Alrighty, for those still awake after part 1...The 2nd route - loop from Brodick to Lumlash and back again. Just under 13 miles.
Apologies in advance - when you get bored reading, go back and look at the pictures - they capture the day much better than this...
Started out gently enough with a short tarmac climb heading south out of Brodick which pretty quickly petered out into muddy farm track with hedgerows either side. In turn this opened out into singletrack, still climbing gently. The 4 steps at the end of the bridge over the burn gave me a bit of a fright, but somehow I managed to wobble down them (mad urban skillz!) - a few guys took the path to the right, which I'm assuming allowed you to ford the burn instead. The track was pretty badly rutted in places, basically too deep and narrow to cycle, so there were a few get off and push moments. Also some big rocks in the mix too - would have been 'interesting' coming down this the other way... By this point, the track was runnning parallel to the Lumlash road, climbing until we reached the rest area where we stopped for photies.
After that, we nipped across the Lumlash road eastward and onto Forestry track (yet again super smooth for the loggers) for the climb up the Clauchland Hills. Pretty steep at first, but calmed down quickly, although it was a long 'un. And as Gaz pointed out, we may not have enjoyed the climb quite as much without a tail wind pushing us along. We basically followed the track right to the end, where we stopped for a breather and let everyone catch up.
After that, a short but steep climb to the left up through the tree stumps towards the trees, with a tricky tight and uneven turn at the bottom involving some big roots. Too steep for the SS'ers, but a couple of the Arran boys scooted up making it look easy - I gave it a half-hearted go but let the roots at the bottom get the better of me.
The descent from here began very steeply, and despite the warnings, a few of us didn't make it down without falling (including at least one of the locals
). The descent levelled off, then a quick ride across some bumpy, relatively open track, then a wee trundle down through some fern and then a get off and push back up to a trig point, complete with a great view looking out over the Holy Island and Lumlash bay.
Next up - the bloody cliff-face ferns! The warnings from the locals got more and more ominous... 'It'll be a bit overgrown'... 'Lookout for the hidden gate posts'...'oh and the hidden rocks'... 'And remember, fall right, not left down the cliff'... This started badly for me, with a rapid little drop into and out of a dip with a lip meant I pulled the best wheelie ever with my weight still too far back... Ended badly a fraction of a second later of course. From there, a gradual descent along a very narrow, twisty, rutted and rocky track. The track itself was effectively invisible, with the fern reaching head height at times. A lot of the guys enjoyed this, but I just couldn't react fast enough to the terrain. Multiple offs (including one to the left), and with my confidence waining it just made my riding worse. Very glad to get to the bottom, but spare a thought for Mr Panda, who still had part of his front pannier frame fitted to his fork, which constantly got caught on the ferns. At least it was dragging him to left... And not to forget, this was his first day trying spuds on a mountain bike... without a helmet.
After the ferns, the majority of the Arran lads headed off. We nipped across a delightful shit strewn field, dropped down past some cows and then onto a coast track. Stopped to admire a lone basking seal, past a couple of WWII bunkers and then back onto tarmac as we entered Lumlash itself.
We refuelled at the Drift Inn, with a pint and some grub, and said goodbye to the 2 remaining locals. Mr Panda nipped off and was gone a suspiciously long time - I'm suspecting an adrenaline shot to set him up for the cycle back to Brodick.
So with chips, cheese and burgers sloshing greasily around our guts, we set off on the return leg. Horrible steep climb out of Lumlash - tarmac up until just after the golf course, where a singletrack on the left begins which parallels the road following it upwards. I probably had my worst off of the day here and I'm still not sure how it happened, but I somehow ended up rolling into a lovely thorny ditch with just my head visible. Anyway, this section of the ride was a bit of a blur, physically I was really toiling by this point.
We joined some more forestry track at the rest area we'd stopped at previously, then headed left and then right following the track upwards away from the road, with Gaz and Jimi still leading as usual. Stopped for a quick chat with a nice auld bloke, who'd worked on some of the original forestry planting waaaay BITD. The road curved north, then north west, levelling out and then beginning to descend while curving round towards the west. Nice easy fast run with a couple of reasonably tight turns at speed.
Across a bridge the trail turning northeasterly for the final run into Brodick and onto some really nice pea shingle single track. It was fast and flowed well - not particulary challenging, although there were a few tight turns to catch out the unwary and the gravel was slippy under tyre. Good fun and I think there was some racing going on here, with Gaz holding up Kaiser, who in turn was holding up Jimi. On through a kissing gate, across a field, then through another kissing gate, and onto some road for a wee bit then back onto single track, keeping the river to the right. Eventually back out onto the road beside some holiday homes, then civilization and a right turn onto the Brodick front, where Kaiser (just) took the final sprint to the pier.
What a day, one I won't forget in a hurry...