Rigs of the 2023 Highland Trail 550 (HT550)
Known for its technical terrain, stunning landscapes, and unforgiving weather, the Highland Trail 550 is a long-distance, self-supported bikepacking race through the legendary Scottish Highlands that packs in a staggering 52,000+ feet of climbing. Find details on more than 35 riders and rigs that will be tackling the 550-mile 2023 Highland Trail 550 here…
The Highland Trail explores 550 miles of the Scottish Highlands’ most rugged and remote terrain. The route features world-class singletrack and dirt roads with stunning views throughout, but riders must put in some serious effort to reap the rewards. Participants are certain to encounter technical terrain, hike-a-bikes, river crossings, and fickle Scottish weather. The 2023 Highland Trail 550 kicks off on Saturday, May 27th, at 9 a.m. local time, starting and ending at the small village of Tyndrum. More than 60 riders are registered for the event, including some familiar names like Andrew and Katie Strempke, James Hayden, Kurt Refsnider, Josh Ibbett, Annie Le, Sofiane Sehili, and Angus Young. As always, we’re predicting an exciting race for riders and dot watchers alike.
Again this year, we’ve worked with organizer Alan Goldsmith to gather rider and rig details for more than half of the folks who will be out tackling the route. Scroll through for a good look at all 35 rigs, and then head over to the 2023 Highland Trail 550 event page to follow along live when they roll out on Saturday morning.
Age 46 / Abriachan (Scotland)
BIKE: Trek Procaliber 9.7 (2022) XL. Minor variations on the stock build: 28T chainring, YBN chain, Stages left crank power meter, 13cm dropper post, OneUp carbon handlebar, Deity Supracush grips, ISM PN 4.0 saddle, Innerbarends, Mudhugger FRX. 2.35″ Schwalbe tyres: Racing Ralph rear (with Panzer insert for water bar encounters), Rocket Ron front. And, perhaps controversially, Deda tri bars. I’ve often experienced higher relative wind speeds MTBing in the Scottish mountains than I have road biking. Plus, they’re good for varying the position.
BAGS: Restrap Race top tube bag. Custom-made Alpikit Stingray frame bag. Tailfin rack with dry bag strapped on. Nathan Pinnacle 12L race vest.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’ve erred towards comfort vs. weight on the sleep setup to make the most of what little there may be. Outdoor Research Helium Bivy (proven midge net), Therm-a-Rest NeoAir UberLite (full length), Cumulus X-Lite 200, wee Exped inflatable pillow, eye mask, and ear plugs. Garmin Fenix 6X Pro watch for nav. In an effort to avoid trench foot and cankles: La Sportiva Mutant hill running shoes, calf compression socks, TED stockings to wear at night, spare socks, wet wipes.
Age 51 / Cumbria (United Kingdom)
BIKE: I’m aiming to complete the HT550 on a 2022 Cotic Cascade with a 100mm Rock Shox Reba fork. It’s running SRAM Rival using a Ratio Technology cage to allow an 11-51T cassette out back with a 32T chainring. Braking is via Hope RX4+ calipers. Wheels are Hunt Trail Wides with Wolfpack 2.4″ Trail/Race tyres. There’s a Brooks C15 saddle atop a KS Zeta dropper, and handlebars are Ritchey Beacon XL with Redshift Cruise Control grips.
BAGS: There’s an “MYOG” frame bag with matching top tube bag, and stem packs (those made using the BIKEPACKING.com tutorial). Out back there’s a Restrap Saddle bag, and a drj0n bagworks Double Trouble Triple with dry bag out front. I have bottle cages mounted on the forks using Tailfin SFMs.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’m taking a Six Moons Design Gatewood Cape with Serenity NetTent inner for shelter, and Klymit Interia Ozone sleeping pad and Snugpak Softie 3 sleeping bag to get some rest. I’ll use an Etrex 32 with Talkytoaster maps installed, plus a Wahoo Elemnt as a backup for nav, and to help see them with my aging eyes, my recent discovery of voltX Bifocal reading safety glasses come highly recommended!
Age 37 / Wiltshire (United Kingdom)
BIKE: I’ll be riding the Mason RAW with HUNT All Mountain Carbon H_Impact wheels and 2.4″ Maxxis Ardent tyres.
BAGS: A bespoke Restrap frame bag for extra food-carrying capacity. Plus Restrap race saddle bag and bar bag. I’ll also be using an Albion snacks vest which will hold a bladder too.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: A super comfy Sea to Summit mat, sticky inflatable pillow, and Spark 2 bag. Albion Zoa rain jacket. Exposure Toro and joystick lights. Garmin eTrex for navigation and probably some sunscreen!
Age 37 / Trim, Co Meath (Ireland)
BIKE: 2020 Santa Cruz Carbon Chameleon. Roval Control SL Wheels. Rockshox SID Raceday Forks. Shimano XTR Brakes and Drivetrain. Rotor Kapic Cranks. Specialized Fast Trak and Ground Control GRID protection tyres.
BAGS: Revelate Designs Medium Frame Bag, Restrap 8 liter Saddle Pack, Altura Bar Bag, EVOC Top Tube Bag. These are bags I have collected over the years, and although mis-matched, they work for my setup.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: A Trekmates Storm Bivvy that is like a mini tent. I went for a light yet functional setup, so I don’t get caught out there! I will also be running a 1.5L Hydration pack for fluids and water filter to free up the frame bag. There’s plenty of water out there, so the water filter will save me lugging more weight around. Garmin ETrex 32X for navigation with a spare Wahoo Roam for backup. Exposure lights to light up the night!
Age 34 / Hamme (Belgium)
BIKE: I will be walking, carrying, and hopefully riding my Chiru Divider. This time, I’ll be running a 120mm Rockshox Sid Ultimate tuned with a RLC-damper. Wheels are Hunt Proven carbon XC-race setup tubeless with Cushcore inserts and Vittoria Syerra 2.4″ tyres. SRAM AXS 12-speed gearing 34T front and 10-52T rear. Crankbrothers Highline dropper to make the downhills more fun and mostly getting on and off the bike easier.
BAGS: Tailfin Aeropack plus their 1.5L toptube and 1.7L downtube. Food pouches are Revelate designs. Race vest is the Osprey Duro 6L, mainly for food and quick access to smaller items.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Battery lights are Lupine Wilma, one on the handlebars with remote and one for the helmet. Sea to summit Spark 2 sleeping bag and pad. Navigating with an eTrex 30x and Edge 1040 Solar.
Age 31 / Liege (Belgium)
BIKE: Cannondale Scalpel SE. It will be a FOX 34SC instead of the usual Lefty because of the Dynamo SON hub. Erase wheels (Hub produced in Belgium) with Maxxis IKON 2.2 and liners. SRAM X01 EAGLE 34-10/52. Shimano XTR brakes with Galfer discs and pads. Fizik Argo 3D adaptative saddle with BikeYoke Divine SL dropper seatpost.
BAGS: Full Tailfin bags kit.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Outdoor Research helium bivy, Term-a-Rest Uberlite and Cumulus X-Lite as sleeping system. Klite dynamo and Lupine Piko lights.
Age 52 / Dunfermline, Fife (Scotland)
BIKE: I’ll be riding a steel Jones plus LWB, which has been round twice before, so it should be fine. I don’t know about me, though. It’s a singlespeed (32/21) and sporting Middleburn cranks, Hope hubs, light bicycle carbon rims, Bontrager XR2 tyres 29+, Shimano XT pedals and SLX brakes, Jones carbon loop bars, WTB speed seat, KS dropper post. Mudhugger rear guard, Muckynutz front.
BAGS: Revelate sweet roll, gas tank for tools, Jerrycan for odds and ends, custom Wildcat gear frame bag, and Wildcat Gear Tiger Harness with a 9L dry bag under the seat.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: DCF flat tarp, carbon pole and pegs, Borah bivvy, full-length mat, Cumulus 150 quilt. To keep the weather out, I’ll take a Paramo Velez smock (heavy but waterproof and warm, essential in the Highlands), Berghaus goretex overtrousers and Montane gaiters, neoprene over gloves. On my feet will be a pair of Lake MXZ200 boots which are warm, waterproof, and give good support for mountain walking, of which there is a lot! I’ve kept my feet dry on all three of my successful completions, and I aim to again this time. Final clothing choices will depend on temps. Hoping the frosts of late and cool temps next week will mean no midges! Nav will be via my memory backed up by a Garmin Dakota. Frame bag will carry water and food. No stove this year as I aim to hit all the resupply points when they are open.
Age 45 / Aberdeenshire (Scotland)
BIKE: I’ll be riding the Highland Trail 550 on my Titanium Sonder Broken Road built with SRAM GX Eagle 12-speed gear set, Rockshox Reba 100mm front shock, and 29″ Sonder Alpha Dynamo wheelset with Goodyear Peak tubeless tyres, which are 2.4″ wide. I’ll also be using the Sonder Confucius handlebar for extra mounting points and a Rockshox Reverb Dropper. I’ve taken a little tube clamp along with other tools and spares as I slightly fear air spring dropper failure with the heavy seat pack.
BAGS: Main Frame bag is a custom Alpkit Stingry. Saddlebag is the Ortlieb 13L QR which has a handy bungee on top where I keep a spare drybag for overspill or easy access gear. Top tube has a little Rockbros bag for tools and spares and a Specialized bag full of electronics. Upfront I’ve bodged an old worse for wear Specialized harness to the Confucius Bars keeping a Dry Bag securely in place with all sleep kit. Finally, I’ll snack while pedaling from Spokwerks feedbags.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Always have my OMM Primaloft Rotor Smock for quick warmth. Will keep devices powered up with Anker Battery Pack and Garmin Edge Powerpack. Navigating with Garmin Edge 830. Sleep kit will be Sea to Summit Spark II Sleeping Bag and Ultralight Insulated mat, paired with Rab silk liner. Also, hugely grateful for the loan of the lovely Nordisk Telemark 1 LW Tent from 2017 Female HT550 finisher LG.
Age 21 / Pontardawe, Swansea (Wales)
BIKE: I’ll be using my Merida Nintey-Six 8000 full sus on the Highland Trail this year. I’ll be running a mix of SRAM Eagle AXS and NX components featuring a 34T chainring and 10-50T cassette. I’ll be using Shimano XT brakes with a 180mm rotor up front and 160mm rear. I’ll be rolling on Hutchinson Krakens in the hardskin option. These will be fitted to Reynolds wheels. I’ll also be running a dropper post.
BAGS: I’m lucky enough to be supported by Tailfin, so I’ll be running a full Tailfin setup. This consists of a 1.5L flip top, top tube bag, the 3L down tube bag, and the Aeropack on the rear. For HT550, I’ve swapped out the carbon arch for a 3/4 size alloy arch. This means the bag is lower to the wheel and therefore gives me more use of my dropper post.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’ll be using an Outdoor Research Helium bivvy, Exposure lights, Garmin head until, and two battery packs.
Age 49 / Tweed Valley (Scotland)
BIKE: I’ll be riding my Pipedream Cycles Sirius steel hardtail with a DT Swiss F232 fork. I’m running a 29er Hunt Trailwide wheelset with Vittoria Barzo 2.25″ front and Mezcal 2.1″ rear tyres and Vittoria air insert. Shimano SLX 11-speed (11-46/32T) 165mm cranks, XT brakes. Cockpit details are SQlab handlebar, Funn stem 40mm, Spirgrips inner bars ends, Ergon GA3 grips. Time MX6 pedals.
BAGS: I’ll be using a Tailfin aeropack and Poca Bags custom frame bag and top tube bag. Wildcat Gear front handlebar harness paired with Wildcat Gear drybag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Therm-a-Rest Neoair XTherm mat, Therm-a-Rest Corus 20 sleeping quilt, a ridiculously tiny Vango Neon F10 tent. Merino layers, 7Mesh slab shorts, simply the best! Rab PrimaLoft jacket, Endura gel mitts, Endura singletrack gloves. Wahoo Elemnt Roam bike computer, Exposure Six Pack front light. Anker powerbank x2. Garmin Inreach Mini. Exposure toro light.
Age 30 / Nomad (United Kingdom)
BIKE: I’ll be riding the Highland Trail 550 on my Sonder Broken Road Ti, featuring SRAM 1×12 and a 34T chainring, rolling on Vittoria Barzo 2.25″ upon a Stayer Adventurer wheelset with SON Dynamo. Rigid.
BAGS: Apidura up front with the Expedition Accessory Pocket, Backcountry Handlebar bag, and Top Tube Pack. Likely the Ortlieb frame pack, with Tailfin Aeropack at the rear. Salomon ADV Skin vest for extra stuffing space and water.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Alpkit Soloist for shelter with Sea to Summit Spark SPII bag and Exped SynMat HL Winter mat to complete my sleep setup. Garmin InReach for tracking and backup navigation. Gloves for all weathers.
Age 30 / London, ON (Canada) now in UK
BIKE: I’ll be riding the HT550 on a custom hardtail from Stayer Cycles. It’s a 29er MTB with a short travel DT Swiss suspension fork. I’ve got a dynamo hub up front with a Sinewave Beacon light and charger.
BAGS: Full Restrap baggage, a mix of their race line and traditional line.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’ll be relying on the Aplkit Soloist tent, which I’ve been using for a long time and love. I’ll also be relying heavily on a high capacity Petzel NAO RL head lamp with a charged up extra battery in tow. I’ve got a Spark II sleeping bag and Exped UL mat to keep me cozy in the Scottish Highlands. Oh, and of course I’ll be using the new Restrap hike-a-bike harness for the first time, to wear my bike like a backpack when the time is right.
Age 37 / Edinburgh (United Kingdom)
BIKE: 2017 Giant XTC, Alpkit Confucius handlebars, Sram NX 1×11 drivetrain with a 28T in the front and an 11-46T in the rear. 2.8″ high roller tyres.
BAGS: Revelate Designs Sweet Roll and Egress pocket, Decathalon 520 Double 2L Bike Frame Bag (great for easy access snacks!), Restrap saddle bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Navigation: Garmin 840 solar, with a monster battery pack in case there isn’t any sun. Sleep system: Terranova laser2 tent, Western Mountaineering Nano quilt, Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Uberlite. Luxury item: patchwork pillow case made by my mum!
Age 32 / Catalunya (Spain)
BIKE: Fairlight Holt with 140mm Pike, Handbuilt Beast wheels by Parallel Handbuilt with Son 28, Hope Components, Klite dynamo and Exposure Diablo, V4 brakes, Sram AXS, Rab clothing.
BAGS: Tailfin custom frame bag and front roll, Rusjan feed pouch and backpack.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: My mind.
Age 36 / Leeds (United Kingdom)
BIKE: Fairlight Holt 29er, Rockshox SID 110mm forks, Shimano XT groupset, PNW dropper, Hope Fortus 26 with Vittoria Mezcal 2.35″ tires, Brook Cambium C15, Sonder Confucius handlebars, Ergon GA3 grips, Exposure lights, and Restrap bags.
BAGS: Restrap Race Range 7L saddle bag and 7L bar bag, full custom frame bag, X2 Race stem bags.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Restrap Hike-a-Bike harness for all the sometimes hiking always biking. Led Lenser MH10 head torch with Exposure Toro on the bike to light the way. Albion cargo bibs for extra replenishment and Albion Zoa jacket to keep me dry/warm!
Age 35 / Darlington (United Kingdom)
BIKE: I’ll be riding the 2023 HT550, hoping to better my 2021 time on my titanium Sonder Broken Road. I’m running a Rockshox Pike Ultimate fork, travel adjusted to 120mm with drj0n Barnacle mounts for water bottles on the lowers. Wheels are Zipp 3ZERO Motos, with the front built onto a SON 28 hub dynamo and Maxxis Rekon+ tyres. SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain with a 30T AbsoluteBlack oval chainring. SQ Labs grips and innerbarends to be fitted before the race.
BAGS: Bags are a mix of Blackburn and Altura and have been tried and tested on many adventures. My frame pack is an expandable Blackburn Outpost, seatpack and top tube packs are Altura Vortex, and the front roll containing my sleep system is a Blackburn harness with a 10l Altura drybag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Shelter will be an Alpkit Soloist tent, sleep system is an Alpkit Numo mat with a Rab Mythic 180 sleeping bag. Lighting is a dynamo-powered Exposure Revo front with a Redeye rear. Lightweight Alpkit titanium cooking setup with Kraku ti burner. Igaro D2 USB charger and electronics in direct mount top Altura tube bag. Garmin inReach Mini 2 tracker and my old faithful Edge Explore with OS maps for navigation.
Age 35 / Cambridgeshire (United Kingdom)
BIKE: I’m running a Mason RAW. Wheels are Hunt Proven XC with a 2.3″ Hutchinson Kraken rear and 2.35″ Hutchinson Taipan front tyre. Shimano XT groupset, Ergon Allroad saddle and GXR grips. Enduro MAXhit headset and bb.
BAGS: Custom Tailfin frame bag containing clothing and food. Prototype Tailfin bar bag containing sleeping gear and rain kit. Tailfin 1.5L toptube bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Albion Zoa Rain shell and rain trousers. Hydration vest for water and snacks. Albion pocket bib shorts for even more snacks!
Age 32 / Leeds (United Kingdom)
BIKE: I’ll be riding a Windover Bikes MTB (prototype) the guys very kindly sorted me out with earlier this year. Rolling on a Hope 29″ Fortus wheels set with Vittoria Mezcals 2.25″. Shimano SLX drivetrain 1×11 34/51T, Thomson finishing kit, and Ergon grips.
BAGS: I’ll be riding a complete Restrap Race setup. Custom double zip full frame bag in VX21, 7L saddle bag, 7L bar bag, stem bags, top tube bag and the Hike A Bike Harness!
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’ll be playing it safe with a tent (sleep well, ride hard) the Naturehike Spider side entry tent. A lot of bang for your buck and packs down really well. Also, the Restrap Frame Stap, a great way of storing tubes anywhere on the bike. The Albion Lightweight Zoa, a new piece of kit that’s proven to be essential.
Age 33 / Kingussie (Scotland)
BIKE: I’m riding a Salsa Timberjack Ti, with a 27.5″ wheelset running 3.0″ Teravail Coronado tyres. It’s souped-up with Hope Tech components, and I’m running singlespeed with a 30x20T gear ratio. Too spinny? I will let you know.
BAGS: I’m using all Revelate Designs bags, a Terrapin seat pack, Mag and Gas tanks, two feed bags, a front harness, and a full frame bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Enlightened Equipment synthetic quilt and them big ugly Ergon grips that keep my hands happy.
Age 31 / Cairngorms (Scotland)
BIKE: Sonder Signal Ti, Hope 155mm crank, Bontrager Kovee pro carbon wheelset. I will be running Continental Cross King front and Race King rear tyres, plus full mudguards for maximum comfort and to allow me to access a few more inches on my dropper.
BAGS: Restrap Adventure Race range all over the place, including a custom frame bag and Hike-a-Bike harness.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Small bikes have much less frame space to make use of. Despite this, I’ve managed to cram a 1.5L bladder and waterproof into the frame bag, which will reduce weight on my back. I’ll be using a Deuter pulse 3L hip pack for necessary bits like toothbrush and sun lotion, as well as for bulky food, as I hope to be able to resupply for a few days at a time. There’s still space in the rear to add waterproof trousers or even a Z-packs tent if the weather looks likely to be a washout.
Age 47 / Pukerua Bay, Porirua (New Zealand)
BIKE: 2022 Scott Spark 910 with Revelate frame bags.
BAGS: Revelate Designs Sweetroll, Mag Tank, Jerrycan, frame bag, and Terrapin.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Magic bum cream – don’t leave home without it!
Age 25 / Yealmpton, Devon (England)
BIKE: I’ll be riding the LIOS Hellfire 29er frame paired with a RockShox SID 120mm fork, Sram GX AXS groupset, Roval control wheels, dropper seatpost, and Vittoria Barzo tyres.
BAGS: Excited to be using the Tailfin rear seatpack and top tube bag along with a homemade frame bag for those extras. I will also be running a hydration pack.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Sleep system is a Terra Nova Moonlight bag, Alpkit sleeping mat, and the Albion ZOA jacket with insulated pants. Albion clothing will keep me warm and comfortable, and I will be carrying extra pouches of STYRKR mix 60/90 for those extra carbs.
Age 47 / Glasgow (Scotland)
BIKE: It’s a Kona Unit X 2020 with 2.6″ tyres front and back. Added cable-actuated hydraulic brakes, external bottom bracket, Hope Fortus back wheel, and upgraded drivetrain. Also slightly raised and swept back handlebars for a more comfortable riding position, with Ergon bar-ends too. Blackburn fork cages and three bottle cages, making full use of the prodigious number of attachment points on this steel bike.
BAGS: A mish-mash of different brands, including a Specialized top tube bag that is 100% waterproof (free to French Divide participants), a very old but still excellent Altura rollbag over the handlebar, which again is 100% waterproof. Also have an Oveja Negra lunchbox bag, an Alpkit saddle bag that will need a few repairs before I start, and one Alpkit bag on each fork: one just a stuff sack strapped on, the other a more rigid one.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Alpkit Numo air mat.
Age 31 / Bristol (United Kingdom)
BIKE: I’m riding is a Cannondale Scalpel Hardtail with a 120mm Sid Fork, Schwalbe Racing Ralph Rear (with Rimpact insert), Wicked Will Front, Exposure Lights, Karoo Hammerhead GPS, PNW Suspension Dropper Post, SQLab Bar Ends, Massive Mudguards.
BAGS: I’m part of the Tailfin design team, so I’ve got a full kit of Tailfin bags, with a mix of production, prototype, and custom bags that we have been testing and refining over the past few months leading up to the event.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I obviously have to say the Tailfin bags, but I’m going for the adventure and to see Scotland, not as a racer. So I’m taking a Nordisk 1-man tent, Sea to Summit Spark 2 Sleeping bag, Alpkit roll mat and pillow. I’ve also hopefully packed enough 7 Mesh waterproofs and layers to keep me reasonably comfortable out there.
Age 41 / Prescott, Arizona (USA)
BIKE: The new Pivot Mach 4SL (115mm in the long travel configuration!), Industry Nine Ultralite 280C wheels with sunny spokes that’ll bring a little brightness to the oft-rainy Highlands, Fox 34/Float fork/shock, Fasst Company Flexx MTB Handlebars, Ergon SMC Sport Gel saddle and GS1 Evo grips, Shimano XTR/XT drivetrain/brakes, Maxxis Aspen/Rekon Race tires (no need for knobs in bogs, eh?), and a 4iiii Precision 3 power meter to help keep the watts down when I get a little overeager on all the techy singletrack.
BAGS: Revelate Designs all around – Pronghorn handlebar system, Vole seat bag, Gas Tank, and a one-off frame bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Fenix BC26R and HM65R-T lights for the short nights, Garmin Edge 840 Solar for navigation, Shimano GR9 shoes to keep my feet happy on and off the bike, Patagonia MTB Dirt Craft pants with the pink knees that make me smile, *all* the snacks so don’t stop eating for four days, and of course, a few metal albums for those inevitable hours when my focus falters a bit.
Age 27 / Bristol (England)
BIKE: I’ll be riding the Highland 550 on my loyal Trek Pro-caliber. I am running 2.35″ Mezcal tires, which hopefully will remain puncture-free.
BAGS: All my bags are from Restrap. The frame bag is custom-made, and the others are from the race series. First race using a full frame bag, and I’m already blown away!
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: New Restrap frame bag and hike-a-bike harness, which I feel will be invaluable on the long hiking sections.
Age 52 / Morpeth, Northumberland (England)
BIKE: I’ll be racing the Highland Trail 550 2023 on my Orange p7 steel hardtail. I’m running Vittoria Syerra 2.4″ tyres on Hunt All Mountain carbon wheels. In the rear wheel, I have a Vittoria Air Liner tyre insert for all those square-edged rocks! Drivetrain is 1×12 Shimano XTR 30T front / 10/51T rear. The Pike Deluxe fork is 130mm. Finishing kit is Pro components, and I’m running the lightweight 100mm Pro Tharsis dropper.
BAGS: Custom frame bag and front harness from Spoked UK. The harness will hold my sleeping kit and clothes, whilst the frame bag will be for tools and food. On the fly, food will also be stored in the Tail Fin flip-top Top Tube bag. Drjon Barnacles have been added to the down tube to hold a water bottle. I will also be using a hydration pack for extra water storage and additional kit capacity. This setup allows me to retain the dropper post. I don’t like riding a mountain bike without one!
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: A Rab Neutrino sleeping bag is paired with a Black Diamond bivvy and a cheap and cheerful (but very effective) Berghaus inflatable mat. My lightweight Albion Zoa jacket will add some extra nighttime warmth if needed, and my Zoa waterproof will keep me dry. Lights are Exposure Maxx-D on the bars and a Zenith helmet light with added capacity from a 3.4 Support Cell. Navigation will be through my Garmin 830.
Age 54 / Ludlow, Shropshire (United Kingdom)
BIKE: Reynolds 853 skinny tube custom frame, built by me for the event, fitted with Islabikes carbon fork. 140mm Islabikes cranks, very narrow Q factor reduced further with short axles fitted to Crank Bros Candy pedals, Hope BB, 28 x 22T gear ratio, Hope Race Evo brakes with KCNC rotors, SON dynamo hub powering Wahoo Roam and Exposure light, Chris King rear hub and headset, Stans Crest carbon rims, Kenda Saber Pro tyres, PNW dropper ‘post, Ergon grips and BBB bar ends.
BAGS: Bedrock panniers and Alpkit Gravel front bag supported by stainless steel front and rear racks, made by me. Terra Nova Laser Pulse tent (flysheet only) strapped to the top of the rear rack. Under down tube Zefal tube for tools and spares.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Modified Mudhugger mudguards front and rear, mounted to the racks–I won’t leave home without them!
Age 39 / Wanaka (New Zealand)
BIKE: I’ll be riding the HT550 on a Scott Genius. Possibly way too much travel for an event like this, but it’s what I got, and I like it. Drivetrain 1×12 Eagle, 32T chainring. Tyres Vittoria Barzo 27.5×2.6″
BAGS: Lots of homemade bags and a Revelate seat pack. I will be carrying a camelback as a small bag, a bum bag tool kit, and might bring along my SD card speaker.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Nav on Garmin Edge 530. Gemini duo lights, 20,000mah battery pack. Good rain pants and jacket, Dyneema tarp, bug net and a ground sheet for sleeping, plus a Sea to Summit Flame II sleeping bag with silk liner and a Therm-a-Rest Neo Air Uberlight short mat. Will take brisker gloves and super lightweight helium rain overmitts.
Age 38 / West Yorkshire (England)
BIKE: Canyon Lux Full Sus, 100mm front and back, Beast Components XC 25 wheelset (not pictured!) Maxxis Ardent Race 2.35″ on the rear and a Forekaster 2.4″ up front, Sram XX1 Eagle Axs Drivetrain, Exposure Lights 6 Pack for some illumination.
BAGS: Revelate Designs Frame Bag with a Pronghorn up front and Mountain Feedbag and Gas Tank for snacks and electronics.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’ll also have an 18L Patagonia Sloperunner pack for hydration and waterproof storage. For the sleep kit, I’ll have a Nordisk Lofoten tent and Sea To Summit Spark 2 sleeping bag. The best bit of kit… waterproof socks!
Jade Saskia Simpson-Field
Age 31 / Leeds (United Kingdom)
BIKE: I’ll be riding my lovely purple Cotic Solaris Max, a steel hardtail with a 130mm fork. It’s a 29er with 2.6″ tyres on. Gearing is 1×11, 30t x 11-46T. After a lot of deliberation, I’m leaving my dropper on, and I’m borrowing some special ergo bar ends for more hand positions.
BAGS: I’m hoping to fit all my kit into a Revelate harness, Salty Roll and Egress pocket, a Restrap stem bag and race top tube bag, an Apidura stem bag and 7L saddle pack and my Evoc bumbag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’m taking a tent and will be wearing my sandals again!
Age 41 / PARIS (FRANCE)
BIKE: Vitus Rapide FS, Hunt Proven carbon wheels with SON dynamo, Maxxis Ardent & Rekon tires, Rockshox SID SL Ultimate 100mm fork, SID Luxe Select+ rear shock, Brand-X dropper post, Shimano XT M8000 12-speed groupset (32T front, 10-51T rear) with XTR pedals.
BAGS: Miss Grape cluster 7 saddle pack, Il Coso front bag, Internode custom frame bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Supernova M99 DY front light and e3 tail light and a Fizik Alpaca saddle.
Age 41 / Carrbridge, Highlands (Scotland)
BIKE: Pipedream Sirius run as a singlespeed geared at 30x20T. Second-hand Hope Enduro wheelset with 29×2.5″ Ikons. Sid Ultimate 120mm fork, Stooge Moto bars, Brand X dropper, and a Charge Spoon saddle that might just be the one.
BAGS: A mix of Ortlieb and Alpkit bags, nothing fancy. 1 x 750ml bottle worked last time as there’s loads of streams to keep it topped up.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’m going with flats and 5:10 XT Trailcross shoes that stick like shit for all the hike-a-bike and because my feet were sore for weeks in SPDs last time. I’ve got Ergon GS2 grips and a selection of old lights that should be fine. A Wahoo ELEMNT Bolt will give me a line to follow and record the ride but probably won’t provide the aerodynamic advantage that is its USP. Rab Raider Bivvy (unless it’s a terrible forecast), Alpkit Pipedream 200 sleeping bag (unless it’s due to be very cold) and Therm-a-Rest Neoair for sleeping and a stove because I have a tendency to mistime resupply opening hours.
Age 30 / Van Life, Utah (USA)
BIKE: Chumba Sendero Ti, SS 32x20T. Maxxis Rekon 2.4″ tires, Magura MT7 brakes.
BAGS: Everything made by me at Dispersed Bikepacking. Not pictured: a Dispersed hip pack.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Garmin Edge 1040 solar, DIY synthetic quilt.
Age 30 / Goldie the Promaster, Utah (USA)
BIKE: I’m riding my Chumba Sendero set up singlespeed (32×20) with Magura brakes and 2.4″ Maxxis Rekon tires.
BAGS: I’m running Dispersed bags made by my partner Andrew and me in our van. In addition to a frame bag, top tube bag, rear top tube bag, and a hip pack, we’ve been testing prototype handlebar and seat bags.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Based on the potential (guarantee?) of wet weather, I’m using a prototype Dispersed synthetic quilt rather than a down bag to stay warm even in damp conditions.
Age 60 / Oldham, Greater Manchester (United Kingdom)
BIKE: I’ll be attempting to get round the HT550 on my 2017 Giant Anthem Advanced 1. Suspension: 120 front 100 rear. 27.5″ wheels with 2.4″ Wolfpack tires, Cross up front, Speed (wishful thinking) on the back. 1×12 Sram GX Eagle drivetrain with 30T front chainring and 52T rear (for the steep hills).
BAGS: Acepack bar bag and food pouch, Alpkit top tube bags, Wildcat seat pack, Apidura food pouch (I like to keep everyone in business).
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Lanshan 1 tent (single skin, midge net, single carbon pole) with Sea to Summit women’s-specific Flame sleeping bag and Xtherm thermarest make for comfortable stops.
Age 29 / Bristol (United Kingdom)
BIKE: Cannondale Scalpel SE (120mm travel), Shimano XT groupset, Hunt Race XC Wide wheelset, Vittoria Mezcal 2.35″ rear and Barzo 2.35″ front tyres, running a rear tire insert.
BAGS: All my bags are Restrap. Race 7l bar bag, race 7l saddle bag, top tube bag, 2x stem bags. I’ll also be wearing a Salomon backpack for extra water, food, and easy-access layers.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Probably the most interesting bit of kit I’ll be taking is the Restrap hike-a-bike harness. I tested this out a lot with my fully loaded setup over the past week and think it could be a bit of a game changer when it comes to the long hiking sections. I’ve also opted not to take a dynamo for this event, instead running a Fenix headlight (and bar light as backup). These have a really long runtime and great beam pattern, I’ll just carry a small spare battery for each.
Age 40 / Devon (England)
BIKE: I’ll be riding a Sonder Broken Road equipped with an Eagle drivetrain modified with a smaller 30T chainring and a SID suspension fork up front. I’ve opted for the intriguing Infinity saddle, hoping the £££ will make a comfortable experience. I have Egon GP3 handlebar grips with SQ Labs inner bar ends for all the hand positions. Rolling beneath me are Vittoria Syerra tires, and I’ve also added an airliner insert in the rear tire as I’ve heard the water butts gobble up tyres in the Highlands. Instead of a dynamo, I’ll be relying on a couple of 20k Anker power banks.
BAGS: For this adventure, I’ve chosen the reliable and waterproof Tailfin bags to brave the river crossings and unpredictable Scottish weather. I have all the bags! Front and rear pannier bags for dehydrated food, stove, and clothes, accompanied by the aluminum Tailfin rack and bag full of sleeping kits and electrics along with my downtube pack for tools, and quick access stuff, and the all-new flip top tube bag to store my snacks. On my back will be a Camelbak Chase backpack.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: The exposure Six-pack can go for 36hrs so hopefully that does the whole thing without a recharge, with a handy stem mount to keep the cockpit clean. For sleeping arrangements, I’ve chosen the OR Helium bivy paired with the Sea to Summit SP1 sleeping bag. To ensure a comfortable sleep, I’ve brought along a Berghaus insulated mat and my beloved Sea to Summit down pillow. As a backup, I’ve packed a RAB tarp for additional shelter if a mega Scottish storm engulfs me.
Age 38 / Glasgow (Scotland)
BIKE: A very new Canyon Neuron 7 WMN, her name is Lana Del-railleur. An out-of-the-box drivetrain and wheelset, Shimano Deore XT 1×12 (10-51T), and DT Swiss M 1900 wheels, but will be running Teravail tyres (27.5″).
BAGS: I’m grateful to have the Apidura Backcountry range and will be using the 11L Handlebar bag plus 4L accessory pocket, the 6L saddle pack and 1L pouch for sweeties! I’ll also be using the Apidura hydration rucksack, which has a 2L bladder and will hold most of my snacks and tent pegs too.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’ve decided on taking a tent (Alpkit, Soloist) in the hopes I’ll feel more relaxed having adequate shelter regardless of the weather and comfort to recover throughout the ride. Depending on whether I’ll take my Therm-a-Rest Neoair or Therm-a-Rest Uberlite sleep mat with my Mountain Hardwear Lamina sleeping bag. My Exposure MaxxD Mk14 front light, Axis Mk9 helmet light, and Boost ReAkt rear light will be getting lots of use, and I’ll take support cells to get even more battery life from them.
Age 27 / Blandford Forum, Dorset (England)
BIKE: Same as last year but with a few tweaks, my Mason Raw hardtail with a 120mm fork. Wheels are new this year, and I have gone for the Hunt All mountain carbon onto which I have mounted 29×2.6″ Vittoria Mezcals to help me roll over as much of the chunk as possible. Shimano XT throughout, which has proven reliable over the miles, so no need to change there.
BAGS: All made by Straight Cut Designs in Edinburgh. A custom framebag is the centrepiece, but I also have a top tube pouch, feed bad, and a small saddle pack.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: All clothing is DHB, including the Aeron ultra jersey with five pockets in the back to store all my snacks. I have cut down some weight this year and maybe taking a few more risks as I got the finish last year, so it’s all or nothing.
Kylie Jones Mattock
Age 41 / North Wales (United Kingdom)
BIKE: I only have one mountain bike so I’m hoping my Bird Zero 29er doesn’t fall apart before it gets to the start line. Replacing pretty much everything, part by part.
BAGS: Alpkit bar bag, saddle bag, and custom frame pack made for an old 26er. Additional snack pouch and phone case.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Sudocrem, and this is Scotland so also midge hood, tick remover. Paper maps, always. Struggling with all the spot tracker and gpx track malarkey required for a bike event, as I usually save my batteries for important stuff like 999 calls and don’t worry about proving what I have ridden for anyone else’s benefit! Expecting to be disqualified for lack of tech even if I do surprise myself and manage to ride it all.
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