The Cyclesguff rendevous today was the lovely Perthshire town Aberfeldy. We had all spent time agonising over the weather charts during the last few days and Routemaster General's loop would carry us over exposed and familiar roads, albeit in the opposite direction, check an earlier post for comments on riding familiar routes in reverse.
The desperation to get out on the bike was surpassed by the desperation of some drivers. Without wishing to sound like Jeremy Clarkson, slow drivers are possibly more of a hazard than those that treat country roads as race tracks. 30mph on a national speed limit road is asking for trouble. The queue of frustrated drivers backing up behind the self righteous Prius, or should that be Pius, where looking for opportunities to overtake. This is when I usually grimace at the resulting moves. The chap heading south doesn't realise how lucky he was, a few seconds earlier and he would have been collected by an Audi Q7 overtaking on bend with the added thrill of a blind summit. Anyway, enough of the madness and more of the route. We clipped in as the light drizzle applauded our exit from Aberfeldy, only to be welcomed by a drum roll as the heaven's opened when we turned off the main road to take in some of the Etape Caledonia route. The conditions improved when we turned off at Fortingall and enjoyed the stunning road that ends up in Glen Lyon. The vantage point that we all enjoy on a bike provides a view that most motorists will never see. The view of the falls and gorge from the road side where superb. The recent heavy rain had force fed rivers and the waterfalls where, as my Mum would say 'rampant!'.
The road over Ben Lawers is one of the true joys of cycling, the scenery is breathtaking and in Scotland, the clearing sky after a downpour just adds to the majesty of the views. The climb starts with a gradual 3-4% and then builds to 8%, the overall climb is approx. 6.5k. Now, the descent to the junction of the main road is a cracker. You don't have time to enjoy the views as the ribbon of tarmac sweeps round delightful bends, races across narrow bridges, throws you round hairpins, rattles everything over cattle grids and then scares you as come into the tree line. The temperature drops, the road narrows, the surface is damp and the slippy chute asks 'just how brave are you?' Attempting to stop for the junction requires faith in brakes and tyres. Killin was a welcome stop for a quick snack and then we where off along the challenging South Road of Loch Tay. This is a quiet gem that undulates and tests every aspect of rider and bike. In places, the surface is a joke, which is a real shame as the road pulls you into a sense that you could really fly along enjoying the tail wind and view out over the Loch and Ben Lawers. The lunch stop was Kenmore, a table was spotted on banks of the Tay and that was it. Rest, replenish and be thankful that it wasn't raining. We had the option of climbing Glen Quaich and returning to Aberfeldy via Amurlee, but the wise decision was to press on the Aberfeldy and go for a coffee.
The welcoming Watermill coffee shop in Aberfeldy also has a wonderful book shop. It just so happens that the cycling section has to be the best stocked for any coffee shop…. I'm happy to be proved wrong on this. Fignon, tick! 100 Climbs, tick! Mark Beaumont, tick and double tick, and the soon to be ordered Cyclepedia: A Tour of Iconic Bicycle Designs. Although though the scones weren't tried, the Watermill already has a few bonus points for the Scone league based on its love of the bike.
All in all, the loop was 95k with 1321m of climbing. The views were only matched by the great chat and Routemaster General's wicked sprint into Aberfeldy. He enjoyed the winner's spoils of a sneaky Glenmorangie 10yr old. No doubt we will return to add on the Glen Quaich loop to bring the loop close to 160k. This is a far more challenging route than the Etape Caledoina, the views are better, the rewards of the descents leave a taste for more and the remoteness of Glen Lyon fills you with a sense of wonder and teases as a gateway to more adventures.
ps A few more posts are due, including the first mtb speel. A few sportive organisors could learn a thing or two from how the Chain Reaction Cycles MTB Marathons are orgainsed.