Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
Stretching from just outside the hustle of Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, to the iconic highland town of Fort William, the 95-mile (153 km) West Highland Way is a world-famous, multi-day traverse loved by walkers from around the world.
What is less well known about the route, is that a hardy band of mountain bikers has been vying for record times along the way for the last ten years. Riding “The Way” in its entirety is a notable accomplishment – it boasts a meaty 10,351 ft (3,155 m) of climbing, and parts of the terrain involve carrying, rather than riding, a bike.
For the full story on former pro mountain biker Rab Wardell’s attempt at the Fastest Known Time (FKT) record, check out the video above. For a look at the bike that got him there, read on.
The Way is no joke. This isn’t some doubletrack, 4×4 road type of route; it’s nasty, technical singletrack, with long hiking sections and slick surfaces. A full-suspension bike makes the most sense. “It’s sharp rocks the whole way,” Wardell said. “There’s 95 miles of puncture risk.”
Wardell made a few modifications to a standard Blur, mostly to increase durability. He added CushCore XC foam tire inserts front and rear, which help prevent tire slices and rim damage, and upsized the front rotor to 180 mm (Santa Cruz’s “Trail” spec Blurs are the only builds that come with 180-mm rotors stock). Most Blur builds come with 100 mm of fork travel but Wardell bumped that to 110mm. The extra travel served to slacken the head tube angle just a hair below 69 degrees.
Perhaps not too surprising for a pro who was active up until 2007, Wardell chopped his bars down to just 680 mm.
For an event that would take him over nine hours with a support crew only available at a few specific intervals, a bit of carrying capacity was necessary. Wardell added a top-tube bag, placed back near his seat tube, to carry food and other small items. A spare tube, tire lever, multitool, spare chain link, spare rear dropout, CO2 canisters, and Dynaplug tire plugs were also strapped to the frame underneath the top tube. “I also had a pump mounted to my frame, but the mount broke while carrying alongside Loch Lomond. I picked it up and jammed it down the neck of my skinsuit,” Wardell said.
Wardell added a Quarq power meter to help with pacing and ran a wireless 125 mm Rockshox Reverb AXS dropper post.
Frame: Santa Cruz Blur CC, size large
Rear shock: Rockshox Deluxe RT3, 100 mm travel, 195 psi
Fork: Rockshox SID Ultimate, 110mm travel, 95 psi
Wheels: Reserve 25 rims, Industry Nine Hydra hubs, and CushCore XC front and rear
Tires: Continental Race King 29×2.2″ ProTection with 100 mL Continental Revo sealant per tire, 20 psi front, 22 psi rear
Drivetrain: SRAM XX1 AXS Eagle Rainbow – Quarq power meter, 32T chainring, 10-52T cassette, Crankbrothers Eggbeater 11 pedals
Brakes: SRAM Level Ultimate – 180 mm front and 160 mm rear rotors
Cockpit: Santa Cruz Flat Bar cut to 680 mm, Syntace Lightforce 80 mm stem, 125 mm Rockshox Reverb AXS dropper post, and Fizik Tempo Argo R1 saddle
Weight: 25.4 lb / 11.5 kg including Wahoo Element ROAM computer, pedals, power meter, and frame bags