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Slaying The Badger

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

The Badger Divide is quickly becoming something of a bucket list ride. When it's creator, Stu Allen announced a mass depart on Strava it quickly gained over 100 signup's. With a dozen or so Scottish Adventurers intending on starting out on May 7th from Inverness, we thought it high time we caught up with Stu and got the low down on The Badger Divide.

Photo: Graham Cottingham / @mostybybike

Scottish Adventure(SA): Let’s start off by tell us a bit about yourself and The Badger Divide. Who is Stu Allan? What was the initial inspiration behind the Badger Divide? Where there any other locations other than Inverness and Glasgow for the point-to-point route?

Stu Allen, The Badger Divide (TBD): I spent my childhood holidaying all over Scotland with my parents . By the time I was 10 I had been most places, bikes were involved a lot of time, but we got about in our camper as well. Looking back, we did what's now considered gravel a lot. Estate tracks and random bimbling into the hills. This set me in my ways, and I've been keen on this sort of riding for years now.

The Badger route if I'm being honest was plotted out hastily on Ride With GPS using my existing route knowledge, with a vague notion of it being an Edinburgh Fixed Gear grand day out. Originally the route started at the old lighthouse in Granton, Edinburgh. But it was obvious that 100km of canal was a bit of a let-down given the rest of the route.

After a couple of test rides with varying success I was contacted by Miles from the Racing Collective. He was looking for a gravel oriented route in Scotland and he thought The Badger would fit the bill. I'm still unsure how he found out about it actually.

Miles got the train up from England one weekend and met me in Inverness. I was still trying to figure out if the Edinburgh finish could work at this point and Miles needed to be in Glasgow. So we parted ways as the route crosses the John Muir Way.

Over the years I've managed to ride loads of paths, dirt roads and rights of way so I was sure there was good riding to be had, joining it all together whilst still keeping it direct was the only real unknown. I had never ridden anything south of Aberfoyle before so that part took the longest to get right over various test rides.

Apart from finally changing to a Glasgow finish the route has stayed pretty much unaltered.

Scottish Adventure(SA): The route seems to have quickly gained bucket list / cult status. How do you account for that? What do you think it offers that perhaps other routes don’t?

Stu Allen, The Badger Divide (TBD): Miles adopted the route for the Scotduro event and I've been riding it with friends every year since the inception. Other than that there hasn't been any promotion. Bizarrely the ride has continued to grow in popularity, in the summer months there's regularly multiple groups riding it at weekends and I've had several foreign riders approach me about the route.

I can't really take credit for the route being so popular, mainly due to it being on long established rights of way, estate roads and roads that have been on maps for generations. Joining them together was definitely the easy bit.

Scottish Adventure(SA): You’ve got somewhere near 100 riders for the “Grand Depart” on the 7th of May. Did you expect that type of response? Can you share any thoughts or plans on the future of the route? Can you see this becoming an annual date?

Stu Allen, The Badger Divide (TBD): The group depart is the first time I've made a vaguely official ride on the route for several years. The last time I arranged something there was a hardy group of around 8 riders turned up, so it's pretty obvious how popular the ride has become.

I think the route attracts so many riders because logistically it's fairly easy to start and finish and the distance isn't so far that you need to take a week off work. Personally I think 3 days is the right amount of time to take but I normally do it in 2 to save taking holidays. Riders have taken a week to complete the ride so there's definitely scope to turn it into a nice tour.

I've never had grand plans for the route heading into the future. I'm keen for it to exist in a similar way to the Highland Trail. Free from route markers and official monopoly. I had planned originally to have a well executed website with lots of info but I think I prefer the it the way it is currently.

The route isn't signposted but it's easy to see the way on a map, it goes by bothys but I'm not going out my way to tell people where they are. I think having to do a little research about a ride yourself is better than being spoon fed a mountain of information beforehand.

Saying that I am however more than happy to answer questions when people message the Badger social pages

Photo: Graham Cottingham / @mostybybike

Scottish Adventure(SA): Scottish Adventure have around a dozen or so riders down for the event. What advice can you give them? What’s the hardest section of the route? What's the key to enjoying the route as you intended and what shouldn’t they depart Inverness without?

Stu Allen, The Badger Divide (TBD): What bike to ride is always the top question. In my opinion the route is very much suited to a gravel bike or a drop bar mtb. There is some pretty rough and steep stuff along the way so bear that in mind. I've always had a better time riding a drop bar bike running at least 40c + tyres combined with mtb gearing. The first few times I went with fairly standard gravel gearing and the Corrieyairack was always a real slog. I've ridden it on a 29er which felt pretty over-biked for the majority. Having a fast rolling tyre helps for sure.

People have ridden the route on all sorts of machines over the year, from fixed gear bikes with 35s, myself riding it on a singlespeed butchers bike, several riders taking traditional tourers and recently fat bikes.

Nearly any bike will survive and the route is varied enough everything will excel at some point. Having enough capacity for food has always been a key point for me, the resupply distance between Fort Augustus and Killin is not to be underestimated.

The pub at Corrour and the post office in Glen Lyon break this up and I would strongly recommend you stopping in at both. The staff are super accommodating at Corrour and it's become a quintessential destination on the ride

Photo: Graham Cottingham / @mostybybike

Scottish Adventure(SA): There are similar routes / events out there – 2nd City Divide / Trans Continental. Have you done those? What events / routes are attractive you and can you share any riding plans you have for the future?

Stu Allen, The Badger Divide (TBD): Luke that runs the Second City Divide contacted me a few years back to mention the Badger had been helped inspire him to plot out his route. Since then I've ridden SCD and he has done the Badger a couple of times. If you ride the Badger and are feeling strong by the end just keep on rolling all the way to Manchester to complete the Double Divide. After a few conversations between myself and Luke we came up with the idea for the Double Divide to combine both our routes into a near 1000km epic.

Photo: Graham Cottingham / @mostybybike

Scottish Adventure(SA): The route passes through some of the most remote and beautiful countryside we have. What are your thoughts on how we access and use the Scottish Countryside? Would you like to see the introduction of National Park Passes as they have in the US? .

Stu Allen, The Badger Divide (TBD): Routes like the Badger are popping up all over the UK which is great, Scotland's access laws and the vastness of our estates make it ridiculously easy to navigate our countryside.

Photo: Graham Cottingham / @mostybybike

Scottish Adventure(SA): You’ve got one bucket list ride to do in Scotland. Where is it, who’s going with you and what bike are you doing it on?

Stu Allen, The Badger Divide (TBD): I'm always keeping an eye out for new routes popping up but the Highland Trail always drags me back. If you've not done it I strongly recommend you try it I've ridden it once and it was by far the most all consuming ride I've ever competed. Incredible scenery rewarding the incredibly hard efforts required to get you there.

In terms of who I'd love to ride it with and on what bike then it's Jenny Graham and a Mountain bike Tandem!

Scottish Adventure(SA): Thanks Stu, look forward to seeing you on May 7th!

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