So there it was, my shiny new bike, all clean and nice and non-squeaky... But not for long!! I was invited to go up a mountain on my bike - mountain biking! There would be me, PTC, Bobinson and Craig. I jumped at the chance. I set off from work about 4.30, bike in the back minus the front wheel, two bags worth of stuff! (I'm a girl, there are things I must take to work every day) and a bag of crisps and a Milky Way for my dinner.
As I drove along the Gargunnock road passing Kippen, Arnprior and Drymen the noise from the car** got worse and worse. I've had 2 new exhausts in the past 3 weeks and it's even worse than the original one they took off. But then the car started to sway - or was it my imagination, or was it because the roads gently meander and rise and fall in a strange pattern all the way along the A811. It was getting stressful as I was uncertain if something was about to fall off the noise was so bad and to add to my anxiety I was bursting for the toilet. I got into Balloch and remembered the McDonalds on the roundabout. I pulled in, visited the restroom and got on my way again. I stuck to a safe 45 miles per hour on the roads all the way to the destination on my very detailed instructions from PTC (except PTC, there was a right turn when you should have said left but i'll let that one go).
I saw them sitting there on the wall waiting. There were introductions and a joke, then i got the stead out the car. I think they were secretly jealous of the cleanliness of it! They blew up my tyres, I got geared up and we were on our way. The biking trio cycled off and Craig ran down the road behind us. We headed out of Bowling and into Old Kilpatrick across the Forth and Clyde canal alongside the River Clyde. It was a lovely night and i was glad we went along this wee trail for me to get used to the bumpy night ahead. I chickened out of quite a steep bit though instead going through a style in the fence. This was sensible. It was a bit chilly alongside the river but as we headed out of Old Kilpatrick and up onto the Kilpatrick hills via The Slacks, the evening sun was beating down and all the effort was making me sweat.
As we were going up the road I thought this wasn't too bad after i eventually found the right gear. We headed onto a gentle slope of gravelly stuff again in the right gear i was being challenged but the legs still felt fine. All my spin classes must be paying off i thought. We passed a field filled with wee lambs and sheep and they were baa-ing away all contented in the evening warmth. Every now and again i'd glance to the side to check out the view of the Clyde, it was just lovely up here. Further up I caught a glimpse of Craig at a gate, he must have bionic legs to run there! I was glad i had a seat!
We stopped for a wee drink and then headed off again. But this time to going was rougher and the hill was a but steeper and as much as i tried i just couldn't get a gear without the back wheel slipping in the rocky terrain and i just had to get off before i fell off. But no shame in it as the others were off and pushing their bikes too. This was a bit of a killer but a chance to give the legs another kind of exercise they haven't had for a while. We reached a second gate and stopped for a wee bit. By this point PTC still had his sunglasses, you can see it in this picture.
We set off again this time on the bikes and it was again an ascent but it seemed alot easier, and less rocky more dirt/gravel. Perhaps I was getting used to it? I was enjoying myself as i listened to their chitter chatter all the way up. Tales from their epic trip last weekend, interspersed with commentary from PTC about where we were and what was over there. On this occasion it was a wee quarry. Onwards and upwards we went and then a lovely peaceful calm area came into view... I think this is where we wee overlooking Duncolm and Fynloch Hill (all place names were provided by PTC - it is his home ground after all). Anyway it was braw and the views were great on this clear calm evening.
It was onwards down towards Loch Humphrey's south side but not before final instructions from Bobinson about descending. I especially liked the part where he said if you don't want to don't do it. We set off down a track, Craig running all the while and me at the back... way at the back! They were like little people in the distance whilst I steadily negotiated my way down a rutted dirt track. Then we cut off into boggy grass which wasn't too bad but bumpy and sticky at times. Onto another dirty mucky puddle filled track and there were a few folks on the waterside with a wee dog. Personally i was glad it never came near. At this point I have to say my bike was doing really well, I was getting more confidence on this mtb ride and I was still relatively clean... but not for long. I was forced to go through a mucky puddle and that was it! Officially dirty bike now.
We headed through an enchanted dark forrest of trees. Now this was a challenge. There were loads of dips, roots and deep cuts in the ground and the twigs kept getting stuck in my tyres and making a noise (not the worst noise of the evening though!). It wasn't long after another noise appeared!!! More on this later. Soon we were out of the trees opposite Doughnut Hill and into pinky evening sunset light again, Ben Lomond peeking over the top of a hill. The sun was bright and glowing it's pinky orange blanket over the place. I had to take a photie.
The next section would be the descent. PTC would go ahead and point out any tricksy bits and Phil would stay behind me all the while shouting instructions. It was a little bit hairy at parts but I think I was finding my feet quite well. But the noise form my front brake was getting louder and weirder. We descended pretty quickly down grassy slopes along dirt tracks that again had a few steep sections and few tricky proper boggy muck sections but I wasn't the one who nearly fell off at one point! :o) Down and down was onto more gentle slopes but it was fast. By this time PTC and Phil were offski fleeing down the hill next to Lang Crags. I was at the back with Craig with him shouting 'go fast as fuck!!' So i let the breaks go and flew down the hill to another gate. It was awesome. I know I left it a bit late to get brave but hey, it was my first time. Craig came over the hill a few minutes later, still running, still going. Awesome.
We were then onto tarmac and heading down towards Milton. And the noise coming from my bike was the most annoying thing ever! Weird, like a part on Dr Who's Tardis that is malfunctioning. It was quite melodic though, a symphony. Annoying all the same. We were soon speeding down the hill and appeared out onto the main road at Milton around 8.30pm. A little over 2 hours on the bike and it was fantastic. Still a wee bit light left in the ever inky blue sky. It was getting a bit chilly though. Once Craig had reached us we headed to the famous BP garage for eatables and a hot drink. There was photies, eating and chatter before we headed back to base.
It was only now they plucked up the courage to ask for a shot of my bike around the car park. :o) I think they were envious of my little clean lightweight stead who shall now be named Spooky! or Stato... you decide? I packed up the bike in the car, put another top on as it was well chilly now and headed off along the road back to Stirling. The drive home wasn't too bad, just about an hour but the car noise** was getting worse. But my bike was looking authentic now, dirt on lower parts and some on the seat... I laid an old yoga mat out in the hallway where it currently resides and would wash it on Thursday after work.
All in all I thoroughly enjoyed my first proper mtb ride (even though my bike got dirty). It was fantastic! And I think, once i gained a wee bit confidence on the terrain, I did great - if i say so myself! Thanks for inviting me guys and it was great to finally meet Bobinson and Craig. Another brilliant bunch of people I've met through the power of the 'net. Thanks for the tips and instructions about ascending and descending, it's these simple things that make the difference.
Aye, bike rides in the Kilpatricks - Brilliant!
**update on the car noise. Got a new exhaust about 4 weeks ago, had it changed once, still made a noise (or so I thought). It was more of a constant whirring clunking noise all the way to Bowling and back home. Dad took it out Thursday night and immediately said it was the wheel bearings! The back right hand wheel was wonky and so this was causing the clunky whirring noise. As soon as he said it I knew he was right. My old wee VW Polo used to sound the same when it's bearings were away. Anyway, Dad replaced the wheel bearings on Friday and I got another new exhaust today and my wee silver car is sounding much better. Phew!