After a rainy and lonely, but very comfortable Friday night at the Bruar bothy I whizzed on my bike down to Blair Atholl and then trundled in the car up the A9 to meet Andy and Danijel at the Mountain Cafe in Aviemore.
Coffee and cake consumed and plans formed we were almost ready to go.
An hour later after a fruitless search for a replacement Boa fastener for my Specialized Rime shoe which had broken that morning we finally set off at almost midday.
The ride out to Glenmore was very pleasant and scenic. The light was lovely and Danijel who is from Slovenia was keen to capture some photos of the Scottish scenery. Fresh snow from the night before and fresh early spring colours made for some eye catching views.
As I was approaching the Fords of Avon I glanced back and was unable to see the other two. When they still didn't appear after a few minutes I backtracked to find them and could see from a distance that Andy had suffered a mechanical as they were both leaning over his bike. Andy's aluminium seatpost had jammed in the steel frame many moons ago and had chosen this moment to snap right where it entered the frame. With no means of extracting the broken section Andy's only option was to ride with no seat, either turning back or carrying on to complete the loop. While turning back would have been much shorter it would have meant that Andy would have missed out on the rest of the ride. We therefore convinced him to keep going - 75km with no seatpost - no problem!
A few minutes later we reached the Fords of Avon and stopped for a break in the surprisingly warm sun outside the shelter.
We hit the tarmac at the Linn of Dee for about 50 metres before diving back off road and heading up the glen and taking the Geldie burn tributary. The track was somewhat dull at this point, and not easy progress as we had turned west and into the wind. Andy was starting to suffer quite a bit due to not being able to sit down. This is the kind of riding where sitting down to pedal is really useful!
The track climbed very slowly until eventually we turned off the 4x4 track and onto singletrack which would take us over the watershed. This track has quite a few boggy spots, but also some quite rewarding bits of riding.
As we began to descend into Glen Feshie the sun was just finishing setting and Andy and Danijel were questioning me about how far we had to go and how long it would take. I had to admit that although I had walked this trail before about 10 years ago I had never ridden it and had little idea how long it would take. I tried my best to make an estimate that wouldn't give them false hope or dishearten them too much.
Andy's suffering was increasing and he just wanted to be done by this stage, so he wasn't too impressed by the waterfall.
As we continued past an ancient shack the riding became smooth singletrack which sometimes turned to braided slivers of trail through the heather and offered up multiple choices. Eventually we ended up following a land rover track which crossed several fords in the by now quite large river Feshie. We avoided crossing these by climbing the ancient path on the steep side of the glen - although damaged by landslides the path is still passable with care, but not all rideable.
The light had by now faded to almost nothing so we put our lights on for the final ride in to the bothy.
The glen eventually widened out and the tree cover increased which I recognised as a sign that we were nearly there. A final splash through a small ford and the shape of the bothy emerged from the trees with a dull glow from the windows.
It was 9.45pm and it had been a long day of riding - especially for Andy with no seat! We were all hungry, so I fired up the stove and got some pasta on the go straight away. Stupidly we had only brought two sporks between three of us so Danijel improvised a spoon from an empty squeezy cheese tube and we dug in. Hot food can't be beaten after a long day on the hill.
Once we'd munched all the pasta and topped up with some extra cheese and oatcakes we had a wee tipple of whisky and got to know some of our fellow bothy dwellers a bit better.
Bothying can often result in meeting some interesting characters and this night was no exception! A group from the north east of England were in residence when we arrived and had consumed a prodigious amount of alcohol by the time we joined them.
Andy was most relieved to finally be able to sit down in the cafe after riding about 75km with no seat.
The numbers for the whole ride were 97km with just under 1,600m of height gain. Moving time according to the GPS was 8 hours 10 minutes out of the almost 24 hours we were out. A grand overnight trip!