Sunday, 12 September 2010

Don't Panic

Only two weeks til we head up to Yorkshire for the 3 Peaks Cyclocross race. Although I'm feeling prepared as in I know what's coming I've done almost nothing in the way of specific preparation, at all, eek. Though I do feel much more bike fit than last year after the last 6 months bike adventures. In the words of another participant, it'll be reet.

So, time to get the mudguards off, put on some fresh rubber, agonise over the state of the rear rim and change the bars to something closer to 50cm. Guess I should throw a bucket of warm water in its general direction too.

Out today to do 52 miles at the bottom end of the Pennine Bridleway and it feels okay. After the miserable rain and cold earlier on it all brightened up. As I death gripped the bar tape drifting round a loose gravel corner wondering if there was another water bar coming it was all good.


Friday, 10 September 2010

more Scotland, more bikepacking

Sheez, taken a week to get round to this. Those last 9 days left us a bit washed out and achey. All worth it though as this view over a relatively dry Rannoch Moor testifies.  We'd heard a lot about the West Highland Way recently. Mostly the challenge to do the whole 95 miles from Glasgow to Fort William and back in 24 hours. We certainly weren't going to attempt that. From our experiences on the banks of Loch Lomond on the first day I can't see that record being set any day soon. Chapeau to the rider who did one way in 14hrs but come on, it's gonna take one phenomenal athlete to turn around and head back up the Devils Staircase and back to Milngavie. Probably at night, eek.

 Our plan was to head up the West Highland Way to Fort William and onward to Loch Ossian. After 2 days getting just as far as Bridge of Orchy we decided to skip a Bank Holiday trip trampling walkers on the Devils Staircase and head straight over Rannoch toward Blair Atholl. The WHW starts off innocently enough through
 urban areas and finally into open country, some stunning fast swoopy stuff. Then we hit Loch Lomond and the path that runs along the waters edge. Starts off doable, in fact great fun fast tracks thru the woods but after that turns to a nightmare of dragging bikes around rocky outcrops. The tree on the track is lame by comparison. We were so happy to find this idilic camping spot.

As the trail left the side of the loch and the wheel swallowing water bars subsided we hit the road for a bit to grab some time and a rest on the way to Tindrum. We stocked up a bit here for a second night out and headed off towards Bridge of Orchy where calories awaited in the form of coffees and desserts, scrummy.  Ignoring the designated wild camping spots we headed straight out onto the track that heads to Kinghouse and found a lovely spot to pop the tent up. This is what we were here for...

It's a screamer of a descent down to Kinghouse, just enough to blow the cobwebs away.  Rannoch was far drier than we'd expected though finding a discernable path was hard at times. Was a long-ish day today all the way over to Blair Atholl. Winding lochside lanes eased the hunger pangs til we hit the first village and raided the shop for quick fix calories to sustain us to the pub. Good beer and food at the Atholl Arms.

Last year we'd ridden up to the iron bridge and waterfalls half way up Glen Tilt and now we pressed on to find some great riding further up that took us over towards Braemar. Here we found the grumpiest campsite manager in the history of the world so we left and headed for our one night of luxury at the SYHA across the road.

next morning we left in our only rain of the trip. Over to Balmoral estate where we found the most pristine tracks and fences, not too surprised given the local residents I s'pose.  Fast rocky decent to Loch Muick and a sweaty push out the other side to our campsite for the night. The push went up that almost vertical track at about 11 o'clock in that pic, how anyone drives anything up it is amazing but the obviously do. In the middle of the moor there was a building marked on the map so we headed for that and it turned out to be a stable and paddock. Obviously in regular use but why anyone would choose to stable their horse so far away from anywhere was a mystery?

Fantastic blue skies next day as we headed down into Glen Clova. Big slabby challenging rocky descent in blazing sunshine made for the morning of the trip so far. Well worth the loop if you're up that way. Now we were heading for the coast and Dundee to join the Perth Coastal Path. After a reasonable day in the saddle we found the first campsite on the map no longer took tents, grump. So after a bit of a stomp around and general unhappiness we headed a further 15 miles to St Andrews. To be fair it was a lovely evening, sunny and warm as we span along through Tentsmuir forest. Took a whole day off on Friday, looked around town, ate, drank and ate some more. Mostly ice cream.


Saturday was a real mix of beach, gravel tracks over farmland, roads through quiet seaside towns and a cracking bit of woodsy rooty singletrack. More sunshine, it was hell...  The coast path was very different and we enjoyed it's variety, lots of stiles though as it is primarily a walkers path. Everyone we met was jolly though, sunshine and smiles goes a long way.

After reading reports that the camping in Kinghorn was ropey, noisy and right on the road we found a small site tucked away in Largo just up the coast. Up and away early the next day saw us in a fairtrade coffee shop on the main drag in Burntisland, deserved to be busier than it was, good coffee!  Tearing ourselves away we had a train to catch. Never ending cyclepaths took us to Hendersons Bistro in central Edinburgh for a good feed before heading home.

This trip left us with more ideas for trips to come as usual. It was one of those that packs in so much that you forget by the end what you were doing a couple of days before. Perfect. A technical mix up left us carrying stuff on racks that should've been carried easier but that'll have to wait til next time. Many thanks to Julie's grandma's old sewing machine that patched the holes in the frame bag. From Revelate since you ask. Shona's Scandal performed a good as ever. We were left wondering whether it's just too 'bling' for dragging (literally) over, around and thru rocky obstacle hike'a'bike stuff. Things to ponder. The Surly 1x1 worked great as a 1x8 with an Alfine hub. It's got no squish up front though which in great 'most' of the time. Maybe a Troll?

Much more to come.