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Saturday, 12 May 2018

Flying solo

Today's ride took us out to South Queensferry via the lovely Dalmeny Estate. Last year, today's leader led her first ever ride. On that occasion she set a precedent with there being two leaders. Today she was flying solo; thus proving to the group [and herself] that leading a ride is not as daunting as some would have you believe. Maybe that is why she received [an unheard of] round of applause following the pre-ride briefing.

It was great to be blessed with lovely weather. Warm, sunny, blue skies and little wind was the order of the day. A turnout of twenty four riders was good and meant we only needed one group. As ever, it was good to see some new faces. There is so much to be said for a group which has the philosophy of "no need to book, just turn up and enjoy the ride". The group walked away from the start point. Yes, walked! Half  the width of Middle Meadow Walk had been dug up at that point, forcing us to walk along pushing our bikes for the first 100 yards of the ride. We remounted and rode to the Leamington Bridge via Bruntsfield Links. A short stretch on the canal towpath, down past Fountain Park, through the Telfer subway, Russell Road and we were riding up the zig-zags to join the Roseburn Path. The Roseburn and Telford Paths took us onwards to Granton, past the gasometer which was gleaming in the sunshine. From there it was down to the waterfront and along Silverknowes Esplanade to Cramond for a comfort and sweetie stop. A sharp little climb up School Brae followed to join Whitehouse Road. A right turn down the delightful little Peggy's Mill Road and we were on the River Almond Walkway. We had the mandatory stop at Cramond Brig. What should have been a quick stop ended up being more lengthy due to a mechanical problem requiring attention. We followed route N76 through the delightful Dalmeny Estate, which was lovely at this time of year in the sunshine. We followed the path that skirts the coast to emerge beside the Forth Rail Bridge. We thought the paths through the estate were busy; but that was nothing compared to how busy South Queensferry was. Even on nice days there is often a cool breeze blowing off the Forth. For once, this was not the case. Perfect picnic weather.

As we were preparing to head off after our lunch stop, a few of us were reminiscing about something that happened a couple of years ago. Despite it sounding too good to be true, the leader told us he had discovered a way of avoiding the steep climb up the main road to the Co-Op where we would join the cycle path. Unfortunately, the alternative route involved carrying bikes up a couple of flights of steps! Needless to say, we have never used it since. The short, steep climb over and we were on the cycle path that took us to Dalmeny village. Back into Dalmeny Estate, this time on roads rather than the paths of the morning. There were a couple of hills to deal with in the warm sunshine; but payback came in the form of a glorious downhill section. Another stop at Cramond Brig - this time a brief one. We made our way back through Barnton, Davidson's Mains, Silverknowes and past Craigleith. From there, we took almost the same route back as we had taken out in the morning. The difference being that we returned to The Meadows via Tollcross rather than Bruntsfield Links.

Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the ride. The weather certainly helped. Thanks to Dawn on her first time as sole leader; and I'm sure she will have appreciated David's assistance as backmarker-cum-wingman.

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

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

May 20-Milers this coming Saturday

Just a quick reminder of this Saturday's ride, in which Dawn will be leading us out to South Queensferry. There will be a few moderate hills and a couple of short stretches on paths that might be a little rough or muddy. But apart from that, it promises to be a pleasant route with no particular difficulties.

South Queensferry offers a choice of cafés for lunch. If you prefer to bring your own food, you can enjoy a picnic on the benches overlooking the Forth.

As always, we'll gather at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk in time for a 10.30 departure.

Looking further ahead, our next Extra of the summer will be on 2nd June, when we'll be crossing into Fife - more details of that one nearer the time.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

A cool picnic beside the Forth

The first 20 Milers Extra ride of 2018 saw us head out to Blackness Castle on the shores of the Firth of Forth. Great weather at the start had us expecting a warm and sunny picnic beside the castle. Alas, come lunchtime the cloud had rolled in and a cool breeze was blowing in off the Forth. But, overall the weather was reasonably kind to us - we did have long spells of sunshine, it was mostly warm and there wasn't any rain. Perhaps those that had continued to ride throughout the winter thought they were owed some magnificent weather. Fingers crossed that is on the horizon.

As usual when the Extra rides see us head out west, our start point today was Craigleith. In amongst the turnout of nineteen riders, it was good to see a few new faces along with some we had not seen for a while. We headed off in one group along NCN 1 via Silverknowes and Barnton to Cramond Brig. Following what has become a mandatory stop there, we headed up the path beside the road towards Dalmeny village. On this stretch, a confused-looking cyclist was trying to work out how to get to the other side of the A90 as the Burnshot Bridge was closed. The writer was able to point him in the right direction via the subway and corresponding diversion. From Dalmeny village, the cycle path took us to South Queenferry, onto the coast road and into the Hopetoun estate. We had made such good time that it was only twelve o'clock as we rolled up to our lunch venue  - Blackness Castle. Was it better to choose a picnic table closer to the visitor centre and further from the shore, or beside the shore? It made little difference; the cool stiff breeze seemed the same whatever the choice. Beneath a cloudy sky it wasn't perfect picnic weather, but it wasn't too bad. Once food had been consumed, no one wanted to hang around unnecessarily. The lure of the big climb of the day awaited.

We left the castle and rode the short distance to the newly-opened village shop, where several of the group grabbed a quick coffee to warm up. A short climb followed by a flat section, a left turn and the main climb of the day lie before us. Not ideal straight after lunch, but everyone got up without any problem. A right-left to cross the A904 and we headed to Philipstoun. Turning right into an housing estate, it never looks as if the canal will lie ahead. But meander through the estate to arrive at a row of garages, and just up the slope lies the canal towpath. A short distance along the towpath and the group ground to an halt. A very aggressive mute swan did not want us to pass. The reason why, soon became clear. His mate was on the nest just a few yards from the path. One by one, we gently made our way past, pushing our bikes which we kept between ourselves and the aggressive bird. All safely past, we remounted and rode away leaving the swans in peace. A lovely ride along the towpath, without further drama followed. Leaving the canal behind near Niddry Castle, we followed minor roads before emerging in Kirkliston. A planned comfort stop came to nothing when we realised the sports centre was closed. A little further along we joined a path that led us through the trees, then followed the road to Burnshot Bridge where we negotiated the roadworks. The lovely new cycle path led us to the subway and back onto the path to Cramond Brig. A brief stop there, and then back to Craigleith via the same route that had taken us out in the morning. Here the leader delared the ride over. Thanks to Mike for leading the first Extra ride of the year. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed it and the only drama had been with the swan. Yes, the lunch stop could have been a bit warmer, but all in all a very enjoyable ride. It always seems as if summer is beginning [or at least just around the corner] when the Extra rides begin. Here's hoping for a great summer of cycling.

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

Monday, 30 April 2018

First 20-Milers Extra for 2018 - this coming Saturday

This coming Saturday (5th May) sees the first of our summer season of Extra rides. These rides are a little longer than our usual "second Saturday" outings, and go at a somewhat faster pace - but always with the same sociable and friendly atmosphere. If you find our normal rides well within your capabilities, you should enjoy this Extra. But anyone who hasn't done much cycling during the winter, or has doubts about their fitness level, might prefer to give this one a miss.

Meeting place and route

For Saturday's run, we will meet at the Sustrans marker at the Craigleith path junction. See here if you are not sure where that is. We will aim to leave promptly at 10.15.

We will head out along NCN1 to South Queensferry, then follow the John Muir Way through the Hopetoun Estate and along the coastal path to Blackness. This part of the route is particularly pleasant, with reasonably good path surfaces, excellent views and no bad hills.

But that will change after our lunch stop, with a killer hill to start the afternoon, followed by a short stretch on a busy road. But things will soon improve, with quiet roads and only few gentle hills as we head inland. We'll take the canal towpath from Philpstoun to Niddry Castle, then return to our start point via Kirkliston and the Carlowrie Road.

The total distance will be about 32 miles. I expect the ride will finish around 4 pm, depending on various factors.

Lunch arrangements

Our lunch stop will be a picnic in the grounds of Blackness Castle. There is no café or pub at the castle, so please bring your own lunch. There is, however, a gift shop where you can buy hot drinks (from a vending machine) and a limited range of confectionery and ice cream. There are toilets there as well.

Since our last visit to Blackness, a small shop has opened in the village (about half a mile from the castle). They sell filled rolls, but the choice might be limited, so it might be wise not to rely on it.

What if the weather is bad?

A slight drizzle or chilly breeze won't put us off. But if the weather is really atrocious, we might do a shorter ride, possibly with a café stop either for coffee or lunch. We will make that decision at the start point.

Remember, all our rides are free and open to all. There is no booking system, and no need to let anyone know in advance whether or not you will be coming..

And whether or not you can make it on Saturday, we have our normal monthly ride the following weekend. I'll post a reminder of that one here nearer the time.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Has spring finally sprung?

The route for today's ride started as an attempt to circumnavigate Edinburgh Airport by the shortest route. Whilst recceing the route, we made a few changes and tweaks such that it should perhaps best be described as a ride to Kirkliston.

We were blessed with spring-like weather. Being warm and dry on the bike was something we hadn't experienced in many a long month. A turnout of twenty riders was reasonable; a few of them just returning after a winter lay off. Following the customary leader's briefing, we headed off towards Bruntsfield Links and to Leamington Bridge where we joined the canal. We stayed beside the canal passing Polwarth, Slateford, Kingsknowe, Wester Hailes and crossed the City Bypass. We had just begun to walk across the Slateford Aqueduct when the leader stopped and told those behind him to back up off the aqueduct. A pram was heading towards us that was almost as wide as the path. There was no way the group and pram could have passed eachother. The group ventured onto the aqueduct again. Very shortly, we were squeezed up against the railings letting a suicide pilot cyclist ride past us. No idea how he avoided ending up in the canal. We had to stop several more times to let pedestrians pass. It was the busiest most of us had ever seen that stretch. We left the canal at Hermiston. This was our first sweetie stop of the day on the bridge over the canal. From there, quiet back roads took us to Ratho where we regrouped. Onwards to Ratho Station. Although there is no longer a station there; a delightful little cut-through for pedestrians and cyclists took us across the railway and down towards the busy A8. The footbridge with steps is far-from-ideal; but much better than the alternative of dashing across four lanes of fast moving traffic! The path beside the A8 took us to Newbridge, one of the busiest roundabouts in Scotland. We soon left the traffic noise behind as we headed onto the path that follows the route of the old railway, and found ourselves in the countryside. A lovely route, but better in summer. Today it was rather muddy in places. The leader missed the point where we should have left the path. But he quickly realised his mistake, meaning only a couple of riders had to turn round before heading up the slope to the road. Once on the road, it took but a couple of minutes to arrive at the Conifox Garden Centre for our lunch stop.

With the group fed and watered, we headed off on a quiet road past the airport radar installation. We then joined a busier road that took us to the Burnshot Bridge. Road closures and diversions remain in place; but there is a lovely new wide and well surfaced path for cyclists. Through the underpass, across the road and we were back on the familiar path beside the A90 heading for Cramond Brig, where we enjoyed our second sweetie stop of the day. We were now back on familiar paths heading back towards town via Barnton, Silverknowes, Craigleith and the Roseburn path. At Fountainpark, we took a minor detour to see the newly opened Boroughmuir High School. Riding down the quiet road beside Leamington Bridge, the lead rider was confronted by a pedestrian walking up the middle of the road looking at his phone and oblivious to all around him. "Watch where you're walking" called out the lead rider. "Watch where you're cycling!" snapped back the pedestrian. Some people really should not be allowed out on their own!

Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the ride. We visited places that were new to many; and of course, how nice it was to have some warm and dry weather. Please let this be the start of some decent weather. It really did feel as if winter would never come to an end.

Leader: Glenn
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn

Monday, 9 April 2018

20-Milers ride this coming Saturday

We've got our April ride this Saturday (14th). I hope you'll be able to make it.

Glenn will be leading us on an interesting circuit to the west of the city. We'll start out on the canal towpath as far as Hermiston House, then take back roads and bike paths to Ratho Station and Kirkliston. After lunch, we'll head back to town by the Carlowrie Road and NCN 1.

The total distance will be about 23 miles. There will be one steep hill and a few gentle ones. Most of the route will be on firm surfaces except for about a mile on a narrow path which might be muddy.

Our lunch stop will be at a venue which we haven't visited before as a group: the Conifox Garden Centre near Kirkliston. They have a restaurant with an extensive menu, as well as a large picnic area for those who prefer to bring their own food.

The meeting time and place are the same as ever: 10:30 at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk.

Looking ahead

This year's Pedal on Parliament takes place on the 28th of this month (see www.cycling-edinburgh.org.uk for details). I don't yet know if we will be organising a 20-Milers contingent to take part. If we do, I'll post details here.

And on 5th May, we've got our first Extra of the season. These are longer rides which go a little faster than our normal runs. For this first one, we'll be heading to Blackness Castle. I'll post more details here nearer the time.

Finally, Jim will be starting his season of summer evening rides quite soon. Again, I'll post more details as they become available.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The falls ride

The key word for today's ride was "falls". Firstly, the rain never stopped falling. We had two riders
fall in the slippery conditions and lunch was taken at the appropriately named, "Cramond Falls Cafe".

Last Saturday, lying snow kept most riders off their bikes. Yesterday had been a lovely sunny day giving the impression that perhaps spring wasn't too far off. Unfortunately, this morning we awoke to heavy rain that was to continue all day. We had a new leader and she must have wondered if anyone was going to turn up. We eventually mustered eleven riders, which was quite good given the conditions. Following a detailed briefing where the group was made aware of the pre-arranged muster points, Jenny led us towards the Innocent Tunnel. But instead of going through the tunnel, we made our way into Holyrood Park and down Queen's Drive. At St Margaret's Loch, we climbed the steep hill up to Dunsapie Loch. On this stretch we had to pull to the side to let a paramedic vehicle on a "shout" pass. Having circled Arthur's Seat, we returned to the point at which we had entered the park and headed to Duddingston village. Duddingston Road west took us to the gate leading into Figgate Park. We paused at Figgate Pond where cakes and sweets were passed round. Everyone was so wet that even if we'd gone for a swim in the pond, it's doubtful we would have come out much wetter! We left the park and headed down Brighton Place. Just beyond the railway bridge, we turned right onto the Christian Path. This delightful little path was new to most of us, even those that thought they knew Portobello well. We crossed Portobello High Street and took quiet back roads to the Portobello Swim Centre. Using the side of the building to try and shelter from the rain, we had another sweetie stop.
We still had a fair way to go to lunch and it's more important than ever to keep up morale on such a soggy day. One of the few benefits of  the weather was there were very few walkers, children or dogs to contend with on the prom. An easy ride alongside the choppy Forth took us to Seafield and on to Leith Links. A combination of wet road, muddy gutter and hard to see kerb resulted in a nasty fall for one of the group. At first it looked serious enough to have to call an ambulance. Fortunately that was not the case. A sore arm and hip and one badly shaken rider was the outcome. Having regained their composure, they were able to continue and finish the ride. They will probably be feeling quite sore by the time you read this. Down to The Shore, we headed towards Ocean Terminal. Around Victoria Quay in an area used for car parking are some disused tram lines. It was one of these that caught out another rider who hit the deck. No injury this time. But wet cobbles, standing water and disused tram lines was never going to be a good mix. We continued past Newhaven Harbour, along Lower Granton Road and paused briefly beside the Granton Gasometer. From there we made our way to Silverknowes Esplanade, which we sped along to the Cramond Falls Cafe for lunch. It was lovely to be in the warmth and out of the rain eating hot food.

All too soon it was time to venture back out into the rain. There were the inevitable moans that come
when wet clothes and gloves have to be put back on. At least it wouldn't take long to get back to town; most of the mileage had been covered before lunch. As so often seems to be the case straight after lunch (even on nice days), we had a stiff little climb up School Brae to contend with. The climb over, we had a stretch on the flat followed by a downhill. We were then on familiar territory. Through Barnton, paths took us back to Craighleith and onto the Roseburn Path, down the zig-zags, through the Telfer subway and along the canal to Leamington Bridge. Here the leader declared the ride over. Thanks to Jenny for leading an interesting ride and managing to keep our spirits up on such a miserable day. Next time she leads, let's hope the weather is kinder to us.

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