Jim Sutherland has never found it difficult to dream about adventures “whether at night when asleep or with my eyes open wide!” His approach to life has taken him all over the Scottish Highlands – where he grew up – as well as Spain, the Alps, and the Southwest of the USA … hiking, climbing, skiing and, more recently, by bike. A qualified Mountain Bike Leader, Jim also holds the Winter Mountaineering & Climbing Instructor Award. This spring, he launched rideawaybikepacking. We tracked him down to discover more …
Jim has bikepacked all over Scotland, including The Capital Trail, The Deeside Trail (an off-road coast to coast to celebrate his 50th birthday with his friend, Duncan) as well as The Moray Trail – six times so far!
In 2019 he rode from Banff, Canada to Colter Bay, Wyoming – unsupported – covering over 1,100 miles on The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route through Alberta, British Columbia, Montana and Idaho. It is fair to say, he is an experienced cyclist! Last summer (2022) Jim created and rode his own version of the Land’s End to John O’ Groats route … 1,200 miles in length with over 62,000ft of ascent. He rasied almost £3,000 for the Fire Fighters’ Charity.
Jim says: “On the way, I met lots of interesting local people and sampled great places to eat and stay.” The route was a blend of quiet back roads, bridleways and committing mountain tracks and trails. “It made me want to share a smaller version with others … and to help them take the experience and go on to have adventures of their own with a similar ethos of community and ‘leave no trace’ on the way.”
So in March, he launched rideawaybikepacking – an all inclusive, guided bikepacking service … from the edge of the forests and the mountains of The Cairngorm National Park. Jim explains “I used to run a guided mountaineering business when I lived in the Torridon area. After nearly 15 years, I moved with my family to live in Grantown on Spey.” And with the help of some close friends, GrowBiz and his family, he’s been able to launch his own Strathspey venture.
Taking the saddle?
We asked who is his ‘typical’ customer. Jim says: “Guests of rideawaybikepacking are people who are already experienced cyclists … those who would like to try bikepakcing for the first time, or those who are reasonably active and want to try out a new activity in a way that is sensitive to and supportive of local communities.”
He is aiming to attract people “from all over the UK, Europe or worldwide” who value the importance of buying from local suppliers and respect the environment by adopting a ‘leave no trace’ philosophy. “Where possible, they will travel here using public transport and bring their own bikes too.”
Jim describes Grantown on Spey as “the perfect set off point” for his rides, saying: “We have everything you need. A small town by a river and at the edge of forests and mountains. We can ride on a variety of simple tracks and trails of low technical difficulty beside the river, across farmland, through woodland and onto open moors and hills.” He ads: “Open spaces on the ride are a major theme with views of the distant mountains, sometimes the sea and woodland.”
Jim created rideawaybikepacking because he is passionate about bikepacking and appreciates the value of supporting local communities and businesses.
He says: “I want to provide my guests with a unique, all inclusive experience. Strathspey and the Cairngorm National Park provide unrivaled opportunities for the most amazing rides. Now, more than ever, we should be focusing on tourism that is truly friendly to the environment, and that extends to supporting those invested in our area. I want my guests to meet and get to know those who run our local businesses to ensure sustainable tourism … where those enjoying the experiences will recommend and refer not only my business but all of those we encounter on our rides.”
Finally, we ask all featuring on our Blog what you would recommend to someone visiting Strathspey for the first time, or for the first time in a long time? “Get on a bike, get into the woods and get stuck into some of the great local produce available here in Strathspey!” An offical spokesperson couldn’t have put it better!
You can email him via this link or call him on 07761293097.
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