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Saturday, 23 September 2023

Westward to Almondell

The fifth 20-Milers Extra ride of the year saw us head into West Lothian by way of Almondell Country Park. Following a week of changeable weather and autumnal winds, we were hoping for favourable conditions for today's ride. Showers approaching from the west in the afternoon were expected, so there was a sense of urgency from the ride leader when his unusually concise briefing was given to the group at the Craigleith junction.

A respectable turnout of 18 riders headed off from Craigleith towards Silverknowes. The familiar route took us through Barnton and on to our obligatory pause at Cramond Brig. An earlier fall and an unrelated mechanical issue had meant that by the time we were at Cramond the group had shrunk to 16.

As we headed towards Kirkliston via Carlowrie Road, the leader turned left to join the disused railway track. A slightly over exuberant rider had gone ahead of the leader on the earlier downhill section and missed the call to turn left at the junction. A brief delay ensued whilst the person in question returned with the search party that had went after them.

Back on track we followed the old railway path towards Kirkliston. There was a brief comfort/refreshment stop at the leisure centre. Suitably refreshed we headed under the M90 and M9, followed the quiet Overton Farm road towards Niddry Castle. From there we joined the Union Canal, and followed that as far as the southern tip of Broxburn. Rejoining the tarmac, we headed along Drumshoreland Road and into Almondell Country Park. 

 Picnic lunch

 With no significant catering facilities the group enjoyed a picnic lunch whilst taking in the flora and fauna within the gardens. As we congregated for the return journey, one of our regular riders requested permission from the leader to jump ahead to view the nearby viaduct before rejoining the group. Unfortunately another six riders followed without the leader's knowledge, resulting in a significantly reduced main group heading back.

As a consequence of the split group, the leader set off at a reduced average speed so as to allow the 'viaduct viewers' an opportunity to rejoin in a timely manner. They eventually caught up as the main group approached the level crossing at Kirknewton. The barriers closing at the crossing offered those who had taken the scenic detour a few extra moments to catch their breath.

From Kirknewton we enjoyed a slight tailwind as we followed the Long Dalmahoy Road. From there  we went through Gogarbank, under the bypass, and onwards towards Edinburgh Park. From there we cut through a bustling South Gyle shopping centre car park to join local cycle route 9 which took us past South Gyle station, through Carrick Knowe, and onwards towards Murrayfield. A quick meander around Roseburn Park brought us to Russell Road, up to where the zigzags join the Roseburn Path, at which point the ride was officially declared over. 

Many thanks to Alan for leading us to a popular destination via a scenic route. Thanks also to Yaz for back-marking what turned out to be quite  an eventful ride. 

Leader: Alan

Report: Neil

Photos: Neil and Alison

Monday, 18 September 2023

20-Milers Extra this coming Saturday

We've got the fifth of this year's Extra rides on Saturday (23rd). Alan will be leading us to Almondell Country Park, near East Calder in West Lothian. It won't be a particularly demanding ride, but, like all our Extras, it will be longer than our usual 20-mile outings, at a somewhat faster pace and with fewer stops. Please keep that in mind when deciding if the ride is right for your fitness level.

Almondell Country Park, with its setting in the deep wooded valley of the River Almond, is at its best at this time of the year. And the visitor centre has a delightful garden where we will aim to have our picnic lunch.

The route

The ride will start from our alternative meeting point at the Craigleith path junction (see here if you are not sure where that is.) We'll head out on a mixture of bike paths and mainly quiet roads as far as Niddry Castle, then pick up the canal towpath for about four miles before joining the road into the park. The return leg will be on quiet roads via Kirknewton and  Long Dalmahoy.

The total distance will be about 35 miles. We can expect a few short steep climbs in the early afternoon, but no other serious hills or other difficulties.

Lunch arrangements

Note that there is no café or pub in the park, so be sure to bring food for a picnic lunch. The visitor centre has vending machines for hot and cold drinks, but unfortunately it is closed between 12:30 and 13:00.

There are toilets in the park. We will also have a toilet stop on the outward leg, about half way through the morning.

Meeting time

You should plan to arrive at the meeting point (see above) in time for a 10:30 departure. The ride will end in the Bruntsfield / Leamington area mid- to late-afternoon.

Please be sure that your bike is in good mechanical order before you set out. And don't forget to bring a spare inner tube as well as any tools that might be needed to remove your wheel in the event of a puncture.

Looking ahead

Our next "second Saturday" run will be on 14 October. After that, I am hoping that we will fit in one more Extra this season - depending on the weather and other factors. I'll post details of both those events in due course. Meantime, enjoy your cycling.

Saturday, 9 September 2023

Sunshine on Leith

 If today wasn't Edinburgh's warmest day of the year, it couldn't have been far off. A great day for exploring a most interesting new route around the north Edinburgh waterfront. A turnout of 19 riders was perhaps lower than expected, but seems to be a typical turn out these days. The heady days of when we mustered 43 riders looks like a record that will stand for a considerable time.

Following a comprehensive briefing from the leader, we left the Meadows and headed towards the Innocent Tunnel. But on this occasion, we swept past the turn for the tunnel and continued into Holyrood Park. We whizzed down the hill and were soon riding along the track behind the Palace of Holyrood House. Turning right, we followed the path past the Park Rangers Centre to exit the park on Royal Park Terrace. A cut through between some flats and we emerged onto an incredibly busy London Road. We wanted to go almost straight across and up Wishaw Terrace, but the volume of traffic made it into a time-consuming challenge. We regrouped on Marionville Road, rode along it for a short distance and headed into Lochend Park. We paused beside the pond where the leader handed out sweets. Leaving the park, we made our way to join the cycle path which took us to Leith Links. At Constitution Street we crossed the tram tracks without incident on our way to The Shore. From there, we took the cycle path through Victoria Park and on to the Five Ways junction. The Trinity Path took us to the busy road beside the waterfront, which we left at Newhaven Harbour. A lovely section followed as we went out, round and back on the spit of land by Western Harbour. We were soon cutting through a gap between blocks of flats to emerge on the recently opened platform at the Newhaven tram stop. A mixture of path and roads took us to Ocean Terminal for our lunch stop.

We had just crossed the road, and were riding away from Ocean Terminal when a rider realised their brakes were not working properly. The group waited patiently whilst Alan quickly fixed the problem. We took the Hawthornvale Path back to the Five Ways junction, and with a sense of déjà vu headed down the Trinity Path again. At the end, we turned in the opposite direction and headed towards Granton Square along McKelvie Parade. The cycle path took us up Waterfront Avenue, where residents were sitting outside their front doors enjoying the sunshine. We paused at Saltire Square to admire the sculpture, "going to the beach" as the leader again handed out sweets. Leaving the statue behind, we took the cycle path to the red bridge near Crewe Toll and onwards to Craigleith junction and the zig-zags at the end of the Roseburn Path. The familiar route via the Telfer Subway, Fountain Park and the canal took us to the Leamington Bridge. Back to the Meadows where the leader declared the ride officially over, and received a round of applause from the group.

Thanks to Yaz for leading us to familiar places via an unfamiliar route. Everyone enjoyed the ride, and we could not have wished for better weather. Thanks to Neil for back marking.

Leader: Yaz

Report: Glenn

Photos: Glenn

Monday, 4 September 2023

Our September ride this coming Saturday

We've got our September ride coming up on Saturday (9th). I hope you'll be able to join us.

For this ride, Yaz has devised a most interesting route around the north Edinburgh waterfront, with several points of interest along the way. At just under the nominal twenty miles, it won't be a particularly demanding ride. We will mainly be riding on good surfaces - apart from one or two short sections on cobbles. There won't be any steep hills to worry about, but there will be a couple of short stretches on main roads.

Our lunch stop will be at the Ocean Terminal in Leith. This has a good choice of eating places as well as a terrace for those who wish to picnic.

As always, we'll set out from the north end of Middle Meadow Walk at 10:30. We'll aim to be back at the Meadows around the middle of the afternoon. And, as always, the event is free with no advance booking.

Looking ahead

We've fixed 23 September as the date for our next Extra ride. I'll post more details of that event nearer the time. For now, you may want to note the date.

Saturday, 19 August 2023

'Twas a Strang wind

Of all our 20 Milers Extra rides, the one to Merryhatton Garden Centre remains a firm favourite and is the only one we are guaranteed to do every year without fail. As well as being a lovely ride through the glorious East Lothain countryside, it is a legacy left to us by the late Logan Strang. Logan was a stalwart of the group until he passed away on a ride in 2017. If ever a ride can be associated with one person, the one to Merryhatton is synonymous with Logan. It came about when Logan and his great friend Ken Roxburgh (another stalwart of the group) were out on one of their regular mid-week rides, and had that lightbulb moment that, "this could make a really good Extra ride". Logan always led this ride, and with a twinkle in his eye would say, "one of my favourite things about this ride is that it's mostly flat". 

We started at Fisherrow Harbour in Musselburgh. There was some confusion as three separate rides were starting from the same point; we had to ensure the right riders went with the correct group. Following the customary briefing, our group of 14 riders headed off towards the Electric Bridge and the racecourse. The section from the Scout hut to the track near the boating pond is much nicer now it tarmacked. Such a shame the next bit heading towards the main road remains as rough as ever. The coast road took us through Prestonpans and onto the new shared use path to where Cockenzie power station used to be. We cut through to the small harbour and the quiet road behind Cockenzie House to the considerably larger Port Seton Harbour. Beside the sea wall and past Seton Sands caravan site to re-join the coast road. Beyond Gosford Bay, we pulled off the road and stopped. The leader giving the riders the choice of continuing on the road or taking the path through the trees that ran parallel to it. Most opted for the path for some respite from the road. With just a few hundred yards to go until the path finished on the edge of Aberlady, the writer was thinking, "I've never ridden along this path and not seen another person". Between there and the end we encountered four walkers and a dog walker. Perhaps next time. We turned right down a quiet residential road avoiding the busy high street. It was now beginning to feel as if we were in the proper East Lothian countryside. At Lufness Mains farm we joined one of the county's delightful quiet roads that led us to the considerably busier B1377. The weather had been dry with sunny intervals, comfortably warm, but with a strong wind behind us. That was the way it stayed for the rest of the day. The tail wind meant we had made good time, but we knew it would be in our face on the homeward leg. From Drem station, more quiet country roads took us to Merryhatton and our lunch stop. Half the riders headed for the café whilst the others made their way to Athelstaneford cemetery for a picnic lunch. That final stretch of road saw us battle into a strong headwind - a foretaste of what the afternoon would have to offer.

Everyone enjoyed their lunch, whichever option they had chosen. It was now time to battle into the headwind. It was a blustery ride to Athelstaneford where we stopped to look at the information panel beside the church about the history of the Scottish flag. The stretch of road out of Athelstaneford frequently sees us struggling into a headwind. Surprisingly, today the wind was blowing from the side, rather than in our faces. Whilst it was strong and gusty, it was probably better than had it been in our faces. But it was on this stretch that one rider was blown off course and was lucky to remain upright. We skirted the Hopetoun Monument and arrived at the A6137 for the major climb of the day. Now the wind was properly in our faces. Head down, select the appropriate gear and just keep pedalling was the order of the day. We crested the hill and turned right onto the road towards Longniddry. We stopped to catch our breath and regroup. With a wonderful downhill not far away, one rider discovered they had no front brake. Not ideal with a fast downhill ahead. Yet again Alan saved the day with a quick repair. We were soon whizzing down the steep hill with beaming smiles on our faces. The rider who had the brake problem minutes earlier reported all was working fine and there had been no scary moments on the descent. More delightful country lanes led us to the level crossing near Longniddry. We chatted to a lone cyclist as we waited for a train to pass and the barriers to rise. He headed off along the dual carriageway whist we joined the path alongside, which seemed like a much better option. Another downhill and we took a comfort stop at Port Seton. From there we retraced our outward route. The headwind was particularly strong on the run back into Prestonpans. Near the ash lagoons it was great to see newly surfaced tracks all the way back to Goose Green. They were most welcome given the strong headwind.

At Musselburgh's Electric Bridge, the leader declared the ride officially over. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the ride and thanked the leader. There was even a round of applause. Of course, the real thanks have to go to the late Logan for leaving us with such a great ride as his lasting legacy. Thanks also go to Alan for back marking and fixing the issue with the brakes.

Leader: Glenn

Report: Glenn

Photos: Glenn

Tuesday, 15 August 2023

20-Milers Extra this coming Saturday

 We've got the fourth of this summer's Extra rides coming up on Saturday (19th).

For the last few years, these August Extras have been something of a tradition in our group. They are known as "Logan's run" in memory of Logan Strang, who many of you will remember as one of the stalwarts of the 20-Milers. Logan died while out cycling with some of our group in 2017. Saturday's route will be one that he often took us on and which was a particular favourite of his.

Route and destination

The ride will start in Musselburgh. Under Glenn's leadership, we'll head east along the coast road, which is an A-road and therefore possibly busy with traffic. But it has the advantage of being reasonably flat - not to mention having excellent views over the Firth of Forth. We'll turn inland at Aberlady, after which we'll take mainly quiet roads to Drem and then on to our lunch stop at Merryhatton.

The return leg will take us through Athelstaneford ("birthplace of Scotland's flag") and past the Hopetoun Monument. This will also be on quiet roads, through very pleasant countryside. There will be a few hills on this part of the route, but only one fairly steep one. We'll eventually rejoin the coast road near Seton Sands before returning to Musselburgh.

The total distance will be about 36 miles. Musselburgh is about seven miles from central Edinburgh, so, depending on where you are starting from, your total mileage might be nearer 50. Please keep that in mind if you are more accustomed to our usual 20-mile runs. Inevitably, Saturday's ride will go at a faster pace and with fewer stops.

Lunch arrangements

Our lunch stop will be at the garden centre at Merryhatton. The restaurant there offers a range of sandwiches, baked potatoes, a soup of the day and other snacks. The eating area is entirely under cover: there is no terrace or other open-air eating space.

Those of us who prefer to bring a packed lunch will head to a quiet picnic spot about half a mile from the garden centre. Note that there is limited seating there, so be prepared to sit on the grass if necessary. Picnickers will be able to use the toilets at Merryhatton. There are also toilets at the meeting point, and we will have an additional comfort stop on the way home.

Time and place

Our meeting point will be Fisherrow Harbour in Musselburgh (see here if you need directions). Please be there in time for a 10:30 departure.

Before you set out

On a long ride like this, it is particularly important for our bikes to be in good road-worthy condition.  So before you set out, please check that the tyres are properly inflated and free of stones or other fragments that might cause punctures, and that the gears and brakes are working smoothly. I know I don't need to remind you to bring a spare inner tube and whatever tools, if any, are required for removing your wheels in the event of a puncture.

Remember, there is no need to let us know in advance whether you intend to join us. If you plan to attend, just turn up at the appointed time and place.

Saturday, 12 August 2023

A case of deja vu


As many of you will know, we recce our rides to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible on the day. Today's ride to Craigie Farm saw a case of deja vu. On the recce a couple of weeks ago, we had just finished our picnic lunch when a heavy shower sent us scurrying for cover. The exact same thing happened today. For several years Craigie Farm was our destination in January; but in recent years it has become a summer ride. The forecast suggested we were in for a day of showers. Following the customary leader's briefing, thirteen of us left the Meadows in drizzly conditions and headed towards Roseburn Park via the familiar route of Leamington Bridge, canal, Telfer subway and Russell Road. We left the park and crossed Balgreen Road opposite the Jenner's Depository and made our way onto the shared path beside the tram track, taking it in the opposite direction to usual. We crossed the tram tracks and took the path through Broomhouse and Sighthill to Edinburgh Park station. Through the subway under the City Bypass and we were soon on quiet back roads around Gogarburn, passing the golf club that had been the destination for our 20 Milers ride back in May. This took us to Ratho where we paused to enjoy the cake that Iain kindly handed out. Suitably replenished, we pressed on to Ratho Station where a little path cut off the corner and we emerged beside the A8. We wheeled our bikes up and over the footbridge to the path on the other side. A short distance along this path beside the busy road [with its incessant noise] was quite enough. There were sighs of relief as we turned right down a quiet road leaving the noise behind. Beside the sewage works, we joined a lovely path through the woods towards Kirkliston. Skirting the town, we left the path near Carlowrie cottages. The leader was the only one who opted to ride down the rough, steep slope to the road; but he was on his balloon-tyred bike. From there, we stayed on that road until we turned off for Craigie Farm. Up the stiff little climb and we were at our lunch stop. Half the group headed to the picnic tables, whilst the other half went to the café. The service in the café was so slow that they gave up, bought food in the shop and joined us outside. We'd just finished lunch when a heavy shower sent us scurrying for cover. It lasted a couple of minutes before turning to light rain.

With waterproofs donned, we whizzed back down the hill and turned left at the bottom to head towards Edinburgh. From Burnshot Bridge, we took the subway, crossed the road and were soon back at Cramond Brig. It was still raining lightly. After our obligatory pause, we continued on our way,  regrouping at the post box on Barnton Avenue. The rain had stopped and it felt quite warm, so off came the waterproofs for what would be a dry run back to the Meadows by the familiar route we have taken so many times before. Having successfully dodged the tourists on the bike path, we were back at the Meadows and the leader declared the ride officially over.

Everyone enjoyed the ride. Whilst the rain probably played its part in a lower turnout, we didn't get soaked which was good. Thanks to Neil for leading us to a familiar place by a interestingly different route. Thanks to Alan for back marking.

Leader: Neil

Report: Glenn

Photos: Glenn