Cycling in Perth and Kinross
Two major cycle routes cut through the wonderful loch and glen scenery of Perthshire. ‘The Salmon Run’, NCN77, follows the fish up the Tay for 54 sometimes challenging miles, mostly on quiet roads. NCN7, meanwhile – as part of its mammoth journey from Sunderland to Inverness – winds challengingly off-road north through the hills from Aberfoyle (heavy-duty mountain bikes only) before settling down along an old flat and friendly railtrail (good for adventurous family cycling) to Killin, on Loch Tay.
Independent road tourers on sturdy bikes that can cope with not only a few unavoidable stretches of busy main road, but also the odd mile or two of bumpy unmade surface, can do some outstanding loops. For example, the one from Killin up to Loch Lyon partly on a track, then back on tarmac down the awesome Glen Lyon and back along the south short of Loch Tay. It goes through the village of Dull – something this area of Scotland certainly isn’t.
The long, long road through stunning scenery to Rannoch is a cul-de-sac, but there’s a train station, Britain’s remotest, at the end. Rannoch also offers mountain bikers some superb trails; the Perthshire area offers at least a dozen more, for example, at Pitlochry and Blair Atholl.
Perth itself, a gateway town for the stupendous country to its north and west, has many fine historic buildings to view from a bike. North from the city, NCN77 follows quiet roads 16 miles to fascinating Dunkeld, with good views of Scone Palace en route. East from the city, it follows the Tay on road to Dundee.
Cycling groups and clubs in Perth and Kinross
Aberfeldy and District Rotary Club (Aberfeldy)
Family-fun sportives over 13 or 26 miles
Highland Perthshire Cycling (Perthshire)
Revolution Strathearn (Perth)
Tay Titans (Perth)
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.