Lochaber trials legend Gary smashes West Highland Way cycle record

NO F33 Gary WHW 02
NO F33 Gary WHW 02

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Kinlochleven motorbike ace Gary MacDonald will be familiar to many of our readers as something of a local legend when it comes to the Scottish Six Days’ Trial (SSDT) event.

But with the coronavirus lockdown putting paid to the staging of this year’s event, Gary swapped two wheels with a engine for two wheels relying just on leg power to  pedal himself into the record books recently by setting a new fastest time cycling the West Highland Way.

Gary said this was something he had wanted to have a crack at for the last three years but never seemed to have enough time.

‘The previous record held by the endurance legend himself, Keith Forsyth,
was made in 2015 at a time of 10hrs 27mins. I can’t thank Keith enough
for his help and advice over the last two weeks and for letting me use his
route map from 2015 to keep me in the right direction,’ Gary explained.

‘I set off at 5.55am from a quiet Milngavie town centre, I quickly found myself in thick fog and mist for a good hour and a half until I reached Balmaha Car Park.

‘Quick refuel and headed for Rowardennan. This was the part I was dreading…the hike a bike! I almost enjoyed the battered arms and knees which eventually took me
to Beinglas Farm. Relieved to get through this part in good time I powered on to Tyndrum.

‘The temperature rose to 25 degrees, instantly I started to suffer. By the time I reached Bridge of Orchy I had hit a brick wall and started to bleed time, felt sick and my legs didn’t feel attached to my body.

NO F33 Gary WHW 03
Gary during his record cycle

‘I struggled through until I finally reached the famous SSDT section, chairlift… here’s where I cracked out the secret weapon – an OTE 100mg caffeine gel! Before long I was back motoring on, feeling more human. This was short lived when I reached Altnafeidh and had the Devils Staircase in front of me. I could quite literally tell you what every single stone on the way up looks like.

‘Finally, I had reached the fun part where I was back on home turf, descending into Kinlochleven. The final pitstop arrived in the village and ahead of me I was faced with the dreaded zigzags out of Kinloch.

‘From here I had many ups and downs to Fort William, my body shutting down,
but thankfully the jelly babies kept me going.

‘The final descent into Glen Nevis… If you’d asked me at the start I didn’t
think I’d get this far, let alone in that time. What a delight to see a busy
Fort William High Street where I crossed the finish line in 9hrs 28mins
and 34secs and was greeted by family and friends where I finally broke and
burst into tears. What a truly emotional experience.

Gary paid tribute to his bike, a Trek Supercaliber 9.9, which he said was ‘quite
simply the best XC bike I’ve ever ridden, as well as thanking his support team of family and friends.

And he added: ‘It was brilliant along the way to see family and familiar faces, you know who you are – thank you!’