The Highlands, Glens and Western Isles 1300km Audax

It's getting close! This one has been in the diary for so long (since September last year) and I am looking forward to it a lot now.

This ride is different. This ride will test me much more than other long rides. Most 1000km+ rides pride themselves on providing TLC to the riders with great controls, food, beds, the works. This ride has almost none of that. We will meet the organiser next to the tourist information office on the Isle of Arran, get our cards and then off we go. Apart from a tiny hostel at 800km that he has booked completely for us, he will have nothing else for us. We're on our own for four and a half days (108 hours). We've got a routesheet with a list of the control towns and a suggested route to follow, and that's about it. We're left to sort out our own accommodation en route, with the added difficulties of five ferries to negotiate.

Riders are tackling it in all sorts of ways and all have slightly different schedules. Some will be camping or bivvying their way around, most will use a mix of B&Bs, hostels and bunkhouses.

Most long rides like LEL, PBP etc., I have not really had a plan; just ride until I am tired and sleep at the next available control. That works well and gives you flexibility if you are feeling good or bad. On my Pyrenean Super Randonnee last year, I had hotels booked and that does add some extra pressure (having to be at a certain place, by a certain time). So, this will add some interest into this ride.

Those ferries could cause some headaches. There's a couple that if you miss, then it's certainly game over for finishing in time. So, there's a couple of stages that will be critical to not mess about, get our heads down and ride (and hope that nothing goes wrong).

The ferries and accomodation give me some constraints to work with and the days look something like this (we start at 11:15 in the morning to match up with ferries):

Day 1 - Broderick to Oban - 210km Day 2 - Oban to Gairloch - 280km (but we can't get started until 08:30 when the first ferry arrives in Craignure) Day 3 - Gairloch to Trantlebeg - 322km Day 4 - Trantlebeg to Glencoe - 306km Day 5 - Glencoe to Ardrossan - 184km

Certainly a different ride for me when, on previous big rides, I've just ridden until I drop each day, which usually puts me ahead of most of the field, but with less sleep! This ride will be more relaxed in some ways and I am certainly not aiming to finish quickly, but to enjoy the riding through what looks to be some spectacular landscapes.

Interesting on what to pack and how to carry it as well. On most big rides, bag drops mean you've clean clothing waiting for you in a couple of locations. Not on this ride. We have to carry everything we need (and this will include a light sleeping bag for the bunkhouses etc.), so minimising weight will become very important. We also need to make some space for food - there will be a couple of lengthy sections (particularly into the evenings) where there will not be much available. So, I am really having to pay attention to what I carry, and let some standards drop a little - I am happy to wear jerseys for several days (and if it's warm, give it a wash and let it dry on me), but do like to have clean shorts each day. So, I will have two pairs of shorts for the duration, and wash one pair and dry overnight (hopefully!).

As added interest (and complication), the ride is being filmed for Scottish TV show "The Adventure Show". They have featured Audax before, making a great program on the Snow Roads 300km event a couple of years ago. They will be filming our progress throughout the event. I expect some rough looking and incoherent riders (including myself).

I think it is safe to assume that phone signals will be patchy at best - so there may not be that many tweets on this ride, but I will do my best!