After the failed ride on Christmas Eve, I had hoped that the weather would ease up… Instead, the storm stuck around for a few days and made riding any decent distances impossible without a wetsuit, or a sail.
That did, however, mean that I got to have some amazing snowy hangs with the family while I kept an eye on the weather and shifted my ride plans.
After an incredibly chilled few days of tea, cheese and whisky, it’s time to pack up and leave the cottage in the Highlands and head home to the North-East of Scotland. With only 19/500km ridden and a window in the weather, I’m keen to catch the opportunity to ride home.
The ride once again sets off from Crubenbeg and heads South along General Wade’s Military Road to Dalwhinnie. The conditions hold true to the road signs – ‘no gritting, no salting’ – but the temperature has raised slightly and the snow and ice are slowly turning to slush as I make my way south to the distillery. Morning light begins to spill over the valley and I’m treated with spectacular views of the Monadhliath Mountains.
-A RIVER OF SNOW-
Once in Dalwhinnie, the cycle path that will take me south over Drumocther Summit comes into view… so to speak. I’m once again presented with a field of white where there should be black road. With the only other option being to ride on the (slightly terrifying) A9, I press on. Luckily the snow is getting wet and covering the gravel road. While the going is slow and slippery at times, I stick it in a lower gear and keep a higher cadence to keep what traction my 23 road tyres can give (thank you mountain biking for that bit of how-to).
As the road descends, I start to gain more confidence in the grip underneath me but quickly discover the roads are covered in ice. With that in mind, I start to ride on the verge and begin to wonder if I will ever get to ride on a clear road again.
-UPS & DOWNS-
After a quick pit stop at House of Bruar to see the family, I’m surprised by how long it took me to get through all of that snow. So with the added energy that you can only gain from a 4 year-old cheering you on and grippier roads, I head on to Pitlochry.
It’s here that I grab a bite to eat to warm up and begin the incredible climb out of the city. Starting from the High Street, the road carries you through woods, bends and moorland. This was a welcome kick in the day. Riding solo for longer distances like this can a bit dull at times, so the added effort of pushing myself up has picked up my mood a bit (as have the two coffees and cake!).
To make things even better I’m about to head down my favourite descent in the area.
I had hoped to be further along before darkness truly took hold, but as I enter Blairgowire all the roadside views fade away and I’m left with the 100 feet or so of illuminated road that lies before me. I find a sort of meditation in this, only focusing on the blur of tarmac and my cadence.
But even still, between the cities, once I escape their spill of light, I can look up and take in another view entirely.
After over 7 hours in the saddle, it feels good rolling on familiar roads and eventually pulling up to my doorstep. Even better is the feeling of knowing I’ve put a sizeable bite into those 500 kilometres.
I think I may have caught the Festive 500 bug, as I’m already looking forward to tomorrow.
Follow the route on Strava