Grinduro Scotland, where gravel meets enduro. A race with 1650m of elevation over 84km and four gruelling timed sections. But Grinduro Scotland was much, much more than that. Starting on the Friday night and ending on the Sunday this was a whole biking experience combined with that touch of Scottish Island magic.
Registration was at the ferry port in Ardrossan, which only added to the feel that you were going on a great adventure! Arriving with the sea to one side and a huge ferry to the other everyone was raring to get to Arran.
Boarding the ferry somewhat reminded me of a hoard of bees descending on the hive as the large group of gravel riders swarmed into the hold, casually taking in each other’s bikes whilst internally worrying about their own bicycle’s inadequacies.
Once in Arran there was an option to either hitch a lift in the minibus or sling your bags into a trailer and take the 6.5km ride from the ferry port to the school. Choosing the latter was definitely a win, seeing the amazing coastal views, whilst getting a slight idea of how hilly Arran was, made me feel I had gained a little insight into what was to come tomorrow.
After wandering the village and the beach, I headed back to the school, hopped into my tent and snuggled down thinking of all the exciting things to come tomorrow!
One of the biggest perks of Grinduro is the food – a full breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided on Saturday and are definitely needed for someone who is a little challenged in the camping culinary department. Rapha had brought their famous H-Van, so the Saturday morning rush for food was matched by the rush for coffee with pairs splitting up to get the best of both worlds.
With breakfast and faffing done it was race time, and the buzz in the fresh Scottish morning air was palpable, please excuse the cliché.
The course for Arran’s edition of Grinduro Scotland was a mix of singletrack, fire road and small road sections. The ultimate bike suggested was a high tyre volume gravel bike, set up tubeless with a bomb-proof frame. Canyon supported the event and several riders with the unconventional looking Grail, which seemed to get around comfortably!
However, if you are looking to take the race at a little more of a leisurely pace and then smash the timed sections, a hardtail MTB would be my weapon of choice. Stage 4 had me wishing I was riding an Exceed, over my gravel steed.
The race began with an uphill road climb, then we were chucked straight in at the deep end with some steep technical single track leading to stage 1. Here we had our mettle very resolutely tested in a steep fire road descent. With chunks of gravel the size of tennis balls flying around you and other riders weaving in and out of each other it was definitely a baptism of fire.
Weaving through the forest of Arran and along some beautiful coastal roads I encountered stage 2, the mud was everywhere! A fire road ascent, but I must say “road” was a very loose term for this terrain. Mud was catapulted everywhere and the ruts and bumps consumed whole bicycles at points. However, this stage definitely got the off-road flame ignited and everyone came to the first checkpoint with a massive grin on their face, I certainly did!
After consuming some ice cream and goodies at the stop, I hopped back on the bike for a gravel and singletrack descent followed by a road ride back for some much-needed lunch. Lunch was back at basecamp so here was a perfect opportunity for a rest and some more coffee.
Back on the bike, with a full stomach I went back off for some long fire road sections that made up the 3rd quarter of Grinduro Scotland’s circuit. Stage 3, a long gravel climb which definitely got to anyone who had over-indulged at lunch. This stage was definitely one for the pure gravel bike, truly a stem chewing effort and this hotly contested segment was the biggest effort of the event. Some winding road climbs took us to the lovely second checkpoint with a cycling café and more sustenance for the stage ahead.
A steep and very technical singletrack descent followed, which had all but the mountain bikers shifting their steeds onto their shoulders, and then led you through to the technical stage 4. This was definitely the highlight of Grinduro Scotland for me. A technical off-road climb led into a very winding gravel descent, then back into the forest for some pure singletrack fun. Here was my life achievement of being the 1st Expert female for the section (definitely not 1st Pro), I think I may have possibly peaked!
Rolling through some forest trails and gravel roads the glory that comes with rolling into the basecamp after a hard days riding was the best feeling. It was time to get a shower, some food and later, the much-anticipated results.
After being fully fed and having sampled some of the finest beers that Arran had to offer, as well as a range of Arran’s spirits available, everyone gathered for the results. With Callum Macleod from Canyon DHB p/b Bloor Homes taking the Pro Men’s win and myself taking 2nd in the women’s category, it was a very successful trip!
Safe to say Grinduro Scotland was fantastic and after a beautiful explore of Arran on Sunday morning I hopped onto the ferry and headed home, raring to go for my next Grinduro!