Saturday, June 2, 2018

Sunart Wildcat Rally 2018


We’ve been going to Sunart Camping for a good few years now, becoming friends with Tim and Lynn who own and run the site. When I started my wee tour company, Passing Places Tours I was keen on putting a bike rally on at some point. For those of you who don’t know, a rally is basically just where a bunch of folk meet up and speak about bikes. Some bigger rallies have bands and stuff too. I’d spoken with Tim about putting on an event at his site, he was keen and suggested we do it for charity so the Sunart Wildcat Rally was born. We chose the name because the area around Strontian is a Scottish Wildcat sanctuary. We also chose the Scottish Charity Air Ambulance as our supported charity.

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The rally was to be a one night event on a Saturday, with some people heading up on the Friday or staying on to the Sunday. Everyone that attended the rally got a t shirt and we had an optional ride out to Ardnamuchan Licghthouse on the Saturday afternoon before Tim cooking everyone a big barbecue on the Saturday evening, when we would have our charity raffle.

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A group of us headed up on the Friday with the rally t shirts and raffle prizes divided up among the bikes. My usual route up seems popular, taking a spin through Glen Devon and over Glen Quaich to Loch Tay, it’s a great alternative to the busy A84. At Loch Tay we headed up Glen Lyon and over some really nice wee single track roads before joining the A82 at Killin and heading up to the Corran ferry via Glencoe. There were already quite a few folk at Sunart Camping who had opted to come up a night early and make the most of the weekend. It was good craic on the Friday night, with the majority of folk heading to the pub for food and a few drinks.


Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally

Saturday was rally day. I had organised a ride out to Ardnamurchan Lighthouse at half two, to give folk coming up on the Saturday some time to arrive. Some folk done their own thing, going for a ride over to Mull or exploring the Ardnamurchan peninsula. The run to the Lighthouse was well attended. Scenically, it's stunning but the road is a narrow single track, often with wee patches of gravel here and there. It's was some people's first experience of our Scottish single track roads and I think some folk found it challenging, especially the guys on the sportier bikes. Everyone did seem to enjoy the run, grabbing a snack or a drink at the cafĂ© and having a look around the Ardnamurchan Lighthouse and taking in the views across to the small isle of Rum, Eigg, Canna and Muck, and over towards Skye and Knoydart.
Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally, Strontian.
Sunart Wildcat Rally, Strontian.


Everyone made it back to the campsite safely where we discovered we'd dodged some hail stones! We'd had sun for the whole run but poor Snake, who was stuck at the campsite with a broken down Honda Cub, had to find shelter, he said it had been really heavy! That evening we had a our barbecue and raffle. Lynn from Sunart camping had painted a picture of a Scottish Wildcat, so we had a separate raffle for that as well as an auction for a weekend in Strontian including mountain bike hire and a guided canoe trip. I had been given some great prizes for the main raffle and some of the folks attending the rally had very generously donated some really good prizes. Tim done really well on the barbecue and with everyone fed and the beer flowing the laughs carried on into the night.


Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally, Strontian.
Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally, Strontian.

The following day most folk headed home. I stayed up with a few of the guys and had a nice spin up the Roshven and Lochailort road. Paul, who had ridden up from Watford also changed his plans and stayed an extra night, heading for a ride around Mull and nearly missing the ferry back!


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Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally
Sunart Wildcat Rally



All in, it was a great weekend. We raised an amazing £1730 for the Scottish Charity Air Ambulance.

I'd like to give a special thanks to the following folk.

Motorrad Central, who donated Dirty Demo off road experience www.motorradcentral.com

Scottoiler, who donated one of their excellent chain oiler systems. www.scottoiler.com

Visorcat, who donated a visor cleaner. www.visorcat.com

Customized Choppers, who donated some bike related accessories. customizedchoppers.com

Winton Brewery, who donated some beer. www.wintonbrewery.com

The Strontian Hotel, for making sure everyone was fed and watered on the Friday and Sunday night.
www.thestrontianhotel.co.uk

And of course, Tim and Lynn at Sunart Camping. It was a pleasure sorting out the rally with you guys. www.sunartcamping.co.uk

If anyone is interested in touring Scotland with me, give my website a look. there's about to be a big announcement for some new tours and trips! http://passingplacestours.com/

Sunart Wildcat Rally, Strontian.

Same time next year?


Mike

Friday, May 4, 2018

Wild Camping....

Up the hills with Gange

Up the hills with Gange




"I'm going to have to come in with you."





It's the last thing you want to hear. Rewind a few hours to when Aidan and I set off. Infact, rewind a few days. Aidan and I had been cutting about the place on the bikes, looking for spots in the Borders for a wild camping trip. There were plenty good options, but some map inspection came up with a destination on the banks of a nice loch to the north. We could have got there in a couple of hours easily, but I'd come up with a scenic route on the wee roads. Four hours later at about 6 pm I'm confronted with

"Ahhhhhhhh...... 

I'm going to have to come in with you"

Aidan stood with a blank look on his face. I could tell exactly what had happened. The arsehole had went and forgotten his fucking tent poles. 

"How the fuck?? How the fuck do you manage to come on a camping trip with no tent poles???"

I frantically wracked my brains for a solution. We can go to Tim's in Strontian, he'll have a cabin, it's only 3 hours away! We can make tent poles out of sticks! We will use your flysheet to make a shelter! Eventually I succumbed. I'd have to share my peaceful tent with Aidan's farts and snores. 
Still, the weather was great. We'd had an amazing run up through Glen Devon, through the Sma' Glen and over the Glen Quaich road where we cut off at Loch Tay. The scenery was as good as it can ever get in Scotland with the snow on the hills providing great contrast to the spring colours. Our camping spot was stunning. We'd picked up some coal in the shop but there was still loads of fallen wood close by to keep the fire pit alight well into the night. 

Wild camping with that halfwit Aidan.
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Wild camping with that halfwit Aidan.
Wild camping with that halfwit Aidan.
What sort of ringpiece forgets their tent poles? This kind.

With the fire lit, a meal and a few beers all tent pole calamity was forgotten about. It was a clearish sky, so I attempted some night photography between setting the world to rights as you do round a campfire.

Wild camping with that halfwit Aidan.
Wild camping with that halfwit Aidan.
Wild camping with that halfwit Aidan.
Wild camping with that halfwit Aidan.
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The Horror.




Despite having to share my tent with Aidan it was a good night. A great breakfast was provided by the Bredalbane Bakery in Aberfeldy before an easy run home back over Glen Quaich. A braw wee break before the very successful Sunart Wildcat Rally the following weekend.
But more on that soon.

Wild camping with that halfwit Aidan.

Mike. 





Saturday, April 14, 2018

The start of the season....

Winter stuff and trials bike
For many folk here in Scotland April marks the start of "the season" where many folk tax their bikes and drag them out the shed for the year ahead. I can all ready hear the Real Bikers scoffing.
"The season?? You soft bastard Mike! I ride all year round!"
Before I sold the ZZR I would use it for the occasional winter's ride, but I don't really enjoy riding on shite covered roads or getting soaking wet and, despite me devoting a fair bit of time towards the activity, I don't really like washing bikes much either. Here in Scotland the roads are covered in a salty grit in the winter to combat the icy conditions. When wet this forms quite an effective solution for turning nice bikes into rusty piles of shit. Commuters aside, this results two biking camps. Camp 1. The "fuck it, keep riding, enjoy your bike, life's too short" riders. Then there's Camp 2. "My bike's more precious that life itself, its gleaming, I'm keeping it good for my planned bike trips, salts for chips and the sea" bunch. I, or rather, my Africa Twin, is firmly wrapped up in Camp 2, and even when I had the ZZR, I only really had the brochure for Camp 1, venturing out on the nicer days and giving the bike a proper clean after each run..
Winter stuff and trials bike
Winter stuff and trials bike
Winter stuff and trials bike
Winter stuff and trials bike
Winter stuff and trials bike
Winter stuff and trials bike
Winter stuff and trials bike
This winter we had a couple of big dumps of snow named the "Beast From the East" by the panic stricken media. I got the trials bike out for a play which was fun, but hardly scratched the itch that a bike trip relieves. When the snow was away its was still cold, but sunny and dry. I was green with envy when I seen my mate Barry Richardson's photos pop up on Facebook. He'd taken his GS a spin up to Applecross for the night. Heated grips set to volcanic and plenty thermal base layers under his bike gear he took to the salt covered roads. The sunny days and newly re opened Bealach Na Ba made for some awesome photographs.
photo by Barry Richardson
Photo by Barry Richardson
photo by Barry Richardson
Photo by Barry Richardson
photo by Barry Richardson
Photo by Barry Richardson

I'm lucky enough to be in the situation of having more than one bike. I'd sold the ZZR to make room for a couple of projects, but they'll will hopefully be finished and sold soon. I'd still rather keep the Africa Twin in good condition so another second bike is on the cards. Something to keep the miles off the Honda that I could use for winter trips. I'm thinking along the lines of a Transalp, but I'm open to suggestions.
Anyway, the weather has finally changed for the better, and more and more bikes have got back on the road, just in time too. It would seem there was virtual cabin fever brewing on various online forums, Camp 1, sick of being cooped up. Camp 2, fed up riding through shite. Handbags flying, toys getting chucked out prams and dummies being spat while complete strangers lose the plot because another new biker has asked the best way to get to Stelvio or if they need a breathalyser for France. I even fell foul to it myself after one to many people called the Bealach Na Ba the "Apple cross pass".

Samye Ling run on the Africa Twin

Road name, french breathalyser and European speed limit arguments were throw to the back of my mind then blew away in the wind as I accelerated over the Lammies and down to the Borders on a great run to Samye Ling with Other Mike and Faithir. It's easy to take the great scenery and roads around the area where you live for granted. Some people get caught in the loop of doing the same run on popular roads to popular stops every weekend, a circle I often find myself in. I try and make the effort to at least head somewhere a wee bit different every now and then.
Samye Ling run on the Africa Twin
Samye Ling run on the Africa Twin
Samye Ling run on the Africa Twin
Samye Ling run on the Africa Twin
Samye Ling run on the Africa Twin
Samye Ling run on the Africa Twin
Samye Ling run on the Africa Twin

The weekend after Samye Ling I headed off for a solo run. The a different route down the Borders was planned, but unfortunately and I found a stricken V Strom at the bottom of Soutra. Davie had got a puncture. I never had any plugs, but I did have a can of tyre weld at home. Being the good Samaritan that I am, I nipped home and grabbed it. Unfortunately the hole in Davie's tyre was far to big for the tyre weld to work. He called the RAC and I headed for a wee blast down to Gala for fuel then back over the hill from Stow to Lauder.

Spin soon the borders.
Spin soon the borders.

HB and I had an evening Spin up the hills and down the coast for a chippy in Dunbar which was great for testing the Hyperpro springs I'd fitted. The borders was the destination for another Saturday spin, this time Smillie, Faithir and I headed down to Newcastleton on some of the wee roads, a great run with roads to mach some of the best up north.
Up the hills with Carina.
Doon the borders.
Doon the borders.
Doon the borders.
Doon the borders.

So another weekend is looming. There's talks of a camping trip but which way should we go? I'm thinking north, but we'll wait and see.

Mike.

Winter stuff and trials bike