Another great weekend singlespeeding

Swobo back winter

On the shores of Loch Ossian

I was pleasantly surprised by a letter that arrived this morning with some newspaper bits from my last trip sent by my sister. Among the cuttings there was a little card sitting in there with all the best wishes for 2011 and the quote ‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away’. I am not sure who of us was first to discover the quote as I had been using it a while ago as well. Simply reading it though again reminded me how lucky I am, having had not only a few, but many moments that took my breath away. As much as the last years have been a struggle sometimes, they have been the most amazing experience for me. Having the freedom to travel and live in places I chose on my own is something that plays a massive role in my life, and I would not give up the freedom by any means to go to places that utterly inspire me and at the same time experience to joy of meeting new people and cultures. Scotland has been the latest station in that journey since I left Germany in 2006, and there are still many places left to explore, many uncycled paths and roads, munros to climb and river to cross.

Last weekend proved two things: Scotland is possibly the most beautiful country to cycle in on a clear and frosty winter’s day, and the singlespeed crossbike is the most enjoyable bike I have owned so far. Cycling a section of the Fort William downhill track was possibly the most hardcore thing I could imagine doing on a rigid singlespeed cross bike, but it was great fun. There were a few other ‘mosts’ on Saturday and Sunday, sleeping with the most people in one room in a 16 people dorm for £16.25 maybe, and Loch Ossian as the most stunning lake to photograph this winter. But we did not leave Edinburgh with the sheer intention to see great things, Ian and me just wanted to ride our bikes for two days, simple as that. The weather however made that most enjoyable.

The forecasted fog fortunately stayed away from the upper regions of the Scottish Highlands we passed with the train, new ideas where to cycle next were developed and we both agreed on the fact that such a beautiful day was the perfect choice for cycling. Arriving at Corrour Station in the heart of Rannoch Moor we were soon bound for Loch Ossian and amazed on how lucky we were to enjoy such perfect conditions. I could have taken a picture of pretty much everything that came into eyesight, the sheer beauty of the loch and its surroundings was immense. Loads of pictures later we found ourselves on a snowy path along the shores heading north, which quickly became muddy and then very tricky to cycle as we progressed and the compacted snow turned into ice, broken up by a few gravelly patches and the odd snow patch. But we made good progress and arrived in Fersit safely. Having had problems with my left knee recently I was surprised how well bike and knee worked together again, so the slight panic I developed last week was again unnecessary. With a stretch of road ahead that took us near Roy Bridge we joined a farm track towards Leanachan Forest and Fort William. The track would have been impassable without the help of frost, but the frost made the massive frozen tractor spurs demanding to cycle on, but manageable. On route we had to pass a massive bull, which was fortunately not bothered by our presence, a great swing bridge, some single track and the old dram track that lead into Fort William once. Underestimating the time it took us to cycle on mainly forest and singletracks the last bit of the day was cycled in the dark. After negotiating a bit of the downhill track and riding through a variation of single trail and forest tracks mainly in the dark, we finally made it into Fort William and treated ourselves to some pasta, chips and chocolate and even made a rambler happy with the leftovers of our massive bowl of pasta. My knee felt a wee bit sore after negotiating quite a few short and sharp climbs, but after trying my newest favourite from New Zealand, Nature’s Kiss, a creme with arnica and peppermint, which gave me a nice warm feeling in my knees, I felt happy and was looking forward to more riding the next day. Ian achieved the same with Iboprofen. Singlespeeding can be demanding sometimes, but rewarding!

Not wanting to end up walking up the climb out of Fort William we skipped the first bit of the West Highland Way on day two and took the road to Ballachulish and continued through Glen Coe Village to join a small path running parallel to the road near Cluanie Inn, which took as all the way up Scotland’s most beautiful glen. I can’t really remember how many times I have cycled, walked, driven or been driven through Glen Coe, but its sheer beauty stuns me again and again. Imagine how great the glen would be without one of Scotland’s busiest roads running through it! Kings’ House Hotel was another of one of those places I have fond memories of, having camped at the free site attached to the hotel quite a number of times now. Some deer made up for good photo models, they were really tame, more pets than wild animals. We were still not quite sure whether to take the road through Rannoch Moor, or give the WHW another shot. The last was chosen, and again we both were amazed how well the singlespeed bikes performed on such rugged terrain. After a long cruise over Rannoch Moor we finally made it into Tyndrum, at the end of another great day cycling.

All pictures from the weekend can be found here