Highland Heritage: Adventure through Generations
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: passion is the most powerful fuel in the world. Once you find yours, your life will never be the same. Loek Luijbregts, part of the Fatpigeon.cc crew, got his passion from a very clear source: his grandpa. It’s Granpa Piet’s bikepacking trip through Scotland of about 25 years ago that planted a seed. And now, a quarter of a century later it’s finally time to create our 2023 version of that bikepacking trip with friends through the Scottish highlands. This is Loek his story of the adventure:
In the heart of the 1990s...
His grand three-week bikepacking escapade through the Scottish Highlands ignited something in my adventurous heart. In my mind they always held a certain allure, but when I went hiking in Scotland with my father and later with comrades, I was sure: 'I must return, with my gravel bike!'
And so, the summer of 2023 arrived. Inspired by Grandpa and fortified by three years of intrepid cycling under the banner of Fatpigeon.cc, I set forth with Mark, Toby, and Maks on a journey to Scotland, in pursuit of an off the grid, challenging cycling adventure. Not on the smooth asphalt that Grandpa favoured, but rather, in alignment with my passion: exploring the gravel(ish) paths less travelled."
"We found the Drovers Trail through stories and the internet. It's a four-day trip in the Cairngorms National Park, a place I hadn't been before. The trail had a bit of everything – amazing gravel roads, single track, stunning views, river crossings, and really tough climbs. The four of us were having an unfair advantage in the form of a Ridley Kanzo Adventure; the right ‘horse’, for this relentless course. Endless mounting points for bags, forgiving geometry, tyre clearance for MTB rubber and even the possibility for an internally routed dynamo hub!
Right after leaving our hostel at the start in Pitlochry, we experienced the level of the route first hand: a singletrack through a grain field and riding along characteristic stone walls through vast fields of cattle. After about 20 kilometres in, we turned left, away from the farms. It’s the final bit of civilization for at least the next 48 hours. A rising gravel road carried us deeper into the national park, with high green cliffs revealing Scotland’s rough and changeable conditions.
Hiking, biking, shredding and sliding through the Highlands brought us to the accommodation for the first night: a ‘bothy’. This basic shelter is available for anyone to use and is free of charge. So with two fellow travellers, we spent a cosy night at the Bothy’s attic.
The tone for the rest of the trip was set; an extremely wild adventure with friends. We made ourselves some much needed coffee and consumed a decent bag of adventure food before again heading off into the wilderness.
The route showed no mercy. But our group of comrades bravely tackled 30% gradients (partly hiking), a swamp and some rivers. At some parts there seemed to be no route at all and some meters later the most insane gravel roads you can imagine popped up.
After the beautiful beating, we decided to spend the second night at a campsite. This way we could shower and also recharge our batteries. We went for an Indian takeaway, which we somehow managed to eat in the local pub while enjoying some beers."
The right bike for the job.
"Mark, Toby, Maks, and I started our Scottish adventure with energy. Despite the challenging terrain, we finished the trip as good friends, refreshed and feeling great. Our secret? We laughed a lot, supported each other, and enjoyed every moment, even when it rained. We cooked our meals and made coffee with water from the rivers.
From this special bike trip, I'll always remember a few things:
When you really want to do something, you'll find a way, whether by bike or on foot.
We're stronger when we're together. The whole group is more powerful than each of us alone.
Travel with an open mind. You'll have more chances for unique experiences, meetings, and opportunities.
Be honest with yourself, your body, and with others, no matter how the trip goes.
The Scottish Highlands are always amazing to experience and not too hard to explore.
My Ridley Kanzo Adventure bike with wide mountain bike tires is, by far, the coolest bike I've ever had. It can handle anything.
During this amazing journey, we camped under the starry Scottish sky, stayed in old mountain huts, and had the simple joy of eating fish and chips on the windy coast. We shared lots of laughs and stories that will always echo through the Highlands.
Over the years, I've learned the essence of my ancestors’ wisdom to form my most adventurous life. Fueled by passion, industry and a regard for my environment we traversed the globe as Gravel Pros, albeit with our own twist. Gravel bikes carried us to mesmerising destinations. Our tales, captured through photos, videos and words, reached countless eyes, hopefully spurring on just as many cycling adventures.
Ready for your own adventure?"