Cyclists Should Just Get Lost
I once got an award from Glasgow Triathlon Club for my ability to get lost on trail runs. Perhaps as the coach I should have planned things a bit better, but I was proud to receive my special whistle and lanyard as a mark of appreciation for the element of adventure that I had brought to our routes, despite the laughter.
The joy of going into the wild is of course the absence of civilisation: we can exercise in the gym on a treadmill or spin bike where the screen in front of us feeds a constant stream of data. We know that the session will finish in 19 minutes and will consist of six hills of diminishing size at effort level blah blah...….but where's the fun in that?
In the real world we have to walk or cycle up real hills in real weather and we have to do the whole distance back home before we finish. Get away into the hills and forests and you can throw in uneven terrain, worse weather and lack of ready support...…...in other words, Adventure!
Now, in Scotland we have some fabulous wild countryside but we don't live in Siberia or the Amazon jungle. In order to feel the excitement of facing raw nature armed with just our own skills and rugged resolution, we have to turn a bit of a blind eye to some of the inconvenient realities such as good maps, signposts, GPS and the thousands of other people who have been there before us. We have to put a bit of effort into getting (and staying) lost in the wilderness.
Of course, no one wants to put themselves or others in genuine danger, but there is such fun to be had in taking the overgrown side path that you have never explored before and following it just to see what happens. It might be a dead end or it might lead to the most beautiful bit of countryside you've ever seen.
Around Aberfoyle we have some wonderful countryside to explore and we try and get as many people as possible out on bikes to see it. For most that means following one of the waymarked trails, which are great, but only represent a fraction of the possibilities. What we want is for people to out and get "lost", and this is how to do it.
Aberfoyle has many great routes to explore in all directions but the Loch Ard Forest to the south and west has the biggest selection and is probably the most daunting to navigate through. The forest roads and paths are accurately shown on maps but there are so many junctions with three, four or five options that following a pre-planned route is a bit tedious.
The best approach is just to go out and ride, bearing in mind these tips...…..
The main forest roads radiate out from Aberfoyle into the wedge-shaped forest area.
From the village, the left hand boundary of the wedge is the Old Drymen Road, which is National Cycle Route 7. If you hit this tarmac single track you can turn left and follow it back through Gartmore to Aberfoyle.
The right hand boundary is the tarmac road running west through Kinlochard. Again, if you hit this and turn right you return to Aberfoyle.
One of the main radial roads through the forest is the Statute Labour Road, signposted west to Inversnaid and east to Aberfoyle.
Ben Lomond is a very big landmark, visible to the west from all over the forest.
The area rises gradually from the River Forth. Following streams back downhill will lead back to the river and Aberfoyle.
Mobile phone coverage is patchy but Google maps will work using GPS.
So, get a feel for the general shape of the area then go out and ride to your heart's content. Explore, get a bit lost and then, when you've had enough, use these guidelines to orient yourself and get home.