Bealach Na Ba

“The Bealach is the UK’s biggest road climb at 2053 ft(626m) from sea level in just 6 miles (10k).  It is set in a fabulous unspoilt landscape with outstanding views of the sea and hills.  The Applecross Peninsula is renowned as a gem in Scotland’s crown of natural wonders. The idea of a sportive belongs to local cycling legend Clifford Davidson.”

What a day! The weather was bang on as predicted, sunny, warm and a gentle tail breeze giving just enough cooling from the hot sun.

The start of the event is very relaxed – register sometime between 9 and 10:15, then set off whenever you like between 10:30 and 11 – just dib and off you go. So once I had made sure my partner had dibbed before me (every second counts!) we set off, and within a few yards my mudguard started to catch. Several stops later it was sorted (why did I take my winter bike again???). I soon caught up with Rob who then featured in several photos.


Rob at the start of the climb….still smiling

A mile or so in we came across a poor chap who had been abandoned by his group – they had left him to fix his puncture alone, taking with them the only group pump (visions of a Top Gear approach to treating friends in need sprang to mind). After sorting him out with a gas shot we plodded on. The aim of the day to enjoy the ride rather than go for a time.

After reaching the start of the climb, we were disappointed to find there was no ‘dibber’ at the bottom, meaning there was no individual time for the climb. OK, so we used the ‘disappointment’ as an excuse for a chat, and after dragging Rob away (he could have chatted all day given the chance) we started on the ascent.

The climb starts weaving its way up at a gently gradient, giving increasing views across the bay. The view get better as you hang a right and head towards the col. Having such amazing view helps keep the mind from the legs – double bonus. Ahead of us were a couple on a tandem, and after suggesting to Rob that we catch them before the top, it soon became evident that these guys (actually one guy, one lady) were rocking up the climb, and we saw them gradually eek away from us. Rob being a busy bee at work hadn’t done the training he would have liked and got a numb foot, meaning walking was the only option (I managed to stay on the bike but kept catching my front mudguard which was fun). Just before the hairpins towards the top (the steepest section going up from this side), Rob found his legs, mounted up and powered on.

Following the switchbacks and the short final slope we reached to top to ‘dib’ (although why we bothered I’m not sure). Then the fun began.

Having closed roads for the ascent and descent certainly made things easier and much more fun. Reaching a max of 49.6 mph, the descent was great fun. A few corners nearly caught me out, as did a few weaving riders I overtook, but I made it down safely and waited for Rob. I heard him before I saw him. Turns out he had his front wheel on back to front and the grooved braking surface was facing the wrong way – result was something that sounded like a moose in distress (or was that just Rob himself?).

Passing our accommodation in Applecross we pulled in to the food stop. The flapjack was epic – doorstop sized and gorgeous – so a few slices had to be done. Rob chatted away to the local bobbies, one of whom had worked his first 10 years in Robs birthplace on Lewis. Again I had to drag him away!

The coast section is humpy lumpy but with short, steep climbs and descents for the main part. headwinds had picked up, making the go ing a little harder, but all the better for training. A few highland coos (cows) blocked the road, but a quick tap on the horns they soon moved out of the way (thankfully they are quite placid).


Highland coo

We soon caught up with one of Robs friends who was having seat issues, namely it was sticking up into the crown jewels. Seat fixed we rode the rest of the route together, with the odd cramp and seat stop on the way.

The route is stunning and that’s no exaggeration. I’ll definitely be back next year, or even for its longer brother the Bealach Mor later in the year.

The bike behaved well and the upgraded brakes were amazing. What a day!


Just before the end

….and the results…well the result was an amazing day out on the bike, and a few more hours in the saddle – and that is all the result I wanted for the day. Next time I’ll go for a time…

Check out the Strava ride here:

And the Relive route here:

Categories: Blog

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