Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Fit your Butt to the saddle

Stuart Conquers the First Climb

The program says 6 hrs followed by 5hrs the next day to "fit your butt to the saddle"

Stuart came up with a route round the Cairngorms 200Km and 4000m of climbing over two days. I think he was going for 11 hours in one day just to get it over with.

We started at Blair Atholl on the Saturday aiming to meet up at Glen tilt car park and leave at 9am. I slept in depsite the fact I was camping in Blair Atholl. Stuart had been pacing the car park questioning our meeting time and place until I woke up at 9:30 and called him. A quick drive to the car park and I was hurriedly getting ready while apologising for being such a plonker.

Bags packed and weighed down with enough clothes food and water for our trip we headed off up the old A9 from Blair Atholl. Its not comfy, the back packs extra weight make sitting dwon pedalling literally a pain in the butt. Stuart assures me that from his experience of a similar trip this will soon go away and we won't notice it. Oh how wrong he was.......

More immediate on my mind is that I realise I feel crap and Stuart seems to pedal away from me on every slight upward slope. Theres no oomphh in ma legs, the tank is empty, I am fecked before we start. Its role reversal from our last trip and Stuart reminds me its good practise for the Transalp when we'll both be knackered at different times and have to ride at the slowests pace.

Reaching the end of the road section we cross the A9 at the end of that "fast dual cariageway" and head into the hills. It starts raining and we pop on the waterproofs only for it stop raining as soon as we put the backpacks on. The butts are better now, Stuarts predictions seems to be working out and we optimistically start thinking about lunch at Glenmore lodge.

Its a steady fireroad type climb to start with and we make quick progress with a aquick photo stop at the top of our first climb. From here its a bit of a blurr I am in survival mode just riding keeping a steady tempo. When we stop I just want to lie down and sleep, I do lie down every time we stop. Stuarts is skipping along offering words of encouragement and Nuun Tablets . Part of the problem is I am dehydrated a combination of poor hydration the day before a 2.5hr road ride in the evening followed by a couple of pints. Its like a lesson in what NOT to do before a big day out and one that is being stamped in my head and body continually on this ride to be remebered for the Transalp. Nuun tablets I hope are going to allow me to get back to normal.

The riding changes into singletrack and we follow a fantastic route along the side of a loch. Its engaging riding twisting and turning with rock obstacles and the occaisional peat wheel sucking pit of doom. There is no better type of riding you have to think ahead all the time and we both get into our flow. Well Stuart does....I am still surviving.

The weather by this points has decided to play ball and relpicate the sunny warm conditions we hope to meet during the Transalp. If its raining freezing cold and there is snow at the top of very mountain pass of the Transalp there might be some Scottish winners this year as the Euros seize upo in the cold.

Popping onto the road above Ruthven Barracks we stop for a snack and some sunbathing before practising our road thru and off riding to Feshie Bridge. getting back on the bikes after a stop is a reminder of the pain in the butt. Its worse on the road where there is no respite of moving around on the bike but at least the ground is smooth.

From Feshie bridge we are back off road and after a short fire road section we are on some fantastic fast flowing singletrack. The sun is out and there is just enough wind to keep the midge at bay. Its the best riding you can get anywhere. By now we are getting closer to Aviemore/Glenmore lodge and lunch is looking more like dinner.

Loch Morlich comes into view and we are both on silent running, meaning we are tired and in need of food. With only a few kms to go we start talking about what we are going to order and the speed picks up a bit.

Scottish hospitality? Glenmore Forestry Cafe doesn't seem to have quite got the concept. Seeing the cafe we cycle quickly up the hill to the cafe and lean the bikes on the stand quickly congratulate each other on getting here before the cafe closes at 5pm. Walking into the cafe we are both fixated on the cake stand and at first miss the large sign which says the kitchen is closed. The woman behind the counter tells us they close in 15minutes and no they can't do any soup and really the impression we get is that they don't want to do anything because they want away at 5pm on the dot.

Disgusted we head down the hill to the cafe beside the campsite. They are the opposite of the forestry and despite having run out of soup offer to heat up some tinned soup and make fresh rolls up. So if you are in Glenmore avoid the forestry cafe and head to the cafe beside the campsite.

Refueled and somewhat rehydrated on my part we head out of Glenmore to our final destination of the day Tomintoul. As we hit the trails going out everyonelse is heading in for the evening. Its one last push onto Tomintoul.

Its fast rocky wide highland trails and we eat into the miles. The evening sun is out and its an idyllic night. At this point of the day it becomes a mind game to keep going and push on. We have several heart sinking moments thinking we have to ride foreboding tracks that go sharply up off into the horizon until we check the map and find ours isn't quite as bad.

The final section to Tomintoul shows a track following the river we have dry feet at this point. The track then proceeds to cross the river 12 times along the valley floor.

With wet feet we squelch into the best B&B in Scotland, well it feels like it. Argyll House in Tomintoul is highly recommended. Bike wash when we arrive luxury breaksfast choice and friendly hospitality. Its worth every penny. A quick shower out for something to eat and then we head back exhasuted for an early night.

Breakfast is kingsize, with special creamy porridge plus a full coooked breakfast. Maybe not the best choice but delicious. We decide that a walk to the village green is required to settle our food and work up to the day ahead.

Getting on the bikes is a sorry affair. The body is sore all over so even lifting a leg over the bike is a challenge at first but its nothing compared to sitting down. Every small bump is amplified by a bruised butt and the back packs are at their heaviest with full water bladders. Riding up the river Avon in the sun does make up for it in some way though.

We have just adjusted to riding Tarmac and sitting dwon when we hit dirt road and its like being continually kicked up the rear end in the same place, ouch ouch ouch ouch. The singletrack by Loch Builg is a relief in many ways and its tempting to go and sit in the cold water to numb the sore area.

At this point we meet a group riding from Tomintoul to Ballater to raise money for British Heart Foundation. We stop for a chat and find that some of them are not regular cyclsists which explains why they were walking the singletrack. We carry on and hit the major climb of the day. Its a challenging climb(those non cyclists will have a long walk) with the hardest part sitting down on all the bumps to keep traction. From there we descend down onto the road to Braemar with a slight hike a bike detour through the forest after our first navigation error.

Refueling at Braemar we are in good spirits heading for Linn of Dee and the final stretch down through Glen Tilt and back to the cars. Getting on the bikes is worse now and we pick up some ibuprofen to numb the pain for the next 6 road miles. it takes about 10mins for the pain to settle down while sitting.

The highlight from here is the fantastic singletrack at the op of Glen Tilt to the falls of Tarf. I last rode it on my Pace hardtail with 65mm of fork travel, it felt pretty extreme then. This time its lot easier less heart in mouth and more pure fun. We both take it easy with the Transalp only 3weeks away we can't afford to fall off.

Glen Tilt appears to go downhill to Blair Atholl but every time I have ridden it, it feels hard work and there is always a head wind. Stuart and I team time trial it down the Glen replicating the type of effort we will have to do at the end of the Transalp.

Back at the cars we congratluate each other and conclude we could ride again tomorrow.

The butt has definately been fitted to the saddle.

My butt is now the perfect shape of the specialized Phenom saddle

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