Scottish Cyclist: Davie Bell

Davie Bell was a pioneering off road cyclist and tourer/randonneur extreme, and now has one of Scotland’s toughest one-day races held annually in his honour.

Between the 1930s and the 1960s, Davie wrote weekly articles for the Ayrshire Post about his cycling exploits and club run adventures. Following his death these were published as “The Highway Man” and “The Highwayman rides again”. The name Highwayman was probably a bit misleading, for David was an exponent of the byway and of rough-stuff cycling – abandoning recognised routes for tracks and open hillsides.

David Bell, The Highway Man cyclist, offroad cycling pioneer

Davie is reported to have ridden over 300,000 miles and took his bike places where mountain bikers now fear to tread, such as the Merrick and Ailsa Craig. There is scope to call him Scotland’s pioneering mountain biker.

There is a monument to Davie at Rowantree Hill. There is also a road race held in his honour. It is arguably Scotland’s hardest single day road race taking in several classic Galloway climbs including, traditionally, the tough Nic of the Balloch climb. Check out this post on Veloresults for more info and pics about the monument and the climb.

However, for 2011 the race will be held on a new course, which omits the Nic. Controversial maybe, but the alternative is a really exciting prospect.

Last year we polled the racers on the event. Overall responses were hugely favourable, with just one exception: the poor state of South Ayrshire’s roads. Sadly we have little influence on this, believe us we tried, even with an inside man on the job got as a whole 8miles of new asphalt! We are delighted to announce we have found a solution though – make it even worse! With two laps of a new circuit around Loch Doon, racers will tackle two passages of the Carrick Forest Drive – a six mile forest road with no tarmacadam. L’Eroica eat your heart out!

This route honours Davie Bell by leaving the road and heading onto rougher terrain and it will be interesting to see how it is received and how it pans out. Entries open March 5th on EntryCentral, and the race is on June 5th. This year there will be a Sup6r Six A race only.

2010 Davie Bell RR

The Highway Man book (1971)