Mark Beaumont's Dirty Reiver


 

WHEN I FINISHED PEDALLING AROUND THE PLANET THE SECOND TIME, HAVING COVERED HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF MILES OVER A FEW DECADES OF RIDING, THE CONCEPT OF GRAVEL WAS STILL A MYSTERY TO ME. THAT STRANGE IDEA OF TAKING A ROAD BIKE MOUNTAIN BIKING! BUT NOW, JUST A FEW YEARS ON AND I AM UTTERLY CONVERTED, AND SPEND FAR MORE TIME ON MY DROP HANDLEBAR BIKE WHICH HAS TUBELESS WIDER TYRES AND BIG FRAME CLEARANCE. 

ONE OF MY FAVOURITE BIG RIDES OF RECENT MONTHS WAS ON THE 127KM (80 MILE) DIRTY REIVER SCOTTISH REGIONAL, WHICH WAS THE COVID REACTION TO THE EPIC 200KM DIRTY REIVER IN THE FORESTS OF KIELDER BEING CANCELLED. INSTEAD, THE ORGANISERS SET 8 ROUTES ACROSS BRITAIN AND ENCOURAGED GRAVEL RIDERS TO TAKE THEM ON AT ANY POINT DURING THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER.

HERE’S MY ROUTE ;  HTTPS://WWW.KOMOOT.COM/TOUR/265824011

ON THE ROAD I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED THE LOOP AROUND LOCH KATERINE, WITH ITS PADDLE STEAMER AND CLOSED ROAD, PICTURE POSTCARD BEAUTIFUL AND SAFE. AND THE FAMOUS DUKE’S PASS IS AN ICONIC SCOTTISH CLIMB FOR CYCLISTS, NOT TO MENTION THE CONVERTED RAILWAY UP TO LOCHEARN, PART OF THE FAMOUS ROB ROY TRAIL. BUT I HAVE NEVER JOINED UP THIS AREA BY TRAILS, AND IT HAS OPENED MY EYES TO THE MAGIC OF THE TROSSACHS, THIS AMAZING ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND RIGHT IN THE HEART OF SCOTLAND.

THIS TOUR ON THE EDGE OF THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS IS A LONG, CHALLENGING ADVENTURE THAT WILL KEEP YOU ON THE ROAD FOR A WHOLE DAY. BUT IT CAN EASILY BE BROKEN UP INTO SMALLER RIDES. THE ‘SOUTHERN LOOP’, WHICH IS ALMOST 33 KILOMETRES (20.5 MILES) LONG, TAKES YOU FROM THE VILLAGE OF ABERFOYLE THROUGH THE TRAFFIC-FREE QUEEN ELIZABETH FOREST PARK AND ONTO THE SHORES OF LOCH ARD. NORTH OF ABERFOYLE, YOU THEN JOIN UP NO LESS THAN SIX LOCHS, EACH BEAUTIFUL IN ITS OWN RIGHT, BUT MY FAVOURITE BEING THE TRAILS ALONG THE SOUTH SHORE OF LOCH VENACHAR. FROM THE ROAD, YOU DON’T CATCH MANY GLIMPSES OF THE WATER, BUT YOU CAN EXPECT WIDE VIEWS FROM THE REMOTE GRAVEL PATHS. THE CYCLE PATH DUE NORTH TO LOCHEARN IS AN EASY, GRADUAL CLIMB AND GIVES NOTHING AWAY OF THE GNARLY AND REMOTE SECTION AS YOU LOOP SOUTH TO CALLANDER AND BACK ALONG THE THREE LOCHS WAY.

MY ALTURA VORTEX LUGGAGE ALLOWED ME TO CARRY ALL THE KIT NEEDED FOR A BIG DAY ON THE BIKE, WITH THE SCOTTISH REIVER PROVING A SUPERB TESTING GROUND. STARTING FROM FREEZING EARLY MORNING CONDITIONS, THROUGH TO A WARM AUTUMN DAY, BEING ABLE TO EASILY CARRY ALL THE FOOD AND LAYERS NEEDED FOR THE DAY ATTACHED TO THE BIKE REALLY HELPED IN STAYING FUELED AND COMFORTABLE ON SUCH A WET, MUDDY AND CHALLENGING DAY OF RIDING.  

I COMPLETED THIS ROUTE WITH A PHOTOGRAPHER FRIEND ON AN E-MOUNTAIN BIKE, AND IT WAS AT THIS POINT WITH 20KM TO GO THAT HIS BATTERY RAN DEAD! IT IS A TOUGH AND REMOTE STRETCH TO BE LEFT PEDALING A DEAD E-BIKE, SO IT WAS A GLEEFUL FINAL DESCENT WHEN WE REACHED IT, AND A VERY WELL-DESERVED FISH SUPPER BACK IN ABERFOYLE TO CELEBRATE A LONG DAY ON THE BIKES.