Reflections on a day’s cycle

Monday, 3 August 2020 – Day 4 of the Story on Bikes – Inversnaid Bunkhouse to Killearn

Setting off from Ayrshire to meet up with the riders for the fourth day meant a crack-of-dawn start and a 2-hour drive. The road to Inversnaid from Aberfoyle is the road we would be cycling from Inversnaid to Aberfoyle in just a few minutes. That dull overcast rainy morning drive up and over the hills hadn’t exactly filled me with enthusiasm but after the obligatory photo and video opportunities three cyclists set off: Moira, Shelagh and me (Willie Sinclair, Mamie Martin’s grandson). The gradients seemed more manageable in real life than in anticipation. I was a bit disconcerted, though, while toiling up one hill when a car pulled up beside me. The occupants wanted to know how to get up Ben Lomond! I heard myself say “If I was doing that I wouldn’t start from here!” I suggested they head for Rowardennan, a 35 mile drive away.

The midges were out but pedalling steadily and keeping my mouth shut I avoided the worst of them. However, we had a rendezvous at Kinlochard Boat Club with cyclists from Strathendrick Baptist Church and that meant stopping beside the mirror-flat Loch Ard. The ever-generous Wrights were waiting for us with coffee and the most amazing cycling fuel I’ve ever experienced. We were only 10 miles into our actual day’s plan but it seemed important to share Ian’s load by eating as much of the “snackery” as possible: parkin and flapjack. Mmmmm. While we consumed calories, the midges consumed us. I stopped counting bite-marks after 35 and just kept pacing about trying to avoid them. Meanwhile Moira was interviewing Kathleen for the video that is on here.

We followed the Wrights through the Loch Ard Forest trails over some pretty bumpy surfaces, our skinny-tyred road bikes coping well. Forest rides are great for avoiding the wind but you do need to know where you’re going. Food was a theme of the day. A picnic stop at Lochan Spling (any Gaelic speakers who can shed light on that name?) and a lunch stop at Gartmore Village Hall were the Wrights’ subtle way of preparing us for the Gartmore to Drymen leg of the ride. Childhood memories of journeys from Milton of Buchanan to Aberfoyle by “The Old Gartmore Road”, and the excitement of leaping out to open the gates for my Dad (and whatever bunch of friends/relatives were visiting us) to drive through, didn’t include the hill we had to go up. I suppose in the 1960s we would have been going down North in a car instead of up South under our own steam. The term “unrelenting” could have been invented for this climb. We live in Angus so most of my cycling now involves hills, but the steep ones are short and the long ones are more gradual. Gartmore to Drymen is both steep and long, with many false tops luring the unwary cyclist into a disappointing not-yet-final effort. My usual approach is “head-down-and-grind-away” in the lowest gear possible, ignoring everything and everybody around me. My reward, as I finally reached the top was the glorious view and an Osprey casually checking out the Muir Park reservoir as it flew west towards Loch Lomond. (There’s a nest site at the Lake of Monteith, just a few miles East of Aberfoyle.)

Moira and Shelagh are uphill heroes and downhill demons with well-set-up bikes (Moira’s has disc brakes) while I was riding a 1970s Raleigh Carlton with braking technology that was devised in the 1950s. So, despite my greater mass, gravity got them to Drymen before the rest of us. Part of the final leg from Drymen to Killearn via Gartness was shared with the West Highland Way. Ian warned us about absent-minded walkers. We managed to dodge them. My faulty childhood memory banks had Drymen and Killearn a long way apart so I was delighted to see the rooftops of our destination much sooner than I expected. But it was up one final hill. A spectacular evening meal topped off a memorable day in the saddle and I was exceedingly glad NOT to be doing the next leg to Falkirk: the forecast was for heavy prolonged showers.

The success of this whole Story on Bikes has been a surprise. It had looked like the Pandemic Lockdown had killed the plan but changing and adapting resulted in the participation of many more people in many different ways. I was ‘lucky’ that Eileen volunteered me to do a stage in reality. I also clocked up miles beforehand in the #Stay-at-Home version, as did 42 other people!

Moira spent a lot of time during each ride filming, photographing and interviewing followed by a huge effort editing it all into manageable wee chunks to be uploaded to our YouTube channel. Take the time to watch the video of this day and then please hit the Like button, subscribe to the channel (no cost involved) and SHARE SHARE SHARE!

Thanks to all our stay at home riders and donors!

Thanks are due to:

– all the riders, Stay-at-Home or on-the-day

– Eileen for being my co-driver and for meeting us at the end of the day’s ride

– the un-named friend of the Wrights who delivered them, their amazing food and their bikes to Kinlochard in the morning

– Moira for organising and editing and shepherding the whole project.

And finally.

It wasn’t designed as a fundraiser so much as an awareness-raising event. Thank you, however, to all who donated to the Mamie Martin Fund.