Extreme Scottish Audax on TV Tomorrow

On Arran from my saddle-camera
It is worth making a date or setting the recorder for this one.  7pm tomorrow night, Tuesday 9th Dec 2014.

Find BBC-2 Scotland (it's on Sky, Freesat, Virgin Media) and sit down to watch Sore in the Saddle.

After that search for Sore in the Saddle on the BBC iPlayer.  If you're not in the UK there are still ways to watch iPlayer.

If you'd like to read a few things about the programme you'll find articles on the following sites:

If you spot an article on another website or newspaper (not a forum) please let me know in the comments.

Bike Fitting Article

The winter edition of Scottish Cycling Magazine is out.

I have an article in it about bike fitting.  I am absolutely no expert, but I know a man who is.

I went to Paul Allanach of Velocity 44 for a full Retul bike fit and frankly it was worth every penny.

And yes, I did pay.  I can't yet reproduce the article here but you can get a free copy of Scottish Cycling and read it online.

Video - Filming Scotland's Hardest Cycling Event for TV

For a keen cyclist who works in TV this was a dream assignment.  I was one of four camera people who followed extreme cyclists around Scotland during a blazing hot July, filming their efforts. The results will be in an Adventure Show special on BBC-2 Scotland at 7pm on Tuesday 9th December.  Outside Scotland you can find the channel on Sky and Freesat, and the show will also be on the iPlayer.




It is the hardest cycling event ever held in Scotland. Daily distances and height gains were around double a typical stage of the Tour de France. 

David Crampton feeling the heat
Amateur riders came from across Europe to struggle 1300 mountainous kilometres, with a leg-sapping 18,000 metres of ascent, on a course they had to complete in a mere 100 hours.  

Oh yes- they had to do all that completely unsupported.  

The Highlands, Glens and Western Isles event is an 'Audax', the name given to a remarkable type of long distance cycling and which means 'Bold' in Latin. 

There are no team cars, masseurs or spare bikes - entrants must be completely self-sufficient and provide evidence of reaching specified control points.  
Lead riders on Skye


At the start of the year I'd been hired to do some initial research into whether or not this would sustain a one hour special for The Adventure Show.  
Then it was my task to get in touch with as many riders as possible, find their back stories and identify those who we should follow.

When the event came around, four camera operators, each with a driver, followed every pedal stroke of the way. 


Almost all the bike-to-bike footage you see was shot by my tiny Sony or one of my GoPro cameras. 

 I had one on my helmet that could point forward or back, and another under my saddle and one hand-held. I must have looked quite a sight.

Audax is a world where night slips into day, where sleep is snatched in bus shelters and under hedges, and where it's not unusual to ride a day or even two without rest. 

Midge encrusted Ken Thomson
Late on the fourth night civil servant Ken Thompson rolled out of the dark and up to my camera waiting outside a B&B in Spean Bridge to tell me, "I last got up at half past four - a day and a half ago."

The riders were not alone in being sleep deprived.  We worked hours on the trot - from early morning until early the next morning - but it was worth it.


This anarchic adventure is completely different to other cycling events. 

Whereas professional riders are cossetted in luxurious tour buses and fed by team chefs, these amateur Audaxers huddle outside corner shops, in remote corners of the highlands, guzzle whatever food they can't stuff into bulging saddlebags, before climbing back into the saddle and riding into the night.

Nearly over for two Swedish riders
Take another look at the map in that video.  

This unique challenge began on the Isle of Arran from where the cyclists pedalled up Scotland's west coast, timing their ride to coordinate with numerous ferry crossings; to Kintyre, to Mull, to Ardnamurchan and to Skye. 

After reaching and riding the far North coast, they descended the Great Glen, travelled through Glencoe and down the Cowal peninsula, took a final ferry from Dunoon before riding the Ayrshire coast to end their gruelling tour in Saltcoats.

I'm lucky enough to have seen the whole programme and, even if I hadn't worked on it, I would think it a cracker.  

I wasn't involved in wading through the huge mass of digital material we delivered, but the team who put this together did a great job.  

Organiser Mark Rigby and Simon, ready to cycle across Arran
I'm not sure the extreme heat comes across (Scotland in July was utterly baking!).  

However, they have managed to capture the true spirit of this utterly bonkers event.  

The physical challenge; the self reliance; the mental highs and lows; riding through the night - even nodding off in the saddle - we get it all in an understandable and entertaining package.

So make a date - even if you don't live in Scotland you can still see this programme.

It goes out 7pm Tuesday 9th December on BBC-2 Scotland.  That channel can be found on Sky, Freesat and I think Virgin Media.  

The show will also be on the iPlayer from 10th Dec.




New Podcast - Youngest Around Ireland

Summer seems such a long time ago, but that was when this chap, Hamish Wilkinson became the youngest person to kayak around Ireland.

The first thing you notice when speaking to Hamish is his distinct lack of Northern Ireland accent. 

In fact it's distinctly antipodean and there's a good reason for that as you'll hear.

The nineteen year old is already an experienced paddler and, helped by his boat-builder Dad, constructed his own kayak for this trip. 

You can of course download his podcast at Sea Kayak Podcasts.com on iTunes and Stitcher Radio.   You can follow the Podcasts on Twitter and choose which to download.

If you're planning some long trips, visiting relatives or just getting away from everything over the Christmas period, then make sure your iPod, iPad… (whatever) is stocked full of podcasts.  I'm told they help ease the strain of the longest journey.

Except in our car where my wife can't stand hearing any more of my voice than necessary.  but that's another story.




First Cycle Training Camp - Now On Wheelsuckers

The social network for road cyclists called Wheelsuckers has picked up and run with an article I wrote about my first cycle training camp.

This happened a couple of years ago with Train In Spain and I first wrote about it on this blog.

I have to thank Dr Garry Palmer, the man behind the excellent Sportstest who, possible after seeing how bad I rode in Spain, helped me get fit enough to tackle the Raid Pyrenean.

He pointed the editor of Wheelsuckers towards my article and he subsequently ran it.  There may be more to come.

The only problem is that damn photo. I was 20lbs overweight at the time and, in my vanity, I hate the shot!

Fancy Making Kayak Videos? Want To Buy The Camera?

Sony HDV A1E on eBay
I say "the" camera because this is the one on which I shot key sections of the Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown series.


It's the perfect size to whip out of a dry deck bag and use from the cockpit of a kayak. 

Almost all the journey in Volume 1, along the wild west coast of Skye was shot on this baby.  I bought the five extra batteries precisely for this shoot.

It was the second camera on Volume 2, travelling with us to St Kilda to shoot the key pieces to camera on the water by Gordon.

In Volume 3 we used it extensively in the Navigation film for Gordon's coaching on the water and during the night navigation sequence as it has excellent 'night shot' capability.

You can see how it performs by looking at the videos on any of those pages.  It has been lovingly cared for and serviced by Sony.

There are a large number of pro-level extras included.  
Rain cover, charger, batteries & wide angle included
  • A Sony professional wide conversion lens  x0.7  VCL-HG0737C which makes all the difference to the shots.
  • Rycote Softie wind baffle for gun mic
  • PortaBrace professional rain/dust cover for A1E
  • Sony professional AC adaptor / charger AC-SQ950 which is a fast, professional stand-alone charger, not the bundled charge-thru-the-camera weedy thing.
  • A fast, professional stand-alone battery charger (not the weedy one which comes with the camera); 
  • Six original Sony batteries - two of which are massive. 

I last used this camera for BBC-2 when filming Cameron McNeish on a via ferrata in Spain.  I had my big camera in my backpack but had this one dangling on a clip from my rucksack strap.

Aquapak case
If that sounds like a lot of use, it's not.  I never used it to capture footage.  
When you look at the drum time which records usage, it's a very modest 11x10hr.


Well, I haven't used it for a while.  Broadcast companies, for who I mainly work, are moving away from HDV even as second cameras.  

Camera not included
Plus I have yet another new camera for which I'd like to buy some new lenses, so I need the cash.

An ideal pairing for the camera would be the Aquapak underwater case which I bought but never used.  

The reason I never used it was I had the chance to
buy an even better waterproof rig.