"Rule # 9 If you're out riding in bad weather it means you are a badass. Period."
This is a book of rules, 95 rules, that true cyclists must follow. It is aimed at the road cyclist, people who take cycling very seriously and ride to win. That's not me, so I found that a lot of the rules in the book are ones that I have already broken or were things I never considered, such as "Rule # 56 Espresso or macchiato only." The authors state that if you have a pre or post-ride coffee it must only be espresso or macchiato and "In Europe, the waiter is allowed to slap your face when you order a soy latte. If he is a good waiter, and you are a Cyclist, he will really step into that slap."
There is much about this book that sounds ridiculous, particularly to non-cyclists and I am sure that the authors were having a bit of a laugh rather than taking everything seriously. It had me laughing at the thought of people who actually abide by these rules. However, there is no doubt that many people take cycling this seriously. For them they aspire to emulate the legends of professional cycling and this means doing things in a certain way.
This extends to what you wear and how you look when riding your bike. For example, shorts must be black and the arms of your sunglasses must be placed over the helmet straps. You are also not permitted to have a full beard or moustache.
I don't intend to follow these rules because I am not that type of cyclist, but I enjoyed the book because it was funny and I could have a laugh at the cyclists who do take it this seriously. I often see road cyclists, usually overtaking me and sometimes I have experienced a look of derision from them as they look me up and down. After reading this book I now know why- they have probably observed that I am breaking many of these rules. I really don't care. I ride my bike because I like to explore my country and choose this as my favourite form of transport. That's the only rules I obey.
In October 2014 it was announced that Abellio, a Dutch company, had been awarded the Scotrail franchise for the next 10 years. There are many exciting developments that come with the new franchise, including new trains, increased bike parking and scenic trains. However, I could see no sign of increased bicycle spaces on the trains which is the main thing that would benefit cyclists using the railways.
A brochure summarises the key improvements. There is a commitment to introduce locomotive hauled trains on some routes and there is even a picture of such a train in the brochure . I think this is one of the most promising aspects of the franchise as these trains provide more capacity and more comfort than the current rolling stock. There may even be potential to add additional bicycle spaces, although this is not stated in the brochure.
It would be a shame if increased bicycle spaces were not provided, particularly as the brochure recognises the tourist potential of Scotland's railways. There is promise of a "Scenic railway service" on the West Highland, Far North and Kyle lines. The details of what this will be are not contained in the brochure, but any enhancement of the tourist potential of these routes should consider adequate bike provision. In particular, my experience of the Far North line in the summer is that the bike spaces are often not enough because of the huge number of cyclists who use the line when doing Land's End to or from John O'Groats.
There will be 3500 additional cycle spaces at stations, which is clearly aimed at encouraging people to cycle to a station and take the train to work. This is a good thing, but I think that many cyclists who use the railways would regard more bikes being carried on the trains as more of a priority than bike parking at stations. I am optimistic that Abellio, being a Dutch company, will see the benefit of increasing bike spaces on the trains.
The locomotive hauled trains also increase the possibilities to enhance catering facilities- there is mention of "galley catering", which presumably means a kitchen. Currently the catering is restricted to what can be accommodated on the trolley that is wheeled through the train. A kitchen facility could mean cooked meals and the brochure states that "some of Scotland's best and local food and drink brands" would be offered, but no further details are provided.
The new franchise is full of promise and I am optimistic about what is proposed. I think that Scotland's scenic railway routes are long overdue better rolling stock, particularly as countries like Canada, America and Australia have trains that are as special and as attractive as the landscapes that they pass through. I really do hope that the provision of bicycle spaces on the trains is given consideration as bicycle tourism is an increasing market and more people will come to enjoy Scotland as a result.
What do you think of the new proposals?
There were explosions of bold yellow bursting through thick clouds. It was a battle between sun and clouds that forced out streamers of pink. The sunrise over Kirkcaldy was mesmerising, but few people would see it. I was one of the lucky ones because I was on board the the 05.33 Edinburgh Haymarket to Aberdeen train.
When I left my flat to catch the train it was still dark. I had to attach the lights to my bike to complete the short cycle to the station. Songbirds were in full flow. A taxi dropped off some late night revelers as I started to pedal.
The 05.33 is one of the first departures of the day from Haymarket station, so all was quiet. In the next two hours the station would transform into a bustling place with determined commuters. Half a dozen other passengers were assembled on the platform. One man had a golf bag, clearly wishing to take advantage of the many courses that this train passes along its route.
Once we departed Kirkcaldy the sun started to take command of the day. The windows of a school briefly glowed like gold bars when they got hit by the rays. By Ladybank the clouds had evaporated and the sun was strong and blinding. The ground and rooftops twinkled with frost.
This was a great start to the day and a great prelude to my cycling trip. This is why I take the train.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.