Cycling in North East Scotland
Dundee, the Cairngorms and whisky roughly sums up North East Scotland. The area comprises the local authorities of Angus, Aberdeenshire and Moray, all contained in the triangle of land jutting into the sea - a geographically diverse area with cultivated farmland to the south, and wild mountains edged with cliffs to the north.
Once in Dalwhinnie, lovers of single malts are in heaven – or Speyside, at least. From here down to the mouth of the Spey at Buckie they can follow the river along quiet roads, car-free riverside paths and railtrails, through superb scenery (particularly the few miles east of Aviemore along the westerly edge of the North Eastern border, which are family-friendly). It also goes past countless distilleries, with many open for tastings. It’s a very relaxing multi-day trip.
The Cairngorms are mostly too mountainous to have roads, although hardcore mountain bikers have some of the most thrilling trails in the UK. For tourers, the hills and valleys north-east of Tomintoul (another whisky town) have fine lanes to explore. From ‘whisky capital’ Dufftown, a family-friendly off-road path through woods can get you 12 miles to Keith, and a heritage railway can take you and bikes back.
Aberdeen itself – the Granite City, with stern imposing historic buildings and pleasant promenade – is reasonable enough to cycle round. It offers, from nearby Dyce, perhaps the longest railtrail in the UK: the Formartine and Buchan Way’s rough Y-shape, with arms that end at Fraserburgh and Peterhead, totals over 50 miles. It’s all cyclable, although apart from short stretches (from Dyce, for instance) it’s unmade surfaces, best done on a mountain bike.
NCN1 goes all along the coast’s two sides of a triangle. Spurring off it as it goes through Aberdeen is the Deeside Way, following an old railway west nearly 28 scenic miles to Ballater. Mostly level and traffic-free, with some short on-road sections, it’s a fine family choice. If you're after beautiful views of Moray's coastline, try the NCN1 section running from Cullen to Kinloss - the views from the clifftops are especially breathtaking.
Cycling groups and clubs in North East Scotland
CTC Grampian (North East Scotland)
Informal club which provides for all types and abilities of cyclists in the North East of Scotland
Moray Mountain Bike Club (Moray)
Promotes fitness through biking and other types of sports and exercises
Bike park and cycle club running uplift days for fun and the development of DH riding
The Bike Shack / Networks of Wellbeing (Huntly)
Promotes and supports people in improving their mental health and wellbeing
Belles on Bikes Moray (Moray)
Aims to support women cycling together in a friendly, relaxed and inclusive environment
Aberdeen Multicultural Cycling Club (Aberdeen)
ConocoPhillips Cycling Club (Aberdeen)
Exploration and production company with branches round the globe
Ecurie Neep Mountain Bike Club (Aberdeen)
Social cross country and downhilling with some racing
Belles on Bikes Aberdeenshire (Aberdeen)
Cycle Friendly Kingussie (Kingussie)
Angus Cycling Club (Forfar)
Offers Sunday rides, Audax events, social away weekends
Rossie Young People's Trust (Rossie)
Provides accommodation, education, care and support to the young people of Scotland
Mearns Cycle Hub (Mearns)
Bike hire; coaching for schools, communities, companies and individuals; recycled bikes; events
Angus Ladies Leisurely Cyclists (Angus)
Alyth Hill Users Group (Alyth Hill)
Protecting and conserving Alyth Hill for better access
Special Treats Trykers (Dundee)
SCYD Cycling Club (Dundee)
Ride - On (Dundee)
Dundee Bike Club (Dundee)
Dundee Cycling (Dundee)
Aims to make cycling a normal, everyday activity in Dundee
Dundee Wheelers (Dundee)
Dundee Thistle (Dundee)
Carolina Community Cycling Club (Dundee)
Dundee women (Dundee)
Bronze plaques celebrating 25 women associated with the city
What to take with you on your ride
The only thing you really need for cycling is a bike. And maybe a phone, and credit card: in Britain you’re only a call away from any service you might need.
But unless money is no object, it’s wise to take a few things with you on a day ride. A saddlebag or rear rack and panniers are best for carrying stuff. A front basket is second best. A rucksack is third best. Your sweaty back will soon tell you why.
Cycling short distances in jeans and t-shirt is fine, but on a long or strenuous ride – over ten miles say, or in hills – those jeans will rub and the t-shirt will get damp and clingy. Shorts or, yes, lycra leggings and padded shorts will be much comfier, and merino or polyester cycling tops wick away the sweat, keeping you dry and comfy. (They don’t have to be lurid colours.)
If rain’s in the air, pack a rainproof top. If it might turn chilly, take a fleece or warm top. But the thing you’re most likely to forget is the sunblock.
It’s remarkable how often you enjoy being out on the bike so much that you suddenly realise it’s getting dark. So take lights (which are legally required at night). They’re price of a sandwich, take no space, are easy to put on thanks to tool-free plastic clips, and the batteries last for ever.
Take a puncture repair kit (with tyre levers) and pump. Make sure it fits your valves, which will be either ‘Presta’ or ‘Schraeder’ – realising they don’t match is a very common roadside discovery! Carrying a spare inner tube (make sure it matches your tyre size) makes puncture repair much easier: mend the old one back at home. If you do get in trouble, some kindly passing cyclist will probably stop to help.
Using a helmet is a personal choice – they’re not legally required.
Cycling makes you thirsty, so take lots of water. Long-distance riders talk about ‘the bonk’ – a sudden loss of energy rendering you almost stationary. It’s miraculously and instantly cured by eating something sweet. On short rides you’re unlikely to run out of energy, but just in case, take a snack like flapjack, banana, chocolate or jelly babies.
Taking a packed lunch or picnic will save you money, though that hot drink and cake in a cosy cafe could yet prove very tempting!
Your phone GPS could be invaluable for showing where you are when lost; you can download free detailed UK maps and GPS software before your trip.
Paper maps are still useful, though, so take one: no power source or wifi signal required, and they’re great for suggesting possibilities or changes of plan.