Wednesday, 19 August 2009

On a Whim

I've never been much of a racer. I've raced and raced allot in my 15 odd years of riding mountain bikes but to be fair I've never really achieved a great deal by the way of sizzling results. It has by no means dampened my enthusiasm for the all things bike, In fact having helped start this team with Chris D I delight in reading all of your exploits and find my self growing more and more envious of some of the longer distance rides you guys have been doing and my focus is now changing to the long player version of the bike ride. Being short of time this year I'm only managing to get out on my bike once a fortnight if I'm lucky so I cherish the time on the bike I have.

I woke up on Friday morning like any other day, sort the kids in there morning routine, got ready to go to work and then the phone rings. My Brother and Sister in law call up to invite the family up to there place on the Black Isle. Then in hits me, like I said above I've been really inspired by some of your long distance rides you guys have been doing and on a whim I declare to Ali my wife that YES we shall go north and I will ride my cross bike!!! So a plan was hatched and I spent the rest of Friday working a little and doing a lot of bike prep, sorting what I would eat and checking the weather.

Saturday 5am

I wake after a rubbish nights sleep partly due to my 7 month old daughters snoring and partly due to the excitement and thought of spending the whole day on my bike. It has been a long time.

The weather is rubbish and still raining but I am still going. Toast, tea, cereal and strong coffee is consumed. Kiss the kids and the wife whilst they still sleep and I slip out the back door to my waiting cross bike (possibly the worlds ugliest bike) I head out of Moulin with a light mist of rain and all the streets of the Pit are quiet. The first leg of the Journey takes the old A9 from Pitlochry to Calvine via Killiecrankie where I join an my old Friend Pete a 67 year old keen cyclist who has got up early to join me on the ride as far as Dalnacardoch . I'm thankful for the company and the chat and the first 15 miles disappear before my legs have realized that they have done them.






Having bid farewell to Pete at Dalnacardoch I start the long steady climb up to the Drumochter pass and the the start of the highlands proper. My legs are feeling really good to my surprise and I tap out a steady rhythm when I get to the first of several gates to pass. I lean frankenbike against the fence and open the gate. I retrieve my bike to find I have suffered a very weird mechanical. My headset has seized with the bars stuck at 90 degrees. They were just fine 2 minutes ago!!! Perplexed by this I break out the multitool and start the loosening and tightening process to try and fix the problem when what seems like the entire population of Scotland's Midges descend upon me and attempt to carry me away by the armpits to there lair. They were thick in the air and I could feel a few disappear down my wind pipe. Fumbling with the multitool I finally fix the headset issue and race away from the midges as fast I can. My lower legs now look like they belong to a leper so I up the tempo to distance my self from the pursuing beasties. It is a light head wind i find myself riding into but as I summit the drummochter pass the wind changes direction and find my self coasting for long durations on my way to Dalwhinnie following the cycle path alongside the A9.

I roll into Dalwhinnie and still there is barely a sole to be seen and as quickly as I entered the town I have disappeared out the other side and on my way to Newtonmore and Kingussie. This particular stretch of tarmac is really beautiful and apart from one camper van I see no other vehicle. It's just me, the road, the surrounding hills and country side with a light mist falling. A real magical feeling of happy solitude. I keep a steady rhythm and before I know it I enter Kingussie. 3 hours in and my stomach tells me that I have been riding a steady pace and demands some sustenance. Taking Inspiration from Phil's ride last week I crack open the camel back and tuck into half of medium pork pie and lovely snake sweeties. I am revitalised. Back on the bike I follow the A95 from Kingussie to Aviemore. Having had my 9 o'clock snack my thoughts turn to a certain Mountain Cafe. The next 12 mile disappear with my thoughts firmly fixed on the all day breakfast which was looming in my future. You have to concentrate a bit more on the road at this part of the journey as the A95 can get pretty busy especially during this time of year but I make it no bother to Aviemore and the MC.

Order up

1 All day breakfast

1 espresso

1 double shot latte

1 pint water



Superb!



Back on the bike with a slight feeling of "Perhaps I have overdone it on the food" I roll out of Aviemore with Carrbridge famous for the old bridge of Carr which was built in 1717 as a foot bridge to the north being my next destination. I continue on the A95 which is a bit dull and the traffic has defo picked up since my stop. Concentrate! Keep to the white line, black pudding stay down!!! I cruise through Carrbridge stopping for some photos on my way to the slochd summit the second highest point of my ride north. By this stage the road slowly rises and after nearly five hours on the bike my legs where definetly feeling the long climb north. This is the slowest point for me on the ride and my lack of riding this year was showing. I grit my teeth and dig deep, the lactic in my legs is building but after a while the pain goes and I feel like I'm getting my second wind. My head has sent a message to the legs saying "get on with it, we don't get to do this very often so enjoy it" Thankfully my legs listened and I summit over the Slochd Pass.


Old Bridge of Carr



The approach up to the Slochd summit.





From here to Inverness it is predominately down hill and my big ring is now getting a workout. My Maxxis razes are whirrring below me as I wind along the back road to Tomatin, a road which crisscrosses the railway line to the north. This road passes under some stunning railway architecture in the form a several viaducts built way back in the day and still being used today. Truly stunning pieces of engineering.

Passing through the sleepy hollow of Tomatin I meet with the A9 proper for the first time. This is the only juncture on the route were you have to cross one of Scotland's most dangerous roads. Thankfully it is only a crossing and not ride along it. I'm always confused by the Landsend to John A Groats set that insist on riding up the A9 proper to achieve there goal endangering there lives as this is the quickest route from A to B. Does this not go against what cycle touring is all about?

Across the A9 and the route takes me through Moy and onto Culloden the sight of the last military battle fought on British soil. It is here I get my first sight of the Moray Firth. My spirits are lifted at the prospect of nearing the end of my journey and my tempo is raised again from the meander that I was enjoying. The roll down from Culloden is a fast one and the number 7 Sustrans route signs start to become a bit thin on the ground. Several wrong turns later and a trip through a traveling Gypsies camp I find my self cruising past The big Tesco (other supermarkets are available) in Inverness with the Kessock Bridge in my view.

Happy!

What a difference entering the metropolis of Inverness by comparison to the solitude and quiet roads and cycle paths I'd been riding for the past 6 and half hours. I navigate the traffic and make my way onto the Kessick Bridge with my final destination of the Black Isle on the other side. Stop for a quick Kodak moment with the wind blowing a hoooly. Across the bridge and I'm met by one final big hill over to Munlochy. By this time my legs are surprisingly still in good shape and I crest the top the hill with a punch of my fist into the air knowing I had a 6 mile downhill/flat ride to Rosemarkie beach. I cruise the final 6 miles with huge a grin from ear to ear pondering what I'd just achieved and the joy it gave me. I roll onto Rosemarkie Beach to be met by my family who had driven up earlier during the day with an icy cold can of coke and a bottle of Bitter and twisted ale. Bliss.




Thanks to you all in the team, I'm really inspired by your efforts. Reading your efforts be it racing or just riding for the crac has inspired me to ride the longest ride I've ever undertaken. It people like yourselves who make this sport and lifestyle so cool. Keep up the big rides, keep up the racing.



Thanks



Stats

175km

7.5 hours in the saddle

plus 90min stoppage time for food, photos and mechanicals.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Racing; how it ought to be...










































What is racing all about? "Why on earth am I doing this?" is a pretty common thought during a race, especially on that first lap when your body is also asking, quite reasonably, "what are you doing and can you please stop it now!" Given the amount of time spent riding around in circles in recent years it's something that's been given a small amount of thought while out there and mostly forgotten as soon as it's over and a cold beer has been pressed into my clammy mitt.

During this weekend's Brighton Big Dog, a fairly obvious answer came to mind (for me at least). It's about friends. Most of my closest friends I know through this World of Bikes and spending time with them is usually the main instigation to enter an event.

As the name would suggest, the Big Dog is held in Brighton, at Stanmer Park to be more precise, somewhere I know for 'cross racing and seriously fun singletrack shown to me as the local trails of some of those afore-mentioned friends. Now, it's not that common in my experience to ride the sort of singletrack pieced together and nurtured over years of night rides and weekends in the context of a race. Those trails are normally ridden by invitation only and it's always especially flattering to be party to that long-accumulated knowledge.

So, the Brighton Big Dog is a race put on by a very enthusiastic group of committed local riders; it's absolutely not for profit as any money made goes behind the bar in a local pub for consumption by anyone who was lucky enough to have entered the race. What a brilliant idea! The format is pretty simple (this is a good thing); it's a 6 hour enduro run from midday (or there abouts), by solos, pairs or threes with a retro class for solos on old bikes. Despite the race being sold out there remained a low-key, fun atmosphere with much cake and tea, the opportunity to sell your old stuff in a bike jumble and the friendliest vibe I've witnessed at a race in a long time.

All run on Those Trails; the 8 mile circuit managed that trick of being fun pretty much all the way round despite having some nasty climbs. Lots of singletrack, sketchy roots, off-camber descents and so many sections that had you thinking, "Ooh, I love this bit..." as you rounded a corner and pointed your tyre at the first knobbly root.

Back to those friends. I drove down on Friday night and met up with a small group of lovely people including VCM riders Phil and Jon, all the way down from Glasgow. We stayed at a campsite near Ditchling and the usual chat, beer and star-gazing ensued. Next morning, bottles and other essentials were muled over to the course by friends as the three VCM boys headed off by bike. It wasn't far to Stanmer park, but within a mile or so we were dragging our hangovers over the Ditchling Beacon which did a great job of waking up the legs! A few miles of pootling and admiration of the rolling hills brought us to the park and yet more friends; hugs, kisses and all-to-brief catchings up and suddenly it's time to ride.

Friends; heckling and hollering through the start/finish, shouting encouragement or open abuse out on the course, a slap on the arse, a brief chat about just how much fun this piece of trail is or to ask, "how many times did you get stung?" (one section was beset by angry wasps who stung many riders on the first lap, but the marshalls very efficiently re-routed the course in time for the second lap and we riders were left mostly unmolested there after).
I'd re-built my old Manitou HT for the occasion and it felt pretty alien to me with it's arse up, head down position and twitchy handling, but once I'd remembered how to ride a 'normal' bike it rode beautifully (if also a bit squeakily). Despite a first lap in which I happily bimbled off the course and down a descent before realising something was up and having to loop back the laps ticked by quickly (in my head if not on the clock). Then all too soon it was over. Little rivals the feeling that you've finished a race, there's a beer in your hand and you can shortly polish off a guilt-free pile of fried calories or two.

Somehow I'd managed to end up in second in the retro class, so a rosette, a kiss from the podium girls (and the bearded Charlie) and a somewhat bemused loiter on the podium ensued.

Jon struggled with a probable bug and still put in six laps to finish well in the solos while Phil rattled round in a three at a frankly silly pace - great to see him back on form. Lisa raced the single lap 'One-derdog' while Gareth, recovering well from injury heckled and drank beer as the strong team-player that he is.

Thankfully, that wasn't the end. After faffage and nosh, it was down to the beach to be met by cheery faces for beer and inane chat into the early hours.

Now that's what racing is all about. Isn't it?

Huge thanks to all those who put this event on. It reminded many of us what racing can and should be.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

nind andhera


the black sleep

it's been a while since I visited the blog or in fact had anything interesting to say within it, so I'll keep it as brief as I can. it's not been a brilliant year for my riding, bad health post CX and a combination of family, work and an enthusiasm misfiring have left me staring at the wrong end of summer with little to show by way of 'riding' so I set about sorting that out (slightly by default but it has helped)
now I am not saying I have had no riding, the riding I have done, I have for the most enjoyed but there certainly has been a lack of spark whenever I turn the cranks these days, time, energy, sleep all seem to have been in short supply this year. but the year doesn't wait for one to catch up and so as the days start falling off the calendar like the autumn leaves, cross season is on the horizon!
with this on my mind I first set on a five day adventure with some work mates, five days riding road bikes over to Islay, a lot of ferries and a reasonable amount of miles, it was good, I wasn't fast but I didn't feel bad a more detailed account can be had over here.
this trip should have given me a semblance of fitness for this weekend past at SITS, Sleepless has become a bit of an institution, it arrives at the end of the season and has traditionally for me marked the time where riding changes from longer heady summer rides to shorter more intense and chillier rides and that still may be the case but first Sleepless.
I was racing in a works team of four all reasonable fitness and pretty mellow, not too serious and just wanting to get some laps in with hopefully no fuss. the previous years race had been marred by some atrocious weather and conditions that claimed bikes and riders at an alarming rate, the weather prior to this years event could quite easily have left the battered and bruised veterans of last year at home but fortunately they turned out in their numbers and raced hard.
I'm not going to bore you all with the tales of suffering and hurt, so I will keep it simple, our team 'strategy' fell apart at around 2:00am, and we never clawed it back, that said, I managed 7 laps, certainly not the fastest but I tried to maintain a raffish canter. by the end of the days worth of riding I was both tired and invigorated, my body knew it had been worked, my head was mush. a great weekend.
and so to cross, my little foray into the competitive arena tells me there is much work to be done, certainly last year I was in better shape, this year however I am a misshape.
above a pub door today I read, "One beer is a terrible thing"

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

No work, Time to ride!

Work is quiet at the moment and whilst at work on Monday my boss mentions he might not have anything for me to do the following day. This is music to my ears, for a start it means i can catch up on the sleep i missed out on from Sunday night whilst at a friends BBQ and secondly and more importantly it means i can run to the hills on a bike!

Slowly Tuesday morning rolls around and after a belly full of coffee and cereal, the forks swapped over on the joyus Vertex, Spandex slipped into, assos applied, Ipod set to random and camelback loaded with enough sugar to keep me fueled up I hit the road with a plan to link in four riding spots of the surrey hills in a days pedaling.

A quick spin down the road and i drop into my local woods to escape the tarmac roads, making the most of the dry and dusty conditions and heading toward the hills. Out of the woods after some deserted single track treats and onto back roads to get across to the fields and the start of the climbing.

I cross over the river using the bridge i am tempted to take a plunge in the beautiful clear water but the call of the hills is stronger. Down off the bridge and the gravel of the farm track crunches under my tyres as i wind up some speed and low and behold change gear and ramp up the speed as the random Ipod selection pics up tempo.

Soon enough the first climb appears it is a steady, chalky gradient of a bridleway and fast as due to the warm summer we are enjoying. Feeling fresh and warmed up i keep the pace up until i am and anerobic, grinning bufoon cresting the top and into a swooping rooty fire road descent.

Followed up by a nasty pinch of a climb of baby fist sized lumps of flint with the sole purpose of making the climb extra hard work. Once at the top it is a fast green lane blast along the north downs way avoiding the pond sized puddles and rejoicing in the dappled sunlight shining through the trees.

I hadn't quite figured out my route at this point when i saw a bridleway heading the direction i wanted. Dropped down it and was rewarded with a loose, sinuous, rooty descent into Shere. Another tarmac climb pops up which will be rewarded by a cup of tea and pork pies from Peaslake store.

Suitably refreshed I climb out of Peaslake and onto Pitch hill and the first hazy glimpse of the south downs.



A couple of Jelly Babies are consumed and it is onwards to Winterfold wood via Dirty Blue Jeans a steep somewhat worn out tech treat of a descent, first attempt is aborted as a touch too much speed into a section results in me having a roll in some bracken. Back up to the top and start again, this time with a bit less speed and unscathed i arrive at the bottom and begin the climb up to Winterfold and a second siting of the south downs.

I don't ride frequently on Winterfold and consequently get myself lost to see what i can find, a cheeky trail is found, some deer are disturbed and i am hungry. No food 'til the top of Holmbury though so with that in mind i head back over to Pitch Hill and drop down a trail i think i know and end up where i didn't intend too. No matter though as today is just about riding. I find my bearings and am about to turn into a section of trail i do know when i notice a stick blocking the trail, no wait a minute that's a dead snake, oh shit, no that snake is big, very much alive and as i am, is basking in the warmth of the sun. I step back a few paces calm myself down and reach for my camera. Snakes scare and unnerve me but i also have a fascination with them!


My knowledge of snakes is minimal i think i know the difference between a grass snake an adder and a sloe worm. I have no idea what this was but when it saw me it was not happy raised its head and started hissing loud enough for me to hear it over my Ipod. At which point i screamed and sprinted off with a glance over my shoulder to ensure it was not following me!

Down off Pitch Hill back through Peaslake and up Radnor lane and the climb to the top of Holmbury Hill where food and a rest awaits me.



Lying in the sun getting my breath back from the climb and inhaling a pork pie as fast as i can it feels so good to be back on a bike going at a pace i am happy with. my legs tingling with lactic acid, my stomach grumbling for more sustenance.
Sated i get back on the steed and head down Park Life. The trail pixies have been busy down here, the improvement is vast so much more flow and so many less braking holes! Out of Park Life and into Telegraph Road i realise part way down that by choosing this trail i have given myself another climb to get over so as to avoid the tarmac. Nevermind climbs make you stronger.

So onwards and upwards, stopping to help a lost Astana clad road riding brethren on his path to self destruction, he had been out for a few hours had eaten a bit of breakfast a little bit of lunch and still had another 50Km to do and seemed disinclined to stop at Peaslake stores for tea and cheese straws (apparently its a right of passage for those who can stomach dairy) I wished him well and started on the penultimate pinch of the day up to Leith hill tower and from there onto one of my favorite bits of trail namely summer lightning which once again didn't fail to disappoint.



Starting to feel a little tired now and one last pinch left out of Westcott back up onto the top of the north downs. This was the moment i had been saving the caffinated gel for, popped that in along with the remainder of my water a stick of liquorice and off up the four minute climb. And then a nice payback dropping down the hateful flinty climb from earlier.

And then the spin back through the fields and stop at Mums house for freshly baked carrot cake, a mighty fine omlette and a nice cooling beer. (cheers Mum!)

Riding bikes all day long is so good!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Balls of Steel and The Devil of the Highlands


I'm going to ride the West highland Way and try to do it pretty quick. Anyone fancy some of that action?


So asked Scottish Phil one day...



Sounded pretty tempting, at least to see what would happen if we gave it a go. I had not ridden up Lochaber way in years and was pining for some good ol' rock fuck trail. I was also keen to keep some big-day miles in the legs for the impending Kielder 100.

After some logistical jiggery pokery, and losing Marty to celebrate his birthday with cake [Happy B'day!] and comissaring, Phil, Jac and I struck out from Glasgow on Friday night Fort William bound.

In case you have forgotten: the West Highland Way is a trail marked for walking linking Scotland's largest city, largest body of fresh water and tallest mountain following old military roads, drove roads, and trails of one sort and another. The 95 mile route grinds out over 4000m of climbing too. The route gets a LOT of traffic - thousands of walkers a year attempt the full thing or just bits of it - so to prevent the inevitable erosion it is armour plated with rock and stone the whole way. This means there is little bog-trotting and plenty of rocky technical goodness.

Aboard the Panzerwagen we decide to bypass the charms of the Green Welly Boot Stop in Tyndrum and batter on to Fort Bill to get the tents up in daylight and last orders of food somewhere. In my defence it has been a while since I have been to a proper campsite, so I would not have thought of booking in advance one of the busiest and most in demand campsites in Scotland, at the foot of Ben Nevis on a sunny early August Friday night. Nup. Pre-booking a campsite? Does not compute. The single reason that Jac is still speaking to me is that there is another campsite at the back of the High School towards Corpach. Lucky, I was definitely in trouble there. Tents up, haggis, neeps, tatties, burgers and chups and a wee mug of wine later we retire for an early night.

Only to be woken up by the drunken fucktards camped next door to us at 1.30am. After a couple of requests to shout quietly up they turn in around 3.30am. Only to start loud asynchronic snoring at 3.32am.

What goes around comes around, I suppose...

Viva Las Vegas throbs from my phone at 5am, Phil texts me "good morning" from the neighboring tent moments later and we try and get some up&attemAtomAnt.

Jac's plan had been to ride with us boys for the first bit of trail and aim for the 2pm train at Bridge of Orchy to return to Fort William and retrieve the car and come pick us up later at Milngavie. Due to a lingering lurgy, a committing route and the lack of sleep she decides to make the most of the quiet roads and boot it home for a comfy bed and some cat therapy.

Meanwhile Phil and I are on the road a little behind schedule due to faffing and having to ride a little farther to get to the trail head - a quick swig of Ardbeg toasts the proper trail start and we are off! A bit more faffing and clothes adjustment to take account of the positively balmy weather [7am and feels like 17 degrees] we winch on up to the Lairig beneath the glowering walls of the Mamores of Mullach nan Coirean and Stob Ban. Even at this early hour there are a few walkers out - they always look tired here - the combination of however many days they have been on the trail, the remoteness of the long glen and the flesh hungry midge must do it. I guess they must feel inner joy. I hope they do. Perhaps they should just go get a bike and have fun...

And fun is what we have as I try and follow Phil's accurately named Singular Swift down the 300m or so descent back to sea level at Kinlochleven. Rocky steppy switchbackery with too distracting views which are thankfully shielded from easily distracted eyes by the birk woods as we descend.

As we roll through a rain streaked Kinlochleven to start the meaty climb of the day - 550m or so of ascent from the leaky pipes all the way to the belach between Stob Mhic Mhartuin and Beinn Bheag - better known as the top of the Devil's Stair Case.

On the ascent [through indecisive spurts of rain and sun] we had a number of pretty damn quick hill runners coming at us. They all seemed well in the zone so most we got by way of recognition was a grunt or a swift thumbs-up. None of them were going slow enough for us to enquire what the hell was going on. As we cut through the field we pieced together that it was a mountain ultra-marathon [The Devil of the Highlands] and that the next few miles of trail may be quite busy. I had wondered how hill runners hydrate and I assumed they just fall head first into burns as they go, until we spied one ardently striding towards us in his semmit, *those* running shorts and firmly grasping a coffee mug.

What we did not expect was to be rolling down switchbacks and popping over waterbars to Altnafeadh cheerily calling ¡hola, buenos dias! to the 30 or so Spanish women who were heading up the hill for a wander amist the mid-pack runners.

Onwards we go, I am constantly reminded how ace this trail is. Between Altnafeadh and The Kingshouse, the trail is rolling, swoopy and flowy. So nice. The Buchaille glowering on the right and the constant stream of A82 traffic helping to push a fast mechanical tempo past the family camped by the Kingshouse with cooked breakfast on the go...

By the White corries we are a safe distance from the bacon fumes and midge so we stop to eat and watch the low arc of a rainbow over the Kingshouse appear from the rain clouds that were not there minutes before. It looks like we'll get a dose of weather, too, before we get to Bridge of Orchy and a scheduled water stop. Indeed, as we crest the descent to Ba Bridge we get a face full of rain. Which makes me a bit cold because I decided that I would not put my rain jacket on - just man it out.

More varying degrees of happy walkers - one guy with a guitar on his back. We stop for water at Bridge of Orchy and Phil mentions that we maybe should take in a fish supper at Tyndrum. That is motivation enough for me to grind out the long slightly dull climb over to the Real Food Cafe.

We get our hot food [I get mine slightly muddled, but haggis is sort of like black pudding, right?] and a cup of tea [after Phil reminds me that I was going to get a cup of tea - I'm more addled than I thought] and we take a seat in the front tent of the cafe - it has canvas roof and one wall, one wall is the entrance door and the other a huge roaring log fire. It is so warm my eyeballs start steaming up. The lady who owns the place fills us in on the runners - she sponsors the race and it started from Tyndrum at 6am that morning - we passed them around 3 hours in and the winning chap completed the 45miles to Fort William in 5 and a bit hours.

Clever marketing - put on an event that ensures a bunch of extremely ravenous competitors [and their mandatory support crews] - sell quite wonderful fish suppers to fade...

We feel that the ride is entering a new more mellow, more sheltered phase even if it is still raining on and off as we winch up the steeps around the back of Crianlarich [and half-way distance now under tyre in just shy of 7 hours] and down Glen Falloch. As we hit the tent city that is Beinglass Farm the heavens open - so we decide another cuppa is required. Time is still on our side [well, sort of] and there may be an element of procrastination.

As we return our tea tray to the bar two wee boys are standing outside wearing shorts, t-shirt and welly boots, both totally drookit. One claims to the other "I'm wet!" To which the other counters with "Naw, I'm wetter than you!". Wonderful.

The next section of trail is well known to anyone who has been between Beinglass Farm and Inversnaid. To those who have not: leave the panniers at home and manage your expectations. In between there was hiking, biking and an entirely foolish and avoidable header off the trail onto some rocks below. Being a ten-stone weakling has its benefits with my fall between two boulders being arrested by a hammock of fallen branches - bike retrieved, body checked, apologies made.

The group of Italian hikers we meet [to add to our Hiker Top Trumps of French, German, Austrian and possibly American] give us some good heckles. As neither Phil nor I know any Italian that has not been in a Jamie Oliver cookbook so we take it that they think we have balls of steel for riding/hauling bikes along here.

Inversnaid comes sooner than expected but never soon enough and we are rolling the scant miles of skinny lochside trail and track to appear at Rowardennan and it seems that half of Glasgow are camped out on the bonny banks - tents at a comedy angle, Tennents and Bucky carry oots and a disposable BBQ smouldering sullenly at the centre.

Time is no longer on our side - because of our later start and extended breaks at Tyndrum and Beinglass we know Milngavie will not see us under this arc of the sun. Despite this we have made good time and are going about the pace we expected. As we skip along the road to miss the nasty wee climb from Rowardennan to Sallochy our options are mulled. We could just muscle on - but we know that it will be a death march from then on - no fun, and not the way we want to end the ride. A quick time check says that we can hasten our exit from The Highlands by riding straight past Conic Hill to Drymen to grab a pint and some pork scratchings in the square while waiting for our Princess in a Shining Volkswagen to come and save our sorry souls.

Around about 8.45pm as Phil brought out a round of Guinness and nips of Balvenie, Jac rolled up to collect two happy heroes with balls of steel. ; )


~~~~~~~~

Stats for cats: on single speeds we left FW@0645, arrived Drymen@2045 we took the road between Inverornan and Bridge of Orchy. I reckon we would have needed an extra 2.5 hours for Chronic Hill & the last 12 miles to Milngavie. Maybe an earlier start next time... No punctures, no mechanicals and 4 mugs of tea. Riding bikes all day long is really rather quite good.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

All quiet...

It's been all quiet on the Moulineers front for a fortnight. That's not to say we've not been busy. Phil continues to fight the lurgy. Chris is demolishing things. Gareth is being nursed back to mobility after an Alps corner swiped at his front wheel, taking his collar bone with it.



Martin and myself decided we needed a plain vanilla mountain bike ride. The forecast for the west was best, so we hit the road and steered towards Innerleithan for a reverse Merida route ride. Starting with the big climb on the Inner's xc loop is always a shock to the system. Pumping the meat up the steppy rocky climb only highlighted what we already new. Hard efforts from the gate hurt, no matter how fit you are and also, the majority of riders tend to go around obstacles rather than over.




If you have ridden at Innerleithan, you know the xc loop has the hallmarks of the builder we shall call Pete. He likes riding til blood seeps from his pores, the harder more technical and faster the better. No easy peasy fire road climbs to swooping berms here. Nope. Rock steps, sharp switchbacks, singletrack *climbs* i tells ya. Only once you have sweated and gurned over the climbs does the reward of the decent come. The sting in the tail is the black rated rock garden section. As marty says: riding where you actually have to think where you are going to put your wheels is ace. As long as you don't pinch your oversize front tyre and then spend 20 minutes pumping the monstrosity up with a micropump that is!



From their we climbed fire road trail back up into the hills and eventually gained the southern upland way. At this point we had been going some hours, so decided to diverge. I was keen to bite off another few hours in order to keep my tapering for shenandoah respectable. Marty was keen to head back up over and take in the fine challenges of the Innerleithan side again.



I headed out towards selkirk, but peeled off after the 3 brethren and headed down the southern upland way. I quick diversion to some tasty singletrack morsels with a dainty river splash and then back to business with the spin to Elibank and Traquair forest. On a short road section i bumped into an ex-Maryhill wheeler roady. He must have been 70 and once i worked out the huge creek emanating from the bike was his bb not his legs, i stuck with him and chewed the fat. Unfortunately, i discovered a rear slow and so bade him farewell and changed another tube.




Climbing back again to the southern upland way on a trail i have only ever ridden down before took me high again, before my spidey singletrack sense started twitching and, on pushing some long grass aside, i found a gnarly steep and very unfinished trail that dropped endlessly through the trees, out on to the river tweed side road and from there a quick spin back to the car park.



Not quite vanilla, but definitely sweet.