Cycling 134 miles of the John Muir Way, coast to coast in Scotland, in a single day (in torrential rain)

It's 6am on Friday June 17 and I am standing on the waterfront in Helensburgh in readiness for a solo 134 mile coast-to-coast ride along the John Muir Way.

The only wrinkle is that it's not the bright sunny morning I had hoped for, there's a torrential downpour accompanied by a howling wind and my Garmin bike computer is showing just 8 degrees. A bit more than your typical dreich Scottish weather. But months of planning and preparation, not to mention some time on the bike had got me to this point and I wasn't turning back now, especially as my wife and our Border Terrier, Pepper, were all set to go as my support crew.

I was born in Carnoustie and have lived in Scotland for most of my life. I now live in Lincolnshire but with friends conveniently located in East Linton it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. The route passes through some of the most iconic and picturesque places in central Scotland, sadly not all of them were visible through the morning cloud and rain!

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I had decided to attempt the ride in a single day, fuelled by, boiled eggs, a couple of ham & cheese croissants, Beta Fuel, SIS gels and High 5 energy bars, . I was riding my Canyon Grail gravel bike and was hoping to average 13mph. Not a fast speed on flat, quite roads, but a decent speed with the mixed terrain, a not insignificant amount of climbing and allowing for sharing the trail and road with fellow travellers. The helpful team at The Green Action Trust – The trusted delivery partner focussed on environmental and regeneration outcomes for Scotland recommended a great route which uses as much of the trail as possible The John Muir Way – Bikepacking Scotland

A lock on the Union Canal

The route did not disappoint. The climb up from Helesburgh is pretty steep but you’re soon in the remoteness of the Trossachs Country Park where the views are spectacular (allegedly) and then crossing the Kilpatrick Hills. It was here in a howling gale and torrential rain that I sought shelter and messaged my support crew. "Get my warm clothes ready, I'm pulling the pin on this" Once I arrived in Strathblane I’d lost the sensation in my left hand such was the cold & wet. However the forecast was for better weather ( time not specified) as we reached the central belt and the iconic Falkirk Wheel. Thankfully after a change of clothes and a natter to myself I headed along the Union Canal, chasing some semblance of warmth.

After picking up refreshments, Beta Fuel & SiS gels I was heading along the Union Canal, Swans, cygnets and nobody about. It’s flat and pretty fast, for fast read wet. But the rewarding sight of the three bridges across the Firth of Forth are a welcome sight for my second support crew catch up.

This time actually removing my waterproof jacket, sun glasses still conspicuous by their absence. Riding through the capital brought back so many memories as I’d lived there on and off for 14 years. Seeing iconic buildings, being up close to Murrayfield and Arthur’s Seat, the Craggs brought back so many memories. But the ride had my focus. The East coast beckoned, The Innocent Railway was strike free and was my ticket to Prestonpans and the next catch up with Pepper and the donning of my sunglasses and the removal of my arm warmers.

You have no idea how much that made me smile.

The Falkirk Wheel

Fast, fast on the road to Gullane but a couple of wrong turns on the Luffness new Golf Course (sorry members) took the shine off an excellent segment. Nearing the end I was still buzzing aided by some sugar laden drink and the thought of catching up with friends at the Preston Mill in East Linton. Only seven miles to go. To be honest a bit of a slog around around Belhaven Bay but finishing beside the John Muir statue was pretty special.

Another little dig and I’m looking up at the Bear. It’s amazing how quickly the horrific weather is forgotten and the good bits always win.

Arbroath-born Charles Buik, 55, is retired and now lives in Horncastle, Lincolnshire

Charles Buik
The route is 134 miles
Charles Buik completed the John Muir Way in a single day

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