Monthly Archives: July 2012

Glen Affric

Feeling a bit down about the recent weather and with post-holiday blues after returning from France, we booked a night at the remote Glen Affric Youth Hostel. The north of Scotland seems to have had better weather than the Central belt and so we hoped travelling to Cannich near Inverness would give us less mud under our tyres.

The plan was to drive up on Saturday morning, ride Saturday afternoon, stay over, ride back Sunday morning and then drive back Sunday afternoon.

We drove up in mixed weather with sunshine and showers, stopped for brunch in Inverness, parked at Dog Falls car park near Cannich and set off early afternoon. The weather was mild despite the showers and we were treated to sunny spells as we cycled along the south bank of the stunning Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin towards Loch Affric.

The path on this section was easy and well-surfaced but quite unused and with a sense of remoteness. When we got to Loch Affric the path along the south side is even more of a well-made track and the cycling very straight forward but we were looking forward to a more interesting single-track return along the North side of Loch Affric on Sunday.

At the head of Loch Affric we reached a beautiful white sand beach and headed off up the narrowing glen following the River Affric.

The Hostel (shown in the first photo) sits about 5km from the beach at the head of Loch Affric, up a slightly more technical track which eventually runs right through Kintail to the banks of Loch Duich near Sheil Bridge. Just before we reached the hostel some heavier rain set in but we could smell the warm homely scent of wood smoke coming down the glen so we knew we were close. We arrived after 25km of cycling in just over two and a half hours.

The hostel was a great choice for our first ‘overnighter’ on the mountain bikes; we had to take sleeping bags and all our food but cooking facilities were provided and bunks so we didn’t need a stove, sleeping mats or a tent. I am not sure how well I’d be able to cycle with any more weight on my back than I had.

We arrived pretty wet due to riding through a few rather deep fords on the last section so it was a treat to get into dry clothes and sit by the wood burning stove while preparing dinner. After an early night and a really good night’s sleep, we woke to pretty awful looking weather – a strong westerly wind, low cloud and quite heavy rain. But by the time we left after breakfast, the rain was letting up and the sky brightening and thankfully as we were headed east along the valley the wind was at our backs. The biggest problem was the rain that had fallen in the night; where we had cycled across fords on the way to the hostel, we were wading through thigh-deep torrents on the way back. And some streams had completely taken over the path.

Still, once you’ve waded through the first, your feet can’t really get any wetter!

After re-tracing our route back to Loch Affric we headed round the north side which was a lot more interesting than the south had been. The path was undulating and fun to ride, with some loose sections both up and down but nothing too extreme.

At the bottom of Loch Affric we crossed a bridge and re-joined the quiet and pretty path on the south of Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin that we’d started on, getting back to the car after another 26km and just over two and a half hours riding. Mostly the weather had been kind and dry with even a few sunny spells but we were utterly soaked from wading through “streams”. It took a half an hour walk to the Dog Falls viewpoint before the feeling came back into my toes.  Driving back down the A9 it felt like we’d been away a lot longer than one night, almost like a mini-holiday.

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Categories: mountain biking, mountains, outdoors, Scotland | 3 Comments

Air Maiden 2012

Spot the Difference?

Air Maiden 2012

Air Maiden 2010

I make the difference about 8″ of air 🙂

Air Maiden in 2010 was my first ever attempt at getting my wheels off the ground ‘voluntarily’. I’d had little moments on the trails when I’d come off a bump at speed, but never really tried to jump as I didn’t know how to and wasn’t very sure what would happen when I landed if I did get into the air.

The weekend is a female-only free ride coaching weekend at Glentress ending in a fun ‘competition’. Participants sign up to a choice of sessions with coaches Emma and Tracy (of “the Hub” fame) Helen Gaskill and Andy Barlow (from Dirtschool). Choices include; beginners jumps, beginners drops, skinnies, and the kicker(!).

Back in 2010 I did beginner drops and beginner jumps and was very pleased to get the small amount of air you see in the photo above and to also ride off the small ‘huck’. In 2012 I was ready for more – progressive jumps and ‘the kicker’!

The weekends are so much fun. The coaches are fantastic, the ‘girls’ range from teenagers to well into their 40s and are all so friendly and always willing to advise and support, the atmosphere is so supportive, it’s perfect for learning and challenging yourself but with really no pressure to do anything you’re not sure about.

And for those who are still not sure you want to get your wheels off the ground – you don’t know what you’re missing 🙂

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Col du Petit St Bernard

Last day at Bike Village 😦 – but what a day it was! 🙂

The plan was to ride up to the Italian border at the Col du Petit St Bernard which had only just been opened after a winter covering of snow. Two of the girls decided to ride all the way from Landry with one of the guides, one girl decided to skip the climb entirely with a lift to the ski resort of La Rossiere, but the rest of us were happy to be driven up the same road we rode up on Day 2 to Saint-Germain and start our climb at about 1300m. We were riding up a valley which lies below the famous road climb favoured by roadies and which the Tour De France both climbed and descended in 2009.

Steady climbing

The climbing was very steady and quite enjoyable really, even though the day was hot and the sun strong. We settled into groups and chatted our way up the climb at a very steady pace.

More steady climbing

Just before the top there was a bit of excitement with a marmot appearance and a couple of snow fields to push across. Then we joined the road about 300m before the summit and made our way to the top with the roadies, a couple of open-top Ferraris and a bunch of other tourists.

Top!!!

Descending back towards France

We nipped over the border for a coffee in Italy and then headed back down the road section to just below where we’d joined the road in order to eat our second lunch and start our single track descent.

Singletrack

The descent just seemed to go on and on forever, with a bit of everything. There a was scary, exposed, technical rocky section at the top, then some nice forest singletrack. Then some undulations in the forest as we made our way round the shoulder into the next valley and even a little mini-climb. A village stop for water from the spring (one of the great things about riding in this area of France is these springs in almost every village), followed by riding alongside and between some fields and terraces. The part where the electric fences on either side narrowed leaving about a 1m gap for us to ride in added an extra shot of adrenaline to one traverse! And then finally crossing the Col du Petit St Bernard road repeatedly by cutting straight down through the forest between the switchbacks, and then riding along the riverbank back into Bourg St Maurice.

None of us realised until we got back how late it had got and what an epic day we’d had: Total Distance: 40km. Time: 8 hours. Ascent: 2715m, Descent: 3201m.

Au revoir Bike Village, it’s been a joy.

Categories: mountain biking, mountains, outdoors | Leave a comment

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