Cameron's most recent book, Scotland End to End, describes the 470 mile Scottish National Trail, a superb long distance walking route that runs from Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders to Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point on the Scottish mainland. The book is accompanied by a 2-disc DVD.
IT was a Christmas gift, one of those “to me from me” type gifts although my wife and I have agreed it will be her very special present to me.
In the great scheme of things I don’t need another bike, but there again I’ve been complaining that I can’t cycle when it’s snowing, which has made me sound like a real Scrooge type figure when everyone else in this Strathspey area leaps up and down in absolute delight every time there is a flurry of the white stuff.
So I bought a fat bike, a Specialized FatBoy2016 complete with 26 x 4.6” Specialized Ground Control Fat tyres. They look that something off a tractor!
And they work! The big studded tyres grip like a limpet and along with the long rear end of the frame prevent any backslip on snowy ascents.
Works just as well in muddy conditions but the real joy of this fat bike is that it will roll over very rough ground with ease and even a certain amount of comfort.
Those big fat tyres soak up the bumps and act as a very effective suspension system and, to my surprise, you get a real feel for the ground you’re rolling over, much more so than you do with a suspension system.
The 26x4.6" Ground Control Fat tyres perhaps lack the big studs you get on some other tyres but they a long way toward providing traction and minimizing rolling resistance.
I think this latter point is important. I fully expected this bike to be painfully slow, especially on smooth tracks and on tarmac, but it isn’t.
Sure you have to work hard from a standing start to get it moving but once you’ve built up a bit of speed it rolls along impressively quickly, and smoothly, so much so that I’ve taken to using it much more frequently than I thought I would.
I’ve listed all the specs of the bike below but essentially I wanted a bike for bikepacking in snowy conditions. Something that was simple to maintain, was reasonably lightweight (the Specialized Fatboy weighs in about 32 lbs/14.5kg) and wasn’t going to break the bank. It retails at £1500.
The comparatively light weight (for a fat bike) is down to the aluminium frame and the carbon front forks.
The SRAM X7 rear derailleur works via user-friendly gripshifters, ideal when wearing thick winter gloves and the 90mm-wide, single-walled Specialized rims feature a latticework of cutouts to keep the weight down.
My only slight gripe is with the Tektro Gemini hydraulic disc brakes, which don’t seem to have the same stopping capacity of the disc brakes on other bikes I own. I just hope it’s not too much of a problem when I use the bike fully loaded with camping and touring gear.
I had spent a lot of time researching fat bikes trying to convince myself that I should pull out the stops and buy one. I certainly had doubts – mainly that I couldn’t justify spending £1500 on a bike that I would use only when it was snowing, but I’ve had so much fun just riding this bike in snow and snowless conditions that the doubts have vanished.
I haven’t been out on an overnight trip yet but I’m waiting for those cold, crisp winter nights when the snow creaks under your tyres and the sky is ablaze with stars.