Drunk on dusty trails and intoxicating sunshine. How a simple Torridon ride grew into something more…
I get asked ‘what made you take up guiding?’
To be honest, when I’m stuck on an exposed trail, 500m up a Scottish mountain, in driving sleet, helping someone mend their 3rd puncture of the day, I have asked myself the same question!
Truth is, the answer is always the same: ‘I just love it!’
No matter how testing it can be at times, weather, clients or both, there’s still nothing I’d rather be doing.
But there is a story to the birth of MTB Guiding. So as we race headlong into the new season, I thought I’d tell it.
It was mid-June and it was scorching hot. We were exploring trails in Torridon and some were even dusty. If this wasn’t good enough to make us believe we’d died and gone to heaven, it was also pretty midge-free.
So in a moment of intoxicated madness, we found ourselves swapping our riding glasses for a kind of mtb equivalent of beer goggles, and started musing: ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could show our readers this in person?’
‘Imagine how good it would be if rather than just reading our routes in a magazine, and looking at our pictures, they could actually be here with us, experiencing it in the same way as we do.’
A seed was sown…
It was a typical route research trip: we dashed from east to west and north to south, exploring new trails and making sure we had a good spread from all corners to slot into the magazine over the months to come. It’s how we work – we never get to stay in one place and ride it out.
But it dawned on us that this wasn’t how other people did it. If they went to Aviemore, then they went to Aviemore. And if they went to Torridon they went to Torridon etc. etc. So what would our readers make of our fast-forward, flitting all over the place, trail-bagging expeditions?
Would they enjoy being in different areas every day? Being shown different trails every day? Would they get the same buzz from an endless stream of new vistas, new trails, new pubs and new hotels as we did?
Was it even possible to see the best of what Scotland had to offer in just one trip?
And if it was, could we possibly show it to them?
We came home, talked to friends and surveyed contacts. We looked at what other companies were offering in other parts of the world, and we decided to take a flyer. The Ultimate Scotland Road Trip was born.
The next 12 months were full of booking hotels, organising buses, checking rules and regulations, and of course swotting for and passing some mtb leadership awards.
Then in April 2015, myself, guest guide Jay Mulvey, driver Graham Draper, and 8 pioneering clients motored our way up to Aviemore to put the whole thing to the test.
Did it work? Over to them…
“Had spectacular week in Scotland riding the best spots! By far the most beautiful place I have been mountain biking. Really good organised and superb guiding. Thanks a lot for this awesome week!” Jeroen Hook, Nederlands
“A fantastic week of riding, some brilliant and totally unforgettable memories. Thanks to the company, the scenery and most importantly, the organiser. Congratulations Tom, you have a genuine winning combination on your hands. All in all…stunning” Nik Wadge, Gloucestershire
“As the name suggests ‘The Ultimate Scotland Road Trip’ had a lot of expectation to live up to, but Tom Hutton of MTB Guiding managed to ensure that the trip did not disappoint. The biking destinations were classic tick list rides including Lairig Ghru, Glen Tilt, Torridon and Skye. The logistics and organisation re food and accommodation were excellent, and bike security and client safety were paramount. It was an awesome week, with stunning scenery, challenging technical riding and lots of laughs and fun. An epic trip, can’t wait for the next one :)” Anne Strafford, Birmingham
“What an absolutely brilliant week. Some of the best trails on Earth, good weather, great company, excellent support. It doesn’t get much better than this.” Jon Sparks, Lancaster
“A brilliant week away with MTB Guiding, the only thing you have to do is get up every day and ride your bike. It doesn’t get much better than that, especially when it’s in the Highlands of Scotland. What’s not to like when all the routes, accommodation and meals are sorted for you. Riding with a group of like-minded people was such fun and new friends have been made. I would recommend it without hesitation, if you’re thinking about it -do it.” Fiona Vaughan, Bromsgrove
Tom Hutton is a mountain bike guide, photographer and journalist. He has been the route researcher for mbr magazine for 17 years, provides classic route guides for Singletrack magazine and has written a number of guidebooks.