Before winter training camps in Lanzarote were made possible by inexpensive air travel, both amateur and professional cyclists would accumulate their base training miles by touring with panniers, tents and carrying their favourite foods.
The famous Belgian puncheur Dik de Bollocktrimmer loved his hand cut frites and was so fearful that his rivals might tamper with his food that he insisted on transporting his own potatoes (and mayonnaise) which he lovingly peeled and deep-fried every evening.
Alas, the strength he accrued from carrying 50 kgs of spuds over hundreds of kilometres was negated by the weight he accrued in devouring them (and the mayonnaise), and he never actually won a race.
In the middle-east, Ruby Abdul Begumstein, the acclaimed Half-Jewish, Half-Muslim meshuggener, pioneered loaded touring with a trailer of halal bagels in the heat of the Sinai desert. Unfortunately, due to the proliferation of Jewish and Moslem holidays, he was never actually allowed to race at weekends.
Inspired by individuals like these, The Wattmeister and Wattmeisterin took themselves up to Scotland on the Caledonian Sleeper train from Euston to Inverness (the booking process and bike facilities warrant a blog on their own account…and, alas, not in a good way), with a view to cycling a roundabout route to Fort William in order to catch the train back to London…about 500 kms over 6 days.
The trip started by traversing the Black Isle via Munlochy, Cromarty and the charming Nigg ferry, and included a two night stay at the unique Sleeperzzz hostel by Rogart station which sports accommodation made up from converted railway carriages. The route continued to Ullapool taking in spectacular Strath Oykel before old friends, the mountains known as Canisp, Cul Mor and Suilven appeared on the horizon.
After a night in Ullapool, including haddock and chips and beer, the road climbed steeply up the Braes of Corrieschellach which leads to the utter magnificence of the Road of Destitution, a wilderness framed by the imposing rocky bulk of An Teallach.
More climbing along the coast aided and abetted by a fearsome headwind ensured that the cycletourists arrived in Gairloch in need of sustenance which was located to good effect in the restaurant of Gairloch Sands campsite, an idyllic location in Wester Ross.
The next day saw the return of traditional Scottish weather, which only enhanced the rugged presence of Beinn Eighe which towers over the shores of Loch Coulin and Loch Clair. There followed some unscheduled off-roading over the stony track up the Coulin Pass, a highlight of the trip.
After an itchy night in Gerry’s Hostel, some of the most brutal inclines of the ride had to be conquered. Plockton can be accessed along a beautiful, almost tropical lane, which plunges up and down by the shore of Loch Carron. From there, it is but a short hop to Skye, on this occasion blasted and drenched by inclement conditions. After a night in the Flora Macdonald hostel, the trip came to a close with a ferry ride from Armadale to Mallaig including a train ride over the Glenfinnan Viaduct which features in the Harry Potter films.
If you are feeling jaded, The Wattmeister recommends a trip to the Highlands to recharge your batteries.
Can’t argue with this!