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Sunday, 24 July 2016

Pedal for Scotland 2016 – Not what it seems

If you are planning to take part in Pedal for Scotland on 11th September, be warned. This year's event is not the usual Glasgow to Edinburgh ride, but rather Glasgow to Ingliston. The ride ends at the Royal Highland Centre, which is some nine miles short of the city centre. What's more, the early-morning buses that take you to Glasgow for the start of the ride will also leave from Ingliston. This means that Edinburgh-based cyclists will face a long and possibly dangerous ride to the start point just to get on the bus.

Getting to the bus departure point

The quickest way to cycle to Ingliston from the city centre will be along the busy Glasgow Road (A8). That's about nine miles each way, part of which involves cycling in the carriageway, taking your chances with the fast-moving traffic. It's possible to find other – less dangerous – routes, but none of these will be sign-posted, and all will add several miles to the trip.

For the day of the ride, Edinburgh Trams will relax its normal limit of two bikes per tram on services between Haymarket and Ingliston Park & Ride. Two trams per hour will carry more bikes (it's not clear how many more). But here's the snag: you will have to book your bike on the tram in advance. At present, there is nothing on either the Pedal for Scotland or the trams' website to tell you how to do that. Presumably your reservation will apply to a particular timed service. That's not so bad in the morning when you are heading for the bus. But it will mean added pressure during the ride itself to make sure you arrive back in time for your booking.

Friends and supporters

It's not just cyclists who will be inconvenienced by the change of venue. In the past, the ride has attracted friends and supporters who gather at the finish to cheer the riders on. These people will now also have to make the journey to Ingliston.

Now, the purpose of this post is not to discourage you from doing the ride. Pedal for Scotland is a great day out, and it's for a worthwhile cause. But do think carefully about the practical implications. Given the hassle involved, several of our members have decided to give the ride a miss this year, and at least one who has already booked has asked for her money back. Nobody will blame you for doing the same.

Evening ride this coming Thursday

We have an evening ride planned for this coming Thursday (28th). The route will be about 15 miles, which we'll take at our usual sociable pace.

We'll meet at our usual departure point at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. The ride will start at 7 pm, and we'll aim to finish around 9.30 pm.

It should still be reasonably light by end of the ride, but please be sure to bring lights anyway, as you will need these to see you home - and also in case we get delayed.

We don't stop for a refreshment break on these evening runs, but if anyone wants to go for a drink afterwards, that will not be discouraged.

Remember, you don't need to book in advance for our rides. Just turn up on the day.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Westward ... and Windward

For today's Extra ride, Peter (Bennett) led us out to one of our more popular destinations: Almondell Country Park. This lovely wooded area is an excellent place for cycling, with many enticing paths criss-crossing the steep river valley. There is a friendly visitor centre which serves tea and coffee (albeit of the vending-machine variety), and most of the area is free of cars.

With about 20 riders in the party, we headed out along the familiar NCN 1 route from Craigleith to Cramond Brig, then on to the Carlowrie Road and the Kirkliston railway path. After a short comfort stop at the Kirkliston Leisure Centre, we continued westward on the back road to Niddry Castle and the Union Canal.

The only problem up to now was the fierce headwind, which made cycling somewhat harder than it should have been. But things got easier after we joined the canal towpath. As well as being more sheltered, we were now heading south, so the wind was from the side. What's more, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the towpath had been resurfaced since last year's visit, with firm tarmac replacing the rough gravel – at least for a couple of miles.

We left the canal shortly after Broxburn and rode into the park a mile or so later. The last time we were here, our lunch stop co-incided with a heavy shower and we had to take refuge in the visitor centre. That problem didn't arise today, as, apart from the wind, the weather stayed fine. We headed instead for the walled garden, where we spread out among the benches and picnic tables for our al fresco lunch.

For the return ride to town, we set out along NCN 75. After passing Kirknewton, we enjoyed a couple of superb miles on Long Dalmahoy Road. With the wind now behind us, and a slight downhill gradient on a near traffic-free road, we glided along almost effortlessly. The final leg took us through the Heriot-Watt campus and Edinburgh Park, then by South Gyle and the Corstorphine railway path to Roseburn Park. At that point, some of the group took the Roseburn Path back to the starting point, while others went their separate ways. At just under 30 miles, it was another excellent day out.

Leader: Peter
Report and photos: Mike
Map: Sorry, no trace this time, but the route was very similar to last year's, which you can see here (with thanks to Julia).

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

20-Milers Extra this coming Saturday

We've got our third Extra ride of the year scheduled for this coming Saturday. Peter (Bennett) has planned what promises to be a pleasant route through the West Lothian countryside, taking in the Kirkliston railway path, a quiet back road by Niddry Castle, and a stretch of the Union Canal through Broxburn. The return leg will take us through Kirknewton and the Heriot-Watt campus.

Length and pace

Please keep in mind that our Extra rides are a bit more challenging than our normal runs. This one will be about 32 miles; it will start earlier than usual, and will go at a slightly faster pace. If you haven't cycled for a while, or if you are doubtful about your fitness level, please consider joining one of our standard rides instead.

Today's route will be on a mix of roads and reasonably good paths, including about four miles of canal towpath. There will be a few moderate
hills, but no killers.

Lunch arrangements

For our lunch break, we will be stopping in Almondell Country Park. The visitors centre there sells vending-machine drinks and a limited range of confectionery, but there is no other food of any kind available. For that reason, please be sure to bring your own food for a picnic.

The ride and picnic will go ahead even if the weather is dubious (light drizzle or an occasional shower); if necessary we can shelter in the visitor centre. But, if the day is really atrocious, we might opt for a shorter route with the possibility of a cafe stop at lunch time. We'll make that decision on the spot.

We will have a "comfort break" about half way through the morning. There are also toilets at the visitor centre.

Meeting time and place

For this ride, we will meet half an hour earlier than usual, that is, at 10.00, at the Craigleith path junction (see here if you need directions to the start point).

The ride will officially end in the Roseburn area, probably around 3 - 4 pm.

Points to note

Just to recap three important points:

- The ride starts at 10.00, not 10.30.

- We will start from Craigleith, not the Meadows.

- Bring food for a picnic lunch.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Reservoir Slogs

This was the fourth year running that we had a ride up to the Harlaw Reservoir. And for the fourth year running, the weather was good to us. Actually, it was not that good. The day was overcast and decidedly muggy. But it did stay dry, which is what you want for a picnic.

Around 24 of us set off from the Meadows. Given that we were heading for the Pentland Hills, there was predictably a lot of climbing. The first ascent of the day took us up to the Braids and Comiston Road. Then came a couple of pleasant miles through Braidburn Valley Park and Colinton Mains, then into Colinton Village for a comfort break.

We then proceeded up Woodhall Road, under the City Bypass, and along a rough track to Blinkbonny. Then came the real work of the day: the long grind up the Currie Kirkgate. Inevitably the group got somewhat spread out on this section, with even some of our fitter members admitting to it being hard going. But we all made it to the top, without any heart attacks or cases of exhaustion (as far as I was made aware).

We then had a lovely mile or so along the high Harlaw Road, with excellent views in all directions. We soon arrived at the reservoir, where we spread ourselves out among the various benches and picnic tables.

We lingered at this delightful lunch spot for nearly an hour. After that, as it was still quite early, we decided to do an extra circuit of the reservoir. We then stopped for an additional toilet break at the visitor centre before heading home.

Now it was pay-back time. In return for the hard slogs of the morning, we could now enjoy a long downhill stretch all the way to Balerno. From there, we picked up the Water of Leith path for a fast run into town. At the Lanark Road footbridge, some members of the group headed homeward on the canal towpath. The rest of the party opted for a tea stop at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre, after which we went our separate ways.

Leader, report and photos: Mike
Map: Jim

Monday, 4 July 2016

July ride this coming Saturday

For this Saturday's ride (9th July), we'll be heading to one of our more popular destinations, the delightful Harlaw Reservoir, at the edge of the Pentland Hills.

The route is just about 20 miles, mainly on quiet roads and well-surfaced paths, but with one short stretch of rough track where we might have to dismount. Be warned that there will be a fair amount of climbing during the morning (it's not for nothing that they are called the Pentland Hills). But we'll be rewarded with some lovely freewheeling in the afternoon.

Lunch arrangements

There is no pub, cafe or snack bar of any kind at the reservoir, so be sure to bring food for a picnic lunch.

Although there is a toilet there, it often has a queue, so we'll pause for an additional "comfort break" during the morning; this will be about 40 minutes before lunch.

Depending on progress and other factors, we might stop for a coffee on the way back to town.


As always, we'll gather at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk, in time to leave at 10.30.

If the weather is doubtful (slight drizzle or occasional showers), the ride will go ahead regardless. But if the day is really foul, we might opt for a shorter run with a cafe stop for lunch. We'll make that decision on the spot.

Looking ahead, we've got an Extra ride the following Saturday (16th), and an evening run later in the month (28th). I'll post more information about those two events nearer the time.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Two hills lead to cake

For the second 20 Milers Extra ride of the year we headed into East Lothian to tackle two substantial climbs. A lunchtime conversation led to an impromptu stop for tea and cake on the return leg. This ride started at Fisherrow Harbour in Musselburgh. As the majority of the riders were making their way in from Edinburgh; a short period of heavy rain lashed the Honest Toun. A turnout of 15 riders despite the weather was reasonable. These longer and slightly tougher rides never get the turnouts of the usual 20 Milers ones. Such a number meant we only needed one group which always makes the logistics less complicated. Although we had no new riders, it was nice to see some less frequent attendees in amongst the hardened regulars. We headed off in light drizzle on wet roads to several grumbles of "I wish I hadn't bothered to clean my bike!" Along the promenade, under the bridge that carries the main road through Musselburgh (remembering to duck) and we were soon crossing the other main road near Tesco. We were soon following the River Esk up the Grove in the direction of Whitecraig. We turned onto a muddy path just before the bridge [that carries the main east coast railway line] and made our way to the village of Inveresk. From there we followed the cycle track to the edge of Wallyford by the site of the Battle of Pinkie. There followed a short spell on a busy road that crosses the A1 before turning onto the minor road that would lead us to our first serious climb of the day - Falside Hill. A flat run in made some wonder what the fuss was about. Then the road began to climb, steepening as it weaved between hedges and banks; thus making it difficult to see what was coming next. Inevitably, this split the group with riders arriving at the summit in dribs and drabs. Several riders informed the leader that one rider had suffered a puncture on the climb. He wasn't alone. But as time passed, it appeared there may be a problem. One of the regulars volunteered to go back down and offer his help. The rest of the group waited in a layby eating cake and sweets. Eventually the three missing riders arrived and were placated with cake. It appeared that the puncture had been caused by a sea shell. How a sea shell ended up on that road, over a mile from the sea remains a mystery.
A speedy run down the other side followed and we were soon on the edge of Tranent. From there, a further downhill stretch of cycle path soon had us at Meadowmill Sports Centre. As we headed towards the main road, a fox wandered nonchantly across in front of us. After a short spell on the main road, we turned off and sped down another marvellous hill to Port Seton. We were making good progress along the coast road when a shout of "puncture" brought the group to a halt. It was the same unfortunate rider as before. This time a sliver of glass being the culprit. Once fixed, we were on our way again. It was looking as if it was going to be quite a late lunch today. At least it was dry and the sun was making a welcome apperance. We were soon heading down the lovely Longniddry railway path. It was a bit muddy in places, but didn't slow us as we headed towards Haddington and lunch. Lunch was taken sitting outside a pub in the market square. During lunch the conversation turned to afternoon tea and cakes. Talk about a cycle group that rides on it's stomach! This was when the impromptu afternoon tea stop plan was hatched.

Within a few minutes of setting off, all thoughts of afternoon tea were put to the back of our minds. So soon after lunch we hit the second major climb of the day - the Garleton Hills. Just like Falside had done in the morning, this climb soon had the group very strung out. This was a busier, but wider road and it was easier to see what lie ahead apart from a few devious false summits. The run down the other side was glorious with twists and turns to make it more fun. We regrouped, and after a rest and some sweeties we made our way past the Hopetoun Monument. Another little hill followed, before we left the main road behind. For the next few miles we had the pleasure of some typical quiet East Lothian lanes. We carried on to a level crossing. No trains to hold us up. So we crossed the railway and busy A198 dual carriageway to find ourselves on the cycle path heading to Seton Collegiate Church. We headed down to the coast at Port Seton via the same road we had taken in the morning. This time we headed west rather than east. We passed the lovely Port Seton Harbour and arrived at Cockenzie House. This was our impromptu afternoon tea stop. The cakes there are amazing. It is very difficult to cycle past without going in. It has also been a very popular lunch stop on rides in the area. It was now very warm and sunny, making it difficult to get up and ride again. But we managed it. We had a short stretch on the coast road, turned off onto the John Muir Way and headed back into Musselburgh via the racecourse. Along Goose Green, over the bridge, down the side of the Esk, along the promenade and we were back at Fisherrow Harbour. The leader declared the ride over and everyone began to make their way home.

The weather at the start made it look likely that a wet day may have been on the cards. Fortunately that was not the case at all. Blue skies and sunshine had even led to suncream been applied before the day was over. Like the weather, the ride had been varied and interesting. The two hills having thrown in a bit of a challenge. The debate of which hill is the toughest doesn't look set to be settled anytime soon.

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