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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.