The intention was to ride the Badger Divide. A self-sufficient journey across 321km of the Scottish Highlands between Inverness & Glasgow. Created as a training route for the Baja Divide – hence the name: Badger/Baja.
The video is below….
I have been left truly dented by this latest adventure. Both literally and figuratively. Scouring through the footage leaves me reeling with a need to just be back out there, pushing forward, to the point of utter exhaustion. I didn’t want to come home.
In preparation, I had purposefully kept myself physically busy and on the go constantly during the run up which culminated in riding the Dirty Reiver. I could then rest for a week before setting off on the Badger. That didn’t happen. Lots of work rolled in and I spent 2 days on an outdoor First Aid course to complete my Mountain Bike Leadership qualification. All the packing and organising was left until the day before departure.
I wouldn’t be on my own though. I would be adventuring with Wheels & Sneakers guru Sophie Barras.
Sophie turned up one summer evening to our Bicycle Adventure Club gatherings in Birmingham City Centre that we hold periodically to encourage and meet new cyclists. She has been on plenty of rides and camping adventures with us since.
Sophie has become one of many good friends I have met through the BAC. We are from the same 1970s sunshine and both have childish streaks that we fight to maintain whilst desperately trying not to be too grown up about life. We both have a strength, determination & wisdom that is only gained through adversity, and whilst our back catalogues are very different; our similarities continually surprise me.
I mentioned my intention to one day ride the Badger Divide on our Night In the Woods Trip to which Soph replied: ‘when do we go?’ and just like that: an adventure was born.
We reckoned on 5 days to cover the distance and over 5000m of gravelly elevation. On the edge of our physical abilities, we knew it would be tough – but so are we.
Things never turn out like the plan…….this is the rule, not the exception; and I should know this by now.
Navigating a patriarchal world in a non-binary capacity, I learned to roll with the punches from a very young age, redirecting the hurt and dissapointment . Life is what you make it and I’m pretty good at embracing change and new opportunities. If this all sounds a little deep, well that’s because it is. I am deep. Sometimes you need to reach into the depths to help you move through the shallows.
Day 1 should have been a 70km ride from Inverness to Fort Augustus. However, 34km & 624m of elevation beyond Inverness we reached Drumnadrochit around 3pm and a deep exhaustion set in. I ate and had to lie down. I just wanted to sleep. The climb out of Drumnadrochit is 5km of vertical and I just didn’t have it in me. I was gutted, exhausted, but mostly sad I had let Sophie down. It was a mental low point.
After a good night’s sleep we pushed on towards Fort Augustus through some spectacular yet brutal terrain, parts quite unsuitable for pushing a bike, never mind riding one.
It became apparent and we both agreed that we didn’t have the speed required to cover the distance to Glasgow in time and ride across vast swathes of open moorland that require a reasonably pacey traverse to prevent boredom setting in.
In Fort Augustus, buoyed by a good meal & rest we replanned the adventure to follow NCN route 78 along the Caledonian Canal and the Great Glen Way to Fort William. We would catch the Train to Loch Lomond and Cycle into Glasgow from there. I felt much better about this plan and I think Soph did too. We could enjoy the ride, the opportunity and each other’s company without making things unnecessarily difficult and beasting ourselves.
Curve ball #2
We had the best time, until 20 miles out of Glasgow. My rear wheel slid in the opposite direction of travel on a wet boardwalk and I crashed into the ground at 11kph. I felt my chest compress and my helmet crumple. It took me 10 minutes to get up. I knew I had broken ribs. Soph calmly untangled me from my bike and I somehow managed to cycle to the nearest train station so we could get the train into Glasgow.
Just a stupid accident yet I couldn’t help but feel as though I had spoilt the end of Sophie’s adventure. I promise you Soph, we will go back to Glasgow, ride those last 20 miles and have a celebratory night out…..like we planned.
I still have mixed feelings when I watch the video. There is naturally disappointment that I didn’t complete the route but it turned into a very different adventure and Sophie is just the best company, she went above and beyond when I fell off my bike.
I wisely decided against a trip to A&E in Glasgow on a Saturday night but did go when I got back home. I was still in considerable pain and an XRay revealed I had indeed broken a rib.
Despite the plan changes, the exhaustion, the disappointments and the crash; we laughed a lot, and we rode our bikes across Scotland. What more could anyone want?
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