On a weekend in the west (day 2)

Day two’s cycle was a bit longer. I parked on a minor road off the A85 just west of Dalmally (if I were doing this or something similar again I’d use one of the many parking places I found at the northern end of the A819) and took the minor road that runs down the eastern side of Loch Awe. This was a nice quiet road, with some nice views over the loch (it might be even better going north as you’d then be looking at Ben Cruachan). The road surface was a real mixed bag – the were some section of lovely new smooth tarmac and some bits full of potholes and gravel – I assume they’ll be next on the list for new tarmac! After an hour and three-quarters, I was slightly bored of Loch Awe and was glad to get to the end of it! I also came to a junction with a sign about a cycle route to Oban – I was glad I checked my map, as that took me back up the other side of the loch, and not the route I’d planned. I continued to the A816 and then turned north to Oban. I thought the A816 was a great road to cycle. Remember this was Easter Saturday – there really wasn’t that much traffic, and most drivers seemed quite patient. (I did get a couple of close passes from cars with Dutch numberplates!). The road does a series of climbs and descents and some of the descents were really fast and sweeping, on good tarmac. I’m not a very confident descender, but I did enjoy these, especially where the road surface was good. I knew I didn’t have a lot of time, so I pushed on to Oban. It would be nice to come back sometime and explore that area a bit more slowly.

In Oban I got a sandwich and a coffee. I then had two options – the A85 which I expected would be faster to cycle but busy with traffic, and a minor road running inland which was marked as part of the Sustrans cycle route 78 (the same one I hadn’t followed at the end of Loch Awe). I expected that this would have much less traffic on it, so even though I thought it would also be slower to cycle, I went that way. I was right about the traffic, and I was also right about the cycling speed! It was a really small, up-and-down-and-round-about road. A lot of the surface wasn’t very good, and there were lots of cattle grids, which I hate. It did go through a really pretty glen, and when I stopped to take a photo of Ben Cruachan I realised that it was absolutely silent – the only thing I could hear was a stream. So as a one-off, that was probably the “right” way to go. If I had to cycle from Taynuilt to Oban regularly, I think I’d use the A85 – once I did get on to it it didn’t seem too busy, and it was mostly wide enough for cars to pass without too much hassle. I do wonder who Sustrans think use a route like that – it didn’t suit me in speed-merchant mode, but it is further than I would go on my Brompton. Tourers, I guess, who would be happy to take the slow quiet road over the fast busy one. But not all cyclists are tourers, and not all tourers pootle.

I found most car drivers on the single-track roads pretty good – there was the odd one who assumed we could pass in opposite directions at speed, but to balance them there were plenty who stopped and pulled over to let me come through, and who acknowledged me when I did the same. My biggest fright was someone who sounded like they were coming very fast behind me just when I need to give my full attention to a horrible bit of road surface – mind you they did have some piece of metal machinery on a trailer so it may be they were not as close as they sounded – I didn’t dare take my eyes off the road to look back!

I did have one final misadventure with the infrastucture. There’s a bridge over the railway that has traffic lights. I stopped at the red light, and waited. Nothing. Some cars came the other way. My light still didn’t change. I waved at the light. Still nothing. I rolled back a bit and cycled towards the light. It remained red. I had a bit of a look – was the bridge wide enough to cycle through against the red? I wasn’t sure. Eventually a car came, and lo and behold the light changed – but not for long, I only just had time to get through behind it before the light went red again – there was a bit of an uphil start which didn’t help for quick acceleration. I do intend to complain about it – not that I expect anything to be done, they can’t get many cyclists along there (or maybe they all just go through the red light… which is probably what I’d do another time…)


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