Saturday, 17 March 2012

Cycle trip 3: Old Aberdeen-Bieldside-Kittybrewster-Old Aberdeen

Date: 17th March 2012
Length of route: 15.6 miles/25.0km
Route: Old Aberdeen-Ruthrieston-Garthdee-Bieldside-Blacktop-Mastrick-Kittybrewster-Old Aberdeen
Difficulty level: Easy-Medium

Seeing as it's the weekend and Aberdeen was blessed with yet another gloriously sunny day, the new bike was taken out on it's travels yet again. The original intention had been to cycle only to the Newton Dee Cafe and gift shop at Bieldside then head back the same way, but to keep things interesting, I decided to head back through the rural country lanes to the west of Aberdeen, as I have so far not ventured out into that neck of the woods.

As usual, I left Old Aberdeen and went down King Street, before following halfway up Union Street and turning off just over halfway along onto Crown Street - not a shortcut as such, but a more direct and quieter route to Duthie Park, where the Deeside Railway Trail I would be taking begins. As it's Saturday, there were a lot of people on the trail when I joined it, including a remarkable number of runners - I think they were running some kind of marathon or something, as they all had numbers on their backs. There were also a number of cyclists and dog walkers, but mainly runners. As I continued up the trail, I remembered that when you see the green bridge, that's where you should come off for the Newton Dee centre on the Old Ferry Road - the only problem being, there are several green bridge's along the way, and I had to check the map once or twice to make sure I was at the right place or not.

Nevertheless, when I went into the centre, I purchased some wonderful little gifts for my Mum for Mother's Day, and all at very reasonable prices. Bought a few bits in the health food store as well, but as I don't have a bike rack or panniers yet, the amount I'm willing to carry is limited. After leaving the Newton Dee centre, follow the Old Ferry Road to the end for a brief stretch on the A road back to Aberdeen, before turning off to head into the hills. This is where the climbing began, and was definitely the steepest climb I've yet undertaken in this area of Aberdeenshire. Although I struggled a bit in places, and stopped once, I did not have to get off and walk up the hill, which I would most likely have had to do on my other bikes.

Forgetting how swiftly this bike moves once it gets going, despite the hills I found myself at both turning off points I needed much sooner than I anticipated. Turning off right to head back down into Aberdeen at the Kingswells road was a pleasant surprise, as at the crest of the hill a panorama opened out showing a large part of Aberdeen and a view out to see, which the sun illuminated perfectly. After this, the rest of the route took me back down into Aberdeen proper, before a swift descent down Ashgrove Road and Bedford Road back into the heart of Old Aberdeen and home. All in all, another successful ride for the bike - I still found myself itching to go a little further, however!

For full route information:

Thursday, 15 March 2012

New bike: Cycle trip 2

Date: 15th March 2012
Length of route: 11.3 miles/18.1km
Route: Old Aberdeen-Aberdeen City-Torry-Parkhill Wood-Altens-Aberdeen City-Old Aberdeen
Difficulty level: Easy-Medium

Decided to take the bike out again today, but go south of Aberdeen instead of North, as whilst poring over the map I noticed that there is a coastal road that follows the railway tracks for some way, and as I've often enjoyed the views from the train but been unable to get good pictures, I decided to give it a try. I started by marking out the route on my OS map (see below), as this was a new area of Aberdeen for me to explore so I wanted to make sure I didn't make too many mistakes - however, as you can see by comparing the GPS map from above with the hand-drawn map below, I missed out a section of the route - still, I ended up back in the right place and didn't go too far off course!

In order to enable a quick escape from the central area of Aberdeen, I went down King Street and took an immediate left turn off Union Street down Marischal Street to avoid the traffic lights further down Union Street. This brought me out at Aberdeen docks, and whilst waiting for the lights to change on Market Street I got to see a different perspective on some of the ships and boats moored there.

After crossing the Victoria Bridge, I emerged into Torry, a relatively self-contained suburb of Aberdeen that smells distinctly of fish - there are lots of factories and workplaces around here, making it something of a fishy industrial estate! Once escaping the 'fish factories' I emerged onto the road that surrounds Balnagask golf course, which is where the scenery starts to open out and you see a few old features of the landscape dotted around, including a battery and a lighthouse. This part of the route is inevitably very circular, but more picturesque than the shortcut through Balnagask treatment works!

Emerging from the junction at Fitticks Road, this is where the coastal road proper begins, and there are a couple of relatively steep climbs to get up - fortunately, my bike handled them pretty well, although I did stop for a drink and a brief rest before attempting the second ascent, after which the railway track emerges, and I managed to get a half-decent shot of a train passing under the railway bridge. Unfortunately, I missed the so-called Long Slough, where the coastline moves inland so as to leave a yawning gap of sea right next to the railway line - better luck next time!

Generally speaking, the coastal road is a relatively comfortable surface to ride on, but as it is gravel and hasn't been resurfaced for some time, there are a few pot holes and rough patches to contend with, and it's certainly not as smooth as tarmac. Therefore, a bike with at least a little shock absorption or wider tyres is better suited to this route, although you won't be too uncomfortable on a road bike. The exit I needed off the coastal road eventually came sooner than I thought, and I emerged onto the busier roads leading back north to Aberdeen - busier than I expected, but as I realised when I emerged at a different part of Aberdeen to originally planned, I knew I'd come off the earlier roundabout onto the A road, instead of going straight over onto the B road. All in all though, this was another pleasant run for the bike, but it still left me feeling that 10 mile runs aren't really testing this bike to it's limits. I'll have to plan a half day or full day route sometime in the near future!

For full route information:

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

New bike: Cycle trip 1

Date: 14th March 2012
Length of route: 10.0/16.1km
Route: Old Aberdeen-Bridge of Don-Middleton Park-Parkhill Wood-Danestone-Old Aberdeen
Difficulty level: Easy

As I've had my new bike a week now, I was itching to give it it's first proper test ride and really stretch it's legs, but didn't want to go out without proper mudguards etc. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any mudguards that fit it as the design of the bike is of such a new frame design, they don't seem to have designed optimal mudguards for it. Nevertheless, as today was a nice sunny afternoon, I decided to take it out into the country and stretch it's legs.

Starting out on the well-trodden road down to the Don Street bridge, I stopped to snap the picturesque cottages glinting in the sun looking over the river, before carrying on to the Balgownie road. Instead of staying on the Balgownie road, however, I took a right onto the Scotstoun road leading North of Aberdeen which heads out into the rural hinterlands on the edge of Aberdeen city. The Scotstoun road is a long straight rolling road which gave the bike a chance to get going without having to constantly stop at the lights.

On the right hand side as you go up the Scotstoun road appears to be a strange white dome on a long stick, I'm not sure what it is but it looks like some test centre for NASA or something - though I'm sure it can't be. Aberdeen and NASA doesn't seem a logical combination somehow.

After continuing some way up the B road to Scotstoun, the sun seems to be getting ready to set, and as I don't have lights for this bike yet, I decided to take a left at the White stripes road, with the added advantage of even less traffic, albeit with a few more pot holes and rough surfacing on the road. As I approached 'urban' Aberdeen again, the road became a pleasantly long and winding downhill, where the bike really came into it's own. It handled the corners very nicely even at some speed, perhaps better than when it is going slowly, since this bike isn't designed to peter along at 5 m.p.h. I noticed that there were some very nice houses in the midst of trees on the edge of Aberdeen, which gave a very nice effect in the sun - it's a shame central Aberdeen can't have a bit more 'green' character like this.

In order to make a quick return home, I came back onto the Balgownie road and took the main A road of King Street back to Old Aberdeen, but it's clear the bike is far more comfortable on lighter trafficked routes, with a few corners thrown into the mix. Next time, I'll definitely be looking to give the bike a proper run, but this was just a test run to see how it performs at speed, something the bikes handles very well - although you can still feel some effort on hills, compared to either of my other two bikes, this one really does glide.

New bike - In pictures

I collected my new bike just over a week ago and at the weekend I managed to find time to take some pictures of the bike looking fresh and new before I put it into action, as I wanted a reminder of what it looks like as new as I'm sure it won't be recognisable after I've been using it a while! Needless to say, the quality of the components and the overall image and design of the bike are excellent. Here are the pictures:

Monday, 5 March 2012

New bike

I've recently taken the liberty of ordering a new bike, and one that certainly wasn't cheap. However, it should see me going a lot further a lot faster and more comfortably than my current bike. The setup with the gears is much better and more convenient than the bike I now have, as they're integrated with the brake levers and won't entail changing position as radically as on my current bike. It's a Specialised Secteur Triple model with a carbon fork and some shock absorption, so should be a lighter and more responsive ride than what I'm used. I collect it on Wednesday and this is what it looks like - incidentally, it's the colour of the Polish flag: