Marble-ous

The sky was a uniform grey, the ever present threat of rain determinimg my choice of boil in the bag jacket. The jacket has the advantage of a large pocket to keep my Bam, lock and mask in.

I set off not really sure if I was going to go all the way to Portsoy. Once you have climbed out of Drybridge and are crossing Hill of Maud the mood changes, this is what it’s about, the quiet (you learn to filter out the rasping breath and thumping heart sounds) and the views. Back on the road heading round the Binn, I see the most perfectly parked loader blocking a farm entrance. At the T-junction there is your typical old farmer complete with flat cap and long walking stick. He spoke first asking which way I was going and did my bike have one of those electric engines. They were herding cattle – that explains the blocked entrances. I am going in the same direction, the cattle are behind me. Freckle avoidance.

Hill of Maud looking towards Lossiemouth

Battering on, I am going to Fordyce, oops I have arrived in Lintmill. A short but weirdly signposted jaunt to Fordyce… Longest 4 miles. Even coming out of Fordyce It said Portsoy 1.5 miles then about a mile up the road it said it again, then a mile or so later it said 1 mile… This would be on the A98… Must have missed the turn to allow me to avoid. As it turns out where I saw the second 1.5 mile sign, I should have gone left.

I clatter in to Portsoy, it has lots of those road narrowing islands. A golf estate does that stupid squeeze past thing, and turns of 50m later. Now I was not following him. But he too was headed to the 17th century harbour. He was looking distinctly nervous as I tailed him. He pulled over, with fear in his eyes as I came along side. And with my best Paddington stare behind tinted glasses I went straight past and down to the harbour.

The pull up from the harbour is a lung buster… Thankfully I have really low gears on the mtb. Ah, the ice cream shop, a double scoop of vanilla ordered, directions acquired as to how to avoid the A98. I step outside to find a huge seagull sitting on my crossbar (I would have been cross too if that giant webfooted winged rat was gripping me) with a typical squawk of distain it flew off to the other side of the road to glower at me. There was a young gull there too eating an apple (no glasses, that’s that it looked like) as it turns out, the fruit and veg table my bike was leaning against was the gulls buffet.

The shop girls directions were spot on. If her hill description a bit off… I kept waiting for the big hill. I ended up on the beach at Sandend. A gentle average damaging walk. Crossing two raging torrents. Well the would have been if we had had any rain.

Sandend

Another lungburster out of Sandend and back to Lintmill. Onwards to Cullen and the op for more ice cream. I didn’t. On to the vaiduct, I set off on the last leg.

Cullen disused viaduct

The run back to buckie is largely traffic free, but omg the crisps and dogs… No it is not right to bag your dog poo and leave it on the track. On the final approach to Buckie, a crisp with a ferocious dog on an extending lead comes into view. Fag and phone in one hand and lead in the other… Closer. The ferocious pug goes for me. She drops her fag and meekly apologises… Let’s face it the pug was going to come off worse in a range with a spikey pedal. The farm is just about in sight now as I skirt buckie.

Up the last potholed track… Really they should scrape out the bits that separate the holes and make it a smooth track.

Back at the farm now, and I check my phone, 20+WhatsApp messages a couple of missed calls and some normal texts… Looks like I missed out on going for lunch… 32miles… Tired but happy 😊

Ah the title.. . Portsoy is famous for its marble… Apparently😁

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The Despicable return (minus 1)

Minus 1 – no not the early morning temperature but no Andrew as he is still crocked from watering flowers. A dangerous activity I believe.

After introducing herself to Alfie, Tess stayed behind for a snooze and to guard the car while Simon and I headed out of town. A quick reminder to Simon that we turned off the main road ahead of the Methven 30’s so not to get too excited as he saw the 300 to go count down.

Off out past Glenalmond with a few months of chat to catch up on. As usual once on to the A822 Sma Glen Road (I wonder where the Big Glen is) the usual Sunday Motorbike streams appeared in both directions. Cracking views and Simon had never done the road this direction. We commented that we are usually chin on the bars flying downhill and concentrating on the road rather than the scenery. I’d been this way last month so knew what was coming after then bend over the bridge and off up the hill we went. Is later confessed that the hadn’t planned to go for it but once on the climb decided what the heck, but got caught out by Amulree being further away that he reckoned. I’d previously warned him that the segment end was the other side of the Quaich turn off so as not to pull up short. The gap between us had opened and I scampered up the hillas best I could knocking 1 minute off my time of last month, but by the time I got to the Glen Quaich junction there was no sign of a resting Simon. On a bit further and he was rolling back towards me arm warmers rolled down cooling off having overshot to make sure he had hit the segment end. Quick photo and pee stop and down the hill.

Chatting as you pedal distracts you from the pace and we clattered along nicely. The Trochry trees giving a sudden drop in temperature.

I’m first to the A9 and spot a gap and cross. Then I spy Simon talking a faster line across but by the time my brain clicked as to his motive his arm was already in the air having got the Birnam 30!

Chattan tearoom was the target but it was closed but we had spotted folks having a coffee outside the Birnam Arts Centre so doubled back to it. New must have cycling accessory was used. Face Mask for going into buy the coffees. Thankfully removed before attempting to consume. About 6 other cyclists from Dundee Wheelers had the same idea. Rocky Road, Malteser back and cappuccinos were inhaled.

How many layers to remove was the question. Simon removed gillet and arm warmers I went just arm warmers but by the time to were at the Murthly Sawmill junction it was gillet off. More clattering along and then the 300 to go sign for the Bankfoot 30 was spied. The pace starts to increase but nothing too manic just yet. I have the inside on the left hand bend and hold my line as the race hots up and keeps getting hotter. A spirited fight but Simon gets it by half a bike or there about.

The Bankfoot to Pitcairngreen section is a nippy wee road with twists and sharp climbs which just sapped my legs. But not enough that I wasn’t able to use local knowledge to get the 30 at Moneydie. It was help by Simon being on the wrong side of the road onto a blind corner and not wishing his headstone to read “Died while chasing the 30′ so he backed off. But in my book a 30 is a 30 🙂

Loads of cyclist loitering around the Green at Pitcairngreen enjoying the sunny Sunday and plenty more enjoying a pint at the pub. Bike geek spying that many were on e-bikes.

The traffic lights at Tescos changed to green and we both seemed to pick up the speed off the line Simon ahead as we reach the roundabout ready for the 30 which is right at the pedestrian crossing. The crossing is at Red! Simon just managed to squeeze far enough ahead to claim the final 30 of the day.

The usual west mains delight to end the day.

An excellent way to spend a Sunday morning.

The talk is that next weekend with be a Pitlochry based outing! Dull and Boring!

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Virtual Doddie Cycle

With the Real Doddie cycle joining the Covid event wipe out the organisers set up a virtual event on Zwift over a 25 mile circuit.

My brain started thinking I’ve done 20 miles previous on the trainer 25 will be fine on the Saturday and then go out IRL on Sunday. But the weather had other plans and the Sunday forecast for wet and windy got me thinking and looking at the suggestion that we should do 2 circuits and do 50 miles to mark Doddie Weirs 50th birthday on event day. I’ve done 50 mile cycles before out and about I could do 50 on Zwift couldn’t I? Oooops guess who didn’t fully check the route profile!

Garage all set up with bike, PC snacks and water bottles ready to go on the start line down near the Tower of London and with 90 seconds to the off as I was seeing all the participants join with 176 including Will Carling , Peter Winterbottom and Gregor Townsend then my set up crashed. IT support crew helped with the reboot and I got going and rejoined the event trying to make up the lost minutes. Usual Zwift fun mixing it up and cycling with a group from around the UK and South Africa around the streets of London. Harrods, Sloane Sq, Buck Palace, Trafalgar sq all went past and a sprint on The Mall. Over Lambeth bridge and into a station along the boarded over tracks and next we pop out in deepest Surrey. By now we were all well strung out. Next up was the climb of Leith hill which features on Ride London its gradient Max’d at 14% so as usual my climbing speed was slow and laboured. I did go up with the event organiser but at the top he blasted off. (I did pass and leave him behind later ). On across Surrey to the next London area cycling landmark of Box Hill. A nice steady climb and if the virtual world is an indication it must have stinging views in real life. Down the hill back to the station and we then cross the Thames via Tower bridge and that is lap 1 done.

My support team brought refreshed water bottles and a double espresso. It was a solo event by now. The participant numbers started to drop. For most of lap 1 I ran in 98th place but suddenly I was 43rd and those doing 1 lap dropped out. Off around central London solo marking off the streets knowing the Station was coming. It reminded me of the changing room I’m Mr Benn where you have no idea where you will come out to on the other side. A spot of geographic poetic licence.

The Support team was now the cheerleader as Leith Hill ramped up and my knees hurt and speed dropped to the point that I’m sure snails were passing me. The cheerleader conjured up a treat of emergency jelly beans. 3 for me 1 for her 😁. They were also my biggest fan keeping me cooler. Although she did have to open the garage door as apparently the garage was smelling a bit like a sweaty changing room. I was nose blind 😁 As an indication of how the numbers had dropped and those of us remaining had got strung out the leader board showed me 2 places behind Gregor Townsend. But looking closer those 2 places were separated by 13km!! It was not long after this that I got lapped by former Scotland player Rob Wainwright who was already on his 3rd lap! Box hill was a struggle but elation cresting it and knowing that it was down hill to the station. The final kick was, as everyone who has used the London Underground knows that the escalators between the Platforms and ground level are steep. So we had the steep climb off the tracks back to street level. But then it was across Tower Bridge around the Tower of London and watch the final metres drop off and the do a little bit more to ensure the 50 miles was actually done.

Happy to have done it but jeez 50 miles of constant pedalling on the trainer with no freewheeling or junction stops is tough going. I’d rather do 50 and more out in real life than on a trainer again. Bit of a pain face at the end and today my legs just above both knees are aching showing I was struggling and pushing hard on the pedals rather than spinning smoothly. But a good shower and I was good to go quickly after. Knees still a bit sore today and the under carriage is feeling a tad tender 🤢

Mentally the second time up the Leith Hill section was the toughest. I could easily have stepped off at the 3/4 point. But that was when the jelly beans got brought out and the cheerleader started doing the countdown and relating that to local roads down to 800m to go as that’s coming past the school and nearly insight of home.

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Loch Tay loop from Kenmore clockwise

I mapped this out on Strava and was intrigued by a vertical elevation of 680m over a fairly short course of 54km. Clearly not a gentle meander round the shoreline. The map profile confirmed this with lots of lumps and bumps. I noted the loch elevation of about 100m ASL and high point of road on Northern shore 38km in just South of Ben Lawers of 250m. So typical Scottish summer, forced to wait nearly a week to see that today looked best bet over next 4-5 days to stay dry. Arrived at Kenmore 11:15 and parked shoreline. A few brave souls in tbe water messing about in wetsuits. Made me check the temp – 12 and a light drizzle came on. Having driven a hairy 12 miles from Amulree on the unclassified ‘do not use in winter conditions’ road i wasnt going to not cycle. I had cycling shorts (it is July) but rainproof jacket and scarf (which i can handily convert into a facemask) was wrapped round ears. I hadnt studied the route well at all and soon realised the initial ascent went on and on and on. Reminded me of a pet hate (Perth’s Necessity Brae). As ever my legs are stronger than my lungs (which were a bit wheezy) so all gears were used. A few smiling cyclists came towards me and I exchanged pleasantries through a grimace and/or head nod. The narrow road soon became officially single track with passing places. Having left Kenmore long behind civilisation seemed lost and the road appeared to have been cut through the hillside for no good reason (residents of Ardtalnaig and Ardeonaig may disagree). One thing that was clear was that no drainage ditch had been dug on the high (lhs) of the road. In drier times eg April/May 2020 who cares. After the June we’ve had it resulted in several unintended fords to deal with. No mudguards meant an increasingly wet jacket and shorts and the fear of falling off. So on top of this i experienced the odd car passing (no biggie) but far too many delivery vans which forced me to pull into muddly ditches and also large dumper trucks (wtf) – transpired some new houses being built for some lucky folk. Time and again I was forced to pull over (or be run over). Yes autopause kicks in but can take its time and kills your momentum. At one point 2 trucks had a Mexican stand off as to who should back up. During one of the enforced pullovers my Achilles Heel kicked in. So another 5 mins wasted and very muddy shoes. Sooo many delivery vans on such a quiet road but tbf if i lived this remotely and had money I would do the same. Finally reach Ardeonaig (which i well recall from kids school trips). Only 7 miles to Killin. A horror climb appears that has me reaching for gears that don’t exist. I make it without getting off. The Loch begins to disappear from my RHS view and i get excited and exuberant that Killin may be soon. Sadly i get too excited and don’t brake on a straight downhill. It looks innocent enough but has been pothole filled upmteen times very very badly. Its all i can do to cling on and i need to stand up as family jewels are rattled in a way that the infamous Perth ‘jingle balls’ segment cannot compete with. Im thrilled and delighted to join the A827 at Killin right beside the Dochart Arms selling coffee, cakes and ice cream. I want a double brandy but know its not allowed. Bits Ive not mentioned re the journey so far are lots of debris on road – shingle, acorns, twigs, bigger tree branches. So i know its been an awful spell of weather but some of these issues exist whatever the weather. I just dont feel that section of the A7 cycle route is at all safe. To back this up I will say i have very little to say regarding my return to Kenmore via lovely surfaced, quiet and wide A827. Easy climb to begin then gentle descent. Little or no runoff water. Easy long descent to Kenmore. No irritation to cars or cyclists. But apparently not a ‘cycling friendly’ route. I felt ten times safer coming back. Sticking ‘cycle friendiy 40mph’ signs up isnt going to cut it ! I feel much much safer on many A** roads. Top tip – dont wear sunglasses with dark lenses. Riding through canopies of trees on a dull day made seeing hazards doubly difficult. Personal view – avoid South shore road in route planning.

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Everybodys free (to wear sunscreen)

Well I may be free to but remembering to is a different matter. More of that later.

A friend and his son had gone up to Amulree from the Glenalmond side a couple of weeks back and after checking strava I realised I’d not gone up the Sma Glen that way for 6 years, not long after I got this bike, so that set in mind my plans for this weekend. As the forecast was predicting Saturday was to be better that was the day in place of a usual Sunday run.

Cool start on Saturday so Arm warmers and Gilet. As I was getting my helmet on a couple came up the street giving a cheery hello as they cycled past. I headed out towards Methven and up the Harrietfield road, they turned of at Almondbank. I’d just turned on to the Glenalmond road when the same couple came past. The pulled ahead and I later spotted them going left down the glen towards Gilmerton.

Onto the Sma Glen road and by now the arm warmers were being worn Nora Batty style rolled down and crumpled around my wrists. So a stop was needed to remove said items and the Gilet and take some photos. It was at this point that the realisation hit that I should have applied sunscreen this morning as my forehead and top of skull where the sun shone through the helmet gaps was getting nice and sun burnt and a bit tender to touch!! Plonker!!! Quick bite of energy bar and off again. I got passed by another 2 cyclist just before the right turn over the bridge. They pull slightly ahead and then one opens a further gap. I keep the two of them easily within sight all the way up to Amulree. It’s a cracking piece of road only spoiled by the wild acceleration nose and sudden deceleration of the motor bikes as they realise there is a slow peching cyclist stopping him flying up the hill.

The other two peel off to Glen Quaich, no I was not tempted today. On checking strava later those two had started at Dunfermiline and did 125miles on Saturday. There was a minibus parked up at the village hall which was disgorging MTB’ers. Now that I was safely past the segment end i stopped to take more photos and inhale another mouthful of bar and juice. Rolling off again and stop again I’d forgotten to put my gloves back on. Not much activity at Braan Brewery. No chin on the bars descending just a pleasant pace. It got chilly once into tree cover at Trochry then warmed up by the A9 junction. An easy cross of the A9 with minimal traffic to contend with and through Birnam. The Tearoom was doing takeaways and 2 further cyclists where sunning themselves outside. back across the A9 and mulling the rest of the journey home. Decision made! Not “raced the train” to Murthly for ages to that was it. Note to self. Don’t contest the Murthly 30 from this side unless guaranteed a long lead. The 30 is right on the sharp right bend!

Now for the headwind. No detour today to Stewart Towers but on down to Stanley and Luncarty. Having been squeezed by a car in Luncarty last weekend I took up more of the road when going past the traffic islands this time. I opted for the path to Inveralmond as did Redgorton last week. Wish I’d gone back as the path was slow with pedestrians. A meander from there home. My garmin is reading distance in Km. I spy I’m just short of the 80 mark so down the street and back up to see the 80 click over. What I hadn’t also done was the miles conversion or I’d have been back down and up the street to have the 50 miles tick over instead of being 0.24 off.

A thoroughly enjoyable trip helped by checking strava and seeing i’d knocked nearly 2 minutes of my 6 year old time up the Sma Glen to Amulree!

Hopefully next time on that road it will be with buddies,

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Cornetto Sundae

The weather forecast dramatically improved overnight with no rain or wind leaving muggy cycling conditions.

Up through Almondbank and Pitcairgreen heading towards Bankfoot. Had to slow to a stop as i met a Horse and Rider and passed without incident. Loads of cyclists about today certainly increasing the chances of bumping into a familiar face or two.

Waiting to cross the A9 I see that my Garmin is counting down to sending an “Incident Detected” emergency message to Lesley. A quick panic search for my glasses and a poke of the Garmin in the hope of stopping the message. But decided on a preemptive call to Lesley to know all was ok. This happened once before but that time Lesley for the alert and panicked. It appears a software update has reversed my settings and reactivated the incident settings I’d switched off after last year. The update also reverted the displayed fields I’d configured.

On through Dunkeld to Caputh and onto Stewart Towers. A familiar looking Gigantor was lurking at the Car Park. The Ice Cream selection was braw. Good to socially distant chat with Andrew. Plenty of cyclists were going past even saw a couple of Mauchlines. Another couple of Pals wandered in to. A popular place!

Airntilly beckons on the way home. A small car with attitude squeezes past through at the bollards in Luncarty. A close thing! Redgortton and Pitcairngreen next before heading home. It was great to be out and to see so many other cyclist.

It’s been years since I’ve been to Stewart Towers so must return. So many different flavours of ice cream to try. 😁

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Cornetto Sundae Cyclists 14 June

Probably more of a cone than a Sundae.

I’m planning to be at Stewart Towers near Bankfoot at 11 on Sunday to inhale ice cream.
If anyone happens to be in the vicinity at that time I’ll happily chat across the car park at a Socially acceptable distance.
My Sundae route will be over to Bankfoot then on to Dunkeld & Caputh before going for the Ice Cream. Possibly Murthly and the Kinclaven on the way home too.

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When we get released…..

With the weather as nice as it has been I’ve certainly started to dream of where I would like to cycle once we get release from lockdown and can cycle with friends again. Some cycling is just not the same solo.

I’ve been trying to keep within a 15 mile radius of home which still gives plenty of roads but still somethings are missing.

Mine are – Out and aroud Loch Earn, Over the hills and lochs to Kinloch Rannoch oh and Inverness to home.

So comment below your top 3 place you wish to cycle once released from Lockdown

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The Sunday After VE Day.

It’s been a tough week, not getting out enough on the bike for that essential daily exercise.

But never fear Sunday will soon be here and I have a target of some wee off highlighter roads that are actually quite close to home. Now while I have navigated one on foot before and the other prior to the electronic heat map, this makes their ticking off no less significant.

The significance is that I will have to start going west a lot more, Loch Tay and Loch Earn to name but two targets. Maybe when this lockdown stuff is over, and I get to drive to a more suitable start point I will get Perthshire ticked off.

So, Sunday, no start time or place just a whim to visit Blackwater!

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Another Lockdown Sunday

Hard to believe we are at another weekend and lockdown is still in place.

So, with that in mind, I will be out for a wee run to somewhere, to get there for 11:30.

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