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  • Cycling Holiday in Scotland
    Our Cycling Holiday in Scotland

Blog

Here we've got the space to share a bit 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.

2018 Specialized Sirrus Sport Review

The hybrids are very much the workhorses of our hire fleet. They are flexible, comfortable and easy to ride. This year we are again using the Specialized Sirrus Sport. We had these in 2017 and they proved to be very reliable with a finish that is easily looked after and long lasting.

2018 Specialized Sirrus Sport

2018 Specialized Sirrus Sport

When fitted with our standard mudguards (fenders) and a rear rack they can look a little unglamorous, especially in the very understated metallic grey colour. This is a bit of a shame as they are also known as “fitness” bikes – fast road bikes for those who don’t want dropped racer handlebars. With an alloy frame and a carbon fork the stripped down a Medium Sirrus weighs in at a reasonably svelte 11.9Kg. The carbon fork also helps provide a little “give” on rougher surfaces.

Gearing is taken care of by a 2×9 crankset and an 11-34 tooth cassette. That gives a good range of gearing at the faster end and a lowest gear of around 25 inches (the amount of forward movement for one revolution of the pedals). That isn’t as low as our mountain bikes (18 inches) but good enough for most hills. We always advise cutting down on the amount of luggage when touring with these bikes anyway. It’s no fun carrying too much stuff with you when you get to the hillier parts of the Highlands.

Shimano Sora rear mech

Shimano Sora rear mech

The gear shifters are made by Microshift. They’re a much smaller company than Shimano and last year was the first time I’d used them. They are bit more clunky than the more expensive Shimano shifters but they feel very “positive” and we’ve had only one failure of them. There’s a middle click position for the front changer that helps avoid any chain rub, though most folk will just click through this position on their way up and down the rings.

The handlebars are quite narrow if you’ve been used to riding mountain bikes. Great for aerodynamics though and for filtering through traffic or through narrow trails.

On the wheels are robust 32mm, lightly treaded hybrid tyres. These cope well with most surfaces around Inverness and on the longer routes. Being slightly wider than those on our road bikes means they have a reasonable amount of comfort too. These are ideal for many of the road-based routes like the North Coast 500 where the road surface might have degraded a little or for the varied track surfaces on NCN78 to Fort William and Oban.

You definitely want to take care if the tracks are muddy though as the tread isn’t really designed for more serious off-roading. That rules out routes like the Great Glen Way alongside Loch Ness. The rims on the wheels have a surprisingly fashionable 25mm internal width. This is something the bicycle industry has taken on board recently, appreciating that wider rims, with the higher-volume tyre it creates, are a more comfortable (and aerodynamic) option. It does mean we can’t really fit narrower tyres though, something some folk still ask for.

With hydraulic disk brakes, there always enough stopping power and no adjustment necessary. That makes them ideal for longer trips too – especially if the bike is loaded up with panniers. There can be a little brake squeal on occasion. This seems to happen of the disc rotor is wet but it disappears when the brakes are used and the rotor heats up a bit.

Maybe next year we’ll buy some in a brighter colour. If you’d like to buy one of these ex-hire in autumn 2018 get in touch now.

Specialized Sirrus Sport on Specialized Website

First winter outing

Today 3 of the team headed up into the hills south of Inverness. Above the A9 the Farr wind farm commands fantastic views towards Glen Affric, Ben Wyvis and along the River Findhorn. The weather was kinder than expected but the strong wind made up for the lack of rain. The loop today was 40km in length. A fair bit of climbing but the views that greeted us were incredible. The final dive down to the distillery at Tomatin always leaves you wanting more……

Fort Augustus To Inverness

Charlie was heading to Oban today so I hitched a ride as far as Fort Augustus and rode back. I’d never cycled up from Fort Augustus before and have been meaning to take on the big climb for ages. On the last Sunday in April each year this forms the King of the Mountain section of the closed roads Etape Loch Ness sportive.

Climb from Fort Augustus

Climb from Fort Augustus

The weather was bright and dry, temperature was around 65F / 19C and there was a steady breeze from the south-west, perfect!

The climb starts straight away so there’s no chance for a warm up but at least I was tackling it fresh. There has been a lot of timber extraction recently which has left the hillside scarred but the upside is that the views of Loch Ness are much better. It’s good to see the completion of the new path which will bring an off-road Loch Ness 360 cycle route much closer.

 

Loch Tarff

Loch Tarff

It’s a 1200ft climb over 5½ miles but the gradient isn’t too severe and there are a couple of respites.

After Loch Tarff the summit Suidhe viewpoint is soon in sight. The views at the top are really stunning.

North from Suidhe Viewpoint

North from Suidhe Viewpoint

There are various great cycling routes back to Inverness from here but I decided not to drop down to Loch Ness at Foyers and headed past Loch Mhor then turned left at Croachy to ride past Loch Ruthven and Loch Duntelchaig (after an abortive recce down the Abersky road).

Loch Ruthven

Loch Ruthven

Loch Duntelchaig

Loch Duntelchaig

It was great to travel so far in one direction without looping back towards the start and into the wind. We’re up and down to Fort Augustus fairly regularly so if you’d like to ride this route too, let us know and we should be able to offer a good value transfer. It might be good to extend the route and start at Bridge of Oich for a bit more of a run-up to that climb.

Relive ‘South Loch Ness 40’

Route, elevation profile and more pictures on our Strava.