A facebook post led me to writing this. I had things to say, but they extended far beyond what is an acceptable length to a facebook comment, so I apologise only a little bit for going off on one here. It suppose it might mean something for cycling in Aberdeen, and although I no longer live in Aberdeen the topic is one I remain passionate about.
In the last of these ride reports, I mentioned that we sunbathed with coats on, because this is North-East Scotland. Well, now Summer is here and it works like this: it’s warm enough that, if you wish, you can cycle to the beach in shorts and a short-sleeved top. You carry with you a warm top which you put on when you get to the beach, where there is no shelter from the wind and so it’s colder there.
This Sunday, seven cyclists met at the workshop and rode to Forvie beach, near Newburgh (map and suchlike here). Not far out of Aberdeen we were able to join small back roads, of which Aberdeenshire has many. They are wonderful for cycling; rolling, scenic, and underpopulated by cars (although those that do come along have a way of signaling their presence). Arriving on the North side of the Ythan estuary, a short but enjoyable ride up a gravel rode took us to within walking distance of the beach, across some extensive sand dunes whose flora provided much interest for the two plant biologists in the group. We picniced and sunbathed before setting off for home. This was the moment to discover that the prevailing southerly wind had not deserted us, meaning we would have it in our faces practically all the way home. While this kept the ride’s average speed down, cycling more slowly just means you have more time to look at the scenery, and with patience you reach your destination anyway. We rode the last few miles into town down the dual carriageway, and I was very impressed with the standard of cycling shown by the entire group, from experienced touring cyclists to people on their longest ever ride, everyone stayed on the wheel in front, and this is the way to make sure drivers show you respect and don’t do stupid things while overtaking you.
Sunday at 10 a.m. has become a regular thing over the past month or so. The rides are accessible to all, so if we keep getting the sunny days (or even if we don’t), why not come and join us?
If you look back through this blog you will see some reports of Sunday rides in the past, they are a fairly irregular thing but we like them when they happen. If you’re reading this and would like to join us for something similar in the future, please get in touch.
Seven riders met at the workshop at 11 a.m. sharpish, completely undeterred by the brief but fierce hailstorm at 10:50. It was a sunny but windy day and the wind was blowing these squalls in, but we didn’t care, so we set off Northwards anyway, destination Tolquhon Castle, about 20 miles away. We rode at steady pace to a lunch stop near Newmachar:
At which food and drink were shared. I suspect it was the drink that was shared, more than the food, that contributed to some of the later shenanigins, but before reporting on that I should mention that although the photo above was taken in the idyllic bright sunshine with which we were blessed for most of the ride, about a minute after setting off again we were hit directly by another short but very very sharp hailstorm. Still not to be diverted from our purpose, we continued North along roads coated with the icy water from the newly-melted hail. This stuff is slippery and it caught a couple of riders out, but since no-one was seriously hurt so, still not discouraged, we carried on to our destination. The castle, when we found it, was closed. By this stage, however, we were not in the mood to be put off, and a heavy wooden door of imposing size, firmly locked, was not the sort of obstacle to hold us up for long. They’re a lot easier to open from the inside:
So, we were able to fully explore the castle, including its disappointingly small dungeons. After trying to imagine life in the middle ages for a while, we then sat outside for a very enjoyable phase two of our picnic, and to bathe in the afternoon sunshine (with coats on: this is North-East Scotland):
We avoided a lot of roads and their population of loud and aggressive motor cars on the way home by using the excellent Formartine and Buchan way, a former railway line and very pleasant bike path.
You can see details of the route here:
and we hope to have the pleasure of your company on another such adventure sometime soon.
Cycling in misty or foggy conditions is always something a bit special. The lack of visibility makes things a bit spooky, which is only enhanced in the vicinity of an airport. When you see headlights coming towards you, but hear a ‘place coming in that you can’t see, you start to wonder what tricks your mind wants to play.
Other special bit: riding on an unlit gravel path under trees in the fog for a couple of miles.
Other highlight: seeing your shadow projected onto the mist in front of you by car headlights on full beam.
Other highlight: the Machar, as always.
We were seven at the start. This was a bit longer than usual for a night-ride, so people with work on Friday morning headed for home a little earlier. Five of us made the full loop you see mapped here;
and sprinted up the last hill before the pub.
Well, I said I was looking forward to this one and it well lived up to expectations. We found an unfamiliar and exciting way of covering some well-known ground in superb late-evening sunshine. It made for what I hope was a satisfying farewell for two people who’ve been good friends of beCyCle in the last few months, and who we wish well.
The mood was relaxed at the start;
Someone picked the perfect moment to get a puncture, right at the start of the ride with the workshop handy, and while we were fixing that someone else arrived, bringing the group up to seven, which is a great turn-out for a Summer ride.
We set off along the familiar route out past the Harbour and through Torry to the lighthouse, then on towards Cove: and that’s where it got interesting. Instead of taking the predictable, easy tarmac route along the coast, we instead went for narrow, loose-surfaced, and twisty coastal path. To make it more interesting, six-sevenths of the group were on road bikes with slick tyres. Since it wasn’t so long ago that I used to wonder why everyone except me turned up on mountain bikes for a ride that is usually 100% tarmac, I’m not sure what to make of the fact that now that road bikes are nearly universal, we’ve been getting more and more adventurous when it comes to off-road routes.
It’s a lot of fun and a great technical exercise though, making a bike do something it was never designed for. Describing the joy of riding on this path is a challenge, not made easier by this somewhat blurry attempt to capture the feeling;
And probably not something I can put into words here. But I will remember this as one of the better Night-Rides, and I’d like to think we felt we’d earned the copious Tennent’s with which we celebrated our achievement in the Ferryhill Tavern at the end of the ride.
One last thing: there are those who come who want a faster ride, a slower ride, a longer ride, a shorter ride, a harder ride, an easier ride. Then there are those who come out and enjoy it for what it is, and they end up being the ones who make it what it is. Jez, you were one of those. Thank you, and all the best.
It’s been suggested that the term “evening ride” would be more appropriate. Those of us who were riding all through the winter might feel a slight sense of disapointment at the lack of freezing cold, ice, snow, hail, or sleet, but there are some distinct advantages to summer nights;
– We are in the Northern part of the Northern hemisphere, it’s midsummer next week, and it stays light ’til very late. You didn’t even need lights for about the first half of this ride.
– It was warm, there was a nice sunset, and the view from the top of Brimmond Hill was spectacular.
– You can go for a longer ride. It’s a combination of it being light, warm, and summery, people feel good, you feel like adventuring a bit further than you would on dreary winter’s night.
I can’t wait for next week’s midsummer night-ride.