Last weekend my girlfriend and I used our new bikes to go on a trip to the Falkirk wheel.
First let me go back (for the record) to our first trip on the new bikes. Four weeks ago we started our new cycling life with ride up to Balloch in the sunshine, up part of National cycle route 7. The ride initially goes up the Forth & Clyde canal through some of the loveliest parts of north west Glasgow! Due to the nice weather the canal path was pretty busy, there were a few of the standard groups of semi-drunken neds standing around (although not too many and they were generally quite benign), but also plenty of other cyclists and walkers. Once we got to Bowling, and the River Clyde end of the canal, thing got prettier and slightly less busy. We had to leave the canal here and head towards the River Leven, which we could follow to then follow to Balloch (you also have to go through a couple of towns and we did manage to get a small bit waylaid at one put, before re-finding the cycle route. Balloch was pretty mobbed, but we only stayed briefly to sit by Loch Lomond and have our lunch. I'd been feeling pretty good, with no aches and pains, on the ride up, especially given that that last time I'd cycled that far must have been a long time ago (in fact I don't know if I'd ever done a longish cycle journey). However, having got off the bikes and rested my legs during lunch they weren't liking working again when we started heading home - my knees in particular were protesting a bit, and also more strangely my wrists. We made it home in good time without collapsing from exhaustion, but certainly felt the journey afterwards. Our bikes had also survived well, although I had had to re-attach my chain at one point. In fact as it had been so dry they looked pretty much unused.
For this more recent ride the weather was more inclement. The trip to Falkirk goes entirely along the Forth & Clyde canal starting pretty much from just outside my flat (basically we just went the opposite direction to our first trip). With only a few locks between here and the wheel the ride is pretty much entirely on the level, but the weather and our lack of regular cycling meant it was quite tough going. The ride goes through the lovely Possil marshes, up through Bishopsbriggs, Lenzie, Kirkintilloch, Kilsyth, Bonnybridge and then the wheel. We had rain showers of varying severity hitting every so often, and inbetween (especially on the outward ride) were inundated with flies and other bugs, which on a positive note meant there weren't too many people out on the path to get in our way. I'd never been to the wheel before so it was interesting to see it and it is a quite impressive piece of engineering. But unless you actually take a trip on it (they put on many sailings every day to take you up and down) there's actually very little to see or do - they have a visitor centre (looking like a mini Glasgow Science Centre), but it lacks any real information. I was expecting it to be more like a musuem, with displays about the history of the canals and the engineering of the wheel, but there was very little except for a shop and a cafe. We didn't go on a sailing and just ate our lunch and had some tea and a cake in the cafe, whilst waiting for the latest rain shower to abate. Contemplating the ride back to Glasgow wasn't fun as we both had felt like we had no energy and were considering the idea of just cycling to Falkirk station and getting he train back. But we didn't give up and once we started riding again, with our energy levels restored from our lunch, things picked up. I definitely wasn't aching as much as I had on the return journey of our first trip. We also made far better time on the way back, cutting about 20 minutes off our outward journey. After this trip our bikes definitely now look used - the puddles and mud have given them a nice spattering (as well as at the time giving us, despite mudguards, a similar look). There was no chain slip this time, but my front brake callipers do seem to have moved meaning that one of the brake rubbers is stuck against the wheel rim.
Who know were our next trip will be - we might even venture off the canal paths and try a route with some sort of hills!