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Shimano Athletes Thomas Vanderham and Matty Hunter adventure on a coast to coast crossing of the rugged Scottish Highlands with Shimano DEORE XT M8050 Di2.
The northern highlands of Scotland have a heavy reputation. Beautiful, surely. But rugged, rocky, rainy, windy, muddy and midgey are the words most often chosen.
Thomas and I knew this as we made plans. We had mentally prepared for a bike ride of epic proportions. We laughed about boulder trails and how much rain gear we could carry. We filled our flasks, tuned our bikes, turned away from the sea and embraced the gnarl.
What lay ahead exceeded any expectations. We were tested by the mountains and learned that the trails require complete commitment. We often found ourselves exclaiming that the roughness of the trails and the harsh landscape were the ultimate test for bike and rider. Neither man nor machine was getting a break, every inch was earned. My bike was built up with an XT Di2 drivetrain. I charged the battery at home and didn't have to think about it the entire journey. Over the ten days of our trip it handled anything and everything. Airline shipping, being submerged in water at countless river crossings, hundreds of kilometres of rough rocky trails, peat bogs, and probably even a few salty tears spilled on it. XT Di2 durability was proven in the ultimate proving ground.
This is the kind of ride that ticks all the boxes for me. Meeting the challenge in such an environment makes success taste so much sweeter. I'm Looking forward to the next one!
The beauty of riding in a new place is that you never truly know what to expect. Sure you can do your research, read maps, look at photos, and study the weather, but the beauty of a true adventure is that element of the unknown. With this at the forefront of our minds, Matt and I set off to Scotland this spring ready to embrace whatever lay on the trail ahead.
We had heard that the weather in the Highlands could change on a dime. We stuffed our riding packs to the point of eruption- wind layers, warm layers, sun protection, and food. But nothing could have prepared us for the vastness and exposure of the Highlands. I often felt like a tiny spec in sea of rock with no tree in sight to provide shelter from the elements.
We had read that the days would be long and the trails unforgiving. But that did not do justice to the chess game we were about to play with the trails of Scotland. We spun our wheels through soft peat bogs and up steep climbs, descended the other side until we couldn't hold the bars anymore and finished rides in the dark.
We had XT Di2 on our bikes. They were the very first groupo's off of the production line and unproven in the environment we were about to enter. There were questions about it's durability, water resistance and battery life. But XT Di2 met every challenge on our journey on one charge, not backing down from river crossings, all day rides and the many jagged rocks that tried to grab at it along the way.
We finished our adventure with sore legs, our memory banks stoked full and a thirst to continue exploring the unknown.