So I’ve been trying to spread the word about Pedal on Parliament, including getting some of our flyers out to whereever cyclists hang out around here. Today, it being a niceish day – adjusted for our new weather realities – I decided to go on a bit of a departure from my well-worn groove between here and the papershop and here and Bigtown and strike off across country to the local mountain biking place where there was a cafe and bike hire centre and then onwards to a cafe and farm shop popular with the CTC* crowd. Someone on Facebook had suggested a nifty shortcut through the forest which avoided an unpleasant stretch of A road and so I set off with a song in my heart and a sandwich and stash of leaflets in my panniers.
Top tip for leaflet distributors: don’t accept route advice (or sweeties) from strangers.
Nifty shortcut turned out to involve not just a bastard big hill (which, in fairness, I had been warned about) but a road recently resurfaced with masses of loose gravel. I love my bike dearly, but neither it, nor I, are equipped for going uphill (or stopping downhill) on a surface of pointy rocks. However, I plugged up with a mixture of pedalling and pushing, rode down like a wuss on my brakes, found the extremely welcome ‘shortcut to cafe’ sign and pressed on, visions of coffee and tray bakes dancing in my head.
Second top tip for leaflet distributors: check on the internet whether the place you’re going to is open before setting off.
Still nothing daunted, and glad I’d had the foresight to pack a sandwich, I consulted the map for a route that avoided the Bastard Big Gravelly Hill, and found I had a choice between an even bigger Bastard Big Hill, or to go on the A road which avoided the worst climb, but which in the event was probably more unpleasant being both fast and narrow enough that when the cars decided to pass me when there was something coming the other way, there wasn’t much room for any wobbling and you just had to trust that the person behind you was neither homicidal nor had forgotten they were towing a trailer (that said, the closest pass I got all day – close enough that if the passenger’s window had been open I could probably have reached in and picked the driver’s pocket – was on a narrow back road where the driver of an ancient campervan decided that hanging on for another 30 seconds until I got to a farm gate where there would be room to pass was 30 seconds TOO LONG and he HAD TO PASS THE CYCLIST NOW. This was especially galling as he then got held up on the way down the hill by an oncoming van and, had I not been worried about my hat coming off in a stiffish headwind, I could have caught him up and explained to him the error of his ways. In retrospect it’s probably good I didn’t)
Fortunately the second place was open and happy to take my flyers (and who wouldn’t be, they’ve got a PANDA on them. And a BABY PANDA. On a BROMPTON) and I set off for home with legs that now felt as if someone had filled my boots with lead. It turns out that riding my regular flattish 11 or 16 miles here and there day after day does nothing to prepare you for an epic day of going up and down unneccessary hills in a permanent headwind, even if the total miles ridden wasn’t much more than I’d do in total on a poorly planned day. And that’s why there are no pictures – I very quickly reached the stage where if I stopped pedalling I wasn’t sure I’d be able to start again
Still, it was good to get off the beaten track for a change. And it was a useful reminder (at least the A road bit) just why it’s so important that we get some proper cycling infrastructure in Scotland so that we don’t have to choose between Bastard Big Hills on back roads and being half blown off the bike by the wake from a speeding timber lorry on the main ones. Oh, and if the Scottish Government wanted to invest in one of these … I can suggest a few places where they can put it.