February Challenge #1 - Ride a Winter Lap of the Isle of Mull

This has long been on my tick-list yet for some reason I never got around to it.

If I'm honest, it's because it looked rather tough.

I wasn't certain I could complete it in a respectable time.

Yet that's what these challenges are partly about.  Not exactly a bucket list, more like motivation to tidy up some loose ends.  Things I've always meant to do but didn't get around to.

I'm doing at least one a month in this my 60th year on the planet.

Loads of people have ridden a full circuit of the Isle of Mull.  Indeed, this is the route of the Mull sportive.  But most folk wait until the cafes are open, the days are longer, and CalMac switches to its summer timetable with more sailings.

But once the tourists arrive, Mull gets mobbed.  Many of them struggle to deal with bikes on the single track roads which cover the island, and the locals get frustrated an impatient.

It made more sense to me to go now, and it was a great call.  The weather lived up to the forecast and there were remarkably few cars around until I reached the north coast.  Perfect.

There were only two tricky things.  First was clothing choice - it was freezing cold (literally) where I started so I was muffled in lots of layers, mitts, cap and overshoes.  However, by the time I tackled the second long climb around mid-day I was cooked and finding inventive places to stow extraneous kit.  Still, it all came on again towards the end as the low winter sun disappeared below the horizon.

By this point I felt quite doddery too
The second tricky thing was food.  I guessed correctly that all the cafes would be closed, but hadn't appreciated how few shops I'd find open.  One.  At the end.  I was relieved that I'd packed two slices of Liz's fruit cafe, and another two chunks of her wholemeal bread.  That plus some gels and bars kept me going (the spare farty bedroom for me tonight though).

This was the biggest traffic delay of the day
The lap is 88 miles.  That's not too tough a distance, but it's the elevation gain which makes Mull a worthy challenge, 1,784m.

Easiest way to get to Mull for us is to drive to Lochaline, park and wheel the bike onto the CalMac.  The Sunday winter timetable has just four crossings each way.  There's eight hours and five minutes between the first sailing arriving on Mull and the last one departing.

So, 88miles in 8 hours.  Exactly, 11mph average speed.  I put the Garmin on free run, pressed the button as I rolled down the ferry ramp, and kept a close eye on that average speed.

Eventually I arrived back at the ferry 7hr and 5min after leaving.  My Garmin subsequently told me my actual riding time was 6hr 31min.

Relive 'Day Tour of Mull'

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