Rat Race Scotland Coast to Coast

Hi all,

I have signed up to do this years Rat Race Scotland Coast to Coast and I have been reading a lot of threads on the event from the past couple of years but haven’t found one for this year so thought id start one, if there are some out there I have missed, please point me in the right direction.

Basically ive signed up to do the one day event with very little knowledge of the area or what to expect. I'm not bad runner or cyclist and don’t longer events before but I have a few questions people might be able to help me with…

1)      How much time will I save/lose using a mountain bike with suspension over a cyclocross? – never ridden a cyclocross, but do a lot of both mountain biking and road biking.

2)      What kind of gradient is the first cycle? How much up hill/hard up hill? I can see its all road, so just a long slog, but want to be trained for hills.

3)      Are there water stations to fill up drinks bottles etc at transitions or do we need full days water with us all day?

4)      How sign posted is the event, is there a chance of us getting lost? (a big concern of ours haha)

5)      What kind of speeds do we need to maintain on the bike sections (first in particular) to make cut off times? Training at 12mph of mountain bikes but don’t think this will suffice.

Any or all of the questions answered would be a massive help!

Thanks a lot image



  • As far as I know the route is broadly the same as it was the first 2 years when I did it - I think they've taken out the part climb of Ben Nevis so that will save you time.

    The MTB will cost you time - the route is mainly road. The off road bits are much less and not that technical really.

    There's one decent hill I remember on the first section - nothing really steep but the fitter you are the faster you'll be.

    You can fill up with water at each checkpoint. You also go past shops and caf??s if you get stuck but it shouldn't be a problem.

    Considering the distances and terrain - it's well signposted. You'd struggle to get lost.

    I doubt 12mph would get you round. The cut offs on the one day aren't that generous. It's a long way. Is that with knobbly tyres ? Semi slicks would be faster. A cross bike faster again.
  • I did the 2013 event over 2 days:

    1)     I used a fat hire mtb which was very slow on the long road, if you are good on cx then use that with at least 32mm tyres. We had very wet muddy on off-road section which I managed to stay on, but I would have struggled on cx bike. You can use higher psi on road then let out a bit for off-road later.

    2)      Just a long slog yes, no real steep hills, mostly drags, and windy of course.

    3)      Water at transitions only yes, not during each stage.

    4)      Very little chance of getting lost - RR always good signage.

    5)      12mph on mountain bikes sounds good if you mean on The Crossing! On the road aim for at least this speed, but cut-offs I think are generous, if you are ok with long day.

    Really enjoyable trip, not too hard, so have a good day out!


  • Cut offs aren't that generous. They won't let you start the kayak if you're too late. There's 80 miles plus of bike. So that would be at least 7 hours. The last hike is at least 3 hours. The first run is 1 hour or so. So that's 11 hours plus two sets of kayaking. The first year I did it - a lot of people didn't finish. I think my best is just under 12 hours and I was a lot faster on a cross bike than with an MTB.
  • When were training on our mountain bike, we can maintain over 15mph which should be just about ok, however throw some decent hills in there and that’s when the suspension and wheels and weight of the mtb really affect us and the pace drop is dramatic, so saying 12mph was conservative. If the first cycle doesn’t have too many hills of note then we should be ok.


    On that, I cant find any cycle hire shops with cyclocross bikes to hire at all, I guess its quite a niche market, but only option at the moment is getting slicker tires for our mtb and just pushing it. Does anyone know of any decent hire shops for cyclocross bikes, in or around north west England or Scotland we could pick up on way up I guess.


    If there is a way to get lost then believe me we will find it, haha, but I'm glad its well signposted, that would be the worst way to miss out on the cut offs!

  • The trouble is that the bike route is tailor made for a cyclo-x bike. You don't need to be on a MTB for the off-road bit and so it doesn't make a lot of sense to slog up the road section on one. If you can't get access to the right bike then stick the narrowest semi slicks you can get away with on your MTB.
  • I've not done the race yet but taking part in the one day event also this year.

    I'm using a hybrid bike, don't know if they would be any easier to hire???

    What hotel are you staying in at Nairn 411?
  • You will not find better than this place - very helpful chap/couple also does not have issue with early/late times:

    Aurora Hotel & Italian Restaurant
    2 Academy St
    IV12 4RJ

    Waverley was ok-ish but very noisy location,  I will probably return because of the Aurora!

  • I did it in a day last year and had same question.  I used a hard tail mtb with thin hybrid tyres and tri bars.  I kept with road bikes on up and downhills, but they fly past you on the flats.  There are a fair few miles of this.  the off road was mainly fire track and a careful road bike would be fine.  The only mud section was less than half a mile, while I flew past them, they caught me on the next road.   Personally cross bike best, but I would consider a road bike with slightly gripper tyres if I did again.  Recon i would knock a good half hour off my 12 hour time.  Hope that helps.

  • We are going up to scotland this weekend to try out some of the route etc. so should be more clued in if we'd manage the one day after this weekend!

    We have semi slicks now and noticed an increase in basic pace already so fingers crossed this will be ok, will know more this weekend!

    What do people do after the event. Is it best to find accommodation and get bus back the morning after? I notice the have set this at ??40 each which is a bit annoying!
  • The Isles of Glencoe is alright, if nothing special. For some reason they were running a special dinner menu for Rat Racers that was pretty rubbish. But however average it is, it's still a welcome bed for the night. That bus journey back to Nairn is bad enough the day after, can only imagine the misery of being on it straight after the finish.
  • Year 1 I stayed at a hotel about 10 mins drive away. Looked great but I forgot to tea the reviews. Typical Scottish Manor house to check in and then you stayed in a plywood extension at the back. And it was grubby. And the breakfast was crap and microwaved to death.

    Year 2 we stayed at the Isles of Glencoe. And I swear I had one of the best two meals of my life there. The days exertion might influence this. It's good not to have to travel.
  • Think we've made a school boy error, we've booked the bus straight back to Nairn!!!
  • Oops. Um, well at least u can sleep in the next day then. Or something. Don't worry about it though seriously, it's a rubbish journey whenever you do it.
  • Hope you don't mind me jumping on the thread but does anyone know what the total gain is on the first road cycle? This is the first time I've done anything like this and I'm doing it on a mountain bike, I can do the distance easy enough but I live in Essex and most of my training has been done on pretty flat areas. I add as many hills as possible into my routes but they tend to be short, sharp inclines. I'm just worried that its going to be a bit of a shock to my system!

  • There's a long steady climb just before Fort Augustus, but it's only steep right at the top for a few hundred yards. Just spin up and keep pedalling and you'll be fine. It's really not that bad.
  • The bike is fine. It's the last yomp that's tricky !
  • Hi all,

    I went up to cycle some of the day 1 route yesterday.  It was fine.  We picked the central 25 miles and did an out and back. What look like hills on the elevation profile are mere undulations and I only remember one 'hill' and that was short.  The whole thing is an upwards 'drag' incline and I think it could be quite leg-sapping. And also potential to be VERY windy as it's quite exposed.

    I'm quite nervous about the last 14 mile run/trek: Think I may be doing more trekking than running as the running training hasn't been up to scratch and I'm not great at running off the bike.


    Question - my trail shoes are very slippery on rock, and I find trainers better.  I'm therefore planning to use trainers for the last yomp.... is this suicide?



  • Does the last yomp still head off up the Ben Nevis Path ? I couldnt stay on my feet coming down the stone steps in the rain in my trail shoes - they were bloody lethal. People were bounding past me and I was like Bambi on ice.

    I think trainers would be OK - but not if they're lightweight.
  • Hello all, hope you don't mind me also jumping in here - have found all the comments so helpful so far! It's my first time too and I'm panicking about the bike section - I've managed to get hold of a cyclocross (having been told I'd find the one day hard on a mtb) but the tyres are pretty worn semi slicks. Will this be suicide on the off road section? Should I get some grippier/thicker ones? I'm worried that ticker tyres will slow me down too much on the road and I want to make the not-so-generous cut off time! Any advice hugely appreciated!! Thanks! image

  • Are you doing the one day Livvy ?

    The off road bits on the bike arent too long. Theres a few miles of canal towpath, some forest tracks and then the muddy bit is only a couple of miles through the forest. I dont think you need great grip on there - but my worry would be punctures. There is a bit of ploughing through some big stones.

    I used something like this - http://www.wiggle.co.uk/schwalbe-marathon-plus-smartguard-rigid-road-tyre/

    in a 32mm width. They were bombproof.
  • Cougie you are a star! Thanks so much, that's so helpful. Yes, I am doing the one day (arg!). My mountain biking experience is limited so my main concern up until this point has been falling off to be honest. I will set out to get some of these tyres and get practicing image Are you doing it again this year? Thanks again! 

  • I've retired from the race now.image

    The off roading isnt really technical at all. Theres only a tiny bit where you just have to hang on. Oh and theres a lil hill down to the road - go easy there.

    Its a brill event though. One of my faves.
  • Perfect, I will try and hang on image Thanks!!

  • I'm doing the one day event this year. How far is the run to the kayak at Fort Augustus? Is it worth changing out of SPD shoes to running shoes?


  • About 1km out and 1.5km back I reckon. Easy terrain (road and gravel path I think). If you have trekking style SPD shoes with recessed cleats you'll be ok.

  • For kayak, I chose to keep recessed spd shoes on thinking I'd save time but was further than I thought so had to walk it - regretted it (others running past me) & would definitely take 1/2 min next time to put running shoes on!

  • Thanks. My SPD shoes do have recessed cleats but the soles are really stiff and not comfortable for running in so I think I'll take the time to change into my running shoes.


  • Depends on your shoes. If you can get a wriggle on in your bike shoes then I'd go with those. They will get wet in the loch but it's Sod's law you'll be wet anyway.
  • I'm doing the two day challenger and was wondering what people thought about leaving my camel pack etc with my bike overnight at Cawdor Castle. Saves having to run with for the first 11km on Saturday morning !!

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