We set off and the route was pretty easy going through the glen. Even with the first sign of rain of the whole trip so far, it wasn't long before our jackets came back off and we enjoyed the landrover track that followed the flowing river beneath us.
Eventually we were treated to a nice long climb up in and into the wilderness. When I say 'long climb' I really mean 'pleasant walk'! We both agreed that this was one of the few times of the trip where we really felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, miles from civilisation. Admittedly we were. All we could hear and see was the trickling of water, the gentle whistle of wind and the occasional shock wave from a passing jet.
When we finally made it to the top of our climb, skirting around the peak of Culardoch, we were treated to another of the extremely straight, long and fast descents. I felt like this was definitely the fastest of the trip so far and was surprised that it was recorded at a meagre 35ish mph. However, that was fast enough on the landrover track, skimming over the drainage ditches and around one corner that made me consider that this was actually too fast and I should slow down again.
After a bite to eat in the trees and a look at the huge dragonfly that Sven almost sat on, we continued to the road, savouring the last of the fast, downhill track as we went.
Eventually we arrived at Balmoral and took the opportunity to stop for another of Sven's 'treats'. I generally knew that when Sven said he had a treat it would be in the form of high sugar and chocolate but that didn't spoil the enjoyment of discovering just what kind of sugary delight he had at just the moment when I needed it most. This time it was a Snickers (Marathon is still a better name!)
My faulty pedal hadn't been giving me a huge amount of grief. I had developed the technique needed to spin the pedal 180 degrees quickly to enable me to clip in to the other side. No, this time it was Sven to experience a breakdown and this time it was close to a disaster. One of his chainring bolts had completely vanished and two others were very loose. It was no wonder that he was having difficulty changing gear. We pulled over and tightened the remaining bolts but we knew that if he lost another, there was a changes his chainring would come off and thus render his pedalling pretty ineffectual.
Luckily we were only 6 miles from Ballater where we stopped off at the bike shop before finding a place to stay for the night. Ballater turned out to be an expensive place. In this time of recession, some places were ensuring their future for sure. As the mechanic tried to fix the pedal, a valiant attempt I must add, the boss wasn't having any of it and either I paid for the mechanics time or I bought a second hand pair of pedals for 20 quid. I bought a pair of pedals which was the only option since I doubt I'll be able to fix my old one. Sven spent some time rummaging through the bolt box and found the replacement bolts he needed, paid the fiver and fitted them on his bike. Sven being far braver than me asked if he could use a hose. He was offered a brush and the water butt. Alternatively there was a garage nearby with a jet wash. Sven borrowed the hose from the other bike hire place and washed both bikes while I paced around looking nervous... the bike hire place was in fact closed and the hose in question was tucked round the corner. I've become so frightened of being told off in my old age. Probably due to living in a house full of girls!
We then headed off on our clean bikes to look for a bed and breakfast that we fancied giving some money to. Well, there are some lovely looking B&Bs in Ballater but there are also a lot of No Vacancy signs. Almost at a ratio of 1:1, but not quite. After a visit to the Tourist Information we were directed to the only B&B in Ballater with a room and it turned out to be a stunner. A former house of the Royal doctor is now a beautiful B&B with clean, warm and spacious rooms, en-suite bath and shower and the best breakfast I've had in a long long time. After a quick nip round Co-op we ate, bathed (not together!) and went for a pint ready to pour over the map for the following day and consider a detour to take us straight to Stonehaven rather than finishing in Montrose as planned but having to drive back to Stonehaven.
VIDEO TO FOLLOW (eventually!)