Everyone seems to have a bucket list now – that list of achievements you must experience in your lifetime. For cyclists and others alike many of those activities involve spending lots of money to travel around the world. Even dreams such as riding up Mont Ventoux, the Giant of Provence, are out of many people’s reach.
However, a bucket list is much more gratifying when heaped with attainable goals. In Scotland we are lucky – we don’t have to travel far to find there are plenty of spectacular challenges for cyclists to add to our agenda of “must-do” life experiences.
I’ve listed 10 of my choices below, some of which I have done and several that I haven’t. There are of course many others that you may want to add and Scotland is not short of opportunities for tallying up an impressive inventory of experiences.
Over the next few months I’ll give you more details on each choice on my list, but here is a quick summary:
- Cycle the Bealach na Ba – at over six miles the Pass of the Cattle in the north-west of Scotland is the longest road climb in the UK and a great route from both the Loch Kishorn and Applecross sides.
- Ride all the 7 Stanes Trail Centres – the 7 Stanes are purpose-built mountain bike trail centres that span the Borders and Dumfries and Galloway. There are actually eight centres now and their trails offer a wide range of routes to suit families and beginners all the way to experienced riders.
- Ride at the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome – built for the 2014 Commonwealth Games the track had its first taster with the 2012 Track World Cup. Since then the venue regularly hosts top-notch international competition as well as offering amateurs the opportunity to ride the boards.
- Ride a BMX track – the Broadwood BMX track in Cumbernauld opened in 2014 and is one of the largest in the UK and is open seven days a week for everyone to participate in this thrilling aspect of cycling.
- Enter the Strathpuffer 24 hr event – “When Hell Freezes Over” is how the Red Bull website describes the 24 hours of madness that is the Strathpuffer. They also ask: “Is it the toughest mountain bike race on earth?” – quite probably.
- Ride off-road at night-time – if you haven’t cycled in the dark on your mountain bike then you are missing out on one of the great cycling experiences. Heightened senses are just part of the thrill of hurtling along single-track trails with only the circle of light ahead of you to point you in the right direction
- Cycle the Outer Hebrides – I once rode from Berneray to Eriskay, north to south in torrential rain and howling gales and it was one of my favourite rides ever. I still need to complete the full ride from Lewis to Barra, but maybe I’ll wait until the weather is more favourable this time.
- Go Bike-packing – Scotland’s outdoor access laws means this one is a “world is your oyster” choice. Simply put, all you need are off-road trails, a tent and a map and a desire to explore some of Scotland’s great wilderness.
- Ride coast to coast – there are many opportunities for this one with the more urban canal paths linking Glasgow and Edinburgh to the wilder Great Glen trail in the Highlands.
10.Learn a new skill – from riding on rollers to pulling a wheelie there are loads of new skills that you can learn on your bike that will enhance your riding, your fitness and your safety and that no-handed track stand will look extra cool in front of your mates.
Whether you have done all these before, or you have your own list to choose from, with a new year on the horizon, now is the time to set your goals and aspirations. Whatever you do don’t limit yourself. Try something new on your bike, get out there and enjoy cycling.
Join the Blazing Saddles Strava Club at: www.strava.com/clubs/BlazingSaddlesWeekendCourier
What to Ride? The Rapha 500
Where: A Strava Challenge
Distance 500km or 311miles
Description: The Rapha 500 is a challenge that aims to get you riding between Christmas Eve and Hogmanay. You can ride whatever you like and wherever you like as long as you log your rides on Strava. If you complete 500km or more in the allotted timescale then you receive an electronic finishers badge to add to your virtual trophy cabinet on Strava.
What’s more if you have joined the Blazing Saddles Strava Club you can pit yourself against other riders in Courier country and see who is out on their bikes, clocking up the miles on Christmas Day.