E-bike bliss, plus jogging-on & Bond bugbear

The Hi-Bike rank at Inverness Campus

Hi-Bikes? Ooh, hello!

E-bikes in Inverness? Just £3 for a three-hour trial? Irresistible. Last Saturday morning, with Daughter #1 and her partner here for the weekend, we each downloaded the Hi-Bikes app, uploaded our details, and looked for available bikes. We chose the Inverness Campus rank; more scope for getting used to them in a car-free environment, we reckoned. Within minutes of arriving, we’d unlocked and were whizzing around the paths, giggling like kids, as the bikes – with minimal effort – quickly got us up to 15mph. This was going to be fun…

So where to? With three hours of freedom and 30-miles’ worth of power assisted pedalling, we followed Cycle Route 1 through Culloden Woods towards the very eastern edge of the designated zone, and Clava Cairns.

Breezing up the hills

Parked up at Clava Cairns

I know from years of cycling how sharp a climb that hill is from Balloch Village to Culloden Moor – would these e-bikes bikes cope? It was a breeze. A joy. With minimal effort – although pedalling was still required – we sailed up under the railway bridge to join the forest path towards Cumberland’s Stone. And from there it was a whizz down the hill, past Culloden Viaduct, and on to one of my favourite local spots, Clava Cairns and the now famous – from Outlander stories – split rock.

Each of the bikes comes with an integral lock, so we parked up to wander amongst those eerie ancient cairns. From there it was a gentle pootle – again in spite of the gradient – back past Culloden Moor to return to the campus, via a ‘just for fun’ nip over the new bridge to the retail park and back. 16 miles over a couple of hours was just perfect. We got fresh air, some exercise (my Fitbit claims I burned about 600 calories) and a lot of laughs. And best of all, we got to visit a favourite spot without taking the car.

More e-bikes to come!

So far there are 30 e-bikes for hire around the city, from charging stations at Falcon Square and Great Glen House, as well as at the campus. There are more bikes and more stations planned for the next year, with the hope they’ll be used by commuters as well as leisure riders. Each one comes with a massive, sturdy front basket – ideal for shopping or laptops. I really hope they catch on.

Don’t be mistaken – these are not performance e-bikes; they are single-speed with a flat-rate of assistance, and they’re heavy beasts – think gym exercise-bike unleashed from its indoor parking spot. I’d hate to have to ride one back if I ran out of charge. But for a sweat-free, car-free commute, or an afternoon trip to Dores Beach or Dochgarroch Lock, these beasts are wonderful.

Bravo to Sustrans and the partners who brought this initiative to the Highland Capital – I can’t remember when I last laughed as much. There’s just one problem, though… will I ever get back on my road-bike again?

The slow road back to running

I have done it. Two years after busting a hamstring, I have been discharged from physio and given the green light to run again. But how? After such a long time (and being such a rubbish runner even before the accident) – where should I start?

The answer was to start right from the beginning.

Downloading the Couch to 5K app was one thing, lacing up my trainers was another… that step took 10 days. But one morning last week it just felt right. With Denise Lewis in my ear (yes, that Denise Lewis!) I walked and jogged my way round the first 25 minutes of Day 1 of the nine-week programme. And it felt wonderful to feel fresh air beneath my feet.

Until we got to the end, and I was still a mile from home. I may have cracked the motivation. Now to crack the navigation.

Bond… and a bugbear

On the weekend of release, we took ourselves to Eden Court to see Daniel Craig’s Bond swansong, No Time to Die. No spoilers here, but I’d urge you, with every fibre of my being, to get yourself a ticket, and soon. It’s so much more than just a Bond movie. It’s an emotional ride that has a tighter spin-circle than a bullet-proof Aston Martin DB5.

Just please, switch off your phone. Nothing destroys the magic of cinema more completely than the person in front of your checking their emails. If you’re bored, leave the cinema. He was lucky I didn’t have a Walther PPK strapped to my thigh…