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Sunday, 25 December 2016

Fourteen for Christmas (plus Conor)

Fourteen of us gathered for our Christmas morning ride this year – including our resident Santa Claus (see photo), who attracted delighted cheers and waves from the tourists we passed along the route – not to mention a couple of requests for selfies. A less welcome visitor was Storm Conor, bringing 50 mph winds to an otherwise serene morning.

Under Jim's leadership, we set off from the Meadows, heading first for the Lochrin Basin and Fountainbridge. We weaved though Conference Square, crossed the footbridge over the West Approach Road, then into Rutland Square and Shandwick Place. We paused in Coates Crescent to admire the Gladstone Monument (unveiled in 1917, in honour of William Ewart Gladstone, MP for Midlothian 1880–1895).

Next, Jim took us on a circuit of the West End crescents. One of his reasons for this was to show us the experimental on-street bike lockers which the council have installed in Douglas Crescent. These are part of a city-wide trial to find ways of providing secure bike parking for flats and tenements. The two lockers that we saw certainly looked up to the job, but I suspect you would need an awful lot of them to meet the demand.

The next part of the ride took us back to Shandwick Place, then along the entire length of Princes Street, west to east. Thankfully, there was very little traffic– just a few buses and taxis, no trams. We stopped at the foot of the Mound in the expectation of a comfort stop, but inconveniently the toilets there were closed. Instead, we found we were able to use the facilities in one of the nearby hotels, which was a relief.

Next came the hard work of the day (well, not all that hard): the ascent of Calton Hill. The morning was still bright and sunny, so we lingered on the summit to take in the excellent views of Arthur's Seat and the Firth of Forth. Santa Claus, true to form, produced a flask of mulled wine to share; various items of confectionary were also in evidence.

Our leader eventually got us moving again. The original plan had involved heading to Lochend Park at this point, but the morning was rapidly wearing on and we had promised that the ride would end by 1 pm. So we finished up by taking a quick look at the Stones of Scotland, then headed back towards the Meadows.

Several of the group had peeled off by now, but unfortunately not the afore-mentioned Conor, who gave us more than a little trouble as we pedalled down Regent Road and Waterloo Place. The remnants of the group eventually made it back to Middle Meadow Walk. At just over seven miles, it was definitely one of our shorter rides, but also one of the more interesting.

Leader: Jim
Report and photos: Mike
Map: Jim

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Half-day ride planned for Christmas morning

We've got our final ride of 2016 this coming Sunday (25th). Jim will be leading us on our usual Christmas morning jaunt. It will be good to see you if you are free.

The great thing about cycling on Christmas Day is that there is very little traffic. We'll take advantage of that to visit parts of the city where we might not otherwise venture. I don't know the exact route that Jim has in mind, but in the past it has included the Castle Esplanade, Princes Street and Calton Hill.

The total distance will be about ten miles, which we'll take at a very relaxed pace. Be warned that there might be a couple of short climbs to negotiate as well as some cobbled streets.

Time and place

We'll leave at 10.30, from our usual meeting spot at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. We'll return to the Meadows by 13.00 at the latest. If you have a pressing lunch date, feel free to peel off earlier.

It's unlikely that we'll find anywhere open to pick up refreshments en route, so you might want to bring a snack to keep the hunger pangs away.

Like all our runs, this one is "just turn up" - no need to book in advance. It's open to all, so feel free to bring your pals or family members.

For those who have better things to do on Christmas morning, our first ride in 2017 will be on 14th January.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas

For the final full 20 Milers ride of 2016 (don't forget the shorter half day ride on Christmas Day), we entered into the Christmas spirit with a ride out to the Ocean Terminal shopping centre at Leith. A busy shopping centre two weeks before the big day, mince pies and mulled wine in Victoria Park and bike parking taken over by christmas tree sales. All of these gave the ride a festive feel. Fortunately the weather was more like an October day being reasonably bright, dry and cool with a touch of wind. The weather helped drum up a respectable 26 riders. For those opting to go cycling rather than Christmas shopping, there was a touch of irony in the destination for today's ride. Despite suffering from a cold, the leader managed to croak her way through the briefing before we set off in one group. A tough bunch these 20 Milers ride leaders! We soon left town behind us and were on the Innocent railway. Several lights were out in the tunnel, resulting in limited visibility. One rider had to stop, remove her sunglasses and switch on her lights before continuing. Beside the Range (still referred to as "Big W" by many) we turned left through the subway beneath the A1, emerging for a short stretch on the busy Milton Road. We turned right and headed over the bridge that crosses the railway and Sir Harry Lauder Road. From there we joined the busier than usual Portobello High Street. After battling with the traffic there, it was a relief to head down Bath street to join Portobello Promenade. That was much quieter and more pleasant than the high street. That took us on to Seafield and the site of the old Eastern General Hospital. We joined the cycle path towards Restalrig, crossed Lochend Road, made our way through Quarryhole Park and crossed Easter Road. We were soon on West Bowling Green Street; took a cut through path and found ourselves on the Warriston Path. We stopped in Victoria Park where the leader passed round mince pies and mulled wine. It was now starting to look a lot like Christmas. Suitably replenished, the Hawthornvale Path led us to Ocean Terminal for our lunch stop. Half of the cycle racks were unavailable as that was where Christmas trees were being sold. But we utilised the free racks and all made our way into the centre for lunch. The group split up and everyone found somewhere suitable for lunch. Many of the riders returned to their bikes with books that had been handed out in the centre. Free Christmas presents, perhaps?

We retraced our steps and left the busy Ocean Terminal behind. Instead of returning to Victoria Park, we took the Ferry Road Path and Telford Path to Craigleith. From there, the Roseburn Path led us down the zig-zags to join Russell Road. From there the regularly used route taking in the Telfer subway, Fountainhall, the canal and back streets saw us return to the Meadows. So there ended the 2016 series of 20 Milers rides. An interesting route, welcome stop for festive food and drink and we managed to get lunch ok despite the crowds of Christmas shoppers. Thanks to Verity for leading. Probably deserves a mention in dispatches for bravely battling on despite the cold and sore throat. Let's hope for a good turnout on Christmas Day, and here's looking forward to 2017.

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

Monday, 5 December 2016

Two rides for December

The Royal Yacht Britannia at its berth
at the Ocean Terminal (photo: Cool Places Ltd )
We've got two rides planned for December. Our normal monthly run will take place this coming Saturday. And we've got our traditional Christmas morning ride on the 25th.

Here are some details.

20-Milers Ride: 10th December

For this month's run, Verity will be leading us on a tour of bike routes in the north and east of the city. In deference to the short daylight hours, this ride will be a little shorter than usual; no particular difficulties are expected.

As usual, we'll meet at 10.30 at the top of Middle Meadow Walk. Our lunch stop will be at the Ocean Terminal, where there is a good choice of cafés and sandwich shops. For those who prefer to bring their own food, there are places to eat both inside and out.

It will be dark by about 16.00 on Saturday. The ride should finish well before then, but you will probably need to bring lights to see you home.

Christmas Morning Ride: 25th December

For the sixth year running, we will be having a short ride on Christmas morning. We'll meet at 10.30 at the top (north end) of Middle Meadow Walk. The ride will be about ten miles, mainly in and around the city centre, and will finish by 13.00 at the latest.

I'll post a reminder of the Christmas run, and further details of the route, nearer the time.

EasyCycle Ride

In addition to our own runs this month, EasyCycle will be having a special ride on the 18th December to mark the winter solstice (after which the days start getting longer again). Meet at 10.30 outside Peter's Yard (which is just down the hill from our own usual meeting point). EasyCycle rides tend to be fairly short (12 - 15 miles) and go at a relaxed pace.

Yet more rides

If the above outings aren't enough for you, keep in mind that other Edinburgh cycling groups also have organised rides throughout the year. You can find details of these on my website: www.cycling-edinburgh.org.uk

Any questions?

Do you ever have questions about cycling in Edinburgh but don't know who to ask? Or do your friends ever ask you questions on this subject that you can't answer?

If so, take a look at Cycling in Edinburgh - Your Questions Answered. This is an FAQ that I have prepared for anyone who needs specific information about riding a bike in the Scottish capital. I wrote it because I often get asked questions myself through my website, especially from people thinking of visiting from abroad. Typically, they want to know where to hire a bike, which roads are safe to cycle on, whether the hotels are bike-friendly, whether they can take their bikes on trains or trams, and quite  a lot more. I hope this information will also be useful to local cyclists like yourself.

That's all for now. Sorry this has been a longer post than usual. Remember, you don't need to contact anyone if you are planning to come on any of the above rides. Just turn up on the day.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

All paths lead to Gilmerton

Today we explored the parks and open spaces in the south of the city on our way to Gilmerton. Our route included the newly restored cycle path to Danderhall. Earlier in the week, the forecast had promised a day of heavy rain. Fortunately that rain passed through in the wee small hours, leaving us with a mild and sunny morning. A very impressive 30 riders turned up at the start. Amongst them were three who had graduated from Easy Cycle. The leader made the decicion not to split the group in two. So a group of 30 rolled away and headed through the back streets of the Grange. At this point the back marker had a minor mechanical issue with his bike. As we were passing his house, he decided to nip in and swap his bike. This being a first for the group. Nothing if not resourceful these 20 Milers riders. We went through the grounds of the Astley Ainslie Hospital and on to the Hermitage of Braid. Through there we had to keep our wits about us as there were so many runners and dog walkers to share the path with. Tracking eastwards along the glen, we emerged at the A701. From there Double Hedges Road led us in to Inch Park before crossing the busy A7 in to Craigmillar Castle Park. After a brief run around the park, we crossed on to the paths behind the Royal Infirmary. There we found several new and rebuilt paths, which we used to navigate our way to the Wisp. We meandered through the streets of Danderhall to come out on Old Dalkeith Road. After crossing that, we went through the green door set into the wall to find ourselves in the Drum Estate where we admired the woods, farmlands and stables, with its monument to the Merkat cross; before emerging right next to the Abbey House Hotel - our lunch stop.

Everyone got fed. But the impression was that they were not used to having such a large hungry group arriving en masse. On stepping outside it soon became clear that the temperature had dipped whilst we were having lunch and the sun was obscured by clouds. we headed South-east along the shared pavement of the B6392 past Dobbies Garden Centre an on to the Eskbank roundabout. We negotiated this horrible roundabout safely before entering the paths around the Newbattle Golf Club. There was a slight delay as we squeezed through the kissing gate one-by-one to emerge in the beautiful woodlands. We went through the delightfully named Waterfall Park and cut through the housing estate. From there we made our way past Dalkeith High School and on to Whitecraig. From there we took the Grove towards Musselburgh. Instead of following this all the way, we turned left and crossed the River Esk. This took us through the Fergusons and we came out at Musselburgh railway station. From there we followed the path to New Craighall. A short wait ensued before we could turn right onto the main road, which was busy with traffic heading to and from Fort Kinnaird. A quick run through the village and we were back on the quiet cycle track. This led us to the Innocent Railway for the familiar run back in to town. Thanks to Jim for putting his encyclopaedic knowledge of Edinburgh cycle paths to such good use and leading a very enjoyable ride, at a sensible pace. No idea who organised it, but whoever was in charge of the weather did us proud for November. To round off a pleasant day, a contingent of eight elected to sit outside at Victor Hugo, watching night [quickly] fall. A fine, surprisingly warm day, and maybe the last time this year we get to enjoy sitting outside in the evening; though we do keep saying that!

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

Monday, 7 November 2016

November ride this coming Saturday

We've got a ride this coming Saturday (12th November).

Jim will be leading us on a tour of parks and open spaces in the south of the city. We'll be visiting the Hermitage of Braid, Inch Park, Craigmillar Park, and the newly-restored bike path to Danderhall. We'll stop for a pub lunch in Gilmerton, then head out to Eskbank and Whitecraig before returning to town via the Innocent Path.

The total distance will be about 23 miles. There will be a few moderate hills but no other difficulties.

The meeting time and place are the same as ever: 10.30, at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk.

As always, please regard the above details as provisional. The meeting time and place are sacrosanct, but we always reserve the right to vary the route and lunch venue according to the weather, path conditions and other factors.

Lighting up

Now that the clocks have gone back, please be sure to bring lights on our rides. This month's ride is planned to return to the Meadows before dark, but you will probably need lights to see you home - and also in case we get delayed. So check that your lights are in working order, and that they have plenty of battery power.

Looking ahead

We've got two rides planned for December. Our normal monthly run will be on the 10th, and we will have our usual Christmas morning ride (which this year is a joint venture with EasyCycle) on the 25th. I'll post more information about those events nearer the time.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Sunshine on Ratho

Today's ride saw us head out to the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena; the largest indoor climbing wall in the world. The route was not the most direct we could have taken. But that made it all the more interesting. With a lovely sunny morning that was reasonably mild, we were expecting a good turnout. In the end there were only 18 of us which was surprising and slightly disappointing. But in amongst those was one of our regular riders on his recumbent trike and a visitor from across the pond. The visitor from Chicago had decided to stay on for a couple of days after a business trip and try cyling in a city he had never visited before. He hired a bike, found out about the 20 Milers and joined us. We knew we could show him some lesser known parts of Edinburgh that only the most adventurous of tourists would find without local guides. David led us away from the Meadows in one group towards Whitehouse Loan, where we had to negotiate our first set of roadworks. We made our way through the quiet back streets of Morningside; crossed the busy Comiston Road and into the lovely Braidburn Valley Park. Those that hadn't been through it before, were very impressed. Leaving the park behind, we made our way through another one - Colinton Mains Park. From there we made our way past the military houses close to Redford Barracks to join the busy Redford road. We had a brief comfort stop on Colinton Road. From there we made our way onto NCN 75 beside the Water of Leith and headed towards Balerno. Turning off the cycle path, we rode through Riccarton and entered the Heriot Watt University campus by the back entrance. After winding our way through the campus, we crossed the busy A71 Calder Road. From there we followed Hermiston House Road, turning off to join the Union Canal towpath. Just before the Bridge Inn we rode past the relatively new Ratho Marina. This was a lovely little marina that many of the group hadn't seen before. A bit further along the towpath and the leader brought us to a halt at the bottom of a steep flight of steps. The Climbing Arena and lunch was at the top of these steps. Two riders were needed to carry the trike up. One by one, all the bikes were carried to the top. From there a short ride saw us all arrive on the balcony where most of us would eat our lunches. It was like a summer's day. Very warm, sunny and no wind. There were one or two wasps about to annoy us. But everyone enjoyed lunch. We may be well into next year before we have lunch sitting outside in such perfect conditions again.

Unfortunately, the first thing to do after lunch was go back down the steps. The group was soon back on the towpath heading back the way we had come. The sun disappeared behind clouds and a cool breeze picked it. Along this stretch, several riders stopped to put on an extra layer. We left the towpath and made our way to Edinburgh Park. From there we took the cycle path beside the tram line through Sighthill and Broomhouse. We crossed the tram tracks and made our way past the imposing Jenners Depository. We had to contend with more diversions and roadworks to get past Murrayfield and make our way into Roseburn. From there, the familar route via Dalry Road, the Telfer subway and Leamington Bridge took us back to the Meadows. Thanks to David for leading an interesting ride. We had succeeded in showing Our friend from Chicago some less familiar parts of Edinburgh, well away from the usual tourist haunts. So if you're reading this, intending to visit Edinburgh and fancy seeing some less familar parts by bike; sort out hiring a bike and the 20 Milers will make you most welcome.

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

Monday, 3 October 2016

October ride this coming Saturday

Our next ride will be this coming Saturday (8th October). David will be our leader for the day. I don't know the exact route, but I can tell you that it will be about 24 miles, mainly on paths and quiet roads, but with one busy road crossing to negotiate. There will also be a flight of fairly steep steps which we will have to haul our bikes up (and, later, down).

Our lunch stop will be the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (EICA) - the largest indoor climbing wall in the world. There is lots of seating here, both on the spacious terrace and in the centre itself, with dramatic views over the 25-metre high wall. The snack bar serves a reasonable selection of food, but we have often found the service quite slow, so if you want to avoid a long wait in the queue, consider bringing your own food for a picnic lunch.

As always, we'll set out from the north end of Middle Meadow walk at 10.30. There's no need to let us know whether or not you can make it. Just turn up on the day.

A reminder

While I have your attention, could I remind you of the importance of bringing a spare inner tube on our rides. Doing so won't prevent you getting a puncture, but it will make it very much easier to get you back on the road if a puncture does strike. If you don't know what size or type of tube to bring, ask at your favourite bike shop. If you don't know how to replace a tube, don't worry: there are usually willing hands available to help.

If your wheels don't have quick-release levers, please also bring a suitable tool for removing the wheel. Again, your local bike shop will advise on this if necessary.

Looking ahead

One or two of our members have already asked me if we will be having our usual Christmas morning ride this year. Yes, we will. And because Christmas falls on the last Sunday of the month, this year's event will be a joint venture with EasyCycle. I don't have any further information at this point, but you can be assured that the ride will go ahead.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

An excursion across the Forth

For the final 20 Milers Extra ride of the year we headed across the Forth into the Kingdom of Fife. To wind up this year's series of Extra rides we were blessed with beautiful weather. Warm, sunny, lovely blue skies and barely a breeze. This was what we would have expected in July rather than mid-September. Meeting at our usual starting point when heading north or west on these rides; we had a very respectable turn out of 20 riders. As ever, it was good to see some new faces and less regular attendees in the mix. There was even a tandem. We rolled away from the Craigleith marker taking familiar paths and roads to Cramond Brig. It has become a group custom to stop on the bridge. This time was no exception. We had just climbed the hill beside the Cramond Brig pub and joined the path beside the A90 when a loud bang signalled an impressive puncture. The puncturee was near the back of the group. As a result; by the time the leader was made aware of the situation, quite a distance had been covered. The group stopped. But the townies amongst us complained about the smell of manure coming off the adjacent fields. The decision was made to push on and find a less smelly place to wait. After quite a long wait at the entrance to the Dalmeny estate, the puncturee and four helpers came into sight and we were able to carry on. We pushed on through Dalmeny village and took the cycle path through the new housing development on the edge of South Queensferry. Avoiding the centre of town; quiet back roads and paths took us to the Forth Bridge. A short stop to admire the view of the three bridges and then it was up and on to the path that took us across the road bridge. Today was the busiest the writer has ever seen the bridge. It was teeming with cyclists and pedestrians. But the wide path meant there was room for everyone, with opportunities to admire the stunning views. The Forth was mill pond calm and a beautiful blue beneath the clear skies, with superb visibility. Across the bridge we came upon roadworks which saw us on a rough, unfinished shared pavement before rejoining the very unpleasant and busy road into Inverkeithing. Leaving Inverkeithing behind us, we were soon on the Fife coastal path. This is a lovely path with splendid views. A real treat, especially on suck a glorious day. Those that had never been on this path before were completely blown away by it.
One rider got so excited that he decided to dance with his bike! There was that familiar banging and scraping sound that suggests a rider is about to fall. Those in front turned round to see what the commotion was. His front wheel was alternating between being in the dirt and on the tarmac with the whole bike dancing from side to side. Collectively the group must have been thinking, "he's going down". But to the relief of all, somehow he regained control and remained upright. The greatest sigh of relief came from the rider alongside him who must have thought he was about to be wiped out. We left the coastal path and had a short spell on the busy road through Aberdour to get to Silversands Bay. Picnics came out and food was bought from the busy cafe. Soon we were all sitting in the sun enjoying our lunch whilst looking across the sandy beach and the blue waters of the Forth. On such a lovely day with the sun beating down from a clear sky, even the Burntisland aluminium smelter across the water looked majestic.

Throughout the day, many had suggested this may well be the last day of such weather this year. As a result; in an unprecedented move, three members of the group decided to stay and enjoy the sun rather than head back. As Jim was one of the group, we were confident they would have no trouble finding their way home and bid them farewell. Our return route took us back the way we had come. Sometimes that can seem a bit boring. But with the coastal path, no one minded at all. We stopped briefly to admire the remains of an old chapel. We left the path behind and entered Inverkeithing. Back down the busy main road, through the roadworks and we were back on the bridge admiring the views from the opposite direction. A quick comfort stop at the viewing area and we were skirting South Queensferry again. The path alongside the A90, a brief stop on Cramond Brig, and then the familiar roads and paths back to Craigleith. Thanks to Julia for such a lovely route and for arranging such marvellous weather. It certainly felt like we had finished our Extra rides series on a high note. We will probably have to wait until May before these rides start again. But of course, the standard 20 Milers rides keep going throughout the year, including the short special one on Christmas Day.

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

Monday, 12 September 2016

20-Milers Extra this coming Saturday

Silvesands Beach. Photo: Sandy Gemmill

This coming Saturday (17th), we have the last of our Extra rides for this year (our normal rides will continue through the winter, of course).

So far this summer, our Extras have taken us into various parts of West Lothian and East Lothian. This time, we will be heading into Fife. After crossing the Forth Road Bridge, we will head east along the Fife Coastal Path, passing St David's Harbour and Dalgety Bay, and then into Aberdour.

Pace and distance

As you know, our Extra rides are longer than our normal outings. This one will be 35 - 40 miles, and will go at a slightly faster pace than you might be used to. If you haven't cycled much recently, or are unsure about your fitness level, please think carefully before you decide to come on this ride. But if you usually feel comfortable with our longer runs, this one should present no difficulties.

Most of the route will be on roads and well-surfaced paths, with only one or two short stretches on rough tracks. There will only be a few hills - none of them particularly demanding.

Lunch stop

For our lunch stop, we will make for the very attractive Silversands Bay. This is a particularly nice spot for a picnic. It has a pleasant park and a beautiful beach, with extensive views over the Firth of Forth. There are plenty of picnic tables. There is also a café nearby for those who prefer a hot lunch, as well as a snack bar where you can get a tea or coffee.

A point to note. The above-mentioned café has been known to refuse to top up cyclists' water bottles - something that most cafés and pubs are happy to do. As far as I know, there is nowhere else nearby where you can take on water, so be sure to bring an adequate supply with you.

Meeting time and place

The ride will leave from our alternative meeting point at the path junction in Craigleith (see here for directions). As usual with our Extra rides, we will set out at the earlier start time of 10.00.

I can't say for sure what time the ride will end, but I think it's likely that we will be back at Craigleith around 4 pm or soon after.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Falside Hill - the easy way

For those that don't like steep hills and know of it; mention of Falside Hill can lead to feelings of serious trepidation. A mile or so south-east of Wallyford in East Lothian; there are three routes to the top. The hard way is to approach from the Wallyford side just past the A1 junction. There are two approaches from Tranent. Whilst both are easier than the hard way, both are still something of a challenge. For today's ride, the leader was promising an easy ascent of the hill. Was this a wind up, or was it a real possibility? It was dry and overcast with the sun trying to peep through as the riders began to gather at the start point. Following the customary briefing, the 26 riders headed off towards the Innocent tunnel. In amongst the regulars were some riders that hadn't been out with us for quite a while and a smattering of new faces. Turning off long before the tunnel, we made our way up St Leonards Bank. This little-known dead end street is delightful. On one side are lovely houses; on the other is a to-die-for view of Arthur's Seat. A real undiscovered gem in the heart of town. This was discovered by one of our regular riders a couple of years ago and we continue to weave it into appropriate rides for the "wow" factor. An indication of how well hidden it is can be shown by the fact that Ken has lived in Edinburgh for over 50 years, yet only discovered it a couple of years ago.
Following a short stretch where we had to walk along a very rough path, we were soon in Holyrood Park and whizzing down to Duddingston village. From there we made our way past Duddingston golf course, Milton Road and joined the Innocent Railway path at Bingham. From there we took the regularly used route to emerge at Musselburgh station. Here we had a brief pause whilst the leader offered round sweeties. From there we made our way through the houses, took the bridge over the River Esk and onto the Grove to Whitecraig. At Whitecraig we joined the cycle path towards Dalkeith before turning off and climbing up to Crossgatehall to join the Pencaitland railway path. After a couple of miles of easy riding on the whin dust path, we turned left onto a less smooth minor path. Within a short distance we were confronted by a flight of steps which forced us to dismount and walk. With the steps behind us, we remounted and continued along the path passing a cemetery that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. Waiting to regroup in Elphinstone, a collie dog was very keen to round up the group of cyclists. So much so, that he had to be dragged away by his owner. There then followed what can only be described as the closest the 20 Milers ever get to single track mountain biking. This short stretch was quite tricky. But whilst there may have been one or two heart-in-the-mouth moments, everyone got through safely. The fact the leader had warned everyone of what was to come obviously helped. A little more riding on a better quality path and we emerged onto the road at the top of Falside Hill. So it was true! It had been possible to get to the top of Falside Hill without too much effort. The only compromise being the need to negotiate a couple of off-road sections; one short stretch of which had been quite tricky. Now for the reward. We sped down the steep hill. A very quick and enjoyable way to get to our lunch stop at Craig House on the edge of Whitecraig.

Suitably replenished after a good lunch, we rolled away from Craig House and made our way to the pleasant village of Inveresk. By St Michael's kirk we negotiated a gate and made our way down to the path beside the River Esk which took us back to Tesco in Musselburgh. We crossed the busy Mall Avenue and made our way towards Fisherrow Harbour via Eskside West; remembering to duck as we rode under the bridge which carries the aptly named Bridge Street. After a brief pause at Fisherrow, one final detour took us up Newhailes Avenue and Newhailes Crescent to emerge on the busy Edinburgh Road through a gate set into the wall. A few hundred yards on this road and we turned left through another hole in the wall to join the Brunstane path. This lovely path which hugs the Brunstane Burn brought us out at Brunstane station. From there we joined the familiar NCN 1 for our run back into town. It was on this path at Jewel Park that we had our only puncture of the day. Thanks to Alan Orr for ensuring the unfortunate rider was back under way with minimal delay. Positive feedback suggested that everyone enjoyed the day's ride. Good weather, some unfamiliar territory, a short stretch of challenging off-road riding, good company - what more could anyone want from a 20 Milers outing? Ah, of course; the chance to ascend a very tough hill with minimal climbing.

Leader: Glenn
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn and Michael
Map trace: David

Monday, 5 September 2016

Two rides planned for September

We've got an interesting ride planned for next Saturday - see below for full details. We've also got one of our Extra rides scheduled for the following weekend; there are brief details of that at the end of this post.

Monthly ride: 10th September

For our September run, Glenn will be leading us into East Lothian, on a route that takes in parts of the River Esk Walkway, the Peniciuk Railway Path and the Pencaitland Path. The high point of the morning will be the summit of Falside Hill (144 metres above sea level). Now, if you've ever cycled up Falside, you'll know that it is a long steep slog to the summit from Tranent or Prestonpans, and even more of a grind from Whitecraig. But don't worry. Glenn has come up with an interesting route that will get us close to the top with only a very gentle ascent. I recently cycled the route myself, and can assure you that it works as advertised.

But be warned. While much of the route will be on tarmac, there will also be some sections that are very much off-road. These include a mile or two on rough paths that might also be muddy, and a particularly narrow stretch where some riders might prefer to dismount and walk. There will also be a short flight of steps to negotiate.

The total length of the ride will be about 26 miles.

Lunch stop

For lunch, we'll head to one  of our regular stops: the Premier Inn near Whitecraig. This offers basic pub food at reasonable prices. It's by no means gourmet fare, but it should provide us with the calories we need. As always, you have the option of bringing your own food for a picnic lunch.

Because most of the mileage for the ride will be in the morning, with a relatively short afternoon leg, the lunch stop might be on the late side. So adjust your appetite accordingly.


The ride will start from our usual meeting place at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. As the route will be a little longer than usual, we'll aim to set out sharp at 10.30. We'll probably arrive back at the Meadows some time between 3.30 and 4.00 pm (but don't hold me to that).

Remember, all our rides are free and open to all. You don't need to book in advance - just turn up on the day.

20-Milers Extra: 17th September

For our second ride this month, Julia (Richardson) will be taking us on a rare excursion into Fife. This will be one of our longer and faster runs. I'll post more details nearer the time, but for now, note the date, and also that we will be starting at 10 am (half an hour earlier than usual), from our alternative meeting point in Craigleith.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

20-Milers Extra to Merryhatton

Whilst today's ride did go ahead; unfortunately neither of the group's usual scribes were available to bring you a report. Mike was leading guided walks around Edinburgh as part of the Festival, and Glenn was recovering from a crash at the Meadowbank velodrome.

By way of compensation, here are a few photos instead. Normal service should be resumed by the time of our next ride.

Leader: Logan
Photos: Michael
Map trace: Jim

Sunday, 14 August 2016

20-Milers Extra this coming Saturday

We've got another of our Extra rides this coming Saturday. Logan will be leading us on what promises to be a very pleasant run into East Lothian, with a lunch stop at Merryhatton, near East Fortune.

Please keep in mind that these Extra rides are longer and faster than our usual "second Saturday" runs. We start a little earlier, finish a little later, and maintain a slightly higher average speed - although not so fast that you can't keep up a conversation. Most of our riders find the pace comfortable, but, if you haven't cycled for a while or are unsure of your abilities, you may prefer to give this ride a miss.

Our route on Saturday will be either 44 or 50 miles, depending on the start point (see below). There will be some short stretches that might be busy with traffic, but there should be no other difficulties. Most of the route will be on quiet roads or well-surfaced paths, and there won't be any nasty hills.

Lunch venue

Our lunch stop will the Merryhatton Garden Centre, where there is an above-average café serving a good range of light lunches (soup, sandwiches, baked potatoes, etc.) as well as more substantial meals. As always, you have the option of bringing food for a picnic lunch if you prefer.

Meeting time and place

For this ride, there will be a choice of meeting place. You can turn up either:

(i) At our usual spot at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk, but at the earlier departure time of 09.45; or

(ii) At Fisherrow Harbour in Musselburgh. We will be leaving from there at 10.30.

Choose whichever meeting point is more convenient for you. Either way, you don't need to let anyone know in advance. As with all our rides, you can just turn up on the day.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Festival escape to Dalkeith

Our regular meeting point at the top of Middle Meadow Walk was heaving with people courtesy of the Edinburgh Festival. Today's ride to Dalkeith was something of an antidote to the hustle  and bustle of the city in August. A bright, sunny and pleasantly warm morning greeted the 24 riders that turned up at the start. One unicycle and one recumbent made for a more eclectic mix of cycles than usual. It was nice to see some new comers in amongst the regulars. Numbers meant we could manage with one group. It's always nice to have a big turnout; but it becomes more challenging when a second group leader and back marker need to be pressed into action. Following the customary leader's briefing we headed off. A one way system in operation around George Square forced us to take an alternative route. For once we rode up, rather than down Middle Meadow Walk. Going round the Forrest Road and Bristow Place triangle soon had us back on the right road. From Potterow we turned into West Nicolson Street and made our way into Holyrood Park. Due to the volume of traffic, it took a couple of minutes to get all of the  group safely across Queen's Drive and onto the cycle path at the other side. Unsurprisingly, there were quite a few pedestrians about on this shared path. But we made good progress and were soon climbing the steepest hill of the ride up towards Dunsapie Loch. The hill wasn't too steep, and we turned off before too long to head onto the quiet residential back streets of Willowbrae. We crossed the busy Willowbrae Road quite easily, before heading through Northfield and into the delightful Figgate Park. A quick whizz through the park and we found ourselves rattling down the bumpy cobbles of Brighton Place. We were soon heading along the Portobello prom. Despite the sunshine and games of beach volleyball, it would take some stretch of the imagination to think we had magically arrived in Rio! The coast road took us to Fisherrow Harbour where we had a brief comfort stop. From there we headed out past Tesco and onto the Grove and onwards to Whitecraig. As it is no longer possible to ride through Dalkeith Country Park free of charge; we opted to take the busy A6094 into Dalkeith. That really is not a pleasant road to cycle along. The way some drivers drive along it making it quite a dangerous option. Fortunately, we made it safely into Dalkeith in time for lunch. Part of the group went to the pub with the remainder heading to King's Park. For a cycling group renowned for riding on it's stomach; there was nearly a major incident when the leader inadvertently ate someone else's lunch in the pub! With the situation rectified and everyone fed, we hit the road again.

Through a new housing estate and an obstructive gate and we were in the grounds of Newbattle Abbey. Leaving the estate behind, we made our way to Dalkeith High School via quiet residential streets and cycle paths. At the school we joined NCN 1 for a pleasant run to Whitecraig. Much nicer than the busy A6094 we had encountered earlier. Remaining on NCN 1 we made our way down the Grove back towards Musselburgh. Just before the bridge that carries the East Coast mainline, we turned off and crossed the bridge over the River Esk. This path took us past the golf course, under another railway bridge and through a housing estate, bringing us out at Musselburgh station. A run down the quiet path to Newcraighall was followed by a short spell on the busy road through the village. We soon left that behind and most of the remainder of our ride back to the Meadows was on the delightful Innocent Railway. Our respite from the busyness of the  Festival was clearly over when we arrived back at the Meadows. Thanks to Michael for leading a pleasant ride that allowed us to escape from the Festival for a few hours.

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

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

August ride this coming Saturday

We've got our August ride coming up this Saturday (13th). Michael (Law) will be leading us out to Musselburgh and then on to Dalkeith. Most of the route will be on good paths and quiet roads, although there will be a couple of stretches that might be busy with traffic. There will be one steep climb near the start, with the rest of the route being reasonably flat. The total distance will be about 24 miles.

Our lunch break will be in Dalkeith town centre. Some of us will opt for a picnic in the King's Park; there is a good supermarket nearby where you can pick up a sandwich if you wish. Those who prefer a hot lunch will head for the Blacksmith's Forge pub, which does a good range of snacks at very reasonable prices.

You don't need me to tell you that the ride will start from the north end of Middle Meadow Walk at 10.30. There is no need to reply to this post: just turn up if you can make it.

Looking ahead, Logan will be leading a longer run into East Lothian on the following Saturday. I'll post more details of that ride here next week.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

An evening ride to the foothills

Tonight's evening ride started with a brisk spin along the canal towpath and the Water of Leith. We were about a dozen in the group, including one newcomer, as well as a visiting cyclist from Spain – both very welcome.

We left the path at Currie Kirk. At this point, and with memories of our recent Harlaw picnic in mind, I suggested that we tackle the long steep climb up the Kirkgate, but for some reason the group was unenthusiastic. So instead, we turned east through the hamlet of Blinkbonny (nice views over the Forth) and down the rough path to the Woodhall Riding School, then down Woodhall Road to Colinton.

For the next leg, we sauntered along the Braid Burn path, through Braidburn Valley Park and across Comiston Road. There was still a good half hour's daylight left at this point, so we decided to do an extra leg through the Hermitage of Braid. After emerging at Blackford Glen Road, we did a circuit of the King's Buildings. Then, as we headed west along Blackford Avenue, we were treated to a golden sky lit up by the setting sun. We arrived back at the Meadows, having pedalled 16 miles over two and half hours, with a fine evening all the way. A few of the group then went off to find liquid sustenance, while others made their weary way home.

Leader and report: Mike
Photo: Michael
Map: Jim

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Pedal for Scotland 2016 – Not what it seems

If you are planning to take part in Pedal for Scotland on 11th September, be warned. This year's event is not the usual Glasgow to Edinburgh ride, but rather Glasgow to Ingliston. The ride ends at the Royal Highland Centre, which is some nine miles short of the city centre. What's more, the early-morning buses that take you to Glasgow for the start of the ride will also leave from Ingliston. This means that Edinburgh-based cyclists will face a long and possibly dangerous ride to the start point just to get on the bus.

Getting to the bus departure point

The quickest way to cycle to Ingliston from the city centre will be along the busy Glasgow Road (A8). That's about nine miles each way, part of which involves cycling in the carriageway, taking your chances with the fast-moving traffic. It's possible to find other – less dangerous – routes, but none of these will be sign-posted, and all will add several miles to the trip.

For the day of the ride, Edinburgh Trams will relax its normal limit of two bikes per tram on services between Haymarket and Ingliston Park & Ride. Two trams per hour will carry more bikes (it's not clear how many more). But here's the snag: you will have to book your bike on the tram in advance. At present, there is nothing on either the Pedal for Scotland or the trams' website to tell you how to do that. Presumably your reservation will apply to a particular timed service. That's not so bad in the morning when you are heading for the bus. But it will mean added pressure during the ride itself to make sure you arrive back in time for your booking.

Friends and supporters

It's not just cyclists who will be inconvenienced by the change of venue. In the past, the ride has attracted friends and supporters who gather at the finish to cheer the riders on. These people will now also have to make the journey to Ingliston.

Now, the purpose of this post is not to discourage you from doing the ride. Pedal for Scotland is a great day out, and it's for a worthwhile cause. But do think carefully about the practical implications. Given the hassle involved, several of our members have decided to give the ride a miss this year, and at least one who has already booked has asked for her money back. Nobody will blame you for doing the same.

Evening ride this coming Thursday

We have an evening ride planned for this coming Thursday (28th). The route will be about 15 miles, which we'll take at our usual sociable pace.

We'll meet at our usual departure point at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. The ride will start at 7 pm, and we'll aim to finish around 9.30 pm.

It should still be reasonably light by end of the ride, but please be sure to bring lights anyway, as you will need these to see you home - and also in case we get delayed.

We don't stop for a refreshment break on these evening runs, but if anyone wants to go for a drink afterwards, that will not be discouraged.

Remember, you don't need to book in advance for our rides. Just turn up on the day.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Westward ... and Windward

For today's Extra ride, Peter (Bennett) led us out to one of our more popular destinations: Almondell Country Park. This lovely wooded area is an excellent place for cycling, with many enticing paths criss-crossing the steep river valley. There is a friendly visitor centre which serves tea and coffee (albeit of the vending-machine variety), and most of the area is free of cars.

With about 20 riders in the party, we headed out along the familiar NCN 1 route from Craigleith to Cramond Brig, then on to the Carlowrie Road and the Kirkliston railway path. After a short comfort stop at the Kirkliston Leisure Centre, we continued westward on the back road to Niddry Castle and the Union Canal.

The only problem up to now was the fierce headwind, which made cycling somewhat harder than it should have been. But things got easier after we joined the canal towpath. As well as being more sheltered, we were now heading south, so the wind was from the side. What's more, we were pleasantly surprised to see that the towpath had been resurfaced since last year's visit, with firm tarmac replacing the rough gravel – at least for a couple of miles.

We left the canal shortly after Broxburn and rode into the park a mile or so later. The last time we were here, our lunch stop co-incided with a heavy shower and we had to take refuge in the visitor centre. That problem didn't arise today, as, apart from the wind, the weather stayed fine. We headed instead for the walled garden, where we spread out among the benches and picnic tables for our al fresco lunch.

For the return ride to town, we set out along NCN 75. After passing Kirknewton, we enjoyed a couple of superb miles on Long Dalmahoy Road. With the wind now behind us, and a slight downhill gradient on a near traffic-free road, we glided along almost effortlessly. The final leg took us through the Heriot-Watt campus and Edinburgh Park, then by South Gyle and the Corstorphine railway path to Roseburn Park. At that point, some of the group took the Roseburn Path back to the starting point, while others went their separate ways. At just under 30 miles, it was another excellent day out.

Leader: Peter
Report and photos: Mike
Map: Sorry, no trace this time, but the route was very similar to last year's, which you can see here (with thanks to Julia).

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

20-Milers Extra this coming Saturday

We've got our third Extra ride of the year scheduled for this coming Saturday. Peter (Bennett) has planned what promises to be a pleasant route through the West Lothian countryside, taking in the Kirkliston railway path, a quiet back road by Niddry Castle, and a stretch of the Union Canal through Broxburn. The return leg will take us through Kirknewton and the Heriot-Watt campus.

Length and pace

Please keep in mind that our Extra rides are a bit more challenging than our normal runs. This one will be about 32 miles; it will start earlier than usual, and will go at a slightly faster pace. If you haven't cycled for a while, or if you are doubtful about your fitness level, please consider joining one of our standard rides instead.

Today's route will be on a mix of roads and reasonably good paths, including about four miles of canal towpath. There will be a few moderate
hills, but no killers.

Lunch arrangements

For our lunch break, we will be stopping in Almondell Country Park. The visitors centre there sells vending-machine drinks and a limited range of confectionery, but there is no other food of any kind available. For that reason, please be sure to bring your own food for a picnic.

The ride and picnic will go ahead even if the weather is dubious (light drizzle or an occasional shower); if necessary we can shelter in the visitor centre. But, if the day is really atrocious, we might opt for a shorter route with the possibility of a cafe stop at lunch time. We'll make that decision on the spot.

We will have a "comfort break" about half way through the morning. There are also toilets at the visitor centre.

Meeting time and place

For this ride, we will meet half an hour earlier than usual, that is, at 10.00, at the Craigleith path junction (see here if you need directions to the start point).

The ride will officially end in the Roseburn area, probably around 3 - 4 pm.

Points to note

Just to recap three important points:

- The ride starts at 10.00, not 10.30.

- We will start from Craigleith, not the Meadows.

- Bring food for a picnic lunch.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Reservoir Slogs

This was the fourth year running that we had a ride up to the Harlaw Reservoir. And for the fourth year running, the weather was good to us. Actually, it was not that good. The day was overcast and decidedly muggy. But it did stay dry, which is what you want for a picnic.

Around 24 of us set off from the Meadows. Given that we were heading for the Pentland Hills, there was predictably a lot of climbing. The first ascent of the day took us up to the Braids and Comiston Road. Then came a couple of pleasant miles through Braidburn Valley Park and Colinton Mains, then into Colinton Village for a comfort break.

We then proceeded up Woodhall Road, under the City Bypass, and along a rough track to Blinkbonny. Then came the real work of the day: the long grind up the Currie Kirkgate. Inevitably the group got somewhat spread out on this section, with even some of our fitter members admitting to it being hard going. But we all made it to the top, without any heart attacks or cases of exhaustion (as far as I was made aware).

We then had a lovely mile or so along the high Harlaw Road, with excellent views in all directions. We soon arrived at the reservoir, where we spread ourselves out among the various benches and picnic tables.

We lingered at this delightful lunch spot for nearly an hour. After that, as it was still quite early, we decided to do an extra circuit of the reservoir. We then stopped for an additional toilet break at the visitor centre before heading home.

Now it was pay-back time. In return for the hard slogs of the morning, we could now enjoy a long downhill stretch all the way to Balerno. From there, we picked up the Water of Leith path for a fast run into town. At the Lanark Road footbridge, some members of the group headed homeward on the canal towpath. The rest of the party opted for a tea stop at the Water of Leith Visitor Centre, after which we went our separate ways.

Leader, report and photos: Mike
Map: Jim

Monday, 4 July 2016

July ride this coming Saturday

For this Saturday's ride (9th July), we'll be heading to one of our more popular destinations, the delightful Harlaw Reservoir, at the edge of the Pentland Hills.

The route is just about 20 miles, mainly on quiet roads and well-surfaced paths, but with one short stretch of rough track where we might have to dismount. Be warned that there will be a fair amount of climbing during the morning (it's not for nothing that they are called the Pentland Hills). But we'll be rewarded with some lovely freewheeling in the afternoon.

Lunch arrangements

There is no pub, cafe or snack bar of any kind at the reservoir, so be sure to bring food for a picnic lunch.

Although there is a toilet there, it often has a queue, so we'll pause for an additional "comfort break" during the morning; this will be about 40 minutes before lunch.

Depending on progress and other factors, we might stop for a coffee on the way back to town.


As always, we'll gather at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk, in time to leave at 10.30.

If the weather is doubtful (slight drizzle or occasional showers), the ride will go ahead regardless. But if the day is really foul, we might opt for a shorter run with a cafe stop for lunch. We'll make that decision on the spot.

Looking ahead, we've got an Extra ride the following Saturday (16th), and an evening run later in the month (28th). I'll post more information about those two events nearer the time.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Two hills lead to cake

For the second 20 Milers Extra ride of the year we headed into East Lothian to tackle two substantial climbs. A lunchtime conversation led to an impromptu stop for tea and cake on the return leg. This ride started at Fisherrow Harbour in Musselburgh. As the majority of the riders were making their way in from Edinburgh; a short period of heavy rain lashed the Honest Toun. A turnout of 15 riders despite the weather was reasonable. These longer and slightly tougher rides never get the turnouts of the usual 20 Milers ones. Such a number meant we only needed one group which always makes the logistics less complicated. Although we had no new riders, it was nice to see some less frequent attendees in amongst the hardened regulars. We headed off in light drizzle on wet roads to several grumbles of "I wish I hadn't bothered to clean my bike!" Along the promenade, under the bridge that carries the main road through Musselburgh (remembering to duck) and we were soon crossing the other main road near Tesco. We were soon following the River Esk up the Grove in the direction of Whitecraig. We turned onto a muddy path just before the bridge [that carries the main east coast railway line] and made our way to the village of Inveresk. From there we followed the cycle track to the edge of Wallyford by the site of the Battle of Pinkie. There followed a short spell on a busy road that crosses the A1 before turning onto the minor road that would lead us to our first serious climb of the day - Falside Hill. A flat run in made some wonder what the fuss was about. Then the road began to climb, steepening as it weaved between hedges and banks; thus making it difficult to see what was coming next. Inevitably, this split the group with riders arriving at the summit in dribs and drabs. Several riders informed the leader that one rider had suffered a puncture on the climb. He wasn't alone. But as time passed, it appeared there may be a problem. One of the regulars volunteered to go back down and offer his help. The rest of the group waited in a layby eating cake and sweets. Eventually the three missing riders arrived and were placated with cake. It appeared that the puncture had been caused by a sea shell. How a sea shell ended up on that road, over a mile from the sea remains a mystery.
A speedy run down the other side followed and we were soon on the edge of Tranent. From there, a further downhill stretch of cycle path soon had us at Meadowmill Sports Centre. As we headed towards the main road, a fox wandered nonchantly across in front of us. After a short spell on the main road, we turned off and sped down another marvellous hill to Port Seton. We were making good progress along the coast road when a shout of "puncture" brought the group to a halt. It was the same unfortunate rider as before. This time a sliver of glass being the culprit. Once fixed, we were on our way again. It was looking as if it was going to be quite a late lunch today. At least it was dry and the sun was making a welcome apperance. We were soon heading down the lovely Longniddry railway path. It was a bit muddy in places, but didn't slow us as we headed towards Haddington and lunch. Lunch was taken sitting outside a pub in the market square. During lunch the conversation turned to afternoon tea and cakes. Talk about a cycle group that rides on it's stomach! This was when the impromptu afternoon tea stop plan was hatched.

Within a few minutes of setting off, all thoughts of afternoon tea were put to the back of our minds. So soon after lunch we hit the second major climb of the day - the Garleton Hills. Just like Falside had done in the morning, this climb soon had the group very strung out. This was a busier, but wider road and it was easier to see what lie ahead apart from a few devious false summits. The run down the other side was glorious with twists and turns to make it more fun. We regrouped, and after a rest and some sweeties we made our way past the Hopetoun Monument. Another little hill followed, before we left the main road behind. For the next few miles we had the pleasure of some typical quiet East Lothian lanes. We carried on to a level crossing. No trains to hold us up. So we crossed the railway and busy A198 dual carriageway to find ourselves on the cycle path heading to Seton Collegiate Church. We headed down to the coast at Port Seton via the same road we had taken in the morning. This time we headed west rather than east. We passed the lovely Port Seton Harbour and arrived at Cockenzie House. This was our impromptu afternoon tea stop. The cakes there are amazing. It is very difficult to cycle past without going in. It has also been a very popular lunch stop on rides in the area. It was now very warm and sunny, making it difficult to get up and ride again. But we managed it. We had a short stretch on the coast road, turned off onto the John Muir Way and headed back into Musselburgh via the racecourse. Along Goose Green, over the bridge, down the side of the Esk, along the promenade and we were back at Fisherrow Harbour. The leader declared the ride over and everyone began to make their way home.

The weather at the start made it look likely that a wet day may have been on the cards. Fortunately that was not the case at all. Blue skies and sunshine had even led to suncream been applied before the day was over. Like the weather, the ride had been varied and interesting. The two hills having thrown in a bit of a challenge. The debate of which hill is the toughest doesn't look set to be settled anytime soon.

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

Friday, 24 June 2016

A sunny solstice saunter

For the fourth year running, we were granted a beautiful sunny evening for our summer solstice ride. A dozen of us set out from the Meadows yesterday evening at 7 pm, with Jim as our guide. We were treated to an eclectic tour of the city, taking in the Astley Ainsley, Craiglockhart Park, the Union Canal, the Leamington Basin and the EICC. After crossing Lothian Road, we enjoyed a fast run down the Grassmarket and Cowgate to Holyrood, where we stopped to peer through the gates of the palace (nobody appeared to be at home).

Next, we headed up Calton Road, then climbed a steep footpath to Regent Road for two more sightseeing stops: the Burns Monument (originally this was just a statue of the poet; the monument was built later with money left over) and the Stones of Scotland (created in 2002 to mark the rebirth of the Scottish parliament).

Then came the high point of the evening (literally and figuratively): the climb to the summit of Calton Hill. Here we enjoyed a superb view over the city to the Firth of Forth, the Lomond Hills and beyond. Although it was now after 9 pm, the temperature was still around 20C, with the sun shining brightly.

At this point, the group split into two. The main body headed to Restalrig, Leith Links and Stockbridge. Meanwhile, the early-to-bedders descended to Waterloo Place and North Bridge, and so back to the Meadows.

Leader and map: Jim
Report and photos: Mike

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Two rides coming up this week

Our 2015 summer solstice evening ride on Calton Hill
We've got a couple of rides planned for the next few days. Details below.

Thursday 23rd June: Evening ride

This will be a sociable ride, taken at our usual easy pace, with a couple of sightseeing stops along the way. We are very close to the summer solstice, so the ride should be mostly in daylight (sunset is at 22.04). We'll plan to end the ride soon after 22.00, but there will be the option of an earlier finish for those who prefer a shorter run. In any case, be sure to bring lights.

We'll meet at our usual departure point at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk, ready to set out at 19.00. Note that there will be no refreshment stop en route.

Saturday 25th June: 20-Milers Extra

For our second Extra this summer, Glenn will be leading us on what looks like a very attractive route into East Lothian. Our lunch stop will be in Haddington, where we have the option of a riverside picnic (bring your own food or aim to pick up a sandwich in the town) or a pub lunch.

Remember, our Extra rides are longer and faster than our usual runs. This one will be 38 - 40 miles, with two particularly steep climbs. It should be do-able by anyone who finds our normal rides well within their capabilities. But if you haven't cycled for a while, or have doubts about your fitness, please think carefully before joining this ride.

The ride will start and end in Musselburgh. We'll meet at Fisherrow Harbour (NT 334730), ready to set out at 10.30 sharp. Fisherrow is about six miles from central Edinburgh, so you will need to factor in that extra mileage when deciding whether to do this run.

As with all our rides, you don't need book in advance or let anyone know whether you are coming. Just turn up on the day.

More rides

Our next "second Saturday" ride will be on 9th July. This is likely to be a picnic in the Pentland Hills, but I'll confirm that nearer the time. We've also pencilled in a couple more Extras for later in the summer; more details in due course.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

South Queensferry by a somewhat devious route

For the June 20 Milers ride our destination was South Queensferry. We probably find ourselves there several times a year; whether that is our final destination, or we're simply passing through on our way across the bridge. To keep it interesting, the leader took us there by a decidely less familiar route that took us past the airport. A turnout of 20 riders was slightly disappointing for this time of year. This probably had something to do with the weather. After a glorious week of weather, the return of cool and overcast conditions, with showers forecast probably put a few off. Fortunately, the showers stayed away. But it was hardly a typical June day. We managed to avoid getting in the way of a running race as we left the Meadows and made our way to Bruntsfield Links. Instead of taking the familiar route down to the canal, we headed along Bruntsfield Place before turning right into Merchiston Crescent. From the quiet back roads of Merchiston, we crossed the canal and made our way to Slateford Road. We followed this busy road past the Water of Leith visitor centre and onto Lanark Road, before turning off and picking up the cycle track beside the canal. Leaving the canal behind, quiet roads led us to the busy A8. The cycle path beside the A8 took us past the airport entrance and on towards the footbridge at Ratho Station. Steps on the bridge meant we had to dismount to get across. Once across, we were back on the cycle path and headed towards the Newbridge roundabout. Here we took the lovely cycle path through the trees leaving the busy roads behind. It was on this stretch that one of the group skidded on gravel and fell. Fortunately, the result was no worse than a grazed knee and we were able to continue. Leaving the path, we rode a very short distance on a quiet road before joining another cycle path near the village of Dalmeny. This took us to the Co-op in South Queensferry. From there, a quick whizz down the hill and we were heading into the centre of town for our lunch stop. Most of the group either had or bought sandwiches to eat on the steps overlooking the bridges. The cool wind blowing off the Forth made it less than ideal picnic weather. A canny few rode slightly further and had lunch in the cafe at Port Edgar sailing club, out of the wind.

The less direct outward route meant that the run back would be considerably shorter and quicker. As it was now getting quite cool, no one seemed to mind. We rode through the town, past Hawes Pier and onto the cycle path that took us through the Dalmeny Estate. Often, we'll pause on our way through the estate to enjoy the scenery. The cool wind meant we didn't on this occasion. We left the estate and made our way onto the bridge over the River Almond at Cramond Brig. Being somewhat sheltered, we paused as sweeties were passed round. From there, the familiar run through Barnton and on to the cycle path led us back to Craigleith. Once there, the leader declared the ride officially over. Some riders headed home, whilst others went and enjoyed a post-ride coffee - not surprisingly, inside! Thanks to David for leading us on an interesting and less well-known route to a familiar destination.

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

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Several rides planned for the coming month

We've got several bike rides planned for June. I hope you'll be able to make it to at least one of them.

11th June: Standard monthly ride

Our main ride this month will be to South Queensferry, but by a somewhat devious route. It will be a slightly longer ride than usual (about 24 miles in all), but with no particular difficulties. The route will include a mixture of well-surfaced paths, quiet roads, and some short stretches on busier roads. But there won't be any very steep hills - just a few gentle ones.

There is no single eating place in South Queensferry that will hold us all, so we'll split up for lunch between the various cafés there. Be warned that service at some of the cafés can be slow. If you want to avoid a long wait, consider bringing a picnic lunch. There is a very good picnic spot overlooking the harbour.

As always, we'll leave from the north end of Middle Meadow Walk at 10.30.

11th June: St Andrews ride

The above ride coincides with the annual St Andrews run, in aid of Lepra. If our own ride is not challenging enough for you, you might like to take part in the St Andrews ride instead. It's 68 miles, with at least three killer hills, but you can cycle at your own pace, and there is a friendly atmosphere along the route. There are full details here. A few of our regular riders usually do this ride, so if you fancy some company, look out for them at the start point.

23rd June: Evening ride

Once again, we will be having an evening ride this year to mark the summer solstice (approximately). We'll leave from our usual spot on Middle Meadow Walk at 19.00, with the ride lasting 2½ to 3 hours. I'll post more details nearer the time.

25th June: Extra to Haddington

Our second Extra this summer will take us into East Lothian, with a lunch stop in Haddington. These Extra rides are a bit longer and a bit faster than our usual runs, but with the same sociable atmosphere. I don't have any details yet of the route, so for now just note the date.

More evening rides

If you like the idea of a bike ride during our long summer evenings, you might like to know that one of our members, Jim Cameron, has planned a programme of short rides for most (not all) Thursday evening until the end of August. Like our "official" 20-Milers events, these runs are free and open to all. They usually start at 19.00 from the King George V Park in Canonmills. Further information here.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Misty Thursday

When we decided to have an evening ride this week, I envisaged one of those lovely clear early-summer evenings we've been having lately. We would ride up to the high ground towards the Pentland Hills, and gaze at the wonderful view over the city, with the sun lighting up the sky right across the Forth valley.

What we got was thick cloud, steady drizzle and a decidedly chilly breeze. Silly me.

Never mind. Bad weather never stopped the 20-Milers, and I was pleased to see a horde of three cyclists descending on our meeting point. We made our way down the Royal Mile, into Holyrood Park, along Croft-an-Righ, then in a loop up to St. Margaret's Loch and along Queen's Drive.

As we passed Our Dynamic Earth, we spotted a warm, welcoming pub. Now you might think that would be the end of the ride. Well, it was.

Leader, report and photo: Mike
Map: Jim

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Sunny Dunny lives up to its name

For the third annual 20 Milers weekend away, we headed east to Dunbar; the town that claims to be one of the sunniest in Scotland. There having been a shortage of sunshine so far this year, and a firmly held belief that the weather god's owed us big time after our wind-battered weekend to Peebles last year; many of us had been following the weather forecast with trepidation in the preceding days. Even in our wildest dreams, we could not have expected the weather to be as kind as it ended up being. That, linked with beautiful scenery, quiet East Lothian roads and good company made for a very successful weekend.

A very impressive turnout of eighteen riders assembled at our usual starting point. Not that long ago, such a turnout would have been commendable on a standard 20 Milers ride. A number of the riders were only intending to do the first day, returning to Edinburgh that evening by train, car or strategically concealed van. The leader gave a briefing and handed out encapsulated route cards - just in case. The long line of riders left the Meadows and snaked their way towards the Innocent Railway. From there we took the familiar route to Musselburgh station for our first sweetie stop of the day. Onwards to Whitecraig and on to the cycle path for Dalkeith. We left the path and made our way to Crossgatehall where we joined the Pencaitland Railway path. Riding on a surface of whin dust, we meandered through the delightful East Lothian countryside for 6.5 miles. It is easy to forget that this used to be coal mining country. The sun was shining, it was pleasantly warm and there was blue sky in all directions. This was the life. We left the railway path behind. A deserted road took us to the delightful village of village of West Saltoun which is dominated by an impressive white church. Through East Saltoun we took the lovely quiet road to Gifford for a slightly late lunch stop.

Some of the group decided to picnic outside the church (another white one), whilst the remainder went for lunch in one of Gifford's two pubs. Whilst waiting for those in the pub to finish, some of the picnickers went for a coffee in a cycle-friendly cafe that had opened for business that very morning. Definitely one to check out if you're ever in the area. We regrouped and prepared for the off. A wedding party tried to hurry us up as they didn't want us in the background of their wedding photos. We couldn't understand why that would be a problem. Logan placated the ushers with Jelly Babies before we headed off. We never did get to see the bride. Why oh why does there so often have to be a steep climb staright after lunch? Instead of a nice flat bit of road to get back into the rhythm, we climbed steeply leaving Gifford behind. We turned off and headed towards Stenton on an almost deserted undulating road. Here we had to stop for what looked like being the day's first puncture. Fortunately, the tyre was pumped up, we were back on our way and it lasted all the way to Dunbar. We then took a detour to visit the beautiful village of Garvald. It was well worth the detour as very few of the group had ever been there. We stopped beside the play park. Someone spotted a flying fox ride. Yes, you've guessed it, several members of the group just had to have a go. 
We left the village and took another steep climb to get back on the road to Stenton. This was an undulating road and we did meet more traffic. Don't ever believe anyone that tells you East Lothian is flat! A quick pause to check the map in Stenton and off we went. On the route cards it said "Pitcox (by phonebox) turn right onto minor road". Phoneboxes may be hardly used these days, but as landmarks to help route-finding they are priceless. This road ran gently downhill until there, before us was the busy dual carriageway that is the A1 trunk road. We had to cross that to get to Dunbar. Few of the group had read that far down their route card. The leader smiled knowingly and turned left through a gate signed "private farm access". This was also a recognised cycle / walking route. Another sweetie stop before making out way under a bridge that carried the A1. Who would have thought crossing such a fast, busy road could be so easy? We could clearly see Dunbar and the sea. We were nearly there. We headed in what looked like the right direction to be confronted with a no through road. Turning round, a couple of locals pointed us in the right direction through a new housing estate. We were soon heading down a very quiet Dunbar High Street. It made sense when someone pointed out it was Scottish cup final day. We were looking for a pub for a post-ride beer. We retraced our route down the High Street and ended up in the hotel where a few of the group were staying. The fact it was a stones throw from the railway station was a bonus. Following a refreshing drink (or two) the riders began to head off and find their accommodation, lift or trains. Fifteen of us sat down to dinner in a restaurant close to the harbour and tucked into hearty food. It was a lovely end to a great day. Those that were staying headed back to their accommodation and the others headed for the station or the strategically concealed van.

For day 2, ten of us gathered in the car park of the hotel where three of the group had been staying at 10 o’clock. It was already pleasantly warm as the sun shone down from a clear blue sky. Everyone was glad they had applied sun cream. For many, this was the first application of the year. Further applications would be necessary as the day wore on. Sunny Dunny was definitely living up to its reputation. Off we went to our first stop; a petrol station on the edge of town. One of the riders had a rucksack of clothes that he was sending back to Edinburgh, and this was the drop off point. The writer looked on enviously as he realised he had two panniers to ride home with and knew there were quite a few hills to climb. We left the petrol station and headed west through Belhaven and West Barns.

We were glad of the cycle / foot path beside the busy A199, just north of the even busier A1 dual carriageway. This took us to the A198 towards North Berwick. That would have been the quickest way. But would have been quite busy and nothing like as lovely as the meandering route we were to take. Perhaps the leader was still half asleep; but he missed the left turn. We continued to a lay-by and stopped. A quick check of the map revealed the first wrong-slot of the weekend. Some of the group saw another left turn not far up the road and suggested we went and turned there. But the leader was adamant that we had to retrace our route back to the original turn to avoid deviating from the planned route, and thereby missing one of the gems of the ride. We made our way past the farm shop at Knowes and joined the John Muir Way. This led us to that gem – a less than shallow ford. Fortunately, there was an alternative route across the footbridge. Nevertheless, three brave souls rode through the ford. They reported it as being a bit slippery. But they all got through with nothing worse than wet socks. There then followed a few miles of beautiful East Lothian back roads, some of which were quite steep. We then found ourselves whizzing down into town past North Berwick Law. Despite the rather indirect route we had taken, it was only 12 o’clock.
Following hearty breakfasts, no one felt ready for lunch. So we sat outside a pub and partook in coffee and ice creams instead. North Berwick was heaving with visitors on such a glorious day. We picked up some food for a picnic and headed out of town on the busy A198. We turned off at Dirleton and made our way to the huge village green there. We enjoyed a leisurely picnic as the sun continued to shine down on us. We crossed the A198 and made our way inland on much quieter roads. It was now slightly cooler and there were grey skies not far away. Fortunately the darkest skies remained in the distance and we stayed dry. We carried on to Drem station, and after a short stretch on a busy road, we took the delightful quiet road past Myreton Motor Museum and on to Aberlady. We rejoined the busy coast road to be greeted by a noticeable headwind. We pushed on to Cockenzie where the group got split as some went to the harbour and others to the toilets. Half the group waited next to where the power station used to stand knowing the others would have to come that way. After a few minutes wait, we were back together and on familiar roads heading back towards Edinburgh. At Prestonpans we left the coast road and joined NCN 76 towards Musselburgh. At Levenhall Links there was a nature event on which meant there were many more people and cars than expected. So instead of heading into Musselburgh along the sea wall, we entered beside the race course. Then the shout went up, “puncture!” The first one of the weekend, and so close to home. It was soon fixed. We crossed the river and made our way to Fisherrow Harbour via the promenade. At this point, the leader [who lives in the Honest Toun] bade farewell to the group and handed over the reins to another rider to lead them back to town.

So that was another 20 Milers weekend away ride over. We had been blessed with glorious weather. Not a drop of rain fell on us. The beautiful East Lothian scenery had looked even better bathed in bright sun light. Yes, some of the climbs had been a bit challenging. But we had a great weekend that was enjoyed by all. Hopefully, those present will be talking about it for months to come. It will be remembered for very different reasons to last year’s brutal ride to Peebles. Now to start thinking about next year.

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