Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Twelve 100km Rides of 2017


As the weather has been so abysmal in 2018 so far I thought I'd (finally) do a round up of last year's silly challenge. I mentioned in my last post (August last year, that's truly terrible) that last year I settled on riding at least one 100 km (or more) ride every month. As much as anything the reason for that challenge was that I knew work was going to be demanding and that anything else (longer, faster etc) might be beyond me. But I also knew that I needed something. And, as I said way back in August, it was a particularly silly challenge given I work in miles. Really, it was a challenge to do at least one 62.2 mile ride per month.
I managed it, as the title suggests, so the purpose of this post is just to pull them all together in one place. Mostly as a reminder to me and possibly as a warning to others silly enough to challenge themselves to something that sounds reasonable but is calendar based.
Without more ado, here are the rides.

January




It was already late into January before I even managed to kick the challenge off. Even then I had to take a morning off work to get it done. A ride enlivened by the happenstance of meeting a pal on his way to work. We met on the busy A92 just after I had experienced another poor overtake. Unfortunately for me having company was all too short as I suffered on this ride any time the road headed up a hill. However, once it was done, it was one down and 11 to go.

February




Despite this one being done in the middle of the month I remember feeling some pressure to get it done; I didn't want the challenge to land on its backside so early in the year. I looked at the forecast and it seemed reasonable so I took the morning off work and went for it. The only issue was a deep frost. I'm not comfortable on cold roads and I spent the first 20 or so miles tip-toeing about on the main road to Ceres before going to take a look at the descent of Nydie, chickening out, coming back to town and then finally going down the hill. A wee loop round Tarvit, a stop in The Villager cafe and then a final boot loop got the miles done in a remarkably local way. I had intended to do 3 boot loops but it didn't quite work that way. By the time I got home it was quite warm!

A wintery look to one of my favourite cycling views 

March




This was the first of three of the rides that were done on the tandem. And while you might argue that the effort was therefore shared, I'm still going to count them. If I hadn't been on the tandem I might have been on the solo bike and, anyway, I reckon the tandem is more of a workout for me than the solo; mostly because of the increased demands on the upper body.
We went to Perth for this one and enjoyed the Stoker enjoyed lots of new roads and I got to add a few miles to my heat map too. We had a wee scary moment near the Glenturret distillery when we met a tour bus coming round the corner a bit too much on our side of the road but all in all we had a lovely day. A stop at Synergy Cycles in Autcherarder was also enjoyed. Both for the sustenance and the fantastic bikes on display. Not sure what they thought of the touring tandem!

This is how the tandem travels to rides


April




Another tandem effort and a very sociable ride it was too. Two coffee stops and company for a good part of the day. I note from my description of the ride I felt like we should be able to do an imperial century on the tandem; sadly that didn't materialise in 2017. I have it on my list for this year.

May




Although I had the Cairn O'Mount Challenge (an excellent sportive if you ever get the chance) in the diary for the the last weekend in May it was nice to get the 100km ride done the weekend before and on the tandem again. One of our friends wanted to meet for coffee at Loch Leven Larder which by the shortest route is about a 60 mile round trip. The obvious thing was to lengthen it a little and enjoy a loop. Once again we had company from Ceres and back; and that was lovely. One wee bit of fun on the way home when said company, Scott, had a puncture coming down Dryside. The Stoker got to see some new roads and despite playing with closed roads and a little rain coming out of Strathmiglo we had an excellent day.
At this point I thought I might end up with about half of the rides completed on the tandem but, for one reason and another, this was the last one. The rest were done on the road bike. A pity really.

June




I had 4 hours give or take about 10 minutes. I was well into the second half of the month and the ride was yet to be done. So, taking the opportunity afforded to me by my early exit from the 3rd class Club Championship at the golf club, I used my Thursday afternoon off to get it done. I tried to pick a route to suit the weather, which was pleasant but with an easterly breeze. As the forecast suggested though it was a sea breeze which was fighting with a westerly inland. The cunning plan was to ride into the sea breeze for a while, use it to go inland, pick up the westerly until Blebo and then use gravity to neutralise the sea breeze. It worked a treat, although I'm not going to say it was easy, and with only a quick comfort stop this was my quickest 100km in terms of average speed. It was also the shortest.
I got home, cleaned up and made tea with a friend at the Golf Club at the appointed time. A very successful afternoon, even it was a little tiring.


July




The summer riding was interfered with last year by work, big time and I had to pick my moments when and where I could get them. I was running out of days in July and eventually I had to pick a day and go. I didn't pick a good one. I was very glad of the lights I'd put on my bike for safety. It was a day on which I felt cold and not full of beans and I was extremely glad of the coffee and bacon roll at the Villager.
It was a shame as the route was one I'd planned for a while, three loops of similar distance. Ideally I'd have come right into town near the end of the second one but I didn't need any extra distance and on such a yucky day I thought I'd keep the effort to the minimum. After all I did have to go to work in the afternoon!
Still, I was now over halfway in the challenge. And with work getting a little easier I thought the challenge might get a bit easier.

August




Another ride with less than stellar weather. Looking back there seems to be a theme, one I was not so aware of during the year. I did, at least, get the ride done in the first half of the month this time. It was also conceived and scheduled as a quick test for the Tour O'the Borders Sportive in September. From that point of view it was highly successful and gave me confidence that the sportive would be fine. The most memorable part of the day was the two herds of cows mooing at each other across the dividing fence on the way from Luthrie to Hazelton Walls. It was something I'd never heard or seen before and I don't think it came from distress, they just seemed to be communicating with each other.


September




As long as Tour O'the Borders went to plan September was always going to be an easy month to get the ride in. And so it proved. By the end of the third day in September I only had 3 monthly 100 km rides to do. This ride was dominated by a case of what I call "sportive head", which encourages me to ride harder and faster than I usually do. In this case I also wanted to beat 2016's time and this meant not stopping at the feed stops. I did stop for a quick comfort break just after the second feed zone (unfortunately the organisers had not repeated the trick of putting a portable loo in the un-timed descent of Talla) but that was it.
I still am not entirely happy with the behaviour of some of the other participants in the event; not saying hello when tagging onto my wheel, riding too close to unknown riders (to me, that is), abruptly stopping on Talla when in the fast lane, etc but it still is a great event. And good to test myself sometimes too. Best bits: coming down after Whitchyknowe with no one around me and the "racing" for the last 10 km or so. Then surprising everyone back in Peebles because I got back so quickly... A good day and I'm already entered for next year. Can I beat 4 1/2 hours?

One day I'll get the helmet on straight!

October




The title of October's effort probably says it all. Mud! Being an afternoon ride I picked a different cafe stop which did require some effort to get to so that I might have a little time to enjoy the cup of coffee. The effort probably cost me later in the ride but I was still happy to get it done. I just didn't enjoy the mucky looking bike once I'd finished.

Mucky!

I just love this view

November




The weather played its part again with this ride. I had intended to ride it the other way around, more or less. But with cold overnight temperatures and frosty looking roads I stuck to the coast and the lower level roads to begin with. This meant that the middle section over the ridge and back towards Cupar was done into the wind which made it hard. And, once back down to lower levels I decided to stay warm and just get the ride done. A shame because coffee stops are always nice, especially at the Villager.
The oddest thing about this ride was the complete absence of other cyclists. Which was slightly bemusing given that it was a Saturday. I fully understood that there might not be many out when I set off but later I thought I was bound to see some. I did see plenty of birds though and, despite the cold and wind, I enjoyed the morning and getting closer to completing the challenge.


December




Getting the last ride in became a real issue. One way and another the weather just did not want to play ball. And with Christmas coming up I was getting a little jumpy about finishing it off. Finally, I took a day off and managed to get out. The great pleasure was that one of my cycling pals agreed to come too. It was another manky day, which made the company especially welcome, with fog around Loch Leven and a wee icy patch that spooked me and made me change the route; beginning and ending the ride on the low road between St Andrews and Pitscottie. The cake stop was at the reliable Pillars of Hercules. Although not my favourite stopping place the cake was lovely and it was in the correct spot at just before the 50 mile mark.
The nice run along the Cults after that and then the fast way home topped off a ride worthy of completing the challenge. And it made me realise how nice it is to have company. On the tandem I can't really do anything else but have company but I am often on my own when I'm out on the road bike. I was so glad that this was not one of those times.

Conclusion

It was a bit of a mad challenge. Seemingly easy but things conspired to make it not quite as easy as it should have been. However, it pushed me out of the door on days when I might have just stayed in, or gone out later for a shorter spin. It gave some of my rides a purpose, which was singularly lacking in my cycling last year; other than this and the yearly mileage target (a story for another time).
You might be forgiven for thinking from the short descriptions above that this was a real trial, some kind of masochistic adventure but it really wasn't. I can't say that I enjoyed it all but it was far from a hateful or damaging experience (or experiences, if you prefer). I'd go as far as to say it was mostly enjoyable and that's the point. I'm a cyclist and, therefore, cycling should be fun. There's always something slightly magical around the corner, a view, some wildlife or the pure fun of letting your bike creep up to 30+mph down a big hill. That's the thing that keeps me rolling the bike(s) out of the garage. The challenge is just a motivation.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Challenges make us do silly things

In my opinion there's nothing quite as silly as a self-imposed challenge. You can make it less silly by raising money for a worthwhile cause but I've been there and done that so for now, at least, the challenges are set by me for me. It won't stop me writing about them, or their consequences, occasionally though. Every now and again they do encourage a little silliness.
This year's challenge is relatively simple; to ride at least one, one hundred kilometre ride per calendar month. It's a bit of a silly challenge really because I'm a cyclist that works in miles day to day but I knew this year it wasn't going to be possible for me to go for twelve 100 mile rides. So metric centuries seemed like a more realistic proposition. It also has allowed me to do a few of them on the tandem which is a great way to share the challenge with The Stoker. And, before there's any objection to that, it's my challenge and I have decided that tandem rides count. So there. I've had some adventures on the way but so far so good, and I now have just 4 to go.
However, I wanted to make mention of last Saturday's ride as it provides the reason for the title of this piece. I had decided that August's 100 km effort would take place on said Saturday which left me with a small time window in which to get it done, especially as I wanted to add some hills in as a wee test before this year's Tour of the Borders event. And it was this time limitation that made the ride a little less sensible than usual.
All week the weather forecast had been pretty good. That was until Friday, when suddenly it looked like it might be a little wet early on. Damp but not bad. On the Friday night The Stoker suggested that I might like to charge some lights. Surely not, but I did so, just in case. And how right they were. In the morning I got up to the expected grey and thought, "oh good, the rain has already gone through". Wrong! It started come down a little more aggressively just as I set off. And by the time I was up beside the camp site at Nydie I needed to cower under a tree to put my jacket on. It stayed on for the next couple of hours. Lovely....
And once it came off I still needed to find some heat. Then I was glad of my arm warmers and I continued to be glad of them all the way to my cafe stop a good while later. It was at this cafe stop that I realised how strange I must look. By this time the weather was better and the roads had started to dry up. Anyone going out now would be having a lovely ride. Looking at me, though, they would think I'd been dragging my bike through the fields of Fife. I had tan lines of mud from my socks to the bottom of my bib shorts. And, as I discovered later, all the way up to the back of my helmet. I also left a damp stain on the wooden chair I selected in the cafe and I had to apologise to the owner. "No problem" they said. I still felt guilty.
And it's exactly this that I wanted to raise as the silliness of this ride. If I'd been at all sensible I'd have adjusted my plans and gone out that couple of hours later and had a lovely, mostly mud free ride. But, no, that little challenge picked away at me and ensured that I went out early. I can't even say that it's ok, I enjoyed the ride despite the rain because the reality of it is that riding in the rain on roads with big puddles and nasty gradients isn't particularly pleasant, especially on your own. Even the descents had to be ridden carefully as the road surfaces were definitely a little sketchy. I do take pleasure in the fact that I did it despite the elements and I loved the scone at the cafe. Not all bad. And the ride indicates that I should be able to survive this year's ToB, even if it rains there.
The worst bit about the whole thing was getting the brand new chain I'd just put on the bike all dirty. Don't you just hate that? And the best bit (apart from the cafe stop)? Getting home in the dry. There's absolutely nothing worse than starting wet, drying up and then getting wet again. It's even worse than staying wet, or starting dry and ending up wet.

The Ride


Epilogue

It wasn't a nice afternoon at all really; lots of showers kept running through so, in the end, I hadn't missed out on a better part of the day. But I decided on that when I got in and before I'd had to scrub both me and the bike clean.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Skye Rides

Another trip to Skye gave me the opportunity to ride some very different roads even if they are known to me. Mostly on the tandem with The Stoker although I did snatch one ride on the half bike. Here's a small description of them all.

Ride 1 - To Dunvegan




We had cycling friends with us on this holiday and our first day gave us an opportunity to show them that the roads on Skye aren't flat. For this ride we popped up to the cafe at Dunvegan Castle hopine that the forecast rain didn't come in early.
It's a nice run even with the wind that hurt us on the normally quick descents on the way home. Even with that we chose to overshoot the driveway to the cottages, just so I didn't have to waste brake pads. A nice short run,  marred slightly when one of our companions managed to crash on the gravel when turning into the driveway. Luckily there was no damage done.
As part of our holiday we all went to the Fairy Pools in the evening, which was a spectacular place to be as the sun dipped towards the horizon. We drove there but riding there might be the better option as it is always busy. We were eaten alive by midges at the car park when we returned to the car. Yuck!
The Cuillin at the top of the Fairy Pools

Ride 2 - Early on the single bike




With the forecast looking poor I decided to get up early and do a ride before breakfast. Much like being at home! Again I had the wind into my face on the way back and I could also see the rain creeping in from the north. Luckily I just had one short shower and then I was back. The roads have never looked so quiet as on this ride. Especially nice was the wee thumbs up I got from a van driver.
Benefit of the day was spotting the new coffee place opposite the Talisker distillery in Carbost. Our friends tried it later in the week and declared it "good"!

Ride 3 - Central loop




The simplest long trip for us on Skye with no driving to the start. The majority of the roads in this are fine but the Sligachan to Portree section always sees some inappropriate overtaking and, sadly, this day was no exception. However we survived and made a beeline for the Aros centre for the first of two coffee stops.
Coming out of Portree also used to be nasty as we would follow the Uig road but we've now hit on the wicked wheeze of using the lower section of the hill road to Struan instead before taking the road back down to Uigshader and picking up the Dunvegan road at the end of it. It makes for a less stressful ride even if the descent is a little gravelly.
Doing the loop this way round did mean climbing the hill out of Edinbane but it was just a question of popping the tandem into a gear and riding slowly up it. Especially in the upper half where I thought it was never going to end. Having gone up, though, we got the lovely run into Dunvegan where a scone and caramel slice helped power us back home. Our friends decided to take in the views on the way home which on such a nice day was right and proper. We made an unscheduled stop too but that was because the pilot needed some help from our old friend Vaseline!
The Cuillin from the Vaseline stop!

Ride 4 - Back roads




As we were showing the island (or at least some of it) to our friends we had saved the little back road loops towards Dunvegan as a treat for our final day. These roads take the path less travelled and have great views whilst maintaining decent surfaces. Being single track slightly more care is required but they are still great to ride. And mostly the traffic is fine on them. The locals seem to deal with cyclists better than the tourists.
After the excitement of the little loopy bits we headed up the Dunvegan bypass road, over to the Fairy Bridge and on to Trumpan. We had to break our outward journey at the Skye Skyns coffee and tea yurt. The accompanying cheese scones were delicious. When we went to head away we met a couple from way down south that we'd met on the golf course the day before. It was great to meet them again and prove we really did have a tandem.
Excellent coffee stop 
Suitably refuelled we headed up to the end of the road and the ruined church at Trumpan. By then it was extremely windy and we all took shelter behind various walls. As we came aaay from here we got talking to a couple of Dutch motorcyclists who had been doing the NC500. They had had a great week of weather for it but we're heading back home, via London. Our friends must think we talk to everyone!
Trumpan churchyard 
The view west from Trumpan.


Luckily the wind was now in our favour and we headed back to Dunvegan for our second stop. We went to the bakery cafe; we'd never been. I think we will go back as the food was delicious.  Although they did seem to view some of our requests (a tuna toastie and brown bread) as slightly odd. Why?!
We took the direct way home while our pals did one more back road.  This time the little loop to Ullinish for more photos. After our usual refusal to brake at the cottages we actually pedalled on to the viewpoint so the Pilot could get a photo of the ever faithful tandem. From there a mostly downhill ride saw us back to the cottages and then end of our cycling adventures on Skye for this trip.
The tandem and the view. 

The Cuillin from the viewpoint

The view most people stop for. 

Postscript 

Skye us an odd place to cycle. Lovely views but with roads that are (for us at least) quite hilly and the choice is often limited. You can go for main roads and suffer the traffic or smaller roads and suffer the surfaces and the requirement to stop in passing places occasionally. I don't want to put you off but you should know what it's like before you come!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Lots to drink - none of it alcoholic

Gosh, it's been too long between posts. In an attempt to kick start this again, here's a little write up on one of my favourite sportives; the Cairn O'Mount Challenge. One of the reasons I like this event is the obvious dedication of the organisers to their charity. A large percentage of the entry fee goes towards it unlike some other events I might mention. And the enthusiasm that the event is run with speaks volumes about them too.

The Event

This year's ride can be summed up in one word: Hot! Perhaps not the best conditions to be taking on a ride that will probably be the hilliest I do all year. But there we go. We also had an interesting weather forecast, rain and potential thunderstorms were suggested for the early afternoon. No way did I want to get caught up in them!
Because of that, and wanting to get up the Cairn as early as possible I left in the second group. So did my colleague and Strava pal, Spin Diesel. More on his ride later. I was quickly off the back of the group, only to tag on for a second as they were stopped by roadwork traffic lights. Without more of those every half a mile or so I even more quickly lost them again. It was of no consequence as I had a little mantra going on in my head "don't overheat, don't work too hard".
For the ride to the bottom of Cairn O'Mount I was joined by a friendly local who looked like a real climber. Older than me, but he had the manner of a lightweight and strong climber. Nice to have a wee chat though and, as expected, he pulled away on the little ramp out of Fettercairn. I didn't chase and he was just a little up the road when we reached the bottom of the major challenge of the day.
I was already in my lowest gear, in preparation, when we turned the corner. "Sow and easy, slow easy" I said. It might have been slow but it wasn't easy. I did however go past my early companion and I focused on the hill ahead. I past a chap from the lead group, doing well but going slowly. Then a few folk past me; no surprise there. The road continued up.
Just before the final and steepest bit I found myself going past another slower rider. We passed comment on the heat and rode our own way up. I saw my heart rate touch 184 - that's about my limit, and thought maybe I should get off. Nope. Not this time. And then it was all over and the crazy descent started. Nice and cool as the speed built up. Zip up the jersey, remind myself to take it easy. It's so tempting to put it in a big gear and spin the legs but the advantage gained is so small it's not worth it.
At the wee sting in the tail (a nasty steep ramp in the middle of the descent) the corner was full of grit and gravel thanks to roadworks. Nasty! I hope no one came off as it would not be nice. I crawl upwards again to gain the prize of another nice descent. This pattern continues for quite a while now, down, up, down up etc until a final down brought me out at the bottom of the Slug Road.
My friend Spin reckons this should be called Slog Road and maybe he was right this year because as well as the heat we were into a little headwind here. But, at the top, a feed station and a chance to refill the water bottles. The volunteers were great, all we had to do was stick out an open bottle and they were topped up as if by magic. I like my coffee stops but these instant refills do just nicely.
And off again. This time a nice long smooth descent on the main road before turning off onto the back roads once again. And the up down nature reasserted itself. Here though the main thrust is downward towards the coast and the edge of Stonehaven. I was just thinking about timings and beating the rain when I saw a fellow participant by the side of the road; rear wheel out of the frame and a deflated tyre.
Whilst she had all the right stuff her CO2 had failed to inflate the inner and we resorted to the pump. The problem was that the valve stem was only just long enough for the rim and attaching the hose proved awkward. I'm pretty sure that's what had happened to the CO2 as well. All was fine until she unscrewed the hose. And with it came the valve core. Grrr. I lent her one of my tubes with the core held firmly in with Loctite. It's happened too many times to me in the garage. In it went and with it properly inflated (or at least enough we hoped) I left her to tidy up and travelled on. She passed me a couple of miles down the road (as she had already done) and I'm glad to report that she made it to the end without further mishap.
However, this had led to me dropping 14 minutes of my already tight schedule. On the plus side the heat, even with much, much more drinking than normal, was reducing my need for comfort stops so I was winning there. The coastal run was enlivened by the presence of other riders but few wanting to chat which was a shame. I did wonder about those doing the event on their own like me. Why would you not want to chat along the way. One even had headphones in.
Riding along, in and out of company however silent, made for a quick-ish run. To be honest I probably pushed a little harder along here just because the other riders were there and I wanted to see how I fared. It isn't a race but it is nice to ride along with others just as a benchmark. Most were faster than me by a bit and I was just holding on, often enough.
Somewhere down here there was an incident involving a quick descent, a runaway dog, cyclists and the dog's owner. The least said the better. And no one was hurt, so it was just fine.
The second feed stop arrived and, once again, I got excellent service. This time, with the bottles filled, it was time for a cheese savoury roll and some sugary EPO in the form of a slice of caramel shortbread. Mmmm. All too soon, especially with my quick feed stop mentality, it was time to be back on the road. "Stay safe" called the marshals, concerned for all of us. And again, once we were off the main road, the traffic became much less of an issue and it was back to the work of getting home without over doing it.
I reeled in one of my feed stop companions but he didn't seem to want to converse so I inched away from him and focused on the road and another rider in front. This chap must have been in my sights for about 11 miles as he had left the feed stop just that little bit earlier than me. "I've had enough" he says before asking my how bad the final climb is. "Hard" I say, not sugar-coating it at all. And I didn't sugar coat the run in either as it still has some nasty little slopes in it to catch the unwary. We chatted for a little while before I rode off, leaving us both to work on our own. Again, he made it, unscathed. Well done.
What followed was the run down to Brechin, the turn towards Edzell followed by the horrible turn away from Edzell where we met the even more horrible long stretch of temporary road surface. 70 miles in and my hands were now more than a little unhappy. Buzz, buzz went the handlebars as I rode over the very fine gravel.
The end of the temporary surface happened at the bottom of the kick in the teeth climb of Catertun. Steep and not as short as you'd like this is a real test of resolve on a hot day. I had been passed on the rough stuff by a couple of quicker riders and I could see them, seemingly close, working their way up through the turns. I could also see a couple of guys that seemed to be walking. No disgrace I can tell you. I reached the guy in the blue jersey (I'd been calling him that since the beginning of the day) and he was suffering with cramp. Nothing I could for him despite my offering and I left him to walk to the summit.
The descent that follows this climb is quick, steep, twist and a little gravelly. Not my favourite. Disk brakes would be a boon. At the bottom I thought there was something wrong with my back brake and though the inspection showed it to be ok, the rim was hot! "Mr blue jersey" caught me up here but had to stop almost immediately again as I'd stopped at the start of a small rise that caught his cramp again. He made it back eventually but it can't have been any fun.
I decided that some fun needed to be had and with it almost done and my legs feeling ok I wound it up a little. Maybe I could make it under 6 hours? I tried, honest I did, but the computers at the end said 6 hours and 33 seconds. My course record of 5 hours and 48 minutes stayed intact. I was hot, slightly unsatisfied but I had done what I came to do and we didn't get wet. I'll call that a good day.
My initial companion rolled in sometime later. His legs had just failed he said, as early as Cairn O'Mount so it was good effort to get round at all. The others I'd passed on the COM climb all made it in and all looked pleased to get round. It's not the easiest of days in the saddle and it wasn't the easiest of days to be trying it. There was much talk of heat.
As a final footnote to the day I must mention The Stoker who came to the event with me. Not so we could ride it on the tandem (neither of us fancy the two big climbs, yet alone some of the others) but just to be with me on the journey there and back, and to be there when I finished. Thanks, as ever.

Spin Diesel

Spin is in a different class. With a time of 4 hours and 25 minutes and 22 seconds he was the second fastest on the day. As I said, it's not a race, but what a fantastic achievement that is. If you don't believe me, bring a bike to Edzell next year and see what you can do.

The Ride

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Out on two feet, instead of two wheels

There I was again, near the bottom of a scrambling route in the Cuillin finding it hard. I'd already asked Paddy for the rope but it hadn't made climbing the little groove thing any easier apart from the feeling that I should have been safe had I slipped. Not that I wanted to test that theory out.
Maybe I should back up a bit. That might have helped in the groove too. I was on holiday on Skye and had booked a day out with Paddy McGuire for some scrambling "fun" in the hills. I'd say it is an annual thing but in this case I hadn't been out for 2 years. The weather also wasn't helping. I had also been totally unprepared for the glorious weather. The forecast had not been favourable; the best thing had been the suggestion that the wind wouldn't be bad but it had mentioned rain pretty much all day. So you can imagine my surprise when I turned the corner on the road to see all the Cuillin out in front of me, pretty as a picture. I didn't have much of a clue of things to suggest to do as I had been concentrating on bad weather concepts. I was also aware that it had been horribly wet, not even 24 hours before, so some things were likely to still be wet. Paddy suggested the north west ridge of Sgurr a Mhadaidh and I'd agreed. The route should be pleasant and short, good if the weather turned for the worse.
Waterfall on the way into the ridge
Having driven down Glen Brittle and geared up, a walk up through Coire a Ghreadaidh saw us both decide we had the wrong clothes on as we got uncomfortably warm in the sun. I think we must have been motoring as we overtook one party, older, and stayed in front of another, younger and more determined looking. In what seemed like good time we were putting on harnesses and helmets right underneath the face of Mhadaidh. Getting on to the ridge looked like it might be interesting but, in fact when we moved off, a little ledge (somewhat like Collies ledge) took us easily to the crest. Then after a couple of minutes along a pleasant ridge we came to the groove.
Taken from the walk in, our objective was the little ridge above the waterfall on the skyline
Paddy took his time up it but still made it look easy. Getting into the bottom of it I instantly realised I was back to square one as far as dealing with the exposure. I was all too aware of the space behind me. This was where I asked for the security of the rope. Bouyed by the connection to Paddy I started to climb. I could feel that the slabby walls forming groove were still damp from the rain the day before. No great encouragement there then. I inched my way up, not finding the holds that Paddy had used or, at least, not trusting them the way he did. The groove had a nasty end. It was topped with some rocks making difficult to exit. Eventually, with a little natty rope work to allow me to move to the right, I got my feet high enough to work my way around one of the restricting rocks and back onto the crest of the ridge.
That success gave me some confidence and although we used the easier line until the next unavoidable step in the ridge I began to feel better about scrambling again. Drying rock also helped. At the next difficulty Paddy went ahead again with the rope and I waited until he said I was safe to climb. And this time I made a much better fist of it. I even enjoyed it. And it was just a little later on that I noticed we weren't taking in a little bit of ridge which would involve some more technical scrambling. I suggested we might. And, even though Paddy asked me to put the rope on again (quite rightly - it was no place to fall), I enjoyed the wee slab to conquer this part. The drops were now considerable on one side and no less intimidating on the other. However, it was just a few short steps to the junction of face and ridge which marked the end of the difficulties.
I'm happy now. Good photo by Paddy.
Paddy wrapped the rope around him in case I needed it later and we scrambled our way to the summit of the Cuillin's lowest Munro, Sgurr a Mhadaidh. I had asked Paddy if we could also take in Sgurr a Ghreadaidh as it seemed a shame to put in the effort and not do it, given the weather. So we descended to An Dorus from where I was talked up the first few feet of the north ridge of Ghreadaidh, where the main problem lies.  It's easy really but you have to make a coming move from a small foothold that's difficult to see once you have secured your hands to make the step up. As ever, it's good to have the reassurance that climbing with a guide gives.
The ridge up from here was not much more of a walk and we chatted our way up the slabs and boulders. Chatting is the main thing that occurs when I'm out with Paddy; fitness from cycling helps here as I'm rarely so badly out of breath that I can't talk. The main cause of energy burn on these days is from my nerves. Whilst I love these days there's a fair amount of trepidation involved and I don't find it an easy experience. Climbing past The Wart (a surreal feature on the ridge) brought us, in fairly quick time, close to the summit of the hill. As the summit was small and fairly crowded we sat just down from it for a very welcome lunch. Paddy was not impressed with the idea of a Marmite, cheese, salami and jam sandwich and although I wasn't actually having one, they are very nice.
The views from our lunch spot were great. Down over Loch Coruisk and onward to Blabheinn; the day was glorious. The sun had teased some moisture from the hills creating curtains of clouds hanging on one side of the ridge or the other creating an other worldly look to some of the hills. Soon enough, though, it was time to move on.
In hindsight I should probably have accepted that this was the end of the day and we should have gone down by the same route to an Dorus  followed by the scree shoot down and back to the coire that we had come up. But I was hungry for more and so I said yes to the offer of pushing on along the ridge to Sgurr na Banachdich.
Loch Coruisk
I wasn't to realise this until later though so, for the moment, I revelled in the scramble along to Ghreadaidh's south top often, but mistakenly, thought to look higher than the main peak. My very first time out with Paddy had seen us do this route the other way around, from Banachdich to Mhadaidh (without the tricky ridge we'd come up) but we'd missed out the south top so this was a lovely addition. On the scramble down from this we saw the remains of a volcanic vent with all the little bits of rock jammed together showing a cracked surface. The rocks of the Cuillin are fascinating.
The view south from Ghreadaidh 
The last scrambling of the day came as we climbed, and descended, the three teeth and the peak of Sgurr Thormaid before ascending the scree to the shoulder before the top of Sgurr na Banachdich. It was here that I began to worry. My legs were starting to feel tired and the muscles starting to ache, just a little. Signs of things to come I thought.
Thormaid and the Teeth 
We dropped our sacks and made the 5 minute journey to the summit of our third Munro of the day. Once again the views were tremendous. It's an odd top, the summit of Banachdich. It's a relatively easy walk to get there although it is over punishing steep scree (more of which later) but the top sits right on the edge of the precipitously steep East face. It is wise not to run up to the summit cairn!
All too soon we left the cairn and headed down to our sacks and on to the descent. We met some people still making the ascent and I tried to be encouraging. We were now following the younger group from the moning's coire tramp as they had used the An Dorus approach which is quicker and easier than our route. I had hoped we might catch and overtake them. Paddy would have, with ease, but it was on this steep and, seemingly, never ending scree that my legs pretty much gave way. The problem with hillwalking is that the only exercise that gets you fit for it is hillwalking. And I hadn't done this kind of walking for 2 years. So despite being fit and cycling strong my legs were not happy. Particularly, my over used and abused quads. For a wee while all I could do was stumble down a few yards, catch myself and then repeat the exercise. I'm sure Paddy noticed as I'm sure I went quiet, not a usual state of affairs. However it was better, if not good, once we finally made it to the lush grass and then the main path. And, at last, we made it back to the van. I have to say that climbing in, and out, of the van was not easy.
Just before the road this waterfall caught my eye. I may have needed a sit down.
It was still a great day and made so by the great company, patience and professionalism that Paddy brings to his job. So thanks, again, to him.

Postscript 

It took my legs a good while to recover, but a day off, some golf and then some tandem riding did the trick.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Extending the boundaries

With riding tandem sportives, helping friends achieve century ambitions and learning to ride a recumbent (all subjects for unwritten blog posts - sorry) the opportunities for a long bike ride on the road bike have been few and far between this year. Also I haven't been too convinced about how my hands would hold up. However, after doing some longer rides on the tandem I felt they would surely be ok on the lighter, and easier to ride, road bike so I decided to go and see. My personal record for distance of 140 miles had stood for a couple of year and I still have a hankering to do a double century but I thought I'd just see what 150 felt like first.

As I also like to commit myself in these long rides (it makes it harder to quit if you have to ride back) I plotted a route to take me from St. Andrews north to Pitlochry and then home by following the Tay to Perth before popping back into Fife, skirting the Lomonds before, finally, riding on well trodden roads from Ladybank home. This path had the benefit of being lumpy for the first 75 miles or so and then much flatter for the rest. I'm not really into self imposed pain and suffering!

With a day taken off work and a decent enough weather forecast I got up at 4 a.m and managed to leave by 5. My plan was to get out of Fife, through Dundee and possibly even out of Blairgowrie before most people were up and about. The plan was working well, with little traffic and that peaceful early morning feeling. If you don't ride early in the morning, you really do miss a magical part of the day. I hadn't bargained on being stopped by a level crossing! But here I was at the bottom of the road to Longforgan waiting on the train to go by. All plans have their problems.

Once I got going again I was soon on the first real climb of the day. I had picked the easiest in the Sidlaws, Knapp. Nothing in the day, apart from the distance, was designed to challenge my bicycling ability. Knapp came and went and I headed towards the first unknown section of road, high above Abernyte. I was delighted to see the 40 mph speed limit signs with their "Cycling and walking friendly road" sub-sign. And, despite there being a fair amount of traffic on a back road before 8 a.m., I can honestly say that the road was fine. It went up a bit, but my get out of jail gearing just let me spin up to the top without strain.

A view from above Knapp
The descent was also very pleasant. I kept encouraging myself to coast. My Stoker would have been so proud. On a long bike ride I don't feel the extra speed you get by pushing on down these bits really makes any difference to the day. And you might as well save the energy. All too soon the exploration came to an end and I was back on roads I have ridden before, albeit in the other direction. This was just a brief encounter though and a sharp right hand junction took me on to the smallest road of the day. And almost spelled the end of my journey as me and the car coming the other way on the narrow hump backed bridge were both very surprised to see the other. They managed to give me enough room and I managed to slow down and steer into the very small gap. No harm done... After a section of interesting surface the road improved and I sneaked into the back of Coupar Angus. This was very much a feature of the ride; coming into places by unexpected roads where possible.

The sign for Coupar Angus on my way out....
From Coupar Angus there's a main road that runs straight to Blairgowrie, my next destination, but that's no fun. So over the bridge, over the River Isla, and then first right onto the back roads again. By this time farm traffic was definitely up and about and I had to make way for a tractor. Let's be honest, on my bike I'm the interloper on these roads. The fruit pickers (I assume it was fruit) were already up as well and I cruised by thankful for my day off work. Blairgowrie reacquainted me with town traffic and the sights and sounds of people starting their day. I'm sure they would have considered it mad that I'd already been up for over 4 hours and 3 of them had been on a bike! Blairgowrie merges with Rattray and it was here that I stopped at the local Scotmid to refill my water bottles and pick up something savoury to eat. I carry flapjacks and gels but after a few hours my body seems to demand savoury so that's what I buy. In this case a couple of mini pork pies. Yum! I usually share this bounty on rides like this with Vic, my wingman, but this time I got to eat one and save one for later.

The road from this first proper stop (I'm not talking about comfort stops here) was the bit of the ride I was dreading most. The pull over to Bridge of Cally takes a real grind of a hill first and then what I remembered as a really rough road down to the small hamlet. Well, the hill wasn't as bad as I had feared and the road surface has been repaired in a lot of places so, all in all, it wasn't too bad. The traffic on this section was still gnarly; the drivers clearly don't expect or appreciate the cyclist. At Bridge of Cally the road forks and, for the first time ever, I took the fork to take me to Pitlochry. I love the experience of a new road. No amount of viewing on Street View (and I had purposefully not done much this time) prepares you for the little lumps and bumps of the real thing. And this road was delightful. Up, down, left and right, cruising through the valley. I don't know why but I wasn't expecting it to be so agricultural. And so I soon (or not, time is funny on a bike) came to Kirkmichael.

Kirkmichael - getting there, this time on the way in
The view from just off the road. Those clouds to the left would bring rain

Here was another junction, this time the road split between a choice of Pitlochry or turning back to Glen Shee. It's a road for another time. And I kept on to Pitlochry. The valley starts to close in here but the pass isn't obvious until the road starts to climb and turn a little under the south flanks of Ben Vrackie. The pass is more like a little plateau and you actually end up climbing a second little rise before the descent begins. It was on the crest of the first climb that I had to stop and put my jacket on to shield me from the shower that had developed into something a little more like summer rain.

Unfortunately this meant that the steep road down was wet and a little slippery. Not knowing it certainly didn't help, nor did the road surface in places. A long way down, in Pitlochry itself, I actually stopped at the top of a wet and very steep looking slope before taking the turning on my right and going down an easier slope. This had the unfortunate side effect of bringing me out deeper into Pitlochry's main street where I suffered my only really bad bit of driving all day. Why drivers feel the need to squeeze past when nothing is travelling very fast I have no idea. But there it is. Luckily no harm was done.

I negotiated my way out of the metropolis and onto the small road to Logierait. Here I had to stop when I realised my computers (don't ask - call it redundancy) were not registering the speed from the sensor. This has an onward effect of not recording distance, or at least not displaying it so I needed to see if it was a wee blip or whether I would have to stop using the sensor and switch to GPS reckoning. My problem with this would have been two fold: it's not that accurate in trees, and I would have lost my cadence data. On a long ride like this I can really manage my heart rate by managing my cadence (not letting it get stupidly high) and that has a knock on effect to my ease of completion. I'd given up hope before "just giving it one more try" to find that it worked just fine. I was back on my way and happy. The road to Logierait is narrow and I found the verges somewhat overgrown. I was lucky not to meet much traffic on it I think and I made it to the end quickly enough.

The way onwards from here went across a bridge with wooden planks to meet up with a bigger road on the west side of the glen. The A9 runs down the other side and is not the choice for bikes. I had an uneventful ride down this section of road until an insect managed to get in behind my glasses. I still don't know what it was but it stung or bit me between my eyebrow and eyelid and for a while I was little worried that I would end up with a swollen eye and only be able to see out of the other one. It wasn't to be and I soon regained my slightly flawed binocular vision. During this time a tandem went the other way but I wasn't able to give them the greeting they deserved. A shame, as I saw very few cyclists all day.

My next adventure focused on the problem of crossing the A9 and getting down to Dunkeld. As I was using this part of the trip as a scouting mission I decided to take the Sustrans route. Hah! I had been told by friends that a road bike is not the ideal bike to do this bit on. They are quite correct. It's not impossible as I, and they, have proved but it's far from ideal. From the west side the path (I'm not calling it a cycle way) is joined by riding along the pavement on a bridge before turning off and underneath the bridge. This part is on a dirt Landrover track. With many potholes. From there you continue on, now on a double rut forest track. I was lucky enough to meet 4 walkers, of a certain vintage, who took a while to realise I was there despite ever louder calls of "Excuse me". On a track better suited for cross bikes or mountain bikes, with an alarming drop to the river at one point but no objective danger though as the track is wide you eventually come out at some sign of civilisation beside the river with more parked cars, fishermen and a sandy surface beside a wooden fence. The surface just wants to grab your front wheel. Steering or braking is not advised. Both nearly had me off. I stopped for some trophy photos before heading off. Gingerly.

The "beach"
Fishermen and the River Tay

The track "improves" and is made up of some kind of tiled surface. I was just glad not to get my tyres caught. Eventually a sign takes you to the tarmac of the private road into the small town of Dunkeld. Passing a car doing an interesting three point turn in a junction, whose driver clearly didn't want to stop to let me go by, I was more than happy to ride over the bridge and see the turning to Birnham and my lunch stop. It's not the first time I've stopped at the Birnham Arts Centre and I doubt it will be the last. Good food, good coffee and staff willing to fill my water bottles. You can't really ask for much more. I was a little early for lunch so I plumped for two rolls, one bacon and one sausage. Very nice.... While I was inside it rained, so I even missed a bit of a soaking. I'm not sure my bike though that was so great though. The exit out of Birnham also requires a choice of how to cross back over the A9. I chose the Sustrans route again; I've used it before and it's ok. A lot better than the one I'd just done into Dunkeld.

Back on the road proper again I was also back to familiar roads. I can't say I've ridden them a lot but I've ridden this section a couple of times in the last year or so, so I'm becoming comfortable with it. A small climb starts just outside Birnham but one over the top, you have the relatively flat plains of Perthshire as your playground. I took a turn to the east as soon as I had got to the top of the climb and headed out to Murthly. Here I got the unexpected pleasure of thanking a Sainsburys van driver in person for his courtesy as he waited a long time to pass me, and then was pulled up to make his next delivery a wee bit up the road. He seemed stunned but I wanted to say it. So often we talk about the bad drivers, it makes a change to give some thanks. Leaving him behind (I expected him to pass again, but I guess he turned and went back west and south) I headed towards my turn point, just short of the River Isla. Here I turned southwest to go to Perth and it was here that I began to feel the ministrations of the west, south west breeze that had been blowing all day. I rolled through Stanley and my century milestone. And then the few miles down the road to Luncarty. I was clearly nearing a bigger town as the amount of traffic was beginning to increase. Most of the drivers were fine and I had no really bad experiences as I headed once more towards the A9. Here I got to do my last piece of exploration for the day when I took a little road out of Luncarty (dead end - apart for cyclists). This got ever narrower before a bridge took me over the railway line and to the main road. There's a super cycle path here. Although close to this major road it's not beside you as such and it's a nice flat way into the edge of Perth.

The Perth cycle way. Roots one - rear light nil. The reason for the stop.
The downside is the little bit of fiddling you have to do at the end; going down and under the road on a very dark track (even in the daylight) before you pop out on a small road. You then need to find the next turning back onto the main cycleway that take you to the North Inch in Perth. This was hidden for me by a well placed car but I saw it after I turned around. Then it was onto the lovely track round the edge of Perth. This track is scenic and reduces the negotiation of Perth's traffic to a minimum. This time round I found the correct exit for Dundee (where I was going, very loosely). A little bit of playing with the cars and using the advanced cycle boxes to my advantage saw me through Perth without too much trouble. This marked the end of my flat lands, at least for the time being. The pull out of Perth is quite steep and coming out of town requires a move to the right hand lane on a dual carriageway. I was lucky with the traffic and feeling strong enough to deal with the hill, albeit at a nice slow pace. Then the road drops again all the way to Bridge of Earn.

Here I had a choice; a sit down coffee at the Brig Farm coffee or a quicker refill at the Co-op in the village. I wasn't feeling the need for the full sit down treatment. So filling the bottles myself, a quick remix of energy drink and then the treat of salted peanuts with caramel bits. That stuff is good. I must remind myself never to have it unless I'm on a big bike ride. The calories must be huge!

I now faced my last real challenge. The plan was to ride through Glenfarg. But this is a little climb and I wasn't looking forward to it that much. Or getting to the bottom of it either. So many times that little bit of road has hurt me on other trips. This time, however, it went fine and I approached the climb happily enough. Low gear, low speed, just get to the top. It was here I had my only spaced out moment of the day. I was completely convinced I was past the landmark of the Bein Inn when I came upon it. Weird. It knocked me a little as I had been so sure. A little bit more concentration and a reminder not to lose the plot saw me to the top and the houses of Glenfarg. A very gradual climb from here takes you towards Kinross and Loch Leven. Coming out of some tree lined shelter up above this sight I was suddenly caught in a little squall. I dropped several gears, thought about my jacket, decided no, and headed down the hill a little.

I was moving away from the towns again and heading towards Balgeddie and my turn point. From heading mostly south I was now going to switch my attention to going east. And I was hoping that the wind was truly from the west. Because if it was I was going to have that helping hand most of the way home. One last pull saw me turned and heading up to the top of the Dryside road. The surface here is interesting in either direction, and with 120 miles in the legs and hands I felt every bump. But not in a tired way; I just knew I'd been out for a while. I passed a family of tourists (Americans I think) stopped beside the road. I was able to confirm to them that they were on the right road for Falkland before heading away on my own adventure.

West Lomond from Dryside
The view north west from the same spot
Down Dryside was a blast and I managed to avoid the potholes as well as you can on this road, which is mostly ok, but definitely has it's moments. Strathmiglo came and went. The little bit of "big" road had me concerned from a traffic point of view and, again, I've had some low moments there but I made it to the turn off for the little farm road with no incidents. In fact when I signalled left the car behind me just waited until I had turned without overtaking me. Nice! This farm road is one of those great cut-throughs, delivering me into Dunshalt where I got to turn off onto another small road that leds to Freuchie. I was flying now, or at least I wasn't hanging about. Flat roads, known roads, wind behind and heading down into the 20s on my internal countdown. Crossing to two bigger roads and into Ladybank proved no trouble apart from the first junction where from what I can tell there is no road surface. Not so nice.

After Ladybank a cruise along a back road, a junction, a level crossing and then into the private road of the Rankeilour estate. The barrier was down which gave me an excuse to get off and take a picture or two before heading on. A little rise and then back to the public road and into Springfield. Here, for the last time but not the first, my rear light popped off when I went over a bump. Luckily neither of the cars, I had to wait for before picking it up, ran over it. I broke it later when my bike fell over in my drive. Sigh.

Rankeilour stop
It was around now that I realised that I was going to arrive in Cupar around rush hour (rush ten minutes really). Should I stop or should I just push on? I knew I was a little tired. A little tired means a little less tolerant and the driving up the main road from Cupar to Pitscottie is not always the best. Don't ask me why. If you've read this far, then like me, you'll just push on. Stopping now is not an option. The car driving was ok. Even the cab-only HGV that went past. And I rolled in and through Pitscottie with a quick wave to my bike shop of the moment, Two Wheel Care.

The last part of the day required cycling over the little ramps out of Pitscottie and up to Blebo. I've done them many times and this time was just another trip. Not hard, not easy, just there. The wind direction definitely helped here. What I'd have felt like slogging these last miles into an easterly I do not know. I was just glad I didn't have to find out. I had just enough energy left to make some effort for speed on the run home. Then it was into the edge of town, then the usual pothole avoidance before finally arriving at the Whey Pat, my ride's start and destination, 12 hours, 17 minutes and 16 seconds after I'd left.

The little way back home was easy enough but the climb up the mountain that makes up the approach to my home street was definitely there and not a molehill as it sometimes is. I arrived back home, happy, content and, maybe, just maybe, a little tired. A good day.

Reflections


A day later and, perhaps, it hasn't quite sunk in. To be honest I found the ride pretty easy. I planned it (not a lot) and went and did it. That's in part thanks to the time I spend on bikes, in part thanks to good route selection, in part thanks to ok weather and in part thanks to sheer bloody mindedness. But it really wasn't a struggle, or hard. It was just a ride.

And because I did it on my own I don't have the shared experience with someone else. So there's no reflected glory or a feeling of a team victory. So, in that sense, I'm much more proud of the rides I've done recently where I feel I've helped others achieve their goals.

Maybe it's just post event blues. Next, please, bring it on.....

The ride






Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Another learning experience

As anyone who has read this blog knows I have had issues with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. This has led to me riding my trike which is great fun but a little slow and, for me, not really the road bike replacement that I was looking for. There is, as ever, another solution. It comes in the form of a two wheeled recumbent bicycle. Unlike "normal" diamond frame bikes there are a multitude of different types. Feel free to use the internet to see them all.
For the purposes of this post suffice it to say that David at Laid Back Bikes in Edinburgh did another great job of helping me choose one to buy. Here it is in all its glory in David's shop.

Hmm, it looks the business...
And one of me on it, on the day I picked it up. I'm not looking very confident....

.... maybe not with me on it though
It's a mid-racer, somewhere between a low-racer and a high-racer but has the advantage of twin 700c wheels, just like my road bike. So is should roll more easily, and maybe more comfortably, than the trike over our less than perfect roads. It is also lighter. The loss of the third wheel, though, does lead to a lack of stability as you might imagine. I could, so easily, have called this post "Learning to ride".

First steps


I bought the bike on trust really. Despite his help David had only managed to get me to wobble a little way on a recumbent under my own steam and that with a good push to start and him running up the road behind me. It must look odd, but I guess he's used to it as are the inhabitants of Edinburgh near his shop. He assured me that if I could do that then I could learn to ride. So I picked the bike up in December and brought it back to my garage.
I put it on the turbo (another advantage of the wheels and configuration) and found the space between the odd looking bars less spacious than the term "open cockpit" would suggest. Either that or I have enormous thighs. A distinct possibility that. A bit of fiddling gave me enough space between the cables and gear shifters to actually pedal and I was happy. Then the bike sat in the garage for a while until the weather was better.
Eventually in February I could put it off no longer and the contraption had to come out of the garage or I was never going to try it. It's not easy. The pedals are a long way off the ground and convincing myself to get even one up there while freewheeling the bike down the slightest of slopes was difficult enough. Actually, freewheeling the bike down that slope was hard enough to start. I did manage on that first day to get both feet on the pedals, after stabilising a freewheel start, and I did achieve a few revolutions of those pedals. It's been a while since I've been so happy with such a minor success.
Next time out it was more of the same, roll down the slope, try to pedal some revolutions and then walk the bike back up again. Then, as it was quiet, I decided to turn out of the junction and go around the block. Wobbly! I got some odd looks from some pedestrians but, hey, I'm used to those from the tandem and the trike. Twice round the block had me feeling like a recumbent rider. The only issue was that I couldn't start the bike from stationary. I needed a slight slope to get me going first.

Starting


Next time out I made the concious effort to attempt starts. And, in the end, I managed it. It's rather like the tandem. You need to commit and take your hands off the brakes. Simple really but oh so difficult to do. Unlike the tandem (and other upright bikes) you do need to be very careful about the gear you are in. Too easy a gear and you can't get enough speed into the bike to get rolling and too hard a gear and you can't get the wheels turning easily enough. I'm sure the range of starting gears will increase as I get better at it.
This time I went around the block a few more times and had to deal with traffic. That's something that's still quite scary although as I get more confident and have more control it is becoming better. I'd still like more space though. Even more on this bike as it is easier to wobble a bit and less easy to bring it back. There's less ability to use your whole body as a steering mechanism.

Improving


I'm not going to take you through all my baby steps rides - you can find them in the Strava links below. I am improving and, after commuting to work one day (traffic fun), I have now ridden the bike up to Strathkinness and back a couple of times (changing gear and everything). Out on the big roads as I say. It's easier there in some ways. Fewer junctions, fewer cars and other distractions (I nearly crashed once when I got sidetracked by a pedestrian) all lead to being able to just ride. Of course the downside is that the traffic there is, is generally going faster. The two rides to Strath do indicate a certain amount of speed is attainable on this bike. So it is definitely a contender as a replacement road machine. I'll do my best to keep you posted. In the meantime here's a picture of the bike at the turnaround in Strathkinness.

Wow! I rode it to here!