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Saturday, 14 November 2015

Heading towards winter via Mortonhall

Heading towards the end of another good year of cycling; the November 20 Milers ride saw us head to Mortonhall by a rather indirect route. On a day when heavy rain was forecast, a turnout of 19 was respectable. This meant we only needed one group. Fortunately the rain stayed off. Instead we had a grey, coolish and slightly windy day with a feeling that winter was on its way. The impressive new cycle track made getting away from the Meadows so much easier than it used to be. In next to no time we were heading down the Innocent Railway towards Niddrie, where we turned off and made our way through quiet residential streets. A new stretch of road allowed us to cut through and emerge on The Wisp. From there we made our way to Danderhall and through the lovely Drum Estate. The new cycle path that runs alongside the busy Lasswade Road was greatly appreciated. We continued through Burdiehouse Valley Park, along Captain's Road and Frogston Road East to the Mortonhall Garden Centre. This was our lunch stop. Half the group headed for the cafe in the garden centre, whilst the remainder made their way to the nearby Stables Bar.

Reconvening after lunch, we made our way on muddy tracks to Braid Hills Drive. Whilst not the quietest of roads, it caused us no problems and we were rewarded with views to Blackford Hill and beyond despite the gloom. As we arrived at Braid Hills Road, one of our regular riders suffered a puncture. Rather than hold up the group on a cold day, he left us to make his way home, which was nearby. Another member of the group also decided to head home at this point. The remaining riders made their way through Braidburn Valley Park, Colinton Mains Park and along Redford Road to Colinton. From there we joined NCN 75 and began heading back towards town. Through Colinton Tunnel and onwards to join the Union Canal Towpath, we made our way back to the Meadows on very familiar roads.

Thanks to Verity for leading us on an interesting ride. Cleverly mixed in with some very familiar sections were some less familiar and totally new ones.

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

Saturday, 10 October 2015

An Icelandic invasion of South Queensferry

The October 20 Milers ride saw the group head out to South Queensferry. The numbers being swelled by an Icelandic contingent. An impressive group of thirty riders gathered at the usual start point at the top of Middle Meadow Walk. One third of them were a group of riders from Iceland. Being in Edinburgh for a long weekend, they decided they wanted to explore the area by bicycle. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, they found our group, arranged bicycle hire and turned up raring to go. We split into two groups, with most of the Icelanders opting to go with the first group. Leaving the Meadows behind, we made our way on to the busy Bruntsfield Place for a short spell, before turning off and meandering through the quiet back streets of Merchiston. A loud bang that sounded like a gunshot turned out to be a puncture. Quickly fixed, the small group pressed on through Polwarth and caught the main group at the entrance to the Roseburn path. A familiar route for the regulars took us past Craigleith, through Barnton and on to a sweetie stop on Cramond Bridge. From there we rode through the beautiful Dalmeny Estate, which was lovely with the trees just beginning to turn to autumn colours. On past Dalmeny House, we came out of the estate to be greeted with a slightly misty view of the Forth Rail Bridge. It was impressive to those of us that have seen it many times. But to our Icelandic visitors it was breathtaking. From there a short run into the centre of South Queensferry brought us to our lunch stop. Our usual bike parking spot afforded us another wonderful view of the iconic bridge. Whilst some of the group made their way to various eateries; the remainder enjoyed the view as they tucked into their picnics. It was nice to still be picnicing in mid-October. But there may not be many more opportunities left this year.

By the time we headed off, it was beginning to feel somewhat cooler. Rather than take the short, sharp climb up the main road straight after lunch; the leader had us carry our bikes up a flight of steps and walk up an alley. The jury is still out on which is the best option. At the top, we cut through the Co-op car park to get onto the cycle path that would lead us back towards Edinburgh. We eventually emerged onto a cycle path running alongside the busy A8 near the airport. After a short distance, we wheeled our bikes up and over a footbridge across the A8. Whilst crossing the bridge, we were treated to the spectacle of the last flying Vulcan bomber in the world come towards us before banking steeply and roaring away into the distance. Amazing! We made our way past the Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters and on into Edinburgh Park. A cycle path beside the tram track took us past the Jenners Depository building and on to Murrayfield. From there we made our way back to the Meadows via the Telfer subway, Fountainbridge, the canal and Bruntsfield.

Thanks to Jim for leading us on such a pleasant early autumn ride. The weather was typical of what could be expected at this time of year. Not overly warm, but still OK for picnicing. Our friends from Iceland seemed to have enjoyed the ride. Hopefully we showed them some areas that they would not have seen. The flypast by the Vulcan bomber was pure luck. But what a sight.

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

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

October ride this coming Saturday

For our ride this coming Saturday, Jim will be leading us on a tour of bike paths and quiet roads in the west of the city. We'll be taking in Dalmeny, South Queensferry, Kirkliston, Ratho Station, Gogar and Edinburgh Park. At 25 miles, the ride will be a little longer than usual, but there will be no particular difficulties: just a few hills, and some paths that might be rough in parts.

We'll take our lunch break in South Queensferry. There is no eating place there large enough to hold us all, so we'll spread out among the several cafés and pubs in the town. For those bringing their own food, there is a nice picnic spot overlooking the harbour.

We'll set out from our usual meeting place, at the top of Middle Meadow Walk, at 10.30.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

"Riders down!" in Linlithgow

The final 20 Milers Extra ride of the year saw us head to Linlithgow. Good weather, an interesting route taking in some delightful quiet country lanes and a picnic lunch beside Linlithgow Palace made for a lovely day. On the down side, two of the group were involved in a minor accident; which fortunately, involved nothing more than cuts and bruises. As usual when heading out west on one of our longer runs, we met at the Craigleith marker. It was slightly cooler and the skies a little greyer than the last few days as seventeen riders assembled. This made for a managable sized single group and we headed off towards Barnton and Cramond Bridge, where we had our customary pause. We then made our way to Kirkliston where we had a comfort stop at the leisure centre. From there a few short spells on busy roads mixed with some lovely quiet country lanes took us on to Philipstoun. The weather had now warmed up nicely and we had blue skies overhead. At times it felt more like summer than early October. We had a trouble-free run towards Linlithgow. The final run into the town saw us descend a fast steep hill. It was here that disaster struck. At the bottom, the road turned  a corner and the front riders were suddenly faced with a single track bridge crossing the canal with priority to oncoming traffic. With an oncoming car on the bridge, the lead rider braked sharply. The following rider could not stop in time, hit the lead rider a glancing blow and they both went down. The second rider was lucky not to end up under the car. Fortunately, nothing worse than two shaken riders, a shaken car driver and superficial cuts and bruises to one rider was the final outcome. It could easily have been much more serious. Bikes and riders were cleared from the road and the injured rider checked over and patched up. After a short break, the group carried on down a delightful little road that was closed to through traffic which brought us out beside the railway station. From there, a short ride along the busy high street took us to our lunch stop at Linlithgow Palace. Often the group will go into a cafe and rearrange the tables and chairs so we can sit together. Today, two large wooden picnic tables were carried across the grass and placed beside a third. Sitting in the warm sunshine beside the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, overlooking the loch, we enjoyed a delightful picnic lunch. Those that remember this year's Pedal for Scotland lunch stop, will be delighted to hear there was no cuss cuss salad in sight!

A pleasant ride alongside the canal and then we made our way through the lovely Hopetoun Estate. There was now more cloud and it was a little cooler, but still pleasant. On leaving the estate we passed the new Forth crossing which is progressing well. On through South Queensferry, we made our way onto familiar paths and roads through Dalmeny, Cramond Bridge and Barnton before arriving back at the Craigleith marker.

Thanks to Julia for devising a varied and interesting route to bring to a close the series of 20 Milers Extra rides for 2015. Roll on 2016. A great shame about the accident. But the fact that we were looking at nothing worse than minors cuts and bruises and a couple of shaken up riders, was a great relief.

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

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A damp ride to Roslin

Today's ride to Roslin was a little damp. We ran a police roadblock and had the first unicycle on one of our rides. The weather forecast suggested we would be in for a ride blighted by long spells of heavy rain. Whilst it was grey and damp with some heavy showers; it wasn't as bad as the forecast had suggested. But it had been a while since we had to endure a wet ride. This may have affected the numbers turning up today. Just 22 riders started. It was good to see a few new faces amongst them, including a unicycle rider which was a first for the group. Despite the lower than usual turnout, the leader took the right decision by splitting the ride into two groups to keep things manageable on the several sections of busy road. We left the Meadows and made our way to the new traffic signals and cycle path at Hope Park Crescent. Its nice to have the cycle path there, but they need to hurry up and get the traffic signals switched on. From there we followed a familiar route to join the Innocent Railway. Riding through the Innocent tunnel, one of our regular riders suggested that we use it so often on our rides that perhaps it should be renamed the 20 Milers tunnel. At Bingham, we cut through a tunnel which led us onto the busy Niddrie Mains Road for a short stretch before making our way through Niddrie and Greendykes to emerge beside the Royal Infirmary. From there, we made our way through Moredun and along Gilmerton Road before turning in to Burdiehouse Valley Park. This section was rough and bumpy with exposed tree roots to contend with. But it caused us no problems and we emerged on to Lasswade Road. A few cones and blown over barriers slowed us as we made our way down the soon-to-be-completed cycle path beside the road. We then joined the cycle path that skirts the edge of Loanhead and crosses the Bilston Glen viaduct for our run into Roslin for our lunch stop. The majority of riders went into the pub out of the rain for lunch, with a few hardy souls picnicing outside.

After lunch we retraced our steps along the cycle path to Lasswade Road. But this time we headed towards Gilmerton and through the Drum Estate to come out on Old Dalkeith Road. Through Danderhall and a rough track allowed us to cut through to Millerhill Road. At Hilltown, we were confronted by a police car blocking the road and a "Police road closed" sign. The police car was empty. After weighing up the situation, it was decided to make our way along the closed road as we decided the worst that could happen would be us being sent back. A quarter of a mile later we came across two police officers and a recovery truck hauling a badly damaged minibus back onto its wheels. No one seemed to mind us being there so we had made the right decision and avoided a long detour. When the second group arrived, they took the "road closed" sign at face value and did take a detour. Once clear of the incident, we found ourselves in heavy traffic on the Wisp and Duddingston Park South. It was nice to turn off and get back onto the quiet Innocent Railway for the final stretch back to the start.

Leader: Alan Orr
Report: Glenn
Photos: Michael
Map trace: David

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

September 20-Milers ride this coming Saturday

We've got our September ride this coming Saturday (12th). We'll be heading into Midlothian. The route will be a straightforward one, but be warned that there will be a couple of long-ish stretches on busy main roads, as well as a few rough paths which might be muddy.

Our lunch stop will be in Roslin. There is a pub and a café there, and also a pleasant spot for a picnic.

We'll meet as usual at the top of Middle Meadow Walk, in time to leave by 10.30. There's no need to contact us in advance; if you can make it, just turn up.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

I rode over 50 miles for a packet of crisps?

Making up one thousandth of the entry, an intrepid team of eight 20 Milers made the journey west to Glasgow to ride this year's Pedal for Scotland. An uneventful coach trip over, we found ourselves at Glasgow Green, reunited with our bikes, we crossed the start line and began our journey back towards Edinburgh. Riding through central Glasgow on closed roads and being waved through red lights by police officers was a joy. On reaching the suburbs we even found we had dual carriageways to ourselves. An opportunity to ride in the outside lane just added to the experience of the day. Even the weather was on our side. Lovely blue skies, warm with just enough of a cooling breeze to stop it getting too hot. Who said it always rains in Glasgow?

We left Glasgow behind and rode on through pleasant countryside to our first feeding station at Drumpellier Country Park where we stopped for refreshments. The group almost had a mutiny to deal with when it was discovered there were no Tunnocks caramel wafers left. Perhaps we should have chosen an earlier start time. At this stage of the ride the group stayed together quite easily and there were not too many other cyclists to get in our way. That would come later. We carried on, marvelling at how lovely the countryside between Glasgow and Edinburgh is. So different to dashing along the M8 motorway. We'd often turn to eachother and ask where we were. None of us knew the area well and we ended up reading the signposts before giving up and just enjoying being wherever we were. On through Longriggend and Limerigg we arrived at the second feeding station at Avonbridge. Here we found hundreds of cyclists queuing for the home baking on offer. After a brief rest and sharing the food we had brought with us, we hit the road again heading towards the lunch stop at Linlithgow Palace. It was on this stretch that it became clear that this year's route was much tougher than in previous years. There were some seriously steep climbs and plenty of them. The 20 Milers peleton began to split on the hills. With so many others getting off and walking, it was quite a challenge to thread our way through. Hill after hill led to tiredness setting in. One of the team made the fatal error of changing up three gears instead of down which resulted in them grinding to an halt. It was on this stretch that one of the funniest moments of the day occurred. A group of Glaswegian guys were struggling up an hill past a group of first aiders. One of them asked the lady if she had anything for a sore bum. Quick as a flash she replied, "I'll get big Jimmy to rub it better for you!" The guy fairly flew up the rest of the hill! On a more sombre note, we descended a very steep hill with a tricky bend at the bottom. Within a hundred yards there were two injured cyclists being patched up by first aiders. It was on this stretch that one of the team was riding along, heard a loud bang and wondered what it was, before realising he had just suffered a puncture. Three of them fixed it and made their way to the lunch stop some way behind the rest.

It was very busy at the Linlithgow Palace lunch stop. Were we ready for lunch? There were five packets of egg and cress sandwiches and a table groaning under the weight of cuss cuss salad. We may have been at the palace; but this was no feast fit for a king! Lunch was something of an anticlimax after 30 miles of hard riding. Back on the road again, we consoled ourselves by riding on the right hand side of the [closed] roads. One of the team said it was as close as he would get to a continental cycling holiday this year. The hills kept coming and more threading between weary walkers followed. One of the team was talking to a young woman who had never ridden a bike before doing this event. Talk about a baptism of fire! There would probably be others that would never ride a bike again! We swept past the Kirkliston Leisure Centre feeding station without stopping. We were now on familiar roads and on the home straight. An uneventful ride took us back to Murrayfield and the finish. A shame we didn't get to ride through the stadium this time. No one ever does these sort of rides for the goody bag. But this year's was particularly disappointing, and there was no medal. Quote of the day from Dawn summed it up, "you mean I rode over 50 miles for a packet of crisps?" But it had been a great day. It was about 54 miles and we had done it at an average speed a couple of miles per hour faster than a typical 20 Milers ride. The hills had made it more of a challenge. We had enjoyed it and finished with a well-deserved sense of achievement. It must have been seriously tough for the many occasional cyclists that did it. Those of us on the team now realise that going out most weekends in all weathers really does pay dividends.

Team: Christina, Jim, Dawn, Peter, Jenny, Logan, Michael and Glenn
Report: Glenn
Photos: Michael and Glenn
Trace: Jim