Words and photos by Matt and Justin from Ornot.
When Tom Ritchey asked if we wanted to ride pre-release Outbacks at the 2017 Grinduro we obviously said "yes!” (actually, it was "hell yes!!"). So when our trip to Grinduro Scotland hit a catastrophic speed bump because the airlines broke not just one, but both of our bikes, we immediately sent an SOS call and Ritchey delivered (literally, they delivered us bikes in London).
Grinduro, for those who don’t know, is a cross between an enduro MTB race, a gravel race, and an outdoor camping festival. The course is long, but the actual racing is fairly short consisting of four diverse timed segments. We participated in the original California Grinduro since its inception in 2015, and every year it becomes more and more popular. In 2017 a Grinduro Scotland was added, and 2018 marked the year that we made the trek all the way to the Isle of Arran to check it out.
Things we learned at Grinduro Scotland
1. Scotland is rad
Whoa, this place is amazing. This was our first trip to Scotland and adding a 1-hour ferry to a semi-remote island just adds to the adventure. For those who have visited the San Juan Islands in Washington state, it’s similar, but with more whiskey, a thicker accent, and riding on the wrong side of the road. Everyone greeted us with smiles and some told us their whole life story. Unfortunately, we never had a chance to try the special porridge, which incorporates a shot of the island's own whiskey.
The Grinduro event in California sold out this year in about three hours and there were around 1000 people in attendance. The Scotland event had about 250 participants, which made for cozy vibes allowing everyone to chat and get to know one another. Conversely, at some points during the ride, there was no one else around, which offered a unique solitude.
3. AMAZING TERRAIN
If you're going to make people travel far and wide you need to deliver some amazing riding. The course traversed all over the island and delivered amazing gravel roads, singletrack, views, paved roads and even a giant's grave (no joke, it’s a bunch of old rocks placed there 5700 years ago). Since the format allows you to ride at your own pace between the segments, we choose to make the most of the day and really drag it out by taking long coffee stops, taking in the views, and exploring a few bonus zones. You can check out the route on our Strava profile here: Grinduro 2018, Ornot.
They’ve got these little bugs called midges, in the United States we call them "no see ums” or biting gnats. They are really tiny and enjoy biting you on the face. Luckily they only seemed to do this when we were near the tents and not when we were eating and hanging out. We received warnings of bugs in epic proportions, but in all honesty, they were no worse than anywhere else in the U.S. We chalk it up to the mass extinction of bugs in Europe (is that a thing?).
5. A WEE BIT OF RAIN
Despite both of our bikes breaking, we got lucky. Last year it rained the entire weekend - apparently this is pretty common. While we were there it was 70-degrees, clear and beautiful. Even the locals were surprised to see such nice weather. However, on Sunday morning when we woke up, the clouds had moved in and there was a very Pacific Northwest-like misty rain blanketing everything. In all honesty, we were prepared for rain and almost hoping for it since the photos we saw from 2017 looked like they were taken from the Lord of the Rings set.
6. NEVER TRUST RICK STEVES.
This wasn't our first time traveling, but every trip is a learning experience. We learned that using soft-sided bike cases is a roll of the dice. We also learned that traveling by train in the U.K. and Europe requires an advanced "bike reservation." Our huge train only had four spots for bikes, and once those spots were reserved no more bikes were allowed. And finally, we learned that in the U.K. they run their brake levers on the opposite side, which is totally cool, Ornot (we didn't crash).
Here's some more photos from their adventures...