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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

Monday, 9 December 2019

Two rides in December

We've got two rides coming up this month. I hope we'll see you on one or both of them.

December 20-Milers: Saturday 14th

Our main December run takes place this coming Saturday. The route is one that Jim pioneered last winter but which we had to curtail because of bad weather. We will be heading to the delightful Covenanters Wood in Dreghorn, where we will have another chance to see the giant sequoia trees: something more usually associated with the redwood forests of California than the south west of Edinburgh.

We will then head out along paths and quiet roads to our lunch stop, which will be at the Heriot-Watt campus at Riccarton. The cafeteria there serves a range of sandwiches and snacks, usually with at least one hot dish on offer. There is plenty of indoor seating there, so those of us who prefer to bring a packed lunch won't have to huddle in the cold for once.

In deference to the short daylight hours, this won't be a long ride: about 19 miles in all. There will be a steep climb near the start and a couple of other moderate hills along the way, but the rest of the route should be reasonably flat. Most of the route will be on firm surfaces except for a few short sections that might be a little rough and possibly muddy.

The logistics are the same as always. We'll meet at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk in time for a 10.30 departure. It will be dark at about 4 pm on Saturday, and although we should be back in town before that, you will almost certainly need lights to see you home after the ride.

Christmas morning ride: Wednesday 25th

For the ninth year running, we will be having what has become a traditional event for our group: a half-day ride in and around the city centre on Christmas morning. This will be a leisurely ride with several interesting stops, starting at 10.30 and ending at 13:00 at the latest. I'll post more details nearer the time.

Needless to say, both the above runs are free and open to all, so feel free to tell your pals. And, of course, there is no advance booking for any of our runs.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Dalkeith, this way - are you sure?

A frosty start gave way to chilly, but bright and sunny weather for today's ride to Dalkeith via a circuitous and unfamiliar route. The last few rides seem to have followed the pattern of a familiar destination being reached by a new and interesting route. Today's ride continued in that vein. The good weather linked with some lovely paths leading us through trees resplendent in their glorious autumn colours made for a great day to be out cycling. A great advert for keeping cycling despite the arrival of winter.

No doubt the weather played its part; but a turnout of 24 riders in November is quite impressive. Not quite enough to need two groups, which makes the logistics easier. It's always good to see some new faces mixed in amongst the long-standing regulars, and those that are becoming the new regulars. Following one of the shortest briefings in the history of the group, we headed off in the direction of the Innocent Tunnel. But on reaching the tunnel entrance, we swept past, squeezed past the barrier and found ourselves in the grounds of Edinburgh University's Pollock Halls. The ride had barely begun, but already many of us were somewhere we hadn't been before. Through the grounds and we emerged into the back streets of Prestonfield. Several twists and turns later and we were heading along Peffermill Road. We went into Craigmillar Castle Park, past the castle, across the road and along the new path in the area behind the Royal Infirmary. This brought us out on The Wisp. From there we made our way to Danderhall, crossed Old Dalkeith Road and through a door set into the wall, entered the Drum Estate. Through the lovely estate complete with trees wearing their autumn colours to emerge onto Gilmerton Road. We took to the path beside the road and headed towards Dobbies Garden Centre. We crossed several roundabouts to arrive at the one at Eskbank. We lost one rider and the backmarker at this stage. After a short while they reappeared having been delayed by a thrown chain. All together again, we continued and turned in to the grounds of Newbattle Abbey. After stopping to admire the big house, we continued through the grounds amongst more trees wearing their autumn colours. It was a bit muddy in places and the wet leaves were a little slippery, but it presented no real problems. We left the grounds through the kissing gate that always takes a while to negotiate with a large group. Through the housing estate and we were on the road that took us to the pub where we stopped for lunch. Three brave souls headed off to the park for a picnic whilst the remainder went into the warm pub. Except for a further three who had a mechanical issue to deal with first.

With lunch over and the three picnickers back with us, we should have been ready to roll. Unfortunately, fixing the issue with the chain had taken longer than expected and the three were just getting served their lunch as everyone else was ready to leave. It was decided that as the three could easily find their own way back, we would leave them to do so, thus avoiding delaying the whole group. So, with three less riders we made our way into Dalkeith Country Park. Past the grand Dalkeith Palace before pausing to admire the view from the bridge across the river. We retraced our steps and continued through the estate to emerge onto the busy A6094. A short spell on that road before we turned off to join the path down the Grove towards Musselburgh. Across the footbridge, along the path and road beside the golf course, across the main road out of Musselburgh and we were soon at the railway station. Here we were met by the three that we had left eating lunch in the pub. We took the path towards Newcraighall expecting to have trouble getting across the busy road there. Much to our delight, the road was so busy that the traffic was almost stationary and we got across easily. From there it was an easy and familiar route that took us back to the Meadows via the Innocent Railway.

Thanks to Graham for making this, his first ride as leader so successful. Everyone enjoyed the ride and it was good to reach a familiar destination by a new, interesting and unfamiliar route. Most of us could say we had been somewhere new today. Thanks also to Rob for fixing the problem with the rider's chain and allowing him to continue the ride. As the backmarker said, "it is good when someone has the right tools, and even better when they know how to use them".

Leader: Graham
Report: Glenn
Photos: Graham and Glenn