Scotland is being hailed as a world-leading destination for “bikepacking” with more than 50 cyclists completing a new event in Perthshire.
The Cateran Dirt Dash, organised by round-the-world cyclist Markus Stitz, took riders carrying camping gear on a 55-mile route along gravel tracks, roads and up and over hills from Alyth to the Spittal of Glenshee.
Combining off-road adventure with nights under canvas, it’s seen as a low-carbon way to go on holiday, helping to reduce the environmental impact of tourism.
Cyclist and author Markus Stitz told STV News: “The general idea about the Dirt Dash is to get people into bikepacking, but do it in a very social way so it’s not about times, it’s not about racing, it’s about riding a set route and meeting other people and camping somewhere nice.”
First-time bikepackers taking part in the two-day event included Colette Burns and Ros Bryce, both from Perth.
“I have been out cycling in the past couple of weeks, increasing the miles, and I packed the bags onto the bike to see the weight difference,” said Colette.
“Being on the bike gives that bit more height to look around and take in the views, it’s a fantastic way to travel and you get more distance in less time than walking.”
Ros added: “I’ve always loved camping and I’d usually be out walking and climbing in the mountains so I’ve been wanting to try bikepacking for a while.
“I have done one over-night and now I want to do something a bit more challenging.”
The growth of bikepacking is delivering economic and environmental benefits for rural communities.
In the Cateran Ecomuseum – where sites of interest are all outdoors – visitors are encouraged to travel without vehicles.
“With bikepacking there isn’t carbon being emitted in the same way if you were travelling around in your campervan or your car, and I think it’s just a quieter way of being in the landscape,” said co-director Clare Cooper.
“It’s also good for local businesses. In Alyth and we have the most fantastic bike shop and you can really see that there are more and more people using it and the town as a cycling centre.
“I think once you’ve got a business like that in a small place like Alyth then it starts to grow all sorts of other possibilities.”
Markus added: “What I would like to see now is tourism organisations really getting on board, if you look at bikepacking it’s a really good way of getting around the country, covering a fair distance, going to different places, so I think it is an alternative to using your car.
“Scotland is very well-placed for this, it has many old drove roads and historic trade routes, it’s one of the best places in the world to go exploring on your bike.”
One cyclist had to be air-lifted to hospital on the second day of the event after breaking a collarbone in a fall on a downhill section. He was later discharged to recover at home.
It’s hoped the Cateran Dirt Dash can take place again next year, with organisers looking at dates in the summer.