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Saturday, 11 August 2018

A March re-enactment; but without the freezing rain!

For today's 20 Milers outing the leader chose to do the same ride she led back in March. This is not
something the group usually does. But March's ride was blighted by some of the worst weather we have endured for quite some time - windy, freezing cold, continual heavy rain and the occasional blast of sleet. Perhaps not too surprising as it was just over a week after the Beast from the East had battered the country. It resulted in a low (but could easily have been considerably lower) turnout of just eleven riders. The weather contributed to two falls and a couple of riders abandoning before the end. It was clearly an interesting route; so this was take two. What a contrast! It was warm and it stayed dry. More overcast-bright than sunny, but no one seemed to mind. A turn out of 27 riders was very good, and great to see quite a few new faces in the mix.

Following a detailed briefing where the group was made aware of the pre-arranged muster points, Jenny led us through the Festival crowds towards the Innocent Tunnel. But instead of going through the tunnel, we made our way into Holyrood Park and whizzed down Queen's Drive. Turning right at St Margaret's Loch, we climbed the steep hill up to Dunsapie Loch. On this section the group became quite stretched out and we had to contend with quite a few cars on the narrow road. We regrouped and were able to enjoy views of the loch and down to the Forth. Back in March we could barely see as far as the loch! Having circled Arthur's Seat, we returned to the point at which we had entered the park and headed to Duddingston village. We followed Duddingston Road West to the traffic lights at Milton Road. Road works to lay new gas mains meant we couldn't simply wait for the traffic lights to turn green and head across the junction. Instead we had to dismount, walk along the pavement and cross Milton road as pedestrians. We regrouped at the gate leading into Figgate Park. We paused briefly at Figgate Pond, before leaving the park and heading down Brighton Place. Just beyond the railway bridge, we turned right onto the Christian Path. This delightful little path was new to many of us, even those that thought they knew Portobello well. We crossed Portobello High Street and took quiet back roads to the Portobello Swim Centre, where we had a cake and sweetie stop. We made our way carefully through the crowds on Portobello prom and headed towards Seafield, where Peter gave us a brief history lesson on Portobello, telling us about the open air pool, zoo and the time an elephant was paraded through the town's streets. We pressed on alongside the Forth before heading on to Leith Links. A few twists and turns through the back streets of Leith and we found ourselves at The Shore. Past Victoria Quay, behind the converted warehouses and we emerged near Ocean Terminal. From there past Asda and Newhaven Harbour, along Lower Granton Road and onto Silverknowes Esplanade which we sped along to the Cramond Falls Cafe for lunch.

Following a pleasant lunch sitting in the cafe garden, we set off to make our way back to town; knowing it wouldn't take long as most of the mileage had been covered before lunch. Before anyone had got warmed up and back into the groove, we had the stiff little climb that is School Brae to contend with. The climb over, there followed a short stretch on Whitehouse Road before turning right down Peggy's Mill Road. This lovely little road took us down to join the River Almond Walkway. Many on the group hadn't been down there before and found it to be a real treat. The briefest of detours found us on The Old Toll Bridge at Cramond Brig, where we paused for a few minutes. Up Braepark Road, across Whitehouse Road and we were back on familiar territory. Through Barnton, paths took us back to Craighleith and onto the Roseburn Path, down the zig-zags, through the Telfer subway and along the canal to Leamington Bridge. Here the leader declared the ride over. Thanks to Jenny for leading an interesting ride. Despite visiting familiar locations, she kept it interesting with several unexpected twists and turns along the way. Also, a graphic illustration of what a difference the weather makes to the enjoyment of a ride. The only advantage to the March ride was hardly any pedestrians, children or dogs to steer round on the likes of Portobello or Silverknowes proms.

Leader: Jenny
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn
Map trace: Sorry. None for this ride.

Monday, 6 August 2018

August ride this coming Saturday

We've got our August ride this coming Saturday (11th). Jenny will be leading us on what promises to be an interesting tour of Edinburgh's waterfront, featuring such delights as the Royal Yacht Britannia, Newhaven Harbour and the Granton gasometer. The route will be similar to the one that a few of us undertook in atrocious weather back in March. I don't want to tempt fate, but whatever the weather this time round, it can't possibly be as bad as it was then.

We'll set out at 10:30 from our habitual starting point on Middle Meadow Walk. We'll have a steep climb early on, but only a couple of moderate hills after that. Almost the whole route will be on well-surfaced roads and paths, apart from a few cobbles in the Leith area. The total distance will be about 20 miles.

Our lunch stop will be the Cramond Falls café, where you can choose from a selection of soups, sandwiches and cakes. If you prefer to bring your own food, there is plenty of outside seating overlooking the River Almond. Please note: The café  does not accept cards, so be sure to bring some real money if you plan to eat there.

Another ride this month

In addition to the above ride, we've got our fourth Extra of the season on the 25th. Glenn will be leading us on what has become a standard August fixture four our group: a 45 - 50 mile round trip to the Merryhatton Garden Centre near East Fortune. I'll post further details of that outing nearer the time.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

The chain gang rides again

Today's Extra ride saw us head out into deepest West Lothian. We were not too far from Linlithgow, a place we have visited several times previously. But anyone expecting a familiar route was in for a pleasant surprise. The leader managed to make the route interesting and anything but familiar. We descended a glorious steep hill, found a new lunch venue (which was reached by a muddy and overgrown path) and got a rider rolling again following a [potentially ride-ending] snapped chain.

As is the norm when heading out west, today's start point was the Craigleith marker. It was a bit overcast and there was a cooling breeze as we gathered. It would get warmer and brighter as the day went on. Given the good weather, it wasn't surprising that we mustered 20 starters. It was good to see some unfamiliar faces in the mix along with a few that are looking set to become regulars. Following a briefing from the leader, we rolled away onto the familiar paths and quiet roads through Barnton to Cramond Brig, where we paused briefly before making for the underpass. We took the road past Craigiehall Army HQ before turning off and joining the path into Kirkliston. Following a comfort stop at the sports centre, there followed a short stretch on the B9080. We turned off to join a quiet road that took us past Niddry Castle and across a bridge over the canal. In Niddry we turned off and headed towards Faucheldean. It was on this road that an innocuous little climb saw the major drama of the day unfold. One unfortunate rider had his chain come off. He soon had it back on and was on his way again. But within a 100 yards disaster struck as his chain snapped. This could easily have been the end of his ride. Despite several of us walking up and down the road looking for the locking pin, it was nowhere to be seen. A rider was sent back from the main group (which had stopped further up the road) to see what the problem was. It was decided that the problem could be fixed. The decision was made that the main group would press on and the group of three and the unfortunate rider would catch them once the repair had been made. Hero of the hour Graham, produced a chain link tool from his backpack and he knew how to use it! As the main group headed off, Graham proceeded to remove a link from the chain and make the repair. Job done, the rider remounted and tentatively began to pedal. Bingo! The repair held and did so for the remainder of the ride. The lead group were not that far ahead and the four soon caught them. We crossed the B8046 and headed on through Little Ochiltree. At Wester Ochiltree we turned right to be greeted with the sight of a beautiful straight [and smooth surfaced] steep downhill. It was one of those beautiful hills that presents so many options - freewheel, pedal, brake, don't brake. It also meant that it was possible to get over half way up the other side without any effort. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the hill. The writer is sure he wasn't the fastest, but even he clocked 40 mph on the descent. Leaving the hill behind, we turned left onto the B9080 towards Linlithgow, before turning right and taking a quiet road towards Philipstoun. We took the road across the canal, looking down on the towpath we often follow when out that way. At Old Philipstoun, we went straight across the B8046 to join a minor road under the M9 motorway. We crossed the busy A904 to follow the cycle path running alongside it. We then took a muddy and overgrown path to emerge at our lunch stop - the garden centre, New Hopetoun Gardens .

Following a pleasant lunch, we retraced our steps along the muddy and overgrown path to join a quiet road. On this road, a car stopped and asked the two riders at the back of the group how to get to Hopetoun House as they had to be there for a wedding that was starting in six minutes! We were heading in the direction of Hopetoun House, but knew that our entry into the estate was not open to motor vehicles. We sent them back towards the main road, but were not really sure where was their best route from there. The only thing we were sure of - they had no chance of being there in six minutes! We were soon in the Hopetoun Estate and heading towards the fiddly gate we know so well. It's more user-friendly than it used to be, but remains a bottle-neck for anything other than a small group. We left the estate through the main entrance and headed towards South Queensferry. This stretch of road was the busiest that most of us had ever seen it. We made our way to the Co-op for a comfort stop before taking the path to Dalmeny village. From there we took the road to the Dalmeny Estate. Instead of heading into the estate, we took the cycle path alongside the B924 and A90 to Cramond Brig. Following a stop on the bridge, we retraced our outward route and returned to the Craigleith marker where the leader declared the ride over.

Thanks to Julia for leading us into familiar territory, but choosing less familiar roads and paths to keep it interesting and adding in that glorious descent. Also, a mention in despatches for Graham in saving the day by fixing the broken chain.

Leader: Julia
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn
Map trace: Sorry. None for this ride.

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

July Extra this coming Saturday

We've got our second of this month's rides coming up on Saturday (21st). This will be one of our Extra rides, which, as you know, are a little longer and faster than our usual outings. These rides are aimed at riders who are comfortable with our normal runs and now want something slightly more challenging. But they are still sociable events; we don't ride so fast that you can't keep up a conversation.

For this week's ride, Julia will be leading us into West Lothian. The route is an interesting one. We'll head out towards Cramond Brig and Kirkliston, then, after a bit of climbing, we'll take the high road between Faucheldean and Ochiltree. This is a pleasant undulating road with fine views to the north. After dropping down to Kingscavil, there will be a short stretch along the canal. We'll then head back to town by way of Abercorn and the Hopetoun Estate. The total distance will be about 32 miles.


Our lunch stop will be at the New Hopetoun Garden Centre. This has some lovely picnic spots within its grounds, and also a nice café. Note that about two thirds of the total mileage will be in the morning, so lunch will be on the late side. Adjust your appetites accordingly.

Meeting time and place

The ride will start at 10:00 from our alternative meeting point at the Craigleith path junction (see here if you need directions).

Looking ahead, we've got our next "second Saturday" ride on 11th August, and another Extra on 25th August.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Stepping up to Ratho

Blessed with yet another lovely summer's day we headed out to the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho. We've been there a number of times; but today the leader managed to mix the route up a bit and we found ourselves on a few unfamiliar stretches. But the one downside to the lunch venue didn't change - we still had to get our bikes up and down a steep flight of steps.

A turnout of 25 riders was respectable; but given the weather, we might have expected more. At least it made life easier as we only needed one group. As ever, it was great to see new faces along with some we hadn't seen for a while. Standing in the warm sunshine, the leader gave the briefing which contained the wonderful line, "just because someone in front of you does something stupid, it doesn't mean you have to". Briefing over, we rode a few yards before everyone dismounted to walk past the roadworks which remain at the top of Middle Meadow Walk. we remounted and headed towards Bruntsfield Links. One rider who was clearly riding on autopilot went straight on at a crossing, rather than turning left onto Whitehouse Loan. Inevitably, those behind followed in the belief that he knew where he was going. Those at the back of the group were saved from making the same mistake. As they headed the right way, the backmarker raced off to round up the strays. With the strays successfully rounded up, we regrouped and continued. This is where we deviated from our usual route through this part of town. We went via Falcon Gardens, Falcon Road, Canaan Lane and Woodburn Terrace before re-joining our usual route through the back streets of Morningside and on into Braidburn Valley Park. We continued to follow the Braid Burn and on through Redford to our comfort stop in Colinton. From there we took Woodhall Road, turned down West Mill Road to join the Water of Leith walkway. Another deviation from the norm saw us leave walkway and head into a new housing estate. We climbed up to cross Lanark Road West with Muir Road taking us on through Riccarton. We passed the back entrance we usually take into the Heriot Watt University campus, instead turning right onto Boundary Road North. A path took us into the campus on roads that were very quiet on a Saturday. We crossed the busy Calder Road, from where Hermiston House Road took us onwards to join the canal. On this stretch, a fast cyclist appeared beside the writer and said, "I've passed four of you. how many more are there?" His face dropped as he was told he had another 21 to get past on the narrow towpath. But he looked relieved when told we would be stopping at the climbing centre shortly. We stopped at the bottom of the steps and he sped away. With a combination of wheeling and  carrying, all the bikes and riders were soon up the steps, including the recumbent trike which two had to carry up.

After a pleasant lunch sitting outside at the picnic tables, we once again tackled the steps before heading along the canal back towards town. On such a lovely day there was as much activity on the canal itself as on the towpath in the form of canoes, paddle boards and narrow boats. We followed the canal as far as Cutlins Road. The cycle path beside busy roads took us through Sighthill, Saughton and Stenhouse before we turned off to take the path beside the tram tracks. Onwards past Murrayfield Stadium and Roseburn Park, we took the familiar route to Leamington Bridge via Russell Road, the Telfer subway and Fountain Park. From there we returned to the Meadows via Leamington Terrace and Bruntsfield Links rather than the King's Theatre. At the Meadows, against a backdrop of the Anti-Trump rally, the leader declared the ride over. Thanks to Mike for leading us to a familiar destination, but keeping it interesting by deviating from the expected route.

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

Monday, 9 July 2018

Rides planned for July

We've got two rides coming up this month: our standard "second Saturday" run this coming Saturday (14th); and a longer Extra the following weekend.

14th July

For this Saturday's outing, we'll be heading to Ratho, with a lunch stop at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (EICA). We've been to that venue several times before. So, this time, so that you don't get bored, we'll take a somewhat unusual route.

The route will be 22 miles. There won't be any very bad hills - just a few short climbs. There will also be a short flight of steps to negotiate - both up and down. Most of the route should be on reasonably good surfaces, although some of the paths might be a little rough in places.

The EICA has a sunny terrace with plenty of picnic tables. There is further seating inside, with dramatic views over the rock-climbing wall (the largest of its kind in the world). The snack bar sells sandwiches, baked potatoes and hot drinks.

We'll set out at 10:30 from our usual meeting spot at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. Don't forget to bring a spare inner tube if possible as well as plenty of water.

21st July

This month's Extra will head out to the west of city and into West Lothian. I'll post more details next week. In the meantime, note that the meeting point will be the Craigleith path junction. We'll set out at 10:00.

Evening rides

If you fancy an after-work ride, Jim's evening rides are continuing throughout the summer. This coming Thursday (12th July), they'll be taking a "gentle meander round the highways and byways of Riccarton and Currie". Meet at 18:30 outside the Victor Hugo café (corner of Melville Terrace and Livingstone Place).

All the above rides are of course free and open to all, with no need to book.

Friday, 22 June 2018

A lovely way to spend an evening

In theory, it was a very warm evening. At 7pm the thermometer said 20C, but the thermometer had obviously not been told about the chilly wind that had been brewing up from the west. As it was, long-sleeved jackets and sweaters were in evidence, rather than t-shirts and shorts. But at least it stayed sunny and bright all evening, with clear blue skies all the way.

A photo op by the Usher Hall
Ten riders turned up for our summer solstice ride. It's true that the actual solstice was the day before. But Friday seemed like a better option for an evening outing, especially given that at least one other evening run had been organised for the Thursday.

After the usual briefing and safety announcement, we set off towards the Roseburn Path – but not by the usual route involving bumps and zigzags, Instead, we headed west along Lauriston Place, then weaved through to the Usher Hall and across the busy Lothian Road. After pausing for a brief photo opportunity in Festival Square, we continued through the West End, then up the hill (steep but thankfully short) by the Gallery of Modern Art, and into Ravelston Dykes. We freewheeled down Garscube Terrace, eventually joining the Roseburn Path by a short flight of steps leading down from Coltbridge.

We stayed on the path only as far as the Craigleith junction. From there, we took Craigleith Hill Avenue – aka Quiet Route 20 – down past the Police Scotland HQ and into Inverleith Park. There was a lovely view across the Edinburgh skyline from here, with the Castle standing out prominently in the evening light.

Stopping to admire the Royal Yacht
Our next leg took us round the sides of the Royal Botanic Garden and back onto the bike path at Warriston. We continued to Five Ways and then on to Lindsay Road and past the cruise liner terminal. We stopped for nibbles in Ocean Drive, from where we had a fine view of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

After a short stretch along the Leith waterfront, we headed back to town by way of the Water of Leith Path, St Mark's Park and McDonald Road. At the Leith Walk traffic lights, we waited expectantly for the bike priority light to kick in. Sure enough, the green bicycle light came on before the lights changed to green for the general traffic, but only about two and a half seconds before - better than nothing, I suppose.

A bit more weaving found us in Royal Terrace, on the northern flank of Calton Hill. I've always thought that this is a particularly attractive road, with fine houses on one side and an open outlook on the other. But some elements of our group seemed more concerned about the rough going on the cobbled surface (don't blame me; I didn't build the road). Fortunately the cobbled section was quite short, and we soon reached our next stopping point, the Stones of Scotland.

The Stones of Scotland is a circular monument, completed in 2002, which commemorates the rebirth of the Scottish parliament. There is one stone from each of Scotland's 32 local authority areas, and the whole thing is dramatically situated on high ground, looking over the parliament building and towards Arthur's Seat. If you are passing that way, it is worth a stop.

The Nelson Monument on Calton Hill
And so to the climax of the evening: the climb to the summit of Calton Hill. Actually, it's not that hard a climb. We took the relatively easy (and well-surfaced) route from Regent Road, and we all made it to the top without difficulty. We regrouped at the Nelson Monument, from where we could enjoy the superb outlook across the Firth of Forth and the Fife hills. The summit was teeming with people, including many tourists – not surprising, given the splendid weather.

For the final leg, we headed back down to Regent Road and then via the Bridges and Chambers Street, arriving back at the Meadows a little before 9.30pm. With just under 15 miles on the clock, it wasn't exactly a long ride, but it was a very sociable one in good company and with some interesting sites along the way. What better way to spend a mid-summer evening?

Leader, report and photos: Mike 
Map: Jim