Monday, August 22, 2011

Ballater to Edzell


     Today started with a few less members of the group riding, deciding to spend some time off the bike and walking around the sights of Ballater, Royal Deeside and Balmoral Castle. For those riding however it turned out to be quite a choice day and at the end of this day all of us that rode agreed that this was probably the best day in a whole series of great days. 

     Starting with riding out through Ballater we began climbing up and out using pathways that wound through old established homes and estates and then into the woods. Climbing, climbing we entered into the higher hills of wilderness Scotland.

     At points we traveled past old stone walls circling pastures of sheep, across our usual and daily encounters with streams. Streams became a daily part of mountain biking the C2C but after the first few encounters they became just another part of riding due in great part to the invention of the drying room and judicious use of newspapers. Sheep were also another part of daily riding including the search for the "Sheep of the Day" photo.

 The single track itself was very varied. Meadows, rocky technical bits, fields of ferns, heather and another new one for us which was a long technical stretch of climbing a single track that had turned into a running stream and was all roots with lifts. Sorry, no photos for this one! Too darn busy to shoot photos but it was so awesome

This day was a perfect slice of Scotland with a little taste of every kind of trail and terrain that Scotland had to offer. Riding through giant fields of ferns on singletrack was something that none of us (except our guide Pete of course!) had ever experienced before. It was pure magic and in it's own way was a form of technical riding.


Each rider was in their own groove, moving over terrain and enjoying the freedom of just riding. There is a simple joy in just riding, reaching that level that pushes technical or endurance ability,  learning a new terrain skill, wheels rolling, legs pumping, rhythmic breathing...just riding..

    Every day on our C2C trip was in isolated wilderness just touching in villages as we would move from one mountain range to a valley and onto the next range.  However this day seemed to be hundreds of miles from anywhere..with of course the occasional smattering of sheep on some small  farm..

    Eventually we moved through the rolling hills of Scotland and began climbing in earnest and came upon one of the great single track climbs of the trip, at times reaching 20%.

This required some folks bike hiking while others were able to hold on to the extended climb that took over an hour to accomplish.



One of the great things about climbing is that through all the suffering that you so truly as a cyclist enjoy, there is the reward first obtaining the top..

and then the free miles of fabulous downhill...although we will have to say we would like to talk to the trail builder on this one.. sweet, so sweet single track on the climb uphill , how about taking it over the other side?? Still.. it was sweet, downhill and well earned.

 At last we came to the end of the route and exited onto the last few kilometers to our accommodations, but we had a choice...take an extra off road route or do the paved into the town of Edzell. Each chose their own way and the group split at this point, some sitting on a bridge having a "second" lunch in the warm sun and shooting photos and the other "group" (our guide, Pete, and Scot) taking the "highroad" and riding the trail. While the trail folks might have been having their fun on dirt the paved cyclists had the most excitement. The pave wandered though a game reserve of sorts with partridges scattered all over the field and road. Riding by the birds would fly up into the air and then further down the road, repeating this over and over again. At one point a farmer was out hunting and as the birds flew up and the cyclists rode by on the lower track the farmer shot at the partridges which also happened to be right smack over the heads of the the unseen bikers! It was just a little more motivation to put some leg on the pedals and head for town, a reunion of riders and of course beer.   At the end all arrived in Edzell feeling that feeling that only cyclists have when finishing a great ride. And we all agreed.. it was a great ride.

Sheep of the Day

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