When most people think of road tripping Scotland, epic vistas, endless singletrack and mighty Munro's are flavours of the month. Rightly so; Scotland has an abundance of terrain that going to get lost in seems appealing, but behind the lochs, mountains and summits, there is a burgeoning scene of riders building lines that until now, or at least on the same scale, have not existed in Scotland.
The Descent World x Bergamont Crew blurs the line between race team and a bunch of mates on bikes - We like both, so we do both.
With that in mind, we loaded up the vans, added some mates into the mix and decided to take on the British National Championships at Glencoe, followed by visiting old friends on the other side of the country - The North East Scottish Scene.
Skinny Mick has never ridden abroad, or much in Scotland and at 32 years young this was an experience he was chomping to get stuck into - including taking on his first DH race in six years.
Mick is actually a race winner but has never had the opportunity to race that much, and with James Purvis unable to join us on this trip, Mick took the chance to get the Vittoria 2.5 DH tyres onto the Straitline at the infamous and serenely brutal Glencoe Black run. A baptism of fire no doubt, but an exciting one at the very least. Glencoe may be short at just over 2 and a quarter minutes long, but as Mick found out, it is possible to cause a lot of damage to bike and body in those 140 seconds. After testing his Geiordie chassis against the Highland Rock, Mick decided to sit out the race and rest up for our post-race trip - which we had planned would include Torridon at first - but the weather settled that debate for us.
Louise has just returned from a 3-week odyssey in Colorado (video soon) riding flowing singletrack on her Encore trail bike so was feeling the effects of jet lag, FOMO at missing Colorado and getting used to the brutal Scottish rocks as opposes to the joys of freewheeling at 6000ft. After living up to her reputation as a faffer, and drinking tea all day on Saturday , she was a bit rusty on the DH bike after 3 months off it, but still sent the jumps with some usual panache.
Skinny Mick getting into the Nac of it.
Ronan is a boss.
Neither rider had fared particularly well at the race, but guest star "Wor Jackie", former Olympic BMX program rider Jack Hall was there to keep our spirits high and enforce that excuses would not be tolerated! ha! Jackie was a real glue of the trip, his constant wit and banter firstly confusing us, then making us laugh, then becoming hysterical as the trip went on.
First, we had a stopover at Louise's house in Fort William, where we were all super impressed by the huge poster of the now sadly past David Klassenvanorschot on the wall in full retro Intense DH gear. Respect the past, look to the future. Brownie points for old-school knowledge!
With a wet weekend over, some bruises added to the collection, we turned to the part we were looking forward to the most - hitting the warmer climes of the North Sea and meeting up with Tommy's old mate Ronan Taylor - trail builder, awesome rider and fulcrum of the North East scene. Many will have seen snippets on social media feeds of global MTB superstars of The trails Ronan and the North East crew build.
They are big, and not to be underestimated. After seeking permission to film here again after our trip last year when riding the Great Glen Way with a twist, we were stoked to get the go-ahead so we could document insane levels of fun and commitment.
Deep Summer winner, Rider, filmer, photographer, logistics man, cleaner upper and one armed bandit Tommy Wilkinson might be technically disabled due to a brachial plexus injury 5 years ago, but his fashion sense is still more dubious than all above!
Trail builder extraordinaire, top Scottish DH and Enduro rider, coach, nice guy and glue of the Eastern scene, Ronan Taylor.
We sessionned for two days solid, including hitting the Velo Solutions pump track in Inverness and the progression levels were insane - Mick re-learning no-handers and Nac Nacs, Louise cleaning the whole line, bar one final jump and coming oh so close to landing her first backflip on a dirt double. The casual way in which she approached this left us all a bit gobsmacked - Louise is possibly the quietest, most polite person you'll ever meet but put her on a bike, and things get rowdy! If ever you hear her utter the words "I might backflip that double today" over breakfast, then hold onto your hats.
After some gin-infused nights, great camp tales recited by Skinny Mick of his life on" the hill" in his bike shop (Westgate road, Newcastle), "The hand" demanding no media was recorded of him and the insane manual skills of unknown rider at the pump track we left very happy and amazed at what Northern Scotland has to offer. The road from Fort William to Inverness is littered with gems and we were stoked to have ridden them.
We salute the trail builders of North East Scotland and look forward to coming back and putting our backs into some sculpting and shaping.
Jack Hall was an Olympic BMX hopeful, on the Elite Britsh Cycling program. He's not ridden for a few years, but pump track masters should look out......he's funny, fast and mad as a hatter.
32 years young, and re-learning the suicide no hander. Skinny Mick loves bikes like no one we've ever met before.