New Year Ride 2014

SMBC Meeting Point at the Distillery

Some us managed to get ourselves organised for a ride on the 2nd day of the new year. Meeting as usual under the copper grouse (this is becoming a habit but we resisted the desire to have a chaser) we were a diverse bunch on a range of bikes from solid steel to highly sprung. Cameron came dressed for a summers day ride and we were variuosly suffering from hogmany. so a gentle tootle was agreed. Colin sped off to fix his brake lever, but decided against it and caught us up at Laggan Hill. WE then managed a good hack up Torlum and over to Auchingarroch, by which time we were suitably done-in. At least it was not like last year!

Roll on the summer.

about to head to auchingarroch


Happy and slightly knackered

A Wet Weekender

Three Go Wild in the West by Ewan Tavendale

What a blast!, with a climb of 420 metres already behind us, a strong tail wind pushes us down 6 km of continuous gentle descent towards some “superb” single track and the prospect of tackling the Ciaran Path (MBR’s Trail of the year 2009). However, It wasn’t all like this, and it was a grey and uninspiring evening when we left Crieff for the SMBC’s latest weekend field trip, with the forecast showing a day of rain for our destination – Kinlochleven, just to the north of Glencoe. This was a slight change of plan, as the original idea was to visit various Borders trail centres,  but it did turn out to be, dare I say, rather more epic.

Ewan Tavendale and the lost path. PHOTO Colin McPhail

As only a few folks could get away for the weekend, Colin had the bright idea of tackling something a bit different… “a little bit more more challenging” – A 42km cross country loop that would start at  Kinlochleven, take in Loch Eilde Mor, Loch Eilde Beag, a river crossing, Loch Treig,  a superb? section of singletrack through Glen Lolairean, and finally, the (in)famously technical descent down the Ciaran path, that starts at the Blackwater reservoir and which would return us to Kinlochleven. So, just a wee run in the country, with the option to return to the campsite in Glencoe via the Devils staircase.

That was the plan anyway!

Colin and I travelled up together on Friday evening and met Andy (Greaves) at the Red Squirrel campsite in Glencoe. We pitched our tents (still no rain luckily at this stage) and then adjourned  to the Clachaig to fine tune our route and check out what local ales were available. Having passed our first challenge –navigating back from the pub using only the light from our mobile phones, we retired for the night.

The morning brought more greyness, but at least we managed to have our breakfast before the rain started. We set out just after nine, and the first fairly gentle 12 km on the road took us from the campsite in Glencoe to the turnoff  for the Mamore Lodge hotel on the other side of Kinlochleven. This is where the effort really started, with a climb from sea level up to 420 meters, first on a single track road before hitting the land rover track which would take us up to Loch Eilde Mor.

Just before we reached the Loch, there was the option to turn south and head round Meall na Duibhe, this being the “normal” path to the Blackwater reservoir and the head of the Ciaran Path. However we were made of sterner stuff! So we continued heading east into the wilderness.
Here the track levelled out before descending gently along the sides of Loch Eilde Mor and then Loch Eilde Beag. This was the high point of our day, as a strong tail wind pushed us along the trail, heading North East along the length of both Lochs. After about 6km of wind assisted blasting, the track turned to the North and after another gentle climb we reached Luibeilt, and our next challenge, crossing the Abhairn Rath. The river level would dictate the rest of our route, and if we couldn’t cross, it would mean going back the way we came.

High above Blackwater Resevoir and into wild land. PHOTO: Colin McPhail

However, Andy showed the way and waded through the thigh deep water without incident (we were already soaked by this stage so it wasn’t going to make much difference!), while Colin and I looked for somewhere more shallow. In the end we just plunged in further downstream and it was only a foot or so deep. Once across the river we tried to find the path East which was distinctly absent, so seeing some walkers outside the bothy at Meannanach in the distance, we decided to go and ask them if they had come in that way.  It turned out that they had, but their opinion was that “you won’t be able to cycle along there” for at least the next 3 or 4 km or so.  Determined to prove them wrong, we pushed on (literally) as the next section followed the river course and turned out to be very boggy, with round bottomed drainage ditches every 20 or 30 metres or so. However, we did try to bike the firmer patches, and much hilarity was had attempting to cross some of the shallower ditches, resulting in some not so elegant dismounts and bikes up to their axles in bog. After about 2km of push, jump, squelch and repeat, the track did eventually improve and we carried on past some of the best scenery of our journey, with some spectacular waterfalls and gorges in this part of the river.

The track continued to improve (well sort of) and we passed another bothy at Staoineag before heading north east to Creaguaineach lodge at the south end of Loch Treig. Here we stopped for a breather and to take in another spectacular view. As the water level was extremely low, the landscape looked distinctly alien, with large expanses of gravel exposed all around the Loch. It must have been at least 20 or 30 metres below its normal level. Having got our breath back, we crossed the bridge to the south of the lodge, having  to walk our bikes across, as it was a wee bit slippy, rotten in places, and there were no barriers to stop us plunging into the water below. Once safely across, it was back on the bikes and we headed east along the south side of the loch and towards the halfway point of our journey.

Now according to Colin (or rather Kenny Wilson’s book) the next stage, Glen Lolairean was where we should expect some “superb” singletrack. Well to come straight to the point, we’re still looking for it! We pushed our way up the Glen following a vague path, and having consulted my satnav (and some teenagers doing their DoE), we headed further south and found the proper path. This didn’t improve however and we pushed on uphill for the best part of 5 Km into a strong headwind. Eventually, after what seemed an eternity, the path turned downhill and became rideable, but by this stage the rain was dinging down, so we took a very welcome break at the Bothy at Loch Chiaran. At this stage we figured we were about two thirds round our loop and that all we had left to do was descend to the Blackwater dam and then head on downhill to Kinlochleven… Easy!

OK, so it wasn’t quite easy downhill all the way, the path to the dam was basically an almost continuous stream, and if we weren’t wet before, we certainly were by the time we reached the dam. If you haven’t seen it, this is quite impressive and was built at the start of the last century to power the Aluminium smelter at Kinlochleven.  The Ciaran path starts at the north end of the dam, but by this stage we were beginning to feel somewhat jaded (knackered), and we quickly reached the conclusion that we weren’t really feeling up to a “highly technical descent featuring TV size boulders”.

Instead, we opted to take what was supposed to be the easy option, crossing the dam and descending via the land rover track to Kinlochleven. This wasn’t all easy going however, and we were frustrated (at least Colin and I were!), by some more uphill sections on the return to Kinlochleven. (I still don’t know if Andy noticed us taking shortcuts along the square pipe that carries the water from the dam!). However, we were eventually rewarded by the track turning downhill, and we finished our off road adventure with an exhilarating blast from about 300 meters all the way down to sea level over the last few km, coming out at Kinlochleven at the old smelter. After an excellent meal in Kinlochleven (by this stage anything would have tasted great!), we felt considerably better and the return journey to Glencoe seemed so much easier than what we’d already endured. 

Not much of a path but at least this bit is cyclable. PHOTO: Colin McPhail

In conclusion, while it was an epic day out, I wouldn’t want to tackle that particular route again, However, I would like to go back and try the Ciaran path via the normal route…. anyone interested?

As Andy had to return to Crieff on Saturday night, Colin and I headed across to Aviemore on Sunday and had a much easier day, taking in a bike show and exploring some of the singletrack above Badaguish outdoor centre. Not quite as epic as Saturday, but certainly worth a return visit for further exploration.

SMBC Wolftrax Family & Junior Trip

Kevin Howett

Its been a while since anything was posted on the blog, but thats not to say that nothing is happening! Simply work and holidays have got in the way. So here is a catch-up on a club trip back in June…

At the top of the Green ready for a blast back to the cafe

The forecast was awful, but quite a few folk were keen to get out, so some of the adults joined forces with Gordon’s Junior coaching day and decided on a trip to Laggan Wolftrax. The Comrie Croft van was unavailable but Jamie Landsdale came to the rescue with a 4X4 and trailer and soon we had a convoy. Since any of us visited Laggan, the great cafe has closed and there is also now no uplift! Luckily there is an almost in-situ ‘burger van’ (The BillyCan) where we were able to shelter from the rain with hot drinks and butties.

Sheltering at the BillyCan

Our luck was in, and soon the drizzle stopped and we were treated to a surprisingly good afternoon, hitting the green trail for the younger kids and as a warm-up for the younger whippits! The Lower Red trail got a hammering by all and the bike park even more so – even Ayrs Rock saw some descents despite the wet conditions (see the video below). All in all it was a great day.

The weather cleared up enough to go for the Red, but the winds were still too strong for the upper red trail

Ayrs Rock:

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Thanks must go to Jamie whose transport made the trip possible.

There will be another Full Club Meet sometime in August, when we hope to take a weekend to visit some of the 7 Stanes Trail Centers, so look out on the Forum for details.

SMBC Junior Coaching

For 3 Sunday’s a month the club holds a junior coaching session. Delivered by club member Gordon Grant, with occiasonal help from others. These morning sessions usually start at 10am and visit a variety of locations around Crieff including the Knock, Comrie Croft Trails and of course the Bike Park. The emphasis is on building technique and confidence for cross country and all levels are catered for – its not just for the seasoned bikers!

A couple of weeks ago there was a session on jumping and taking to the air – held at the Bike Park and recently Gordon had a more unusual trip on the hill above Comrie Croft. Gordon takes up the story:

“We went on a mtb journey up the hill and let the boys have a bit of an adventure. Once on the top we abandoned the bikes and climbed over and under fallen trees to get into the hidden abandoned slate quarry with its 20 metre walls and little pond of ground water. We then continued the cycle to the deer pasture field where Jamie the land owner explained how the animals were managed. There were two different herds that were intemingeling and we were really close up to them.

SMBC Junior Coaching

SMBC Junior Coaching with a difference

Bike skills were not mentioned at all on this session, but it was great to see them descend confidently back to the farm. One of the lads, Roddy, had a real breakthrough moment tackling some steep slopes that he previously balked at, by shifting his weight over the back tyre and keeping his chin up to find the line.”

If your son or daughter would like to take part, please contact Gordon through the Club email, or post on the Forum, or if all that fails contact our secretary – Colin McPhail.

SMBC Bike & BBQ & Beer was in the sun!

Report by Kevin

The club hosted an evening of biking and al fresco dinning at Comrie Croft last Tuesday as part of the Highland Perthshire Cycling Festival. The sun god took pity on us and the rains parted during the morning to produce a superb, clear, although somewhat chilly, evening. Burgers and sausages were abandoned to the BBQ, whilst a good number of the adults and the kids went round the red route. There were a few ‘moments’ on the Croft’s very own mini-moab (see the vid!) and a few of the kids were atempting the red for the first time – good effort by all. We returned to the Croft and enjoyed a good meal of perfectly q’d meat and free beer from the club. Many thanks to everyone who came along and to the chefs for a quite different Tuesday evening ride. When is the next one?

A brief rest at the watersplash

 Here are a couple of videos from the evening:

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SMBC Easter Ride and Cakes

Report by Kevin 13.04.12

Easter Sunday saw 27 riders gather at the Laggan Car Park in Comrie for our first ever Easter Meet (with cake!). We had ageing members of the club, some of the young XC whippits, a family down from Killin for the day, and a few ‘tourists’ visiting from London. Billed as an ‘all abilities’ meet we followed Colin on a great little singletrack circuit around Dalginros along the Water of Ruchil and by Muirend and back to the cars. With some of the younger children being no more than 7 years old, this was quite a challenge – the path was rooty and close to the river edge, but everyone managed it well, only Digby had to pull out with a spectacular tyre blow-out that sounded like a bomb going off.  A second, harder circuit for those who wanted more, followed tracks in the woods behind The Milton and Fordie and down singletrack in Laggan Wood to see us all back to the Comrie Croft buss. Here Colin brewed up teas and coffees and we all stuffed ourselves with the multitude of cakes that everyone had brought along.

The day was a great sucess and obviously cake is the way forward!

Meeting at Laggan Car Park and delvering cakes to the van

The all-abilities meet meant catering for a wide range of bikes and ages

Everyone takes a breather at The Water of Ruchil

Thanks to Comrie Croft for use of the van

A few of use returned to Comrie Croft later in the afternoon to get to grips with more raking on the Bike Park: several hours later a berm was looking more or less finished!

SMBC New Years Ride 2012

Monday 2nd January 2012 report from Kevin

New Years day was Sunday and no-one felt like moving, but come the Monday a call went up and 9 keen members met at The Famous Grouse Distillery in what can only be described as fowl weather. Deep snow from the days before decided against heading up to Turret, but it had started melting fast down low. Digby blazed the trail from Currochs Farm up deep mud and snow and over Laggan Hill. Despite this, and driving rain, concensus saw us heading to Torlum, where it all turned simply to horizontal snow. Adam peeled off to be late for a family doo, whilst the rest of us braved it over Barr Dubh towards Auchingarrich. By then the cold was to much for most of us and an escape to the Glascorrie road and home followed. I gained a lift home, via the car wash, for the bike and myself: on hot wash of course. We should have stayed at the Grouse!

Looking quite happy before setting off into thick mud and snow.

SMBC Laggan Trip

October 2011 Laggan trip report by Kevin

Colin managed to get use of the big bus for a day and with a couple of additional cars a group of oldies and young guns headed off to Laggan Wolftrax. The younger lads spent a bit of time on the free-ride and managed to get stuck into using the Bergmonch, getting considerable ‘air’ on the lower tabletops. The hardman crew led by Digby and Colin went off round the black trail, whilst the rest of us did laps of the red in varying states of puff and mechanical interludes.

SMBC at Laggan


There is always someone who gets a puncture!