Race Testing the Orbea Occam TR

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Orbea Occam TR M30

After a brief but happy spell with my Yeti ASRc I decided it was time to sell that bike and replace it with something similar but hopefully even better. After discussions with the Pedals guys and also the Orbea rep I decided to order an Orbea Occam TR. As a poor student turned poor graduate I tend to only have one mountain bike at a time and in my search for the ultimate all-rounder a 120mm travel 29er on paper fits the bill best for my type of riding and racing. Nowadays this includes everything from riding big hills and the golfy, to doing laps of trail centres and all the way through to XC events and ultra-distance marathon and bikepacking events. (See my Highland Trail Race Blog for details of my first crack at the ultra-scene : http://pedalsbikecare.co.uk/highland-trail-race-2016/ )

It is more or less a stock M30 build as you can buy from Pedals although I’ve changed to my preferred contact points: ESI chunky foam grips and a Bontrager saddle with titanium rails (and now a Fizik Aliante Saddle). I also had the guys in the shop fit a Rockshox Reverb seatpost, upgrade the brakes from Deore to SLX and put on an Absolute Black 30t oval chainring rather than using the stock double setup. Because I got the bike very early we had to do these changes in the shop whereas normally Orbea offer the opportunity for customers to configure the spec from a range of options so that they can make these sorts of changes when they order the bike. A very useful idea to save you from having a bunch of unwanted new parts lying around after you have swapped on your preferred bits. Other than that I have been using it in its stock setup.

Usefully, I had three events coming up when I got the bike that would give me an opportunity to really put it through its paces: the Scottish Cross Country Mountain Bike Championships, The Tour de Ben Nevis event (a marathon event with special timed enduro stages that count to the overall) and The Capital Trail (a 150 mile self-supported bike packing event).

Scottish Cross Country Mountain Bike Championship (SXC)

Result: 5th Elite/Expert Male

XC Setup

XC Setup

My background is in XC having raced a lot as an under 16 and under 18, more recently I tend to cherry pick the odd SXC to do each year. This brought me to the start line of the Scottish Cross Country Championships which were being held at Forfar. It was a fun course that had a long smooth climb to start followed by a number of descending and traversing rough sections before finally having a long descent towards the end of the lap. The XC lap utilised a number of descents that had been used in the previous days Enduro event.

When the race started I quickly settled into my rhythm (of sorts) up the first climb. Riders on super light cross country hardtails sprinted off ahead as I focussed on keeping the contents of my stomach in place up the first long smooth climb. On the rough sections I found the bike exceptionally efficient to ride with the suspension fully open and I was able to pedal efficiently whilst seated which allowed me to gain on riders in front. On the prolonged descent I put the saddle down and carried excellent speed and caught riders on every lap, I also received a cheer for “hucking” a grass stepdown in the race HQ field each lap as riders ahead presumably kept the wheels on the ground. The race was held over 5 laps and over the last two laps my speed on the rougher sections of the course were apparent as I caught and went past a rider each lap to move into the top 5.

5th place at the Scottish Championships marked my best ever result in a senior field at a cross country event and I was delighted with how well the bike performed despite not being the sort of bike typically ridden at these events by competitors.

Making use of the dropper post on course! Photo from Courier News – Angus Story.

Possible bike improvements:

Although the bike is extremely competitively weighted at 27.5 lbs as it is, against competitors on 20 -22lbs cross country hardtails I did lose time on the climbs. If I was racing more cross country events I would definitely consider getting a set of race wheels and specific XC race tyres which would likely drop the bikes weight by up to 2 lbs. Also for general riding, lighter does tend to be better, assuming the lighter components are still up to the abuse so when funds allow I may upgrade the wheels.

The bike however was outstanding on the overall majority of the course and saying that it didn’t suit sprinting up fire roads is hardly a criticism at all! It was efficient to pedal, playful on the descents and supremely comfortable. Not as light as a pure xc bike, but I doubt the other competitors could ride their bike down Water World at the Golfy!

No Fuss Events: Tour de Ben Nevis

Result: 1st Senior Men

Marathon Enduro Bike Setup : big mudguard, saddle bag (very enduro) and small rucksack

Marathon Enduro Bike Setup : big mudguard, saddle bag (very enduro) and small rucksack

This event is a bit of a right-of-passage for the all-round mountain biker in Scotland. Described on the No-Fuss events page as:

“The thinking mans (or womans) mountain bike race where all round fitness, strenghth, power, skill, determination are all  bound together with a little bit of strategy and tactics.”

Because of horrifically wet conditions, the route for this year had been swapped to an out and back to avoid a rather high river crossing but included a number of testing stages which were: 1) the overall loop, 2) a descent into Kinlochleven, 3)a climb out of Kinlochleven. The winner would be decided based on an accumulation of position on the 3 stages.

I started the race well and settled into a rhythm along the first tarmac climb before joining the West Highland Way. The last time I had been on the WHW had been in the Highland Trail Race and I enjoyed the difference in speed now that I was riding it fresh and without a loaded bike. I steadily picked off places and made up even more on the descending stage. On the climbing stage I went slightly too easy being unsure where the top was but managed to ride the following rough prolonged traverse very quickly to make up for it and drop some riders who were behind. I wasn’t certain of my position for the overall loop at this stage and thanks to being near the turn was able to count riders coming the other way. 1……2……3…….. I made the discovery I was sitting in 4th place at exactly half distance. On the return leg I was overtaken by one other rider when I stopped to refill my water bottle and laid chase but never quite managed to catch him. Thus I finished the overall loop in 5th place.

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How wet? These were my gritty insoles 2 days after the ride.

I reckoned I had ridden consistently over all three stages and was delighted to find out I had taken 2nd overall and 1st place Senior Male after a consistent performance in all stages.

Possible bike improvements:

Errr… Going to have to say none for this one! For an all-round event this was literally the perfect bike. Blown away but how well it carried speed on the rough and wet WHW and it took the climbing and descending stages in its stride. I did not envy competitors on hardtails or with wimpy xc tyre setups!

Capital Trail

Result: 1st place overall

This was going to be the big un’, my second really quite long distance event of the year. It is the sort of event that when you tell the majority of folk about it their eyes glaze over and they politely nod before quickly forgetting everything you have said. It is definitely a little silly, but also a lot of fun and a good way to really test yourself. It is organised by the enigmatic Markus Stitz who recently finished riding around the world single-speed. Here is the website for those interested: http://markusstitz.com/capital-trail/

I lined up with about 50 of the other crazies who had signed up. The start was on the beach in Portobello at 7am. The call to start was followed by a surprisingly fast opening section and before I knew it I desperately trying to remove my primaloft pullover jacket riding no hands as I was rapidly overheating. I quickly settled into a rhythm alongside Huw Oliver, a fellow finisher of the Highland Trail Race and we steadily worked our way through the field. The early miles ticked by and we were briefly joined by David King and then Martin Graeme who both sped off ahead at different points. We worked out we were in 3rd and 4th place but with well over 100 miles to go we put it out of our heads and focussed on riding at our own very evenly matched temp. Huw was my companion for almost 2/3rds of the ride and I immensely enjoyed his chat and world views whilst also occasionally worrying I couldn’t match him on the climbs or the descents of the route as he was riding immensely strongly!

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Ready to race as the sun is coming up

The miles ticked by uneventfully with a neutralised toilet stop in one town and a shop raid in another and it didn’t seem long before we were past the halfway point and I was feeling surprisingly strong still. On the climb and hike a bike up to Gypsy Glen disaster struck however and I suddenly only had 3 working gears. A quick inspection showed my shifter was acting up and no amount of looking was revealing any obvious problems and it seemed internal gremlins had been doing some damage.I decided to ride on 3 speed reckoning it was better than having only one gear and planned to try to get a shifter in Peebles or at Glentress. Huw and I were joined by David Jones at this point although the three of us separated on the final parts of the climb. I had gotten used to my 3 speed setup by the time I had climbed descended and traversed my way to Peebles so reckoned riding with three gears would be quicker than stopping and getting a new shifter so I bypassed the Peebles bike shop. After a quick lap of Glentress (quick considering the 100 ish miles of off road in the legs) I was heading along the cyclepath back to Peebles when I went to change gear only to find I was missing half my shifter. At this point it would be understandable to have spat the dummy but for whatever reason I managed to shrug it off and remained positive. Down to one gear and now with no chance to replace it as the shops were now shut I remained surprisingly confident I could still finish the ride. In my head I had 30 miles to go which would take me to the top of the Pentlands, and the end of the significant climbing of the ride, before a 20 mile run in back to Portobello.

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Photo taken by Huw up the Three Brethren

I chatted with David who had just caught me but he went elsewhere for food in Peebles to me and I assumed I would meet him and Huw on the next section. After a shop stop I was on my way riding single-speed having set the bike up in the middle gear (having made the assumption single-speeders just ride in a middle gear!?). By this point it was dark so I was enjoying the night riding and had some music going so my positive mood remained despite having to walk up the steep hills. Full suspension bikes are not very efficient as single-speeds!  I was on familiar bridleways and fire-roads and could see tyre marks in the grass so assumed Huw and David were ahead having overtaken me whilst I was in the shop and I tried my best to catch them up. However, West Linton arrived and I still had not caught them so I ascended the Pentlands alone. Finally I caught site of some lights up ahead but was greeted by a random cyclist out for a spin in the Pentlands rather than familiar face. I gave up on the idea of catching them at this point assuming I had been going slower than I had thought in my one gear.

At the top of the last hill in the Pentlands I let a little bit of cable through at the derailleur to put myself into a bigger gear and made quick work of the following sections that took me down to Cramond. The route went amusingly close to my house but I had the coastal side of Edinburgh to pedal around before the end of the ride. I arrived in Portobello at the finish to a deserted front in the dark. I took a photo of my Garmin and saved the ride file and after pedalling around looking for Huw and David decided they must have headed to a Pub or Chippy and I wouldn’t find them. I phoned my brother for a quick chat and decided to head back to my mates house in Leith where I had arranged to stay. However, part way back to Leith I finally met my familiar faces. Huw and David had been behind the entire time! We had a quick laugh (a shell shocked-exhausted  laugh) before going our separate ways and I eventually made it to the flat after dodging a few wobblies who were walking away from the pubs at the bottom of Leith Walk.

The following day I travelled back to the finish to sit in the café and chat to other riders. Reunited with my ride companion Huw we emptied the café of food, tea and coffee and I learnt that Martin Graeme, who I thought was ahead had scratched (pulled out) around halfway which put me up into 2nd place. I then learnt the following day that David King had also scratched at halfway and as such I had actually been first back. Event organiser Markus confirmed later in the week that I was the first place finisher for the 2016 event with a time of 17 hours 25 minutes.

The fantastic event video by Markus:

Possible Bike Improvements:

A non-faulty shifter would have been nice but I managed fine with one gear although my knees hurt for several days after the event! Again it is very hard to pick anything major. For bike packing events a lot of folk ride plus bikes or rigid steel bikes but I love having a modern mountain bike. Carbon with 1×11 and a dropper seat post is the way most modern bikes are going and there is an obvious reason for this I think – it makes for a fast bike! Ultimately the fastest bike for this sort of riding is the bike you ride the most anyway. At the end of the day it is just mountain biking but for a much longer time. The Occam TR was extremely comfortable to ride and I found it more comfortable for the long miles than the old Yeti which had a racier more aggressive riding position. It was also very efficient over the rough ground which I definitely benefitted from as the ride went on reducing general body fatigue. Similar to cross country racing, having a lighter set of wheels would help the bike for the climbing sections but my bike was loaded up with bike packing bags filled with food, emergency shelter and spares so the bike felt heavier than normal anyway. Ultra-light, although nice, is not really the priority.

Final thoughts:

Orbea have really knocked this one out of the park in my opinion. For my needs it is hard to think of a bike better suited for all round mountain bike riding and racing. If you want an efficient and fun all round trail bike or fancy a bit of racing but don’t want to pidgeon-hole your riding this is the one for you. It is available in a range of specs and also there is the Occam AM model with 650b wheels and 140 travel so it is really a case of picking your flavour and working within your budget to pick the spec with the Orbea specification customizer. I am already excited to plan for 2017 and what my bike and I will be doing!

Banshee 2017 – Rune and Prime

Bucking the trend for 2017 Banshee have not only made loads of improvements to their frames bringing in the strongest lineup ever but also managed to lower their pricing, in what we (and no one else) is calling the Banshee Brexit Beater.

The first frames to arrive will be the Rune and Prime – but what do you need to know? The RRP for both frames including shock is now £1649, cheaper than last year, and cheaper than many frames from bigger brands.

Both frames now have new hyrdroformed top tubes and down tubes, giving much cleaner lines, stronger frames and lighter weight. Twinned with the new simplified two position dropouts these are the lightest Banshee frames ever.

Rune Changes:

  • Seat tube now 31.6 for more dropper post compatibility
  • Shorter seat tube and more standover
  • 12×142 or 12×148 Boost
  • Still 26″ or 27.5″
  • Hydroformed tubeset
  • Refined dropouts

Prime Changes:

  • Seat tube now 31.6
  • Shorter seat tube, more standover
  • 12×142 or 12×148 Boost
  • 29″, 27.5+, 29+ (with ‘650b’ dropouts)
  • Hydroformed tubeset
  • Longer reach
  • Slacker head angle
  • Lower BB
  • Added awesome

We are still waiting for final details on the Spitfire and Phantom, but these will be out and updated soon. In the meantime we are taking pre-orders for all frames, call us on 0131 629 6065 or send an email, facebook message or smoke signals to find out more.

2016 Salsa Sale Bikes & Frames

Ho Ho Ho it’s just past Halloween so it must be nearly CHRISTMAS! Bah. It’s Salsa 2016 Bike and Frame Sale O’clock..

Cheer yourself up with some cheap Salsa action – we finally managed to get them in shop here at planet Pedals and even bagged some end of season deals to start things off. What’s good I hear you ask?

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This thing, oh this thing is good. Firstly we need to clear up that this frame is exactly the same as the Pony Rustler frame pictured above – it’s just the colour. Both take 29″ or 27.5×3.0+. It also happens to be a very fast and very very fun bike. The picture at the top of our page is the demo bike, and a great example of the kind of custom builds we can do.

 

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Look at it, just look.. so sleek and black, surprisingly light with that carbon fork to boot! This is the perfect adventure commuter or fast bike packer, essentially a drop bar mountain bike but capable of a lot more as well. The fork alone retails for just shy of £600, so at £699 this is the base for that ‘N+1’ you have been looking for..

 

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A staple of Salsas lineup, the Vaya is the narrow tyred brother to the Fargo. Slicks or knobblies up to 40mm, you could build light for town use or heavy for long tours. This bike will see you through the years!

Keep an eye out for our Marrakesh Flat Bar full builds, we are currently putting together our own version with full hydraulic discs and wide range 3×9 gearing for fully loaded world touring or just a lovely everyday bike. On sale soon for £899!

Orbea Display Clearance Sale

It’s that time of year again and we need some space on the shop floor, so all of our 2016 Orbea mountain and road bikes are going on sale!

This was our pick of the ‘best of’ Orbeas range (minus the Occam carbons that are already sold out, sorry!) so we feel every model is the best value from each range, all the function with no fuss.

View them all here!

Want a bit more detail?

2016 Orbea Loki H10 Medium – Now £1291

Loki 27+ H10

We love this bike, it’s an amazing plus size bike but also just a very well designed frame, handles amazingly and looks great. It’s set up 2×10 which is fantastic for bike packing when fully loaded. The forks are performance level, but feature the full FIT4 damper from the Factory series (minus low speed compression adjustment) so are some of the best performing forks around.

After spending a lot of time on our demo Loki we can safely say this bike is VERY VERY FAST and SUPER SUPER FUN.

2016 Orbea Avant M30D 55cm – Now £1631

Avant M30D

Built for long days on the back roads, the Avant has a full carbon frame and fork with hydraulic disc brakes and 105 11spd, just the perfect no nonsense setup really! What could be better? A discount! At under £2000 RRP this thing is great value, but at £1631 it’s a steal! Take it off our hands before it becomes another staff bike…

2016 Orbea Avant H30 57cm – Now £799

Avant H30

The cheaper aluminium framed version of the long distance road bike the Avant. Featuring a vibration reducing carbon fork with 105 11spd gearing this makes either a really fast commuter, winter training bike, or no-nonsense all round road bike.

2016 Orbea Occam H30 Medium – Now £1767

Occam H30 Blue

The Occam has been our most popular Orbea in both this aluminium frame and the higher end carbon version. The H30 shown here gives you the amazing FIT4/DPS Fox suspension, wide range 2x gearing and a very stable/confidence inspiring 140mm 650b platform. A word of warning, the bike we have is the orange frame (shown with the Factory suspension on the shop link) but with the H30 level kit as shown above.

2017 Orbea Mountain Bike Range

Today marks the launch of the 2017 Orbea Range, so they are all live to view on the website:

 
 
Our demo range for the year will be:
Arriving soon!
 
Just focusing on the mountain bikes for now, little overview of the road side coming soon. So what’s good?
 
Loki 27.5+ – Two great new colours (four overall), full bikes from £1099. Best value at £1599 – Fox 34 Performance + SLX/XT 11spd
 
Occam AM/TR – Top end carbon bikes from £2999 (Occam AM M30 shown). Evolution of the spec from last year, 1x drivetrains throughout, black coat Fox suspension looks amazing! 34mm forks available on the 29ers. We predict these will be very popular this year 😀
 
Wild – 27.5+ E-Bike, WHAAA?! We know a lot of people are against these, but we have too many friends that can no longer ride to ignore them. Demo bike coming soon, which should be interesting..
 
Rallon – The first Orbea to bring the brand to the UK mountain bike enduro market, and still one of the best you can buy. Full bikes from £2199. Our pick for value is the X10 with Fox 36 and X2 upgrades, XT M8000/Raceface/Dropper post and the best suspension money can buy for under £3500.
 
Alma – Brand new race level frame for 2016, fresh geometry and VERY VERY LIGHT! So who cares about XC race hardtails in the UK? Well, to go along with the new frame there is a new rigid fork the ‘Spirit’. Bike packers say what? 29×2.4″ rear, 29×2.8″ front, rigid, enough bounce to take edge off would make the perfect long distance UK machine. Carbon bikes from £1449 with the new top end carbon on the custom paint MyO program for £3399 (should be a bit cheaper rigid).

Transition 2017 Launch – The Carbon Scout IS HERE!

It’s the end of July so obviously, 2017 is here! We are living in the future! Well, bikes are anyway. Launch day for Transitions new range has arrived, and it’s a cracker.  First off, some images. Pictures pictures pictures.. then scroll past the slider for all the information. Demo bikes and stock are arriving before the end of August.

CARBON SCOUT

Most importantly is the new Carbon Scout, same award winning geo, but lighter! And with TITS! (that’s the Tubes Inside Tubes System). Check it out here – 2017 Transition Scout Carbon Full Build – Transition Bikes – Carbon Scout

We are going to be running this as a demo bike, most likely a large, so this will be available to take out and demo anywhere around central Scotland around the end of August. Want to reserve a demo slot? Call us on 0131 629 6065 or email shop@pedalsbikecare.co.uk

Reserve a frame or demo bike? All we need is £100 for frames and £200 for bikes – 2017 Transition Frame Deposit – 2017 Transition Bike Deposit

Frame is £2799, available on our rolling chassis package (for example add a set of Fox Factory 34s for £710, DT350/ARC27 wheels for £399 and the frame drops to £2519).

Transitions own full builds are £4998 to £8000 (youch, but it does have carbon wheels!) and we are going to be offering our own ‘Stock Custom’ builds – Fox suspension + seatpost, XT/SLX 11spd, ARC27 wheels etc, stay tuned for pricing.

CARBON PATROL + ALU PATROL 

 

The Patrol is the second ‘most updated’ for 2017, gaining not just new colours but also updated suspension kinematics with the new roller bearing driven Rockshox Super Delux rear shock connected to a refined rocker link. You can see them testing this setup on the Pinkbike Super Delux shock launch.

Same as this year we will be running a Patrol demo bike, but dropping from a carbon to an alu, but this time IN LARGE! You asked for it and we listened, plus we sell large and XL Patrols about 2:1 more than mediums… Again, arriving end of August so get in touch and arrange a demo.

The aluminium frame is now £1799, and the carbon £2999. HOWEVER – There are some 2016 carbon frames left in stock, so if you aren’t fussed about the new rear shock get in touch as they are available for £2299.

2017 Transition Patrol Carbon Full Build  –  2017 Transition Patrol Alu Full Build

Transitions full builds on the alu are £2799 to £7098, and again we will have our own Fox/Shimano/Raceface builds available as well. Or go full custom, tell us what you want!

Sick of my chat?  – 2017 Transition Frame Deposit – 2017 Transition Bike Deposit

SCOUT ALU + SMUGGLER  

These two remain unchanged for 2017, just some BNG, but they are great bold new graphics! We think they look ace. Frame prices are now £2599, but again we have a handful of Scout and Smuggler frames available from 2016, so if you don’t like the new colours or just want to pick up a deal get in touch.

You are really still reading our rubbish? – 2017 Transition Frame Deposit – 2017 Transition Bike Deposit

2016 Transition Smuggler Medium Black Last in stock!

2016 Transition Scout Frame + 2017 Fox 34 Offer

 

 

Highland Trail Race 2016

‘The Highland Trail is a long distance self-supported mountain bike time-trail route through the Scottish Highlands. There is no entry fee, no prize money, and definitely no support.’

Race Distance: 536 miles

http://www.highlandtrail.net/

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Before the start with my Yeti ASRc fully kitted out.

Day 1

As we awaited the start of the 2016 Highland Trail Race Alan Goldsmith (event organiser) beckoned me to the front of the group, “Come on, you’re one of the fast ones” he informed me and told me to get to the front. I laughed and obliged, but was highly doubtful that would prove to be the case. Certainly I may be quite experienced in shorter XC events or Enduro events, but over 550 miles? No way. The Highland Trail Race would be my first bike packing event and my first attempt at any multi day ultra-endurance event and I saw it is a chance to really truly test myself and possibly to find my limit.

Months of planning, blog reading and packing had got me here, time to start pedalling. I resisted the urge to join any of the front runners and eased off the line as a few chose to burn some early matches and start with more of a sprint. Up the first technical climb on the WHW I found myself track standing behind other riders who failed to make the climb before riding up behind them and then passing them on the following brief descent. The first section was punctuated by a number of water crossings all of which were noticeably lower than when I had ridden the section the weekend before on a reconnaissance ride and because of this I was hopeful for dry trail conditions! I eased through the first part of the morning, eating and drinking often and picked off riders as best I could, careful to keep my effort in check. On the first tarmac section I chatted briefly with Ian Barrington, whose blogs of the HTR had been highly informative to me prior to my ride but then edged away on the next climb.

For a while I had been able to see Lee Craigie up ahead and was keen to catch her and catch up, having not seen her to talk to before the event. Lee and I are both former XC racers (Lee a significantly more successful one than me), and had both been part of the Scottish XC Programme, her as an elite and me as an under 16. It was fantastic to catch up with her, and along with Lars Henning we passed an enjoyable period chatting about everything from the state of Scottish XC racing just now (very good!) to what to expect from the trail.

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Ben Alder Cottage Bothy taken on a reconnaissance ride

It was around this point that I noticed I was feeling a little dehydrated, the discussion having distracted me from staying on top of drinking and now the sun was beating down. We stopped to fill up at a river and I felt slightly, but not entirely, better. Along the next section Lars dropped off and Lee and I were joined by Alan G; Alan admired my socks as I admired his route. He informed me he would “DQ anyone not wearing wool socks”, so I was understandably thankful for the contribution of the merino sheep to my ride! We passed the Ben Alder Cottage bothy and I marvelled at how on my reconnaissance ride this was where I stopped for the night, about 50 miles in, a good ride by normal standards, but barely half a day in the HTR. Up the next climb I really started feeling the heat, and stopped to dunk my head in any water source that I could find. The descent from the Bealach Dubh was a familiar one to me, and as such I rode it with confidence, enjoying the water bar hops and perfect conditions, I passed both Alan and Lee in the process. However on the next section I started feeling really quite unwell with the early signs of heatstroke and the two of them quickly passed and dropped me. I decided that I would take a longer break at Laggan. With my head thumping and stomach churning I arrived at Wolftrax and attempted to drink a coke and eat a piece of cake. Lee, who was just leaving as I arrived, advised me to take it easy for a bit as did Lars who arrived just after me. I must have looked quite unwell! I sat in the shade with my eyes closed for 20 minutes and started to feel better with my headache lifting.

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Descent from the Bealach Dubh taken on a reconnaissance ride

I rolled out of Laggan with jelly legs and forced myself to sip water; each mouthful required me to suppress a wretch and was accompanied by a fresh wave of nausea as each mouthful hit my stomach. SHIT I thought to myself, having flashbacks to a similar ride last year I had been on with James from Pedals Bike Care when dehydration and overheating had left me in quite an unpleasant state. Mercifully, after consuming 1 litre of water in this uncomfortable fashion, I started to feel better and ascended the Corrieyairack pass and rolled down into Fort Augustus. Again not entirely without issue as a guy in a range rover angrily shouted at me for accidentally going through the wrong gate and onto ‘private property’. He videoed me on his phone saying he was going to phone the police, whilst I apologised and said I was trying to leave the property now. I wondered if he would understand if I told him I had been blinded by pizza goggles and was somewhat delirious from the heat but decided a repetition of “I’m sorry sir” would suffice.

Arriving in Fort Augustus I rolled into the famous pizza restaurant and sat with Alan and Lars, Alan wearing a similar expression to the one I imagine I had been wearing at Laggan. I ate half my pizza as he pushed his around his plate, then I rolled out of Fort Augustus with the other half in my frame bag. My best case scenario going into this event was to make it to the bothy at approx. 115 miles on the first day. However, I ended up getting there in daylight so I carried on catching Andy Laycock and we discussed the problems of the first day, he said he had been suffering with cramp. As I chatted with Andy I suddenly realised how positive I was feeling and it was with joy that I finally switched on my lights as the sun went down. Even after all these years of riding I still get a special buzz from riding at night, following a beam of light allowed for a more focussed mood and I zipped along enjoying the night time bonus miles. I had moved past the heatstroke and could not really believe the mileage I had managed to put in at this point. The next hour or two were punctuated by spotting other riders bivvied off the road and I eventually decided to stop at 130 miles, just before midnight.

Unfortunately, if the heatstroke represented my first mistake in the race, this was the second. I slept quite poorly, jumping at little noises and struggling to actually fall asleep as I was feeling so excited and wired. I later learnt the race leaders continued to another bothy further down the trail which on reflection I could have easily made that night as I was not feeling especially tired when I bedded down. This may have offered me a better sleep but I did not know of its existence. In my defence I had never considered I would cover so much ground on day one so had not researched any other bothy options on this section of trail.

Day 2

Eventually at 4am I decided to get up and get going again as there did not seem any chance of getting more sleep. After a bit of faffing to pack I ate a slice of pizza on the move but I struggled to get into my groove. It seemed like there was an awful lot of riding ahead of me that day! Indeed on each of the following mornings I had a spell where the idea that I had started riding already and likely would continue to ride until midnight seemed obscene and caused me initially to feel a little apprehension but also often to feel giddy with excitement. Eventually I rolled into Contin and suddenly I was passed a huge moral gift package as I spotted Lee. She was sitting on a bench outside the Contin store which had opened early for riders. A  brief chat with Lee, a coffee and a tasty sandwich and suddenly I was back feeling positive and was more optimistic for the day’s riding.

The section from Contin to Oykell Bridge was defined by two pairs, the first of which was a pair of geese that tried to attack me, forcing me to double back then sprint full gas past to avoid their snapping beaks. Obviously the guard geese had not been told I was a vegetarian and as such should possibly be given a little slack compared to the other competitors. The second pair was a pair of riders I would later learn were Stuart and Phil, the overnight leaders, who had enjoyed a lie in. They passed me riding side by side and at the time I did not recognise them, but as they went by I assumed my pace must be slowing and I was therefore probably slipping down the field. At this point I roughly thought I was around the top 10 but was not really sure.

Upon arriving at Oykell Bridge I was pleased to see a few bikes outside including Lee’s and I sat at a table with her and enquired about how we were getting on in the race and who was ahead. I was totally shocked to find out that just shy of 200 miles I was actually sitting in a room with the front group. “Shit, I am not supposed to be here” I laughed, with texts from my girlfriend, dad and James at Pedals all questioning whether I had started too fast. I vowed to try to ride the afternoon more steadily. As Lee and the leaders left I took things more slowly. It would be the last I would see of the front of the race.

In Oykell Bridge I struggled to eat the meal set out before me and left feeling a little sick once again (likely the after effects of my heatstroke and a lack of any real quality sleep). Whilst riding in heavy rain I felt my moral dipping slightly. Over the next section a number of riders came by including Andy, Fraser Macbeath and also an unidentified rider who once again passed me like I was standing still. I would later find out this had been Liam Glen, the eventual winner who had started 2 hours after the main group on day one after an issue with his car. As I passed through Glen Golly my nausea meant I was struggling to eat and I felt like my progress was slow as I did not feel like I had very much energy.

Resupplies are important!!!

Oykel Bridge was the last possible resupply for a while.

This marked my first real low point of the race. Although I had felt unwell the day before and sluggish in the morning I had not really struggled to keep going. However now, the remoteness and exposure was starting to get to me and I began to question, for the only time during the event, whether I was really up to the task. I started to doubt myself quite deeply and I began to feel slightly afraid.

Perhaps I should explain. The fear I was feeling was more than a fear of remoteness and of a weakness in my resolve. A number of issues had caused a negative spiral for me that was compounded by my dislike of riding exposed sections of descent and through this section there was exposure in abundance. This is because last year, whilst racing in the Enduro World Series in Les Samoans in France, I had suffered an extremely bad crash. During a race stage I had fallen and rolled around 30 feet into a ravine knocking myself out, I was eventually airlifted from the scene on a spine board, falling in and out of consciousness. Miraculously I had suffered no broken bones, the X-Ray and CT scans had confirmed my back was not broken and the CT scan on my head also revealed no bleeds or abnormalities. Despite this good news, the crash did leave me suffering with various concussion symptoms and it took me around 4 months from the date of the crash to fully return to normal. Throughout the period I had problems with my concentration, short term memory loss, suffering mood swings and also developing obsessive tendencies. It was a difficult period for me, my family and loved ones.

So perhaps it was justifiable that riding the northern loop of the HTR on my own in thick cloud was making me a little frightened. However I knew that if I kept going things would get better again. I spied Andy up ahead, but unfortunately could not catch him. After eating two slices of leftover pizza, I ascended the Bealach horn and was extremely surprised to see James Robertson, the event photographer. He snapped a few shots and I continued struggling with the descent down to Achfary as my wrists ached. Suddenly my phone pinged to life as I had phone signal for the first time in hours and messages from my dad, girlfriend and James, “it’s all downhill from here” being sent presumably as I had hit the northern most point, these all lifted my moral. I decided that I needed a better sleep tonight so bedded down on the climb out of Achfary just as it was getting dark. I drifted off more quickly, happy I had made it through my first real test on the route. Tomorrow would be better.

Happier times riding in the Alps last summer before my crash

Happier times riding in the Alps last summer before my crash

Day 3

I opened my eyes and could not entirely decide whether I was seeing what I thought I was. It appeared like a dark blanket was pulsing just on the other side of my midge net. As I blinked sleep from my eyes I began to see a little more clearly and realised that the blanket was in fact not a solid mass but instead the most midges I have ever seen in my life. Like a giant Alpkit branded caterpillar I wiggled my riding kit on careful to not let a millimetre of skin show outside of my bivvy sack and packed up as quick as I could before putting in my contact lenses and eating a sandwich when I found somewhere with a little breeze up the hill that was free of midges.

I climbed and descended a number of brutal bumps in the famous road between Kylesku and Drumbeg and planned how best to ration my food to get to Lochinver when suddenly a man in a car at Drumbeg shouted to me and offered my second major moral gift package of the ride, “Are you one of those riders? We’ve opened the store early for you” he informed me.  I could have hugged him. I rolled along to Drumbeg stores and the owner prepared me a cup of coffee, and I ate a warm slice of pizza and two chocolate pastries. I also managed to stock up on baby wipes and some germoline to attend to my saddle sores. Suddenly the world seemed rosier. The next section passed uneventfully and I once again was hugely enjoying myself. I bought pies in Lochinver, chatted with a lovely couple on the hike a bike that followed and then with two more folk as I joined the road section before Oykell Bridge. I also vaguely remember telling a sheep that it had a very nice coat. Brown wool I believe, very stylish.

I arrived in Oykell Bridge and noticed a bike I did not recognise outside. I went in and introduced myself to a tired looking gentleman by the name of Ian Fitz who I quickly found out was the supplier of my paper maps via the Bear Bones Forum. Thanks again Ian! I learnt it was Ian’s birthday and we both discussed how we were surprised how far round the route we already were. Ian left slightly before me. After struggling with my first real test the day before, I was delighted to have other riders to occasionally converse with again and hugely benefitted from the chat with Ian. I was hopeful I would catch him up later. Phil Fraser Thomson arrived and I laughed when I realised he had been behind me having been convinced when he’d left Oykell Bridge the day before ahead of me that I was slipping rapidly down the field. It was an important lesson about how riders ebb and flow may vary and I marvelled at how one minute a rider may seem to have twice your strength and the next you may find yourself ahead of them. On the section to Ullapool my appetite finally returned after a day of occasional nausea and I ate my final Lochinver Pie and two snickers bars. When I arrived in Ullapool I phoned my dad and told him of my plans to reach the Shenavaill bothy that night. I later would find out he stayed up to midnight to watch me get to the bothy on track leaders! The dot watchers are a valuable asset to any riders moral as it’s such a benefit to know people are willing you on and rooting for you.

The amazing maps which thankfully I never needed to use

The amazing maps which thankfully I never needed to use

The next section featured two huge hike a bikes which were passed in the company of Ian Fitz and Phil FT, both of whom I caught during the section. It was an absolute pleasure to share the section with them and I chatted relentlessly like an excited child about everything that popped into my head. I was happy to pass this section in the company of other riders. I marvelled at Ian’s experience in remote riding and long distance events and at how positive he was about really cracking on and his master plan to stop sleeping at some point. Whilst chatting with Phil he disclosed this was his third attempt at the route. I again was left feeling astounded at his tenacity to keep returning to attempt the ride. It was quite humbling to see how much he wanted to finish it and it left a lasting impression on me about what sort of attitude it took to take on and finish a route of this nature. Phil would finish the ride ahead of me in the end and his successful completion offered me almost as much satisfaction as my own.

Whilst riding with these two I noticed how my interest in racing as I conventionally saw it was waning. I was motivated to finish the route as quickly as possible, but any interest in beating other riders or getting one up on them had all but disappeared. These two during this section were my companions through a period of adventure, and I saw that we were each racing the HTR route but not each other. We rode the last section in the dark together before reaching the bothy and all falling asleep rapidly in the company of an already asleep Fraser. It had been a considerably better day than the one before as I had hugely enjoyed the riding both on my own and in the company of others.

Day 4

I awoke to the noise of other riders packing up and rolled over but I couldn’t get back to sleep. I snapped myself out of it reminding myself I was in a race. My morning routine seemed to take longer than everyone else’s and after using the bothy facilities (shovel) I was on the move about an hour after I woke up. It is definitely something I’ll look to improve on in future events as I had far too much faffing to do when I woke up each morning; putting contact lenses into my eyes after 4 hours sleep being particularly difficult. I rolled away from the bothy and quickly entered what can only be described as “the zone”. Suddenly everything flowed smoothly as I pedalled and pushed my bike across this awe inspiring terrain. I occasionally glanced around to marvel at the beauty of my surroundings. THIS is what this race is about I thought, me and my bike against the route. I decided to utilise some music through this section and with some progressive metal blaring I floated up the hike a bike. One of the things I had learned to love about long rides on my own over the past year was the feeling of quiet mediation which made hours turn into minutes and miles disappear seemingly without effort. “A long slow meditation under duress” was how one ultra-athlete in an interview had described the process of racing one of these events, but this was more than that, this was pure elation, pinch yourself to check you’re not dreaming, type 1 fun.

I caught and passed Andy Laycock who had passed me during my morning’s faffing, he had bivvied just short of the bothy the night before.  Suddenly I was loch-side and beginning the much talked about postman’s path which only heightened my mood as I caught Ian Fitz again along the narrow ribbon of singletrack. Little did I know the rude awakening I was about to receive. Suddenly as we dismounted to descend into a gully we were met at the bottom with a hike-a-bike-double-black-diamond-difficulty obstacle course: a number of trees down across a stream. Ian appeared to effortlessly dispatch the section and quickly ascended out the other side. I heaved my bike onto my back and clambered through with all the grace of a tap dancing hippo. I dropped my bike off my back and just before taking my first step up the gully was hit with a crushing wave of tiredness. The inevitable heart rate spike of lifting my bike taking me out of the “the zone” and probably up into zone 5! Ian quickly disappeared as I seemed to be unable to shake my lethargy over the next section. Thankfully I somehow caught Phil FT just as he was back tracking after missing a turn and we rolled into Kinlochewe together as I tried to find some flow again.

The log obstacle course. Photo taken by Ian Fitz

The log obstacle course. Photo taken by Ian Fitz

After dispatching a bowl of quinoa and eggs (accidental but delicious order), a coffee and a huge scone I felt noticeably better. I also quizzed Phil on the social implications of rinsing grit out of my disgusting socks in the bathroom. Socially acceptable he ruled. My feet were noticeably more comfortable after too. Result. The temperature was very high again as I headed for the Torridon section. For some reason I suddenly felt extremely strong and wanted to crack on to ensure I got to Dornie with plenty time for dinner. I dispatched Torridon and the famous Achnashellach descent, riding a surprising amount considering my bike setup and motored along the road and the next section probably riding far too fast but I couldn’t stop myself. I passed Phil and Fraser in the process.

Sometimes I relax in Torridon and soak it in. There for my 21st Birthday in 2015

Sometimes I relax in Torridon and soak it in. Pictured there for my 21st Birthday in 2015

Before I knew it I was following tarmac again and entering Dornie. I headed straight for the shop. Closed. Shit. Suddenly I realised how little eat on the bike food I had with me and I knew I would have to ask for extra food to take away from the pub. I stepped into the Clachan and ended up generally making a fool of myself: ordering too much food, falling asleep, spilling things, spreading out all my smelly kit and generally causing a lot of concerned looks from the staff and other customers. “I’m in a race” I remember feebly apologising. I tagged Phil in just as I left and was hopeful that the establishment’s opinion of cyclists had not been lessened because of me. On the next section I had phone signal so called my dad and girlfriend confirming with them that I was on track to finish under 5 days. Suddenly it hit me, UNDER 5 DAYS! I was still on track for my best case scenario target, I just had to make it to the Camban Bothy tonight then I’d have one last day of riding to go. The next section and long hike a bike took longer than expected. Notable activities include trying to scribble the word ‘bothy’ onto a rock with an arrow beside as a message to Phil. It seemed worthwhile at the time… I arrived at the bothy around midnight, briefly chatted with Fraser (during the race I constantly was surprised who I would bump into as I thought Fraser was still behind at this point) but he fell asleep whilst I got some stuff from my bike. I ate a portion of sticky toffee pudding I had carried from the Clachan and went to sleep having set two alarms. 1 day to go!!!

Day 5

Where the hell am I? *Rubs eyes* Seriously. Where the hell am I? Oh right racing.

Fraser had gone, and I check my watch. 6.20am. Oh shit!!!!! I’d slept in. It was the final day of the race and somehow I had managed to sleep through Fraser’s alarm, Fraser leaving and my own two alarms to wake up extremely dazed and confused. After much faffing, shovel use and extreme sleepiness I rolled out of the bothy before 7.00am. Dot watchers later pointed out to me how silly the fly by is as everyone in the race apparently started quite a bit before me that morning. Doh.

The next section was testing again. I kept the sleepiness and dazed feeling and added the bonk as I was mostly out of food. Occasionally I would notice I was not moving and just sort of standing and staring. Come on Scott you’re racing?! Somehow I blew straight through a resupply opportunity at Tomich despite being out of food so I had to make it to Fort Augustus to eat. I was going super slowly and I knew it. I phoned my dad and told him I may not be able to finish today. He told me to speak to him after I’d eaten. After what seemed like forever I finally I begin the descent into Fort Augustus and spotted a figure that looks different to the usual tourists. Someone with a bike and a similarly haggard look – Andy! Again I resisted the urge to hug someone who may not want a hug. We chatted about the tough morning. Andy, for the second night in a row, bivvied less than an hour before the bothy then had passed me as I had slept. He left Fort Augustus a little before me. After a good feed courtesy of the store I started to finally feel awake. I had been craving yoghurt all morning and somehow bought a 90 calorie diet yoghurt. I had to laugh. My motivation was back as I knew I was on familiar ground from here until the finish. I text dad, “I can do this. See you tonight!!” I re-enter “the zone” and with the help of The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, fly along the Great Glen Way and catch Andy up.

On this section my niggly Achilles really started to hurt, but before I knew it we were in Fort William where I strapped it the best I could and enjoyed some more food. During this section I also noticed that my arms were extremely sunburnt and I had no sun cream so on went the arm warmers. Suddenly Bryan Singleton arrived and informed us that he had seen Alan Goldsmith earlier on too. It was strange meeting up with other racers who I had not seen in days! One look at Bryan confirmed to me I would not be able to keep up with him over the next section as he looked like he is out for a spin, but somehow I dropped Andy on the first section of the West Highland Way singletrack. I was in my own world and loving it when I heard a shout of “hello” from behind. Hike a bike master, race organiser extraordinaire and general chat merchant Alan Goldsmith had caught me up. I was delighted and was feeling reflective. I told him about how I have felt about racing this route and how I was happy with how it has gone but knew I could ride it faster. I dropped Alan on the descent into Kinlochleven and then dropped it myself on a water bar hop. In Kinlochleven I stuffed my face and responded to text messages. One last push!

Ascending the Devils Staircase was like a dream. I was initially in shadow but ascended into the light. It was perfect. I reached the top and before me was Glencoe and the final miles of the event. I finally acknowledged I was going to finish this. No matter what. I amused myself thinking of various catastrophes and how I would overcome them. For some reason I wondered if I was to break my collarbone or similar and walk to the end would I have to drag my bike with me too or would it just be me who would have to cross the line? Such morbid thoughts made me laugh at the time. As the sun set I stopped occasionally to add layers and eat macaroons.

At the top of the Devils Staircase on a reconnaissance ride

At the top of the Devils Staircase on a reconnaissance ride

Before I knew it I was on the tarmac to Bridge of Orchy and I tried my best to stop my head drooping. I felt very sleepy but any progress is good progress. I walked some of the uphill sections. On my GPS I see a little special line: the line that indicates where I’ve already ridden. I re-join the route I used to leave Tyndrum a life time ago. One last climb and descent then I would have done it. I slowly made the ascent and promise myself I won’t pedal again unless I have to. I have to a few times.

Then there was clapping. I see a group of people. Alan is there having finished a little before me. My dad hugged me and I shook hands with Alan. Suddenly my girlfriend Isla appeared and she hugs me too. As she stepped away I almost fell over. I really wanted to sleep. My twin brother Stuart is there too. Everything is a blur and I ate some food in the car then quickly fell asleep (apparently mid conversation with Stuart).

Epilogue

It has taken me a while to write about the Highland Trail Race and even reading over what I have written I cannot do the route, the experiences or what the race has meant to me justice. The ending of day 5 seems a little abrupt, but when the ending of this experience happened that was how it felt. In an instance I was transported from one world to another when I stepped off my bike for the final time. Others in their reflections have described it as ‘life-changing’. For me it was life-affirming. I have overcome adversity but also enjoyed and thrived on the trials of the event. Isla described it as being something I felt like I ‘needed’ to do. I think this is accurate as after the head injury last year and the difficult period that followed it I needed a new focus and a goal. Completing the HTR marks the end of my recovery. I went into the race interested to find my limit, and have found I still have no idea where my limit is, a very exciting prospect indeed. As a racer I know I can do better: I stopped too often, slept too much and aspects of my kit, pacing and preparation could be improved. I will return to the HTR and I plan to ride it faster in the future. Hopefully when I next sit with the leaders at a resupply I will be confident I belong there. At 22 years old I know I have a lot of head room in the ultra-endurance/bike packing racing scene and cannot wait for the events to come. But the 2016 HTR was more than a race for me; it was a truly liberating experience and I feel I understand myself much better because of it. In the modern world it is a rare opportunity indeed to have so singular and simple a focus for so long, it is a simple but wonderful existence when you are out there. It was a privilege to share the trail and experience with so many people. Thank you to everyone who supported me, there are too many people to mention but you know who you are.

Burst

Burst

Scott Lindsay

4 days 16 hours 5 minutes

Patrol Carbon UK Demo Bike + Stock

So, it’s been a few weeks since the first 2016 Transition Patrol Carbons arrived on our shores, and after a small injury related delay we finally have both our demo bike (medium Race Raw) and James’ (me!) staff bike up and running, and even managed to squeeze a few rides in between the heavy rain and snow melt.

We have covered the demo bike previously, and it has been going out on tests regularly with great feedback so if you can make it to the central belt and want a test ride get in touch. Pinkbike have also just published the first full review, and it seems they think much the same as us. It went down a storm!

Pinkbike – 2016 Transition Patrol Carbon Review

Our next delivery of Patrol Carbon frames will be here in two weeks (mid Feb) or slightly before, £100 deposit secures a frame. Head here – Transition Frame Deposit – to put one down and just specify size and colour in the comments box during checkout.

What about this one? It is hopefully going to be my race bike for 2016, however after a winter plagued with injury there is a long way to go yet. The main aim for the year is go get up to speed for the inaugural Trans-Lakes race – three days of epic lakeland riding with some intimidating stats. Mostly timed downhills with a couple of timed ups chucked in for good measure.  Not heard of it before? Check it out – Trans-Lakes Race

Outside this just a few local enduro races and a whole lot of natural ‘real mountain’ riding is on the cards.

What is special about this build? Not much really! Well, it’s obviously all really high end kit, but is nearly 100% just the top level build from Transition. Why? Because if I custom built one for myself it would come out like this anyway! TR really do have their build kits sorted for this year. We changed the brakes, not because their is anything wrong with the Guide Ultimates, but it just makes sense to have the same pads throughout our household. The new Shimano M8000 brake levers have been ‘match-maked’ with the SRAM X01 shifter using Problem Solver clamps. A really neat solution and it’s great to have a company making these.

I am also running an Absolute Black Direct Mount Oval 30t, it’s still early days for us testing the Oval rings but initial experiences are really positive. The only other change was to stick some ESI grips on, ten years of full time mechanic work have taken their toll on my wrists and hands, so a bit of comfort is very welcome. And they are super light.

The full bike weighs in at 28.5lbs ready to ride, with DMR Vault pedals, mudguard and bottle cage.

Managed to get it out on a couple of rides now, and one was even in daylight! What a bike – manages to be super stable and planted but at the same time nimble and agile. In fact, just read the Pinkbike review! They pretty much mirror our own experiences exactly.

Can’t wait to get out on more rides, cheers to loads of riding in 2016!

p.s. My bike isn’t tiny – I am 5 9″ and it’s a Medium

 

 

2016 Ragley Bigwig and B+ / 27.5+ Setup

From the moment we heard the new 2016 Ragley Bigwig frame was 27.5×3.0 ready we couldn’t wait to give it a go, but so many questions..

What kind of clearance would it have? What forks would you fit? How can we bring the cost down a bit?

Well now we have answers! The clearance is great, you can see there is tons of space around both the chainstays and seatstays. These are with full 3.0″ WTB tyres (Bridger and Trailboss combo) on 40mm internal rims. Happy days. Our demo bike should be ready over the next few days, and these wheels will be available to try on that.

Fork clearance – we have tried these on non-boost 2016 Pike 29″ and 2016 36 Float 29″, it’s tight but usable, you could just about squeeze a mudguard in there as well. Not ideal, but fine if you already have a set of 29er forks.

We have brought the cost down by twinning the newly released DT Swiss XM551 rims with a package we can offer at a better price than previously available wheelset kits.

If you like the look of this we have offers on both the wheelset on it’s own, and a Bigwig/Wheelset package:

2016 Transition Patrol Demo Bike Is Here!

It seems like we have been waiting for forever and a day, and for some reason Transition still don’t have it live on their site, but the Patrol Carbon demo bike is finally here and it looks fantastic! It will be with us here in Edinburgh all year, and it’s a medium Build 2. Frames retail for £2599 and this build is £4999, or a little bit cheaper after we integrate our rolling chassis offer.

The weather is a bit grim just now, but the crisp snowy trails are just around the corner so get in touch to book a demo if you are anywhere near Edinburgh, central belt, Glasgow or the Tweed Valley… or anywhere really! We have people coming from far and wide for our demo goodness.

This also completes our Transition demo fleet for 2016, meaning we have a Patrol Carbon Medium, Scout Alloy Large, Smuggler Medium ready to go all year.

We will also be running a Banshee Rune in Large, Ragley Blue Pig in Medium… and?? Who knows. We have room for about seven in our snazzy new shop.

Oh hang on… did we say Scout Alloy? But… that means… there might be a carbon??