Thursday, 25 August 2016

how things change

Visitors to gufftowers will be aware that over the past few years my riding has taken a back seat and time spent on the trails has been shared with Salomon Speedcross 3. The local trail running crew 'Blane Runners' are also a pretty keen and capable bunch of riders. The local strava segments pay testament to this. During a Blane Runners outing, there was a little suggestion for two day North - South take on the West Highland Way. Isn't funny how little suggestions end up with people buying new bikes and kit....

The Old Kilpatricks - taken when you could count megapixels on one hand....
One thing that was very obvious (well, at least for me) was the requirement to spend more time in the saddle and build up the bike fitness. Sunday outings have steadily grown in duration, but I'm still looking to build the miles. My Lemond is in bits, so the idea of going out on the road with that bike won't happen anytime soon. Truth be told, I've almost had it with the roads around here. I've seen too many close calls between riders and other road users to make me question why I should bother. And, it is not always the other road users fault. I just wish that the 'all the gear and no idea squads' could learn to ride at a pace and respect the fact that it is not only them on the road. Some of the riding I have witnessed is beyond belief. My old coach would have dished out a severe ticking off and left you in no uncertain terms as to what you did wrong. His primary concern was the safety of the younger riders, building group riding skills and awareness of road craft. If our bunch had strung out, he would sit on the front, slow the pace and let us regroup. If we were causing a tail back, he'd signal, pull up at safe point and let others pass. We also had no issue with changing from 2 abreast to single file and letting others past. Those of use that remember the roads in the eighties will hopefully agree that things were a bit quieter then and road etiquette was something to embrace. 

A quick jump to the nineties, a change from skinnies to knobblies and a common loop was the Old Kilpatricks on the outskirts of Glasgow. I'm sure those from that area will refer to Glasgow as being on the out skirts of West Dumbartonshire. It was a tough pedal - take the cyclepath from Glasgow and head out to Bowling, then string together some underpasses, attempt to avoid the angry farmer and head up a very long and steep rocky ascent. The views from the summit are fantastic and provided a wonderful backdrop for heaving bodies gasping for breath. The quick dash down to Loch Humprey (a name that's only challenged by Loch Drunkie) was a short respite prior to the wonderful ribbon of rocky, rooty singletrack that ran along the edge of Loch. The next section was a mudfest through the forest that awaited the unwary. The fun really started when you pointed the bike back down towards the Clyde and went for it on the grassy descent to Overton House. This descent never failed to raise uncontrollable giggles. I just remember it being so fast. Flowing corners benefited from natural berms and not so kind off camber bends, a good number of exposed sections of rocks and drops finished off by a wide grass chute to the Overton House grounds gate. Bliss!

you call that a stem....
My memory banks were on overload when a fellow Blane Runner posted a cross country loop for 'more miles'. The route would take in Loch Humphrey and that descent. The amount of work carried out by Forestry Commission Scotland took me by surprise. Memorable sections have been stripped of their character, I can understand why with the aim to open access to others. However, I was disappointed and wasn't holding out much hope for the descent. Oh, how wrong I was! Isn't it wonderful how bikes knock age out of the equation and take you back. The giggles returned and I could have been back on my Bontrager Race Lite. 

it's not only the trails that have changed
It's been well over ten years since I've ridden that descent and it's less than 10 miles away! The changes that have been made to open up the access are obviously working, I can't ever recall having to shout ahead to walkers on that descent. The only people I recall seeing where poachers scaling the terrain on their way to enjoying the spoils of Loch Humphrey.

Stay upright

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