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Thread: Highlands Dirt

  1. #1
    ready to ride
    Reputation: mattnmtns's Avatar
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    Highlands Dirt

    Over the past couple of years I have been fortunate to have been employed with a good company. More fortunate that I have to travel occasionally to some pretty awesome places. Typically the business trips leave little time for doing anything other than exploring the city that I am in for a few hours after work. This past year I decided making the most out of every trip possible would be a high priority. Work sends me to Scotland about four times a year.

    Scotland supposedly has some great mountain biking. This was confirmed by a trip with my wife last fall. We made a trip up into the way north and wild Highlands and did one of the epic Torridon trails.

    This go around time was so flattering. Having done some of the wild or natural trails I figured I would give a couple of their trail centers a go.

    My first destination was the Innerleithen XC red course. It is right next to the highly regarded Glentress center. From what I read, the Innerleithen was more technical and had some technical black sections. Also it is home of some serious down hill trails. Being a glutton for punishment I choose to test myself. Or at least see how I could manage on someone else's playing field. I consider myself an advanced rider with better than average technical skills. However I see people come to my home trails in the Pisgah national forest that claim to be advanced who get in over their heads. Since 99% of my riding has all been done on my home trails. Well, I had to take measure and wonder if I might be getting myself into the same situation.

    A bike hire, as the call rentals in the UK had been arranged. It was a Santa Cruz Bronson Carbon. My first 27.5 to ride. Decently speced out for a demo. I got the available medium. I knew going into it it would be a touch small for me, and it was. Not by much. Totally rideable and I was eager to see what the tweener wheel size hype was all about.

    I will keep my comments about the bike short and sweet. Coming from a tallboy with vpp suspension I really liked the Bronson and the extra travel. What I didn't like was pedal strikes. I had a shock pump with me and set the sag before hand. Even played with it a bit on the trail. I will say that there where sections I don't know if pedal strike would have been avoidable. All in all the bike was super fun. I probably would have enjoyed a large more. 27.5 was nice but I didn't feel it was a game changer either way compared to 26 or 29.

    Unfortunately my rugged impact resistant camera failed the impact test after a couple of pictures so had to switch to my iPhone.

    The Innerleithen course is about 11.5 miles with 2,100 feet of climb. I ended up doing it twice doing the optional black sections each go around. Starts right off with a climb. Mostly "single" track. Parts I would consider double track and there was one section of fire road climb. Apparently they logged a section of the climb not too long ago. Still single track some local riders said it used to be nicer. I am sure they are right.

    Oh and of course it started raining as soon as I hit the trail, just your average Scottish mist so it wasn't terrible.

    So on to the good bits.

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr


    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    The Minch Moore
    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    This is the trail on part of the black section. No where near the most difficult. The black section was nice. Lots of rock gardens. I was to busy trying to clear them and keep upright to take any pictures. Kind of regret it now but they where definitely challenging. Some nice drops and table tops on the way down as well. Then there was another black section at the end. Some serious 4 foot drops. All blind ones at that. Being wet and not overly confident on a bike that was new to me I really didn't want to find my limits or discover the ER in Scotland so I opted to forego the gnarly drops. I saw one guy do them and he was in full face helmet and pads head to toe. So I didn't feel so bad.

    There were some other 3 foot drops with better sight and with some slab that I cleared on the second go around. I wish I would have had the time to do a thirds go at it. I kind of regret not really pushing the Bronson. To the tell the truth a lot of it had to do with the tires. It had High Roller IIs. Not a huge fan. Good back tire, didin't like it in the front. A Trail King, Minion, or Chunkey Monkey if they made it in 27.5 would have been mo better.

    All in all a great day of riding. I saw glimpses of the DH section and I will be the first to admit that is a class way above my skill level.

    Dropped the bike off and had about a two and a half hour drive to my next stop for some food, rest, and drink. Even Elvis showed up.

    IMG_0564 by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    My next stop was the Laggan Wolftrax. Everything I have read is that it is one of the best and most technical black trails in the UK. So I was going to give it a go.

    I rented a bike from a different place, actually one that I had rented from before. I should have asked more questions. I got another medium, but that wasn't too bad again. It was only 100mm travel. A giant Anthem 27.5. Afterwards I really wished I had the Bronson from the day before. I know two totally different bikes. I can't say anything ruined it for me because the ride was pretty awesome but the Avid brakes, the racing ralphs, and the SRAM shitters where a bit of a disappointment. It has been forever since I have used SRAM shifters. So it took some adjusting. What I hated was my thumb would bump the front shifter and downshift me at the worst time. I will say the RRs did better than I would have thought but still not what I like. I like gnarly 2.4s.

    Unfortunately several of the easier trails were closed for maintenance. Not that big of a deal since I was there to ride the hard stuff. It probably would have made for some better routes.

    The ride starts out of the car park in to a straight climb on a fire road. The course is actually quite short. I rode the red circuit twice, and the black once. Actually both are the same climb. If the trail had single track climb all the way it would be pretty awesome. Not that it isn't. It would just be better if it had more on the climb. I did the red section first because I didn't know what I was getting into. It was tough, some rock gardens, some drops, some speed.

    One the second climb up I went for the black. Despite me have no knee pads and everyone else having them along with some with full face helmets. Its what I came there to do. I have to say. Whoever designed that trail did an absolutely amazing job. They tied in so much natural features with really well done man made features. As one person I spoke to said, its the most natural unnatural trail I have ever ridden. I'd have to agree. Other trail builders should take note. I was happy I cleared it all on the way down except for one slab that was about 8 feet high and on the closer side of vertical than I had coconuts for.

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Looking back on one of many drops on the red section
    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    The trail is above the bike
    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Yep, thats the trail

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr


    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Post ride!
    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr

    Highlands Dirt by mcwoodley, on Flickr
    Sent via my heady vibes from the heart of Pisgahstan

  2. #2
    pin it
    Reputation: cyclelicious's Avatar
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    Cool place to ride. The landscape and trails look amazing
    The post ride is a fun reward
    F*ck Cancer

    Eat your veggies

  3. #3
    mtbr member
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    Great trip report and stoke! Thanks for sharing.

  4. #4
    mtbr member
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    Inners is our favourite trail centre in all of the UK, not been up for a year or so but hoping to rectify that soon. Only time we went to Laggan it was completely closed because of heavy snow fall but best mate has been a few times and said its a good place to go. Nice to see you experiencing some of our trails for a change, but mostly our crappy weather!

  5. #5
    mtbr member
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    Looks lovely, apart from that first pic!! That stuff is a trail-builders (and farmers) worst nightmare here in NZ...

  6. #6
    Yappy little dog!
    Reputation: schnauzers's Avatar
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    So much awesome! It's been many years since I got to tour Scotland. It really is an amazing place. So much history, culture, lore, mystique, and beauty. I need to go back and ride a bike there.

  7. #7
    dead weight
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    Just about brought a tear to my eye!
    A bunch of my ride pics: http://uberfarm.com/mnf

  8. #8
    CrgCrkRyder
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    Great adventure - Thanks for the pics and writeup!

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