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Interview with cycling world record breaker – Markus Stitz

Markus Stitz hit the headlines in 2016 when he became the first person to cycle Around the World on a single speed bike (a bike with just one fixed gear). He peddled 34,097 kilometres in total, covering 26 different countries. But he says those aren’t the most important figures to him, “I guess the most interesting stat was the total 342,000 metres I climbed. That shows how hard the route was. This was my most significant achievement.” That’s the equivalent of 38 times up Mount Everest!

Markus has been cycling seriously since 2009. First on a mountain bike, then road then back to the mountain bike. And when he moved to Scotland he really got into the long-distance stuff. Launching Bikepacking Scotland and becoming a qualified MTB Leader.

He has just completed a 650km route in Scotland in a slightly different style, “Most recently I have been getting into gravel routes. My focus is always changing but this is a nice mixture of dirt tracks and then back to road.

“I wouldn’t describe myself as a racer. I like long distance. I use my fitness to be able to get to places I haven’t been before.”

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So, Markus, what made you want to be a part of the #DoMoreWithNikwax challenge?
“I think this campaign is really interesting and I came to it at the right time. After I had completed my Round the World trip I spent quite a lot of time at my desk developing Bikepacking Scotland. I am really feeling the urge to get back on my bike and get some big miles done. I want some adventures!

“I am also pretty passionate about Scotland. So having a challenge that includes Fort William and Ben Nevis is pretty tempting! It is inspiring me.”

The Nikwax campaign focuses on the outdoor industry’s environmental credentials. How important is this to you?
“A lot of the work I am doing at the moment is to inspire more people to use their bikes, full stop. I think the UK is a pretty car-dependent country. The more I can do to get people out of their cars and onto a bike exploring the country is a really good thing. I want to inspire people to use different modes of transport. I am very keen on not leaving footprints wherever I go. And I think this should be the same principle for any company in the outdoor industry.”

You’re going to be cycling up to 15 hours a day. How fit and ready are you feeling?
“I am pretty confident I can handle the distance. I am getting the bike up to speed at the moment. I have done the distance in the past. Two weekends ago I took the single speed bike out and covered 240km in a day and that bike is not really suitable for that! So with the right bike – which I am building up at the moment – I should be fine. The most important thing when it comes to distance is the mental side of things. Being in the right mindset. I am looking forward to long days in the saddle again – it’s going to be a challenge, but it is supposed to be.”

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Nikwax is all about protecting our gear so it lasts. How do you look after your gear?
“I am trying my best! It’s no coincidence but I have just reproofed my waterproofs with Nikwax! I recently went on a road trip in Scotland so I had to have my waterproofs ready! I am reliant on kit that does the job. It has to be rugged and functional over long distances. Waterproofing is important if you live in Scotland – we get the odd bit of rain! Your kit needs to work, there’s no room for error.”

What are you most looking forward to learning about?
Nikwax Hydrophobic Down is very interesting to me. I used a down sleeping bag and jacket on my Round the World adventure because down is a lovely warm material that’s also super lightweight. These are key criteria for bikepacking. But the only issue was I had to be really careful not to get it wet! So to be able to try out Hydrophobic Down will be really interesting.”

Where are your favourite places to ride in Scotland?
“Honestly my favourite place at the moment is Glen Feshie in the Cairngorms. It is an interesting region for bikepacking. The guy who owns the estate is keen on rewilding so the landscape is fascinating. There is one of the toughest sections there because I had to cross three rivers in water up to my waist. It’s very tricky in cycling shoes! But the land is equally fascinating and challenging at the same time.

“Another great location is Sandwood Bay in the north west of Scotland. It’s a stunning beach and bay with plenty of opportunities to pitch your tent. You’re far away from the road so the only people there are people who have had to make an effort to get there. It’s the best place for a micro adventure.”

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What are your top tips for bike packing?
“You need to have waterproof kit that also keeps you warm. The other most important factor for bikepacking is to find stuff with the lowest pack size imaginable. Weight is important but as soon as you throw a packet of biscuits into your pack you’ve negated the weight! So it’s about size. Bikepacking is a pretty good testing ground for your kit.”

Markus Stitz is a keen photographer and film maker and will be tracking his journey through his social media feeds. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and his You Tube channel.

https://twitter.com/reizkultur

https://www.facebook.com/fearlessandunique/

https://www.instagram.com/reizkultur/

https://www.youtube.com/user/reizkultur

#DoMoreWithNikwax

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Scottish Lessons

This month’s Guest Blog is courtesy of Kate Edhouse, a Freelance Outdoor Education Instructor with experience in raft building, orienteering, high ropes and wild camping, amongst others. Read more about Kate here.

I recently spent a month working for Plas y Brenin at their base in Altshellach near Glencoe, Scotland, as part of my 15 months as a Centre Assistant.

A small team of instructors and myself packed up a whole cacophony of gear and made the 9-hour pilgrimage in minibuses to our new home for the next eight weeks.

My role in the team was to run the equipment stores and drying rooms for the courses; this meant keeping track of everything handed in and out, drying out kit, and maintaining and fixing any equipment that had been broken or damaged. The fantastic thing about the role was that by working in the morning and evening, it left me free during the day to shadow courses or get out climbing myself – a perfect opportunity to hone my skills for my Winter Mountain Leader course and ‘enjoy’ the fine line between beauty and torment of Scottish winter conditions.

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During my time working in the equipment stores, there were a few steep learning curves to overcome when it came to caring for clothing and equipment, and many lessons learnt.

Firstly, anything made of Gore-Tex doesn’t mix well with crampons and ice axes. The number of waterproof trousers, gaiters, and surprisingly even a few jackets, that came back with battle wounds was alarming. Small patches are easily sewn and resealed. Larger patches can render the whole item as useful as tissue paper in a blizzard. Anything with a reinforced ankle to stop you kicking through expensive Gore-Tex is a winner. A way of keeping your points less ‘pointy’ when you’re not using them is also crucial. We had a few jackets made sieve-like by people storing their crampons in their rucksack without protection. So a good crampon bag could save you an expensive replacement.

Secondly, Scotland has water: in copious amounts. Sometimes frozen, sometimes liquid, and sometimes in a slushy in-between state. You need to stay dry. Being wet is not only uncomfortable but could also put you in life-threatening circumstances; keeping the precipitation off and sweat minimal is imperative.

The kit in our stores was used almost daily for 8 weeks solid. That meant potentially our waterproofs and boots were getting worn out and less waterproof every day. An evening or day spent reproofing was never wasted because it led to dry and happy clients. I spent many Saturdays in an ordered system of washing, drying and rotating, using Nikwax Tech Wash and TX Direct to reproof garments from stores. It meant the life of the garment was extended and that wondrous beading you have when the garment is brand new was immediately restored. The same with the mountain boots: reproofing with Wax for Leather and Nubuck & Suede Proof meant the clients had dry feet for longer and were much, much happier as a result!

Thirdly, Scotland has wind: again, in copious amounts. The Scottish wind seems to sneak up and ruffle your feathers when you’re least expecting it, like when trying to read a map or adjust your layers. Having protection from the wind is essential. Wearing a full shell of Windstopper or similar, to keep the wind from biting at you, with thermal or insulation beneath to keep you toasty (but not too toasty, as you don’t want to sweat too much, see above) is desired.

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Trying to read a map in wind of anything over 60mph was a trial of stubbornness and patience. Having a good set of comfortable goggles so you can actually open your eyes to look at your map is a good start. The ability of the wind to whip the snow, hail and small grit into your face, with a pain similar to needles being thrown at you, is astonishing. Having goggles and something to cover any exposing flesh on your face will make you not only more comfortable, but makes necessary skills like map-reading bearable.

My month is Scotland was a steep learning curve but also a month of lessons, amazing memories and some fantastic routes thrown in.

Plas y Brenin, The National Mountain Sports Centre, runs courses, expeditions and holidays in a wide variety of outdoor activities, helping outdoor enthusiasts improve outdoor skills, or train as outdoor instructors.  With its base in Snowdonia, Plas y Brenin also runs a centre in Glencoe, with a focus on hillwalking, mountaineering and climbing: https://www.pyb.co.uk/courses-scottish-winter.php