a. Mini-Triking Adventure

Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

Making psychological preparations for a traverse of the Bealach Na Ba!

I am not a cyclist – I am a runner who likes to run a long way.My partner is not a  cyclist either – he is a climber who likes to climb (a long way) and who humours me by floating along effortlessly beside me on my long runs while I am looking nothing like Paula Radcliffe at all. We are both training for an ultra-marathon in Northern Ireland in the middle of June – it’s 52 miles on our feet with a bit of a climb.That’s a long way. We got tired!

We thought that as we were tired we should take a holiday. And so I began fantasising about lying down for very long periods of time. And so my prtner (it’s definitely a man thing) began fantasising about some kind of action adventure (no matter how sensitive they appear when you meet them, there seems to be a hidden Bruce Willis in all of them). Hmmm..Lying down and action adventure :unlikely marriage, you may be thinking? Well, you’d be wrong! Our ideal holiday beckoned in the form of a pair of recumbent tricycles : a means of transport that would allow us to lie down for hours at a time while undertaking all sorts of action adventures.

Our first challenge was to find 2 trikes to hire. Our first was found at Walker’s Cycling in Kilmaurs, Ayrshire. Susan was brilliantly helpful, warm-hearted, mindful of our novice status and extremely enthusiastic. Our second was found at Laid-Back Bikes in Edinburgh. David‘s a dynamo on legs, totally passionate about recumbent cycling, passionate about getting people onto bikes and trikes and generous-spirited to boot.

Our second challenge was to fit the 2 of them into the back of a Berlingo – and our camping gear and very heavy panniers (definitely a girl thing). I breathed a sigh of relief as we pulled out of Kilmaurs on Thursday 6th May with our 2 trusty steeds in the back, heading up to Arisaig to camp before catching the ferry from Mallaig to Skye on Friday morning.

Making a pit stop

Our first leg was a 47-mile slide from Armadale to Glen Brittle on the west of Skye. Actually, it was more of a slog (ladies :  I was at the back and Bruce WiIlis was at the front giving it the whole “keep up the average speed” and talking about cadences and cooing about beautiful engineering. And I was having “those” thoughts – the ones about who would get custody of the goldfish we didn’t even have and how would I get back all those CDs I’d lent to him?).

We got into the campsite at Glen Brittle at about 7.30pm. I was about to pull my imaginary 40mm GMG that I’d been packing in my cycling shorts (ladies : this is a grenade machine gun that every mother should give to her daughter should they hook-up with a Bruce Willis type) when Bruce morphed into a rather attractive combination of Ray Mears and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The tent was up, supper was on the camping stove and we sat and enjoyed the idyllic setting under the Cuillin ridge, accompanied by the gentle symphony of clanking climbing gear and fluttering fly-sheets.

And on the second day, God gave man poorly knees

The next morning my partner reported sore knees. (Praying is more effective than most people realise). So our real holiday began as we were forced to take a gentle ride back to Sligachan (about 16 miles from Glen Brittle with quite a bit of uphill – but the trikes have handbrakes and very comfy seats so you can stop and enjoy the scenery). That was the day we discovered the fine art of “pootling” and the incredible performance-enhancing power of a peanut butter and banana sandwich (I can’t believe they haven’t been banned by the International Olympic Committee). Pootlers use low gears to get up big hills (they sometimes even use them on the flat!), they take their time and enjoy the ride, they stop for regular snacks, they chat and take in the breath-taking scenery (they even manage to hold hands!). That was also the day I became “one” with my trike : I mastered the gears, I mastered the cornering and I stopped wanting aliens to abduct Bruce Willis (I also, very cleverly, mastered how to gradually move the contents of my panniers into my partner’s).

A woman and a machine at one

We pitched our tent at Sligachan and celebrated the discovery of pootling at the local hotel with a double measure of Talisker each. We tied up our steeds outside and watched as people eyed them up –  we puffed up with pride. We realised that we were becoming attached to our trikes and attached to being outside all day and all night. The wind-burn on our noses and thighs felt like medals we could wear proudly.

Day 3 offered big blue skies and a beautiful 32-mile ride to Plockton (Bruce only made one brief appearance that day by offering a bog or a piece of flat land next to a steaming dung-heap as potential camping locations).

Day 4 was the big day : a 38-mile journey from Plockton to Applecross via the Bealach-Na-Ba (a 2000ft ascent, 6 miles uphill and 1 in 5 gradients). At this stage, we knew the only thing we could do when we got to the foot of the pass was to engage the lowest gear and pootle all the way up (stopping for peanut butter and chocolate digestive biscuits along the way).

Chocolate digestives are running dangerously low on the Bealach!

I went very quiet when the snow started to fall and when I wasn’t sweating in the least even with 3 layers on under my Gortex jacket. Chocolate biscuits were running dangerously low by the time we got to the hairpin bends at the top but we were spurred on by lovely support/ sanity checks from motor-bikers, car-drivers, other cyclists coming the other way and (close to the top) some French classic car drivers who got out of their vehicles and photographed us. At the top, the snow turned to hail. We donned our sunglasses for protection and braced ourselves for a very fast re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere at the campsite in Applecross. (I was very glad to be with Bruce Willis at this point, might I add).

Other cyclists came over to our pitch to admire our trikes (my partner morphed into an unholy mix of James May and Jeremy Clarkson when he was talking about brakes and suspension. It was fleeting but I actually saw it) and to share Bealach-traversing stories. By complete accident ,it seemed that in the simple innocent act of riding our heavily-laden tricycles over the pass, we had become “hard core”. So Bruce Willis and GI Jane triked to the pub to celebrate with a steak supper and a wee tot of Drambuie.

42-miles on day 5 saw us follow the coast northwards and then back inland to a gleaming Lochcarron where we stayed in a really friendly little guesthouse (I know – that’s exactly the kind of thing us hardcore types do!).

A 30-or-so mile pootle (including afternoon tea) via the Kyle of Lochalsh saw us back onto Skye on day 6 where we stayed in the campsite at Ashaig, used a composting loo for the first time (like I said, hardcore) and celebrated the last night of the holidays with some whisky and chocolate.

We were pedalling again by 7.30am, a 16-mile dash for the ferry at Armadale and then a 5-mile final uphill back into the campsite at Camusdarrach where we had left the Berlingo.

As we folded up the trikes and put them back into the van, we acknowledged that our very close encounter with these amazing machines with a third wheel had been a really rewarding experience. We had become closer to each other, we had enjoyed being outdoors, we had enjoyed being physically active all day, we had enjoyed  the simplicity of camping, we had enjoyed the warmth and open-heartedness of other cyclists, road-users and campers (and a special thanks goes to the Morgan-driving nurse who helped me out in the Applecross Inn and the owners of the Inn who showed me great kindness).

Love is...when your man doesn't even realise his panniers are full of your stuff!

And you know what? We weren’t cyclists when we set out on the first day of our trip. We are now (hardcore ;-). It’s 5 days since we returned to the world of the bi-ped and I can honestly say that we are missing our third wheel. Oh, and I can also honestly say that my legs are stronger (and I still don’t look anything like Paula Radcliffe).

Things You Might Like To Know

Triking  Tour Top Trump Facts

Highest speed achieved : 34 mph between Sconser and Broadford on Skye.

Lowest speed achieved : 0mph (we were still moving when the speedo recorded this) climbing the Bealach-Na-Ba to Applecross.

Jars of peanut butter consumed : 3.

Packets of digestives consumed : 3.

Longest a pair of socks worn for : 7 days (Jane).

About Jane Talbot

Jane enjoys most kinds of stretch!

Jane is a 44-year old woman who is running the Mourne off-road ultramarathon in Northern Ireland on 12th June to raise funds for Help For Heroes. This race is the first in a series adventures that Jane is planning over the next year in aid of this charity. Her fund-raising adventures are planned to culminate in an unsupported journey on a home-made tandem tricycle (my partner is making this – and they’re going to ride together as long as Bruce Willis reins it in a bit) to St Petersburg, followed by a 100k race in Mongolia to finish. She aims to raise 100k for the charity by the end of the summer of 2011. You can support Jane by visiting her Just Giving page here: http://www.justgiving.com/janetalbot.

About The Recumbent Tricycles

My partner was riding a Trice T Narrow Track and Jane was riding an ICE Adventure 3FS. Both tricycles were manufactured by Inspired Cycle Engineering (http://www.icetrikes.co.uk). Jane and her partner were passed by many classic cars on their tour. They consider the ICE trike to be a cross between a Morgan (for style) and a Ferrari (on the downhills!)

Where Can You Find  A Recumbent Tricycle In Scotland?

Laid Back Bikes offers the chance to try out and/or rent two trikes from the ICE range. Prices start at £20 per day with a discount for longer trips. If you want to learn to ride or buy something on two wheels in a ‘laid-back’ style then LB can offer you a guided tour from £17 per person. Places are limited and advanced booking should be made via http://www.laid-back-bikes.co.uk Laid Back Bikes operate from ‘The Bicycle Works, Argyle Place, Edinburgh EH1 2PQ. Try outs and test rides are in the nearby Meadows Park with tours to Cramond and Portobello.  Contact David on 07981 430159 for more information or contact him via email laid-back@blueyonder.co.uk.

Walkers Cycling, 45 Main Street  Kilmaurs, Ayrshire KA3 2SY aims to meet the needs of almost every cyclist – whether you want to pootle on paths or race on roads (or mountains!) Conventional bicycles are fine for most folk but there are lots of reasons for getting a recumbent three-wheeler. Recumbent – lying back and enjoying the world going by – that in itself sounds good – especially good if you ever suffer from back, neck or wrist pain when riding. Contact Susan and her team on 01563 544488 or email shop@walkerscycling.co.uk or visit the website http://www.walkerscycling.co.uk for more information.

You can read more about Jane here and about Ice Trikes : http://icetrikes.co.uk/community/ice-blog/trike-adventure and here : http://www.scotoutdoors.com/online-features and here :

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