Big Mountain Lite | Intermediate

Embrace the Backcountry

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"Your guides work so well together as a team and know exactly how far to push us so that everyone gets benefit - we all came away feeling like we had made progress!"

Big Mountain Lite™

Time to embrace the backcountry!

More and more people want to explore the big mountain splendour of the Scottish Highlands but all too often they’re put off by doubts about whether they’re fit or technically capable enough to enjoy the challenges they’ll find in these epic environments. In this ‘intro-to’ adventure, you’ll return home from an action-packed, fun-filled week fully equipped and ready to take on the biggest summits and the gnarliest terrain with a step-by-step programme focused on the crucial elements you’ll need to become a more confident backcountry rider.

Plus you’ll be spoiled by the riding in this secret mountain bikers paradise, but don’t take our word for it – it’s what our guests say! Watch our video for a flavour of why they love it so much.

The Trip

For nearly thirty years we’ve been exploring the Cairngorms, Deeside and Angus Glens and this part of Scotland never fails to blow our minds. It’s the perfect environment to hone your skills with the help of our guides and coaches – by the end of the week you’ll return home tired, satisfied and ready to book your next BIG mountain bike adventure.

The Big Mountain Lite is our way to help and encourage more riders to explore Scotland’s wild places – safely, sensitively and with the right tools and skills for the job. It takes place in an area that’s surprisingly under the radar of the mountain biking public so it comes as a big surprise just how fantastic the riding is. But also because it offers up such a huge variety of riding from big mountain epics to sweet forest singletrack (plus a very generous portion of ‘apres-biking’ too!).

  • Type of TripAll-mountain
  • Technical Grading 2+ to
  • Endurance Grading 2+ to
  • How Long?  This is a week-long adventure running Saturday to Friday

Here’s what you can expect

  • A fun-focused week exploring the lesser known trail gems of the Cairngorms, Deeside and the Angus Glens with an emphasis on key big mountain preparation and techniques
  • Professional Guides – expertly trained, hugely experienced but most of all great fun and with a wealth of local knowledge to share!
  • Unique Lodge Accommodation in the heart of the action
  • Buffet breakfasts to set you up for the day
  • Logistics and comprehensive support including backup vehicle, First Aid and mechanical assistance throughout your trip
  • Detailed pre-departure information
  • Trip photos
  • Join the trip in Innerleithen, Edinburgh or Perth (alternative arrangements may be possible – please contact us to discuss)

2020 Trip Dates

  • July 11th to 17th

Essential Information

Itinerary*

Saturday

Did somebody say coffee?

Trips typically begin with a fresh coffee (of course!) and a rendezvous around 08:30 in the Tweed Valley with pick-ups in Edinburgh and Perth (full details are sent out beforehand).

After high-fives and handshakes, a last-minute supply run may be the order of the day, then we safely secure our precious cargo onto our custom bike trailer, load the minibus, turn on the tunes and kick off the adventure! 

As we truck north to our Deeside HQ, we’ll treat ourselves to a tasty ride on some lesser-known trail delights in this slice of mountain biking heaven.

By the time we swing back into the village we’ll be ready to crack open the beers and rustle up a hearty dinner at our accommodation or nip out and enjoy some fine local hospitality!

Sunday

Five minutes out the door of your fantastic accommodation, you’ll be picking up your second taste of what’s on offer.

Big ups for big downs and wide smiles. We’ll take it easy on the climbs though, keeping plenty in the tanks for the good bits. We’ll spend some time getting to know everyone’s riding background and aspirations and have a chat through the key differences between riding trail centre and big mountains. Not too much chat though – we want you to savour the heathery singletrack goodness, then we’ll regroup to discuss tactics on how best to tackle those tasty granite slabs.

That evening, we’ll probably give in to the lure of the local pub and enjoy some great grub, perhaps a tasty ale and the buzz from gaining confidence on some of the funnest descents anywhere.

Monday

Big mountains and big flow. Epic panoramas are just one reward for reaching the plateau of one of the UK’s highest summits – by the time you reach the summit, you’ll agree that the hike-a-bikes are almost as rewarding as what’s to come…an amazing singletrack ribbon below us.

Tuesday

Optional chill-out day.

The tiny mountain town of Braemar is the gateway to the most rewarding backcountry mountain biking in Scotland – if relaxing’s not your bag, today’s got the potential to be quite an ‘out there’ experience but you won’t be going into it blind; three days of gentle coaching will have you eager for more.

Definitely a three sandwich kind of day and we know you’ll love it!

Wednesday

There’s so much to choose from on the Big Mountain Lite. The Cairngorms national Park is a land of contrasts – the Queen’s highland retreat is nearby, hidden deep in the silent forests of ancient Scots Pine sheltering beneath some of the UK’s highest summits, where the sub-arctic landscape is more similar to Scandinavia than the rest of the British Isles.

Today is one of our favourites – a loam-rich rollercoaster through the pines and an ideal opportunity to perfect those little techniques that can have such a big impact on your enjoyment.

Thursday

With so much riding on our doorstep, we’ve plenty of time for another dose of singletrack goodness to keep your head spinning for weeks – this time a sweet ribbon, only reached by an ancient drove road and long forgotten track we uncovered over the years of exploring this maze of mountain biking fun.

Friday

Just as you’re getting into the groove, you realise it’s our very last day…after a relaxed breakfast, we’ll sort out our kit, take one last look at this incredible part of Scotland before starting our homeward journey south.

Trip Grading


We want you to pick the right mountain bike trip in Scotland for your fitness and technical ability – it helps ensure you’ll be riding with people of a similar skill level and can ride at the pace you want to ride at.

We’ve developed a trip grading based on our experience riding the terrain that features on our trips, as well as meeting and learning from riders from all over the world and understanding their expectations.

Please read the following guidelines carefully to ensure you pick a mountain bike holiday in Scotland suited to your skill and fitness. If you are unsure if a trip is right for you, please contact us.

Technical Ratings

This trip can be enjoyed by riders who rate themselves 2+ to 3 level.

The goal of the Technical Rating is to understand the ability of the rider as it pertains to obstacles, conditions and trail design. This means it has nothing to do with your physical endurance, but is instead strictly a measure of your technical ability. Making sure you accurately rate your technical ability will ensure you have an exciting ride, while remaining within your ability level to keep you safe.

We use ‘+’ to designate when a trip is at the top of a grading e.g 2+ is just below grading 3; and ‘++’ when a trip grading subsumes all other higher gradings e.g. 3++ would be suitable for 3+ riders as well as grading 4 and 5 riders.

Rating: 2

You have been riding a mountain or gravel bike off-road for a season or two. You have consolidated basic bike handling skills and an appetite to progress to the next level. You are comfortable on a mixture of singletrack and landrover track, on uneven, loose and occasionally steep gradients, with some variation in trail surfaces from rocks to roots. You are comfortable on narrower trails approximately 18 inches wide that are mostly stable with some variability. You are comfortable traversing unavoidable obstacles such as roots, rocks and logs that are 8-10 inches tall.

Rating: 3

You are a confident mountain or off-road biker and have been riding technical terrain for at least 2 years including exposed singletrack and rough landrover track, on uneven, loose and frequent steep gradients, with frequent variation in trail surfaces from rocks to roots. You are comfortable riding on trails approximately 12 inches wide that vary greatly in their stability and may be unpredictable including loose rock. You are comfortable regularly traversing unavoidable obstacles such as roots, rocks, logs and drop offs up to 15 inches tall, and some obstacles encountered may exceed that. 

Endurance Ratings

This trip will be enjoyed by riders who rate themselves 2+ to 3 for endurance.

The goal of the Endurance Rating is to understand the ability of the rider as it pertains to overall physical endurance. Riding on the road or in “Spin Class” is great and all, but mountain biking is a completely different animal (ask anyone who has made the switch). The reason being is that the terrain is changing every second, which forces your entire body and your mind to be involved in the exercise process. This exertion will cause exhaustion to set in a lot quicker than you think. Be sure you read the descriptions carefully because we want you to have fun out there, not think this is a form of cruel and unusual punishment.

Rating: 2

You are a mountain biker or gravel rider riding once a week, or a roadie riding twice a week or more when the weather is cooperating and some days when its not. You are at an average fitness level, and regularly do other activities that qualify as exercise. You can ride on consecutive days and usually find yourself riding for 3-4 hours per day on the road, or 2 hours per day on the trails, and you ride at a relaxed or moderate pace.

Rating: 3

You are an avid mountain biker or off-roader riding twice a week or more, and the weather isn’t a big factor for you. You are at an above-average fitness level, and regularly do other activities that qualify as exercise. You usually find yourself riding for 3 hours on the trails, you’ll ride on consecutive days, and you ride at a moderate pace.

Accommodation


Where we stay during our mountain bike tours of Scotland plays almost as big a part in the overall experience as the trails we ride.

We use a wide variety of accommodation, from wild camping and bothy huts in remote wilderness settings to rustic hostels through to comfortable and friendly inns and guest houses, luxury self catering lodges, castles and everything in between.

Lodge

On this trip, we stay in a ‘lodge’ on a bed and breakfast basis – think of it a bit like a ski lodge (without the snow obviously!); a comfortable self-catering vacation rental chalet in the heart of mountain biking heaven.

Our lodges provide a fantastic base in a prime location to come back to at the end of a big day in the hills – with the added benefit that you don’t need to unpack and repack throughout your trip, and the flexibility of full catering, laundry and drying facilities at your disposal.

Food & Drink


Mountain biking in Scotland means you will be hungry (very hungry!) and despite the remoteness of this particular trip, there are opportunities to enjoy great fresh Scottish fayre and of course a dram or two and a fine ale!

Breakfasts

Breakfasts are included and are provided on a help yourself continental style basis to set you up for the day e.g fruits, yogurts, muesli, cereals, porridge, juices, breads etc (dietary requirements are taken into account from your booking).

Lunches

​There will be opportunities for you to buy packed lunch provisions to carry on the rides, or, depending on routes we may enjoy a great cafe stop or lunch at a traditional Inn (your guides will let you know the plan each day).

Evening Meals

Some meals are enjoyed in locally selected inns and bistros, and for the rest, provisions will be purchased on your behalf by ourselves to enjoy preparing meals at the beautiful accommodation facilities, around the firepit or for a BBQ on the deck (your guides will let you know the plan each day).

Budget

We estimate a budget of £20 to £35 per person per day is adequate for lunches and evening meals with refreshments.

Included

Included

A week uncovering the lesser known trail gems of the Cairngorms, Deeside and the Angus Glens

Professional Guides (two minimum) – expertly trained, hugely experienced but most of all great fun and with a wealth of local knowledge to share!

Six nights accommodation in a Highland cabin

Help yourself buffet breakfasts to set you up for the day

Free transport (start/finish of the trip)

Free shuttles throughout the trip

Backup vehicle

Professional mountain bike guides

Qualified first aid assistance

Mechanical assistance throughout your trip

Your first meal with refreshments is our welcome to you (no cost)

Riverside firepit

Apres-bike swimming in the river!

Full kitchen, laundry and drying facilities

Secure bike storage

Bike wash facilities

Detailed pre-departure information

Trip photo album

Excluded

Meals and drinks except breakfasts and those stated above

Travel Insurance

Personal Equipment

Additional transportation or accommodation not mentioned above

Extras

Bike Rental

Equipment Rental

Vehicle Rental

Additional accommodation before, during or after the trip

Additional transportation

Baggage / bike box collection & storage

Single room supplement (if applicable)

Logistics

Outward Travel

Initial departure point: 08:45, Co-op Supermarket​, Innerleithen (free parking available)

Pick-up point two: 09:30/45, Edinburgh Park train station

Rendezvous point: Lochside Avenue entrance / Premier Inn (Gyle) side of the track (Edinburgh Airport Tram connection is available​, 12 min journey)

Pick-up point three: 10:30/45, Perth Services Travelodge Hotel​, Perth

Journey time to the accommodation in Deeside is approximately three hours excluding stops

On our way north, we’ll pick up supplies in Blairgowrie

Near Braemar, we’ll have a quick lunch and afterwards enjoy a short ride to sample the trails and stretch the legs before reaching our accommodation around 17:30

Return Travel

At the end of the trip, we will be arriving back in the Edinburgh (Park) area around 15:00 and Innerleithen by 16:00.

Luggage & Bike Transportation

For all trips, there is allowance for one large holdall plus riding backpack per person

Regrettably, we do not have provision to store/carry bike bags and boxes during trips – please ask your accommodation e.g. in Edinburgh if they can store it for you; most will be happy to. Please request this service in advance

Bikes are securely carried (fully-assembled) and attached to our custom Burtech trailer and should be ready fully assembled for the trip start

We always recommend guest bikes are fully insured

Equipment

Suitable Bikes

A fully serviced 3 – 6 inch travel full suspension bike with dropper seatpost and hydraulic disc brakes is recommended

It’s entirely possible to take part in our trips on more modest setups or hardtails but we find that over the course of several consecutive days riding, the added comfort and confidence of a full suspension trail bike is a real asset, and enhances the overall experience

Rental Bikes

If you prefer not to travel with your bike, or you’d like to try something new, we have access to some of the best full suspension mountain bikes available from brands including Santa Cruz, Juliana, Trek, Orange and Whyte to name just a few

If you’re interested in hiring a great bike, we have fantastic deals from our retail partners– available from £50 per day – so please just ask or add this option to your trip on the booking page

If you’re hiring a bike, for your safety and comfort we always recommend bringing your
own helmet and pedals

Groups & Individuals


We welcome solo travellers (in fact most of our guests travel solo) but did you know that if you’re making a group booking (2+ riders) you’ll automatically save money at the checkout (up to 18%) whether you’re booking for a club, colleagues, friends or family – whoever’s in your tribe.

To secure a booking, we require a 25% deposit when the reservation is made, with the balance payable within 60 days of your booking commencement. For bookings made less than 60 days before booking commencement, full payment is required at the time of booking.

Expert Guides


Our guides are fully trained and qualified to the highest standards required to operate in the mountain environments where our trips take place.

“So what, we’re a bunch of friends, we ride lots and we’re pretty good at navigation.”

We hear this all the time, and we don’t want to baby anyone. That’s why we offer self-guided packages too, once we’re confident that our clients will be safe first, and have a great experience second.

Scotland is a beautiful but wild place. When you pay for our services, you’re paying for the reassurance that we know our way around the mountains, how to read people, the local conditions, logistics, fix mechanicals and always have a another ‘plan A’ up our sleeve.

As well as being extraordinarily great human beings (as standard!), all our mountain bike guides hold, as a minimum, the Mountain Bike Leader qualification and emergency outdoor first aid qualifications. We believe these to be the most robust and rigorous qualifications in the business and the minimum standard for running trips like ours in Scotland. They’re not easy to come by but your enjoyment is our business.

Safety


An adventure wouldn’t be an ‘adventure’ without a degree of risk. It’s our job to manage those risks so you have the best time possible. As well as substantial field first aid kits, your mountain bike guides will be packing (or distributing among the group) essential group emergency items including mobile telecom’s, VHF long-range radios, emergency survival shelters, and extra emergency clothing and supplies.

Speaking of guides – we operate with the highest ratio of professional guides to clients in the industry. The current regulations permit one guide per group of eight. We don’t agree this is acceptable. We’re a lot more comfortable with at least two staff per eight clients, and a maximum group size of eight in the sensitive mountain environments we run our trips. Sure, we might not be the most profitable outfit in the industry but we strive to be the safest.

We employ robust late back procedures, and every trip is fully risk assessed. While no one can guarantee a 100% safe trip, we do everything possible to minimise risks. And long before we depart we ensure the trip is suitable for you – none of this one size fits all approach – it simply doesn’t work.

Environment

Only one thing matches our desire to enjoy Scotland’s amazing outdoors and that’s our commitment to contribute to sustainable adventure tourism in Scotland.

We operate ‘small footprint’ mountain bike adventures to minimise any negative environmental impacts of running our business. We are often asked about running large group trips in remote, sensitive locations but in line with our safety and environmental policy – that’s not really our forté.

As well as being members of the key environmental organisations in Scotland, we encourage our clients to consider their interaction with the environments they are riding wherever possible. We also make use of local hospitality, products and services to ensure our trips contribute economically to the rural environments we enjoy so much. We took another small step in the right direction recently by becoming members of ‘1% for the Planet’. But we must do more.

Financial Protection

Consumer Financial Protection

Our Consumer Financial Protection insurance protects your money. This is in fact a legal requirement but not every adventure company even knows this and some choose to ignore it. Why? Because it’s expensive and complicated to become fully insured in this way, and not every application is accepted. Ours was. Your money is safe with us.

Tour Operators Liability

Did you know that in the UK it’s us, the tour operators, who are liable for all aspects of your mountain bike holiday bike package in Scotland? That’s why we have ‘Tour Operators Liability Cover’. Always ask your supplier if they have this insurance. You need it and they should have it.

Reviews


We work hard to maintain high professional standards but you probably wouldn’t know it because we’re having way too much fun. Ten years on it still puts the biggest smile on our faces when our clients take time out to tell us how much they enjoyed their mountain bike trip in Scotland. See what ‘Our Clan’ have to say about their mountain bike holiday on Google and via our trip reviews.

Trip Focus

Big mountain preparation – equipment, weather, navigation, environment, riding light, portaging and riding techniques – this week covers them all in the environments you’ll be putting them into practice!

Big Mountain Lite | Intermediate

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