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Saturday, 8 January 2022

A half day January meander

Despite the rapid increase in Covid cases, it was decided it would be safe for today's ride to go ahead, but without a cafe or pub lunch stop. Instead, it would take the form of a half-day ride aiming to finish by 1300. Given this is January in Edinburgh, a picnic outdoors lunch option was quickly discounted. The leader decided to plot a route that would be quite meandering, but never too far from the centre of town for those wishing to peel off early. He also opted to stick with the full 20 miles distance and see how that panned out.

Given the change in format and forecast of changeable weather, a turnout of eleven riders was not overly surprising. As it happened, the weather was kinder than we had dared hope. It remained dry, was cool rather than cold and we even had some pleasant winter sunshine. Following the customary briefing, we took the familiar route to the Leamington Bridge via Bruntsfield Links. We remained on the canal, leaving at Ashley Terrace. We passed George Watson's College Recreation Ground on Myreside Road before turning left into Craighouse Gardens. Apart from the leader and back marker, no one else was familiar with the route. Making good progress on a flat stretch of road was fine until we turned off and were confronted with a stiff little climb into Morningside Park. Many were caught out being in too high a gear. We pressed on through Greenbank and the new housing development built on the site of the former City Hospital. At this point, a senior member of the group said, "I know all the places we've been to, but don't think I could easily thread them together into one ride". We joined the path through Colinton Mains Park, before heading through Oxgangs and finding ourselves on the quiet residential roads of Swanston. After crossing of the busy Biggar Road, quiet roads and muddy paths saw us emerge onto Frogston Road West. A fast downhill run and we were at the Mortonhall Garden Centre. 

What would have been our lunch stop became a comfort stop instead. Past the caravan site, and we had some muddy and icy stretches of path to contend with before emerging on Braid Hills Drive. A right turn on Braid Farm Road, down Braid Hills Avenue and we arrived at the familiar Braidburn Terrace. Through Braidburn Valley Park and we joined the paths we had ridden earlier, but now in the opposite direction. At his point the back marker said, "we're now on the second loop". Someone was heard to say, "what? We're doing the whole ride again?" We made our way through Colinton to join the Water of Leith path. Onwards through Colinton Tunnel with its lovely murals, past the Water of Leith Visitor Centre, through Saughton Park, past Murrayfield and Roseburn Park and we were at the Russell Road zig-zags. A few riders peeled off there, with the remainder heading back to the Leamington Bridge. There the leader declared the ride officially over at just after 1330.

Thanks to Neil for leading us on a meandering, varied and interesting route that never ventured too far from town. And well done for adapting it at short notice to fit the half day format. Thanks also to Alison for her first stint as back marker.

Leader: Neil

Report: Glenn

Photos: Glenn

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Half-day ride this coming Saturday

We've got our January ride coming up on Saturday (8th). But because of the Covid situation, it will be slightly different than usual. Let me explain.

Half-day ride

In the light of the rapid increase in Covid cases, we have been considering our options for this ride. We believe that it will be safe for the ride to go ahead, given that we will be out of doors and able to maintain good social distancing. But we think it would be unwise for the group to go into a cafe or pub for lunch. We considered asking everyone to bring a packed lunch, but eating in the open air on a Scottish January morning doesn't seem like a good option.

Instead, we have decided that this will be a half-day ride. There will be no lunch break, and we will finish by 1 pm at the latest. I'm sorry we can't offer you a full day out, but I'm sure you will appreciate the reason.

The details

Neil (Miller) will be our leader. At the time of writing, Neil is still planning the route, but I know we can rely on him to come up with something interesting. Details of the route will be announced at the meeting point.

As always, we will leave
at 10.30 from the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. And as always, the ride is free and open to all, with no advance booking.

Looking ahead

It's too early to say what form our February ride will take. Obviously, it will depend on the Covid situation at the time and on any new restrictions that might have come into force. I will of course keep you informed.

I hope we'll see you on Saturday. After all, half a day's cycling is better than none.

Saturday, 25 December 2021

A Santa-esque Saunter


This was our tenth Christmas morning ride. The first one was in 2011 and attracted just seven riders. Today, 15 cyclists turned up. So we are clearly moving in the right direction. In fact, 15 was a particularly satisfactory number considering today's conditions: a bright, sunny morning, but a bitterly cold one. The temperature was 3°C, but the freezing wind made it feel several degrees colder.

Our first stop was the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, where we took in the excellent views towards the Pentland Hills. We then zoomed down the Mound, then did a two-way stretch along Princes Street: first heading west as far as Castle Street, then doubling back to South St David Street. On passing the deserted Christmas Market, one rider asked if Edinburgh was the only city where the Christmas market closes for Christmas.

The next leg took us westward again, this time along George Street, passing the seasonal ice rink (also closed) and into Charlotte Square. Part of the rationale of these festive rides is that there is much less traffic in the city centre on Christmas day, allowing us to cycle in places where we wouldn't normally venture. At least, that's the theory. But today there seemed to be far more cars on the road than expected. It wasn't clear why.

After cutting through to Queensferry Street, we headed down Belford Road into Dean Village. This was busy with tourists, all looking in vain for something to do or somewhere to go to get out of the cold. I couldn't help feeling sorry for them. Our route then took us along the delightful path that runs by the Water of Leith to Stockbridge. This was also quite busy, but perhaps less so than on a normal Saturday.

We continued along Deanhaugh Street and into St Bernard's Row before cutting through to Inverleith Park. We stopped for a quick refreshment break on the hill above the pond, from where there was a clear view over the city towards the Castle. It would have been nice to linger for a bit at this pleasant spot, but the thermometer was against us. So onward we pedalled, along Inverleith Row and into Warriston Gardens, from where we gained access to Quiet Route 13, aka the Goldenacre Path.

Leaving the path a short distance later, we continued through St Mark's Park and along McDonald Road. From here, our route was to take us across Leith Walk and into Brunswick Place, but the current tram works made the crossing of Leith Walk rather challenging, so instead we dismounted and walked the short distance along the pavement to Brunswick Street. This gave us easy access to Hillside Crescent and London Road.

The last leg took us along the cobbles of Royal Terrace and Regent Terrace. The original plan had been to finish the outing with an ascent of Calton Hill. But by now the temperature was taking its toll. Several members of the group had already peeled off, no doubt in search of somewhere to thaw out. Those that remained were questioning the wisdom of climbing to the 100-metre summit where 15 mph winds were likely to waiting for us. So, without any dissenting voices, the ride was officially declared over. Two of us made it back to the Meadows, with the others going their separate ways.

Leader: Mike

Report and photos: Mike


Monday, 20 December 2021

Christmas morning ride this coming Saturday

We've got our traditional half-day Christmas ride coming up on Saturday (25th). Like all our rides, this one is free and open to all. We'll meet at our usual time and place (10.30 at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk). There is no advance booking of any kind; just turn up on the day.

I realise that many of you will have plans for later in the day, so I'll make sure that we get back to the Meadows by 1 pm at the latest.

The route

The nice thing about cycling on Christmas day is that there is much less traffic than usual. To take advantage of that, our route will include parts of the city centre where we wouldn't normally venture. We'll also take in some bike paths, parks and quiet roads around the periphery.

The total distance will be 10 to 12 miles, which we'll take at a gentle pace with plenty of stops. But note that there will be a few hills, plus a couple of stretches on cobbled roads.

Food and drink

There will be no café stop on this ride (and no toilet stop either - take note). On our Christmas runs in past years, riders have brought all manner of seasonal treats to share: chocolate, mince pies, even mulled wine. By all means, bring similar goodies this year if you wish - but, please, only for your own consumption. Because of Covid, we are asking that you do not bring food or drink to share.

Talking of which ...

You don't need me to remind you that Covid is very much still with us. Even though we will be in the open air, please try to maintain social distancing on the ride. And of course, you shouldn't join the ride if you have Covid symptoms or have been told to isolate or quarantine.

I intend to take a lateral-flow test before setting out for the ride, and I would urge you to do the same. These tests are quick and easy to do at home, and the result is available within 15 minutes. If we all do a test on Christmas morning, we will greatly reduce the risk of spreading the virus on our ride or later in the day.

Looking ahead

Christmas apart, our normal monthly runs continue throughout the winter. The next one will be on Saturday 8 January. I'll post details of that ride nearer the time.

Saturday, 11 December 2021

Riccarton by a route less travelled

Whilst most of today's ride to the Heriot Watt Campus at Riccarton was on familiar roads and paths, the leader did promise us an interesting new stretch we had never ridden before as a group. It may have been due to the lure of Christmas shopping or the dreich weather, but a total of just ten riders was a very low turn out, even for December. Following the leader's briefing about the route, safety and lunch arrangements, we left the Meadows and headed to Whitehouse Loan via Bruntsfield Links. From there we took the quiet backstreets of Marchmont and Morningside. It's a bonus that a number of the roads are blocked off for through traffic to all except cycles. Through Braidburn Valley Park, Colinton Mains Park and more quiet backstreets, this time behind Redford Barracks. Onwards through Colinton and Bonaly before arriving at Woodhall Road, where we turned right and continued as the road petered out to become a rough downhill path to the Water of Leith. Across the narrow bridge and we were on the Water of Leith Walkway. Along this muddy stretch we encountered walkers, dogs and horses before emerging in Balerno. Right along Bridge Road and right at the lights to join Lanark Road West for a short distance. Leaving the busy road behind, we made our way through the new housing estate before taking the path down to Curriehill station. Here we had to wheel our bikes up and over the footbridge across the railway. Leaving the interesting new stretch behind us, Curriehill Road and the familiar back entrance into the Heriot Watt campus took us to our lunch stop. As the leader had explained earlier, the cafeteria we normally use is currently closed at weekends because of Covid. As a result everyone had brought a packed lunch. Three brave souls opted to eat outdoors - at least the rain had stopped. The rest of us went inside and sat at the tables in the cafeteria. We perhaps should not have been there, but no one else was about and we ate our lunch in peace and in the warm.

Lunch over, it was drizzling as we made our way through the campus and emerged at Calder Road. Across the road, down Gogar Station Road, a right turn and we were on the rough path near the chicken farm before emerging at Edinburgh Park. From there, we meandered through the almost deserted roads of South Gyle Park Business Estate to arrive at South Gyle station. We cut through Broomhall and Carrick Knowe, past Murrayfield, through Roseburn Park and onwards to the Russell Road zig-zags. That is where the leader declared the ride officially over. Thanks to Mike for leading us to a familiar destination whilst managing to thread in a totally new and interesting section. Not withstanding the half day ride on Christmas day, this was the last full 20 Milers ride of the year. This year may have only started for us in August, but at least it was better than 2020. Here's hoping that 2022 will be better still.

Leader: Mike

Report: Glenn

Photos: Glenn

Monday, 6 December 2021

Two 20-Milers rides in December

We've got two rides coming up this month: our normal "second Saturday" run this coming weekend; and our traditional Christmas morning ride on the 25th. Details below.

This week's ride

For our ride this coming Saturday, we'll be heading out to the Heriot-Watt campus at Riccarton. Most of the ride will be on a familiar route via the Braidburn Valley and the Water of Leith. But I can also promise you an interesting new stretch that we have never done before as a group.

There will be a couple of steep climbs in the first half of the morning, and a few gentle hills after that. There will also be a point where we will have to haul our bikes up a flight of steps. Most of the route will be on quiet roads or bike paths with reasonably firm surfaces. The total distance will be a shade over twenty miles.

Lunch arrangements

For this ride, you are strongly advised to bring a packed lunch. But don't worry. You won't have to eat it out of doors, drenched by the rain or shivering in the cold.

When visiting Heriot-Watt, we normally use the cafeteria there for our lunch. Unfortunately, this is currently closed on weekends because of Covid. But there is still plenty of room for us to eat indoors. Toilets are also available. There is a small shop on the campus that sells crisps, chocolate, etc. as well as vending-machine coffee. They sometimes have a limited range of sandwiches on offer, but as these are just whatever is left over from the day before, it would be unwise to rely on them. Hence the advice to bring a packed lunch.

For those of you who prefer to eat in the open (weather permitting), there is a nice loch-side picnic spot close to the main campus building.

Time and place

Our meeting time and place are as constant as the North Star: 10:30, at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. The ride should finish before dark (sunset is around 15:30 that day), but you should bring lights in case we get delayed and to see you home.

Christmas ride

I'll post more details of our Christmas morning ride nearer the time. For now, just note that we will meet at our usual spot in Middle Meadow Walk, in time for a 10:30 departure. As many of you will have lunch plans, we'll make sure we finish by 13:00 at the latest.

Remember, all our rides are free, and we don't have a booking system. Just turn up if you wish to join us.

And finally ...

Please keep in mind that Covid is still with us. So we'll take care to spread out at the lunch stop on Saturday. And you should, of course, stay away if you have symptoms or have been told to self-isolate.

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Anything but dull

As a result of the Covid-induced lay-off, today's leader hadn't led a 20 Milers ride for two-and-a-half years. So an easy trouble-free ride to ease him back in would have been ideal. No chance! Today's ride to Inveresk had plenty of incidents to make it anything but dull. One rider was afflicted by two punctures, there were two pannier incidents and a medical emergency. Undoubtedly, the unseasonably mild weather helped, but a turnout of 27 riders was quite impressive for November. The day was reasonably mild, dry and sunny with hardly any wind - great cycling weather. At the customary briefing, the leader promised a ride to Inveresk with some familiar sections mixed in with some that would be new to almost everyone.

We left the Meadows and took the familiar route towards the Innocent Tunnel. But we swept past the tunnel entrance and into Holyrood Park. A glorious descent of Queens Drive, and we were soon leaving the park behind and heading through the quiet backstreets of Willowbrae. One of the many bumps in the area led to a rider having their pannier bounce off. A brief stop, the pannier was re-attached and they were rolling again. A short sharp climb of [the aptly named] Lilyhill Terrace soon had us nicely warmed up. A surprisingly easy crossing of Willowbrae Road and we were soon curving around Mountcastle Crescent. From there it was back onto Mountcastle Drive North, and we turned left at the lights towards Portobello along the segregated cycle lane. Somehow the whole group got through the next set of traffic lights before turning right into Stanley Street. The dreaded shout, "puncture" went up and the group came to a halt. Time ticked on, and despite a number of attempts using tyre levers, brute force and prayers the tyre could not be removed from the rim. Where was Alan Orr when we needed him? Recovering from injury is the answer. It looked as if the unfortunate rider's ride would end there. But no one is ever abandoned on our rides. They were directed to the bike shop in Portobello and the group continued past Portobello Golf Course. Over the bridge, through the backstreets of Joppa, along Milton Road and we were soon back on familiar territory. NCN 1 took us via Newcraighall to Musselburgh station where we joined the new cycle path to join the B6145. A few hundred yards and we turned right and headed down towards the Grove. From there we were soon at Craig House in Inveresk - our lunch stop.

There was a pleasant surprise during our lunch stop. The rider with the puncture had it fixed at the bike shop in Portobello, and had managed to catch up with the group and continue the ride. We headed into Inveresk, turning left into Wedderburn Court. It was merely a loop round that returned us to the main road via Wedderburn Terrace, but it was one of those places that no one had been before and there were some very impressive houses there. Onwards through the village and down past Mussleburgh Grammar School. There was a loud clang and someone shouted, "stop!" It turned out that the bottom had fallen out of a rider's pannier and the clang had been their D-lock hitting the road. The belongings were gathered up, transferred to a backpack and we were on our way again. A cut through beside Tesco, along Mall Avenue, over the main road bridge through Musselburgh, a right turn at the Brunton Hall, a few more twists and turns and we were at Fisherrow Harbour. One final less familiar detour via Newhailes Avenue and Newhailes Crescent and we were heading for the bottom of Milton Road where we joined the Brunstane Burn path. We had just joined the path when a very loud shout of "stop" was heard. We all stopped and waited. Stretched out along the path, Chinese whispers spread along the line and the message suggested there was some sort of kerfuffle. After a while of wondering what sort of kerfuffle had occured, the backmarker rode to the front to brief the leader. It appeared that an elderly couple had been out walking and the man had taken ill. The backmarker had phoned for an ambulance and Iona and Barbara had agreed to leave the ride and wait for the ambulance to arrive. Having done all we could, the group prepared to move off. At that point the rider who had suffered a puncture in the morning, realised they had another in the same tyre. But with discretion being the better part of valour, they decided a walk to the nearest bike shop made more sense than trying again to remove the tyre. This time they headed back towards Musselburgh. The remainder of the group headed back towards town via the Brunstane Burn path, NCN 1 and the Innocent Railway. Without further drama, we arrived at the Meadows where the leader declared a rather eventful ride over.

The weather had been kind to us, most had seen new places, there had been a few dramas along the way; but most importantly of all, everyone appeared to have enjoyed the ride and we all got home safely. Special thanks to Iona, Barbara and Mike for helping with the medical emergency.

Leader: Glenn

Report: Glenn

Photos: Glenn