Rob Harwood, Hunt OpenDev Team member, has recently spent a long weekend cycling in the far north of Scotland. Here is his report:
Sutherland, Loch Assynt - March 2016
I’m told the winter of 2015-16 has been the wettest since records began. Certainly on my home turf it feels like we’ve done nothing but toil in brutal wind and rain since the last days of autumn. So if pushed for a reason for choosing the furthest reaches of North West Scotland, in March, for a lightweight tour….it might take some explaining.
The enjoyment I get from riding my bike is centered around adventure and long days out. Varied terrain, the road less travelled and the experiences we have along the way are the things that count. Having spent time in Scotland's North West while at university it was always apparent the area offered everything a cyclist with a spirit for adventure could want. Under the guise of a mini-tour, myself and two good friends set out from Essex on Friday 11th March to Inverness on the Overnight sleeper train with our Garmin trained on Bonar Bridge, our base for the weekend. We would be riding loaded on the first leg from Inverness on Saturday 12th March and back again on Monday 14th March. We were joined by four club mates who drove the 2,250km round trip just to experience the terrain this part of the UK has to offer.
The main event was a 172km loop from Bonar Bridge to Lochinver and back on Sunday 13th March. Running from east to west and back again, we experienced a full spectrum of wild Scottish vistas. The rolling hills of south Sutherland and a landscape punctuated with swathes of Forestry Commission land and wide, low sided valleys. Upon reaching Ledmore the terrain changed as quickly as the suddenly apparent tailwind that pushed us down the long descent towards the shores of Loch Assynt and the ruins of Ardvrek Castle. Rolling loch side to Lochinver and beyond we wound through sandy beach inlets miles from anywhere and rocky outcrops with views of Suilven to the east. We encountered 16% ramps that seemed to appear when your gaze and concentration were fixed firmly on the awe inspiring scenery. We climbed steadily before the dropping down to the side of Loch Bad a’ Ghaill with views of Stac Pollaidh when looking from the southern end of the loop. It was then a long drag back up the A835 from Drumrunie before turning back south east and heading for the comfort of the B&B for the evening. All day was a feast for the eyes that words can’t describe. So I’ll quit trying and let some snaps do the talking.
This will go down as one of the best days I’ve experienced on a bike. It was made all the more enjoyable with some unseasonably fine Scottish weather. 12 Degrees, bright sunshine with just a touch of wind. Our fear of tackling this terrain in early spring was laid to rest. We got away with it! Perhaps this was our reward from the cycling gods for a winter spend riding on regardless, whatever the weather.
I hope to use the adventures planned for 2016 and beyond to help Hunt Bike Wheels produce wheels for riders who enjoy all aspects of riding. Riding hard, riding far, riding rough ground, riding the smooth stuff….But always riding. The chase is well and truly on. #huntopendev
Rob Harwood. 15th March 2016.