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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

Monday, 4 November 2019

November ride this coming Saturday

For our ride this coming Saturday (9th), we will be heading to Dalkeith. This is a familiar destination for most of us, but our leader, Graham, has managed to devise an interesting and unusual way of getting there. The total distance will be about 22 miles (or a little shorter if the weather is bad), with no serious difficulties of any kind.

For lunch, we will make for our usual venue, the Blacksmith's Forge. This is a Wetherspoons pub, so expect basic food at reasonable prices rather than gourmet cuisine. Those of us who prefer to bring a packed lunch will head to the nearby King's Park. There is also the option of picking up a snack from the supermarket opposite the park.

We'll gather as usual at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk in time for a 10:30 departure. It should stay light until about 16:30. The ride will probably have ended by then, but it would be wise to bring lights in case of delay, especially if you have some distance to cycle to get home afterwards.

Winter cycling

I know winter is on its way, but please don't let that stop you from cycling in the months ahead. After all, the best way to face the dark months is to keep fit and active, and what better way to do that than to get out on the bike whenever possible.

If you prefer shorter rides in the winter, EasyCycle have half-day runs on the last Sundays of the month. The next one is on Sunday 24th November. It starts at 10:30 from in front of the Söderberg café (formerly Peter's Yard) in Middle Meadow Walk. As with our own rides, it is free with no advance bookings.

Christmas ride

We will also have our traditional half-day ride on Christmas morning. Look out for more details of that event nearer the time.

That's all for now. I hope to see you on Saturday, or whenver.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Same place, different route

Until we arrived at the start of today's ride, only the leader knew where we were heading. There were a few raised eybrows amongst the regulars when it was announced we would be heading to South Queensferry. We were last there in August; but on that ocassion we took a circuitous route with quite a few unfamiliar sections. All credit to today's leader for managing to do the same without any duplication of August's unfamiliar sections.

The day dawned bright and sunny with no more than a light breeze and stayed like that for the whole day. It wasn't hot, but was pleasantly comfortable for mid-October. The good weather obviously helped to swell the numbers. The leader gave the customary briefing to the 22 assembled riders. By the time the briefing was over and we were ready to roll away, there were 26 of us. We were soon at the Leamington Bridge. A very short stretch beside the canal, Fountain Park, The Telfer Subway, Russell Road and into Roseburn Park - all very familiar. Through Balgreen and on to the path that took us behind the Forestry Commission HQ on Corstorphine Road. From there the back streets of Carrick Knowe and Broomhouse took us to the Gyle Shopping Centre. It was good to leave the busy car park behind and head through the much quieter Edinburgh Park. We nipped through the subway beneath the City Bypass (often referred to as "the smelly bridge") to be faced with a slightly muddy climb to reach the road; that explains why we usually go down that way. Gogar Station Road then took us to the Royal Bank of Scotland HQ. Up and over the RBS bridge and we were riding alongside the busy A8 where we made better progress than the traffic on the road. Leaving the A8 at the Maybury juction, we rode past the casino and alongside Maybury Road before turning off down the much less busy Cammo Walk. A few twists and turns through back streets, across the busy Queensferry Road and a sweetie stop at Cramond Brig. Under the subway and the path took us to Burnshot Junction. Along the road, a right turn and we climbed up to Dalmeny village. Through some decidedly unfamiliar back streets of South Queensferry and we arrived in the centre of town for our lunch stop.

As the riders had spread themselves around various cafes and the picnic spot in the town, the decision was made to meet at the Co-Op. At the agreed departure time, the leader got a call from one of a group of five regulars to say they had taken a long time getting served and were still eating at the far side of town. It was decided the main group should set off and the others would either catch us or make their own way back. Unfortunately, one of the missing group was the back marker, so that mantle was passed to another rider. The new back marker committed the cardinal sin of mentioning the "p" word during a ride. Sure enough, as we entered the Dalmeny estate, up went the shout, "puncture!" There was no shortage of helping hands and equipment in the form of various pumps and gas canisters. The puncture was soon fixed. The delay had allowed the missing five to catch up; so we headed into the estate as a complete group again.
Through the estate which was looking beautiful in the sunshine, up a stiff little climb and down a lovely descent and we were back at Cramond Brig. A brief halt (as is the custom) on the bridge before heading back to town. There were no further delays and the route was the usual one back through Barnton to Craigleith, down the Roseburn Path to the Russell Road zig-zags. Here the leader declared the ride officially over.

Thanks to Bill for leading us on an interestingly different route to South Queensferry. It just goes to show that with a little forethought and planning, going to a familiar place can still be interesting. As the saying goes, "getting there is half the fun".

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

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

October ride this coming Saturday

 Our next ride will take place this coming Saturday (12th). I don't yet have any details of the route or destination; all will be revealed at the start. As always we'll meet at 10.30 at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. The ride is free and open to all, with no advance booking.

I look forward to seeing you on Saturday.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

The summer's final hurrah

The last 20 Milers Extra of the year signals the end of summer. Having a large turnout, lovely weather and a new route and destination enabled us to go out on a high. We headed out into a delightful, quiet and unexplored part of Midlothian with a lunch stop in Pathhead. Deserted country lanes, open countryside devoid of other people and the crossing of a shallow ford made for a great ride.

The weather forecast for today had been changing all week. At first it looked as if it would be dry, then light rain looked imminent. By last night, we were expecting a dry but cool day with overcast skies. That didn't sound too bad for late September. What we eventually got was a dry day with a light breeze, a comfortable temperature and sun shining down from a blue sky containing just a few fluffy white clouds. That doubtlessly helped muster the 26 riders that turned up to start from Fisherrow Harbour. The leader gave the cutomary briefing insisting that everyone would walk across the ford. Why? Because on the recce he had crashed heavily whilst crossing it and was very lucky to escape with nothing more than cuts and severe bruising. A good reason why we do recces and a good example of what a leader will do to ensure everyone's safety on the day. A willingness to "take one" for the group!. We're not sure if 26 is a record Extra turnout, but it's definitely close. The leader decided not to split into two groups, and that worked out OK. We made our way to the path for Whitecraig meadering through backstreets that were unfamiliar to most. From Whitecraig we joined the cycle path towards Dalkeith, turning off and climbing past the farm at Smeaton. More climbing followed as we headed towards Cousland and turned right on the A6124 towards the A68. With the climbing over [for now], we paused for a sweetie stop and to regroup. A glorious downhill followed to Fordel Dean before joining the A6093, which was far busier than usual. It was good to leave that road behind and follow a much quieter one to the sawmill at Windy Mains. Waiting to regroup, there was no doubt how the place had got its name. We were now on a lovely quiet lane heading towards the ford at Costerton, with a real sense of being out in the sticks.
Arriving at the beautiful little ford, the leader stopped and led the group over the footbridge alongside. A few opted to walk through and a couple of riders just had to ride across - fortunately without incident. The leader allowed himself a wry smile at the thought of those riding slowly and carefully across compared to when he had approached at a fair pace on the racing line, only to have his front wheel slide from under him on the slippery surface. As the others headed away from the ford, he paused for a couple of minutes alone to exorcise the associated demons before pedalling after them. We were soon at the busy A68. Fortunately, we only had to travel 200 yards along it before turning off onto the much quieter B6458. With the sun shining down from a clear blue sky, no sign of human habitation and fields full of sheep - this was idyllic. More quiet roads took us from Tynehead to Crichton and back to the busy A68 at Pathhead. Rather than try and turn right onto such a busy road, we wheeled our bikes up the pavement to "The Foresters" pub for lunch. The food was good and we were all impressed with how they dealt with such a large group of hungry cyclists arriving unannounced.

With everyone fed, we headed off leaving the busy A68 behind. Past the impressive gates leading to Preston Hall, we turned left and headed towards the A6093 that we had headed out on in the morning. This time, a quick left and right and we were on another of those delightful quiet lanes that characterised today's ride. Some more climbing and we were in the village of Cousland. We dropped down to join the A6124 which took us to Whitecraig and onto the River Esk Path. At the bridge across the river, the leader declared the ride over. Part of the group headed over the bridge and onwards to Edinburgh, whilst the remainder headed down to Luca's in Musselburgh for ice cream.

It's always good to hear people say how much they have enjoyed a ride, and plenty said that today. Somewhere new for most, lovely quiet roads, a real sense of being out in the sticks, wonderful scenery and great weather - a fitting finale to this year's series of Extra rides. They will start again in May next year. But of course, the usual 20 Milers rides will continue throughout the year - all welcome, free and no need to book.

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

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Last Extra of 2019 this coming Saturday

We've got time to squeeze one more Extra ride into our programme before autumn sets in. This Saturday (28th), Glenn will be leading us on what promises to be an attractive circuit of the eastern fringes of Midlothian. Most of the route will be on quiet roads, taking in some pleasant villages. The route will be similar to one that Glenn led two years ago but with the direction reversed.

For this ride, we will meet at Fisherrow Harbour in Musselburgh, in time for a 10:30 departure. As you know, our Extra rides are longer and faster than our usual runs. This one will be about 30 miles from Fisherrow back to Fisherrow (and Fisherrow is about six further miles from central Edinburgh). I can't say for sure what time the ride will finish, but it's likely to be around 4 pm.

The route will involve a bit of climbing, but no particularly nasty hills. One interesting feature will be the need to ford a river - more about that when we get there.

For lunch, we will stop at a pub in Pathhead - or bring a packed lunch if you prefer. Most of the mileage will be in the morning, so lunch will be on the late side. You might want to bring an extra snack to keep the hunger pangs away.

Remember, all our rides are "just turn up". There is no advance booking, and no need to reply to this post.