Snowroads


Cycling the Snow Roads by Aviemore Bikes

The girls from Aviemore Bikes recently took on the challenge of the SnowRoads, cycling the highest public road in Britain. Here’s Sally’s story and her top tips.

So, why the SnowRoads?

From the Burma Road, near Aviemore, to the Hebridean Way, Scotland is home to a glorious selection of long-distance cycle routes. We had originally planned to ride the famous North Coast 500 route, but after hours of pouring over Google Maps and trying to plan a route, it seemed impossible. We wanted to avoid cycling on the A9, plus our days off were limited. Queue: the SnowRoads. 

cycling the snowroads
Image: Kirsti McIntyre

None of us had ever cycled over the mountainous Lecht or Glenshee roads and we fancied a bit of a challenge. The route fitted in perfectly with our timescale and the fact the roads seemed nice and quiet was an added bonus! 


Image: Kirsti McIntyre

Meet the riders and their steeds

Myself and two friends from the Aviemore Bikes team took on the challenge. We all own a range of bikes but decided to ride our carbon road bikes instead of gravel/touring bikes. We all fitted rear saddle packs for our gear, and I fitted slightly wider tyres to my bike. Apart from that, we made no changes to the bike setups. The whole route is perfect for a road bike and having a nice lightweight bike certainly had its benefits on the long winding climbs to Glenshee and the Lecht. 

The only part that was less than ideal was a small section of Cycle Route 7 from Dalwhinnie to just beyond the Drumochter summit. This isn’t part of the SnowRoads, but it was necessary to make the route into a loop: we cycled south from Aviemore to Pitlochry to join the SnowRoads. The path was more like a mountain bike trail. We took it really, really slowly for about 10 miles and – thankfully – without punctures! But I would definitely recommend taking a good amount of spare inner tubes with you, just to be on the safe side.


The kit – prepare for the extremes

Naturally, we had a range of weather… it is Scotland after all! Day one saw blue skies (and sunburn – ouch) and day three saw sleet and snow. Luckily we had taken a couple of waterproof and windproof jackets each and, if we had to redo this route, I wouldn’t go without them. It’s amazing how quickly the weather can change when you get near the summits of the climbs and, similarly, after a couple of minutes standing around at the Ski Centres you can get cold very quickly.

cycling the snowroads
Image: Kirsti McIntyre

The route

We rode the route anti-clockwise (Aviemore > Pitlochry > Ballater > Aviemore). While lots of people – including us – could complete the route in two days, we opted for the slow travel way with two overnight stops. We were doing this to have fun, after all! 

Day one – Aviemore to Pitlochry

91km, 527m total ascent

This section was fairly flat and a nice way to warm the legs up for two days of climbing. Once in Pitlochry, we checked into a friendly B&B — after filling up at the Old Mill Inn, of course, which has great big portions for hungry bikers. 

Day two – Pitlochry to Ballater

90km, 962m total ascent

We started with a coffee from Escape Route, the bike shop cafe in Pitlochry, before a pleasant day of biking ahead – more pleasant than we’d expected, in fact! The roads out of Pitlochry provided stunning views, and — thanks to a well-timed tailwind — the climb to Glenshee went fairly quickly. We enjoyed a fast downhill into Braemar before a speedy 15 miles crossing the border from Deeside into Aberdeenshire. We were grateful for some well-earned ZZZs at the cozy Ballater hostel.

Day three – Ballater to Aviemore

81km, 1146m total ascent

This was tough, I’ll make no bones about that. The hills went on and on and on… and on! And the snow didn’t make it much easier. Oh, and don’t forget the headwind. On a sunny day, I can imagine the views would be stunning. Despite the conditions, we decided to just keep pedalling. That meant skipping our scheduled stop at the Lecht Ski Centre cafe to head straight for Nethy Bridge, which we managed within a couple of hours. We then had a final 15 miles before reaching home territory in Aviemore. Here, we were g.lreeted by the sun, which meant only one thing: an ice cream from Miele’s – delicious!


cycling the snowroads
Image: Kirsti McIntyre

Highs and lows

Reaching the Glenshee Ski Centre and knowing that it was all downhill into Deeside was a definite high. It had taken us a few hours to get up, but only 20 minutes to get down to Braemar, where we had lunch in The Bothy cafe. Our food tasted even better knowing we only had 15 miles to go until we got to our beds at Ballater for the night!

The weather on the Lecht Climb was a low point for all three of us, but we couldn’t help that. My biggest tip is to ensure you pack for the worst weather. Even if it’s dry and sunny down low, the weather can always change quickly in the hills.


260kms of adventure, epic views, and friendly Scottish towns and villages

In total, we cycled approximately 260km, which worked out to about four hours of cycling each day (not including stops). I would highly recommend this route as a great way to get into backpacking/cycle touring. There are plenty of nice villages to get food and a bed for the night, plus we enjoyed the quiet roads – avoiding travel on busy main roads

Some of our favourite hotel and food spots included:

Although the Ski Centre climbs were hard, they added challenge and excitement to our three days. Riding in a small group meant we could help each other to keep a good pace throughout our awesome Scottish bike trip.


Thank you to Sally at Aviemore Bikes. Aviemore Bikes is a fun, family-owned, award-winning bike shop in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. More than just a bike shop, they pride themselves on quality customer service and enabling and encouraging more people to get out on bikes. Drop in to hire or buy bikes for all ages and abilities, including e-bikes. They also stock loads of bike kits and do servicing, too.

If you’re interested in biking the SnowRoads, don’t hesitate to contact Aviemore Bikes at [email protected]

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