Two Rigs of the HT550

The Highland Trail 550 (HT550) kicked off this morning with 53 riders in the field. Two to watch are James Mark Hayden and Josh Ibbett, who are both accomplished ultra-endurance racers. We managed to get our hands on a few photos and details about their race rigs. See more here…

In case you missed our post earlier, the 2021 Highland Trail 550 kicked off in Scotland this morning. The HT550 is one of the more prestigious bikepacking events in Europe/UK, if not the world, attracting some of the best ultra-endurance athletes every year. Similar to the Colorado Trail, the HT550 route takes in a chunk of rugged and beautiful country via steep and rowdy singletrack. The route features 550 miles and 50,000 feet of vertical on some seriously remote terrain. It’s also loaded with rough dirt roads, hidden glens, lochs, and a few testing hike-a-bikes. The HT550 is a self-supported Individual Time Trial (ITT) race in which even the best climbers and technical descenders will find some terrain beyond their ability. Folks who excel at this race usually ride a mountain bike, and often with full suspension. We got a few last-minute details on the rigs of two notable individuals who are participating in the event. Find details on both below, plus, scroll down to follow the race on the tracker map…

James Mark Hayden

Age 30 / London, England / @jamesmarkhayden

Among his other accomplishments, Canyon athlete James Mark Hayden is a two-time winner of the Transcontinental Race. Since turning his attention from endurance road racing, James seems to have found a passion in more rugged races, as evidenced by his second-place finish in the inaugural Atlas Mountain Race last year.

Rigs of the HT550, James Mark Hayden
  • Rigs of the HT550, James Mark Hayden
  • Rigs of the HT550, James Mark Hayden

Bike: Canyon Neuron with Shimano XTR 30×10-51 and DT Swiss EX511 wheels (240 hub). This is a proper mountain bike setup for a proper mountain bike race!

Bags: Rusjan Bags (front roll, small saddlebag, full frame bag, and backpack). I’m trying to keep the bike light and agile.

Gear Highlights: The kit is all tried and tested over the past year. I’ve gone for a full-suspension bike to make some of the rougher sections easier and faster to ride. I’ve been riding this bike a lot and I’m now really familiar with it. Some of my clothing is prototype and preproduction stuff from Endura, and it’s really cool to be using here and putting it to the test. I had tyre problems last time so I’ve got Trail casings and a tyre insert in the rear. My setup isn’t the lightest but it’s really good and robust. I’ve packed quite a bit of food, which is weighing my backpack down, but I know I’ll be thankful for having it.

Rigs of the HT550, James Mark Hayden

Josh Ibbett

Age 33 / St Neots, England / @joshibbett

We’ve been following Josh’s adventures for a while. Back in 2017, Miles sat down with him after he left his job at Hunt Wheels to set out on a year-long around-the-world bikepacking trip. Since then, he’s made appearances in several races, including the Tour Divide and a first-place finish on the GBduro. Just yesterday we posted a video of Josh crushing the Lakeland 200 in a day.

Right after we reached out, Josh published a video overview of his HT550 rig. Watch it below and scroll down for photos and his overview.

  • Rigs of the HT550, Josh Ibbett
  • Rigs of the HT550, Josh Ibbett

Bike: I’m riding a Mason RAW MTB prototype designed for long-distance riding across technical terrain, such as that found along the HT550. I’m running a Shimano XT groupset, Hunt carbon dynamo wheels, Ritchey bars and stem, and Miss Grape bags. Tyres are WTB ranger 2.25.

Bags: I’m carrying my sleeping gear and a down jacket in the Miss Grape saddle pack. The frame pack is a custom one designed for my Mason ISO but works on this bike and contains a small stove, spares, repair kit, and easy-to-reach clothing such a rain gillet and knee and arm warmers from dhb.

Gear Highlights: I’ve packed lots of warm dhb kit as the forecast is looking cold and potentially wet. I also have a fair bit of food packed due to the remoteness of the course and limited resupplies.

  • Rigs of the HT550, Josh Ibbett
  • Rigs of the HT550, Josh Ibbett
Rigs of the HT550, Josh Ibbett

Follow the 2021 Highland Trail 550 on Trackleaders here:

HT550 logo

The Highland Trail explores 550 miles of the most rugged and remote terrain in the Scottish Highlands. The route features world-class singletrack and dirt roads with stunning views throughout, but you must put in some serious effort to reap the rewards. The most impressive sections will require some hike-a-bike for even the most proficient mountain bikers. Find the full route guide here.


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