Archive for the ‘ Cycling ’ Category

Audax 200k – Windy Wiltshire

The torrential rain and gales abated a little, so it was the chance for the January ride.

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/4430781704

The forecast had been for no rain, but I packed coat and overshoes anyway and un-surprisingly, it started drizzling heavily 30 minutes in.

The ride out wasn’t too bad depite the headwind until abit of a low after Pewsey where I was going slow and got passed by another roadie. I tried to accelerate to stay on their tail, but there was nothing in the tank.

I worried about accessing the church at Alton Priors for the first Cycle Quest clue. However, despite the grass being sodden, there wasn’t that much mud and I managed to walk right roud the church.

The ride up the hill past the Alton Barnes White Horse was awesome with a monster tailwind, as was most of the ride to Hungerford, via a pub lunch and the second Cycle Quest clue at Ramsbury.

After that I was feeling the cross / headwind and getting tired, but I completed the ride in good time.

Alton Priors Church

View North from Alton Priors

Alton Barnes White Horse

Pub Lunch

Ramsford Cycle Quest Clue

2019 Roundup

Mileage & trip counts:

2017 2018 2019
Miles Count Miles Count Miles Count
Sirrus 24.8 2
Linskey 2863 149 2647.14 154 3443 141
Khatmandu 23.43 2
Khatmandu – ice 113.53 7 62.88 4
Raptobike 58.04 2
Vagabond 215.65 14 680 45
Vagabond – Ice 86 5
Other 18.6 2
TOTAL 3082.8 162 2925.67 172 4227 193

Despite cycling to Scotland, the milage total was still not as high as 2013. Must be the difference of not working at home on fridays (and the Randonneur 1000 I did in 2013).

Continued use of the Vagabond means that I have hardly driven to work at all.

Audax 200k – Oxford Floods

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/4359974575

There looked like there was a gap in the rain warnings, so I decided to attempt this ride before getting into the Christmas season.

I kind of wish I hadn’t.

The rain was hammering down when I woke up at 4am (I wanted to make sure I was back home for a party at 4pm) and was still hammering when it was time to leave.

The roads towards Oxfordshire were very wet and I had to go through several large puddles. I was cold as well and I wish I’d put on thicker socks.

Then at West Hanney, there was a puddle so large I didn’t fancy risking it. I saw a Land Rover go through up to the wheel arches and there was no way round. I took a detour that was far longer than it needed to be, but at least it was fairly dry roads.

I had made an in-advisable routing choice for the season of a farm track between Coleshill and Watchfield. This was a terrible mud hole.

McDonalds at Watchfield was still serving breakfast.

Going back South I was battling a strong headwind. Then after the A4 more floods started to intervene. Near West End Green, there was another enormous puddle with no way round. I peddaled through very slowly, but in the middle, the road dropped away and I was able to only just save myself, but with water up to my knees. There was another wading incident near Fleet, but I figured I was so wet anyway it didn’t matter.

On a back-road I lifted a phesant out of a puddle, but I think it had been hit by a car and died anyway.

Audax 200k – Aldershot to Bristol via Salisbury

https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/4256491122

This ride was cold and wet. Also, it seems like I had to put in an enormous effort to go very slowly.

There were a couple of “path” sections, that might have been fine in summer, but were mud-holes.

Stopped for a sandwich at Old Saurum. This was a terrible mistake because I go so cold, I had to ride hard with all my layeres on for several miles to warm up.

Got terribly lost trying to get through Froome. It had just gotten dark and started pouring with rain, so it was very hard to read the GPS.

On the lanes transitioning from the Radstock to Bath cycle paths, the rain got heavy again. Resulting in more horrible mud, then having to put on my balaclava to keep warm!

Finishing on cycle paths was good, but some of the route into bath was not metalled, so, in combination with the earlier mud, the bike got truly filthy.

I went through my water much more quickly than I expected and had a headache for the last third.

AJoG – Day 7 – Lairg to John o Groats, then to Wick – 175km

Plan: https://www.routeyou.com/en-gb/route/view/6309688/race-cycle-route/ajog07-lairg-to-wick-v-jog

Actual: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3847318377

My knee was hurting so much the previous night, that I was entertaining thoughts of taking the train from Lairg to Wick to make sure I collected the hire car on time. However, I though I couldn’t get this far and not make it to John o Groats, so I planned to wake up early to give myself as much margin as possible. There was always an option of a train from Thurso or even a taxi if things got truly desperate.

This being the far North in summer the light filtering through the curtains woke me before 5am and I was able to get on the road before 6. The weather was grey and misty and for pretty much the first time in the trip I thought it would be wise to use my front light.

The A836 towards Crask Inn and Altnaharra turned out to be rough and slightly up-hill. I was being extremely cautious with my knee, so the going was slow. I could have taken the time to look around at the stunning mountain-scapes, but the mist and low clouds meant I was just grinding over a barren moorland.

A836

A836

As I got towards Altnaharra, the mist and fog thickened into rain, so on with the overshoes and raincoat.

At Altnaharra, I turned off onto the B873 alongside Loch Naver. This must be one of the finest stretches of road I did on the entire trip. It was super smooth, deserted and swooped alongside first the loch then the river Naver.

Spot the sheep

B873

B873 – Syre

Strangely National Cycle Route 1 continues on the A386 up to Tongue before turning right along the coast. This is 5 miles longer and involved three times the climb. I can’t quite fathom this, unless the views from the top of all the climbs you have to do are incredible on a clear day.

On the B873 I caught a father and son team that as also doing LeJog. They had been staying at Crask Inn, which I assumed from seeing on the map was a small hamlet, but found when I passed it, that it was actually just an Inn in the middle of nowhere. They were going a similar pace to me most of the time, but the father would walk up hills (maybe a knee problem worse than mine!) and the son would stop to walk across cattle grids where I would just try to hit them as fast as I could. There being many hills and cattle grids in this part of the world, I passed them quickly, only to be caught again when I had a pee stop. We cycled together to Bettyhill where I pulled into the hotel for tea and scones.

They must have stopped somewhere else in Bettyhill because they appeared ahead of me again. I followed them for a while, but then took a cattle grid at full speed and did not see them again. I hope the dad’s legs held out.

As I had suspected, the A836 along the coast was lumpy, as each bay was divided by ranges of hills.

The mist had cleared at the coast, so the views were great. It was nice seeing the sea, but the fact I couldn’t yet see Orkney was a worry.

A836

A836

A836

A836

Fortunately, while my knee was painful, it didn’t seem to be getting any worse and even at points seemed to ease up somewhat. I was still taking it very gently though.

Just as the A836 was starting to get a little busier, the route dived off on an un-named road that would take me a back way into Thurso.

It was strange to be back among fields and woods after so long looking at barren moorland.

I was getting very hungry by the time I got into Thurso, but I really struggled to find anywhere to get lunch. There seemed to be a lot of banks and tons of traffic, but no where selling food that was open. After what felt like an age of wandering, I did spot a pedestrianised area and a café. After ordering and sitting with my food while texting the wife, an old gentleman on the next table warned me that a seagull was creeping up on my lunch! We had a nice chat after this while I fended off the seagulls with evil stares.

The road out of Thurso was busy the landscape had flattened out. It was good to get off the A road after 10km or so, but the straight roads through farmland seemed to go on and on.

Finally though, the road turned and I could see the sea again. Also, this time I could see Orkney and I knew I was getting close.

Sea ahead

Back onto the A road and the traffic had petered out (where did they go?) and I enjoyed the last few km to John o Groats knowing the job was done.

Orkneys to the left

End in sight

I felt a good sense of achievement having my photo taken and looking out at the Orkeneys just 7 days after I’d left home.

I knew I had to keep going to pick up my hire car and didn’t want to cut it fine as that was my only way home, but it would have been criminal not to celebrate. People bemoan John o Groats for being a tourist trap, but it does the job and has a really good ice cream shop!

It was nice saying congratulations to another bunch of weary looking cyclists just turning into John o Groats as I left.

From here is was 25km to Wick and what had felt like a slight headwind all day was now behind me. My knee was still twinging, but it didn’t have to get much further, so I pushed hard. It felt brilliant keeping up some speed after pacing it carefully all day.

Road to Wick

I could see the whole peninsula laid out before me at one point and things were moving relative to me at a reasonable speed.

My knee did hold out and even started to feel a little better. The traffic started to build just as I hit the outskirts of Wick, but I was soon turning off into the airport industrial estate.

I stopped at a Lidl on the way back to Lairg and get several funny looks as I wandered around in aerodynamic tights.

The drive back to Lairg highlighted to me how unpleasant it would have been to use the A99 for this trip rather than the way I did come. It wasn’t that busy, but it was very fast with steep climbs that I would have been doing extremely slowly.

Back at the luxury pod I enjoyed a couple of beers, another 250g of pasta and watched the sun go down over the loch. Excellent.

AJoG – Day 6 – Fort William to Lairg – 185km

Plan: https://www.routeyou.com/en-gb/route/view/6490238/race-cycle-route/ajog06-fort-william-to-lairg-v2

Actual: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3847318236

For the first time during the trip, I woke up without any aches or pains.

I assumed the A82 towards Inverness would be busy, so I wanted to make an early start and beat the tourists, if not the commuters.

Breakfast was being served from 6:30, so I made sure I was in there for the start and wolfed down several helpings of black pudding and eggs. While getting yet another portion, I chatted to the waitress who I recognised from the previous evening. Turns out she’d done the night shift and hadn’t slept a wink. Made me feel tired!

Though it wasn’t raining, I wanted to ensure I didn’t make the mistake of a couple of days previously and put on thermal tights and arm warmers. As I was about to wheel my bike out, the wife and kids called on Skype. While chatting to them, fully layered up I got so hot, it was like putting on clothes to go outside in Iceland.

I had originally planned to take the B8004 out of Fort William, but I decided just to bash out on the A82 as it was 1km shorter and saved 50m of climbing.

A82 out of Fort William

Fortunately, I was right, and the road was quiet, with a hill I hadn’t been expecting at Spean Bridge. At the top of this hill, I took a picture back at the Nevis range, but as per usual, it was all in cloud.

The ride along Loch Lochy (good name), was very scenic and I stopped in a layby for a photo.

A82 – Loch Lochy

Setting out of the layby, I had a twinge in my knee. Unfortunately, this pain got worse as I went along and coincided with the traffic building dramatically which always has the effect of me pushing myself that bit harder. The sun was burning through the clouds as well at this point and I was getting hot in my full winter gear (the only time in Scotland!).

Knowing the A82 might be a grind, I had planned a 10km deviation onto the Great Glen Way between Aberchalder and Fort Augustus. This wasn’t as quick as riding on the road but was a good break with excellent scenery.

I re-joined the A82 the right side of a swing bride that was open. If I had taken the road, I’d have been waiting. So, the start of my 20 mile ride around Loch Ness to Drumnadrochit started without any traffic at all, but I knew that bridge would soon be closed up and I’d soon be swamped by queue crazed motorists. This turned out to be the case and the rest of the A82 was a slog with a sore knee. On the bright side, the sun came out, making for some stunning views, even though I was now feeling really hot!

I stopped at Cafe Eighty2 in Drumnadrochit and had a full Scottish breakfast plus cake.

While I was eating the sun disappeared and the clouds started to look rather threatening. I thought it wise to step out and put on my saddle cover. This was the right move, because as I was eating my cake, the skied opened and there was a torrential downpour. It looked heavy enough that I thought I’d loiter and have a second helping of cake. Thank goodness the rain did stop and I set out on sodden roads, but without the need for a coat.

I’d need all the help I could get for what I knew was the steepest climb of the trip on the A833, especially with a dodgy knee. I’m glad to say that I managed the whole thing without stopping, standing on the pedals most of the way, just above walking pace. Part way up the climb, I glanced over my shoulder and noticed a huge swarm of bugs following me up the hill! I couldn’t outpace the buggers, so I just ignored them and hoped the descent would clear them off.

The descent did come, and it was awesome. I was soon down to the Muir of Ord with almost no traffic.

The roads got steadily busier as I headed towards Maryburgh. It was here I had my only bit of “confrontation” on the trip. A bin lorry hovered behind me on the run into Maryburgh (20 limit, but I’m sure I wasn’t doing 20). A while after they passed me, I came across them collecting a bin. There was a car coming the other way, but about 300m down the road, so I swooped past on the bin lorry on the other side of the road to give the bin men a nice wide birth. One of them took offence to this and started shouting something about “you’re on the wrong side of the road and there’s a car coming” and that I was a w*nker. I did respond that said car was miles away and going really slowly, in London you wouldn’t even consider it existed! I don’t think he heard or processed the fact that he was actually upset of the previous 30s holding up.

The roads around Dingwall seemed very busy, but soon I was onto back roads out of town and up a decent hill. Here I caught another cyclists who had a full set of panniers and depressingly wasn’t going that much slower than me. I didn’t chat much as I passed as I was at a good point in my audiobook. A little further on I stopped to get a picture down over the A9 and the Cromarty Firth

Just as I started off again the other cyclist had just caught up again and I had to put in a little effort to maintain face and gap him again. My bike felt heavy enough, I can’t imagine doing this trip with tents and a full set of luggage. Maybe it’d be possible with shorter daily distances.

I was soon onto the Struie road which was a spectacular died through wooded hills.

Struie road

As I got to the top of the pass, I was getting really warm again, so I stopped to take off my overshoes. Of course, immediately after this on the other side of the ridge, the clouds thickened and I was soon into heavy, dank fog.

As I stopped to put my overshoes back on and my raincoat, a couple of cyclists passed me. They looked like regular tourers, but one of them had a loudspeaker blaring out some good tunes.

The descent towards Bonar Bridge was fast and twisty. On the flats I spotted the two cyclists that had passed my ahead and strained my knee having a little push to try to catch them up. Foolish. I tried to keep the speed up pushing onto Lairg, because I knew I’d have to buy provisions and wanted to make sure I was there before the shop closed. Google said it closed at 6:30 and I had loads of time, but I no longer trusted it after the closed hotel.

Now laden with supplies: beer bottles in my back pockets and pasta strapped to the saddlebag, I set off towards my accommodation at the Loch Shin luxury pods. In the planning, this was just a short hop outside Lairg. In reality, 5 miles with a sore knee, rolling roads and tons of extra stuff strapped to my bike seemed an awful long way. It didn’t help that the lane off the A838 to the luxury pods had a terrible surface, like a washboard, so I rolled in extremely tired.

My luxury pod was exceptional and I eat 250 grams of pasta then some raw Nutella looking out over the valley and listening to the oystercatchers.

My knee was feeling pretty crummy and I was worried about the next day, but at least I could ditch a bunch of my stuff as I’d be back the next night.

Day 7: https://cyclingcoder.wordpress.com/2019/08/05/ajog-day-7-lairg-to-john-o-groats-then-to-wick-175km/

AJoG – Day 5 – Dunoon to Fort William – 173km

Plan: https://www.routeyou.com/en-gb/route/view/6309644/race-cycle-route/ajog05-dunoon-to-fort-william

Actual: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3847318136

The hotel breakfast was meant to start at 7:30, but no one turned up until close to 8, so it was a late start to the day.

I’d been looking forward to this point in the trip, finally cycling off into the wilderness. It didn’t disappoint, despite starting off in the rain.

Rain!

From the previous days experience, I decided to put on the thermal wet-weather tights (they didn’t come off until JoG) and didn’t regret it.

The roads from Dunoon to Inveraray and on to the A85 and Dalmally were all well surfaced, wide and quiet.

Out of Dunoon, I had good views of Loch Eck and the mist shrouded hills.

Then I hit the firth, where I could see Inverary the other side, but knew I was going to have to go the long way round.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0206.JPG

Having joined the A83 and rounded the end of the firth, I started to see loads of heavily laden cyclists coming the other way. I tried to get a picture of some of them, but rain drops all over the lens make them abit pointless. This also put paid to several pictures of Inveraray castle.

I stopped at a petrol station in Inveraray to stock up on pills and had a couple of chocolate bars while I was at it. I was tempted to find other food, but it seemed early and only 20 miles to the next possible food stop.

The A819 between Inveraray and A85 was another excellent road, quiet and smooth with a great descent.

A819

A819

The only shame was that the low hanging clouds completely obscured the view of mountains opposite I should have had.

The A85 was a little busier, but I knew I wasn’t going to be on it for long. I had intended to stop at the Glenorchy Lodge Hotel, but I was dismayed to roll up and find it closed. Who doesn’t open for lunch?! Fortunately, I spotted signs off the A85 to the Highland Critters Gift Shop & Tearoom, so I had some sandwiches and cake.

After lunch, I turned off the A85 onto the B8074 into Glen Orchy, which turned out to be really excellent. The surface wasn’t great, but I had it almost entirely to myself with only the noise of the river for company, including the Easan Dubha waterfall.

I emerged onto the A82 only having seen about 2 cars in the past hour. For a while the A82 was also deserted, but with a good surface and a tailwind! It was nice to spot yet more cyclists coming the other way.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0233.JPG

Road to myself

Fellow travellers

I felt strong on the ascent up out of the valley to the Loch Tulla viewpoint.

After my photo stop, I kept climbing for a while before the route flattened out. I assumed I’d soon be descending into Glencoe, but the “top” went on for ages. Also, at the same time, the beautiful tailwind somehow turned into a vicious headwind, the surface fell apart and loads of traffic turned up. I’m not clear where it all came from at 3:30 in the afternoon as the road has no turn offs!

The moorland was suitably barren with the clouds closing in on the surrounding mountains (yet again denying me the view).

Across the moor

I finally got to the descent into Glen Coe only for the rain to arrive (or did I just ride into it the other side of the mountain range?).

I didn’t feel I was going very quickly, probably because of the headwind, so I dived off the main road onto back roads through Glencoe.

Glencoe back road

The final 25k to Fort William was un-inspiring, apart from the Ballachulish Bridge.

Ballachulish Bridge

Traffic was heavy, surface was in-consistent and there were no views to speak of.

The random cycle paths now returned, with various sketchy bits on either side of the road, with cyclists expected to cross every few hundred metres. I tried one or two when I was feeling particularly tired, but the chopping and changing annoyed me more than just plugging along with the traffic.

I was glad to roll into Fort William and take a picture of Ben Nevis (well, what I could see anyway).

The Premier Inn had a secret drying room, so I was able to do a little washing (especially socks!). I even got let in by the night porter to re-arrange my stuff at 3am!

I can’t remember what I had at the attached Brewers Fayre, but it did involve a large pile of chips!

Day 6: https://cyclingcoder.wordpress.com/2019/07/11/ajog-day-6-fort-william-to-lairg-185km/