68.07 Miles Cycled
4,082 ft of Climbing
After the long ride from Perth on day 16, today was all about NCN Route 7 and getting to Inverness. I was joined this morning by my best friend who was going to cycle the first 20 miles or so with me. The long steady climb up the Drumochter Pass the day before would now be replaced with a long steady downhill to Aviemore.
It was good to have some familiar company this morning as we set off out of Dalwhinnie. We joined NCN Route 7 and headed off down the valley with an extremely strong tailwind. The first 15 miles of this mornings ride was down hill which made it very easy going. I had enjoyed a mostly trouble free ride so far apart from one puncture and my pannier rack collapsing on Bodmin Moor, however things were about to change.
Back Wheel Failure Nearly Nearly Spoilt the Day
After about 10 miles of coasting and about the time my friend and I were discussing my back wheel, disaster struck. The freewheel seized on my back wheel and my chain bunched up, acting quickly I kept peddling and managed to stop slowly. The only way I could carry on was to constantly pedal, this is not really an issue however when cycling downhill for miles and miles it becomes difficult.
My bike was serviced before I left Manchester and as part of the service the bike mechanic at Withington Cycles had serviced my back wheel. What I had not took in to consideration was the hammering my back wheel would take on some of the really poor surfaces of the National Cycle Network and the poorly maintained UK roads. This combined with my two pannier racks had severely damaged my back wheel,
Feeling thankful for the good mobile signal that Scotland seems to have I could see that there was two bike shops in Kingussie. My only option was to limp the 5 or so miles in to Kingussie and hope it could be fixed. Taking my time and peddling constantly to avoid a complete catastrophe.
On arrival in Kingussie I made my way to Bothy Bikes and hoped for the best. I explained my issue and the mechanic agreed to look at it for me straight away. This in itself was fantastic! I random person rocking up on a busy Saturday morning and the kind bike shop agreeing to look at my back wheel. After about half an hour and a bite to eat I headed back to Bothy Bikes. They had fixed the back wheel, what I thought was a broken freewheel was actually a broken spoke that had lodged in the rear cassette. The back wheel also had a number of loose spokes and was in a poor state! £20 lighter and my faith in humanity restored I was back on the road! 10 out of 10 for Bothy Bikes in Kingussie, fantastic service!
NCN Route 7 to Aviemore
With my back wheel as good as new we headed off across the River Spey and on to NCN Route 7 again. Noticing the spectacular Ruthven Barracks we stopped again for a photo.
The route then took us down the Spey valley towards Aviemore. After 6 miles or so my friend turned back to return to his car in Dalwhinnie, a 20 mile slog up hill awaited him in to a severe headwind. Me on the other hand was alone again and still enjoying a tailwind.
On arrival in Aviemore the town was busy with summer tourists all dressed up for the great outdoors. I sat for a while watching the world go by before heading off again. After escaping the hustle and bustle of Aviemore and a quick lunch at the COOP I was back on NCN Route 7 again. Heading out of the route took me down some off road trails with a good surface however the wind hampered progress as it was blowing sand and grit in my face. I was soon back on tarmac and heading up the B9153 to Inverness.
The B road followed the route of the Busy A9 and after leaving the relative flatness of Aviemore the road started to climb again. For the next 10 miles or so I steadily climbed which was a complete contrast to the long downhill I had cycled all morning.
Cycling up to the Slochd Summit
On the way up to Slochd Summit I came across another site that I had seen on one of the many videos I had watched when carrying out my research. The Old Pack Horse Bridge in Carrbridge is an interesting site and a popular tourist attraction based on the amount of people who were taking photos. I did not stop as time was not on my side.
The photo shown was taken as the route passed under the main A9. I eventually reached the Slochd Summit and was surprised that I was back at a similar elevation to that of the Drumochter Pass and with around 20 miles to go until Inverness it was all down hill from here, well almost. From the lochd Summit the route headed down hill and down hill fast to the point of it being hard.
I had to continually keep my speed down as tired legs and weary brain I was concerned that a lapse in concentration would mean disaster.
I was soon cycling over the Findhorn Bridge, an interesting bridge over the River Findhorn. Then came the Findhorn Viaduct towering over me. There can’t be many places where two such interesting bridges are so close.
My usual strategy for booking accommodation on the day for the day was proving problematic. There was very little choice in Inverness and I had to resort to Hostel World. I had booked a Guest House on the edge of Inverness as it was the only place I could find although I was not sure about my choice.
From Findhorn the I carried on NCN Route 7 which passed through some spectacular countryside. I passed Loch May as I cycled through the valley towards Auchnahillin then Craggie. With Inverness in site and and a few lumps and bumps I was presented with one more climb of the day dropping down over the River Nairn.
I passed thorough Culloden Forrest and then eventually I came across a familiar site. I was now back on NCN Route 1 for my final few miles in to Inverness. Still heading downhill I approached Inverness, the traffic increased and the quiet countryside that I had been cycling through earlier in the day was long forgotten.
Inverness was busy! I cycled through the city centre and headed to my accommodation which was situated in Ballifeary.
As I passed through the city centre it became apparent that my decision on where to stay was not a good one. I eventually found it and it was long walk in to the centre. I had booked the Struy Guest House and on arrival things went wrong. I was met with a run down place on a residential street. Two men were hanging around in the back yard and my first impressions were not good. As I worked through the long check in instructions (lock box for front door then lock box for my room) my keybox was empty. The uneasy feel I had for the place increased. I then phoned an emergency number in my booking email to see what was going on and the response I got was there was no room! The room I booked via Hostel World was not available.
I started to get a little bit concerned at this point! The booking I had made was through desperation not choice. It was clear that this Saturday night in Inverness was busy due to what I then knew was the European Pipe Band Championship. I could hear the event a short distance away and the roar of the crowd confirmed how busy the city was.
After almost 70 miles of cycling, over 4,000 ft of climbing and some very tired legs I was stuck. Gathering my thoughts I checked Booking.com again and there it was! A room in the centre of Inverness, I quickly got the number and called ahead. The Guest House which was fully booked a couple of hours earlier had recived a cancellation and he had just advertised the room minutes before.
My night in Inverness was saved and I headed to the Dunskaith Villa. Situated close to the city centre I had a quick turn around and headed out for what was a great evening in Inverness which I would pay for the next day. The highlight being the live music in the Market Bar.
All in all this was a hard day! The mechanical issues in the morning, the miles and miles of downhill and the issues with my accommodation, although things did turn out for the best!