A Grand Day Oot

by Trevor Keer



The last time I had ridden this "classic" Audax event was in 99 when Lorraine and Charlie Brown were the organisers. I seem to remember arriving at Pitlochry in a rather damp condition due to the persistent precipitation that was prevalent for the first 80 - 90 miles. The events were run again in '02 and '03 but I did not ride those years due to more pressing engagements on the day (I was organising the rides).

In 2004 Findlay Watt, a DA member from Dunfermline, expressed an interest in taking over the organisation of the Transgression and I foolishly promised that if he organised then I would ride. The start of 2005 arrived with a lack of quality miles in my legs and my record over 2003 & 2004 was no better. During this time I had been "lured" to the dark side of long distance running and after completing a couple of marathons, decent miles in the saddle were definitely lacking. On a positive note the running had given me a reasonable fitness base so it was just a case of converting this into pedalling.

Preparation for the event continued with a ride of Charlie Scotts "Twa Wee Coonties" 100 Km Audax. It was the first Audax I had ridden for about two years and a good re-introduction into the Audaxing scene. Longer rides followed, with these peaking in a 120 mile ride on a nice sunny Saturday in early June. My condition seemed good enough following this to declare "all systems go" for the Audax at the end of the month.

T-Day (for Transgression) came only too quickly and meant a very early rise to be at Carnbo and ready for a 6 o'clock start. There were about 28 of us who set out into a coolish Saturday morning. The ride to Perth, through Milnathort and then over Glenfarg, was relatively easy, being towed along in a big group. It wasn't until we reached Perth that I started to feel warmer with the sudden shock of the climb of Kinnoull Hill. This certainly sorted out everyone with the previously large group becoming somewhat fragmented on the climb. The descent into Glencarse speeded things up and the long flat run along through St. Madoes and Errol, to the first stop at Invergowrie, kept things at a reasonable pace. Getting into a small group along here with everyone sharing the workload made for a reasonably fast but easy ride to the control. With 38 miles covered it was time for a quick drink and snack before setting of for the next control in Alyth, only another 16 miles away.
By the time I reached Alyth the Singing Kettle café, the control point, was full of cyclists franticly replenishing their energy reserves. It was also a chance to get in from a light drizzle that had been plaguing us on the run up from Dundee. My plan was to have a quick bite to eat and a short rest before heading off onto the next stage of the ride. The Café was far to hot and stuffy and so after getting my card stamped and buying a drink and some deliciously looking cakes (one of the plus points of Audax) I sat outside in the much cooler air (the rain had by now stopped) to consume the goodies.

I was soon off once more and the climbing started almost immediately. It was a long steady climb, nothing too steep, but went on for about 6 or 7 miles up through the Forest of Alyth before descending steeply towards the main A93 at Blackwater. It was on this descent that I got the shock of my life. A rider who had been a couple of hundred metres in front had fallen on a slippery hairpin bend and was moaning in agony. At first I thought he had broken his leg but after about 5 minutes of lying there cursing and swearing he slowly got to his feet, back on the bike and carried on down the road. A very lucky escape! The remainder of the ride to Pitlochry was uneventful but that experience made me much more nervous on the long fast descent into Pitlochry. By the time I had reached Pitlochry my stomach was telling me it was time to be fed so the next stop at the Boating Station was most welcome.

After a much welcome rest and a pleasant lunch it was time to move on, after all there was still a long way to go. The route continues along the south side of Loch Tummel and to reach the road requires a brief walk in the woods and across a footbridge. I always find the road along the Tummel a hard ride. The constant undulations mean it is difficult to get into sort of rhythm so I was very glad when I reached the end of the loch only to negotiate the much longer, but steeper and steadier, climb. By now the weather was getting alot warmer, the climbing didn't help, and a quick stop was in order to strip down a couple of layers. As I reached the end of the climb a lone cyclist came into view, travelling north. It was Jimmy Noon of the Lothians DA, probably just checking we were all OK! but a surprise non the least to see him far from home. Now descending fast towards Coshieville my favourite part of the ride was just beginning, riding the full length of Glen Lyon. By now it was turning out to be a lovely sunny afternoon as I rode west through Keltneyburn and Fortingall following the river Lyon towards the Bridge of Balgie.

At the Bridge of Balgie the excellent tea-rooms awaited. Often a haunt for cyclists during the summer months, particularly mountain bikers, it got some extra custom today as a control for the ride. I was soon settled with a coffee, a “famous” Bridge of Balgie Tea-room scone and an ice cream, savouring the warm summer afternoon and the beautiful views across the glen. This is what makes long distance rides worthwhile.

From the Bridge of Balgie the routes follows the river Lyon to the end of the glen, or at least to the hydroelectric dam, where a rather strenuous climb takes you over into Glen Lochay. You begin to get the feeling of the remoteness of the place with very little to keep you company, apart from the odd sheep or two. The climb over into Glen Lochay is always hard work and this year was no exception with the warm mid summer conditions helping to make the climb very uncomfortable. If the climb isn’t bad enough the descent the other side certainly will be. Its almost a “white knuckle” job. With a steep drop, multiple hairpins, potholes and cattle grids with, possibly, the odd cow or two thrown in for good measure. Following all of this the ride along the “flattish” Glen and into Killin was a breeze. Killin was busy, a typical summer Saturday afternoon, and I took the opportunity to have a short break off the bike down by the river. After a quick bite to eat I was off again, climbing out of Killin towards Lix Toll up over Glen Ogle and then down into Lochearnhead. From here us intrepid randonneurs had a choice of routes. To carry on along the main road to St. Fillans and then along the south side of the loch to the DA hut or ride through Lochearnhead and join the south side road. The problem with the second choice was a lack of road across the burn (raging torrent??) at Edinample, which was a result of the flash floods experienced during 2004. The bridge, and road, had been washed away leaving a wade across the river, with bike shouldered, as the only practical means of crossing. Being an adventurous sort I naturally chose the “river crossing”. The wading across the river wasn’t too bad, the climb out the other side proved a bit harder than expected with the weight of the bike threatening to tip me backwards and back down into the river. But I was soon safely sat on the bank drying my feet and getting my shoes back on. The cooling effect of the water certainly had a rejuvenating effect on my tired feet. Now it was only a few miles along the loch side to our DA hut and the penultimate stop of the event. Despite the long walk from the road up a very uneven track, impossible to ride with thin road tyres and difficult to walk in road shoes and Look cleats, the hut is always a welcome stop on this event. I am normally well knackered by this point and some T.L.C. at the hut is always guaranteed to put a bit of life into me for the final leg back to Carnbo.

After I had been fed it was the midges turn to feast. On leaving the safety of the hut I was descended upon by the ferocious beasties and was forced to make a speedy exit down the track and off down the loch side before I was clear of them (not too many bites though). After the rather quick getaway a nice flat smooth ribbon of tarmac allowed for an easy voyage through to Comrie. From here the road takes an upward direction yet again. After in excess of 150 miles the long climb up over the hills towards Braco isn’t exactly a welcome prospect. It was however a climb that I seemed to enjoy, on this occasion. It must have been something in the tea at the hut or I must have caught my second wind (or third or fourth!!) but I seemed to be climbing without too much effort and with very little discomfort. From then on it was onwards at a reasonable steady pace over the continually undulating road towards Gleneagles. An interesting aspect of the Gleneagles area this year was the chance to get a close up view of the infamous “ring of steel”. The five miles circumference steel fence erected to protect our “illustrious leaders” for their impending G8 summit was clearly visible on the approach into the Gleneagles hotel area. It was complete with its watchtowers at regular intervals although I didn’t see any of the special forces rumoured to be hidden in the adjoining woodland! Then it was up the last climb of the day, Glen Eagles itself. By now the legs were starting to fail and it seemed a long grind up towards Glen Devon. Thank heavens for “grannies”. I certainly had to make use of my granny ring on that climb. The last few miles down Glen Devon, through the Yetts O’ Muckhart and on to Carnbo soon passed. It was such a relief when the village hall came into view and at last I could rest in the company of some very tired randonneurs and eager helpers, being plied with lots of hot tea and cakes.

A big thank you is due to Findlay and Angela for organising and running this event. Also to “Findlays mum” (I think) for running the hut with Anglea and to Lorraine and Charlie Brown for turning up and helping out at the finish. Plus any one else I’ve missed. Your efforts were much appreciated by all.
I have come to the conclusion, after riding this event several times and organising twice, that riding is definitely easier than organising this type of event !!. Plus I normally get to bed earlier when riding