At the top of the climb wind now gusting to 35mph and cycling into a headwind (20mph) - the mouse has gone.
Rain stinging: I am sure people would pay good money for this level of massage.
70k into the ride, the mouse is back and the relentless headwind has gone... to be replaced by a cheeky wee crosswind - balance tested again as the bike jumps around the road - oh and the rain is back too. Haven't found any downhill sections as the wind is so strong I have to pedal even downhill.
Identified the trapped mouse as my rubber bootees rubbing on the crank.. after 100k they are redesigned and lighter, but leak as they are sporting two holes. Last bit of the ride into Tain over the Moray
Firth bridge very hairy, the crosswinds are crazy.
Fantastic scenery in between showers, amazing hills and very friendly people: a great but tough day.
bridge never entered my head... instead I cycle leaning at about 30 degrees to counter the wind.
Climb out of the valley and up to the top of the moors above Loch Ness. On the climb, two racing snakes on bikes creep past me battling the wind. About 5k further on, I catch up with them on the summit: they of course are turning back to make the most of a tailwind and the downhill - I can't print what goes through my mind.....!
Push onwards and upwards towards FortAugustus, the wind still crazy strong. About 10k from our meeting point I see Cinzia parked at the side of a small loch, and the wind here is so strong that I have to shelter behind the car or risk being blown off. She assures me we are close and it's downhill. Unfortunately on a bike all the 'rises' on the roads are hills....... Anyway, there is a downhill section (13%), sheltered enough that I don't have to pedal.... result!
Have a wee break in Fort Augustus and then cycle to Fort William past the Commando Memorial, which is lit with green lights and looking spectacular in the dark. The head wind has slowed to 15mph - arrive tired.
Although day 2 has been tougher than day 1, the scenery was incredible, and the wee roads (single track) quiet - you can travel for miles without meeting another car... amazing country.
at Fort William and out towards Ballachulish, on the main road connecting the ferry so it gets busy. The main threat on the route is the timber lorries: these guys drive at break neck speed and pass without slowing down. The suction as they pass pulls you towards them and throws you in the other direction... more balance practice!
As a lad I used to come to SpeanBridge on holiday, and to get across the estuary you had to queue for a ferry. The slipways are still there, but a new bridge takes you across the village and onto a by-pass. Shame, the village was lively in its days.
Onwards to Glencoe and then up a reasonable climb through the glen. The weather has been kind, it's only blowing a gale and guess what? It's a headwind. How does that work? I have travelled south, east, west and south east -
and every time the wind is in my face.
Battle on up the glen, the scenery is dramatic, and more so when travelling at walking speed. Half way up the hill I meet a mobile team mending the road. As I am first in the queue and it is a fair hill, I ask if I could squeeze thru.
"Aye, nae problem, we'll hold the traffic for 10 minutes to let you get clear". True to their word, ten minutes later I have a queue of lorries, buses and cars all trying to squeeze past. I meet this team twice more and each time they let me through and hold up the traffic - absolute gents.
Push on to Tyndrum and then for the first time in three days, the downhill towards Loch Lomond isn't against a
headwind, in fact the wind has dropped to a balmy 16mph. Scenery on this route is breathtaking and the road super smooth: you can see why so many 'motorbikers' make the pilgrimage to the Green Welly cafe and
then up to Glencoe.
Final leg to Dumbarton is past Loch Lomond, which is beautiful this evening, more than I can say for the road surface which is appalling, with massive pot holes, and a broken top surface not very conducive to a road bike with 23mm wide tyres (120psi) - rock hard really. Luckily there is a cycle path, but looks can be deceptive as it is
rougher than the road.....
The satnav acted up 10k from the end of the route, taking me into the grounds of a very fancy hotel. The concierge wasn't very keen on me cycling thru the lobby and in their maicured garden... suggesting I find another route.... god bless technology.
Make good time once out of the glen and with the wind dropped, it's been a fantastic route today. I just want to know who swapped my seat for a razor blade.... ouch!!
First leg is thru Glasgow. The cycle route from Dumbarton to the city centre used to be an old railway, it is a well maintained path taking you thru residential and industrial areas as it moves to the city centre. In this lovely environment I am in my own wee world, that is until this almighty noise behind me scares the living daylights
out of me. The cycle route runs next to the local railway and the drivers obviously take great delight in
creeping up on unsuspecting travellers and giving it full blast.
This route is so pretty that I get distracted and miss the turning. Using my initiative (not the Sat Nav) I work out a route to re-connect me. Riding thru the high rise flat area of Glasgowcertainly draws lot of attention... (curiosity I think).
Into the city centre and things get complicated. Although the route is well sign posted the signs are for local areas in
Glasgow- not so helpful if you aren't a local. Needless to say I get lost, and end up in the docks where they keep the tall ships (worth a visit), but the Sat Nav is convinced I should be on the busy dual carriageway
Eventually I find the right route, which is over a bridge and dual carriageway - I had passed the bridge earlier thinking it was a footbridge, I should have looked closer, as there is a small piece of tar between each step acting as a ramp for a bike to be pushed up the steps - not the last time today where steps play a part on the cycle route.
The route thru town keeps me busy... at one point I meet a fellow cyclist coming the other way clearly distressed.
I stop. He has been in the centre lost for three hours trying to find a way to Loch Lomond. As I had just
come down that route he benefited from my local knowledge: I don't mention that I got lost twice on the same route.
Out of town towards Blantyre and Hamilton where I get lost again (you wouldn't think I have the Sat Nav switched on)... luckily a cycle thru the shopping precinct gets me back on route, but not without a few looks. At Larkhall we meet for lunch. As there is nowhere obvious to put the bike, the owner suggests I take it inside. Good food, great support - the cafe is named Aroma, worth of a good review on TripAdvisor.
The road takes me down the B7078 to Lockerbie. The A74 was the original dual carriageway from Glasgow to
Carlisle(Scottish motorway), a very dangerous road as tractors regularly crossed it to get to fields and livestock.
I have travelled on this road countless times. About 5 years ago it was finally replaced with the M74... the decommissioned road is now the B7078 and they have made part of the dual carriageway a cycle route.
Fantastic idea..... the only problem is when the path ends and you move back to the road, there is little to no maintenance, all the signs have been removed and holes left where the junction cats eyes used to be,
bone juddering on a bike and a bit 'creepy' -over 25 miles I meet less than 20 vehicles.
First 18% climb today. There have been loads of 10 - 14%, which are generally longer and equally tough. A route of incredible contrasts: industrial, residential, commercial and then tranquillity... all supported by stunning views.
And finally, a special mention to Christina at the Queen's Hotel in Lockerbie -great service always with a smile, and despite the fact that the kitchen stopped at 9pm, she prepared my dinner at 10pm...... great people make all the difference!
Oh! and my aching bones... they are holding out. I went for two sets of padded shorts today, felt like a pea on a mountain - and my bum looks like it's fainted, However, ignoring the aesthetics, the tactic definitely took the sting out of the tail... so to speak.
Thank you all for the messages of support: Cinzia and Rebecca ensure I have the updates - and for all those worried about the mouse.... it's set free :-)
Start at 9.00. This is going to be a challenging day as the famous Shap climb is on route..... another day for the "double padding". First stop is planned at a small town after Gretna called Calthwaite, about 35 miles from the start. Following the old A74 the cycle route takes me down to Gretna.
Still making its money from marriages, I stop to take a picture at one of the many "original marriage locations" to hear the sound of a lone piper, serenading (if you like the pipes) the wedding guests. I had arranged to meet the support team (family) at the border for a photo opportunity. As I arrive, a group of cyclists are getting the obligatory picture at
the "Welcome to Scotland" sign. As it happens they are doing LEJOG (Land End to John O'Groats) -immaculately
dressed in their matching team clothes, with identical bikes they certainly look the part.
The climb from the coast (Gretna) and up into the hills takes me past the Carlisleracecourse, perched high on the
outskirts of the town. I don't get lost, however I consistently manage to be in the wrong lane - normally a forced
Through the rolling hills I make my way towards Calthwaite where we have arranged to have a tea/cake stop - unfortunately it is shut. I don't mean the cafe, the complete village looks shut...... talk about a sleepy town.
Luckily the support team rustles up lunch alfresco. Minor adjustments to the seat (lower) in an effort to improve comfort, and I set off towards Shap.
True to form, the countryside changes from rolling hills to very steep rises and falls, which on a bike means 6-10% climbs, some lasting 40 minutes. At 5 o'clock. to great elation from all (and a personalised welcome sign from Rebecca!) I reach the top of the hill.
Unfortunately, unlike the M6 where a sign clearly marks the summit, this is far more discrete: only a small plaque to the memory of the road builders, local community and service staff that gave their commitment and in some cases lives to keep this stretch of road open in deepest winter.
Well, after all this climbing it just has to be downhill now and for the next 3 miles it is, then another brutal hill just brings me back to reality...... The route down towards Kendal and then on towards Carnforth is predominantly car free, as I use small lanes and single track roads - just a few cyclists coming the other way and dog walkers. This is such a nice road following the undulations of the land that I forget to check my sat nav.... and you guessed it, off route again, or in other words lost.
Arrive at Carnforth at 7.45 in good shape, all aches and pains under control, may even go for normal cycle padded shorts tomorrow, rather than the double layer - we shall see what the morning brings.
I think I have climbed up and down today for 60 miles, the final 5 getting to the summit of Shap.
- for fair skinned folk... even on a wet, overcast days put sun cream on -
otherwise you get sunburnt... like me
- don't let the tractors pulling the slurry tanker pass you on country roads: they are always overfilled, leaving regular deposits on the straights and copious amounts on the corners - mmmmm, country aromas.....
rush hour traffic to Lancaster. It is overcast and damp, but the forecast is for hotter weather.
Last day of double-decker cycle shorts, which are now being supported by vast quantities of chamois cream. The cream works very well, but brings a high risk of sliding off the seat... need to get the quantities right or a bigger seat. Talking of seats, normality is returning: the razor blades have gone to be replaced by a hard wooden bench.
Arrive in good time in Lancasterand making great progress, until I fall victim to roadworks and diversions -within 10 minutes I am off route with no clear way back. Trying to find the route has me in hospital grounds, dead ends, one way streets and down a river walkway... you can't say cycling is dull!
The next test is Preston, but I am convinced all will be well, and it is, until I reach the city centre where the Garmin has me looping around a large complex roundabout. Luckily I don't follow the instructions to the letter - or I would still be
After my gadget challenges, the council plays a significant part in my fate. Little red signs start to appear in the middle of the road (Road Closed) - what would be really helpful is a diversion.... but no. One of the most significant road
closures (for a cyclist) happens at the bottom of a steep (18%) mile long downhill. Gesticulating wildly at the sign in the middle of the road makes no difference, so it is time for initiative.
The bridge I am standing on is over a canal with the outline of a path at the side (looks very similar to the sheep trails
found on mountains). Taking my roadbike in arms I clamber down the bank to the path and set off in the vague hope there will be another bridge and road. It is at times like this that you want to have a clear run with no people, unfortunately I bump into the local outing....... It has got to be a bus load of ramblers and dog walkers all 'double taking' at this road bike ploughing through the vegetation. Barmy as it sounds, the plan does work: 4 miles later there is a bridge and a road. Clambering up the steps hewn into the bank I make my way to the top - cleats and steps don't go well.
Walking across the road ready to set off up the hill which turns out to be 18% as well, I noticed that If I had cycled under the bridge there is a slight incline up to the road...... no steps!!
The last bit of the journey is through rolling countryside, supported by my travelling companion (the wind) who today has brought a new friend - a slight breeze. Five miles from Chester a sudden downpour turns normality into chaos,
sections of road become flooded and drivers go out of their way to find the largest puddle and soak me.
A day of surprises: I thought it was going to be a simple run down to Chester - how wrong can one be?
on the way back the driver asked if we want to go around the course. We then set off round the inside track, then go to the show arena, weighing rooms and inside the lockers... this spontaneous gesture made the trip to Chester very
The ride down to Shrewsburygoes to plan, the weather is good, not too hot and I arrive in town slightly ahead of plan.
With my normal flare for shooting past junctions, I manage to miss the entrance to a cycle path and then get myself into a right stramash. It takes me an extra 30 minutes to get on track, compounding the problem by trying to use main roads, rather than cycle routes.
The red sign fairy is at play today setting up two diversions and no clues. All of this adds to the journey time and extends the miles considerably. Not to be outdone, around mid afternoon the heavens opens and it pours - the rain is
vertical and within minutes there are dubs everywhere. However, there is no wind - see, every cloud and all that...
Two technical things about my bike choice... it's a double chaining (front) so struggles a bit with very steep hills and more importantly, considering the weather, it doesn't have mudguards. No mudguards when going slow is fine, but if you are going downhill then a spray that would give Niagara falls a run for its money rises from the rear wheel. Unfortunately the spray bleeds a little (actually quite a lot) in the direction of the rider, landing roughly around your neck line and waistband. That feeling of cold water pouring down your shorts, running down your neck and your shoes battling in their own front wheel tsunami, makes riding a memorable experience.
About 20miles from Hereford a white car passes tooting the horn: it's Stewart and Jane. Braving the elements they have tracked me down...... it is really uplifting to see them both, and the banner makes me smile. The memories of them waving and shouting encouragement stay with me for the rest of the journey, which passes in a flash. Arrive at the hotel in time for tea, wringing wet but in high spirits - the bike makes its debut in our room, as there is no other safe place for storage.
After a few diversions I eventually find the right route to get across the bridge. My route takes me across the right hand side of the bridge, and half way across I hear a horn blaring: Cinzia and Rebecca have tracked me down.
My route takes me under the motorway and then into an industrial estate which causes real problems for the support crew... but 20 minutes later they have tracked me down and we stop.
A quick re-fuel stop and then I push on. The weather has picked up, no rain and the wind has dropped.
Cycling from Bristoltakes me alongside a dual carriageway on a very narrow path, and after about 30 minutes I came across a group of walkers and 4 cyclists. It's like buses, you don't see any and then all of a sudden loads come at
once! The walkers step off the path so I could get through, but the cyclist coming towards me slows to a
wobble. I figure he is stopping, so am about to go through the gap when I hear: "coming through", my response is:
"falling off" and I crash to the ground.
After untangling myself from the bike and getting to my feet I carry on... that's what happens when you assume!!!
Things are going well, I am on route, the hills are manageable and then just to make the day more interesting, the roadworks fairies appear and at two different locations road closure signs appear. After some careful navigation I get
round the first one, but the second is more frustrating, as every road I take says there are road closures, Five
miles out of my way and I start to get back on route.
Travelling like this you meet a wide range of people, in one 'estate' at a junction where I had taken yet another wrong road, I had the priviledge of dealing with a grouo of 18-20 year olds who took a fancy to my bike. The negotiations started with a straight swap for one of their dodgy BMX, but after some words I rode off without a care in the world. In my head I was waiting for the chase to collect their prize possession. Needless to say they were as good as gold, my heart however still missed a beat.
Coming into the final destination, I am pleased that I will arrive before its dark..... But I have spoken too soon as at a key junction I cannot find the connecting road. It turns out not to be a road but an unmarked cycle path through a gap in a wall. Proceeding along the path, light fading, I cycle for a few miles before coming across a railway bridge.
It is now pitch black, I am in the middle of nowhere but I do know that I have to be on the other side of the river.
The railway bridge has to be the answer, so stumbling around I find some maintenance access steps, I pick up the bike and get up the steps: cleats and metal steps are a recipe for disaster.
Following the walkway I get to the other side and more steps: all that I can think off is how surreal this must look (luckily it's dark). Ten minutes later after meandering through garage access roads and industrial units I find the canal
path to the hotel. As I approach the hotel I hear this very loud beeping, quickly followed by the noise of a train... I have picked a hotel just yards from a busy high speed mainline and automatic junction (hence the beeping).
If that train had passed as I was on the bridge, I think I would have died of fright - talk about seeing a different side of
I had always planned for this to be a long day... and it doesn't disappoint. Leaving Bridgwater the terrain quickly changes into rolling hills. I still don't know after all these miles why the downhill sections don't give you enough momentum to get up the next hill.... must be a physics thing.
This route has a number of category 5 climbs (I think there are 10), all of which can be a 'bit spiky'. I tried really hard to avoid counting them on the journey, mainly because when you get a wee bit tired all the climbs become category 5 and sometimes 4.
Increase the stops today, to help me stay focussed and break the mileage down into chunks that give encouragement, the longer legs being first. Fuel stops can be informal (laybys) or formal where we have a seat...... normally outside on
benches at pubs.
In the village of Pennymoor, the pub we picked happens to have live traditional folk music. As we arrive the music sounds good, however by the time we leave different players and more alcohol change it into a group of musicians off key with different tempos - I can confirm that jazz folk music doesn't have a place in the future. The poor woman who owns the pub is looking more forlorn as time progresses. We ask how long the group stay for....."until we close", "Oh dear", our response... she smiles before saying "closing early today"... and thirty minutes later she does just that, saying as she leaves "just leave the glasses on the table"
Push on making the last stop about 10 miles from Boscastle, the final destination for the day. It is just on the border of darkness (called the gloamin in Scotland) but I figure I have enough time to get there without my light on. Ten minutes later I have the brakes on hard as I go down a hill more than 25% - the road I have picked is not well used, with grass up the middle and littered with horse deposits (dung) - some deposits as big as mini-roundabouts. It takes 15 minutes to get down the hill, my hands are aching holding the brake levers so tight.
Going down hill always comes at a price and it is no surprise to find out its twin (uphill) was on the other side. The good news is the horses must have turned off, the bad news is the hill was so steep that the tar had been done in sections, each section looking like a lava flow as it runs down hill during the drying process. Although incredibly bumpy, the next section (no tar) is even more challenging, I could have been lost forever if I had dropped into one of the potholes.
Later than I planned, I finally make it back to the main route down to Boscastle, and now it is pitch black, I have two front lights on to try and see the road detail... so glad I didn't get lulled into "it's only 10 miles.... you will blast that!".
The first 10 miles go very quickly, Ray doing a sterling job of blocking the wind and setting the pace, very difficult task when you are pulling someone along with tired legs. We arrive at our first checkpoint ahead of time, so much so that the support team are just leaving Boscastle. Rather then wait, we continue on, until we arrive at Ladock about 35 miles into the journey.
Poor signal prevent the support team from tracking us so they have been driving around trying to find us. We stop, have a sit on a bench and just wait. Being a Bank Holiday, the majority of the town is shut however the team had come prepared.
Cornish pasty is my choice of nutrition: I am sure this will come back to bite me later, and after re-fuelling we head off. At about 45 miles, the food choice sinks to my legs and it feels like peddling in treacle. Ray matches my dropping speed and keeps me going... this is a tough part of the ride with plenty of hill climbing so there isn't much chance to chat.
Went thru the 'pasty barrier' after about 45 minutes and our speed slowly builds back up - no real acceleration in the legs at this stage of the ride, so it's a slow burn.
On one of the downhill sections we come across a set of lights just changing, but the car in front is slow off the mark. So I start to pass it, the poor guy nearly faints at the site of this yellow flash trying to pass - sadly he wins the race and passes me.
Getting closer to our next food stop, the pace increases and the terrain changes from climbing to undulating and to a superb downhill - touching 45mph we race down the hill raking through the bends and hurtling over those yellow painted lines that are really aggressive, shaking the bikes violently.
Stopping at a pub in a village less than 20 miles from Land's End we are still ahead of time. A more controlled food stop for me (no pasties left), we keep the stopping time to a minimum and then set off for the last miles.
The route I had planned takes us along the coast and then up some 'cheeky wee climbs' (20%+) some lasting almost a mile - so much for Cornwall only having short climbs. As we ridee through the country towards Land's End, the road still has a few surprises with short sharp hills. On one of these tough little climbs we come round the corner to the entrance of farm. On a post was a handwritten notice "Beware of the deaf cat".... some things can still make you laugh even on tough hill climbs.
Twenty minutes later we join the A30, about one mile away from Land's End, and at this stage the road and cycling become easy and I cover the ground without effort. Arriving at the end point about 7pm, the team are there to welcome us.
Rebecca presents me with a specially engraved medal to mark the journey, and the most amazing banner, pictures are taken in front of the Land's End sign.. That evening we celebrated with champagne and a cake that Cinzia had commissioned - baked by Sam from Bath Lane Bakery (details can be found in facebook), who had created the most amazing design. A sponge and fruit cake to suit all tastes was decorated with the most amazing detail... what a work of art!
And now, it's over ...... it has been a life enhancing journey for me, I have seen and learned so much about others and myself. A truly amazing experience enhanced by having company on the last leg... ...thanks Ray.
I do hope you have enjoyed my blog, and special thanks to everyone who has posted here, texted and left comments on Facebook. The comments and support have been immense......
There is no doubt that this has been the adventure of a lifetime and it took considerable planning, but it couldn't have happened without the time, commitment and support from Cinzia and Rebecca - thank you both.... what an amazing team!
- Its true what they say about the wind coming from the south
- remember to take a back up to any electronic devices ... a map helps
- pack less that you think you need
- use a triple chainring... protect your knees
- long sleeve jumpers are required early morning/late night
- be as visible as possible.... all the time
- consider mudguards
- relax and enjoy it... as it all happens so fast