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coastbusters: chapter 4 Ayr to Ratagan 12h45m 418.9miles

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It was a bloody cold night. I slept in my thermals and was still freezing. When you’re a guest in someone’s house you really don’t feel like waking them up to ask them to turn the heating on.....but as a result I was aware of what “chilled to the bone” felt like. I wasn’t sure if I was coming down with something or if it was just the lack of warmth but I felt pretty bad that morning and, unlike the day before, I wasn’t really relishing the thought of a long day on the bike. This was all wrong- the west coast of Scotland was what I had been looking forward to the most and here it was and I was feeling sorry for myself. A good hot shower and some MASSIVE egg rolls later and I was coming round to the idea though- cheers Cal!

A quick spin round to my next meet point- a 7am date with superhero Tony, who was to be my longest running companion for the trip. SHT had some time off work and was making the most of it joining me for the whole of day 4 and half of day 5 so we’d been exchanging some excited text messages on the run up. Today also included a ferry crossing at Coran which neither of us had done on the bikes before.

There’s Aaron, aka superhero Tony, by the bikes on the banks of Loch Lomond. (The name “superhero Tony” is a reference to Pixies song called “Tony’s theme”, by the way). At this point my mood was still a little sour and the heat hadn’t fully come back into me yet- I was riding like shit and was embarrassed about it. Aaron said early on that he prefers to follow rather than lead so I was aware of him behind me.....particularly as I took a wrong turn on a roundabout and ended up in a bus terminus!

The miles were passing quite slowly and the traffic round Glasgow had been pretty congested, holding us up quite a bit, so by the time we reached Oban it was time for a lunch stop and some badly needed coffee: I was really nodding. We bumped into a group of lads on a biking tour up from Wigan- mostly older chaps on big tourers but one slightly out of place looking power ranger on an Aprilia Tuono- great bike though. It was nice to have a quick chat- they were leaving as we were arriving and we exchanged the usual biker’s advice to “ride safely”.

The lunch stop really did the trick and after setting off again I was feeling energised, warmed back up and was getting properly into the riding without the distraction of feeling like I was about to fall asleep ruining the enjoyment of the roads!

The scenery was getting better all the time and I was facing what was to become a regular dilemma: do I stop to take a picture and break up the flow of the road or do I press on and have no record of having been here! It was a tough one but i think I got the balance about right.

To cement the complete turn around of my mood, at one of the fuel stops superhero Tony mentioned that we were getting close to the turn off for Kinlochleven. If you check a map you’ll see that it’s 10 or so miles down the side of Loch Leven and once you get there the only thing to do is come back again- about 10miles out the other side of the Loch. However SHT had heard that it was a great road so we exchanged a glance that said we were both up for it and set off. I almost immediately had my 2nd near-moment of the trip. The road was being resurfaced and although it looked loose and I slowed accordingly it was actually VERY loose and felt like I was riding on a dirt track. I didn’t want to touch the brakes in case I caused a skid but was aware I was going too fast for the level of grip available. Fortunately engine braking reduced the speed and I was happily under control again without veering off into the weeds! The bike still felt pretty squirmy though and I cursed into my lid: we better not be looking at 20 miles of this. What a waste of time that would be. Mercifully the road was back to good sticky tarmac within a mile or two and my God it turned out to be a good idea to have come down this way! The road snaked left and right down the side of the loch and the two of us were exercising our best point and squirt riding- blasting up to triple figure speeds on the short straights then hard on the brakes for the corners. I’d asked Aaron earlier how he was finding the pace- I always worry that I’m riding too fast/too slow/too whatever if I’m out in front. He’d said that the corners were about right but, if anything, he’d open it up more on the straights. Amusing.... so would I!! However I wasn’t keen to cajole him into bigger speeds so having had this invite I was having a great time making use of it- and I think he was too. We stopped at the village for a few photos and were both grinning from ear to ear. The road back out falls away sharply into the loch and like a lot of the roads I found myself on, I was aware I was over-braking slightly for the corners, preferring to err on the side of caution as the consequences of getting it wrong were dire! I remember thinking that I need to get booked on the Spin Doctor’s “bends” course where he teaches how to REALLY read the road and corner properly.

Here’s me and the two bikes looking back up the loch at Kinlochleven. We’d come down the left side of the photo and were about to head back out to the right. What a view and what a ride there and back.

Next stop was our ferry crossing at Coran that marked the start of the long trip out the Ardnamurchan peninsula to tick off the most westerly point on the mainland. The ferry crossing was fun and, being on bikes, we did as bikers do and filtered to the front of the queue. I was assuming we’d be tucked away into some nook or crannie of the ferry which a car couldn’t occupy however it turned out we just rolled on and occupied a space, same as all the cars. I guess the first car to not get on that ferry would have been a bit pissed off with us but what the hell- it’s for charidee innit! The ferry trip itself takes just minutes- you could almost throw a stone from one side to the other. But it saves a LOT of time over the alternative which is following the coast inland and then back out again and besides, it added something new to the trip.

We took on fuel at Strontian before setting off for Ardnamurchan point. We were both getting about 150miles to the reserve on the bikes so fuel stops were working out perfectly: I didn’t check who was riding what when I set the trip up but it would have been bloody nightmare if someone turned up on a highly strung supermoto with a 70mile tank range!


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Updated 21-09-08 at 07:45 by str0nach



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