Auchinleck to Mennock, then up the hill to Wanlockhead
Auchinleck to Mennock, then up the hill to Wanlockhead

In preperation for the hills of Devon and Cornwall, I sought out the hilliest hill I could find – the road up the Lead Hills to Wanlockhead, the highest village in Scotland.  It was a super windy day (30mph according to the Met Office) which offered some assistance.   The climb started after about 33km, rising from 130m above sea level to about 450m at the top.  A lot of the route was steady climbing, but there were three or four very steep sections which had me pushing hard in my lowest gear (8 speed nexus).  There’s a nasty steep section at the start – I was worried it was going to be that steep the whole way!  But then it settles down for a while, with only a couple of hard bits.  The longest hard section was right at the top.  I nearly got off and pushed, but stuck with it and was rewarded with the sight of the village of Wanlockhead over the top.  There was one further steep climb beyond the village which I did for completeness (amazing how much extra energy you suddenly get when you realise that you ‘are there’).  It took 1h20m to get to Mennock, and then 40mins of climbing to get to Wanlockhead.  In total, I did 39 miles.

The descent was almost worse than the ascent – the weather turned worse and I was cycling into the teeth of a rain laced gale.  I had to stop and put on a rain coat, just to stop getting froozen with the wind chill.  Then later I put on waterproof trousers and a beanie under my helmet to ward off the freezing wind.  A couple of cattle grids and some loose grit on a wet corner kept me focused.  I’m doing all these training rides fully loaded with two panniers and two full water bottles.  But today I was glad to have all my ’emergency clothes’ with me – I needed them!  On my way down, I saw a racer guy pedalling uphill in basic race gear.  I can’t imagine how chilly he’ll have got on the way down!

The photos are on flickr.

Overall, I’m really pleased – the ~400m climbs in Dartmoor won’t be a total surprise to me now.  I’m glad my new bike will have some lower gears though.  The 8-speed nexus hub gear bike was totally ridable today, but it was always sobering to realise that you’d ran out of gears and just needed to muscle up the hill.  Tomorrow, I’ll cycle the 62 miles back up into Edinburgh which’ll take between 4 and 5 hours (depending on which way the wind is blowing!).

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