The idea of loading of loading my bike up and setting off on an adventure directly from home has always appealed to me. Last weekend I had the opportunity to indulge myself – my friends Paul and Robin have been working on a project to cycle the north and west coasts in a series of long weekends, relying solely on public transport to get to and from each section. Their itinerary would take them by the morning Bike Bus to Braemore junction and onto the coast road south, overnighting in Kinlochewe and Lochcarron before travelling onwards to Mallaig via Skye. I was unable to depart until after lunch so cycled from my house to meet them in Kinlochewe. Next day I accompanied them round the coast road to Lochcarron via Applecross.
There is something tremendously satisfying about undertaking a journey under one’s own steam that would normally necessitate the use of a motor vehicle. The 55 miles from my home outside Inverness to Kinlochewe took a mere 3’15” in the saddle. I also spent an hour out of the saddle, including a surreal visit to Contin Stores. The shop was in darkness due to a powercut. I had to borrow a torch from the proprietor in order to locate the biscuits in the gloom at back of the shop. As I paid for my sugary purchases of sweets, biscuits and energy drinks it occured to me that cycling may not actually be any cheaper than driving when you take into account the amount of food required to maintain an average speed of 17 mph on an fully laden bike. I was however being extravagant, a bag of oat meal would have supplied flapjacks and mealy water that would have sustained me every bit as well for a fraction of the cost.
As I cycled away my mind wandered from the financial cost of bike fuel versus car fuel to the amount of energy required by each mode of transportation. In terms of the actual energy expended per mile the bicycle beats the car hands down. But what of the total energy cost of manufacturing, packaging and shipping those Licquorice Allsorts, Tangfastics, Sport Mixtures and Lucozade Sport to Contin? It all adds up.
After the long haul up Strathbran the final descent from the Viewpoint to Kinlchewe was a wide, smooth delight. I settled in the hotel bar. Presently Paul and Robin arrived. In an effort to rehydrate I gradually decreased the amount of lemonade added to my cooking lager, shifting to tops after a couple of shandies and ending the night drinking neat lager.
It is a curious feature of Germanic culture that shandy, or Radler as they call it, is regarded as a sports drink. Judging by the labelling it is particularly appropriate for cycling applications. I ingested a couple after our perfectly timed 1100 arrival in Shieldaig on saturday and can can vouch for its effectiveness. I found that it alleviated the sore head that had been afflicting me on the morning’s climbs. I am not so sure, however, that the trio of Radlers that accompanied my lunch at the Applecross Inn did anything for my performance on the climb up the mighty 620 m Bealach na Ba.
I became increasingly flatulent as we crept up towards the summit, undigested fish and chips thrashing in a sea of shandy within, and was glad of the opportunity to pause and savour one of my favourite views, out to the Cuillin of Skye and Rum.
It was a tremendous relief to roll into the Wee Campsite in Lochcarron, lie down and let my lunch digest and my wind dissipate. If I’d had one of those charcoal dog biscuits I’d have eaten it. Had the chance presented itself, I might even have gone so far as to steal one from a dog.