Thinking and tinkering are two things I enjoy doing. Bikes, trips, food, training, clothing, everything. I like thinking about what I am going to do with something, and then tinkering with it until it does what I want. With the Highland Trail ‘race’ on the calender this year I have had to think more than normal and have started to tinker with my kit as it arrives. What I hadn’t realised was how much of both of these I would have to do. How much time this would take. How much of a mental strain it would be.

The route is massive. I can’t deal with looking at it yet other than understanding that it is long…..very long and very hilly…40,000 feet of climbing hilly. I’ve put the route away for now, looking at it scares me.

The bike has changed. I’d planned to ride my faithful Scott Scale on the course until I killed it on the South Downs Way last ‘summer’. So I’ve been on the hunt for something with bigger, adult sized wheels. So far the loan of a bike has me sorted for the ride. Big wheels, bigger range gears, bigger bars. Everything has gone up from my normal XC set-up to deal with the duration and distance of the race.

Bounce or no bounce? Gears or no gears? I am used to suspension front and rear for daily riding, front for racing. A full range of gears is normal. But many are running rigid single speed set-ups. Who is right, who is wrong. For me, gears are the way to do. I’m not expecting to race with the front pack, but I do want the road sections to pass quicker.

Kit is the final issue, but more so how to carry it all without it trashing my ability to ride. Bags from Wildcat are taking care of attaching everything to the bike, dry-bags from Decathlon to keep it all in and out of the Scottish weather. But what to carry? What not to carry is the harder question. I’ve taken apart my kit, pulled out my favourite pieces of riding and outdoor kit, just stopped short of weighing them all…for now.

The next few weeks see he riding, paring down what I don’t need, finding out what I do need….and forgot. All of this is perfect thinkering time. Using kit in the field, figuring out how to make it better, fixing it when I go home for the next ride.

 Not many weeks left. Now I must prepare. Think, tinker, ride. Repeat.

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