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What do you do if you ride the Badger Divide from Glasgow to Inverness and set a Fastest Known Time (FKT), only to discover the route you cycled is a different version of the original? Well, if you are Donnie Campbell, you return three weeks later to set another FKT and this time on the Badger Divide proper!
The 36-year old didn’t hang about either. He rode the 200-mile route south to north in 19 hours, 14 minutes and 16 seconds, smashing the previous FKT of 23:36 by more than four hours. (The FKT for the route north to south is 23:20.)
Donnie caught the train from his home city of Inverness to Glasgow (via Aberdeen because there were no bike slots on alternative trains) on Monday. He wanted to make the most of a good weather window and set off from the Badger Divide start at Kelvingrove Art Gallery at 11.45pm on Sunday.
He recorded 336km and a total elevation of 5,483m.
Difference between the 2 Badger Divide routes
When Donnie, a running coach, rode the first Badger Divide route he did a search of the internet and found a route. It turned out to be the ScotDuro race version, which could be described as Badger Divide Lite.
Although a similar distance and a total elevation of 4923m, the BD Lite includes more road sections and misses out some rougher trail sections.
Donnie says: “The first Badger Divide ride was spontaneous and came about because my original plan to cycle the An Turas Mor route from Glasgow to Cape Wrath couldn’t happen due to a mechanical issue.
“I had always wanted to ride home from Glasgow and so I chanced upon the Badger Divide route while searching on-line. I had no idea there were two versions and I just picked the first one I found.”
The weather during his first ride in May was almost non-stop rain and Donnie said it was mostly unenjoyable. He was pleased to finish in under 20 hours but he had seen very little of the views and endured a lot of cold and wet.
He says: “The ride home from Glasgow was meant to be a fun adventure but that first time it was a long way from that. Then I discovered I’d not followed the original Badger Divide route created by Stu Allan. I decided I’d give it another go when there was a better weather window.”
Donnie’s record ride on the Badger Divide
The second time around, the ride was markedly different. Donnie says: “To start with, the weather was much better. It was almost perfect and while it was cold to start with, it warmed up to be the ideal temperature. It wasn’t too hot, but not too cold either.”
Donnie rode self-supported taking his own food, including pizza, Trek cereal bars and empire biscuits, and water plus Active Root. He stopped at Fort Augustus and dashed into a garage for more food, including what he describes as a highlight of the ride: “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat at that stage of the ride but I picked up a pack of Nevis bakery carrot cakes. They were really good and went down well.”
There were several tougher sections of the ride. He says: “Riding out of Glasgow on the Kelvinway to Milngavie in the dark wasn’t that easy. It’s alway slower riding in the dark.
“Temperatures were as low as 6C early on in the ride, too, so my feet got cold and stayed cold for the first eight or nine hours. That wasn’t very pleasant.
“There there were several sections that were tiring and frustrating. I think if I knew the route better, I would be able to tell myself that these sections would be over fairly quickly but there were some bits of trail that seemed endless.”
The Badger Divide original route differs from the ScotDuro version in several places. Donnie says: “There was a bit of a different route in Drymen and also Aberfoyle and then again at Loch Lubnaig and at Loch Rannoch.
“In the latter two cases, the route was on trail and it was very rough in places. It was especially hard going on the descent of the rough Landrover track at Loch Rannoch, which was very rutted and hard to ride.
“The ScotDuro route uses more tarmac overall so the Badger Divide original route is harder because it’s on more track.
“Overall, the ScotDuro route flows more of an A to B route from Glasgow to Inverness and makes use of some roads, while the Badger Divide original aims to use more trails and at some points travels a route that is less A to B and more meandering.
“However, I enjoyed the second ride much more. There was the better weather but also I was more prepared for the ride.”
The final two climbs of the ride, from Invermoriston and Drumnadrochit were the most tiring for Donnie. He says: “It was the same with both rides, I found those two climbs hard. My legs were fatigued.
“Another hard part is the steep climb on the Corrieyairack Pass. I managed it mostly in the saddle but then at the steepest part I got off to push the bike.”
Highlights of the second ride, apart from the weather and the carrot cake at Fort Augustus include a spectacular sunrise.
Donnie says: “The sunrise between Loch Lubnaig and Stùc a’ Chròin was very cool. I really enjoyed the trail between Corrour and Laggan, too.
“And I always enjoy the last section on the Great Glen Way because I know it so well and because I know I am almost home.
“My Glasgow to home ride was always meant to be an enjoyable adventure and I am pleased I have now done it in much better conditions – and set a new fastest time.
“I think it is possible for someone to go sub-19 hours. I had to stop for about 10 minutes to sort my broken front light and also for refuelling at Fort Augustus so it’s totally possible that someone will ride it quicker than me.”
Stu commented on Donnie’s fastest time: “Amazing. He has put a big dent in the previous time.”