Speed equals distance/time…
The idea is to meet in a specified place on Saturday morning, with your bike and just enough stuff to bivvy for the night. You won’t know where you’re going next until you get to the checkpoint. If you arrive early to the checkpoints you get sent the long way and if you’re running behind you get told about the shortcuts. The ride isn’t timed and isn’t a race, but obviously most riders will compare distances and times at the end of the first day – the second day is a much more relaxed ride back to the beginning…
50 of us turned up to Colvend for the first ever running of The Distance, which with the forecast weather was actually a pretty big turnout – but the event is aimed at people that like being out in the sticks in all weathers and personally I don’t mind a bit of Scottish drizzle, we’re not made of sugar after all. Immediately upon leaving the village we were onto prime FC gravel roads (or fireroad as we called it before everyone got over excitable about “Gravel”). These trails would take us through the first of the 7stanes trail centres – a great network of mountain bike trails in the south of Scotland and well worth a trip.
The first checkpoint was 44km into the ride which was now well broken up – Kirkcudbright was the last chance to stock up on water and have a coffee before heading out into the hills. We headed out in much smaller groups now on the tiny backroads and farmtracks – my legs were nicely warmed up now, it was still a bit foggy, but I loved the riding and the adventure of not knowing what was coming next. After the fireroads of Laurieston Forest we went through a marshal point and my GPS threw its toys out of the pram. Luckily I’d caught the pair of riders that were leading the event and cheekily stuck with them whist it was sorting itself out. It failed for about 5km and if I’d been on my own I’d have had real trouble so I’m really thankful to the guys for letting me tag on.
The next bit of moorland would test anyone’s rig but my massive mountain bike tyres took the soggy bogs and streams in their stride – I was really thankful for having swapped to the 650b carbon Reynolds wheels at the last moment as they weren’t much slower on the tarmac, but made everything so easy off-road. Flying down to the next checkpoint, to pick up the next map was ace and then we got stuck into the 3rd of the five sections.
Along the banks of the Clatteringshaws Loch and up to Loch Dee I was now in the lead, but I couldn’t resist taking some photos too before descending into Glentrool for a couple of killer climbs back to the road. None of us knew but the overnight camp was really close to the last checkpoint and not that far away from the current one which we were now at, but we were being sent on loop after loop of the local hills and valleys – it’s amazing how much wild land can be explored in a relatively small space.
From Newton Stewart I headed out on my own now for the first of the last two loops and the last bit of proper wilderness. The fireroads above Kirroughtree made for a great end to the day and again we really got into the middle of nowhere – now the sun was out too so the final few descents were ace and I even managed to squeeze in a cheeky section of the red trail that brought me back down to the final checkpoint. Now the final section would beast up a couple of insanely steep access roads before plunging down the final section of blue trail to Kirroughtree trail centre for the overnight.
Recovery Gin in hand and freshly showered it was hard to see this as proper bikepacking, but in reality having toured all over the world if you can have a bit of luxury you almost always take it, so I wasn’t complaining! It was great sitting around the fire in the evening chatting to everyone about their own rides and experiences from the day. I’d covered 165km in 9.5 hours whilst my girlfriend who was bikepacking for the first time had done only a small distance less in just a while longer having also had map/GPS issues – but the best thing was that she’d really enjoyed it and at the same time learnt that you don’t need to panic, you’re never that far away from being back on track and she’ll take that new found confidence with her next time. It’s a great event for first timers and racers alike, as it’s so well organised and hopefully the event goes from strength to strength. I’ve met friends that I genuinely want to ride with again and properly tested my new bike!
Video by Kinesis, photos by Pannier CC and Glen Whittington.
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races mountain bikes, road bikes, TT and ‘cross at local and national level. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, Scott Sports, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany. Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and non-cyclists, based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – firstname.lastname@example.org. He also contributes to Simpson Mag @eightbikeco #aeightracer