In august we went to visit Scotland to ride some beautiful gravel. We’d been in this area before when doing a bikepacking trip, the Cairngorms loop. That was in 2019 and now we went back without our tent, enjoying the comfort of the Rowan Tree Hotel.
Still at home I already searched the internet for gravel routes in this area and mostly found just bits and pieces. I stacked them together into four different routes all starting from our hotel.
This is a report of the second day where we did the Burma Road. The original route was taken from the website of Aviemore Bikes. I adapted the route to start and finish at the Rowan Tree Hotel were we were staying.
Starting from the hotel, the route takes a right turn off the road onto a small path along Loch Alvie. Passing a few gates and a lot of sheep to get to Lynwilg after just 3km. After hardly 1 kilometer along the Allt-na-Criche stream, the Burma Road climb lies before you.
On Strava the Burma Road has a segment section named “Burma Road from the gate” which is 3.93km long, has a 436m altitude gain and average 11% gradient. When riding I saw my Garmin show gradients of up to 22% on some sections. The pavement is an easy gravel road, you might even try it with narrow tires. The other side of the Burma Road however has a much rougher road with big stones in it. Totally not suited for anything less than 40mm tyres.
The day before starting this trip, we were contemplating if we should do this loop counter clockwise, since the climb doesn’t look as steep as riding it clockwise, although a much longer climb. Eventually we decided to first do the heavy climb, take the pain and “relax” the remaining part of the route. Afterwards, we’re very glad we didn’t ride it counter clockwise as the long, less steep climb, has a much worse road, with big rocks and will cost you a lot of power all the way up.
We took about an hour for the climb with some short breaks and I was having some bike trouble where I couldn’t paddle back and shifting was a problem. After a few stops and checks I finally discovered my derailleur wheel was broken. The little protective plate had come loose with a big dent in it and some of the balls had fallen out.
I was able to create a temporary fix by leaving the bend protective ring off and place the wheel back again. Surprisingly it worked quite well and I could finish the trip without issues to just 2km before the “Aviemore bikes” bike shop where it fell apart completely. At the shop I bought a new set and the owner helped me by replacing them in just a few minutes.
As heavy as the Burma Road climb is, the views are magnificent and the remaining of the route has such beautiful roads to ride, constantly changing between some rough parts, a desert like section (easy gravel), some forest sections and some single trails. It is stunning.
The total tour took us about 3,5hrs cycling time and 5,5hrs in total.