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  • Cycling Holiday in Scotland
    Our Cycling Holiday in Scotland

Blog

Here we've got the space to share some more of our experience and knowledge of cycling, living and working in the Highlands of Scotland. We also welcome contributions from friends and customers that might help or inspire visitors to the North of Scotland or just visitors to this website.

Cycling Holidays In Scotland and Coronavirus COVID-19

Published 13th April 2021

It has just been announced that COVID restrictions in Scotland will be relaxed ahead of schedule. We will be able to welcome visitors from across the UK from 26th April. We will continue to work within industry guidelines for COVID safety which slows us down a bit and can reduce our capacity. Please help us to help you by:

  • booking early
  • using online booking or email if you can
  • add info@TicketToRideHighlands.co.uk to your contacts
  • check spam/junk folder for our reply
  • phone only if you have to
  • being patient, we will be operating with a smaller team but will schedule customers so we can deal with everyone to the usual high standard, safely

It’s hard to answer the phone at times but colleagues working remotely can usually deal with emails quite quickly.

Published 4th March 2021

It is still not possible to predict with certainty when it will be safe to lift travel restrictions and re-open hotels and restaurants. A good source of information and travel advice for Scotland in the COVID era is of Course VisitScotland.

We’re also now signed up to the standards set out by the World Travel and Tourism Council under their Safe Travels scheme.

Published 9th February 2021

It is not clear when we will be able to start trading again or when customers will be allowed to travel to Inverness. In the meantime we will be preparing as much as we can so that we can continue to provide our usual high standard of service as well as taking the necessary and reasonable precautions to reduce the risk of infection. Our collective COVID learning curve was steep in 2020 and conscientious businesses craved clear conditions they could comply with to give customers the confidence to return.

Collating all this guidance and reviewing our compliance has been helped by the Good To Go scheme developed by the national tourism organisations of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. Businesses displaying this mark have confirmed their compliance with public health advice and their own risk assessments.

We continue to learn about the transmission of the virus, the level of infection in Scotland is already reducing and the vaccine programme is being delivered at a speed not many parts of the world can match. Our precautions are reviewed regularly and we look forward to a time when measures can be relaxed rather than restricted further.

Ticket To Ride's Good To Go Certificate
Published 14th January 2021

A lot has happened since that last update in May but in many ways not much has changed and we are largely all still stuck at home. We were fortunate to be able to operate for the best part of July, August and September 2020. It all seems like a dream right now but for a few weeks the sun shone and memories were made:

Cycling the North Coast 500
North Coast 500 Cycle – August 2020

We were confident that we took all practical precautions to protect ourselves and our customers from infection. It was clear that our working environment was vastly lower risk than many other businesses (e.g. hospitality). Despite observing some less-than-exemplary physical distancing and face covering the summer 2020 tourism season does not seem to have imported much Coronavirus to the Highlands and I’ve precisely zero anecdotes of tourism related infection. The Highlands has seen an increase in infection rates during this winter wave but thankfully continues to escape the soaring levels of virus seen elsewhere.

Preparation for the 2021 season is well underway and as we get closer to returning to operations in…. April?… I’ll share more details here and in booking emails etc. Until then please stay safe, get plenty of local exercise and dream of cycling in the Scottish Highlands this summer.

South Loch Ness Trail Mountain Biking
Loch Ness 360 – November 2020

Published 21st May 2020

The Scottish Government Route Map out of corona-virus lockdown has just been published. We’ve been thinking more about how to serve visitors safely after lockdown and some changes to the way we work might include:

  • appointment times for collection of bikes
  • restricted access to workshop areas
  • reduced numbers of staff on duty
  • extended working hours
  • thorough cleaning regimes
  • face coverings

If you have any concerns or ideas for us please don’t hesitate to get in touch: lindsay@tickettoridehighlands.co.uk

barrier tape

Published 11th May 2020

It has been 7 weeks since “lockdown” started and despite all the announcements by politicians in Westminster and Holyrood we have not received any financial support for the business apart from a contribution towards the wage costs of my furloughed colleagues.

To date the insurance company has been similarly dishonourable in it’s approach to our claim. The policy states we have cover for business interruption resulting from:

your inability to use the business premises due to restrictions imposed by a public authority during the period of insurance following:
a. a murder or suicide;
b. an occurrence of a notifiable human disease within one mile of the business premises;

I think most reasonable people would conclude that the above adequately describes our current predicament but the insurers claim to have been thinking about something else when they chose those words.

We are hopeful of receiving funds soon from a bank loan which should allow us to continue with preparations to return to trade although repayments will be a burden for years to come.

Big Bike Revival

In the meantime we have been working with Cycling UK to provide bike loans and maintenance services FREE of charge to key workers. It is great to be given the opportunity to use our skills and resources to contribute something positive to the community again after a long winter and then this pandemic crisis.

Published 8th April 2020

A lot has happened since the last update a month ago. Travel restrictions have come into force through much of the world and we’ve delayed the start of our bike hire and cyclist transport season. Operating a seasonal business is challenging at the best of times and this pandemic has hit Scottish Tourism right when it hurts in terms of cash flow. We always knew our customers were nice people but it has been truly heartwarming to know that our customers really empathise with our situation, won’t give up on their Scottish cycling holiday and make a real effort to reschedule rather cancel. This generosity of spirit is a great encouragement when the road ahead is unclear. It’s a health crisis above all else and we must do what it takes to protect ourselves and others and get the virus under control. Getting back to the business of helping visitors explore the Highlands by bike is the light at the end of the tunnel for us now.

Cycling through a tunnel in Scotland

Published 7th March 2020

We’ve all been concerned to hear about the recent spread of Coronavirus around the world. Most of our customers are not letting the virus affect their plans for their Scottish Cycling Holiday and indeed some have commented that they’d feel less at risk cycling through the Scottish Highlands than they might have at home!

Sanitizer
EN1276 Compliant Ant-Viral Cleaning Products Now In Use

For travelers and those of us in the tourism trade who meet folk from all over the world it is only sensible to do what we can to reduce the risk of infection. Keeping our bikes and vehicles clean was a big part of our job anyway but we have introduced anti-viral cleaning products to ensure that all contact points like handlebars, door handles, seat-belts and helmets are sanitized before every trip. We seldom have more than one group in our vehicles in a day and I know visitors have said they’d feel happier in a private transfer than using the public bus.

Further info can be found at government website Health Protection Scotland

Cycling The Great Glen Way from Spean Bridge to Laggan Locks

We’ve had a really wet and windy start to 2020 so when our favourite local weatherman Windy Wilson (@WindyWilson88) said “HIGH pressure now beginning to build” plans were put in place for a trip out on the bikes. We’ve not been for a cycle together for a wee while and we were keen to have a play with our new navigation app RideWithGPS. There are lots of navigation apps for cycling and they all have their pros and cons but RideWithGPS is definitely the best for those of us that want to provide really good information about cycling routes in the Highlands of Scotland.

Cycling across the moor between Spean Bridge and the Great Glen Way
Across the moor

I’d clearly not paid sufficient attention to the “afternoon” caveat in Windy’s forecast and as we drove through icy showers with slush building up in the wheel arches I realised why my colleagues had been keen to go on Sunday instead. Luckily the sleet had stopped by the time we parked in Spean Bridge and commenced the pre-ride faffing.

The Commando Memorial near Spean Bridge
Memorial to the Commandos who trained in this landscape in World War II

The main purpose of the trip was to see if the surface of the Great Glen Way between Clunes and Laggan Locks is suitable for hybrid or gravel bikes. I also wanted to check out the path from Spean Bridge to the Commando Memorial via “High Bridge”. I’d ridden this path before but I was feeling rotten that day and my memory was foggy. The main A82 road is really busy and not pleasant to cycle on. There is a roadside pavement all the way from Spean Bridge but the “High Bridge” route is by far the more attractive option. There are a couple of drawbacks though, namely the tiny gates at either end of the track that mean you have to lift your bike over the fence. This is not a very back-friendly manoeuvre in any conditions and would be really off-putting if you had luggage on your bike. In Scotland we have a right to access most land and these restrictive gates do not appear to be in line with The Scottish Outdoor Access Code so I’ll be taking the matter up with the Local Access Forum.

Highbridge - Where the first shots of the Jacobite Rebellion were fired in 1745
Highbridge – Where the first shots of the Jacobite Rebellion were fired in 1745

Highbridge across the River Spean was built by General Wade to link the government garrisons at Fort William and Fort Augustus. After Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived in Scotland to make his claim for the crown, reinforcements were sent from Fort Augustus to Fort William. The government troops were ambushed as they crossed the bridge and it isn’t too hard to imagine the Jacobites using the terrain to their advantage as they darted around to disorient and discourage their enemy. Their tactics worked as 85 soldiers of the Royal Scots were ultimately defeated by just 11 Jacobite men… and a piper. The bridge is in ruins but it’s amazing to think of the enormity of the events that started here that day.

Cycling The Great Glen Way from Spean Bridge to Laggan Locks
The Commando memorial at Spean Bridge

The path is well drained and the surface is good but it narrows as it passes out of the woods and across a bit of open moor to the Commando Memorial. The memorial was erected in honour of the men who trained in this area in World War II. With it’s panoramic views of Ben Nevis and Aonach Mòr it is surely one of the most photographed places in Scotland.

On with the cycling though and it’s a fast descent down the singletrack road to the Caledonian Canal at Gairlochy. At the canal we meet the Great Glen Way which follows the towpath here from Fort William. In a lot of places the Caledonia Way, National Cycle Network Route 78 (NCN78) follows the same path as The Great Glen Way. Most cyclists will want to follow the NCN78 signs as the few places between Gairlochy and Clunes where the Great Glen Way heads off-road are steep and twisty and short and the NCN78 route sticks to the tarmac which is just as scenic and offers quicker progress.

NCN78 Caledonia Way between Gairlochy and Clunes heading east
NCN78 Caledonia Way between Gairlochy and Clunes heading east

The signposting on the NCN78 / Great Glen Way is really good and at Clunes we follow the signpost off the tarmac and into the forest. Windy’s forecast proves spot-on as blue skies now stretched far beyond the snow-capped mountains all around. The forest road is in really great condition especially after all the rain we’ve just had. There are a couple of stoney bits and a couple of soft puddly bits but they are not too severe and they are short. 28mm tyres should survive without too much care and 30mm plus should be absolutely fine.

NCN78 | Great Glen Way by Loch Lochy between Gairlochy and Laggan Locks
NCN78 | Great Glen Way by Loch Lochy between Gairlochy and Laggan Locks

Cyclists on this section are often doing the Great Glen Way in its entirety (for which we’d recommend a mountain bike) or all or part of the Caledonia Way NCN78 or even a Lands End to John O’Groats ride. With those last two routes being mainly tarmac and the only alternative tarmac being the busy A82 it makes a lot of sense to come this way instead.

Lochside wild camping site
Lochside wild camping site

The Great Glen can also be completed on water and as part of the development of The Great Glen Canoe Trail a number of Trailblazer Rest Sites were established. These can be used by walkers and cyclists too and if you pay for a key in advance you’ll get access to the composting toilets. The shoreside site at Loch Lochy is lovely spot. It is not far from here to the north end of the loch but there’s a wee hill to get over before passing through the crofts at Kilfinnan and back down to the canal and across the lock gates at Laggan.

The sunset looking west along Loch Lochy from Laggan Locks on the Great Glen Way
The sunset looking west along Loch Lochy from Laggan Locks

The original plan was to retrace our tracks to Spean Bridge but we’d dawdled along stopping to take photos along the way and the legs were cold so the option of a lift back to the van was gratefully accepted. There aren’t many days this good in January and even the best of them are short so sometime between April and October would be the best time to plan a Great Glen Way cycle trip.

2018 Specialized Diverge Comp E5 Review

I’m not going to try to pretend otherwise. Of the 2018 fleet update, this one had me the most excited. We trialled the Diverge last year as a more adaptable option to our road bikes. With an aluminium frame, carbon forks and 30mm tyres it’s not quite what some of our faster road bike customers are used to but as a fast-touring option it offers much more flexibility and is ideal for cycling the North Coast 500.

2018 Specialized Diverge Comp E5

2018 Specialized Diverge Comp E5

Tyres on Specialized Diverge Comp E5 2018

Fast rolling and pothole-resistant

Specialized made a couple of major changes for 2018. The first, subtle one, is that both frame and fork will now take a wider tyre. 38mm is definitely possible and some 40mm will fit too. MPSActive has a great review on these road bikes. Both of these sizes offer increased comfort and potentially more grip with the right tyre choice. The other, more obvious, change is THAT headset.

It all looks a bit weird but the FutureShock is designed to partially isolate the rider from the vibration and action of the front wheel as it passes over the rougher ground this bike is capable of. Bounce up and down on it in the park and you can see it working. While riding, it’s much more subtle but still effective – especially on longer journeys.

Future Shock Headset on Specialized Diverge Comp E5, 2018

The Future Shock

The groupset is a mix of components. Shimano 11-speed 105 shifters and derailleurs offer almost top-end performance. The Praxis Alba super-compact crankset with 48T and 32T rings, together with the 11-32T cassette give a large range of gears with a lowest of 27 inches – not quite as low as our Sirrus hybrids (25″) but in keeping with this bike and the lighter loads it would usually be ridden with.

Shimano 105 shifters and mechs

Shimano 105 shifters and mechs

Rack mounts are built into the dropouts and the seatclamp. The latter makes seat height adjustment a little problematic but once set it’s all good (although we don’t fit them as standard, we can provide racks for load carrying).

As might be expected with this type of bike, braking duties are handled by disks front and rear. The TRP Spyre calipers are cabled up with compressionless Jagwire cables to minimise any sponginess and they certainly make a difference. Good wet weather braking is therefore assured.

TRP Spyre Disc Brakes on Specialized Diverge Comp E5

TRP Spyre Disc Brakes

Feedback from customers has been good too –

“It worked great for the diverse surfaces of the bike tour we did. The wheels handled the road, gravel, and grass well. Pretty lightweight. Seat was comfy. Shock in handlebars was nice too. ”

Specialized have done something odd with the sizing this year. At 172cm I regularly ride Medium/54cm sized bikes. Not so in this Diverge, where the 52cm is the right size for me. It’s certainly worth considering before renting or buying. Talking of which, I’m seriously thinking of buying one myself when we sell the fleet off later this year! Used Specialized Diverge for sale here.