I forgot my shoes! Unbelievable. I was an hour from home at the Spittal of Glenshee, away for a trip up and down the Munro Glas Tulaichean, so nipping home wasn’t an option.
Bikes are so reliable these days that a bag of spares is no longer a necessity so, at times, all I need is a water bottle. Unless I’m wearing my shoes, I forget them. The trainers would have to do.
Climbing south into the woods felt fine, and it was easier to jump off for gates along the track through the plantation. I felt vindicated by my choice to carry on when I emerged above the Dalmunzie House Hotel and the views opened up into Glen Lochsie and Glen Taitneach.
Not many Munros entertain the notion of cycling to the top. Of those that do, the majority are in the Cairngorms. It’s only around three hours to the summit and back so no worries about daylight.
The ruins of Glenlochsie Lodge mark the start of the long pull to the summit, with a loose climb that rises sharply above the glen. The altitude gain is quick and painful. When you finally crest the end of this section, there’s a long, ridgeline curving away to the distance, but the gradient lends itself to relaxed riding and taking in the view.
With Beinn a’ Ghlo to the left, the Cairnwell hills to the right, more summits peep over the horizon as you spin onward and upward.
Breaking off the path at the top, there’s a smooth lawn over the summit to the trig point. Due north, cloud had descended on the Devil’s Point and the Lairig Ghru, and a shower smudged the horizon. After spinning around in awe for a few minutes, it was time to crack on down the way I’d come.
Gravity tugged the bike up to a brisk speed. With brick-sized stones scattered loosely across the path, there were a few unexpected lurches.
The most crucial kit for a high-speed descent like this is eye protection. Rapidly gaining up to 60kph (37mph), simple specs made it easier to spot obstacles. But as the stones got bigger, it was time to accept today’s limitations.
Back at Glenlochsie Lodge, it’s easy to overshoot the earlier exit to the old railway track, but do take it. It’s lumpy and bumpy and lots of fun.
Then it’s just a short spin back to the car.
Location: Spittal of Glenshee
Distance: 21.5km (13 miles)
Ascent: 760m (2493ft)
Map: OS Explorer OL52/ Landranger 43
Parking: A few spaces near the remains of the hotel at Spittal of Glenshee.
Top tip: With an access track this good, you could ride up with tent and gear for an overnighter on the broad, flat summit. But don’t overload yourself – the descent is too much fun to hamper.
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