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West Highland Isles: Cinder Athlete Meet West Highland Isles: Cinder Athlete Meet
2023-05-25 14:36:00

In celebration of the launch of our new range of Cinder cycling apparel, we organised a cycling trip for our new team of athletes. Dedicated to pushing their limits off the beaten track, our athletes share our values of making a positive impact on their two-wheeled adventures to the furthest corners of the globe.

The trip took place during the week of the spring equinox and saw the team gathering from various parts of the country and overseas to explore the Western Highlands of Scotland.

Over a precious handful of days carved out of the busy schedules of six athletes, our team rode through some of the region's iconic locations, tackling challenging terrain and bonding over their shared love for cycling.

The trip included a range of experiences, including foraging for seafood, spending the night in a bothy-style accommodation, and reflecting on their trips in the medium of watercolour.

Overall, the trip provided an exciting opportunity for the Cinder team to connect, ride together, and share plans and ambitions for the future. Fueled by a love of cycling, and wrapped in the comfort of their new Cinder kit, it is safe to say the trip was a success.

Here’s Rupert’s Story

In the week of the spring equinox and in the run-up to the weekend of clocks going forward to British Summer Time, the team of Cinder athletes came together in the Western Highlands. The route map for a few days' riding was to journey via some of the region's rough stuff and iconic locations while sharing conversation and pedaling together for the first time.

We gathered from all corners of the compass with a rendezvous at the Kings House bunkhouse under the late winter hues of yellow, brown, and green of the Highland landscape.

The following morning, we jumped straight onto the West Highland Way with a no-nonsense hike-a-bike start up the Devil's Staircase over the top and down into Kinlochleven. At the summit, the cloud level danced above our heads, and we were lucky to enjoy some extended views before focusing on descending the trail ahead into the glen below.

A quick hop aboard the Corran ferry was the waypoint to access the West Highland peninsulas as our route continued west before turning north for a night stopover. A hearty lunch stop in Strontian before a late afternoon ride up and over into the east side of Loch Shiel, with the radio masts providing a guiding beacon for the climb over.

We descended down into Polloch, the road faded out, and the gravel opened up. As we worked our way up the lochside, with the trail darting back and forth from the water's edge, we pushed on as a darkening and menacing sky drew in. The gravel was ours except for the herd of red deer grazing at the water's edge.

As we approached the top of the loch, the Glenfinnan Viaduct slowly emerged from the increasingly gloomy shadow of darkness. Our resting place for the night was nestled just beyond the arches.

A bothy-style haute cuisine filled hungry stomachs, and the warmth of an open fire kept conversation alive into the late evening, as well as the After Eight challenge. The gentle pitter-patter of rain soothed and settled tired bodies as we all laid our heads down for the night.

While packing up the bikes the next morning, the landowner enthusiastically arrived at the door and shared the story of the land and his vision for the future of forestry in the glen.

A welcome insight to enrich the riding experience and the story of the land we were passing through. By this point in the trip, we’d picked up a couple more team members en-route, providing new references to conversation and riding buddies.

The focal point of the day was a foraged seafood lunch under the experienced guidance of Wildwood Bushcraft on the shores of Loch Ailort. Under the guidance of Leon, our foraging expert, we took advantage of the low equinox spring tide in search amongst the pebbles and rocks for clams, seaweed, and limpets. Tasty seafood bites were matched with seaweed flatbread and a nettle tea brew.

After rolling into Glenuig to spend the night, pens and paint came out for a sketch club session to recount a moment from the day. Splashing pen and paint across paper, most of us dived deep to rekindle childhood skills of play to create fridge sized vignettes.

We woke the next morning to horizontal rain and closed ferry crossings on the route ahead. Plan B was taken, and we looped back towards Corran ferry, skirting sea lochs and sailing on the wind, with the gale kindly assisting us in turning the pedals.

The change of plan meant we headed south towards Oban, riding The Caledonia Way, a beautifully accessible route enabled by Sustrans. Along this route, we passed by nature reserves with wildlife reintroduction projects and encountered some majestic trees at Sutherland's Grove. As we made our way into Connel for the night, we were treated to a stunning sunset.

A bright start marked the beginning of our final day, and we rode up Loch Elive on empty rising and falling gravel tracks. Turning inland, we began to pass through Glen Kinglass. As the elevation gradually increased, the double track and smooth gravel gave way to nature's cobbles and sheets of granite slab.

As we approached an intersection of glens, the water made its presence known, and we were faced with the challenge of hopping, jumping, and wading to continue on the trail. As the clouds broke, we were rewarded with glimpses of snowy peaks and a beautiful rainbow display when we reached a high point for the day.

A gentle 25km descent awaited us into Bridge of Orchy, where we had time to reflect on the signs of spring nourishing the landscape once again. The warmth of the sun began to dry the tyre marks we had left, reminding us of the harmonious relationship between nature and our cycling adventures.

Introducing the team

Gail Brown

Gail has a lifelong love of traveling on two wheels, which has manifested into a passion for ultracycling. Ultracycling allows her to embody her love of exploration and adventure. @g.h.brown

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Vedangi Kulkarni

Vedangi is an adventure-loving individual with a ‘soft spot’ for bikes, which translates into round-the-world cycles and ultra-endurance events. @wheelsandwords

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Hetty Kingston

Hetty is fueled by her passion to enact change by harnessing the strong communities that underpin the outdoor activities we all enjoy, to tackle issues such as climate change and diversity. @hettykingston

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Rupert Barry

Rupert has a passion for storytelling and the environment, which aligns with our own values, making him a non-negotiable member of our athlete team. @rupertbarry

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Tomás Montes

Tomás is a talented photographer and writer, and a passionate advocate for cycling. His work is a testament to his love for both. @arrieredupeloton

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Meet our global athlete team

If you would like to learn more about our team of athletes, you can do so by clicking on the athlete profiles above. In addition to the athletes who attended this trip, we have a handful of other athletes on our Cinder team. This includes Natt Williams, Leonardo Brazil, and Lyne Bessette. Visit their athlete profiles to find out more or visit our Athlete page to learn about our team of global athletes.

Tackle your first trail

From learning how to get started, what kit to pack, and bikepacking loadout recommendations. Our guides have you covered, so you can ride off into the distance in confidence as you embark on this wonderful method of exploration and adventure.  

Check out our bikepacking guides below 

Bikepacking Frame Setups

Packing Essentials For Bikepacking

The Ultimate Guide to Bikepacking

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Words by | Rupert Barry

Words & images by | Athlete Name

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