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Author Topic: @CapitalTrail 235km Bike Packing ITT 13th June 2015  (Read 2355 times)


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@CapitalTrail 235km Bike Packing ITT 13th June 2015
« on: June 17, 2015, 12:28:07 AM »

Photo: Ian MacNicol

Continuing my theme of riding inappropriate events for time-limited OMILs, I decided to enter the Capital Trail, a new event organised by the irrepressible Markus Stitz as part of the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling. "Bike Packing" (or off road cycle touring) has become increasingly popular in recent years, sometimes in the form of the ITT or Individual Time Trial, where riders attempt to follow a set course completely self supported. No support crew, no equipment stashes, only what you can carry or buy en-route.

The Capital Trail described a loop of 235km, starting and finishing in Edinburgh via Lauder, Melrose and Peebles. Largely off road, and with a lot of single track and 5000m of climbing, the event was advertised as a tough challenge but also a social event, with the opportunity to explore some of the Borders' best riding and bivouac out overnight with like minded enthusiasts. It wasn't a race of course. Oh no...

Around 75 riders assembled on Portobello Beach for the start at 08:00 sharp (primed with complimentary coffee and bacon rolls from the Tide cafe). A bewildering array of machinery and equipment was on display, ranging from Cross bikes with minimal baggage through to full blown fat bikes with tailored bags fitted in every available frame space. I failed to get on trend with my classic (i.e. dated) 26" 2006 full suspension. I really wasn't sure exactly how hard the event was going to be or how long it was going to take, but was aiming to ride straight through, so my luggage largely consisted of a lot of food and water, a foil emergency blanket, wet weather gear and essential tools and spares. I wasn't the only ERC member, with Georges Avraam and Andreas Schaefer also lining up.

We rolled out along the prom en masse, but soon lined out as Markus led us into East Lothian via an intricate combination of cycle path, farm track and hidden singletrack. He had obviously put a lot of work into searching out the best off road trails and constructing a route that flowed nicely and was fun to ride. Fairly soon I found myself riding out in front with Markus and David King, who was tackling the event on single speed and flat pedals ("because I'm going to have to do a lot of walking" - more on that later...). I was conscious that I was starting a bit faster than I would have liked for such a long event, but the company was good, conditions were fine, and it was handy to be able to follow the organiser without having to check my GPS constantly.

Photo: Ian MacNicol

Round about Gilchriston, a few more riders caught up with us, including Commonwealth Games rider and former British Champ Lee Craigie. Pretty soon after that, the chatting was replaced by puffing as we started the first big climb of the day up over the shoulder of Lammer Law. This was new riding for me, with long, steep, rocky landrover tracks leading up into the high, wild Lammermuirs. When I eventually exited on to the A68, I had caught up with David (who was doing suspiciously little walking) and briefly went out in front, taking advantage of my gears on the longest tarmac of the day.

Still feeling fairly good, we pushed on through Lauder without stopping and joined the Southern Upland way, regrouping again as more riders caught up after the Lammermuirs. Andreas appeared, looking very comfortable, and I tried to persuade him that he only really needed one day to ride the event anyway...

Most of our merry band opted to conduct some Border Reiving on the shops of Melrose at 90km, but we were soon on our way again, following some lovely track along the banks of the Tweed to Abbotsford. I found myself riding with David again, but after we snuck through the scenic grounds of Sunderland Hall, the real business of the day began, with the long relentless grind up to the heights of the Southern Upland Way. I was starting to struggle a bit, and settled down to spin my granny gear as David stomped his way relentlessly up the increasingly steep, rutted and loose climb, disappearing from sight as the Three Brethren appeared on the skyline.

I got a bit of company when Lee caught up with me shortly afterwards, and we then had the fun diversion of riding part of the Innnerleithen red route, before returning to the SUW and then riding down to the most southerly point of the route at Glenshiel Banks, and a mercifully short piece of hike-a-bike up the steep side of Stake Law. I lost touch with Lee at this point, and really started to struggle, pushing and riding short sections of the indistinct tussocky path, which continued to climb relentlessly. There were fine views of the surrounding hills, but my world was narrowing to eating, drinking and the path in front. The final view I had of David was a wee orange dot disappearing into the mist towards the summit of Birkscairn Hill at 661m, never to be seen again. Just over half way...

The reward for all this was the fantastic long, fast ridge ride down the Kailzie Road and right into the back of Peebles. I was on my own now, and elected to do the lap of the Red/Blue route at Glentress before returning to Peebles and some fine al-fresco dining on the step of a shop:

Macaroon bar, chocolate milk, tuna sandwiches, double Muller Rice and a banana. Food of champions...

Time to get moving again, with 70 off road kilometres between me and the finish. More climbing past the Meldons and the old drove road to West Linton. Did I mention I was really starting to struggle before? Well I was really starting to struggle now.

It was getting colder, dusk was falling, I was only just turning the pedals over, and I ended up simply having to stop and sit by the side of the road for a few minutes until my stomach settled and I could carry on. It was just over 13 hours into the ride, and I was beginning to be seduced by the thought of curling up in a quiet corner in my luxurious foil blanket. What do you do at a time like this? Deploy the emergency malt loaf carefully stashed at the bottom of the bag, of course.

Monks Rig is one of the best descents in the Pentlands. Unfortunately it was now getting dark and I was walking up it, scaring the occasional blameless sheep as it settled down for the night. Finally, I crested the hill to catch a faint glimpse of the lights of Edinburgh in the gloaming:

So near, and yet so far...There was still some way to go, but now I was on familiar ground, and powered by the magic of Soreen, I got a big physical and psychological boost. I caught a glimpse of bike lights behind me as I crested Maiden's Cleugh, but it was all downhill now (almost) and I was on a mission. The last few miles were a blur of Pentlands descents, Water of Leith path, canal, city centre streets (shockingly busy at midnight after the isolation of the high hill tracks earlier in the day) and some sneaky urban singletrack.

I finally rolled back down the prom to finish in 16 hours 37 minutes (meeting recently retired international triathlon star Catriona Morrison and companion, who had set out at dawn in advance of the official mass start). David King was already ensconced in the pub, having done a storming ride to finish nearly an hour and a half in front of me, with Lee Craigie and David Jones finishing about 20 minutes behind me. Not slowed down much by organisational duties, Markus rounded out the first 5 around 2am. As the weather finally broke and the rain started, I was only left with the minor inconvenience of riding 13 miles back home at 1am. Special thanks to Ali Baba Kebabs at Haymarket for making that possible.

As for the other ERC riders, Georges Avraam finished in 33:05:00 after a more civilised night out, and Andreas was recorded as DNF (I assume as per his original plan).

Kudos to organiser Markus Stitz and his helpers for putting together an event that really showcases some of the great off road riding that is available locally. It's a stiff challenge if you want to ride through, but if you take a look at some of the photos and video posted on the @CapitalTrail Twitter feed, you'll see lots of people who camped out and made a social weekend of it. I can honestly recommend this event to any ERC members who fancy a bit of adventure on their doorstep. No, really, my legs have almost stopped hurting already.
« Last Edit: June 17, 2015, 09:52:59 AM by admin »


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Re: @CapitalTrail 235km Bike Packing ITT 13th June 2015
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2015, 09:57:08 PM »
Great stuff!  Nice wee cool down ride home at the end Jeezo  :o


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