Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Scottish Trials

Every year for the last few years, a bunch of friends and I get together on trials bikes and muck about in the Scottish wilderness for a few days. Last weekend was our latest Scottish Trials adventure.

Autumn colors in Scotland

Mike, Ant and I started off with a wee warm-up for a few hours in a local bing quarry. At first, I was pretty wobbly and a bit hesitant about those massive hills and drop offs. Within 15 minutes I was back into it and attacking most things in third or fourth gear. Braaaaaaaap-braaaaaap!

One o'clock in the morning the night before... bike prep

We charged the big climbs fast and finessed the more technical rocks slow, we laughed, we cried (with laughter) and had a few offs. Just three mates cutting about an abandoned quarry on trials bikes, hugely entertaining - as always. After - a super-tasty meal at Mike's mum's and a few drinks in town we get a good night's rest (thanks Liz!).

Alan joined us for the next leg of the trials weekend... heading out into the wilderness. We normally do a day out in the forests, starting early and returning late. This time we loaded a few backpacks with some tents, a few bits of equipment, some food, whiskey and fuel then headed out to our camp spot for the night.

Coming up with creative ideas for a broken chain guide over a bottle of Scotch

After an hour and a half of cutting through the forest, around fields, over hills and some forestry roads, Al guided us to an ideal spot that he and Mike had discovered a few weeks earlier. We struck camp then headed out to play on the bikes until dark.

Through muddy ravines, wee burns (streams), pine needle blanketed forests, single tracks, heather covered hills and gravel roads. Every clearing used by the forestry industry becomes a playground. Huge arcs up massive embankments - challenging each other to ride higher. Jumps over piles of rocks and the classic trials route over a stack of huge concrete pipes for those with great skill (those like Al).

High up onto the windblown hill-summits where hail lashed us like being roosted on an MX track and down into the heather-covered dale . Traversing a massive hill that has just been stripped of all the trees by machines of destruction. Uber-gnarly terrain with the only passage through the huge Caterpillar tracks ripped into the earth. Even those were tough going on the little bikes. It's like being in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Eerie.

Al sizing up a stream crossing...

... made it!

Back at camp by nightfall and with a bit of coaxing we get a good fire going with wet wood. Chunks of beef roasted like marshmallows and the tastiest lamb-steak burgers washed down with Laphroaig. Warming by the fire, drying wet socks, gloves and jackets. Smoke in eyes, chatting, more whiskey, laughing, snoozing and just chilling. Drunken midnight rides through the forest with a few get-offs onto the soft, wet pine matress. Laughter and more laughter.

Hazy, uncomfortable sleep. Damn, the ground is bloody cold without a proper ground-mat. My motocross trousers providing some relief from the cold despite the uncomfortable armor panels and buckles. After a few hours we stir from the clear, warm night to the sound of rain on the tents. The trees provide good cover though and we get the fire going again for breakfast. We're parched.

Sausages - flat and square (a Scottish thing) as well as traditional long and round ones. Scrumptious! We pack, get back on the bikes with lighter backpacks and emerge from the forest to driving rain. It only lasts an hour as we go to play again. We find an old disused forestry road and have races down it. Inevitably I crash, hard. Twice! Sprain my wrist but it's a lot funnier than painful.

Luchtime snack and it's another hour's weary trek back to the van. Soon we're back at Al's - knackered. We unpack the gear, clean the bikes, help stack some logs and have an afternoon fry-up finished off with some fantastic lemon-drizzle cake and chocolate muffin made by Al's good wife (thank you Sam!). Late afternoon farewells then Mike, Ant and I are heading back down to London.

I am in my bed after midnight absolutely cream-crackered. I sleep. Another fantastic Scottish Trials with friends and memories to cherish. It was awesome. Thanks guys!

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