VCDL goes international as we welcome a rider from Aberdeen, which none of us had heard of, but is apparently small fishing village off the coast of Norway, famed for its contribution to the noble profession of prostitution but whose population is too mean to pay for it!
Right, that’s enough stereotyping for one paragraph. And so it came to pass that 40Something & I found ourselves in the Glen Tilt car park at 9.45 on a flukily sunny Sunday in October, where the recently re-located Wee Stu was already waiting, having trekked (or indeed, GT’d) down from Aberdeen, presumably after making a few bob down-the-docks the previous night.
(Ok – I lied when I said that was enough stereotyping – but he was out of the saddle a lot!) Stumpy Rider was absent due to a prior engagement – an educational trip to Amsterdam with Mrs Stumpy to sample the delights of hash cakes & fish porn apparently getting the nod over a day with his Velo Club chums in Highland Perthshire. We await the results of the fish porn research before passing judgement on his choices!
Naturally there was a bit of a wait before Baz & Rossco turned up, as there always is, but they arrived bang on 10am (having conveniently ignored the “let’s be on the trails at 10am” part of the arrangements.) The car doors opened simultaneously and the stereo protestations of “it wasn’t my fault, he was late picking me up” etc spewed from their respective mouths. Baz ensured that he was the early victim of the inevitable ridicule by turning up looking like a gay gym instructor. Thinking he couldn’t look any more gay he then produced a headband!
Wee Stu was responsible for the organisation and venue for this outing on a route which he had ridden before and it was decided to tackle the red route which, according to Trailmaps Highland Perthshire Map 3, is a 22km loop with 460m of climbing. Stu provided us with his usual accurate description from the depths of his memory, “It’s pretty much all uphill until the downhill bit”. Excellent – at least we know what we’re in for.
After minimal faffing (surprisingly) and a bizarre exchange of cardboard boxes between Stu & Rossco which has yet to be adequately explained, we were off on the single track road that would lead us to Big Country. Sure enough, it was up. First on a tarmac road which became a gravel road and ended with a gate which, much like Mr Benn’s changing room, would lead to an adventure! But not before some more climbing. Poor Baz had already, somewhat unfairly, been christened “TB” due to his position at the rear of the group on the first climb but we all soon found our pace and, as promised, after yet more climbing, the vista opened up to remind us why we do this.
The southern edges of the Cairngorms were clearly visible with a smattering of snow along one ridge. Uninterrupted blue skies and views which would make the average American jump on the first plane over here, Megrahi or no Megrahi! A special mention goes to Rossco, who was climbing extremely well and looking in fine form ahead of next week’s Relentless 24 Hour MTB Marathon.
Having started at around 150m elevation we topped out at around 600m and, seeing the trail hugging the side of the valley far below us, we knew it was almost time to point downhill and, much like professional cyclists of the 50′s and 60′s, get some speed going. The likely suspects of Baz & Wee Stu dropped like stones in a fine display of “off the brakes” action whilst myself, Rossco & 40Something minced down behind. The valley road gave us the chance to get up some speed, cheerily acknowledge some walkers (a gesture which was not always returned – grumpy c***s!) and spin our way down to Allt Sheicheachan Bothy – but not before comedy moment of the day.
We had successfully forded 3 or 4 rivers and this one looked no different. With four members safely across, Wee Stu produced the camera, the pressure of which would prove to be 40Something’s undoing. In a stunning display of what I believe is known as “target fixation”, 40Something focussed on the biggest rock in the river & cycled straight into it. An athletic dismount meant that only the feet got wet, much to Stu’s chagrin as he was denied the ultimate MTB photo-opportunity. We had a wee nosey around what looked like a very well appointed bothy & headed, still generally descending, along the trail, eventually disappearing into the forest & reappearing on the road that would take us back to the car park. The 14 miles published in the trail map seemed fairly accurate but a quick check on Bike Hike suggests the total climbing may have been around 550m.
A spot of lunch was followed by what would ultimately prove to be an abortive trip around the Orange route. Some serious climbing saw us confronted by a trail, made impossibly boggy by forestry operations, as far as the eye could see. Given the time & our general uncertainty over the exact route we headed back, having done around 12 miles with about 275m of climbing.
So, a great day of biking, a wonderful day of weather and a stunning day of scenery – all in the company of a gay gym instructor. How many other blogs do you think contain that eclectic combination?
Brought to you by Big Country, by Big Country………obviously.