Kinesis Tripster AT – Long Term Review

The Kinesis Tripster AT gravel and adventure bike has been around for a while now and Marion has ridden hers to quite a few countries on tours and on lots of varied adventures in Scotland so we thought it was about time to write a thorough review.

Initial thoughts

Marion built this bike for its first trip riding across Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and Russia so no pressure! It shares the spot on geometry that made the Tripster ATR so popular therefore we figured we could probably trust it. Marion opted for a 54cm over a 51cm, which for her is on the larger size to enable bikepacking bags and bottles to fit a bit easier. As the picture below shows the largest Apidura saddle and bar bags fitted but only just! 

Firstly the build

The Tripster AT is designed as a drop bar gravel/adventure focused bike that takes 650b or 700c wheels. Made from the latest scandium aluminium it competes with Carbon offerings for weight and ride quality.  With the A for Adventure and T for tour meaning this bike is versatile. How versatile? Well this build tested the limits.

First up she went rather controversially with flat bars being fitted, the rationale being that Marion is not really using it for speed/racing, therefore flat bars let bigger bar bags to be fitted, offer more hand positions and more control on rough roads with a fully bikepack laden bike. She’s not a huge fan of riding on the drops so what is the benefit of drops? With this build we went for cable discs in MTB levers for reliability in remote places – TRP Spykes . Then the flat bars let us fit a MTB clutch based Shimano XT drivetrain with a 2×11 setup to offer maximum gear range without an epic sized rear cassette. Along with the TRP Spyke disc brakes we used a Praxxis Zayante 50:34 road crank with M30 BB rather than the Shimano XT offer.

Wheels were originally the  Kinesis Crosslight CX discs but recently she has swapped to the outstanding Reynolds ATR 650b gravel wheels and hasn’t looked back. These wheels transform any bike in terms of acceleration and cornering stiffness at a decent price for carbon rims too.

Tyres for touring on the Tripster AT were our favourite reliable Continental Travel Contacts.

When not touring she has been using the WTB Resolutes 650b x 42mm we  love so much.

We’ve fitted up to 47mm width tyres with still more space so there’s plenty of tyre clearance in the frame and matching AT fork for wider.

How does it ride?

First up it doesn’t ride like you’d expect for an aluminium bike, it is impressively compliant and comfortable, it’s a lot more how a steel or Ti bike rides with no numbness in the arms like we’ve had on other aluminium bikes.  Then the weight is impressively light, picking it up for the first time will certainly surprise you. This is because the frame uses Scandium alloy which is about the best you can buy, then it uses super plastic forming, which is a clever way to get the shapes that provide the ride characteristics they wanted. Essentially it as clever as aluminium gets and rides better for it.

Now being honest the flat bars work to an extent, as Marion wanted they give a good selection of hand positions and a comfy upright position for long days, which in hindsight proved particularly useful as Marion used the bike a lot while pregnant riding across central Asia’s bumpy roads! Flat bars do impact on the reach, as obviously drop bars extend the reach significantly and we initially used a stem which was too short. Switching to a longer stem was better but there is no getting away from the fact the bike geometry is better suited to drops and is what almost everyone else will use!  However as a comfy distance munching gravel bike it works with flat bars and it especially served it’s purpose while touring when pregnant, a pretty niche scenario we know, but others with bad backs etc. might appreciate this set up too. 

A few things we noticed were the rear thru-axle nut can fall out easily and get lost as we discovered. I think this might have been changed on later models. Then it could benefit from a longer head tube to aid the bikepacking bag fit, but to be fair the head tube at 160mm for medium frame is longer than much of the competition in this size.


As most of you will probably know, this bike was designed with feedback from the late Mike Hall and clever graphics and attention to detail certainly reflect this. Despite lots of use and flights too it has held up really well as the pictures show.

It’s a great bike at a lower price than the Titanium and we’d strongly recommend considering it for adventure cycling given the fact it will hold up better than less travel robust carbon offerings and then there’s the growing argument for choosing metal frames over less environmentally friendly carbon. Without money as a factor we’d still stick with the Ti Tripster ATR, despite the great selection of colours tempting Ed away from his ATR but the AT is a great option for most riders out there.


Adventure and Gravel Bikes; Titanium, Carbon , Steel or Aluminium??

One of the most common things we get asked is around the material for frames. We did a blog on this a few years back but since then both our understanding and technology has moved on, with new bikes and even more niches developed. We own and use Carbon, Steel, Titanium and Aluminium bikes and one is still not better than another at everything.  This blog explains why you might be best suited to one material but it is mostly to understand that a bike which rides really well could be any material – it is more down to how it is made and designed.

Purely the material alone does not determine how a bike rides

Firstly, consider that a material is not uniform. One aluminium bike simply does not ride the same as all others and that (relatively) cheap titanium or steel bike is cheap for a reason. As most of you probably know the particular alloy used for steel, aluminium or Ti varies the ride and weight of a frame, but then it is also how the manufacturing of that particular alloy of metals allows for clever tube shapes and profiles and then how these work together to impact greatly on a bikes feel. Don’t put all bikes of the same material down as the same and then compare costs on the internet!!

The classic example of one material riding vastly different is Aluminium. This can be a really cheap alloy that is weaker and made cheaply so needs a lot of material to give it strength in standard tube profiles, this gives that traditional stiff and harsh ride feel we all associate with aluminium, but if the brand uses a high end aluminium alloy (like Scandium) with higher strength and clever forming (Hydro formed or Super Plastic formed) tube shaping. You can then get a bike that rides much better and compares to cheap Titanium or carbon.

The Tripster AT uses Scandium and it really surprised us. Before this Tripster AT I used a straight gauge aluminium 7005 gravel/CX bike (from Kona) to ride to Istanbul a few years back and it was horribly harsh; my arms were numb each day and I just thought that was from the long days. However the Tripster AT changed our whole outlook, there was so much less fatigue on long bikepacking rides and trips. The frame rode more like steel or Ti in terms of the comfort expected. Why is this? Firstly it uses the best in Aluminium the Kinesium tubeset, secondly the tube profiles are pretty unique using super plastic forming to create clever shapes and profiles. It is also crazy light for aluminium.

Titanium must be used cleverly to get the best out of it

High end titanium bikes use a combination of tube profiles, butted tubes and curves (like snaking rear stays) and these combine to flex where needed and stiffen up where needed. A cheap Titanium bike could be the same grade Ti so sounds identical, but it will be plain gauge and straight tubes to give lower costs to produce. These give you a harsh ride, in fact you would probably be better off with a very well made aluminium or steel frame.

Titanium is very hard to work with too, therefore you should be selecting proven designs and experienced /good quality manufacturers  to prevent failures. I’ve heard stories of frame eyelets, cable housings, cross braces that are badly designed and have caused failure in Ti frames. In my experience the Tripster ATR V1 was an awesome bike but even then Kinesis refined from the V1 to the V2 and now V3, updating weld areas, brace designs etc. and these frames should be almost indestructible. Good titanium bike brands have staying power and reputations for a reason.


Carbon is direct, stiff and fast. The ongoing myth about carbon is that it ‘soaks’ up feedback and vibration,  but recent research shows the exact opposite; a stiff carbon frame means your body has to absorb more of the energy from the road surface. The impact on the rider from carbon parts is only now getting better understood and in the next few years we’ll hear more and more.  Manufacturers are already experimenting with rubberised resins in the frame, foam to dampen the feedback better in bars, new additives and lay ups into carbon rims and forks – this is all for a reason.

On gravel this impact is increased as the energy feedback is greater from the rougher surface. However comfort can be mitigated to some extent, by spec’ing narrow seat posts, relaxed geometries, features like flex stems, lauf forks and also the lay up and profiling of the carbon itself is key to the performance. This is why the cost and the ride quality varies so much from what is all just described as a carbon bike. Weight varies too, a cheap carbon bike can weigh more than a high end Alloy bike.

Take the review we did here to highlight this fact the carbon 3T Exploro is lightning fast and accelerates like an ebike but it will increase the load on the body and potentially gives you more aches and pains on long days because there’s few compromises in the carbon design over speed for comfort. While the bikes like the Lauf True Grit or Open UP uses some of the above mitigation features in carbon to improve comfort.

The final consideration for bikepacking adventures is; how much weight are you carrying?

If the answer is a lot of weight then go for resilience and strength as your bike won’t ride great regardless, but if you’re lightweight bikepacking or often riding unloaded then your not as restricted when choosing a bike and consider your budget and what the best bikes are that you can get at that price point.


The inherent issues for each material still exist and include things like steel will be heavier whatever the tubing used but it is strong and can be easily repaired by a skilled welder. Titanium bikes are corrosion free and paint free too but can’t be easily welded if cracked. Carbon can still fail suddenly and catastrophically mostly from unseen damage from side impacts, from accidents in transit for example.

Essentially if you are looking for a new adventure/gravel bike don’t just choose your material and look for the cheapest option, think about what you are using it for then choose some brand’s bikes at your price in various materials and compare reviews etc. Technology has moved on and so have most of the traditional assumptions about materials too so I hope this helps!

Bikepacking the Cairngorms Outer Loop, Scotland

I had a weekend on my own and the weather in Scotland was set to be fine. So what should I do was the burning question? I have a few Scottish bike packing trips in mind for this year:

Flying with bikes and rip off airlines to watch for!

So gone are the days when you’d load a bike in a box and check it in as a normal piece of baggage under the magic 23kg with any non low cost airline. As airlines look for ever more ways to extract cash from passengers it has changed and some fees are through the roof, many could be more than the ticket price (when you remove taxes at least).  Is it the airport or baggage handlers passing it on, as some say? Well I spoke to Edinburgh Airport and they charge £0.50 to £1 per oversized item in total, so it seems the air lines keep it for no reason than they can get away with it!

Now we could be accused of being hypocritical that we complain we can’t fly for cheap and create a huge carbon footprint. It’s fair to say isn’t this a good reason to stay at home or ride from the door and not destroy the world around us? It has been said that in the UK Jet Fuel is only piped to airports underground because it removes the visual impact of the millions of trucks required to carry it on the roads which would horrify us into never flying! However we are limiting our longer trips and always exploring our doorstep as much as possible. However if you still do want to fly on a longer trip to experience somewhere that you’ve always wanted to ride, then have a read of the below fees and charges as well as the winning airlines that still charge you absolutely nothing extra!!

Winners are those where bikes are included within standard luggage allowance;

British Airways

Air New Zealand


Aeroflot (They put most airlines to shame with new planes and free bikes!)

Worst offenders;

KLM/Air France – They no longer list the fees as too high! However when you enter flights they come up as €100 per flight to €150 to USA (aren’t the Dutch meant to like bikes?)

Lufthansa – €80 to an unbelievable €250 per flight (I expected more from you)

Air Lingus – €50 fee

Norwegian – £35-£70 from short to long haul and online to airport.

Iceland Air – £66 – £92 per flight from Europe to other continental destinations

Turkish – €30-€60 special charge

Delta $150

United/American $150

Air Canada – $59 USD handling fee per flight and flight leg on multi leg

Ryanair £80 (They had to feature here in a worst offender list!)



Bikepacking Kyrgyzstan in Winter the film!

Finally it is here, our edit from cycling across Kyrgyzstan in winter;

For more about the trip please read our blogs here;

Blog Part 1

Blog Part 2

5 Tips for kit to keep us riding all winter

Sometimes we need it to be as easy and motivating as possible to get out winter riding; be it road, MTB or commuting. These 5 tips help keep us cycling more over winter. Night riding is so cool when he stars are out and the moon shining, and a light frost on the ground. Even in the lashing wind and rain you never regret getting out there and hopefully these ideas will help!

  1. A maintenance free Lauf Fork. I got this fork and my immediate thoughts were; it can’t do that much. Then I rode one of my regular long rough gravel descents and not only did it take the edge of it but my arms felt good and way less fatigued than normal. If you expect suspension it isn’t that, it just helps keep you riding longer with less impact on the upper body BUT without the weight and maintenance downsides from standard suspension forks. For winter the big pro is it offers a degree of suspension with no moving wear parts involved = no maintenance cost all winter. It is entirely carbon so no Aluminum corrosion or rust too!
  2. Winter boots. I was a late joiner into the winter boots market because they cost so much. However I’ve not looked back and just can’t be bothered with the whole overshoe hassle. The full winter goretex boots might not be as waterproof as you hope but they keep your feet warn without the hassle of overshoes. I use Northwave Raptor GTX and like them a lot, in fact I used them in the crazy cold of this trip but to be honest they were the best I’ve used but I haven’t tested them against anything else. Click here for reduced. 

    The snow started
  3. Easy to use and charge lights. Forget battery pack faff and charging stress of unreliable cheap Chinese lights because flat or broken lights are the number one reason people put off night rides. You want something that easily clips on and off in seconds and ideally charges by USB quick too (we have dedicated USB wall sockets for charging lights/GPS etc. in the house that I’d recommend getting).Look for no adapters, faffing connections and shoddy velcro attachments that slide about. I use the Lezyne lights because they are clean, robust all in one units that clip on in seconds and charge super quick using standard micro USB. I also particularly love their Macro Duo light, this item always gets people asking me what it is and where they can get one. It has a strong 700 lumen front light and a daylight bright rear light that both flash all ride on winter day rides, or can be used for full night riding. A super handy unit to quickly grab for that stolen winter ride. Click here for the Duo Light
  4. Waterproof shorts. These just make winter riding feel more inviting and achievable. Full length trousers for riding just bug me and never feel comfy, then I find bib tights aren’t enough on their own in the worst weather, even the storm proof ones that claim to be water ‘resistant’. For off road riding your comfy shorts just get baggier, heavier and generally less pleasant as the ride goes on. We’ve used Madison waterproof shorts that don’t breath much at all and fell apart pretty quickly and we’re currently using GOREWear Gore-tex ones that seem to be holding up better but defintely the most breathable we’ve tried , although the new Endura MT500 shorts seem like they might be better after only our brief tests. Click here for options
  5.  100% waterproof backpack. This is for winter commuting or carrying camera equipment on other rides. Actually the one I use and love was the Ortlieb Velocity bag that was prize from finishing in the top 10 at the Dirty Reiver gravel ride (#smug and awkward photo below) but it’s something I now use almost everyday in the winter to keep laptops and/or camera kit dry on rides. It is robust quite light and always waterproof, while the rigid back isn’t the most comfortable it actually isn’t bad for longer rides. Despite Dirty Reiver custom graphics this is the same Ortlieb design bag that I use and have done for two years without issue CLICK HERE

10 Christmas gift ideas for cyclists and bikepackers

Here’s a few ideas of inspiration for perfect presents for other bikepacking lovers, cyclists, cycle tourers etc. It’s all based on what we’ve enjoyed using over the last few years;

    1. Custom Sunglasses from Sungod – Renegades – It might not be the weather for them yet but great to wear for Christmas lunch.  If like me you break sunglasses regularly these are super strong and flexy and they have a lifetime guarantee, all at a decent price. If you can’t decide on a particular design for someone then these are great option for a Christmas gift as you can custom design for someone. Not a bad deal at all for the style and spec and mine have been a great fit and super pleased with the polarised lenses too making a big difference.  Click here to see more about designing a pair with Sungod
    2. AquaPure Filter Water Bottle – A way to drink from anywhere while out on adventures. We’ve used these bottles a bit. Not too cheap but they have proved to be effective at paying for themselves many times. A great way to reduce plastic bottles too as you don’t need to rely on bottled water in unreliable country’s tap water. We meet so many people just buying bottled water while touring. We are guilty of doing it too sometimes but these bottles help a lot to reduce that anywhere.
    3. Duo 700 lumen light from Lezyne – Front and rear light in one unit that clips on your helmet. I absolutely love this light because it’s so simply to fit, charge with micro USB and 100% bullet proof in wet conditions. I use it in daylight on winter road rides because the flash is super bright and a great safety feature. It is always thrown into my bikepacking bags for adventures too as a back up emergency option. At night the front light is bright enough to use off road too, although the rear flash and on a full power leaves you with only about an hour so use it carefully on full whack. Only low or flashing it lasts for hours and hours. Great present for a rider.  Click here to get at a good discounted price.
    4. Whisky Membership – A lot of our Scottish trips feature a bit of whisky at the end of a ride. The best place to get the best whisky surprisingly isn’t Tesco it’s the Scotch Whisky Society. These guys have range of memberships and products. Basically their whisky is a select cask that they then bottle under their own naming system. The whisky is from a famous distiller and a great chance to ensure you get the very best bottle from the experts. Click here for more info on their website

5. Apidura Food pouch – this is just a handy bag for snacks while you ride. A great size and useful extra space for bikepacking trips but mostly a great Haribo storage solution. Can still fit a spare tube under your haribo too.

Click here to see more info

6. Gore Windproof baggy Shorts – These have been a surprise hit for me. Full waterproof shorts can be sweaty and weird to wear all day due to fabric. These windproof shorts are great on a cold winter day, when it’s not constant rain, while not exact model these look good lightweight option for bikepackers. Click here for more info.



7. Moverlo Thermo Stormshield Bibshorts – I love these for winter riding. Even in rain they keep you warm and comfy. Eventually they get wet but do repel light rain. Most of all I can live in these for days (and i have) they are so well cut and fitted. The classic Morvelo funky designs help too! Get them here online

8. Lezyne GPS and light stem clamp. I like clever stuff and this is certainly smart design. Obviously only works if you use Lezyne stuff. I have the new GPS and their lights too.This just stays on the bike and totally declutters the handlebars. It also works to stop the bar bag flapping around at all. I’m pretty sure it is compatible with a Go Pro too on the mount so can be used for variety of things in various variations too.

If you don’t yet have a GPS device then get the new Lezyne Mega XL or Mega C. Both have crazy long battery life – the XL works for 48hrs and the new mapping feature is a huge leap forward for Lezyne GPS too. Just download an area of opensource maps and drag it onto the device and you’ve got paths, maps etc. ready to follow. Then with added sensors like cadence and heart rate and the phone link up too, which says who’s calling or texted so  you can just ignore them and keep riding! We will do a full review on these units soon as have tested them for a couple of months now but click here to see more info as a great xmas presents!

9. Findra Merino Neck Warmer – Marion’s suggestion and a favourite of hers for all trips. On offer too at Wiggle it seems…. Click here

10. Snow Peak Titanium Pans – The best investment we’ve made in term of usage. These pans have been with use to probably about 40 countries and still going storng. Strong than aluminium ones that bend and break in your bags these keep going. Also on teh link below the whole Snow peak range looks awesome. We also have Titanium sporks that have served use well over the years have a look here click here

Tilt – A simple device that might save your life or will it?

Tilt is simply put a safety crash detection system and auto alert device for riders like us who venture out alone and often into remote places. It is a device that fits onto your front hub and uses bluetooth to connect with your phone. It monitors your riding via clever algorithms to detect impacts and behaviour consistent with a crash. It then sends a text with location details to the designated number you entered when it suspects a crash. It gets even more clever as it uses the Singletracker community to send messages to anyone in the immediate area so bikers can help other bikers out in trouble quickly. It is a small sleek unit that fits easy and stays on. Battery life seems good too. Altogether pretty hassle free to install and connect to the app. I cover a lot of miles on my own so this sounds like a good idea right?

However I have been using it a bit and I have a few issues with it……

Firstly it relies on phone signal to send a text when you’re not able to due to a debilitating crash. I ride in areas with no phone signal much of the time and that is probably when I’d need help the most, not a deal breaker for everyone but food for thought.

The singletracker community is apparently growing and is popular, especially in Denmark so the community feature works well there, but in Scotland not so much.

Personally I always use a separate GPS device to record my ride (and now navigate on Lezyne Mega XL GPS) because I don’t want to be running my phone battery down using bluetooth and GPS tracking. I want my phone to be fully charged in case I need to call for help. This device uses bluetooth which will mean my phone auto connects to all my devices and add drain to the phone battery – is this counter productive when I can’t send that text after a crash on a full day of riding?

Finally I have tried my hardest to fake very convincing crashes a number of times and it just never sent a text or did anything. Is it so clever it can analysis my fake crash attempts or is it simply not working? I have no idea and with no feedback, I can’t feel happy to rely on it. The app interface tells you the device is connected and shows the movement associated with the device. However it tells you nothing else. Is it actually working, how does it work, I don’t know, what is it doing if there’s no info?


A really clever idea and well slick designed item but unfortunately it’s not for me.

Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket – reviewed for bikepacking

The golden rule for bikepacking kit is the smallest bulk for the most performance, and a lightweight down jacket is essential kit.

It is the first item I pack regardless of climate or where I’m heading, well OK technically it is the last item as it fits best at the back of of the saddle pack bag! From snow to Scottish summer conditions a down jacket is the perfect option for when you’re tired and cold and setting up camp. Now with our babypacking adventures it is even more important as a safety item so I have a down jacket to put over us both when cold. Some people prefer synthetic insulation with the argument that it stays warmer if it gets wet, however given how much I ride in Scotland and how much it rains I’ve never had much issue with a down jacket most importantly down packs smaller for the same warmth. Nature still does insulation better I think.

So I’ve discussed why a down jacket is essential for bikebacking but why this one? I’ll be honest when I first bought one they all looked much the same, but I’ve used 4 over recent years and some have been rubbish. The Rab Microlight jacket is an iconic item, and this jacket celebrates 10 years as a best seller. That in itself suggests this jacket might be OK – if you’ve sold loads over the last 10 years you’re doing something right! Most UK outdoor enthusiasts will have some Rab kit and maybe most iconic is the micro down jacket.

First up it fits a bit longer than other brands which I like, they also do a long version too! Nice range of colours is good too but most importantly the fit is great. So many jackets like this are square shaped which annoys me being tall and skinny and and lets face it this is a serious piece of outdoor kit so the average wearer is likely to be on the slimmer fit side of the scale like us.
The packability is such it fits back in its own bag easily and will go into the smallest Apidura bar bag with my sleeping bag easily enough. I noramlly stash it in the saddle pack at the end to use up space and squeeze stuff together, also as it is light it won’t cause swaying issues with the saddle pack. It is then teh first item to hand if needed when I stop.

However there is still space in it to pull over other riding clothes or even squeeze a small baby underneath!

The Down
This is the big big difference with cheaper jackets where the down is the wrong weight/amount used, fill and the down was probably plucked in some horrible factory in China. Rab use ethically sourced down from the EU, and in 750 fill which is what I look for in a jacket. 750 fill is the best balance between structure and incredible lofting, (put simply the fill means how high the down lofts up). I have a 800 fill Haglofs jacket that is very similar to the Rab with same outer fabric but the down is so soft it compresses easier and doesn’t fill the baffles quite as well.
Hydrophobic down isn’t completely water repellent but it noticeably doesn’t clump together when damp which helps in the wetter conditions that we have in Scotland. The Microlight jacket seems to do pretty well on the drizzly days when I have used it without an outer shell. That says a bit for the Pertex Quantum outer layer too which seems to be the best fabric out there for this kind of application.

Overall it isn’t rocket science to conclude that this classic Rab jacket is light, packs small, is warm, resists the elements and while you can probably get a slightly cheaper jacket it won’t tick all the boxes quite as well. If you’re looking for a down bikepacking jacket then It’s hard to look past this one.


470gms in weight overall
143gm of Down fill
Pertex Quantum
Full details click here

5 Awesome gravel routes from the Tweed Valley in Scotland


After years of exploring dead ends and epic climbs in the Tweed Valley, here are five awesome gravel rides in the local area. I’ve shared them via Komoot as I quite like it as a platform and so you can explore and download the GPX if needed.

These routes all explore deeper into the ‘secret’ southern uplands taking you into some remote and wonderful places, where if you see another rider you’ll be pretty taken surprised!

All 5 routes have been done on my Tripster ATR with 40-45mm tyres, but with some sections certainly pusjhing the gravel bike limits and benefiting from the Lauf forks and wider 650b wheels more than others! Some of you may prefer a few of teh routes on an XC bike but either way they’re designed to be ridden fast with a mix of track, road and the odd singletrack section.

These are just some loops that work well as decent day loops in length but there are more options for overnight trips for 100s of kilometres headed further afield in this area. Also don’t forget to look at the elevation profiles  because it’s fair to say a love of type 2 fun is needed when following some of our routes….

Route 1 Drove roads and castles

So route 1 is a mere warm up at 36 miles, maybe do 2 laps or ride down from Edinburgh via the Pentland hills for it!! It starts with the nice little loop through Glentress forest on smooth tracks and then via the infamous ‘hole in the wall’ it leaves the MTB trails behind and heads for the hills down towards the village of Eddleston.

The section of drove road from Eddleston over to Romano Bridge is a wild highlight with a couple of river crossings, but as a caution this track isn’t shown as a track on the opensource map below but is gravel! After the farm and onto the road again there’s a climb up through Ladyurd Forest before a non-highlight which is a 400m pathless hike a bike section where you just head towards a bothy looking building (FYI It’s not a bothy) this isn’t a great part to be fair but shoulder the bike, run and treat it like the 3 Peaks or CX race training and it’s fun. Then it’s a crazy fast gravel blast back to Stobo castle where you could stop for a visit to the fancy spa if you so desire. That actually sounds like a rather nice winter trip, I might do that if they let me in…

In dry summer conditions you can detour via the John Buchan Way to Manor valley but this is usually super muddy and take a map for this one as it can be hard to follow…..
Either way this is a good loop taking in places that no one seems to ever go by bike!

Tweed Valley Gravel Route 2 – Peebles to Innerleithen with extra gravel

This 55 mile route is a bit beefier and is takes in an unusual combinations of tracks close by but suitably different to the classic Tweed Valley wind farm gravel loop in loop 3. It first heads along the river cycle path to the fire roads of Traquair forest and Caberston in Innerleithen before ascending the locally renown brutal Leithen Water climb straight up to near the Glentress Mast. Before the mast is reached this route heads off into the forest to find a vague but rideable path into a hidden valley.

These wild old forest tracks ocassionally involve some fallen trees to navigate and sweeping through an overhead tunnel of trees (that as of 2020 might have been cut down) out to a wonky gate and the vague but just about rideable on drop bars path, this takes you into a superb hidden valley. This bit needs careful navigation as it is hard to follow the path, beware of a muddy stream crossing in the middle. It is uphill through a field and then down past a farm to the main Edinburgh road. The final section avoids the main road to Peebles by using the Meldons back road and the gravel tracks of another section of old Borders drove road in the Meldon hills. An awesome route that avoids the normal Glentress forest tracks and I bet no-one else has ever ridden this combination or direction!

TV Gravel Route 3 – Ed’s go-to classic Tweed Valley Gravel loop

If there was any coherent ordering of these routes this would be number 1 because this is a simply awesome route that turns out about the 100km mark with climbs, descents, views and even drop bar friendly singletrack, oh and a massive kick in the ass climb just as you’re feeling super knackered – perfect type 2 Sunday afternoon fun. You can even see the seaside from the top.

It might be getting dark for this descent;
The route takes in the Glentress direct climb to the mast before detouring to the Bowbeat Windfarm. This is a maze of tracks and very remote so go prepared. Once up there you can see Edinburgh and the sea, that’s how high it goes! There are turbine numbered maps at junctions to help if you get lost as it is confusing and mist can drop in quick.

The track then traverses Leithen Water valley high up with epic views. Now you could just do a loop in Caberston or Traquair forests if feeling tired, if not carry on up and up to the southern upland way and Minch Moor. From here a bumpy but drop bar rideable singletrack descent (I recommend a pair of Lauf forks) that takes you down to the Yarrow valley road.

A glorious road ride along the valley is the precursor to a new and stunning section of forest and moorland track back over to Peebles. The climb here needs food and energy it is relentless, the Gordon Arms pub serves tray bake (and beer) before you leave the road if needed….

Tweed Valley Gravel Route 4 – What’SUP to Bowhill and beyond!

Another great variation on route 3 that takes in the full Innerleithen to 3 Brethren section of the Southern Upland Way.

A rough-ish rocky descent towards Selkirk can be varied on number of tracks. From here it is into Bowhill Estate’s great tracks after a stop at the cafe.
The track along the tops here is one of my favourites with views over the flatter land to the east and great at sunset too.
The road through Ettrick valley is another classic section of riding before gravel goodness from Berry Bush down to St Mary’s Loch. Then back on the epic climb up and over to Manor valley and Peebles. All rideable but hardwork, as you’ll see on the map there are numerous options to shorten the route. Although when I say shorten it’s still a good 70km day out.

Route 5 The warm down loop – Hidden Innerleithen and Cardrona

This short loop takes in some steep climbs and can easily be extended in any direction on the network of forest fire roads it links into at Elibank, Traquair and Cardrona forests but this route uses the more ‘secret’ access and connecting tracks between the forests. If you’re on an XC bike you can add in the Gypsy Glen descent back to Peebles from the top of Cardrona Forest or add the Southern upland way instead of the road if fancy something longer.

Essentially this is a nice flat out blast with a variety of trails and a good section of quiet road too. It has great views and the climb up to Cardrona is a challenge to do without dabbing, in the wet you’ll struggle for traction but it’s good fun! The Elibank switchback climb can be added but this doesn’t appear on open source mapping and finally the descent out of Traquair Forest can be a bit muddy but the track along the valley is pure Paris-Roubaix cobbles!
A great final route to tick off!

Once you ride a few of these you’ll see the combinations for different loops is absolutely endless there’s so much to explore.