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Saturday, 12 November 2016

All paths lead to Gilmerton

Today we explored the parks and open spaces in the south of the city on our way to Gilmerton. Our route included the newly restored cycle path to Danderhall. Earlier in the week, the forecast had promised a day of heavy rain. Fortunately that rain passed through in the wee small hours, leaving us with a mild and sunny morning. A very impressive 30 riders turned up at the start. Amongst them were three who had graduated from Easy Cycle. The leader made the decicion not to split the group in two. So a group of 30 rolled away and headed through the back streets of the Grange. At this point the back marker had a minor mechanical issue with his bike. As we were passing his house, he decided to nip in and swap his bike. This being a first for the group. Nothing if not resourceful these 20 Milers riders. We went through the grounds of the Astley Ainslie Hospital and on to the Hermitage of Braid. Through there we had to keep our wits about us as there were so many runners and dog walkers to share the path with. Tracking eastwards along the glen, we emerged at the A701. From there Double Hedges Road led us in to Inch Park before crossing the busy A7 in to Craigmillar Castle Park. After a brief run around the park, we crossed on to the paths behind the Royal Infirmary. There we found several new and rebuilt paths, which we used to navigate our way to the Wisp. We meandered through the streets of Danderhall to come out on Old Dalkeith Road. After crossing that, we went through the green door set into the wall to find ourselves in the Drum Estate where we admired the woods, farmlands and stables, with its monument to the Merkat cross; before emerging right next to the Abbey House Hotel - our lunch stop.

Everyone got fed. But the impression was that they were not used to having such a large hungry group arriving en masse. On stepping outside it soon became clear that the temperature had dipped whilst we were having lunch and the sun was obscured by clouds. we headed South-east along the shared pavement of the B6392 past Dobbies Garden Centre an on to the Eskbank roundabout. We negotiated this horrible roundabout safely before entering the paths around the Newbattle Golf Club. There was a slight delay as we squeezed through the kissing gate one-by-one to emerge in the beautiful woodlands. We went through the delightfully named Waterfall Park and cut through the housing estate. From there we made our way past Dalkeith High School and on to Whitecraig. From there we took the Grove towards Musselburgh. Instead of following this all the way, we turned left and crossed the River Esk. This took us through the Fergusons and we came out at Musselburgh railway station. From there we followed the path to New Craighall. A short wait ensued before we could turn right onto the main road, which was busy with traffic heading to and from Fort Kinnaird. A quick run through the village and we were back on the quiet cycle track. This led us to the Innocent Railway for the familiar run back in to town. Thanks to Jim for putting his encyclopaedic knowledge of Edinburgh cycle paths to such good use and leading a very enjoyable ride, at a sensible pace. No idea who organised it, but whoever was in charge of the weather did us proud for November. To round off a pleasant day, a contingent of eight elected to sit outside at Victor Hugo, watching night [quickly] fall. A fine, surprisingly warm day, and maybe the last time this year we get to enjoy sitting outside in the evening; though we do keep saying that!

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

Monday, 7 November 2016

November ride this coming Saturday

We've got a ride this coming Saturday (12th November).

Jim will be leading us on a tour of parks and open spaces in the south of the city. We'll be visiting the Hermitage of Braid, Inch Park, Craigmillar Park, and the newly-restored bike path to Danderhall. We'll stop for a pub lunch in Gilmerton, then head out to Eskbank and Whitecraig before returning to town via the Innocent Path.

The total distance will be about 23 miles. There will be a few moderate hills but no other difficulties.

The meeting time and place are the same as ever: 10.30, at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk.

As always, please regard the above details as provisional. The meeting time and place are sacrosanct, but we always reserve the right to vary the route and lunch venue according to the weather, path conditions and other factors.

Lighting up

Now that the clocks have gone back, please be sure to bring lights on our rides. This month's ride is planned to return to the Meadows before dark, but you will probably need lights to see you home - and also in case we get delayed. So check that your lights are in working order, and that they have plenty of battery power.

Looking ahead

We've got two rides planned for December. Our normal monthly run will be on the 10th, and we will have our usual Christmas morning ride (which this year is a joint venture with EasyCycle) on the 25th. I'll post more information about those events nearer the time.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Sunshine on Ratho

Today's ride saw us head out to the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena; the largest indoor climbing wall in the world. The route was not the most direct we could have taken. But that made it all the more interesting. With a lovely sunny morning that was reasonably mild, we were expecting a good turnout. In the end there were only 18 of us which was surprising and slightly disappointing. But in amongst those was one of our regular riders on his recumbent trike and a visitor from across the pond. The visitor from Chicago had decided to stay on for a couple of days after a business trip and try cyling in a city he had never visited before. He hired a bike, found out about the 20 Milers and joined us. We knew we could show him some lesser known parts of Edinburgh that only the most adventurous of tourists would find without local guides. David led us away from the Meadows in one group towards Whitehouse Loan, where we had to negotiate our first set of roadworks. We made our way through the quiet back streets of Morningside; crossed the busy Comiston Road and into the lovely Braidburn Valley Park. Those that hadn't been through it before, were very impressed. Leaving the park behind, we made our way through another one - Colinton Mains Park. From there we made our way past the military houses close to Redford Barracks to join the busy Redford road. We had a brief comfort stop on Colinton Road. From there we made our way onto NCN 75 beside the Water of Leith and headed towards Balerno. Turning off the cycle path, we rode through Riccarton and entered the Heriot Watt University campus by the back entrance. After winding our way through the campus, we crossed the busy A71 Calder Road. From there we followed Hermiston House Road, turning off to join the Union Canal towpath. Just before the Bridge Inn we rode past the relatively new Ratho Marina. This was a lovely little marina that many of the group hadn't seen before. A bit further along the towpath and the leader brought us to a halt at the bottom of a steep flight of steps. The Climbing Arena and lunch was at the top of these steps. Two riders were needed to carry the trike up. One by one, all the bikes were carried to the top. From there a short ride saw us all arrive on the balcony where most of us would eat our lunches. It was like a summer's day. Very warm, sunny and no wind. There were one or two wasps about to annoy us. But everyone enjoyed lunch. We may be well into next year before we have lunch sitting outside in such perfect conditions again.

Unfortunately, the first thing to do after lunch was go back down the steps. The group was soon back on the towpath heading back the way we had come. The sun disappeared behind clouds and a cool breeze picked it. Along this stretch, several riders stopped to put on an extra layer. We left the towpath and made our way to Edinburgh Park. From there we took the cycle path beside the tram line through Sighthill and Broomhouse. We crossed the tram tracks and made our way past the imposing Jenners Depository. We had to contend with more diversions and roadworks to get past Murrayfield and make our way into Roseburn. From there, the familar route via Dalry Road, the Telfer subway and Leamington Bridge took us back to the Meadows. Thanks to David for leading an interesting ride. We had succeeded in showing Our friend from Chicago some less familiar parts of Edinburgh, well away from the usual tourist haunts. So if you're reading this, intending to visit Edinburgh and fancy seeing some less familar parts by bike; sort out hiring a bike and the 20 Milers will make you most welcome.

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

Monday, 3 October 2016

October ride this coming Saturday

Our next ride will be this coming Saturday (8th October). David will be our leader for the day. I don't know the exact route, but I can tell you that it will be about 24 miles, mainly on paths and quiet roads, but with one busy road crossing to negotiate. There will also be a flight of fairly steep steps which we will have to haul our bikes up (and, later, down).

Our lunch stop will be the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (EICA) - the largest indoor climbing wall in the world. There is lots of seating here, both on the spacious terrace and in the centre itself, with dramatic views over the 25-metre high wall. The snack bar serves a reasonable selection of food, but we have often found the service quite slow, so if you want to avoid a long wait in the queue, consider bringing your own food for a picnic lunch.

As always, we'll set out from the north end of Middle Meadow walk at 10.30. There's no need to let us know whether or not you can make it. Just turn up on the day.

A reminder

While I have your attention, could I remind you of the importance of bringing a spare inner tube on our rides. Doing so won't prevent you getting a puncture, but it will make it very much easier to get you back on the road if a puncture does strike. If you don't know what size or type of tube to bring, ask at your favourite bike shop. If you don't know how to replace a tube, don't worry: there are usually willing hands available to help.

If your wheels don't have quick-release levers, please also bring a suitable tool for removing the wheel. Again, your local bike shop will advise on this if necessary.

Looking ahead

One or two of our members have already asked me if we will be having our usual Christmas morning ride this year. Yes, we will. And because Christmas falls on the last Sunday of the month, this year's event will be a joint venture with EasyCycle. I don't have any further information at this point, but you can be assured that the ride will go ahead.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

An excursion across the Forth

For the final 20 Milers Extra ride of the year we headed across the Forth into the Kingdom of Fife. To wind up this year's series of Extra rides we were blessed with beautiful weather. Warm, sunny, lovely blue skies and barely a breeze. This was what we would have expected in July rather than mid-September. Meeting at our usual starting point when heading north or west on these rides; we had a very respectable turn out of 20 riders. As ever, it was good to see some new faces and less regular attendees in the mix. There was even a tandem. We rolled away from the Craigleith marker taking familiar paths and roads to Cramond Brig. It has become a group custom to stop on the bridge. This time was no exception. We had just climbed the hill beside the Cramond Brig pub and joined the path beside the A90 when a loud bang signalled an impressive puncture. The puncturee was near the back of the group. As a result; by the time the leader was made aware of the situation, quite a distance had been covered. The group stopped. But the townies amongst us complained about the smell of manure coming off the adjacent fields. The decision was made to push on and find a less smelly place to wait. After quite a long wait at the entrance to the Dalmeny estate, the puncturee and four helpers came into sight and we were able to carry on. We pushed on through Dalmeny village and took the cycle path through the new housing development on the edge of South Queensferry. Avoiding the centre of town; quiet back roads and paths took us to the Forth Bridge. A short stop to admire the view of the three bridges and then it was up and on to the path that took us across the road bridge. Today was the busiest the writer has ever seen the bridge. It was teeming with cyclists and pedestrians. But the wide path meant there was room for everyone, with opportunities to admire the stunning views. The Forth was mill pond calm and a beautiful blue beneath the clear skies, with superb visibility. Across the bridge we came upon roadworks which saw us on a rough, unfinished shared pavement before rejoining the very unpleasant and busy road into Inverkeithing. Leaving Inverkeithing behind us, we were soon on the Fife coastal path. This is a lovely path with splendid views. A real treat, especially on suck a glorious day. Those that had never been on this path before were completely blown away by it.
One rider got so excited that he decided to dance with his bike! There was that familiar banging and scraping sound that suggests a rider is about to fall. Those in front turned round to see what the commotion was. His front wheel was alternating between being in the dirt and on the tarmac with the whole bike dancing from side to side. Collectively the group must have been thinking, "he's going down". But to the relief of all, somehow he regained control and remained upright. The greatest sigh of relief came from the rider alongside him who must have thought he was about to be wiped out. We left the coastal path and had a short spell on the busy road through Aberdour to get to Silversands Bay. Picnics came out and food was bought from the busy cafe. Soon we were all sitting in the sun enjoying our lunch whilst looking across the sandy beach and the blue waters of the Forth. On such a lovely day with the sun beating down from a clear sky, even the Burntisland aluminium smelter across the water looked majestic.

Throughout the day, many had suggested this may well be the last day of such weather this year. As a result; in an unprecedented move, three members of the group decided to stay and enjoy the sun rather than head back. As Jim was one of the group, we were confident they would have no trouble finding their way home and bid them farewell. Our return route took us back the way we had come. Sometimes that can seem a bit boring. But with the coastal path, no one minded at all. We stopped briefly to admire the remains of an old chapel. We left the path behind and entered Inverkeithing. Back down the busy main road, through the roadworks and we were back on the bridge admiring the views from the opposite direction. A quick comfort stop at the viewing area and we were skirting South Queensferry again. The path alongside the A90, a brief stop on Cramond Brig, and then the familiar roads and paths back to Craigleith. Thanks to Julia for such a lovely route and for arranging such marvellous weather. It certainly felt like we had finished our Extra rides series on a high note. We will probably have to wait until May before these rides start again. But of course, the standard 20 Milers rides keep going throughout the year, including the short special one on Christmas Day.

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

Monday, 12 September 2016

20-Milers Extra this coming Saturday

Silvesands Beach. Photo: Sandy Gemmill

This coming Saturday (17th), we have the last of our Extra rides for this year (our normal rides will continue through the winter, of course).

So far this summer, our Extras have taken us into various parts of West Lothian and East Lothian. This time, we will be heading into Fife. After crossing the Forth Road Bridge, we will head east along the Fife Coastal Path, passing St David's Harbour and Dalgety Bay, and then into Aberdour.

Pace and distance

As you know, our Extra rides are longer than our normal outings. This one will be 35 - 40 miles, and will go at a slightly faster pace than you might be used to. If you haven't cycled much recently, or are unsure about your fitness level, please think carefully before you decide to come on this ride. But if you usually feel comfortable with our longer runs, this one should present no difficulties.

Most of the route will be on roads and well-surfaced paths, with only one or two short stretches on rough tracks. There will only be a few hills - none of them particularly demanding.

Lunch stop

For our lunch stop, we will make for the very attractive Silversands Bay. This is a particularly nice spot for a picnic. It has a pleasant park and a beautiful beach, with extensive views over the Firth of Forth. There are plenty of picnic tables. There is also a café nearby for those who prefer a hot lunch, as well as a snack bar where you can get a tea or coffee.

A point to note. The above-mentioned café has been known to refuse to top up cyclists' water bottles - something that most cafés and pubs are happy to do. As far as I know, there is nowhere else nearby where you can take on water, so be sure to bring an adequate supply with you.

Meeting time and place

The ride will leave from our alternative meeting point at the path junction in Craigleith (see here for directions). As usual with our Extra rides, we will set out at the earlier start time of 10.00.

I can't say for sure what time the ride will end, but I think it's likely that we will be back at Craigleith around 4 pm or soon after.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Falside Hill - the easy way

For those that don't like steep hills and know of it; mention of Falside Hill can lead to feelings of serious trepidation. A mile or so south-east of Wallyford in East Lothian; there are three routes to the top. The hard way is to approach from the Wallyford side just past the A1 junction. There are two approaches from Tranent. Whilst both are easier than the hard way, both are still something of a challenge. For today's ride, the leader was promising an easy ascent of the hill. Was this a wind up, or was it a real possibility? It was dry and overcast with the sun trying to peep through as the riders began to gather at the start point. Following the customary briefing, the 26 riders headed off towards the Innocent tunnel. In amongst the regulars were some riders that hadn't been out with us for quite a while and a smattering of new faces. Turning off long before the tunnel, we made our way up St Leonards Bank. This little-known dead end street is delightful. On one side are lovely houses; on the other is a to-die-for view of Arthur's Seat. A real undiscovered gem in the heart of town. This was discovered by one of our regular riders a couple of years ago and we continue to weave it into appropriate rides for the "wow" factor. An indication of how well hidden it is can be shown by the fact that Ken has lived in Edinburgh for over 50 years, yet only discovered it a couple of years ago.
Following a short stretch where we had to walk along a very rough path, we were soon in Holyrood Park and whizzing down to Duddingston village. From there we made our way past Duddingston golf course, Milton Road and joined the Innocent Railway path at Bingham. From there we took the regularly used route to emerge at Musselburgh station. Here we had a brief pause whilst the leader offered round sweeties. From there we made our way through the houses, took the bridge over the River Esk and onto the Grove to Whitecraig. At Whitecraig we joined the cycle path towards Dalkeith before turning off and climbing up to Crossgatehall to join the Pencaitland railway path. After a couple of miles of easy riding on the whin dust path, we turned left onto a less smooth minor path. Within a short distance we were confronted by a flight of steps which forced us to dismount and walk. With the steps behind us, we remounted and continued along the path passing a cemetery that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. Waiting to regroup in Elphinstone, a collie dog was very keen to round up the group of cyclists. So much so, that he had to be dragged away by his owner. There then followed what can only be described as the closest the 20 Milers ever get to single track mountain biking. This short stretch was quite tricky. But whilst there may have been one or two heart-in-the-mouth moments, everyone got through safely. The fact the leader had warned everyone of what was to come obviously helped. A little more riding on a better quality path and we emerged onto the road at the top of Falside Hill. So it was true! It had been possible to get to the top of Falside Hill without too much effort. The only compromise being the need to negotiate a couple of off-road sections; one short stretch of which had been quite tricky. Now for the reward. We sped down the steep hill. A very quick and enjoyable way to get to our lunch stop at Craig House on the edge of Whitecraig.

Suitably replenished after a good lunch, we rolled away from Craig House and made our way to the pleasant village of Inveresk. By St Michael's kirk we negotiated a gate and made our way down to the path beside the River Esk which took us back to Tesco in Musselburgh. We crossed the busy Mall Avenue and made our way towards Fisherrow Harbour via Eskside West; remembering to duck as we rode under the bridge which carries the aptly named Bridge Street. After a brief pause at Fisherrow, one final detour took us up Newhailes Avenue and Newhailes Crescent to emerge on the busy Edinburgh Road through a gate set into the wall. A few hundred yards on this road and we turned left through another hole in the wall to join the Brunstane path. This lovely path which hugs the Brunstane Burn brought us out at Brunstane station. From there we joined the familiar NCN 1 for our run back into town. It was on this path at Jewel Park that we had our only puncture of the day. Thanks to Alan Orr for ensuring the unfortunate rider was back under way with minimal delay. Positive feedback suggested that everyone enjoyed the day's ride. Good weather, some unfamiliar territory, a short stretch of challenging off-road riding, good company - what more could anyone want from a 20 Milers outing? Ah, of course; the chance to ascend a very tough hill with minimal climbing.

Leader: Glenn
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn and Michael
Map trace: David