The film is the output of our latest successful co-operation with the North Coast 500. ‘Where Roads End’ additionally supported by Komoot, is available to watch on YouTube now.
Bikepacking Scotland founder Markus Stitz fondly remembers his first bikepacking trip in Scotland and comments on the co-operation with the NC500: ‘My first ever bikepacking adventure in 2006 took me through the absolutely stunning North of Scotland, and I vividly remember that journey. Having worked on a couple of different cycling route projects over the last years and most recently a book about gravel riding in Britain, I was interested to partner up with the North Coast 500 not only to showcase the stunning landscapes I travelled through, but also to give people an idea that the NC500 is much more than just a driving route.’
More information about the bikepacking route can be found at our website here. More information about the North Coast 500 can be found here, and bikes can be hired from Ticket to Ride here.
Argyll’s islands, the Inner Hebrides and Bute, offer fantastic bikepacking filled with beautiful beaches, some of the world’s best distilleries, great gravel tracks and local food experiences.
Our Bikepacking Argyll’s Islandsroute, commissioned by CalMac Ferries and Wild About Argyll, maps a 496km-journey (308 miles) connecting the Isles of Mull, Jura, Islay and Bute on a mixture of gravel tracks, singletrail, cycle paths and roads. The route also makes great use of ScotRail’s Highland Explorer, which provides space for up to 20 bikes, including tandems. The newly introduced train carriage offers a bike-friendly train connection between Glasgow, host city of the UCI Cycling World Championships in 2023, and Oban, where the new route begins. Bikes travel free on trains and all ferries along the route.
For new bikepackers and gravel cyclists Bikepacking Argyll’s Islands offers a wide range of accommodation and incentives to stop. Experienced cyclists will find plenty of opportunities to extend the route or combine it with other established trails.
‘Wild About Bikepacking’ is the third short film from Markus Stitzthat is set in Argyll, self-filmed in October 2021 when he travelled on a Twmpa Cycles GR 1.0, a bike built around a unique wooden frame. The route Markus cycled also includes part of his journey around the world on a singlespeed bike in 2015/2016.
Markus comments: ‘When I arrived from my 34,000km-trip around the world with a small boat in Port Ellen, I instantly fell in love with Islay. I returned a few times since, and was delighted when I had the opportunity to work with Wild About Argyll and CalMac Ferries to map a new bikepacking route across the lesser frequented islands in Argyll. It complements the existing Wild About Argyll Trail, which has been enjoyed by many cyclists since its launch in January 2018.’
Stitz continues: ‘For me, boarding a ferry to an island is the perfect start to a bikepacking adventure, and this route includes some of the most scenic ferry journeys in Scotland. Different from other routes I mapped, this one features quite a few road sections. Most of them are really quiet and enjoyable, like the Long Road on Jura. A gravel bike is the perfect bike to cycle the Bikepacking Argyll’s Islands route. What I really like about it is the combination of great cycling, culinary offers and accommodation. And there are plenty of opportunities to unearth Scotland’s history in places like Kilmartin Glen, which has the most important concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in mainland Scotland.’
The route adds to Wild About Argyll’s ‘Pedaddling’ offer. The region, dubbed as Scotland’s Adventure Coast, offers multiple opportunities for water sports with 3750km (2330 miles) of coastline, 23 inhabited islands and 40 lochs, which are complemented by long distance cycling routes like the Wild About Argyll Trailand Caledonia Wayand a network of shorter Rail & Trail routes.
‘Wild About Bikepacking’ is available to watch for free on YouTube. The Bikepacking Argyll’s Islandsroute, divided into eight day itineraries, can be navigated by downloading the GPX-files for free on our website here.
‘Explore Your Boundaries’ was inspired by the desire to create adventures close to home, a way of seeing the familiar in unfamiliar ways. Mark Beaumont, Guinness World Record holder for the fastest circumnavigation by bike, and Markus Stitz, singlespeed round the world cyclist and filmmaker, mapped 24 Scottish council boundary routes to encourage people to stay active, whether cycling or walking, and to inspire adventures that started and finished at their front door. To create the routes, they uploaded the council boundaries GPX files onto the mapping platform Komoot and matched them with the closest existing pathways. This ‘Explore Your Boundaries’ documentary captures their four adventures in Clackmannanshire, East Lothian and Falkirk, undertaken from June to September 2021, and Glasgow, undertaken during COP26, the UN Climate Change Conference, in November 2021.
Mark Beaumont comments: ‘The thing I love about the ‘Explore your Boundaries’ concept is that it forced us to find routes which we never would have looked for. Often it felt like you were in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and yet if I stopped and thought about it, I was only 25 miles from home. It’s really interesting when you have a project, a journey, which is defined by a route which is not necessarily a trail. Straightlining expeditions have always fascinated me, and in a weird way ‘Explore Your Boundaries’ is like a straightlining expedition, albeit most of them are big circle routes. Because you’re following this predefined line.’
Filmmaker Markus Stitz comments: ‘The idea of ‘Explore Your Boundaries’ was born in the second lockdown of 2020, when we jointly turned a limitation, having to start any exercise within or close to the boundary of our local council area Edinburgh, into an opportunity. We used the council boundaries to map 24 different gravel routes throughout Scotland. From the feedback on social media those routes inspired people to ride their bikes. And they motivated us to get this film project off the ground. It was great to get the support from Clackmannanshire Council, Visit East Lothian, Visit Falkirk, Schwalbe Tyres UK and Vango to produce this documentary. For me the film also highlights regions in Scotland which are not normally in the tourist spotlight. Responsible and sustainable tourism by bike can bring new income streams and visitors to those communities, and I hope the film will inspire more people to visit in 2022 and beyond.’
The routes along the boundaries of Clackmannanshire (79km/49mi), East Lothian (169km/105mi), Falkirk (133km/83mi) and Glasgow (119km/74mi) allowed both cyclists not only to experience the varied landscapes, but also offered them an insight into the historic places they experienced along the way.
Beaumont comments further: ‘I can think of so many examples, even from the ‘Explore Your Boundaries’ we’ve done so far, where I’ve learned different parts of Scotland’s history, which would have passed me by if I was just going out to do a training ride.’
‘Explore Your Boundaries’ is available to watch for free on YouTube here, with subtitles available in English and German. More information about ‘Explore Your Boundaries’ can be found on our website, while the routes are also available to download on Mark Beaumont’s Komoot profile and Markus Stitz’s Komoot profile.
Adventure Show presenter Amy Irons travels to the Scottish Borders, a part of Scotland often ignored by outdoor enthusiasts keen to get to the big mountains. She joins Bikepacking Scotland founder Markus Stitz on a two-day trip sampling part of the Capital Trail and discovers a landscape that is wild, remote and full of surprises.
You can watch the Adventure on Friday 21 Jan at 8pm and Sat 22 Jan at 7.30pm on BBC Scotland or shortly afterwards on iPlayer. More information can be found here.
An extraordinary race with a bizarre twist in the final stage gives GBDURO victory to the Around-the-World record holder in his first-ever race
Despite a career of world-firsts in endurance cycling expeditions, Mark Beaumont, the current round-the-world record holder, had never competed in anything other than what amounts to very extreme solo time trials. This summer though, for the first time in his career, he entered a race. And not just any race, arguably the toughest endurance race in the UK, GBDURO. The drama was captured in a new Shimano video called MAIDEN RACE.
With encouragement from Shimano, Komoot, Argon18 and Schwalbe UK, Mark Beaumont found himself on the start line at Land’s End in August 2021 with a daunting task:
To ride 2000km of gravel and road to the other end of the UK at John O’Groats, in 4 massive stages of approximately 500km each, reminiscent of early editions of the Tour de France, where racers rode huge non-stop stages, before regrouping for the next mass start.
No stranger to sleep deprivation and turning himself inside-out on a road bike, Beaumont was confident he had the engine, but it was the technical riding across the Snowdonia National Park, the Yorkshire Dales and the Scottish Highlands that would prove to be the real test. Did he have the skills to get to the finish line in John O’Groats? Would his Argon 18 with SHIMANO GRX drivetrain be up to the challenge?
To demonstrate both the interest and the demanding nature of the event, 250 hopeful competitors applied for only 60 places. Yet by the time the racers left Wales on stage 2, over half the field had given up. By the finish post in the very north of Scotland, only 14 racers survived.
Angus Young, who finished 2nd in 2018 and scratched whilst leading in 2019, was desperately unlucky for a third time. He was the clear winner for the first 3 stages, but with 200km from the finish, disaster struck with a terminal mechanical issue, handing victory to Mark who had consistently ridden into second during each stage.
This story, plus the wider GBDURO ethos of no flying, leave no trace and no outside assistance, is told through MAIDEN RACE, a beautiful 20-minute documentary shot by film-maker Markus Stitz and narrated by Mark Beaumont.
Mark Beaumont, GBDURO21 race winner:
“This is truly one of the most punishing rides on bike, body and mind. There were no easy miles across such relentless terrain. Just finishing was a victory because the person you are really racing is yourself. And to finish first? First you must finish.
The film itself shows the wonderful culture of gravel and ultra-endurance racing. I loved how the youngest competitor was 19 and the oldest 59, that five of the top ten finishers were women and everyone, regardless of their day job, their background or their ability level, was taking on a magnificently difficult race as a way of exploring, pushing their boundaries, and ultimately creating timeless memories. Almost anyone can take on this kind of mad adventure, and I want to encourage more people to do so.”
Markus Stitz, film-maker:
“I wanted this documentary to show the beauty and diversity of bikepacking racing. The gritty moments when the going gets almost impossible, but also the grandeur of being outside in occasions that make up for the hard work. The early morning sunrise, the rides into the sunset, the anguish of wondering whether to stop for a few hours. The best moments happened in the most remote places, and those moments are captured here to tell the story of GBDURO 2021.”
Ed Wolstenholme, The Racing Collective, organiser of GBDURO:
“Maiden Race showcases all that we love about GBDURO; the landscapes, the physical and emotional challenges and the bittersweet joy of the finish. More importantly though it demonstrates that there is a sustainable future for cycle sport which is better for us and our planet.”
The full MAIDEN RACE documentary is available on Shimano’s Youtube channel here.
Filmed on locations featured in seven new and six existing cycling itineraries in the Cateran Ecomuseum, ‘Built to Last‘ is the latest film from round the world singlespeed cyclist and founder of Bikepacking Scotland Markus Stitz. The 10-minute documentary featuring Bob Ellis, founder of the Cateran Trail, Neil Tuer, owner of Alyth Cycles and Jane Wilkinson, willow weaver at Special Branch Baskets, with music from Dave Macfarlane, launches seven new cycling itineraries designed for road, mountain, gravel and touring bikes as part of Travel for All Our Tomorrows – which aims to develop new regenerative tourism experiences in the Cateran Ecomuseum.
The Cateran Ecomuseum is a museum without walls, close to the cities of Perth and Dundee in Scotland, both accessible by a new electric bus service from Edinburgh. One of a growing number of ecomuseums worldwide, all its sites are outside. Community led, it empowers local people to take an active role in preserving the objects, sites and cultural practices they value. Providing over 20 pre-designed cycling and walking routes that reveal the hidden heritage of this little known part of Scotland, the museum’s website also offers visitors to design their own routes around its 130 sites of interest.
The itineraries developed by Bikepacking Scotland, for mountain bikes, gravel bikes, road bikes and touring bikes, can be downloaded as GPX files for free on the Ecomuseum’s website www.cateranecomuseum.co.uk. They range from 8.3km to 109km and feature a variety of points of interest like stone circles, standing stones, historic churches and wildlife reserves along the way.
Markus Stitz, creator of the new cycling routes and director of the film, comments: ‘Climate change and the impact of my actions on future generations is something that concerns me deeply, and I would like to offer people positive alternatives to our very car-focussed culture. For me travelling by bike has had a massive positive impact on my life, both for my own physical and mental wellbeing. I understand that changing our habits will take time and depend on good alternatives like the electric bus service I used to get to the Ecomuseum from Edinburgh. But as Jane wonderfully puts it in the film, we can make a small difference and can be part of a better history in the future.
In my eyes we need to be more mindful about what impact we have on our planet and future generations, so that beautiful places like the Cateran Ecomuseum will inspire generations to come. For me the joy of cycling doesn’t depend on the latest innovation in cycling. It depends on a connection with people and places, and the Cateran Ecomuseum has provided exactly that for me. I came to visit for the first time in March 2019, and the idea of making a film about this part of Scotland has been on my mind since then. Clare Cooper, who’s amazing drive and vision has helped me turn an idea into a tangible outcome, invited me and I have returned many times, mostly on my bike. Being able to share the routes I enjoyed through the project and portraying people like Bob, Jane and Neil, people that make the Cateran Ecomuseum such a special place, made this one of the most rewarding sustainable tourism projects I have worked on.’
Travel for All Our Tomorrows will alsowork with local communities and businesses in the Ecomuseum area during 2021 to promote a new family friendly cycling event and one new temporary outdoor arts installation. All routes and more information about the Cateran Ecomuseum can be found at cateranecomuseum.co.uk, Facebook @cateranecomuseum, Twitter @CateranEco, or Instagram @cateraneco.
With a new film Edinburgh-based Markus Stitz and Mark Beaumont encourage more people to enjoy winter cycling in the future. Filmed on a newly created gravel bike route, which follows the local authority boundary of the City of Edinburgh, and additional locations close to the Scottish Capital during January and February 2021, ‘Explore your Boundaries’ is a short documentary that highlights the beauty and challenges of exploring places on two wheels in snow and ice.
Markus Stitz, the first person to ride a single-speed bicycle around the world, and Mark Beaumont, the Guinness World Record holder for the fastest circumnavigation in 78 days and 14 hours, are both Edinburgh residents. Teaming up to film ‘Explore your Boundaries’ was inspired by encouraging people to see familiar and local areas in unfamiliar ways, showing how great adventures can happen from your own front door.
Mark Beaumont comments: ‘When you ride somewhere in perfect conditions, define that as the summer and the sun is shining, it’s a totally different thing than the grit and the resolve that it takes to then go there in the depth of winter. I often think as a cyclist that there are a number of motivations. People want to do exercise and want to feel healthy, but for me there’s also the other side, which is just the sheer experience of exploring places and those memories. And that’s not necessarily about wellbeing in terms of fitness. As much as I can sit indoors and do circuits or get your miles in on the turbo, I can’t feed the soul in the same way unless I actually get out and ride.’
When the second lockdown was announced in Scotland in the end of 2020 the two cyclists created a collection of routes, named ‘Explore your Boundaries’, ranging from 30 to 315 miles (48 to 505 km), using the boundaries of Scottish local authorities as guidance. The routes are free to download on this site and on Mark’s and Markus’ Komoot profiles. The idea for the film was born when both rode the Edinburgh city boundary on 2 January, completing 68 miles (110 km) in about 10 hours and documenting the journey with stills and video footage.
With Scotland’s Capital mostly covered in snow from Christmas until the mid of February, Markus used the opportunity to capture the winter landscapes: ‘The last time I remember experiencing that much snow in Edinburgh was in 2010, shortly before I rode from Edinburgh to Germany. That journey introduced me to the joys of cycling in winter. Since then I love going out there and enjoying the elements, and this winter proved to be a perfect opportunity for that, and sharing the elation in a new film.’
While cycling in winter can be at times challenging, for both it is highly rewarding. As Beaumont puts it: ‘There’s definitely a kid inside me that loves ending up in quite tricky places and just creating those memories through big night rides, or being out in the snow. It’s about having fun with that concept of a bike ride, not just thinking I’m going out to get fit or I’m going out to train. It’s about trying to explore familiar places which are quite close to home, but you’re joining them up. And that’s when the best adventures happen.’
Paths for All, the Cairngorms National Park, NatureScot and Perth & Kinross Council, together with the Cateran Ecomuseum’s own Directors have committed investment totalling £82,650 to develop a second stage of heritage-based walking and cycling itineraries across eastern Perthshire and western Angus.
Travel for All Our Tomorrows will grow the number of Regenerative Tourism experiences offered by the Cateran Ecomuseum and kickstart a campaign to position it as one of Scotland’s premier car-free holiday destinations.
Regenerative Tourism encourages people to rethink how they travel for leisure and how they enjoy the places they choose to travel to in ways that ‘leave things better’ and ensure those places are available for future generations to enjoy. Active Travel, which encompasses walking and cycling, is regenerative because it reduces carbon footprint, places less pressure on the environmental resources of host communities and replenishes and restores people’s physical and mental wellbeing.
The project will work with local communities and businesses in the Ecomuseum area during 2021, to co-design and promote nine new self-guided and guided cycling and walking itineraries for all abilities, one new family friendly cycling event and one new temporary outdoor arts installation. These, together with the Ecomuseum’s existing walking and cycling itineraries, will be further promoted via a campaign that will create new digital and printed information on how to get to and around the Ecomuseum car-free and three short films.
The cycling itineraries for Travel for All Our Tomorrows will be designed by Markus Stitz of Bikepacking Scotland, who has successfully worked with other destinations in Scotland to develop cycling routes, most recently in the neighbouring Highland Perthshire region. “I am looking forward to working with the Cateran Ecomuseum on this forward-thinking project. Cycling is a key driver to establish a more sustainable, regenerative approach to tourism in Scotland, driven by working actively with local stakeholders, can provide activities that have very low impact on the environment and add a long-term income stream to the local economy. Scotland is a land with incredible natural assets and a rich history, and Bikepacking Scotland’s vision is to provide people with ideas to harvest this potential.”
Graham McQueen, Smarter Choices Smarter Places Open-Fund Senior Development Officer, said “Paths for All have invested 50% of the cost of the Travel for All Our Tomorrows project and we are really excited to see how this innovative project progresses. Smarter Choices Smarter Places is all about creating a modal shift from cars to more sustainable forms of transport and it’s great to see such a sustainable, environmentally friendly approach to tourism contributing to this modal shift.”
Pete Crane, Head of Visitor Services for the Cairngorms National Park, said “The latest Cairngorms National Park visitor survey shows that 57% of our visitors – that’s 1.2 million people each year – want to enjoy a low level walk with great things to experience, with well over a quarter of a million enjoying a bike ride. This project offers so much for visitors; the chance to safely, responsibly and slowly enjoy the amazing culture of Cateran Country and the southern Cairngorms in a way that brings our heritage to life. A great way to explore one of the quieter parts of the Highlands, along with the chance to meet and chat with those of us who live here and want to share our love of this amazing place.”
Janet Hunter, Director of the Cateran Ecomuseum, said “We’re very pleased to have been able to put together such a sizeable budget for Active Travel in the Ecomuseum and very grateful to our funders, especially given the very difficult context of the Pandemic. This investment builds on what we have already achieved during our launch phase and gives us an opportunity to grow our innovative Regenerative Tourism approach. We want people to explore the Cateran Ecomuseum on foot and by bike, travelling slowly so that they can take in the amazing landscape and discover the extraordinary heritage and stories along the way, and we want them to really get to know our host communities and all they have to offer. We’re also looking forward to building relationships with public and private transport providers to enable people to travel to the Ecomuseum car free much more easily. We are delighted that our community ambition to promote healthy, climate conscious experiences for everyone is being recognised and I’m looking forward to trying out all the new routes.”
Our final report of the Highland Perthshire Gravel Trails details the different stages of the project and evaluates its success, using the key findings of a route user survey and the feedback of local stakeholders. The report contains key analytics, the press coverage generated and a final summary. It is available to download as PDF for free here.
The project mapped and promoted hundreds of miles of traffic-free off-road cycling routes across Highland Perthshire for varying abilities of rider, and was, as yet, our biggest project. It was made possible with the vision and trust from Highland Perthshire Cycling and the generous support from The Rural Perth & Kinross LEADER Programme and SSE as funders. It was also made possible with the engagement of people that call Highland Perthshire their home, either if they live here or have a close association with the area, and the support from the bike industry.
The outcomes of the project, detailed in the report, are encouraging. The success of the Perthshire Gravel Trails Project demonstrates that bikepacking and gravel cycling are no longer niche activities. Next to traditional cycle touring, mountain biking and road cycling, bikepacking and gravel cycling can become key drivers to establish a more sustainable, regenerative approach to tourism in Scotland.
This approach, driven by working actively with local stakeholders, can provide activities that have very low impact on the environment and add a long-term income stream to the local economy. Scotland is a land with incredible natural assets and a rich history, and Bikepacking Scotland’s vision is to provide people with ideas to harvest this potential.
The project has demonstrated that this is possible. We look forward to working with Highland Perthshire Cycling on future phases of the project. Bikepacking Scotland will also build onto the success and findings from the project to work with other areas in Scotland and to promote cycling as a key driver for a more sustainable future. Please get in touch if you would like to discuss future projects with us.
In our latest film ‘Unhurried’Bikepacking Scotland founder and filmmaker Markus Stitz documents his trip on the John Muir Way, one of Scotland’s Great Trails. The film reveals a unique coast to coast journey through Scotland’s varied landscapes, history and heritage, during which Markus reflects on one of the great advantages of travelling by bike: being able to slow down and connect more fully with your surroundings.
The John Muir Way links Helensburgh in the west with Dunbar, the birthplace of John Muir, in the east. Using a combination of the waymarked walking and cycling routes, we have produced a recommended bikepacking version, which you can download as GPX on our website here. The route passes through Scotland’s first national park, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, and provides a journey of contrasts and the chance to connect with nature, taking advantage of the green spaces that link coasts, villages, towns and the capital city, Edinburgh.
We have already developed a number of long-distance cycling routes through Bikepacking Scotland, including the Wild About Argyll Trail and the Go East Lothian Trail, which both use sections of the John Muir Way. The new film has been created in cooperation with the Green Action Trust, a charity focused on environmental and regeneration outcomes for Scotland, which manages the route.
Here are some of our highlights from the route, which is also fabulous for day trips and microadventures.