Perspectives on cycling #1

In 2012 Beatrix Campbell was in the World Pride Power List of the 100 most influential gay people of the year and is a self-styled “republican with politics rooted in Marxism and feminism”. Although she is not a person without flaws, I was impressed that she had this to say about cycling:

In the context of the great debates about identity politics – are you gay or straight, nationalist or republican, British or English and so on – I would ask, “Do you ride a bike?

Of course I do!

View looking upstream from Park Bridge on the River Dee on a cold Valentine’s Day ride

Bring back the birch!

A hard bike ride yesterday saw me bail out and return defeated. I’d done about 10 miles of short, sharp hills; the sort where the road just shoots straight upwards without any pretence of contouring and you get no respite as the downhill bits pass by in a flash.

I retreated at that point because, without actually knowing the route, I thought I might get halfway around and then hit the wall, so the better part of valour was discretion and I turned back. I recce’d the full route as I drove home and realised that I’d actually done the hardest part and could probably have managed the remaining 30+ miles, so I’ll be back. Memo to self: recce routes in advance!

Despite failing with the ride it was a joy to pedal through the birch woodlands along the River Gairn – it was only when the woodland gave way to moorland that the climbs took their toll (I really do need to lose a few kilos).

A profusion of lichens explained why the silver bark of the birches looked anything but lustrous even in the sun. In truth their trunks were more like O’Rafferty’s Motor Car (in a good way – forty shades of green) and testament to the air quality of the Cairngorm National Park. It’s consoling to know that you’re breathing clean air when you’re gasping up a hill wishing you had lower gears.

And guess what? The trees don’t just provide a beguiling view. It seems they can give post-ride comfort for your average knackered cyclist in the form of Molton Brown’s Bracing Silver Birch Thermal Muscle Soak! Pricey (£19 from John Lewis for 300g!) but described as:

A beautiful fragrance that leaves the body feeling clean and refreshed. A dedicated muscle therapy which will instantly enliven and uplift. The fresh, woody aroma of silverbirch, cedarwood, cumin and bergamot will lift the spirits and sooth the muscles”.

Sounds like bollocks to me but it gets five-star reviews all round on the John Lewis website with the following endorsement for bike riders:

Bought as a gift for a keen cyclist. He found it very relaxing and it has a great fragrance”.

So, setting aside my usual disdain for (i) advertising copywriters, and (ii) male grooming products, consider it added to my Christmas prezzie suggestion list.

.… all of which serves as an excuse to post a pic that I took in the nearby Cambus o’ May birch woodland last autumn. It has a rather ethereal quality I think (and the sharp-eyed may recognise it as the photo from which this blog’s header image was derived).

Woodland
Cambus o’ May woodland, Deeside, Aberdeenshire

The sun at last!

Well, after what seemed to be a dismal and eternally dreich Spring, today the sun finally shone again on Aberdeen and the Shire! And that is reason enough to post a snapshot of our stunning scenery. This one is not the most dramatic Deeside view, but a favourite of mine looking downstream from the Brig o’ Feugh towards the confluence of the rivers Feugh and Dee. Nestling distantly in the background is the Banchory Lodge Hotel whose gardens sit where the rivers join. The hotel’s magnificent situation simply beckons you towards afternoon tea on its lawns!

A downstream view towards the confluence of the River Dee and the River Feugh
A downstream view towards the confluence of the River Dee and the River Feugh