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The Kinlochleven loop with a short review of the latest Garmin Edge 810 GPS cycle computer

For this blog, I'll be going over both the route we took and the device we planned it on, as such an epic day out deserves its own review for the benefit of anyone who reads it and wants to set off on the same challenging ride!

We (Chris Millar) and I, had to pick somewhere we hadn't been before; a ride which would not necessarily find us in the absolute wild, but just on a route where we could genuinely rely on the device to take us from A to B in the context of testing all the functions. So we devised a route in an area we'd seen other riders rave about on social media channels, mapped it out a few days beforehand on the Garmin Edge 810 and we were off!

We ended up choosing a great mid-sized loop round the mighty Mamores, the ominously named crowd of Munros that is home to the jewel in the crown, Ben Nevis. As it turns out, the route was relatively easy to follow once it was picked up, but it still showcased the features of the 810 very well.

The Kinlochleven loop in all it's glory!

The Kinlochleven loop with a short review of the latest Garmin Edge 810 GPS cycle computer

We had intended to "smash" the route as all hard faced Mountain Bikers would have everyone believe they could, however due to an accident on the A82 an Onich, we ended up getting to our hostel at Fort William around 1.30am after setting off from Glasgow at 4pm the day before. This meant that we got our heads down about 2pm with no food to speak of and a bunkhouse chuck out at 8am, so not the ideal start from a rest & preparation point of view?

So it's fair to say we slept a little longer than we wanted, but we rose to the occasion regardless, headed to McDonalds, got some pre-fabricated sustenance and headed to Aonach Mor for the start.

The route basically took us round the westerly end of the Mamores from the Ski Centre, south through the Grey Corries, down to the ruins and the Witches Gate at Luibeilt, along the shores of Loch Eilde Mor and into Kinlochleven. This is our most southerly point and where we essentially join the West Highland Way to head back north to Fort William and back around to the start.

Chris making light of the huge climb up to the Grey Corries

The Kinlochleven loop with a short review of the latest Garmin Edge 810 GPS cycle computer

It was a fairly horrendous climb straight up to highest point of the ride just beyond the Lairig Leacach Bothy. A lot of this was done straight from Spean Bridge via the forestry access roads which were reflecting heat like tin foil and with the highest recorded temperature of the whole ride (33 degrees) happening on this stretch, it was no joke.

The breeze picked up as we climbed into the Corries and past the "Wee Minister" a good luck charm in the Cedar carved likeness of the Reverend John McIntosh said to bring luck to all that passed him; this didn't seem to work for the chap that was collapsed from the heat just a few yards from it though. He was with a group of walkers and in good hands, so we pressed on.

The devoutly un-superstitious Allan posing with the "wee minister" good luck statue

The Kinlochleven loop with a short review of the latest Garmin Edge 810 GPS cycle computer

Climb, climb, and climb to the Lairig Leacach Bothy, a great example of the respect that fellow travellers have for each other whilst in the wilderness. Well-kept and stocked with Whisky and tinned food for the weary that may pass or choose to stay. Never fails to amaze me the care that is taken with regards to the upkeep of bothy's.

Maybe they are just too far out for the delinquency of society to touch them, but I like to think it's purely down to a sort of outdoor camaraderie that they stay in good repair as well as the countless volunteers who undertake the major restorations and minor repairs.

The very picturesque Lairig Leacach Bothy

The Kinlochleven loop with a short review of the latest Garmin Edge 810 GPS cycle computer

Anyway after a quick stop for food, we made it up to the summit of the ride and hammered down to Luibeilt and across the Abhainn Rath burn to start heading west to Kinlochleven.

At Luibeilt lies a derelict house on the river. It's a fairly small place that once had 2 floors and a roof. It used to be a bothy apparently but now only offers shelter from the wind as the roof structure is now missing. There are recent pictures online of the house with and without a roof, so who knows the history behind it?

Chris at one of the Luibeilt windows across the Abhainn Rath burn

The Kinlochleven loop with a short review of the latest Garmin Edge 810 GPS cycle computer

You can also find "The witches Gate" there. A strange (and probably forced) mating of 2 trees to form a creepy double arch which is reminiscent of some type of new-age bohemian wedding prop.

Allans Yeti against the witches gate at Luibeilt

The Kinlochleven loop with a short review of the latest Garmin Edge 810 GPS cycle computer

So from here it was a hard and fairly uneventful slog along which was along Loch Eilde Mor. The scenery was breath-taking, but the road (at least as far as the Loch) was hard going. There is a lot of rainfall out there, so every climb was like very fine sand with marble sized boulders littering the whole width of the deteriorated surface.

This sometimes felt like you were riding on flat tyres and at this point (18-19 miles in) it was a really disheartening surface to find yourself on. On the shores of Loch Eilde Mor we had a wee rest and re-fuelled again for the push into Kinlochleven. As we hit the descent into Kinlochleven, we were rewarded with amazing views of Loch Leven and the Pap of Glencoe in the distance.

The landscape is spectacular in every direction

The Kinlochleven loop with a short review of the latest Garmin Edge 810 GPS cycle computer

Despite the amazing weather we experience up till now, we were constantly aware of the dark clouds that always loom around this area and we essentially raced the rain into Kinlochleven experiencing just a light cooling shower on our backs. This was actually pretty welcome with all things considered and by the time we had ridden the hills above the village, the clouds had continued south as we rode north to join the sunshine again on the old military road and the West Highland Way.

By this time, the legs were a little stiff and we were making a few more stops to get water from the surrounding downfalls at every opportunity. It had been unseasonable dry here for a good few weeks, so fast running, cool water was not as available as it might have been on another day at another time. The average temperature at this point was 22 degrees, so hydration was always a bit of a worry, and having emptied a 3L Camelbak and 3-4 750ml bottles already (and remembering out "heatstroked" friend earlier in the day, it had to be foremost in our minds.

I have walked this track many times in my West Highland Way adventures and also ridden it in the past too, but I failed to notice on these previous forays that none of the rocks littering the route were any smaller than volleyballs. Towards the end of the trail and the more "downhill" section, you can pick up some pretty good average speeds, making for some excellent line picking and kicker jumps along the way, but one false move and you're toast. I would NOT like to fall off here at any speed as you'd almost certainly break something.

Massive panoramic views at the summit of the ride

The Kinlochleven loop with a short review of the latest Garmin Edge 810 GPS cycle computer

I probably wouldn't recommend attacking this at any speed on a carbon bike or even a thinner tubed alloy one without any downtube protection at the noise of tennis ball sized rocks bouncing of your bike is a fairly disheartening sound. Chris's cromo hardtail was peppered with chips and small dents once we'd finished. My Alloy Yeti has full length cabling that runs underneath the downtube, so this does offer some protection.

This trail becomes busier as it makes the transition from old military road to purpose made walking track at the uphill traverse to Glen Nevis, so we followed the old route onto the tarmac and headed for Fort William, riding through the town and across the tail of the witches trail to the ski centre car park and the welcome sight of a boot full of clean clothes, cool drinks and proper food.

The best bit of this ride was just being out there, detached from all the trappings of trail centres and the "normal" world for a few hours, with your mates, on your bike and discovering new placed to ride that really are not that far away at all. Ironically the worst bit was the weather, which was brilliant (?) but it was so hot, almost debilitating at times. It's the kind of this that you'd laugh about later, but at its worst, I promised myself that I wouldn't forget how dehydrated I felt as kind of a benchmark to measure my future rides upon.

As far as the device goes, this is not a massive in depth review just an overview of the functions I used on the day. From start to finish it performed very well. Other people have mapped this route so I could easily have download the GPX file (this is the file type used by GPS devices) from any amount of sources and sent it straight to the device, but I created a "Garmin Connect" account and did it from scratch. It uses Google maps to allow you to plot routes on your PC or Mac; you can set it to follow roads and pre-mapped tracks or just fire a line through the wilderness where you want to go. Along the way it will tell you the altitude and distance along which your route is planned, allowing you to make good your preperation.

You can see our route and data in all its glory by clicking HERE

The next step is to connect your device to the computer and send the route to it. This is a drag and drop affair that really can't go wrong, and whilst I have had experience of all kinds of GPS devices, I was pleasantly surprised at how quick and easy this was to do. Once it's done, then go to the "courses" menu on the device, select your route (or course) and hit ride. You also have to hit the timer button to set your tracking in motion too. Satellite acquisition is really fast and accuracy is pin-point to a fault. In fact just a few metres off track and you are reminded of this by an annoying beep (which can be turned off) but would actually I suspect be quite reassuring if you are genuinely out somewhere you could actually get lost.

Screenshot examples from the Garmin Edge 810

The Kinlochleven loop with a short review of the latest Garmin Edge 810 GPS cycle computer

The screen is big and is very bright if you need it to be. I had the screen on the lowest brightness with the light switching off after 15 seconds and after over 8 hours of continuous use we had 28% of battery left when we got back, so I'd say that this is a genuine 12-13 hour battery time, which for something of its compact size is (in my opinion) pretty good. After you switch it on and set it going, you don't really need to touch it again, simply looking down and checking you are still following the route (if you're not, cue the annoying beep) is all you really need to do.

If you do need to use any functions, you can swipe between a few active screens that will show all your metrics during the ride, essentially acting as a very complicated cycle computer with all the data you'll ever need. It's a pressure activated screen, but it feels good and can be operated with gloves on too.

A screenshot of our ride from the Garmin Connect site

The Kinlochleven loop with a short review of the latest Garmin Edge 810 GPS cycle computer

The other feature that sells this to most folk is the "live track" feature. In basic terms, through the Garmin Connect phone app, you can send an invite to people asking them to follow your ride, where they can watch your performance in real time. This is good if the wife is worried or if you simply want or need the kudos attached with having such a cool feature at your disposal.

The other benefit of this feature is that you can actually ask friends to join your ride along the way. They can track you on their own devices and meet up with you along the way using the information you have sent them about your route and actually see where you are in real time.

Once you're home, you can upload the ride onto Garmin connect and look at your glorious performance and all the metrics that go with it. There really is too much to list and if you're wearing an HRM (I wasn't) there's even more to look at from a point of view of training and personal bests etc. You can also sync it up with Strava if that's your thing too, adding your Garmin Connect activity to your Strava feed.

Would I buy one? Well before this ride, no I was a bit cynical as far as my cycling discipline goes. I'm a mountain biker of a certain type, I don't really care about cadence, my heart rate, KOM's average speeds or any of that stuff, but that's not to say that I don't find good information interesting and this IS good information. I'm an old walker/mountain guy to, so have no problem whipping out a map for this type of ride, and have done just that up until the day I unboxed this device.
So would I buy one now?

Would I use it every day, every week? No, but I may just take the dive and go for it. So what's reason for this change of heart? Well the combination of being able to sit at home on my computer scanning Google satellite imagery and sticking a pin in the planet somewhere you've never been before, and being able to trust that this little device will get you there is really white a fuzzy feeling.

This thing really does take all the guesswork out of this type of riding and if you like that sort of thing, it really lets you concentrate on the ride itself with absolute confidence that you will reach your destination. Before I actually tried it, I didn't think it was a Mountain Bikes tool as far as I would use it, but I think it has the potential (at least for me) to open up a whole new world of riding.

With no injuries, no punctures and no mechanicals; all said and done this was an amazing day out on the bike that I'd recommend to anyone with a decent level of fitness. Some of the riding is definitely sketchy but very rewarding and the feeling of being out there in the highlands on your bike just can't be beaten.

If you'd like to have a shot of the Edge 810, we have both the Garmin Edge 800 and 810 available to try before you buy at Dales Cycles Glasgow. Call 0141 3322705 to book a test slot.


The Kinlochleven loop with a short review of the latest Garmin Edge 810 GPS cycle computer