20th Anniversary Year

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Tuesday 25 December 2018

A seasonal saunter

Photo op on the esplanade

For the first time in several years, the gods of Christmas weather were good to us for today's ride. There was none of last year's torrential rain, nor anything resembling the ferocious Storm Conor of 2016. Christmas morning this year was mild, dry and almost free of wind. True, the skies were decidedly overcast, but when it comes to cycling, a grey Christmas is better than a white one.

Fourteen riders turned up for this, our eighth Christmas morning run. About half the group were 20-Milers regulars; the rest were mainly folk we tend to see once a year. We were also joined by a couple of visitors from Thailand. All very welcome.

Under David's leadership, we started out along George IV Bridge and up the Royal Mile to the castle. We did a circuit of the esplanade, taking in some of the monuments and statues, and pausing for a photo opportunity in front of the Scottish Horse Monument (commemorating the men of the Scottish Horse Regiment who fell in the Boer War). The Pentland Hills were just about visible through the murky cloud but the Fife coast had gone AWOL.

After leaving the castle, we freewheeled down Johnston Terrace, then round the back of the Usher Hall into Lothian Road. We crossed Festival Square and took the footbridge into Rutland Square. Next came a bit of weaving through the West End, across Queensferry Street and into Charlotte Square. Passing the First Minister's residence (no coffee invitation was forthcoming), we headed into the Street of Light.

The Street of Light is a section of George Street which, in recent weeks, has been lit up with a spectacular light display, synchronised with music played through silent disco headphones. But this morning the lights were out and the place was even more silent than usual. For no good reason, we did an extra lap or two under the extinguished lights before turning into Castle Street and out onto Princes Street.

The Street of Light
Cycling along an almost traffic-free Princes Street is a traditional part of our Christmas morning rides. This year there seemed to be a few more buses and taxis than previously, but not enough to spoil the run. After crossing the Leith Street / North Bridge junction, we tackled our only serious climb of the day – to the summit of Calton Hill. Although steep, the road up the hill is reasonably short, and we all made it to the top without difficulty. The last time we were here was on our summer solstice ride, when our visit had been marred somewhat by the extensive building work. Fortunately, this has now finished.

We left Calton Hill by the same road that we had used for the ascent, and then headed along Regent Road to another of our traditional stopping places: the Stones of Scotland Monument. Breaking with tradition, we then continued east to Abbeyhill, and then down to Horse Wynd and into Holyrood Park. We were pleased to see that the road through the park was closed to cars for the day, so we took advantage of that to occupy the full width of the road rather than keeping to the narrow shared-use pavement.

Calton Hill
After leaving the park by the Commonwealth Pool exit, we cut along the track that leads into St Leonard's Bank. This little-known back street provides an excellent view of Salisbury Crags. We have occasionally used it when heading out of town, but this was the first time I recall taking it in the other direction. We finished the ride by crossing St. Leonard's Street and taking the familiar bike route back to the Meadows, arriving there at 12:30. Our total distance was a mere six and half miles, but it was a most interesting route, in good company and in tolerable weather. In other words, an excellent start to Christmas Day.

Leader: David
Report and photos: Mike
Map: David

Thursday 20 December 2018

Short ride planned for Christmas Day

This is to remind you that we have our traditional Christmas morning ride coming up next week (Tuesday 25th). Like all our rides, this one will be free and open to all, so feel free to tell your pals.

In no way will the ride be strenuous. Just the opposite, it will be a leisurely saunter around town with plenty of stops. There will be a couple of moderate climbs but no other difficulties. One advantage of cycling on Christmas day is that the roads will be relatively quiet. We'll take advantage of that to take in parts of the city where we might not otherwise ride.

We'll set out at 10:30 from our usual meeting point at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. The ride will end back at the Meadows at 13:00 at the very latest (possibly a bit earlier). Of course, you can always peel off earlier if you need to be somewhere else for lunch.

Note that there will be no cafe or pub stop of any kind. If anyone wishes to bring a snack, we'll stop somewhere nice for you to enjoy it.

There's no need to reply to this post. If you are planning to join us, just turn up on the day.

Saturday 8 December 2018

Turned out dry again - just

For those in the know, there are four routes to the top of Fa'side Hill near Wallyford. There's the hard way, second hardest way, third hardest way and the easy (off-road) way. Today saw us go up by the second hardest way, and come down what would have been the hard way; which made for a glorious descent. By declaring the ride officially over before we had returned to the Meadows (and five minutes before the rain started), the rookie leader was able to claim a dry ride.

For once, the last 20 Milers ride of the year saw us avoid the Christmas crowds that we have had to mix with in previous years. This time, the Christmas tree in the pub where we had lunch was the only clue to what time of year it was. We didn't even have typical December weather. In the morning it was cool and dry with sunny intervals. After lunch, it was  overcast and cooler without the sun. For the final stretch back to the Meadows there was some very light rain - but of course, the ride was officially over by then. A turnout of twenty was good for the time of year. The noticable wind that blew us out to Prestonpans had dropped as we turned to head back west. In one group, we headed off towards the Innocent Railway. A trouble-free ride with the wind behind us meant we were in Niddrie in next to no time. Unfortunately, a wrecked pickup truck had been dumped in the middle of the cycle path. To avoid the broken glass and other debris, we had to take to the soft, wet grass. We also had a very brief delay whilst a minor chain-related mechanical issue was deftly sorted. On reaching Milton Road, we deviated from our usual route to Musselburgh and headed down Brunstane Road. The road was unbelievably busy with traffic. Eventually we got down it and made our way to Portobello prom. At Joppa, the leader had us get into groups of five so as to cause minimal hold ups to the traffic on the busy road towards Musselburgh. It felt like a team time trial, only considerably slower with the aim being NOT to catch the group in front! With that stretch of busy road behind us, we stopped at Fisherrow for a comfort break and cakes and sweets were passed round.
Quiet back roads, the footbridge over the river, past the racecourse and we were once again into groups of five and back on the busy road. At the racecourse roundabout we took the coast road as far as Prestonpans. We now headed inland towards Prestonpans railway station. Past the station and we crossed a bridge over the A1. A short, sharp little climb took us to the busy A199. It took a few minutes to get everyone safely across. Once across we began the steady climb up to Fa'side Hill. Inevitably, the group became quite spread out on this section, so we waited and re-grouped beside the mast. A few undulations, past Fa'side Castle and the steep descent began in earnest. Going down the other side of a steep hill climbed always gives a sense of fair payback. From the bottom of the hill, a short run along the busy road and we arrived at the pub which would be our lunch stop. Given the time of year, it didn't come as much of a surprise that no one opted for the picnic lunch option.

With everyone fed and watered, we stepped outside and prepared for the off. With clouds now obscuring the sun, it felt considerably cooler. Within yards of setting off, we were delayed by temporary traffic lights. Through those and we followed the road to re-join The Grove - the cycle path back towards Musselburgh. We followed it as far as the footbridge over the River Esk. Across the river and [unbelievably] we rode through a couple of swarms of midges! Didn't they know it was December? Clear of the midges, a combination of quiet residential streets and cycle paths took us to Musselburgh railway station. From there we made our way to Newcraighall; where we luckily hit upon a break in the traffic to cross the road unhindered. Through the new housing development and we were soon on the familiar route back towards the Innocent Railway. In Niddrie we avoided the wrecked truck by taking an alternative path. Once through the Innocent Tunnel, the leader declared the ride officially over. One or two riders left us there, but the majority followed the leader back to the Meadows through the light rain that was now falling.

Thanks to Neil for taking the reins for the first time to lead an interesting and enjoyable ride. Taking the decision to declare the ride over five minutes prior to the rain beginning was a stroke of genius. Also worthy of mention was the fact that Neil was out recceing the route at 0500 to check that the wind was not going to be a major problem. It wasn't. That must count as a level of dedication that few other leaders can match.

So, with the exception of the short Christmas Day ride, here endeth the 2018 rides. Thanks to everyone that has made them a success - leaders, backmarkers, helpers and attendees. Wishing all our riders seasons greetings and looking forward to seeing you again in 2019.

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

Tuesday 4 December 2018

Two rides for December

We've got two rides coming up this month. Here are the details.

December 20-Milers (8th December)

For this month's run, Neil will be leading us into East Lothian. The route will take us to Musselburgh, Prestonpans, Falside Castle, Whitecraig and then back to Edinburgh via the River Esk path and NCN1. At about 24 miles, this ride will be a little longer than usual, and will include one steep climb but no other major problems.

Our lunch stop will be the Craig House pub, just outside Whitecraig. This offers basic grub at reasonable prices. The pub is not suitable for those of us who prefer to bring our own food, so we will make a small detour to Wedderburn Terrace, where there is a nice picnic spot overlooking the river.

As always, we will set out at 10:30 from the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. The run should end a little before dark, so be sure to bring lights in case we get delayed and to see you home.

Christmas morning ride (25th December)

Once again, we will be organising our traditional (and very popular) half-day ride for Christmas morning. This will be a short ride, taken at a very leisurely pace. It will finish at 13:00 at the latest. I'll post more details nearer the time.

Both of these rides are, of course, free of charge and open to all, with no advance booking.

I hope to see you on one or both of the above events.