Vulpine specialise in cycling clothing that performs well on the bike, but also looks stylish off the bike. I had the opportunity to review some of their products. This blog reviews the mid merino polka dot socks.
Cycling socks need to keep you cool in hot weather or warm in colder weather. You are not going to get that from cotton socks bought from a normal clothing store, but Vulpine's sock is made from merino wool, a material well-known for its superior qualities.
I tried the red polka dot socks. They look great and I would definitely be happy to wear them in the office or anywhere off the bike.
They feel nice and soft when wearing them. I tried them out on three very warm days- averaging 25 degrees centigrade- and they definitely kept me cool. Even though my feet were sweating the socks have a wicking action that pulls moisture off the skin and out of the sock.
The other amazing thing about these socks is the odour resistance of merino wool. I decided to really put this to the test and wore the socks for one week without washing them! This included the three very warm days mentioned above. And they smell of nothing other than wool. Perhaps a bit musty by the end of the week, but not of smelly feet, which you would get from cotton socks. That's great news for cycle commuters who do not want to have to change their socks when they get to the office.
I tried these during the summer, so have not yet been able to test their winter performance, but I have had used merino socks from other stockists in colder weather and know that the material is excellent at keeping feet warm.
These socks are currently priced at £15. It's good value when you consider their technical qualities, stylish looks, that they are made to work in both cold and hot weather and that they will likely last for years because of the quality of the material.
I will be reviewing more of Vulpine's products, so look out for my next blog.
If you need a bit more convincing about cycling specific clothing read on...
Why do you need special cycling clothes?
It's one of those hotly debated subjects among the cycling community. One argument is that you should just wear your normal clothes when cycling. The problem with that is that not all normal clothes perform well when cycling longer distances or are any good when the weather turns nasty. Jeans, for example, do not give you the freedom of movement that you need when pedaling. If it rains jeans get heavy and wet, and that's a nightmare if you are on a bike for any length of time.
The other argument is that you should wear things like lycra and high visibility yellow jackets for freedom of movement, safety and performance in bad weather. The problem with these clothes is that it means you look like 'a cyclist' and its probably not the look you want for the office or meeting friends for lunch.
Vulpine offers clothing that is the best of both worlds- stylish (i.e. looks like normal clothes) and also performs the technical function of cycling clothing. Think, being able to go from bike to work or bike to meeting friends for drinks and not having to change clothes or worry that your clothes shout 'cycling geek.'
Visit Vulpine's website to check out their range.
Scotland is home to some of the world’s best cycle routes. Long or short distance, the country’s cycle routes traverse through roads and wilderness and showcase the country’s majestic scenery all the way from north to south.
There’s over 3,800 km worth of National Cycle Routes in Scotland that span forest, townships, coastline, rural areas, railway paths and the country’s many historical landmarks. From short family-friendly cycling trips to multi-day adventures, Scotland’s variety of cycle routes has something for everyone.
Discover Scotland’s breathtaking landscape and surrounding islands on these 10 cycle routes:
Inverness to John o’Groats
This stunning cycle route forms part of the North Sea Cycle route that passes through eight European countries. Spanning a huge 321 kilometres, the Inverness to John o’Groats cycleway takes well-equipped cyclists through some of Scotland’s most remote landscape, passing through rich heritage sites in the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland. See archaeological remains, impressive hills, wild coastline, and ancient peatlands before arriving in the northernmost part of Scotland, John o’Groats.
Distance: 200 miles / 321.7 kilometres
Terrain type: Mostly sealed road
Devilla Forest loop track, Fife
Discover Scotland’s mysterious woodlands on the Devilla Forest Loop Track. This 9.5km cycleway is a mix of fast and flowy forest track, ideal for mountain bikers. With a max elevation of 24 metres, this mostly-flat trail is perfect for families and not too strenuous for parents biking with little ones on one of these fancy mountain bike seats. Weave through Scots Pine trees, pass the Peppermill Dam, and spot the red squirrels on this pleasant, family-friendly loop track.
Distance: 5.8 miles / 9.4 kilometres
Terrain type: Forest track
Innocent Railway Path, Edinburgh
If you want to try something different on your trip to Edinburgh, cycle the Innocent Railway Path. This is the longest bike track in the south-east of Edinburgh and begins with a 500-metre long, dark ride through St. Leonard’s Tunnel. The tunnel is one of Edinburgh’s best-kept secrets, dating back to 1831. Cyclists emerge from the tunnel into lush off-road paths with Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, in view.
Distance: 3.8 metres / 6.1 kilometres
Terrain type: Sealed underground rail path and off-road track
Isle of Bute circuit loop, Bute
Head to the Isle of Bute for a day of cycling in the stunning Firth of Clyde region. Bute is laden with a variety of coastlines that cyclists pass through on the circuit loop track. This cycleway is perfect for a family ride and with frequent ferry crossings from the mainland, it makes an easy day trip. Stop in Rothesay for a bite to eat, and a peek at the historic Rothesay castle.
Distance: 13.7 miles / 22.1 kilometres
Terrain type: Sealed road
Ayrshire Coast Cycle Way, Irvine to Ayr
The Ayrshire Coast Cycle Way makes up part of National Route 7, passing through the vast coastline that connects Irvine and Ayr. With almost 25 kilometres of sealed road, cyclists can enjoy the smooth ride and take in stunning views of the Isle of Arran. The track veers inland and passes two Scottish Wildlife Reserves at Gailes Marsh and Shewalton Wood before reaching Troon where cyclists return to coastal tracks all the way to Ayr.
Distance: 15.4 miles / 24.8 kilometres
Terrain type: Sealed road
4 Abbeys cycle route, Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose, St Boswells
This 88-kilometre cycle route links the four main abbeys in the Scottish Borders: Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose and St Boswells. Each of the four abbeys make great places to stop for a bite to eat or an overnight stay. The long-distance trail passes through some very remote areas and requires a high level of fitness and cycling capability. This is the ultimate Scottish scenic route that showcases much of the country’s landscape and historical locations.
Distance: 55 miles / 88 kilometres
Terrain type: Mostly sealed road
Castle Route, Isle of Arran
See the beautiful Isle of Arran on this 10-kilometre mountain bike loop track. The Castle Route track is suitable for all riding levels, from novice to advanced, and showcases Arran’s diverse landscape and key historical attractions. Enjoy this fun family adventure, stopping to enjoy each destination along the way such as the Heritage Museum and the 16th century Brodick Castle. Keep an eye out for basking seals on your ride along the coastline.
Distance: 5.5 miles / 10 kilometres
Terrain type: Forest track and coastal path
Great Glen Way, Inverness to Fort William
The Great Glen Way is an incredible Scottish mountain biking journey, running from Inverness to Fort William. Spanning a huge 117 kilometres, cyclists travel the dividing line between Scotland’s northern and central highlands, making their way from coast to coast. Each section of the cycle route varies in difficulty, with much of it following the Caledonian Canal Towpath. Some sections are flat and traffic-free, while others require long, steep climbs. Given the distance, this cycle route requires a high level of mountain biking capability, adequate cycling gear and self-sufficiency.
Distance: 73 miles / 117 kilometres
Terrain type: Mountain bike track and sealed road
Loch Leven Heritage Trail, Perthshire
Discover Scotland’s nature and wildlife on this easy, flat loop track around the banks of Loch Leven. Be sure to spot the osprey, kingfishers and otters who frequent the area before heading further into the heritage trail to see the area’s lush greenery. The Loch Leven Heritage Trail makes a great day trip, with plenty of choice for a tasty lunch. Enjoy marvelling at the Lochleven Castle (famous for holding Mary Queen of Scots prisoner from 1567-68), which sits in the middle of the loch.
Distance: 12.12 miles / 19.5 kilometres
Terrain type: Off-road track
Sandhead to the Mull of Galloway
Cycle from Sandhead to Scotland’s most Southern point, The Mull of Galloway. This cycle route is famous for its picture-perfect scenery, with Luce Bay on one side and the Irish Sea on the other. See basking seals, Scottish wildflowers and sweeping vistas of rolling hills en route to The Mull of Galloway where you can enjoy a bite to eat in Scotland’s stunning south.
Distance: 14.9 miles / 24 kilometres
Terrain type: Sealed road
The Colinton Tunnel is one of the most spectacular features of Edinburgh's cycle network. Visit it on this 8 mile traffic-free route following the Union Canal path and a disused railway line. The route ends in Balerno where you can visit the walled garden of Malleny House.
The route begins on the Union Canal which can be found on Fountainbridge- hidden behind glass office buildings is something like a mini Amsterdam with the colourful canal houseboats and alfresco dinning . There is even a canal boat serving coffee.
-The canal is a popular place for locals. It can be busy with pedestrians and cyclists and is very narrow in places, so it is not a place to go very fast.
Despite being in a city the canal path has a surprising countryside feel with plenty of trees, ducks and swans.
After about 2 miles you will come to the Slateford Aqueduct. Although an impressive piece of engineering this is probably the most annoying part of the canal for cyclists. The narrow cobbled path makes it pretty impossible to cycle over and the signage instructs you to push your bike. Some cyclists still give it a go, but there is so little space for passing safely that I recommend just pushing the bike and once at the other end you will be able to pedal again.
After the aqueduct it's just two minutes more cycling until you reach the turn-off. It is quite easy to shoot past it, but just look for the blue directional signage. There are three signs on a pole and one of them points to Balerno and Colinton.
This takes you up and onto a bridge that crosses the canal and then the A70 Lanark Road to join a path that was once a railway line. Passenger trains ran on this line until 1943, goods trains continuing until 1967. It follows the Water of Leith and heads into Colinton Dell.
This is a special part of the city and it is worth parking up the bike and doing a bit of walking along the many trails that take you through the woods and alongside the water.
Colinton Tunnel- 3.7 miles from Fountainbridge
One of the most exciting parts of the route is cycling through the railway tunnel at Colinton. This used to be a gloomy experience, but it has been transformed into one of the most beautiful parts of Edinburgh's cycle network, thanks to the mural painted on every surface of the tunnel.
The theme of the mural is local history and heritage. You will see an otter swimming, a train pulling into a station packed with interesting characters, a horse and carriage racing by and much more. The mural is nearing completion, but still requires donations and if you wish to give something there are details on the tunnel website.
After the tunnel you come to Spylaw Park where there is a particularly striking grand house. This was the mansion of James Gillespie who made his fortune as a snuff merchant. He built the house in 1773 next to his snuff-mill and today it contains private flats.
The park is ideal for a picnic with a huge grass area, plenty of benches and a children's play park. Or head through the park to get up to The Spylaw, a country pub with stylish interior and a beer garden. If coffee is more your thing then Java Moment (not open weekends) on Bridge Road does an excellent cup.
"I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in." Robert Louis Stevenson. His statue in Colinton village depicts him with two books.
Colinton village is worth a wander, particularly down Spylaw Street with its idyllic cottages leading down to a bridge where you are surrounded by the sound of the Water of Leith rushing below. On the other side of the bridge there is the gorgeous Colinton Parish Church. This is also where you will find the Robert Louis Stevenson statue. The famous author visited Colinton as a boy and the statue depicts him as a boy with his dog, a skye terrier called 'Coolin'. There is a poetry trail around the village with panels containing verse from his work.
Mills and Railways
All along this route there had been a thriving milling industry- saw mills, paper mills, barley and grain mills. The railway serviced these mills and led to a housing boom along the line as the train made it easy to travel to Edinburgh. Passenger usage was so robust that in 1914 a normal train consisted of 8 coaches and this was increased to 13 on Saturdays. After the First World War the railway started to go into decline, largely as a result of competition from buses.
Monuments to the area's industrial past are rare and what you will mostly find is trees, gently flowing water and the chance to spot wildlife. If you are lucky you might see deer, heron, badger and kingfisher.
Currie Conservation Village
An elegant church, with a clock tower, appears suddenly on the right- it is quite a striking vision after seeing only trees and and glimpses of the Water of Leith for the last couple of miles. This is Currie Kirk (1784) and the little patch of cute cottages surrounding it is part of the conservation village. It is worth getting off the bike and having an explore around here.
Once you reach the end of the route, at Balerno, it is marked with a metal sculpture set into the pathway that signifies the twisting route of the Water of Leith.
At this point you emerge onto Bridge Road. Turn left here to reach the centre of Balerno and for Malleny Garden. It can be a busy road, although there is a cycle lane.
Main Street in Balerno contains a couple of pubs, a hairdresser and a pharmacy. It is a pretty street the way that it curves uphill and is lined with attractive stone buildings and bright flower boxes.
The garden is sign posted from Bridge Road. You will see the large sign as you cycle towards the centre of Balerno.
Malleny House is not open to the public, but the gardens are in the care of the National Trust.
The entrance (admission fee) to the garden is through a small gate in the wall that has a bird, like a phoenix, incorporated into the ironwork. This is the Gore Brown Henderson crest, former owners of Malleny House. On the other side of the gate there is a coat of arms, representing the Rosebery family, also former owners of the house.
The gardens are small, but have many interesting features, including clipped yew trees planted in the 17th century, Victorian glasshouses and the largest rose collection in Scotland.
An interesting fact is that spring arrives up to 10 days later here than it does in the centre of Edinburgh. This is because the garden is north-facing and has an altitude of 170m.
Looking for other ideas of cycling routes from Edinburgh?
Why not try the route to Musselburgh? It is also mostly traffic-free.
All mountain bikers remember their first time. Riding across different types of terrains, rocks and across rivers can be exciting and fun. However, it can also be daunting and terrifying. With practice it gets easier and a lot more fun.
There are a few tips that every mountain biker wished they knew when starting out. Here at Road and Mountain Bike Reviews we have put together a few tips to help a mountain biking enthusiast take their skills to the next level.
A mountain bike is designed for tackling technical terrain. The best thing to do, is let the mountain bike do its job. Staying relaxed and staying loose will help the mountain bike move beneath the rider. The more complex the terrain, the more room the mountain bike needs. When riding downhill, a rider should think about pushing up arms while pushing out their legs.
Learning to allow the bike to move beneath them will allow the rider to float over most obstacles. Having a relaxed grip of the handle bars will help the relaxation of the elbows and forearms.
Momentum can be a mountain bikers’ best friend. Maintaining momentum or holding speed can be beneficial for a rider to cover technical terrain with more ease. Reducing the speed can sometimes make certain types of terrain much trickier. A rider should try and maintain speed whenever they can. However, only as long as they feel safe and in control of the bike.
Do not forget to switch your body weight. When climbing, a rider should lean forward, and try to keep the centre of gravity over the back wheel. On a downward trail, the rider should go in the opposite direction. Positioning the body in the correct way will allow the rider to move through the climb or descent much easier.
A common mistake by mountain bikers is to pull on the brakes. Mountain bike brakes are designed to modulate the speed with one or two fingers. Change the pace of the mountain bike before the turn, rocks or technical will allow the rider to have a better control of the bike.
If the rider feels like they are going too fast, use the right brake for the back brake. The bike may skid, but at least there is less chance of the rider going over the handle bars. Spending some time becoming familiar with the brakes will allow the rider to learn how to control the bike and how it responds.
The majority of entry level mountain bikers think that they have only two settings. Locked and not using the brake. When the brake is locked, the rider gets less control. The most power comes from the front brake. The rider should be careful not to use too much braking power. When a rider is descending, learning to feather the brake will help the rider control the bike.
Now that a rider has got familiar with the brakes. The rider should spend time getting to know the gears on the bike, so they can change the pace of the bike to the riding conditions they are faced with.
Mountain bike trails have a wide combination of terrain, combined with climbs and descents. Learning, how to shift comfortably between gears will help the rider maintain momentum- a mountain biker's best friend.
The majority of mountain bikes have some sort of front suspension, allowing the rider to role over bumps unnoticed. They only work if the rider has them set on an active position. A rider should take a minute to learn how to set their suspension. Be careful, a rider does not want to totally lock their suspension to fully rigid on the trail.
Entry level mountain bikers tend to stare directly on the obstacle or rock they are trying to avoid. The bike tends to go in the direction that the eyes are fixed on. Looking past the obstacle, to the direction the rider wants to go, far down the trail and keeping their head straight will help the rider move with more ease down the trail.
Riding with better riders not only helps push oneself, but it also helps the rider pick up some of the more experienced mountain bikers' riding habits. For example, how they handle themselves on the trail, the mountain bike and prepare for a day out on the trail. These valuables skills can be picked up by watching more experienced riders.
Learning to perform a wheelie or a nose wheelie can be very beneficial for a rider while out on the trail. Pulling a wheelie to get over an object, or a nose wheelie so the rear of a mountain bike misses the object.
Even if a mountain biking enthusiast can’t perform a wheelie, knowing how to take the weight off the bike, will make parts of the trail much smoother and easier to control. Pulling wheelies is much easier with clipless pedals.
Once a rider has explored their local trails, exploring new trails will help the rider sharpen their mountain biking skills and allow the rider to challenge themselves. This will eventually allow the rider to become a better all-rounder mountain biker.
No one becomes a better mountain biker overnight. It takes time and practice. Spending more time on the bike, riding to the local shops, to work or to the local park will improve a rider's riding skills. There may be no need for a monthly gym subscription.
Mountain Bike Groups
Throughout the country there many mountain biking groups that cycling enthusiasts can join. There is nothing more rewarding than spending time with people who share your passion. It is an ideal way of building up a cycling enthusiast's knowledge of mountain biking. A wide range of mountain biking groups are also available online.
Sitting in the saddle
Mountain bikes are equipped with a saddle. However, that doesn’t mean you have to use it all the time. More experienced mountain bikers refrain from sitting in the saddle as much as possible as the riders legs act as the perfect shock absorbers. There’s a lot to absorb. A second benefit of being off the saddle, is that the rider can easily and quickly switch their body weight to help control the bike.
Mountain Biking Attire
Mountain biking attire can vary considerably depending on weather, time of the day and locations. Checking the weather forecast can allow the rider to find out how many layers they should wear.
The rider should refrain from going out in their best clothing and wear comfortable clothing that the rider doesn’t mind getting dirty or damaged. Investing in a pair of padded shorts can be beneficial, with a pair of good quality mountain biking shoes. The rider should not forget about wearing a good quality trail helmet. Studies have shown, wearing a bike helmet can reduce serious head injury by seventy percent.
If a rider is thinking about spending the day out at the trail it’s definitely worth them taking more than their credit card. Having some small snacks and a drink to keep away any dehydration and hunger pains is always a good idea.
Mountain biking can be no fun if a rider is riding on any empty stomach or a dry mouth. Packing an extra tube in case of a puncture can definitely come in handy. Learning how to change a flat will definitely come in handy if a rider is thinking about biking on a regular basis.
Opportunities to Improve
All mountain bike trails are different with a wide range of climbs, descents, terrains and technical parts. Entry level mountain bikers can find it daunting. Taking the plunge on every ride to try something different will improve a rider's mountain biking skills. Always skipping the opportunity over fear will cause the rider not to improve. However, a rider should only take on a new challenge if they feel it is safe to do so.
Exploring a new trail is no fun if you're hearing funny noises as you pedal. Mountain bikes require regular maintenance. One of the best ways of maintaining a bike is getting into a good habit of cleaning it on a regular basis. Cleaning the bike on a regular basis will allow the rider to spot any wear and tear before it turns into a more serious issue.
Taking a few minutes to check over the bike can save the rider from a long walk home. Checking the air in the tires is at the required PSI level as flat tires can cause
the bike to work a lot harder. The required PSI level can be found in the instruction manual.
Testing the brakes by rolling the bike back and forth by gently applying the brake lever. Check that the brake pads have not worn out. Make sure the chain is working efficiently with the relevant lubricant applied.
We hope you have enjoyed our article on Sharpening Up Your Mountain Biking Skills and found it helpful and informative. A guest blog from Mike Murray at Road and Mountain Bike Reviews
Are you wondering why you should invest in a contemporary foldable bike as compared to a traditional bike? Then, you have landed here correctly. Read the following reasons to help you understand:
#1: Easy to Operate
First thing first, a foldable bike is quite easy-to-operate. It is only a matter of 10 to 15 minutes, and then you are good to ride on this modern-day cycle. Honestly speaking, you don’t even need to learn the knack of folding & unfolding. Once you have tried the process, you will know how to correctly erect or fold the cycle in just a few minutes. Still, if you find any trouble, you can watch a tutorial online or read the user’s manual that comes with a foldable bike. You don’t need to stress out because practice makes the man perfect. And also, there is no rocket science involved to quickly unfold & fold on the go.
#2: Easy to Transport
Foldable bikes are quite convenient and portable. These bikes are an excellent mode of transport plus they are easy to transport themselves. If you desire to travel around your city, explore a new place, go on a weekend trip with your friends, then a foldable bike is best suited for your needs. Since it is a compact cycle, you can carry it without any tension. You wouldn’t need a full parking space for your bicycle. You can easily fold and move it. Moreover, you can surely fit this cycle on trains, buses, or even the smallest of car boots.
#3: Vast Choice of Styles
When it comes to a foldable bike, you can expect a wide variety of designs, styles, colours, shapes, etc. You can invest in a foldable bike that can work well with your commuting needs and personal preferences. In the contemporary era, it is not a challenging thing to visit stores or buy a cycle online. You can expect multiple styles starting from sleek to retro-inspired and vintage. You can even opt for a lightweight folding bicycle. Moreover, view the folding bicycle range at Ecosmo for great quality foldable bikes and numerous styles.
#4: No Storage Issue
You can surely invest in a foldable bike as you don’t have to expect any storage issue. It is a home-friendly bike that you can conveniently and safely secure even if you have a small storage space. Many tiny home residents believe that a foldable bike is a practical solution as it doesn’t take much of the precious floor space. You can even hang that on a wall, fit under the stairs cupboard, a porch, etc. Similarly, when it comes to the limited parking area, a foldable bike is the best choice for you.
#5: Strong Second-Hand Resale Market
Investing in a folding bike is costly, especially when you are looking for a premium model, high-end brand, and great style. But, the bike has a popular second-hand resale market. You can sell this cycle for a great price. Contrarily, if you invest in a traditional bicycle, you will notice it depreciated quickly. And it can approximately lose up half of its value. However, investing in a slightly higher price tag bike can be advantageous for you in the long-run.
If you are looking for a new electric bike, then the Wisper 806 is an excellent option for you. This foldable electric bike is light in weight, simple to use, and possesses excellent features. It also has a great design, which sets it apart from other electrical bikes. The Wisper 806 comes with several new additions, which allows the rider to customize the bike according to their needs. It is an excellent bike for commuters, campers, travelers, boating enthusiasts, and caravans. So, if you are thinking of getting an 806, you can simply browse over to Wisper Bikes and can customize your own bike. You can choose the power delivery system of your choice, a battery that suits your needs, and of course, you can also pick the color you like the most. Wisper 806 is the best electric bike available out there for a number of reasons. Let’s see some of its important features.
Suitable for All Heights
One of the best things about Wisper 806 is that it is suitable for everyone regardless of their height. A lot of riders which are small in stature often have trouble finding the right bike for them. But with Wisper 806, they don’t have to worry about any of it. The seats and handle of the bike have a great adjusting range, and you can adjust it according to your liking. It is also suitable for people big in height as the seat and the handle can be pulled up as well.
No Storage Issue
For some commuters getting a vehicle can be tricky if they don’t have storage space. With the help of a Wisper 806, you don’t have to worry about the storage. The bike is foldable, and you can easily keep it in your house when you are not using it. You can also use this bike when you are going to the mountains or on a road trip as it will easily fit in the back of your car’s trunk.
Well, it is true that Wisper 806 may not be as quick as other automobiles; it will still get you to your destination much faster and safer. In a lot of big cities around the world, traffic has always been a big issue, and if you are commuting on a car during peak hours, then you are bound to get late. With an electric bike like Wisper 806, you can easily make your way in between bigger vehicles and can get to your destination in time without stressing about the traffic.
As global warming is becoming a real threat, it is time for us to take small steps and promote an eco-friendly environment. Switching to Wisper 806 from your car or motorbike will allow you to consume less and cleaner energy. Once you have shifted to this bike, you would not have to worry about burning fuel or remitting unfriendly gases. Opting for a wisper bike may be a small step towards fighting global warming, but it is always the small step that makes the difference
By Alex Bristol
Alex is a cycling expert at Pedallers and focuses on reviewing road bike accessories and general cycling. She searches for the most up to date products that match the needs of cyclists across the world. Whether it's recent news or the best bike set-ups, Alex is a trusted source for anything around cycling.
There are lots of great health benefits that come with cycling, and that’s one reason why more and more people are now choosing to cycle to and from work each day. It’s something that you should think about as well, especially if you’re looking to get in shape and improve your health.
We’re going to give you all the information you need about the health benefits associated with cycling to work and how you might feel the difference in your daily life. So read on now to find out what you need to know in order to make the right decision for you.
It’s a Great Way of Burning Calories and Staying Fit
First and foremost, cycling is very good for you and your general health because it provides your body with a cardiovascular workout. It really is as simple as that, but what does that mean for your health over the long-term? For a start, it means that you’re going to be buring calories every day as you cycle to work in the morning and back home again in the evening. It also means that you’re going to be able to stay fit and healthier for longer because you’ll be active on a daily basis.
You’ll Sharpen Your Memory Over Time
You can even sharpen your mind and increase your brain power throughout the working day if you start it by cycling to work. There has been research done that shows people who do moderate daily exercise experience improvements in overall brain performance, as well as preventing signs of cognitive decline. When your mind is sharper and more alert throughout the working day, you’ll perform to a higher standard in your job and you’ll achieve the outcomes in your career that you’re aiming for.
Get Some Fresh Air
Simply getting some fresh air is going to be great for your body and your general health. Sitting in a traffic jam usually means that you’re breathing in the fumes of the cars around you and that’s no good for your lungs or respiratory system. You won’t have to worry about that if you’re breathing fresh air and cycling to work instead. And you’re not likely to get stuck in many traffic jams when you’re on your bike, which is definitely a major bonus if you ask me.
Improve Your Joint Mobility
Joint mobility is another major reason why you might want to start cycling to work each day. When you use your joints and the muscles that make them work, you’ll be keeping them active and in use. That means they’ll become strengthened and able to stay healthy for longer. As you get older, you’ll realize just how important it is to have strong and supple joints. It’s one of those things that you take for granted until it stops working properly, so don’t let that happen if you can help it.
Cycling Makes You Happy
Cycling to work will make you happy in a number of ways. First of all, it means avoiding endless traffic jams and the general stress of driving during rush hour. And it’s also known that moderate exercise each day leads to happier people. It can improve your sleep patterns, reduce any symptoms of depression and generally make you feel better about yourself. Exercise does so much more than the physical benefits we associate with it.
It Can Reduce Feelings of Stress and Anxiety
One of the major ways in which cycling to work and being active each day will help you and your mental health is by reducing the feelings of stress and anxiety you experience each day. Research has shown that when you’re active on a regular basis, you feel less stressed and less anxious. So if those are problems that you experience from time to time, jumping on your bike to commute to work could really help you a lot.
It Eliminates Tech Distractions for a While
If you’re someone who’s constantly feeling distracted by technology, cycling to work allows you to take a break from that. Bikes don’t tend to have complex infotainment systems and docks for your phone the way modern cars do. That time away from technology is refreshing and it’s the perfect way to begin the day.
There are so many benefits that come from cycling to and from work each day, and even if all the health benefits above don’t persuade you, there are financial benefits too. So if you want to save money and improve your health at the same time, maybe it’s time for you to get on your bike.
Guest post by Mike Murray of Road and Mountain Bike Reviews
The Covid 19 has had an impact on cycling. The cycling calendar has been put on hold. Riders and team members have had to follow government guideline on self-distancing and isolation. We have created a beginner’s guide to cycling indoors to help cyclists who are at home.
Cycling outdoors is amazing, however it is not always possible. There are a variety of benefits to cycling in doors.
An entry level indoor cyclist can be faced with a wide variety of fancy equipment and accessories. A new indoor cycling enthusiast can get all the necessary indoor cycling equipment without breaking the bank.
The more an individual is willing to spend on an indoor trainer, will provide the rider with a quieter and more efficient trainer. Adjustable resistance, stimulating climbing, power meters and sensors that allow the rider to have a smother rider.
Different types of Indoor Cycling?
There are many different types of bikes for tackling every kind of ride possible. Indoor cycling has four main types: Rollers, Turbo trainer, Smart trainer and Static exercise bike.
Can be thought of as a treadmill for a bike. A roller has a set of three drums fixed on to a rectangular frame that sits on the floor. The back wheel drives the pair of rollers that turn the belt. The main difference between rollers and a turbo trainer is that a rider rides on top of rollers. Rollers requires less balance and skill.
One of the main benefit of rollers is it allows riders develop a good pedalling technique. A lot of professional riders will spend the winter on rollers perfecting this technique.
A second benefit of rollers is that they help the rider improve their balance and bike handling techniques. Improving the rider’s ability to hold a line, retrieve food or a phone for a quick selfie.
Advice for Using Rollers
Shoes: Wearing flat shoes will help the rider reach their full potential when using rollers. Riders wearing cleats can sometimes lose their balance when steading themselves.
Wall: An entry level indoor cyclist may benefit from having a wall to hold on to when starting out.
Focusing on a small object: A rider may benefit from having a small object to focus on. A spot on the wall is ideal.
Gear: Being in a higher gear will help the rider reduce the friction of the bike wheels and the rollers.
Hoods: Riding on the hoods will allow the rider to keep more control over the bike.
Fun: The most important aspect of training is that you have fun.
Pushing Yourself: Don’t burn out too quickly. Build up your pace.
A set of rollers allow the rider to get a hassle-free workout. Lots of Rollers can be seen set up on many cycling events to allow the competing cyclists to warm up.
Rollers have improved massively offer the years, offering the rider a smother and more comfortable ride.
Small bearings make it easier for a cyclist to get up to a higher speed. The majority of rollers have fixed resistance. If a rider is looking to work on power. They may want to consider a turbo or a smart trainer.
A turbo trainer clamps to the rear of a bike on a static stand. Once the bike is clamped into the turbo trainer.
The dial can be adjusted to the wheel of the bike. A compound tyre is required that offers less wear and not let heat build-up from using the turbo trainer. Turbo trainers’ wheels cannot be used outside.
Turbo trainers replace the rear wheel and are driven by a cassette. Direct turbo trainers tend to be not as noisier and stable as rollers. Entry level turbo trainers tend to have fixed resistance.
As the prices increase, the rider will be able to take advantage of features such as remote resistance control, smart features and power meters.
Common Mistakes When Using A Turbo Trainer
Rather than jumping on: Get a plan. A lot of riders will just hop on the turbo trainer and hope for the best. Any plan needs the cyclist to know where they are, their goal and how they plan to achieve it.
Turbo Training is Boring: Turbo training used to be boring. No more, riders can race online and take their skills to the next level. Riders need to get out of the mindset that turbo training is boring.
Burn Out: Riders should not focus on having an intensive work out every time they step on the turbo trainer. Training needs to be enjoyable to make sure the rider is motivated to do the next workout.
A smart trainer refers to a turbo train that uses specialist software like Trainer Road or Swift. The software allows the rider to recreate rides and races from the comfort of their own home. Working with wireless Bluetooth, heart and power monitors allows the rider to see how hard they are working out.
Key Benefits of Smart Bike Trainers
One of the main benefits of a smart trainer is that it allows the rider to know how fast they are working out by seeing a power meter.
The power meter can easily be seen through the software using a smart phone, laptop or an iPad. Allowing the rider to have a good idea on their performance and allow the rider to plan their training sessions to get the most out of every session.
An added benefit of a smart trainer is its ability to use software to allow the rider to take part in a tailored training program.
There may be no need to have a personal trainer. All the training can be done in real time and the rider can quickly and easily change the pace of the smart trainer to match their training goals.
One of the main features of the smart trainer is its ability to offer the rider a means of accessing an online community to compete when cycling indoors.
Advice for using Smart Trainers
Calibrate your smart trainer: A rider should get into a good habit of regularly calibrating their smart trainer. A smart trainers reading can be affected by changes in air pressure, temperature and movement.
Pedalling: Keep pedalling at all times as it will be harder to pick up the pace when the next interval begins.
Difficulty: The rider can adjust the level of difficulty in real time.
Plan your session: Smart trainers can make sure ridding more enjoyable. A rider should still plan their training session in advance to get the most out of the training session.
Different Events: A big advantage of the smart trainer is that it allows riders to train for different types of events such as sports, road races and tome trails. It’s not all about numbers. Don’t forget to focus on form and technique.
A stationary bike offers the rider with the cheapest, most stable and a no hassle way of cycling indoors. The same exercise bike found in your local gym can also be purchased for using in the home.
Advice for using a Stationary bike
Seat: One of the most common mistakes that people make is failing to adjust the seat. It only takes a few seconds. However, it can make a massive difference to a workout.
Stretching Out: Spend five minutes stretching your muscles. Cycling is a low form of exercise and an individual must make sure they are fully stretched out before beginning their workout.
Warm Up: Once an individual has spent five minutes stretching, they then need to spend five minutes warming up on the bike. After five minutes start picking up the pace for a real workout.
Riding Position: It’s vital for the cyclist to keep a good riding position. Keep the back straight and aligned with the seat.
Resistance Training: Pedalling on a bike is a really good start. However, changing the pace within the training session from hard, to medium and slow for a specific period of time will help the rider get the maximum out of the session.
Why should you Cycle Indoors?
Cycling indoors is a great way of toning the quads and glutens. Not only will cycling tone your lower body but it will also tone the upper body, if the rider starts to incorporate resistance bands or hand weights into their workout.
Cycling is a low impact sport that is ideal for individuals who want to build up their fitness levels at their own pace.
Indoor cycling is a brilliant form of exercise if someone is having trouble sleeping. Cycling can also improve breathing, that will in turn helps an individual have a better night’s sleep.
Indoor cycling is a great way of reducing stress and letting an individual forget about the stresses that life can sometimes bring.
We hope you have enjoyed Road and Mountain Bike Reviews article on indoor cycling and found it helpful and informative. Mike Murray
This book is about the epic, 6000 mile, cycle trip from New York City to Seattle and then to the Mexican border undertaken by adventurer Leon McCarron. His route takes the reader through a less touristy USA of small towns, general stores and farms. This journey is not about speed and setting records; it is about the places and people of America. It is a nicely detailed and highly readable book for anyone inspired by the idea of crossing America by bike.
Leon McCarron has done some pretty amazing things in his life. He walked across China and trekked 1000 miles through the Empty Quarter. His first experience of adventure was this bicycle trip across America, inspired, like so many others by not wanting to settle for a desk job. Leon's mind was also full of the adventures of Lewis and Clark, the men who led the first expedition across the western part of the USA in the early 1800s.
The author comes across as someone you would enjoy being friends with, a nice guy, and a great companion for a long bike trip. This is one of the things that makes this book so enjoyable because the friendly and laid back tone makes you care about Leon's journey. It is also that he is very aware of his shortcomings and not afraid to admit them, such as knowing little about how to fix bikes and carrying too much luggage. He misses his girlfriend and goes through the emotional dilemma of wanting to do the trip, but also wanting a life with her.
The other strength of the book is that the pace is slower than many similar books; there is no race against time. That means there is more detail in the descriptions of the landscapes, encounters with people and what these parts of America are really like. You get quite a vivid picture of a USA that you might not be as familiar with, largely away from the big tourist attractions. For example, Leon was quite taken by the General Stores in upstate New York. These shops are old fashioned icons in small town America. He recalls sitting on the porch of one for hours with a coffee, talking to locals. Leon even rides in the boxcar of a freight train just because it seemed like fun and it was the classic American hobo experience.
As you would expect he meets a lot of people on this journey. Although he set off on his own he spends a lot of time with other long distance cyclists. There are many interesting encounters with locals. I loved when he stopped at an Irish bar in Shipton where he was bought drinks all night because it was the first time that a real Irish person had ever been in the bar!
There is one particularly shocking encounter with locals that is written so brilliantly that it had my heart racing to find out how it was going to play out. I am not going to ruin it for you by saying anything more, but it is a superb piece of dramatic travel writing.
Leon also experiences a tornado, an encounter with a bear and comes close to wild buffalo. This book pretty much covers all the possible adventures you could imagine on an American cycle trip!
This is another classic of adventure cycle writing, made all the better for the author's likability, attention to detail and good story telling.
You can purchase the book from Amazon by clicking on the image below:
I chatted with Sue Steward, the manager and owner of The Four Seasons Hotel at Loch Earn in Perthshire. Although Scotland is currently in lock down and we should absolutely not be travelling beyond our local areas there will be a time when we can travel in Scotland again. It's good for our wellbeing to dream and plan for that time, so I asked Sue about her favourite walks and cycles in the area.
Me: Once the situation we find ourselves in is over a lot of us will be desperate to get back out into Scotland's magnificent countryside. What would be your number one recommendation for a hike that shows off the beauty of your local area?
Sue: There are lots of walks to enjoy but in my opinion, you cannot beat the old railway line walk that runs parallel with Loch Earn. It heads westward and the views are breathtaking.
Me: And on the same theme is there a particular cycling route that you would recommend?
Sue: Well, the railway line is being converted into a cycle path as we speak! This will eventually join onto NCN7, parts have been completed but still some to do. It will be a great route when it is soon complete – maybe by the summer months when this madness is over?
Me: When you get a day off/morning off from your busy schedule where do you go for a walk to find a bit of peace and calm?
Sue: If my time is limited Finn (my beautiful black lab) and I head over to the golf course but if I have longer then we head a bit further afield. Either to Glen Ogle which is the forestry commission, Glen Lednock in Comrie, or to Lady Mary's walk in Crieff (the latter being a riverside walk) so it really varies. I’m so lucky to live somewhere with all these beautiful walking trails on my doorstep!
Me: From looking at a map the south road along the shore of Loch Earn looks like it would be a wonderful cycle. Would you recommend this?
Sue: Yes, this is a very popular and safe route - it is a walker/cyclist friendly road. The path is a bit up and down so is not straightforward it stays fun and interesting.
Me: The road on the north shore is the A85. Is this an okay road to cycle on?
Sue: This is a popular road too as flatter. You can in fact walk/cycle all round Loch Earn - a little over 20km
Me: Are there any secret things that readers might not have heard of, such as ruins, standing stones or beauty spots that can be found on a hike or bike ride?
Sue: Yes, we have a Fairy Stone in St Fillans! This is a large stone that, according to local folklore, has fairies living in it. Our little town made the news back in 2005 when a building developer had his plans denied so as not to disturb the fairies! There is the old Stewarts of Ardvorlich ruined cemetery in the golf course and numerous waterfalls along the way.
Me: Is there a particular food and/or drink special to the area that you would recommend trying?
Sue: Our nearest whisky distillery (Glenturret) is in Crieff so its always worth a visit – when in Scotland and all that! I would say our shortbread is to die for – but I may be biased! We also have artisan food producers in the area; Strathearn Cheese and Wildhearth Sourdough plus Comrie Butcher which is an award-winning butcher. Again, I’m so lucky to live in an area with such amazing local produce. It is usually easier to shop local than at big supermarket chains which I love.
Me: I do have a particular love of combining cycling with coffee and cake stops. Where does the best coffee and cake in your area?
Sue: If I want to treat myself then I head in to Comrie to Hansens Kitchen - all is home-made and their yummy cakes change daily… It’s definitely worth a visit. Although, as I mentioned you can get some delicious shortbread and coffee back at the hotel after a long cycle!
The Four Seasons Hotel is located in St Fillans on Loch Earn, around 12 miles west of Crieff.
This incredible underground world can be found on the Union Canal, right next to Falkirk High train station. It's a tunnel with a special atmosphere thanks to the lighting, the cave-like structure and a fascinating history that includes Burke and Hare.
If you cycle around 25 miles along the Union Canal from Edinburgh you will arrive at the Falkirk Tunnel. Or you can take a train to Falkirk High and from the south platform it is just a five minute walk.
What's it like to visit?
This is so much more than just a tunnel. It feels like a cave with the rough natural stone interior that was blasted out by navvies around 200 years ago. There is a hint of Bond villain lair- you can almost imagine patrol boats with armed guards cruising by. The walls glisten with trickling water and a hole in the roof has a continuous stream pouring through it.
The canal was meant to be an overland route, but the owner of Callendar House, William Forbes, said it would ruin his view so successfully campaigned to have it diverted under Prospect Hill. Construction of the tunnel took place between 1818 and 1822.
It is 630 meters long and can be a challenge to cycle through as the towpath is cobbled, slippery, has puddles and is only 5 feet wide. Pushing your bike through it can give you more time to appreciate the unique environment of the tunnel.
When the tunnel first opened there was such a thing as passenger canal boats. Some people were afraid to travel through the tunnel so horse transport was provided so that they could get off the boat and meet it at the other end.
I can understand why they did not want to go through the tunnel. Moving from daylight and pleasant countryside into a dark cave-like structure is disconcerting. Although the lighting is much improved today it still feels dark and the roof is low. Plus there is a spooky association with Burke and Hare, the murderers who stalked people in early-1800s Edinburgh, killed them and sold them to the anatomy school. The two men had moved from Ireland to Scotland to work on the canal and the construction of the tunnel.
The tunnel really is worth a visit. I just loved the stark contrast between the bright and bucolic surroundings at the mouth of the tunnel and the mysterious, dark world that you step into. It's not one of Scotland's most obvious attractions, but you will not be disappointed if you put this on your itinerary.
Containing some of the oldest and tallest trees in Britain, Dawyck Botanic Garden is a peaceful place of woodland walks, waterfalls and wonderment. Here you will find the mighty Douglas fir, grown from seeds collected by David Douglas, the Scottish botanist who gave the tree its name. The gardens are 8 miles from Pebbles in the Scottish Borders.
One way of reaching Dawyck is from Biggar:
1. Take a train to Addiewell and then cycle 20 miles to Biggar. My Cycling to Biggar blog has full details of the route.
2. Take the 5 mile disused railway path from Biggar to Broughton. My blog has full details of this route.
3. Cycle the final 5 miles from Broughton to Dawyck along quiet country roads with breathtaking scenery, which I will describe below:
This happens quite a lot when exploring Scotland by bike. I find a new road that takes my breath away and I have to put it on the list of my most favourite ever. This short stretch between Broughton and Dawyck is on that list. My dreams about cycling in Scotland will feature this road. It is a perfect combination of quiet roads and outstanding scenery.
The B712 is the most obvious and direct road to take between Broughton and Dawyck, but to experience the incredible scenery of this area take the single-track roads to the north of the B712. It's a non-stop rolling panorama of a valley of hills with the mighty River Tweed flowing through it.
I could cycle this road all day long. Every single second my eyes were being treated to the most lovely vistas. It was Scotland at its very best. Come here and cycle this road or, at least, travel it on Google Maps and you will be smiling.
Dawyck is nestled within this glorious valley. It is a regional garden of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the focus is trees, in particular the Douglas fir. It is also home to the world's first reserve for mosses and lichens. Azaleas, rhododendrons, snowdrops, bluebells and blue poppies can also be seen here.
It is the extensive network of paths, through woods and alongside a burn with little waterfalls and bridges that makes Dawyck such a pleasure to explore.
My favourite part of the garden was the small clearing with a Douglas fir and Grand fir alongside each other. The Grand fir is the tallest tree in the garden, over 50 metres high and a trunk with a diameter of 1.6m. You can walk right up to these trees and marvel at their scale. I put my hand on the bark- it was very rough and textured. I felt privileged to be able to feel trees of this significance, trees that have been here for over 150 years.
Their size is incredible, but the trees are remarkable in other ways. The Douglas Fir smells like strawberries in hot weather and if you crush the needles of a Grand Fir they smell of tangerines! I didn't try this for myself, but if you do please let me know if this is as wonderful as it sounds.
David Douglas, born in Scone, near Perth, was one of the greatest plant hunters. He took 8 months to travel from Scotland to the Columbia River in America where he discovered these trees and brought back the seeds to Dawyck. He faced many challenges during his expedition including his canoe overturning. He was only 35 when he died in Hawaii, falling into a trap to catch bullocks.
The garden is 65-acres and there is much to explore using the numerous paths that twist and wind through the site. The gardens are actually in the grounds of Dawyck House and you will catch glimpses of this private home. It explains the many grand staircases, topped with chunky urns, that you will come across.
Dawyck is a place to lose yourself in and enjoy being enveloped by thick woods, ferns and beautiful flowers. Make use of your nose here and inhale pine, fern, flowers, grass and moss.
Of course, there is a cafe, so you can get some sustenance here or you might prefer to bring a picnic and find a bench in your favourite part of the garden.
There is an entry fee for the gardens. Current prices and opening times are on the Dawyck website.
There are many outstanding gardens to visit in Scotland. Here's a couple of suggestions to inspire you- Drummond Castle, near Crieff and Inveresk Lodge, near Musselburgh.
The Scottish Borders
The gardens are in the Borders region of Scotland. For ideas of more places to visit in this region visit my Borders page.
Until 1950 trains used to run between Biggar and Broughton and on to Peebles. This disused line is now a path that is more suited to walking, but you can cycle it. It's only around 5 miles, the scenery is incredible and there is a brewery at the end of the route.
You can find the path south of Biggar High School, adjacent to the caravan park. To reach Biggar itself you will find a route guide on my blog about cycling to Biggar.
The start of the old railway path is a good surface and easy to cycle on, but it doesn't stay that way!
The path soon becomes overgrown to the point that you feel like you are cycling across a field on tracks left by a tractor. It becomes unrecognisable as a railway line. There are very few reminders that this was once traveresed by steam trains- the main infrastructure is the occasional small bridge with rusting ironwork.
I confess to being surprised by how incredible the scenery is on this path. I fell into the trap of assuming that north is the direction you need to go in Scotland to find the best scenery, but it is simply not true. The more that I travel in the south of Scotland the more I appreciate that it's just as beautiful here.
For the entire path there is a horizon of hills and I was lucky to have a day where the sunlight was golden and the sky blue and full of fluffy clouds. There are also hills on the right, some with incredible formations. It is a landscape sculpted over hundreds of millions of years from a time when these hills were once mountains as high as the Alps.
It must have been a dream to be an engine driver on this line and have this view from the cab.
The line began operating in the 1860s, but passenger volume never reached anticipated levels and it was closed in 1950. Freight traffic continued until 1966.
There was one small section that was completely impassable on my bike. It was too narrow and too muddy and I could not get any traction. I had to push my bike through nettles and got stung several times.
Arriving at Broughton there is a nice surprise- an old style railway signal.
The end of the route is adjacent to Broughton Ales, the first microbrewery in Scotland. It was established in 1979 and produces a varied range of beer, stout and lager. There is a shop where you can stock up on supplies.
I have written a review of the brewery's strong ale, Old Jock. The bottle label features Scottish flags and a bearded man wearing tartan standing in front of a backdrop of hills. A more 'Scottish' looking beer label you will be hard pushed to find. I love the bottle art of the cleverly named Hopopotamus pale ale. It features a hippo that has a keg of beer as a body!
Returning to Biggar
You can go back on the railway path, but if you found it tough to cycle you could use the B7016. It is a quiet country road and there are no nettles!
My Biggar blog is packed with ideas of things to see and do in Biggar, including the museum and independent shops.
Somewhere to Stay
If you are spending the night in Biggar read my review of the Elphinstone Hotel.
Biggar, located in rural South Lanarkshire, has a great museum and is crammed with independent shops and cafes. It's about 30 miles from Edinburgh and this blog tells you how to get there and what to see on the way
Highlights of this route
Take a train to Addiewell
Carstairs Junction is actually the closest station to Biggar- it's about a 10 mile cycle. However, trains to Carstairs are not that frequent and if you want a longer cycle you could take a train to Addiewell, which is about 20 miles from Biggar.
Addiewell is around 35 minutes by train from Edinburgh and around one hour from Glasgow.
Addiewell station, now little more than a platform and a couple of bus shelters, was once graced with a ticket office and waiting rooms. It is an isolated location with nothing much in the immediate vicinity. The cycle route travels south on Station Road, a single-track that really feels like you are in a remote location.
That's a lot of whisky
At the bottom of Station Road you will hit the A71. It's a left turn here where you pass the mass of the North British Distillery. This is a grain whisky producer and the warehouses- row upon row of black brick buildings- contain maturing whisky. In order to qualify as Scotch whisky the liquid must mature for 3 years and this site has a capacity for 130 million litres of the stuff. This is whisky production on an industrial scale and there are no pretty pagoda-topped distillery buildings or guided tours here. I could see weather-beaten whisky barrels, stacked in pyramids and hear beeping delivery lorry reversing alarms.
You are only on the A71 for half-a-mile and there is a pavement alongside it that is not really used by pedestrians, if you don't fancy joining the traffic. You then take a left down a country road that cuts through farming country to the A704 which you cross over to continue on the country road heading south. This is not a particularly scenic road, the farming landscapes are similar to many all over Scotland. The wind turbines are the standout feature here.
Some are near the roadside so I pulled over to listen to the gentle whir of the blades. It was quite a novelty to be next to one of these graceful machines for a few moments- you would miss this sitting in a car.
There is a border crossing on this route, from one council area, West Lothian, into another, South Lanarkshire. It is marked by a road sign welcoming you to the new area. I always look to see if there are any obvious difference when I cross one of these borders. In most case I find that there is no discernible change, but here it really did feel like I was entering somewhere different. The landscape felt less barren and the horizon suddenly blossomed with the hills of the Southern Uplands and the Pentlands.
I took a slight detour off the route to investigate a reservoir, largely because I liked the name- Cobbinshaw- and it struck me as the kind of place that not many people will have visited.
The road to the reservoir crosses over the West Coast Mainline railway and this got me thinking about all those people speeding to London and being completely unaware of this place. I do love train travel, but high speed trains don't allow you to really examine places like this, to hear their sounds, to experience their atmosphere and to feel their air in your face. I stopped by the shore and could see plenty of boats with fishermen. The only sounds were the gently lapping water and ducks splash landing on its surface.
I took a very muddy, pot-holed road to the causeway. A sign warned of children playing on quads on this road, but I didn't come across any. I paused on the causeway and the stillness made the place feel as remote as a Highland loch, despite being close to Scotland's urban centre.
Welcome to Woolfords
Returning to the main route I soon reached one of the few settlements along this road- Woolfords. It consists of a single row of cottages with a foreground of a moor of rushes, reeds and grass, a horizon of hills and legions of clouds. This place seems unbelievably remote and I wondered what it would be like to live there. A car must be essential. There are no shops within walking distance and I could see no evidence of a bus service.
Later on I found the road blocked by a herd of cows. They were walking towards me and I had to get off my bike and gently push it through the crowds, waiting for the beasts to make way for me. I smiled at them, said hello and thanked them for allowing me to pass!
The landscape here is not generic flat farmlands, but has waves and undulations because it was once an area of mountains as tall as the Alps. That was about 4 hundred million years ago and the changes in that landscape over that period of time have sculpted it into what we see today. From a bicycle saddle you naturally pay a lot attention to the road verges and these ones were awash with thistles, buttercups and butterflies.
This road ends at the A70, the Edinburgh Road, where you take a right turn towards Carnwath. You will be on the A70 for less than 10 minutes and I didn't find it a busy road. I passed an interesting house on this road- a round house, with a Harry Potter theme. It's called Hagrid’s Hut and has a weather vain with Harry Potter on his Quidditch broomstick.
Carnwath is a small village that has a main road flanked by rows of single-storey and two-storey cottages. There are some pretty houses here and a few shops. It has an unexpected claim to fame- the oldest running race in the world was started here! It's called the Red Hose Race, started in 1508 by Royal Charter. It must be held every year unless written permission is received from the Crown Authorities. This has only happened once, in 2001, due to the foot and mouth crisis.
The village also has a superb bakery called The Apple Pie. It has won numerous awards. Don't let the functional-looking building put you off as the products are well worth trying. Inside you will find a fine selection of savoury pies and cakes. I bought a strawberry tart and a white chocolate and malteser slice.
Cakes at the church
I cycled on a bit to find a picnic spot and came across the pretty parish church at Libberton. The sun was shining in my face and the view was outstanding. In one direction there were golden wheat fields with a big blue sky as far as you can see and in the other direction were the Southern Uplands, their green sides being enhanced by the burst of sun. Every cycle trip has a 'moment' where a special memory is created and it will be the thing you remember the most about the ride. This was the 'moment' of this trip- sitting in the sunshine, a gentle breeze, inspiring surroundings. Oh, and I almost forgot, the cakes! They were very good. The strawberry tart was of a traditional style with a thick and crunch pastry case that gave it a homely, authentic taste.
From Libberton it's just another 5 miles or so to reach Biggar. And to find out what there is to see and do in Biggar head to my blog: Exploring Biggar.
Your Piece Baking Company produce a range of handmade oatcakes and shortbread. They are based in Fife and their mission is to bring handmade oatcakes to the world. I tried their oatcakes with seeds and here is what I thought of them.
Oatcakes are as Scottish as the Highlands and Edinburgh Castle. They have been around since Roman times, possibly even longer. It is one of those traditional foods that you must try when exploring Scotland. They are widely available, including in supermarkets, but the taste can vary enormously. Your Piece Baking Company promises an oatcake far superior to the many bland, factory produced oatcakes out there. The fact that the company has received over 40 Great Taste Awards is proof that these cakes are something special.
The back of the box explains why these oatcakes are so good. They are made to a traditional Fife recipe and they are handmade- a series of photos shows the process involved. There are no artificial additions to the recipe and the oats come from Fife farms.
The rear of the box also features a map to show you the location of Fife. I love that Scotland has many regional food and drink producers. Food and drink is just as much a part of visiting Scotland as the scenery and castles, so make sure you try something from the region that you are visiting.
What does it taste like? For me the main point is whether or not you can eat them on their own without a topping. Many generic oatcakes are far too dry and boring to eat on their own and need to be smothered in something. Well, these Fife oatcakes are indeed delicious on their own. They are thick, but not too thick and have a satisfying crunch. The seeds bring an added, nutty, interest as you bite into it, not to mention the extra health benefits.
In fact, these are so good just as they are that I ate the entire packet without reaching for a slab of cheese or a honey pot. They were excellent as snacks throughout the day- whenever I needed an energy boost they kept me away from something unhealthy like crisps or chocolate.
Your Piece Baking sells several different kinds of oatcakes, including plain ones, those made with porridge oats. a wheat-free variety and oatcakes for canapes. They also do delicious shortbread- the one with ginger is my favourite. The products can be purchased from the Your Piece Baking website and can be found in numerous retailers. I bought mine from Cranachan & Crowdie on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.
Yes, they are more expensive than oatcakes from the supermarket, but they are undeniably more delicious. You also get to support a regional food producer. Give them a try and let me know what you think.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle. Follow my blog on Facebook: