New Pitsligo? Bust.

April 8, 2013

So our aim was the lost café at New Pitsligo;
But we never made it. We did have a ride of about sixty miles in the Scottish second winter. “We” were, for most of the ride, three.  I’ll refer to my companions as E and C. There was another C (C2), and the ride was his idea, but his participation was cut short. We rode out from Aberdeen to Dyce to pick him up, and found him in poor spirits, not highly motivated for the journey and muttering about only accompanying us some of the way. Anyway, we set off North, and didn’t get very far before he fell off his bike. I was some way up the road in front of him, so I didn’t see anything of what happened. He described it to me afterwards thus;
“I thought, “I’m going to fall off my bike. It probably won’t be that bad.” And then I did fall off my bike, and it was worse than I thought.”
Which doesn’t leave us much the wiser. Anyway, it was clear he wasn’t in good shape, and his elbow didn’t look right even at this stage, so he went home and we went on.
We set off up the main Banff road, which is not the nicest. On reaching Newmachar we studied the map briefly and turned off right, up a hill. We also called C2 to make sure he’d got home safely. It started snowing at about this point. At the top of the hill, you turn right over a bridge, then carry on uphill quite steeply to a left turn by a farmhouse. At this point we encountered thick ice on the road with a dusting of snow on top. Riding over this I was having serious difficulty going in a straight line, and indeed staying on the bike. I was quite prepared to give up and go home. But the icy section was only a couple of hundred metres. I decided we should stop messing around with back roads and get on a main road as soon as possible, which we did. We turned North and made decent time as far as Tarves, where we had a quick stop to urinate, eat, and a look at the map. (these functions were not performed simultaneously.)  While hanging out in the bus shelter we met a couple on a Dawes tandem. E and I recognised same, having both seen it around Aberdeen the previous day. They told us they were on their way to Huntly. It seemed to me they must be lost.
We carried on towards Methlick, tracing part of the course of a road race I was in a couple of years ago, albeit in the reverse direction. Out of Methlick the road climbs steeply, and for quite a while. It was starting to get tiring when the snow came on properly. It was thin, and turned to hail in the wind. From the battering of wind, rain, snow, and hail, I was getting serious pain from my neck, and I started thinking about the scarf I had in my bag, which I hadn’t put on when we set off because I was afraid of being too warm. As we were each more or less riding in our own world at this point I let out a stream of curses of the Scottish weather, Scotland in general, cycling, the outdoors, and my luck. Visibility was appalling. You really couldn’t see anything, especially looking straight forwards. For about a mile the road was a narrow strip of tarmac with steep snow banks on both sides. It had obviously required a snowplough to clear it. There were biggish trucks coming past among the other traffic. Eventually the road started going downhill again, we were out of the snowbanks and the snow eased off a bit. We descened steeplyish into New Deer. At the bottom of the hill C’s chain broke.
We quickly realised that, firstly, we need somewhere warm, or at least sheltered, to work, and we also needed two spanners, to get C’s back wheel off. After a few minutes walking around asking relatively unfriendly locals, we found ourselves at a Church Centre café. In response to Cyril’s plea for help the old dears running the place produced, I shit you not, the largest toolbox I’ve ever seen. Having found what we needed we situated ourselves under the outside awning of their café to get to work. I should point out that it was still snowing lightly at this point. We embarked upon an elaborate sequence of chain swapping during which we ended up using bits from my chain, combined with bits salvaged from the broken links of Cyril’s chain, for a makeshift repair. During all this, the sun came out. At the point where we finished, one of the old dears brought us out a bowl of hot soapy water and some kitchen towel with which to clean our hands, which you’ll imagine were by this point filthy.
We had a leisurely lunch in that café, then set off for a relatively uneventful ride home. We set off with jackets on, the idea being to warm up  a bit and then stop and take them off. When first we stopped, it started snowing, so I kept mine on. On the way out of Methlick (steeply uphill in this direction, of course) I become uncomfortably warm and decided to stop to take my jacket off. It started snowing. In between times, though, the sun was shining, there was relatively little wind and you could have been fooled into taking it for a nice day. We rode back into Aberdeen as the sun was setting.

One Response to “New Pitsligo? Bust.”

  1. […] of their stop. Memories of improvised chain repair in the snow in New Deer (Which I described in this post) were passing through my mind as I tried to give calm instruction in the use of the chain tool. […]

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