|Circuit of Arran|
So this was the big day. I left the house in the pitch dark and cycled hard for the 20 miles from Kilbarchan to Ardrossan, aiming to catch the 7am ferry. I was aboard my latest acquisition- a second hand Specialized Allez roadbike. It really flew down the road compared to the old clunky mtb. Aye, the roadbike flies but Scotland's second National sport (after drinking) is smashing empty bottles. In the first few dark miles I heard a crunch as I ran over the remnants of somebody's cycle path bevvy session. Thankfully, the dreaded hiss never came and I managed to whip it to Kilbirnie, belt it over the hills of Dalry and got the ferry with just 10 minutes to spare. A puncture would have scuppered my plans.
|Arran's Beinn Nuis in Winter|
The internet consensus says the best way is to go clockwise from the ferry and tackle the very hilly South end of the island first. After that, the prevailing South Westerly winds should help in the long flat haul up the West Coast to Lochranza where one final, killer hill is the last hurdle before success.
|Profile of hills on circuit|
|Rosa Pinnacle of Cir Mhor|
I pushed on over the next roller coaster climb and flat out descent into Whiting Bay. After that the ups and downs of the South End get more difficult and the good road surfaces of the previous sections are notable by their absence. It seems like the roadworks dept ran out of dynamite after Whiting Bay. The road jinks about, up and down over every wee hummock and round some turns that are very tight- even on a bike...
After a series of tricky corners a sudden monsoon forced me to shelter under a tree at Lagg. I narrowly avoided crashing entering the difficult hairpins and waited 15 minutes or so for the downpour to cease. But it didnae. I boarded the bike and set off soaked and seething at the Met Office's incompetence. Up and down the road continued until I had a wee spill somewhere near Sliddery. This was quite appropriate, as the rain had made the road very sliddery. A warning sign of a tight left hander flashed past and I skidded straight on, my wet brakes no match for the job- luckily no buses were in the way. I was making a beeline for a dry stane dyke but stopped short up a wee grass bank. I couldn't clip out the SPDs and in classic style cowped back over onto the wet tarmac, grazing my elbow a bit. I didn't cry.
|Puncture at Lochranza|
I reached the ferry with 10 minutes to spare. The circuit had taken 5 hours and 15 minutes. I'd cycled reasonably hard overall, but lost quite a lot of time with waiting on the rain to stop at Lagg, the fuelling up at Blackwaterfoot and a lengthy puncture mending session at Lochranza (tube trouble). Without those stops 4 and half would have been more like it. I've seen internet claims of 3 and a half which I'm sure are possible if you have the legs and are motivated.
It's a great circuit. Go do it!