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Saturday, 8 February 2020

The road to Swanston took our breath away

One word would sum up today's ride - wind! With Storm Ciara waiting in the wings, we knew today would be windy. Although there were strong winds right from the start, blue skies and bright sunshine gave us hope things might not be as bad as forecasted. Alas, that was not the case and the ride had to be cut short in the interests of safety. The plan was for a "themed" ride following a traditional, waymarked route: Robert Louis Stevenson's "Road to Swanston and the Pentlands". We were to follow the route he supposedly took between the New Town and the ancient village of Swanston, at the foot of the Pentland Hills. Unfortunately, we didn't even make it to Swanston before turning back.
Given the forecast, a turnout of 22 was quite impressive; certainly better than the four that set out on the January ride in truly appalling weather conditions. As ever, it was good to see a number of new riders in the mix. Bright sunshine and strong winds were the order of the day as we rolled away from the Meadows. We took the familiar route via Bruntsfield Links and the back streets of Morningside to Braidburn Valley park. Pausing at the park entrance, the leader, writer and backmarker had a quick confab about whether or not we should continue. The wind appeared to be getting stronger as the forecast had suggested, and we would be heading into much less sheltered terrain. The backmarker suggested his input would be of limited use as he said, "you know I have a rather gung-oh approach to safety!" Between us we decided to press on and reassess the situation shortly. Another confab at the park exit and the leader told the group that we would press on to Hunters Tryst where we would stop for coffee before turning round and heading back to the Meadows. Up the steep and [in places] muddy paths until we eventually emerged on Oxgangs Road. Instead of heading towards Swanston and the foot of the Pentlands, we made our way to Morrisons at Hunters Tryst for our unscheduled coffee stop.
An unshortened ride and a stop for lunch rather than coffee would have been better. But in the interests of everyone's safety we had to make do with a coffee stop, which everyone seemed to enjoy. A quick whizz down Oxgangs Road North, through Oxgangs and we were back at Braidburn Valley park. From there we retraced our outward route back to the Meadows where the leader declared the ride over. It was a shame, but definitely the right call given the conditions.
Thanks to Mike for planning an interesting route that we were unable to complete, and thanks to him for making everyone's safety the priority and shortening the ride. A tough decision that perhaps wasn't appreciated by all, but clearly the right one. It's not easy being the leader. With a total of just under 10 miles covered, this was a  shortened ride; unlike the January one which was abandoned after a few miles. By way of consolation, at least there are two routes for us to complete later in the year. Fingers crossed that March offers us some better weather.

Leader: Mike
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn

Monday, 3 February 2020

February ride this coming Saturday

Our next ride takes place this coming Saturday (8th February). I hope you will be able to join us.

For this ride, we will be repeating a very successful run that we did about 18 months ago: Robert Louis Stevenson's "Road to the Pentlands". It won't be a particularly long ride - probably about 18 miles. But it will involve some steady climbing, mainly in the morning (and some nice downhills in the afternoon). There will also be a few rough stretches, some of which might be quite muddy.

Our route will follow the series of paths that Stevenson supposedly took when he visited his family's summer cottage in the old village of Swanston, at the foot of the Pentlands. After a look around the village, we will head east towards Lothianburn, the Winton Estate and Frogston. In the afternoon, we will return home via  Burdiehouse Valley, Craigmillar Castle Park and the Innocent Path.

Our lunch stop will be in the spacious new restaurant at Mortonhall. This serves a good range of salads, sandwiches and light meals. As well as having plenty of indoor seating, it also has a pleasant terrace for those of us who like to dine al fresco.

The meeting time and place are the same as ever: 10.30 at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. We will aim to get back to the Meadows around the middle of the afternoon - well before dark (sunset that day is not until 17:01).

A reminder

May I remind you that we encourage our riders to carry a spare inner tube on all our rides. If you are unfortunate enough to have a puncture, having a spare tube will make it much easier to get back on the road. And if you don't have quick-release wheels front and back, please also carry whatever tool is needed to remove your wheels. If you don't know what tools you need or what size tube is right for your bike, ask at your favourite bike shop.

As always, there is no need to let anyone know in advance if you plan to join us. The ride is free and open to all, and you can just turn up on the day.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Despite the atrocious weather …

… our January ride went ahead. And what atrocious weather it was. Heavy rain, getting steadily worse throughout the morning, and winds gusting to 40 mph and more. Four riders turned up for the run, our first of 2020. All things considered, that was a surprisingly good turnout.

The original plan had been to follow a circuitous route through the west of the city, taking in Hermiston, Gogar, Turnhouse and Cammo, with a lunch stop at Craigie's Farm. After some discussion, our leader, Alan, decided that we would go ahead with the ride, but we would take a more direct and less exposed route to Craigie's. This was a sensible decision, given the conditions.

But even that curtailed route proved too much for your scribe, who bailed out soon after passing the Craigleith path junction. The other three bravely continued for a while. By Cramond Brig the rain had turned into a deluge, forcing the riders to take shelter in the tunnel under the Queenferry Road. At that point, the leader decided to head for home.

With just two riders remaining, Graham takes up the story:

"Exiting the tunnel, the rain was still falling, but not as intensely as ten minutes earlier. Out along the Kirkliston road, there were streams of water criss-crossing the road and at one point, the whole width of the road was at bottom bracket depth. Up the hill, we reached the sanctuary of Craigie's Farm. After a nice lunch, we re-dressed in our dripping jackets, wrung out our gloves and headed for home, retracing our earlier route. We were now at a point where we couldn't possibly get any wetter, and with the weather slightly improving, we decided to extend the ride. We turned left at Whitehouse Road and headed for Cramond. A whiz down School Brae took us to the waterfall, whose normally sharp edge was radiused with the huge volume of water. We then cycled downstream to the estuary, took in vistas of Cramond Island and Fife before heading along the esplanade to Granton. Here we climbed up through Forth Quarter and back on to the cycle path to return to Craigleith, where we parted company."

We can now look forward to some good rides in the coming year. Surely the weather cannot be this bad again?

Leader: Alan
Report: Mike, with help from Graham
Photo: MIke

Monday, 6 January 2020

January 20-Milers on Saturday

We've got our first ride of 2020 coming up on Saturday (11th). Alan will be leading us on a route that takes in bike paths and quiet roads in the west of the city, with a lunch stop at one of our more popular eating places, Craigie's Farm.

The route is likely to be little over 20 miles. It will include a few short stretches on rough paths that might be muddy in places. The only serious hill to worry about will be the climb up to Craigie's from the Kirkliston Road, which we'll reach just before lunch. Lunch will probably be on the late side, with a quick return to the Meadows in the afternoon. The ride should finish well before dark but it would be wise to bring lights in case we get delayed or if you want to go for a post-ride coffee (sunset on Saturday is just after 4 pm).

Craigie's Farm has both a cafe and a picnic area. The cafe does a good range of hot dishes, salads, sandwiches and the like.

We'll meet as always at 10:30 at our usual spot on Middle Meadow Walk. Remember, there is no advance booking for our rides. Just turn up on th day.

Please keep in mind that the above information is provisional. The meeting place and time are fixed, but, as with all our rides, we reserve the right to change the route or destination at short notice, depending on conditions on the day. This doesn't happen very often, but we might need to do it, for example if some of the paths are icy or if particularly bad weather is expected later in the day.

Wednesday, 25 December 2019

A Christmas Caravansary

Christmas Day this year was one of those rare Edinburgh days that help make our winters tolerable: crisp and cold, with a clear blue sky and no hint of a breeze. It was an ideal morning for our ninth Christmas ride. Around eighteen riders turned up: a mixed group, with ages ranging from Primary One to Bus Pass.

Cathedral Precincts
Under Jim's leadership, we started out by way of Tolcross and Lothian Road, then on to Festival Square, Rutland Square and the Gladstone Monument, where we paused briefly. After a circuit of the West End crescents, we did a double figure of eight around the precincts of St Mary's  Cathedral. This was an interesting section of route, giving us a chance to take in such notable buildings as Coates House, the Chapter House and the Song School: places we would never see on an ordinary bike ride.

Next came our traditional traverse of Princes Street, which was very quiet, with only an occasional bus and taxi. After weaving through St Andrew Square and York Place, we hit Leith Walk. We took advantage of the segregated bike lane as far as Balfour Street, from where we headed into Pilrig Park for a longer stop in front of Pilrig House. Here various treats were produced, not least of which was some warming mulled wine – very welcome.

Back in Leith Walk, we continued to New Kirkgate and then round the edge of Leith Links before returning on the Walk as far as Elm Row. We then bumped along the cobbles of Royal Terrace and Regent Terrace, skipping our traditional visit to the Stones of Scotland, but still enjoying the fine views over Holyrood and beyond.

Our youngest member
And so to the climax of the ride: the ascent of Calton Hill. This was extremely busy with tourists, a large majority of whom appeared to be Chinese. Unlike on our previous two Christmas runs, the visibility today was superb, with clear views over the Firth of Forth to the Fife hills. We did a circuit of the summit paths, after which Jim declared the ride officially over. Some of the group headed to a Lebanese restaurant in Newington, while the rest of us went our separate ways. Thanks to Jim for coming up with such an interesting route for what turned out to be another excellent and successful Christmas run.

Leader: Jim
Report and photos: Mike
Map: Jim

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Chistmas morning ride next week

This is to remind you that we have our traditional Christmas morning ride coming up next week (Wednesday 25th). As always, it will be free and open to all, so feel free to tell your pals.

Like all our Christmas rides, this will be a leisurely affair. We'll take a gentle saunter around town with plenty of stops along the way. There will be one or two hills but we'll take these slowly and we'll cheerfully wait for stragglers. 

One of the nice things about cycling on Christmas day is that the roads are much quieter than usual. We'll take advantage of that to take in parts of the city where we might not otherwise ride.

We'll set out at 10:30 from our usual meeting point at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. The ride will end back at the Meadows at 13:00 at the latest (possibly a bit earlier). Of course, you can always peel off earlier if you need to be somewhere else for lunch.

Note that there will be no cafe or pub stop of any kind. That said, people often bring a snack or a treat to share on these rides. You might want to do the same.

There's no need to let us know if you are planning to join us. Just turn up on the day.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Far from the madding [Christmas] crowds

For the final standard 20 Milers ride of the year, we headed out to the Heriot Watt University campus at Riccarton. We can usually guarantee a good lunch there and it isn't somewhere that becomes crazily busy in the run-up to Christmas. We have been there several times this year, but always via a different route. With the exception of the first section getting away from the Meadows, today's route followed that from February's ride taking us into Covenanters Wood beside Dreghorn Barracks. On that ocassion the ride had to be curtailed due to very strong winds and we didn't make it as far as Heriot Watt.

Today's weather forecast was for low single figure (degrees C) temperatures, showers and the possibility of strong gusty winds by the afternoon. Fortunately, the gusty winds held off until the ride was over. That and the fact that Christmas is just around the corner could have led to a very low turnout. So to get fifteen starters was quite impressive including two first-timers. Following the customary briefing from the leader, we headed away from the Meadows by a distinctly unfamiliar route through Marchmont, the Grange, the foot of Blackford Hill and Cluny Gardens. From there we climbed the hill of Midmar Avenue and Midmar Drive past the large impressive houses. Along Hermitage Drive and Braidburn Terrace saw us back to familiar territory heading through Braidburn Valley Park and the route past Colinton Mains Park to arrive at the entrance to the woodland known as Covenanters Wood or Dreghorn Woods. The plan had been to take the path that wound through the Giant sequoia trees, but a quick inspection by the leader suggested that path was waterlogged.
Instead we took the drier path that ran beside the razor wire fence seperating the woods from Dreghorn Barracks and past the remains of the First World War training trenches. Prior to exiting the woods, we stopped for a few minutes as cakes and sweets were passed around. Via the back streets of Bonaly and Colinton, we made our way onto the muddy Water of Leith path. It was on this path that we pulled to one side as a group of a dozen horses came past from the opposite direction. It must have been a Christmas-themed ride as most of the horses were wearing tinsel and antlers. Leaving the path, a short steep climb took us up to Lanark Road West. Across there and the back streets of Currie led us past Curriehall station and into the Heriot Watt campus for our lunch stop. The cafe there was busier than usual which meant they had run out of some choices, much to the dismay of some on the group. After all, the 20 Milers is renowned for cycling on its stomach.

Despite the slight hiccup, everyone got some lunch and we were ready to head off again. The showers continued and the wind speed was beginning to rise, but nothing too serious and we were now on the homeward leg. The route home was more familiar than the one out - Edinburgh Park, South Gyle station via The Gyle Park, through Broomhouse and Carrick Knowe to Murrayfield. From there we made our way back towards town via Roseburn Park, Russell Road, the Telfer subway, Fountain Park and the canal. At the Leamington Bridge, the leader declared the ride over.

Thanks to Mike for leading an interesting ride with a good mix of familiar and less familiar route sections. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the ride, we survived the minor hiccup at lunch and the weather had been better than expected. Finally, thanks to Yaz for doing a great job of back marking for the second time this year. If the phrase,  "final standard 20 Milers ride of the year" confused anyone, don't forget the final ride of 2019 will be the half day one on Christmas Day.

Leader: Mike
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn