Tarbert to Ayr and the battle of Arran | Cycling John O’Groats to Lands End

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I set off from Tarbert looking forward to the day.

15 mins into the ride it started raining and I put my waterproof jacket. Then as I left the A83 to cycle over to the other side of the Mull of Kintyre it unleashed itself fully.

25mph headwind and driving rain. I was reduced to a snails pace heading up onto the moorland that crowns the peninsula, but worse than that I was probably going to miss my ferry.

I dug deep and made it to the seriously-in-the-middle-of-nowhere jetty just in time, but drenched to within an inch of my life.

The storm was in full flow now, and when the ferry arrived I’ve never seen anything like it – the crew had to carefully time each car driving on and off because the ferry was moving so much in the swell.

“Please form an orderly queue for the sick bags”

OK, so they didn’t actually announce that, but it is what half the passengers were doing as soon as we boarded.

It seemed to have calmed down a bit by the time we reached Lochranza, but as soon as I started cycling down the road it came back with a vengeance.

The wind and rain were so strong I couldn’t even keep the bike upright. I had no option but to retire to a cafe until the rain slowed, providing a window of opportunity to get my waterproof trousers on before a lull in the rain.

There is a steady climb out of Lochranza of around 4 miles, and 1 mile into it the storm started up again. It was raining so hard it stung my legs even through waterproofs.

Even when the descent came I had to keep my speed right down to avoid being lashed in the face any harder by the driving rain.

Not much fun.

The final 7 miles to Brodick were against an equally fierce headwind, and when I reached the ferry terminal I was as grateful to get some cover as I was hopeful that the mainland would bring something better.

I was damp from the inside out by the time I got on the ferry, with the moisture from my shorts having soaked upwards.

At least it had stopped raining before we reached the mainland.

Ardrossan must be a strong contender for the bleakest place in the UK. I hope for the sake of its residents it has some redeeming features, but I didn’t see any evidence of them.

It was easy enough to pick up the NCN73 bike trail, but hard to cycle into the biting headwind along the seafront. I was grateful when the route headed inland, allowing me to make good progress for 10 miles.

This is post-industrial Scotland and on several occasions I was regaled by drunks as I cycled along town streets as I made my way down the coast.

With 17 miles to go the route took my back to the coast and the strength sapping headwind. Between that and the back wheel (and my legs) progress is pitiful.

I’ve been really worried about the bike since Arran. Giving it a quick check-over before disembarking the ferry revealed at least 9 broken spokes.

When I eventually limped into Ayr at 8pm one thing was crystal clear. This trip can’t go on without a mechanical intervention.

Bike computer stats:

Ride time: 6h 23m
Distance: 56.12 miles
Max speed: 33.1
Ave speed: 8.8 mph

Continue reading …

Index

Preparation

Kitted out and ready to ride

Things you would rather not know about the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness

20 miles with a bloke called Tim, and a slight change of plan

Day 1 – John O’Groats to Inverness

Day 2 – Ness to Nevis and my nemesis rears its head

Day 3 – Fort William to Tarbert with only one brake

Day 4 – Tarbert to Ayr and the battle of Arran

Day 5 – Ayr to Dumfries and tasting defeat in the Forest of Galloway

Day 6 – Dumfries to Windermere and thoughts on cycling earworms

Day 7 – Windermere to Liverpool and the birds-eye of the storm

Day 8 – Liverpool to Shrewsbury and the ferry across the Mersey

Day 9 – Shrewsbury to Gloucester with sun, showers and an injured Armadillo

Day 10 – Gloucester to Bristol and the day I spoke to soon

Day 11 – Bristol to Bath, a day of disused railway lines

Day 12 – Bath to Tiverton and the breakfast hostage

Day 13 – Tiverton to Lostwithiel and fatigue causes forgetfulness

Day 14 – Lostwithiel to Penzance, and the mining trail

Day 15 – Penzance to Lands End (and back again)

Learning to walk again

Ideas for cycling end to end, with the benefit of hindsight

Kit List

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