The day started in the fantastic setting of Glen Sligachan with the Cullins providing the backdrop and an awesome place for a photo. We set off on the main road through Skye, traffic was busy and fast not providing us with much room and a stark change from all our other rides. We opted to take a detour which would add distance but would miss out a hill and get us off the main road. Turning left onto the Moll road we descended passed a quarry and with a clang and bang Andys bike seemed to be not having much fun. We pulled over and it was immediately clear we had an issue. One of the bolts keeping the pannier onto the frame which also happened to be the load bearing one had come loose. Thankfully the bolt was still there and all we needed to do was screw it back in and tighten it up. Out comes the tool I bought especially for the trip which had one of each size of Allan keys that the bike needed and also a chain tool. However to save space the Allan keys are double use so that each end have different sizes and it just so happened the size we required was on a short side of the Allan key and the panniers have a long hole to which the bolt disappears meaning the Allan key would not stretch the distance to screw the bolt back in. “Screwed” I thought to myself!
I vainly looked up and around to see if a man with a van would pass who would happen to have a set of Allan keys. But alas no such man passes. Scratching my head I figured that all I needed was something to wrap around the end of the smaller Allan key that would stretch into the hole and would make the key bigger to get some purchase on the sides of the bolt. Just what would be the question. After scrambling around the bike repair kit had the answer, the rubber patches were just the thing and after a bit of fumbling I was screwing the bolt in. Tho only manage a couple of turns but it would last until we reached civilisation which would be 15kms down the road in Broadford. I instructed Andy to avoid potholes and to keep on smooth road.
We continued along the Moll loop and it was immediate that this road was barely maintained. The amount of holes, gaps in Tarmac, patches of Tarmac that has disintegrated the road was atrocious so much Andy had thought it wasn’t a true road but it is and there are houses that it supplies! The views were fantastic, the island of Rasaay to our left and the hills to our right and in between sea lochs.
The road continued and we bounced all the way to the main road half glad to be on a smooth road but bitter sweet as the road was busy as ever.
We’d not been on it long when clunk, the pannier had become loose again. Out comes the tools and fixing was a bit more difficult. My botch way of screwing didn’t work the first or second times. Getting annoyed with the cars speeding passed inches away from my head I was getting frustrated. Eventually the bolt screwed in and we were off.
The rest of the journey to Broadford was forgettable. Upon arriving I got a glimpse of fluorescent yellow, “cyclists” I thought. “Allan keys” was my 2nd thought. Andy blissfully unaware why I was beckoning him to cross the road. Before he’d realised I’d asked the group if they had a set and being organised and older they did. Andy had made his way over by now and I dutifully tightened up the bolts and mine too.
The group of cyclist were also doing the loop of Hebrides and making their way back to Oban via Mull. I started comparing, as you do, and making judgements about their journey compared to our own. They’d gone all the way to the Butt of Lewis where we’d not bothered, but they caught the bus back to Tarbet to get to Uig. They were also going at a pace and getting around faster than we were.
What was also strange was their accents. They were from Northumberland and knew of Seaton Sluice where I grew up and didn’t live far from there. Strange meeting indeed.
We waved them goodbye but we’d see them again as their destination was also Mallaig.
Broadford went by and we reached the turn off to the road to Armadale, one we hoped had less cars as the majority choose the bridge option.
This road was good, newly built with European money, the going was smooth, some inclines but steady and matched with some long down hills too. The old road snaked to our right which could have been a nice ‘off road’ option had we known the route it took and if it were good to cycle on.
We arrived in Armadale in good time for the 15:20 ferry, the fluorescent yellow cyclists were already there eating cake, we opted for pizza and chips – a well known fuel of choose for cyclists!
The ferry was just another ferry, the novelty of walking onto the car deck pushing the bikes had worn off and we were glad to see there was an indoor bit. This would be the first time on mainland for over a week but new adventures awaited tomorrow.