The Unix Nerd's Domain

The Poor State of the A9 Cycle Path


Pictures taken at the start of September 2012.

The path runs for 18 miles from Dalwhinnie to Calvine. About half is on the old A9 and rest on a dedicated path built as a Millenium Project.

Bear in mind that this is meant to be a road bike path, not a mountain bike trail. The aim is to keep long distance cyclist doing runs such as Land's End to John O'Groats off the A9. These cyclists will be aiming to average at least 20mph and are often on heavily laden bikes that don't stop quickly in the wet.

They need a path that won't cause punctures and broken spokes. A path that's safe to ride at speed. If such a path isn't available they'll use the A9 because they're aiming to cover at least 100 miles a day.

Needless to say cycling on the A9 isn't exactly safe or fun. It also holds up motorists who can't get past. Only alternative is the A82 which is just as dangerous.

This is what cyclist think of the path on BikeRadar.

I must make the point that what these photos can't show is the amount of grit on the path. It really slows you down and it can cause problems on the bike. Simply sweeping the path with a pavement sweeper would make a massive difference.

This is what Active Outdoors wrote about the path in November 2012, link to article.

Gravel on a recently laid section of tarmac. Sweeping this every spring is all that's needed. All of the new section has gravel now.

This is steeper than it looks and is a real hazard to someone on a heavily laden touring bike, especially in the wet.

Weeds growing through a section relaid under a year ago. What will it look like in five? Can't have been done to a very high standard.

Answer to above question, it'll look like this. What you can't see here is the amount of grit that's come from the A9. It makes the path dangerous at speed and the grit gets into everything on the bike.

Much of path is in this sort of state. In a few years it'll have to be totally redone. In the past year 3km had to be resurfaced as it had gotten even worse than this!

Note how the nettles are cunningly located at cyclist leg height. Got stung here myself, no avoiding it. You might also ask why there is such a slope bearing in mind the A9 is fairly flat.

Because of the extreme climate up here small holes quickly enlarge. This is why a top quality surface is cheaper in the long run.

This is a section of the old A9 which likely hasn't been touched since the late 70's. The surface is very difficult to cycle on due to the grit build up. A pass with a road sweeper would transform it.

The grass has been cut next to the road but not at the other side of the path. Undergrowth is slowly but surely taking over. As usual it's covered in grit from the road which makes it very slippy in the wet and really slows you down.

The path is almost invisible here. If the undergrowth is removed I wonder what the remnants of the surface will look like?

Another case of nature reclaiming the path.

My Specialized Roubaix SL3. This bike was designed for the Paris to Roubaix road race "The Hell of the North", 160 miles about 40 of which are on rough cobbles. Sadly it's perfect for the A9 cycle path.