Bucket list bike rides - The North Coast 500

What is the NC500?

The North Coast 500 (NC500) is an 816-kilometre (just over 500 miles) route that takes you round the unique coastal roads of the Highlands of Scotland - it’s a wee bit lumpy too.

Why do it?

I bloody love a challenge - and this has been on my personal bicycle bucket list for a while. We've got some belting scenery in this country and my experiences so far have led me to believe it's best served on two wheels. Added to that, the bragging rights are pretty satisfying. 


What did you take with you? Any stand-out bits of kit?

We had the luxury of having a support vehicle to carry our kit (Read; one of the lads roped his wife and dog into a grossly mis-sold "holiday") So I had fresh kit each day and two helmets with matching glasses to ensure effective colour coordination. If you look good you feel good. With the support vehicle it meant we had the liberty of taking as much as possible. From full on mechanical kit to to all the on bike nutrition we'd need and everything in between. I've done self supported and it's a different beast, I was pleased to be able to keep the on bike weight down this time. We saw and chatted with a few people bike packing it and I didn’t envy them, tough gig that.

I couldn’t be without my cycle computer, I use a HammerHead Karoo 2. Knowing the gradient and length of climbs as you come onto the approach has been sucj a critical part of being able to manage my efforts. Along with my power data it really helped pace the ride and ensured I didn’t go “pop”. My mount did break when I hit a pothole on day 3, a temp fix with elastic bands and electrical tape got me through though - plus now I feel like I can fix anything. Time will tell. 

How did you train for a ride like this?

I like long rides and the suffering that goes along with them (people think I’m slightly “nipped” at times) I tend to do local audax rides ranging from 200km-400km. Often they'll run over night and I love the solitude that brings. I knew I’d be fine riding repeated days as long as I kept my efforts steady and paced it.

Most memorable moment?

There were lots, but climbing and descending Bealach na Ba has to be up there. The climb was stunning and tough into a headwind but we hit lucky with the weather as the cloud was high and views stunning so the descent into Applecross was one of the best I’ve experienced 😍

Would you recommend people tick this off the bucket list?

100% any cyclist should do it - memories created that will last forever.

Is there anything you would do differently?

I had planned and researched it for a while and I’m pretty well orgnised when it comes to that type thing so it ran like clockwork. The lads I went with were all of similar ability and we didn’t have any fallout, not one puncture or mechanical between us and only one altercation with a car but we're made of tough stuff and it was certainly nothing worth ruining a top day out on bikes over.

What is next for Dave Hardy?

I want to experience some bike packing in the short term and hopefully get a 1000km ride ticked off before the years end.

To top it off I got news my first granddaughter was on her way when we started the last leg. Slight change of plan meaning we would drive straight home from Inverness. We got back at 22:00 on Monday and little Violet was born at 09:36 on Tuesday morning (3weeks early) topping off an adventure I’ll never forget.