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Bikepacking

Badger Divide

Scotland 2024

Riders: Paul Hunt, Maciej Malyszka, Pawel Ragan

Bike: Mason Bokeh 3 -first adventure for this bike and I have to say it's amazing.

Badger Divide To be honest, we were planning a different Spring trip, but after deciding to swap 2 adventure bikes, road and gravel, into one all-road rig (Mason Bokeh), we have decided to properly test it off-road first. The Badger Divide sounds like a good course, and oh boy, what a test it was. Central is Queens... After 5 hours of driving, we arrived in Glasgow, where we left the car and met Pawel. It was a 15-min ride to Queen Street Station and we ignored the prep course as Pawel said, “Do not worry. I’ve been here before. I know where to go.” So, we went and arrived at Glasgow Central... but Pawel said, and it became a slogan for the whole trip, “Central is Queens.” Of course, it wasn’t, and we hurried to find the correct train station. A few hours on the train where we met a lovely old Scottish couple who advised and helped us plan our summer bikepacking trip. We arrived in Inverness after 7 pm. A few miles to the hotel, we stopped to try a local beer Tennent's and the only available food around, Boss Pizza.

Day 1: Jesus Christ and Holy Mary, Knees Destroyer, Corrieyairack Pass

We woke up at 5-6 am to start. The first 3 km flat and a proper 9 km climb for the warm-up with big chunky gravel and slippery single track, time to time. Some short, very steep 20-30% ramps where we dismounted and pushed the bikes for the first time. I ran on my Mason Bokeh 46/30 front and 11-34 back, and it was hard on a fully loaded bike when the rear wheel was losing grip on wet, foggy mountains. A few other long climbs with average cadence in the low 50s very often. We rode the whole length of Loch Ness, riding up and down to reach Fort Augustus, our only stop that day, where we refilled the bottles, had fish & chips, and gave Tennent's beer a second and the last chance. We switched to cold Guinness in hot Scotland from now on. We left Fort Augustus and didn’t even have time for a proper warm-up when we reached the bottom slope of Corrieyairack Pass. What can I say? It’s not an easy ascent to ride. Around 15 km long with almost 900 m of elevation, very steep over 20% sections and big loose surfaces from pea gravel to toddler’s head-size rocks. We reached the top after 1 hour 45 min of riding & bike-hiking (pushing the bike up) and an extra hour to take some pictures (to be honest, to stop and catch our breath or quietly cry from pain when no one was watching). A short stop at the top, a very technical descent, 2 hours more, and we stopped for the night close to Lochan na h-Earba. We camped 10 m from the lake, used lake water for cooking, and crawled into warm sleeping bags.

Ride time: 8 hours 45 min Total time: 13 hours 55 min Distance: 115 km Elevation: 2671 m

Day 2: Broken spokes, biblical storm, and heavyweight boxing

Early start, porridge for breakfast, 2 coffees from Aeropress, pack the bikes, and off we went. Glorious weather and still no midges. We rode only 30 km to reach the main stop of the day, the famous Corrour Station House. A cafe next to the Corrour train stop in the middle of nowhere. Regardless of still being full after breakfast not long ago, we ordered a full Scottish breakfast (delicious), Paul and I cold beers, and Pawel kombucha. I knew it was a bad omen, as everyone knows that a cold beer on an adventure ride is a bad omen talisman. We traveled another 25 km, and Pawel lost a spoke in the rear wheel. J-bend type, head snapped. I removed it from the rim, and we continued as the wheel still had plenty of clearance between the chainstays. We took it easy where possible and aimed for the next stop, a little cafe in Bridge of Balgie. We arrived 20 minutes too late, and the cafe was closed. An outside tap served for water, and just when we thought all was going well, Pawel lost another spoke (damn you, kombucha) and decided to abandon and ride to the closest train station 40 km away, as it was too risky to ride another day. As we were about to leave, the heavens opened and it started to rain very hard. The rain didn’t bother us much at the start as we were riding an 8 km steep climb, but descending was hectic. Wet roads, raining cats and dogs, and a fast 15 km descent wasn’t a pleasure. We arrived in Killin soaking wet and freezing cold. We said goodbye to Pawel as he had another 15 km to ride and found shelter in Killin Hotel to warm up and plan camping. After a Guinness and shivering from the cold, Paul lost his adventurous spirit and booked us a room. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t complaining. It was a fantastic place to stay, reminding me of Fawlty Towers, but Basil Fawlty was missing. We prepared our camping food in the room and went to the bar to celebrate our survival and drink to the Gods of Cycling Adventures. The bar closed shortly after, but the super friendly staff invited us to watch the heavyweight boxing fight where Oleksandr Usyk beat Tyson Fury. We went to sleep very late but well-hydrated before the last stage of the ride. Hats off to Killin Hotel.

Ride time: 7 hours 30 min Total time: 11 hours 50 min Distance: 109 km Elevation: 1415 m

Day 3: Proper gravel and Armadillo

Perfect weather and glorious gravel roads. More stops for drinks and food as we were closing in on Glasgow. A stunning 15 km cycling path built on the old railway track, and we swiftly arrived in Glasgow.

Ride time: 7 hours 30 min Total time: 11 hours 10 min Distance: 111 km Elevation: 1630 m"

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