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Monday, 15 January 2018

A January jaunt

For our first 'second Saturday' run of the year, twenty so or riders gathered in Middle Meadow Walk on a somewhat dreary morning, albeit a little milder than of late. It was good to see a couple of newcomers, plus one or two others returning for their second outing with the group. All very welcome.

With Alan Orr leading, we set off towards the Union Canal. Usually when we take the canal towpath, we head straight down Leamington Terrace to join the path near the lift bridge. Today, just for a change, Alan took us through Morningside, along Balcarres Street and through the woods on the northern flank of Craiglockhart Hill, eventually reaching the canal at Allan Park. We stayed on the towpath for three miles of easy pedalling, keeping up a brisk average of around 14 mph.

Leaving the canal at Gogar Station Road, we headed north for a couple of miles before crossing the Glasgow Road by the RBS footbridge. After passing the tram depot and the new Edinburgh Exchange station, we turned up Turnhouse Road, aiming for Cammo Park.

Up to now, the route had been familiar to most of us. But then came an unexpected new section. Thanks to a slight navigation error, we missed the planned right turn, and didn't realise our mistake for at least another mile. Rather than turning back, we took the next turning on the right, which was Turnhouse Farm Road. This proved fortuitous. The road in question, which was very quiet, meandered through pleasant woodland before joining the Cammo Road to the north of the country park. We thus avoided the unpleasant path that runs parallel to Maybury Road (where we often have to face fast oncoming traffic), but at the expense of only very little extra pedalling.

Back in familiar territory, we paused at the delightful Grotto Bridge, where the fast-flowing River Almond gushes through a deep tree-lined valley. This made an ideal spot for a refreshment break. Various treats, including some very tasty home-made fudge cake, were duly produced and consumed.

For the next section, we had to negotiate the temporary bike lane along the hard shoulder of the busy Queensferry Road. This arrangement is the result of the closure of the Burnshot Bridge, which normally carries cyclists (and other traffic) across the dual carriageway to the Kirkliston Road. The bridge closed last May, hence the need to use the temporary path. But changes have taken place since our previous visit. The bridge has now been completely demolished, and what looks like a narrow footbridge has been erected in its place. However, this is currently fenced off. Meanwhile, it appears that the temporary route on the hard shoulder is being widened and turned into a proper bike (and pedestrian) path. Whether this arrangement is permanent, or whether the above-mentioned footbridge will be available for us to use, remains to be seen.

Fortunately, we were soon clear of this problematical stretch. The only remaining obstacle between us and lunch was the hill leading to Craigie's Farm, which we tackled if not with enthusiasm then at least with hunger. Craigie's is one of our more popular lunch venues, with plenty of room for us to spread out in the spacious café and a good range of snacks on the menu.

For the return leg, Alan took us down the far side of Craigie Hill, then across the Queensferry Road to join NCN 1. The last half-dozen miles proceeded without incident as we followed the familiar route across Cramond Brig, through Barnton and onto the Roseburn Path. A few of the group peeled off along the way, with most of the riders returning to the Meadows at just before 3 pm – plenty of time for a coffee before dark.

Leader: Alan
Report: Mike
Photos: Mike and Verity
Map: David

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

January ride this coming Saturday

We've got our monthly run this coming Saturday (13th). I hope you'll be able to join us.

Alan (Orr) will be leading us on a circuit of bike paths and quiet roads to the west of the city, with a lunch stop at Craigie's Farm. The total distance will be just about 20 miles, most of which will be on firm surfaces, although there will be an occasional section that might be rough or muddy. The only serious hill of the day will be the climb up to Craigie's from the Kirkliston Road (just before lunch).

Craigie's Farm has a spacious café serving a good range of soups, salads and sandwiches. There is also a terrace for those who prefer an al fresco lunch. Note that the lunch break will be fairly late - we'll do most of the mileage in the morning - so adjust your appetites accordingly.

Our meeting point is the same as always: the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. Plan to get there in time for a 10:30 departure. The ride should end before dark, but I would advise you to bring lights in case we get delayed.

As always, the meeting point and start time are fixed, but the route and lunch stop are subject to change, depending on conditions on the day.

A reminder ...

I'll take this opportunity to remind you to bring a spare inner tube on all our rides if at all possible. Changing an inner tube is a lot faster than repairing a puncture. Don't worry if you don't know how to change a tube; there are usually people willing to help if the need arises. If you don't know what size of inner tube you need, just ask at your favourite bike shop.

That's all for now. Remember, there is no advance booking for our rides. If you are planning to join us, just turn up on the day.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

A Baltic Back-to-Basics opener

Today, we opened the 20 Milers 2018 account with a Back-to-Basics ride to Craigmillar Castle. We ran one of these rides early last year to address concerns that some of our rides were becoming faster, longer and more demanding than expected. A year on, these concerns remain; hence the need for today's ride. We don't want to frighten off potential riders that are capable of managing one of the group's rides.

Following a couple of wet days and rain during the night, the forecast suggested we would be in for a bright, sunny, but very cold day. There was more cloud cover than expected, but fortunately no sign of  ice as we began to assemble at the start. Credit where credit is due, the forecast was spot on. The sun did come out, it remained dry, but it was bitterly cold as the day wore on. A turn out of sixteen was respectable under the circumstances. It was great to see some new faces amongst the regulars - just what we wanted. Following a briefing from the leader [where he explained the reason for this ride], we rolled away in one group and made our way to the Innocent Railway. Through the tunnel, onwards past the Range and onto the Brunstane path to emerge at the Booker cash and carry on the edge of Musselburgh. We then took the road towards Portobello, turning onto the prom at Joppa where we paused to regroup. A strong wind was blowing off the sea - that sort that cuts right through one, regardless of how many layers one has on. It really felt as if the wind had come non-stop from the Arctic! Needless to say, we didn't hang around for long. It was a relief to leave the prom and head inland. Out of the wind, we had a quick sweetie stop before taking the bridge over the Craigentinny railway sidings.

Via the superb new cycle paths beside Portobello High School and Duddingston Park South, we returned to the Innocent Railway and on to Duddingston Road West, where we cut through the industrial estate and crossed Peffermill Road. We then entered Craigmillar Castle Park and made our way to the castle. The leader had intended to take us along the path in front of the castle; but being slightly uphill and looking muddy and slippery, he led us back the way we had come on easier to ride paths. We exited the park, crossed the busy Old Dalkeith Road and rode through The Inch Park. Short spells on Gilmerton Road and Liberton Road, and we were on the quiet Blackford Glen Road and heading into Hermitage of Braid, which was busy with walkers. Following a brief comfort stop, we emerged onto Braid Road. Hermitage Drive and Braid Avenue which led us into the back streets of Morningside. A narrow little path [which was new to many] took us on a cut-through beside St Peter's Primary School. From there, we rode through the back streets of Marchmont to return to the Meadows, where the leader declared the ride over in time for a late lunch.

Thanks to Jim for leading us on an interesting ride. There is a plan to run another Back-to-Basics in the spring; when hopefully, the weather will be warmer and result in a larger turn out. We have our usual (second Saturday of the month) ride this coming Saturday. As ever, no need to book - just turn up.

Leader: Jim
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn
Map trace: Jim

Monday, 1 January 2018

Back-to-Basics ride this Saturday

We've got an additional ride this coming Saturday (6th January), which Jim will be leading. This will be a Back-to-Basics ride, similar to the one we did this time last year. It will be a half-day run, taken at an easy pace. If you haven't done much cycling this winter, or if you are feeling below your normal fitness level, this ride is for you.

We'll start from our usual spot on Middle Meadow Walk at 10:30. I don't know the route yet, but the aim is for it to be mostly flat and avoiding busy roads. We'll plan to finish by 13:00. There won't be an official café or pub stop en route, but if anyone wants to find somewhere for lunch after the ride, they will be welcome to do so.

The ride is free and open to all, with no advance booking. Even if you have been cycling all winter, and you are above your normal fitness level, you will still be welcome to join us - provided you are happy with the slower pace.

And don't forget that we've got our normal monthly ride the following Saturday. I'll post a reminder of that next week.

Monday, 25 December 2017

At least there was no wind ...

There's no other way of describing it. As far as the weather was concerned, this year's Christmas morning ride was a washout. The 40 mph winds of recent days had gone. What we had instead was incessant rain, often heavy, which lasted well into the afternoon.

But the eleven riders who turned up at Middle Meadow Walk were all in good spirits, determined not to let a bit of dampness spoil the morning. Fortified along the way with mulled wine and other treats, the ride proved to be an enjoyable one – at least until the final couple of miles when the cold and wet started to take its toll.

Our first stop was the Castle, where we did a circuit of the esplanade and posed for photos next to William Wallace. The Pentland Hills were just about visible through the murk. We then headed down the Mound for our traditional traverse of Princes Street. Not surprisingly, the city centre was dead. A few buses and taxis were to be seen, as well as the usual forlorn tourists looking in vain for something to do. Apart from that, we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

The next stage took us to the summit of Calton Hill, where we toasted the season with the aforementioned mulled wine, which was much appreciated (thank you, Michael). We then headed down to Greenside and through empty streets to Easter Road. At the Easter Road / McDonald Road junction, we experienced the new bike-friendly traffic lights, where a special green light gives cyclists a momentary priority over other traffic.

Our route then took us to St. Mark's Park, then via Five Ways to Goldenacre, Inverleith Park, Stockbridge and along the Water of Leith, which was unusually fast-flowing because of the rain. At Dean Village, we crossed the river by the narrow footbridge, then headed up Belford Road. By now, we were thoroughly wet and cold. By the time we reached the West End, about half the party had either peeled off or were seriously considering doing so. So at about 12.30, and with just under eight miles on the clock, we declared the ride officially finished. We went our various ways, with most of us heading for a hot shower, a change of clothes and a good meal. What better way to spend Christmas?

Leader: Mike
Backmarkers: Jenny and Derek
Report and photos: Mike
Map: David

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Half-day ride planned for Christmas

We've got our usual half-day ride planned for Christmas morning (Monday 25th December). If you've nothing better to do, I hope you'll join us. Like all our rides, this one is completely free and open to all, with no advanced booking.

One of the nice things about cycling in Edinburgh at Christmas is the relative lack of traffic. We'll take advantage of that to visit parts of the city centre where we might not otherwise cycle. The pace will be slow to moderate, with plenty of stops. There will be a couple of steep climbs, but we'll take them gently, and happily wait for stragglers.

There won't be a café or pub stop, so you might want to bring some nibbles to keep the hunger pangs away.

We'll meet at our usual spot at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk, in time for a 10:30 departure. The ride will end at the Meadows at 13:00 at the latest. We will be within the city the whole time, so if you've got lunch plans, feel free to peel off early.

More rides

Our friends at EasyCycle have their usual monthly ride on 31st December. See https://easycycle.wordpress.com for details.

And we've got two rides planned for January. On the 6th, Jim will be leading a Back to Basics run. These are short half-day rides, aimed especially at the less fit amongst us. And the following week (13th), Alan Orr will be leading our standard second-Saturday run. Both these rides will start from Middle Meadow Walk at 10:30. I'll post more details of these in due course.

That's all for now. I hope to see you on one or more of the above rides.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

A cold finale to Riccarton

For the final [second Saturday of the month] ride of the year, we headed out to the Heriot Watt University campus at Riccarton. Although it was a bitterly cold day, the fact it was dry meant ice was not a big problem. There was a bit on the paths around the campus, but nowhere else.

The day began bitterly cold, but dry and sunny. This meant the roads and paths used to get to the meeting point presented no problems for the 14 riders that made the start. A combination of the weather, and being one of those busy weekends in the run up to Christmas kept the numbers down. Unsurprisingly, there were no new riders on today's ride. No need to worry about two groups. Following a briefing from the leader (which included a bit about everyone being responsible for their own safety), we headed towards the quiet back streets of Marchmont via Bruntsfield Links. We then crossed Comiston Road and entered Braidburn Valley Park. From there, Colinton Mains Park and Redford Road led us to our comfort stop in Colinton. As the temperature never got above 2°C all day, we didn't hang around for long. Being well wrapped up and keeping moving was the secret to staying warm. Woodhall Road led us to a rough path that cuts through to join Blinkbonny Road. At this point, the group waited for a couple of minutes whilst the leader went ahead to check the path was clear of ice. It was, so we made our way along it. Joining the road we came to a T-junction with the Kirkgate. We usually turn left and head up the steep hill towards the Harlaw reservoirs. This time we turned right and headed downhill to Lanark Road West. Across the busy road, along some quiet residential roads in Currie and we were on Curriehall Road. This led us to the back entrance into the Riccarton Campus. Here we encountered our first ice of the day. Nothing too serious, but we took it easy. At least we could see the ice, unlike the lethal black variety. Safely past the icy stretch, we piled into the warmth of the spacious canteen for lunch. Several of the group commented on the fact they had never seen it so busy on a Saturday.

After a pleasant lunch, it was time to head back out into the cold. More icy paths around the campus (despite having been gritted) meant we took it easy and can happily report no incidents. We left the campus and the ice behind as we took the back way into Edinburgh Park. We headed towards the Gyle shopping centre, where we stopped and the leader and back marker swapped roles. As David knows the area like the back of his hand, he was able to lead us to South Gyle station avoiding the need to cycle through the shopping centre car park, which would have been heaving with Christmas shoppers. At the station, Mike took over again and led us through Broomhouse and on to Murrayfield. Around Murrayfield, it was great to see the new paths which have opened recently, and very impressive they are too. Our well-used route via the Telfer subway, Fountainpark and the canal took us back to the Leamington Bridge. Here, one of the group discovered their slow puncture was no longer "slow". They were almost home, so opted to leave the ride and head home. Our usual route would have taken us to Tollcross and the King's Theatre. But today, the leader took us back via Leamington Terrace and Bruntsfield Links. At the Meadows, the leader declared the ride over. At 19 miles, it was one of our shorter rides. Given the low temperatures and small turnout, no one seemed to mind. Thanks to Mike for leading, and to David for leading us through the Gyle avoiding the main car park. Don't forget our final outing of 2017 - the Christmas day ride.

Leader: Mike
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn
Map trace: Jim