Time to start building some fitness, and making sure the bikes are in shape as well.
April holidays saw a few days at Balgowan - near Laggan - near Newtonmore, a favourite spot for rest and recreation. On our first day we rode down past Wolftrax with its smart new cafe (not open but they kindly let us sit in to drink our coffee), down to Loch Laggan and the track past Ardverikie House of "Monarch of the Glen" fame. The loop round the beautiful Lochan na h-Earba and back to base made for maybe 25 miles, half off-road, and it only hailed on us once!
The back tyre developed a slow leak, so on went the spare, and we carried on without further mishap to complete about 30 miles.
After lunch, the temptation to put the bike back on the car proved just too great.
(which conveniently doubled up as my fitness challenge for Duke of
Edinburgh Bronze). The family tackled the Blue Route, the shortest at
'only' 44 miles. After a week of dire weather forecasts, we were
relieved when the day dawned dry, though with a chilly head-wind, and it
just kept getting better until we ended in bright sunshine. We climbed
slowly but steadily up the Lomond Hills ascent, and enjoyed coffee and
biscuits at the picnic tables at the top (apparently not quite the done
thing, to judge by the stream of cyclists going past).
All was going fine, and a skylark sang over our heads, when suddenly - BANG (or 'Big Bang Theory' as I put it) - the back tyre had blown, and the chain was off for good measure. The passing support van quickly helped us repair the tube and get the spare on, but as he drove off we realised that the tyre had a hole through which the tube was rather perilously poking. Fortunately it held for a few more miles, before giving out once more (not quite so dramatically) just before the feeding station at Newburgh. Here we were rescued by a large number of sugar doughnuts, and a helpful man with a roll of gaffer tape, with which we patched the inside of the tyre.
The rest of the ride was straightforward. We were about the last to finish in every category, but we didn't mind a bit. About 8 of our planned days to John O'Groats should be no harder. But then some of them will be quite a lot harder....