We love this race. It may be billed as one of the toughest 24 hours, but Tom has few points of comparison. As far as he’s concerned, Strathpuffer is the standard.
The weather is always a major factor at this event. It’s winter, so there is always going to be some degree of cold. That said, in our experience of previous editions, the temperature has made it to above freezing for at least some of the event. This year, things would be different.
A week of ‘weather’ had left a layer of ice on most of the route before covering it with a fresh fall of snow. It was below freezing when we arrived on Friday, and that’s how it stayed for the entire weekend.
Sunshine greeted us on the 10 am start. We kicked things off on Sonder Transmitters with 27.5+ tyres. Historically ice spike tyres haven’t been necessary for more than the odd lap at this event, but - having the choice - we switched over to ourSonderFrontiers with spikes after 5 or so laps. The extra control was immediately noticeable.
Three(ish) water splashes made a change from the usual mud, so for the most part we stayed clean (a Strathpuffer first?).
Over most of the course a rideable line eventually appeared - although there was some pushing for most people at least a couple of times a lap. One slip, and you were off.
Photo: Gary Williamson
Blue sky in a winter wonderland. Oh yeah, but around 6 hours into the race it was dark.
If you like night riding, you’ll love Strathpuffer: there are 17 hours of darkness.
With our lights fired up, we kept on rolling. Tom’s plan for this year was unlike any before: “No sleep ‘til Sunday”. Sure, we’d pause between laps for food and drink, but for the first time we planned not to sleep.
Tom’s sleep monster arrived at about 10pm. We’d learned that chatting about something interesting would keep him awake, so for the next few hours we chatted about all sorts. I was really interest to hear that he’d been reading Whymper’s account of climbing the Matterhorn. He also explained what to look for when buying a secondhand Datsun 24OZ drift car.
Photo: Keith Bremner
Unsurprisingly, we were both tired as the night wore on. We tried putting our usual pick-me-up Coca Cola in a water bottle to drink on the way round, but it had frozen near solid despite being in my pocket.
Just after 5:30am we decided there would be time for another leisurely two laps if we were to keep riding until 10am. Not long after this, and unusuallyfor me, the sleep monsters came. Tom returned the favour of geeing me up, and soon the near overwhelming desire to curl up and sleep had passed.
Photo: Norman Agnew
At almost exactly 10am, we rolled over the finish line. Tom’s total was 13 laps: we’d ridden a smidge under 100 miles together, finishing 40th of 103 riders.
What really made him happy was that he’d kept riding for the entire 24 hours without stopping to sleep.
A true 24-hour soloist.
Cover photo: Keith Bremner