Cycling Scotland

This is a 12 day tour we cycled in August along the coastal side of the Scottish Highlands. You will find island hopping touring on Scottish single track roads through cool deciduous forests. The single track roads provide excellent riding with views of beaches, lochs (fjords), mountains, and quaint coastal towns with friendly tea rooms or pubs awaiting you each stop. The single track roads can be challenging up and down riding and the upward grades can be quite steep. The other challenges of this tour are the weather and the midges. The weather is famously bad, but plan-in a couple weather days and learn why pubbing can take the edge off any rainy day. Midges are tiny flies that bite and are more prevalent inland than on the breezy coast. Specific temperature ranges and wind-less conditions permit the formation of black clouds of midgets. You should be prepared (tent netting and “midget bonnet”) for them if you are camping as their bites itch for a very long time.

The Highland area of Scotland has lots of tourist infrastructure. You will find tea houses at the remotest coves with fresh baked goodies. B&Bs are found everywhere too, just remember they are fully booked for the month of August. We stayed in B&Bs during the wetter days and camped on the nicer days. You can easily get to the Highlands region by rail with your bike (bikes go free if space available) from Glasgow or Edinburgh, then, start your ride from Gourock, Oban, Malaig, or Kyle of Lochaish. If you wanted to extend our route into a loop, you could take the ferry from Ullapool to the Outer Hebrides Islands riding back south in 4 additional days.

Cycle Touring Norway

 

Notes on Cycling Norway

Viking church
Viking church

I had never been to Norway nor anywhere in Scandinavia before June 2013. This post is a summary of what I learn along the way in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Hopefully, my notes will give potential cycling visitors a heads up on cycling in Norway.

Cost. This country might be one of the most beautiful but it is also a very expensive country to visit. A coke costs about $5 and a beer costs $11-$12 bucks. A basic low budget meal starts at around $30 and that’s for pasta. So how do you visit Norway without going bankrupt?

In the summertime, most tourists are exploring the country by either cruise ship or RV. The cruisers are on a package price and are eating their meals on their ship. The other popular mode of travel is RVing. Loads of RVs ferry up from Germany and the Netherlands. They RV/car camp and buy their food in local groceries, using hotels or restaurants only occasionally. They still need to buy fuel which I calculated being approximately $10 per gallon for unleaded gasoline (diesel is slightly less). But if you are a cyclist you can forget that expense but you do need to pay for ferries. My route required 24 ferry crossings and the average cost was $6 a ride times 24 crossings; that’s $144, which isn’t too bad for Norway.

Camping. So if you’re not sleeping on a cruise ship, you’re with the car campers or cyclists in private campgrounds; which cost around $15 to $30 per night plus $2 bucks for your hot water shower token. This camping cost is very similar to other european countries. Every Norwegian town has at least one campground, plus you will find additional ones at tourist destinations. Some campgrounds are only farmer’s fields with a WC and a showering building, others have their own community kitchens or campground cafes. One even had a ski area. If the weather is bad, you can upgrade from a tent site to a cabin; and enjoy drying-out with some cabin heating and the luxury of a full kitchen.

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Camping Souvage

Every once in a while you get screwed. After a fanatastic 70km ride up Rio Navia. I reached a town called Grandas. It was Sunday in Spain and this town was dead. Nothing was open, no food, no hotels, no campgrounds. One bar was open. So what do you do?
Plan B: eat bar food which includes pound cake, peanuts, and ice cream That’s all the bar had. Not even any tapas which is unheard of in Spain. I also loaded up on vino tinto which is practically free in Spain. Of course, there is the other Sunday religon; futball on TV to help pass the time. Strangely, the town had wifi but no food on Sunday?
Since you have no place to sleep and it is 6:40pm, it’s time for “camping souvage” (Francais). Which means you must resort to camping in an unimproved campsite. Rare in Europe, but no big deal in North America. So tonight I will camp souvage for the first night of the trip; no hot shower, no morning expresso, no AM crissont delivered to my tent. If I don’t survive the camping souvage night please shed a tear for me when you can.

Cycle Touring Pack

REI Flash Pack
REI Flash Pack

Tested a new pack I purchased at REI. It is called a Flash Pack made for climbing but I am trying it for cycle touring too. It is a super light-weight pack that can be cinched tighter by adding a 5 foot piece of shock cord threaded through the two gear loop chains (thanx to Erik Werner for this tip). When clinched up, the pack is tube-shaped, doesn’t flop around, and hides behind your spine without being a wind drag while riding. When un-clinched, the pack is large enough to haul a couple of days of groceries back to your campsite. The other modification I would make is to cut off the waist belt, the extra straps are not needed as the pack has a pretty good shoulder straps system. The Flash can also hold a hydration bag.
I am hoping to use this pack on multi-day, self-support cycling tours along with a trunk bag over my bike’s rear wheel. If the pack is turned-inside-out, it becomes a stuff bag. I think I can carry about 2-2.5 pounds in this pack without being cumbersome or noticeable on your back while riding. When not cycling, it folds up very flat and is not bulky to store. I can also use it for climbing or on Euro ferratas days. The best thing about the REI Flash pack is it only costs $29!