So here we are the start of a new year and hopefully many new adventures. But before we get rolling we thought we would take a shooting glance over the shoulder to see the peloton we left behind. A bite-size taste of our favourite rides in 2018.
Best BCR rides of 2018
2018 was a strange year for me, from a cycling perspective.
I completed quite a few events but didn’t rack up a particularly high amount of total miles for the year.
The usual Scottish winter weather, coupled with snow falling well into March put paid to a need to cover a significant amount of road miles early in the year, and the only excuse for not getting the CX bike out seems to have been a general air of couldn’t be arsed-ness.
This meant that when the first big event of the year came around, the Tour De Lauder in late April, I’d only just broken 100km for the year so far. A paltry effort.
The Tour De Lauder has two routes, 50 miles or 89 miles.
Both are quite hilly and feature a final climb with a tough section touching 20% gradient, so I opted for the 50-mile version.
The event itself was well organised, with excellently stocked feed stops (plenty of savoury options which so many other events lack), and took place on a sunny, if slightly breezy day, which always makes things more enjoyable.
The 60km road section was great, with a brilliant route through one of the best parts of the country to ride in.
The 40km mountain bike section was a bit too technical for someone of my limited MTB experience, and after only completing one of the two laps I finished for the day, taking a DNF in the process.
Again this was a very well organised event, run by people who clearly have a love for the sport.
It’s on again in 2019 should anyone wish to try a dual discipline event.
Scariest ride for an acrophobic like myself was a Sunday BCR ride round the two bridges loop, in June.
Cycling 50 metres above the choppy, dark waters of the River Forth are not something I particularly enjoy, especially when there’s a wind blowing.
Should I ever manage to use this fear to expedite the process of crossing this expanse, that Strava segment is mine. I usually just concentrate on not crying though!
The suffering doesn’t just end with the Forth Road Bridge though, as our route home seems to always manage to go over a Bathgate Alp or two, as opposed to the direct road.
June also brings about an annual BCR staple, Ride To The Sun.
We’ve covered this before on these pages, but it’s an event that never fails to exceed expectations.
Fun, friendly, somewhat unique, brilliantly organised, and just a great event to participate in.
Another one to recommend for 2019.
My last big event of the year came in September, with the Grand Fondo Scotland.
It was the first year of this event, and as the start and finish were very local, it was one that the BCR boys had to support.
On to the matter at hand, though, my favourite ride of 2018.
There’s a lot to be enjoyed with organised events, there’s the well-stocked food stops, there’s the enjoyment of being out doing what you love with like-minded people, and so on.
The really best days, though, are usually the most unexpected or unplanned, when a number of factors come together to make a training ride a really good day out – If the sun is shining and the temperature is high, if the legs are feeling good and the parcours is testing yet enjoyable, if that morning coffee really hits the spot and bike and gear are looking fresh, then you end up with a really memorable day on the bike.
This is how it was on a Wednesday in July when myself and fellow BCR, Graham (Tank!), decided that as we were both work free for the day, we’d get out on our bikes. The only plans made pre-ride were that we’d meet at the Kelpies, head across the Clackmannanshire Bridge, and then North.
The morning was a bit overcast but the forecast had said it should brighten up later, so a pair of arm warmers would be my only clothing concession to the early cool. A bit of granola, fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, a quick Brazilian coffee as a kick-start, and then I was out the door. Tank was his usual self when we met at the Kelpies, the absolute antithesis of the rider who spends time thinking about what to wear, how they look, and what length their socks should be. It’s the battered old touring bike and toe clips and trainers for our boy, preferring to let the legs do the talking. Aesthetics is not a word in his vocabulary.
Once away, our ride took us out of the Helix Park by way of the River Carron toepath, and then through the very Flandrian back roads towards the Clackmannanshire Bridge. The almost ever-present breeze was there on the approach to, and over the bridge itself, and the sun was already burning off most of the cloud. The first little test of the legs came with the very short kicker of Lookaboutye Brae, up into Clackmannan, on the slope out of the river valley floor. Only 300 metres long at an average of around 7/8%, it’s by no means difficult, but it’s always one which gets you out of the saddle and gives you a chance to see if that spring in the legs is there. Luckily, on this day it seemed that everything was going well so far.
The road then took us through Alloa and into Sauchie, to pick up the bike path to Dollar. The road can be taken from Sauchie to Dollar, but it’s usually busy and not very picturesque, so the River Devon-side path is sometimes a better option, particularly if part of the purpose of your ride is social – no need to ride in single file or keep an eye out for cars on the wide path. These paths are obviously used by everyone, though, so care must be taken with obstacles of the human, canine and equine variety, as happens on this day.
The bike path ends at Dollar, so it’s time to re-join the busy A91. The road is rough and rising at average of around 3%, but ramping higher at points, which is parcours kryptonite for me. Tank has no such problems and his bigger build and higher power output means he’s quickly put 10-15 metres in to me, so it’s time to get the head down, the heart rate up, and try and close the gap. The catch isn’t made until Yetts O’ Muckhart, 4km later, and I presume had as much to do with him slowing down as me putting in an effort. A quick chat over our route and agreement is made to continue North, over the Ochils via Glendevon, and down to Gleneagles.
The descent to Gleneagles is a fun one, dropping 130 metres in elevation in 4 kilometres. We’re both heads down, on the drops, and picking the racing line through the twisting corners. The wind rushing past as we plunge down wards. Our route continues through the verdant, pine-scented expanse of Gleneagles golf course, and through Gleneagles village itself, where the dwellings are substantial and the conveyances are predominantly German. The sun is high in the sky now and the overcast morning has now turned into a warm, sun-kissed day. The arm wamers have long been demoted to the jersey pocket.
Once through Gleneagles our options for progression are numerous, but with it fast approaching midday thoughts inevitably turn to fuelling. Again options are plentiful, but agreement is reached on heading east and up to Dunning.
A bit of drama occurs on our way through Auchterarder as one of the 4×4’s which are ubiquitous in these parts sudenly slams on the anchors whilst negotiating the busy village High Street. Luckilly, we spot this early and with the assistance of rubber being firmly compressed on spinning metal, and much veering, swerving, and rear-wheel-fishtailing, we avoid contact between face and brake light.
We hang a right off the main road, through the tunnel under the A9 and are now on the short rise up to Dunning, where lunch awaits.
Firstly, we pass one of Perthshire’s more stranger tourist attractions, the memorial to Maggie Wall, supposedly burned for being a witch in 1657.
The only thing that’s burning now us our skin, with the sun now at it’s zenith, so it’s heads down and up the final kick in to Dunning itself, where the golf club cafe awaits.
Toasties and cake are washed down by coffee and cola as we chat and relax in the warm sunshine. There’s friendly banter with the mostly elderly patrons of the golf course and tennis courts. At the back of our minds, though, there’s always that feeling that the most testing part of today’s ride will soon be upon us, so once bills are settled and bidons are kindly refilled, we’re off again.
The most testing part of today’s ride is the climb from Dunning, through Dunning Glen, breaking the back of the end of the Ochil hills again, and down in to Yetts of Muckhart, which we passed through earlier.
Long for this part of Scotland (over five kilometres) but never too steep, the road up to the summit of Dunning Common is packed with turns and glorious views. Leave Dunning on Muckhart Street and head due South towards the rolling hills ahead. It is a while before the gradient begins to bite, and when it does it is more baby than Great White Shark. There are a couple of stiffer patches along its course that may require a change of gear, but for the most part the slope is a civilised 5%
Cycling Climbs of Scotland: A Road Cyclist’s Guide
Francis Lincoln Ltd 2017
Dunning Glen is one of my favourite climbs around.
It just seems have that combination of the correct length and gradient which I really enjoy. There are steeper, longer, or more testing climbs around, but this one just works for me.
On this day it’s warm, and the topography means we’re sheltered from whatever light breeze there is, so it’s not long before the cheeks are redened and jersey zips are being yanked downwards, to try and get some cool air on the skin.
The heat and lack of breeze seem to have also brought the flies out, though, and the usual rhythmical breathing patterns I try to adopt whilst climbing are having to be abandoned to blow these flying nuisances away almost contantly. They’re doing wonders for my motivation to keep the pace up.
The climbing continues as the road menders ever upwards. Tank is just in front of me as we break the treeline, and it’s at this point we get our first glimpse of the white cottage which sits proudly at the head of the cleft in the hillside, which the burn down to our left flows steadilly through.
The tarmac switches right, then pitches up through a sweeping left-hand curve which leads in to the hardest section of the climb, a long, straight section of about 500m in length, touching 10% in places, leading up past the white cottage.
The cottage represents a kind of false summit, as even though the hardest section is over and the gradient relaxes, you’re now climbing on tired legs and the final 500 metres to summit itself becomes a drag.
Tank beats me there by a couple of metres or so, but it’s another pleasing effort, despite the flies.
We briefly stop at the top for a gel and a drink, and I opt for my trusty SiS Double Espresso gel, for another caffeine fix to spur me on to the end.
The 8km descent back to Yetts O’ Muckhart is taken in the same manner as the descent to Gleneagles – in fact the only efforts on this ride were made either going up or downhill, with flatter sections being much more of a leisurely affair.
We are now on the way home, this time via the sometimes unfortunately lorry-laden A977. I start to pull ahead of Tank at this point, so the caffeine fix must have done the trick. The undulating road doesn’t seem to be affecting my momentum.
We pull off the main road and head back through Clackmannan, now salt-caked by the golden solar rays.
We are now retracing our steps from earlier in the day as we cross back over the Clackmannanshire Bridge and traverse the breezier, flat sections of the flood plain.
The Kelpies are quickly in sight again and it soon time to part ways with a handshake and a smile after another brilliant day out on the bike.
Another 20 minutes and I’m home, tired, slightly sunburnt, but happy.