16 February 2023 – Watching the Volta ao Algarve go past


We visited the Algarve back in 2019, and while we weren’t sure about whether we would come back, the prospect of combining it with catching some of the action from the Volta ao Algarve (aka the Tour of the Algarve cycle race), made up our minds. It was going to have to be mid-February, meaning a drive to Newcastle because flights from Scotland don’t start till later in the year. Actually it turned out to be quite a nice experience, as the airport was lovely and quiet.

Once there, we had a couple of days to get our bearings again and work out where we were going to intercept the tour. All the time, we were a bit fearful of the weather forecast, which showed heavy rain for the first day. Right on cue, the rain started pelting and thunder kept me awake of the night before. Luckily though, the rain turned to light drizzle in the morning, and Colette and I cycled down to Portimao harbour for the team presentation and start of stage 1.

Riders congregating ready for the start.

Colette with Oscar Onley

Colette got some good photos of the riders, including a selfie with young Oscar Onley (Team DSM, rider no 95), who was the only Scottish rider we knew of in the race. The riders lined up in front of us, then they were off, and so were we – back to the hotel for a quick spot of lunch, then off to the finish in Lagos, having given the tour riders a good head start. We were however taking the short route, saving at least 100 miles of cycling!

We got there with plenty of time to spare and found ourselves a prime spot quite close to the finish line, although it did involve standing in a puddle. An hour or so later, the sprint finish was predictably over in a flash, with Alexander Kristoff’s yellow-orange helmet the only thing I can remember as he raced to win the stage.

The next day was planned to give us a bit longer to watch the riders go past, having scoped out a great vantage point on the climb to Casais a couple of days earlier. We left the hotel and got out of Portimao using our optimised route, to avoid the worst of the traffic.

After that, there was no option other than to mix it with the busy traffic of the EN125, but that comes with a wide verge that acts as a safe lane for cycling. Soon after, we turned right onto the EM532, which is a smaller road, and quieter, but not without impatient drivers racing past, leaving minimal passing space. Not a lot of fun, but after a few miles the cars got fewer and my stress level returned to normal. The scenery improved too, and with a warm sun beating down, we really began to enjoy the ride.

About 12 miles in, we arrived at the village of Montes de Chima, home to the Taberna do Manel (aka Honey & Cafe). This cafe comes highly recommended! We had coffees and coconut Queijadas, which are wonderful. They are similar to a “flan” or creme caramel, but a little more substantial. We greeted a number of cyclists while we were here, mostly also on their way to find a vantage point to watch the tour.

Colette with coffee and queijadas. Photo from our recce ride a couple of days before.

After our coffees, we headed off up the climb, which with stretches of 10%, should be enough to slow the riders a bit. It certainly slowed us!. Finally, I got to our pre-chosen spot just behind another cyclist, who had exactly the same idea. There was a nice wide area to stand on behind a crash barrier, with views down to the previous bend and further back, to give us plenty of warning of the arrival of the tour.

Our vantage point

Colette then arrived and we got the Scotland flag out. Without a pole, there was a bit of head scratching about exactly what to do with it. We ended up draping it over a road sign and keeping it from flying off with a cable tie. 

As we waited, we chatted to a number of other people who congregated at the same place. It seemed that lots of ex-pats had turned out for the race, mostly from Britain and northern Europe. Interestingly, the biggest influx to the Algarve recently has been from Canada for some reason. We didn’t meet any Canadians on the roadside though.

The breakaway

The peloton at the bend lower down

After an hour or so of waiting, the race made its way to us. First was a breakaway of about 8 riders, mostly from local teams. Then we could see the peloton emerge round the lower corner, with riders two or three abreast at the front, widening out to span the entire road further back. I made a point of not taking photos at this point, so I could see more of the action, but even so, and despite the relatively slow speed on this hill compared to the sprint of the day before, it was a struggle to pick out individual riders. No matter, I just stood next to the flag and cheered them on.

As they passed, there was the sound of a thump on the barrier next to us, and Colette leaned over to retrieve a bidon (drinks bottle). It’s always good to get a wee souvenir from a race, so we were delighted. This was from team Credibon / L.A. Aluminios / Marcos Car.

Once it was all over, we hopped back on the bikes and enjoyed the fast descent right back down to the cafe, where we stopped for coffee and bifanas (a roll or sandwich filled with thin pork steak) for lunch. 

From the cafe, we took a right turn rather than repeat the way we came up, and enjoyed some more peaceful riding for a while before rejoining the hustle and bustle of the traffic as we approached Portimao.

Our optimised route back included a left turn onto the Antiga Estrada Nacional 125, which despite its initial 6-7% gradient, was preferable to any other road, due to the wide verge at the side. There is a big white tower here, looking similar to an air traffic control tower at an airport, then further along our route back to the hotel, there is another, painted red and white. I’m not sure what they are for,  Colette suggested water towers, but they do make useful landmarks.

Once back at the hotel, we turned the telly on to Eurosport and watched the race finish in a sprint up the climb to Foia, which was won by Magnus Cort of team EF-education Easypost, to take the leader’s jersey. 

That was the last of the tour that was accessible to our location, apart from the time trial at Lagoa on the last day of the race, which was also the last day of our holiday, meaning we could only watch on the phone while on the way back to Faro airport. Although Tom Pidcock was leading the general classification by 5 seconds at the start of the time trial, it was his Ineos teammate Dani Martinez that came out on top overall at the end of the tour. And Oscar Onley went on to win the best young rider jersey, well done Oscar!


Our final bit of excitement came when Colette spotted Dutch sprinter Fabio Jakobsen in the queue for Burger King at the airport, who she managed to persuade to pose for a photo. Thanks Fabio – good luck in the Tour de France this year!


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08 October 2022 – Torremanzanas loop

We returned to Ibi, near Alicante, for another week’s cycling, having enjoyed our previous visit in 2019 so much. We came with gravel bikes this time, with the idea of adding in some offroad rides, but after giving the Via Verde a try, Colette found the loose gravel a bit hard going in the heat. The ride described here was designed as a return to pure road cycling then, taking us on a loop with Xixona as our lunch stop and passing through Torremanzanas, allowing us to explore some new territory on the way.

We set off northeast from Ibi on the service road for the A7 motorway. Being a Saturday, there was more traffic than usual, mostly people out for a cycle ride coming from the direction of Alcoy.

A few miles short of Alcoy, we branched onto the N-340, taking us to a mountainous area where both the Via Verde and the A7 pass through tunnels. Then, approaching a bend, we found a sign telling us that our road was about to pass through a tunnel too. I signalled to Colette to stop so that we could turn on our lights before progressing. But what an anti-climax: the tunnel was barely 50 yards long!

Shortly, we turned right onto the CV-785 and started climbing again. But it didn’t last all that long, and soon the road descended then flattened off till we reached Benifallim. We decided to investigate the village in search of a coffee stop, and found a bar with a single table outside, opposite the church.

We had coffees and a wander to take photos before departing, and leaving behind Colette’s latest pair of sunglasses, which we didn’t discover till way later of course. Another pair bites the dust!

Straight after leaving the village, we started a 3-mile climb (Puerto de Benifallim) at an average gradient of 5.8%. It was a pleasant climb, with plenty of hairpin bends giving good views down where we’d come from.

As we approached the top, we escaped the cloud which had been around since the start of our ride, and emerged into warm sunshine. Then, from the top, we had a descent of around 1800 feet to enjoy. Some of it was pretty straight road with gentle bends, where just freewheeling took you to over 40mph, and other cyclists were overtaking me at significantly greater speeds. Some of the descent was more technical, where I opted to take things nice and easy, making good use of my hydraulic disc brakes.

Near halfway through the descent we passed through Torremanzanas, which translates as “tower of apples”. Although we weren’t stopping at this place, I kept a lookout as we passed through to see if I could identify anything like an apple tower. Maybe it would be like Appleton Tower in Edinburgh? Nothing matching either description was seen by me, but next time I’m passing, I think I need to stop and investigate further!

We just kept on descending till it petered out, and even gave us a little uphill to contend with before we reached our lunch stop at Xixona. We found a likely place for lunch on Avenguida de la Constitucio, next to the ice cream parlour that we frequented on our last trip to the area.

I asked “Comida…?” (means “food”) in a hopeful voice, and we were ushered to a table. We were offered menus, which was a relief, as we have previously found that issuing the word “menu” can result in you getting given the “menu del dia”. This is no bad thing normally, but a massive three or four course lunch is not what you want when cycling. 

Doing our best to translate the menu, Colette liked the sound of the battered prawns with aioli. I did too, so I said “gambas” (prawns) and pointed at both of us. The waitress had a problem with this, and eventually, by letting her type into Google translate on Colette’s phone, we found that there was only one portion left. So I decided to make things simple and ordered a hamburger. Then Colette asked for “patatas bravas” also as a side. We kept our fingers crossed and hoped for the best!

Another waiter arrived an said “no patatas bravas” and suggested in Spanish some other type of patatas instead. I said yes, and wondered what that might be. A packet of ready salted crisps then appeared! Actually, that was perfect to go alongside the olives and our drinks, while we waited in the relaxing Saturday lunchtime sun.

Gambas – our favourite, and we didn’t even realise we’d ordered it!

When the waitress next appeared, she brought prawns in olive oil with garlic and chilli. This is normally what you get when you ask for “gambas”, though it wasn’t on the menu that we were given. We both love it, so that was a pleasant surprise. We shared that between us, mopping up the oil with bread, then the battered prawns arrived, followed by my hamburger. Both were shared, and both were incredibly good.

We’ve come to refer to getting lunch out in Spain as a “comida of errors”, as we’re never certain what we’re ordering, but the Spanish waiting staff are always very patient and helpful, and whatever it is we get is always tasty and very reasonably priced. If you can cope with the level of stress and jeopardy involved, then this approach can make a fun alternative to learning Spanish!

After that good long break, it was time to get back on the bikes and face the steep ride out of town, and then onto the Puerto de Tibi climb. That climb starts off hard at around 10% for a fair while, before suddenly easing off to false flat. It was now quite a hot afternoon, and as I waited on the flat section for Colette to catch up, the silence was broken by the ping-ping-ping pf the metal crash barriers expanding in the heat. 

The winding road into Tibi

The descent was another fast one, taking us almost into Tibi, but not quite. The final section was a bit cruel, making us crawl up in bottom gear before we reached the town and another break for a cold drink.

We found a restaurant that was very busy serving lunch, so we were low priority and had to wait quite a while to get our cold drinks.

Then there was the final leg back from Tibi to Ibi, which was about 7 miles of mostly uphill, but never too steep.

As we approached Ibi, I could see a rain cloud fringed by a rainbow hanging over the town. It stayed there for most of our approach, only to fizzle out just before we arrived, so we only felt the odd spot of rain, despite the roads being wet and the gutters and small streams rushing with discoloured water. I felt smug that we’d managed to miss the rain. That was until I remembered we had washing hung out on the line on our terrace!

I routed us via some minor roads back to the apartment to avoid traffic, but it just seemed to take an age to get there. We were both feeling a bit tired after another day of climbing in the mountains, but also very satisfied and grateful to have experienced more of the best kind of riding that Spain has to offer.




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31 August 2022 – Glen Tilt

Colette asked: “Where are you taking me on our next adventure, then?” just after I’d been watching the latest episode from Rusty Rides Gravel. So I suggested Glen Tilt, which looked fabulous from Rusty’s drone footage. So it was decided, and the next day, we were up bright and early to beat the worst of the bypass traffic and head north to Blair Atholl. The forecast was for a warm, dry day, with scarcely a breath of wind and the prospect of sunny intervals in the afternoon.

We parked in the car park next to the chip shop, which I figured might come in handy if we were feeling hungry after our ride. Setting off, we turned left and a short while later turned right at the gates for Blair Castle. I didn’t expect them to be locked though, which meant a hasty rethink of my pre-planned route. However, a dog walker kindly directed us to the pedestrian access just to the right of the imposing gates, which quickly brought us back on track.

I don’t think we caught sight of the castle at all before we turned away right onto a gravel track that took us past some holiday chalets up to the actual Glen Tilt car park. Beyond that, we reached a crossroads, where we took the gated access to Glen Tilt. That took us onto a rough track that was also pretty steep to start with.

After a wee while, the gradient eased significantly, as we emerged from thick woodland. To our right was a steep wooded drop to River Tilt, which we could hear but not see at this point.

The road meandered and undulated in and out of light woodland for a couple of miles until the trees largely disappeared, and we could properly make out Glen Tilt unfolding in front of us. The glen is long and straight, with steep sides and a small river running through, with many dark pools and picturesque waterfalls. At its lower end, there is more in the way of flat valley bottom, but as you progress upwards, this gradually narrows till it disappears and the glen turns from a U to a V shape.

At one point, we paused at a bridge to take in the view, where we could see a lone figure, who Colette likened to Gandalf, staff in hand, leading a white horse halfway up the opposite side of the glen. The remote and rugged scenery certainly had more than a little of  Middle Earth about it.

We passed a fairly substantial lodge at the start of an isolated section of woodland, after which the trees disappeared and the road got considerably rougher. There were a few fairly steep ups and downs too, and at one point, as I struggled to keep going, I caught a glimpse of the track rising even steeper ahead of me. That made me lose concentration, and I nearly rode into the ditch on my left, after which I ground to a halt and almost fell over. 

In the commotion, I managed to drop the chain both front and back. It wasn’t easy freeing the chain from between the big cog of the cassette and the spokes, but I managed it eventually and had a pair of blackened hands to show for it. I guess this is what the clutch on the rear derailleur is meant to help with. I should have had it turned on for this rough section.

It also turned out that I was worrying unnecessarily about the unexpectedly steep track, as it wasn’t our path anyway. Ours took a sharp downhill from here and kept close to the river.

We passed a few walkers on this section, and were overtaken by a couple of mountain bikers just as we reached the end of the landrover track. About a quarter of a mile ahead of us was our destination, the Falls of Tarf, but the track between us and that was now a narrow, rocky walking path. Even the mountain bikers were pushing their bikes, it was so steep and rough.

Colette opted to leave her bike and walk the last wee bit, while I dragged mine along with me, just for the hell of it. And there was the odd wee bit where I could ride, including the final approach to the falls and the bridge.

We made our way over the bridge and took time for a snack (as long as the midgies would allow), then took some more time to admire the falls. This is where River Tarf joins the Tilt in spectacular fashion, in multiple falls and pools. A plaque tells of the tragic story behind the building of the current bridge in the 19th century, and another plaque reassures that it has been maintained since. The gaps between the planks made Colette feel uneasy, but at no more than an inch wide, there wasn’t much danger of her slipping in between them!

Now that we had reached our destination, it was just a case of reversing our tracks to go back. The first bit was tricky walking track, but it wasn’t long before we were back on our bikes. On the reverse route, we were heading downhill overall, so our speed was quicker than on the way up. That meant that the bumpy nature of the track was amplified. Although the gravel bikes were perfectly capable of this, I got the feeling that it would have been more comfortable on mountain bikes, with suspension and fatter tyres taking the sting out of the lumps and bumps.

With narrower tyres on her bike than mine, Colette was feeling more shoogled than I was, to the extent that she felt her eyeballs were wobbling around so much that she couldn’t focus properly! Luckily, we reached the end of the track soon after that, Colette’s eyes returned to normal, and we returned to the car park on tarmac, a slightly different way than we had gone out. 

Back a the car park, we couldn’t resist the smell of chips, and shared a wee tray between us before heading home. The sun, which had eluded us for most of our ride, decided to come out as soon as we’d finished. I guess the scenery would have been even more impressive if we’d have started our ride later in the day, but we’re early birds, so that’s just too bad.

Thinking again about Colette’s problem with the rough gravel (which wasn’t evident on our last ride, where the gravel tracks were pretty smooth), it comes down to getting the compromise right between tyres that are wide enough for comfort off-road, while still being fast enough on the road. I’m coming to the conclusion that what we really need to do is invest in a spare set of wheels, so we can have one set with wide, grippy tyres for the rough stuff, and another with skinny tyres for road-centric cycles. Or maybe we should just dust off her old mountain bike!



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26 August 2022 – Loch Ard forest: Lomond loop

This foray into Loch Ard forest was our first, though it was our second attempt this year. On the first attempt, I’d planned a loop round Loch Katrine, returning through the off-road tracks in Loch Ard forest, rather than the road. That was called off soon after the start, when Colette managed to cut the back of her leg quite spectacularly when her pedal slipped. 

On this occasion, inspired by a video on the Rusty Rides Gravel channel, I decided to focus the ride entirely on the forest tracks, using the longest of the three way-marked Gravelfoyle trails: the Lomond loop. As this seems a little short at only 18 miles, I added a wee detour for extra value that should take us to the shore of Loch Ard and bring the total distance to over 20 miles.

We arrived at Aberfoyle and parked the car after passing through rain on our way, which abated to a mild drizzle by the time we arrived. That wasn’t enough to put us off, so we got the bikes ready and pedalled onward, passing over the river Forth then turning right, away from the road and into the forest.

Soon we picked up the markers for the various Gravelfoyle routes, taking us onto some gravel that looked newly laid and somewhat loose. However, that didn’t last long, after which the forest tracks were more well compacted. As expected, the lower reaches of the loop passed through forest that didn’t afford much in the way of views, however there were enough ups and downs and turns to keep us interested.

After a while, a fast descent brought us to an aqueduct, where we could hear the slooshing of water overhead. This piece of Victorian engineering was built to carry water from Loch Katrine to Glasgow, and by the sound of it, it still works.

Not long after, we reached a sign telling us we were already a quarter of the way through the loop, but there was quite a bit of climbing ahead before we could reach the 50% mark. It was a little steep in places and slowed me right down, but we managed to grind our way to the top. The reward was better views, especially where the forest to our left had been cleared. We could see over to picturesque islands of pines in the middle distance, atop small hillocks. Beyond that, we imagined majestic mountains could be seen, including Ben Lomond, I believe. However, low cloud and murk was about all we could see today. 

Moody scenery

When I thought about it, this is one of the wettest parts of Scotland, so to see it on a sunny day would be unrepresentative; we were seeing it today as it is meant to be seen!

A little further along, we caught our first glimpse of Loch Ard, lying quite a way below. We stopped and had a wee sandwich break, then got into some swift descending. Then we reached the point where my planned route diverted from the Lomond loop. 

That took us steeply downwards, prompting Colette to ask whether we would need to climb all the way back up again to continue the loop. I basically said don’t worry about that just now!

Loch Ard

We got down to water level, then took a left onto a narrower track. This ran out after a while, depositing us onto singletrack. This wound its way through some natural-looking woodland in a very pleasing manner, and wasn’t overly technical at this stage. However, Colette isn’t too confident on narrow tracks, so she pushed.

Soon, we arrived at a clearing by the waterside, where one or two of the larger trees had been felled to open up what seemed to be a popular place to hang out, judging by the remains of camp fires. There wasn’t a scrap of rubbish to be seen though, which was good.

Loch Ard is quite narrow here, and also very still and tranquil. Colette went off to take some photos, while I went in search of Rob Roy’s cave, which I saw on the Strava mapping app when I put the route together. Sadly, there was no signal here, so I wasn’t able to pinpoint an exact location. I wandered around looking for clues or hopefully a sign, but found nothing except for blueberries, which were out in abundance. I picked a handful and scoffed them, although Colette thought they weren’t sweet enough for her taste.

Moving on, the trail got more technical, and I had to push up a couple of short steep inclines. Colette did the same, and also needed me to push her bike down one steep drop. I felt a little more confident, and enjoyed the ride, though perhaps I should have been more circumspect, as I wasn’t riding a mountain bike, and getting a pinch puncture on one of the many rocks in the trail was a distinct possibility.

The singletrack ended and we reached a more typical forestry track, just as a family was heading down in the direction we’d just come from. They were looking for Rob Roy’s cave as well. I couldn’t help, but wished them luck.

We then headed east for a wee while, then made a sharp right uphill on a track that I’d plotted for our return to pick up the Lomond loop. I wasn’t entirely certain that the track would be rideable though, since Strava heatmaps showed that hardly anyone goes along there. Well, I was relieved when it turned out to be quite a wide forestry track rather than the overgrown singletrack that I’d feared. It did however rise quite steeply and we were surprised to find it busy with walkers, all coming downhill towards us. That meant that when Colette ground to a halt on the steep gradient and fell over when she tried to put her foot down, she had an audience!

Luckily there were no injuries, so I walked with her till the gradient eased enough for me to get back on again, and carried on. Soon, the uphill turned into downhill and I sped along for a wee while till I heard the phone ring. It was Colette, but the signal was so poor that I couldn’t hear her properly. So I turned around and retraced my steps, hoping she hadn’t had another fall. Thankfully, it turned out the she’d just dropped her chain and needed me to put it back on.

We carried on together and soon regained the Lomond loop where we left it earlier. Here we met a couple of walkers consulting maps, who asked if Rob Roy’s cave was down where we’d come from. We replied yes, and wished them luck finding it. At least with printed maps, they wouldn’t be subject to the vagaries of mobile reception.

Lochan a’ Ghleannain

The ride from here was predominantly downhill, speeding us past a couple of lochans, then into a car park, from where the trail continued as an easy singletrack for a short while. We emerged back at familiar gravel track that we’d ridden along at the beginning of the ride, signalling a turn back towards Aberfoyle.

It wasn’t long before we were going back over the Forth at the wee bridge, then turning right back into the car park. We were ready for a wee snack from the van in the car park, but that was cash only. Our alternative was the Station Cafe, which worked out just fine. But it’s worth trying to remember to bring some quids if you fancy an ice cream from the van at the end of your ride.

Overall, another enjoyable day out, but just average marks for the scenery, due to the poor visibility. We need to visit again on a sunny day…



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12 August 2022 – Kelso and Coldstream

There wasn’t anything particularly special about this ride, considering that we’ve done it (or similar variants) quite a number of times. It’s just that it felt such a perfect day, and I’d heartily recommend anyone looking for a half-day ride in the Kelso area to try it out. It would only take an averagely fit rider around two and a half hours to zip round, but we took more like five hours at a leisurely pace, complete with plenty of stops.

I guess one reason that put me in the mind to write this one up was that just as we were getting ready for the off from the wee car park next to the river in Kelso, we got talking to a lady who was just about to return permanently to Scotland after living and working in the USA, and was asking whether there were any good cycle rides in the area. This one would make a good starting point…

We headed out of Kelso on the B6352, with the usual climb to warm us up, not that we needed any warming with the temperature already in high teens at 9.30 in the morning. A right turn at the farm machinery showroom quickly took us onto very quiet roads, with the notable exception of a spluttering, wheezing, banging rally car that passed us going lot slower than expected, given all that racket.

After passing over Kale Water (that’s a small river, not a health food drink by the way), we took a left in the direction of Morebattle. Mostly flat, with a few ups and downs, we made our way sedately, soaking up the views over to the Cheviot Hills.

As we passed through Morebattle, I just had to stop and take a photo of the quaintly-named streets, and we also almost stopped at a shop offering takeaway coffees. However, we were less than 10 miles in, so just carried on.

Our next village was Town Yetholm, where an arresting display of garden gnomes demanded our attention. It was certainly something to behold, while clearly not being to everyone’s taste. However, as it was in aid of a children’s charity, we put a few pennies into the box.

By this time, I was regretting turning up the opportunity of a coffee at Morebattle, as I didn’t know of any cafes in Town Yetholm. However, as we passed the Plough Hotel, we noticed tables outside and a sign advertising breakfast and lunch. We figured that they might do coffees inbetween those times, so went inside to enquire. Yes they did, and they even had oat milk, which was good, as I’m trying to avoid milk completely at the moment.

 We drank our coffees and observed Town Yetholm life go by at a very sedate pace. But once we were finished, we needed to get back on those bikes and keep going at our own sedate pace, taking us out of town and over the border into Northumberland.

Although it was warming up, it wasn’t yet as oppressive as it had been recently. Everything was just perfect: the warmth, the lack of headwind, the scenery and the peace and quiet. It’s not always like this, so we knew to appreciate it!

A long, straight road took us to East Learmouth, and then shortly after, we reached Cornhill on Tweed, where we came back into traffic once more. The road that ran from there to the Scottish border was smooth and fast, contrasting the rough and lumpy surface that greets you once you reach the bridge at Coldstream.

We then headed straight to our usual stop in Coldstream: the Mad Hatter’s Tearoom. On entering there was a suitably mad party going on, with a large Geordie family spanning two tables singing and shouting across at each other. They departed a few minutes later, leaving a deafening silence in their wake.

Colette ordered a tuna toastie and I had the quiche of the day, which was excellent. We had also been eyeing up the large and delicious-looking selection of cakes since our arrival, but after our mains, all we could manage was one slice of cherry and almond cake between us with our coffees. I had to take my coffee black, as the cafe unfortunately don’t serve any alternatives to dairy. Very much the minority these days, it seems. Anyway, that didn’t spoil our enjoyment, and we got back on our bikes feeling perhaps a little over full after a very tasty lunch.

Lake of the Hirsel

On the way out of town, we diverted through the Hirsel estate, then I got us onto National Cycle Route 1, which I intended would take us all the way back to Kelso. However, Colette was feeling the after effects of a recent crash and requested that I follow the shortest route back. We were also beginning to get a bit overheated, as the mercury had been rising steadily all day, and had now reached the stage where certain sections of tarmac were beginning to melt, giving that unpleasant sticky tyre feeling as we rode through them.

After passing through Eccles, we stayed on the B6461, rather than turn onto the cycle route as planned. That left just a few miles to Kelso, where a fast descent took us down towards the river. We turned right onto Bullet Loan, then followed the path for the short distance back to the car.

Before packing the bikes away, we had a quick diversion to the nextdoor garden centre, in search of cold drinks, where Colette managed to drop her sunglasses, and no amount of searching could find them. Luckily, she only buys cheapies now anyway, as this is not an uncommon occurrence. In fact, it gave her an excuse to buy a new pair, to match the new helmet she just bought to replace the one that got broken during her recent crash. It certainly couldn’t put a downer on what had been a perfect, relaxing day out.




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20 June 2022 – Aberdovey and Dolgellau

After visiting Aberdovey last September, we were back for more; this time with more days of cycling. Our first cycle explored some of the rare flattish roads in the area, which was just as well, as I discovered that my front brake wasn’t working. Thankfully, all it took was to give the pads a good scrub in soapy water once we were back at the holiday place and the bike was ready for a much more challenging ride the next day…

Our plan was to follow a recognised loop using national cycle routes 82 and 8. The only difference was that the southerly part of our route was going to be along the coast road rather than through Happy Valley, as it was more convenient for our starting location in Aberdovey (not to mention shorter and less hilly than it would otherwise have been).

So off we went as soon as the shops opened, briefly stopping in Aberdovey itself to buy and apply some sunblock and also a sandwich in case it took longer to reach Dolgellau than anticipated.

It was warm and sunny, with no noticeable wind as we left Aberdovey heading east on the A493. We were also lucky in picking a time when the traffic was relatively light. The road undulated gently along the coast, without any challenging gradients, making a nice and easy start to the day.

Last time we were in Wales, we rode this road in the other direction, where the low wall and steep drop off to the left gave Colette the heebee jeebies. Going the other way, there were no such worries.

After a while, we left the coast behind and came to a long queue at roadworks just after the turnoff for Machyllneth. Colette felt pressurised by the cars close behind as we eventually got the chance to ride through the new bit of road in construction, but luckily we left all the traffic behind upon taking a right turn shortly after passing through the roadworks.

We missed the next turn and had to backtrack to find the narrow lane that we were directed up by the route on my Wahoo. It was particularly narrow and particularly steep too, with high hedges of vegetation on either side and no sign of any passing places. I was glad we didn’t meet any cars on the way up that wee leg breaker of a climb, followed by an equally steep drop on the other side, after which the road was gentle to us for a while.

We were cycling along a very quiet road on the east side of a valley, with the A487 on the other side and the Afon Dulas river in between. Occasionally we passed through picturesque little villages and stopped to take photos of an old water mill.

After a while, we reached the slate mining village of Aberllefenni. According to the info board I found, the slate quarry here was the longest continually operating one in the world at the time the quarry closed in 2003. There were still slate processing businesses to be seen in the village, and after passing through, we were routed left up past the quarry itself, which has an impressive rectangular cave cut out of the cliff.

This also marked the start of the first big test of the day – the mountain before lunch if you like. It started out gently enough, with a gradient of about maybe 5%, where I could easily find my rhythm and keep pedalling along quite happily. Sadly, this didn’t last all that long, and we were faced with a bit of a wall, where the gradient went up to 20% if not a bit more at times. Luckily, the mega steep part didn’t last all that long, and I stopped for a rest as soon as it flattened out. Colette caught up and we ate our sandwiches here. If we’d held on till we reached Dolgellau to eat anything, we would both have run out of energy long before then and be in real trouble. We’ve realised that eating and drinking early and often is key to surviving these hard days. There was always a second lunch to look forward to when we reached Dolgellau…

I confidently told Colette that the worst was probably now over, and shortly after setting off again, we had another hard section to deal with, though it didn’t seem quite as bad as the first. Then we reached a gate, after which the road was just relentless. It maybe didn’t quite hit the heights of 20%, but was in the high teens for long stretches, sending my heart rate higher and higher. I decided there was nothing to be gained by beating myself up on this climb, especially as Colette was already pushing further back, and I would have to wait at the top either way. So I got off and pushed for the first time (on a proper road) in a very long time. My heart rate dropped quickly and I had more of a chance to enjoy the remote and rugged scenery. Perhaps I should do this more often!

As I walked along, I could also hear the sound of what I though at first were motorbikes, so I kept well in to the left in case they appeared suddenly. But they didn’t appear. Colette heard the noise too, and we were quite confused as to what it might be. She suggested drones, which might not be far off the mark, as there was a track leading down to a cliff out of sight to us, which might make a popular place for flying model aircraft.

Once both of us were at the top of the steep climb and had caught our breath back, we continued on a false flat for a while before reaching the descent proper and catching sight of the next valley. This was fairly wide, with a main road running right through the middle.

A few gates slowed down our descent, and the last of them took us out onto the A487, where we turned right, then left again, through another gate, following signs for route 8. This put us onto a gravel track to start with, then over a cattle grid towards some houses, after which, route 8 continued as a well-surfaced path with some new-looking gates. There were quite a few more gates to be negotiated, taking us between farms before the route returned to “proper” road. The final gate warned of the possibility of stampeding cattle, which was quite alarming. However, there was no sign of cows, save for their leavings on the road.

A few twists and turns later, this gentle country road turned into a quite fearsome descent. High vegetation along the sides gave little warning of any oncoming traffic (of which there was none, thankfully), meaning we had to keep the speed down to a suitably safe level. By the time we reached the bottom, a quick spit test proved that my brakes were roasting hot. Not a surprise really, and I was glad to have two fully functioning brakes for this route. Colette appeared a little later, feeling like her hands were about to cramp up with all the squeezing of her brakes.

Looking around, we discovered that this descent had delivered us right into the middle of the town of Dolgellau. Next up was a bit of exploring to find a suitable place for our 2nd lunch. After a couple of false starts, we found  Y Sospan – a great little cafe, where the only bad thing Colette could say about the food was that there was too much! Well, it was our 2nd lunch after all.

After lunch, we found a Spar so we could replenish our water bottles, then we looked to join up with cycle route 82 to take us out of town. It did so by means of a stiff climb. It wasn’t mega steep though, so we could just find a good pace for the mile or so that it lasted, taking us to a plateau of sorts, at about 500′ elevation.

To our left was the prominent ridge and steep slopes of Cadair Idris, nearly 2500′ higher up. The road became very narrow, which meant we had to stop and pull off whenever a car wanted past. Luckily that only happened a few times. It was a very pleasant few miles of cycling, but in the back of my mind was the mountain after lunch, which lay in wait not far ahead.

Even though I was expecting it, the mountain road that loomed into view looked much steeper than I had feared. Then, to make things harder, the route went from good quality tarmac to rough gravel just as it started to get steep! I did my best to ride up it, but only got as far as the first gate. After that, the big chunky gravel and loose surface made the going too difficult and it was back to pushing.

It took about 50 minutes for us to push our bikes in the baking heat to the top of the climb, with a few short stretches of pedalling in the odd place where the surface would allow. Our reward was a spectacular view over to the Mawddach estuary, with the Barmouth bridge clearly visible.

Then started the descent. It was not too steep, but still being on rough gravel, it was pretty bumpy.  Colette felt it was just too dodgy for long stretches, so she was forced to walk her bike down hill. I could see that it was going to become very steep downhill not far ahead, and was dreading walking my bike down there too, but just as we crossed the final cattle grid before the descent, the road turned back to perfect tarmac! We cried for joy!!!

One thing that we noticed about this route was how few other cyclists we saw. Apart from in town, we only saw three other cyclists all day. Why this is, I can’t fathom, but the upshot is that the sheep here are not used to cyclists, and when alarmed, they shoot out across the road in front of you without warning. For that reason, we needed to keep the speed in check on this descent, and I had one very close call where my hydraulic disc brakes were given a good emergency stop test by a couple of frightened lambs.

The steep little road took us out onto a flat valley, and with that, the adrenalin rush was over for the day. The final 8 miles were predominantly flat, taking us through Bryncrug, after which we used the roadside cycle path as far as the outskirts of Tywyn. There, we found an extremely narrow road that bypassed the town, taking us back onto the A493 with just a few easy miles back to Aberdovey.

And so the epic day was over. The stats don’t make the day look as hard as it felt, mainly because a lot of the climbing was on very steep roads, and also the gravel sections were almost too gnarly for a gravel bike. But the upside was beautiful scenery for pretty much the whole ride, and once off the main roads, we felt like we had the whole place to ourselves. 






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20 April 2022 – Glentrool

Glentroool has been on our radar for a long time, after hearing good things about it from a friend, shortly after we took up cycling. We would have tried it earlier, but it is just at the far end of what I see as a comfortable length of drive for a day trip. On the day in question however, the forecast was great for there and not so great for home, so we decided to get up early and give it a go.

After over 3 hours of driving, we reached the start point at Clatteringshaws visitor centre. I I hadn’t expected that the car park would be pay and display, and since we didn’t have any coins, it was a good job that we arrived just after the visitor centre opened, where we could buy a ticket by card.

It was a bright, sunny start with not much wind, and a downhill from the off. The plan was to reach Glentrool by road. then return to Clatteringshaws using the off-road track. The first part of our route was southwest, along the A712, with the Galloway Forest to our right. As with most “A” roads in this area, the traffic was very light.

We passed a number of laybys to our right. which might have come in handy had we arrived before we could pay for the parking at Clatteringshaws. The visitor attractions included a red deer range and further down a wild goat park, where we could see quite a number of goats just beyond the fence.

A few miles further along, we took a right turn onto a minor road, which led upwards into remote-looking countryside, before bending to the left and gently undulating its way down to the village of Minigaff, on the outskirts of Newton Stewart. There, we took a right over a bridge onto another quiet road that led us northwest, away from civilisation once more.

After passing through some open countryside, we rejoined the Galloway forest, which was to our right, with the River Cree to our left. The road had some quite steep little ups and downs and some gravelly sections, but that was fine as we were riding our gravel bikes.

At this point, I realised far too late, that I hadn’t put much thought into the preparation for the day’s outing. Although I was riding 35mm gravel tyres, Colette’s bike still had the narrower 28mm road tyres that I fitted for our Mallorca trip. She had used them successfully off-road recently, but today’s outing was a bit of an unknown, and they might not be up to the job.  Also, we were only carrying one spare inner tube each, which could be a bit risky for a trip taking us well away from potential help.

Water of Minnoch

The sound of a waterfall alerted us to a possible photo opportunity, and we took a very short detour to check it out, before carrying on towards Glentrool. We had made pretty good time to this point, so we arrived at the Glentrool visitor centre, crossing the very picturesque Water of Minnock, right on lunchtime.

Although there were some grumblings from Colette about her microwaved baked potato, this was the only place for miles that we could possibly get anything to eat, and I was perfectly satisfied with my tuna and onion toastie, so no complaints from me!

After lunch, we headed east, following national cycle route 7 (off-road version). To start with, the road was tarmac, taking us through a couple of car parks and up some short, sharp climbs, to the end of the road and the start of the gravel track. Route 7 went steeply down from this point on loose gravel that I found uncomfortably bumpy and Colette elected just to push down.

The track flattened off and went over a couple of bridges with more lovely waterfalls to admire. It continued to be bumpy for a bit longer, then became very steep again as well, where I struggled to keep pedalling. Once at the top, I walked back to Colette to help her push her bike up.

At the top of this steep section, we reached a T-junction with a well-used logging trail, where the gravel was more compressed and easier to ride. We went left here, but as we had started the main climb of the day, the direction was still up. Colette expressed disapproval for the lack of gravel-capable tyres on her bike, for which I apologised. We then proceeded slowly to navigate the climb. That gave plenty of time to admire the scenery, which to be honest, after waiting such a long time to do this ride, was slightly disappointing. For me, the logging operations gave the hillside a bit of an industrial look. On the other hand, without logging and wind farms, there wouldn’t be half as many gravel roads to ride.

At the top of the climb, there is a large stone covered with runic inscriptions, which Colette stopped to investigate. Somehow, I managed to completely miss it and carried on over the top, till I had to stop for wild goats crossing the road.

Loch Dee came into view as we cycled on, and with it, the scenery improved markedly. There were a few ups and downs still, but nothing major. I paused at the top of one for Colette to catch up, and she just breezed past. I started after her, speeding up on a fast downhill till I hit something with a bang. Shortly after, I started losing control and had to come to a stop after seeing my front tyre was flat. Then a sinking feeling came over me when I heard a hiss from the rear tyre and soon it was flat too.

I shouted “puncture” but Colette didn’t hear me and disappeared off downhill. My phone didn’t have any signal, so with only one spare inner tube, I had no option other than to shoulder the bike and start walking.

A few minutes later, the phone signal must have come back, as I got a call from Colette asking what was the problem. I told her and she met me a short while later to work out what to do.

We were about 7 miles from the road and I didn’t fancy walking all the way back. The question was whether I could use Colette’s spare 20-28mm inner tube in my 35mm tyre. The tyres were quite tight, so they were tricky to remove and even more care had to be taken getting them back on so I didn’t nick either of the inner tubes. The 20-28mm tube looked way too skinny, but I went carefully and it seemed to inflate successfully.

While I was in the middle of this, some forestry traffic went past, and one driver stopped to offer help. He said if I didn’t manage, there was a bothy a few miles back the other way. I certainly didn’t want it to come to that!

After more than 20 minutes fiddling with wheels, we set off again very carefully, as any more punctures would mean a long walk. Luckily, there were no more mishaps, and a few miles further along, route 7 took us away from gravel trail and onto a very old and very narrow tarmac road.

This road went up and round a small hill, and by the time we were going down the other side, Clatteringshaws Loch came into view. We could see the visitor centre and our car in the car park just on the other side. However, we needed to go all the way round the dam before reaching the A712 again.

It was on my mind that since we started this ride with a downhill, the final section back to the car might be a drag. Luckily, the wind was behind us at this point, and it eased us up from the bottom of the dam to water level and then back to the car.

Luckily, we arrived a few minutes before the visitor centre shut, so we could visit the facilities before starting the drive back. A long day, but a good one, with great weather, mostly great scenery and a chance to (re)learn some important cycling lessons.




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28 March 2022 – Callander and Comrie loop

After a week of disappointing weather in Mallorca, while Scotland was bathed in sunshine, we were relieved when the good weather at home held on just long enough for us to get in a sunny cycle on our return.

I’d been looking for a chance to do this particular route for quite a while,  which includes a 5-6 mile offroad stretch near the end where the state of the track was a bit of an unknown. So I was looking to do it after a decent dry spell, where the chance of getting bogged down in any mud would be minimised. The time was right, so we grabbed the chance.

Arriving at Callander shortly after 9am, the sun was up and the wind was down, but it was still pretty chilly. We put on all our layers, shared a small flask of hot coffee and set off from the riverside car park. We headed north along the familiar cycle path, both riding our gravel bikes. 

Shortly, we reached the south end of Loch Lubnaig, where everyone seemed to be packing up and leaving the holiday cabins after a sunny weekend. After passing through, we came out onto the lochside track, which seemed to be less potholed than the last time we were there. A bit further along, there was a team at work relaying the gravel surface on the track. It seemed right to be riding a gravel bike.

Further along, we came to the zig-zags that lead steeply up to meet the road to Strathyre. I wasn’t certain that the gears were low enough on my new bike, but I managed to get to the top in one go. We continued on National Cycle Route 7 through Strathyre and up along the winding track towards Lochearnhead.

At the appropriate point, about half a mile before the outskirts of Lochearnhead, we joined the (thankfully deserted) main road and descended for a minute or so, before turning right onto the south Loch Earn road. This road is a minor single track road, with a speed limit of 40, and designated as cycling and walking friendly.

As the morning wore on, the sun got higher and we got correspondingly warmer, meaning that it was time to shed the outer layers. The ride along the loch was very pleasant, with hardly any traffic to be seen. Although at the starting point for the climb up Ben Vorlich, there must have been at least a dozen cars parked.

The south Loch Earn road meets the main road at St Fillans, at the far east end of the loch. When we reached that point, we could see cyclists on the separate cycle path that leads from St Fillans to Comrie. It was our plan to use that cycle path but we had to turn right onto the main road for a while before we found a right turn to get us onto it. It looked like it went through somebody’s drive, so we missed it at first.

Once on the cycle path, we found it surprisingly busy with other cyclists, plus a few walkers. It followed the line of an old railway for a few miles before coming out at a T-junction. The cycle route to Comrie from there was right, and we would have followed it, but for the fact that it was a Monday, and all the cafes in Comrie are apparently closed on that day of the week. Our alternative was the Tullybannocher cafe, to reach which we needed to rejoin the main road.

The cafe was a bit of a find. It is quite large, serving a caravan park over on the other side of the road, and has a good range of hot food, reasonably priced and quickly prepared.  We just went for filled rolls, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity for a side of hash browns as well. Perhaps that was a step too far, as I felt more like having a lie down afterwards, rather than jumping back on my bike!

Soon, we arrived in Comrie, where a right turn off the main road took us onto the B827. We were now heading back in the direction of Callander, along what was at first a straight flat road. However, our route took us onto a minor road at Cultybraggan camp, after which the flavour was definitely up, up, up!

An older couple passed us, as we struggled with the gradient – the wonder of e-bikes! The payback for our effort was the remote and beautiful scenery of Glen Artney. I wasn’t sure how quickly we would lose the tarmac, but it went on for quite a few miles. This would certainly be a very worthwhile dead-end to visit on a road bike.

When the road finally ended, we went through a gate into wild looking moorland. There were paths leading left and right. The one to Callander was to the left and looked both steep and rough. No place to take a skinny-tyred road bike, but with a gravel bike you could pick a reasonable route through. 

I was sure that I’d have to get off and push at some point, with the gradient going over 12% at times, but amazingly, the gravel bike just kept on rolling over the gnarly track. Colette was getting tired and had to push up the long steep section that came at first, but I think the view after reaching the top lifted her spirits and she got a second wind.

The scenery on this calm and sunny day was amazing, with picture postcard views up the valley towards snow-capped Ben Vorlich. We passed over the Water of Ruchill on a substantial wooden bridge, and further on, two more such bridges took us over Keltie Water.

I’m fairly sure one of the peaks in the distance is Ben Vorlich

One solitary walker was the only other soul we saw on this perfect stretch of off-road track, which was exceeding my already high expectations. It was exhilarating to let myself go on the downhill bits, perched over the saddle and now and then, loose gravel would go pinging off the underside of the bike or my feet. 

Finally, we reached a farm, and shortly after that, a tarmac road. This undulated for a mile or so, until it began a very sharp descent into Callander. We came out near the Co-op. Colette popped in to get some much needed cold drinks, then we pedalled back to the car for the drive home. It had been a glorious day out – the best of the year so far and it will be very hard to beat!




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20 March 2022: Sa Calobra day

This was planned as our “big day out in the mountains” trip of the holiday. It also coincided with the best weather forecast of the week for Sa Calobra, although it wasn’t up to much by usual Mallorca standards: 13 dec C with moderate breeze and sunny intervals, and small chance of a shower.

That was good, as I’d booked us onto the Sa Calobra Express for that day well in advance. This is a transfer service that picks you up at your resort (in our case, right outside the hotel) and takes you to the aqueduct by the orange juice shack just over 12km shy of Sa Calobra village. That cuts off a lot of cycling to get you there, so you can concentrate on the Sa Calobra experience. Colette was up for it, so we got ourselves out in front of the hotel for our 8am pickup.

I was expecting at least a large minibus with separate bike carrying vehicle, but it was just a taxi with a bike rack on the back. It seems that everyone except us had cancelled for this trip. That probably explains why the number of available spaces on the Mallorca Cycle Shuttle website had gone up from 7 to 14. Ach well, in for a penny, in for a pound… so I helped get the bikes on the rack and hopped aboard, then off we went in the direction of the Tramuntana mountains.

As we passed Pollensa, the mountains ahead looked very dark and foreboding, shrouded in heavy cloud. The driver turned on his windscreen wipers and we could see that the road here was very wet. Various words of wisdom from fellow cyclists came to mind, such as “Spanish roads are treacherous when wet” and “I never go into the mountains when it rains, because someone always ends up coming back bleeding”.  

We started going up Coll de Femenia and the wipers went from intermittent to constant, as we started to enter the clouds. Colette and I looked at each other and wondered whether this was worth the risk. I had added extra money to our cycling wallet for this trip in case of emergencies, so we had enough to pay the driver to turn around and take us back.

Our start point. The road to the left leads to Soller via Puig Major, which the one on the right goes to a dead end at Sa Calobra.

However, the skies were looking a little brighter by the time we reached our destination and the rain had stopped, so we decided to man up and stick with the plan. It was cold, so we put on all the spare clothes that we had brought with us. The taxi had left though by the time I was looking to put on my gloves, and that’s when I realised that I must have dropped them when fumbling to extract some cash for the driver’s tip. Not a great start!

Halfway up the easier Coll dels Reis climb

So off we went… The first thing was a 2.2 km climb to bring us to the top of the Coll dels Reis from the south side. From there, it was a 682 metre (2,200 ft) descent to sea level at Sa Calobra harbour, at which point you turn around and cycle all the way back up again.

That OMG moment when you see the Sa Calobra road for the first time!

We were only seconds into the big descent when we were stopping to take photos of the amazing road below, twisting and turning its way down the mountainside. Starting up again, our big fear was skidding when cornering on the wet surface. So we made sure to slow right down in advance of the first turn – an impressive 270 degree corkscrew turn, known as the “nus de sa corbata” in Spanish (which translates as “tie knot”) where the road loops underneath itself.

Approaching the tie knot

When leaning ever so gently into this turn, a strong side-wind took us by surprise. After that little fright, I asked Colette whether she was still up for continuing, and she said of course, we’ve come all this way, let’s just do it.

Here we go… And the sun even came out for a bit!

I made sure to be super cautious on the descent, slowing to a virtual standstill before each hairpin bend. I was able to take as much space as needed for each turn, as the road was effectively ours to use as we pleased. I only saw two cars and one other bike on the whole descent.

Anyway, after a few hairpins, I stopped to see how Colette was enjoying it. She was a little freaked by the damp conditions, and was surprised by the steepness of the gradients. So she made her mind to continue descending till she was somewhere approaching halfway down, then would turn around and go back up. She was happy for me to continue to the bottom then climb back up, where she would be waiting for me.

So I continued descending, and the further down I got, the warmer and drier it got, and at the same time I felt I was beginning to get the measure of the road; it being quite a bit grippier than I had at first given it credit for.


Soon, I reached Sa Calobra village where I took a photo and a swig of water, then set off back up. I think the fact that I’d been fretting so much about the dangers of descending the Sa Calobra road in the wet meant that I’d forgotten to worry about going back up. In fact, it came as a sweet relief! I was now able to enjoy the climb.

The enjoyment was multi-faceted. Firstly, I was going up at a nice, steady pace for me, so I wasn’t going to feel like my lungs were exploding at any point. Secondly, the effort was keeping me nice and warm in the fairly cool conditions, compared to the other time I did the climb, where I was sweating buckets in the heat. Thirdly, I was smugly expecting a personal best, since the last time I spent a significant amount of time stopped taking photos, faffing and eating ice cream at the cafe near the top.

I did stop once though, when Colette contacted me to say she’d reached the top. As it turned out, she had made quite good time and went back down to do more climbing to keep warm. Then she spotted some vultures, and possibly eagles too, and spent the rest of her time observing them while I made my way back up.

Photo courtesy Mallorca Cycling Photos

About 2km from the top, I was snapped by a photographer who arrived on a motorbike, taking photos for MallorcaCyclingPhotos.com. When the lens was on me, I noticed my power went up by around 100 Watts!

I met back up with Colette at the tie knot, where I paused while she pointed out a large vulture perched on a high place. After that it was pedal to the metal for another minute or two (or more likely five – who am I kidding?!) till I reached the very top of the climb. I was very glad to have done it again, and fully understood why Colette didn’t go the whole hog. In fact, the final 1/3 to 1/2 of the climb that she did definitely felt like the hardest part, so she certainly knows what it feels like to do the Sa Calobra climb and has the photos to prove it.

Next, we descended to the aqueduct where the orange juice shack was now open. It wasn’t a day for orange juice, so we ordered a couple of coffees instead. We drank them standing up as all the chairs were still wet. Then we headed for the Lluc junction, where we would make our minds up which route to take back to Puerto Pollensa.

Although I remembered this as a descent, there was a fair bit of climbing before we reached the mountain viewpoint. There were already lots of tourists filling the space and taking in the somewhat murky view. Some downhill belatedly started, bringing us to the Repsol garage, where we decided to have a spot of lunch in the adjoining cafe.

However, after parking the bikes, I couldn’t find any trace of our money. Colette searched all my pockets too, till we came to the conclusion that I must have lost it some time after paying for the coffees.

Pizza time!

At least Colette still had her bank cards, so we were able to order lunch (a surprisingly good tuna pizza). As we ate, the heavens opened and there was a commotion as dozens of cyclists rushed to take cover. 

We were initially quite fatalistic about losing the money (about 115 euros) probably because we were mostly worried about getting back to the hotel without crashing on the wet descent. However, by the time I’d finished lunch, it seemed worthwhile for me to backtrack to the orange juice shack just in case the money pouch had been handed in. So off I went in the pouring rain, pedalling hard on the uphill to keep myself warm.

A fire engine then passed me quickly with lights flashing and siren wailing. I hoped that no cyclists had come to grief in the wet conditions. A little further along, there were three fire engines parked in a verge and firemen were making their way down the mountain with coils of rope over their shoulders.

Once the descending started, I took care in the rain and arrived safely at the aqueduct, where lots of cyclists were taking cover next to the shack. I asked hopefully about the money and the guy went round the back. Then the older chap who had served us earlier appeared and handed over the money pouch. I was overjoyed and gave him a wee reward to say thanks.

After phoning Colette to pass on the good news, I turned around and rode back to the Repsol garage. The wind was blowing the rain so hard that it felt like stinging hail. I was now completely soaked through. My Wahoo told me it was just 7 degrees C, but somehow I felt comfortable with it.

Passing the mountain viewpoint once again, there was a fireman standing in the middle of the road and a woman ran up to give him a huge hug. I concluded that meant the rescue operation, whatever it was, had ended in success.

With the 45 minute detour over, Colette suggested I have a coffee to warm up. She had had one while she waited for me to return, and also tried some of the cafe’s famous apple tart. I had quite a long queue to deal with though, and by the time I’d got my coffee and drank it, I was feeling properly cold.

It was sensible to go back by the most direct route, so we returned via the Coll de Femenia. Even though the rain had now stopped, I was struggling not to get the shivers, as that can make the bike wobble alarmingly, like what happened on our Algarve trip a few years ago.

At the bottom of the descent, I stopped for a shake-out to get the circulation flowing again, then we just had a few more miles of flat, fast road to cover before reaching the hotel to get out of our sodden clothes. It was a good job that we planned for a non-cycling day the next day, as my shoes took two days to dry out!

In the end, the ride delivered what it had promised, even though it looked like being a potential disaster at various stages. And as a final bonus, I was able to pick up my lost gloves from reception on our way down to dinner, after being handed in by the taxi driver. We were able to have a relaxing meal, basking in the warm glow of an eventful, “type 2” fun day out.

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18 March 2022: On holiday in Mallorca

We found ourselves in Mallorca for a week’s cycling that coincided with a spell of unseasonably poor weather. However, on this particular day it was at least dry, despite being cold and windy.

Our plan was to have a relatively easy day, staying mainly on the plain and using various back lanes to shelter from the wind, as suggested by Lynne Morris. We headed out in a generally southerly direction, zigzagging through the peaceful lanes. Particularly enjoyable was the cami de Can Melia, which was very narrow and wound its way first up, then down through woodland in a pleasing serpentine fashion. If there had been any traffic, we might not have enjoyed it quite as much!

At the end of this cami, we turned right onto a main road, but as often is the case with Spanish roads, this one had a wide verge on either side, which acts as a de facto cycle lane. At this point, we realised that the wind was behind us, as we sped along at 20 mph while scarcely pedalling at all.

We turned left after a while, onto a road running along the edge of flat marshland, with tall reeds on one side or the other. Another turning put us more in the direction of Muro, taking us there through flat farmland. We passed by artichokes, onions and cabbages, but most of all, vast fields of potatoes.

This is also the land of Mallorcan windmills. We saw lots in various stages of delapidation. Some looked almost pristine, but not even these were turning in the ample wind available on this day.

After various right angled turns between fields, we got onto a long, straight road that led along the flat, and then finally upwards to Muro. A left turn onto the busy main road took us the final yards into Muro town. I followed Lynne’s route into Muro, until we reached a crossroads that I recognised. So we dismounted and walked up to our left, where we saw the familiar sight of Panador forn Muro. This bakery / cafe has legendary status among the people we cycle with, so it was undoubtedly time for a cake stop.

I ordered a tiramisu and Colette had something unidentified, but equally delicious. Two cakes and two coffees for 7 euros: a bargain as well!

Leaving Muro, I missed our turn and got lost in the labyrinthine one-way system. I was stood there, looking at my map and trying to work out why I couldn’t find the road out, when a local stopped and kindly explained that the road was actually beneath us! We had to loop round and under a bridge, then we were flying away downhill out of Muro and into some rolling countryside.

Shortly after this, we departed from Lynne’s route onto one of my own devising, aimed at taking us to the main feature of the day’s ride: the Parc Natural de s’Albufera.

The quiet lanes gradually gave way to busier roads, taking us in the general direction of Can Picafort. Luckily, it didn’t take too long, and once we reached the coast road, we stopped at a handy Eroski supermarket to buy some water and a little something for a mini-picnic in the natural park.

We then headed north on the Ma-12. It was a lot less busy than the previous time I went that way, and the “cycle lane” was clear of parked cars. The dunes to our right blocked the view of the sea, which was just a short distance away at this point. However, our destination was the wetland habitat to our left. After a few miles, we came to the entrance to the park, which has a somewhat intimidating no entry sign. It turns out that refers to cars only, as walkers and cyclists are expected to enter there.

The park has a strictly “no sport” policy. So jogging is banned, and bikes are supposed to stick to a 10 kph (6 mph) speed limit. About half a mile in, we reached the Sa Roca administration building, where we obtained our (free) permission to visit, and picked up an information leaflet.

We back-tracked a little, then turned south onto a dirt track leading between reeds. Every now and then, there was a wooden viewing platform that you could climb, getting you above reed height and allowing you to survey the surrounding area for wildlife.

At the first two, we didn’t see much of note. The second one had a bench, where we tucked into our spinach and ricotta pasties that we bought at Eroski earlier. It wasn’t till much later that we discovered that picnics are forbidden in the park. Oops, sorry! We won’t do it next time!


Further along, we stopped when a stonechat very obligingly perched on a wire just next to us. It waited patiently while Colette got her camera out, fired off a load of close-up shots, and then the bird flew off the minute Colette was finished.

A network of narrow canals runs through the park

At the south end of the dirt road, it made a right turn, which we followed. The sun was now making a hazy appearance, and in the shelter of the reeds, I began to get positively warm, so off came one layer of clothing.

A bit further along, there was another platform, this one significantly higher. I might have ridden past, but Colette was keen to give it a try. Up we went, to find that it gave a great view onto the biggest pond we had seen to this point. There were a number of different species of duck on the pond, so I got out the binoculars so I could have a shot at identifying them. 


Then a fairly large bird of prey flew in. I said I thought it might be an osprey, and it certainly looked like one after pointing the binoculars at it. Colette tried to get some photos using her good camera, but she wasn’t convinced that it had worked. In fact, they actually turned out pretty well!

The osprey used the wind to kind of hover over the pond, and even made a few tentative dives, but then a gull appeared and chased the osprey off. We were both thrilled to have seem it, making the trip to the park very worthwhile.

We exited from the southwest end of the park and took various quiet lanes to hook back up with the route that had earlier taken us to Muro. As we approached the fast road, where we had been wind assisted on the way out, a horse and cart emerged from a side road ahead of us. It turned onto the busy road and continued in the “cycle lane”. It was going just a little slower than we might have liked, so when Colette and I had caught up behind it, I checked there was no traffic behind and shouted “big push, let’s get well ahead”. That we did, but Colette was nervous that it would catch us up again. In fact, it nearly did, as it took quite a while before a break in the traffic allowed us to turn left back onto the cami de Can Melia once more.

So we had a chance to enjoy this wonderful cami one more time before ticking off the final few miles back to Puerto Pollensa. We headed to the sea front and Gran Cafe 1919 for a snack and some delicious sangria. At the coast, the sun was now hidden by cloud and the fresh breeze made it feel a lot cooler, so layers went back on, and we didn’t feel like hanging around in the chill breeze once we were finished. We were keen to get back to the hotel anyway, to check out those osprey pictures!

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