I finally got round to going for a decent cycle late this afternoon, from Tornapress, at the foot of the Bealach na Ba, to Shieldaig. No I did not go over the Bealach, via Applecrss to Shieldaig. I opted for the much more sensible main road (if you can call this a main road). The total distance was 28.34 km with 329m of elevation gain, with 6% being the steepest section according to MapMyRide. I was hoping to use my more modern, lighter bike but the gears are acting up and it is in the workshop to be fixed. Thus, I resorted to the trusty old (1959) Flying Scot. I had replaced the nice light road wheels and tyres with hybrid ones, adding significantly to the wieght of the bike, plus the mudguards and the panier rack. All in all, the bike felt like it was about twice the weight of the modern one. So, after a long absence fro proper cycling I did find it pretty tough at times but managed quite well. It was a lovely cycle, with amazing views and the tourist traffic wasn't too bad.
Shieldaig is a lovely village and very popular with tourists. On this wonderful sunny afternoon it was very busy so I didn't hang around long. Shieldaig was developed as a planned village to encourage the fishing industry in the early 1800s and the pine trees on the island were planted specifically to provide straight long poles for drying fishing nets. Just inland from the coastal village is one of my favourite native woodlands - the Shieldaig Pinewood, fantastic place.
So, at last I managed to get out for a proper cycle. I have been trying for a while now but have suffered from a few issues with chains breaking, three times, the last of which actually broke the rear derailleur mount on my bike and three spokes on the back wheel as a result. Anyway, after a new chain, and much fiddly adjustment, and one trial ride last weekend, I finally headed out yesterday for what turned out to be a lovely ride in Glen Torridon with my friend Gordon. It was a truly spectacular day of crystal clear mountains clad in the remnants of the recent snow, bright blue skies and fluffy white clouds and Torridon was literally sparkling as you can see from these images. The road was relatively quiet before the expected onslaught of visitors that is likely to come at the end of the month, so all in all a wonderful ride, and not too energetic either. The return trip home took us for a scenic drive round the Applecross coast and back over the Bealach na Ba.
This is a bit of a delayed post about a ride with my mate Grodon last Sunday (11th October). We drove down to Armadale and took the bikes up the Sleat road to Drumfearn and back. The weather was far from what was forecast, with us execting a decent dry morning with a NW breeze. However, there was no breeze and it was pretty wet at times, although we did end the ride dry, so no complaints. I was on my road bike, built largely from spare parts and a cheap frame, and Gordon was on his mountain bike, quite heavy for the long drag up past the distillery at Toravaig. I honestly thought I might lose him to the attractions of a dram or two, especially as it was raining at the time. My bike perfomred reasonably well but the gears were constantly slipping. When I got home I realised I had used an old 8-speed chain instead of the required 10-speed, of which I did not have a spare. So, I have now bought a new 10-speed chain and it all looks like it is working. The truth will be told tomorrow morning when I plan to get out for a ride up to Killilan again.
I didn't take too many photos on the trip as the weather and the light did not really lend theselves to it. The above one of the boat is a composition I have shot many times but without any real success. I also took one of Grodon by the bikes, just to prove we were there with the bikes...and no beer or whisky in sight despite being just outside the pub!
The ride was pretty relaxed with plenty of stops. A total of 39.94 km (just under 25 miles), and 386 metres of climbing, including the first two categorised climbs (if you accept that Map My Ride has Category 5 climbs).
This morning I headed north to Torridon for a short cycle up the glen to Kinlochewe and back. I wanted to try and get back before the forecast rain, so decided to only go as far as Kinlochewe, having originally thought about going up to the viewpoint down Glen Docherty to Loch Maree. To be honest, my gears were slipping a bit (which I later found out was because my cassette had worked loose), and the view would not have been worth the effort in this weather. So, on the way back I popped down to Loch Clair for these shots of the hills and the pinewoods.
The total distance of the ride was 33.16 km, averaging just over 20 km/hour. The profile below shows a steady climb up the glen and then down to Kinlochewe, and vice versa on the way back, nothing too strenuous.
Yesterday was a beautiful autumnal day so I headed over to Skye for a cycle from the Sleat road junction (more-or-less) to Isle Oronsay and back. In fact I rode beyond Isle Oronsay up to the top of the drag to the parking place beside Loch na Dubhrachan, and then back to where I started. Initially I followed the old road, which is much more pleasant than riding the modern main road, but on the way back just stuck to the main road (see below).
I was making really good progress up to the turning point, but I kind of realised that I probably had a bit of a tail wind. I was not wrong, having topped the crest to head down the lovely long slope towards Isle Oronsay again I found I had to keep pedalling to make decent progress. So the head wind was stronger than I had thought, as evidenced by the lower speed than expected on that section. That made the return trip a bit more of a trainig ride than a pleasure, but it was certainly worth it, despite a sore backend from being seated in the saddle more than out of it.
So far my three rides have all been on my 1959 Flying Scot (see below). This was my Dad's racing bike and is a classic steel framed lightweight bike, relatively speaking. After using this bike with its original gears, brakes, etc. I decided a few years ago to modernise it with the introduction of indexed gears. It was something of a surprise to me just how simple it would be to convert a 60 year old bike into what is to all intents and purposes a modern one. The only real difference is the weight, although that is not as great a difference as you might think, unless comparing it to a lightweight carbon frame. Anyway, this bike is comfortable to ride on rougher roads and pretty robust. The additional weight does make a difference on the hills but nothing compared to my contribution to the overall weight of the bike and rider!. Thus, it should help me get fitter more quickly I guess.
I have decided to include the cycle I did last Friday, 18th September, in my Cycling Photographer Blog because I had chosen to set up the blog prior to doing the ride, but hadn't got round to it. I didn't take any photos on this trip but it was a wonderful day, not quite as sunny as that portrayed above (which was taken last summer), and it is a route that I have wanted to do for a very long time. I had cycled the section from Drumrunie to the Lochinver junction twice previously, when travelling from Ullapool to Lochivner, but never the section down to Achnahaird. The cycle was 37.2km (c. 22 miles) starting at the layby overlooking the beach back, generally uphill, to Drumrunie and then back the same route (see below). While there were no big climbs there was plenty of up and down, sometimes quite steeply, and the road surface was generally pretty poor. In fact at one stage I had to stop when my pump fell off the bike due to the vibrations. The scenery is absolutely amazing and certainly helps to take one's mind off the sore legs on some of the steeper sections. Hopefully sometime soon I will feel up to repeating the circuit round to Lochinver and Elphin, but from experience that may be a little way off yet.
So today marked my first official cycling photography trip. It was just a short cycle from the junction with the A87(T) where the roads heads to Sallachy & Killilan. I headed up the single track road, right to the end of the tarmac surface at Coille-righ in Glen Elchaig, and then returned to the start. A total distance of just under 26 km (16 miles) with a couple of small lumps on the way, but mostly flat (see below). The road surface varies from horribly rough to beautifully smooth (mainly on the private road to Killilan and Glen Elchaig).
It was a beautiful sunny evening and the colours were fantastic as the golden hour approached. I stopped a few times to take some photos with my phone and I'm sure you will agree that this is a special place, well worth a visit on the bike.
So, this is a new venture on my part. For many years I have enjoyed cycling and following cycling on the TV as well. Back in my youth, and especially as a student, the bike was my means of independent transportation, and it kept me fit as well. However, on leaving Uni the bike took a back seat and was generally confined to the garage or attic. Thus, when I was approaching my 50th birthday (a few years back now) I decided to get the old bike out and see if I could maybe lose a little weight by cycling around the local area. There are some times when it seems like a good idea at the time, but living as I do in a fairly hilly area I soon discovered gravity is indeed a heartless bitch. Going up hills had suddenly become unpleasant.
At that time I was using my dad's 1959 Flying Scot, with down tube gear changers and only ten gears. I would tell you that the bike was also very heavy, but by comparison to me it was a positively silf like thing, so no blame can be approtioned to the bike! Anyway, undeterred by this setback I decided that a newer bike was in order (if only I had had the benefit of hindsight). My wonderful wife generously agreed to buy said bike for my 50th birthday gift, even though it would arrive several months early - maybe I would lose weight by the time I hit 50!!! - maybe not??!! Anyway, the new bike introduced me to two entirely new concepts - Indexed Gears & Clip-in Pedals. The first was easy to come to terms with and is a fantastic development in cycling when compared with the old down tube gears I grew up with. However, the clip-ins were, perhaps predicably, more challenging. In fact, like almost everyone else who has tried them out, I fell off the bike the first time I tried to use them, and I had not even travelled a foot. Very embrassing. Picking myself up and crying "My new bike, My new bike???" I quickly satisfied myself that it was only me that was bruised and headed off for a first cycle. This was a wonderful experience but I also learned that it was not the bike that was making going up hill difficult.
Thus, several years later, this brings me to the purpose of this blog. I have cycled a fair bit over these years, but nothing like as often as I had hoped. I have even done a couple of sportifs - Loch Ness Etape & Tour of the Borders - very slowly. However, I have not lost weight, nor have I gained fitness. Thus, I am now on a serious drive to both and to use my bikes to achieve this, yes there are more than one of them - I am after all a firm disciple of the Velominati Rule 12 - The correct number of bikes is n+1 . In addition to the bikes, it will be obvious to readers that I have a passion for photography, and ironically my resurgence in interest in this field has contributed significantly to the reduced amount of cycling in recent years. So, what is the answer I hear you ask? Well that is simple, isn't it - combine both. I intend to do just that and have set up this blog, separately from my main photography blog, to record my progress. Oh yes, there is one other thing I need to do - apply some Rule 5 (see here if you don't already know that one).
So how will this work? Seriously, essentially I am trying to lose weight, improve my fitness levels and get my overly stressed and frustrated old man head sorted out. Not much of a target really. When I go for a ride I will record the journey on my Garmin and the MapmyRide app (I refuse to get into the competitive Strava psychology), and I will post up the details and how it went, with images where I feel it is worthwhile. I don't intend to be out cycling every day, I am not Bradley Wiggins after all, but I want to try and make this fun by visiting interesting and picturesque places where the traffic does not make it feel suicidal. I still have other things in life to do, like work and normal photography, so this will require balance and perspective, but also commitment and prioritisation. I also intend to try and do some yoga for cyclists to improve my core strength and flexibility.
From a photography perspective I should stress that all the photos used on this blog (well most) will be taken using my mobile phone, after all you don't want to be lugging a full frame DSLR and lenses, etc. around on a bike, I am heavy enough without all that guff. That doesn't mean that I wont do my best to make some of them interesting.
Finally, back to that collection of bikes referred to above. From time to time I might include a 'Down at the Bike Shed' post where I look at the bikes in my collecton, their history and some of the work I have done or am doing to keep them maintained or bringing them back into useable condition. This will be an ongoing learning experience for me, no doubt informed mainly by YouTube clips, and hopefully readers will find the bikes interesting.
I hope you enjoy my blog and please feel free to contribute with comments and maybe we can get fitter and lighter together through celebrating the ancient and venerable art of cycling and our love of bikes.
I am an enthusiastic cyclist who suffers from being overly large, making the pleasure of cycling somewhat challenging. Hopefully, through combining my interest in cycling with my photography I will get fitter AND produce some decent images.
164.88 km (103.0 miles)
9 hours 55 minutes
16.6 km/h ave speed
1307 m gained