LEJoG day 9 – Sticky situation

I was up early today and out on my bike by 0830 – waving goodby to Aussie Mike and Kev who I ate with last night. The plan was to cycle up and over the Galloway Forest National Park, on to Troon and Irvine before getting to Ardrossan to catch the ferry to Arran. If I made good time, I’d be able to get the 1515 ferry. Failing that, the last ferry was 1800. If I missed that, I’d be sleeping on the beach.

I was only 8 miles in and my back tyre went down. I pulled into a lay-by on the A road and mended the puncture. As I was getting my hands dirty anyway, I also took the opportunity to take the tyre off the front to remove a small piece of grit I’d noticed yesterday but couldn’t be bothered to do anything about.

With the punctures repaired, I set about putting the tyres back on. They were so tight it was impossible to get the tyres back on the rims! After ages, I managed to get both tyres on. However, as soon as I pumped the front up, it developed another puncture! Back to square 1: remove tyre, replace tube and struggle to get the tyre back on the rim again. By the time I’d finished, I’d used every swear word under the sun – as well as a few new ones that the OED can add to their next edition. This tyre debacle took 1 hour 40 minutes. Ridiculous.

This therefore put me behind my plan to catch the 1515 ferry as I still had about 50 miles to do – including two big ascents. These climbs came next. A long drag up through a beautiful valley in the Galloway forest up to about 1,300ft. By this time, my gears had started slipping, so it was difficult to find a comfortable gear for the climb. It was either knee-poppingly hard or spinning my legs like roadrunner. I opted for the latter option – my cadence averaging about 100 on the uphill.

The climb was worth it for the descent though! A long, fast twisty road clinging to the hillside with only a crash barrier to my left. The only thing that slowed me down were a few sharp bends with loose gravel and the potholes which were strategically placed to throw me off my racing line.

Once down it was time to go up again. I went through a “Road Closed” sign and up a long drag with stunning views either side. At the top, I met Aussie Mike who couldn’t believe that he was there before me (I sheepishly explained the tyre issue). He’d lost his mate Kev and was trying to get a mobile signal to call him.

Once over the top of this hill, the descent was even better. The road had recently been laid, so I flew down on pristine Tarmac. No potholes, no loose gravel, no silly white lines to tell you which side of the road to be on. I was flying down until my tyres started making a funny swishy sound and I started to slow down. I rounded a bend and, without braking, I slowed even more. Then I saw in front of me the workmen laying the new road. I came to a stop, looked behind me to see two bike-tryre width grooves in the freshly-laid Tarmac. Oops!

The workmen hurried me past on the verge. Once past. I set off on the old surface but my tyres had picked up a thick layer of tar and all the loose grit was now sticking to it! I thought I could just cycle the tar off the tyres, but it was stuck fast! What’s more, it made my tyres adhesive so not only were they picking up the loose stuff, my tyres were actually sticking to the road! It was like cycling through treacle.

A few miles on, I passed a car wash and tried to remove the tar with a scrubbing brush. I cycled on. It was only another 25 very sticky miles later that the worst of the tar had come off.

The afternoon’s ride took me past the famous golf courses at Turnberry and Troon and Prestwick airport. I eventually got to Ardrossan port to buy my ticket at about 1630 – just as a ferry was leaving. This ferry was an additional summer service but it didn’t appear on any timetable I’d seen. If I’d known, I would have caught it easily.

In the end, I got the 1800 ferry, which got me to Arran at 1900. It was a beautiful cycle around the coast of the island before heading inland and a big climb up and over the Island to reach Lochranza in time for last (food) orders at the pub and a spectacular sunset to round off the day.

It’s been a beautiful day’s ride. I could have just done without the punctures, gear slipping, Tarmac tyres, the headwind and the ferry issue – and then I would have had more time to enjoy Arran more.

Tomorrow, I catch 2 more ferries as I island hop and make my way to Inveraray, where the injured John and Dave will meet me.

Update: It turns out that Aussie Mike also rode into the same newly-laid asphalt. He’s writing a great blog on their adventures. Kev and Mike’s Amazing Adventure

Stats for LEJoG day 9:


4,196ft ascent. 4,288ft descent.

Fastest speed 39.7mph.

Average speed 10.2mph

Average Heart Rate: 119bpm

Max heart rate 169bpm.

Average cadence 72rpm



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