20th Anniversary Year

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Thursday 26 May 2016

Misty Thursday

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

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

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

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

Leader, report and photo: Mike
Map: Jim

Sunday 22 May 2016

Sunny Dunny lives up to its name

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Saturday 14 May 2016

Spring is in the air - at last!

For today's ride we headed out to Craigie Farm by a somewhat less familiar route. Bright and sunny weather at the start was most welcome and must have influenced the fact that 38 riders turned up. This was the biggest turn out so far this year. Good to see a smattering of new faces and the welcome return of one of the group's stalwarts; who had been out of action for quite a few months. We had almost forgotten what it was like to split into two groups. A slight moment of panic set in when it was realised that only the leader and one other had been on the recce. Panic over. We had a leader and a second group leader, and two back markers were nominated and given a quick briefing of the route. One of the regulars realised they had a puncture just as we were preparing to leave. As ever, there were plenty offers of help. So that rider became a second group member by default. The first group set off. Puncture fixed, the second group rolled away from the start a few minutes later. We left the Meadows and headed to Leamington Bridge and the canal via Bruntsfield Links. After a very short stretch beside the canal, we headed to Fountain Park and down the Telfer subway, through Gorgie and up the zig-zags to join the Roseburn path to Craigleith. We joined the Telford path and made our way to Granton. We paused briefly beside the Granton gasometer. Even that managed to look impressive in the sunshine and it was beginning to get pleasently warm. We made our way along the busy Silverknowes Esplanade, stopping for a comfort break and ice creams at Cramond. Standing in the warm sun and looking out to Cramond Island, there was a slightly surreal moment when one of the group handed out Christmas cake. It seemed a bit strange, but the cake was lovely and greatly appreciated. The first group probably lingered longer than they realised. The second group had caught them up. This was their cue to mount up and head off. We passed the harbour and headed up the steep School Brae. Most of our rides see us whizzing down this road, so it came as something of a shock to have to climb up it. From there we headed along Whitehouse Road, turned right at the crossing and headed down to Cramond Brig before joining the path beside the A90. We carried on and made the right turn for the steep climb that took us up to Craigie Farm and our lunch stop, where the group spread out to enjoy alfresco dining.
With the group suitably replenished, we headed back down the road we had come up earlier. At the bottom we turned right and headed towards Kirkliston. Before long, we turned off and made our way up a steep path beside a bridge to join the railway path towards the village of Dalmeny. One brave soul rode up the path whilst most elected to get off and push their bikes up. This delightful path took us through the trees to Dalmeny. From the village we made our way to the Dalmeny Estate. We had a lovely ride through the estate which looked resplendent in the spring sunshine with lambs gambolling around. We exited the estate and took the path beside the A90 and made our way back to Craigleith by the familiar route of Cramond Brig, Barnton and Silverknowes. We headed back down the way we had come earlier in the day. We waited as a canal boat made it's way under the raised Leamington Bridge. From there it was a short hop back to the Meadows. Even though a number of riders had peeled off as we headed back towards town; the leader insisted on leading the remainder of the group right back to the start point. No stopping short allowed here! Thanks to Verity for leading us on an interesting route to a familiar lunch stop. Thanks to the second group leader and back markers for remembering how to carry out those duties - it's been a while; and thanks to the weather for adding to the day's enjoyment.

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

Monday 9 May 2016

May 20-Milers this coming Saturday

We've got our monthly ride coming up this Saturday (14th). The forecast is looking good for the week ahead, so we can hope for a reasonably warm and dry day for the ride.

Verity will be leading us on what looks like a very pleasant route. In the morning we'll be taking a tour of bike paths around the Edinburgh waterfront - Granton, Silverknowes and Cramond Harbour - and then on to the Dalmeny Estate in the afternoon.

Lunch will be at one of our more popular stopping places: Craigie's Farm. The cafe there has recently been enlarged, so there will be plenty of room for us to spread out, either inside or on the terrace. They offer a good range of snacks and hot meals, not to mention some very nice cakes.

The total distance will be a little over 20 miles. There will be a couple of moderately steep hills (including one just before lunch). Most of the route will be on quiet roads or paths with good surfaces, but there might be some short rough sections.

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

Dawn's abseil

Next month, one of our regular riders will be launching herself from the top of the Forth Bridge, for a 50-metre abseil down to the beach below.

Dawn Chapman will be using the abseil to raise money for The Yard. If you've ever cycled through the Rodney Street tunnel or the King George V Park, you will have seen The Yard. It looks like a glorified adventure playground, but it's really much more than that. It plays a very special role in helping autistic children and those with other disabilities.

Dawn will be doing her abseil on the afternoon of Sunday 26th June, at the South Queensferry end of the bridge. If anyone would like to cycle out there to watch the event and give their moral support, please let us know (use the email address in the side panel) and we will organise a ride.

You can read more about the abseil – and especially the reasons that The Yard is so important in Dawn's life – on this page. And once you have read it, please consider sponsoring Dawn in her fund-raising campaign for this very worthwhile cause. You can do that right there on the same page.

Saturday 7 May 2016

A castle and a chilly picnic

For the opening 20 Milers Extra ride of 2016 we headed out to Blackness Castle in west Lothian. A dry, cool but overcast day greeted the 19 rides that assembled at the Craigleith start point. It was good to see a few new faces mixed in amongst the regulars and more familiar participants. We made good progress as we headed west on the Blackhall path, through Silverknowes, Davidsons Mains and Barnton. We were soon having our obligitory halt on the bridge over the River Almond. From there we made our way on to the path beside the A90 and onwards to the village of Dalmeny. From there a mixture of paths and roads took us to South Queensferry for our comfort stop. We left South Queensferry behind and rode under the new Queensferry Crossing and into the Hopetoun Estate. In the estate there is one difficult to negotiate gate that is a real bottleneck for group rides. A new approach by the leader meant rather than wait until everyone was through, everyone went through and carried on. Such a simple approach avoided wasted time and will be the norm from now on. Just as we were leaving the estate, we suffered our only puncture of the day. It was agreed to push on to our lunch stop and leave the victim in the capable hands of our mechanical maestro, Alan Orr.

We arrived at Blackness Castle and looked for picnic tables and benches that would afford us some shelter from the cool wind blowing off the Forth. Some were successful in their search; others less so. The two held up by the puncture soon joined us. The small castle shop sold more teas and coffees than ice creams on this ocassion. It wasn't the weather to linger over a leisurely picnic, so we finished up and headed off. Within a few minutes we were warming up on the toughest climb of the day. We then made our way to Philipstoun where we joined the Union Canal. After a few miles on the bumpy towpath, we left the canal and made our way to Kirkliston. From there paths and back roads took us to the edge of the Dalmeny Estate and the path beside the A90. Again we stopped on the bridge over the River Almond where three children were busy playing Pooh Sticks. From there we returned to Craigleith on the route we had taken out earlier.

Thanks to Mike for leading the first 20 Milers Extra of the year. There will be more to come as the summer progresses. Lets hope we can have weather that feels more like summer.

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

Monday 2 May 2016

Our first 20-Milers Extra of the summer this Saturday

The first of this year's Extra rides takes place this coming Saturday (7th May). This promises to be a particularly pleasant ride, heading out along the coast for a picnic at Blackness Castle, returning via an inland route. For the most part, the route will be straightforward, although there might be a couple of rough paths, and there will be one killer hill - just after lunch.

Length and pace

At 30 - 35 miles, our Extra rides are longer than our standard second-Saturday runs. We leave earlier, get back later, and go at a slightly faster pace. So please think carefully about whether this ride is right for you.

If you find our usual runs well within you capabilities, then you will have no problem with this one. But if you feel that our standard runs are at all demanding, then you might prefer to give this one a miss. Join us instead for our normal 20-mile ride the following week.

Place and time

For this Extra ride, we will start from our alternative meeting point at the Craigleith path junction (see here for directions). We will leave at 10 am - half an hour earlier than usual. I can't say for sure what time the ride will end, but I would expect it to be around 4 pm.

Lunch arrangements

There are no cafés, pubs or restaurants in Blackness, so be sure to bring food for a picnic lunch. There is a small souvenir shop there, and this sells hot drinks, ice cream and a limited range of confectionery, but nothing more substantial. There are also toilets there.

Depending on progress and other factors, we might have an optional coffee stop near the end of the ride.

What if the weather is bad?

Light rain or a chilly wind won't put us off. But if the weather is particularly bad, we might opt for a shorter run with lunch in a café. We'll make that decision on the day.