The first tan lines and another 250km or so.

Markus Loch LomondBefore I wait another four weeks to come up with the next post, here a short summary of another cracking day on the bike. Possibly not as epic as last Sunday, but as much enjoyable for sure, if not more. If my cycle computer had not fainted on the prospect on another at least 12hr working day, I could even tell how much I did in the end. According to Google Maps more than 250km, but the fact that I took cycle paths instead of roads and followed a few windy canals, rivers and lake shores speaks for more than that. But as they are just numbers I don’t pay much attention to, I can’t really tell you. I loved the fact that I could test my cross bike properly today with riding my stretches of the day off road. To start with I can say that heading off at 7.30am gave me some time to actually catch up with my sleep deficit.

The first part of the day was spent in what people call pea soup here, thick fog I would call it. As I knew the first bit of the Union Canal to Falkirk quite well as part of my commuting to Stirling, I didn’t really care about the not so scenic fog. After being the first customer to purchase a hot drink and a scone at the Falkirk Wheel I even was lucky enough to see if spinning, magic! It’s a stunning piece of architecture, and seeing it in action made my day on a very first stage.

Soon I was off into unknown territory on the Forth and Clyde Canal to Glasgow. Another highly enjoyable path of a cross bike, if only there wouldn’t be dog walkers and stupid people who smash bottles on cycle and walking paths. I thought Edinburgh is bad for that, but Glasgow tops the ranks here easily. With a long day in mind a puncture was the thing I least wanted, and in stages it was so bad that I decided it is better to carry the bike through the mess. So Glasgow, if you want any more of my business, clean up your mess and I am happy to return. But as the sun was out and in full action by then, even the glass massacre couldn’t dampen my good mood.

Leaving the canals behind I joined NCN 7 to head up to Loch Lomond, and one of the most surreal places in Scotland, Balloch. As I respect Loch Lomond and all its beauty, I simply cannot understand how anyone could find enjoyment in spending Sunday afternoon in or outside a hideous shopping centre, with overpriced ‘attractions’ attached to it, to escape the city. Nevertheless, I stopped for a chocolate bar, and felt quite happy not to have the waist (waste) lines of other average shopping centre customers I could happily stare at. The fun fair type music made the whole place even more surreal, and I was soon off to head up the West shores of bonnie Loch Lomond. Cycling up I felt even more sorry for all those people spending such a splendid day in Balloch. After Luss I had to stop to soak in some of the beauty in front of my eyes. A beautifully calm loch with mountains in the backdrop, and a slightly mysterious fog still hanging in bits over the southern shores. In Tarbert I was due another coffee, but my remaining cash of £1.35 and no cash machine made that an impossible prospect. At least the water in the men’s was free (in Balloch you get even charged for a pee), so I happily carried on, this time on the A82 to Crianlarich with the hope of finding an open shop.

My hope was shattered by the fact that summer opening hours start on Monday, so the near pub was the only option. My remaining fortune bought me two Mars bars, and I knew that I will struggle to get to Callendar on them. The road from Crianlarich can easily compete with cross tracks now, only the traffic makes it even worse. Avoid it by any chance with skinny tyres in the near future, some of the pot holes are simply evil. Soon I tried my luck with food again at Lix Toll, but with a minimum spend of £5 I was out without food again. I guess I either need more riding buddies or a family, that makes it worthwhile paying with a card in rural Scotland. So slightly low on reserves, I crossed down Glen Ogle and lost my beloved arm warmer (which I only recognised much later). It would have been a much more enjoyable experience (although it was still fun) if I would have eaten properly, as some miles before Callendar I paid the price. I could feel that my body was totally empty, and was ever so thankful to turn that state around in the Tesco in Callendar.

Feeling better, powered by strawberry milk, Belgian waffles, chocolate raisins and potato scones, I was soon in Bridge of Allan, where I expected to take the train straight back to Edinburgh. It was almost 9pm by then, and I couldn’t face riding the last kilometres to Edinburgh, as I do that almost daily during the week. My plan was gently crossed by Network Rail carrying out maintenance work, so no trains between Falkirk Grahamston and Linlithgow. As buses don’t take bikes in this country of ours, I had to cycle the bit in between, and added another 20km to the overall bill. 2.5 hours after I had left Bridge of Allan I was finally home. And happy. And discovered the first proper tan lines. Summer, we’re are friends already.

And the most important bit: Pictures are here