Day 8: Is a celebration of a ride. After taking the tiny ferry onto the Cape Wrath peninsula, the cycle on off-road track to the Lighthouse and the end of the trail is just a great end to a magnificent journey that has taken you through the very heart of the Scottish Highlands.
Maybe next year…
In the morning it’s ~5hr ride to Lairg, passing the ferry port for Cape Wrath (bittersweet) and using some of the NC500’s A838 coast road before heading inland/east. We make good time on the road (I can use the aerobars for the 2nd time :D) so have lunch in a nice cafe in Lairg (Pier Cafe). We pack cakes for the train trip and it starts to rain for the first time in a few days. In Inverness we have a hotel and do a little bar crawl. Same again for Glasgow after some shenanigans changing at Perth with Scotland playing football on Saturday! This is the second time we’ve paid silly prices for hotels in Glasgow – the last time was during Commonwealth Games. Need to pay more attention to the Glasgow events listings…
Day 7: The first part of the day is easy riding along Strath to the hydro dam in the shadow of Ben More Assynt. A short steep climb takes you to Loch Shin. Just after Merkland Lodge turn onto an upland offroad trail to Gobernuisgach Lodge. Descend to the ford at Cashel Dhu. CAUTION: If the river is in spate do not cross here. Better head back up river, cross if safe next to Ben More Car Park or better still cross using the bridge at Alltnacaillich followed by one mile portage to connect back with hill track to Loch Eribol then onwards on the coastal road to Durness.
We had our alarms set so we would have the tent packed up by the time the Achness Hotel opened for breakfast aka making the most of the daylight but still smashing the fry-up on offer! Frazer (Achness manager and chef, to my knowledge) made some amazing scrambled eggs for me. Full up, we eventually ride out and up along the River Cassley.
The climb up from the Duchally Weir is paved but tough. I use ‘relubing of my chain’ as an excuse for a breather. Note: waxed chains get stripped and noisy pretty quickly in the wet in Scotland; but it was a case of run what ya brung for me. I was carrying Ceramic Wet lube and once clean and lubed the chain would quiet down again. Had a funny incident on the descent to Loch Shin. I was in front and thought I’d let Malwinki catch up and at the same time take a photo of the loch. So I stop near a hillock before a turn and go to get the phone out for a photo when the hillock moves, waves its arm and tells me to keep going! Turns out some deer hunters in camo (legit SMIDSY!) were laying right there and I’d stopped right behind them. Tip: if you’re a deer hunter, maybe don’t shoot from 2m off an open road and don’t get upset when someone doesn’t see you if you’re dressed in camo! Ha!
Not needing to detour to Overscaig Lodge for supplies we turned north on the A838 past Loch Merkland and then branched off right through West Merkland lodge’s ‘two-boulder gate’.
We stopped for lunch in the middle of the trail here ^. It was just immense. There were huge boulders that looked ready to topple down on us at any moment and over the water was the noise from the streams running down the mountain. There was nothing man-made to indicate the scale of anything. It was just huge, beautiful nature and a nice moment to stop and ‘try’ to take it all in.
Passing Gobernuisgach Lodge, we hit some single track following the river. If you have the full route file off the ATM website it actually takes the HT550 route and follows the Glen Golly River left here but this was supposed to be much more technical with lots of hike a bike so we went right along a very wet riverside ‘track’. The trail then seems to go across a field but we lost it and were just wandering through high grass and stream crossings aiming for the next turn until we found a track again. Quite confusing and could do with a few more GPS points in this file to make it more obvious.
We suspected it was going to be a ‘no go’ but the plan was to check out the 4m river fording at Cashel Dhu to see if it was passable. Unfortunately, it was more like a 40m crossing and there was no way I was going swimming with a bike (again).
We backtracked, which was handy, as I found my sunglasses on the trail that must’ve bounced off on the way down to the river. We weren’t going to go back to the Alltnacaillich bridge and take the 5km ‘portage’ option so instead rode north along Loch Hope and joined the A838, which adds maybe 15km and a couple of road climbs before it rejoins the ATM route again at Eriboll.
We’d had no tyre dramas after Malwinki’s valve issue right at the start so it was a bit funny that I had a rear tyre puncture (the first for this ‘former frontman’ Pirelli Cinturato M) on the road with only 20k to go until Durness. This was the first time using a Dynaplug in anger. It worked exactly as expected, sealing the tyre and letting us continue fairly quickly (after hosing all the sprayed sealant off my frame and saddlebag).
We arrive in Durness!
This would be our ATM finish point. The Cape Wrath ferryman was on holidays so we couldn’t get over to Cape Wrath itself. We knew doing this out of season that it was unlikely we’d get all the way so this is one of those things you need to be prepared for. We were stoked to have made it all the way to Durness given the rocky start, terrible weather and kit issues. So, we weren’t too bothered about the Cape Wrath section and it gives us a reason to come back!
We try and find a B&B but everything is either shut, full, or £300/night so we end up camping at Sango Sands for £20. They’ve got showers (extra thanks to whoever left their shampoo in there) and a nearby bar and some onsite food shop doing takeaway next to the pub. We pitch up out of the wind. The Tyvek ‘groundsheet’ (it’s building insulation) off ebay we cut to size is full of holes now from rubbing on Malwinki’s brake cables and I wonder how it will cope with the soggy ground. Hot showers before ringing through a large food order just before the kitchen closed. I find another tick on my leg while in the bogs and remove it with no drama. Over to the bar it is for a celebratory Irn Bru (and some Orkney beers, whiskies and the takeaway meals we ordered). While at the pub we decide not to hang around tomorrow but instead ride south to Lairg to get the 3pm train to Inverness then overnight there and train to Glasgow, then overnight and another train back to London. We ring up and book bike spots on the necessary trains.
Day 5: The Corriehaille hydro scheme rough tracks are followed all the way to Contin where the trail joins the ‘Strathpuffer’ forest cycle trails to the historic Little Garve Bridge and onwards via forest trail to Inchbae.
Day 6: It’s into really remote mountains now, following an ancient drove trail all the way to Oykel Bridge and Rosehall.
It’s a very clear and so very cold night in Contin but I slept better than in Killin, having swapped sleeping bags with Malwinki. Strange that I’m the fat one, but sleep cold, whereas she’s usually too warm. We pack up and then backtrack to the Contin Store again to get water and who could resist more food and another coffee? Then it’s back through where we camped and into the forest proper. We make a little detour to check out Rogie Falls…
We rode on to Inchbae Lodge, the ATM’s Day 5 finish point, where we stopped for a sit-down lunch in their warm conservatory out back. Burgers and a pint of Golden Cow from Strathcarron Brewery as well as some hearty rolls (ie. egg and hashbrowns) to take away.
There’s no big climbs through here, it’s just a long gradual gradient upwards following the water along Gleann Mor. We pass through the Alladale Wilderness Reserve and head on to Croick where we stopped to explore the Croick Church and look at the signatures etched into the windows by farmers displaced during the Highland Clearances.
I’m not wearing my sunglasses and my eyes get slammed with some bugs during the fast forest descent towards Oykel Bridge. We head to the Oykel Bridge Hotel, knowing it will be closed, having earlier rung them to ask about booking a room. I use an outside tap to try and wash the bugs out of my eye and then we try the old ‘get your partner to jam her finger in your eye’ trick, but no dice, so we push quickly on along the A837 looking at other establishments along the way until we get to the Achness Hotel. It has lovely flat grassy areas outside and I’m immediately thinking of asking them if we can camp the night outside (Desperation Face: Engaged). The staff are lovely and we order some drinks and ask about the camping situation. They’re totally cool with it providing we order a main meal. That was going to happen regardless, so I’m stoked. They also open early enough that we can grab a nice breakfast as well. So, we finish our drinks, clean bugs out of eyeballs, clean ourselves up then set the tent up next to the pub before sitting down to a lovely dinner beside their fireplace! Now THIS is camping 🙂
While using ‘the facilites’ I spot one of these little critters on my thigh. It’s a tick and we expected to encounter some so we came prepared with tick tweezers. It’s so small I have to actually take a photo of it to confirm it’s a tick and which way it’s pointing. Performing my first ever Tickgetoffme procedure is a little pinchy as I probably grabbed more skin than tick but it seems clean so all good.
After eating ALL their apple pie (and Malwinki’s huge cheesecake) as well as some more pints and a few drams we are all set to dive into the tent. It’s pissing down now and there’s only one small tent door so we run to it one at a time and have a pretty decent nights sleep. I think it stayed about 10C all night so it was quite toasty.
Day 4: It’s back on another historic trail, this time its Major Caulfield’s road. Built in the 1700’s the ‘road’ provides excellent single track to Glenmoriston. The new power line track creates a great off-road link after another big climb to beautiful Glen Affric and its ancient twisted Pine trees.
Day 5: The Corriehaille hydro scheme rough tracks are followed all the way to Contin where the trail joins the ‘Strathpuffer’ forest cycle trails to the historic Little Garve Bridge and onwards via forest trail to Inchbae.
We grab (not literally, remember we’d had dinner) the woman cooking breakfast at the hostel and she says she can do us some breakfast rolls, fruit, cereal bars at 8am so we have some coffee, pack up our dried kit and tuck in to the food when that arrives and then set off. The trail continues right behind the hostel, with a reasonably steep set of soggy switchbacks up through the forest on Caulfield’s Road. It’s steamy work in amongst the trees but eventually we pop back out onto dirt road.
After about 7km, the route turns left onto some bumpy singletrack and in here there’s a “4m stream crossing” which thankfully wasn’t in spate so no detour required. If you’re careful, you can keep your feet dry… ff you’re me, well, top marks for my Dexshell waterproof socks.
After the singletrack descent we took the ATM guidebook’s suggestion and rode a mile further down the road to Redburn Cafe in Dundreggan. Here we had some coffee and cake (scones w/ jam and cream for me) for morning tea and grabbed a couple of sandwiches to pack away for lunch. The guidebook mentions that the Estate has blocked the gate behind the cafe but my GPS route still used this blocked way so we found ourselves having climbed up to a locked gate. We had to ride back down past the car graveyard onto the A887 and use the next turn, just before Tomcrasky Road, near the red phone box. There’s also a gated trail in between these two tracks but a loaded bike doesn’t fit through (see pics below).
Now there’s another decent climb past some logging trucks and then it opens up and you can see for miles. There’s some blue sky and it’s hot enough work that the waterproofs have to come off (so nice not having clammy waterproofs sticking to your legs!). There’s lots of photos of ‘someone’ walking but I’ll not post those to protect the innocent. Walking is no bad thing up here though – the views are stunning.
From here it’s 10k of open and forest descent down into the village of Tommich, where we stop for refreshments, remembering my rule of, ‘if food is available – eat it’. We get lucky for a change and as soon as we’re inside the skies open and a big shower hits.
Because we had now decided to push on and it’s likely to get colder and/or wetter, we revisit the ‘crappy glove’ issue and decide to try and buy some Marigold washing up gloves to supplement our existing gloves. There’s a Spar in Cannich, which is only 5k further along the route, just over the river so we head there. On arrival, Malwinki points out an Aussie flag sign in the window but I think nothing of it. Then I spot a can of Solo (light on the fizz so you can slam it down fast) in the fridge. Every Australian should be familiar with this drink. It turns out, the owner is a Sydney woman and she runs an Aussie food import business and has an Aussie section in the Spar! What are the chances?! We only arrived here for washing up gloves (which we found and bought) but we left with an arm load of Aussie treats.
At some point we’ve looked at the remaining flat route for the day and decided, since we still have 3hrs of daylight left and the weather is nice, we should push on past Struy and into Day 5 of the ATM guidebook route. The climb is tough but the views are rewarding.
The tension starts to mount when we realise the descent isn’t going to be a fast one and that ‘3hrs of daylight’ becomes 2hrs.
We haul arse down the smoother and drier doubletrack, snap some pics at Orrin Dam (1hr of daylight left) and then zoom down the paved road to Marybank. There’s not much in Marybank so we head onwards to Contin to see if the Riverside campsite is open. It’s not, but Contin Stores is, so we grab some snacks, beers and everyone’s favourite camp food – Pot Noodles! We ask the nice woman running the shop if she has any wildcamping suggestions. She does and we decide to use the closest of them – Contin Forest – just a couple of km away and on the ATM. I don’t have any pics of it but I think we actually set the tent up with some remaining daylight (always helps) and then used the handy Forestry toilets to clean up and change into warmer clothes while cooking up a little feast (ok, Pot Noodle, Cup-A-Soup, the lunch sandwiches, beer and random snacks) with the stove.
Day 3:Follows hydro and stalker paths all the way to Loch Laggan to join the historic General Wade’s Military Road built in the eighteenth century which crosses the highest pass of the trail the notorious Corrieyairack Pass, followed by a long offroad descent to Loch Ness and Fort Augustus.
We were in amazing spirits after all the warmth, food and lovely hospitality from last night so had obviously decided to push on rather than bail at Corrour. We still had some faster options to Inverness, if the weather stayed miserable and we couldn’t dry kit out, but everything was looking better this morning. After saying our goodbyes, we rode out and noticed the two guys (I think one was Matt, sorry I’ve forgotten names) were camped near an outbuilding and cooking breakfast. We had another chat and probably shouldn’t have mentioned how lucky we got with the hostel while they spent a wet and windy night in tents – sorry fellas! A few kms down the track I realised I’ve left my wallet at the YHA so have to back track but we’re soon making forward progress along Loch Ossian.
The riding is much easier for most of this stage (at least until Corrieyairack Pass, the biggest climb of the route, around the 50km mark) and the weather seems to be easing.
We were paying more attention to minimising ‘hanger’ today so using the notes from the ATM Guidebook – “Loch Laggan, lacustrian sandy beach at Kinloch Laggan, good spot for a break” we take a break and, for the first time, spark up LFGSS member Owl’s camp stove – one of three he’d kindly loaned me to test for this trip. Boiling water with his MSR copy in the 750ml Ti Toaks pot is quick and we make instant cappuccino (not my choice – next time we’ll take something different) and a last minute purchase from Decathlon – their dehydrated spaghetti bolognese. Turns out to be a good panic buy – it’s quite decent and we then clean and reuse the spag bol packets for the rest of the trip, in place of having any of those natty folding plastic bowls (mmm bolognese-falvoured porridge).
There’s a 10% off-road climb out of Loch Laggan and then there’s some lodges to ride through – one filled with deer – so ride quietly if you want to see them.
After some road sections we were soon at the base of the day’s dread… Corrieyairack Pass, the biggest climb on the ATM route at 770m elevation. There were lots of stream crossings and stone-edged drainage gullies. Some were shallow and easily rideable, others were deep enough on the high side that it made sense to jump off the bike and walk over or around. We’d heard horror stories about this climb but I didn’t think it was all that bad (Malwinki might have a different opinion – she looked a bit trashed on this climb). Sure, it was long and the hairpins at the top are very steep but it’s so much easier to walk these than ride. I was doing the same speed walking as riding but my lower back was much happier not having to do 600W around each hairpin corner.
Having crested the top it was a fast and loose descent down towards Fort Augustus.
There were some navigational hiccups as we got closer to town. I looked at the files when we got home and we seem to have three different routes into Fort Augustus. One of them clearly wasn’t right as it tried to go through the grounds of this pink place which is private property.
After a few dead-ends and some hike-a-bike through a cemetery (technically another ‘dead end’?) we finally cycled into Fort Augustus and straight into a Londis to inhale much needed food and drink while checking phones for (roofed) accommodation options. We settled on Morag’s Hostel which happened to be the cheapest and closest option, just around the corner from the Londis. After some price querying we were checked in to our own room and promptly turned it into a massive drying rack. It was here we noticed the cables on Malwinki’s bike had eaten their way through her Topeak Frontloader handlebar bag. It has a weird arrangement where the curved harness part is out front rather than the Revelate stuff which has the more solid part at the back. Anyway, we patch this up with Gorilla tape for now, but we’ll need to find a better solution – her brake cable splitters also ended up damaging the head tube paint on her bike.
After cleaning ourselves up we headed back into town and had a huge feed and some brews at The Bothy pub. We met the boys again (they’d sensibly got an airbnb and were probably madly drying stuff like us) and this was where they diverted off the ATM route so we wouldn’t see them again. Much fuller and happier we had a nightcap in Morag’s bar and then hit the sack.
Day 2:Continues up NR7 using a disused railway line to a pass crossing the busy A85, followed by a Forest trail descent to the Falls of Dochart and Killin. The trail turns west here to follow the Strath to the remote and wild Pubil Pass to Glen Lyon, which then turns east to the Bridge of Balgie with its Post Office Cafe. A cake or two is a good idea for the Kirk Pass is the next challenge. This steep off-road pass is a serious climb which will bring you to Loch Rannoch. Another climb then follows skirting Rannoch Moor to Loch Ossian
The forecast had said the rain would stop at 8am so we stayed in the tent a while. Of course it didn’t stop and we were just uncomfortable and wasting time now so we quickly packed everything up wet and got a move on. The Alpkit sleeping pad had punctured at some point so we’d need to fix this one before next camp (Gorilla tape didn’t work but a Lezyne glue-less patch did the trick)
We start with some more climbing which is nice as it warms us up a bit. Then it’s up the Kenknock climb which is pretty hard work sans-breakfast. But there’s a rainbow and some motivational messages for ATM riders up there…
After the climb is 17k of wet, cold, ok, very cold descent to the Bridge of Balgie. This is when we both find our gloves not up to the task and start to question whether it’s sensible to push on or not, given our expectation of it getting colder as we head further north.
Thankfully the Glenlyon Post Office Cafe was open so we had a long break here – warming up, eating/drinking hot stuff, squeezing water out of wet kit, talking about road bail out options. Of course, while under cover, the rain stopped and the sun came out and this must have improved our mood as we decide to carried on.
The climb up Kirk Pass is quite steep in places and towards the top is very wet in places. Other than being a midfoot rider I’m wearing normal shoes (FiveTen Freeriders) and using flat pedals (Pedaling Innovations Catalyst) so it’s easy to jump off the bike and walk any steep bits. Flats are also useful for walking around big puddles that you can’t see the bottom of and don’t fancy losing a front wheel and face-planting in. Kirk Pass is a pretty decent slog and, of course, the rain comes back.
There was a nice forest descent off Kirk Pass down to Loch Rannoch and then some very pretty views while riding alongside the loch. We notice a couple of blokes with bikes stopped lochside and head on towards Rannoch Station where we hoped to have a proper feed at the cafe there. Alas, at the B846 turn west, there was a sign saying the cafe would be closed. “No soup for you!”. This was starting to get quite unfun – I was running on fumes and getting proper hangry but we pushed on up ‘The Road to the Isles’ into the Highlands. Somewhere along here I stopped to jam a pack of jelly snakes into my face and the two guys passed, saying hi and asking if all ok. A little later on one of the duo had stopped for a gate and we caught up and had a chat. They were doing a similar few days to us but then detouring for a fast ride to Inverness. They disappeared up the climb. The climb turned into a proper bastard, with loads of streams to cross, some of them very fast moving and requiring a bit of exploring up and down to find the safest crossing point. All the while it’s blowing a gale and tipping down with rain.
Eventually we crest the top and get to drop down fast to Loch Ossian. We ride straight into the YHA there, drop the bikes and wander around looking to see if we can shelter somewhere or ask someone if we can camp on the grounds. We already knew it was booked out but thought we could at least pitch next to a building out of the wind. We must have looked pretty trashed as Jan, the manager, immediately offers us the hostel’s shed. This is no ordinary shed – it already has a bed frame, electricity, lights, fridge, kettle, tables, etc. We look at each other and think we’ve won the lottery. She then proceeds to hammer some floor tiles onto the wall where there’s a bit of a leak while we move some bikes outside to make a bit more space. While all this is happening, Katherine, one of the hostel guests comes outside to move her bike. She asks if we’ve been double jabbed and when we tell her “yes” she asks if we want to come inside and get warm. It turns out, they’re a big group of walkers and cyclists doing their annual group trip. They had a couple of ‘no shows’ so offer us beds for the night. “What the?! Oh, yes please!”. So, we’ve gone from miserable and soaked to posh shed glamping to actually sleeping in a toasty warm hostel! We both shower and clean up and then they feed us a lovely meal (including my first Cranachan – lovely combo of whisky-soaked oats, cream and raspberries) and give us drinks and we have a great night chatting away with the group. Amazing! Thanks so much Jan, Katherine, Isobel, Dave, Saartje and the rest of the gang! They wouldn’t take our money either so instead I sent some money to the Mountain Bothies Association as it seemed appropriate given the “shelter” we’d received. We had planned to bail here, getting a train from nearby Corrour Station, but this huge uplift in mood changed that and turned out to be the catalyst to us finishing the An Turas Mor.
So, we bought a new (used) lightweight tent (Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2) and decided, after staring at weather forecasts for weeks, Scotland’s An Turas Mor trail was still worth attempting in early October. We rode the Downs Overnighter to test the tent. It worked but exposed some issues with carrying it on our bikes – cue some research and a custom bag arriving very quickly from Beer Babe which holds the tent poles under my downtube and a more durable S2S Big River drybag w/ Voile straps for the tent itself. I was pretty chuffed that Beer Babe let me name the downtube bag and Hippy’s Down Under Pack is available to order here. Lots more panic buying, borrowing and packing and repacking later, we rolled in to London Euston after work on Friday, had a pint and had a very good experience getting bikes on and then off the train in Glasgow thanks to Avanti West Coast. Other UK train companies could learn a thing or three from Avanti!
Day 1: Starting at the Kelvin Park Bridge in the very centre of Glasgow the route north follows the cycle path on the banks of the Kelvin – a deep forested river gorge that hides the city and its sounds from you. Forested muddy singletrack awaits defying the fact you are exiting a major city. Leaving the Kelvin you pick up the banks of the Allendar Water to Milngavie where the trail joins the walkers of the West Highland Way to Drymen. The trail now picks up the Rob Roy Trail through forest to Aberfoyle with its famous cyclist cafe. Onwards and upwards, to the Dukes Pass in the Queen Elizabeth Forest. This route is part of the National Cycle Route 7 which now winds it way alongside Loch Lubnaig to Strathyre.
Fry-up at the hotel cleared, we rolled away shortly after from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and even more shortly after we stopped again because the grrl’s (@PhilDAS) rear tyre had deflated. Yes, of course I’m starting 500km of off-road riding in the Highlands with four brand new tubeless tyre installs.
I scream obscenities at the wheel until the valve agrees that I’m right and seals and we roll away again, wondering if we’ll even make it out of Glasgow and where the nearest bike shop is. We clear Glasgow quickly and are now in stop/start boggy singletrack for a while, neither of us really stoked about anything. Some roads and some more muck and we eventually get to the
West Highland Way which is quite popular with walkers and their dogs – we “hey buddy” all of them – RIP Iohan. It starts raining as we roll into the ironically named town of Drymen. Thankfully it has a nice little bakery where we can eat cake and drink coffee while sorting our waterproof stuff out. We carry on, wet and still a bit miserable to Aberfoyle, stopping in at Macgregors for a proper lunch, more coffee and large piece of cake. Definitely worth a stop here. Then the trail heads up into forest with a fantastic waterfall. Food + pretty view = massive mood increase!
Somewhere near Laggan we stopped to clear the trail of fallen branches and this timed perfectly with two women riding the other way, also on loaded bikes (MTBs). We had a nice little chat with them and exchanged tips for each other’s upcoming trail sections. Always good to meet fellow bike travelers to lift the spirits. Thanks ladies!
We had decided to make the most of daylight and ride beyond the ATM’s Day 1 scheduled stop of Balquhidder Station and aim for Killin where there were more pubs and shops we could use for dinner before setting up camp. We had burgers and beers at The Falls Of Dochart Inn and, after speaking to some locals, decided to ride up the hill out of town to look for a tent pitch rather than pitch near the lochhead where there might be wardens a-wardening. I was so tempted by some lush, flat grass that I ignored the noisy hum of a hydro plant in the background. We slept… a bit… being cold and disturbed by rain through the night.
Looking around for gravel / off-road options I stumbled onto Mark Goldie’s http://ridgewaydouble.net/ route and a vague plan was formulated, some more kit was purchased for @malwinki and packing commenced…
The weather looked good and since I’d finally given away the rear rack I’d had sitting on my porch for 10 years (typical!) our only option really was bivvy bags – the 1p Macpac tent I used touring Europe in 2005 was too big for any of my bikepacking bags. Malwinki got my waterproof RAB Alpine and I would use my ultralight most-certainly-not-waterproof fly bivvy. She had a full-length Alpkit sleep pad and I had a 3/4-length Thermarest NeoAir. I took my down jacket and half bag and Malwinki used my old, heavy, large full-length down bag, stuffed into a handlebar harness I’d just bought off @Aroogah.
Rather than go straight into wild camping I thought I’d ease Malwinki into this world by using a proper campsite – you know with showers and toilets. With other sites closed until April 2021 she found that the Barge Inn, Honey Street was open and we booked Sat night.
Day 1 – Saturday
Reunited and moving along the actual route now, we pass the Bridgewater Monument / Ashride Estate just before 9am and it’s already very busy with walkers and other cyclists.
Riding up Crawley’s Lane, a road climb we’d done on the previous week’s gravel grinder, we caught up to a bloke riding part of the route on his MTB and had a chat for a few kms. He done his knee in a couple of weeks before hitting a deer at speed but seemed well on his way to recovery. I let him go while waiting for @malwinki at the mowed field, where all the Kites were circling for critters, last weekend. It was a good call because it got a little more off-road through this section and I wouldn’t have been able to keep up on slicks with my skill level anyway and I didn’t want to ruin his fun. Thanks for the chat dude.
Through the woods we had a few navigation issues (I took a Garmin Edge 1030 and Garmin etrex 30x that I was trying on a new 3D-printed etrex mount (thanks to @Stonehedge for the printing and Ty Domin and/or his partner for the design). Disabling a borked map on the etrex helped but in the end I turned it off and stuck with the slow, but clearer Edge 1030. Eventually we popped out into this clearing with a lovely view. Turns out it’s Whiteleaf Hill, which I’ve climbed a lot from Princes Risborough on the road but never seen this side:
Further along the trail we start seeing security guards sat on folding chairs along a fence line. WTF? Looking through the trees all I can make out is that it’s a big hole. I assume it’s some kind of mine or maybe a water storage reservoir but why the guards? Well, we google it just now and it turns out it’s this: Water dyed black at Chinnor quarry to deter swimmers
At Goring we stopped for a sit-down lunch and refilled our bottles outside Pierreponts Café. Here we got chatting to a cycling trio from Tatrafitness. I think they were as curious about our bikepacking setups as I was about why they had jerseys referring to the Tatra mountains (border mountains between Poland and Slovakia). Turns out they were Reading locals but his wife was Slovakian. They were on a loop to visit World’s End. I suggested the pub in Camden. 🙂
There’s a reasonably steep climb out of Goring (unpaved road or the rougher side track we took) and then you start getting out into more exposed open sections.
I’m not sure about the flat pedals. At least I know the pins work much better than the Catalyst allen key studs but really what I want is a midfoot SPD setup. I’m going to look for SPD shoes that have the furthest back cleat mounting point and see what I can do with those. Also, I might move back to 700C wheels with say 42mm tyres and see if that lifts the Kinesis up enough to help with pedal strike in the ruts. Or just take an MTB 🙂