The biggest joy when developing new bikepacking trails is finding new trails, riding them, riding them again … and again. After riding and enjoying a trail in various conditions it is fit for the purpose of being included in a bikepacking adventure, and I must admit I am a perfectionist when it comes to finding the right route. This doubles up as a perfect excuse to jump on the bike and ride bits I have already decided on again, and eventually finding the hidden gems that you miss the first few times you ride a trail. And then eventually I make the final changes, and the result hopefully paints loads of smiles on people’s faces. Developing the Capital Trail followed exactly that approach, and the development of the Central Belter will be no different.
With heavy rain forecast for Sunday, I took the train to Linlithgow and enjoyed a rich and tasty lunch at Jay’s. For much of the recent development of the Central Belter Jay has been a great companion to discover the trails in West Lothian and beyond. Trail spotting by myself is fun, but with the two of us it is even more fun. Jay is pretty much like me, he doesn’t mind lifting bikes over gates, wading through deep bog and turning around a lot of times. But most importantly he enjoys good coffee and cake as much as I do.
Our plan was to ride to the Kelpies and start looking for new trails from there on as much of the route to there is almost finished. After yesterday’s ride I am inclined to make a few amendments though, as we found a great way out of Linlithgow that would fit well into the Central Belter route and offers stunning views over the Firth of Forth.
With the best intentions we only reached the Kelpies around half four, in good time to enjoy a yummy cake and coffee, in a visitor centre that was super busy, the wind was possibly to blame for that. What stood out was the trail from the West Lothian Golf Course down towards Bo’ness, and the wonderful ride from Kinneil House through woodlands and on the Antonine Wall to Polmont Woods. Grangemouth greeted us with big puddles and crocuses in equal measures.
From the Kelpies things got even wetter. With advice from Jay’s friend last night we finally figured out the meaning of a massive sculpture right past the Kelpies, massive steel lips plucked into the forest. Next time a drone would come in handy. Parts of the route there where severely flooded, with Jay’s 29inch wheels half submerging in the water. Much of the ride back from Falkirk was on the Union Canal, with arriving on time for a healthy dinner.
If you want to get a good feel for what the middle section of the Central Belter will be like try to ride the loop yourself. Here’s the GPX for the route to download. The pictures from the day are on Flickr here.