Tag Archives: climb

Meanderings, Thanks, Diets and other stuff

So here we go again, haven’t posted for a while, just been ruminating on possible topics.

I’ve never set out to gain followers, just wanted to see how or if they accumulated blog, by blog. So I wanted to say a huge, huge thanks to all of you who are following, have commented and\or encouraged me. Also a big thanks to those who’ve enjoyed (?) my comments on their posts.

I’ve also learnt about other cultures, countries, customs, adventures etc. It’s been fun following folk from and to all over the place and the photos have been a delight. I’ve not met anyone for real yet, even though some are to to far away, but maybe sometime? I’m also surprised at how I have concern for people I haven’t met, when hurricanes hit the Phillipines I wonder how Chyrel from ‘Ride All the Way’ is doing & that she is OK. Same when I read others have had accidents or illnesses.

Now, one of my pals asked how I managed to ride so well, was there something special in my veggie diet? I replied I do have a special diet, it’s called The Hill Diet. We are lucky round here in my part of S.E. Scotland. If I go east I can cycle along by the North Sea, if I go north I can do some wee steep hills pass castles and follow the Firth of Forth. To the west I have a slightly more even ride as the glaciers of old carved the landscape east west. Finally head south and I’m into the hills over the Lammermuirs, a glorious upland landscape of ancient hills smoothed down full of sheep, heather, grouse, birds of prey and more plus, yes, lots of hills. So for my hill diet I tend to head south, it’s as simple as that!

And here’s one I climbed yesterday, just outside the village peaking at 18% – aye, a goodie, though short!


There’s also the joy of fellow cyclists, I’m lucky to have three local groups I bike with. One is a group of FOSSILs like me, we meet near the village and there’s a mostly compulsory coffee & scone/cake stop along the way, usually covering 40 miles plus, loverly. The other two are mixed groups on a Sunday and I alternate between them, I manage the ‘faster’ group with one and the slower group with the other as the faster riders head for the hills and are too like whippets for me & I feel I’m holding them up (in fact I know am!) So all in all good times. But I do a fair amount of solo riding, just loving being out and I find most of my faster times or PRs on segments are when I’m alone. It also means I can stop and take photos/ look at things without feeling I’m holding folk up again.

Tonight:



Then there’s advice, given and received. I’m fairly sceptical about all the guff I feel is discussed in cycling. For example I do not drink too much on rides under 40 miles, even when pushing hard, unless I’m thirsty which is not often. Yet almost all the advice is drink, drink, drink. And as for some of the ‘rules’, fashionistas etc. Just don’t get me started!

But the best advice for me to myself is to enjoy myself out there.

The weather, in typical British fashion is another influence. It is so changeable, here we are almost into November in Scotland and the shorts were on again. Maybe it will be the winter togs next week and time to get the skis prepped instead of the bike?

So there you are, or rather, there I am, just a couple of recent pics to leave you with as ever.
Enjoy yourselves.

Alastair

An update – as we assembled for our Sunday ride, one of the guys said “I read your blog yesterday”, so now I’ve met a follower – and only 5 miles away! So cheers Craig, long may you read & enjoy.

Also a wee treat for geeks when I manage to get it uploaded. I’ve done a video of one of the Sportives I did in September, but cannot get YouTube to accept it. So back to re-editing and trying again. It may be the music I made up is too like something else that’s in copyright, ah well back to the drawing board – or in this case Garageband.


  

Tour of Britain 2015 – King of the Mountains Stage 4 – a personal view

The Leaders come up Redstone Rigg, Tour of Britain 2015

The Leaders come up Redstone Rigg, Tour of Britain 2015

The Tour of Britain came through our patch this month, so loads of us wound our way up to meet on the hill. It was baltic (i.e. cold), waiting on the windy hillside, but good fun anyway. As  the race appeared in the distance I tried to unfreeze my wooden fingers, without success.

As usual the race was through in a minute or less. I’ve finally managed to sort out the video.

So for your enjoyment: Tour of Britain 2015, Stage 4, King o’ the Mountains section

I recorded the music(?) on a midi guitar so no pianos, harps, synthesisers or other instruments were harmed in the making.

Gore, Guts and Glory

It’s been an interesting(?) couple of weeks for me. Started off just over 2 weeks ago.

I had been looking forward to doing the 80 mile ‘Tour of Tweeddale’ Sportive in the Scottish Borders, one I’ve managed every year since it started 4 years ago.

But, on the Sunday before, I was out with the local Haddington Club. Going up hill I suddenly thought, back off, I’m getting too close. Next moment I touched tyres with Terry in front, wobbled to the left, straightened up thinking I’d got away with it. Terry slowed down and I came back into his wheel from the other side – tarmac crunching time. He said later he had slowed down to look how the back of the group was doing, ah well.

I got up a bit shook up, assessed the damage to me and the bike, got back on and completed the run.

My knee looked a mess & a scraped shoulder didn’t help, but it was all superficial. The painful damage was a staved finger which made changing gear and braking awkward. But it looked like I’d be OK for the next week’s event.

Ouch!

Ouch!

Ouch Again!

Ouch Again!

So, after a week of healing I was at the start line again. 82 miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing to go. The three desperadoes had teamed up again. It was cold at the beginning, 3°, but rose up to a lovely 20° with hardly a cloud as the day slipped past. Ronnie had a puncture before we began then 15 miles out another. Once mended we set off again and another flat. This one was sorted and we headed for “The Wall of Talla”, a local test piece. Ramping over 20% it wasn’t too bad this year as a tail wind helped us over, or maybe I was fitter (or had lost weight gouging lumps out of my knee?).

Approaching the 'Wall of Talla'

Approaching the ‘Wall of Talla’

The 20% section

The 20% section

Another ramp up

Another ramp up

Then it was over and onwards, seeming to stop at every temporary road works traffic light on the way.

The soup awaits!

The soup awaits!

Yet another of the road works

Yet another of the road works

We reached the River Tweed and started up the last 10 miles into a crazy head wind. But we were stopped again, this time by the police as 150 horses were coming down the road. The Selkirk Riding was holding a charity event so we were held up for a wee while, then continued, dodging horse poo, wide horse boxes on a narrow road and tractors blocking the road when pulling out from fields. So it was a gentle procession to the finish. Despite having a reasonable moving time, our overall was an hour slower, with only one planned short stop. Still a great event with the usual sun and some familiar faces and good chat with others.

Then 3 days later the Tour of Britain came through the area, with a King of the Mountains section on one of our local ascents. So we had to be there. Up early to get a good spot, packed 2 cameras, tripod and a sportscam and lots of warm clothes too. Hard work getting up the steep bit of the climb at 17% with all the gear though.

Adder by the roadside on the way up

Adder by the roadside on the way up

Got my site, but there was a chill wind blowing down the hill. Cycling buddies started to arrive and we all gradually chilled down, me too despite a down jacket, gloves, arm warmers, leg warmers etc.

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

The hill filled up with folk and I set up my tripod with the sportscam low down on the far side of the road and then took pics of the various folk coming up the hill.

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

Youngsters put us to shame

The crowds gather

The crowds gather

Cycling buddies turn up

Cycling buddies turn up

The crowds gather

The crowds gather

The police motorbikes and official race cars arrived, zooming at what seemed crazy speeds up the hill through the crowds. A real buzz was in the air.

Roaring up

Roaring up

Roaring up

Roaring up

Then way off down the hill an armada of cars & motorbikes with lights blazing were to be seen in the distance. The race was for the King of the Mountains was on its way. A small breakaway group hove into view, with still a bit to go to reach us.

The leaders appear

The leaders appear

Quite a bit further back was the peloton.

The peloton in the distance

The peloton in the distance

TofB00020

Then the leaders were rounding the bend below us. What a noise from the crowd. The riders were up on the pedals and going for it, with still quite a bit of the hill above us still to climb.

The leaders come through

The leaders come through

The watchers became a bit quieter, wait for the main bunch. Suddenly a roar went up from below and round the bend they came, powering up the hill.

The leaders arriveThe peloton arrives

PowerPower

The Peleton arrives

The Peleton climbing hard

TofB00003 TofB00004

Cav comes through

Cav comes through

Sir Brad in the pack

Sir Brad in the pack

After a crescendo of noise, including a barking dog, the peloton were past us and away.
I wasn’t sure if I’d got any good photos as my fingers were like wooden sausages with no feeling at all, time would tell.
All the multitude of team cars, motorbikes etc. came streaming past, followed by an Asda van, which almost got the loudest cheer of the day.
Gradually the crowd dispersed and the event was over for us. I decided to continue over the hills, the long way home. It took me at least 5 miles of enthusiastic peddling before I had warmed up enough to cast off some layers.
Later that night I watched the round up of the event, and there I was a crouching gnomic figure watching the riders pass through.Spot the Gnome!Spot the Gnome!
So that was it, but for one last thing.
I was out with the North Berwick crew on Sunday, but just Johnny & I turned up. We decided to climb local hills as he is doing one of the biggest bike climbs in the world. It’s in Columbia, 50 miles long and over 10,000 feet of ascent. On the way round he was behind me, touched my wheel but I accelerated off and all was OK luckily. Then right near the end we came to a junction. I stopped, but Johnny’s concentration had lapsed. He braked hard, hit me on the bum and somersaulted over the handlebars beside me, landing in the road ahead but managing not to get flattened by a passing car. He picked himself up gingerly, but was basically OK apart from the odd scraps and minor bleeding. He’s a doctor though so he could heal himself I suppose?

Anyway out of my circle of cycling pals four of us have come to grief in the last 3 weeks, so go carefully out there, we’ll try to do the same!

6 climbs and a few more

 When I wrote about 6 steep climbs round about here,  Jean (https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/) suggested that some photos would have enhanced the blog. At the same time I was trying out an app called footpath, which is great for working out routes for cycling. I decided that I would link them together in a cycle/ photo bonanza. So I managed it, though some of the photos are a bit dodgy as they were taken on the move with the camera slung around my neck.  The weather was ideal, warm enough for shorts & short sleeve top, cool enough to not become dehydrated easily. What a ride, some of my favourite climbs here, and when the gradient was less than 10% it was a real bonus. First of all the boring bits for some, the route & profile:

   Over 110 feet climbed for every mile

  Quite a few ups and downs?

   

 Hill no. 1: Kippielaw
The first hill, not even a mile away, this is short but with a real lurch into the sky at the end. The hill in the distance is Traprain Law with the remains of an Iron Age fort on the top, complete with hut circles and a magnificent view over the Firth of Forth, north up to the Highland and south to the lowland hills.

   
 Hill no. 2: Up into the Beil Estate

After a fabulous colonnade of yew trees you cycle past rhododendrons till another wee steep ramp leads up to the top. Just after this a deer stopped in the road and gazed at my approach for a while before it sauntered off into the woods 

 Then on and up another a couple of ascents before reaching Pitcox, another good climb (though not one of the chosen) past the water bottling plant. Pitcox is a tiny place, but a couple of 100 years ago it had a religious house where monks from the refectory in Melrose who had misbehaved were sent. 

 The climb up from Pitcox past Findlay’s Water

Then it was past the Witch’s Stone at Spott, which often has coins left on it. I tried to take a photo but had nudged the dial of the camera on to the wrong setting. Just before this a fox had sauntered across the road in front of me, my day for wildlife? 

 Hill no.3: Starvation Brae – a local test piece 

 Then came the climb out of Spott – Starvation Brae, not sure why it is called this though. This one is hard – gradually steepens, then has 3 steep bits to the top. A real heavy breathing one by the top.

Onwards and downwards and upwards and downwards . . . . . . . . 

   
Hill no. 4: The Brunt – east side

Then it was across the ford, luckily dry but the road is a mess, then up The Brunt, another climb leaving you puffing at the top. 

 One of my favourite sections, a gorgeous half mile through a wooded dell, dappled in the sunshine. Then came the big one, over a mile long with an average gradient of 9%+ and several steep ramps double that.

   
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the first ramp  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, looking up to the second steep ramp, climbing at 5-8% here
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, a sight I saw a few times  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, getting near the summit
 Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the cattle grid at the top usually a good descent now!Hurrah, a lovely swoop back down the other side to look forward to, but:

Roadworks slowed progress, looks like they are putting in a new track for the wind turbines.
   
Some climb? 

Then it was down for a while, this time slowed by gates. After the valley in the distance it would be another undulating climb back over the distant hills.  Up beside Whitadder reservoir dam

I was now on the section of the road that the Tour of Britain will come down in September. should be fun!  

Whitadder Reservoir, not too many cheering crowds this day.

 
  Another great section with lots of undulations over the moors, I would do this section a couple of times this trip. Many sheep, birds including oyster catchers some way from the sea and cows.
  Approaching Redstone Rigg  Hill no. 6: Redstone Rigg, another local test piece
So the last of the 6 hills loomed up. This is one spoken of in awe locally, though Elmscleugh is far harder, but being further away from Edinburgh is cycled less. I’ve already booked my place here for the Tour of Britain, fantastic views of the riders coming up from miles away, unfortunately it will probably be mobbed with other cycling fans.

Bog cotton and a butt for grouse shooting at the top of ‘The Rigg’   

The wonderful descent with Whiteadder Reservoir in the distance. I went down here at 46 mph, but on a good day have manage 55 so what will the Tour riders be doing? They will have to watch out on the cattle grid in the middle of the descent .
  Iron Age Green Castle Fort, with its 3 ring defence
So back down & up & down & up till home, passing a dead badger on the way. Well pleased and satisfied. And for those who still think Central Scotland is flat?

Shouldn’t do this to a Road Bike? John Muir might approve!

At last, the cough is retreating and I am starting to advance.

I’ve always been adventurous I think.

First Bike?

First Bike?

Trying to set fire to my infant school allegedly, though I’m sure I would have just been trying out how matches worked? I was hillwalking & youth hosteling with the family before I was ten and used to play around with my mates on our second hand (if we were lucky) bikes on the bomb sites nearby-ish. By 16 I had been doing canoe/camping expeditions over the Pennines & in Wales, and hitchhiking off to go climbing.

Into motorbikes

Into motorbikes

At university most of my mates took the ‘hippie trail’ to India, while I hitchhiked up to the Arctic circle with a friend & we kept leapfrogging each other on the way and occasionally meeting up. Sailing gave more adventures, with night dinghy cruises down the Clyde and some ‘interesting’ trips on the west coast of Scotland.

So much fun!

So much fun!

White water open boating

White water open boating

Another trip with a former student saw me camping on the glaciers in the Alps and climbing a multitude of peaks, with what I would look on now as a paucity of equipment.

Soloing Mont Blanc

Soloing Mont Blanc

Cairngorm Expedition

Cairngorm Expedition

And so on . . . . .

I might have thought I’d grow out of this nonsense, but I’m still up for a challenge, or something out of the ordinary. So I just set off on my road bike for the second time after finally feeling like riding again. I knew  was going to be even slower than normal so as I cycled up to Whitekirk (though the kirk {church} is red nowadays, not white) I realised it had been dry for a while. Just beyond the church the John Muir Way goes along Becky’s Strip. It’s supposed to be a cycle route, but there is only a rough, bumpy, grassy track, great for a mountain or cyclocross bike, but rubbish for a road bike. But, I couldn’t resist. I walloped along, passing a fairly surprised group of mountain bikers coming up the other way, and managing not to come a cropper en-route. Hurrah for the Specialized Roubaix zertz inserts, padded handlebars and 25 mm tyres – who needs cobbles?

After a couple of miles I reached tarmac again, but just along the road diverted off through a country estate. While meandering through I forgot about the gutter that cuts across the path at one point, lucky though, no snake bite punctures.

Then a very brief road section and back on to a path, part of the John Muir Way, which is also good for off-road biking. So shot off again – I love this bit, though usually on a mountain bike. Suddenly, CRUNCH, CRUnch, Crunch. Looked down & found a stick had caught in the front wheel, before flying off. I forgot to mention my road bike still had the ancient Crud road racer mudguards on. I don’t like a mucky bum and as we have our fair share of wet days I tend to leave them on till later. I noticed that the mudguard had broken, as it is designed to do, and the stay had wound its way round to the front of the wheel.

Whoops - it shouldn't look like that?

Whoops – it shouldn’t look like that?

After a quick check nothing rubbing too much & unlikely to cause any more damage so off again. Despite all this drama I still managed to get a 5th place cup for the segment, so much for feeling rubbish?

Great track on the John Muir Way - even on a road bike!

Great track on the John Muir Way – even on a road bike!

John Muir Way

John Muir Way

At the end of this a wee bit more tarmac and the down to East Fortune, trying to keep on the grassy middle section of a stoney track.

Track to East Fortune

Track to East Fortune

The motorcycle racing was on there so I took advantage of my senior citizen free entry status and cycled round the paddock. Some brilliant machines there, including sidecars and racing scooters, plus some lovely old racing bikes.

East Fortune motorcycle paddock

East Fortune motorcycle paddock

East Fortune motorcycle paddock - my favourite

East Fortune motorcycle paddock – my favourite

East Fortune motorcycle paddock

East Fortune motorcycle paddock

East Fortune motorcycle paddock

East Fortune motorcycle paddock

After a while it was off, with a flying visit to a friend, a bump along the sand track beside their field and onto the tarmac again. I had been carrying my camera over my shoulder again and managed to get some shots off of a deer leaping across the fields away from me as I pedalled along.

Roe deer leaping

Roe deer leaping

Finally it was down past the old mill (another stoney track), with a heron beside me at the river and then back home.

Heron on the Scottish River Tyne

Heron on the Scottish River Tyne

So shouldn’t do this to a road bike – definitely should!! My bike is made for biking and what fun.

Alas the bottom bracket has gone (I knew this before the ride), so I took the bike in to the shop. Colin said the bearing might take a day or two to arrive, so gave me a demo Dawes Giro Alto bike to have a try. Unfortunately it is raining hard (maybe why I’m writing this?) so this is one that will have to wait till it clears up a bit. It’ll be the 5th bike in as many weeks, my own, 2 hire bikes in Portugal (mtb & road Jorbi) plus a Trek Madonne III in Majorca and now the Dawes. Variety is the spice of life? But I still love my own poor battered beast.

Roasting in Majorca: quite a few pics

As I’ve posted before, I’m not a fan of very hot and sunny weather so when a bike trip to Majorca was mooted and I found out that the temperature was usually in the low 20s I thought that this would be great. So bike hired, saddle from my own bike taken off and all packed and ready to go – I was definitely up for it. We arrived at Palma, coached over to Port de Pollensa and had a late lunch and unpacking session before heading for the bike hire. The bike was a Trek Madone and looked ok. I had asked them to put an 11-34 on the back, but an 11-32 was fitted, which was fine. Went for a wee 5 mile tootle in the sun up over 1200 ft to a local 16th century tower with Johnny and then back to the shop to get the rear gears adjusted. After that everything was sorted. But it was still hot. So back to the pool for a relax and beer.

Johnny climbing up into the tower, too dodgy with look cleats!

Johnny climbing up into the tower, too dodgy for me with Look cleats!

Near the tower above Port de Pollensa

Near the tower above Port de Pollensa

In the town

In the town

Looking over the beach to the tower

Looking over the beach to the tower

Day two the group pottered about getting first day things sorted and as we set off the heat started to build up. We climbed over the first col, I felt a real drouth, despite drinking loads. Slapping on even more suncream we carried on to a monastery where shade, huge fresh pressed orange drinks and coffees were indulged in and even in the shade it was hot, hot hot. I’d had to leave my bike in the sun & the Garmin went up to 47°C – ouch, more suncream.

Map reading time again

Map reading time again

Lunch at the monastry

Lunch at the monastry

Coming down from the col

Coming down from the col

Some of the crew on the road

Some of the crew on the road

Next ride was a ‘flat’ day! We were mainly in the central plains area. Being lower down it was even hotter. All the cliches about heat became true for me. It was good to be mainly on the wee roads again and the traffic was great, giving us wide berths when passing and slowing down when appropriate. Goats, sheep with deep clanging sheep bells occasional cows or bulls and loads of twittery birds in the trees and bushes. After a bit Pete & I became ‘detached’ from the main group. They hadn’t waited at a particular point and we went a different route. So, up into the village square and a coffee and orange while we waited for them. Unfortunately they had waited at the bottom of the village while we were at the top. Eventually we carried on without them, going through some pretty towns and villages on the way.

San Pablos, a lovely town

San Pablos, a lovely town

Majorca10

San Pablos Square

Looking back

Looking back

Pete had been to a cafe in Petra almost a year before to the day so we went there for lunch, it had been mentioned as a place we would aim for and sure enough there, in one of the squares, were the others. After a bit of chat they went off for lunch and Pete & I demolished another Zumo (giant fresh pressed orange) and coffee. The cafe was totally geared up for cyclists (ho ho?), fresh orange segments were served to us, water bottles filled with ‘go fast’ natural, osmosis filtered spring water for free and ice cubes put into water bottles. Plus we had pleasant banter with the family owning the cafe in a mixture of Spanish and English – just superb.

Petra Square, just a few cyclists

Petra Square, just a few cyclists?

Then it was the hot road back. I lost my cool a bit at the others dithering over route choice for the umpteenth time and just made my own way back eventually. At least I choose a route with a slightly cooling sea breeze. Because it was a ‘flat’ day we only climbed just over 2000 feet.

Tree roots through sandstone by the road

Tree roots through sandstone by the road

One of the many lovely churches

One of the many lovely churches

Good sign?

Good sign?

Another day and guess what? Yes, it was hot, hot, hot again. Pete & I left early to catch the cool. We went up to Lucc, this time by the shady route, which was magic. Once over the col we switchedbacked our way over to the highlight of the day, Sa Calobra. This is a must for cyclists to the area. First you climb up to a wee pass, then you go down to the deep turquoise sea . The descent is fabulous, over one of europe’s few spiral bridges and down a multitude of hairpins. After whooping with delight a lot you reach the bottom, knowing “The Only Way is Up” as the group used to sing. But first, yes, coffee, zumo and a trip through the tunnels to the local ‘Torrente’.

Pots but no pans, one broken, one stapled together

Pots but no pans, one broken, one stapled together

Pete finishing a long, hot climb

Pete finishing a long, hot climb

Under the aqueduct, now defunct

Under the aqueduct, now defunct

Sa Calobra, far busier than it looked

Sa Calobra, far busier than it looks

The tunnel to the Torrente

The tunnel to the Torrente

The rugged limestone cliffs on the coast

The rugged limestone cliffs on the coast

Then back up, 7+ miles at 7+% in the heat. So slowly, slowly spinning my way up with spectacular views, smiles and a sense of wonder at this amazing road. Plenty of time to look at everything, with wee stops for photies and a derailed chain. Just over an hour later – the top and this time a fanta, just for a change. The whole team were together again and we flew along, relatively speaking, to the fantastic descent to Pollenta, oh I love going quick and this had it all, glorious, sinuous curves, occasional sharp bends or hairpins, straight smooth bits and scenery to match, bliss!

Squeeze past?

Squeeze past?

Looking back at the last bit of a wonderful 2,00+ foot climb.

Looking back at the last bit of a wonderful 2,000+ foot climb.

The spiral bridge, where the road crosses itself

The spiral bridge, where the road crosses itself

We needed an easy next time so it was  off to the Cap Formentor. I just missed the others setting off so pushed hard up the first hill to meet them. This just knackered me for the trip out. I tried to film the decent, another smooth but curly road, but the sportscam switched off for some reason. The route was spectacular with huge sea cliffs, shady roads, a tunnel and wonderful views. Coffee and orange at the Cap with hundreds of tourists and cyclists milling about. The way back was scary, hire cars coming round blind bends half way across the road, others trying to scrape past or blowing their horns and on one blind bend downhill a woman walked out in front of me without looking, that one was so close, so close. Eventually back to the hotel shaking my head a bit as almost all the other days had been so different.

Tunnel on the road to Cap Formentor

Tunnel on the road to Cap Formentor

Cap Formentor, amazing scenery but cycle early otherwise busy and dangerous

Cap Formentor, amazing scenery but cycle early otherwise busy and dangerous

Coming back from Cap Formentor

Coming back from Cap Formentor

The morning after saw us all take off together to wander around the lower foothills and onto the plains again, just for a change it was hot.

A huge ladslide

A huge ladslide

One of the many round-a-bout sculptures, a touch of Miro?

One of the many round-a-bout sculptures, a touch of Miro?

Love the tiles

Love the tiles

Pete rcovers

Pete recovers

I fancied a mainly solo day for my last ride , so initially Johnny & I pottered  over to Cala de Sant Vincenc for morning coffee by the sea. It was gorgeous, steep limestone cliffs dropping into the bay, with vivid turquoise water. We pottered round the bay and made our way back up towards Pollenta. Johnny left to go back & I did my last climb up to the Col de Femenia via lovely back roads and some rough stoney paths. The descent from the Col was fantastic, speeding down, it was great to have my Garmin map highlighting the approaching tight turns and hairpins.

Cana de Vincenc restaurant for coffee

Cana de Vincenc restaurant for coffee

A cove at Cana de Vincenc

A cove at Cana de Vincenc

The hire bike and a rustic gate

The hire bike and a rustic gate

A restored donkey powered grinding mill with wooden gears

A restored donkey powered grinding mill with wooden gears

Strange limestone scenery

Strange limestone scenery

An egret (I think) in the meadow

An egret (I think) in the meadow

Sensible donkey?

Sensible donkey?

So that was it, 7 days of sun, sun, sun.  Over 300 miles and 20,000 feet of ascent travelled.

And what did I think? The landscape, the villages and the roads were lovely and in places spectacular, but for me the heat was a real problem, one day the average temperature was 29.5ºC. Just too much, I felt permanently thirsty, with a searing throat, though this may have have more about my developing cough. The road users were mainly delightful and except for the Formentor day, very courteous and patient. It was wonderful to see cyclists everywhere and some of the climbs were like something out of a fantasy world – especially Sa Calobra with its twists and turns and the amazing spiral at the top. Would I go back -possibly if cooler, but dry weather and a certain lack of lurgi could be guaranteed. So for your delight, here are a couple of local gravestones as a finisher for the article.

A happy gravestone?

A happy gravestone?

Hope she's got her suncream?

Hope she’s got her suncream?

Portugal and hills, hills, hills

Been away a wee bit for a holiday, meeting up with some of my family. I’m not a great fan of the sun, with my freckles and originally red hair, but enjoy the heat. Nice to be able to wander around in shorts and suncream for a while after the coldish Scottish winter.

Coffee time - again!!

Coffee time – again!!

Family joy

Family joy

I managed some cycling too. I tried to hire a road bike but could only get a mountain bike for the first few days with a road bike later, but that turned out well. Around where we are staying are these interesting bike paths along the clifftops and also the towns with their cobbled streets.

Coast by Prianha

Coast by Prianha, I cycled this one

Interesting paths, I walked this one!

More interesting paths, I walked this one!

So it was fun razing around the place, despite bashing my head on occasional branches and sore wrists (I get this on my own mountain bike as well).

Interesting track along the dyke

Interesting track along the dyke above the estuary for a few kilometres

Across the estuary, Mount Foia in the far distance

Across the estuary, Mount Foia in the far distance waiting for another day

Sardine fishermen

Sardine fishermen

There was also the joys of hoopoes hoping across the path in front of me, Iberian (azure) jackdaws flashing through the trees, the flamingos and egrets out in the bay, the smiles and waves of passers by, the sounds of the sea, wind and so on and so on.

A lurking hoopoe

A lurking hoopoe

An Iberian Jackdaw

An Iberian Jackdaw

You had to watch out on some of the paths as there were big, really big (20m deep holes) with only sketchy fences round them. If I fell down one of those my remains could have stayed there for a long, long time. Also the cliff paths were a bit dodgy at times, so walking in places seemed a good option.

Best to stop right now?

Best to stop right now?

One of the big, big holes.

One of the big, big holes.

By day four though, enough was enough. Luckily I had the nice road bike for the next three days. So even more sun cream and the joy of a decent road bike underneath me. The mountain bike had only done one ride, this one was brand new, so I was really spoilt. The owner was an ex-pro rider Tomas Swift Metcalfe (https://www.swiftmomentumsports.com/) and he spent ages setting up the machines and swapping stories, routes & places to go or not go and hints about the area. We had a bit of a hiccup at first as he’d had a delivery of new bikes, but they hadn’t put the wheels in, so he’d been hunting around Portugal trying to find wheels for clients for the week.  He was meant to be delivering the bike the evening before the hire, but we arranged for the delivery early the next morning.

The road bike at the villa

The road bike at the villa

It was great to be freewheeling on a road bike again, though there were still those steep cobbled streets to contend with, much less comfortable than the mountain bike. The western Algarve is a strange area for cycling. Some fast roads being the only routes in places, but mostly reasonable drivers despite the accident record of the country. Then head away from the coast a little and it’s mainly excellent quiet country roads, with fruit and olive trees, vines old houses, cattle with their cow bells clanging. I spent some time getting mislaid, as I foolishly hadn’t loaded up the right maps on my Garmin, but navigating by the sun or wind a bit I managed to sort things out. I cycled up to Silves, a lovely old town. As I went past the Cathedral a group of about 40 cyclists, a club outing, went past the road end. I followed them up, overtaking a few, then reached the main group who were waiting for the stragglers. We exchanged cheery waves and holas and I carried on my way.

Silves Cathedral

Silves Cathedral

A Square in Silves

A Square in Silves

Next day I managed a climb up to Foia, the Algarve’s highest point at just under 3,000 feet. With 55 miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing altogether it was four hours well spent, even though I didn’t see much at the top as it was shrouded in mist. 20 miles up at 4% average and 6% for the last 6 miles with some much steeper ramps made an interesting climb. The road down from the summit was fast with mainly sweeping turns and a real joy. I heard a plasticy clang on the way down after going over a bump, looked down and back but couldn’t see anything obvious. It was only when I got back I realised that the spare water bottle had jumped out and must have rolled off the road.

Route Profile for Mont Foia

Route Profile for Mont Foia

The mist at the Foia summit clearing slightly

The mist at the Foia summit clearing slightly

Colourful Portugal

Colourful Portugal

My last ride was a quiet saunter up into the foothills through some small sleepy villages, only marred by a puncture, ah well can’t have everything! I had a first experience on the way – a strip club!! I’ve always liked abandoned buildings, so I had a look inside. Even abandoned it looked very seedy and out of character in that rural background.

Abandoned strip club

Abandoned strip club

Seedy interior

Sleazy interior

The area was interesting with orchards full of oranges, apricots and other fruits plus the vineyards. There were many spring flowers dotting the pastures around as well.

Up country, house(?) for sale but the horse?

Up country, house(?) for sale but the horse?

An old water wheel

An old water wheel

Orange trees

Orange trees

The other great way thing was that my sister, niece and respective families were out, so I had a magical time being a Grunkle and playing lots, both in and out of the water and the sea caves. So an interesting time with some good roads and tracks and some great views over the ocean and hills. Not sure if I would like to spend more time in the area on a road bike though as there seem to be few rural roads away from the coast in that area.

Snail House

Snail House

An older lady in Lagos

An older lady in Lagos

Spotted in the bakers

Spotted in the bakers

After a while away at 20º I was back home in Scotland and had signed up for the Tour de Lauder (http://www.tourdelauder.co.uk/). This is a tough Sportive round the Scottish Borders of 89 miles (140+km) and 6,000 feet (2,000m) of climbing. It was a hard day as well and a contrast from Portugal. Not long after we set off in the pouring rain we climbed out of Lauder. The temperature dropped to 0º and the snow arrived. Dropping down a bit it was back to the cold rain, which eventually died away. By the end of the day the temperature on the tops had gone up to 14º, typical Scottish weather!! The route was difficult, not for the major climbs, but the great number of energy sapping ups and downs throughout, and especially toward the finish. The wind turned gradually during the day as well so most of the time we had a head wind, which we luckily worked together. Quite a challenge altogether but well worth doing.

Route Profile for Tour de Lauder 2015

Route Profile for Tour de Lauder 2015

The steep climb snakes up from the bottom of the hill, just visible to the Witchy Knowe.

The steep climb snakes up from the bottom of the hill, just about visible top left, to the Witchy Knowe.

Johnny reaching the top.

Johnny glad to be reaching the top.

Captured by RM Photography

Captured by RM Photography

So a quiet week, then off to Mallorca with some cycling buddies for some more sun dodging and sleeveless cycling.

Tour of Britain 2015 – Checking Out the Route

A wee bit of joy came the way of the Scottish contingent of this Sceptred Isle just recently. This year’s Tour of Britian (henceforth, for the length of this blog, to be know as the TofB) is not only coming to Scotland but will be a local whizz past as well. I’ve already booked my spot on the Rigg, but more of this later. So we’ve maybe got Mark, Bradley and who knows who else likely to be popping past in September?

So why all this fuss – well, the route for the TofB has just been announced and Stage 4 goes from Edinburgh over our local hills, the Lammermuirs, down to Blythe in Englandshire. So I decided to check out how the route looked after the winter. It’s still not vastly warm yet, in our terms, so I was well happed up. An easy first bit up to the cafe at Gifford. Arrived – shut!! Ah well, if I will arrive on their day off serves me right I suppose.

Outside the cafe at Gifford - Yester Kirk

Outside the cafe at Gifford – Yester Kirk the TofB will belt round this corner, hopefully the bus will be out of the way

So no coffee or sustenance just off up the hill.

The glory of tractors? Hills to climb up top right

The glory of tractors? Hills still to climb up top right

Lovely day with a gentle wind behind, I came up the first wee steeper ascent with its 17% rise. As I puffed over the crest I thought of how the pro teams would just treat it as a wee bump. Then a steady climb up past Snawdon and over the first cattle grid.

Down to the cattle grid, the steep climb up Redstone Rigg ahead top right

Down to the cattle grid, the steep climb up Redstone Rigg ahead top right

I once rattled over this grid coming the other way down the hill fast and my bike bag under the saddle shot past me off into the undergrowth. The thump of the cattle grid had broken the clip holding it on. So, I wonder how the pros will cope with this at speed.

Then up Redstone Rigg, another 17%+ climb, getting gradually steeper as it nears the top. The roads are a mess here so I guess there’s work to be done. And my chosen spot is the bend at the steepest bit, good views of them coming up the hill and then speeding past.

Slow for me, but for the pros?

Slow for me, but for the pros?

Top of the Rigg, a bit of work needed?

Top of the Rigg, a bit of work needed?

Another cattle grid at the top and then a left turn

The cattle grid at the top

The cattle grid at the top

This is followed by an amazing, glorious descent, long and fast. My max down here is 50 mph+, so I dread to think of how the teams will do. There’s also a cattle grid on the way down so that could be dodgy as well. At the bottom I turn back for home, more hills, past the white castle iron age hill fort, the monastery and back.

Looking back up the hill - the fast descent

Looking back up the hill – the fast descent

White Castle Iron Age Hill Fort

White Castle Iron Age Hill Fort

Nunraw Monastry

Nunraw Monastery

A couple of days later Terry gives me a buzz. We’d done my birthday run together, so how about another ride? So off to the land of the wind turbines, with an 18% climb up to them. First though a stone on our back roads. I shot down the hill not realising, half way up the other side looked back and no Terry. Had he skidded off the road? Had he riden into a fence? I made my way back up the steep hill and there he was busy mending a pinch puncture, perfectly OK of course. A group of cyclists came past, stopped for a wee chat and then they carried on.

Almost done

Almost done

Flat tyre restored, we carried on up Elmscleuch, the steepest climb around here, I reckon. At the top a turbine sprouted from my head, so energised we carried on over the tops and eventually down to the valley to rejoin a lower part of the TofB route.

Elmscleugh, second steep bit to come, only 7% here

Elmscleugh, second steep bit to come, only 7% here

Self generating energy?

Self generating energy? Just call me Turbine Heid

This time the road was good, with just occasional gravel, and we swept down the glen and over the lovely bridge that crosses the River Whiteadder.

Elegant Bridge over the River Whiteadder

Elegant Bridge over the River Whiteadder

We soon left the TofB route and started our climb back over the moors, engulfed at one point by smoke from a muir burn (burning off the heather to allow new shoots to grow for feeding the grouse, which then get shot!).

House at Longformachus

House at Longformachus

Passing the muir (moor) burn

Passing the muir (moor) burn

Ghost Rider?

Ghost Rider?

Eventually back to Gifford and a welcome coffee and Danish pastry, then home 50+ miles and 5,000+ feet of climbing, not bad for a wee recce?

My Nemesis and The Walk of Shame

It started with my nephew’s bike. It’s a touring bike with a good selection of gears, straight bars, slightly heavy and upright and also a bit too big.

We were all staying at his aunt’s in the wilds of Herefordshire. The house is up on a ridge in a countryside full of narrow  back lanes, muddy, damp and pot holed. But, a bike is a bike and I was grateful for the loan of it.

I discovered that starting near the top of a hill is a drawback as there’s always that climb up at the end of the day. Also, the area is fully of steep hills, often ramping up to well over 15%, often with a wee section of 20%+. So it is all quite challenging.

On one of my rides I discovered Mill Lane. Aghghghghghghgh – and I’ll tell you why later. 2/3rds of the way up I was struggling and staggered off and started walking, slowly, very slowly. But the challenge had been set. Next day, a short ride and I was back. This time, heart pounding, lungs gasping, legs aching I was up without a dismount. Yippee.

When I got home and uploaded my stats I discovered, much to my amazement, I had become King of that particular mountain.

So, 8 months later, I was back, relegated to a lowly 2nd place on my nemesis.

What every cyclist should wear?

What every cyclist should wear?

This time I was with my trusty steed ready for “That Hill” This time we were cat and house sitting.

The cat being sat

The cat being sat

By this time you might be thinking, “What is it with this guy and this hill?” or maybe not.

Well now, the hill starts right after you’ve passed what looks like an old mill house, then cycled down the stream to emerge at the slope ahead. You then know you’ve only got half a mile to the top.

First you cycle down the stream!!

First you cycle down the stream!! The hill rises up to the top right.

Straight away it ramps up to over 20%, take it easy, take it slow, take it easy take it slow, then a wee rest at 15%. Oh no off again, another 22%+ ramp, then another ‘flat’ bit at only 10%. Onward and upward, wheel spin on the gravel as the next 20% section is underneath the bike, then a turn round the bend at a mere 17% before the final kick up at over 22% till it eases off with an almost downhill feeling 3% (OK well not quite, but it certainly feels easier).

So, take it slow at first, up out the saddle by the third ramp and gasping and spluttering as I reach the top of the fourth steepest ramp. Then ahead of me a car looking abandoned across the road with its passenger door wide open, almost blocking the path ahead. I manage to crawl past the driver’s door, gasping something to the woman putting up a notice beside me. I recover enough to get to the top. Done it!!!

Later, when I look at the result I see I’ve just exactly equaled the time on my last attempt. See that car!!

So next day I know that !@£$%^&?|>!! hill has still got my name on it.

So, three days later, after being penned in by the weather, rested and recuperated, I’m ready. A quick 5 mile warm up and I’m at the bottom again, cycling down the stream. Scooting up the first bit – easy, then it bites back. I’ve gone too fast. By the fourth steep section I’m puggled. I’m sure I can taste blood in my mouth, I’ve just overdone it my breathing and heart rate seem to have gone ballistic, should I do this to myself? It’s the walk of shame again. I push the bike up that last steep section, hop on and try to cycle quickly up the last section. Ah well, not to worry, won’t be down this way for a while so maybe next time and it’s off for another 20 miles of ups and downs.

An amazing collection of old items

An amazing collection of old items

The ride is excellent, though clarty, passing buzzards, ducks, cows, tractors, the amazing house shown above and the army base where the SAS are rumoured to train. We watched a dismantled Boeing 747 swathed in white plastic on three huge trailers negotiating the narrow lanes on its way to the base the day before. Presumably to be used for training.

Got home and loaded up the stats much later. Wow! Even with walking it was my fastest time up that hill, well I never!

And who was the person with the KOM? It turned out to be a pro rider from Texas on a 100 mile jaunt, so a different league altogether.

But if I’m back later in the year . . . . . . .