I got my second ride out with the Major, the first one being a few weeks ago after him first citing the idea a few years ago. The day is Easter Saturday, if that’s what one calls the day before Easter Sunday. Everything seems to be going as plan; he picks me up in Glasgow and drives to Aberfoyle. Bikes out of the car and reassembled, a quick tour of the holiday home and we are ready to set off before 11.00 On the way to Aberfoyle, Ally talked of growing up in the area, pointing out landmarks and friends’ houses along the way. I already knew he was a story teller and always spoke with passion, but as he told me things that he has experienced, it was obvious he had affection for the area. Seems, I thought, he has lived away long enough to feel the nostalgia each time he returns.
Ally’s house was right at the foot of Duke’s Pass but thankfully we headed in a different direction, along the main street and quickly turned right onto a cycle path out of town. The route Ally had planned never took us over the Duke’s Pass, which initially I was disappointed with but soon realised there was plenty climbing elsewhere on the trip. Not that I particularly like climbing, I just know I need the hill training. The climb I am scheduled to do at Loch Ness on the 26th, never mind the Sierra de Guadarrama, is longer and steeper than I have ever done before. We stayed on the cycle track for only a short while, until we crossed the River Forth and joined the A81. The sun had really began to shine, the skies were blue and only partly cloudy, but the wind was blowing into our faces even after we took the first turn off towards Buchlyvie – a place name I have never needed to speak out loud. Apparently it is pronounced buck-lie-vee. I guess this is like many other place names in Scotland, not apparent how they are pronounced based on the spelling, as in; Hawick (howk), Drumchapel (the-drum), Possilpark (shy-t-hole).
Just after Port of Mentieth, my cycling buddy asked about our average speed, he concluded that the pace we were going felt faster than quoted. Very polite of him I thought, if he knew me a little better and if he hadn’t grown up in such an affluent part of the country, he might have said ‘gonna slow the fuck down!’
Before we reached the biggest climb of the day we were passed by a smart looking bunch of cyclists who weren’t out just for the scenery. The small group shifted up Cocks Hill in front of us, they climbed as a single unit, easing over each little summit and quite quickly disappeared from our view. I looked them up later; the impressive Velocity 44 team from Stirling were out for a club ride. Our ride up our biggest climb of the day was a bit more laboured.
After Callander we thought about taking the cycle route which followed the south bank of Loch Venachar as opposed to cutting onto the A821 all the way to Loch Katrine. I stopped a couple that were out walking their dog just at the start of the road and asked them if they knew the condition of the trail. They gave an answer pretty quickly but Ally seemed keen to practice his social skills and engaged them in conversation about the alternative routes around this neighbourhood and revealing his great knowledge of the surrounding area. Anyway, we went on our way down the trail after getting the assurances from the locals. As it turned out, they were a pair of fecking liars! It was a lovely trail, we slowed and cycled carefully as we no longer had the correct type of bike and width of tyre for the terrain.
I have only cycled around Loch Katrine once before, with Mac on a wet, very wet day just over two years ago. The path round the north side of this Loch had a lot more climbing than I remember but, again, glad of the hill training opportunity. We stopped for a while at the junction as we came passed Loch Arklet, which was 500 feet above our destination. The weather this day was very different from two years ago, though the clouds hung quite low at the top of the Loch, the sun quickly came back as we raced the final 10 miles downhill to Aberfoyle.
A good spin of the legs, with perfect weather and a perfect host.