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14-Jul-19 10:32 am
63.14 km

The Methlick Cycle Challenge has been going for a few years now, initially as a ride from Ballater to Methlick and more recently as a ride based in Methlick itself. The ride offers 66-mile, 44-mile and 20-mile options.

This was the first time I’d attempted the event, and I opted for the 44 mile distance. The event was billed as part on, part off-road, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Looking at the route map, there were few parts of the route I was familiar with, apart from 10-or-so miles on the old Buchan railway line. I’d opted to use my mountain bike, a 1992-vintage Trek 7000, later fitted with suspension forks (these weren’t a common thing on mountain bikes in 1992).

After arriving at the start a bit later than I’d have liked, due to car problems, I signed on and rushed down a bacon roll. After a quick toilet break, it was time to line up. After a quick briefing, we set off along a track that followed the south side of the River Ythan. At the end of the trail, we crossed the river back onto tarmac and climbed up to Gight Woods. On this climb, I released that climbing with suspension forks is a bit of a bouncy experience!

Once at the woods, we dropped down and turned onto some narrower roads towards Cairnnorrie. From there, we moved onto some gravel tracks and climbed past some wind turbines. On the gravel descent from here, I passed someone who had fallen off. I stopped to offer help, but several other riders had already stopped. It later turned out that they ended up in hospital, getting knee operated on.

From there, we approached a single-track section with a warning sign about a steep descent towards a pond! At this point I walked down to the pond, as I wasn’t too confident in my bike’s stopping power.

We turned onto the Formartine and Buchan Way (an old railway line) beside Auchnagatt and followed that for 10-or-so miles through Ellon to Udny. This was a fairly fast stretch of the route, and the surface was quite good with only a few puddles. There were two refreshment stops on this section as well, together with a bike mechanic for any mechanical emergencies.

Once off the old railway line, we followed mostly smaller country roads to Udny Green, and then off-road again on the Old Aberdeen Road, which is basically a grass track, into Tarves. The final part of this was a rocky descent shaded by trees. Here, I really thought I was going to come off my bike, but somehow managed to get to the bottom in one piece. From here, we passed through the centre of Tarves and onto another stretch of farm road. At this point, I became aware of a rattle somewhere on my bike. Looking down, I saw that the front quick-release has somehow come loose.  Thankfully, the ‘lawyer nibs’ stopped a more serious problem, as that section of track was quite bumpy.

At the bottom of this descent, we crossed onto the hard-packed roads of Haddo House estate, a stately home owned by the National Trust for Scotland and home to the Marquess of Aberdeen. Once through the estate, we were back onto tarmac for the short stretch back to Methlick with a free beer and a barbeque at Laird’s Cricket Ground.

All in all, a well organised event that took in some interesting routes around Methlick. Will I do it again? Definitely! On the same bike? Probably not – talking to some of the other riders over a beer later, many of them had ridden Cyclo-cross or Gravel bikes, so I’ll probably go that route for next time. I’ll definitely be back next year.

16-Jun-19 10:48 am
86.47 km

Last weekend, I took part in the Suie Classic, a 54 mile bike ride that’s part of the Great Inverurie Bike ride.

The Great Inverurie Bike ride started out many years ago as a 25 mile sponsored event. In the last couple of years, a longer, 54 mile option has been added. The route follows most of the 25 mile course with and out-and-back loop added over the formidable Suie hill, a 6-mile climb, topping out at a 14% gradient.

I’d done this ride before, in 2017, so I knew what I was letting myself in for! The weather was nice at the start in Inverurie, with temperatures of about 15 Deg. To avoid congestion at the start, we were set off in groups of about 20 every 2 minutes-or-so.

I probably took it a bit too easy on the first couple of small climbs, wanting to save myself for the climb of Suie. The run out the foot on the climb was fairly uneventful, passing along the side of the River Don to Keig where we turned right onto the bottom of the climb. The first 4-or-so km are fairly easy, then the road ramps up for the final 2 km. Here the gradient hits 14% (according to Strava). Once at the top, I stopped to refill my water bottles and to refuel on Jelly Babies and a banana. From there, it was a descent down the other side of Suie (the steep side, with 16% gradients and tight corners), and along to Auchleven. 

At that point, just as we starting to climb up Brindy out of Auchleven, the heavens opened and we were bombarded with torrential rain and hail stones. The shower only lasted for 10 minutes-or-so, but it was enough to soak my shorts and feet (I’d stopped to put my rain jacket when the rain started). After the descent, we turned back along the river Don towards Monymusk. After that point, I felt pretty miserable with wet feet.

As we approached Monymusk, it was apparent that they’d had no rain, and the warmer air meant that my jacket and shorts soon dried. The course looped around the back of Monymusk, and then passed through the centre of the village before heading back to the start through Blairdaff and Burnhervie. At this point, we joined the 25-mile route riders, and later the riders on the shorter, 13-mile family route. It was good to see families of all ages out on their bikes, although caution was advised as some of the youngsters were weaving over the road, with little awareness of cyclists approaching from behind.  The final run into Inverurie was a welcome downhill past the hospital and back to the start.

My final time was 3:49:03 (moving time), a few minutes slower than last time.

On Saturday, I took part in the Brewdog Sportive. In its first year, this event is organized by Let’s Go Velo and based at Brewdog’s brewery in Ellon, Aberdeenshire. The ride has 30 mile and 60 mile options. I’d opted for the 60 mile, challenge, option, although leading up to the event, it wasn’t clear whether this was 70 miles, 60 miles or 104 km, depending on which website or Facebook page you looked at!

The weather was fine on the day, in the low 20s Celsius. Parking was provided at the near-by Ellon park and ride, a short distance from the brewery. Registration was quick and easy, and we were piped off in groups of 20, every two minutes.

Immediately after the start, most of my group shot off up the road, but I held back with a couple of others to get a bit of a warm-up. In the first 5 km or so there was a short climb of 12%, then the road levelled off. The course led East from Ellon along rural roads, following the river Ythan to the small village of Colliston. From there, we followed the coast up to Cruden Bay, with views over the North Sea and of Slains Castle, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We then headed North, before turning back towards Ellon and to the food stop at Hatton village hall, stocked with sandwiches, bananas and water and, most importantly, toilets. After Hatton, the route headed back to Ellon, crossing a couple of main roads. Once in Ellon, the 30 mile route finished back at the brewery, while the longer, challenge, route headed past Ellon golf course and North-West towards Methlick, where there was another food stop at the 75 km point. Again, there were ample supplies of bananas, sandwiches and water, plus a convenient public toilet.

Leaving Methlick we headed south into a head wind through Tarves. From there, we headed East through Udny Green, and then turned North to take advantage of the tail wind over a short climb back to Ellon, then rode through the centre of Ellon back to the Brewery.

As usually, I could have done with a few longer rides, leading into the event – I’d done 80km the week before, but prior to that, my longest ride had been about 50 km. Again, at the end, I was feeling pain in my neck and shoulders, so I think I need to tweak my position on the bike a bit more. Oh, and my bike’s still got the annoying click from somewhere that I can’t find.

The event was fairly well organized. The route mostly followed quiet, country roads with little traffic. And the route signage was fairly good, but could have been better, with perhaps some advance signing of the turns. For instance, at around the 30km mark, the was a T-Junction immediately after a blind corner – there was no warning of the impending junction, or advance warning of which way to turn until right on the junctions. At another point, we turned right on a busy road in the Ellon – however, again, there was no advance warning of the turn. Additional signage would have allowed us to positioning ourselves safely In the traffic before the turn. However, these are minor criticisms, and certainly won’t prevent me from returning next year.