Leg 49 – to Largs via Glasgow

19 June 2013

I slept very well after yesterday’s long ride, and awoke to a bright morning feeling fresh despite having stayed up pretty late working on my blog. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and I’d decided that whilst the blog was important, it had to take second place to anything else going on, such as places to visit or people to meet.

After breakfast I had a check over my bike which seemed in order, however I did need to get new rear brake pads, the current incumbents being down to the bare minimum. There followed a bit of faffing as I reorganised my panniers a bit, which had got into a bit of a mess with things like pairs of socks getting split between bags. I didn’t even have that many pairs of socks, it just doesn’t seem to matter where you are or what you’re doing, socks always get mixed up!

I tried to phone Garmin again to see about getting my Edge replaced, but as usual the line was busy and I ended up on hold. I didn’t hold for long, being on my mobile which costs me money. I’d probably have to wait until I got home to sort it out properly; their customer service is seriously overstretched and needs sorting, and I hope I haven’t wasted £400 – I’ll go down fighting! Using a map was working out fine anyway, and in many ways was a better option, it just meant people couldn’t track me online and I didn’t have an automatic mile counter. The Garmin website is good for route planning anyway, and from that I could tell how many miles I covered.

Everything loaded onto my bike I dropped off the toilet block key and got on my way at about 10.30, taking are rather more direct and less alarming route from Stepps back into Glasgow, via the A80. After being on quiet roads for so long I had to sharpen up a bit in all the traffic, and remember how it tackle traffic lights and roundabouts, Glasgow having a lot of both. It didn’t take me long to get into the swing of city cycling again, I just had to be slightly more aggressive and awake.

I rode into the city via the Cathedral Precinct, to my first stop at Cycling Scotland in Blythswood Square, a rather upmarket bit of Glasgow. Their offices are located at the top floor of number 24, and I thought it would be good to visit having been following them on Twitter. They were all in a meeting when I arrived, however William, their Comms Officer, ducked out for a chat. Cycling Scotland are a great organisation, promoting safe cycling, cycling awareness amongst drivers, and how to integrate cycling into modern life. They hold and organise cycling events, and generally promote cycling in Scotland, being funded both by the government and some businesses. It was good to learn a bit more about them, and I wondered if we had a similar organisation in England, I’d need to find out. I guess the CTC/Sustrans fill that gap. 

You can visit the Cycling Scotland website at http://www.cyclingscotland.org

William pointed me in the direction of Rig Bike Shop and Cafe just around the corner, as well as the Velodrome which would be worth a visit. I passed on my blog details in case they wanted to link to it, seeing as I’ve cycled around most of their coastline and think it’s pretty amazing. Could be useful for other cycle tourers thinking of doing the same.

After getting slightly lost trying to get out of the building by using the stairs, I cycled the few hundred yards to Rig Bike Shop on West Regent Street (141), which has the Luke Monaghan’s Cafe attached to it.

Rig Bike Shop

Rig Bike Shop


I spoke to Brian who runs the shop, and is an ex Glasgow bike messenger, and bought some new rear brake pads to fit later. The front brake pads were nowhere near as worn. He checked my tyres and agreed they both had a few more miles left in them. I’d been getting concerned about the rear one which was starting to wear a bit, but the front was fine still. They’re Schwalbe Marathon Plus’ so they should be fairly indestructible. Great bike shop and staff, with lots of bike messengers popping in and out for snacks from the cafe, or repairs, or just to chill out for a bit. Being a bike messenger in Glasgow must be a hard vocation with all the hills and traffic, and something of an extreme sport. Was good to say hello and have a chat with a few of them.

Before leaving I had a panini and excellent strawberry smoothie at the cafe, all for £4.00 so great value, and was also able to swap out my loose change of which I’d seemed to accumulate a fair amount; good to get rid of the weight, even if I was only fractionally lighter as a result. Brian did warn me to make sure I locked my bike and to keep an eye on my stuff whilst in Glasgow, so despite all the regeneration it’s still like most big cities and you have to watch out for theft.

Luke Monaghan's Cafe

Luke Monaghan’s Cafe


If you’re passing through Glasgow on your bike I’d thoroughly recommend Rig Bike Shop and Cafe, but they’re likely to be busy so you might have to book anything more serious than a tweak in advance. Thanks for the tip Cycling Scotland.

Post the bike shop, and a quick cycle around the city centre, I rode alongside the river front and out to the Commonwealth arena, which was in the wrong direction really, but I wanted to visit the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome. I passed through a lovely park by the river before turning inland to the arena.

Glasgow river front

Glasgow river front – excellent cycle paths


There were no tours of the Velodrome for another hour so I just had a quick look around. A few super light bikes were whizzing around the velodrome on time trials, which looked fun. I’d have loved to take the Ridgeback on it fully loaded, however I’d have probably crashed, and it was closed to the public at the time anyway.

Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome

Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome


Curiosity satisfied I rode back into the Glasgow, again long the river front, passing a few marquees with cycle type people around them. I stopped to find out what was going on, and met The Bike Station Glasgow. They’re a Glasgow based charity who were holding an event to promote cycling in the city, and performing free bike checks. They were just finishing up but were kind enough to give my bike the once over, finding nothing untoward aside from a slightly smelly lobster. They did adjust my gears, which had been sticking a bit – thanks guys and good luck.

You can check out their website here – http://www.thebikestation.org.uk  They recycle old bikes for the community, promote cycling, teach bike maintenance and cycle confidence, and offer bike services via their mechanics. All great stuff and a great bunch of people. Must be working as there were certainly a lot of cyclists out and about, and lots of cycle paths to take advantage of.

In possession of a new freebie water bottle, and needing to get some miles done, it was time to leave Glasgow. I was somewhat reluctant as I really liked the feel of the city and its residents, more so than Edinburgh which I was surprised about, and would have liked to explore some more. I think the city has had a lot of money spent on it in recent years and has blossomed as a a result. Another place to come back to and visit again, and great launch pad for heading further north into the Highlands; I wonder what the job market is like in the city.

I rode alongside the Clyde for a bit, before crossing over near BBC Scotland and the Science Park.

Glasgow and the River Clyde

Glasgow and the River Clyde


 

BBC Scotland

BBC Scotland


Seeing BBC Scotland reminded me it was nearly midsummer and that the Midsummer Watch programme would be airing soon – I’d met Mark Beaumont and a BBC team filming some of it earlier on my tour. I thought I really ought to do something for the longest day, I might even be back in England by then!

Leaving Glasgow via the A8 I passed through Renfrew again, and then swung onto Old Greenock Road to avoid the M8. I had to rejoin the A8 at Langbank, to stick close to the coast, passing through built up areas all the way along to Gourock. There was quite a bit of heavy traffic about, there being a lot of shipping arriving or leaving from Port Glasgow, but at least the road was mostly flat, and there were cycle paths available on some bits. One cycle path led me through a ferry port and literally through a train station which was a bit odd, but I remained on track, as it were.

I could see across the Firth of Clyde to where I’d been yesterday, and the day before. I could have easily jumped on the ferry across the short stretch to Dunoon.

Firth of Clyde

Firth of Clyde


Firth of Clyde near Gourock

Firth of Clyde near Gourock


Gourock

Gourock

Dismissing thoughts of ferries I rode around the point to Inverkip, taking a chance on following the route 75 cycle track, which went in the right direction and looked in good condition.

More of the Clyde coast

More of the Clyde coast

It started off well but the track rapidly deteriorated leaving me swearing somewhat as I was bumped about, and had to negotiate flooded areas. I was certain I’d be wheel straightening again that evening!

Route 75 deteriorating

Route 75 deteriorating


One of the smaller puddles

One of the smaller puddles

I got back on to the road at the Kip Marina, which looked nice but expensive, and pedalled south through Wemyss Bay in the sunshine, with a slight south westerly wind slowing me down a bit. I passed various ferry ports pedalling on to Largs, with Bute just across the firth, and the isle of Great Cambrae even closer. The road was flat again so it was fairly easy going, and I arrived in Largs in good time.

After a quick look around Largs, which was alright for a typical seaside sort of town with amusements and the normal array of shops and bars, I made my way to the campsite I’d spotted earlier on the Web. South Whittlieburn Farm is about 2.5 miles north east from Largs, and I pedalled there via a climb up Brisbane Glen. It’s a nice little campsite, with limited wifi and a small unisex shower block where I was also able to charge up everything which was handy. The farm also offers B&B, which I was almost tempted by after missing out on a bed last night, but in many ways I prefer my tent, and it’s cheaper.

Whittlieburn Farm campsite

Whittlieburn Farm campsite


After a quick chat with the campsite owner Tom, who was running the site solo with his wife away which he seemed in a bit of panic about, I pitched my tent and cooked up a meal of pasta, smoked sausage, cheese, and tomato and chilli sauce.

Whittlieburn Farm - tent pitched and cooking in progress

Whittlieburn Farm – tent pitched and cooking in progress

At the same time I was changing my brake pads and tweaking the spokes on my rear wheel post the bumpy ride up route 75, which resulted in me slightly overcooking the pasta.

Sausage pasta in progress

Sausage pasta in progress

My meal was a bit of a soft pasta mess, but tasted delicious with the addition of Tabasco sauce – a staple of my cooking on the road it seems. It was a bit like eating pizza topping, and there was lots of it to refuel on.

I spent the rest of the evening finishing bike maintenance, as well as planning my route over the next few days and updating  my journal and blog over, a can of cider. I tried to sit outside to enjoy the countryside and sunset, but unfortunately the midges arrived as the sun set, and I had to retreat to my tent. Some noisy arrivals about 22.30 seemed to spend an age parking their camper van, however they didn’t stop me falling asleep, after planning out tomorrow’s leg; a long one down to Stranraer.

Only 58 miles covered today due to time spent in Glasgow, a very worthwhile visit. 

3 thoughts on “Leg 49 – to Largs via Glasgow

  1. Pingback: Self Propelled | Bike Around Britain

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