The girls from Mikes Bikes in Aviemore recently took on the challenge of the Snow Roads, cycling the highest public road in Britain. Here is Sally’s story and some top tips!
So why the Snow Roads?
We had originally planned to ride the famous North Coast 500 route however after hours of looking at Google Maps and trying to plan a route it seemed impossible, with limited days off and the major problem of cycling on the A9 we decided it wasn’t a great idea. None of us had ever cycled over the Lecht or Glenshee and fancied a bit of a challenge, the route fitted in perfectly with our time scale and the roads used looked nice and quiet so the Snow Roads it was.
The Riders and the bikes…
It was myself and two friends that also ride for our Mikes Bikes team that took to the challenge. We all own a range of bikes but decided that we would ride our carbon road bikes instead of gravel/touring bikes. We all fitted rear saddle packs for our gear and I fitted slightly wider tyres to my bike but apart from that we made no changes to our bike set ups. The whole route is perfect for a road bike and having a nice lightweight bike certainly had it’s benefits on the long winding climbs to Glenshee and the Lecht, the only part they were less than ideal was a small section of Cycle Route 7 from Dalwhinnie to just beyond the Drumochter summit. The path was more like a mountain bike trail, we took it really, really slowly for about 10 miles and manged without punctures, but I would definitely recommend taking a good amount of spare inner tubes with you!
We had a range of weather, it is Scotland after all, day one saw blue skies and sun burn and day three saw sleet and snow! Prepare for the extremes on this route! Luckily we had taken a couple of waterproof and windproof jackets each and I wouldn’t go without them if I did this tour again. It’s amazing how quickly the weather can change when you get near the summits of the climbs and likewise after a couple of minutes standing around at the Ski Centres you quickly cool down!
We rode the route anti clockwise, Aviemore > Pitlochry > Ballater > Aviemore, with two overnight stops on route, we were doing this to have fun! I have no doubt that lots of people (including ourselves) could do it in 2 days. On the first evening we stayed in a friendly B&B in Pitlochry, we ate in the Old Mill Inn in the evening which had great big portions for hungry bikers! Day Two started with Coffee in the bike shop cafe in Pitlochry and an overnight stay in the Ballater Hostel in Ballater incase you hadn’t worked that out.
Day one from Aviemore to Pitlochry was fairly flat and a nice way to warm the legs up for two days of climbing that were coming up! Day two was a pleasant surprise and not as tough as we had imagined, the roads and views out of Pitlochry were stunning and the climb to Glenshee went in fairly quickly as we luckily had a tail wind! It was then a fast downhill into Braemar and then a quick 15 miles through Deeside to Ballater. Day three was tough i’ll make no bones about that! The hills went on, and on, and on and it wasn’t exactly made better by the fact that it was snowing on us and we had a headwind. I can imagine the views would be stunning on a sunny day! We just tried to keep moving and didn’t stop at the Ski Centre Cafe, and were over in Nethy Bridge in within a couple of hours. It was then just a final 15 miles on home territory where the sun came out and we enjoyed a Mieles Ice Cream in Aviemore!
Day One – 91 KM, 527M Climbed
Day Two – 90 KM, 962M Climbed
Day Three – 81KM, 1146M Climbed
Highs and Lows
A high definitely had to be reaching the Glenshee Ski Centre and knowing that it was all downhill into Deeside, it had taken us a few hours to get up and it only took us about 20 minutes to get down to Braemar where we had lunch in the Bothy Cafe and knew we only had 15 miles to get along to Ballater and sleep for the night!
And a low for all three of us was the weather on the Lecht Climb, but this can change we couldn’t help that. But all I would say is ensure that you pack for the worst weather, even if it’s dry and sunny down low the weather can always change quickly in the hills.
Places to stay and eat…
Our top picks were
- Ballater Hostel, Ballater
- The Coffee Bothy, Braemar
- The Coffee Bothy, Ballater
- Old Mill Inn, Pitlochry
- Ralia Cafe, Newtonmore
The whole trip came to a total of approximately 260 KM’s which worked out about 4 hours of cycling each day for us not including stops. I would highly recommend this route as a great way to get into bikepacking/cycletouring as there are plenty of nice villages to get food and a bed for the night, the roads were quiet and we didn’t have to cycle on any busy main roads. Although the Ski Centre climbs were hard they did introduce a bit of a challenge and excitement into our three days and riding in a small group meant we could all help each other and keep a good pace up the hills. If you are interested in making the trip by bike then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here at Mikes Bikes by email [email protected].
Thank you to Sally at Mikes Bikes. Mikes Bikes are a fun family owned award winning bike shop in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. More than just a bike shop, they pride themselves in quality customer service and enabling and encouraging more people to get out on bikes. Drop in to hire or buy bikes for all ages and abilities including e-bikes. They also stock loads of bike kit and do servicing too.
Read all about why you should journey the snow roads here.
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