Here at Adventure Pedlars, we’ve always been keen advocates of going slowly on two wheels. Ever since our own two-year cycle tour from the UK to New Zealand, we’ve been firm believers that the world is just too good to miss out on with your head down and buried in a pit of sweat-stained misery. As such, our aim ever since has been to try to spread the word that cycle touring and bikepacking doesn’t have to be too difficult, that anyone can do it regardless of their experience or fitness levels, and that it should be more about spending quality time in The Places In Between than reaching your destination quickly. If you like, we’re the ‘anti-Mark Beaumonts’ of this world and we’re damn proud of it too!
So imagine, if you will, the sight of me munching down heartily on a diet of my own words as I lined up on the Highland Trail (HT550) start line in Tyndrum with a bunch of lunatics from all over the world who are most definitely all about going fast; pushing themselves to the limits of human endurance for no other reason than to put an arbitrary time down on a seldom looked at leaderboard … and I was one of them. Despite all my previous preaching, it turned out that this was an itch that I just had to scratch. I’ll admit I was intrigued to find out what it was all about and to see how far I could push myself, but I was prepared for the whole thing to be utterly miserable. To make things even worse, I’d imposed my own challenge of finishing the 550 mile (885km) off-road, self-supported bikepacking race across some of Scotland’s toughest terrain in under six days (the challenge being eight). All so that I’d be able get back down to the Lake District for the following Saturday to deliver a presentation about the race at the Adventure Cycle Festival as the warm-up act for…er, yep, you’ve guessed it; Mr Mark Beaumont…
Don't let the smile fool you! Preparing for six days of misery
A shift in mindset was definitely called for. Starting off with my kit; out went my selection of spices, coffee maker and folding sink and in went… well, as little as possible really. Alpkit came to the rescue by providing me with a (tiny) heap of lightweight, packable, and titanium loveliness to load up onto my Sonder Transmitter which, even with it’s reduced load appeared significantly burlier than some of the super-lightweight rigs it was lining up next to. My nerves mounted higher as I wondered what on earth I had got myself into. This was definitely new territory for me and I had no idea of how I’d hold up. A couple of encouraging words from Alpkiteers Rich and Tom at the start line, having just completed the route, did little to calm the tension. You’d think the knowledge that a twelve-year-old had completed the challenge would fill me some sort of confidence, but knowing Tom, everything was still most definitely up in the air and if anything I now had to prepare to be a little embarrassed.