29 December 2023 – Bowbeat wind farm


With a good looking forecast for the 29th, Colette and I decided to head out for a bike ride. Oliver suggested we join him for a gravel ride up to Bowbeat wind farm, and Colette was keen, as it gave a chance to try out her new e-gravel bike off-road for the first time. She hurriedly got a pot of soup on the go first thing, then we headed off in the car over the Granites to get parked fairly close to the turnoff for the wind farm.


Oliver, on the other had, cycled all the way from home, as he needed the extra kilometres for his Rapha Festive 500. We met up then turned right, away from the Innerleithen road and towards Leithen Lodge. It was the first time that Colette had seen it, and she was very impressed by the orange-painted Arts & Crafts style house, which immediately became her favourite.

After the obligatory photos, we carried on, away from tarmac and onto forest gravel roads. It was pretty flat to begin with, although there were plenty of rain-filled potholes to dodge along the way. I felt that I was having to try a bit harder than normal, following Oliver, and Colette on her power assisted bike.

Oliver has really taken to riding gravel in the forests, as it gives a more sheltered ride during really windy weather when he might otherwise be forced to stay home on the turbo, and also because there are a lot of long, steady climbs to train on. The particular one he chose for us today is known on Strava as the “Bowbeat windfarm main climb”, and is 3.78 miles long, with 1001 ft of elevation at an average 5.0% gradient.

Once we reached the start of the climb, Oliver zoomed off, while Colette and I stopped fairly quickly for a photo opportunity. Colette set the assistance level on her bike to maximum and set off, soon to become an orange dot in the distance, which disappeared around the corner not to be seen for quite some time.

The weather for our ride didn’t turn out as we might have expected from the forecast. No clear skies, but instead low cloud with occasional fine drizzle. At 1-2 degrees C it was a bit colder too, but I certainly didn’t feel it on the climb, and had to unzip to let out steam!

One thought that worried me a little was that Colette, being in between me and Oliver, and without the assistance of a route map, might take a wrong turn. There is zero phone reception in this forest, so getting lost might not be easily remedied. Luckily, there were road signs pointing out the way to the wind farm, which happened to be the route we were using, and Colette duly followed them. 

As I approached the top of the climb, the gradient got that bit steeper, sitting around 10% for a lot of it. I was slogging along at a cadence of about 50 in my lowest gear, wishing I had a couple more lower gears to make things easier. It was a relief when I reached the top, alongside the first of the wind turbines, where I stopped for a rest and to get my bearings.

Although I had no idea where they were, Oliver and Colette were stopped maybe a quarter of a mile further on and could see me. They had continued that bit further, since Oliver wasn’t sure exactly where the Strava segment ended. Colette gave me a call (there is phone reception on the plateau of Bowbeat Hill) and told me to keep on going.

We joined up and took a little time to enjoy the scenery and take a few photos. Colette was buzzing, really happy with her new bike. She wasn’t entirely convinced with the bike for road riding, making her go just little faster overall than on her normal bike. But with these gravel climbs, it has made the difference between making it up and having to get off and push. It means she can get much more out of the off-road riding. 

From our vantage point at about 2000 ft elevation, we could see way to the north, over Midlothian and the Forth to the hills of Fife. To the south however, the top of Glentress forest was shrouded in cloud, so better photos will come on a return visit on a clear day. One feature that stood out very clearly though, was a short but unbelievably steep climb on the road ahead. Oliver said yes, we are going that way…

On my one and only previous visit to the wind farm, I had made my way up from the other direction, and so met this hill on the way down. It was so frighteningly steep that I wanted to stop the bike and walk down, but it was too late by that time, and my attempts at braking just locked up the wheels and started me skidding on the loose gravel. If I’d managed to stop, I would probably have gone over the handlebars it was so steep. So I had no choice other than to let go of the brakes, hold on, and hope for the best. Luckily I made it down, very quickly, in one piece.

This time, I made it up safely but much more slowly, by pushing the bike up alongside Colette. Meantime, Oliver powered up and reached the top just 2 seconds slower than the fastest recorded time for the climb!

After all that exertion, we had now reached the point where we could “relax” on the descent. It certainly wasn’t a particularly technical descent, but common sense dictated that you had to be on the lookout for patches of loose gravel and the like that might otherwise catch you by surprise. I would actually say that this route was one of the least technical gravel rides that I’ve done, and is easily suitable for any beginner (and that’s where I’d rank myself at my current level of practice).

We reached the flat section again and passed a group of cyclists mending a puncture. They indicated that they had it under control, so we waved and carried on past the lodge and back to the car, leaving Oliver to continue his own ride home. By the time he caught up with us, we were showered and had the soup warmed up just in time for lunch. Perfect timing and a perfect way to warm up after a very enjoyable ride.





This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *