Sammy Cahn’s lyrics to a well-known Sinatra song let us know that love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. Well. that’s as may be, but what really goes well together is a ride out on a road bike and decent cafe stop for coffee and cake. Unfortunately, for the modestly overweight recreational cyclist they sometime go together too well, especially if one is planning to lose a few kilos in preparation for an assault on the Bealach na Bà (Pass of the Cattle) in Wester Ross. I’m hoping to ride it later in the summer, but avoiding either of the sportives that include it in their routes.
The statistics are impressive for a hill climb in the UK, a 626 metre ascent over 9.1 kilometres with an average gradient of 7% and a maximum of 20% (did I say lose “a few” kilos; make that many!). The route is about 45 miles in all, so maybe it is best to ‘do’ the hill early on. I’m hoping to get some hill-climbing miles in my legs by training on our own local climb on the Cairn o’ Mount road near Banchory. The Cairn route from the Banchory side is slightly longer than the Bealach na Bà, and some think that it is just as testing, so I will see how it goes and whether I need to invest in a more forgiving set of gear ratios!
The problem with training over the Cairn o’ Mount (apart from the obvious one of it comprising a long, steep hill) is that the downhill return leads you into Banchory and its coffee shops; less than helpful to a chap’s weight loss regimen. One in particular caters well for the cyclist: Tease even has its own Strava group to keep tabs on its members’ biking efforts. I’m not a member or a Strava-naut and although the coffee and cakes are a tad expensive they are rather fine.
I have yet to visit Tease this year, but have something of a confession to make. On a recent visit to the family’s matriarch in Kendal I was determined (and I mean absolutely determined) not to visit nearby Grasmere. I really don’t like the Lake District honey-pot towns of which Grasmere is one, but two things keeps drawing me back (by car, not bike). The first is the ludicrously-named Faeryland tea shack by the waterside, set in an implausibly-beautiful location and, at its best, capable of producing one of the finest cups of tea in old Albion; the second is the opportunity to stock up on gingerbread at Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread shop.
Well, my determination to give it a miss failed and the lure of tea and gingerbread won. On this occasion the tea wasn’t so good, but despite the best of intentions to lose a few kilos I took consolation in a couple of packs of gingerbread and, do you know what, it’s gone already; shared of course with friends and colleagues (well, some of it was)!