The West Kilbride Tour




May 2010
120 km



Background

Since I did the Paisley to Ardrossan road on the Islay tour two years ago, I have always been curious about the hill climb leading over West Kilbridge. So much that this tour was pretty much on the top of my list of must-do this year. I also wanted to do the old road over the mountains between Largs and Greenock too instead of the coastal road. I also needed the mountain climb training before the Western Isles tour so this tour was the perfect choice.


For a change, I woke up to a pretty hot morning after some morning with frost and fog. I did the normal preparations with a mug of coffee and some pieces of bread. The day started with the ride through Paisley to the start of the ex railway line, now the cycle path taking me down to Lochwinnoch. I felt pretty good although the cycling over Elderslie was not interesting. I soon passed Castle Semple and Lochwinnoch. The cycle path climbed a bit after Lochwinnoch before it became flat again inside the old railway cuttings. This cycle path from Paisley to Kilbirnie is very good for the sheer speed compared to the alternative; the road. That's why I love this cycle path.
I left the cycle path at Kilbirnie and took the road over a couple of small hills and some descents down to Dalry. At this village, I took the West Kilbride road. The road was a vertical climb in the beginning but soon become a bit more flat towards the crossroad between Ardrossan and West Kilbride. I had got the impression that while the road over to Ardrossan is a vertical climb (which I found out two years ago), the road over to West Kilbride was more gentle. I was wrong. The climb up the hill over to West Kilbride was vertical too and probably steeper than the road over to Ardrossan. The views from the top of this hill was good. The descent down to the crossroad outside West Kilbride was pretty good too. Not too technical and not too dangerous. They were to my liking.
Unfortunate, I did not visit West Kilbride itself. The road over to Largs bypassed West Kilbride. This road was pretty boring and flat. But a good cycle path was a nice surprise and I followed that. The views towards Arran and Cumbrae was excellent. The cycle path left the road and went along the sea just before Largs. Due to some pedestrian traffic, I dismounted from the bike just before the ferry and walked along the seafront. I was soon in Largs where I took a small break.
After the break and some chocolate, I went towards Wemyss Bay for some hundred meters before I found the non-signposted road taking me up to the beginning of the single track mountain road over to Loch Thom and Greenock. The climb up this valley is a proper valley climb. First with a pretty steep bit to enter the valley proper. Then with some flat bits with some steep bits past a couple of farms and farm fields. The valley is pretty narrow and canyon like at places. The road is holding on for dear life above a small river. The steepest part of the climb is just after coming out of the forest after a small lake. This part was vertical, but still excellent.



The climb up to the top of the valley


This climb reminded me a lot about the mountain climbs in Norway. Mountains over 1000 meters above sea level, that is. I was still only around 225 meters above sea level when the road flattened out. I was here overtaken by an old man on a mountain bike. I was not going to let this happen so I overtook him again. Then I discovered that this old man was using one of these new electric engine mountain bikes. I therefore let him smirk in peace and get on with it. I was soon at the top at around 270 meters above sea level.
The joy of climbing this valley was a bit short lived with a small descent down a canyon and then the crossing of a bridge before another small climb up to small forest. I overtook the old man again through the descent down to Loch Thom. He then turned back down another road down to Inverkip while I continued along Loch Thom to the dam and another hill climb.


Loch Thom from the small climb over to Greenock


The feeling of being on the top of the world at Loch Thom is pretty strong. I think this is a beautiful area. The views from the climb up from Loch Thom was pretty good. The best views was though reserved from the top of the Whinhill golf course. I have played this golf course once and I did not enjoy the experience. But the views over fjord, Gourock and Greenock is excellent from this golf course. I was not that overjoyed with the zig zag ten to twenty degrees vertical drop down to the main road again. The brakes got a severe battering on this descent.
I was soon at the main road which bypass Greenock up in the hill. I soon reached the foot of the climb which was going to take me over to Bridge Of Weir and Paisley again. The climb was vertical steep in the beginning. But it soon eased up and became moderate steep in the hillside high above Greenock and Port Glasgow.


Greenock from the road over to Bridge Of Weir


I could had chosen the disused railway line which is now serving as a good cycle path. But I needed the climb as training for this Western Isles tour so I cracked on up the 200 meters above sea level high mountain. The views was excellent throughout, although very familiar to me. I soon reached the top and the pretty hairy and dangerous descent down on the other side. Another pretty vertical climb awaited at the bottom of this descent. I climbed it and the road was a bit narrow and up and down to the crossroad between Kilmacolm and Lochwinnoch. A ping from the rear wheel announced the departure of a spoke. I still continued up a small hill and then down to Bridge Of Weir.
After some water, make that one liter of Pepsi Max, I had several choices of roads between this village and my home. I chose the straightest line and the worst possible road. I went over to Houston and then down to Linwood. Unfortunate, through some pretty suicidal traffic machines and roundabouts. I was pretty shaken up when I reached my flat again. But besides of the pretty stupid final ten kilometers, this was a very enjoyable tour in good weather.


Conclusion



Another very good tour on the Clyde peninsula which I very much enjoyed. The climb up the valley from Largs to Loch Thom is excellent and well worth this tour alone. The rest is excellent too. Next time, I will choose the cycle path from Bridge Of Weir to Paisley. If that is included, I cannot recommend this tour highly enough.