As any resident of the Valley will have noticed our local area is a hive of cycling activity, especially at the weekends, with clubs and individual cyclists travelling through the towns, from all over the South West of Scotland joining up some of the many great and quiet roads in our area.
The red black and white colours of Loudoun Road Club are prominent amongst these riders as the club of the Irvine Valley and surrounding area. The club was formed in 1981 and included former member, World Track Champion and former Hour Record holder Graeme Obree, who indeed can sometimes still be found cycling the roads of the valley.
The club takes part in a variety of disciplines in the competitive field of cycling such as road racing and time trialling and despite the club name riders can be found competing off road in mountain bike and Cyclocross races.
Despite the competitive nature the club members enjoy social rides in and around Darvel and the Irvine Valley with a plethora of routes to choose from.
However the first route I wanted to highlight is possibly the simplest route of all. What the club can boast in experience and competition it perhaps lacks in encouraging a wider variety of ability members such as children, youth, families, women and the slightly more mature rider, all essential to the survival of a club. So with that in mind I want to talk about the Browns Road to Hurlford Cycle track.
It is a route I take on a sometimes daily basis to my work in Kilmarnock. Travelling anywhere in rush hour is a nightmare but for any ability of cyclist a daunting experience so this route keeps you on tarmac and takes you off the A71 completely.
Starting at Morton Park the route starts by picking up the Browns Road along the side of the river through the Lanfine Estate. At any time of year a beautiful place to be. Certain parts of the Browns road have had issues with drainage so be prepared for a few splashes of mud but nothing worse.
In no time at all you will find yourself you will find yourself at the gatehouse for Lanfine in Newmilns. Continue to follow the back streets of Newmilns down by the back of the factories keeping the river to your right.
As you pass the last houses you will find yourself on a freshly relayed surface all the way to what at first looks like a dead end at some kennels. A sharp right though and you will be on a wooden walkway. Be careful if its wet. It can be slippery. I fell off on it and I know of others who have too. The council did paint an anti-slip surface last year but it is wearing off again.
You will now find yourself on the newest bit of cycle track. A once rough path to Galston was tarmacked about 2 years ago. Again be careful of the fallen leaves. The path is not often cleaned so leaf litter tends to build up and can be slippery when wet.
The path comes out the trees at the running track in Galston. At this point the track becomes a bit windy and the best advice is to follow the blue signs till you end up at Galston Cemetery. From this point you are on dedicated cycle track all the way along the Chris Hoy Cycle Track to Hurlford.
At this point the choice is yours. I would suggest heading to Crookedholm and over the footbridge into New Farm before heading to the Dean Park or Kay Park as a destination. Of course you could extend your cycle track experience by picking up the dedicated track to Irvine not far from the Dean Park as you feel your fitness and confidence increase.
Some tips: Have a bell on your bike. I will win no kudos in the cycling style points for this suggestion but the tracks are shared with walkers, dog walkers and horse riders. The bell is a polite and essential tool in keeping everyone safe.
Take a spare tube, puncture repair kit, tyre levers and a mini pump. 10 miles is not far by bike but it is a long walk. Unfortunately there are a few small parts of the tracks that have broken glass. I cannot recommend puncture resistant tyres enough. They can be the difference between a great day and a nightmare.
Take a bottle of water. Whatever the weather you’ll be thirsty and you can never guarantee shops or cafes are open. Stick a bar of chocolate in your pocket too in case you start to flag on the way home.
This is a great family friendly route and flat. I uses it 2 to 3 times a week to commute to work in the William McIlvanney Campus as a hassle free way to keep fit and save the environment and I hope to see some of you sharing it with me soon.