Back to the North Coast 500

My first two days of biking and hiking had been enjoyable and fulfilling but two problems had emerged.  The first was relatively minor and would be cured by time.  The general purpose fitness regime of winter had not prepared me for cycling.  The going felt quite hard and I had a few avoidable twinges.

The other problem was mechanical.  The chain was locking solid whenever I tried using the smallest front cog.  Back pedalling would free the chain and prevent a tumble but the absence of small gears ineveitably meant walking the more difficult hills.  Money needed spending, sadly.

The nearest bike shop I knew of was in Ardgay.  Half way into my Saturday ride from Forsinard to Brora I realised that I could have taken a train straight to Ardgay.  As I hadn’t, Sunday was going to be a day of rest in Brora.  I would also have to give up plans for looping through the back lanes to Rogart if I was to get to Heaven Bikes in time for Chris to work on my bike.

The short ride from Forsinard to the Caravan Club site at Brora was a demanding battle into a storm.  Glen Loth funnelled the wind and rain at me with such violence that I had to pedal down hill.  Luckily, the site was welcoming and well equipped.

Sunday in Brora was much more enjoyable than expected.  Brora has an interesting history, including coal mining and the inn provided a satisfying Sunday lunch.  I walked back to my tent over the golf course and spent the afternoon reading a Sunday paper.  A good quality rest day, even though six or seven miles were walked.

Finally, on Monday morning, after four days, I pedalled along the A9 on the genuine North Coast 5oo.  You can have too much of a good thing so I left the official route at The Mound and took lanes directly to Bonar Bridge.  The climb, up a small, wooded valley, past an inland fulmars’ colony, was gorgeous.

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Diagnosing my bicycle’s problem was complicated by confusion over big cogs at the front, big cogs at the back and big gears.  Eventually Chris was able to replicate the problem when he rode up the only hill in Ardgay.  He was impressed by the potential  of the jamming chain to cause injury, but he had identified the root of the problem.  A spring in the rear mech had given up.

As he was unable to fit a new mech until the following day, Tuesday, I bought a return ticket home.  Next morning, I was back and the bicycle was working perfectly.  My gears were ready for Bealach na Ba.  It was just a pity about my legs!  The train journey might have been inexpensive but it was lengthy so I contented myself with pedalling to the nearest campsite, two miles short of Tain.

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