Monday, 9 March 2009

Black and Blue...

... and Red.

Stuart rides his bike two days in a row. But he's too lazy to take any photographs to prove it.

Saturday sees a 6am rise to be ready for 7. Craig and Jim turn up at the appointed hour and we head up the road to Aviemore, though I'm not sure I have everything I need for a wet, windy day in the hills in the middle of the "skiing season". The plan is to be on the bikes by 9am, get two different rides in and be back in time for tea. The reality is somewhat different. Diversions from the plan include: a stop for coffee at the excellent Ralia Cafe, a disintegrating jockey wheel within 100m of the car park necessitating a trip to Bothy Bikes, unfavourable weather and a host of other minor niggles that mean we don't actually get going until 10:30.

"Will I take a compass?", asks Craig. "Nah. We won't get lost".

We get lost.

The first part is straightforward; up past Ryvoan Bothy and down through the trees to Forest Lodge, making sure we don't miss any turnoffs by virtue of taking the time to look at the map. Then we get to a road and switch off. Before long we're cycling past Loch Garten, which is not right. In fact, it's not even on our map. A cursory inspection shows where we missed a turn off and we're soon back on the right track. I'm feeling cold in the cutting headwind so I bash on, only to find that Craig and Jim have disappeared. I wait, then I backtrack to see them with an upended bike. Craig's crank arm has worked loose, which is an irritation on an undulating road, but could be very painful on a rattling downhill. We "fix" it and move on.

Then it comes loose again and the preload nut has gone missing. We jury-rig it together and then we get lost again. The conversation goes along the lines of "I thought you were navigating!", "I thought you were!", "You've got the map", "But you were out in front", "I was just trying to stay warm", "Anyway, you've been here before!", "True, but mens' memories are uncertain and the past that was differs little from the past that was not". That shuts them up. No-one actually says that, but we all wish we had.

Eventually we find the pass back to Badaguish and the track to Loch Morlich where the car is parked beside the ever-patient ducks. We'll head into town to Fat Tread Bikes to get a pre-load nut and I can pick up a bearing kit at the same time, the intention being to head back out to do a second loop around Rothiemurchus and Loch an Eilein. However, by the time we've admired some expensive frames and chatted for a while it has started to rain very heavily. Craig and Jim get changed in the car park and our weak resolve buckles. All-day breakfast it is, then back down the road in time for tea.

Sunday sees squally snow showers in the morning and I go through the motions of 'phoning Chris. He suggests an afternoon ride at Glentress. We climb up to the mast and for the first time in ages it feels pretty comfortable, though not quite easy. Every time I stop, I get cold quickly so we try to keep moving to stay warm. Snow blows around on a biting wind and it's good to get into the trees. The Boundary Trail is nice in places, but I'm not a big fan of the descents; little in the way of technical interest and lots of rough, broken surfaces which rob momentum and shake the flesh from your bones. It's almost a relief to reach the Redemption climb back to the main trails. We finish the Black and head up to Spooky Wood to ride the Red. Everyone has gone home so we have the place to ourselves. We do a couple of sections of the Red descent and then climb to the top of the Blue route to round off the day. It's a superb, swooping downhill which flows nicely all the way to the bottom. We've only been out for 3 hours and 15 mins, but it has felt longer.

My triceps hurt today.

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