Enduro21 does the other Six Days, the Scottish one
Enduro21 loads up the van and heads to the Highlands of Scotland for the Six Days Trial – it’s like the Six Days Enduro but “harder”...
With 100-mile off-road days, seven or eight hours on the pegs and the task of keeping your feet up for 30 observed sections a day, the Scottish Six Days Trial (SSDT) is a rival for the toughest enduro races we’ve ever done and a serious contender for top 10 best off-road events you can do on a dirt bike.
“This is harder than the Dakar” according to riding partner (and mate) Neil Hawker. He’s a do-it-all kinda of rider who has multiple ISDEs, the Dakar and 10-plus SSDTs to his name – he’s also no bullshitter.
The origins of modern hard enduro?
The Scottish has been running almost as long as the ISDE, since 1909 in fact, although 1911 was the official first year it ran for six days.
Events like this are a big part of the origins of enduro as we know it today: a multi-day off-road event, the time schedules, mileage, maintaining your own bike without assistance, carrying everything you’ll need for maintenance on your back and all this in an awesome landscape which you really can only ever experience at this event.
The link to extreme enduro is a strong one too and events in the Hard Enduro World Championship are basically the same but without the marks lost for putting your feet down. Physically, mentally and mechanically it is the same raw deal.
Among the list of SSDT winners are Graham Jarvis and Dougie Lampkin (who’s now won it 13 times). The best placed privateer GASGAS rider this year, 2022, has been gifted a free entry and a bike for the 2022 Erzbergrodeo – that’s a hell of a prize for Tom Minta.
Apart from the obvious differences like an open face helmet and a different set of boots, the SSDT would be familiar to anyone doing any multi-day, off-road race like the ISDE or Romaniacs. The paddock in Fort William, the changing of tyres and air filters, the weary walks out the parc ferme each night, and the vibes by the beer tent are every bit as good.
Tested: the riding kit and tools that got us through the SSDT
USWE RAW 12 Backpack
Literally your riding life depends on what you carry in a backpack at the SSDT. The event is famous for putting riders right out there in the middle of absolutely nowhere and when something happens you’ve got to be able to fix it or you face a very, very long walk.
The RAW 12 USWE pack was perfect with the three litre hydration pouch, the right amount of storage and importantly a pack which sits tight on your back while you ride.
What we carried:
Tools that fit. Everything needed and nothing more so spent time in the workshop sorting the tools before heading to Scotland. In short you need a tool to fit everything that you might need to remove plus spares:
- Spare levers (clutch, gear, rear brake)
- Cable ties
- Tubeless and tube repair kit, tyre levers and a spare front tube
- Spark plug (and spanner)
- Chain link and small collection of nuts and bolts
- 2-part metal
- Spare throttle cable
- Nutrition/energy bar
- Spare gloves plus mechanics gloves to go under normal gloves for long road rides in the rain
- A stick for poking grass from in front of the radiator
Fox Legion jacket
A good jacket for this event is just about the most important item of clothing. It’s got to fit well enough to let you ride normally, not be too hot, not be too cold, allow for layers, have some pockets, be tough and be waterproof. The Fox Legion jacket ticks all those boxes.
The extended or dropped tail section (common in MTB gear) is a bonus too with trials bikes having such useless rear fenders.
What to wear is a constant problem in Scotland because the weather can genuinely change from winter to summer and back in an hour. Goggles are important when it is raining – we used a set of SCOTT Prospect Amplifiers which were great in the sometimes murky weather – and a spare set of (dry) gloves is a bonus.
We also wore an Amped vest on long road rides and on the colder days wore an FXR base layer which helped keep the heat inside the thin outer jacket but breathed enough to ride.
The key is having base layer options and that outer waterproof shell plus room in the backpack to add or take stuff off as the body heats and cools.
111 Racing riding pants and jersey
The range of 111 Racing gear is designed for off-road use with enduro as the main target but it works for trials. Designed and developed by Taddy Blazusiak, the crossover is obvious from hard enduro to this game. The body has to move in the same ways and this kit works just as well on the different types of bikes.
The stretch material allows good movement but the fit is close to the body which helps when so much of the riding is standing up. The jersey is vented and allows the body to breathe under a jacket.
The only negative is the pants didn’t cope too well with the rough treatment from rocks and snags, especially on the footpegs. The back of the calf area didn’t take too kindly to getting caught on stuff and the pants went in the garbage after the event.
Waterproof over trousers?
The majority of riders at the SSDT wear waterproof over trousers because it rains a lot and the water in the sections. They are basically a disposable item of clothing at this event because they can easily get torn, but most people wear them tucked inside the boots with some gaffer tape around the top to stop the water going in.
The 2022 SSDT was actually pretty warm (for Scotland) and especially on the long moorland sections your body is always working hard. Personally that meant the greenhouse-like waterproof trousers were too hot so I never wore any and put up with being wet when it rained.
Alpinestars trials boots have good feel, comfort, strong enough in the sole to let you stand on the pegs for endless hours – trials boots have a different remit to other off-road boots because you need to move your ankles.
The latest Astars boots deliver all the right things with good additional hard protection of basically the foot (toe, heel and underside) but comfortably took us across the six days of standing on the pegs for long hours at a time.
The only downside is they are a bit short up the leg which doesn’t make much of a difference normally except in the Scottish water running down the sections easily goes over the top.
Which leads us to socks. Wet feet are an obvious and massive problem everyone has to deal with and waterproof socks are the only answer.
Seal Skinz were our choice and they kinda didn’t work, possibly because they weren’t long enough. Dry feet lasted for about 30mins each day as water ran inside those boots and via wet trouser legs, filling up the socks from the inside like a wet suit. That’s 10 attempts at the SSDT and not once have we had dry feet.
And the winner is...
At the end of all this the big winner was the event. 20 years had passed since the last time this old rider had ridden and been anything like approaching the sharper end of the SSDT results. Turns out you can’t just hop back into this game like you never left!
But the event, the scenery, the riding through the Scottish Highlands and above all the atmosphere with riders out on the course each day was priceless. Thanks to Sam and Neil (among others) for those moments.
Like Erzberg, Romaniacs and the ISDE, this is one of the best off-road events on the planet. People of all abilities do it each year, you should too.
Photo Credit: Vision Off Road Media + Richard Ellis + Enduro21