Author Topic: Inverness 1200 (2022 edition)  (Read 2681 times)

Inverness 1200 (2022 edition)
« on: 24 October, 2022, 11:49:20 am »
Inverness 1200 (2022 edition)

I've written this ride report for potential future entrants rather than as a piece of entertainment - I hope it is helpful.  My perspective is that of a fairly 'full-value' rider - one usually near the back of the field.  Knowing that this would be hard, my plan was to ride steadily, sleep little and be super-efficient at stops.  Although I'm north of 60, being recently retired made it possible to have a degree of bike fitness and the time to prep the route details, gear choices and strategy.   It also allowed me to travel to the start with my sleep bank nicely topped up.  I planned to push myself on Day 1 and simply 'get through' the Cairngorms on Day 2 without going over time.  I was prepared to leave the Inverness control a little late, as I thought I would make up time on the flat parts of the return.  I wanted a low-pressure finish and aimed for a long day 3 to allow for that.  The distances given for each day are from my gps device

Comparing this ride to LEL (2013) and PBP (2015) it is certainly hilly, colder, darker and feels more akin to a DIY at times, but the logistics of getting to the start will be a lot easier for most.  Like any ride, its feasibility and level of enjoyment are very closely tied to the weather, but I felt that this held even more true for this ride.  It is later in the year and in my case involved 2 'nights' of bivvy.  It's also potentially quite serious if the weather turns nasty in the Cairngorms area or Rannoch Moor.  Some people prefer to get a few hours in a Travel Lodge or Premier Inn, but I made the decision that it would be safer, more efficient and more flexible to carry a good therma-rest and survival bag.  Either way, for a night on the way up to Inverness and a night on the way back, you are without support and are reliant on commercial controls.  The route generally allows you to get food at reasonable intervals but forward planning is definitely needed to prepare for this.  Obviously, you need to carry some snack food for the gaps and always have some emergency rations.  I found that having two bottles/cages was very beneficial.   

Clothing:  I felt my choices worked well and I coped with the periods when it was either wet, cold or both.  I wore ski socks, bib longs, overshoes, base layer top, winter weight long sleeve jersey, hi-vis gilet, buff and skull cap.  I carried cycling-cut Goretex overtrousers, a down jacket (for rest/sleep), inner gloves and outer gloves and a good quality wind/waterproof cycling top.  I put some spare cycle clothing and some 'loungewear' to sleep in at the village hall control.  The only thing that let me down was gloves - I supplemented what I had with disposables from diesel pumps, but with night-time temps below 5 degrees and sometimes wet, I'm not sure if any gloves would have been completely satisfactory with my circulation.  The down jacket felt like a 'get out of jail' card in case I became immobilised at night and I felt more confident because I was carrying it.  The over-trousers were a game-changer.  They are often seen as too much faff and aerodynamic suicide, but for me, on this ride, they were the thing that got me through.  I rode through extensive periods of cold rain which I would not have otherwise been able to do without risking hypothermia

Other stuff I carried included a frame pump, couple of tubes and a folding tyre, some basic medical items, electrolyte tablets, chamois cream, lube and rag, disposable handwarming sachets and a basic toolkit.  I wrote and laminated my own route sheet which was mounted in a holder on the bars and used the gps track provided as split and modified by Rando-nurr, on an Etrex 32x.  The bike was a tourer (Bombtrack Audax frame) with disc brakes and 32mm tyres running at about 75psi.  It can feel a bit sluggish but worth it for the comfort in my opinion.  Some of the road surfaces are not great and a narrow tyre at 90psi + does not bear thinking about.  Lighting front and back was by dynamo hub which also provided USB phone charging with a port on the back of the front light.  I also had a good rechargeable seat stay light that I knew would last for the periods extra lighting might be needed, such as in rain or at dusk.  My luggage was in a single waterproof pannier which was perfect.

Day 1 (325km set off 8:00) My plan was to ride to the Forth crossing unless I was forced to stop with the dozies.  The idea was to create a small time-cushion whilst I was fresh and to minimise the distance for a tough Day 2 in the Highlands.  I just about managed that and got a bit of sleep in the big Tesco car park there - using a trolley bay as a shelter.  It took me 20 hours to get there including around 2.5 hours of stoppage time.  That's a really low level of stoppage - no frills, just forecourt meal deals and the like... scoff and off.  I suspect at that point I was at the back of the small field of finishers and would remain there or thereabouts round the rest of the ride.  I saw some other riders repeatedly, but that was because they had better rest/sleep stops whilst I plodded on.  That first day is pretty straightforward for much of the time.  There are big climbs prior to Kirkby Stephen, especially if you decide to stick to the route and do the Coal Road (I went via Appersett instead) and later on the Devil's Beeftub, but there's lots of fairly benign stuff in between.  The riding is great around the Dales and in Cumbria but gets a bit mono as you head to Gretna and beyond and by Moffat it's dark! There are food outlets in Moffat - I used the garage on entering town, but when I got to the service station at South Queensferry it was 'window service' only - no going inside.  That's always a bit depressing but if you're ready for it you won't be as disappointed.

Day 2 (285km set off 06:00ish) has some significant climbing between Edinburgh and Perth, but the major difficulties are all the 'snow road' sections around the Cairngorms, the gradients are not 'silly steep' but they are certainly testing climbs.  For me it was important to ride steadily so that I did not arrive at stops too worn out and then end up stopping for ages.  There was an issue with closed roads in 2022 and this will need careful checking and prep, as it seems to be a bit of a theme up that way.  The highest terrain is passed in daylight which helps, but this leg was hard in 2022 due to unfavourable wind.  At least the navigation is straightforward as long as you get across the built-up areas of Inverness OK (I struggled there).  Keep your energy and chin up on approaching Inverness, there was still an hour of riding to the 2022 control at Kirkhill.  This was a 23-hour day for me, so I was off again for day 3 with limited sleep, but at least I had some time indoors.  It had been a more 'stoppy' day than Day 1 with over 5 hours not moving, but that was partly deliberate (more normal than the pushy Day 1) and partly due to an enforced stop at a bike shop to replace a frayed gear cable.  This was causing gear selection problems and was only going to end one way.  At least I was able to close my eyes for a bit whilst lay on the bike shop floor - eat, sleep, ride, loo... nothing else.  Don't underestimate Day 2.  I find it helps to constantly remind yourself of a list of things to do when you stop, so that you don't have to have multiple shorter stops.  Things like... when I stop I'll take my over trousers off, lube the chain and top up my 'pocket snacks' from the pannier.  That's three things - remember three things.

Day 3 (327km set off 07:00ish) starts with a hardish climb from Kirkhill to get over to the shores of Loch Ness, but gentler terrain lies ahead as far as Glencoe where you can make up some time, wind allowing.  An option is to take a few miles of the cycle path alongside the canal after Fort Augustus - it is a break from the tarmac and interesting, but probably best avoided in the wet due to the very finely crushed stone surface.  After Glencoe it's back to relentless climbing, though nothing too steep and with spectacular scenery.  Again, the terrain is very bleak, so wind will be a factor.  Plan carefully so that you are provisioned between Fort William and Stirling.  I managed a decent feed at the village shop in Crianlarich (coffee and microwaved pies) and a chippy treat in Callander (scraped in just before it closed) before the final run to Stirling and the obligatory 24hr burgers.  It helped a lot to ride this section (and some earlier ones) in company with Lee K (Randonurr).  Riding in pairs/groups might be an option, be aware of the pros and cons - it's good for morale and you might do some 'bit and bit', but loo/food/clothing change stops can be more time-consuming.  Consider staying on the A84 after Callander rather than following the route provided.  After Stirling the navigation gets more 'bitty' and the roads are very choppy indeed, particularly after Falkirk where the ride becomes very challenging, being relentlessly 'choppy'.  I don't know that area at all, but if I were to do the ride again, I would review the route choices for the section.  The gps as provided may or may not be the best way, but I would definitely do some research.  The target for the day was to get indoors at Abington services, but previous lack of sleep caught up with me and I had to bivvy 'in the wild' an hour short of Abington as I was starting to fall asleep on the bike.  Not ideal, but an hour or two with the eyes shut got me through the rest of the ride.  Some people would probably book somewhere to sleep prior to Abington, but if I did it again I would stick with my plan, as I just can't ride fast enough to fanny about with hotels.

Day 4 (277km set off 06:00ish).  I'd had enough rations to get through the night but still had a very unhurried breakfast at the services which set me up for the day.  The section to Shap is pretty flat, but rather dull and the road surface can be irritating at times.  If you don't know Carlisle very well, be aware that there are a few busy roundabouts and some nifty lane changes are required to get through the centre.  In 2022 I flew south with a good tailwind and no rain - payback for day 2 - but I imagine this part could be very hard going in a strong south westerly.  At Shap the climbing starts again, but the run to the finish is fairly flat.  My timing took me through Kendal during commuter time, which was a bit of a pain, but traffic was quieter after Lancaster.  As per Carlisle, if you don't know these towns a bit of homework won't go amiss.  Despite a short bus shelter stop north of Preston, due to the very heavy rain, I got back with about 3 hours to spare before the 02:00 cut off.  I'm not sure what the future arrangements will be, but having arrived on 'empty' I got some food and slept on a chair for a bit before having to fetch the car, load up the bike and bag of wet clothing to leave in the middle of the night, so be prepared for that.  Maybe other riders had enough in the tank to cycle or drive to Travel Lodge or similar, or maybe slept in their cars?

After effects:  other than the usual tiredness and the need to let the body recover, I just had some saddle sores, but nothing too serious, a blister where the tongue of my shoe had rubbed and a blister on my right wrist/palm, again nothing that was at all debilitating on the ride.  I also had some blistering to the front of my tongue and I am not sure why (maybe too much electrolyte and road dirt?), but it made eating and talking difficult at times.  The only serious aftermath was loss of sensation in the thumb and first two fingers ends of the right hand.  This is now just showing signs of easing 4 weeks after the ride.  One positive about the weather was that I had no hot foot, or issues caused by a sweaty pad, which I have had on some long rides. 

In summary:  Did I enjoy it?  Well, it is definitely type 2 fun and I did feel very pleased with myself to have got round.  I felt as though I had had two 'wins', one the physical riding and the other the logistics.  Would I recommend it?  That depends who the rider was.  It is certainly not for everyone.  Ideally, you would have experience of the wilder parts of Northern Britain, have ridden a few 4 or 600s where you have had to fend for yourself at night and have the experience to know that you stand a good chance if the weather gods allow.  Would I have changed anything?  Not a lot and I was especially pleased with my down jacket and my overtrousers.  More changes of gloves, better gloves.  Better route research leaving Callander and South of Falkirk.  I was a bit surprised by how fast the batteries ran out on the Etrex, so would have been a bit 'meaner' with the backlight.  Is there anything I could have done about the bike or its engine to go faster and so get more sleep?  I could lose 4 or 5lbs and do some interval training (but I know I won't!), the bike is really heavy when fully laden but it's as good a tool as any for the job.

Re: Inverness 1200 (2022 edition)
« Reply #1 on: 24 October, 2022, 12:17:38 pm »
Nice write up of your of your experience.

Re: Inverness 1200 (2022 edition)
« Reply #2 on: 24 October, 2022, 02:02:47 pm »
I also had a good rechargeable seat stay light
Could I ask the make and model for this, please?
I have had a problem finding lights for seat stays, as most seem to be designed to be mounted more vertically on a seat post, pannier rack etc.
Thanks for the write up - enjoyed reading it

Re: Inverness 1200 (2022 edition)
« Reply #3 on: 24 October, 2022, 05:27:19 pm »
I chose it as much for its longevity of charge more than anything else.  When it is pitch black, my dynamo powered light is fine and in broad daylight I think my hi-vis gilet has more impact than any rear light.  I use this Moon light when when it is dusk, raining or I am in an urban area I want a bit more visual impact.  For these purposes I have it set to a flashing mode and it lasts a very long time.  It is touted as a seat post light but I think it is fine on a seat stay.

Re: Inverness 1200 (2022 edition)
« Reply #4 on: 24 October, 2022, 07:50:42 pm »
Thanks, I'll check that out.