Words by Bart Vonhoff Photos by Simon Boot
Today, we commit one of the greatest crimes in cycling. We roll out, route in hand, pockets loaded with shortbread and Tunnocks, having forgotten to bring a pump. To rub haggis in the wound, we are headed to subzero wilderness, menacing halloween clouds threaten, and turning back now means re-summiting the renowned Bealach na Ba to the support car. Nope.
Sods law would normally demand that we pay for this oversight, and it would have… except that this is Scotland – a land where magic happens. Climbs crest and fall away revealing scarlet ochre and stretches of green, soggy stinging descents lead to warm pub stop embers, and our tires stay clean and true.
We’re day 3 into our last chunk of real cycling for the season, before our Australian blood packs it in for the short British days. Days 1 and 2 along Loch Ness, and over a string of unpronounceable Cairngorm passes, were a tough but rewarding introduction to cycling up north (google “highest paved roads in the UK” for route details), but i think our luck might be running out of road. We pass a sign announcing we are entering Wester Ross, and winter is definitely coming.
Now I don’t call myself a fair-weather cyclist, but if there’s a decision between long days with diminishing sunscreen, or heavy lights and jersey pockets pregnant with damp layers… let’s just say my turbo and I have a solid xmas tradition.
But after a hard, wet and undulating day of shaking blood into the fingers and questionable moaning, we return. The car heats up and we wring out our socks and gloves. Sensations begin to return. We flick through a some photos, already reminiscing as the real storm hits the windscreen. I can’t help but think it’s worth squeezing a few more days out of this season. Maybe we could find a way to shimmy another weekend away, jam another fleece between the layers, and crest just one or two more mountains. Although I’m not sure i want to push my gaelic luck. Might just quietly pocket a mini-pump next time…