What to wear on your mountain biking adventure in Scotland

“No such thing as bad weather…” What to wear on your mountain biking adventure in Scotland

Mountain biking is a great way to get into remote and amazing places, to see things that few others will ever experience. With each new innovation to bikes and equipment we are able to climb higher and ride harder than we ever thought possible. With this comes an increased amount of time in the elements and a need to understand and protect yourself to maximise the amount of fun you have while riding, be that on your local trails or an epic adventure deep in the mountains of Scotland.

One question often asked by riders coming to Scotland is “what do I wear?”

We are blessed with having four very distinct seasons in bonnie Scotland, however they have been know to occur all in one day! Whether you’re joining us on for an advanced adventure like the coast-to-coast or Torridon + Skye, or are new to mountain biking and looking for some gear tips, here are a few pointers on how to make sure your adventure is memorable for all the right reasons.

1. Layer up
You don’t have to look like you’re about to embark on an Everest expedition from the front door of your accommodation, but understanding how to get the most from your layers is the difference between a great backcountry experience and coming back a shivering, wet mess!

  • Base layer – this is the closest to your skin, and should have some insulating properties pulling sweat away from the skin keeping you warm and dry. Wool or synthetic materials work well but avoid cotton as this holds moisture and quickly loses its ability to retain warmth
  • Mid layer – whilst mountaineers would normally use fleece this can be too warm for more dynamic mountain bikers, even a simple technical jersey can be enough to trap a thin layer of air that warms up and keeps you toasty! However a heavier weight fleece or jersey in your rucksack is always a good idea when the conditions get more ‘character building’
  • Insulation layer – this could be a down jacket or heavier fleece, we often forego this layer in summer conditions but worth having in your suitcase on standby
  • Outershell – hardshell or softshell this breathable and highly waterproof layer is essential for mountain biking in Scotland. Even when the sun is splitting the sky I never leave without a good hardshell in my rucksack

2. Gloves
Full fingered essential! Some people love how half fingered gloves feel, personally I prefer the feeling of my fingertips being intact! You’re going to be riding over all kinds of surfaces, especially rock. As much as gloves keep you warm and help to grip the bars, they are there for protection and your fingertips won’t thank you if you become temporarily detached from the bike and you have forgotten about them!

3. Shorts
Lycra is great as an under layer but put a sturdier layer between you and the many bushes and rocks you will encounter on your adventure. Plus it looks much more acceptable when you stop in the cake shop after a ride!

4. Socks
When you’re mountain biking in Scotland your feet will get wet. Embrace it. All the best shoes, plastic bags and rolls of cling film won’t stop that, but a well fitting technical sock means your feet will be warm and wet instead of cold and blistered! Dry your socks after a ride, but during, have fun and aim for the puddles with no fear!

5. Shoes
If you’re on flat pedals make sure you have a good sole on your shoes, SPD shoes on flat pedals don’t match up well. If you’re riding with SPDs think about the kind of mountain biking you will be doing. If the itinerary for your Scotland adventure mentions ‘hike-a-bike’ your new, fancy, lightweight “disco slippers” made from a recycled space shuttle might be best swapped out for a good mountain SPD shoe with a sturdy sole.

There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes! – and that doesn’t just apply to mountain biking in Scotland; it’s equally important in any mountainous region, like Slovenia, the Yukon, Mexico, Nepal and New Zealand.

Thanks to our guide Chris Gibbs for his words of wisdom on what to wear on your mountain biking adventure in Scotland

Photo diary: biking Torridon + Skye Scotland

On our most recent Torridon + Skye mountain biking adventure we had an amazing group of people from the US, Germany, Switzerland and France, including a journalist and photographer from outdoormind.de, who all braved the ‘interesting’ Highland weather to ride some of the most technical (and our favourite) trails in Scotland.

Whilst all of our adventures are hand-crafted to the highest quality, each individual tour is different – different characters, different weather conditions, different laughs and crashes – and here are a few photos capturing the unique story of this group of intrepid Torridon + Skye adventurers.

If German is one of your languages you can also read the full account of this Highland adventure on the outdoormind website or just watch their video – no additional language skill required!

[Photo copyright P. Aubert de la Ruee/ outdoormind.de]

Mountain biking Skye + Torridon: in pictures

Our mountain biking adventure on the beautiful west coast of Scotland – Fort William, Torridon, Skye and many places in between – is our most technically advanced tour, but for all your efforts you’re rewarded with epic mountain trails, sensational views, fabulous local food and drink, welcoming Highland accommodation, and a great group of people with whom to share the whole experience.

Long hike-a-bikes, ancient woodland, stubborn wildlife, iconic castles, glorious sunsets and high-tech weather forecasting systems… all part and parcel of a week’s mountain biking around Torridon and Skye, Scotland!

Thanks to Jonathan for documenting the experience so well in these tremendous photos!

Join us next year to experience the adventure of mountain biking Skye, Torridon and the rugged west coast of Scotland with H+I Adventures!

Mountain biking in Torridon and Skye with Haglöfs

Mountain biking in Torridon and Skye, Scotland. By Bruce Duncan of Haglöfs

Grey winds whip around us as we stand in the supermarket car park, shopping list in hand, to buy enough supplies to last eight people for five days. Top of the list is enough beer and whisky to last us the week!

I was part of the advance party for a week-long mountain biking foray into the Torridon and Skye mountains situated in the northwest coast of Scotland and had joined, Euan Wilson, guide and owner of H&I Adventures, to help set up a base camp in a traditional cottage situated smack bang in the middle of these two fantastic landscapes.

Haglöfs had designed a new range of mountain biking clothing and we wanted to expose the equipment to an array of challenging environments and riding styles. We’d enlisted H&I Adventures to host our riders and product designers from Sweden.

As we drive west from Inverness, the weather is improving from overcast and windy to a calm and sunny 22 degrees. Things are looking up. Once we arrive at the cottage we set about furnishing the cupboards and fridge with food, before settling down to a map, beer and open-fire evening:The Planning. I awake in the small hours of the morning to hear talking, but not English − the rest of the team have made it!

After breakfast, Euan gathers us around the kitchen table to discuss the day ahead. The words ‘epic’, ‘challenging’ and ‘spicy’ are being tossed around the table like rubbish on a windy day. Nobody knows what he means by ‘spicy’, but we set off nonetheless following our fearless leader into the Torridon hills.

Shortly after our first climb to a 650m pass, the ‘epic’ part of this tour starts to unfold. The views are akin to full-blown 3,000m alpine scenes, but we are only 650m up on a Scottish mountain side! A ribbon of pristine singletrack weaves its way out in front of us and disappears out of sight, teasing us with the unknown. We chase after it to find it delivers us right back down to sea level.

In eight hours we tackle singletrack technical climbs, four snakebite punctures, hike-a-bike sections and two 8km descents – Euan is certainly delivering the ‘challenging’ part of the tour.

Day two starts on a similar vein, but with the added bonus of riding the best descent in the country in to the Torridon valley!

As ever, we have to work hard for our descents, but it’s always worth it. Scotland is not like any other riding that I have done. In the Alps, you can climb for a couple of hours and then enjoy an hour-long descent. Scotland, on the other hand, is ‘undulating’: short sharp climbs and technical descents. It offers. a new way of riding and being able to conserve energy for later in the day is crucial.

By late afternoon, we are deep in the Torridon mountains surrounded by kilometre-high grey mountains, beams of sunlight shooting through the clouds like laser beams, as the clouds race across the sky. As if that wasn’t dramatic enough, Euan turns to us and announces: “saddles down, suspension on downhill mode, and buckle up, things are about to get ‘spicy’ around here!” We race down drops, over drainage bars, and big rocks, and loose rocks, and cobbled sections.

A truly awesome, technical, fast-flowing descent, the likes of which I have never seen before. I have to employ every trick and skill in the book to make it down in one piece!

That night, we relive the day’s excitement over a glass of whisky.

On day three, we head to the Isle of Skye for some fun and frolicking. We pass by Broadford and Portree on our way to the far north of the island, passing the imposing Lord of The Rings-style landscape of the Quiraing. Once there, we set about a 320m road climb, a mountain biker’s dream… or not! As soon as we reach the top of the climb, we peel off the trail and wrestle our way along a ribbon of perfect singletrack that cuts its way along the cliff edge.

We have to negotiate technical terrain while keeping an eye on the 45 degree slope to our right, that falls 150m to the sea below. Euan’s words, “Fall to the left if you fall!” are ringing in my ears all the way along. We enjoy an extended lunch and sunbathing session beneath a bluebird sunny sky, the light winds keeping the midges at bay. Then negotiate a rocky descent down to the beach below, where we find a dinosaur footprint hidden amongst the seaweed.

We return to the van tired and sore, but with a healthy glow from our day in the Scottish sun. The following day we sail back to Skye and set off along an old quartz mine railway track. It slowly gains altitude and opens up with views over the Cuillin Ridge that cuts through the centre of the island and is world famous for its impressive skyline. It’s the only Munro that requires ropes to summit and is the perfect winter training ground for climbers heading out to the Alps or other far-flung climbing destinations.

At the top, the nature of the descent becomes apparent: a grassy trail weaves its way through old abandoned homes – that have lain empty for nearly 200 years – and out onto a rocky beach bejeweled with fossils! They’re hard to find: we turn over a million rocks with no luck, so head along the coastline to pick up our trail. It hugs the lower flanks of an impressive sea cliff, before dishing out a couple of gold-star climbs. Even Euan, our intrepid guide, walks some of the route.

Throughout the ride (and indeed all this week) we haven’t seen another human being. That is, until we round the corner to find the Blue Shed Café serving a selection of coffees to put a London coffee merchant to shame and some rather spectacular home baking to help replace calories lost on today’s ride.

The day of our final adventure together dawns. As we mount our steeds for the final time, Euan explains that a part of this ride has been washed out over the past winter, but not to worry. It is a circular loop near the banks of Loch Maree that starts off with a very challenging climb up a steep dirt road, but he assures us we’ll be rewarded with one of the best views in the Highlands at the top.

For about an hour we pick our way along a fantastic singletrack before we hit the washed-out section. We see Euan skipping around rocks and over drops, but we choose to take the safe option and walk.

Once the trail picks up again it is hard to keep our eyes on the track due to the stunning views over Loch Maree and beyond it to the Torridon Valley. When we arrive back at the van it is high-fives, man hugs and ‘congratulations’ all round. We celebrate with a feast of smoked salmon, venison and Orkney fudge cheesecake, while watching the sun setting out west over the Isle of Skye.

It has been an eventful week with plenty of ups and down, literally, and we raise our beers and make a toast to ‘spicy, epic’ Scotland!

Hans Rey, Steve Peat and Danny MacAskill Scotland video!

Here is our long awaited video featuring Steve Peat, Hans Rey and Danny MacAskill on our mountain bike holiday on the Isle of Skye and in the dominating mountains of Torridon.  After watching the video you can book you trip!

If you’d like to follow in Danny MacAskill, Steve Peat and Hans Rey’s footsteps then find out more and book your adventure Torridon + Skye adventure here.