From early misadventures with alcohol, we’ve all learnt that it’s never good to mix drinks, especially whisky and wine. So could the ‘good-times vibe’ of the Californian Grinduro blend with the peaty Scottish punch of the Isle of Arran?

Californian cool meets the Scottish weather at the inaugural Grinduro UK

Californians, they say, are serious about wine and relaxed about everything else, in fact, if California were a country, it would be the world’s fourth largest wine producer behind France, Italy and Spain. In pretentious restaurants in every capital city, sommeliers will recommend the most prestigious vintages, but any true Californian wine fan will tell you the real gems are the ‘shiners’, unmarked bottles, traded for favours, straight from vineyards to cellars. These unique and highly cherished bottles capture the true vibe of California, relaxed, flavoursome and totally unique. The Grinduro, presented by Giro and Fabric, is a true ‘shiner’ of the road and cross world.

For those who have yet to sample a taste of the iconic event, the Grinduro is a stage race, conceived in California, an untimed but challenging loop, punctuated by timed special-stages, both up and down. A race for mountain bikers, road bikers, cross bikers – a race for everyone. With an emphasis firmly on fun and inclusiveness, there’s no room for big egos or elitism, just good times and good vibes. The Grinduro has become a breath of fresh air in an over-competitive world.

Scotland in Miniature, from the lowlands to the highlands, Arran has it all

But, here’s a question, can you mix the distinctive ‘shiner’ Californian wine, with a robust and fiery Scottish single malt whisky, so far apart in delivery and taste? Grinduro believe you can, bringing the 2017 party to the sleepy Isle of Arran, on the border of the Scottish Highlands. Arran is known as “Scotland in miniature” divided into the lowlands of the south to the highlands of the north, but just 20 miles from tip to toe. They say in California “the Spring comes in the Fall, the Fall comes in Summer, the Summer comes in the Winter and the Winter never comes at all” in Scotland they say “there are two seasons’, June and winter”.

The smell of bacon and pancakes was enough to tempt riders from tents, some more prepared than others
It takes a brave photographer to shoot any lower than this when focussing on a Scotsman wearing a kilt

The first taste is made by the nose

Any experienced whisky taster will tell you the first stage of whisky tasting is made by the nose, inhaling in the complex flavours, but not so quickly as to burn the palate. The nose of the Grinduro adventure began in a deserted boatyard, where slowly over 150 International riders assembled, a secret society of trail-riders, bike-packers, gravel-riders, single-speeders and lovers of all things steel. Bikes of all shapes and sizes filled the cargo bay of the ferry, the rugged knuckle of Arran growing larger on the horizon. Lycra and merino mixed with high-viz and rigger boots. Soon the 874m tip of Goat Fell could be seen punching high into the clouds, and nervous riders looked to the heavens wondering if it was going to rain, this was Scotland, of course it was going to rain. Rolling down the ferry ramp, the welcome was 100 % Californian, big welcomes, big beers and bigger smiles, the sound of bagpipes giving a Highland tilt. Tents were pitched, friendships were started and the notorious midges sounded the dinner bell, the nosing had been a success.

Grinduro racing is serious business

A taste of Scotland

The second stage of whisky tasting is the palette, a time for the tasting. This is where the deep textures of the flavour are free to run wild with the senses. There was no shortage of flavour as riders took their first taste of the challenging Scottish special stages. The unrelenting rain did little to dampen the high spirits of riders as they rode from stage to stage. From ‘spitting blood’ climbs, to the craziness of the forest singletrack–so technical it needed either a full bag of skills or a healthy sense of humour to complete. Over 78 km, Mountain bikes battled cross bikes, aluminium battled steel, the hairless vs the hairy. High-fives punctuated head-down gravel charges, this was a true taste of Arran, undiluted and neat, starting with gentle riding and finishing with an all-out hammering of the senses.

To get a real taste of the event, check out the gallery below.

The finish, a new blend with a lingering warmth.

The final stage of whisky tasting is the finish, the feeling left in your mouth after swallowing, sometimes lingering and warm, sometimes short-lived and fiery. The finish of the Grinduro was palatable indeed. After wet lycra and shoes were thrown into kit bags, it was time for the all-important afterparty. As the Glasgow based Van-T’s ripped out guitar riffs, riders proceeded to drink the island dry, partying hard with empty legs and intoxicated spirits. The finish of the Grinduro had given the international racers a true taste of Scotland, both the short-lived but spicy punch of the rocks, midges and rain, but also in the gentle lingering aftertaste of the friendships made and the beauty of the Scottish landscape. The inaugural Grinduro UK had been a triumph, a bucket-list race that brings something new to Scotland, a taste of easy Californian spirit, complementing perfectly with Scotland’s own.

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Words & Photos: Trev Worsey