Photo Story: Rab Wardell's Lung Busting West Highland Way Record Breaker

Dec 6, 2020
by Cut Media  

You might have seen Rab Wardell's latest film earlier this week. As it shows, The West Highland Way is a 95 mile, 10,000 ft plus trail full of changing and diverse terrain.

In this photo epic, Rab talks us through the highs and lows alongside these stunning photos from Brodie Hood.

bigquotesMy history with West Highland Way goes back over 13 years ago, and I first rode the whole route from start to finish in 2011 setting the fastest known time (I don't actually know anyone who had ridden the complete route before me...). It's been 6 years since I last rode an XC World Cup, but over the pre-pandemic winter, I started to get back in shape in my Pain Cave. I felt ready to go fast again this year, and with all of my racing options postponed I set my sights on regaining the FKT on the West Highland Way. Rab Wardell

bigquotesTo be in with a chance of setting a hot lap of the West Highland Way you need to start early and think about which day of the week you ride. The route is walked by hundreds, maybe even thousands of walkers each week, so you need to be smart about when you ride to avoid traffic and be respectful of your 'Right to Roam'. Rab Wardell

bigquotesThe first half of the route is characterised by Conic Hill and Loch Lomond. These iconic landmarks provide the goods in the shape of flowing singletrack, gnarly descents and punishing climbs. It's not all fun and games as the 10km lochside hike-a-bike section north of Inversnaid on Loch Lomond is physically, technically, and mentally challenging. Rab Wardell

bigquotesThe spirit of the West Highland Way FKT is different from most other FKT's, as the previous fastest times have been set with support crews. I had my parents supporting, as well as two of my best friends James Wright and James 'Jimmy Mac' McCallum on hand. Jimmy Mac has had a prestigious cycling career on the road and track, and he and I go way back to the 2006 Scotland Team in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. I was the youngest rider in the cycling team and Jimmy took me under his wing. 14 years later I still call him 'Uncle Jimmy', and it was a no-brainer to have him along for the ride. Rab Wardell

bigquotesThe final descent into Glen Nevis is a flat out sprint and speed tuck down a fast gravel road. It makes me think back to when I was a teenager, watching old-school downhill racing videos of the Kamikaze Downhill on Mammoth Mountain in California. I was grateful for my skinsuit and aero helmet too! Rab Wardell

bigquotesWhat I hope is that doing this ride again inspires people to challenge themselves. It doesn’t have to be the West Highland Way, but I hope people can discover that setting a goal, making a plan for success, and executing the plan to smash an achievement is really satisfying. I know that my time on the West Highland Way can be beaten, and I genuinely look forward to seeing how riders go about trying to do it. Maybe we should organise a race?”. Rab Wardell

To learn more about The West Highland Way, you can watch Rab's film here, visit the official website here.

MENTIONS: @rabwardell / @santacruz /

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  • 13 0
 The secret to going so fast is presumably the midgies... can't slow down or they'll eat you alive
  • 4 0
 I was wondering how he would approach the north Loch Lomond section, if I remember rightly there is even a route for walkers to bypass it! It's a bit of a slog with just a rucksack so kudos for taking a bike along there!
  • 1 0
 Yeah when we biked the WHW years ago we 'cheated' and hopped the ferry across from Rowardennan just before that section, rode up the tarmac on the west coast! Big Grin
  • 5 0
 Great effort, well done.
As with all these challenges.... yer aaf yer heed min. Smile
  • 3 0
 Absolutely epic. Hiking the WHW was one of the greatest things I've ever done.. Have to go back one day.
  • 1 0
 Excellent ride, Rab! Just curious - what were your normalized power and TSS for the effort (knowing that NP must be considerably higher as it was off road)?
  • 2 0
 424 TSS and 234 watts NP. There will be a more detailed blog on the Wardell Cycle Coaching website coming soon ????????
  • 2 0
 @RabWardell: Good effort Rab, 424 TSS off-road in 9hrs sounds pretty rough! The real question is, any idea how many gates you opened along the route? At that pace I can imagine sections of the WHW probably felt like you were opening a gate every 20 seconds!
  • 1 0
 @beardedbrambler: There are definitely a few! I didn't think it was too bad though to be honest.
  • 1 0
 Have you posted the ride on Strava ? Im interested in doing it next year and would love to download it to a map so I can daydream the winter away.
  • 1 0
 Great video the other day Rab. No way I could manage it, but next time I'm back I may at least try a section of it all.
  • 1 0
 Looks like a sufferfest. How many days would one have to do it in in order to enjoy the riding?
  • 2 0
 Komoot says 3-5 days and 3-5 hours per day
  • 1 0
 Was he only using the remote lockout for his fork?
  • 7 0
 Unfortunately yes. Not what was planned. It turned out to be impossible to source the correct shock with remote set up with covid interference, even for Rockshox! However, sometimes you just gotta get on with it!
  • 1 0
 very impressive, made me feel like to take my XC for a spin
  • 1 0
 Ahhh December in the Highlands looks lovely...
  • 1 0
 Awesome! Spectacular scenery.
  • 1 0
 Photo epic... video... link to commemorative t-shirts?
  • 1 1
 Two for a pound down The Barras this Saturday!
  • 1 0
 +1 please organise a race...
  • 1 0
 Looks tough
  • 1 3
 Sooooo...152km in 9hours and just 1L of water??
  • 2 0
 Did you watch the film?

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