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Wednesday, 25 December 2013

A Merry* Christmas Ride

After a week of rain (or sleet) and wind, we had a stroke of fortune from the weather gods - although it was still a bit windy, today's ride was blessed by beautiful sunshine all the way! 22 people decided they had nothing better to do this morning, and joined the ride, led by Mike. We started off with a quick visit to the Castle Esplanade - I think it's the first time 20milers have been up there, then down the back of the Castle to the Usher Hall, and across Lothian Road to wiggle through the back paths into Rutland Square and then onto Shandwick Place (crossing the tram lines carefully) and East onto Princes Street. We had a nearly empty road (just one First Bus getting in our way) and lovely views of the Castle and the Christmas markets.
We then headed back to the Royal Mile past Waverley Station, and down to the Palace of Holyrood House for a quick look before we started our climb up Calton Hill. The route luckily was not too steep and everyone managed it and enjoyed the views from the top. Descending the north path (nearly all on foot - but there's always 1 who mountain-bikes it down (Andrew, and this time Darren as well, so actually 2!) - we then crossed London Road, made our way through some back streets, crossed Leith Walk and then headed down McDonald Road and onto the North Edinburgh Path at Powderhall / St Mark's Park. A short ride along these old railway lines took us to King George V Park, where we stopped and shared some Christmas treats - mince pies, cakes, biscuits, and there were plenty to go around.

After this break, we made our way to Stockbridge, then up the Water of Leith to Dean Village, up the hill to Palmerston Place and then to Queensferry Street where the ride officially disbanded.



View Christmas Day ride 2013 in a larger map
Leader: Mike
Report and photos: Livia
(*Not merry in the alcohol sense though!)

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Forthcoming ride : A half-day ride for Christmas morning

This is a quick reminder of our short ride next Wednesday morning (Christmas Day).

I know that many of you will have other things to do that day. But, if you happen to be at a loose end, you're very welcome to come along. As always, the ride is open to all, with no need to book in advance.

We'll leave at 10.30, from our usual spot at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. With luck, there won't be much traffic in town that day, so we'll aim to visit parts of the city centre and nearby districts where we might not otherwise venture. There will be a couple of short steep hills, but most of the route will be fairly flat. We'll stick to roads and paths with good surfaces for most of the way (apart from the occasional cobbles).

The total distance will be 10 - 12 miles, which we'll take at a slow-ish place, with a few short sight-seeing stops. Note that there will be no lunch break.

We'll aim to finish by 13.00 at the latest - but we won't necessarily end up back at the Meadows. (Last year, most people had peeled off by about 12.30, so we ended the ride at the West End.)

Our next normal monthly ride will be on 11th January. I'll post more details of that event nearer the time.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Windy December ride to Cramond

The weather forecast was a Weather Warning for strong winds (30-60mph), but despite that, 18 people joined the ride this Saturday. Which probably makes us the only 18 people who weren't on Princes Street trying to do our Christmas shopping.

After a standard "get to Roseburn" route, we turned along the side of the Carrick Knowe Golf course and after the only rough(ish) track of the day we joined the smoothest tarmac of the day, on the new cyclepath alongside the tram line. Andrew led us at an appropriate pace to deal with the headwind - taking it slow, meaning that one doesn't have to struggle and get tired. The bridge over the railway line had particularly strong winds, so we didn't stop to admire the views.

We cut through Edinburgh Park and then through the David Lloyd gym park at the back of South Gyle. From there we crossed the Glasgow Road and began our ascent of Drumbrae. The good news is that we went on back-paths, none of which were steep or busy, and what can seem quite a daunting hill was broken down into a manageable ascent. From the top (at the Leisure Centre) we made a swift descent down to Barnton and then to Cramond, where the Cramond Falls Cafe had made a special effort to open for the group, and served us up tasty lunches (of the soup/toastie/scone variety which goes down well with cold and wet cyclists). Even the hard-core picnicers (who ate their picnics on the cafe tables outside) were driven inside by the cold and wet and joined us for a hot drink.

After lunch we headed East with the wind behind us along the promenade, then turned inland at Gypsy Brae and up through the Waterfront park, from where we joined up to the North Edinburgh Paths Network and (shedding cyclists all the way) returned back to the start.

We had one minor incident because of the wind - a BINcident if you will - where an already-toppled black communal bin's lid blew out in front of one of us (Jenny), who sustained a cut finger and was shaken up by the experience (understandably so). We tried to right the bin, only for it to blow over moments later, narrowly missing a passing car, so we decided it would be best to drag it back to the kerb still toppled, so it couldn't blow over again.

Our next ride is a short (10 miles-ish) one on Christmas Day. Come along and enjoy the wonderfully quiet roads, and be home in time for your Brussels sprouts.

View 20milers to Cramond Dec-13 in a larger map

Monday, 9 December 2013

Two rides for December

We've got two rides planned for the coming month:

14th December : Normal monthly ride

Our next ride will be this coming Saturday (14th December). Andrew Marchant will be leading us on a trip round the bike paths in the north and west of the city, with a lunch stop in the Cramond area. It looks like a very pleasant route, with a few moderate hills but no other difficulties. The total distance will be 18 - 20 miles.

We'll meet at our usual gathering place at the top of Middle Meadow Walk in time for a 10.30 departure. We'll try to finish before dusk, but it might well be dark by the time you get home, so be sure to bring lights.

25th December : Short morning ride

For the third year running, we will be having a short ride on Christmas morning, finishing by 1 pm at the latest. This was a very popular event last year, with 21 riders turning up. I'll post more details of this ride nearer the time.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Tenth Anniversary T-shirts now available

Next year, 2014, is Edinburgh 20-Milers' 10th anniversary. To help mark the event, we have produced an attractive T-shirt with a specially-designed logo. If you have been on one our recent rides, you might already have seen one or two people wearing them. You're sure to see more in the months ahead.

The shirts are available for order now. Here are the details:
  • Colour: Red
  • Material: 100% pre-shrunk cotton
  • Sizes: Small (36"), medium (40"), large (44"), extra large (48"), really extra large (52")
  • Weight: 206 grams (based on large size)
The anniversary logo is embroidered onto the shirt, over the left breast.

These are really nice shirts, and excellent value at only £7 each.

You can order your shirt from either Ken, Logan or Mike on any of our rides. Alternatively, send a cheque or postal order to Ken Roxburgh, 30 Alemoor Crescent, Edinburgh EH7 6UJ. (Don't forget to mention your size.) As we have to pay for the shirts up front, we must ask you to let us have your payment at the time you place your order.

Please allow 2 - 3 weeks for delivery.

Our thanks go to everyone who has been involved with producing the shirts, including Ken, who has been liaising with the suppliers, Glenn, who produced the artwork, and the person (who asked not to be named here) who created the original design.

Note added 28/1/14: The same design is now also available as a sweatshirt, at £14. This is a polyester and cotton shirt, with long sleeves.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Where to take on food and drink on a bike ride

Over the years - both on our "official" rides and on ad hoc runs by members of our group - we have stopped at a vast number of eating places to take on food and refreshment. So for the benefit of anyone planning a ride of their own, we have now compiled a list of the pubs, cafés and other eateries where we have found the staff friendly and the food of an acceptable standard. The list should not be taken as an endorsement - after all, standards change over time - but these establishments have all served us well in the past, and we would be happy to visit them again in the future. (We've also taken care to exclude the minority of places where cyclists are clearly unwelcome.)

To view the list, click here.

Our thanks to Logan, who did most of the work of compiling and checking the list. Feel free to use the comment box to add your own suggestions or to flag any changes.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Chilly November ride around Edinburgh

More than 30 people came on today's ride - encouraged by the early sunshine and not daunted by the chill in the air. We set off to Leith in completely the opposite direction (such is the way of 20milers!) and made our way up through quiet roads and parks to Colinton, where we joined the Water of Leith for a long downhill ride to Roseburn, where we met the Rugby traffic starting to build. Around this time it started to rain (against all forecasts - most unsettling!) and this persisted most of the way to Leith (we joined the North Edinburgh Path Network at Roseburn) - we got to lunch very cold and very wet, but joyous at the realisation we'd gone all the way across the city with only about 100m of the trip on a road.

We locked up our bikes all over the newly renovated street (wider pavements, traffic calmed road) and enjoyed a warm and tasty lunch at Rock Salt. They coped with the arrival of about 30 wet and cold and muddy cyclists very efficiently!

After lunch we made our way through Leith Links, up the Lochend Path (joining up with pedestrians heading to the Hibs match this afternoon) and then out to Figgate Park and ultimately up the Innocent Railway Path and back to our starting point.

View Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh EH3 1AW in a larger map

Next ride is Saturday 14th December. Bring lights!

Leader: David
Map: Jim
Report: Livia

Monday, 4 November 2013

Forthcoming ride: November

Our next ride will be this coming Saturday (9th November). We'll be starting from our usual meeting spot at the top of Middle Meadow Walk, at 10.30. I hope you'll be able to join us.

One of the aims of our rides is to introduce you to useful cycling routes that you might not already know about. This month's run is no exception. Our leader, David Gilchrist, has mapped out a fascinating route around the city. Although we'll never be far from the city centre, I guarantee that there will be at least a few sections of the itinerary that will be new to you (this was certainly the case for those of us who accompanied David on his recce.)

The total distance will be 24 miles. There'll be a certain amount of climbing near the start, but definitely no killer hills this time. For the most part, we'll avoid main roads. In fact, quite a lot of the route will be on paths, but note that some of these might be rough and possibly muddy in parts. There will also be a couple of short flights of steps where we will have to dismount.

We'll have a café stop at lunchtime, or you can bring food for a picnic if you prefer. Note that the lunch stop will be a little later than usual, so adjust your appetites accordingly.

Lighting up

Now that the clocks have gone back, we encourage everyone to bring lights on all our rides - and to make sure they are in working order, with plenty of juice in the batteries. Although this week's ride is planned to end before dark, it's always possible that we'll be delayed, so make sure you have both front and rear lights with you - especially if you live some distance from the end point.

A few more points ...

Those of you who also enjoy EasyCycle's rides might like to know that the group now has its own website, courtesy of Alan Stalker.

On my own site, there's a new article, by David Wray, giving some useful tips for bike maintenance. This is aimed especially at the non-mechanically minded cyclist (of which I am one).

That's all for now. Keep warm, and happy cycling.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

October's ride to East Lothian

After the nice weather last weekend, today's ride was in more autumnal weather - colder, mostly grey (although with tantalising patches of sun on distant hills) and the occasional spot of drizzle. This didn't stop 27 people turning up for the ride though.

We set off and headed through Holyrood Park (I had a brief mechanical emergency when the cable on my front brake slipped through the bolt and became effectively useless - thanks to Handy Alan and Andrew who helped me get it back in working order) and then Willowbrae and down through Mountcastle (crossing over the A1 - always a challenge with a big group) and then onto Fishwives Causeway and into Portobello. We went gently along the length of the Promenade - it's only recently that the "no cycling" signs have come down (even though it had long been agreed by the council that they were wrong) and "cycling OK" signs have gone up. There was a Doctor Bike van doing good business half the way along.

We then carried along the main route into Musselburgh, turning off at the harbour and then along the water front to the River Esk. On the far side of the river we continued on past the cadets' hut and found the large concrete arrow - apparently used in the war to line up bombers on training runs on targets in the Forth. Someone pointed out that the Germans weren't silly enough to place large blue arrows pointing towards the targets in the war... We also met a friendly dog who brought us a ball and invited us to throw it for them. Repeatedly.
Bombing target
A very short distance further on we made a slight detour to look at the ash lagoons (spoil from Cockenzie Power Station, now drying out and has vegetation starting to grow, so looks less of a moonscape than it used to). Back down the hill and turn left, we continued on a rough track along the side of Musselburgh racecourse, testing the skills of the people with skinny tyres.

Beside Musselburgh Racecourse
Near Prestonpans
In Prestonpans we turned right and started to climb (after a short break at the Award Winning Loos), passing under the railway line and over the A1. Most of us then took a rough-ish track East, parallel to the road, while some went up the hill and along the A199 into Tranent the "smooth" way. At the site of the battle of Prestonpans (there was an information board), we turned up the hill and into Tranent where we regrouped before the final climb up to Fa'side hill and a lovely (if rather murky) view of Edinburgh, the Pentlands, the Forth and Fife.
View from Fa'side hill
We then enjoyed a swift descent (caution and group size and occasional stretches of gravel tempered the speed slightly) down the hill to our lunch break at the Premier Inn near Whitecraig.

After lunch (which was very efficiently delivered), and a group photo we went down Cowpits Road and onto the River Esk path down to Musselburgh, where we retraced our route slightly along the coast, before taking the Brunstane Burn path (newly surfaced with tarmac for most of the route) and then joining Route 1 home.

In total it was about 27 miles - a bit longer than our normal distance, and it showed (we were back quite late, at about 5pm, even though we were spared any waits for punctures this time).
Fa'side hill from Musselburgh Racecourse
Leader: Glenn
Report: Livia

View 20milers to East Lothian Oct-13 in a larger map

Saturday, 5 October 2013

20-Milers Extra to Linlithgow

Today's run was the last of our Extra rides for the summer. Under Julia's capable leadership, 17 of us headed west to Linlithgow - our first visit to that town as a group.

We started from Craigleith, following the familiar route to Cramond Brig, and then on to the Carlowrie Road and the railway path into Kirkliston. Continuing westward, the B9080 was busy with traffic, but we only had to put up with it for a mile or so. After branching off onto the lane towards Niddrie Castle, we stayed on quiet roads for the rest of the morning.

This was a delightful stretch of route: a little hilly, it's true, but with excellent views towards the Firth of Forth and beyond. At Wester Ochiltree, we turned north, and enjoyed a fast freewheel down to the main road at Champfleurie (see photo).

Linlithgow turned out to be an ideal lunch destination. Half a dozen of us commandeered a picnic table outside the palace, enjoying a superb view over the loch. The rest of the group headed for various cafés nearby.

For the return leg, we headed up to the canal basin, then took the towpath for a while, returning to the road at the Park Bistro. By now, the sun had come out. In fact, it was a surprisingly warm afternoon: 17C at one point - not bad for October.

At Philpstoun, most of the group turned north east, taking a scenic loop through the Hopetoun Estate and South Queensferry. But a few of us decided we wanted a quicker route home, so I led a break-away contingent at a fast-ish pace, making a bee-line towards Edinburgh via Winchburgh and Kirkliston.

In theory, my group should have got home quite a bit earlier than the main party. I don't know what went wrong. Either we weren't pedalling as fast as I thought, or the "slow" party was in fact moving at a very fast clip. But, to my embarrassment, the two groups converged just north of Cramond Brig. Ah, well ...

Apart from a puncture just before the end of the ride (the second one of the day), the rest of the run was uneventful. We got back to town at by about 4.30 pm, after cycling 35 miles or so on a very pleasant day. All in all, it was another successful outing.

Leader: Julia
Report and photo: Mike

Monday, 30 September 2013

Forthcoming rides : October

We've got two rides planned for the next couple of weeks. As always, everyone is welcome on these rides. You don't need to book in advance: just turn up on the day.

20-Milers Extra : 5th October

Our Extra rides are faster and longer than our usual outings, but still aim for a sociable pace, without undue pressure. For this one, Julia will be taking us to the historic town of Linlithgow.

The outward leg will mainly follow quiet roads, with a little bit of climbing, but nothing particularly onerous. This is a very attractive section of route, with fines views to the Forth and beyond. The return hop will be reasonably flat, with a mix of bike paths, quiet roads and canal towpath. The total distance will be about 34 miles.

For lunch, we'll head for the picnic tables by Linlithgow Palace. There are also several cafés nearby where you can pick up a hot drink, a sandwich or a bowl of soup.

Meeting place. We'll meet at the Sustrans marker at the junction of the Roseburn, Telford and Blackhall paths (the same place where we met for our rides to Blackness and Dunfermline earlier in the summer). If you're not sure where it is, head for South Groathill Avenue, and look for the sign-posted entrance to the bike path by the pedestrian crossing.

Time. The ride will start half an hour earlier than usual, at 10.00. We'll aim to be back in town between about 4.00 and 5.00 pm.

A shorter option. If you'd like to come on part of the ride but don't fancy doing the full 34 miles, you have the option of cycling with us to Linlithgow, then taking the train back. There are four trains per hour, with a journey time of about 25 minutes. But bike space is limited on these services, so if more than a couple of you decide to take this option, you might not get on your first choice of train.

Normal 20-Milers ride : 12th October

Our second ride in October will be our normal "second Saturday" run, leaving from Middle Meadow Walk at 10.30, and returning to town between about 3.00 and 4.00 pm.

For this ride, Glenn will be leading us on a tour of some interesting bike routes in East Lothian. This looks like being a particularly pleasant run, with some excellent views. There will be a couple of moderately steep climbs, but we'll take these at our usual unhurried pace. The total distance will be about 22 miles.

We'll stop at a pub for lunch, or, as always, you can bring a picnic if you prefer.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

September's ride to Roslin

Our regular 20miler ride this month managed to land on a day of beautiful sunshine, hardly any wind and comfortable temperatures. The day before rained and the forecast for the following day is wind and rain, so the weather gods smiled on us.

Twenty-six people took advantage of the opportunity and came on the ride, led by Jim. We started with a gentle trundle down Lovers' Loan and through the Astley Ainslie Hospital (with a diversion by a small group to avoid narrow gaps for the recumbent trike rider Samantha). The hospital group had a brief pause to help a passerby carry a wheelchair down some steps. I missed this bit as I was in the diversion group so I may have more details later when I am corrected! We regrouped on Cluny Gardens and started the first climb of the day, up Braid Avenue and side streets to the Braidburn Valley Park.
Braid Burn Valley Park
We had a pause for light refreshments before a second climb, up Cockmylane (a green path, sometimes a bit slippy) and then a wiggle through Fairmile Park and a housing estate and then over the main road using the pedestrian crossings. We had a brief pause to admire the Buck Stane,
The Buck Stane
and then used the woodland track over to Mortonhall - another climb but the views at the top were lovely. 

Stable Bar, a sometimes-lunch destination
We made our way under the bypass at Straiton,
Old Burdiehouse Road
turned left up to Loanhead along the main road, and paused to use the toilets in Loanhead before taking the old railway line out to Roslin.
Bridge over Bilston Glen
Literally as we arrived at the pub, a coachload of tourists was unloading into the same place, so a few extra people decided to find a local sandwich for a picnic rather than overload the pub's resources.
Roslin Castle picnic stop
After lunch most people had a quick look at Rosslyn chapel, unveiled finally (renovations over) for the first time in a long time, and then we returned, partly by the same route but with a few differences. We went all the way along the railway line

Loanhead-Roslin Railway path
to the "smelly pond" at Straiton, and came on the main road all the way to the foot of Liberton Brae
Liberton Brae
 before turning left and heading up the Hermitage path.
Hermitage of Braid
At the east entrance to the Hermitage we split into two groups; one to go back to the centre of town and one to go to the canal basin to find coffee.

View Middle Meadow Walk 20-milers Roslyn in a larger map

Leader: Jim
Report: Livia

Saturday, 24 August 2013

August Extra to Ormiston

For today's Extra ride, we made a sortie into East Lothian. Logan led about 22 of us on a route similar to the one that he took us on in June last year. This consisted of mix of bike paths, forest tracks and quiet roads, which together offered some particularly pleasant cycling.

Not everything went according to plan. After leaving Macmerry, we found that the path we had intended to take was closed for maintenance. Rather unhelpfully, the sign instructed us simply to "use an alternative route" without giving any guidance as to what that route might be or how to find it. But our leader was on top of the situation, and we were able to quickly by-pass the problem area, at the cost of only an extra mile or so.

In addition, we had two punctures (same bike, same wheel), as well as a couple of other mechanical problems involving chains and gears. The last of these resulted in the cyclist in question, plus a couple of others who has stopped to help him, getting separated from the main group. Fortunately, we were able to re-connect after a couple of quick phone calls.

These were minor hiccups in an otherwise splendid day. The highlight was the lunch stop at the Coalgate Bar in Ormiston. On our last visit, I described this pub as one of the most welcoming of all our regular lunch venues. Nothing happed this time to change my opinion. The friendly staff again arranged for us to park our bikes in the courtyard, then opened up an eating area for us, where platters of sandwiches and sausage rolls, and large pots of tea and coffee, were waiting, all compliments of the house. What a difference from certain other eateries that we've used in the past.

The weather was also kind. The morning was overcast, but it brightened up in time for the lunch stop, with only a very slight breeze in our face in the afternoon.

So, all in all, another successful ride. Thanks to Logan for leading it, and to Alan Orr and others for their help with the various mechanical problems. We have one more Extra this year, on 5th October, for which I'll post more details here nearer the time.

Leader: Logan
Report and photos: Mike

Friday, 23 August 2013

Ride report: 10th August ride to Craigie Farm

Our August run started as usual from the top of Middle Meadow walk, where we assembled on a rather overcast day with a cool westerly breeze .

After a briefing by the leader, we headed across the Meadows where we decided to split into two groups (there were thirty of us). The route took us through Bruntsfield and Merchiston to join the Slateford Road, thus avoiding a section of the canal .

We re-assembled just before the canal and attended to a flat tyre using a very nifty foot pump owned by one of the group. We then proceeded along the canal as far as Gogar Station Road. A quick swoosh down to the Gogar Bridge took us over the A8. We had a brief pause at a tram stop; this seemed to be miles from nowhere in particular, but had very handy bike racks. There was no sign of the trams, despite our leader lying across the tracks to provoke them into making an appearance.

We continued along a good path past the Gogar roundabout, admiring the large hole in the ground into which the trams will eventually disappear. We then turned into Turnhouse Road and Craigs Road, and scooted down Cammo Walk to Grotto Bridge - a little piece of the Highlands in Edinburgh.

After a short distance we took the tunnel under the A90 to reach the NCN1 path and the Kirkliston road. This allowed us to ascend the hill to Craigie Farm, which we all managed to cycle in one fashion or another. The restaurant provided all that was required, and coped with the sudden influx of thirty cyclists.

Our return journey took us over the A90 to join NCN1 again, which we followed all the way back to the three-way junction at Craigleith. The tail-ender had a puncture, but fortunately he had his own support team with him. A number of the assembled company retired for coffee and to put the cycling world to rights.

Many thanks to Julia, Claire, Lynne, Jim Martin and others for their help in keeping the group going in more or less the same direction, and to all who turned up.

Leader: Logan
Report and photo: Logan

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Shelter "escort" ride: a successful day after a problematic start

Today, seven local cyclists rode to Prestonpans with Matt Fountain, as part of his ambitious 2,000-mile round-Britain cycle ride in aid of Shelter. Our aim was to provide company and moral support for Matt as he passed through Edinburgh on day 23 of his trip.

The day started badly. We had gathered in Castle Street for a photo-shoot. A photographer and TV news person turned up, to provide coverage for the local press and on STV's afternoon news programme. No problems up to then.

Unfortunately, Matt then discovered that his back wheel was badly buckled. That's a serious problem at the best of times, and a potential disaster if you're in the middle of a 36-day charity ride. There's no shortage of bike shops in Edinburgh, but finding one that could true a wheel - or provide a replacement - at a moment's notice proved difficult.

In the end, it was Grease Monkey that came to the rescue. After we explained the situation to them, they immediately despatched a mobile repair van to rendezvous with us in Castle Street. The van arrived in less time than it took us to drink a cup of coffee, and the two mechanics set to work fixing the wheel efficiently and without fuss. They made an excellent job of it, and to everyone's delight, we were able to get on our way by 11.45 - only 90 minutes behind our original schedule.

The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. We made good time to Musselburgh, where we stopped for a picnic lunch in the town centre. We then took the path behind the racecourse and along the coast to Prestonpans. Here we took our leave of Matt, who was confident that he would reach today's destination, Berwick-on-Tweed, by nightfall.

The rest of us took a leisurely route back to town. From Prestonpans, we climbed to the summit of Falside Hill (144 metres of ascent). It was a bright, clear day, and the views towards Edinburgh and over the Firth of Forth were exceptionally good. After a delightful freewheel off the hill, we took the path past the Pinkie battlefield to Inveresk, and so onto the River Esk path and NCN1 as far as Duddingston, where we went our separate ways.

Speaking personally, the day was noteworthy for two reasons. First, it was a pleasure to be able to give even a tiny bit of help to Matt Fountain for his admirable efforts on behalf of Shelter. This is especially true when you consider that his ride is almost completely unsupported; he is doing it on his own initiative, on a tiny budget, carrying all his luggage, and sleeping rough most nights.

Secondly, I am full of praise for Grease Monkey. Based on what I saw of them today, they are a highly professional, responsive and efficient company. Thanks entirely to them, Matt was able to continue his ride today with only a very minor delay.

More information:

The story behind Matt Fountain's bike ride: http://www.changehomelessness.org/

Details of Grease Monkey's bike maintenance service: http://greasemonkeycycles.com/

Report: Mike
Photo: Iain Robertson

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Special Ride for Shelter

Email from Mike, 20 milers leader:

I hope you won't mind my writing to you about a special ride I'm leading next Wednesday (21st August). This is not a 20-Milers event, and I know that most of you will be at work that day. But if you happen to be free, you might be interested.

The ride is in support of Matt Fountain. As you might have heard, Matt is currently attempting a very ambitious bike ride: 2,000 miles around Britain in 36 days. He is doing this on his own, without any support, and he is sleeping rough or in a tent most nights. His aim is to raise £100,000 - a huge amount - for Shelter.

Matt will be passing through Edinburgh next week. The event that I am organising is a circular "escort ride". The aim is to provide some company - and perhaps moral support - for Matt as he rides out of the city on Wednesday morning. All local cyclists are welcome to come along.

The route

We'll be accompanying Matt as he heads out of town, via the Innocent path, Brunstane and Joppa, then along the road through Musselburgh. We'll take our leave of him around midday, somewhere near Prestonpans. In the afternoon, we'll return to town by way of a scenic inland route.

For the outward leg, we might be cycling at a fairly brisk pace. It will be up to Matt to set the pace. As he is aiming to reach Berwick on Tweed that day, he probably won't want to hang around. For the return stage, however, we'll revert to a more leisurely speed - similar to our 20-Milers rides.

The total distance will be about 25 miles. The outward run will be fairly flat, but there will be some hills on the return leg. Most of the route will be on roads and well-surfaced paths.

Food and drink

If enough people want to, we'll stop at a café towards the end of the ride. For lunch, I suggest you either bring your own food or aim to pick up a snack along the way.

Start and end

The ride will start in Castle Street. I'm asking those taking part to gather at 10 am. Before we set out, Matt will be involved with a photo-shoot, so there might be a bit of hanging around. But I'm expecting to leave by 10.20 at the latest.

We should be back in the city between about 3.00 and 3.30 in the afternoon.

Cost and booking

There will be no charge for taking part in the ride, but please consider making a donation to Matt's fundraising target (you will be able to do that on the day).

You don't need to book in advance for this ride. Just turn up at the appointed time and place.

I hope you'll consider joining us if you're free. Apart from being a pleasant day out, it will be a chance to support a worthwhile cause. (You can read more about Matt's ride and charity work at http://www.changehomelessness.org).

Best wishes, and thank you for reading this.

P.S. I'd be grateful if you could forward this message to anyone else you know who might be interested.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

August's forthcoming rides

This coming Saturday (10th) Logan will be leading us on an interesting meander through the west of the city. Among other places, we'll be taking in a stretch of the canal towpath, the new tram interchange at Gogar (on the recce, we actually saw a moving tram there), and the old Grotto Bridge at Cammo (with its dramatic view over the River Almond).

The lunch stop will be at Craigie Farm, where there's a well-stocked farm shop and a café.

The total distance will be about 25 miles. Most of the route will be on well-surfaced paths or roads. Apart from a short climb just before lunch, there won't be any serious hills to worry about.

As always, we'll meet at the top of Middle Meadow Walk, for a 10.30 start. There's no need to let us know in advance that you're coming: just turn up on the day.

Extra ride

Our third Extra ride this summer will be on 24th August, when we'll be heading out to East Lothian. I'll post more information about this ride nearer the time. For now, just note the meeting point (by the entrance to Scottish Widows in Holyrood Park Road) and the earlier-than-usual start time of 10.00.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

July ride and picnic

On most of our rides, we stop at lunchtime for a hot snack or light meal to see us through the day. Today, just for a change, we skipped the cafés and pubs, and opted for a picnic instead. It turned out to be an ideal day for it: clear skies, only a slight breeze, and temperatures reaching the mid twenties.

With such good weather, it was no surprise to see another high turnout. Over 30 of us set out from the Meadows. But by the time we got to the bottom of Whitehouse Loan, the ride was already well strung out. So we decided to split ourselves into two groups. I led a slightly faster party, with David (Gilchrist) acting as backstop. Ken and Logan looked after the slightly slower group.

Our destination was the Harlaw Reservoir. Given that this is on the edge of the Pentland Hills, and is at an altitude of 850 ft (compared to 260 ft for the Meadows), it was inevitable that we would have to do some climbing. This started almost straight away, with an ascent of Braid Avenue to Hermitage Drive.

Then came an easier stretch through Braidburn Valley Park and on the path running alongside the Braid Burn and through Colinton Mains Park. But this was followed by another slog, this time up the steep path to the NAAFI in Redford Road. (It's funny how we still refer to this point as the NAAFI, even though that establishment closed several years ago, with no trace of the former buildings remaining.)

After a nice downhill run into Colinton (and a stop at the convenient new conveniences), we headed up Woodhall Road and Blinkbonny Road, and then started on the real work of the day: the climb up Curry Kirkgate. In fact, this wasn't quite as bad as some of us had feared. I can't speak for the slower party, but nearly all of my group reached the top - albeit quite slowly - without having to get off and push. The first riders in the second group came into sight just as we had got our breath back and were setting off on the last leg to Harlaw

The two groups joined up at the reservoir. This proved to be an excellent place for a picnic. We spread ourselves between the reservoir wall and the various tables and benches in the delightful garden behind the rangers' station. After lunch, some of us set out for an extra circuit of the reservoir. Others passed the time by paddling in the water, trying a recumbent trike belonging to one of the group, and queuing for the only loo.

On leaving the picnic spot, we immediately reaped the reward for the hard work of the morning, with a lovely long freewheel into Balerno. We then made good time along the Water of Leith path, eventually reaching the Lanark Road bridge and the canal. At this point, about a third of the group chose to go straight back to town along the towpath. The rest of us headed for the Water of Leith Visitor Centre, where we took a lazy afternoon tea on the sunny terrace before drifting off on our separate ways.

Leader: Mike, with help from David, Ken and Logan
Report and photos: Mike

Thursday, 11 July 2013

July ride - Picnic!

Saturday's ride (13th) is the normal 20-miles, however this month we hope to eat al fresco at a picnic spot by Harlaw Rangers' station - no cafe. If the weather is wet then we will find an alternative venue with shelter, but be prepared to either bring your own sandwich etc. or to buy something at the start point and carry it.

If the weather is as warm as it has been this week, a large bottle of water is highly recommended for the day, plus please bring a spare inner tube in case of punctures.

There will be a certain amount of UP on this ride (we are going to the Pentlands, after all) but the normal gentle 20miler pace will be maintained.

You can keep an eye on the weather forecast here.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Extra Ride to Dunfermline

For our second Extra ride of the summer, 22 of us headed for Dunfermline. The glorious weather of the last few weeks continued (the temperature reached 23C), and unlike several of our recent rides, this one was completely puncture-free.

 Alan Orr led us out along NCN 1 from the three-way path junction at Craigleath. Just past Cramond Brig, the path was closed for improvement works, so we followed a signposted diversion through the Dalmeny Estate. This was on a pleasant well-surfaced track which provided better cycling than the official NCN 76 route through the estate.

The diversion ended by the estate's main gate near Dalmeny village. From there we continued on NCN 1 to the Forth Road Bridge, pausing at the observation point on the bridge's southern approach (see photo). It was here that the Queen officially opened the bridge in 1964, and it provides an impressive view of both the road and rail bridges.

Once into Fife, we headed up Ferry Toll Road and Hilton Road past the Navy Dockyard. This was followed by a short stretch on a busy main road, before turning off up an undulating - mainly uphill - quiet road into Dunfermline.

Our lunch stop was the excellent Pittencreiff Park. Some of the group made for the café, with the majority opting for a picnic on the lawn.

For the return leg, we retraced our steps as far as Dalmeny, from where we took Standingstane Road and the road past Carlowrie Farm back to Cramond Brig. We finally arrived back at Craigleath around 4.30, after a total of just under 35 miles. Another highly successful ride on a beautiful sunny day.

Leader: Alan (Orr)
Report: Mike

Monday, 10 June 2013

June's ride to Dalkeith - largest ever!

The glorious summer weather certainly brought out the riders. On my first ride as leader, I was shocked to see a record breaking 38. Good to see a lot of new faces. I'm sure another record was broken when the group was stopped by the first puncture less than 200 yards from the start. At least there was no shortage of help to fix it.

The exceptionally long line of cyclists made our way through Holyrood Park, through the back streets of Willowbrae (past the site of the recent shooting), through Mountcastle, and onto Portobello Prom via Fishwives Causeway. Out of consideration for pedestrians, we split into two groups along the crowded prom. We then pushed on along the road towards Musselburgh.

We regrouped at Fisherrow Harbour where I took centre stage to tell everyone a little bit about the history of the Honest Toun. We then rode along the prom, up beside the river and took an unfamiliar route through the Stoneyhill estate before joining the more familiar cycle path to Whitecraig before pushing on to the Dalkeith High School campus. It was on this section that Nick came off after hitting a post. Bloodied, but unbowed he carried on and stayed with us until the end. The cuts to his head and knee must have looked worse than they were. He certainly got lots of sympathy. Well done Nick.

We then ran into Dalkeith and turned off for the fast downhill run into Dalkeith Country Park and lunch at the Stables tearoom. Julie made us as welcome as ever and did a great job of ensuring we were all fed and watered. After a group photo courtesey of Logan, we headed towards Musselburgh through the park. All was going well until we encountered the gate out of the estate which was well and truly locked. Fortunately, a very nice lady in a Landrover turned up with a key at just the right moment.

The remainder of the run was relatively uneventful as we returned to Middle Meadow Walk via Musselburgh Station, Brunstane and the Innocent Railway. The Innocent Tunnel felt colder than usual on such a warm day.

After a faltering start, a few adventures, several regrouping stops and six punctures, quite a few of us retired to Peter's Yard for welcome refreshment. Whenever anyone asks what it was like to lead such a large group, my reply will be "have you ever tried herding cats?"

Leader: Glenn
Report: Glenn
Map trace: Jim 

View 08/06/2013 11:27 20 Milers in a larger map

Saturday, 11 May 2013

May ride to South Queensferry

For today's ride, we had originally intended to take a long-ish route to South Queensferry and the Dundas Estate, similar to the one that Ken led us on last October. But in deference to the weather and the turnout, today's leader, Claire, wisely decided on a slightly shorter option. It was nevertheless a very enjoyable run.

Twenty four of us set out from the Meadows, taking the familiar route to Russell Road and onto the Roseburn Path. We then headed north through Davidson's Mains and Barnton. After Cramond Brig we turned onto the Kirkliston Road, and then onto the railway path into Dalmeny. The final leg of the morning was the delightful (and delightfully flat) Ferry Glen path, which ends at the Co-op in South Queensferry.

As well as being an interesting destination in its own right, South Queensferry offers an excellent choice of eating places. About a third of the group opted to eat their own food on the steps overlooking the harbour. Most of the others headed for the Picnic Café, which, as always, served us efficiently and without fuss.

It had been raining steadily for most of the morning, but happily the skies started to clear for our return leg. This took us along Queensferry's cobbled main street, under the Forth Bridge and into the Dalmeny Estate. After a couple of pleasant off-road miles, we emerged at Cramond Brig, and then re-traced our outward route as far as the Sustrans marker at Craigleath, where we went our separate ways.

View 20-milers to South Queensferry in a larger map

Leader: Claire
Report: Mike
Map trace: Jim

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Extra May ride to Blackness

As the weather warms up and the days get longer, we add in a few extra, longer rides to take advantage of the opportunity. This month, Logan led 24 cyclists on a very pleasant ride out to the West. We left from Craigleith, headed out on Route 1 to Dalmeny, cut down under the Forth Road Bridge and went West along the sea front towards Hopetoun House, pausing for a couple of scenic views and jelly babies en route.

We cut through the estate, following Route 76 (I'd not been along the new bit through the woods to Blackness before, but it works very well although not ideal for skinny tyres - better with something a bit chunkier). After a troublesome puncture in this area, we decided that we didn't have time to detour to see Blackness Castle, and instead turned inland and headed up the only real hill of the day (small really, but it was getting windy and cloudy and a bit colder at this point) and after a very short stretch on a main road we descended on the Rouken Glen Garden Centre for lunch - who coped with us admirably and had lots of delicious home made cakes as well as other food.

View 30milers to Blackness May-13 in a larger map
After lunch we headed south to Philipstoun where we wiggled through a housing estate's garage lot and found the canal access, from where we had a few miles of flat cycling with the wind behind us. A short break for another puncture, in the middle of acres of wild garlic, and we left the canal at Winchburgh and had a super whoosh down with tailwind into Kirkliston. A short stretch on the old railway line (slightly uphill but still wind-assisted) and then onto the road past Craigie Farm and to rejoin Route 1 near Cramond. From there we made it back to Craigleith in good order and many people celebrated (and warmed up) in Costa coffee before heading their separate ways. Thanks to Logan for a very good route.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

30miler ride to Blackness - Saturday 4th

For this Saturday's ride, we will be meeting at 10.00, at the Sustrans marker at the junction of the Roseburn, Blackhall and Telford paths. If you're not sure where that is, head for the Sainsbury's petrol station in South Groathill Avenue, and look for the sign pointing onto the bike path.
Logan will be leading us on a very pleasant route - similar to the one he led last May. We'll be heading out to South Queensferry, and then following a path through the Hopetoun Estate and along the Firth of Forth to Blackness Castle. This part of the route will be reasonably level but with a few rough patches.  After Blackness, we'll have a steep climb, followed by a short section along a main road to reach our lunch stop at the Rouken Glen Garden Centre. This has a spacious cafeteria which serves soup, sandwiches and light meals.
Our return route will be partly on roads and partly on the canal towpath, with only a few moderate hills. We'll aim to get back to town about 4 pm, but this might vary, depending on conditions, punctures, etc.
If you feel comfortable with the speed of our usual Saturday runs, and you now want something a little more challenging, give this Extra ride a try. As with all our rides, it's free of charge, and you don't need to tell us in advance that you're coming. Just turn up at the meeting point (but do remember that earlier start time).

Saturday, 13 April 2013

April 13th's sunny ride to Ratho

More photos from today's ride
After weeks of frequent rain and freezing winds, the weather changed just in time for today's ride. About 20 of us headed out to Ratho, under a warmish sun and with only a slight breeze in our face.

Rather than taking the obvious (and somewhat boring) out-and-back route along the Union Canal, our leader, Alan Orr, conducted us through the streets of Morningside and across the northern slopes of Easter Craiglockhart Hill. After crossing Colinton Road, we took a handy cut-through to reach the canal at Allan Park.

After a fast three miles along the towpath, we left the canal at Hermiston House Road (see photo). A couple more road miles took us into Ratho. Then came the only hard work of the day: hauling our bikes up the double flight of steps to our lunch stop at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena.

The EICA is always a good choice for lunch. The café has a spectacular view of the 30-metre high climbing wall, which is built right into the face of an old quarry - the largest facility of its kind in the world. There are also plenty of picnic tables; these have a somewhat less spectacular view of the Union Canal.

For the return leg, Alan led us back through Ratho village and then across the Ratho Park Golf Club. I don't know if this is an official bike route (were those golfers shouting at us, or were they just being exuberant?), but it certainly makes for pleasant cycling. After a nice freewheel down Gogar Station Road, we passed under the City Bypass into Edinburgh Park, and then headed for home via South Gyle, Corstorphine and Roseburn.

View 2013 04 Ratho Twenty Milers in a larger map

Leader: Alan
Report and photo: Mike
Map: Jim

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Forthcoming rides

We've got our usual monthly ride this coming Saturday (13th). We'll be heading out to one of our more popular destinations: the International Climbing Arena near Ratho. This is an interesting place, where you can watch rock climbing on the quarry wall or peruse the large outdoor shop. Most importantly, the centre has a good cafe which serves a range of light meals and snacks.
Alan (Orr) will be leading the ride. I don't have any information about the route at present, but I can tell you that we won't simply be going straight out and back along the canal: it will be much more interesting than that.
Meet at the usual place (the north end of Middle Meadow Walk) in time for a 10.30 kick-off. Expect to be back in town by mid afternoon.
Extra ride to Blackness
In the hope of finally getting some reasonable weather, we've started planning some Extra rides for the summer. These runs are a little longer and faster than our normal second-Saturday outings - but not much. They're typically around 30 miles, which allows us to reach places that would otherwise be outside our range.
The first of this year's Extras will be on 4th May. Logan will be leading us through the Hopetoun Estate to Blackness Castle. I'll send you more details of this ride nearer the time.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

An educational in-town ride for March

For this month's ride (9th March), we took an unusual route through the south and east of the city. Ten people turned up, which I thought was pretty good, considering the awful weather (steady rain and a freezing easterly wind).

We headed out through the Grange and were soon climbing the eastern slopes of Blackford Hill. We paused for a few minutes while our leader, Andy Hunter, pointed out an exposed outcrop known as Agassiz Rock. It was here in 1840 that the Swiss geologist, Louis Agassiz, noticed the distinctive grooving in the rock, which he attributed to the action of ancient glaciers - an observation which laid the foundation for modern theories of geology.

Fortified with that knowledge, we continued down Blackford Glen Road, across Gilmerton Road, and into the Inch Park. After crossing Old Dalkeith Road, we climbed a steep path towards the back of Craigmillar Castle. The path was narrow and somewhat muddy, and we ended up pushing our bikes most of the way up.

While stopping for a breather near the castle (see photo), Andy told us how Mary Queen of Scots, who lived here at various times in the 1560s, would look out over the fields where we now stood, and where her French entourage was camped. She is said to have referred to the view as "my little France". The name stuck.

A short downhill run now took us to Duddingston Road West, and then to the familiar Innocent Railway path. We left the path at Magdelene Gardens, and headed north by Hope Lane, and so to the Portobello Promenade to look for a lunch stop.

By now, the wind was on the attack with renewed vigour, and the footway was being drenched by spray. With a chill factor well into the minus zone, even the hardened picnickers amongst us decided to forgo the idea of an al fresco lunch. Instead, we opted for the Espy pub, which was warm and welcoming.

As you can imagine, it took a good dose of willpower for us to drag ourselves back to the bikes after lunch. The rain had now stopped, but the wind was still bitterly cold, and we had to dodge the waves as we continued along the prom.

At Seafield, we left the shore, and used the excellent new access point to get to the path by the cemetery. This much-impoved path reaches Leith Links by means of a useful new bridge.

After crossing the links, we headed to the Water of Leith path, which we followed all the way through Warriston, Canonmills, Stockbridge, Dean Village and Roseburn. Most of the group peeled off at various points along this section of the route, so with only three riders remaining, the ride was officially declared finished at Ashley Terrace. At 21 miles, it was another excellent run - and an educational one at that.

View 20milers March-13 in a larger map

Photo and map: Andy
Report: Mike

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

March's ride

This Saturday's ride will be a chance to explore some interesting bike routes within the city. We'll be cycling on paths and quiet roads for much of the way, with no particularly difficulties of any kind. Depending on the exact route we take, the total distance will be between 18 and 22 miles. Our leader will be Andy Hunter.
For lunch, we'll stop at a cafe in the Portobello area, where we'll be able to get sandwiches or hot snacks. There's also be a nice picnic spot for those who prefer to bring their own food.
As always, we'll set out from Middle Meadow Walk at 10.30, with the ride finishing some time around mid afternoon. The ride is completely free and open to all, with no need to book in advance.

Monday, 18 February 2013

February's ride to the Reservoirs

Some nineteen intrepid riders headed for the hills on 9Feb,  in hazy sunshine. After a swift climb up Braid Avenue, we headed through Greenbank to Comiston Rd past Firrhill High School, climbing Woodhall Rd and joining the Water of Leith path NCN75 near Juniper Green.

A gentle, steady climb offroad ensued, and up to Balerno for lunch at the Grey Horse - although the Balerno Farmers' Market was also an option, provided you caught them before they closed the stalls at 12:30. 

After lunch we rambled through the residential bit to the south of Balerno to the bus terminus, then a wee steep pull up to Red Moss, the apex of the ride.  After admiring the view, we glided gracefully past the four reservoirs (it was downhill after all), Threepmuir, Harlaw, Clubbidean and Torduff, stopping at the Ranger's Cottage in between, and emerging from the hills to cross the bypass at Bonaly.

From there, along Redford drive and Redford Bank, Passing Colinton mains park and traversing Braidburn Valley Park, then Oswald Rd to Marchmont, and ending up with 9 survivors celebrating with a coffee at Peter's yard.

View 2013 Feb 9, Sat 10:27 20-milers to Pentland Reserviors in a larger map

Leader: Julia
Ride report: Jim

Monday, 4 February 2013

Next ride - February

Our next bike ride will be this coming Saturday (9th February). Julia will be leading us on what is an excellent local ride: the "reservoir route" on the edge of the Pentland Hills. This promises to be an excellent run, so do try and make it if you can.
The arrangements are the same as ever. We'll set out from the top of Middle Meadow Walk at 10.30, aiming to return by mid afternoon. There'll be a lunch stop at a cafe or pub, or you can bring your own food for an al fresco lunch if you prefer.
Inevitably this ride will involve a couple of steep-ish climbs. But we'll get those over with fairly early in the day. After that, we can expect some delightful cycling along this very scenic route, with excellent views both of the Pentlands and the Fife hills. There will be a few stretches on rough track, but for the most part we will be on quiet roads and reasonable paths. The total distance will be about 24 miles.
You might also like to know that EasyCycle's next ride will be on the 23rd February. It starts at 10.30 from Peter's Yard in Middle Meadow Walk, just a short way down the hill from our own meeting point. EasyCycle's rides are suitable for less experienced cyclists and those that prefer a really leisurely day. They usually cover 10 - 12 miles, and finish around 3 pm.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

January 2013 - Leith

More than 20 people came out on today's ride - mostly familiar faces. The weather was kind - no snow, no ice (although it was fffffreeeezing cold - lots of stamping of feet and teeth chattering). The temperature meant that we didn't stand around too long, despite Jim's best efforts to show us new and interesting features as we made progress on the route.

We started by heading out East down the Innocent Railway, then turned left through Bingham and thence into Figgate Park (for a circumnavigation of the pond) and then up to see the Craigentinny marbles (an impressive tomb, set in the middle of a lot of 30s bungalows). Then back down Fishwives Causeway and to the Portobello Pottery kilns, and along the *Now Cycle Friendly* prom back west towards Leith. We used the new bridge over Seafield Place (no steps now) and then through Leith Links and stopped at RockSalt on Constitution St for lunch - who ably accommodated us (forewarned by Jim) and we had a good meal.
20milers to Leith
After, we cycled through the docks, past Ocean Terminal and the new Asda, around the Newhaven peninsula with lots of new building (and back again) and then along past the Old Chain Pier and up onto the North Edinburgh Path Network to head back towards town via the Roseburn Path.

View 20milers Jan-13 to Leith in a larger map