seat post – Ritchey Venture max bars (the best flare bar on the market), Ritchey WCS 70mm stem and Ritchey WCS seatpost.

Groupset – Shimano GRX full RX810 group

Gearing – Shimano XT – 11:42 with 1x 40t GRX front chainset.

GRX levers on Ritchey Venture Max Bars are the best combo I’ve found

First Impressions of how it rides

I have ridden the bike for 6 months now and loads of days on local loops under lockdown (2020). To show the true versatility it has set KOMs (some I previously set on an XC MTB which was interesting) to carrying a 16kg baby + seat on the back for fast smooth gravel rides! Not much bikepacking yet but hopefully later in 2020!

The first thing you notice about the V3 is the good looks (it shouldn’t be important but it is!) and when you hop on the bike you should immediately notice the super compliant rear end, it is so comfy on the rough buzz of gravel tracks. Compared to a cheap Ti frame with straight tubesets it will be noticeable on the first decent ride, let alone comparing to a stiff carbon gravel bike. You feel like you are gliding over smaller stuff with the 42mm tyres and the 2.1 Sparwoods feel like a MTB but you can still sit at 20mph on road for long sections. The fork however does feel a tad harsher than the V2 due to the beefier size and extra strength. In general the V3 is probably further towards bikepacking and adventure than the V2.

I think the new Octane coloured Brooks C17 saddle really sets off the frame’s laser decals. My old Brooks Cambium saddle was great, the organic cotton/rubber design isn’t to everyone’s taste but I love it and was so comfy I had to get another on this bike. This has aluminium rails which are noticeably more forgiving (but obviously heavier) than the carbon ones I had before.

Surprisingly at home on tarmac with 650b

The V3 feels snappier when climbing than the Tripster V2 build I had, this is both the tweaked new frame and lower weight, helped by the new Sector GCi wheels and WTB Riddler tyres set up tubeless. I have mostly been riding it with Reynolds 650b and WTB Resolutes to compare it better to my old V2 Tripster and it still feels quicker (the pretty constant PBs prove this!). With 650b wheels it really comes alive and for me the best thing about 650b is the quick acceleration they give, rather than the ability to run wider tyres. It has been used with 650b pretty much all the time to be honest.

The Tripster became the go to gravel bike in 2014 after it was first launched, because it had a dialed geometry and this V3 tweaks it for the first time since – climbing still feels great but it feels more stable and faster on the rougher descents which more and more people are riding gravel bikes on.

I went down from 63cm to a 60cm frame and this feels perfect for me at 6ft3in – I am borderline but a 60 gives a better stand over clearance and ride position. The new longer reach measurements help this fit feel spot on for me while allowing a 70mm stem to give snappier MTB feeling steering. I use the Tripster on the rougher range of gravel so those on road and smoother tracks might want a longer stem.

With Lockdown i have had limited chances for bikepacking, but the bike is perfect and loaded with mounting options as I lik, we headed out with a kids trailer for an overnighter and worked really well. A few bivvy overnighters with simple lightweight kit and the bike has handled wel when loaded. The Ti frame is obviously perfect for avoiding paint rub from bikepacking bags too. I hope we can get out later in the year for more adventures.

Down sides? Well I am still struggling at this stage to find any. The V2 revealed a few niggles in the cable routing and housings overtime but the V3 removes all of them, I also felt the V2 was slightly heavier than it could be and this V3 frame feels lighter. The new Range fork is strong and noticeably stiffer than the previous fork. The fork’s not quite as compliant which contrasts with the comfy rear end, but to have 3 mounting bolts the fork needs this strength and stiffness so it will always be a trade off. I am looking forward to using my anything cages and Apidura fork bags with them after lockdown lets us bikepack again.

The new Range forks with Anything bolts now added!!!

The Build kit review

The Shimano GRX RX810 groupset has impressed me and I have written a separate review on it and compared it with SRAM Force too.

The Brooks saddle and bar tape really set this bike alight. The Octane colour is new from Brooks and matches the lazer etched decals so nicely I had to source them for the build. I love the Cambium saddle already and in the C17 it is more comfy than the C13 I had before. I am a pretty narrow shape but this saddle is wider by 4mm feels a better width for me. The Brooks Octane colour bar rubberised tape looks awesome, is grippy in the wet and has held up well (much better than Lizard skins on the V2!) but it isn’t gravel specific so it is thinner and more road spec in terms of comfort.

Ritchey finishing kit is superb, I had the flared venture max bars before. I settled on them after trying various alternatives but I have also now opted for a WCS seatpost and stem on this build for their simple quality.

These Reynolds ATR wheels in 650b have been superb for about 2.5 years now, they are KOM grabbing fast, flawless setting up tubeless tyres and stiff in the corners help compliment the flex in the Ti frame. I am yet to spend much time on the new Sector GCi gravel 700c wheels but I will review when I swap back to them.


It is now almost 6 months on the bike and it is a genuine step forward in almost every respect from the V2. Still only small evolutions but a real step forward in adding features and removing little niggles around cable routing etc. It is comfy but still light and fast, strong and adaptable. It really is a bike that can tour to China (if I was allowed again…) and then race gravel and CX at home. The Range Fork and bottle cage mounts are a statement of intent more towards the adventure and bikepacking than racing. Overall it edges a bit more towards off-road capabilities than road too.

If you want all day comfort on all surfaces this really has to be about the best bike out there and it looks stunning too! After 6 months I still love it!

The Frame and fork RRP is £2,200 and currently on sale at £1980 here

Lake district gravel loop Skiddaw

It’s not always easy to find a gravel bike friendly circuit in the lakes in winter. Either it gets too rocky or wet, but this is our go to loop in the northern lakes. It was rather windy but a cracking day out getting some more miles on the New Tripster ATR V3. It literally nearly blew away on the high point and we kept getting blow off track!

The loop will probably be best starting in Keswick before it then heads on the cycle path and road up towards Whinlatter Pass. It then heads off into the forest on tracks and cycle path to the end of Bassenthwaite lake. It is then through Bassenthwaite and across a Bridleway from Longlands onto a loop of Skiddaw and back to Keswick on small lanes and tracks. There are lots of Bridleways around Skiddaw but it is best left until drier weather to explore them as they get quite muddy. I also have to remember it’s in England so don’t have open access on them all. You can add more climbing and miles on the weather proof tracks in Whinlatter forest if riding in winter.

Below is the route in Komoot which you can download a GPX from, it’s only about 50km so nothing epic. But saying that it’s not that hard to navigate and a nice loop. This was probably the last outing for Marion’s Tripster AT as a flat bar bike. She is swapping to a SRAM Force drop bar set up to see how it compares.

Our 4 favourite Lezyne lights – long term tested

My daily commute includes MTB, gravel and Enduro trails through Glentress Forest in the Tweed Valley and I ride every day whatever the weather so the lights get coated in muck, hosed down (while on the bike still normally!), recharged, then used again and again so I can review these lights pretty well. To caveat, I was given these light to test but I just write honestly what I’ve found. The 4 below are my recommended pick for riders like me doing a regular 1-2hr off road or on road night ride.

  1. Lezyne Macro Drive Duo 700 light

This light has proved to be my go to winter option. It’s simply awesome, I have used it most days this winter for night riding and off road forest trails commuting as it gives you rear visibility on the MTB for short road sections. Mounted to my helmet this means whichever of my bikes I choose to ride I always have a front and rear light. Easy.

Why so good? It is bright enough to use off road on gravel on its own. I’m not sure how long it lasts exactly in the real world, because it has so many variable modes which I skip between meaning it’s hard to define. I can say that it hasn’t run out on me, despite infrequent charging so assume it meets the claimed run times and I certainly use it on 2.5hr rides. The rear flash is so bright it means you can use it on gloomy day road rides too. It charges by USB that is accessed by unscrewing the rear end – giving a totally waterproof seal. 5/5 stars but they’re not too easy to find anymore online it seems.

2. Multi Drive 1000

This is a great MTB helmet light option – it’s super small, bright and lightweight becasue the battery goes down in a backpack. The 1000 lumens is plenty for a helmet light for off road use including super techy terrain. The build quality is really nice and was used in all weathers last winter without issue. Because the charging port is on the battery this means the light is completely sealed and the USB charge port is behind a very solid rubber seal on the battery pack.

Usfeully the pack can be used as a power bank for charging up your phone if needed (not while using it as a light obviously!), not sure Lezyne market this use but it does work and helpful when traveling or bikepacking in case of GPS/phone dead battery. Battery life seems good, it’s never run out on my normal 2hour night ride and that’s without me really thinking about saving it. Overall a nice lightweight, strong and reliable light and £140 RRP but cheaper here. You can also buy second spare battery packs here;

3. Strip Drive Pro 300L Rear Light

This is a seriously bright rear light, intended as a daylight flash, it works great as a safety light whatever time of day or night. The design has gone back to a micro USB charge port rather than the direct USB stick design which is more practitcal. The light has 11 modes – all I know is it has a lot! Easy to fit on the seat post with rubber strap. I tend to mount it on the seat post at the seat clamp and this angles the light nicely to give great visibility to cars. This picture shows this;

The only issue I have is that I tend to stick to the brightest setting whatever the time of day and as you might expect this means the battery dies quicker and probably annoys drivers in the dark but I am less concerned about that as it means they have seen me! The RRP is £50 but again cheaper here

4. Macro Drive 1600 XXL 1600 lumens

The final review is what to use on the bars, combined with either the Duo or Multi Drive helment lights above. I use this big light on my MTB using the super clever direct stem light/GPS mount. On the bars with just the rubber strap the 1600xxl is too heavy and moves on bumpy trails. This is why I often find myself just sticking with the smaller 1000 lumen version. The 1000 light is a lot less than the 1600 lumen but it is still plenty of light with the helmet light too and it is easier to swap between bikes. However the trump card (for want of a better phrase these days) is that the 1600xxl (and 1800xxl) can accept the external battery pack to add run time- Lezyne call it the Infinite light I think, although at 2 more hours technically this isn’t infinity. However the extra batteries have been super useful for long rides and racing. The latest 1600 model has smart phone connection and auto day night sensor but I’ve not used these.

The battery lasts well and I tend to use the ‘race’ mode, switching just between a low uphill light and full DH light. Again a micro USB is easy to charge and well sealed. I find being all in one unit makes it nice and compact and less of a faff to use without all the wires of a separate battery pack on the frame that most poweful lights use. The RRP is £120 but again can be found cheaper Below is the clever direct stem mount from Lezyne for light and GPS, made from aluminium it is super sturdy.

Gravel Riding Routes in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs


The Trossachs and Loch Lomond National Park is pretty much the heart of Scotland and we were headed to the far east and the town of Callander. The area contains a huge network of tracks, trails and forest roads and in atumn it’s an amazzing blend of colours, the weather normally adds drama too. Ed rode with Orrin in his trailer to explore a few more gravel tracks with a ride from Callander to Aberfoyle. I should add that the route is a lot of fun without a trailer, and particularly if you’re a fan of multiple cafes on a route (without a baby as an excuse) this will suit you!

From the comfort of a warm cafe in Callander we headed out along the south shore of Loch venacher on a trailer friendly cycle path that underlatuate along the shore. Then instead of headding up the Three Loch Forest drive we headed along to Loch Achray which was pretty dramatic in the early mist;

From here we had stopped for some puddle splashing and headed up along the tarmac closed road along Loch Katrine, you can get the steam boat to the far end but it takes 2hrs and I wasn’t convinced Orrin would tolerate so much boat time! We headed most of the way along the east shore of the Loch before heading back to the cafe at the dock.

From Loch Katrine we headed across a narrow bridge to link a loop to the west of the main road, this section saves some tarmac riding. It was tehn across onto the Three Loch Forest Drive up to the top. It turns out this is Dukes Pass the place which I assumes gives the Dukes Weekender gravel route it’s name. A bit of research gives the route in the second map below.

It was the a down to Aberfoyle for another cafe stop. Then back up the same way to avoid the road and a direct route back to Callander when you get back up. With more time and less trailer you can add a detour up to Glen Finglas reservoir too. Altogether a great little area for just exploring and getting lost on the gravel bike. For those who don’t like getting lost the GPX can be downloaded via Komoot below;

Then the full Dukes gravel route is below, It covers more areas than where I netthan my route, but explores a flater and slightly less interesting forest to the south of Aberfoyle with less baby friendly cafe options!

5 items of GORE clothing to help keep you riding over winter

For  bikepacking and adventure cycling you need clothing that is light, packs small but is as practical and high performing as possible. It is these demands that led me to approach GORE a few years back to use their kit as I knew it was reliable for recent cold weather adventures and I now use it almost everyday. Below I have selected 5 pieces of Gore Kit that has been long term tested and works really well for colder weather riding.

1. Waterproof jacket – GORE C5 GORE-TEX Active Trail Hooded Jacket

A classic for reliability and quality, this jacket is a simple well cut design, no unnecessary pockets, flaps etc. it’s as small and light as it can be. It’s a GoreTex Active fabric so you know it will breath well but stay waterproof on those wet cold Scottish winter rides. Not the cheapest option but then I wouldn’t expect it to be. My oldest Jacket I use most is now 3 years old and it has been used A LOT (almost daily in Scotland!). Considering the high usage and multiple washes without reproofing it, it is amazingly waterproof still.  Buy one if you’ve not yet. GORE C5 GORE-TEX Active Trail Hooded Jacket

2. Waterproof Gore-Tex shorts – GORE C5 GORE-TEX Active Trail Shorts

These light and breathable waterproof shorts also fit into the essential Scotland bikepacking kit category like the jacket above. I have lived in them last winter for road and gravel riding and absolutely love them. While they are not branded as such, they are probably better suited for gravel riding than MTB. They are not as baggy as most MTB shorts and while they are renforced around the saddle they’re not a rugged, thick fabric as some MTB waterproof shorts are. However this means the Gore-Tex Active fabric used breaths really well, so more suited to XC/Gravel type riding. To my slight surprise the GORE Tex has worn very well over many muddy rides too. The less baggy fit also works better for faster gravel or road riding and the clever cut means no rubbing around the knee as I find with some other waterproof shorts.  Last winter I used them almost every day it rained, so most days, without them showing much wear. I have other cheaper pairs of waterproof shorts from Altura and Madison that look more robust MTB specific but I always go to these GORE shorts, buy a pair here;   GORE C5 GORE-TEX Active Trail Shorts

3. Windproof baggy shorts – C5 GORE WINDSTOPPER Trail Shorts

I saw these in the catalogue and thought “Wind Stopper baggy shorts, whats the point in that?” Then I thought about it some more. I love waterproof shorts for two reasons; Firstly they keep me dry but also they cut out the wind on really cold days when touring with a slightlly soft shell feel to them. While the Gore-Tex Active fabric breathes pretty effectively the Windstopper breathes even better. I opted for these for riding across Kyrgyzstan in winter because I didn’t need waterproofing. They were used over roubaix thermal 3/4 length bibs and with leg warmers too and I was warm enough at well below -10. I have used these most days since in shoulder season riding and on cold dry days. A nice snug cut that is a good balance between skin tight and too baggy and flapping about. I have just about worn through the seam on the seat now.

Click here for more info

4. Soft Shell Windstopper Hooded Jacket – GORE C5 GORE WINDSTOPPER Hooded jacket

I’ll be honest I thought Gore had some fairly dubious styling a few years ago, but recent years’ kit has been a big step up and this Windstopper jacket or hoodie in particular looks good and is super comfy for colder days riding. I like it a lot, in fact I wear it all the time on and off the bike! The fit is great for me as a tall skinny cyclist build. Fitted but enough space for a micro fleece underneath if needed on really cold days. It doesn’t flap to much in the wind which is important in a windproof, the arms are plenty long enough and the cut at the back is good too. It also looks very good off the bike too in fact I think mine is running focues but there are bike variants without the hood for more aero , what more do you want?

Womens bike version; GORE C5 GORE WINDSTOPPER Hooded jacket

Mens running version Ed uses; GORE R3 Windstopper hooded jacket

5. Shakedry Jacket – GORE C5 GORE-TEX SHAKEDRY™ 1985 Jacket

Probably the main reason I approached Gore to use their kit. 109gms and so compact it fits into the size of my fist! What more do you need from a 100% waterproof Goretex jacket. OK I wouldn’t use it to bash through thorn bushes it’s thin and not bomb proof, but then that’s not what it’s for. I used it as my main waterproof to cycle across Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and Russia all without issue. I now just shove it in my pocket for winter road rides. If rain was going to be persistent on a trip I’d opt for the power trail jacket (like in Scotland!) but otherwise this is the first item packed on trips or day rides with cloud on the horizon but a decent looking forecast. Innovation exemplified and now in some funky colours too….and it’s eagle proof. Click here.

Final Thoughts
The list could go on with their awesome GORE-Tex Gloves which I love and never get wet cold hands, comfy bib shorts, windstopper jerseys, warm thermo socks etc.
However lets face it there are lots of companies making good bib-shorts and jerseys but the bits of kit I have selected are outstanding technical items for winter and a clear benchmark against what others are doing. They are also bikepacking friendly kit too as they are light and small. I tend to quickly discover poor kit as i ride most days in Scottish conditions so hopefully this review is helpful!

Babypacking the High Tatras of Poland and Slovakia Part 2

At about 9.30am we set off along a meandering track headed north, having dragging ourselves away from the rather too comfortable Penzion Sileo. We were going to be following an official red cycle path apparently, but in reality it was to prove little more than an ever deteriorating rough forest track. Marking a cycle route on a map against actually creating a cycle path are often confused but can be two very different things! Either way we were just pleased the map had helped us to be away from the busy roads. It was a dense dark forest, the kind where light shines in shafts between the boughs, underneath the damp floor was dotted with plenty of mushrooms, not all edible. As we rode on a battered truck with another mushroom picker inside pulls up behind, he waves as he carefully overtakes us. Further up we found what looked like an abandoned but certainly very concrete themed hotel, a strange location here amongst the trees with little else.

After a slog uphill we find a section of deep rutted mud, we stop and assess, how long is it? It’s a section you’d normally just get off and walk, but the trailer would topple over into ruts about a 70cm deep in places caused by the harvesting machines! So one of us is taking Orrin and the other shuttling the bikes and trailer separately, it is slow progress but prevents a very long detour. It’s an excuse for Orrin to sit and play in the mud so one of us is happy!

From the satellite imagery (which hid the ruts!) we know the track soon turns to singletrack for a short section – probably too narrow for the trailer. We detour out across some rather idyllic hay meadows backed by mountains in both direction, we don’t see another soul as the baby trailer bumps about while the suspension smooths out the worst of them.

After the meadows we decided to continue up the atmospheric forest roads; despite them proving hard work! The lack of cars and people in general was just more relaxing. The occasional logging truck had to be avoided but it was mostly just us and the wildlife.

We had decided to ride up to Ziarska Chata, a mountain hut up at about 1350m, we checked with them over the phone that they had some bed space before setting off uphill. We were lucky the weather was kind as there was almost no shelter along this section of the route, nappy changes and lunch time in the forest with a baby/toddler are fun enough without it raining too!

After a total of 1200m of climbing during the day which had taken its toll we were pleased to arrive at the mountain hut in the heart of the mountains. While steep in places the final climb was on tarmac, closed to traffic and just hikers to dodge – it made a perfect trailer ride. The only slight frustration was we needed to return the same way the next day.

The chata arrived before the foreboding rain clouds and what a setting it was. After unpacking we took the map and planned a hike the next day to put Orrin in a sling and climb the highest peaks on the ridgeline above.

After cooking dinner on our camping stove on a picnic bench out front, we had an ‘unusual’ hot chocolate, while Orrin pushed a frog in a small pram around the fellow mountain hut guests. We then went outside to watch the stars. As evenings go it was most atypical. Although we had a nice small room to ourselves and slept well.

Our hike the next was up to a peak called Tri Kopy and next to Hruba Kopa. Along a ‘breezy’ ridge made for some stunning walking in the early morning light. We left Orrin and took it in turns to scramble the highest summit separately, while he got a 2000m+ nappy change. It was hilarious to see the faces on the exhausted hikers as they arrived and saw a noisy baby ahead!

After the hike we loaded up the bikes and headed downhill, fast, we were soon in the village of Ziar looking for a coop and snacks! From here we followed more cycle routes on back roads through the peaceful farmland and rolling foothills. We passed some classic ‘onion’ tower churches, wooden houses and views across the lakes to mountains north and south.

We tried to follow a bike path up a gorge from the nice village of Kvacany but it got too rocky and steep – a bit of a theme on the rather unpredictable cycle network! We managed to turn the trailer around and what followed was a detour to a road climb slog but with yet more amazing views.

It was getting gloomy and we had full lights flashing as we approached Zuberec. We knocked on the door of a guest house, as we couldn’t find a camp spot and given it was now dark with a sleeping baby we hoped to find a cheap room.

The next day after a large strudel for breakfast we headed from Zuberec north to Oravice and its hot springs. We made a slight detour into the mountains and back on the way. It was a pleasant ride on the road through fairy tale forests and meadows. Oravice itself is tiny but has a water park, ski resort and a separate hot pool complex with elderly people slowly stewing themselves. A road side stall was selling local Mead too which was rather tasty!

We had fried potato pancakes at another roadside cafe and camped under the starry night sky. The campsite was pretty fancy for only £7 a night. Overnight we heard the roar of rutting stags again, each roar getting closer and closer to the tent it seemed!

The next day we had two options; the easy but longer road loop or the shortcut back to Poland which was best described as ‘wilder’, it involved a section with potentially not much of a path. We were down to the Orrin’s last nappy so we set off east to the short cut, headed along a track bathed in autumn colours, as we climbed higher it produced some of the best views of the trip. The first potential turn off had been hit by recent logging, was a mudfest and way too steep, we carried on to the next option. This had a path but it was faint!

As we ventured off the track, a fresh bear print appeared in the mud, it was heading in the direction we were going, and only very recently. Ed, very loudly took the bikes one by one up the narrow path, under a deer fence (border fence?) and into the meadow. After shuttling everything we were back in Poland and what looked a short roll down to the main track. The meadow had tall deer shooting towers dotted around it and felt a bit like we had entered an arena from the Hunger Games! More pleasant were the traditional old wooden shepherd chalets. With the recent bear tracks we were busy singing and making our presence very much apparent to any wildlife, we thought we heard noises but saw nothing.

The final twist saw a river crossing, which was too deep to ride or even push through without the trailer filling up with water! So it was luggage out and carrying everything across a calf depth ice cold river 4 times. Orrin sat and through rocks in the water oblivious to the loss of sensation in my toes from getting him there! The trailer was too awkward to carry across the deepest bit so the wheels needed to come off too, hence them strapped to Marion’s bag below!

We were soon back into the Zakopane area in Poland, just in time to buy new nappies after finding a rather hilly route which avoided all the endless cars that the Polish mountains attract. This pretty much finished our loop around the mountains and altogether a pretty amazing bikepacking adventure. We picked up the rental car and a drove back up to Krakow’s Station Aparthotel which luckily still had our bike boxes for the flight home!

The view from the streets of Zakopane, Poland

Babypacking the High Tatras of Poland and Slovakia Part 1

We first saw the high Tatras mountains early on our route to China and were impressed by what we saw and remembered. As with so many places on that trip, we swore we’d return to explore here more, but little did we know it would be as a family of three and with a heavy trailer to lug up those big mountains. It’s called the HIGH Tatras for good reason, but as it turned out Slovakia was to be a great choice with 18 month old Orrin.

We flew into Krakow in Southern poland in late September, the plan was to have a day to explore the city before getting a train south to the mountain town of Zakopane and start cycling a loop of this mountain range. Poland is on our dwindling list of European counties we’ve not ridden in so we were excited to set up and explore what we’d find. We normally ride with a bike and kit totalling about 20kg, but here Ed’s setup weighed in at; a 10kg bike, 14kg trailer, 12kg baby and about 10kg of kit = 46kg! Fast and light might not be our motto these days, but strong legs certainly remain as important!

Krakow is a pretty remarkable city to visit and wandering the old town palaces and city walls is a pleasant way to spend a day exploring the cultural attractions on every corner. However it also hides the terrible history and treatment of the large Jewish population here during the second world war which is represented across the city and then outwith the city at nearby Auschwitz.

Getting there wasn’t as easy as we thought, not only laden with what now seems a such a carefree memory of just 2 heavy bike boxes – we now had a baby, trailer and things like nappies to worrry about! Then to add to the stress, just before flying out we learnt that all the trains were cancelled heading south because of major engineering works. The rail replacement bus didn’t take bikes, nor babies without a car seat therefore we were effectively stuck in the city centre without much of a trailer safe route out! Eventually after much google translating we found a bargain local one way car rental – not what we hoped but it worked. We stayed at Krakow’s Station Aparthotel which was right next to the train station and they stored our bike boxes for us.

We drove to Zakopane via huge roadworks; who thought reconstructing the road and train network together was a good idea! When we arrived Zakopane was a traffic jam in the cloud so we didn’t really get a feel for where we had arrived!

We eventually found a very pleasant campsite on a hillock next to some goats. The views of the Tatras had started to emerge from the low cloud. We arrived at the campsite to drop our kit and bikes off before returning the rental car, we were greeted by an old chap who looked up from cutting firewood and didn’t speak any English, instead gesturing we could camp anywhere we wanted before contining his work. There was a small set of swings that we leant the bikes against and set Orrin to play as we unpacked and sorted out our kit. We hadn’t had time to test if it all fitted in the bags and panniers before now!

That night the sky cleared up and the pleasant daytime temperature plummeted, the Alpkit Ordos 3 tent we have is a good size for the 2.5 of us but suffers from cold drafts due a thin mesh inner tent. It is however crazy light and small for a 3 man tent so we can’t complain too much, we just need to carry the weight we saved in extra clothes!

After a comfortable first night in the tent we loaded the bikes (and baby) and set off cycling east from Zakopane. This section of road was constantly up and down but also quite busy with buses of all sizes and lots of cars heading to the popular sites of Morskie Oko lakes and the surrounding mountains.

The ride was fine but it was a bit more of a head down and cover the distance ride as Orrin slept. As expected we reached the Slovakian border quite quickly, with a nice long descent to end our time in Poland. There was a huge car park just before we crossed the border and this proved to be where all the traffic stopped. As we entered Slovakia there was a digger for Orrin to see, but to our relief the road immediately became empty – just us and the trees swaying in the wind. Around us the dense forest leaves were still mostly green with just a tint of autumn starting to creep in. We rode to the first Slovak village of Tatranska Javorina. The sun was out and Orrin was either napping or just loving the view and the ever changing world go by. This baby bikepacking is all rather jolly and straight forward we thought!

After a nice steady climb we stopped at a ski resort called Strednica for a coffee. As you might expect, the ski resort was on the top of a pass, and the weight of a small person in a trailer took its toll, with each pedal stroke individually jerking me forward one by one. The resort cafe was still open but pretty much deserted, only the steady mountain wind blowing dust and loudly flapping the plastic outdoor awning. The mountains here were part forested – cleared for the pistes, little if anything in the resort looked steeper than a red ski run in winter, behind these pistes were the rocky outlines of the highest Tatras peaks.

We enjoyed the downhill afterwards to a really nice little village of chalets and old wooden houses called Belianske Tatry. Again it was pretty quiet but we found the one place to be – a restaruant next to the small folk museum which was absolutely rammed. We ordered food and Marion’s favourite – Kofola the famous local cola. I remembered I was indifferent to this herbal menthol type concoction…..but it was only 30p.

The food was good and there was a hand carved wooden rocking horse to entertain Orrin and some really nice illustrated Slovakian kids books . We ate well before a short playground stop and back on bikes.

It was here we discovered the awesome cycle network which would take us off the roads for pretty much the rest of the trip. A gravel track ran parallel to the road and was in really smooth, good shape, we waited for it to end but it didn’t, it kept going. How far will it go?

We got our answer shortly later when a friendly road worker came over to chat, it turned out he was the cycle path marking and maintenance person. He was so excited to see us and the baby trailer he ran away to get a map to give us. The map contained all the cycle paths in the region and he recommended us a route so we would be away from cars with pretty much nothing but forests, views and bear poo.

We followed these cycle paths so remote it seemed only bears were joining us for company. We heard disconcerting noises but saw very little alive.

The next campsite we stayed at was a bit surreal, a run down kind of place but with a certain eastern European charm. It was a shame the charm didn’t extend to the receptionist, but I’d be disappointed here if we didn’t get that classic Eastern European look and mannerism of indifference while actually being realitively helpful! The old camping chalets were rusty on the roofs and the timber frontages long since faded. The newest installation was a Slovakia’s ‘Route 66’ 2012 archway. We had no idea what the Slovakia route 66 was but the roads here are pretty scenic. There was just our green tent, a tiny blue decathalon tent with no apprent owners and a german plated caravan, but nothing else seemed inhabited. Surely Wes Anderson was lurking somewhere in a directors chair. Tatranska Lomnica was the nearest town to the campsite, but little more than some hotels and a few small shops.

As we unloaded our bags a baby Adder snake unwound itself and slunk away into the grass out of Marion’s pannier. While keeping Orrin out the way I flicked it as far as I could from the tent. I’d never seen a baby adder before and it was kind of cute in a ‘can it still bite me?’ way as it raised its head like a tiny cobra and hissed, but still smaller than the length of a little finger.

That night an all enveloping mist decended upon us, but deep in the dank, dark night an eerie roar started up, with the earlier bear poo I concluded it was surely two bears fighting? It was pretty close, but we reflected the tent makes things sound closer. It gave flash backs to the roar of a Grizzly that gave chase to me in Canada (have I told you my bear chase story??) . It then clicked, this was rutting season and the roar was two stags fighting. We relaxed. I then had the realisation that two rutting deer are proably no less dangerous than a roaring bear.

We were cycling uphill to Strbske Pleso for lunch on what would be the dampest day of the trip. I think when we were considering touring with a baby we had dreaded wet days more than anything. However the Chariot trailer is not bad in the wet and Orrin was sleeping snugly as we battled the elements heading one direction – up.

This was also when we started swerving inbetween more hikers on the cycle path, it was a bit bizaare that a tarmac path next to the road was such a popular hike in the mountains, it was all the gear but clearly no intention of getting muddy.

Strbske Pleso was as we had remembered it; the small scenic train line curving up to this premier Slovakian ski resort. The glacially formed lake that gives it is name (pleso) was still surrounded by the oddest selection of hotel architcture, so bad and bizarre that I thought it maybe added to the charm, Marion disagreed, either way the mountain view was missing today. We stopped at a minature wooden chalet for kids and then reflected on the atmospheric mist from a cafe seat.

The next section was going to be a huge downhill into the drizzle and cold, so we booked a last minute chalet on our phone for about £38 it was called; Penzion Sileo and looked like a nice place to warm up!

We rode past a spot in the woods we recognised where we had wild camped back in 2014, before arriving at a nice little town called Pribylina. Just up the road was a small folk museum with an old preserved wooden village, there is also now a forest logging steam train which runs some of the time, but we couldn’t work out in September if it was open. Pribylina has a small Roma settlement by the river, which like much of Eastern Slovakia offers a pretty stark contrast with the pristine large houses in the main villages. We stocked up in the local coop for dinner, (most bigger villages had a coop but with varyingly limited choice and a stern glare).

As we left the road a sign about the Pribylina Rackova Dolina area showcased the chalet B&Bs and hiking routes with two wooden sculptures. We rode up for a couple of kilometres before a giant wooden sculpture of an angel lady welcomed us.

The chalet – Penzion Sileo was deep into the forest and a rather amazing find! The host poured a strong welcome with two rather large shots of a local spirit, at 60% it left us struggling a little but trying to be polite. A tropical fish tank was keeping Orrin amused. A large bedroom let us dry camping gear and generally reset. We headed out again and cooked dinner in the forest sitting by the river and wathcing the stars break out, we reflected that Orrin had never really seen stars this bright and clear before which was cool. The grounds of the chalet had a wood fired hot tub, outdoor cinema screen, kids slide and sand pit, volley ball, and I’m sure some more things we missed! The breakfast was good and we ate while surrrounded by mushrooms of all kinds picked from the surrounding forest and now dehydrating for winter.

From here we were going back uphill and well and truly off the beaten track, following a path network that skirted the lower slopes of the High Tatras. You’ll have to click on part two as this is getting a bit too long!

Reynolds ATR 650b wheels long term review

Reynolds ATR V2 carbon wheels in 650b have been my go to wheels for the last 24 months now and they’ve transformed my Tripster ATR into a rocketship. With a baby arriving last year I am less fit but seem to be riding faster and I put it down to these wheels.If you’re thinking of upgrading your bike or reducing your quiver of bikes to one genuine all rounder,  then it’s worth thinking about just changing wheels. Wheels are probably the most overlooked and important factor on how a bike performs. The biggest question in gravel currently has to be; should I go for 650b wheels and if so which ones??

With the latest generation of gravel bikes the interchangeability of wheels gives a bike two distinct personalities with the same frame. It’s a great option to get a pair of 650b for the rides that involve rougher tracks or singletrack sections, while keeping the 700c wheels with narrower tyres for those routes with tarmac/smooth gravel being the majority. Swapping between them regularly means the cassettes can wear at similar rates too and keeps things simple.

I have been testing a set of Reynolds ATR V2 carbon wheels in 650b for the last 24 months now and they’ve transformed my Tripster ATR into a rocketship. With a baby arriving last year I am less fit but seem to be riding faster and I put it down to these wheels.

Intended for gravel, all road, adventure, bikepacking, road and even XC – these wheels are essentially equally at home on tarmac and singletrack. Call them whatever genre you like but essentially in 650b sizing they edge towards the rougher off road capabilities for a drop bar bike and suited for 40-52mm tyres.

I have been running them with WTB Resolute in 42mm set up tubeless with a track pump first time with 80ml sealant.

The first observation out the box was obviously the low weight, as you’d expect for a set of carbon wheels priced at around £1000. They come pre-taped for easy tubeless set up and it was straightforward to seat the WTB tyres on them. A 15mm adaptor from the standard 12mm thru axle was needed for my Lauf Grit forks – a simple change. Quick tighten of the centre lock discs and I was all set to go in minutes.

First observation was the pure acceleration, these wheel just take off not only the weight but swapping to the smaller circumference too. Then they stay at speed incredibly well for what is a decent tyre width on tarmac roads and a 650b set up.

But the biggest impression on me was simply that acceleration was noticeably faster – in part from the weight saving of carbon but also the smaller size – altogether they led to a whole lot of fun hammering the trails faster than I would normally!

It was on the road where I was most surprised I sat spinning at the kind of speed I’d be doing on my 700x28mm road tyres. This was in part due to tyre design but these wheels are phenomenally fast rolling and dismissed any fears that 700c is essential for any long road rides, it also has meant these 650b Reynolds ATR wheels have stayed on my bike for over a year now.

The stiffness was comparable to MTB wheelsets thanks to the chunky rim depth 40mm and wide internal measurements of 23mm. The best strength test was hitting table tops on drop bars at the end of a MTB trail and after some unfounded confidence, and a small tweek in the air (that went a bit bigger than anticipated), I landed the front wheel heavy and sideways. The tyre rolled and made an awful noise as the Lauf fork bottomed out hard and I dragged it back straight. As I stopped to assess damage I was amazed to see there was no issues at all to fork or wheels, a weak wheel would have been destroyed –  no air burped out and the wheel was perfectly true. The guys I was riding with were on MTBs and having seen and heard the noise they couldn’t believe the wheel was perfect. There’s certainly no issue with strength with the Reynolds ATR (Nor the Lauf Grit fork)! Since this I has been used on gravel and light MTB riding without issue, I’d be tempted to race XC on them to be honest but guess that’s not recommended!

I could have cleaned them up for the pictures but it’s good to show just how many miles I have already put them through without issue, they have a few scratches now and marks but no damage and run like new after almost 2 years of riding.

Some tech specs;

Rim depth 40mm, external width 32mm and internal 23mm (so wider than most gravel wheels)

Weight is 1550gms for 650b pair and Shimano freehub

36 points of engagement give super quick pick up


Overall these wheels continue to surpass my expectations and have transformed the Tripster into something faster than I imagined it could be. I have also been testing crazy light gravel bikes like the 3T Exploro and Open UP which shows just how fast it feels, wheels are so much more important for speed than a few grams saved from a frame. While £1099 for a set of wheels sounds ridiculous to some, you can pick them up for £989.99 online here and are actually, relatively speaking very good value for carbon gravel wheels of this quality (they come with full lifetime warranty too). However the biggest argument for value is that because they perform so well in 650b it means they could well save you needing two or even 3 bikes by simply swapping between wheelsets for specific types of ride.

I genuinely can’t find fault with them, despite some rock hits there’s no damage, the bearings are like new and this is now October 2019 so after almost 24 months of maybe 4 decent rides a week in Scottish conditions. I think that maybe says it all!

Teravail Rutland – 700c Gravel Tyres Reviewed

After much testing and changing of gravel tyres I have been quite settled on WTB Resolute tyres in 650bx42mm for a while now, but having just worn through a set I was interested to dig into the market for new tyres to test again.

Teravails were new on my tyre radar but looked good. Flicking through the range the Rutlands looked the best suited to my local riding here in the Tweed Valley; a good mix of relatively chunky side lugs for grip on loose, rough gravel with a defined raised centre ridge for on road speed.

The next question was do I go for the 650b x 47mm or 700x42mm but eventually I opted for the 700c. After a long stint on 650bs it was good to go back to remind myself what 700c offers.

Some stats on the Teravail Rutland

700x42mm in the tan wall light and supple casing are a respectable 440gms, which is on the lighter side of average and these are suited to 23mm internals which by coincidence is what my Kinesis Crosslight CX Discs offer. This tan casing is supposed to be lighter, faster, supple but less durable than the more basic versions. All seem to be 60TPI count.

650x47mm come in at 465 grams and with the same 23mm width recommended in Tan wall supple which would’ve been option B for me.

The ride.

The tyres set up and popped tubeless first time using my Lezyne Pressure Over Drive pump and Stans sealant. A bit of time and a couple of rides was needed for completed sealing around the bead without any overnight air loss, but that’s pretty standard I find. They were pumped to 45psi which is maybe quite hard but my preferred pressure for most riding.

My first thought looking at the overall design and purpose, was that while this looks quite different to the WTB Nano tread pattern, it might be a similar use tyre. I was interested to test this theory because I quite like the ride from Nanos but they really suffer on my rough local gravel riding becasue the proportionally narrow tread section on them exposes the thin sidewalls which gets nicked and punctures too easily. Would the Rutland ride well but perform better? It certainly has a better proportioned tread area for the same overall tyre width and on the same 23mm (internal) rim looks to be a good contact profile. I didn’t measure exact width but they look to be on point and reasonable for a 42mm.

I took the Travail Rutlands out for a few steady rides before absolutely hammering them around my favourite rough gravel route. On one section there’s a steep down and up which is bridged by an angular rocky transition at the bottom. You’re invited to hit this at a crazy speed to get up the other side and therefore it destroys tyres! However I was pleased to find these tyres passed over it unscathed and covered the whole loop with flying colours. After a few long rides i am confident they’re robust enough for these chunky gravel descents which normally eliminate half of gravel tyres I test! For durability only time will tell but initial wear looks nothing unusual. Here is the last quick loop I did, riding on the edge at a rather sketchy 60+kph;

The cornering on loose gravel and thin mud (for example where a puddle has semi-dried out on a corner) is surprisingly reliable and effective. I actually didn’t feel I found the limit leaning into corners at speed, always being a bit hesitant still on a ‘gravel tyre’. However you can’t have everything and the tyres do feel slower than Resolutes in straight line/accelerating which surprised me a little bit with the reasonably low weight of the Rutlands. Straight line braking at high speed was slower than I might have liked at times. On road they do roll well for the amount of off-road grip and the black tread line from the road cutting through the dusty tyre confirms they roll on the middle raised ridge section well at 45psi. While it is hard to define they do feel fairly ‘Supple’ as claimed when set up tubeless and I could play with lower pressures a bit more.


I have used these tyres for a few months and in a whole variety of conditions and I am confident I really like these tyres, they are a lot of fun, robust and they feel generally planted to the track. I even, for only the second time ever used them as a tubeless tyre for a longer term bikepacking trip. Fully loaded means it exposes weak sidewalls and casings easily and these stayed strong and didn’t even lose any air even after deflating them for the plane and reseating them. If I was racing I might go with something that is a bit slicker like the Teravail Cannonball to aid the acceleration and overall efficient speed rather than grip, but as a reliable ‘go to’ tyre for blasting out my local loops they offer something that is different but certainly no less appealing than my current favourite WTB Resolutes. It is just whether I feel like railing the corners or need quicker acceleration to have fun!