Day 35, 21st June 2011, Spean Bridge to Blair Atholl

We met another bike rider on the high pass we rode through yesterday, a local from Inverness out on a morning ride, albeit quite a strenuous one.  He was riding a light-weight carbon-fibre road bike, with a weight, I would guess of less than 8Kg.  My bike’s all up weight, including panniers is around 30Kg, and that makes a big difference.  And we are travelling very light compared with many touring cyclists we see.  This chap, a man about our age gave us some advice, including that we could use routes that he could not on his bike.  That was the case yesterday, and again this afternoon, when we again joined the national cycle network.

The weather forecast for today and the next day or so was pretty grim.

We left Spean Bridge in dry but threatening weather, which turned to light drizzle in about an hour.  Our route out was a road called the A82.  Any road with an “A” in its name gives me some traffic concerns. However the traffic was light and we had a simply exhilarating morning. The road climbed steadily up 200m vertical at a modest 3 to 4%.  We know this because our bike computers tell us so.

After 5 weeks of riding we have gained a good deal of touring fitness, which we could use today.  It is very hard to explain the pleasure of being able to work hard on a bike, with simply no sense of impending tiredness.  It is a wonderful feeling, and to get there requires no particular effort, other than simply enjoying the previous five weeks.

We have had days that are harder than others, today being an example, but I don’t think there has been an occasion on this trip were we have actually felt tired.

After our coffee break, we rode to a whiskey distillery at the junction of the major trunk road, the A9, took a tour, then rejoined the cycle route that parallels the A9.  This route is made up of old parts of the A9, bits of local paths and some rough custom-made trail to join the other bits together.  We considered joining the A9 instead to avoid the roughness, but there was far too much traffic.  Not a route for road bikes, and it is the only way to get through this part of the country.

We came to a notice warning us that we had to go through a pass at 457m, and the weather could be horrible.  In fact, at this stage it was horrible.  Steady rain and a temperature of 10C.  Our bike computers tell us the temperature.

Murpy’s law came into action and Roz had two punctures in rapid succession, right at the crest of the pass.  We were cool enough at this stage, and even though it only took us a bit over 5 minutes to replace each tube, this was quite enough to cool us down further.

We then rode hard to get into Blair Atholl, and as we rode in saw the sort of great eccentric old pub that we both love, and checked in, a bit chilled by now.  So I am sitting in the bar after a hot shower, in front of the fire, writing this stuff.

Despite a good deal of climbing in generally awful weather, We enjoyed our 102Km today.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is no better.  Nevermind.

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