I've been meaning to give my BFs a decent road ride to get a comparison with ordinary tyres, so I decided to do a century on them, and then report my findings to this forum.
From where I live on the east coast of Scotland to Kyle of Lochalsh in the west is about 68 miles. I figured I could ride there, turn around and perhaps hop a train at the 100 mark on the way home if I was feeling wimpy (highly likely ).
Anyhow, I rode my bike down to the sea and dipped the wheel in (I don't have nice beaches like CK) and got on my way.
After about 10 miles I was getting bored with the road when salvation appeared.
Strome Ferry road was closed due to landslide - it was supposed to be opened by now - but they had just had another rockfall. This closed the route in practical terms. I decided to head for another coastal town, Ullapool, which was a shorter distance 45 miles, but no wimp option. Seeing as it was a shorter distance I decided to take an offroad diversion which was barely 100 metres past the sign (the road to the right). Serendipity.
Anyone who has done the StrathPuffer 24 hour will recognise the start of this climb I intended to follow the forestry road on to Garve and then rejoin the highway.
I was a good citizen and did not exceed this speed limit on the climb
The road was generally in good condition but a bit soft, but the Floyds rolled easily on it (eg less drag than my 29er)
It was supposedly closed further on but I just carried the bike past in the treeline to avoid hassling the digger driver. From there lots of the track was very soft, but again nothing that bothered the tyres except ruts.
I was enjoying myself so I didn't divert on to the highway but continued on the dirt road. On the way was Silver Bridge which was part of the road network built in the 1720s by the British Government to facilitate the suppression of the rebels (my lot).
Then it was on to some pretty singletrack by the river
There was some fairly technical bits along it - it weaves between trees, and is rooty and rocky with numerous steps. The BFs handled that fine, just had to be careful on soft edges because there's no lugs on the BFs to grip.
Eventually all good things come to an end and I intersected the highway
A few more miles of boring highway and I decided to stop for a snack at the carpark for Ben Wyvis climbers.
As I munched, I idly read the sign. According to it there is a track almost all the way round the mountain (lhs of sign) with only a short bit not connected. I made an attempt at this last year, but had to give up after I got a pedal ripped off in the heather (it was a QR one) while doing a bit of bike dragging.
Mmmm, the weather was good - light drizzle, 13-15mph westerly = change of plan. It looked like a good time to try it again, even with the wrong tyres. Be much more interesting than a road ride.
Started of with a bit of steep singletrack, had to do some pushing.
I'm no good at clearing even small gaps uphill, and there were a few.
Eventually I hooked up with a dirt road - it was quite soft, but again no problem with the BFs, and the scenery was great.
The forest had disappeared since my last visit and was all stacked up waiting to go. The road was churned up by the heavy traffic. BFs still no problem.
Eventually the road ended and I was in real fatbike territory. Soft marshy firebreak. Needed an even lower crawler gear for this, but the BFs just spun anyway - as you'd expect.
I was just in time to see the last tree on the mountain come down. Kind of sad - I know it's plantation stuff, but it seems so ruthless.
And this is where there is supposed to be a path according to the map. Peat bog heaven Not very rideable, especially with smooth tyres.
I pressed on, frequently having to disentangle my bike from the heather. Heather is tough stuff and very inventive in the way it can entangle itself in spokes, chains, and even the inside of the brake callipers.
As I got closer to the first loch, the moor got boggier and softer, with a bit of fording which usually involved going up and down stream to find a reasonably level bit of bank.
There was lots of bits like this - just holes full of water and almost bottomless mud. This one is noteworthy because that stump is the remnants of the ancient Caledonian Forest which reputedly covered our mountains.
But relief was in sight. There was the loch, and every loch in the Highlands has a path around it so fat wealthy southerners can fish where the locals aren't allowed.
It was an enormous relief to see the loch. I was running out of daylight and the trek across the moor had been pretty arduous. If you look closely you'll notice the rumps of the deer that fled when I appeared.
The only problem was that I couldn't find the path. For the simple reason it doesn't exist. The mountainside is steep and covered with boulder scree, and from the looks of it these boulders roll down periodically and come to rest in random places. There were virtually no smooth surfaces, just ploughing through extremely dense heather and up and down over 2 foot rocks and falling into unseen holes while carrying my bike. About the halfway mark I found about 10 yards of passable track and thought I was set, but not for long.
Well there had to be a path at the head of the loch - I could see boats - how else did they get there?
No such luck, just more moorland and I was running out of daylight.
By now I was getting seriously concerned. It had taken me 2 hours to cover about 3 miles, and for half of that I was carrying or dragging the bike, and I was knackered. Like an idiot I was wearing my road backpack so I didn't have my usual safety gear and spare clothing, and a night out on a mountainside in February is no joke. It was definitely the point of no return. There wasn't enough daylight to retrace my steps to the forest roads, and a pretty good chance of getting lost in the dark. The only choice was to press on. The problem was there was a huge unknown descent across a darkening country that may or may not have cliffs etc.
I ran down the slope like an ungainly hare carrying the bike, occasionally tumbling a few yards, but luckily avoiding all the little 10' drops etc. I did temporarily lose one of my sandals in a boghole, but after a bit of armpit deep rummaging I found it again. It was a great relief to see the dirt road in the distance - at least I knew I would be able to pedal out, and as I got closer it seemed to brighten up because I was out of the mountain shadow. It took half an hour from seeing the road to actually reaching it.
All in all I covered 43 miles, so I must apologise for not completing the century.
21 of the miles were offroad and over 1,400 metres of ascent, 600 of which was in the 13 miles from Ben Wyvis carpark to the next gravel road. I was on (and off) the bike for a total of 9 1/2 hours.
I don't think I have ever covered so little ground so slowly, but I hope you folks appreciate the efforts I have made to test the Black Floyds for you.
Verdict: Black Floyds are nice and fast on the road, I reckon they are quicker than other fat tyres on gravel roads or moderately soft surfaces. They don't like ruts or soft edges, and will quickly spin out on slippery surfaces.
(I eventually will try to do a straight road century with them and not get diverted up a mountain, honest )
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