Saturday 14th. Probably the last proper team training outing before the big day on the 27th. Start point was to be Callander. Big J and Sam were going to ride an extra 30 odd miles from John’s place, but Bryan had offered to give Mark and myself a lift to the start point. Turns out the drive over took a lot longer than anticipated, and the 12:30 start slipped about an hour. We got parked up, grabbed a quick bite and set off. I immediately regretted going single layer-short sleeve, as although the sun was sort of out, it was chilly on the bike. However, once the train got going at a solid pace I soon warmed up and we were making good time along the road. A minor collision with some on-road debris resulted in a possible puncture for Sam, so a brief stop to check it out was called. Re-inflating the tyre seemed to sort it out so we restarted.
The weather soon turned, and drizzle was upon us as we hit a slow climb out of Lochearnhead. The drizzle turned to rain, so a stop for jackets-on for yours truly was made (yeah, I still can’t put on a jacket in the saddle). The hill continued, the rain relenting as we reached the top, but Sam’s back tyre had deflated on the way up, so needed a new tube. We pulled over in a lay-by and he changed the tube. The rain had stopped, and the midges were out, thousands of ’em. I’m usually a prime target for these little beasties, and this time it was no different, swarming round me as I held Sam’s bike for him as he hurriedly worked the new tube onto his wheel. However, the sheer number of the wee beasties resulted in everyone getting chewed at, as we swatted and splatted them as best we could. Tube changed, back on bikes, escape the beasties down the hill!
On through Killin and to Glenlochay, with a brief stop at Big J’s in-law’s cottage for a quick photo session and chat about the hill to come – the road is a bit ‘rough’ and there are gates in the deer fence on the hill that need opened and closed to get through. There’s also a bit where you need to get off the bike… not liking the sound of that. We were soon at the foot of the hill, having already picked our way through some very pot-holed and gravel covered sections of road. The first gate lay ahead of us, Bryan in the lead opening it for us, but we all had to dismount to get by the cattle grid, Big J’s hope of just cycling through was not happening. Clipping-in on the slope was a challenge, and avoiding the numerous holes, rocks and gravel strewn over what was left of the tarmac was not making this climb any easier. Mark and Sam took to the front, I was in the middle followed up by Bryan and John, all of us picking our way carefully through the mess that was once a road, while working hard to get up the hill. Another gate and cattle grid lay between us and the top, this time we were able to slip through the ‘kissing gate’ at the side. Again, clipping in not easy on these kind of slopes, but everyone eventually got to the 500m high summit.
The downward section was not the normal relaxing descent, the road equally pitted and scattered with obstacles as the ascent. At the bottom we regrouped, Big J rolling to a stop, having picked up a front puncture somewhere on the last section of the descent.
Wheel off, tyre quickly checked for thorns, new tube in, inflated with the gas, when BANG! the tube exploded. Mark and John started to put in a second tube, taking their time to avoid another issue. However, there was something up – the tube was starting to bulge out the wall of the tyre. An inch-long gash in the sidewall was responsible. Not looking good, but Sam produced his tyre patches and the tyre was fixed up, inflated as best we could without bursting the patch and we set off, John cautious at first to be sure the tyre was going to hold.
The road rolled on, the mostly downward section offering a welcome respite from the recent climb, but this was a short-lived 10 mile section before the long climb up the road of Ben Lawers. Five miles or so of steady uphill was before us, but not as harsh as the previous climb.
We were soon cycling alongside the lochan at the summit, the flat soon becoming a steep descent, picking up speed as we headed down toward the A827 and the return section to Killin. The final short climb back up to the ‘midge’ spot and it was mostly flat or downhill all the way ‘home’, Bryan taking the front to ‘get some exercise’ for several miles, with the last 3 miles seeing a burst of speed to finish the day.
The final fun of they day – getting 5 men and 5 bicycles into one car. This involved various wheels being taken off and held on knees, but they were all squashed in somehow for the trip back to Glasgow, where a curry (plus unexpected karaoke) awaited us in Cambuslang.
Sunday. Day 2 of the Lakes expedition. After a poor nights kip for some (snoring, oversoft mattress, loud expulsions of windy-pops) it was up and at ’em for breakfast. Various goodies had been acquired/ brought with the team, our milk safe in the fridge overnight thanks to sticky labels (OK, I maybe went a little overboard, but when I was in student residences, milk was always getting nicked). We chatted to a few other folk staying in the hostel who were doing a bit of walking and watching their friend take part in a big swim event later that morning. Breakfast done, we packed up, grabbed our gear from the drying room, spent ages trying to find John’s overshoes in everyone elses bag only for me to find them – in his bag – then we were off. The plan was to head along the “Fred” route and sort of pick up somewhere along the route were we left off to get the other hills done. More parking fun was to ensue, the swimming event and the triathalon meaning that there were people everywhere and not a space to be found. Eventually we found a layby space and decamped, the rain starting to fall as we got kitted out.
We set off along the flat route, through Ambleside to the first climb of the day – Holbeck Lane leading to Troutbeck (what great names some of these places have!). I got off to a bad start here, my front mech jamming, unable to swap from the big to the small ring. With no hope of getting up the hill in those gears, I yelled to the others to go on (no, its not another puncture), clipped one foot out, banged my foot on the mech and turned the pedal to get the chain to shift over. Result. The others were quickly vanishing, so I pushed hard to close on them as they toiled up the hill. After a short while I was back in touch, breathing hard as we all slogged up the slope, the occasional car squeezing by us as we made our way further up to the Kirkstone pass. As we climbed, dozens of cyclists (triathletes) started to stream toward us, down the hill. A few “hello’s” from John at the front were ignored (seriouz bizniz this triathllon?), only getting the occasional nod, until, to our surprise, a huge yell of “Guys!” – our very own Gio belting down the hill. We responded with our own cheers and hello’s as he vanished down the hill behind us, and kept plugging away at the hill. Soon we were passing an ambulance attending to an unfortunate triathlete on a corner, a convoy of cars behind us only able to pass us once we’d cleared the accident. We continued upwards, calling out to the steady stream of downward cyclists to watch for the accident, and after thirty or so minutes of climbing we reached the top.
The steep descent required serious braking, sharp corners, oncoming cars and the occasional walking or slow, tired cyclist to watch out for. The slope levelled off, and several miles of flattish roads were ahead, time for the train to come in to play. Sadly this was not to be, as we hit a short rise, my front tyre was looking decidely flat, so I had to stop. Pumped up (slow puncture?) and we moved on, but it wasn’t more than a few miles before I had to stop again for more air. Then again as we turned to climb to Matterdale End. And at the top (well, the first top, there was a second not far ahead). And at the bottom. At least the (pricey) tube I’d bought at the top of Whinlatter had a valve that agreed with my pump. This was getting silly, so a new tube went in. Tyre patches also applied as it was clear the tyre was seriously gubbed, gauging roughly where David had seen air coming out the tyre wall on one of the many previous stops. Patched and tubed, we moved on, this time, my tyre seeming to hold the air without issue, but planningon heading to Keswick to get me a new front tyre to be sure of no further incidents today.
We turned on to the A66, Sam taking the lead, the rest of us following, the road starting to head downhill. We spread out a little, mostly keeping to the left of the white line at the edge of the road to give the fast, overtaking traffic more space. We must have been doing around 25mph when it happened. I was at the back, and suddenly and seemingly in slow motion, I could see Sammy was in trouble – his front wheel slid from under him, tipping him over the bike, his head hitting the tarmac, and he lay there motionless as we all careened to a halt. Bryan got to him first – “don’t move him” I yelled as I got off my bike. “Sammy, you ok?”. A few moments passed. “I think so”. “Can you move?”. “Yeah”. “Help him up, slowly”. Bryan and I helped him to the kerb of the junction we were now at and sat him down. “You alright?”. “Mmm”. I’m no medic, but I’ve got a fair bit of experience of dealing with a postictal Dee, so started to apply some of the cogntive checks I’d picked up over the years. “Follow my finger with your eyes”. Left, right, up, down. All seemed well. “Can you move your fingers?”. Yup. “Toes”. Yup. “Anywhere hurting?”. “My head” (surprise). “here” (waist/ hip). “Do you feel sick?”. “No”. So, no concussion (probably?), so far, so good (ish). “What year is it?”. This seemed to pose an issue for a few moments… “2012?”. Ok. “Where are we?”. “The A66, Lake District”. “Who am I?”. “You’re Ian…. I’m feeling a bit funny now”. A quick conflab with the rest – we’re getting him an ambulance, he’s not right and needs a proper medic to check him out. Bryan got on the phone, 999, me using my wee Garmin to call our rough location, getting John to keep him talking, don’t let him fall asleep. Bryan relayed our location, the controller at the other end getting him to ask Sammy his name. He got that right, but was now getting more confused about where we were going, where we’d just been, and was getting cold. I whipped off my jacket for him as Bryan got off the phone. We didn’t have to wait long for the blaring of sirens and the flashing blues as the ambulance arrived. The paramedic took his time to check Sam’s neck, then got him to follow his finger (turning his neck) left then right, head up, chin to chest (neck working ok). “Was he unconscious?”. “Maybe, but only a second or two, can’t be sure”. “OK, seems you won’t need a brace, lets get you in the ambulance”. “where you taking him?”. “Carlisle”. Hmm. “Can you take his bike?”. “I’m not supposed to, but I’m a cyclist too, ok, wait while we get things sorted, then we’ll take it for you”. We took charge of Sam’s car key, took his Garmin for safekeeping, then passed the bike to the ambulance crew, who were quickly off, sirens and lights down the road.
Ok, now what? Back on the bikes? Keep going to Keswick John reckoned, bike shop, ditch bikes, grab a taxi back to the cars. Sound plan. The rain was tipping down, we cautiously made our way along the road, cars dangerously close at times, all of us extra aware of the drains, bulging cats-eyes and any potholes that could lie ahead. The longest four miles ever were ahead of us, the four of us moving in mostly silence, mulling over the recent events. We got there, found the bike shop from the day before, John and Bryan going in to see about a taxi. They were soon out – turns out we’re less than 30 minutes away from the cars, bike shop guy reckons we’d be as quick biking it as waiting for taxi. So a quick refuel with gel/bars and we got ready to set off back up the road. Bryan’s phone went – Sammy! Seems they’d turfed him out of A&E, his ride in the ambulance seeing him mostly recovered, the doc showing more concern over his hip than his head. Good news. Less so for the road, as we were immediately on a hill, working hard to get to the top 4 or 5 miles further on. The rest of the route we fell back into the train, taking our 0.5 mile stints at the head of the group, as we set a quick pace on the favourable roads, some shorter upward hills but a good few downward or easy flat sections allowing us to hit decent speeds all the way back to Ambleside. Ok, where’s the cars? Erm, not sure. Think its this way (stupid Garmin not playing ball with the ‘back to start’ function). An extra loop of Ambleside’s one way system and we hit the right road, a mile or so further on and we were back at the layby and the cars. Ride done. 50 miles (5 or so missing from me stopping my Garmin at the Sammy incident).
A fun drive from Ambleside to the M6 (Sammy’s in-car GPS taking us the ‘scenic route’), and we were soon at Carlisle, picked up a bored (and much better) Sam, only effected by a sore hip and a bit too much daytime TV while he waited for us, and headed home. Curry in Cambuslang rounded off an eventful weekend – not really the 170+ planned for the weekend, and missed out on a chance to try the infamous Hardnot and Wyrnose climbs, but I reckon we’re excused due to all the other hills, weather, punctures, accident, floods and er, hills.
Sunday. 12:30 (ish). A full seven-man cycle team ready to go on a cold Scottish afternoon. The LEJOG’s first full group cycle started off with a minor disagreement, quickly settled, over course and group options. This was soon overshadowed by issues with David’s bike (a loan from Mark Snr), as something was not quite right with the steering and brakes. Some head scratching and minor adjustments with a multi-tool, and it was deemed safe for him to continue (with caution) and to take it easy on the downhills. Our first target, the climb up the Crow Road, a route I now have done a couple of times, making tackling the hill a less daunting prospect. We set off with the intention of staggering the climb, so that everyone arrived at the top at roughly the same time to avoid cooling down too much. I ended up solo for the first half of the ascent, but could see Mark M, David and Brian in the distance, a target to slowly work towards, knowing that behind me Sammy, John and Gio would soon have me in their sights. I’ve somewhat improved in my climbing ability, not having to resort to my lowest gear at all, while still turning the pedals comfortably. Upwards I trudged, enjoying the scenery and watching some sort of bird of prey circling overhead, knocking back a few slugs of lucozade on the lesser inclines. About half-way Mark M dropped back to join me, and the two of us chatted away while making steady progress towards the leading pair. As we crested the last rise or so, John and Gio powered up to us, with Sammy not far behind, and a quick pit-stop at the top was the order of the day. I began to roll to a stop, unclipping my shoe and attempted to put down my left foot (my foot of choice in such stopping situations) but hadn’t realised my shoe had re-engaged itself, so gracefully tipped completely over into the snow-covered verge, much to the amusement of my riding team. I was glad it was a soft fall, so neither bike nor me took any damage.
Some further adjustments to David’s bike and some refueling and we were off again, taking it easy on the descent due to the roads being only partially clear of snow – riding in the clear tracks left by cars. I took to the back with David on his hobbled machine, him braking hard to avoid picking up too much speed as we headed down into the valley. We regrouped at the bottom and set off 2 abreast in an attempt to stop cars from splitting us while overtaking.
Not much further on, Fintry-ish, a puncture hit Mark M’s front, so we all stopped to pitch in, me keen to see how a repair (or rather a swap) is done. Rather than a masterclass in what (I’m told) is an easy enough procedure, a sticking tyre and issues with inners and pumps resulted in a good 20 minutes and many hands not making so much light work of the change. Still, I reckon I now know how it should be done, so can head out solo (once the nights get a bit lighter) confident I can tackle a change of tube (well, as long as its the front, getting the back wheel off is a whole different matter).
We moved on, the group splitting again as time passed, the stronger riders striking out leaving the stragglers a short distance back, I fell in with the back group, enjoying the company at the back, a welcome change from my previous outings when the back group was usually me, solo. A short distance on, a regroup for a junction and direction choice, followed by a short hill which split the group again. Finding myself feeling ok, decided to chase the leading group, just to see if I could catch them. I reeled them in and was soon tucked in behind John, in a train with Gio & Sammy, and we sped on. As my turn at the front hit (“is it a mile or half-mile at the front?”) we arrived at some direction choices, so we stopped to allow everyone to regroup before moving on, assured everyone was heading the right way home.
As the light began to fail, and the back slowed some more, I took advantage of my luminous jacket, hat and bike tails lights to be the “rear-guard”. The roads were getting busy with cars, some of whom don’t feel they need to give you much space as they go by, and I doubted the ability of some drivers to even notice my less colourfully garbed compatriots. It also let me take the last few miles easy, to be sure I’d complete a full training run (3rd time lucky!).
We arrived back a satisfied bunch, 49 miles or so and the first full team outing in the bag.
A productive LEJOG planning meeting (with the obligatory curry) was to follow, with Mark Snr and Cameron joining the riders at ‘the clubhouse’ (Gio’s place). The support van sorted, route now fixed (near enough), accommodation booking jobs handed out and a few more organised group runs pencilled in to calendars, including a coast to coast and a ‘2 days of doing a 100 miles so we know we can do it’. Its all coming together, all I have to do now is convince everyone that this bike is the best way to do the 1000 miles this summer.
Nice to read Ian’s take on Saturday’s ride. He’s a grand lad is the big guy and will make a great rider – but he’ll need a wee bitty of time….
The route was put together by the chief route organiser Sammy. Me, him, Gio and Ian ( Mark’s not coming back out with us until he gets fitter – and he doesn’t like the way we ride). Let’s get a bit of mileage in, but not too strenuous in terms of hills – in other words, no Tak, the hill by which we judge all other hills (cycling in Nice last year the rule still held true – how does the Col de la Madone [Lance’s hill] measure up against the Tak)? If there’s no Tak, there’s got to be the Crow. Ian’s first time up from this direction (and only his second time up at all). We met the hill early on in the ride, and he did not make the mistake he did last time, which was to strain like a maniac (up the Tak) beside the others, and die a slow death for the rest of the ride.
Anyway, we headed on keeping it together on the flat and stretching out a bit on the hills. All seemed well with the big fella up to Drymen and another wee hill. G and myself battered on into the mist along with Sammy who stopped to ‘enjoy’ nature and take a couple of snaps. Up and over the hill and down the other side to wait for Ian. He duly arrived, but the end was nigh.
We headed towards Strathblane and I fell behind a clearly toiling Ian. By now his legs could hardly move, but still he insists on pushing a way too heavy gear. “My legs just spin without going anywhere on the lower gears”. Half right – he wasn’t going anywhere, but I didn’t see too much in the way of spinning. When I noticed that the big chap could not get his speed over 10 mph it was clear the jig was up. This was riding on the flat. Ian was now a burst balloon, and hence he was advised to bow out at the Kirkhouse Inn. His tortured face seemed to show a bit of concealed delight.
At the end of the day, he got a good 42 miles in the bag – no one can take that away and it’s all fuel for next time.
Now we were down to 3 and me, Sam and Gio tore on towards Bishopbriggs in the gathering dark, getting a great little train going. Managed to get the 15.1 mph average up to 15.8 mph by journey’s end. A nice average of almost 19 mph for the last 13 miles.
The last couple of miles saw myself and Sammy crest the final hill and cruise on home. The G man had run his race as his energy flagged for the final stretch. However, he got home fine with no mishaps (or if there were mishaps, we’re not telling. Let’s see if he’s got a slant on the last couple of miles).
And so to curry, and the LEJOG meeting. Beginning to shape up – the trip and the bodies.
Who’s up for next time? Ian?