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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.