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Bikes of Highland Trail 550 2024

Bikes of Highland Trail 550 2024

24 May, 2024

The Highland Trail 550 is one of the most hotly anticipated races in the European calendar, it's notoriously difficult thanks to the technical riding, Scottish inclement weather, lengthy hike a bike and rivere crossings.

This 550 mile route has, for the second year in a row, attracted a 50:50 gender split and there is a total of 62 riders lining up in Tyndrum on Saturday morning. The route follows three loops of the highlands and the first half will lure the rookies into a false sense of security with plenty of rideable singletrack and fast estate roads. The second half is much less forgiving and often where the real race starts.

Follow along with commentary from Philippa Battye and Alice Lemkes, first and second women from last year. There's sure to be a few laughs along the way and maybe even a meme!

Quinda Verheul

Age: 34

Location: Rotterdam, Netherlands

Bike: The bike I’ll be riding is a Sour full-suspension prototype, which has 120mm travel front and rear. It’s equipped with Fox suspension and Hope components. For the tires, I’m running Schwalbe XC tires. The drivetrain has a 10-52T cassette paired with a 30T chainring.

Key items of kit: I’ll be packing my gear in a Tailfin R&D AeroPack, frame bag, and front roll made custom for the bike. I’ll also have a supply vest from Carrie Gere, and for quick access to snacks, I’m using feed bags from Wit Slingers. Given the recent ride, a midge net is a must-have! For weather protection, I’ll be wearing an Arc’teryx rain jacket and pants, paired with Sealskinz socks and Black Diamond waterproof overmitts.

Flora Rendell-Bhatti

Age: 29

Location: Stirling, Scotland

Bike: Titanium Sonder Broken Road built with SRAM GX Eagle 12 speed gear set, Rockshox Sid 100mm front shock and 29’’ Sonder Alpha wheelset with 2.4 Maxxis Ardent tubless tyres. Ergon grips and TT bars.

Key items of kit: Alpkit stingray frame bag, 2 Alpkit stem cell side pouches, top tube snack pouch, Apidura 11L Handlebar bag plus 4L accessory pocket, Arkel dropper compatible seatpacker 15L. EVOC hip Pack with bladder.

Ellie Park

Age: 23

Cap number: .

Location: East Kilbride, Scotland

Bike: Marin Team 2 29er hardtail size small Shimano XT groupset, Vittoria Mezcal 2.35 Tyres and ESI Grips.

Key items of kit: Tailfin Rear Rack - game changer for small bikes! Custom Straight Cut Designs Frame Bag, Evoc Hydration Vest, cargo shorts, headphones, and a stove - nothing compares to a warm meal after a day on the pedals.

Zoé Chauderlot

Age: 31

Location: Bruxelles, Belgium

Bike: Kona Raijin 2014. Front suspension, dynamo wheel. I will switch the transmission for a Shimano 1x11.

Key items of kit: Amidst hearsay that Scotland may sometimes be rainy, I will bring a tent. And extra socks. And a bug net. And clear glasses to keep the mud out of my eyes.

Greg Drew

Age: 39

Location: Inverness, Scotland

Bike: Orbea Oiz M Pro TR Carbon, Fox 34 120mm, Fox I-Line 120mm, 3-Position Squidlock, dropper post, Selle Boost saddle, DT Swiss 29", Vittoria Barzo 2.35, Shimano XTR 32 chainset, 10-51 cassette, Ergon GP3 grips, Peaty's Fidlock bottles.

Key items of kit: Straight Cut Design custom frame bag with internal organizers, Straight Cut custom stem bags, top tube bag. Salsa Anything Cradle and dry bag with addition map pocket added, Apidura Backcountry Dropper Seat Pack. Modified OR Helium bivy, Thermarest UL mat, Vango UL 3-season sleeping bag, Alpkit tarp. Exposure lights. Clothing: Endura short/full length warmers, DHB/Huub jersey, Gore jacket. Possible additions!

Allen Boardman

Age: 41

Cap number: 24

Location: North West

Bike: Hunt Bikes 29er With 2.6 Tyres, and 130mm Fork For sleepy descents.

Key items of kit: Poca Frame Bag, Acepac Bags, Warm Sleeping Kit - Cumulus/Acepac/Neo Xtherm/Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo, Sheepy (my mascot for company).

Karen McIntyre

Age: 33

Cap number: 15

Location: Grantown-on-Spey, Scotland

Bike: Specialized Evo Comp 29er with 2.25 tires, 100mm travel, and a 1x12 speed chainset.

Key items of kit: Revelate Designs bags, MSR Pro bivi, a cozy sleeping bag and pillow. Paramo jacket and my favorite blue kite.

Garry Whitehead

Age: 46

Location: Bristol, UK

Bike: Fairlight Holt with Rock Shox SID Ultimate Forks, custom build wheels: DT XM481 rims and Hope Pro5 hubs, PNW dropper post and 2.4 Maxxis Ardent tyres.

Key items of kit: Sleeping kit comprises of a Big Agnes mat, Nemo Hornet tent and Alpkit Pipedream200 sleeping bag. Bags are mainly Tailfin with a Restrap bar bag. Haglof LIM Paclite waterproof jacket. Patagonia NanoPuff hoody for cold morning/night riding. Exposure Toro and LedLenser MH10 headtorch to light the way.

Andrew Hutcheson

Age: 33

Location: Fife, UK

Bike: Orbea Oiz, Vittoria Mezcal front and Schwalbe Racing Ralph rear, Specialized saddle, Ergon grips. Everything else as it came.

Key items of kit: Wildcat Gear Front Harness with PHD Sleeping Bag, SOL Bivi Bag (the same setup for 10 years, no need to change what works!), Revelate Designs Vole Seatpack, Revelate Designs Mag Tank, and a StraightCut framebag for tools, clothes, and food.

Thomas Boury (Totosupertramp)

Age: 32

Location: Lyon, France

Bike: Epsilon Bike, steel frame, with handbuilt Asterion alloy wheelset equipped with 2.4 Hutchinson tires (not pictured: new Python 3) and rear foam insert, plus Restrap bags. 1x12 drivetrain 32-10/51 & Shimano XT brakes, Cane Creek carbon seatpost with Brooks C13, Ritchey carbon handlebar and Ergon grips, 100mm RockShox Ultimate SL 3 positions.

Key items of kit: Full Albion kit with the Albion Zoa insulated jacket for the night, SOL Escape Light Bivy, Mountain Equipment rain bivy, and Camp Ultralight mat. Restrap hydration pack and, most importantly, anti-fungal powder with Merino socks. Wahoo Elemnt Roam and Garmin eTrex 20.

Matt Stainsby

Age: 45

Location: Presteigne, Wales

Bike: The bike I've got: a 2018 YT Jeffsy AL full suspension. Relatively heavy but fun and forgiving on the rough stuff. No masochistic single speed or rigid perversion here. XT gears and brakes, 28t chainring, Mezcal on the rear, Barzo on the front, SON dynamo hub, Ergon grips, and a magic Ergon SL Pro saddle. May lose the rear mudguard depending on the forecast.

Key items of kit: Bags: Salsa Anything Cradle and bag, Alpkit Possum, a great little Revelate Joey bag off my brother, and a race vest for the waterproofs, water, and edibles.

Key bits of kit: Midge net, Vango F10 Hydrogen Carbon tent (but might swap out for a bivy if it's fair weather and I can get hold of one), Thermarest 7-degree quilt, Expeditions sleeping mat, an old Garmin 810, Katadyne water filter bottle, 7mesh waterproofs, and Dissent outer gloves for downpour peace of mind.

Eliza Barrie

Age: 20

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Bike: Here is my Juliana Wilder short travel 29er. I’m running SLX brakes and 1x11 drive chain. For the race I’ve switched to a rigid seat post so I can carry a saddle bag, and the Sonder Confucius cargo handlebar which means I can carry a larger handlebar bag more securely and without damaging my cables.

Key items of kit: On the front is an Apidura handlebar bag with all my sleep system, including 2 small synthetic sleeping bags, Thermarest NeoAir mat, and Alpkit Hunka bivy. On the rear is an Apidura seat bag with other miscellaneous items, spare clothing, and food. I carry a 10-liter running pack with food, electronics, and more food, and have a top tube bag with tools and power bank, along with a Restrap stem bag for snacks on the go. I carry an Exposure Joystick helmet light and a head torch for backup, and a Garmin Edge 530 for navigation.

Ed Procter

Age: 52

Location: Castleton, Hope Valley

Bike: Santa Cruz Blur with Maxxis Ikons

Key items of kit: Custom Restrap frame bag and Tailfin Aeropack. My sleep system will be a Rab sleeping bag with an Army surplus bivi bag. Exposure lighting.

Laurent Sourget

Age: 56

Location: France ( 59)

Bike: NINER AIR9 RDO, Wheels Roval Carbon with DT Swiss Hubs, Tyres Hutchinson Hardskin tubeless ready (Front: Taipan 2.15 / Rear: Skeleton Racing Lab 2.15), Shifter and Rear Derailleur Shimano XT M9000, Crankset Shimano XTR M9100 with Absolute Black oval 34, Cassette 11s Garbaruk 11/50, Saddle Brooks C13 Cambium, Brakes Hope RaceX2 180/160, Fork Fox SC 32 100mm, Spirgrips.

Key items of kit: Bags: A mix of Revelate Design, Neatt, and Restrap. Other gear includes a sleeping set with a Big Agnes mummy mat and a Cumulus Magic 125 Zip sleeping bag, along with a bivy or Helium, and an inflatable pillow. For lighting, there's a Spanninga Thor with 2 batteries, and instead of a dynamo, a Powerbank Anker 20000mAh is used. GPS navigation is covered by a Garmin Edge 830 as the main unit, supplemented by an old Garmin Edge 820 and an iPhone with Komoot as backups.

Ben Steurbaut

Age: 41

Location: Bredene, Belgium

Bike: I'm riding and hiking the HT550 with my Chiru Divider. Completed the setup with a Shimano XT groupset, 34 chainring, 11-51 cassette, a pair of Vittoria tires, and a Fox Stepcast 32 suspension fork. On the handlebar, I mount a mini aerobar for the transition parts. My luggage goes into a custom-made frame bag from Witslingers, a front roll, and Tailfin bags. Extras go into the Camelbak.

Key items of kit: Sleeping kit includes a Sea to Summit mattress, SOL emergency bivvy, and down pants/jacket. For illumination, there's a Fenix PD35 light with extra spare batteries. Navigation is managed by a combo of a Garmin 530 and Etrex 30x.

Lars Henning

Age: 43

Location: South Oxfordshire, England

Bike: Specialized Epic Evo, Fox 34 fork, Fox transfer dropper, HUNT Proven wheels, SRAM NX Groupset

Key items of kit: Bags: Apidura Backcountry front and rear, DIY Framebag made from VX21, Alpamayo stem bag and feed bag. Gear highlights: Big Agnes 1P Fly Creek tent, Cumulus 350 Quilt, Exposure lights, Vittoria Barzo tyres.

Camilla Loughlin

Age: 29

Location: Revelstoke, BC, Canada

Bike: I'll be riding my Jackalope custom steel hardtail, which was built right at home in Revelstoke! The bike is set up with a RockShox SID 120 mm fork, We Are One 29" carbon wheels with 2.4" tires, OneUp dropper post, Ergon saddle, Surly Moloko handlebars, and Wolf Tooth Fat Paw grips.

Key items of kit: A 1-person tent (Nemo Hornet) for hopefully plenty of sleep. Rockgeist Gondola saddle bag, frame, top tube, and feed bags. Revelate Egress pocket and roll, Apidura downtube bag. Other key items include waterproof socks, margarita shot bloks, and berry sour patch kids.

Jenny Tough

Location: Scotland + BC, Canada

Bike: Canyon Exceed CF SLX

Key items of kit: Smidge spray and tick tweezers!

Calum Fisher

Age: 34

Cap number: 6

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland

Bike: Mason Raw with Rockshox SID forks, DT Swiss Wheels, Shimano XT drivetrain and Vittoria Barzo / Mezcal tyres.

Key items of kit: Beautiful Straight Cut frame and top tube bags and other assorted Restrap bags. I don't like wearing a hydration vest while riding so will stick a bladder in the frame bag. Most importantly I'll be packing tick removers and midge net.

Alex Berry

Age: 41

Cap number: 15

Location: Disley, UK

Bike: For my second attempt at the HT550 I’ll be riding the 2024 Pipedream Sirius S6 Ti (influenced by Bikepacking.com), with 2024 Rockshox SID Ultimates and Hope E4’s. Im running The 2.4” Maxxis Forkaster and Recon Race on a Enve 24h 525 Wheelset and a oneup 210mm V3 dropper. The drivetrain is a mix of Sram XX1 and GX taken from my 2022 HT550 Cannondale F-SI. Hopefully this bike will be a bit easier going than the Cannondale which was somewhat unforgiving over the distance.

Key items of kit: The top tube bag, 2 x stem bags and frame bag are all home made by my mum out of VX21, lined and seam sealed. Total credit to her as this is her first attempt! It took her longer to make these than it will for me to ride the HT550! Using a restrap drybag bag for the rack, and contemplating using a couple of tailfin cages (not shown) to pack extra kit on the rack mounts or downtube in the event the weather shifts and I need wet weather kit. The bags! Very proud of these, and the Tumbleweed Ti rack which is giving me 100% dropper use. As its looking dry, and I’m planning to camp one night and use 2 x bothys, I’m just taking an Alpkit Bivvy Bag, Thermarest ¾ pad, Alpkit Pipedream 400 bag. Im also packing extra lighting, 2 bar lights and one helmet light, as I enjoy night riding and in 2022 I ran out of lights causing me to loose time. I will be packing the stem cells and framebag full of Torque and Stryker food to keep me going for the first couple of days without much need to resupply. Note that wet weather may result in a change of kit – i.e Big Agnes Copper Spur or Vango F10 tent.

Niall Shannon

Age: 39

Location: Scotland

Bike: An Ibis Ripley with a Pike fork, Fox Float shock, OneUp dropper, XT groupset and Maxxis Ardent Race tyres (29x2.35) rolling on Hope hubs/Lightbicycle rims.

Key items of kit: I love it all but I'm most stoked on the Straight Cut custom frame bags - Ross did a great job making the most of limited/awkward space. Other than that I have an insulated Sea to Summit mat that turns any old cold damp spot into the Shangri-La and a whole lot of peanut butter.

Lukas Franciszkiewicz

Age: 36

Location: Zurich, Switzerland

Bike: I've kept the same setup as on my last attempt in 2022. The most important upgrade is the sintered brake pads. (I'm going to run Barzo's instead of the Mezcal's in the image.)

Key items of kit: Waterproofs and spare pairs of socks.

Laurens Dingenen

Age: 32

Location: Antwerpen, Netherlands

Bike: Cannondale Scalpel HT Carbon 4. Not super customed-out, but I did add a Crankbrothers Highline dropper post and swapped the stock wheels for a Hunt Proven carbon wheelset. Tires are Vittoria Barzo/Mezcal 2.35" with a foam insert. Groupset is a mechanical Shimano Deore XT 1x12 with a 34t chainring and 10-51 cassette.

Key items of kit: Tailfin Aeropack Alloy and a set of Ortlieb frame and handlebar bags are my main luggage setup. Extra snacks go in an AGU feed bag and Restrap top tube bag. Hydration is provided by the Camelbak Chase bike vest. Facing the remote Highlands, I opt for a rather-safe-than-sorry sleeping system consisting of a tent, mattress, and down sleeping bag. Currently, I've packed 4 pairs of socks, but I might still expand on that number.

Eleanor Jaskowska

Age: 32

Location: Llangadog, Wales

Bike: Specialized Epic Evo with upgraded stopping power from Hope E4 Tech4 brakes. Running Ground Control front tyre and Fast Track rear both 29 x 2.35. Other mods include Sq Labs inner barends and Ergon saddle and hopefully a 30T chainring!

Key items of kit: A Tailfin handlebar roll and Apidura dropper compatible seat bag, both are quite small because of limited clearance on a small full sus so I'm also carrying a 22l Black Diamond fastpacking rucksack.

Sleep wise I'm taking a SlingFin Split Wing tarp and mesh inner to make sure that I get some quality, midge free rest. I'm also taking a supply of Loperamide to keep my IBS under control and some pain meds incase my back flares up!

Alex McCormack

Age: 26

Location: South Devon, UK

Bike: Fairlight Holt, Hunt Proven XC wheels, XTR groupset, Vittoria tyres, PNW dropper.

Key items of kit: Albion ZOA rain and insulation. Fuel+ snacks. Tailfin R&D bags 🤌

Max Riese

Age: 33

Location: Salzburg, Austria

Bike: Cervélo ZHT-5 with a full SRAM XX1 AXS groupset and a modified RockShox SID Ultimate fork. Equipped with Reserve 28 XC rims, SON Dynamo, and a full KLITE light and charging setup.

Key items of kit: Full set of Ortlieb waterproof bags, a Posedla custom 3D printed saddle and grips, and a Silca hot waxed chain will hopefully keep the dirt away and my ride smooth for long. Also equipped with a full 7mesh rain kit, including the Revelation jacket and Thunder pants, plus a Polartec insulated jacket to keep me warm.

Sofiane Sehili

Age: 42

Location: Esclauzels, France

Bike: Bombtrack Cale XC full suspension carbon bike equipped with an XT M8100 groupset, Hunt Proven XC carbon wheels, René Herse Fleecer Ridge tires, KS Lev Ci seat post, Fizik Alpaca saddle, RockShox Sid Ultimate fork, and Sid Select shock.

Key items of kit: Miss Grape bags - Il Coso, Cluster 7, Internode custom, Node Supernova M99 pro2 battery powered front light.

Emil Carr-Ross

Age: 21

Location: Glasgow, Scotland

Bike: Orange P7 29er w/ Pipedream rigid fork, SON 28 dynamo hub, Velo Orange crazy bars, Redshift Components suspension seatpost, Box One/Two Prime 9 drivetrain

Key items of kit: Handmade/homemade waxed canvas half frame bag and stem bags, Tailfin top tube bag and aero-pack. Lifesystems hooped bivvy, Alpkit Numo mat, Sea to Summit Spark SPII sleeping bag.

A Stove! Chinese ‘wasp’ titanium gas stove and lifeventure mug.

Evoc 1.5l hydration vest.

Lots of jelly worms.

Jocelyn De La Rosa

Age: 34

Location: Kelowna, BC, Canada

Bike: Wildwood Cycles TI Hardtail paired to a Fox 34SC 120mm fork. Drivetrain is a mix of Shimano SLX/XT/XTR, 1x12 with a 30t chainring. Brakes are Hope Tech4/V4. Tires are by Wolfpack, Race rear/Cross front combo.

Key items of kit: Bags: Dispersed Framebag, Rockgeist Gondola saddle bag, Tailfin Top tube and down-tube bag. I’ll be wearing a Salomon hydration vest with a 2L bladder.

To stay dry-ish I’m bringing 4 pairs of socks plus a full rain kit and a set of Pogie Lites. Front light is an Outbound Trail Evo and I’ll have a Stoots Opalo 2 on my helmet. Sleep kit is an S2S 8C sleeping bag, MLD event Bivy and a Thermarest pad.

Kirsten Cluley

Age: 35

Location: Glasgow, Scotland

Bike: Mason Raw, RockShox SID front fork, Vittoria Barzo/Mezcal 2.35” tyres with rear insert.

Key items of kit: Apidura frame, saddle and top tube bags with Scottish handmade StraightCut Design Sidekick feed bags. Modified hydration pack to allow bike carry on hike-a-bike sections.

Emily Greaves

Age: 46

Location: Comrie, Perthsire

Bike: Merida Ninety-Six 7000 with a Shimano Deore 12-speed groupset, 30T chainring, and 10-51T cassette. Reynolds wheels with Vittoria Barzo 2.25" tires, 175mm RaceFace cranks, Deore XT brakes, USE carbon riser bars, Specialized Power Comp Mimic saddle, Ergon GA3 grips, Fox 34 Step Cast fork, and Fox Float DPS rear shock.

Key items of kit: Bags: Race saddle bag, custom frame bag, bar bag, and hike-a-bike harness are all Restrap. Stem cell bags are Alpkit. Fuel pouch is Ortlieb.

Lights: Exposure Diablo with a spare Joystick.

Sleep system: Decathlon 1-season down bag, Alpkit Cloud mat, Hunka XL bivvy bag, and tarp.

Garmin Etrex 32x for navigation with a spare Garmin Edge 530 just in case.