Endurance specialist and 24-hour Masters World Champion Rich Rothwell will attempt to ride the West Highland Way Double this weekend.
Before he attempts the 192 miles in 24-hours, he talks us through his preparation.
In 2009 I rode Woodcocks UK Coast to Coast in one hit, 210 miles of full-on ‘Best of British’ mountain biking. It still goes down as the most amazing mountain bike experience I have ever had. The ride was sketchy and adrenaline fuelled from the start, not least because of some treacherous weather and some very demanding terrain.
At around that time, I also got thinking about a similar 24-hour style challenge. As much as I love racing, I much prefer techy mountainous terrain, the likes of which is rarely found on UK endurance race courses.
The West Highland Way, there and back, struck me as the obvious next adventure. In recent years, on our annual holiday pilgrimage to Skye I sat, nosed pressed against the car window, stunned by Glen Coe and craning my neck to spy The Devil’s Staircase snake out of the valley and thinking, ‘one day’…
You’ve got to be in the right place mentally to take a ride like this on. Something has to trigger that irreversible, ‘Right, I’m doing this’ moment. Despite the thought drifting around the recesses of my mind for some time, the trigger to finally put the idea into action finally clicked a couple of months ago.
Ant White, (Cannondale/Mt Zoom) Chris Pedder, (AW Cycles) and I, took a few days out and rode the top half of the route followed by some fun riding around Fort William. This was the trigger. I was so stunned by the route, the scenery and the riding that I decided unequivocally that the ride was happening. The date was easy to choose; it would be three weeks after the Montane Kielder 100. The endurance hit following this super tough race would set me up perfectly for the long hours in the saddle.
So there it is. I’ll set off from Milngavie around ten or eleven o’clock on Saturday the 24th September. I hope to make the Fort William turn around between twelve and thirteen hours. But we’ll see. Having not ridden the complete route before (including the infamous east shores of Loch Lomond) I’ll be playing things by ear!
You really need confidence in your kit when taking on a ride like this. Here are some kit highlights:
The bike itself! My Trek Top Fuel 9.8 is the best long haul techy terrain bike I’ve ever ridden. Light yet confident and highly capable in fast rocky terrain. I love this bike because I don’t have to hold back on the high speed stuff. It will fly down to Kinlochleven!
Wheels are Mavic’s Crossmax SLR. Superb strength to weight ratio and compliment the Top Fuel perfectly. I’ve smashed them off square edged rocks and they still hold true. UST tyres allow a no holding back approach to rocky descending so I’m running Continental X-King 2.2 UST front and back for a balance of low rolling resistance and reassuring strength. Fancy a split tyre on Devil’s Staircase in the middle of the night? No, me neither… UST all the way for this type of challenge.
Previously I have gone for a smaller bag tightly packed bag than the Camelbak HAWG NV. This time, due to the almost certainty of ‘inclement’ weather, I have decided to go for something higher volume that I can pack and unpack quickly and easily as I imagine there will be a number of changes happening throughout the ride. The HAWG is also slightly heavier in construction than other packs I have used but is superbly designed, comfortable and robust. A bit like the UST of bags!
Exposure Lights: simply brilliant. Exposure products have got me through some of my toughest nights with totally reliable performance every time. Desert Island Discs kit list? Exposure is right at the top. This time I’ll be running the boosted to 1950 lumens 2012 Six Pack. Every yearly increase in lumens is welcomed, especially when I’ll be riding the full on fast stuff through the night.
I’ll also be running helmet mounted Diablos with a triple cell Piggyback. This super bright combo will get me through the night with switch on and forget simplicity. For the brief sections of road I’ll also be using a rear Flare – with sleep deprivation a given, this is a valuable safety tool. Furthermore, if needs be, I’ll be running my GPS off the Six Pack using Exposure’s new and very handy USB power cable.
I used a Satmap active10 for my Coast to Coast and it helped me steer my way through the most navigationally challenging section of the route (which also happened to be the worst point of the ride weather wise. Oh, and it was pitch black!). The large screen and intuitive menu was very easy to use, even when self preservation was vying for my attention! Very kindly, Satmap have supplied me with an active10 for the West Highland Way. Just switch on and go.
A big thank you to M Steels Cycles (www.msteelcycles.co.uk). They have patiently smiled through my OCD endurance rider requests and provided me with much of the gear I need for this ride.
As for the backup, Dave will be driving a support van, not so much for the support aspect, but to make sure we get some great photos of the ride and the route. Holiday snaps I’ll no doubt flick through for years to come; might provide the motivation for the next big wilderness ride….
I’ll get some pictures posted following the ride. If you haven’t ridden this amazing trail, it might just wet your appetite.