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Friday, 24 June 2016

A sunny solstice saunter

For the fourth year running, we were granted a beautiful sunny evening for our summer solstice ride. A dozen of us set out from the Meadows yesterday evening at 7 pm, with Jim as our guide. We were treated to an eclectic tour of the city, taking in the Astley Ainsley, Craiglockhart Park, the Union Canal, the Leamington Basin and the EICC. After crossing Lothian Road, we enjoyed a fast run down the Grassmarket and Cowgate to Holyrood, where we stopped to peer through the gates of the palace (nobody appeared to be at home).

Next, we headed up Calton Road, then climbed a steep footpath to Regent Road for two more sightseeing stops: the Burns Monument (originally this was just a statue of the poet; the monument was built later with money left over) and the Stones of Scotland (created in 2002 to mark the rebirth of the Scottish parliament).

Then came the high point of the evening (literally and figuratively): the climb to the summit of Calton Hill. Here we enjoyed a superb view over the city to the Firth and Forth, the Lomond Hills and beyond. Although it was now after 9 pm, the temperature was still around 20C, with the sun shining brightly.

At this point, the group split into two. The main body headed to Restalrig, Leith Links, Portobello and the Innocent Path. Meanwhile, the early-to-bedders descended to Waterloo Place and North Bridge, and so back to the Meadows.

Leader: Jim
Report and photos: Mike
Map: To follow

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Two rides coming up this week

Our 2015 summer solstice evening ride on Calton Hill
We've got a couple of rides planned for the next few days. Details below.

Thursday 23rd June: Evening ride

This will be a sociable ride, taken at our usual easy pace, with a couple of sightseeing stops along the way. We are very close to the summer solstice, so the ride should be mostly in daylight (sunset is at 22.04). We'll plan to end the ride soon after 22.00, but there will be the option of an earlier finish for those who prefer a shorter run. In any case, be sure to bring lights.

We'll meet at our usual departure point at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk, ready to set out at 19.00. Note that there will be no refreshment stop en route.

Saturday 25th June: 20-Milers Extra

For our second Extra this summer, Glenn will be leading us on what looks like a very attractive route into East Lothian. Our lunch stop will be in Haddington, where we have the option of a riverside picnic (bring your own food or aim to pick up a sandwich in the town) or a pub lunch.

Remember, our Extra rides are longer and faster than our usual runs. This one will be 38 - 40 miles, with two particularly steep climbs. It should be do-able by anyone who finds our normal rides well within their capabilities. But if you haven't cycled for a while, or have doubts about your fitness, please think carefully before joining this ride.

The ride will start and end in Musselburgh. We'll meet at Fisherrow Harbour (NT 334730), ready to set out at 10.30 sharp. Fisherrow is about six miles from central Edinburgh, so you will need to factor in that extra mileage when deciding whether to do this run.

As with all our rides, you don't need book in advance or let anyone know whether you are coming. Just turn up on the day.

More rides

Our next "second Saturday" ride will be on 9th July. This is likely to be a picnic in the Pentland Hills, but I'll confirm that nearer the time. We've also pencilled in a couple more Extras for later in the summer; more details in due course.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

South Queensferry by a somewhat devious route

For the June 20 Milers ride our destination was South Queensferry. We probably find ourselves there several times a year; whether that is our final destination, or we're simply passing through on our way across the bridge. To keep it interesting, the leader took us there by a decidely less familiar route that took us past the airport. A turnout of 20 riders was slightly disappointing for this time of year. This probably had something to do with the weather. After a glorious week of weather, the return of cool and overcast conditions, with showers forecast probably put a few off. Fortunately, the showers stayed away. But it was hardly a typical June day. We managed to avoid getting in the way of a running race as we left the Meadows and made our way to Bruntsfield Links. Instead of taking the familiar route down to the canal, we headed along Bruntsfield Place before turning right into Merchiston Crescent. From the quiet back roads of Merchiston, we crossed the canal and made our way to Slateford Road. We followed this busy road past the Water of Leith visitor centre and onto Lanark Road, before turning off and picking up the cycle track beside the canal. Leaving the canal behind, quiet roads led us to the busy A8. The cycle path beside the A8 took us past the airport entrance and on towards the footbridge at Ratho Station. Steps on the bridge meant we had to dismount to get across. Once across, we were back on the cycle path and headed towards the Newbridge roundabout. Here we took the lovely cycle path through the trees leaving the busy roads behind. It was on this stretch that one of the group skidded on gravel and fell. Fortunately, the result was no worse than a grazed knee and we were able to continue. Leaving the path, we rode a very short distance on a quiet road before joining another cycle path near the village of Dalmeny. This took us to the Co-op in South Queensferry. From there, a quick whizz down the hill and we were heading into the centre of town for our lunch stop. Most of the group either had or bought sandwiches to eat on the steps overlooking the bridges. The cool wind blowing off the Forth made it less than ideal picnic weather. A canny few rode slightly further and had lunch in the cafe at Port Edgar sailing club, out of the wind.

The less direct outward route meant that the run back would be considerably shorter and quicker. As it was now getting quite cool, no one seemed to mind. We rode through the town, past Hawes Pier and onto the cycle path that took us through the Dalmeny Estate. Often, we'll pause on our way through the estate to enjoy the scenery. The cool wind meant we didn't on this occasion. We left the estate and made our way onto the bridge over the River Almond at Cramond Brig. Being somewhat sheltered, we paused as sweeties were passed round. From there, the familiar run through Barnton and on to the cycle path led us back to Craigleith. Once there, the leader declared the ride officially over. Some riders headed home, whilst others went and enjoyed a post-ride coffee - not surprisingly, inside! Thanks to David for leading us on an interesting and less well-known route to a familiar destination.

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

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Several rides planned for the coming month

We've got several bike rides planned for June. I hope you'll be able to make it to at least one of them.

11th June: Standard monthly ride

Our main ride this month will be to South Queensferry, but by a somewhat devious route. It will be a slightly longer ride than usual (about 24 miles in all), but with no particular difficulties. The route will include a mixture of well-surfaced paths, quiet roads, and some short stretches on busier roads. But there won't be any very steep hills - just a few gentle ones.

There is no single eating place in South Queensferry that will hold us all, so we'll split up for lunch between the various cafés there. Be warned that service at some of the cafés can be slow. If you want to avoid a long wait, consider bringing a picnic lunch. There is a very good picnic spot overlooking the harbour.

As always, we'll leave from the north end of Middle Meadow Walk at 10.30.

11th June: St Andrews ride

The above ride coincides with the annual St Andrews run, in aid of Lepra. If our own ride is not challenging enough for you, you might like to take part in the St Andrews ride instead. It's 68 miles, with at least three killer hills, but you can cycle at your own pace, and there is a friendly atmosphere along the route. There are full details here. A few of our regular riders usually do this ride, so if you fancy some company, look out for them at the start point.

23rd June: Evening ride

Once again, we will be having an evening ride this year to mark the summer solstice (approximately). We'll leave from our usual spot on Middle Meadow Walk at 19.00, with the ride lasting 2½ to 3 hours. I'll post more details nearer the time.

25th June: Extra to Haddington

Our second Extra this summer will take us into East Lothian, with a lunch stop in Haddington. These Extra rides are a bit longer and a bit faster than our usual runs, but with the same sociable atmosphere. I don't have any details yet of the route, so for now just note the date.

More evening rides

If you like the idea of a bike ride during our long summer evenings, you might like to know that one of our members, Jim Cameron, has planned a programme of short rides for most (not all) Thursday evening until the end of August. Like our "official" 20-Milers events, these runs are free and open to all. They usually start at 19.00 from the King George V Park in Canonmills. Further information here.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Misty Thursday

When we decided to have an evening ride this week, I envisaged one of those lovely clear early-summer evenings we've been having lately. We would ride up to the high ground towards the Pentland Hills, and gaze at the wonderful view over the city, with the sun lighting up the sky right across the Forth valley.

What we got was thick cloud, steady drizzle and a decidedly chilly breeze. Silly me.

Never mind. Bad weather never stopped the 20-Milers, and I was pleased to see a horde of three cyclists descending on our meeting point. We made our way down the Royal Mile, into Holyrood Park, along Croft-an-Righ, then in a loop up to St. Margaret's Loch and along Queen's Drive.

As we passed Our Dynamic Earth, we spotted a warm, welcoming pub. Now you might think that would be the end of the ride. Well, it was.

Leader, report and photo: Mike
Map: Jim

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Sunny Dunny lives up to its name

For the third annual 20 Milers weekend away, we headed east to Dunbar; the town that claims to be one of the sunniest in Scotland. There having been a shortage of sunshine so far this year, and a firmly held belief that the weather god's owed us big time after our wind-battered weekend to Peebles last year; many of us had been following the weather forecast with trepidation in the preceding days. Even in our wildest dreams, we could not have expected the weather to be as kind as it ended up being. That, linked with beautiful scenery, quiet East Lothian roads and good company made for a very successful weekend.

A very impressive turnout of eighteen riders assembled at our usual starting point. Not that long ago, such a turnout would have been commendable on a standard 20 Milers ride. A number of the riders were only intending to do the first day, returning to Edinburgh that evening by train, car or strategically concealed van. The leader gave a briefing and handed out encapsulated route cards - just in case. The long line of riders left the Meadows and snaked their way towards the Innocent Railway. From there we took the familiar route to Musselburgh station for our first sweetie stop of the day. Onwards to Whitecraig and on to the cycle path for Dalkeith. We left the path and made our way to Crossgatehall where we joined the Pencaitland Railway path. Riding on a surface of whin dust, we meandered through the delightful East Lothian countryside for 6.5 miles. It is easy to forget that this used to be coal mining country. The sun was shining, it was pleasantly warm and there was blue sky in all directions. This was the life. We left the railway path behind. A deserted road took us to the delightful village of village of West Saltoun which is dominated by an impressive white church. Through East Saltoun we took the lovely quiet road to Gifford for a slightly late lunch stop.

Some of the group decided to picnic outside the church (another white one), whilst the remainder went for lunch in one of Gifford's two pubs. Whilst waiting for those in the pub to finish, some of the picnickers went for a coffee in a cycle-friendly cafe that had opened for business that very morning. Definitely one to check out if you're ever in the area. We regrouped and prepared for the off. A wedding party tried to hurry us up as they didn't want us in the background of their wedding photos. We couldn't understand why that would be a problem. Logan placated the ushers with Jelly Babies before we headed off. We never did get to see the bride. Why oh why does there so often have to be a steep climb staright after lunch? Instead of a nice flat bit of road to get back into the rhythm, we climbed steeply leaving Gifford behind. We turned off and headed towards Stenton on an almost deserted undulating road. Here we had to stop for what looked like being the day's first puncture. Fortunately, the tyre was pumped up, we were back on our way and it lasted all the way to Dunbar. We then took a detour to visit the beautiful village of Garvald. It was well worth the detour as very few of the group had ever been there. We stopped beside the play park. Someone spotted a flying fox ride. Yes, you've guessed it, several members of the group just had to have a go. 
We left the village and took another steep climb to get back on the road to Stenton. This was an undulating road and we did meet more traffic. Don't ever believe anyone that tells you East Lothian is flat! A quick pause to check the map in Stenton and off we went. On the route cards it said "Pitcox (by phonebox) turn right onto minor road". Phoneboxes may be hardly used these days, but as landmarks to help route-finding they are priceless. This road ran gently downhill until there, before us was the busy dual carriageway that is the A1 trunk road. We had to cross that to get to Dunbar. Few of the group had read that far down their route card. The leader smiled knowingly and turned left through a gate signed "private farm access". This was also a recognised cycle / walking route. Another sweetie stop before making out way under a bridge that carried the A1. Who would have thought crossing such a fast, busy road could be so easy? We could clearly see Dunbar and the sea. We were nearly there. We headed in what looked like the right direction to be confronted with a no through road. Turning round, a couple of locals pointed us in the right direction through a new housing estate. We were soon heading down a very quiet Dunbar High Street. It made sense when someone pointed out it was Scottish cup final day. We were looking for a pub for a post-ride beer. We retraced our route down the High Street and ended up in the hotel where a few of the group were staying. The fact it was a stones throw from the railway station was a bonus. Following a refreshing drink (or two) the riders began to head off and find their accommodation, lift or trains. Fifteen of us sat down to dinner in a restaurant close to the harbour and tucked into hearty food. It was a lovely end to a great day. Those that were staying headed back to their accommodation and the others headed for the station or the strategically concealed van.

For day 2, ten of us gathered in the car park of the hotel where three of the group had been staying at 10 o’clock. It was already pleasantly warm as the sun shone down from a clear blue sky. Everyone was glad they had applied sun cream. For many, this was the first application of the year. Further applications would be necessary as the day wore on. Sunny Dunny was definitely living up to its reputation. Off we went to our first stop; a petrol station on the edge of town. One of the riders had a rucksack of clothes that he was sending back to Edinburgh, and this was the drop off point. The writer looked on enviously as he realised he had two panniers to ride home with and knew there were quite a few hills to climb. We left the petrol station and headed west through Belhaven and West Barns.

We were glad of the cycle / foot path beside the busy A199, just north of the even busier A1 dual carriageway. This took us to the A198 towards North Berwick. That would have been the quickest way. But would have been quite busy and nothing like as lovely as the meandering route we were to take. Perhaps the leader was still half asleep; but he missed the left turn. We continued to a lay-by and stopped. A quick check of the map revealed the first wrong-slot of the weekend. Some of the group saw another left turn not far up the road and suggested we went and turned there. But the leader was adamant that we had to retrace our route back to the original turn to avoid deviating from the planned route, and thereby missing one of the gems of the ride. We made our way past the farm shop at Knowes and joined the John Muir Way. This led us to that gem – a less than shallow ford. Fortunately, there was an alternative route across the footbridge. Nevertheless, three brave souls rode through the ford. They reported it as being a bit slippery. But they all got through with nothing worse than wet socks. There then followed a few miles of beautiful East Lothian back roads, some of which were quite steep. We then found ourselves whizzing down into town past North Berwick Law. Despite the rather indirect route we had taken, it was only 12 o’clock.
Following hearty breakfasts, no one felt ready for lunch. So we sat outside a pub and partook in coffee and ice creams instead. North Berwick was heaving with visitors on such a glorious day. We picked up some food for a picnic and headed out of town on the busy A198. We turned off at Dirleton and made our way to the huge village green there. We enjoyed a leisurely picnic as the sun continued to shine down on us. We crossed the A198 and made our way inland on much quieter roads. It was now slightly cooler and there were grey skies not far away. Fortunately the darkest skies remained in the distance and we stayed dry. We carried on to Drem station, and after a short stretch on a busy road, we took the delightful quiet road past Myreton Motor Museum and on to Aberlady. We rejoined the busy coast road to be greeted by a noticeable headwind. We pushed on to Cockenzie where the group got split as some went to the harbour and others to the toilets. Half the group waited next to where the power station used to stand knowing the others would have to come that way. After a few minutes wait, we were back together and on familiar roads heading back towards Edinburgh. At Prestonpans we left the coast road and joined NCN 76 towards Musselburgh. At Levenhall Links there was a nature event on which meant there were many more people and cars than expected. So instead of heading into Musselburgh along the sea wall, we entered beside the race course. Then the shout went up, “puncture!” The first one of the weekend, and so close to home. It was soon fixed. We crossed the river and made our way to Fisherrow Harbour via the promenade. At this point, the leader [who lives in the Honest Toun] bade farewell to the group and handed over the reins to another rider to lead them back to town.

So that was another 20 Milers weekend away ride over. We had been blessed with glorious weather. Not a drop of rain fell on us. The beautiful East Lothian scenery had looked even better bathed in bright sun light. Yes, some of the climbs had been a bit challenging. But we had a great weekend that was enjoyed by all. Hopefully, those present will be talking about it for months to come. It will be remembered for very different reasons to last year’s brutal ride to Peebles. Now to start thinking about next year.

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



Saturday, 14 May 2016

Spring is in the air - at last!

For today's ride we headed out to Craigie Farm by a somewhat less familiar route. Bright and sunny weather at the start was most welcome and must have influenced the fact that 38 riders turned up. This was the biggest turn out so far this year. Good to see a smattering of new faces and the welcome return of one of the group's stalwarts; who had been out of action for quite a few months. We had almost forgotten what it was like to split into two groups. A slight moment of panic set in when it was realised that only the leader and one other had been on the recce. Panic over. We had a leader and a second group leader, and two back markers were nominated and given a quick briefing of the route. One of the regulars realised they had a puncture just as we were preparing to leave. As ever, there were plenty offers of help. So that rider became a second group member by default. The first group set off. Puncture fixed, the second group rolled away from the start a few minutes later. We left the Meadows and headed to Leamington Bridge and the canal via Bruntsfield Links. After a very short stretch beside the canal, we headed to Fountain Park and down the Telfer subway, through Gorgie and up the zig-zags to join the Roseburn path to Craigleith. We joined the Telford path and made our way to Granton. We paused briefly beside the Granton gasometer. Even that managed to look impressive in the sunshine and it was beginning to get pleasently warm. We made our way along the busy Silverknowes Esplanade, stopping for a comfort break and ice creams at Cramond. Standing in the warm sun and looking out to Cramond Island, there was a slightly surreal moment when one of the group handed out Christmas cake. It seemed a bit strange, but the cake was lovely and greatly appreciated. The first group probably lingered longer than they realised. The second group had caught them up. This was their cue to mount up and head off. We passed the harbour and headed up the steep School Brae. Most of our rides see us whizzing down this road, so it came as something of a shock to have to climb up it. From there we headed along Whitehouse Road, turned right at the crossing and headed down to Cramond Brig before joining the path beside the A90. We carried on and made the right turn for the steep climb that took us up to Craigie Farm and our lunch stop, where the group spread out to enjoy alfresco dining.
With the group suitably replenished, we headed back down the road we had come up earlier. At the bottom we turned right and headed towards Kirkliston. Before long, we turned off and made our way up a steep path beside a bridge to join the railway path towards the village of Dalmeny. One brave soul rode up the path whilst most elected to get off and push their bikes up. This delightful path took us through the trees to Dalmeny. From the village we made our way to the Dalmeny Estate. We had a lovely ride through the estate which looked resplendent in the spring sunshine with lambs gambolling around. We exited the estate and took the path beside the A90 and made our way back to Craigleith by the familiar route of Cramond Brig, Barnton and Silverknowes. We headed back down the way we had come earlier in the day. We waited as a canal boat made it's way under the raised Leamington Bridge. From there it was a short hop back to the Meadows. Even though a number of riders had peeled off as we headed back towards town; the leader insisted on leading the remainder of the group right back to the start point. No stopping short allowed here! Thanks to Verity for leading us on an interesting route to a familiar lunch stop. Thanks to the second group leader and back markers for remembering how to carry out those duties - it's been a while; and thanks to the weather for adding to the day's enjoyment.

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