Where Roads End

Bikepacking a shorter more gravelly version of the NC500

In partnership with

Komoot

Feature type Video

Published Apr 22, 2022

Photographer Markus Stitz

Base editorial team
BASE editorial team BASE writers and editors who live and breathe adventure every day. We love adventure storytelling as much as we love adventure itself.

Bringing together a route of just over 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery, the North Coast 500 naturally follows the roads along the coastal edges of the North Highlands, taking in the regions of Wester Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Easter Ross, the Black Isle and Inverness-shire. The official North Coast 500 route begins and ends at Inverness Castle which, perched on top of a hill, is the perfect starting point to the route and offers unparalleled views over the capital city of the Highlands.

In his new short film Where Roads End, Markus Stitz showcases a more compact version of this iconic route as an inspiration to cycle Scotland. Below you’ll find the film along with route information from komoot and a breakdown of Markus’ kit and bike setup he used for this adventure.

500 miles is a lot of miles, regardless if you’re a seasoned bike rider or taking timid steps into cycle touring. But that doesn’t detract from the fact that the NC500 offers some of the best riding in the UK. So, taking into account the time constraints that make it difficult for many people to cycle the whole route Markus Stitz designed an itinerary that can be ridden in a week or less.

Markus’ new film Where Roads End is the story of that 200-mile journey.

‘My first ever bikepacking adventure in 2006 took me through the absolutely stunning north of Scotland, and I vividly remember that journey,’ says Markus. ‘Having worked on a couple of different cycling route projects over the last years and most recently a book about gravel riding in Britain, I was interested to partner up with the North Coast 500 not only to showcase the stunning landscapes I travelled through, but also to give people an idea that the NC 500 is much more than just a driving route.’

Stitz cycled on a gravel bike hired from Ticket to Ride, Inverness-based bike hire specialists, staying in hostels, B&Bs and hotels along the route in Shieldaig, Ullapool, Invergordon and Inverness.

The Route

Distance: 200 miles
Ascent: 3,420 m
Terrain: Mix of on and off-road sections, some very remote.
Difficulty: The route contains gates which, if closed, might require you to lift your bike over the gate and may require pushing on more technical uphill and downhill sections.
Best time to visit: April to October. Some sections can be muddy or boggy in wet weather conditions.

Starting his journey in Strathcarron, taking a train for the first leg, he then followed the NC500 route up and down the Bealach na Bà, on the third-highest road in Scotland. On the second day he set off from the picturesque fishing village of Shieldaig in Wester Ross, to combine the NC500 route with gravel tracks along Upper Loch Torridon, then continuing through picturesque Glen Torridon.

From the shores of Loch Maree, he ventured off the NC500 route towards Achnasheen and on to Lochluichart. This section can be done by either bike or train. Markus crossed the Lochluichart Wind Farm on gravel tracks to meet the A835 at Loch Glascarnoch. His route joined the North Coast 500 again at Corrieshalloch Gorge, continuing on the road and an alternative route on the opposite side of the River Broom to Ullapool.

From Ullapool Stitz continued on a well-known coast-to-coast route to Oykel Bridge, having already ridden this section during his inaugural bikepacking trip in 2006 and also during the Highland Trail 550. He continued on to Culrain, where his route met the railway once again to Ardgay. After a final overnight stop near Invergordon he continued on a mixture of roads, paths and Sustrans National Cycle Route 1 across the Black Isle back to Inverness.

 

 

 

 

 

the NC500 is much more than just a driving route

North Coast 500 Bikepacking Kit List

For any bikepacking adventure, the exact kit and bike set up you chose to use is going to depend on a couple of key questions. What kind of terrain will you be expecting to ride? How remote are the landscapes in which you are going to ride? What’s the weather going to be like? Where will you be staying? And how do you plan to source your food? The answers to those questions will then determine the amount of kit you’ll need and how best to carry it.

An instrumental character in the development of bikepacking routes across Scotland, having ridden around the world Markus Stitz is well versed in the art of packing for bike based adventure. For his 200 mile bikepacking version of the NC500 he hired a gravel bike, swapped tyres and used his own bikepacking bags. Opting to stay in hostels, B&Bs and hotels along the route it meant he could significantly cut down his kit. meaning he still had plenty of space for the cold weather gear he’d certainly still require.

Apidura Backcountry Hip Pack (2.5l)

  • DJI Mavic Air2S Drone in case
  • DJI Osmo Pocket 2 camera
  • ND filters
  • DJI Osmo Action 2 front touch screen module
  • Tripod mount for DJI Osmo Action 2

Apidura Racing Frame Pack (4L)

  • 2 spare batteries for drone
  • Manfrotto mini tripod
  • Opinel knife
  • Spare food
  • Spare Schwalbe Aerothan tube
  • Anker power bank and iPhone cable

Apidura Racing Top Tube Pack (1L)

  • Canon G7X Mark III camera (in case)

Apidura Handlebar Bag 

  • Endura MT500 D3O® glove
  • Spare food

Apidura Backcountry Food Pouch Plus (1.2L)

  • Controller for drone in waterproof bag

Apidura Racing Saddle Pack (5L)

  • Down jacket
  • Underwear
  • Endura GV500 Foyle shorts
  • 45NRTH Lumi lightweight wool socks
  • Charger for drone, charger for iPhone, various charging cables
  • 45NRTH Stavanger merino beanie
  • 45NRTH Ltd wool tee
  • Spare Buff (antiviral)
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Rode wireless microphone
  • 2 spare batteries for Canon camera

LEZYNE Tool Box

  • Schwalbe Aerothan tube
  • Lezyne multitool
  • Tyre levers, chain link, 

On Body

  • DJI Osmo Action 2 camera (around neck)
  • Endura GV500 waterproof jacket
  • Endura GV500 Reiver bibshort
  • 45NRTH Electric Rift midweight socks
  • 45NRTH Ragnarök Black boots
  • Endura BaaBaa Blend L/S Baselayer
  • 45NRTH Naughtvind bib knickers
  • Endura PRO SL PrimaLoft® gilet
  • Abus Airbreaker helmet
  • 45NRTH Blowtorch gaiter
  • RadTrail cycling hat
  • Apple AirPods
  • iPhone
  • 45NRTH Sturmfist 4 gloves
  • Face mask

Bike – Trek Domane AL 4 Disc

  • Schwalbe G-One Allround tires on Aerothan tubes 
  • Exposure Diablo MK12 front light
  • Exposure Blaze MK2 back light
  • Lezyne Mega XL GPS
  • Water bottle & pump
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