Cycling Britain-Day 17: Extreme rural, urban, & luxury

Miles: 65 (progress 60 miles), Nearest town where I slept: Loch Lomond

4 August 2011

If you look in Wikipedia under Scotland, or maybe Western Scotland, you’ll see a description that says something like, “This area of Scotland doesn’t get inches of rainfall a year, it gets feet or yards of rain each year.” Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, just a little, but Wikipedia does mention that this area is unusually rainy. Soon after waking, I heard rain against the tent. That meant I would have to pack my panniers from inside the tent, instead of being able to spread things out on the grass outside. Fortunately, my panniers are water-tight, so once their packed, even a Scottish rain can’t leak in.

I was surprised at how fast the packing went. Everything was packed around 8:30 AM, so all that was left was to roll up my tent, put everything on the bike, and start another day of cycling. The tent was soaked when I rolled it up, and noticeably heavier. Nonetheless, I was happy to be peddling at 9:00 AM, finally met that goal after days of trying. I didn’t expect my first effort of “wild camping” in Scotland, as described in Day 15, to finish so efficiently.

One challenge with wild camping is having no shower. Fortunately the rain continued for most of the day. So, I didn’t have the fifteen minute shower I enjoy. I had five hours, in the rain, on my bike. Since it was raining, I didn’t take many pictures. A couple of hours went by, and I started to worry about the very wore tire I had on the front, which I moved from the back the previous day. Wore tires mean more punctures.

I went through a town and asked a guy at a bus stop if a cycle shop was nearby. He said there was Halfords, a cycle chain store, in the next town. I carried on to that town, asked again for the Halfords, and found the place fairly easy. The service was everything you expect from a chain store when you aren’t buying a lot. My folding bike uses an unusual tire, a 20” tire. The clerk said they had one, exactly one. It was made for off-road cycling, for BMX bikes, but it was the only option I had. The clerk gave me the tire and pointed me to the cashier, not wasting any words. Chain stores can be a pain.

I decided to change the tire whenever there was another puncture, so I just shoved the new tire over one of my rear panniers. A while later, I was surprised to see that I was entering Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. It’s a good thing I’ve done a lot of cycling in London. Those skills were handy in Glasgow because traffic was intense. Being on a folding bike with four panniers makes me a unique sight and easier to see, but it’s also a larger and less maneuverable target.

While leaving Glasgow, the rain finally ended. That was especially helpful because my front tire went flat soon after. At least, I wasn’t changing the tube and tire in the rain. After replacing the tube and putting on the new tire, I was very ready to go again but faced a new problem. I couldn’t find one of my tire levers, which come in sets of three. I always put my tools and parts in one place, but this time, I lost a tire lever. After feeling around in the grass, looking through my open panniers, and speaking some words I won’t write here, more time passed than I could afford. I decided the lever would show up later, probably in the bottom of a pannier.

After cycling for a few miles, the new tire just didn’t feel right. Compared to the road tire I was used to, this new off-road tire was like pushing a brick. But the new tire had two or three times the amount of rubber than the old, worn tire. That meant fewer punctures, so I had to accept the new tire.

I peddled by some canals and canal boats, which was fun to see. The picture here is a hand-powered draw bridge, for canal boats. All of the locks for canal boats are also hand-powered. Canal boats used to haul freight, before the train was invented. Now, canal boats haul people, for fun.

Later, another bike shop showed up. It was also a privately owned store and not a chain, like the Halfords store I was at earlier. I stopped by to see if they had a better tire. They did and were friendly, even threw in some Scottish souvenir pins for free. This new tire was a road tire, which I need, and it could be pumped to a higher pressure than the other new tire I bought, at the chain store. I couldn’t resist using that better tire, so I changed the tire on my front wheel again, even though it took precious time. I offered to give the shop owner my other new tire, from Halfords. He wouldn’t even take it, since the quality was so low.

When I changed the front tire again, I found the lost tire lever. The lost lever was inside the tire, between the tube and tire, oops.

I reserved a place in a youth hostel that night, so I could have a shower, dry out my tent, and relax a little. Unfortunately, it took me a while to find the hostel, so I only had time to shower, eat, and put my tent in a drying room for the night.

The hostel itself was an amazing sight. I’ll let the pictures tell the story, all for £22 ($35) a night.





It’s late, and I need to post this and get to sleep.

2 thoughts on “Cycling Britain-Day 17: Extreme rural, urban, & luxury

  1. I remember Glasgow very well I was stationed at Cow Glen Military Hospital many years ago and some of our off duty time was spent in the city.One night we all went ice skating I spent the first half of the night on my bottom on the ice and the second half sat on a radiator in a pub drying out my trousers but a good night was had by all even though we wernt very sober by the end of it.Best wishes and stay safe.

    • That’s a fun story, Pat. Ice scating isn’t nearly as easy as it looks, as if all you do is simply glide along. I’m glad you still had a good time. Your story reminds me of things my parents used to tell us, since my Dad was in the US Air Force for 22 years. Sorry it’s taken me a while to reply. Internet access is still hard to get.

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