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Saturday, 8 December 2018

Turned out dry again - just

For those in the know, there are four routes to the top of Fa'side Hill near Wallyford. There's the hard way, second hardest way, third hardest way and the easy (off-road) way. Today saw us go up by the second hardest way, and come down what would have been the hard way; which made for a glorious descent. By declaring the ride officially over before we had returned to the Meadows (and five minutes before the rain started), the rookie leader was able to claim a dry ride.

For once, the last 20 Milers ride of the year saw us avoid the Christmas crowds that we have had to mix with in previous years. This time, the Christmas tree in the pub where we had lunch was the only clue to what time of year it was. We didn't even have typical December weather. In the morning it was cool and dry with sunny intervals. After lunch, it was  overcast and cooler without the sun. For the final stretch back to the Meadows there was some very light rain - but of course, the ride was officially over by then. A turnout of twenty was good for the time of year. The noticable wind that blew us out to Prestonpans had dropped as we turned to head back west. In one group, we headed off towards the Innocent Railway. A trouble-free ride with the wind behind us meant we were in Niddrie in next to no time. Unfortunately, a wrecked pickup truck had been dumped in the middle of the cycle path. To avoid the broken glass and other debris, we had to take to the soft, wet grass. We also had a very brief delay whilst a minor chain-related mechanical issue was deftly sorted. On reaching Milton Road, we deviated from our usual route to Musselburgh and headed down Brunstane Road. The road was unbelievably busy with traffic. Eventually we got down it and made our way to Portobello prom. At Joppa, the leader had us get into groups of five so as to cause minimal hold ups to the traffic on the busy road towards Musselburgh. It felt like a team time trial, only considerably slower with the aim being NOT to catch the group in front! With that stretch of busy road behind us, we stopped at Fisherrow for a comfort break and cakes and sweets were passed round.
Quiet back roads, the footbridge over the river, past the racecourse and we were once again into groups of five and back on the busy road. At the racecourse roundabout we took the coast road as far as Prestonpans. We now headed inland towards Prestonpans railway station. Past the station and we crossed a bridge over the A1. A short, sharp little climb took us to the busy A199. It took a few minutes to get everyone safely across. Once across we began the steady climb up to Fa'side Hill. Inevitably, the group became quite spread out on this section, so we waited and re-grouped beside the mast. A few undulations, past Fa'side Castle and the steep descent began in earnest. Going down the other side of a steep hill climbed always gives a sense of fair payback. From the bottom of the hill, a short run along the busy road and we arrived at the pub which would be our lunch stop. Given the time of year, it didn't come as much of a surprise that no one opted for the picnic lunch option.

With everyone fed and watered, we stepped outside and prepared for the off. With clouds now obscuring the sun, it felt considerably cooler. Within yards of setting off, we were delayed by temporary traffic lights. Through those and we followed the road to re-join The Grove - the cycle path back towards Musselburgh. We followed it as far as the footbridge over the River Esk. Across the river and [unbelievably] we rode through a couple of swarms of midges! Didn't they know it was December? Clear of the midges, a combination of quiet residential streets and cycle paths took us to Musselburgh railway station. From there we made our way to Newcraighall; where we luckily hit upon a break in the traffic to cross the road unhindered. Through the new housing development and we were soon on the familiar route back towards the Innocent Railway. In Niddrie we avoided the wrecked truck by taking an alternative path. Once through the Innocent Tunnel, the leader declared the ride officially over. One or two riders left us there, but the majority followed the leader back to the Meadows through the light rain that was now falling.

Thanks to Neil for taking the reins for the first time to lead an interesting and enjoyable ride. Taking the decision to declare the ride over five minutes prior to the rain beginning was a stroke of genius. Also worthy of mention was the fact that Neil was out recceing the route at 0500 to check that the wind was not going to be a major problem. It wasn't. That must count as a level of dedication that few other leaders can match.

So, with the exception of the short Christmas Day ride, here endeth the 2018 rides. Thanks to everyone that has made them a success - leaders, backmarkers, helpers and attendees. Wishing all our riders seasons greetings and looking forward to seeing you again in 2019.

Leader: Neil
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn
Map trace: David

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Two rides for December

We've got two rides coming up this month. Here are the details.

December 20-Milers (8th December)

For this month's run, Neil will be leading us into East Lothian. The route will take us to Musselburgh, Prestonpans, Falside Castle, Whitecraig and then back to Edinburgh via the River Esk path and NCN1. At about 24 miles, this ride will be a little longer than usual, and will include one steep climb but no other major problems.

Our lunch stop will be the Craig House pub, just outside Whitecraig. This offers basic grub at reasonable prices. The pub is not suitable for those of us who prefer to bring our own food, so we will make a small detour to Wedderburn Terrace, where there is a nice picnic spot overlooking the river.

As always, we will set out at 10:30 from the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. The run should end a little before dark, so be sure to bring lights in case we get delayed and to see you home.

Christmas morning ride (25th December)

Once again, we will be organising our traditional (and very popular) half-day ride for Christmas morning. This will be a short ride, taken at a very leisurely pace. It will finish at 13:00 at the latest. I'll post more details nearer the time.

Both of these rides are, of course, free of charge and open to all, with no advance booking.

I hope to see you on one or both of the above events.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Thirty follow the sun to Dalkeith

Today's ride saw us head to Dalkeith by a mainly familiar route with a couple of twists thrown in for good measure. For a large part of the outward route, we were squinting into a low winter sun; but we wouldn't dream of complaining about its welcome presence. There were a couple of delays - two minor mechanical issues and a rider fell whilst trying to avoid a dog that was not being kept under control. We also got caught up in a running event in Holyrood Park; which, as the leader pointed out, had not been there on the recce!

After a very low turn out for October's rain-lashed ride to Roslin, we were hoping for a considerably better turn out this time. A mild, sunny November day would surely lead to a respectable number? Yes. But no one was really expecting 30 starters at this time of the year. It is very unlikely we have had such a large turn out in November. Following some discussion, it was decided to risk running as one large group. Following the leader's [characteristically] in depth briefing, the large group of riders rolled away in the direction of the Innocent Tunnel. After crossing St Leonard's Street, some of the group sailed past the entrance to St Leonard's Lane and had to be shouted to stop and turn round. Despite some being on auto pilot heading for the Innocent Tunnel, the group were soon back on the right road. We headed down St Leonards Hill, past the mountain bike track and on into Holyrood Park. As we emerged onto Queen's Drive, something didn't seem quite right. For that time on a Saturday morning.....where was all the traffic? There wasn't any! At that point no one realised some of the roads in the park were closed due to a running event. Some riders took to the path as normal, whilst others took advantage of the road devoid of traffic. Taking care to avoid runners on the road, we made our way to St Margaret's Loch. Usually the climb on the road towards Dunsapie Loch involves mixing it with cars. Today it was runners we had to contend with. Leaving the runners behind, we made our way through a gate in the wall onto the quiet back streets of Willowbrae. Across the busy Willowbrae Road, through Northfield and Mountcastle before emerging onto Fishwives Causeway. From there we made our way onto Portobello Prom to Joppa. At the end of the prom, before taking to the road, the leader ensured we were in groups of six and spaced out sufficiently to travel safely along the main road to Musselburgh. Waiting to be flagged off, it felt as if we were in a team time trial - the difference being that being slow, not fast was the order of the day. We regrouped and had a comfort break/sweetie stop at Fiherrow Harbour. It was decided that such a large group was becoming unwieldy. So the decision to split into two groups was taken. We made our way to the Grove which would take us to Whitecraig. It was on this stretch, where we rode along squinting into the low sun that a rider fell whilst trying to avoid a dog that should have been kept under control. The unfortunate rider was rather shaken. But their cut knee was attended to, they took time to recompose themselves and were under way once again. It was on this section that the second group were delayed briefly whilst a gear cable-related mechanical issue was dealt with. Leaving Whitecraig, a short stretch on an unpleasant busy road followed. But we were soon riding through the quiet lanes of Dalkeith Country Park. Out into Dalkeith and we were soon at the pub that would be our lunch stop. A few brave souls headed to the nearby park for a picnic lunch. They reported it had been a pleasant experience sitting in the warm sunshine enjoying their sandwiches.

With everyone fed and watered, we began our journey back. Past Newbattle golf club, we turned into the new housing estate. A slight delay as everyone negotiated the kissing gate, and we were heading  through the woods. Another brief delay as we waited whilst a minor mechanical malady was fixed.  Through Waterfall Park and on to Dalkeith High School. From there we took the path towards Whitecraig, turned off through the housing estate and park to emerge in the village. From there, a brief ride down the high street, a right turn at the roundabout and we were back on the road to Cowpits where we joined the Grove to head back towards Musselburgh. Just before the railway bridge, we crossed the footbridge over the river and carried on to Musselburgh station. From there, we took the path to Newcraighall where we found the road awash with water which led to serious traffic delays. It didn't worry us as we cut through the new housing estate to join the familiar path which would lead us back onto the Innocent Railway for our run back into town.

A good day had been had by all, no doubt helped by weather that was far from what we would expect in November. Thanks to Verity for leading us on a familiar route with just enough interesting twists to keep us all on our toes.

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

Monday, 5 November 2018

November ride to Dalkeith - and others

As I write this, it's obvious that our long hot summer is over and the colder weather has arrived. But that's no reason to put away you cycle clips. The best way to face the winter is to keep fit and healthy. And the best way to do that is to get out on your bike and enjoy some fresh air and exercise.

With that in mind, here is news of three rides for the month ahead:

Saturday 10th November: 20-Milers to Dalkeith

Verity will be leading our November ride. We'll head out towards Portobello and Musselburgh, then turn inland towards Dalkeith via the country park. The total distance will be 24 miles. There will be a short, steep climb near the start, but no other serious hills and no particular difficulties.

We'll have lunch in the Blacksmith's Forge in Dalkeith. This is a Wetherspoon pub (and it really is on the site of an old forge), so while not exactly gourmet fare, they do offer a good range of burgers, baked potatoes, sandwiches and salads at very reasonable prices. Those who prefer to bring their own food can enjoy an al fresco lunch in the nearby park.

We'll set out from our usual meeting place at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk at 10:30. Sunset on the day is scheduled for 16:15. We should be back at the Meadows well before that, but you should bring lights anyway in case we get delayed and to see you home.

Thrusday 22nd November: Jim's moonlight ride

Something new for the coming months. Starting this month, Jim Cameron will be leading a monthly mid-week evening run to (approximately) coincide with the full moon. These runs will go at a moderate pace, aiming to do about 15 - 20 miles during the evening. Obviously it will be dark (even with the moon), so you will need good strong lights with plenty of juice.

The rides will set out at 19:00 from Lister Square, which is behind the Starbucks in Middle Meadow Walk. They will finish around 21:00. For more information, see this web page.

Sunday 25th November: EasyCycle half-day ride

If you prefer a shorter, slower ride, you might like to know that EasyCycle have now moved to their winter format. Between now and February, their rides will be just two and half hours, starting at 10:30 and ending at 13:00, with a total distance of about 12 miles. There will be no official lunch break, but the ride will end near a city centre pub. Last winter, whenever the weather was reasonable, some of the riders were in the habit of grabbing a bite to eat and then clocking up a few more miles on an informal basis in the afternoon, but of course it's up to you whether or not you wish to do that.

If that appeals to you, meet at 10:30 in front of  Söderberg café (formerly Peter's Yard) in Middle Meadow Walk. There is further information on the EasyCycle website.

Just turn up

Remember, there is no advance booking for any of the above runs, so just turn up on the day. They are all free and open to all.

For those who favour a longer ride, cycling groups such as Spokes and CTC will be continuing their usual programme of runs during the winter months. Check www.cycling-edinburgh.org.uk for details of all local bike rides.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

A wet ride to Roslin

Heavy rain was the order of the day for today's ride to c. Fortunately, the heaviest rain came down when we having lunch in the pub. After lunch, the rain wasn't as heavy; but there wasn't a dry spell on the whole ride. We were able to ride on some new paths, like the one that took us all the way from Danderhall to Roslin.

A turn out of nine riders was better than expected given the heavy rain and the forecast promising more of the same. The only places where we didn't get wet on the ride were in a tunnel, under bridges and at the lunchtime pub stop. We left the Meadows and made our way to the Innocent Railway, where a brief respite from the rain was had in the Innocent Tunnel. Out the other side and the rain hit us again. Clutching at straws for positives on such a day, at least it wasn't particularly cold. We left the Innocent Railway and cut through the industrial estate and crossed Peffermill Road before heading into Craigmillar Castle Park. As we ventured off the surfaced paths, even the lightest of braking resulted in squeals of protest from mud-caked rims and discs. We passed Craigmillar Castle, which we could just about make out through the rain and gloom. Close to the Royal Infirmary, through the new housing estate, before emerging onto The Wisp. Across the road and the shared path kept us off the busy road. Leaving The Wisp behind, quiet suburban roads around Danderhall led us to new houses forming part of the huge Shawfair development. Following a few twists and turns, we were on the new path that would take us all the way to Roslin for our lunch stop. On this path we stopped under a bridge which carried Gilmerton Road. Sweets were passed round, and for a few brief minutes we stopped getting wet. At the next bridge, a couple of graffiti artists were at work decorating the walls. It was interesting to see they were wearing face masks to protect them from the fumes. Good to see them taking health & safety seriously. From there it was a short ride to the pub in Roslin for lunch. Our group of bedraggled cyclists were ushered into the conservatory. Once we had spread around our wet kit to dry, it looked like a refugee camp. It was lovely to be out of the rain and tucking into much needed hot food. This was when the heaviest rain of the day came; we could hear it bouncing off the conservatory roof.

Lunch over, we endured that inevitable pulling on of wet clothing before venturing back out into the rain. It was not raining as heavily as before but felt cooler as we retraced our inward route back to Danderhall along the new path. At The Wisp, we took another new path into Little France Park which then joined up with the path that took us back to Craigmillar Castle. A slight variation on our outward route added a little variety before arriving at Peffermill Road. By now riders were beginning to peel off and head home. Frequently the post-ride coffee stop is a great attraction; today a hot bath or shower usurped that option. So it was a very depleted field that joined the Innocent Railway for the run back into town.

Thanks to Jim for leading an interesting ride and showing us some new paths. Everyone enjoyed the ride; but how much nicer had the weather been better. Next time perhaps?

Leader: Jim
Report: Glenn
Map trace: Jim

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Our next ride will be to Roslin

Just a quick reminder of our ride this coming Saturday (13th). Jim will be leading us on an interesting route into Midlothian, taking in Craigmillar Castle, Danderhall, the new cycle path to Shawfair, and then on to Roslin. There will be a mix of roads and paths, mostly well-surfaced but with a few rough stretches. We'll have a bit of climbing, but no killer hills. The total distance will be about 23 miles.

At Roslin, there will either be a pub lunch or you can bring a picnic if you prefer.

As always, we'll set out from the north end of Middle Meadow Walk at 10:30.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

An Extra swansong into West Lothian

For our final Extra ride of the year, we headed into West Lothian for a picnic lunch in Almondell Country Park. Before the start we encountered a wee boy on a scooter that could have talked for Scotland; the weather was kinder to us than the forecast had suggested and once again, we had to contend with a few rough and bumpy stretches of path. There was also a brief delay whilst one of the group played good samaritan to a stranded motorist.

As is the norm when heading out west, our meeting point was the Craigleith path junction. Whilst waiting for the riders to arrive, a young boy turned up on his scooter and began chatting to us. A minute or two later, his dad arrived; but like the rest of us - couldn't get a word in. He must have talked non-stop for almost ten minutes. If ever talking became an Olympic sport, we had just met Scotland's future gold medallist! By now it was time for us to leave. A turn out of twelve was acceptable; but it would have been nice to have finished this year's Extra rides with a slightly higher number. The forecast said it would be a dry, mild but overcast day. It did stay dry, but we saw more sunshine than expected; and whilst it never got hot, it was pleasantly warm and ideal for a picnic. We headed off on the familiar route taking the cycle path through Silverknowes and Barnton to Cramond Brig. We paused there briefly wondering if this would be our first sweetie stop of the day. Alas, it was not to be. The leader sheepishly admitted he had committed the cardinal sin and forgotten to bring sweeties! We headed off, took the underpass beeath the A90 and headed out on the road past Craigiehall Army HQ. Verity kindly marked the junction where we turned off, for the benefit of following riders. Whilst there, an old lady stopped her car saying she had a puncture and would need to walk to a nearby house and phone the RAC. Without hesitation, Verity phoned the RAC on her mobile and was able to give the location. Speaking about it later, we had visions of the call handler looking out onto the horrendously busy M5/M6 junction near Birmingham whislt directing a mechanic to a quiet road near Kirkliston. Verity rejoined us and we made our way along the cycle path to Kirkliston. An unscheduled stop in the main street saw the leader disappear into a shop and emerge carrying a packet of sweets. He had redeemed himself. We made or way through the village, pausing for a comfort stop at the leisure centre where the sweeties were passed around. Quiet country roads near Niddry Castle led us onto the towpath beside the Union Canal for the run into Broxburn. Leaving the canal, a mixture of cycle paths and quiet residential streets allowed us to avaoid a section of the busy A899. Unfortunately, the path ended and a stretch on the busy road followed. We turned off and headed to Uphall station. Cycle paths took us around Pumpherston golf course before joining a path beside the River Almond. Some of the paths on this section were somewhat rough and bumpy; but they caused us no problems. We rode beneath the impressive Camps Viaduct. It made a change, as on previous rides we have always ridden across the viaduct. On the final run into Almondell Country Park, there were a couple of bridges that were far-from-easy to navigate as a rusult of steep lips of slippy steel - not what you would expect on a dedicated cycle path. We arrived at the visitor centre and bagged a couple of picnic tables in the garden for our picnic lunch.

Lunch over, we made our way up a stiff little climb to exit the country park. A rough path followed by a minor road brought us out at a busy junction on the A71. We crossed carefully to join a much quieter road that took us to Kirknewton. On the stretch of road around Long Dalmahoy, the leader confidently led us past a "road closed" sign. Three cars were behind us as we arrived at another "road closed" sign and the road was blocked by a lorry and workmen filling in a trench. As the cars were forced to turn around, the workmen stopped and allowed us to squeeze through the gap between the lorry and the ditch. That explained why the sign had also said, "except for pedestrians and cyclists". We carried on and took the back way into the Heriot Watt University campus. Due to building work, there were several cycle paths closed within the campus; but fortunately, diversions were in place to help us get through. From there we followed a route we have used many times to enter the back of Edinburgh Park. From there on, the familiar route took us through Sighthill, Broomhouse and Stenhouse before following the tram line as far as Murrayfield. From there it was a short run to the Russell Road zig-zags, where the leader declared the ride over.
Thanks to Peter for leading the final Extra ride of the year. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and it is always good to go somewhere familiar but have the route mixed up a little to keep it interesting. Courtesey of her good samaritan role, Verity gets a well-deserved mention in dispatches for the second week running. So here ends another successful series of Extra rides - role on next summer.

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