I am half way through my trip round Scotland, so how is it going? Well, as far as the body is concerned, it is holding up well, perhaps better than expected, given that I didn’t do nearly the training that I did last year for my trips. I had been expecting the leg muscles to cramp up toward the end of the first few days, as they got used to the level of exertion being asked of them, but I was pleasantly surprised not to feel anything of the sort. Towards the end of some of the longer days I have started to become aware of the front of my left knee, but the following day it is fine again. My right Achilles tendon is slightly sore, but again, nothing severe, certainly nothing like the issue I had with my left one last year on the Irish trip. As for other parts, let’s just say that Assos chamois cream works very well!
The bike has behaved itself so far, as well. The only issue I had was on the first day when the front derailleur slipped. This was due to my not tightening it enough after changing over the standard chainset for the compact one better suited to hills and touring. It has worked perfectly since, although the chain has come off a couple of times, which may mean that the derailleur needs fine tuning, or it may just be one of those things that happens from time to time. The chain is as dirty as it has ever been, and will be binned when the trip is over, but I have no other issues with it. I checked the tightness of the bolts holding the rack and mudguard on this morning, and all were fine. In other words, the bike is behaving as I would expect it to, flawlessly. The handling is compromised slightly with the panniers on the back, and for this reason I am more cautious going downhill than I would be were the bike not so encumbered. I had one ‘moment’ going downhill when I felt that tell-tale judder that indicated that things might be about to go pear-shaped. I simply reminded myself to look where the bike should be going, and not where it might go, while gently washing some speed off!
As for the trip itself, is it living up to expectations? I am not sure what expectations I had of it, other than that it would be a physical challenge. It has certainly been that, but that has not diminished the enjoyment that I have got from the passing scenery. I am slightly regretful that I am passing through some places so quickly, without being able to take the time to explore, or simply relax and ‘be’. The nature of the route planning meant that I would be seeing a lot of places a bit, rather than fewer places more thoroughly. Given time restraints, both were not possible this trip, but I must remind myself next time I am planning a trip to be less concerned with the number of miles covered, and more with leaving space for the unexpected, and for exploration.
I am looking forward to my time on Harris and Lewis, and then the far north of Scotland. The dry weather forecast is an added bonus, although it may come at the expense of the wind, whose relative absence will surely bring out Scotland’s most famous flying menace, the midge.