Boo-hoo. Back at work. Wish I was still cycle touring. But these photos will keep me going until the next family bike trip.
We’ve just returned from cycling along Scotland’s Great Glen, the 70-mile geological fault line between Inverness and Fort William. Over four days of cycling we went there and back, using the dirt tracks and steeps of the Great Glen Way, a waymarked walking route. The fast-and-furious A82 between Inverness and Fort William is scenic because it skirts Loch Ness and other water features but the Great Glen Way is even more spectacular because it takes the high road, with jaw-dropping vistas down to the lochs.
On the return journey we backtracked along the towpaths of Thomas Telford’s monumental Caledonian Canal and then climbed to Whitebridge and the famous Falls of Foyers. After Fort Augustus we were on minor roads, some of them singletrack for long distances.
The Reidlets – Josh, 10, and Hanna and Ellie, both 8 – coped well with the unthinking motorists who use the minor roads as race-tracks. On their Islabikes they also coped well with the rocky descents of parts of the Great Glen Way.
The Great Glen Way stopped being promoted as a long-distance bike route in 2006, although cycling is still permissible because of Scotland’s access laws. The southern half of the route is easy enough, it’s on the canal towpath but the northern half is tough going, especially for kids carting pannier bags. Some of the descents are steep, rocky and sandy in places. Looking back now it’s amazing we got the kids down some of the descents.
We did about 32 miles each day. This might sound a lot for little kids but they’ve done 50+ miles a day in previous tours. 32 miles on rough stuff was an enormous ask for the kids and we arrived at our pre-booked B&Bs much later than we had planned for.
The route might have been tougher than we had expected but the fabulous weather brought out the very best in the landscapes and we were treated to postcard-perfect views of Highland highlights such as Ben Nevis, Neptune’s Staircase and Urquhart Castle.
It was still sunny when we left Inverness yesterday. Half way in to the six hour train journey it started raining. Our ride home was a wet one, but at least it hadn’t rained on our hols.
I was using Arkel pannier bags for the first time. What stunning bags! I wish I’d had this kind of equipment on previous tours.
Ellie enjoying elevated views down to Loch Ness
Wildlife spotting is easy on a bike tour, and so is wildlife hugging. The frogs en route must have been glad of our passing
The Caledonian Canal towpath from Fort Augustus is well-surfaced and, of course, wonderfully flat
Hanna descending to Loch Ness
The newest of the Loch Ness visitor centres has a revolving statue of the world-famous beastie
This was my first long distance test of the SatMap GPS device. This features genuine OS mapping and was a joy to use. As well as being able to show the kids a little blue dot showing our current position, using the joystick in map planning mode I was able to accurately answer the perpetual question: “Are we there yet, dad?”…No, not for another 2.3 miles, kids… And all while riding along, no fumbling with paper maps.
Long days in the saddle meant the SatMap would potentially run out of juice. Using the famously fiercesome power of the Scottish sun – ha! – I kept the SatMap going for the last half an hour of each day by using the Freeloader solar charger. The add-on Supercharger solar panel fitted perfectly on the pannier rack, held in place with a Velcro strap and clips.
Naturally, it wasn’t all cycling. We also took kid-friendly side trips. This is a funny shot taken by Josh on ‘Harry Potter Hogwarts Express’ steam-train journey from Fort William to Mallaig. This might be one of the world’s most scenic train journeys but this chap had seen enough for the day.
We rode Inverness to Fort William on the way down and Fort William to Fort Augustus on the way back. This was all on the Great Glen Way. From Fort Augustus we took to the roads, from Foyers to Dores to Inverness.
More pix here.
A four-page article on our 2007 family cycle camping holiday to the Netherlands has been published in the April edition of Cycling Plus magazine.
When I get the time – and my dad, who sells the adverts on BritishCycling.org.uk, has booked in an ‘end of part one’ video advert – I’ll be creating a YouTube and Apple TV featurette on this trip. I got lots of footage of ‘normal’ people on bikes. That wasn’t us, we were in Lycra and wore helmets.
It was fab for the Reidlets to travel in a country that really looked after its cyclists.
We saw this great looking bionic leg in a campsite near Amsterdam, but never bumped into the owner so couldn’t ask him how long it took to recharge and whether it had a pedalling action:
The trip was pretty green. We cycled eight miles from our home in Newcastle to the DFDS ferry at North Shields and landed near Amsterdam the next day. No flights, no car trips.
Our next bike holiday is to Scotland in May, pre-midgies. We’ll be taking the train. I hope our kids grow up to realise you don’t need an SUV to get to fun places. The best ‘people carrier’ is the one with two wheels, fuelled by breakfast.
1 ferry. 3 Islabikes. 6 kiddie pannier bags. 1 tent. 2 adults. 10 days. 0 punctures.
Josh Reid is nine. His sisters Hanna and Ellie are seven. All three are now accomplished cycle camping tourists. Last year they cycled, bag-less, 40+ miles a day through the wilds of Northumberland, close to the QR.tv HQ in Newcastle-on-Tyne.
This year, as discussed at length on The Spokesmen podcast, the Reidlets were equipped with touring-specced Islabikes and cycled from home to the DFDS ferry at North Shields and disembarked on to the pristine cycle paths of the Netherlands. The kids decided to carry their own gear this year and did so with Ortlieb’s brightly-coloured waterproof front pannier bags.
Mum had two ancient rear pannier bags. Dad had even more ancient front and rear Karrimor panniers and also lugged a Burley trailer stuffed with camping gear.
Carlton Reid’s bar-bag also contained on-the-fly video equipment and the ’07 tour will soon be available on YouTube and embedded on this site. Why? To demonstrate that kids can do serious distances on bikes, and still not be puffed by the end of the day.
Kids get a thrill from the sense of achievement, get to see wildlife up close whenever they feel like stopping, and had masses of fun cycling and when camping. Got active kids? Start cycle touring.
More tour pix here. Click on ‘slideshow’.
Pix include this one of an electric leg, as seen on a campsite near Amsterdam.
Top togs maker Rapha, publisher of über-trendy road mag Rouleur, is staging a photography exhibition, evening events and organised rides from the Host Gallery in London, 11th-21st October. The Rouleur Exhibition will also have a Rapha boutique.
The photography exhibition will feature 40 grainy, atmospheric photographs by Rouleur photographers.
The Rapha boutique will be stocked with the new Rapha Autumn/Winter collection.
Also launched at the expo is the Rouleur Annual, a £35 250-page book of 2007 Rouleur photographs.
There will also be organised evening and day rides
The Rouleur Exhibition is being held at the Host Gallery in central London. With the Cycle Show at Earls Court and the Bicycle Film Festival in Bethnal Green, the Rouleur Exhibition adds to an active month of cycling events in the capital.
www.rouleur.cc (site live 31st August)
1 Honduras Street
London, EC1Y 0TH
On Saturday I was the event photographer at the Coalfield Series event, organised by Newcastle Phoenix.
The event was held at Hetton Lyons country park, near Durham. 107 pix from the event can be found here.