Four of us assembled in the carpark once Dave arrived, late as usual
We were Dave on his modern Intense, Jamie on his modern Hardrock with more pannier racks than is sensible (Jamie is Daves pal, a tree surgeon, who sometimes gives the impression that he has had Fear Bypass Surgery), Martin another of Daves pals on his Giant hybrid which was not a sensible choice of steed and me Velo (Stephen) on my Alpine Stars ASR 320 the only retro steed present.
We set off upward and further upward and then for good measure upward some more
. After this first climb we had our first and only casualty who was Dave. He was seriously knackered, feeling ill and had breathing difficulty. So he sat down and got his fags out
He bailed out at this point and headed home and thus we were three.
Next section was again upward but also quite technical with numerous rock step ups and sometimes downs with lots of twisty bits. I admit I walked chunks of this as did Martin but Jamie powered through. Then loads of Glentress style trail with switchbacks until we hit the Quarry
This is a technical and exciting old quarry with loads of steep desents usually with three choices of route the extreme of which included a dropoff that started near vertical from the height of a two storey house
Obviously I did NOT do this choosing the easiest route down to the timber road.
Back off the road and back into twisty, rocky, rooty climbs up to another timber road before again plunging into the gloom of the forest. They love chucking rock strewn step ups or path sections in this forest trail and thus lots of wobbles and pedal dings later you eventually arrive at the edge of Minch Moor.
To short cut or not was the next question as its possible to miss out the long exposed climb to the summit of the moor. We did not shortcut because we would then miss sections of twisty bermy down hill off the summit. The climb is long but not hard and the veiw is fantastic, i really love moorland and it did not disapoint
Wee rest in the walled depression at the summit, talked usual rubbish and set the world to rights and then psyched ourselves up for the downhill.
Wow, wow, wow, yeehaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa
The way down
is twisty with a lovely loose gravel surface that allows rear end drift, some smallish drop offs, giving way to tight bermed corners and table tops, across a road, larger drop offs with chicken runs, more berms, doubles, bombholes etc and then a very long straight down hill run only about a foot wide with rocks you need to bunny hop etc which results in stupid speeds building up followed by a gut wrenching case of brake slamming before a gate onto a timber road !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Calming down a bit we rolled down the road to the next section which zig zags down a steep curved hillside. Now this section is more old school and I was well happy, very twisty, lots of trees, roots, rocks, step downs and rocky paved sections. You cannot daydream and I used Jamie as my early warning system, if he screamed I knew to try and go round what had upset him, didn't stop him trying stuff I did not. Martin brought up the rear, increasingly aware that his Giant was not a good bike for the terrain.
The trail then led onto a very steep section with inumerable rock paved sections that were unerving as the rocks became wet with the now increasing rain.
Then another timber road section and some more twisty uphill single track before a final steep downhill with numerous dropoffs most of which had chicken runs. These bypasses were however very steep obstacles in their own right and a challenge for me and Martin. The final dropoff was stupid big and so even Jamie took the chicken run. Eventally we made it back to the carpark intact.
All in all Innerleithen is a tale of two hills. The first is up, up and further up with lots of technical rock bits but it is not unrideable and would be a great way of improving your skills and fitness. The second is down, fast and furious with loads of technical stuff to keep you awake, such a big adrenalin buzz. I would however advise checking the weather forecast as wet weather would make all that polished rock extremely unpleasant to ride over.
No pictures I'm afraid but they would never do the place justice.