Scolty/Goauch

Everyone has a local spot, it might need a drive to get there but it is their default place for riding.

For many people these are local woods or, if they are lucky, a trail centre. There aren’t any full sized trail centres in Aberdeenshire, but that doesn’t mean we are lacking riding spots. My local spot is Scolty, or Hill of Goauch (depending on what side you start on).

Because it is my local, I never really think to write ride or trail reports about it as a location for riding, but that is doing it a disservice. I have written posts on other topics that were inspired by riding there, but never about the hill itself.

So here is a long overdue trail review of one of Aberdeenshire’s more popular spots.

On the outskirts of Banchory, nestled between the river Dee to it’s north and farmland to it’s south. Scolty is a large woodland covering two main hills with a heath land saddle spanning the two.

Scolty trails.png

People have been riding bikes here for a very, very long time, and the wealth and breadth of the trail network is testament to that and the years of work by local builders. The trails mostly converge on two hills, Scolty and Hill of Goauch.

Scolty

Radiating out form the tower at the top, this hill has arguably the greater density of trails. Historically this is where the downhill trails were and they can be broadly characterised by being both short and steep. That is not to say that variety cannot be found here too. From trails that are flowy crafted berms through to natural thin flat cornered ribbons, you can even find big drops and hucks all on this modest sized hill.

Goauch

Goauch is a little further out and has trails that have a subtlety different feel, if I was introducing someone to the hill I would say that this side had the “enduro” trails. The trails start to get longer, tighter and more ruddered in. There is some properly technical riding to be found here.

The trails tend to have a good mix of flat out speed, awkward slow technical corners and with plenty of sneaky drops and chutes. In the wet the place can be a real warzone but in the dry the riding is superlative.

Descent times start to creep up as well, with some trails having deviations or can be tagged together to get upwards of 8 to 10 minutes of down time. That being said, the more down, the more you have to climb back up. There are also plenty of features all over the hill to scare yourself on and get the adrenaline pumping. Something that the builders have been really creative in joining up in places.


The thing that unites all these trails is their full gas nature, Scolty and Goauch are not a place for cruisy trails. This is not somewhere you ride if you want a blue or straightforward red, here you need to keep your wits about you and the best thing to do is to commit and attack.

This makes it a great venue for progression, my riding progressed faster than at any other point once I moved to within 15 minutes riding of these woods. I crashed more, broke more components, learned more about terrain and bike set-up in one year, than I had in the previous three.

Trails I have ridden regularly for 4 years still surprise me, the natural shifting and evolution that typifies natural riding keeps things exciting and unpredictable. A day without a botched run or at least a near miss is a day when your not riding fast enough. Once you can consistently and cleanly ride a trail, there is always another, more technical line just down the fire road to keep the challenge high. The satisfaction of getting a PB (sorry Strava) is so great as to keep you coming back thirsty for more and to try and finally clean that trail that has been scaring you.

Stravaiging Enduro Scolty February 10

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Bike Build

“Would you like a new bike for your birthday?”

That was the question that my wife asked me towards the end of last year, my 30th was in a few months time and she was sounding me out on the idea. As a committed mountain biker that is the kind of question you have day dreams about hearing.

giphy

With the Heckler starting to show its age, (2005/6 frame) I would of been lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it’s replacement.

Stravaiging Enduro durris February 6
Kaspir, what a machine.

When entering the market for a new bike the choices these days are a wide, varied, confusing minefield. What wheel size should you choose? Should it be plus sized or have boost spacing? 1X10/11/12 and what about 2X drivetrains, they are making a comeback. Hard tail or full suspension or should I just capitulate now and get a E bike?

You need to be honest with yourself about what terrain you actually ride. That 170mm super enduro bike might look amazing in the video but it is going to be a drag around the average trail centre.

Ask yourself a few of these questions;

What do you primarily ride and will that change over the next few years?

Is where you primarily ride trail centres or natural terrain?

Steep or mellow?

Do you have any riding or racing ambitions?

Are you an aggressive or hard rider?

Is covering long distances a regular ride for you?

After asking myself these (and a few other questions) I decided I was looking for an aggressive trail or light enduro machine, or what used to be called “all mountain”. I then wrote a set of criteria that the bike should be. I wasn’t wanting something that was vastly different from what the Heckler was for, just a modern, more capable machine.

  • 650B
  • Aluminum (unlike carbon, it can be recycled)
  • 66/7° Head angle
  • 140-160mm rear travel
  • 150-160mm front fork
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • Ideally external cable routing
  • Boost not a priority (screw boost)

I was initially looking to buy a whole bike, I was looking at a few bikes, the Bird Aeris, Canyon Spectral, Vitus Sommet and even a Orbea Rallon had all caught my eye. All of them had good, but not perfect builds for what was within the budget. When I accidentally found a shop in Englandshire that had Banshee frame bundles at very reasonable prices.

And a Banshee Spitfire more than met the criteria listed above.

I hadn’t considered a frame and custom build, but the idea was very appealing. A few conversations with my LBS and they were able to not only match the frame deal from down south, but better it by it coming with a CC Inline instead of a RS Monarch. Let it never be said that a bricks and mortar shop should be ruled out over direct sales when looking for a new ride.

A big part of the fun with a build is the specing, researching the best mix of performance, weight and cost. The simple things like colour matching components and getting your preferred tyres and handlebar width right from the start. And knowing every part, every bolt and having that detailed knowledge of your ride, it all makes a difference.

This also meant that family could gift me components for the build, making the bike more special, as my family helped me build it. The end result is a unique bike that no one else has, no one else is riding the same bike as me, and that is special.

glenlivet-trail-centre-banshee-spitfire
Ash thinks he is called Big Tom.
There are a lot of Canyons on the bike racks of Audi drivers afterall. 
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Glenlivet

“How big is Big Red?”

“Big Red’s pretty big…”

This was the paraphrasing of a conversation between myself and one of my riding buddies. Joe was selling the virtues of Bike Glenlivet and how it was worth the round trip, well aware that travel time eats into ride time. This would be the first proper ride on the new Banshee Spitfire, a pretty special present from my wife for my 30th birthday and I was itching to give it a proper test ride.

“Its different to everywhere else, and it will be dry”

Stop, you had me at dry.

Bike Glenlivet is one of Scotland’s most recent trail centres, nestled in the Glenlivet estate’s hills and woodlands near Tomintoul, it is somewhat a unique beast. featuring all elements we have come expect of a fully fledged trail centre, you will find a cafe in the Coffee Still, pump track, 24 hour toilet and car parking for those early starts and late nights and two graded loops.

The feel of the trails and the exceptionally long nature of the red’s descent are the things that set this place apart. Unlike centres like Glentress or Laggan, where you climb to the top and then a series of descents linked by fire roads take you back to the carpark. Here most of the reds descending has been condensed in one, long, trail.

Blue Trail

Everything starts on the blue, the trail consists of a 9km loop of fast seamless flow interspersed with some single track and fire road climbs.

Glenlivet trail centre blue.png

Everything you want from a blue is here, but it is also a sneaky trail. You very quickly build up some proper speed, which you only realise when you over cook a turn. Tune out for a second and before you know it your hauling 10km faster than your comfortable with into a surprisingly flat turn. People talk about the fireroad climbs but they are a very small part of what can be a very fast trail, a hot lap being between 30 – 35 minutes.

Big red

Big red is an interesting red, being honest, the trail is not that technically demanding. It is essentially a slightly narrower (in places) blue trail with well sign posted red and black features. It could be argued that the red grading comes from the length and physicality of the trail, not the technicality of it.

You start on the blue trail, tackling the first climb and flowing down the other side before diverting onto the red. Your on the blue just long enough to get warmed up before the real climbing begins.

Glenlivet trail centre red tomintoul.png

A mixture of singletrack and smooth fireroad brings up up to the top of the red, its a persistent 5km+ climb with a nasty kick right at the end.

The usual banter and abuse were dished out on the climb to pass the time. A stand out moment was when Charlie tried to shift me into a harder gear. With perfect timing, I reached out and gave his rear brake a little nudge. Almost in slow motion, Charlie arched backward and landed in a mossy ditch. Thankfully he was unhurt and requiring a lift home I was free of reprisals, although the thought of revenge helped power me up the climb.

Upon reaching the summit the wind had really picked up, none of us wanted to hang around for too long, plus 6km+ of singletrack descent awaited us.

glenlivet-trail-centre-red-view

“That climb though”

glenlivet-trail-centre-top-of-the-red

Starting out on open hillside, you build momentum into the first of many drops, it is so smooth that you instantly gain confidence and want to see how fast you can push it. once you enter the trees the speed keeps on coming, with rollers and jumps to keep your momentum on.

The trail soon reveals that it is a tale of three chapters with the middle third having a far more pedally character after the fast flowing opening verses. The final third kicks back into the fast flow, with whoops, rollers and tight little compressions to throw yourself into. This culminates in a final set of drops that are the biggest on the trail and spit you out at rocket ship speeds into the final few corners and rock gardens.

A full 15/16 minutes of singletrack joy comes as a slight shock to the system when we (and our legs) here in scotland are used to far shorter descents before finding the fireroad again. After recovering and getting some gels and snacks down you the temptation to go back up to do it all again is pretty strong. If you do, just remember about the other climb back to the carpark and make sure you’ve got enough Scoobie snacks to make it back without bonking!

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