SBT does the Five Ferries

Start timeThe Five Ferries is an iconic Scottish road cycle on the west coast of Scotland.

Regarded by many as a one day challenge and indeed run as a challenge in one of it’s guises, the Five Ferries is a approx 100 miles long, you travel on Five Ferries, two islands and 3 peninsulas.

There are a number of ways to cycle this route my preference is to start at Ardrossan and get the ferry to Arran and head south around the bottom of the island.  Arran has a spectacular coastline and it is laid out before you as you head around the island.  This is the longest cycle leg with the most climb and is an ideal stopping point if you want to do the ride over 2 days rather than 1.Climb from Brodick

Ferry number 2 takes you from Arran to the Kintyre peninsula and a ride north to the village of Tarbert an ideal lunch stop.  You have cycled 50 miles by this point and climbed almost 4000 ft!  Alas if the group speed is not sufficient to build a cushion its no lunch and straight on Ferry No 3 to Portavadie and the Kyles of Bute.Tarbert

If you would like some luxury rooms for an overnight stay this is the place!  This is the third cycle leg and the scenery is just awesome.  You cycle round the Kyles of Bute to board ferry No 4 at Colintraive travelling to the Island of Bute.  A short fast 8 miles sees you in Rothesay for the final ferry to Wemyss Bay and the final ride to Ardrossan.

This is not an easy one day ride and the added pressure of ferries to catch with the chance that they might be cancelled for one reason or the other makes it an adrenalin raising ride!

There is plenty to see on this tour I would recommend that you take your time and take the two day tour and as I said there are a number of ways to do this ride it can be shortened reducing the 100 miles to something more like 80.






Tay Bridge to Carnoustie

I parked up in the car park at the south end of the Tay Bridge.  A lovely sunny day with a slight westerly wind which would mean a helping hand on the way home.

Carol and I got the bikes unloaded and headed out on NCN 1 and across the Tay Road Bridge.  This bridge is unusual in that the cycle and pedestrian way is raised in the middle rather than on the side.  We headed north with traffic rushing by on both sides.  At the north end we got in the lift and once at ground level headed for the silvery Tay.  We were’nt alongside it for long however before being directed away from the river and into an industrial/commercial estate which leads into the docks.  The cycle path goes straight through the docks and emerges at Stannergate.

Once more alongside the Tay travelling on a well surfaced path.  You can see Broughty Castle in the distance.

NCN 1 takes you past the castle and along Broughty Ferry esplanade to Balmossie and Monifeith.  After Monifeith you are on Barry Links, owned by the MOD and still in use today.  As we approached we could see red flags flying and heard gunfire as live firing is conducted on ranges on the links.  It wasn’t long and we were sitting in Franco’s cafe enjoying a light lunch before retracing our steps back.

A great wee ride of 26 miles with 500 feet of climb all on well surfaced cycle path.

SBT does the Great Glen Way

This is the first in a series of posts about the areas that SBT tour in.

The Great Glen (GG) is a geological fault between Fort William and Inverness.  At one end of the GG lies Loch Linnhe and the Atlantic Ocean and to the other the Moray Firth and the North Sea making it an ideal off road Coast to Coast (C2C).

The original fault was created about 380 million years ago then a mere 20,000 years ago during the Ice Age the fault as we know it was formed.

Traversing the GG way there is 22 miles of man made Caledonian Canal and 38 miles comprising 3 lochs that of Lochy, Oich and Ness.  The Caledonian Canal was oened in 1822 almost 49 years after first being proposed.

There are ten hill forts along the GG testifying to it’s strategic importance.  Torr Dhuin and Craig Phadrig are the most accessible from the GG Way and are worth visiting if only for the views.  Craig Phadrig is thought to date from 350BC and be on the site that eventually became Inverness.

The GG runs through the three main types of habitat water side, woodland and moorland and you can expect to see oystercatchers, heron, kittiwakes and even ospreys.  Landward red squirrels, pine marten and red deer.

The GG Way passes through Gairlochy, Laggan locks, Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit.

We shall take a look at some of these settlements as well as Fort William and Inverness in another post.


A Perthshire Pedal

I had some business in Perth and decided to take Carol and our bikes up the A9 for a ride to Loch Tummel.

Carol had not done any riding since our return from France and I had not exercised since my L marathon on the preceding Sunday so it was with some trepidation that we got on our bikes and set off along the B8019 towards Queen’s View and our first stop. 

We stopped for a cuppa and a home made scone, the day had dulled over but it was dry with very little wind and the odd glimpse of blue sky.  We had been climbing for a while and now had a great wee descent followed again by another climb of course.  But we were out in the fresh air on our bikes in Scotland in October with shorts on!!  The sun had appeared again and gave us a chance to take some pics of Errochty Power Station a great looking building more like a Victorian workhouse or Asylum rather than a Power Station.

We continued past the power station to our turnaround point at Tummel Bridge a small village dominated by a large holiday park.  After using the facilities we headed back the way we had come seeing the amazing views from the opposite direction.  

The day had really brightened up now with a headwind to boot.  The descents and ascents were now the opposite way but we knew what to expect and it was not long before we were turning into the car park.

Stats: 20.5 miles, 1500ft climbed in 2h 11m.

Bike Tour de Fer 20

Coast 2 Coast day 3. 

The previous two days had been really good weather just great for biking in today was rather colder and duller almost everyone had at least one extra layer on.

As no one fancied the Travellodge’s version of a continental breakfast we headed into Musselburgh and the Burgh Cafe.  All weekend I had been amazed at the amount of food this crew could down but they surpass themselves at breakfast with quite a few opting for a full Scottish I just can’t eat that much then jump on a bike!

After leaving Musselburgh we headed along Portobello Prom to be confronted with three police vehicles and a Bomb disposal van suffice to say the full Scottish delayed no one as we zipped Doon Porty Prom as fast as our wheels and good manners would permit.  

Leaving Porty behind us we travelled through Leith and onto some of the Capital’s excellent cycle paths unfortunately they were full of kilted walkers doing the Kilt Walk and as we were headed in the same direction that meant we were constantly bell ringing or in some cases whistling to let people know we were approaching.   However a few “want to hire a tandem” or “anyone needing a backy” cheered the walkers up.  As you could imagine we got fairly well spaced out and the front group missed a crucial turning which meant we had to do a U turn and go back through the walkers.  We soon got on the right path and headed out to Dalmeny and South Queensferry.  South Queensferry is the traditional wheel dipping stop and the end of the C2C but as Dalgety Bay is the home of the group we headed across the bridge and onwards to Dalgety Bay for lunch and the wheel dipping ceremony.

Stats distance 27 miles with 1132 feet of climb in 2:38:11 an AV spd of 10.4 mph.

The trip from Annan to South Queensferry will be on Scottish Bike Tourings rides list for 2017.

C2C day 2 Moffat to Musselburgh

Being split over two hotels did have certain logistical problems but taken in the whole picture 5 tandems, 10 riders 5 of whom are blind it really was a minor point!  We were all sorted out and ready to pedal by 0945.  Those of you who haven’t been on a tandem might not appreciate that even getting started poses a challenge with a coordinated clipping in of one pedal and a 321go to get upright and start pedalling ensuring that there is plenty gaps in traffic!

Today is what is known in cyclists parlance as slightly lumpy starting almost immediately with the Devils Beeftub!  I was piloting for Louise and as this was my first time I was supposed to have a co pilot as well but due to call offs I ended up being Louise’s sole pilot quite a sobering thought.  When piloting a tandem communication with your stoker is all important especially when the stoker is visually impaired you literally have to think aloud warning the stoker of bends, climbs, junctions gear changes everything that effects the forward motion of the tandem.  After the climb of the Beeftub came the descent scary enough with sight but when you cant’t see positively terrifying!  

With two pairs of legs propelling the tandem the force exerted on the drive chain is doubled another reason for good communication as sloppy communication with mistimed gear changes can result in this.

The route comprised of a fairly good mix of quite roads and cycle paths with the occasional foray onto A roads  and busy main streets like our lunch break at Peebles.  Mix an organised lunch break with a disorganised community cafe and you end up with some unhappy and grumpy tandemers after a longer break than planned we headed off towards our stop for the evening Musselburgh.

Up until now route marking had been easy to follow and obvious but as we progressed it became harder to follow the route as we changed from C2C to NCN1.  We were booked into a Travelodge in a never quite made it retail park and 1 by 1 all the tandems turned up from every point of the compass.

We were collected by taxis for a trip to a nice Italian restaurant where stories of routes and damaged chain rings were exchanged!

Stats Distance 75 miles 35 ft of climbing in 5:51:33 av spd 11.9

A Scottish coast to coast.

One of the items on a cyclists tick list the coast to coast or C2C as it is generally known.   It has many variations I was tackling  one of the Scottish routes Annan  and in our case to Dalgety bay the home of Talking Tandems for whom I was piloting.  Talking Tandems is a charity that enables blind or partially sighted individuals to get out on a bike despite thier disability.

There was 5 tandems involved in the ride which was being staged over three days.  The group met at Dalgety Bay and after loading bikes and luggage headed down to Annan via Gretna services for lunch.  There was a couple of hiccups but the group was assembled ready for the off from Annan Harbour by about 14:30.

This first day we headed to Moffat following the clearly displayed C2C signs along quiet country roads till the final 4 miles when we had to take a busy A road.  The group was booked into two hotels and once we had all gathered at The Star keys were given out and  we dispersed to our hotels for a wash and change before dinner and convened in The Star for a pleasant evening meal.

Stats for the day Distance 31.4 miles 1282 feet climbed and a bike time of 2:34:49 AV spd 12.2