Hey guys, it’s Fiona here, I run a lot of the behind the scenes stuff here at Glasgow Bike Hive. Those who follow our Instagram stories will know I recently did a 3 day tour from Inverness to Glasgow on our eBullitt cargo bike, and I thought I’d write a wee blog post about my experience.
For a while now I’ve been thinking that the Bullitt would be the perfect touring bicycle. It is really comfortable to ride, so you can sit on it for days on end, and the box at the front is perfect for fitting in all your stuff, whether that’s food, camping gear, or just a bulkier raincoat! Previously when I’ve done short 3 day tours I’ve only taken a 4.1L Ortlieb saddle bag, so being able to pack a fresh change of clothes for the evening on this trip was *luxury*.
The idea was to ride from Inverness to Glasgow over three days, following the National Cycle Route 7. This route passes through both the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, on Sustrans’ Loch and Glens North route (https://www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/route/lochs-and-glens-north). I bought the official route map from Sustrans for this, which was useful for planning my days and my rest stops, but it is certainly not necessary to buy the map to complete the journey, as the route is well signposted throughout. If you are going to do this route however, please take this one piece of advice: ride from Glasgow to Inverness NOT from Inverness to Glasgow! Psychologically, I thought that riding towards Glasgow would be better as when I finished my ride I’d be home (also going South means it’s all downhill, right?), but it turns out when you ride southwest for 207 miles across Scotland you have a headwind the ENTIRE. GODDAMN. TIME. Seriously guys, ride north.
The first major challenge on this trip came when trying to get up to Inverness to my start point. The obvious choice was by train, which I figured would be easy given the new electric Scotrail trains have large bike areas on them now which would easily fit the Bullitt. I checked the Scotrail website, and although it did not make any specific mention of cargo bikes, it did say that tricycles, tandems, and trailers were not allowed on Scotrail trains, so I thought I would email and ask. The first reply I got from Scotrail was a little confusing, as I was told I wouldn’t be allowed to take my cargo bike on their services “due to the size of the back wheel exceeding that which we permit”. I didn’t quite get this, since the Bullitt has a 26” rear wheel which is a standard MTB size wheel, and MTBs are allowed on Scotrail services! So I emailed again, and was told that as they class my bike as a specialist vehicle, the wheels are not allowed to exceed 20” in size. So no Bullitt on the train! This was really disappointing as I ended up having to rope James in to giving me a lift up to Inverness with the Bullitt in the Volvo, and using a car to get to the start point definitely didn’t sit right with my environmental consciousness, but I really didn’t see any alternatives. Unless Scotrail decide to change their rules, I guess my next cargo bike tour will have to be a loop to avoid any issues getting to the start/finish point.
Once I finally got to Inverness, I set off following the little blue signs along the NCR7. The first part of this journey was a little frustrating, as there is no path along the A9 coming straight out of Inverness. Instead you have to swing out a few miles east past Culloden moor before heading back west again, and this kind of made me feel like I wasn’t really getting anywhere, since I spent the first few miles not actually going in the direction I wanted to go in! Once I actually did start going south, I have to say that this route is AMAZING! I felt like this journey showed me every different type of Scottish landscape. There were rolling hills with sheep farming, bleak sweeping moors, dense forests, imposing hills, and lochside beaches. The diversity of the landscape, along with the ever-changing weather (the waterproofs were on, then they were off again, then they were on again, then they were off again…) made my pictures look like they were taken over the course of several weeks, rather than just three days! On the whole, the road surface was also pretty good, although this is coming from someone who spends most of their time riding avoiding Glasgow potholes so my bar for road surface quality is pretty low. There were a couple of exceptions to this, for instance the last five miles getting over the Drumochter pass (the highest point in the National Cycle Network in Scotland!) the path surface was appalling, and that terrible surface quality along with a strong headwind driving rain in to my face and a long climb over the mountain pass made it a pretty miserable point on the journey. Some of the paths through the Trossachs were also a little sludgy and slow, but they had been rained upon for several days by that point and I think if it had been dry they would have been fine. The majority of this route was on quiet roads, and the few cars I did come across on these roads were on the whole very courteous around my bike. In fact, the only close passes I did have were coming back in to Glasgow when I decided to deviate from the National Cycle Network (which swings out west to Balloch) and come straight down from Killearn on the A81.
I guess I should have made this clear earlier, but I am not a long distance cyclist! I am NOT the kind of person who goes off on a 30-50 mile ride on a Saturday morning, I am the kind of person who uses my bike to cruise around the city and occasionally ride down the canal. And yet, in three days I was able to cover 207 miles and almost 12,000ft of climbing. Yes, our eBullitt has a Shimano STEPS e8000 motor, no I didn’t use the motor all the time, but yes I did turn that electric assist on for some of the hill climbing and towards the end of the longer days when my legs were drained. I know there has been a lot of debate in the cycling community about electric assist motors and what that means for cycling, but honestly I can only see them as a good thing. I would never have attempted a route with this amount of climbing if I hadn’t had the safety net of the eBullitt motor. Electric assist motors help more people to get out in the fresh air and enjoy cycling, and they help people like me to explore routes they would previously not have considered, going further and harder than ever before along stunning routes like the Lochs and Glens North.
The Bullitt performed excellently throughout this entire journey. I made a couple of modifications to it so I could put my own saddle on (LarryVsHarry do not make a female saddle and honestly, the Bullitt saddle is NOT comfortable for women to spend more than a couple of hours on. Get this fixed guys!), the cargo bike was then extremely comfortable to spend several days on, and I had no mechanical issues the entire time. This trip really cemented the idea for me that the eBullitt is the perfect touring bicycle, and I’ll definitely be doing more cargo bike tours in the future.
A final note: this whole trip was part of a sponsored cycle to fundraise for Vision Aid Overseas, an amazing organisation who have been working to improve the eyesight of the world’s poorest populations for over 30 years. If you have any pennies to spare, please consider donating to my VAO fundraiser: https://www.visionaidoverseas.org/fundraisers/fiona-buckmaster