Old, old school trail riding at its best but a purpose created modern trail centre, what a refreshing change
There was three of us, Kaiser was there waiting for me (Velo) as my Plastic pig rattled into the carpark and Clockworkgaz showed up a little later. Our bikes were an interesting mix of newish, less new and old single speed bikes. Clockwork had brought his On-one Inbred with its interesting paint splatter, explosion in an abatoir colour scheme. Kaiser had his GT Zaskaresque bike with the weld he kept checking throughout the day and its lovely big downtube dent
Then there was my 89ish Spesh Hardrock size BIG which may as well have been made of lead compared to the other two.
We had a wee chat with Rik Alsop of Riks Bike Shed, the on site bike shop about following last years SSUK route. Rik is a very helpful sound guy and his shop is stocked with goodies, Kaiser could not take his eye off the Singular Cycles 29er frame
We set off to the start of the trail where we took the obligatory first photo (all photos will be posted by Gaz and Kaiser later). Then we set off upward on narrow, steep, very rooty trail. As Gaz said, it gets your heart pumping but also your legs protesting
At the top of the first climb it became apparent that the map or more accurately the map reader (me) was useless. Thus we quickly gave up trying to follow the SSUK route and just followed the Red route. This was a good choice, the red is brilliant !
Basically you follow sections of trail between forest roads like at any trail centre. The sections were numerous and so were the roads thus you could stop frequently on roads for a blether about the section you've just done or retrobiking generally. The trail sections were usually little over a foot wide, usually well drained but unsurfaced, criss crossed with numerous tree roots, dug in or loose rocks and the occasional muddy puddle. Corners were frequent and often tight, straights rare and gradients ever changing but seldom flat. Many corners were technical and difficult especially if a descent was included.
One tight S-bend caused us to pause and attempt numerous lines through it. Gaz was the most successful but Kaiser put in the most attempts, I shamefacedly got over 3/4's through failed and did not try again
Another sharp downhill stopped us for another period of consideration, it was steep, stepped, rooty and narrow. This time Kaiser was the hero on the 3rd attempt, Gaz sort of made it on the bike and again I bottled it
Thankfully no mechanicals bar my front right brake arm coming off. Needed a bigger washer behind the bolt head, swapped it for one from the back and all was well. Gaz made me ride the next section ahead of him and Kaiser though in case of brake failure, so I did not run into them. He then claimed my brakes must have failed due to the pace I was setting and the lines I was taking. I just like to ride right on the cusp of my ability on single track, but style and line planning are not involved
Weather was generally good, as a result my legs were seen for the first time this year. Gaz felt I was overdressed at Carron Valley two weeks ago and thus now I bet he was wishing I hade remained over dressed this time
Drumlanrig for the most part felt like riding in the woods BITD which was very satisfying. You cannot daydream on the trails though, lose concentration and it reaches out and gets you, the roots require focus plus if your tall like me you need to duck from time to time as a branch or trunk skiffs your helmet. I only crashed half a dozen times, which for me wasn't bad
There is bike wash, showers/toilets, bike shop, bike museum and cafe back at the castle. Thus things back at base are quite civilised and the setting by the Castle is stunning.
I will go back but with a geared bike. I have never ridden Drumlanrig with more than one gear in the two times I've been there.