Bikepacking the Cairngorms: A Father and Son Fatbike Adventure (Film)
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Photographer and videographer Jeremy Janin surprises his father with a 5-day self-supported bikepacking trip along The Cairngorms Loop in the Scottish Highlands. They had everything planned, but nothing went as planned. Watch the full film here alongside a fantastic photoset and details from their trip in Jeremy’s words…
Bikepacking the Cairngorms: A Father and Son Fatbike Adventure follows Jeremy Janin and his father on a self-supported fatbike trip along The Cairngorms Loop in Scotland. The idea was to celebrate his father’s 50th birthday, document the trip, and to sleep in bothies along the way. Of course, no good ideas ever go as planned, and the Scottish weather challenged the father-son adventure team. Watch the full film below, followed by a great set of photos from Jeremy and a detailed write up.
Words and photos by Jeremy Janin (@djisupertramp)
Last November, we celebrated my dad’s 50th birthday. I’m about to turn 30 and I’ve always cherished the close relationship I have with my parents and the not-so-big age difference between us. My dad was the one who first put me on skis, on a surfboard, and on a mountain bike. He was also the person who brought fatbikes to my attention. As a gift for his birthday, I suggested the idea to some close family members that I take him on bikepacking trip he would never forget. He used to race BMX when he was a teenager and I’ve been a mountain biker since I was a kid, but neither of us had been bikepacking before. I knew he’d be sold.
After months of preparation on my own, it was finally time to announce his gift. Needless to say he was stoked. He also knows that I’m just as passionate about bikes as I am with photography and filmmaking. Inspired by the work of Jay Ritchey—especially his film El Silencio—and the guys from Montanus, it was clear that I was going to document the whole trip, even if that meant going slower than we would without filming. For both of us, it was important to capture it.
We flew off from Lyon, France to Inverness, Scotland and then took a train for Aviemore for a 5-day self-supported bikepacking trip with our fatbikes. Our plan was to ride a section of the Cairngorms Loop and sleep in bothies along the way. We had planned everything, but nothing went according to plan. The Scottish weather was epic, but it was all well worth it.
We started from Aviemore after a quick break at Andy’s outdoor shop to buy a few bits for our adventure. The first day was a short 20km ride to get the legs going and have a chill evening at the bothy. We rode all the way to Ryvoan bothy under heavy rain. We chopped some wood, took a quick shower in the nearby stream and went to bed.
The next morning, our target was to reach Hutchison Memorial Hut. I was excited for the upcoming two sections as they were meant to be the most beautiful of the trip. The rain hadn’t stopped so we strapped the bags back on the bike, put on our rain jackets and started riding. The air was wet and cold but the spirits were high! I broke my chain a few kilometers in, but we quickly fixed it and kept going. The rain was still coming down but the riding was fun and the landscapes were mindblowing. A few kilometers later, we had to get off the bikes and scope the next section on foot. The trail was almost flooded and became unrideable. With 40cm deep mud holes and water everywhere we had to take the decision to turn around and go back to the bothy.
Scrapping our original plan was a tough decision to make after I’d invested so much energy into this trip’s organization. We rode back to the bothy and tried to figure out a plan B. A couple hours later, we met some Polish hikers who came from the Hutchison Memorial completely soaked with mud above the knees. They confirmed it was dangerous to follow this trail and crossing with the bikes would have been impossible. I was gutted but at least it was the right decision. We decided not to sleep at the bothy and rode back to Aviemore.
After a good night of sleep and dry change of clothes, we had high expectations to save the end of our trip. Our plan now was to ride the last section of the loop, counter-clockwise and sleep at the Ruigh Aiteachain bothy. That day was nothing short of epic. We started under the rain, faced an heavy hail storm which quickly turned into a non-stop snowstorm—Scotland in a nutshell. It was wet and cold but the stoke was real. We had never ridden in such conditions. It was exactly the adventure we had came for, and the u-turn from the second day was already forgotten. Seeing the landscapes under a fresh layer of snow and some wildlife with no other sound than our fat tires on the muddy trails was a moment I’ll never forget. The best part was probably when we crossed the 2°c cold river, pushing our bikes facing the amazing mountains covered in snow. It was surreal. Getting to share this with my dad is the cherry on the cake. It was a tough day but we loved every minute of it and I hope the film from our adventure depicts that.
The weather was epic and nothing went according to plan. But isn’t it what great adventures are made of? I will say, it was a type 1 fun trip with some type 2 fun moments. I really cherished being able to share that with my dad. It felt pretty special, like something I had dreamt about for years—the kind of idea you have and end never make happen. This was not the case this time. And I will always be thankful to have all those memories on which to reflect, that only he and I have in common.
In the train back to Aviemore, looking at the Highlands through the window, I reminded myself that we didn’t come here to break a record, be the fastest, or ride the longest distance. We simply wanted to share a moment together, see some beautiful landscapes, and ride our bikes. And that’s exactly what we did.
To learn more about the route Jeremy and his father followed, check out our Cairngorms Loop route page.