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Scribbles on a map and someone else’s GPX files can never substitute local knowledge. Unfortunately James McKnight didn’t have any of that and, as he discovered, he was soon in way over his head in some of the Pyrenees’ most remote countryside.

Photographer Victor Lucas and I had been talking about this trip for over a year since I first visited the remote village of Nocito (population 10), a luscious place set among alluring hills on the edge of the Pyrenees. I had been wooed by Nocito’s charm as a mysterious settlement in an improbable location quite a long way from nowhere at all really. We had both been intrigued by the idea of bikepacking, or whatever you want to call going for a long ride carrying everything you need. However, glamorous images of heroes making their way through immense landscapes had perhaps not told us the entire story as we would soon find out… Bikepacking ain’t easy.

Finally in Spain, we were joined by Ben Winder, a lastminute addition to the team, and beginning to wonder if we’d bitten off more than we could chew. At least for once we had done a great job in terms of coordinating kit and learning about the route – we wrongly thought.

Whatever the case, any level of good organisation wasn’t going to be enough to save us from our greatest weakness – optimism. Our proposed ride would follow several GPS tracks found online, ducking in and out of the offbeat Sierra y Canones de Guara Natural Park, a magnificent area of time-eroded mountains and deep crags in the province of Huesca, Aragon. Having gauged the speed of whoever created the GPS file, we’d come here expecting a mostly gravel road and mellow singletrack ride and based our daily kilometres on that. What we didn’t know was the creator of that GPS file was some sort of rocky trail-craving, kilometre-crunching machine…

Who has room for the shuttlecock?
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Editorial: Greasing Out Chipps ponders the strange language of mountain biking. Is understanding the code the difference between being a mountain biker and just riding bikes? UK Adventure: Glasgow’s Campsie Fells Sanny seeks out some overlooked trails within a stone’s throw of Glasgow. Why does he love them so much? Column: Jason Miles Turns out that, if you ride bikes, your neighbours think you know everything about all bikes. International Adventure: Bohemian Rhapsody Tom Hutton heads to the very-accessible Czech Republic to check out the trails and trees on a three-centre bike safari. International Adventure: Kyrgyzstan Rickie Cotter warms up for the Silk Road Mountain Race with a solo trip around this remote expanse of wild unknown. Beyond The Review: In The Bag Tom Hill writes about the aged Timbuk2 messenger bag that isn’t his, it’s Jenn’s. He’s just using it for her. Classic Ride: Grate Expectations In a cheese pun-filled ride around the West Country, James Vincent takes us on a tour of the trails around Cheddar. International Adventure: You Can’t Script Adventure James McKnight and Victor Lucas get in over their heads in the Pyrenees. Turns out this bikepacking lark is more complicated than they thought. Bike Test: So Long, Huckers Our big friendly giant, Barney, gets friendly with the three longest full suspension bikes in the world. Three monsters tested, from Cotic, Geometron and Pole. 25 Years of Chipps Chipps reflects on 25 years as a bike journalist. Does he know what he’s doing yet? International Adventure: Budget Bolognese Sanny heads to Italy to experience a comfortable adventure without a painful credit card bill. Pete’s Pros: Ruaridh Cunningham Pete Scullion chases downhill legend turned neo-enduro pro Ruaridh Cunningham around the trails of Innerleithen. Last Word Adam Batty discovers that finding riding buddies can be tricky, especially when they’re not being entirely honest.