20th Anniversary Year

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Saturday 15 September 2018

An Extra swansong into West Lothian

For our final Extra ride of the year, we headed into West Lothian for a picnic lunch in Almondell Country Park. Before the start we encountered a wee boy on a scooter that could have talked for Scotland; the weather was kinder to us than the forecast had suggested and once again, we had to contend with a few rough and bumpy stretches of path. There was also a brief delay whilst one of the group played good samaritan to a stranded motorist.

As is the norm when heading out west, our meeting point was the Craigleith path junction. Whilst waiting for the riders to arrive, a young boy turned up on his scooter and began chatting to us. A minute or two later, his dad arrived; but like the rest of us - couldn't get a word in. He must have talked non-stop for almost ten minutes. If ever talking became an Olympic sport, we had just met Scotland's future gold medallist! By now it was time for us to leave. A turn out of twelve was acceptable; but it would have been nice to have finished this year's Extra rides with a slightly higher number. The forecast said it would be a dry, mild but overcast day. It did stay dry, but we saw more sunshine than expected; and whilst it never got hot, it was pleasantly warm and ideal for a picnic. We headed off on the familiar route taking the cycle path through Silverknowes and Barnton to Cramond Brig. We paused there briefly wondering if this would be our first sweetie stop of the day. Alas, it was not to be. The leader sheepishly admitted he had committed the cardinal sin and forgotten to bring sweeties! We headed off, took the underpass beeath the A90 and headed out on the road past Craigiehall Army HQ. Verity kindly marked the junction where we turned off, for the benefit of following riders. Whilst there, an old lady stopped her car saying she had a puncture and would need to walk to a nearby house and phone the RAC. Without hesitation, Verity phoned the RAC on her mobile and was able to give the location. Speaking about it later, we had visions of the call handler looking out onto the horrendously busy M5/M6 junction near Birmingham whislt directing a mechanic to a quiet road near Kirkliston. Verity rejoined us and we made our way along the cycle path to Kirkliston. An unscheduled stop in the main street saw the leader disappear into a shop and emerge carrying a packet of sweets. He had redeemed himself. We made or way through the village, pausing for a comfort stop at the leisure centre where the sweeties were passed around. Quiet country roads near Niddry Castle led us onto the towpath beside the Union Canal for the run into Broxburn. Leaving the canal, a mixture of cycle paths and quiet residential streets allowed us to avaoid a section of the busy A899. Unfortunately, the path ended and a stretch on the busy road followed. We turned off and headed to Uphall station. Cycle paths took us around Pumpherston golf course before joining a path beside the River Almond. Some of the paths on this section were somewhat rough and bumpy; but they caused us no problems. We rode beneath the impressive Camps Viaduct. It made a change, as on previous rides we have always ridden across the viaduct. On the final run into Almondell Country Park, there were a couple of bridges that were far-from-easy to navigate as a rusult of steep lips of slippy steel - not what you would expect on a dedicated cycle path. We arrived at the visitor centre and bagged a couple of picnic tables in the garden for our picnic lunch.

Lunch over, we made our way up a stiff little climb to exit the country park. A rough path followed by a minor road brought us out at a busy junction on the A71. We crossed carefully to join a much quieter road that took us to Kirknewton. On the stretch of road around Long Dalmahoy, the leader confidently led us past a "road closed" sign. Three cars were behind us as we arrived at another "road closed" sign and the road was blocked by a lorry and workmen filling in a trench. As the cars were forced to turn around, the workmen stopped and allowed us to squeeze through the gap between the lorry and the ditch. That explained why the sign had also said, "except for pedestrians and cyclists". We carried on and took the back way into the Heriot Watt University campus. Due to building work, there were several cycle paths closed within the campus; but fortunately, diversions were in place to help us get through. From there we followed a route we have used many times to enter the back of Edinburgh Park. From there on, the familiar route took us through Sighthill, Broomhouse and Stenhouse before following the tram line as far as Murrayfield. From there it was a short run to the Russell Road zig-zags, where the leader declared the ride over.
Thanks to Peter for leading the final Extra ride of the year. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and it is always good to go somewhere familiar but have the route mixed up a little to keep it interesting. Courtesey of her good samaritan role, Verity gets a well-deserved mention in dispatches for the second week running. So here ends another successful series of Extra rides - role on next summer.

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

Tuesday 11 September 2018

September Extra this coming Saturday

We've just got time to squeeze one more Extra into our summer programme. It will take place this coming Saturday (15th), when we head out to Almondell Country Park.

As you know, our Extra rides are longer than our usual monthly runs. We start a little earlier, finish a little later, and aim for a slightly higher average speed. But we still try to keep the rides sociable and unpressured. Most of our riders find the pace comfortable, but if you are at all concerned about your fitness level, you might prefer to stick to our "second Saturday" outings instead.

This week's ride

For Saturday's run, Peter will be leading us into West Lothian, heading for Almondell Country Park via Kirkliston (comfort break), Niddry Castle and Broxburn. There will be a few moderate hills, none of them particularly onerous. Some of the paths might be rough in places, so given a choice, a hybrid would be more suitable than a road bike. The total distance will be about 35 miles.

Food and drink

There is no café or pub in the country park, so be sure to bring your own food and drink for a picnic lunch. The visitor centre sells a few confectionery items and they also have a vending machine for hot drinks. But the range is very limited, so it would be wise not to rely on it.

If the weather is bad, we will eat our picnic inside the visitor centre. If the weather is really bad, we will change the route to include a café.

Time and place

We'll set out at 10:15 from our alternative meeting point at the Craigleith path junction (see here if you need directions). I can't say for sure what time the ride will finish, but it's likely to be around 16:00, give or take.

Remember, we don't have a booking system for our rides. Just turn up on the day if you feel like it.

Saturday 8 September 2018

In the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson

For today's 20 Milers ride, the leader took us on a "themed" ride following a traditional, waymarked route: Robert Louis Stevenson's "Road to Swanston and the Pentlands". We followed the route he supposedly took between the New Town and the ancient village of Swanston, at the foot of the Pentland Hills. As the so-called "road" was more akin to a footpath, we had to contend with more off-road riding than usual. Despite being rough and bumpy in places, we managed it without serious mishaps; no doubt helped by the fact it was dry.

With the Festival over and most people [and Edinburgh] back to normal after the summer, a turnout of 21 was slightly lower than may have been expected; but perfectly acceptable and manageable - only one group required. The weather was dry, overcast and pleasant, rather than warm - obviously autumn is on its way. We left the Meadows and made our way to Braidburn Valley Park via the familiar route taking in Bruntsfield Links and the back streets of Morningside. A combination of cycle paths (some were rough, steep or both) and quiet residential streets took us through Oxgangs. On this section, the leader stopped beside an old building and gave us a short talk about its significance in the history of Edinburgh's public water supply. Leaving Oxgangs behind, we crossed a bridge over the City Bypass and headed past the golf club to the delightful village of Swanston that nestles at the foot of the Pentlands. We paused a while to admire the village and refuel with cake and sweets. It is hard to believe such a lovely little village is so close to the centre of Edinburgh, and even closer to the City Bypass. The gate that led into the Pentland Hills was not at all cycle-friendly. As a result, a few minutes followed where a combination of dancing with bikes and lifting them over a gate ensued. There then followed a section of rough and bumpy path which descended to emerge beside the very busy Biggar Road. Fortunately, we did not need to cross that. But we did need  to carefully cross the on and off sliproads of the City Bypass. Across Biggar Road and we were meandering through quiet residential streets. A further stretch of rough, bumpy path took us to Broomhills and on to Frogston Road East. A short run along the  road and we were at our lunch stop - Mortonhall Garden Centre. The rough, bumpy paths had claimed two victims. Punctures were fixed during the lunch stop.

The cafe at the garden centre is a vast improvement since we last used it and everyone enjoyed their lunch. Punctures repaired, we made our way back along Frogston Road East. Through the traffic lights and we turned right into the back streets of Burdiehouse. We went into Burdiehouse Valley Park and followed the Burdiehouse Burn as far as Ellen's Glen Loan. Ellen's Glen Road took us to Gilmerton road, which we took before turning onto Glenallan Drive to skirt the edge of The Inch Park. A short stretch on Old Dalkeith Road followed before we headed into Craigmillar Castle Park. Along Peffermill Road, across it and into the industrial estate. This cut-through brought us out at the Innocent Railway for a straight forward run back to the Meadows. We had a slightly surreal moment as we rode through the Innocent Tunnel. A pedestrian was listening to music on their phone, so the tunnel was filled with an Abba track. Interesting acoustics in the tunnel!

At the Meadows, the leader declared the ride over. Thanks to Mike for leading an interesting and somewhat different ride that everyone seemed to enjoy. At 18 miles, it was shorter than usual; but had plenty of variety. There was even sufficient off-road riding involved to keep the wanna-be mountain bikers amused. Having avoided it for a number of years, the Mortonhall Garden Centre cafe is definitely somewhere we will be happy to use again. Rightly or wrongly, we don't usually mention the backmarker, despite it being a thankless but vital role. But today's incumberent, Verity certainly deserved thanks. Still recovering from the effects of a recent accident, she did a great job. We were all releived that her injuries were not worse.

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

Monday 3 September 2018

September ride this coming Saturday

For our ride on Saturday, we are going to do something slightly different. It will be a "themed" ride, following a traditional, waymarked, route: Robert Louise Stevenson's "Road to Swanston and the Pentlands".

As you might know. RLS grew up in the New Town. But his family rented a holiday cottage in the ancient village of Swanston, at the foot of the Pentland Hills. Our ride on Saturday will follow the route that he supposedly took between the two houses. The route also has a strong connection with Edinburgh's water supply; more about that when we get there.

Unfortunately, Stevenson didn't have a bike. So his so-called "road" was more of a footpath than a cycle path - and still is today. We can therefore expect several sections of our route to be over rough tracks, with some possible muddy patches. It might be just about do-able on a skinny-tyred road bike, but it will be much more comfortable on a hybrid or mountain bike.

At 18 miles, the route will be shorter than most of our runs. There will be some moderate climbing in the first half of the morning, followed by some level and downhill stretches in the afternoon.

Lunch stop

For our lunch break, we will be visiting a brand new restaurant that has recently opened within the Mortonhall Garden Centre. It is very spacious and comfortable, serving a range of salads, sandwiches and light meals. For those who prefer to bring their own food, there is now a large terrace with plenty of seating.

Time and place

As always, we will gather at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk, ready to leave at 10:30. The ride will probably end around 15:00, though this will depend on the weather, the turnout and other factors. If anyone wants to get home particularly early, there will be an option for a shorter return leg, albeit on busy roads.

Please remember that, although the meeting time and place are fixed, we reserve the right to vary the route according to the conditions on the day.

Our last Extra of the season

We have another ride lined up this month: our fifth and last Extra for 2018, which will take place on the 15th. I'll let you have more details nearer the time.