In the run up to my coast to coast ride from Fort William to Brechin (near Aberdeen) I’ve been doing a fair amount of road based cycling. Two things I now have much more respect for; Tarmac and gravity.
Myself and good friend Ewan Wilkinson who will be accompanying me in the Highlands set off for North Wales early on Saturday (12th July) morning in search of the Ceiriog cycle trail. It’s rated ‘hard’ on the map we were following and I’m happy to report that it’s an accurate description.
I mounted the Specialized Rockhopper that Ewan has so kindly lent me for the trip, donned my helmet and off we went. The route started with a gentle downhill section for roughly a half mile which lulled me into a completely false sense of security. Within minutes I was battling my way up a 30-40 degree incline on loose stone, my legs frantically spinning around in the lowest gear I could find.
As Ewan leisurely made his way up the hill in the morning sun, I slipped a slid behind. Stopping occasionally to rebalance, I’d then find it nearly impossible to get going again as my rear wheel spun on the slippery surface.
Eventually I did make it to the top of this initial section with my heart pounding faster than it has since my last visit to the Alps. It was then that I realised that our 180 mile trip that is now less than two weeks away is going to be a pretty huge challenge, bigger than I expected.
The reward for going uphill should be obvious. After a short ride across the top of the hill, chasing sheep and stopping to open and shut gates we flew down the other side at breakneck speed. The awesome disc brakes on my bike gave great control and the front suspension saved my bones from rattling too much.
This is my pal Ewan checking we were on the right track
And so the day went on. Super-tough uphill sections drained my energy more than I’ve ever felt when cycling purely on roads. As we passed the half way mark I found myself walking and pushing my bike on the steeper sections, Ewan calmly plodding on ahead the whole time.
The route was 23 miles (plus a bit extra after we took a wrong turn). In Scotland we’ll be riding around double that each day (give or take). Speaking with Ewan, who knows that part of the world far better than I do, he seems to think that we’ll have some bigger initial climbs to challenge us that will then be followed by longer, flatter sections through the Scottish wilderness.
A week from now and I’ll be part way through our initial day. I’ll blog more in the coming week about the route we’ll be taking.
In the meantime, if you’d like to sponsor me for this 180-ish mile challenge then here’s a link to the JustGiving page. It has plenty of information about why I’m riding for the WSBPS.