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Unhurried

Unhurried



Words, Pictures and Videos by Markus Stitz

It’s been a few weeks since ‘Unhurried’ was released, and times have undoubtedly changed, again. Once more many people around the world are confined to their local area, and the ability of being able to stop has become vital again. While I am hopeful we will be able to make bigger plans soon, for now the best strategy (at least for me) is to appreciate the small radius I can still cycle in. With the short days in autumn and winter we are naturally forced to slow down, so things could be worse.



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Slowing down on the Avon Aqueduct - Pic: Gavin Morton



Creating a bikepacking route from the existing walking and cycling routes of the John Muir Way was one of my favourite projects in 2020. Lockdown meant I could spend more time on the project than originally planned, as I had to shelve all my international travel plans. It’s a trail I know well (and also one of Scotland's Great Trails) as it runs almost past my front door in Edinburgh. It’s also a route that is very accessible for many people in the Central Belt, the most populated area in Scotland.


For many of us the opportunities to explore trails further afield this year were very limited. While lockdown first sounded like a big restraint to me, as someone who has travelled across the world with a bike in the last decade, it equally provided an opportunity: The chance to enjoy the small things, to stop more often and measure a bike ride by the amount of experiences and not by the distance in miles. This was my background going into filming ‘Unhurried’, and much of that is reflected in my latest film.







In 2020 I got the opportunity to work with Kinesis on an interesting project, researching an article about local bike shops in Edinburgh while testing their new e-Bike, the Range. I always enjoy trying new things, and for someone who has made a name for himself by cycling the world singlespeed the step using an e-bike seemed a big one. It wasn’t. I enjoyed the bike, it was a welcome change to grinding up the hills of Edinburgh and arriving bathing in sweat. I developed a few local routes around Edinburgh that I rode on the bike, and would have loved to ride it a bit longer, but I went on to test the G2 next.



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Testing the Kinesis Range on the John Muir Way in Musselburgh



With no additional motor to make things less sweaty it is billed as a gravel adventure bike that ‘is even more versatile but no less capable than the Tripster AT’. So naturally I was curious how capable the Tripster AT was, as the G2 did a fabulous job when I scouted the Highland Perthshire Gravel trails. The only thing I changed was the tire setup, I chose the Schwalbe G-One Bite for front and back tubeless, and on some of the steeper climbs I would have loved a smaller ring on the front or a bigger range in the cassette, but I could compensate the lack with years of singlespeed experience.



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The G2 on a misty Edinburgh summer day



So when the Tripster finally arrived I was curious. Mike Hall was closely involved in the design process, and it was an honour to ride a bike reflecting Mike’s knowledge and love for long distance, multi-terrain riding. Mike was a very humble person and an inspiration for thousands, even millions, so I wondered what bikepacking trail in Scotland would be most suited to ride on the Tripster, and my choice was clear: The John Muir Way.


‘Adventure is not necessarily about roughing it. It is not necessarily about being out with bears and trees in the woods. It’s whatever scares you a little bit. People can have adventures in their daily lives.’ ( Mike Hall)



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The Tripster AT



That’s exactly what the John Muir Way is about. It’s an adventure for beginners and pros alike. Whether you take many days to complete the route or blast through it in one go on a long summer day, the route is suited for both (and anything that lies in between). And so is the bike. I loved the Tripster for its versatility. It’s a bike that I would choose to race in the remote mountains of Kyrgyzstan, but I was equally happy riding it on whatever short distance I cycled to film ‘Unhurried’.


There were moments when the route felt like being out with the bears and the trees in the woods, like Gouk Hill near Helensburgh or the area around Burncrooks Reservoir. While there is very little wilderness left in John Muir’s birthplace, Scotland, these days, there are still areas that at least feel wild, and the John Muir Way features some of those.



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On Gouk Hill overlooking the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park



On the other hand there is no need for ‘roughing it’. My bikepacking gear choice reflected that. For riding a bikepacking route through the Central Belt there wasn’t much space needed to carry endless amounts of food, as there were plenty of great places to eat and stock up along the way. I also wasn’t going to experience extreme temperatures or weather conditions, so I opted for an affordable sleeping bag & mattress combination from Vango, which didn’t break the bank. With the Vango Project Hydrogen my tent choice was clearly a bit over the top, but who wouldn’t want to try a tent that comes without a pole and is inflated with a bicycle pump instead (also a fab chance to use the Lezyne Pressure Drive).







The John Muir Way is as versatile as the Tripster AT. Next to the wild bits there are no less than three UNESCO world heritage sites along the route to discover - the Forth Rail Bridge, Edinburgh’s Old and New Town and the Antonine Wall. A few sections require a bike that handles the rougher stuff well, like the descent from Gouk Hill and a short downhill on Corstorphine Hill in Edinburgh.



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The Forth Rail Bridge



Sections along the Forth and Clyde and Union Canal are much faster and loads of fun. Riding from west to east, from Helensburgh to Dunbar, John Muir’s birthplace, my favourite section is a very flowy trail through a woodland just before East Linton, and the last bit from Belhaven Beach and the Bridge to Nowhere to Dunbar is equally stunning. It’s here where I realised that no matter what bike, I can stop everywhere and explore the world around me. Unhurried.



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On the Red Rocks near Dunbar




Markus Stitz

For more information about the John Muir Way bikepacking route can be found at bikepackingscotland.com/johnmuirway




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