A few days after the Capital Trail I finally found some time for a quick resume, after all of those weeks planning, riding, planning again, riding again, sending emails, worrying, and so forth. The very short version would be: The Capital Trail was a huge success for me, especially on a personal scale. But judging from the feedback I have been gathering so far, everyone seemed to enjoy it. It was the first proper route ever I have designed myself, and I went into the project without any knowledge or expectations. All I wanted to create is something that puts Edinburgh on the international mountain bike map and a great introduction to bikepacking in Scotland, a country I owe so much. Ambitious? Yes. Enjoyable? Even more so! Getting such great feedback from riders was amazing, and even if I am pretty sure that my name was associated with the odd swear word on some parts, everyone rolled in with a smile.
In sheer numbers the ride was an impressive feast in its first year. A total of 74 riders made it to the start line on Portobello Beach on Saturday at 8am, with two riders, Catriona Morrison and Richard Jenkins, out already on an ITT attempt since 4.30am in the morning, while Colin set off in the evening after everyone else. Unusual for a bikepacking adventure, 59 of us actually rolled over the finish line on Sunday, one more in the early hours on Monday, and I heard rumours that Drew rolled straight into Waverley, so that almost counts. With 94 people registered in advance the turnout was great, considering that such a ride is only really doable in a fully fit state of both bike and riders, and some riders had to drop out due to injuries before the start, which is rather normal.
I am not as much a man of records and numbers as I used to be, but the above mentioned are impressive by all accounts for the first year, for a ride in a place not associated with bikepacking so far. More impressive though is David King’s finishing time of 15 hrs and 15 minutes, ridden on a singlespeed. Even when I was out riding most of the course the weekend before, I would have never dreamt that this would be possible. Quite honestly I was properly struggling on the weekend before, which was due to some horrendous winds and the after effects of the Highland Trail 550. Looking at my own time of 18 hrs and 9 minutes right now I must admit that I was even more surprised by that than by the fastest time, maybe it was a race after all? While out riding I had the thought that I had designed something way too easy, but in the end it turned out to be exactly the right course to accommodate a wide range of abilities. After all, 5600m of ascent in a single day are super tough, and not much easier spread over two days.
And then there was the social aspect. The smiles, the beers, the coffee in the morning. The saving Jelly Babies and the rather genius pile up of bikes outside the pub. 75 likeminded people, skinny or fat tyres, or whatever in between, all lined up against a beautifully lit sky looking over the Forth. A whisky-drinking Bikemonger winning the sprint along the promenade, after he had added extra weight to all other frames in form of little black stickers. The cheers from Sophie, Matthias and Ian, who at the same time captured the spirit of the ride in beautiful pictures. Even being in the front for the first time ever in a ride was a great social experience, with Ken’s repeated warnings he might blow up any given minute (he never did) in between the great chat. More chat with Phil in Melrose, with Fraser through Sunderland Hall, with most of you at the finish. Even after being pretty much on my own after the Three Brethren, I never felt alone.
This is what bikepacking is about. Seeing a great trail around a stunning city being brought to life by such a great bunch of people will stick forever in my mind. The pictures, the video and the individual accounts of the ride, mine still to follow, all tell very different stories. This Edinburgh, is my gift to you, and I hope it is here to stay for a long time to come!