Waking with the sun around 5am, I packed up my stuff quickly and got moving for 5:30. Early starts are fine when out on the bivi, I find that waking with the sun means you feel refreshed and ready to go, almost all the time anyway.
My goal for today was Oykel Bridge, I’d heard good things about the food offering and it seemed like a nice stretching goal to aim for. No point in not being ambitious. I rode out to the start of the Loch ma Stac climb, and then pushed up towards the loch. I’ve never seen the problem with this push, it’s just annoying and a walk but not the end of the world. However, this year, it was anything but annoying. The Stooge on big tyre was frankly amazing. I was able to power through about 80% of the crossing without stopping, the big grip and bounce of the 3″ tyre helping keep me going where a narrower tyre would be slowing me down. I hit the top of the track towards the bothy, grabbed some food and started the descent.
Arriving at the bothy, I caught up with Rich and Tom Seipp, riding the HTR550 on Tom’s half term (Tom is 10). Tom is an incredibly determined biker, as is Rich, knowing Rich from both the HTR last year where we both finished, and the Puffer where Tom soloed with dad acting as chaperone. The hike a bike was proving to be an issue for them though, so they were considering dropping onto the HTR430 and missing out the ‘fun’ of the Bealach Horn. I don’t blame them, especially not with the benefit of hindsight…
Arriving in Contin with another rider, Karl, we met Alan G at the Contin Store. I’m a bit disappointed to say I’d never been there before, instead using just the garage for my food supply. The Contin Store is brilliant, selling a huge range of goodies for the discerning biker. I stocked up and pressed on for Inchbae via the fire road.
Karl soon caught me up, as I’d stopped for some clothing alterations. My £18 Tenn shorts were now chaps, after catching them on the nose of my saddle I’d torn them and then repeatedly torn them until they were practically two shreds of fabric. This was the first year that I’d decided to take wide Gorilla tape with me, I’ve got some of the three inch stuff for seating fat bike tyres, and I figured it might come in handy. Taping up my shorts to an almost acceptable level, I was able to continue. Arriving at Inchbae, I noticed it was open and looking considerably less dilapidated than last year. I had a goal of Oykel Bridge though, so pushed on towards Lubachlaggan, my stop for the night last year.
I had mentioned to other people, and possibly people had read it on this blog, that Lubachlaggan was an abandoned cottage that made for a great overnight in poor weather. Unfortunately this time it was no longer abandoned, there was a 4×4 outside and some people tending a fire outside it. Perhaps they’re doing it up for the benefit of any passing weary travellers, but more likely it’s being put to hydro use. Either way, it would be interesting to see how it turns out.
Deanich Lodge came and went, and I was soon on the road to Ullapool. Rob Waller and Phil Clarke soon passed me, an ongoing theme of faster riders overtaking me and me catching them up by riding longer or avoiding stops. I turned off onto the Oykel Bridge track, and began the descent in horrible rain and wind, but knowing fine well that food would be available to me.
I was right, the Oykel Bridge Hotel was simply a godsend for all of us. They had been watching track leaders so were prepared for our arrival every time. Three courses of filling hot food and I felt human again. A few of us left into the rains, riding into Glen Cassley to camp for the night. I found a sheltered spot in a small forest and set out my bivi and tarp. I was knackered, this had been a 17.5hr day covering another 104 miles.