Long term readers will know that Mr Toast and myself usually venture north of the border once a year. It’s a tradition that began with our honeymoon in 2008, and continued almost yearly for our anniversary.
We had a couple of years out when Mini-Toast was born, but we carried on once he was a toddler. Obviously last year was a plague-ridden washout, but this year, we were determined to get back up there.
Unfortunately, our anniversary holidays are a no-goer for the next 13 years, as our anniversary falls during term time. So, summer holidays it is!
Now, the term “summer holiday” often comes with certain expectations. Blue skies, warm sunshine, happy frolicks in the woods. To be fair, we’ve often had changeable weather in Scotland, but this year it pretty much pissed it down every single day.
As we arrived late Saturday evening, my first ride was on Sunday. The cunning plan was that I’d ride to Glentress in the morning, then I’d meet my loving husband and child for lunch at the Peel Cafe, and it’d be all lovely and charming.
I rode along the old railway trail alongside the river, and arrived at Glentress during steady drizzle. I made my way up the blue, which is pretty much unchanged, chuffed at clearing all the corners easily. My plan was to do the climb to Buzzard’s Nest carpark, the blue descent to the cafe, then the full blue and greens after lunch.
What actually happened was that I reached Buzzard’s Nest, and it promptly started absolutely hammering it down. Literal streams flowed down the track, and I could barely see. It was impressive, because the initial descent out of the carpark has pretty heavy tree cover, yet somehow provided no shelter.
As I began my descent, I was decidedly shakey. My vision was clouded from excessive rain and foggy glasses with rain-coated lenses, and I was on a fast downhill that I’d not ridden in over two years. Marvellous.
I freely admit that I walked on some of the berms, because I couldn’t see shit, and felt it would be somewhat poor form if I managed to mash myself on my first ride – especially with my family waiting for lunch.
I made it to the bottom, feeling slightly grumpy and downhearted. I associate Glentress with flowing speed, not soggy terror. Fortunately the trail builders and Glentress’ terrain ensure a solid ride, even in the worst conditions, so I didn’t need to worry as much as I did.
Still, I was relieved as I pulled up at the cafe, looking much like a gender swapped Swamp Thing. Mini-Toast looked equal parts repulsed and amused, and I sat awkwardly at a table with my family, feeling decidedly sorry for the poor sod that has to clean the seats after filthy bikers have finished their snack stops.
After lunch the weather had calmed down considerably, and the male Toasts went on a gentle walk. I decided to do the blue up to Buzzard’s Nest again, as well as a few laps of the skills course and the greens. I felt a lot more comfortable this time around, because it turns out that actually being able to see is quite confidence inspiring.
Wanting to see more of the area by bike, my next ride was a gravel ride. After a recommendation on STW, I purchased the Glentress to Bowbeat route from www.bikevalleytrails.co.uk. Yes, I could have plotted a route myself, but it’s nice to have one that’s been confirmed to be rideable – especially when it comes with a written description to confirm the route if the map gets ambiguous for any reason.
The route had more climbing than I expected, mainly due to me misreading “1200m” as “1200ft”. WHOOPS. It was definitely worth it though – there were some incredible views, and in some parts I felt a bit unsettled at how small and insignificant I was compared to the environment I found myself in, and how isolated and alone I was. I found myself suddenly a lot more sympathetic to Lovecraft protagonists…
I gradually made my way closer to the Bowbeat wind farm, creeping ever closer to the turbines. Literally creeping – I’d set off with sub 80% battery, and was paranoid I’d kill the battery too early with all of the climbing.
As I finally rode beneath the turbines, my sense of unease returned. By this point it was less Lovecraftian and more Final Destination, riding underneath giant whirring death blades with warning signs about stuff that can fall off them. In all seriousness though, wind turbines are cool af.
So here I was, at the top… no, wait, there was another climb. The last proper climb of the route, as it turned out, and not particularly long, but steep as hell. Paranoid about my battery, I walked up it, as there was no way I was getting up it on a bike without anything less than max assist – and I wasn’t sure if I had enough juice to complete the route as it was.
The plus side of all that climbing (other than the stunning views) was the long descent into Innerleithen. Again, thete were fantastic views as I worked my way down through the forest, accompanied by sproinging deer. Eventually, I reached the bottom.
It was now simply a matter of riding alongside the river to our cottage, which lay between Innerleithen and Cardrona. Despite the encroaching darkness and my ever-depleting battery, I still kept on stopping for photos, because priorities, yeah?
I arrived back, quite pleased with my adventure. Next time though, 100% battery from the start!
My last day of riding was focused on the trail centre. I did the full blue, but to be honest, I don’t find the post Buzzard’s Nest climb that fun, nor the first couple of descents. Subsequent efforts saw me riding up past the free ride park and joining Blue Velvet instead.
The weather was actually pretty nice, and it felt awesome to be on the trails. I was feeling pretty confident, so I was going to go on some of the novice freeride runs… but I decided against it after seeing an ambulance stationed at Buzzard’s Nest. Best not to tempt fate.
I definitely felt that I’ve improved – I shaved 13 seconds off my previous best ebike run down Good Game, and 21 seconds off my previous non-ebike best. I also started jumping – only on the lower green trail (on which I have a Strava QOM!), because of knowing my limits, but it felt great getting both wheels off the ground (deliberately!).
I have to admit, it’s harder going on these sort of holidays with a family now – two of my three rides were in the evening whilst Mini-Toast was being put to bed. There’s no more carefree riding for hours in the day, or popping Benny into doggy daycare whilst Mr Toast and I ride together. But I wouldn’t change it for the world, and hopefully Mini-Toast will grow to share our love of riding…