In two weeks time, I will be somewhere in the far North of Scotland, it will be dark, no doubt I will be tired, cold and hungry. I will be 8 hours in to one of the toughest Mountain Bike Races on the planet. Theres another 16 hours until the finish line. I have one of the darkest and longest nights of my life in front of me.
On the 26th January, I will be just outside a wee town in Scotland called Strathpeffer, it’s 280 miles north of Newcastle. I’m journeying to this distant place, which sits further north than Moscow, for the legendary 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race, The Strathpuffer. The only 24 hour winter mountain bike race in the world. And if you have never ventured to the Scottish Highlands in winter, they can be fierce, wild and hostile. Over the last 7 years that the event has been running, the weather has thrown down everything from non-stop rain to heavy snow and ice, with temperatures well below zero. The only consistent thing has been the 17 hours of total darkness.
I must be mad…?
The Strathpuffer started in 2005 as a one off local race, but has developed into a national event with its legendary status. It follows the traditional 24 hour mountain bike format with laps of a 7 mile course. It starts at 10:00am on the Saturday morning and you must be on your last lap before 10:00am Sunday morning, finishing by 11:00am. You compete either as a team of four, a pair or solo.
So with two weeks to go, the hotels are booked, the dates in the diary are marked out in red ink and support crew have been briefed. Small packets keep arriving on the doormat, containing essential spares, brake pads, chains, mechs, gear cables and sprockets. An assortment of parts, which hopefully won’t be needed, but most likely will. Warm riding clothes are heaped up in the corner, washed waiting to be covered in mud, snow or whatever the weather will throw at us. Slowly as each day brings it closer, an obsession with the long-range forecast is developing… I’m trying to put off buying expensive ice spikes, but no doubt if I don’t I will need them.
My spare bike, has been built, test ridden and is just needing minor adjustments. The remaining days have been broken down for testing, riding, and cleaning bikes, kit, body and van.
Oh, did I say I was riding solo? Or that this is my first ever 24 hour event…?
I must be mad, but there’s no backing out now.