A simpler solution for bicycle transportation in Scotland
Innovative business, SLM Cycle Transport, has launched a bespoke pick up and drop off service for cyclists. Here’s why it could be the perfect solution for your cycling adventures in Scotland.
Why I needed a pick up
One of my favourite cycle routes in Scotland is along the length of the Outer Hebrides. It’s a lovely route on mainly quiet roads and through stunning scenery. See how to cycle the Outer Hebrides.
But there is a bit of a problem with this cycling adventure if you are travelling, like me, from the Central Belt of Scotland.
The outward connection from the mainland to the Outer Hebrides (Oban to Castlebay on Barra) can be accessed by train from Glasgow to Oban then CalMac ferry. However, it’s worth noting that you do need to book ahead for the train and bike space. I know many people who have had to drive to Oban instead of taking the train with their bike because of a lack of bike spaces.
The return journey to Glasgow/Central Scotland is also difficult. When you arrive back on the mainland, from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis to Ullapool by ferry, the nearest mainline train station is Inverness. That requires a 60-mile cycle on a busy road.
Another option is to cycle as far as Garve, (44 miles) and pick up the railway line there. But many cyclists are not keen on cycling the A835, especially when the road is filled with other ferry traffic.
If you have left your car in Oban, returning to the west coast port will pose an even greater problem.
Trains and bikes
Many cyclists complain about the lack of space for bikes on Scottish trains and the hassle of trying to reserve a space.
It’s not just the Glasgow to Oban and Inverness routes that I have found to be a pain when travelling with a bicycle.
On one memorable trip (and not for a good reason) I arrived at Aviemore train station (after a fantastic multi-day ride north from Callander) to be told that although I had reserved a space on the train someone else had placed their bike in one of the very limited spaces and that meant I would not be able to get on the train. I argued, as you can imagine, and I was finally allowed on but with the train conductor vigorously shaking his head.
Another occasion, when trying to return by train from a bike ride along the John Muir Way from Glasgow to Falkirk, I could not board two trains in a row because all the bike slots had been taken.
I am not going to start a rant about the lack of provision for bicycles on trains (they may have improved in recent years) but this is to show that if you are looking forward to a cycling adventure in Scotland, the getting to and from the route might be the toughest part.
Where there are no trains
Again, I was planning a multi-day cycling trip in the north-west of Scotland. The route followed what is now a section of the North Coast 500. The ride finished in Durness. There are no train stations near the village and on enquiry a bus service was the only option but I was told they “may or may not take a bike, too”.
In this case, the only option was to continue cycling south to meet a train line.
Another new route, the North East 250, which I think has plenty of good cycling options, could prove tricky for transportation to and from the area.
A new solution for bikes and travel
It was when Stuart McLellan and a group of friends were organising a trip to cycle the Outer Hebrides and they struggled to find transport from Ullapool back to Glasgow that the idea for a cycle transport business came about.
SLM Cycle Transport is based in Lanarkshire and run by Stuart and his wife.
The company aims to provide a reliable transport service for cyclists and their bikes in Scotland and the north of England. They specialise in helping cyclists to travel from remote parts of Scotland back to the Central belt, southern Scotland and northern England.
The service comprises a minibus, a custom-built bike trailer/carrier for up to seven people and a dedicated driver.
Stuart said: “While the cycling options and possibilities in Scotland are vast and wide ranging, both on road and trails, the public transport system for getting cyclists to and from their bike rides is not so good.
“I have personally struggled to find a way to get back from a long-distance cycle trip by public transport and I have many friends who have hit the same problems.
“It is more of a problem when the route is an A to B so you can’t leave your own vehicle at the finish point.
“And for people who are coming to Scotland, perhaps via the airports, to enjoy a cycling holiday, the difficulties will be even greater.
“I decided to create a business that makes it easy for people to get to and from some great cycling routes by taking them there and picking them up at the end in a comfortable vehicle, while towing their bikes behind.”
SLM Cycle Transport offers the bespoke service across Scotland and the north of England. You can use the service whether you’re a solo rider or a group of cyclists, although the cost is better shared among up to seven people.
You do not have to be a cyclist to take advantage of SLM Cycle Transport. Stuart said: “We can offer the same transport for up to seven passengers, whatever their chosen sport. For example golfers and hill walkers might want to be taken or collected from a chosen location.
“Our transport service takes the hassle out of travel and booking public transport because it’s door to door and without stopping or detouring unnecessarily.”
See SLM Cycle Transport.