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Saturday, 14 July 2018

Stepping up to Ratho

Blessed with yet another lovely summer's day we headed out to the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena at Ratho. We've been there a number of times; but today the leader managed to mix the route up a bit and we found ourselves on a few unfamiliar stretches. But the one downside to the lunch venue didn't change - we still had to get our bikes up and down a steep flight of steps.

A turnout of 25 riders was respectable; but given the weather, we might have expected more. At least it made life easier as we only needed one group. As ever, it was great to see new faces along with some we hadn't seen for a while. Standing in the warm sunshine, the leader gave the briefing which contained the wonderful line, "just because someone in front of you does something stupid, it doesn't mean you have to". Briefing over, we rode a few yards before everyone dismounted to walk past the roadworks which remain at the top of Middle Meadow Walk. we remounted and headed towards Bruntsfield Links. One rider who was clearly riding on autopilot went straight on at a crossing, rather than turning left onto Whitehouse Loan. Inevitably, those behind followed in the belief that he knew where he was going. Those at the back of the group were saved from making the same mistake. As they headed the right way, the backmarker raced off to round up the strays. With the strays successfully rounded up, we regrouped and continued. This is where we deviated from our usual route through this part of town. We went via Falcon Gardens, Falcon Road, Canaan Lane and Woodburn Terrace before re-joining our usual route through the back streets of Morningside and on into Braidburn Valley Park. We continued to follow the Braid Burn and on through Redford to our comfort stop in Colinton. From there we took Woodhall Road, turned down West Mill Road to join the Water of Leith walkway. Another deviation from the norm saw us leave walkway and head into a new housing estate. We climbed up to cross Lanark Road West with Muir Road taking us on through Riccarton. We passed the back entrance we usually take into the Heriot Watt University campus, instead turning right onto Boundary Road North. A path took us into the campus on roads that were very quiet on a Saturday. We crossed the busy Calder Road, from where Hermiston House Road took us onwards to join the canal. On this stretch, a fast cyclist appeared beside the writer and said, "I've passed four of you. how many more are there?" His face dropped as he was told he had another 21 to get past on the narrow towpath. But he looked relieved when told we would be stopping at the climbing centre shortly. We stopped at the bottom of the steps and he sped away. With a combination of wheeling and  carrying, all the bikes and riders were soon up the steps, including the recumbent trike which two had to carry up.

After a pleasant lunch sitting outside at the picnic tables, we once again tackled the steps before heading along the canal back towards town. On such a lovely day there was as much activity on the canal itself as on the towpath in the form of canoes, paddle boards and narrow boats. We followed the canal as far as Cutlins Road. The cycle path beside busy roads took us through Sighthill, Saughton and Stenhouse before we turned off to take the path beside the tram tracks. Onwards past Murrayfield Stadium and Roseburn Park, we took the familiar route to Leamington Bridge via Russell Road, the Telfer subway and Fountain Park. From there we returned to the Meadows via Leamington Terrace and Bruntsfield Links rather than the King's Theatre. At the Meadows, against a backdrop of the Anti-Trump rally, the leader declared the ride over. Thanks to Mike for leading us to a familiar destination, but keeping it interesting by deviating from the expected route.

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

Monday, 9 July 2018

Rides planned for July

We've got two rides coming up this month: our standard "second Saturday" run this coming Saturday (14th); and a longer Extra the following weekend.

14th July

For this Saturday's outing, we'll be heading to Ratho, with a lunch stop at the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (EICA). We've been to that venue several times before. So, this time, so that you don't get bored, we'll take a somewhat unusual route.

The route will be 22 miles. There won't be any very bad hills - just a few short climbs. There will also be a short flight of steps to negotiate - both up and down. Most of the route should be on reasonably good surfaces, although some of the paths might be a little rough in places.

The EICA has a sunny terrace with plenty of picnic tables. There is further seating inside, with dramatic views over the rock-climbing wall (the largest of its kind in the world). The snack bar sells sandwiches, baked potatoes and hot drinks.

We'll set out at 10:30 from our usual meeting spot at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. Don't forget to bring a spare inner tube if possible as well as plenty of water.

21st July

This month's Extra will head out to the west of city and into West Lothian. I'll post more details next week. In the meantime, note that the meeting point will be the Craigleith path junction. We'll set out at 10:00.

Evening rides

If you fancy an after-work ride, Jim's evening rides are continuing throughout the summer. This coming Thursday (12th July), they'll be taking a "gentle meander round the highways and byways of Riccarton and Currie". Meet at 18:30 outside the Victor Hugo café (corner of Melville Terrace and Livingstone Place).

All the above rides are of course free and open to all, with no need to book.

Friday, 22 June 2018

A lovely way to spend an evening

In theory, it was a very warm evening. At 7pm the thermometer said 20C, but the thermometer had obviously not been told about the chilly wind that had been brewing up from the west. As it was, long-sleeved jackets and sweaters were in evidence, rather than t-shirts and shorts. But at least it stayed sunny and bright all evening, with clear blue skies all the way.

A photo op by the Usher Hall
Ten riders turned up for our summer solstice ride. It's true that the actual solstice was the day before. But Friday seemed like a better option for an evening outing, especially given that at least one other evening run had been organised for the Thursday.

After the usual briefing and safety announcement, we set off towards the Roseburn Path – but not by the usual route involving bumps and zigzags, Instead, we headed west along Lauriston Place, then weaved through to the Usher Hall and across the busy Lothian Road. After pausing for a brief photo opportunity in Festival Square, we continued through the West End, then up the hill (steep but thankfully short) by the Gallery of Modern Art, and into Ravelston Dykes. We freewheeled down Garscube Terrace, eventually joining the Roseburn Path by a short flight of steps leading down from Coltbridge.

We stayed on the path only as far as the Craigleith junction. From there, we took Craigleith Hill Avenue – aka Quiet Route 20 – down past the Police Scotland HQ and into Inverleith Park. There was a lovely view across the Edinburgh skyline from here, with the Castle standing out prominently in the evening light.

Stopping to admire the Royal Yacht
Our next leg took us round the sides of the Royal Botanic Garden and back onto the bike path at Warriston. We continued to Five Ways and then on to Lindsay Road and past the cruise liner terminal. We stopped for nibbles in Ocean Drive, from where we had a fine view of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

After a short stretch along the Leith waterfront, we headed back to town by way of the Water of Leith Path, St Mark's Park and McDonald Road. At the Leith Walk traffic lights, we waited expectantly for the bike priority light to kick in. Sure enough, the green bicycle light came on before the lights changed to green for the general traffic, but only about two and a half seconds before - better than nothing, I suppose.

A bit more weaving found us in Royal Terrace, on the northern flank of Calton Hill. I've always thought that this is a particularly attractive road, with fine houses on one side and an open outlook on the other. But some elements of our group seemed more concerned about the rough going on the cobbled surface (don't blame me; I didn't build the road). Fortunately the cobbled section was quite short, and we soon reached our next stopping point, the Stones of Scotland.

The Stones of Scotland is a circular monument, completed in 2002, which commemorates the rebirth of the Scottish parliament. There is one stone from each of Scotland's 32 local authority areas, and the whole thing is dramatically situated on high ground, looking over the parliament building and towards Arthur's Seat. If you are passing that way, it is worth a stop.

The Nelson Monument on Calton Hill
And so to the climax of the evening: the climb to the summit of Calton Hill. Actually, it's not that hard a climb. We took the relatively easy (and well-surfaced) route from Regent Road, and we all made it to the top without difficulty. We regrouped at the Nelson Monument, from where we could enjoy the superb outlook across the Firth of Forth and the Fife hills. The summit was teeming with people, including many tourists – not surprising, given the splendid weather.

For the final leg, we headed back down to Regent Road and then via the Bridges and Chambers Street, arriving back at the Meadows a little before 9.30pm. With just under 15 miles on the clock, it wasn't exactly a long ride, but it was a very sociable one in good company and with some interesting sites along the way. What better way to spend a mid-summer evening?

Leader, report and photos: Mike 
Map: Jim

Monday, 18 June 2018

Summer solstice evening ride this coming Friday

This week sees the summer solstice: the longest day of the year. To mark the occasion, we are organising a ride for Friday evening. We'll meet at our usual spot at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. We'll set out at 19:00, aiming to finish about 21:30. Sunset is not until 22:03, so the entire ride should take place in daylight, but I advise you to bring lights anyway, in case of delay and to see you home.

This will be a leisurely ride, taken at our usual easy pace. We'll stay mainly near the city centre and on the North Edinburgh bike paths. There will be an optional ascent of Calton Hill towards the end, but no other serious hills or other difficulties. The total distance will be about 14 miles.

There won't be a meal or refreshment stop during the ride, but we'll finish near a pub in case anyone wants to go for a drink afterwards. By all means bring some nibbles on the ride if you want to keep the hunger pangs away.

Like all our rides, this one is free and open to all, with no need to book in advance. Feel free to tell your pals about it.

Other evening rides

Ours isn't the only evening run this week. Both CTC and our own Jim Cameron have their usual evening outings, on Tuesday and Thursday respectively. And Laid Back Bikes have a special ride on Tuesday evening for those interested in recliners, trikes, cargo bikes, tandems and the like; this includes a behind-the-scenes visit to their shop in Viewforth. Full details of these rides (and many others) can be found as usual at www.cycling-edinburgh.org.uk.

Our next daytime rides will be on 14th July (our usual monthly run) and 21st July (our third Extra of the season). I hope to see you at one or more of these events.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

A picnic high in the Pentlands

On a lovely warm summer's day we headed up into the Pentland Hills for a picnic lunch beside Harlaw Reservoir. There was a bit of climbing up past the lower reservoirs and some tracks were quite rough and stony, but the lovely weather and stunning views made it all worthwhile. Last month's leader, Dawn was on backmarker duty today. Following her pre-ride briefing last month, she received [an unheard of] round of applause. The same happened today when the leader announced she would be back marking.

A turnout of twenty-five riders was respectable; but given the lovely weather we might have expected
more. As ever, it was good to see some new faces in the mix. A few of our regulars were abscent;  they were off on a challenge to ride 100 miles in a day. The days where we could muster numbers in the high thirties seem to be gone. At least it meant we only needed one group today. Followimg the leader's briefing; for the second time in a month, we set off on foot wheeling our bikes past the roadworks on Middle Meadow Walk. Once clear, we mounted up and rode off towards Bruntsfield Links. From there, the back streets of Morningside took us to Braidburn Valley Park. Through the park, we continued to follow the Braid Burn and made our way through back roads in the Redford area, emerging on Redford Road. A short spell on that road and we turned left into Redford Drive.
More quiet back roads around Bonaly followed before making our way up Bonaly Road, past the primary school, over the City Bypass and along Torduff  Road to Torduff Reservoir. As we were now in the Pentland Hills, the climbing began. On past Clubbiedean Reservoir and we were on rough rocky tracks that didn't make for easy going, especially given the very dry conditions under wheel. At least the climbing was now behind us. unsurprisingly given the lovely summer weather, it was very busy at Harlaw Visitor Centre. All the picnic tables were taken, so lunch was taken on the banks of Harlaw Reservoir. A picnic lunch on a fine sunny day sitting in the Pentlands beside a reservoir in good company - what more could anyone want? Oh, and the satisfaction of having gotten there under one's own steam.

Lunch over; we rode off along the track past Threipmuir Reservoir to begin the descent of Mansfield
Road. The road was in a terrible state and we all had to be aware of the awful potholes that could so easily catch out the unwary; especially on a descent. We all made it safely down into Balerno. There was a long queue of traffic on the main road out of town due to temporary traffic lights. The group circumvented these, and soon we had left the busy road behind and were enjoying the Water of Leith path. Onwards through the Colinton Tunnel (which always reminds the writer of the "Italian Job") to the canal. Here, we would usually follow the canal back into town. But not this time. The leader took us away from the canal on an unfamiliar [to many] route through Redhall. We crossed Longstone Road and a [very easy to miss] cut-through beside the Longstone Inn took us onto a path that led to Stenhouse. From there we went through Saughton Park and on to Murrayfield where preparations were under way for the evening's Rolling Stones concert. Through Roseburn Park, and the familiar route via Russell Road, Dalry Road, the Telfer subway, Leamington Bridge and the King's Theatre saw us return to the Meadows.

Thanks to David for leading us on such a lovely route through the Pentlands on such a glorious day.
Interesting little twist near the end by taking us through Redhall and Longstone - somewhere very few of us had been before.

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

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

June 20-Milers this coming Saturday

We've got our June ride this coming Saturday (9th). David will be taking us along the classic Reservoir Route on the edge of the Pentlands. This is a very scenic route, away from busy roads and traffic, and with excellent views.

There will inevitably be a fair bit of climbing (this is the Pentland Hills, after all). But we'll take it at our usual steady pace and cheerfully wait for stragglers. Most of the uphill work will be in the morning, so we'll have some nice freewheeling in the afternoon. Apart from a mile or so on a rough track, we will be on good surfaces most of the time. The total distance will be 22 miles.

Our lunch stop will be at the Harlaw Reservoir. I suggest you bring a picnic. Although there is a snack bar at the reservoir, it serves only a limited range of food and there is usually a long queue. A toilet is available at the visitor centre.

As always, we'll meet at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk in time for a 10:30 departure. If the weather is really bad, we might opt for a shorter route with a cafe stop; we'll make that decision on the spot.

Summer Solstice

We are also planning an additional ride for later in the month. This will be an evening run on Friday 22nd June to celebrate the (approximate) summer solstice. I'll post details as they get firmed up. (Note that this will be in addition to Jim's weekly evening ride, which will be the day before.)

We've got two rides planned for July: our standard run on the 14th and our third Extra of the year on the 21st. Again, more details as and when.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

A Fab day out

For our second Extra ride of the year we headed across the Forth to Scotland's ancient capital - Dunfermline. We were blessed with gloriously warm, if slightly muggy weather. Not surprisingly, thunderstorms were forecast for around 3.00 pm. That would keep us on our toes. On our way back, the leader kindly treated us all to Fab ice lollies in Inverkeithing.

Maybe potential riders had taken more notice of the forecast for thunderstorms than appreciated how warm it was at the time leading up to departure; but a turn out of just twelve riders was a little disappointing. Those that stayed away ended up missing a great ride in lovely weather. Following a briefing from the leader, we headed off on the familiar route via Silverknowes and Barnton to Cramond Brig. To everyone's surprise, the leader swept across the bridge there without stopping - an almost unheard of occurence! We took the path beside the A90 and on into Dalmeny village. From there we made our way past the new houses and through the back streets of South Queensferry to the Forth Bridges Viewpoint, where we had a comfort stop. From there, we headed onto the Forth Road Bridge. It is so nice now it is almost free of traffic - so much quieter; although everything still vibrates as a bus goes past. It was warm and there was barely any wind, but the mist did somewhat spoil the views.

Such a contrast to an early recce for this ride back in March when the riders had almost been blown off the bridge by very strong winds. It had been so bad that the group caught the train home rather than risk crossing the bridge a second time. Across the bridge, we threaded our way through the paths and quiet roads in the area. It was great to cross the [once horrendously busy] road off the bridge without any trouble. There was a swirl of wind as we passed beneath a bridge; astonishingly [for Scotland] the wind was actually warm! We took the B981 and on through an industrial estate and past Rosyth Dockyard, before turning up and joining a road that took us past the MOD Caledonia camp. There followed a short stretch on the busy A985, before turning off onto Grange Road and making our way into Dunfermline. The delightful Pittencrieff Park was our lunch venue. Here we split into two groups, one made for the picnic tables whilst the other headed for the cafe and enjoyed lunch on the terrace. This was only the second Extra ride to Dunfermline, and on both ocassions we have enjoyed lunch sitting outside in Pittencrieff Park in lovely warm sunshine. 

As we reconvened after lunch, the leader was conscious of the 3.00 pm forecast for thunderstorms. Whilst the pace in the morning had not been slow, it was certainly cranked up a notch or two on the homeward leg as we aimed to outrun the storm. We exited the park and were soon negotiating a mixture of busy roads and shared use paths in the centre of Dunfermline. It was good to leave them behind and head towards Inverkeithing. On this stretch, a kind car driver let us all across the road despite the lights being in his favour. We were most thankful, unlike the irate driver behind him who sped off giving him hand signals that are certainly not in the Highway Code! The phrase, "calm down dear" sprang to mind. Despite trying to outrun the storm, the leader stopped in Inverkeithing and very kindly bought everyone a Fab ice lolly. We retired to a quiet little park just off the high street to enjoy them and reminisce about Fab lollies and childhood days. At the far end of the park, through the trees was a view of an expanse of water. One rider said, "what a lovely pond". It was pointed out to them that it was actually the Firth of Forth! Ice lolly stop over, we headed back across the bridge and had a comfort stop at the Forth Bridges viewpoint. One of the group checked his phone and told us of heavy rain south of the City Bypass - it wasn't far away. From here on in the pace definitely picked up - we were on a mission. We took the same route as we had taken out in the morning. But this time we did stop at Cramond Brig to regroup. We arrived at Craigleith and it was still dry as the leader declared the ride over. Thanks to Verity for leading. A good route with some sections unfamiliar to most, lovely weather, great lunch venue and what a fab (groans all round) move buying us all an ice lolly. At the end of most rides, some of us finish off with a coffee. As we all felt the need to continue outrunning the storm, we gave that a miss today. In typical fashion, the storm never materialised. A little light rain hours later was as bad as it got.

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

Monday, 28 May 2018

20-Milers Extra on Saturday (2nd June)

We've got the second of our Extra rides planned for this coming Saturday. Verity will be leading us on a sortie over the Forth Road Bridge and into Fife with a lunch stop in Dunfermline. The whole route will be on roads and well-surfaced paths, but that includes a couple of stretches on main roads that might be busy with traffic. Verity points out that Dunfermline was built on high ground, which means that there will be a long-ish climb just before lunch (but a nice freewheel just after). The total distance will be about 35 miles.

Please keep in mind that these Extras go at a somewhat faster pace than our normal rides, with fewer stops. They are suitable for those of our riders who find our usual runs well within their capabilities, less so for those who are less fit or who haven't cycled for a while.

By the way, if you haven't ridden over the Forth Road Bridge recently, you'll be pleasantly surprised with the change. Since the opening of the new Queensferry Crossing last autumn, most of the traffic has disappeared from the old bridge, so crossing it is a much more agreeable experience.

Lunch arrangements

Our lunch stop on Saturday will be the delightful Pittencrieff Park in the centre of Dunfermline. This is an ideal spot for a picnic, so either bring some lunch with you or aim to pick up a sandwich at the nearby Tesco. There's also a cafe in the park that serves a good range of snacks and hot drinks.

Meeting time and place

For this ride, we'll meet at the Sustrans marker at the Craigleith path junction (see here if you need directions). Please aim to get there in time for a 10:15 departure.

Lots more rides

With summer now more-or-less under way, there are a lot more rides coming up. We've got our normal "second Saturday" runs on 9th June and 14th July, and another Extra on 21st July.

Jim is continuing his weekly Thursday evening rides; these start at 18:30 from the Victor Hugo café (corner of Melville Terrace and Livingstone Place). Other local cycling groups, such as Spokes, Mellow Velo and EasyCycle, also have rides that you are welcome to join. These vary from short easy rides to longer full-day runs and weekends away. And with the annual Edinburgh Festival of Cycling due to start soon, there will be the usual programme of cycling-related talks, workshops and entertainment.

You'll find details of all these events on the Cycling Edinburgh website: www.cycling-edinburgh.org.uk.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Flying solo

Today's ride took us out to South Queensferry via the lovely Dalmeny Estate. Last year, today's leader led her first ever ride. On that occasion she set a precedent with there being two leaders. Today she was flying solo; thus proving to the group [and herself] that leading a ride is not as daunting as some would have you believe. Maybe that is why she received [an unheard of] round of applause following the pre-ride briefing.

It was great to be blessed with lovely weather. Warm, sunny, blue skies and little wind was the order of the day. A turnout of twenty four riders was good and meant we only needed one group. As ever, it was good to see some new faces. There is so much to be said for a group which has the philosophy of "no need to book, just turn up and enjoy the ride". The group walked away from the start point. Yes, walked! Half  the width of Middle Meadow Walk had been dug up at that point, forcing us to walk along pushing our bikes for the first 100 yards of the ride. We remounted and rode to the Leamington Bridge via Bruntsfield Links. A short stretch on the canal towpath, down past Fountain Park, through the Telfer subway, Russell Road and we were riding up the zig-zags to join the Roseburn Path. The Roseburn and Telford Paths took us onwards to Granton, past the gasometer which was gleaming in the sunshine. From there it was down to the waterfront and along Silverknowes Esplanade to Cramond for a comfort and sweetie stop. A sharp little climb up School Brae followed to join Whitehouse Road. A right turn down the delightful little Peggy's Mill Road and we were on the River Almond Walkway. We had the mandatory stop at Cramond Brig. What should have been a quick stop ended up being more lengthy due to a mechanical problem requiring attention. We followed route N76 through the delightful Dalmeny Estate, which was lovely at this time of year in the sunshine. We followed the path that skirts the coast to emerge beside the Forth Rail Bridge. We thought the paths through the estate were busy; but that was nothing compared to how busy South Queensferry was. Even on nice days there is often a cool breeze blowing off the Forth. For once, this was not the case. Perfect picnic weather.

As we were preparing to head off after our lunch stop, a few of us were reminiscing about something that happened a couple of years ago. Despite it sounding too good to be true, the leader told us he had discovered a way of avoiding the steep climb up the main road to the Co-Op where we would join the cycle path. Unfortunately, the alternative route involved carrying bikes up a couple of flights of steps! Needless to say, we have never used it since. The short, steep climb over and we were on the cycle path that took us to Dalmeny village. Back into Dalmeny Estate, this time on roads rather than the paths of the morning. There were a couple of hills to deal with in the warm sunshine; but payback came in the form of a glorious downhill section. Another stop at Cramond Brig - this time a brief one. We made our way back through Barnton, Davidson's Mains, Silverknowes and past Craigleith. From there, we took almost the same route back as we had taken out in the morning. The difference being that we returned to The Meadows via Tollcross rather than Bruntsfield Links.

Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the ride. The weather certainly helped. Thanks to Dawn on her first time as sole leader; and I'm sure she will have appreciated David's assistance as backmarker-cum-wingman.

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

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

May 20-Milers this coming Saturday

Just a quick reminder of this Saturday's ride, in which Dawn will be leading us out to South Queensferry. There will be a few moderate hills and a couple of short stretches on paths that might be a little rough or muddy. But apart from that, it promises to be a pleasant route with no particular difficulties.

South Queensferry offers a choice of cafés for lunch. If you prefer to bring your own food, you can enjoy a picnic on the benches overlooking the Forth.

As always, we'll gather at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk in time for a 10.30 departure.

Looking further ahead, our next Extra of the summer will be on 2nd June, when we'll be crossing into Fife - more details of that one nearer the time.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

A cool picnic beside the Forth

The first 20 Milers Extra ride of 2018 saw us head out to Blackness Castle on the shores of the Firth of Forth. Great weather at the start had us expecting a warm and sunny picnic beside the castle. Alas, come lunchtime the cloud had rolled in and a cool breeze was blowing in off the Forth. But, overall the weather was reasonably kind to us - we did have long spells of sunshine, it was mostly warm and there wasn't any rain. Perhaps those that had continued to ride throughout the winter thought they were owed some magnificent weather. Fingers crossed that is on the horizon.

As usual when the Extra rides see us head out west, our start point today was Craigleith. In amongst the turnout of nineteen riders, it was good to see a few new faces along with some we had not seen for a while. We headed off in one group along NCN 1 via Silverknowes and Barnton to Cramond Brig. Following what has become a mandatory stop there, we headed up the path beside the road towards Dalmeny village. On this stretch, a confused-looking cyclist was trying to work out how to get to the other side of the A90 as the Burnshot Bridge was closed. The writer was able to point him in the right direction via the subway and corresponding diversion. From Dalmeny village, the cycle path took us to South Queenferry, onto the coast road and into the Hopetoun estate. We had made such good time that it was only twelve o'clock as we rolled up to our lunch venue  - Blackness Castle. Was it better to choose a picnic table closer to the visitor centre and further from the shore, or beside the shore? It made little difference; the cool stiff breeze seemed the same whatever the choice. Beneath a cloudy sky it wasn't perfect picnic weather, but it wasn't too bad. Once food had been consumed, no one wanted to hang around unnecessarily. The lure of the big climb of the day awaited.

We left the castle and rode the short distance to the newly-opened village shop, where several of the group grabbed a quick coffee to warm up. A short climb followed by a flat section, a left turn and the main climb of the day lie before us. Not ideal straight after lunch, but everyone got up without any problem. A right-left to cross the A904 and we headed to Philipstoun. Turning right into an housing estate, it never looks as if the canal will lie ahead. But meander through the estate to arrive at a row of garages, and just up the slope lies the canal towpath. A short distance along the towpath and the group ground to an halt. A very aggressive mute swan did not want us to pass. The reason why, soon became clear. His mate was on the nest just a few yards from the path. One by one, we gently made our way past, pushing our bikes which we kept between ourselves and the aggressive bird. All safely past, we remounted and rode away leaving the swans in peace. A lovely ride along the towpath, without further drama followed. Leaving the canal behind near Niddry Castle, we followed minor roads before emerging in Kirkliston. A planned comfort stop came to nothing when we realised the sports centre was closed. A little further along we joined a path that led us through the trees, then followed the road to Burnshot Bridge where we negotiated the roadworks. The lovely new cycle path led us to the subway and back onto the path to Cramond Brig. A brief stop there, and then back to Craigleith via the same route that had taken us out in the morning. Here the leader delared the ride over. Thanks to Mike for leading the first Extra ride of the year. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed it and the only drama had been with the swan. Yes, the lunch stop could have been a bit warmer, but all in all a very enjoyable ride. It always seems as if summer is beginning [or at least just around the corner] when the Extra rides begin. Here's hoping for a great summer of cycling.

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

Monday, 30 April 2018

First 20-Milers Extra for 2018 - this coming Saturday

This coming Saturday (5th May) sees the first of our summer season of Extra rides. These rides are a little longer than our usual "second Saturday" outings, and go at a somewhat faster pace - but always with the same sociable and friendly atmosphere. If you find our normal rides well within your capabilities, you should enjoy this Extra. But anyone who hasn't done much cycling during the winter, or has doubts about their fitness level, might prefer to give this one a miss.

Meeting place and route

For Saturday's run, we will meet at the Sustrans marker at the Craigleith path junction. See here if you are not sure where that is. We will aim to leave promptly at 10.15.

We will head out along NCN1 to South Queensferry, then follow the John Muir Way through the Hopetoun Estate and along the coastal path to Blackness. This part of the route is particularly pleasant, with reasonably good path surfaces, excellent views and no bad hills.

But that will change after our lunch stop, with a killer hill to start the afternoon, followed by a short stretch on a busy road. But things will soon improve, with quiet roads and only few gentle hills as we head inland. We'll take the canal towpath from Philpstoun to Niddry Castle, then return to our start point via Kirkliston and the Carlowrie Road.

The total distance will be about 32 miles. I expect the ride will finish around 4 pm, depending on various factors.

Lunch arrangements

Our lunch stop will be a picnic in the grounds of Blackness Castle. There is no café or pub at the castle, so please bring your own lunch. There is, however, a gift shop where you can buy hot drinks (from a vending machine) and a limited range of confectionery and ice cream. There are toilets there as well.

Since our last visit to Blackness, a small shop has opened in the village (about half a mile from the castle). They sell filled rolls, but the choice might be limited, so it might be wise not to rely on it.

What if the weather is bad?

A slight drizzle or chilly breeze won't put us off. But if the weather is really atrocious, we might do a shorter ride, possibly with a café stop either for coffee or lunch. We will make that decision at the start point.

Remember, all our rides are free and open to all. There is no booking system, and no need to let anyone know in advance whether or not you will be coming..

And whether or not you can make it on Saturday, we have our normal monthly ride the following weekend. I'll post a reminder of that one here nearer the time.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Has spring finally sprung?

The route for today's ride started as an attempt to circumnavigate Edinburgh Airport by the shortest route. Whilst recceing the route, we made a few changes and tweaks such that it should perhaps best be described as a ride to Kirkliston.

We were blessed with spring-like weather. Being warm and dry on the bike was something we hadn't experienced in many a long month. A turnout of twenty riders was reasonable; a few of them just returning after a winter lay off. Following the customary leader's briefing, we headed off towards Bruntsfield Links and to Leamington Bridge where we joined the canal. We stayed beside the canal passing Polwarth, Slateford, Kingsknowe, Wester Hailes and crossed the City Bypass. We had just begun to walk across the Slateford Aqueduct when the leader stopped and told those behind him to back up off the aqueduct. A pram was heading towards us that was almost as wide as the path. There was no way the group and pram could have passed eachother. The group ventured onto the aqueduct again. Very shortly, we were squeezed up against the railings letting a suicide pilot cyclist ride past us. No idea how he avoided ending up in the canal. We had to stop several more times to let pedestrians pass. It was the busiest most of us had ever seen that stretch. We left the canal at Hermiston. This was our first sweetie stop of the day on the bridge over the canal. From there, quiet back roads took us to Ratho where we regrouped. Onwards to Ratho Station. Although there is no longer a station there; a delightful little cut-through for pedestrians and cyclists took us across the railway and down towards the busy A8. The footbridge with steps is far-from-ideal; but much better than the alternative of dashing across four lanes of fast moving traffic! The path beside the A8 took us to Newbridge, one of the busiest roundabouts in Scotland. We soon left the traffic noise behind as we headed onto the path that follows the route of the old railway, and found ourselves in the countryside. A lovely route, but better in summer. Today it was rather muddy in places. The leader missed the point where we should have left the path. But he quickly realised his mistake, meaning only a couple of riders had to turn round before heading up the slope to the road. Once on the road, it took but a couple of minutes to arrive at the Conifox Garden Centre for our lunch stop.

With the group fed and watered, we headed off on a quiet road past the airport radar installation. We then joined a busier road that took us to the Burnshot Bridge. Road closures and diversions remain in place; but there is a lovely new wide and well surfaced path for cyclists. Through the underpass, across the road and we were back on the familiar path beside the A90 heading for Cramond Brig, where we enjoyed our second sweetie stop of the day. We were now back on familiar paths heading back towards town via Barnton, Silverknowes, Craigleith and the Roseburn path. At Fountainpark, we took a minor detour to see the newly opened Boroughmuir High School. Riding down the quiet road beside Leamington Bridge, the lead rider was confronted by a pedestrian walking up the middle of the road looking at his phone and oblivious to all around him. "Watch where you're walking" called out the lead rider. "Watch where you're cycling!" snapped back the pedestrian. Some people really should not be allowed out on their own!

Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the ride. We visited places that were new to many; and of course, how nice it was to have some warm and dry weather. Please let this be the start of some decent weather. It really did feel as if winter would never come to an end.

Leader: Glenn
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn

Monday, 9 April 2018

20-Milers ride this coming Saturday

We've got our April ride this Saturday (14th). I hope you'll be able to make it.

Glenn will be leading us on an interesting circuit to the west of the city. We'll start out on the canal towpath as far as Hermiston House, then take back roads and bike paths to Ratho Station and Kirkliston. After lunch, we'll head back to town by the Carlowrie Road and NCN 1.

The total distance will be about 23 miles. There will be one steep hill and a few gentle ones. Most of the route will be on firm surfaces except for about a mile on a narrow path which might be muddy.

Our lunch stop will be at a venue which we haven't visited before as a group: the Conifox Garden Centre near Kirkliston. They have a restaurant with an extensive menu, as well as a large picnic area for those who prefer to bring their own food.

The meeting time and place are the same as ever: 10:30 at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk.

Looking ahead

This year's Pedal on Parliament takes place on the 28th of this month (see www.cycling-edinburgh.org.uk for details). I don't yet know if we will be organising a 20-Milers contingent to take part. If we do, I'll post details here.

And on 5th May, we've got our first Extra of the season. These are longer rides which go a little faster than our normal runs. For this first one, we'll be heading to Blackness Castle. I'll post more details here nearer the time.

Finally, Jim will be starting his season of summer evening rides quite soon. Again, I'll post more details as they become available.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The falls ride

The key word for today's ride was "falls". Firstly, the rain never stopped falling. We had two riders
fall in the slippery conditions and lunch was taken at the appropriately named, "Cramond Falls Cafe".

Last Saturday, lying snow kept most riders off their bikes. Yesterday had been a lovely sunny day giving the impression that perhaps spring wasn't too far off. Unfortunately, this morning we awoke to heavy rain that was to continue all day. We had a new leader and she must have wondered if anyone was going to turn up. We eventually mustered eleven riders, which was quite good given the conditions. Following a detailed briefing where the group was made aware of the pre-arranged muster points, Jenny led us towards the Innocent Tunnel. But instead of going through the tunnel, we made our way into Holyrood Park and down Queen's Drive. At St Margaret's Loch, we climbed the steep hill up to Dunsapie Loch. On this stretch we had to pull to the side to let a paramedic vehicle on a "shout" pass. Having circled Arthur's Seat, we returned to the point at which we had entered the park and headed to Duddingston village. Duddingston Road west took us to the gate leading into Figgate Park. We paused at Figgate Pond where cakes and sweets were passed round. Everyone was so wet that even if we'd gone for a swim in the pond, it's doubtful we would have come out much wetter! We left the park and headed down Brighton Place. Just beyond the railway bridge, we turned right onto the Christian Path. This delightful little path was new to most of us, even those that thought they knew Portobello well. We crossed Portobello High Street and took quiet back roads to the Portobello Swim Centre. Using the side of the building to try and shelter from the rain, we had another sweetie stop.
We still had a fair way to go to lunch and it's more important than ever to keep up morale on such a soggy day. One of the few benefits of  the weather was there were very few walkers, children or dogs to contend with on the prom. An easy ride alongside the choppy Forth took us to Seafield and on to Leith Links. A combination of wet road, muddy gutter and hard to see kerb resulted in a nasty fall for one of the group. At first it looked serious enough to have to call an ambulance. Fortunately that was not the case. A sore arm and hip and one badly shaken rider was the outcome. Having regained their composure, they were able to continue and finish the ride. They will probably be feeling quite sore by the time you read this. Down to The Shore, we headed towards Ocean Terminal. Around Victoria Quay in an area used for car parking are some disused tram lines. It was one of these that caught out another rider who hit the deck. No injury this time. But wet cobbles, standing water and disused tram lines was never going to be a good mix. We continued past Newhaven Harbour, along Lower Granton Road and paused briefly beside the Granton Gasometer. From there we made our way to Silverknowes Esplanade, which we sped along to the Cramond Falls Cafe for lunch. It was lovely to be in the warmth and out of the rain eating hot food.

All too soon it was time to venture back out into the rain. There were the inevitable moans that come
when wet clothes and gloves have to be put back on. At least it wouldn't take long to get back to town; most of the mileage had been covered before lunch. As so often seems to be the case straight after lunch (even on nice days), we had a stiff little climb up School Brae to contend with. The climb over, we had a stretch on the flat followed by a downhill. We were then on familiar territory. Through Barnton, paths took us back to Craighleith and onto the Roseburn Path, down the zig-zags, through the Telfer subway and along the canal to Leamington Bridge. Here the leader declared the ride over. Thanks to Jenny for leading an interesting ride and managing to keep our spirits up on such a miserable day. Next time she leads, let's hope the weather is kinder to us.

Leader: Jenny
Report: Glenn
Photos: Graham
Map trace: Jim

Monday, 5 March 2018

March ride this coming Saturday

This month's ride will take place on Saturday (10th March). Jenny Tizard will be leading us on a tour of Edinburgh's waterfront, from east to west. I understand the route will include a few wiggles that might be unfamiliar to most of us, which should make for an interesting ride.

For our lunch stop, we will aim for Cramond. Those of us who are foolish enough to bring a picnic will find a nice bench by the river. The rest of you can head for the comfort of the Cramond Falls cafe with its open fire.

After lunch, we'll head back to town via NCN 1, arriving back at the Meadows around mid-afternoon.

The total distance will be about 20 miles. There will be two steep-ish climbs, but there will be no other difficulties. The route will be almost entirely on well-surfaced roads and paths.

Time and place

We'll meet as usual at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk, leaving at 10.30.

Please keep in mind that the above details are provisional. We always reserve the right to alter the route or the lunch arrangements at the last minute - especially if the weather is bad or if there is a risk of ice or snow on the paths. But the meeting time and place won't change.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Somewhere new "fore" lunch

Today's ride saw us explore some of the bike paths and quiet roads in the south of the city. We also
found a lunch venue we had never used before. As the 20 Milers enters its fourteenth year, it is
inevitable that we often find ourselves visiting places we have been many times before. So credit to
today's leader for devising a route that included some unfamiliar places weaved in amongst the sections we know so well.

The forecast had us expecting a rather wet day. In the end, we had not a drop of rain and some long spells of sunshine. Yes, it was a bit windy at times; but nothing like on the recce which had to be abandoned [in the interests of safety] when a rider was blown off their bike. Today was the first time in a while it wasn't bitterly cold or wet, or both. Given the forecast, a turnout of 25 riders was quite impressive. Following a comprehensive briefing, we headed off [in one group] towards the Innocent Railway. Onwards through the tunnel to Bingham, where we turned right under the bridge. From there we meandered through the backstreets of Niddrie and Greendykes to emerge on The Wisp. Up The Wisp on the shared use path beside the busy road, along the quiet roads of Danderhall and we came to the busy Old Dalkeith Road. Across that, through the green doors set in the wall and we found ourselves in the lovely Drum Estate - a perfect setting for a cake and sweetie stop. Leaving the estate behind, a stretch on the busy Gilmerton Station Road followed. It was here that the rider had been blown over on the recce. Fortunately, there was no drama on this ocassion. We took the path beside the road to climb the [deceptively steep] Lasswade Road. We made our way through Burdiehouse Park. From there, some unfamiliar back streets brought us out on Captain's Road. We pressed on along Frogston Road before turning into the Mortonhall Estate. We stopped to regroup outside the Stable Bar. For once, this was not our lunch venue. Some slightly muddy tracks led us to the Braid Hills Golf Centre at Liberton. This was our lunch venue; and a good one it turned out to be.

All suitably replenished, we headed out onto Liberton Drive. The leader had warned us that this, and Braid Hills Drive that followed, were very poor quality roads. She wasn't wrong! The state of the road could only be described as appalling! Past the Braid Hills Hotel, along Braid Road and Braidburn Terrace and we were in Braidburn Valley Park. We often use this route as we head towards Colinton. But it did seem strange being there in the afternoon rather than the morning. This was part of the loop out to Colinton. From there we began to head back towards the Meadows. Through the Colinton Tunnel, alongside the Water of Leith before joining the Union Canal towpath which took us back to Leamington Bridge. As we got closer in towards the city, a number of riders peeled off towards home. The remainder headed back to the finish at Middle Meadow Walk.

Thanks to Verity for leading an enjoyable ride. Good to visit less familiar places, and all credit for
finding a new lunch venue - one I'm sure we will be happy to use again.

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

Monday, 5 February 2018

February ride this Saturday

We've got our next ride on this coming Saturday (10th February). I hope you'll be able to join us.

Verity will be leading us on a tour of bike paths and quiet roads in the south of the city. Our route will include Danderhall, the Drum, Gilmerton, Burdiehouse Valley Park, Mortonhall and Braidburn Valley Park, finishing with a loop to Colinton and back along the Water of Leith. As far as gradients are concerned, I'm told that we can expect undulations rather than killer hills. The total distance will be about 23 miles, mainly on good surfaces but with a few rough tracks and a couple of short sections on main roads.

For our lunch stop, Verity has managed to find a venue that we have not visited before as a group. This is the café at the Braid Hills Golf Centre in Liberton. Their menu includes a range of sandwiches, baked potatoes, burgers and the like. As always, you have the option of bringing your own lunch if you prefer.

We'll meet at our usual spot at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk in time for a 10:30 departure. We should get back to the Meadows around 15:00 or so, which will be well before dark (sunset is at 17:08), but it might be wise to bring lights in case we get delayed, especially if you live some distance from the end point.

Remember, our rides are free and open to all, with no advanced booking.

Monday, 15 January 2018

A January jaunt

For our first 'second Saturday' run of the year, twenty so or riders gathered in Middle Meadow Walk on a somewhat dreary morning, albeit a little milder than of late. It was good to see a couple of newcomers, plus one or two others returning for their second outing with the group. All very welcome.

With Alan Orr leading, we set off towards the Union Canal. Usually when we take the canal towpath, we head straight down Leamington Terrace to join the path near the lift bridge. Today, just for a change, Alan took us through Morningside, along Balcarres Street and through the woods on the northern flank of Craiglockhart Hill, eventually reaching the canal at Allan Park. We stayed on the towpath for three miles of easy pedalling, keeping up a brisk average of around 14 mph.

Leaving the canal at Gogar Station Road, we headed north for a couple of miles before crossing the Glasgow Road by the RBS footbridge. After passing the tram depot and the new Edinburgh Exchange station, we turned up Turnhouse Road, aiming for Cammo Park.

Up to now, the route had been familiar to most of us. But then came an unexpected new section. Thanks to a slight navigation error, we missed the planned right turn, and didn't realise our mistake for at least another mile. Rather than turning back, we took the next turning on the right, which was Turnhouse Farm Road. This proved fortuitous. The road in question, which was very quiet, meandered through pleasant woodland before joining the Cammo Road to the north of the country park. We thus avoided the unpleasant path that runs parallel to Maybury Road (where we often have to face fast oncoming traffic), but at the expense of only very little extra pedalling.

Back in familiar territory, we paused at the delightful Grotto Bridge, where the fast-flowing River Almond gushes through a deep tree-lined valley. This made an ideal spot for a refreshment break. Various treats, including some very tasty home-made fudge cake, were duly produced and consumed.

For the next section, we had to negotiate the temporary bike lane along the hard shoulder of the busy Queensferry Road. This arrangement is the result of the closure of the Burnshot Bridge, which normally carries cyclists (and other traffic) across the dual carriageway to the Kirkliston Road. The bridge closed last May, hence the need to use the temporary path. But changes have taken place since our previous visit. The bridge has now been completely demolished, and what looks like a narrow footbridge has been erected in its place. However, this is currently fenced off. Meanwhile, it appears that the temporary route on the hard shoulder is being widened and turned into a proper bike (and pedestrian) path. Whether this arrangement is permanent, or whether the above-mentioned footbridge will be available for us to use, remains to be seen.

Fortunately, we were soon clear of this problematical stretch. The only remaining obstacle between us and lunch was the hill leading to Craigie's Farm, which we tackled if not with enthusiasm then at least with hunger. Craigie's is one of our more popular lunch venues, with plenty of room for us to spread out in the spacious café and a good range of snacks on the menu.

For the return leg, Alan took us down the far side of Craigie Hill, then across the Queensferry Road to join NCN 1. The last half-dozen miles proceeded without incident as we followed the familiar route across Cramond Brig, through Barnton and onto the Roseburn Path. A few of the group peeled off along the way, with most of the riders returning to the Meadows at just before 3 pm – plenty of time for a coffee before dark.

Leader: Alan
Report: Mike
Photos: Mike and Verity
Map: David

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

January ride this coming Saturday

We've got our monthly run this coming Saturday (13th). I hope you'll be able to join us.

Alan (Orr) will be leading us on a circuit of bike paths and quiet roads to the west of the city, with a lunch stop at Craigie's Farm. The total distance will be just about 20 miles, most of which will be on firm surfaces, although there will be an occasional section that might be rough or muddy. The only serious hill of the day will be the climb up to Craigie's from the Kirkliston Road (just before lunch).

Craigie's Farm has a spacious café serving a good range of soups, salads and sandwiches. There is also a terrace for those who prefer an al fresco lunch. Note that the lunch break will be fairly late - we'll do most of the mileage in the morning - so adjust your appetites accordingly.

Our meeting point is the same as always: the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. Plan to get there in time for a 10:30 departure. The ride should end before dark, but I would advise you to bring lights in case we get delayed.

As always, the meeting point and start time are fixed, but the route and lunch stop are subject to change, depending on conditions on the day.

A reminder ...

I'll take this opportunity to remind you to bring a spare inner tube on all our rides if at all possible. Changing an inner tube is a lot faster than repairing a puncture. Don't worry if you don't know how to change a tube; there are usually people willing to help if the need arises. If you don't know what size of inner tube you need, just ask at your favourite bike shop.

That's all for now. Remember, there is no advance booking for our rides. If you are planning to join us, just turn up on the day.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

A Baltic Back-to-Basics opener

Today, we opened the 20 Milers 2018 account with a Back-to-Basics ride to Craigmillar Castle. We ran one of these rides early last year to address concerns that some of our rides were becoming faster, longer and more demanding than expected. A year on, these concerns remain; hence the need for today's ride. We don't want to frighten off potential riders that are capable of managing one of the group's rides.

Following a couple of wet days and rain during the night, the forecast suggested we would be in for a bright, sunny, but very cold day. There was more cloud cover than expected, but fortunately no sign of  ice as we began to assemble at the start. Credit where credit is due, the forecast was spot on. The sun did come out, it remained dry, but it was bitterly cold as the day wore on. A turn out of sixteen was respectable under the circumstances. It was great to see some new faces amongst the regulars - just what we wanted. Following a briefing from the leader [where he explained the reason for this ride], we rolled away in one group and made our way to the Innocent Railway. Through the tunnel, onwards past the Range and onto the Brunstane path to emerge at the Booker cash and carry on the edge of Musselburgh. We then took the road towards Portobello, turning onto the prom at Joppa where we paused to regroup. A strong wind was blowing off the sea - that sort that cuts right through one, regardless of how many layers one has on. It really felt as if the wind had come non-stop from the Arctic! Needless to say, we didn't hang around for long. It was a relief to leave the prom and head inland. Out of the wind, we had a quick sweetie stop before taking the bridge over the Craigentinny railway sidings.

Via the superb new cycle paths beside Portobello High School and Duddingston Park South, we returned to the Innocent Railway and on to Duddingston Road West, where we cut through the industrial estate and crossed Peffermill Road. We then entered Craigmillar Castle Park and made our way to the castle. The leader had intended to take us along the path in front of the castle; but being slightly uphill and looking muddy and slippery, he led us back the way we had come on easier to ride paths. We exited the park, crossed the busy Old Dalkeith Road and rode through The Inch Park. Short spells on Gilmerton Road and Liberton Road, and we were on the quiet Blackford Glen Road and heading into Hermitage of Braid, which was busy with walkers. Following a brief comfort stop, we emerged onto Braid Road. Hermitage Drive and Braid Avenue which led us into the back streets of Morningside. A narrow little path [which was new to many] took us on a cut-through beside St Peter's Primary School. From there, we rode through the back streets of Marchmont to return to the Meadows, where the leader declared the ride over in time for a late lunch.

Thanks to Jim for leading us on an interesting ride. There is a plan to run another Back-to-Basics in the spring; when hopefully, the weather will be warmer and result in a larger turn out. We have our usual (second Saturday of the month) ride this coming Saturday. As ever, no need to book - just turn up.

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

Monday, 1 January 2018

Back-to-Basics ride this Saturday

We've got an additional ride this coming Saturday (6th January), which Jim will be leading. This will be a Back-to-Basics ride, similar to the one we did this time last year. It will be a half-day run, taken at an easy pace. If you haven't done much cycling this winter, or if you are feeling below your normal fitness level, this ride is for you.

We'll start from our usual spot on Middle Meadow Walk at 10:30. I don't know the route yet, but the aim is for it to be mostly flat and avoiding busy roads. We'll plan to finish by 13:00. There won't be an official café or pub stop en route, but if anyone wants to find somewhere for lunch after the ride, they will be welcome to do so.

The ride is free and open to all, with no advance booking. Even if you have been cycling all winter, and you are above your normal fitness level, you will still be welcome to join us - provided you are happy with the slower pace.

And don't forget that we've got our normal monthly ride the following Saturday. I'll post a reminder of that next week.