A mountain refuge in the wild countryside

Going rogue: First time bike packing

I'm 43yrs old and I've never done an overnight journey with my bike that involved me being responsible for carrying everything I need. My only experience of touring involves multiple bikes that are transported around in a truck, a luxury bus to carry me and my team mates, staff delivering suitcases and chefs cooking whatever we want - being a professional cyclist spoiled me and in truth I've never had any inclination to pack my bike up and go rogue.

That all changed a week ago when I sat down and caught up with my old team mate and friend, Lachlan Morton. Find the interview here. I've known Lachlan since he arrived in Europe as a 20yr old and joined Garmin. We became friends quickly.  Looking back it's surprising we got on so well considering there's a fifteen year age difference; I realise now, looking back, that I saw much of myself in Lachlan at the same age - and over the course of the past week or so, from interviewing him to this bike packing mini-adventure I've begun to finally understand why we get on so well.

It was while interviewing him that I finally understood why he goes on adventures, actually more often than not Lachlan goes on expeditions - he's become the poster boy for the alternative calendar of biking: a World Tour racer who'll give Dirty Kanza a go, conquers GBDURO, breaks the Everesting record during lockdown, in a nutshell: if it exists, Lachlan will try it. Yet beyond those organised events he'll create his own, escapades of exploration of his own design, I told him I wanted to try it, and sure enough last week I got a message from him saying Monday we're going, I asked, "Where?" He said, "Don't know yet."

I got a message over the weekend with a RDV, he was going to ride out, and I was going to drive and meet him and begin my ride a bit closer to the final destination. I'm realistic in my cycling ability these days and understand Lachlan does actually need to train rather than have a ball and chain like me slowing him down. 

My bike has never done anything like this. I don't even own any camping gear. Lachlan told me to bring a yoga mat, I don't do yoga either, so I went to Decathlon and bought a mat. Thankfully I had the Restrap bags and filled them up with random stuff I thought would come in necessary. Four beers with ice. A litre of soup. A tin of Baked Beans. Bread. A small bottle of Elixir du Mont Ventoux. Change of clothes. Blow up pillow. Knife.

Lachlan on the other hand was better prepared. Sleeping bags for both of us, stove, more bread, lots of dehydrated vegetables and soup, coffee, sleeping mat, change of clothes. Bowls and sporks for both us. Speaker.

It was very hot at our RDV, the plan was to ride up a 12km mountain, I don't think I've ever stopped so much for water in my life. Mainly because I had mild paranoia about getting to the top of the mountain and not being able to source water, I figured prevention was better than cure so any time I saw water I went rushing for it as if I'd been lost in the Sahara for days. It wasn't very dignified, although it proved to be very effective. Lachlan eventually cracked and bought into my paranoia.

The climb was an absolute beast. We went off road where we could, this did not make it easier. It took a long time and the final 2km involved me mostly dismounting and walking my bike up, I've never done this before, I got a blister. I felt like a member of the Rough-Stuff Fellowship i.e. Never go for a walk without your bike.

A remote mountain refuge on the side of a hill

The destination was a refuge, these are often found in mountains, used by like-minded people whom need somewhere to rest their weary bones. They are shelter's open to all, there is a mutual respect expected when it comes to their upkeep and although at first it looks more shabby than chic as night falls you are nothing if not over-joyed to have it's roof over your head.

Bikes leaning against the wall of a mountain refuge on a bikepacking trip

Different bikes with different carrying systems being powered by different engines. 

We had a starter of soup from cartons boosted with dehydrated mushrooms (not trippy ones) and tinned meatballs as a main course. All supplemented by our copious amounts of bread. The Baked Beans were not needed and were left on a shelf in the refuge as tribute.

Lachlan Morton preparing for sleep in a mountain refuge

We turned our headlamps off at 22:30, after laughing continuously for nearly two hours.

Sunrise over the mountains on a bikepacking trip

We both got up just before 7am, as the sun breached the nearby mountains. There was something very peaceful about it. We’d gone to bed animated and happy, we woke calm and peacefully.

We left as we arrived, pushing our bikes laughing already promising we’d do it again, it wasn’t even 8am.

And the best bit of the whole experience? We realized we’re both Scottish. 

Listen to the podcast we did Lachlan:



Find Lachlan here on IG.
His film Thereabouts here.