At the age of about 8 years I remember getting a bike. It was a bike that sticks in my memory because it meant I didn't have to share it with my little sister and it was purple. As a highly fashion conscious 8 year old this meant the world to me. It was a Raleigh and had a blue Tony the Tiger* reflector, which was fixed on the back wheel.
I would ride it up and down our short drive, by short I mean about 50 yards in length. But it was my bike and a bike that saw me through my cycling proficiency test in primary school. It taught me the art of re-attaching the chain to the gears when it regularly
courtesy of www.weheartit.com
and repeatedly came off during the 4 mile bike ride to school. A journey which had to be done over a fortnight until we passed our test.
I remember the feeling of freedom and independence that the bike and certificate gave me and for 3 months wore my cycling proficiency badge with pride. However as I grew up my biking and love of it fell by the way side and I did it less and less.
20 years after arrival of my purple Raleigh bike with the Tony the Tiger reflector I now have a new bike. It is silver and has black swooshy bits on the side- which are very important in terms of going fast. Bikes have long since evolved from my early days and this one comes with suspension built into the front forks. It would appear that I too have "evolved" in that I can no longer spend a whole day on my bike without knowing about it for a couple of days later. Sitting, standing, the transition between the two, walking and running all require a bit more thought and consideration following a bike ride.
My husband and I have done a couple of these and are starting to realise, painfully, that we might not be as prepared as we should be for these bike based outings! We are learning, although it would appear to be a gradual process.
On one particularly sunny weekend we decided to cycle around Loch Katerine, some exceptionally brief research indicated that it was possible to cycle close to the Loch's edge and has had positive reviews. So Loch Katerine it was. We packed light for a "couple of hours" bike ride.
Loch Katerine is roughly 17 miles in circumference (8 miles in length and 0.5 a mile wide**) and has a tarmacked road that runs alongside it. No real requirement for the in built suspension but that's not the point. I was going to break myself into this cycling malarkey gently and this looked like the ideal opportunity. . .
We set off at 9am and arrived at Loch Katerine at 10am hoping to home for a late lunch at 2pm. My husband had done the manly job of shoving the bikes in the boot while I was tasked with the job of packing our day sacks which I did with due care and attention making sure we had:
1 x map
1 x water bottle (filled)
2 x apples
We hit the road with enthusiasm and the first couple of hours ticked by easily, however we'd only cycled a half of the loch's length by this time and had another estimated 2 hours of cycling ahead of us. No problem, we were on plan. We pulled over and devoured our apples and water. Confident that in 2 hours we would be pulling into the car park and heading back to Linlithgow for lunch.
We cycled on and the tarmacked road came to an end. Our options were to head for Glasgow or to head back the way we came. We decided to persist with our original plan of doing the circuit. This would mean going off road, specifically onto a walking path. A chance to test the suspension fork things on my bike and get it a bit mucky I thought.
This particular adventure ended with a lot of frustration at a sign. A sign which read:
"Walkers only- cyclists prohibited!"
We had no option but to turn around and head back the way we came, in effect covering significantly more distance than we would have had we been able to continue. However we were now without any water and our apples had long since been scoffed. The shade of the trees had also disappeared as we set about our return journey.
Conversation between us was very quiet and what some might call tense.
Had "Someone" (Husband) done a bit more research they would have realised it would not be possible to complete a circular route around the Loch we might not be in this predicament. Had "Someone Else" (Wife) been more organised and less half job then we would have had more water and food for the journey. Also had "Someone Else" packed sunscreen, regardless of weather or available shade, "Someone" wouldn't be starting to turn a lobster red. Yes, it would be fair to say that tensions were running high and anger will only contribute so much energy to the cycling.
The 10% gradients that I had thoroughly enjoyed were now proving to be my Nemesis on the homeward journey. My hands, thighs, calves and bottom were now all conspiring against me by throwing waves of pain through my body on each rotation of the pedals.
About an hour from the car park we had stopped to have another "discussion" about whose fault/bright idea it was to go on this particular route and what we would do differently. When I heard some laughing, not at our argument I hasten to add. A group of English, female students who had rented a cottage were sitting out to enjoy the afternoon sun with a couple of drinks. By this time I could virtually smell H2O I was so thirsty.
After a quick conversation it was agreed that it would cause less alarm if I, a fellow female, approach the girls and asked for some water. We agreed the sight of a red faced, sweating man sticking his head over their gate into the back garden might result in us having to explain ourselves to a policeman. Although we did contemplate the idea that we might be able to get a lift back to the car park taking that approach. We decided I should be the one to say hello and go begging for some water!
They were very kind, and if by some chance one of these ladies happens to stumble across this particular story- thank you again. You saved a marriage!
We eventually got back to the car that evening having covered we guess about 40 miles***. We were sore, tired and strangely grateful at the sight of our bashed up old Nissan Sunny. We also have an agreed plan of attack when it comes to taking the bikes out on a "light ride":
- more research
- plenty of water
- sun screen
- maps (for escape routes)
- more food
An emergency fish supper on the way home brought peace to our bickering and the aching muscles which presented themselves over the next couple of days put any ideas of going out on the bikes to rest for a wee while at least.
He was right "They're GRRRREAT!!". Sadly they probably no longer put these little treats into cereal packets for health and safety reasons. As an incentive to get us kids to sit and eat breakfast it probably worked a treat. But then again the associated e-numbers that would go with these often sugar loaded breakfasts was probably more trouble than they were worth!!
I currently make my living as an analyst and am the proud (though slightly geeky) owner of a maths degree hence the importance of explaining my calculations.
Again with the maths, here is the rational:
75% of 28 = 21 this took us 3/4's of the way around the Loch before we had to head back, which would be another 21 miles therefore we did about 40 miles in one day.