“Bathgate Alps”

I found a map of climbs in West Lothian and headed out to try a few. I headed south from Linlithgow on Preston Road which rises up in a straight line as it leaves town, leading into a few turns before you reach the top – good warmup material. The road rolled up and down for a while until I peeled off to climb a nice steep looking hill called Cairnapple. It was ‘proper steep’ – lowest gear, standing on pedals as the tarmac surged upwards like a wall. Around the back side of the hill was a valley – steep down, then another similarly steep up. I carried on towards civilisation, ending up in Boghall. Turning round to retrace my steps meant climbing “Puir Wife’s Brae” – a severe uphill slog, part of which is at 14%.

All in all, a pretty good day of climbing and lots more hills to explore in the future. The day came to an unfortunate end when I came across a crashed cyclist on the way down towards Linlithgow – conscious but clearly suffered a high-speed fall. An ambulance and paramedics came, gave him oxygen and morphine and I could see he’d broken his clavicle (my area of expertise) and possibly ribs too. So, a sobering end to an otherwise fun day.

Carpe diem

Saturday: Tyndrum to Glencoe, 30 miles against a 10mph headwind. 100m climb out of Tyndrum, 200m up Rannoch Moor and 75m up Glencoe. Headwinds are a pain, but good mind-training. The climb to Rannoch Moor felt a lot easier than the last time I did it, and I don’t think I ever used my lowest gear.

Sunday: Bealach na Craige (Aberfeldy), 319m ascent in 6.4km, averaging 5% with a 7% and 8% sections. It felt fine. I had a tailwind which helped the climb, but not my cooling systems – I was pouring water over my head to cool down.

So now I know I can do short steep slopes, and moderate moderate slopes. Now I need to find some long steep ones. This page has a road up Falkland Hill which is 10% for 2.2km – like the start of Alpe d’Huez, so that’s kinda useful. And then there’s Applecross, which looks more and more like a target …

Training log

Last weekend, I did a loop out to Dalmeny Estate and managed to power up ‘the big hill’ without fading for the first time in my life. Midweek, I was climbing on Salisbury Crags, so did a sneaky wee two laps on my bike since I was there anyway albeit with about 5kg of stuff in my panniers. Today I dodged the rain to do a 10 mile fast-and-flap loop out to Portobello. Then, after watching the TdF, I went up to do one lap of Arthurs Seat on my city bike – 11m48s.

I feel I’ve got a decent hill-climbing base now, so I’m mixing in some longer rides to boost stamina. I still haven’t managed to get up north to seek out bigger hills yet. Time is running short too … 6 weeks to go before I’ll be in France.

Great success

Look at me talking when there’s science to be done.

This evening, I tried the Arthurs Seat loop on my mountain bike rather than my usual city bike. The mountain bike is much lighter, but the tyres have more rolling resistance. I was hoping that the weight reduction would see me fly up the hill fast enough to compensate for the drag0reduced top-speed. But I didn’t know whether the tradeoff would be worth it.

So, after powering up and down the hill, I was pleased to to see that I’d broken the twelve minute barrier for the first time – 11:44 for one lap. No idea what my heartrate was, because I’ve misplaced my monitor, boo. But twelve minutes is significant because it means that a “5 laps in one hour” target isn’t too far off.

But when I got home and looked at the GPX trail, I got a surprise. My climb been a whole minute *slower* than my previous ride. But the descent was 1m20s faster. Not sure what happened on the way up. The gearing is all different, and maybe without the HRM I wasn’t pushing as hard as I could’ve?

It’s not a huge surprise that the descent was faster. On the last ride I took the cycle path, whereas this time I had a clear run on the road. I also pushed 30mph the whole way, thanks to the big gears I have on the MTB. On the city bike, my nexus hub runs out of ratios and I have to freewheel part of the way. Either way, it looks like drag wasn’t a big deal. The Panaracer Razer tyres I have on the MTB are pretty quick too.

It’s not that long ago that this kind of analysis would’ve been the preserve of olympic athletes. I think it’s great that you can do it all yourself now with a low-end phone! You can even play ‘what if’: if you stitch together the climb I did last time with the descent I did tonight, you’d get a lap of 10m44s.

Now, where did that cake go?


Reluctantly dragged myself out for a quick ride tonight – rainy, tired, generally fed up. So I optimized for time and went for just one flat-out lap of Arthurs Seat. Normally I try to keep my heartrate below 160, but today I was up at 167 or so. Result: climb completed 10% faster than last time. On the way down, the roundabout was busy so I hopped onto the cyclepath rather than the road, but then regretted it .. the road is much faster. Still, I got round in 12m30s which is better than the 13m15s I averaged last time out.