5 great scottish bike routes


courtesy of Evans

Scotland is famed for its fantastic scenery, islands, hills, mountains and get-away-from it all feel. There are also plenty of roads that offer great routes for quiet cycling. Why not pick one of our favourite cycle routes in Scotland and head off for a day or two of fabulous touring?

Lochs & Glens North

Start: SECC, Glasgow
Finish: Ness Bridge, Inverness
Distance: 214 miles

This route follows the NCN (National Cycle Network) Route 7. It is a mix of roads and traffic-free paths. The ride takes you through both of Scotland’s acclaimed national parks, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms, with a huge variety of beautiful countryside and wildlife.

You’ll also pass six lochs, multiple castles and cycle over the famous Glen Ogle viaduct. The route has its fair share of long climbs but equally, there are some great descents.

With more than 200 miles to cover you can split the journey into day-long sections or decide just to ride some of the routes in a day and return to the start by public transport. Be sure to book ahead if you want to reserve a bike space on a train. SeeSustrans

 

Lochs Glens Sunfall Lock Lomond

 

Five Ferries Bike Ride

Start/Finish: CalMac ferry terminal at Ardrossan, Ayrshire.
Distance: 71 miles

A legendary bike ride is this island-hopping route on Scotland’s west coast.

The route, as the name suggests, includes five short ferry crossings and 4 cycle sections across the mainland of Scotland.

Many people ride the route in one day, which is possible if you time the ferries and your cycling carefully. Alternatively, you can take your time and overnight on the islands.

A CalMac ferry takes you from the mainland at Ardrossan to Brodick on the Isle of Arran, where you cycle 15 miles to Lochranza. The next ferry heads to Claonaig on the Kintyre Peninsula.

From Claonaig to Tarbet is 10.5 miles before a ferry to Portavadie on the Cowal Peninsula. The ride to Colintraive is 19 miles and includes a long hill climb with fabulous views over the Kyles of Bute.

Another ferry journeys to Rhubodach on the Isle of Bute and then you ride 8 miles to Rothesay. The last ferry of this trip heads to Wemyss Bay and then a bike ride of 18.5 miles back to Ardrossan. Alternatively, you could take the train from Wemyss to Ardrossan.

More details of the route at Five Ferries Cycle

Five Ferries Cycle Arran

 

Scottish Coast to Coast

Start: Annan, Dumfries & Galloway
Finish: The Forth Bridge, near Edinburgh
Distance: 125 miles

The Scottish C2C was created by the same founders as the popular English C2C this is a new waymarked long-distance route for Scotland.

It takes cyclists through the beautiful rolling countryside of southern Scotland, starting in the small town of Annan on the coast in Dumfries and Galloway and heading north through three valleys, the Annan, Tweed and Esk.

The route then reaches the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh and on to the Forth Bridge, which is one of the great wonders of the engineering world.

You could easily start the route in Edinburgh and head south to the coast of Dumfries and Galloway. See the route guide book, The Ultimate Scottish C2C Guide, priced £11.50 from Bike Ride Maps.

 

Ring of Breadalbane Road Cycle

Start/Finish: Crieff, Perth & Kinross
Distance: 100 miles (160km)

The Breadalbane “High Ground” area of Perthshire boasts breath-taking scenery and lots of lovely quiet roads. The full 100-mile route is a big undertaking in a single day although some riders will be up for the challenge.
For easier days in the saddle, split the route into a few sections over two of three days.

In the summer, an Explorer Bus allows cyclists to access different start and finish points, such as Crieff, Comrie, Killin and Aberfeldy.

See Breadalbane Road Cycling

Breadalbane Cycle Route

 

North Coast 500

Start/Finish: Inverness
Distance: 516 miles

Scotland’s answer to America’s Route 66, the NC500 travels just over 500 miles in the stunning north-west of Scotland. First created for drivers, the route has become a popular goal for cyclists.
Most cyclists take a week to ride it, although others will be keen to cover it in less time.

The circular route can be completed clockwise or anti-clockwise and meanders through the counties of Caithness, Sutherland and Ross-shire. Be prepared for long hill climbs and fabulous landscapes.

See NC500

NC500 Route View

Wednesday night Riding


As I am working full time on this TV show it means daytime weekday rides aren’t happening so I have gotten into the habit of Wednesday Night Rides, Thursday and Friday a.m. swims and thursday pm 5-a-side footie. Then as much as i can cram into the other days of the weekend or nights.

So tonight out on the canal to Dumbarton and took a detour up the Kilpatrick hills

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there are some seriously steep hills – this one makes me use the bottom of my 1×11 SRAM gears – that 50chainring to 36tooth large cassette ….

i am not sure the mapping on Strava is accurate – it feels like a steady 18-20% hill – that false flat before the very steep isn’t there – it is just all steep.

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Went over the back to the reservoir – its over flint forestry road then suddenly the rear tyre felt softer. Sidewall had a slight tear and sealant was oozing out. Luckily with a shake it sealed again and I put some more air into the tyre.

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And then retraced my route. Pretty impressed with this bike and abilities so far. Sonder Camino ti gravel bike ….

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Running Dynamo hub driving USE Exposure Revo light – trying to link up battery recharge with the port out but not sure it works – more experimentation required.

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and the view looking down from the top of the wee hill is very pretty too

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5 Ferries Spring


This weekend seem to go past quite quickly. Saturday morning I was up early to get the first train from Glasgow down to the ferry at Ardrossan.

 Getting tickets i was advised that I MAY NOT get on the ferry it was that full.  I hurried to join the queue going onto the ferry and I was greeted by possibly 60 to 70 other cyclists also enjoying the good weather we’ve been having and planning either a circuit of Arran or a loop of some sort.

As I strap my bike to the side of the hold I have a tap on the shoulder to turn round to see my friend stuart who is dragging some friends around on the charity ride –  he was also doing the five ferry challenge.


I did this ride last September at that time I was on my steel Mercian touring bike this time I had my Ti bride with me Lynskey Cooper – today was going to be quicker

First off I wasn’t sure if it would make the 2nd ferry which leaves from the Lochranza and goes across to the Argyll peninsula 11:50am so I bomb off head down I arrived with time to kill as ferry is only 12:05. Had a chance to see a campervan a large Winnebago type trying to exit the ferry and scraping half of the tail off on the ramp.

Stuart and the rest of his colleagues had caught up at this time so we all joined the 2nd ferry together. On the other side I noticed that one of his colleagues had his saddle about 3 inches too low – hideous leg angle and I was worried about the knee pain that he was sure to have a week later so I just had to adjust his saddle for him. We then proceeded to catch up the rest who were a stint up the road.

The weather was pretty incredible (for Scotland at least) 9-15C –  it seemed to be a type S europe enjoy for most of the year but for us it was rare I stayed with the group for all of the ferries and all the chat. Fore some uphills and sections I would occasionally shoot off ahead just to burn off some steam or to stay warm.

Sad it is over 

 By the time I got back to Glasgow it was evening but what a great day out on the bike.

my 3rd etape Caledonia


I feel like i have done this event now – my first year was 2014 and the weather was fine and last year was in the pouring rain and howling wind and yet I was finished in nearly the same time.

This year I trained more and went on more rides and with good weather forecast I was hoping to smash my time.

But it my girlfriends mums 60th and a big house was rented and fine food booze and food was consumed. To top this off I left late in the morning to drive up and was stuck in traffic going to event parking when i should have been at the start line getting ready to head off.

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the course is a good one with 130km of riding around a pretty loch and then a wee ascent (about 1200m in all over the course)

6:30am and the elite and VIP’s head off. I should have started in Wave A with the faster boys but by the time I made the start wave C was heading off so for the first 20mile I was completely solo hoping to find a small group that was going faster and I could work with.

NO SUCH LUCK

Until a man caught up – he had punctured at mile 2 and had lost everyone so we worked together for a good hour. At one stage 4/5 people were tagged on behind but only we two were taking turns at the front so he drifted back and I heard him yell ‘I don’t mind you guys taking the wheel but take a f***** turn a the front’ 

That caused all but one to drop off and that person definitely took his turn from then on in.

Just before the climb I recognised my friend Carla who had started on time (8min in front of me) and we said hello and then the climb up Schiehallion started. I took this easy as I had been working pretty hard up to this point (in fact my slowest ascent of the 3 times)

The downhill was as lovely as ever …. and then into the back of a big group around Fortingall on the narrow singletrack road. The wind was unseasonal and Easterly so the last leg was into the wind but i was quite sheltered in a large group of 30 – never really making it up through the bunch to make a turn at the front.

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The thing about groups like this is that my speed is so much higher than normal with the massive slipstream benefit and after all my solo rides this year the time (miles) passed quickly.

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Average speed 33.6kmh (imperial says nearly 21mph) average.

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so my best time but not the sub 3h50/3h45 i was hoping for.

At the end a medal and a text with my finish time according to the tag on the bike ….FcertA4.tmpl-347-YRNJ

Etape Royale next – 100miles ….

 

Veloviewer gets better and better (if you use Strava)


VeloViewer has always been able to show you comprehensive views of your past rides and runs but plenty of people had asked to see similar views of routes they are planning to do. Fortunately Strava have just opened up their Routing API so now Veloviewer can display all the routes you have created and allow you to see their full details including the interactive 3D profiles.

Head there NOW …

Here is one example ….

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really helps visualize routes and see potential problems (gradients)

My first time …… at Parkrun


Parkrun (styled as parkrun) is the name given to a collection of five-kilometre running events that take place every Saturday morning in several countries. All are free to take part in and require runners to register online in advance for a unique athlete number and to print their own identification barcode for use when taking part.

I had registered years back but have never got around to taking part in one. Yesterday I changed that – I printed out my barcode Friday night chose one of the 3 in glasgow to take part in and off I went. I cycled down and locked the bike up – the run was due to start 9:30am and with 40min to kill I decided to run the course before the event slowly. A bit of stretching and warming up. Listened to the briefing and applauded a man on his 50th run. Then boom off we went. Victoria park in glasgow has the Parkrun go 3x round the lake so on the 2nd lap we started hitting back markers. Still pretty doable and my pace was pretty high (competition you see)

Came in and stopped the Garmin 19min59sec and 4.8something km.

I queried distance with runner next to me – his Garmin had 5.05km so it must be fine – I hadn’t cut corners into the lake that was for sure.


First lap quickest then got my breath back regretting start then upped it on final lap …..

Runners’ results in each event are processed and uploaded online after the run by volunteers. Each registered runner has an individual page cataloguing the details of each event in which they have participated.

So checked my time later 20min 00sec

Pretty happy with that so will try make next week for no2 before I try other courses.

Adventure Easter holidays


Made the most of the easter break and a slight break in the weather to head up the road from Glasgow to see my girls who were on holiday at their grans the other side of Perth.

Planned the route on Strava and off I headed taking the touring bike with a load and choosing some hills so that it was also a sort of training session.

heavy does a tour-3halfway up the Crow road – first time I have stopped and taken pics

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Crow road nice surface – good for 75kmph on a good day

Headed over the crow and the route goes NE and the wind was from the NE so wind in the face all day.

Up to Stirling and then up a really steep wee route up the back of the Wallace monument up Sherrifmuir road past the pub that looked so inviting.

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Onwards into the wind and then greeloaning Gleneagles passed the golfers cursing the wind then past Dunning where i stopped to greet the witch ..

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Got a few niggles with the bike – one is brakes that don’t wrap around the fender enough … and a heavy bar bag that means hands off cycling is hard … but on the plus side shelters the hands from the wind and keeps them warmer.

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Screenshot 2016-04-15 11.10.30Sugar then a night at Grannies with the girls.

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and the weather improved for a different route home.

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One road discovered where i was joined by two very pleasant ladies in their 20’s who were practicing for the eTape as well. This road has great ascent and then smooth downhill … try it if you going anywhere near Perth … HERE

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Down to Falkirk and then an easy ride down the canals home – thinking of cake sped me on and I had some easy PR’s on the canal although I think the other time was a 29er into the wind and this time it was behind me.

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250km over 2 days but the highlight was what I saw – heron, buzzards, lots of future mint sauce baby lambs and that witch monument. the highlight seeing my girls who had made bunting and sewn me a special medal …

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Kite time


yesterday was a bit light in troon for kiting but good to dust off the cobwebs ….

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but heading to east coast today Longniddry that i haven’t kited before – should be fun.

Longniddry is a small village in East Lothian, just a few miles from Edinburgh.

It has a relatively small wind direction range, but when it’s on it’s really good. Expect clean winds, flat water, little kickers and some nice chop. All in the same session!

Believe it or not, James Bond actor Pierce Brosnan once lived in Longniddry!

Wind Directions

Longniddry will work on SW around to W but is best on WSW.

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La weekend


Friday decided not to work and packed the pouring bike for a ride – a jolly ramble with camera, lunch, spare clothes etc.

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not the nicest day – and weather was close cold and misty BUT I was on the bike and had a good ride. Does pass up from aberfoyle and at the other side decided not to carry on to Callandar and instead returned along my route ….

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One of my longer rides as i rarely go more that 100km and also on the bike which i weighed on my return at 25kg … ouch. Will need to take this into account when planning my touring. Epsom salt bath on my return.

Sunday – my friend Jim called to suggest an early ride Sunday am. He has limited time now after his wife passed away 6months ago and with the two girls watching Sun morning telly he had a gap of 2 hours … so my him at his place 8:30am on what can only be described as a peach of a day. Over the Crow north I thought my fork had too much play – think the shop didn’t quite tighten it enough … so quick change and back to the top heading South

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my legs felt good so gave it some welly both sides of the crow but still 2 min down on my best times …. 2016-03-20 09.58.39

Jim was just happy at being out. Coming down the other side we are pelting along 50kmh+ when i hear jim shout ‘SHEEEEEEEPPPPP’ … brake hard … these most intelligent animals wait until you are 20ft away before dashing across the road. Past the corner speeding up and I see yet more Wooly Jumpers on suicide missions (actually more kamikaze as we would be killed) so descent is much more sedate than normal.

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Double Munro Day


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The compact group of mountains known as the Arrochar Alps are renowned for their steep, rugged and rocky nature. However, the highest peak – Beinn Ime – has a simple slope when approached from this direction. Beinn Narnain has a much rougher and rockier character. The views – especially of the nearby Cobbler – are excellent.

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Cobbler behind to right and Beinn Narnain behind on left – this is the start of Beinn Ime slope

Quite a bit of Ice and snow on top but weather was great. Although a steep and rocky mountain from most viewpoints, the ascent from this side is up a broad and somewhat soggy slope, though there is a path. The ascent is a long one, with almost four hundred metres to gain from the bealach; it ends at the trig point at 1011m

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Beinn Ime is a broad dome on this side and the return route has a good path.

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Rocky, steep and eroded path on Beinn Narnain with very mild scrambling.

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Fred Whitton Training Ride


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Now the Fred Whitton Challenge is CRAZY ….

110 miles with over 3200m of climbing …. The Fred Whitton Challenge is a gruelling 112 mile sportive challenge ride for charity around the Lake District, run in memory of Fred Whitton. From 2014 it starts & finishes in Grasmere, and the route includes the climbs of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott & Wrynose passes. MORE HERE

So someone from the meetup group is doing the ride and wanted to do a ride where she could practise some hills ….. so Sunday morning is cold and sunny and COLD …. did I mention cold.

We head off and temp on the Garmin already says -3.4C ouch – my face is feeling battered from the cold. The plan is to do the tak-ma-doon and Crow road loop

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but as we get to the Tak we encounter the climb and a lot of Black Ice on the road. Downhill could be deadly … so we climb to the top grab a breather then decide to descend to the golf course where the black ice patches thin out … and ascend again. At the top of the tak we could look down for miles at the clearing mist and freezing fog.

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then on for a slow descent to the north side a river ford where one person took a tumble on ice at the edge, stood up and fell over again …

Down the long bumpy carron valley road to the Crow – again a puncture halted proceedings ….

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i got to admire the road (still bumpy)

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and also find the puncture that Andy couldn’t and look at my nice clean tights … IMG_8872.JPG

Bike filthy man filthy ….

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then the weather is so cold that the Edge 510 dies closer to home …. legs tired ….good spring ride.

 

Introducing the young


As much as I love the outdoors and exercise I am always careful on pushing this love onto my two youngest girls.

This week the girls have been on a sort of half term break of school for Monday-Wednesday. We decided with an amazing forecast to climb the Cobbler …

The Cobbler (Scottish Gaelic: Beinn Artair) is a mountain of 884 metres (2,900 ft) height located near the head of Loch Long in Scotland. Although only a Corbett, it is “one of the most impressive summits in the Southern Highlands”,and is also the most important site for rock climbing in the Southern Highlands. Many maps include the name Ben Arthur(an anglicisation of the Gaelic), but the name The Cobbler is more widely used.

 

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girls and grandad

 

The walk starts from near sea level and goes up steeply through a wood section and continues from there, following a burn known as the Allt a’ Bhalachain. this section is open with a beautiful vista ahead up towards the Cobbler.

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From here the path bypasses the Narnain Boulders, steepening at around 600 metres (2,000 ft). The path splits and you can go left and straight up the face between the two peaks but this was heavily iced and we had no crampons or sticks or even axes. We followed the path around and ascended from the rear.

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The back was still very snowy and it meant an ascent where we had to kick the steps into the snow. the youngest (9) was keen to be first but after 10min let me do the steps until we were 20feet from the top and then took the lead again.

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We made the top – with photographic proof

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whilst sister (11) and grandad were still ascending

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it was so unseasonaly hot with nary a breath of wind. So mild in fact we had lunch at the top.

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and then down to the pass again before the descent.

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And home to a fire ….. asked the girls the next day whether their legs were sore at all.

NO

What more could you want.

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A good week despite the weather


Last week the work commitments cleared even if the weather didn’t. Chose to run when the weather was at its worst but then parts of the late week looked peachy if cold.

THURSDAY

Went out for a ride on the beautiful Mercian steel tourer. I have been reading articles about whether it was better to load some of the weight rando style into the front panniers which lowers the CoG (centre of Gravity) opposed to rear. Now the forks on the Mercian have a decent rake and it responds well to the front being loaded.

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For longer tours I would load all 4 but this was a test shake out with medium load for short tours.

 

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frost steel and cold hands

 

So off I went on cold 2C morning with frosty canal paths. The bike handled well and I relaxed into the ride – most of the time on the Lynskey road bike I have half my eye on the stats on the GPS and find myself getting uptight when the average speed drops below 27kph. Stopped at loch lomond for a pic of Ben lomond over the water covered in snow …This was far more sedate winding my way up to loch lomond then looping out to Helensburgh.

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This was far more sedate winding my way up to loch lomond then looping out to Helensburgh.

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Friday was a short 7.5km run but Saturday was mixed with a break in the weather forecast.

SATURDAY

Munro Bagging and Ben Ledi was in my sights but even on the drive up to Callander it looked like I got the weather a bit wrong.

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A bit too much snow on the hill for no crampons – and visibility was a bit short at the top – and there are too many cases of walkers going missing for me to be a knob about having to do it …. This weekend alone 2 of 3 elderly walkers caught out have died in hospital and a young couple on a valentines trip are feared dead and possibly buried by an avalanche in the Ben Nevis range. So a sedate 12km walk around the woods near the base was good enough for us – still got to blame my better half for the weather as every time she comes with me to climb the weather sets in …

SUNDAY

Back to Glasgow and out for a ride on my other road bike (one neglected could get jealous)

Over the crow road my normal trip / training ride. Again pretty cold but the Rapha Pro Team jacket I bought has been absolutely fantastic this past winter. In fact, when the temp is above 8C, I think it may be too hot to wear.

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They are expensive but so far it has been worth every penny. The only missing chink so far are my gloves – have a very wintry Sealskins MTB pair and then the next are more summer long fingered so getting cold hands if I don’t opt for Sealskins…..

Back to the ride – it was one of those rare perfect wintry days.

 

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snow on the Campsies

 

And the Crow road actually had snow and slush all over it once you cleared the car park on the bend. But still I mad a new friend at the top even if they weren’t very chatty.

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Was very peaceful at the top …

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So another ride in and gradually building up the miles – this work business definitely getting in the way of play.

 

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The crow ride as told in pretty colours

 

 

That was Snow weekend


Took my 11yo this weekend up to the Cairngorm range and walked into a bothy for an overnight adventure. ruby bothy-2

The forecast was for the howling wind and rain to give a brief 48hour window … so Saturday morning at 7am we left for a 3.5 hr drive up the road.

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Temp was -1C walking in but sun on the face and felt good.

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The walk is under 10km and with only one stream to negotiate as the other 2 have small makeshift bridges over them.

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Temp was forecast to hit -6 which is cold for us. Bothy looked warmer than it actually was as no insolation to speak of and a poor wood burner.

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Ruby enjoyed it though – this was taken in the morning as the tea was brewing and the candles had melted the ice on the inside of the windows.

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A glorious morning and a decent walk out too …..

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The best thing about days like this is it gets children enthused about the outdoors and also great to spend time one on one with the kids. Normally there is a juggling act to some with ….. and finally below a GoPro movie of the 2 days …..

 

Weekend roundup


Well it was still windy – Saturday Storm Desmond Hit

‘their actions are unforgiveable’

And it was too strong for kiting … but Sunday the forecast looked much better. Packed the car picked up my pal and drove down to the coast.

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It looked peachy but cold at 7degrees C. Gimped up in the wetsuit gloves boots and hood and hit the water with my 8m kite. Epic day with the squalls coming through and the strong gusts hitting (sometimes mid jump) meant everything was a bit unpredictable. Think I did some of my highest jumps ever – at one stage going so high that I rapidly ran out of water to land on – traveling a good 70foot before landing in about 1ft of water far too close to the beach … scary stuff and the stories that broken bones come from so a lucky escape. As i was coming down the mantra of stay smooth …. stay smooth was playing in my head.

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What a good day.

Interesting when uploading the gps track to Strava – the Fenix has a barometric altitude sensor but if you look closely at the grey track you can see hard downspikes in the last 1/3rd – those are all wipeouts where i smacked the water and the sensor took a hit.

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Friday the 13th – If I had known


the forecast was mental as tropical storm abigail came across the Atlantic and smashed into the UK …Screenshot 2015-11-13 21.19.26

Forecast

So decided I would kitesurf – took down my smallest kite the 6m Best Cabo (which feels bigger than 6m) and a twin tip board.

The wind was strong but what was worse was the gusts howling in …. I was on max depower of kite with rail buried and one time I was literally lifted sideways and plonked unceremoniously 20ft downwind (sideways) at force.

The jumping was good – even with a wave kite that doesn’t really shine in this area.

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could only manage 40min before I was wasted – back to the west end for a quick steam at the club.