This post was updated on September 21st, 2018
I have been here before back in 2010. Not only was it in parts the same route, but the same weather. A light drizzle is accompanying me on my ride from Craignure to Salen, not enough to get really wet, but enough to not take the camera out as often as I might have otherwise. But I learned from the second day of this ride, that it will be too hot if I wear my full rain clothes, so this time I decided to leave them behind. Sure enough, this means I am getting rather cold during the longer breaks, but cycling will warm me up just enough. After all, we still have about 12˚C (about 54˚F), so it is not as bad as it was when I cycled through the Tongariro National Park in New Zealand, or up to the viewpoint Stegasteinen near Aurland, Norway.
Sharing the road
For the first part of the route, I am following the A845 toward Pennygheal, which means sharing the narrow road occasionally with tour buses on their way to Iona. Until I reach the intersection with the B8035 at Loch Beg, this means getting off and on the bike whenever there is a bus behind me, and I have a chance to turn onto some shoulder-section. From my previous group tours I am used to warning the cyclists ahead of me about cars from behind, and the mirror on my handlebar gives me an extra advantage. I have been following Tony tight for a while, knowing that we both have some training in how to use the wind shadow at its best when he suddenly makes a full stop after hearing me shout “car” from behind. That was completely unexpected.
To crash or not to crash
Getting hard on my own brakes I manage to stop and get out of the clutches in no time, but yea, my back wheel tried to pass my front wheel. Unbeknown to me he had been following one of the e-bike riders of our group, who always makes a full stop and gets off the bike without any warning if there is a car coming from behind. No matter if the road was wide enough for both the cyclist and the vehicle or not. I suppose this is the downside of tour operators now offering e-bikes as well. People who haven’t used a bike in 20 years in regular traffic now have a chance to participate in these tours as well, and they are sometimes, due to their lack of experience, a hazard to the other cyclists.
But then I remember the guide’s tale of some people who bring their own pedals to these tours…and for the first time are using clutch pedals, not knowing how to get in and out fast enough. Actually, the guide was surprised as of how quickly I was able to get in and out of mine, there is a simple trick to make it easier: a little screw controls a feather which in turn controls how tight the clutch is working. I am still, even with years of using them, using the easiest setting – which might have made all the difference just now.
Lunch break in a bus shelter
For lunch, a little bus shelter offers some protection from the wind and the drizzle. Of course, you cannot fit 15 people into a bus shelter, but I am one of the lucky ones to get in and warm up a bit. I wouldn’t mind a hot chocolate now…but I didn’t bring a thermos. Sandwiches, made earlier this morning on the boat, and some salted nuts and almonds will do the trick. Now we have left the part of the route that we have to share with the busses. Yet, that does not mean that we can speed up after lunch. We are advised to stay on the brakes for the downhills to avoid making sheep-kebab with massed human…probably a good idea. But the rain is now lifting as well, and so I can even enjoy some sunbeams from time to time.
If things had worked out according to the original plan, I would have ridden this route on Tuesday already. It has a few climbs, which would have been a proper preparation for the Salen – Tobermory ride we did for the first tour, but they are manageable. Maybe it is the training from riding here for a week, perhaps they are just not as steep. Nevertheless, these climbs feel easy compared to the one I encountered on Monday on my way toward Tobermory. With – almost – every climb comes a downhill and a new chance for sheep-kebab. But not only that, there are some fantastic viewpoints included.
I also have to admit I just could not stay on the brake. This was too much of a beautiful downhill. Remembering it from 2010, I figured I would have encountered the cows if they were here already, so I deemed it being safe. Enjoying the speed for a little while. Suddenly around the corner, I am spotting some sheep, it’s time to use the brake again…
No sheep-kebab with meshed human today.
Only too soon I find the spot again where I had to give up in 2010. This time, however, I have done the climbs I dreaded back then. Today I don’t have to do them all over again, I just have to go straight for maybe 3.2 more clicks (2 miles) before I arrive in Salen at the Coffee Pot. Did I mention hot chocolate earlier? Well, here I am taking another break, and I am getting my hot chocolate and some tasty cake with it. I never knew hot chocolate would taste this good with marshmallows, definitively an idea to remember for the future.