Tag Archives: Cycling in Scotland

Ne’er cast a clout

“Ne’er cast a clout till May be out”  (Traditional saying)

I’ve been struggling to think of a pursuit that requires more items of clothing than cycling outside in the North East of Scotland during the Winter.

Over the past couple of months, preparing for a ride has been a bit of a rigmarole.  A typical outing has required:  cycling helmet, warm hat, snood, base layer top, short sleeved cycling jersey, long sleeved cycling jersey, wind-proof vest, jacket, underwear, cycling shorts, full length tights, winter socks, cycling shoes, shoe covers and thick winter gloves.

Yes, it was possible to get a little warm, to overheat.  There was certainly a tendency to get damp from the inside during a long ride. but I would rarely describe myself as “hot”. The elements and the nagging cold were powerful enough to fight their way through.  Fingers and toes would suffer most, a combination of restricted circulation and the persistent chill.

Saturday Ride

View from the top of the climb on Saturday’s ride

This week, has seen a bit of a change.  An increase in temperature has seen the acceleration of Spring, new leaves are emerging, there are flowers everywhere and cyclists have emerged in abundance.

Today in particular has got everyone excited.  Easter has been accompanied by a beautiful day.  There isn’t a cloud to be seen.

The nice weather has resulted in people throwing caution to the wind… people have been casting clouts left, right and centre!  I have to admit, I am also guilty.  For today’s ride I discarded no less than 5 items of clothing.

Benachie across Loch Skene

Benachie across Loch Skene this morning

The ride itself was lovely.  The sun was out, the birds were singing, lambs frolicking.  I think this is what cycling was invented for.  The lack of protection also made me feel somehow more connected to my surroundings, more free.

I appreciate the advice, but I say forget May, live a little, cast a clout!

Snow on the Hills

Be warned! There is still snow in them there hills!

Davina got me up this morning…

Having lacked energy and enthusiasm, yesterday turned into little more than a “duvet day”.  A mid-afternoon snooze set me up nicely for the evening’s golf.

Given there’s a little over three weeks until the start of the Euro City Cycle, I felt a bit guilty about not getting out on the bike.  The guilt was exacerbated somewhat by stories of epic training rides and sportives in the sunny south from other Euro City Cycle participants.  However, it was a good decision to take it easy, to save it for another day.

***

It seems as though Sports Relief has been a real inspiration this year.  As well as raising huge amounts of cash for good causes, the feature challenges have set the bar high for those of us looking to do something remarkable ourselves.  In particular, the courage and stamina that Davina McCall showed on her “Beyond Breaking Point” challenge (incidentally, when did they come up with that name?) is a real motivator as we each look to “channel our inner Davina”.

I know the feeling... but for me it usually only lasts a few hours! Photo Credit:  Alex Walker / Comic Relief / PA Wire

I know the feeling… but for me it usually only lasts a few hours!
Photo Credit: Alex Walker / Comic Relief / PA Wire

This morning was very similar to yesterday (bright and blustery), however, Davina’s inspiration was enough to get me out of bed and out on the bike.  Cycling is much easier in a group, not least because peer pressure gets you to the start line.  Today I was cycling solo.

Fortunately, the hardest thing was leaving home.  Any doubts were left behind.

I’ve slowly ramped up the miles over the past few weekends.  Today I took on my longest solo ride, at around 62 miles.  I also took on the climbs that I last attempted during my “Introduction to climbing“.  Having walked on two of them last time, I was keen to stay in the saddle this time.

The view from the top of the Suie this afternoon, the "high point" of my ride.

The view from the top of the Suie this afternoon, the “high point” of my ride.

It was tough going, not helped by strong gusts of wind, but I managed to rattle off the hills without any particular dramas.  Four and a half hours after heading out I crept up my final climb and home.  The “laziness” of yesterday behind me, satisfied, and back on track for the challenge.

***

So, a big thanks to Davina!  I’m sure she had a huge sense of satisfaction when she finished her challenge and counted the money, but she should also be proud of her legacy; whether people are raising money for charity, or simply looking to get themselves in shape, she has shown us the way.  No excuses!

Fortune favours the brave

Last night, the forecast for this morning wasn’t promising.  It was looking ominously like winter may return.  This morning’s ride promised strong winds, icy roads and below freezing conditions.  Not nice.  Potentially miserable, in fact.

Who knew what weather this morning would bring!

The fact that we were planning an early start didn’t help.  It would mean a 5.45 alarm for me so I had time to eat and digest a decent breakfast.  Despite doing as much advance preparation as possible, there was always a chance that I’d disturb the slumber of other members of the household. This had the potential to add further misery to proceedings.

The worst case scenario was that I set the alarm, woke everyone up, and the weather was too bad to head out.  This would result in me being frustrated and extremely unpopular.

So, there was a suggestion that we cancel our outing.  Given there are just six weeks until the Euro City Cycle, and I’ve only recently started cycling outside again after a winter on the Turbo Trainer, I was really keen (bordering on desperate) to get out.  So we took a chance.

Fortunately I awoke to a bright, still day.  There was a bit of frost around resulting in a “crisp” morning, but it was far better than we had hoped for.  Result!

The River Dee from the bridge in Ballater this morning

Unfortunately we lost one of our group (of three) before our ride began (I must make a note to add my cycling shoes to the “essential items of kit” for the Euro City Cycle!).  However, Mr P and I enjoyed a nice ride which included a half-way coffee in the sun in Ballater, on Royal Deeside.

A bright morning in Ballater!

Today was the first time I’ve cycled over 50 miles.  The ride wasn’t fast, but it wasn’t easy either.  It’s great to get another decent ride into my legs.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to back it up with a short outing tomorrow to get more used to cycling on consecutive days.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get out early again in the morning.  What a difference the longer days make… let’s hope I’m fortunate with the weather again!

The arrival of Spring?

Having spent many an hour inside on the Turbo Trainer during the Winter, I am now back in the routine of getting outside on my bike.

On Saturday however the elements were against me.  I stayed dry, which was a saving grace, but the wind was brutal.  I got buffeted and battered.  The strong wind even made descending hard work; tough to control my direction and difficult to maintain forward momentum.  It was “fresh” too; cold enough to make one side of my face feel numb, anaesthetised.  Stringing a sentence together was a challenge, the movement of my jaw was restricted, frozen.

As I fought my way around, I started to dream of warmth.  Some sun on my back.  A gentle breeze.  Cycling in shorts.  Ski gloves discarded.  Bare arms.  Summer.

Summer in Scotland. What could possibly go wrong?!

At the time it seemed like a distant dream.  Almost too much to hope for.  However we didn’t have to wait for long…

This afternoon the weather was perfect; clear skies, sun, calmness and warmth.  Not a breath of wind.  Prepared as ever, I was in the office watching the weather enviously.  Having braved the early morning chill for a swim I was in no position to go out on my bike.

A disappointment today, but the dream gets closer all the time.  I can’t remember the last time I looked forward to the Summer this much.  I just hope the Summer decides to visit us in the North of Scotland again this year!  Fingers crossed!