1st May 2017
Michael Mechthold-Jin, PhD.
Program Director of the Vocational Skills Development Program (VSDP)
Recommendation for Simon Wilkinson / Pedal Power Highlands
I arrived on bike at the end of the world on a cold April afternoon – with my front wheel wrecked. Under normal circumstances this would have meant to be stuck in the middle of nowhere for several days without transport. It could have meant waiting for a week on the delivery of a new wheel. But I was lucky. Simon Wilkinson had just moved to the north coast of Scotland to start his Pedal Power business in Armadale.
He met me the next morning, picked up the bike, took it to his workshop, tested it and delivered it, better than new, on the same das to my hotel in Tongue. All that for a very reasonable price.
If you’re stranded anywhere near Armadale with a bicycle problem, don’t despair. Call Simon. He will come with his van and safe you! He is the guardian angel of Highland riders in distress. He is the patron saints of Sutherland bike travellers. The highlands’ knight in shining armour.
- Cycling in the Highlands and in Sutherland specifically
Bicycle travelling in the Scottish Highlands, particularly in Sutherland, can be one the most rewarding experiences in a lifetime if you like small roads without traffic and incredible scenery – as I do. But it can also be a nightmare if you come with the wrong expectations. It can be windy, rainy and cold at any time of the year. Temperatures are least harsh in summer but then the midges will eat you alive. Some of the roads are very steep and in some places there’s no food or accommodation for 50 miles. The remoteness and ruggedness of the place makes it an attractive destination for cyclists but also a challenge.
Before you come to the North with your bicycle there’s one important decision you’ll have to take: Camping or not. If you bring your own tent you are much more flexible and safe a lot of money. You can sleep almost anywhere and don’t run the risk that all B&Bs are fully booked for the next 50 miles (which is not unheard of). However, you may regret your decision at every climb, and there are many steep climbs in Scotland. You will feel every kilogramme. Headwind and rain don’t help. It’s not just the weight of your tent but all the other camping equipment you’ll need add up. You’ll also need to consider that it takes time to set up your tent every evening and pack it again the next morning. There’s no correct answer to this question: It’s a trade-off.
There are a few tips that I think will help you to get the most out of your cycling experience in the north of Scotland:
- First of all, I recommend not to do it if you have never travelled on bike before. Try this in an easier environment at first to get experience and to know yourself better. It helps to know where your limits are (in terms of distance), what you need (clothes, food) and how much you can endure (climbs, wind, tiredness). Learn to understand the signals from your body.
- Most cyclists who come to the Highlands do it as a part of the “Land’s End to John o’Groats” or the “500 miles”. I don’t recommend that. You will have more fun with a more “freestyle” schedule. The best rides I had were day trips away from the main tourist route: Glen Achnall (near Ullapool), Inverfarigaig (near Inverness), Bealach na Gaoithe (near Torridon) and the loop from Bettyhill to Hope via Altnaharra. You will also appreciate if your agenda is flexible enough to allow for a rest day when the weather is bad.
- Don’t overdo it. If you do have to plan in advance don’t plan more than half of the distance that you normally would ride per day.
- If you’re not camping try to book your accommodation at least one day in advance. You don’t want to arrive totally exhausted in a village only to find out that all their B&Bs are fully booked.
Submit your review
I can't recommend Pedalpower Highlands strongly enough. Simon's expertise in all things bike is amazing and he quickly carried out the repair and service with great professionalism was very polite too.
Simon is professional and really helpful and I have total faith in his service skills. First class service and I would highly recommend Pedal Power Highland if you need your bike serviced or upgraded etc. Thanks Simon!
Just near the end of LEJOG when we got a broken spoke on a worn wheel. Following a call to Simon, he came to our B&B in the evening to take the rear wheel away. He returned with a new wheel ready to fit before breakfast the next day. Excellent service and I would highly recommend him.
In April 2017 I was on a cycle tour of Northern Scotland with my son and whilst travelling in a very isolated spot the chain on my bike slipped then started ‘grabbing’ making any further progress impossible. The weather at the time was cold and it was raining heavily. It was also a bank holiday with little or no traffic on the mountain pass. (Nightmare!).Although I have some knowledge of bicycle maintenance I was unable to diagnose the problem and it appeared as though it was a premature end to the tour with a long walk to the nearest town.It still appears surreal but just as I was inspecting the bike a transit van stopped and Simon appeared and asked if he could help, he explained that he was a qualified bike mechanic and although he was going on a fishing trip he was willing to help. What a relief and a surprise.Simon transported us and our bikes to his workshop a couple of miles away, fixed the bike and then transported us to our next destination. Without his kind help and expert assistance the adventure would have been over but due to his kindness and expertise we continued with a fantastic tour of the Orkney Islands.I cannot praise this guy enough and his number Pedal Power Armadale Sutherland 07969181609 is a must for any future tourers in this area. He is a mobile mechanic with a fully equipped workshop, check out his web site before you set off on tour and keep his details handy.Thanks Simon you made the holiday.