Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
takeonafrica
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Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby takeonafrica » 20 Oct 2012, 4:21pm

Alas, I never made it to Scotland in September. Time is flying by.
So, I have set aside a week (xmas to new year) and am going to head to Scotland with my bike and camping gear (either driving or train, not sure which yet).
Where is the coldest and snowiest place you would go to ride and camp there?

It's all about testing out my winter gear so if I can't get the conditions I may fly to Norway instead... But I'd much rather get up to Scotland!!
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shane
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby shane » 20 Oct 2012, 5:20pm

Best thing for Scotland will be to get into the highlands I suspect to get a little altitude. Every 1000ft is about 2 degrees temp drop.

Problem with the Uk and even the Norwegen coast unless you get up high there's a good chance it'll just be cold and wet rather than really cold thanks to all that sea around.

I'm going to fly straight into Mid-Sweden/Finland for my test run and then head North and fly out somethere else.

SAS airlines don't seem to punish too much when you return from a different airport, still blood expensive though...

Actually I'm going for 4-6 weeks, I doubt that still classes as a test run....

rualexander
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby rualexander » 20 Oct 2012, 5:56pm

Its a bit of pot luck what sort of winter we get, last year was relatively mild but the couple of years before that were quite cold with a lot of snow.
The Cairngorms are generally where the coldest and snowiest conditions are to be found, but there is not so much opportunity for cycling there, although there a number of estate tracks which head deep into the area but not so many to make good circular routes. Braemar to Blair Atholl is worth looking at and then you can go back north from Blair Atholl to Kingussie via the Gaick pass then to complete a circuit use the roads round via Nethybridge, Tomintoul, The Lecht, and back to Braemar.
Another option would be the many estate tracks west of Dalwhinnie, down Loch Ericht side and through to Loch Laggan and Loch Ossian, these routes could also be accessed from the train at Corrour station.

Of course, if there is a lot of snow then the estate tracks will probably be largely impassable anyway and you will need to stick to public roads, in which case a circuit around the Cairngorms taking in The Lecht and Glenshee would be a good choice, camping at the top of both those roads would get you up to over 2000ft where it should be fairly chilly.

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andrew_s
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby andrew_s » 20 Oct 2012, 10:49pm

Bear in mind that there isn't a great deal of daylight available, so a day's riding distance will be fairly short.

I agree that the Cairngorms area is probably the best option. It's likely to be colder and drier than the west coast, and is easy to get to (train to Aviemore).
For official camping, the Rothiemurchus site at Coylumbridge is nice if it's open, otherwise there's a large site at Glenmore (Loch Morlich).

There are quite a number of gravel estate roads heading off into the hills, and on the south-east side of the Spey valley there are a fair number of forestry tracks that make it possible to get from Feshiebridge to Nethybridge and only see half a mile or so of tarmac. Another option would be to go from Tomintoul to Braemar via Glen Avon. There's about a mile or so of footpath beside Loch Builg (E side), but the rest is good rideable landrover track.

If you do follow these estate roads and tracks, bear in mind that they are made for Landrover traffic, and you will have to check out for fords, and be willing to turn back if they are too deep or fast flowing. Crossing these in winter may well be impossible, and very cold on the feet if not. Remember that if it's not too cold, snowmelt can make fords much deeper and faster later in the day, or on the following day if you camped. Separate ford bashing footwear is probably essential if you intend to be adventurous - Crocs are light and dry off quickly.
Some of the fords can be large:
Image
One of three fords in Glen Feshie, about a mile and a half upstream of the eponymous lodge.

The tops of the roads at the Lech and Glenshee are active ski centres - it would be like camping in a car park.
If you want to camp somewhere high up, cold and remote, I'd suggest looking at Loch Einich. There's rideable track all the way, snow permitting, with one fairly large guaranteed wet feet ford and a couple of other possibles.

irc
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby irc » 20 Oct 2012, 11:40pm

I'd suggest the Tour of the Cairngorms as per

http://www.offroadadventures-online.com/

Starting at Loch Morlich youth hostel:
Ryvoan Pass, Abernethy Forest, Braes of Abernethy, Dorback Lodge, Glen Brown, Tomintoul (1st overnight possibility).
Glen Avon, Loch Builg, Bealach Dearg, Braemar (2nd overnight possibility).
Linn of Dee, Glen Tilt, Blair Atholl (3rd overnight possibility).
Old A9 road (cycleway), Dalnacardoch Lodge, Gaick Pass, Glen Tromie, Kingussie (4th overnight possibility).
An assortment of waymarked and non-marked tracks through Inshriach and Rothiemurcus forest lead you back to Loch Morlich.


Travelling by train it works better with a start/finish at Blair Atholl

When I did it I missed out the Gaick Pass section in favour of Glen Bruar and the Minigaig Pass - going over the plateau rather than through a glen. Avoids a road section, apotentially awkward river crossing and gets better views on a clear day. From the summit of the Minigaig I headed for Glen Feshie via the obvious land rover track on the map after crossing the summit to the north.
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stephenjubb
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby stephenjubb » 21 Oct 2012, 12:43am

What winter gear are you taking?

What about black ice on the roads? what tyres are you going to use? studded?

presumably you have camped in cold conditions before.

Mattie
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby Mattie » 21 Oct 2012, 8:44am

Not sure about Scotland but there is a good weather forecast (up to ten days) found here:

http://www.weather.com/weather/tenday/Laggan+UKXX6613:1:UK

Maybe have a few possibles lined up and keep an eye on the forecast, and decide as you get closer to the time. Would be interested to know what sleeping bag you have chosen for this.

takeonafrica
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby takeonafrica » 21 Oct 2012, 9:57am

Thanks for the replies!! Great suggestions.
Looks like the Cairngorms is the place to head then. I'll buy a map and mark on all the suggestions and go from there I think.

Shane - I like your plan. Unfortunately I have neither enough time or funds right now. I suppose Scotland is more of a pre-test run. Like your trip, Baikal is the real test run but not sure I should call it that!

Good idea about the crocs.
I'm way more keen to get off-road and don't mind getting my feet wet (although I've had enough close-encounters with fast-flowing rivers that I'll turn back if the current is too strong).

Plan is to have studded tyres and good winter gear. I've limited cold camping experience - that's what this week trip is about getting. Depends how cold you mean I suppose. It got down to -13C at night on occasion in Utah last trip and I've had various other chilly nights camping, 5200m in Bolivia was probably colder but I don't know how cold and that was when I was young and tough. At least this time I'll have a sleeping bag rated well in excess of 0C.

How cold might it get up on the passes?
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Aushiker
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby Aushiker » 21 Oct 2012, 10:03am

Sarah of BicycleNomad fame has just ridden across Scotland and has written up her experiences. Worth a read in my view. Also the swimming part is covered in a second post at http://bicyclenomad.com/2012/10/13/sara ... s-at-home/

Image

Andrew

ChrisButch
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby ChrisButch » 21 Oct 2012, 12:35pm

takeonafrica wrote:How cold might it get up on the passes?

The biggest hazard in a Highland winter, even in the glens, is not the thermometer cold but the windchill. A wet -1c with a 70mph gale can be far more dangerous than a still, anticyclonic -20c. So the right clothing is vital - cycling-specific clothing isn't really up to those conditions - as is finding the most sheltered site you can (not easy in the often bare Cairngorms) - before stopping.

takeonafrica
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby takeonafrica » 21 Oct 2012, 4:30pm

Aushiker wrote:Sarah of BicycleNomad fame has just ridden across Scotland and has written up her experiences. Worth a read in my view. Also the swimming part is covered in a second post at http://bicyclenomad.com/2012/10/13/sara ... s-at-home/


Thanks for that - always good to have another blog to read!

The biggest hazard in a Highland winter, even in the glens, is not the thermometer cold but the windchill. A wet -1c with a 70mph gale can be far more dangerous than a still, anticyclonic -20c. So the right clothing is vital - cycling-specific clothing isn't really up to those conditions - as is finding the most sheltered site you can (not easy in the often bare Cairngorms) - before stopping.


Well, I guess a gale will be good to test out the test - I don't think there will be much shelter on a frozen lake either.
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irc
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby irc » 21 Oct 2012, 5:33pm

ChrisButch wrote:A wet -1c with a 70mph gale can be far more dangerous than a still, anticyclonic -20c.


The Cairngorms is the only place I've met a wind so strong it picked me up from a semi crouch position (I had heard/felt the gust coming) and dropped me several feet away. This wasn't even on the plateau but on the path from the ski slopes car park to one of the northern corries. The same day a walker was killed when she got blown off a ridge and slid a couple of hundred feel down a snow slope banging her head on rocks.

We had seen the forecast and ruled out going on the tops but even much further down the wind was so severe I could only make progress on my hands and knees at one point getting into the corrie.
No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?

SELLY
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby SELLY » 22 Oct 2012, 11:05am

Altnaharra is officialy the coldest spot. You could take the train to Inverness and then cycle round the northern glens. The central single track glen roads up to Tonge or Betty Hill should be suitably cold, and isolated, but not snowblocked -that depends on the weather. Thick layre of ice this morning frost still on the grass and i am not even that far out of inverness!

ChrisButch
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby ChrisButch » 22 Oct 2012, 12:33pm

SELLY wrote:Altnaharra is officialy the coldest spot. You could take the train to Inverness and then cycle round the northern glens. The central single track glen roads up to Tonge or Betty Hill should be suitably cold, and isolated, but not snowblocked -that depends on the weather. Thick layre of ice this morning frost still on the grass and i am not even that far out of inverness!

One advantage of that area, since the OP is specifically looking for off-road, is that there are a several very long estate tracks to remote stalking lodges. Oykel Bridge to Corriemulzie is one that springs to mind - with the added bonus that it ends in a splendid corrie under Seana Bhraigh, with a convenient bothy to retreat to if the tent gets blown away. And because altitudes in the glens are generally lower than the Cairngorms, unrideable snow depths are a bit less common.

StirlingCrispin
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Re: Scotland Winter Bike Ride

Postby StirlingCrispin » 22 Oct 2012, 12:34pm

One question: Have you ridden in snow before?

It only takes a couple of inches of snow and you have to push rather than ride.
This will have a massive impact on the distances you can cover.

We've already had a dusting of snow on the hills near Stirling. That said I'm resigned to wet winter rather than a cold one.