EDINBURGH 20-MILERS

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Saturday, 17 September 2016

An excursion across the Forth


For the final 20 Milers Extra ride of the year we headed across the Forth into the Kingdom of Fife. To wind up this year's series of Extra rides we were blessed with beautiful weather. Warm, sunny, lovely blue skies and barely a breeze. This was what we would have expected in July rather than mid-September. Meeting at our usual starting point when heading north or west on these rides; we had a very respectable turn out of 20 riders. As ever, it was good to see some new faces and less regular attendees in the mix. There was even a tandem. We rolled away from the Craigleith marker taking familiar paths and roads to Cramond Brig. It has become a group custom to stop on the bridge. This time was no exception. We had just climbed the hill beside the Cramond Brig pub and joined the path beside the A90 when a loud bang signalled an impressive puncture. The puncturee was near the back of the group. As a result; by the time the leader was made aware of the situation, quite a distance had been covered. The group stopped. But the townies amongst us complained about the smell of manure coming off the adjacent fields. The decision was made to push on and find a less smelly place to wait. After quite a long wait at the entrance to the Dalmeny estate, the puncturee and four helpers came into sight and we were able to carry on. We pushed on through Dalmeny village and took the cycle path through the new housing development on the edge of South Queensferry. Avoiding the centre of town; quiet back roads and paths took us to the Forth Bridge. A short stop to admire the view of the three bridges and then it was up and on to the path that took us across the road bridge. Today was the busiest the writer has ever seen the bridge. It was teeming with cyclists and pedestrians. But the wide path meant there was room for everyone, with opportunities to admire the stunning views. The Forth was mill pond calm and a beautiful blue beneath the clear skies, with superb visibility. Across the bridge we came upon roadworks which saw us on a rough, unfinished shared pavement before rejoining the very unpleasant and busy road into Inverkeithing. Leaving Inverkeithing behind us, we were soon on the Fife coastal path. This is a lovely path with splendid views. A real treat, especially on suck a glorious day. Those that had never been on this path before were completely blown away by it.
One rider got so excited that he decided to dance with his bike! There was that familiar banging and scraping sound that suggests a rider is about to fall. Those in front turned round to see what the commotion was. His front wheel was alternating between being in the dirt and on the tarmac with the whole bike dancing from side to side. Collectively the group must have been thinking, "he's going down". But to the relief of all, somehow he regained control and remained upright. The greatest sigh of relief came from the rider alongside him who must have thought he was about to be wiped out. We left the coastal path and had a short spell on the busy road through Aberdour to get to Silversands Bay. Picnics came out and food was bought from the busy cafe. Soon we were all sitting in the sun enjoying our lunch whilst looking across the sandy beach and the blue waters of the Forth. On such a lovely day with the sun beating down from a clear sky, even the Burntisland aluminium smelter across the water looked majestic.

Throughout the day, many had suggested this may well be the last day of such weather this year. As a result; in an unprecedented move, three members of the group decided to stay and enjoy the sun rather than head back. As Jim was one of the group, we were confident they would have no trouble finding their way home and bid them farewell. Our return route took us back the way we had come. Sometimes that can seem a bit boring. But with the coastal path, no one minded at all. We stopped briefly to admire the remains of an old chapel. We left the path behind and entered Inverkeithing. Back down the busy main road, through the roadworks and we were back on the bridge admiring the views from the opposite direction. A quick comfort stop at the viewing area and we were skirting South Queensferry again. The path alongside the A90, a brief stop on Cramond Brig, and then the familiar roads and paths back to Craigleith. Thanks to Julia for such a lovely route and for arranging such marvellous weather. It certainly felt like we had finished our Extra rides series on a high note. We will probably have to wait until May before these rides start again. But of course, the standard 20 Milers rides keep going throughout the year, including the short special one on Christmas Day.

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


Monday, 12 September 2016

20-Milers Extra this coming Saturday

Silvesands Beach. Photo: Sandy Gemmill

This coming Saturday (17th), we have the last of our Extra rides for this year (our normal rides will continue through the winter, of course).

So far this summer, our Extras have taken us into various parts of West Lothian and East Lothian. This time, we will be heading into Fife. After crossing the Forth Road Bridge, we will head east along the Fife Coastal Path, passing St David's Harbour and Dalgety Bay, and then into Aberdour.

Pace and distance

As you know, our Extra rides are longer than our normal outings. This one will be 35 - 40 miles, and will go at a slightly faster pace than you might be used to. If you haven't cycled much recently, or are unsure about your fitness level, please think carefully before you decide to come on this ride. But if you usually feel comfortable with our longer runs, this one should present no difficulties.

Most of the route will be on roads and well-surfaced paths, with only one or two short stretches on rough tracks. There will only be a few hills - none of them particularly demanding.

Lunch stop

For our lunch stop, we will make for the very attractive Silversands Bay. This is a particularly nice spot for a picnic. It has a pleasant park and a beautiful beach, with extensive views over the Firth of Forth. There are plenty of picnic tables. There is also a café nearby for those who prefer a hot lunch, as well as a snack bar where you can get a tea or coffee.

A point to note. The above-mentioned café has been known to refuse to top up cyclists' water bottles - something that most cafés and pubs are happy to do. As far as I know, there is nowhere else nearby where you can take on water, so be sure to bring an adequate supply with you.

Meeting time and place

The ride will leave from our alternative meeting point at the path junction in Craigleith (see here for directions). As usual with our Extra rides, we will set out at the earlier start time of 10.00.

I can't say for sure what time the ride will end, but I think it's likely that we will be back at Craigleith around 4 pm or soon after.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Falside Hill - the easy way


For those that don't like steep hills and know of it; mention of Falside Hill can lead to feelings of serious trepidation. A mile or so south-east of Wallyford in East Lothian; there are three routes to the top. The hard way is to approach from the Wallyford side just past the A1 junction. There are two approaches from Tranent. Whilst both are easier than the hard way, both are still something of a challenge. For today's ride, the leader was promising an easy ascent of the hill. Was this a wind up, or was it a real possibility? It was dry and overcast with the sun trying to peep through as the riders began to gather at the start point. Following the customary briefing, the 26 riders headed off towards the Innocent tunnel. In amongst the regulars were some riders that hadn't been out with us for quite a while and a smattering of new faces. Turning off long before the tunnel, we made our way up St Leonards Bank. This little-known dead end street is delightful. On one side are lovely houses; on the other is a to-die-for view of Arthur's Seat. A real undiscovered gem in the heart of town. This was discovered by one of our regular riders a couple of years ago and we continue to weave it into appropriate rides for the "wow" factor. An indication of how well hidden it is can be shown by the fact that Ken has lived in Edinburgh for over 50 years, yet only discovered it a couple of years ago.
Following a short stretch where we had to walk along a very rough path, we were soon in Holyrood Park and whizzing down to Duddingston village. From there we made our way past Duddingston golf course, Milton Road and joined the Innocent Railway path at Bingham. From there we took the regularly used route to emerge at Musselburgh station. Here we had a brief pause whilst the leader offered round sweeties. From there we made our way through the houses, took the bridge over the River Esk and onto the Grove to Whitecraig. At Whitecraig we joined the cycle path towards Dalkeith before turning off and climbing up to Crossgatehall to join the Pencaitland railway path. After a couple of miles of easy riding on the whin dust path, we turned left onto a less smooth minor path. Within a short distance we were confronted by a flight of steps which forced us to dismount and walk. With the steps behind us, we remounted and continued along the path passing a cemetery that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. Waiting to regroup in Elphinstone, a collie dog was very keen to round up the group of cyclists. So much so, that he had to be dragged away by his owner. There then followed what can only be described as the closest the 20 Milers ever get to single track mountain biking. This short stretch was quite tricky. But whilst there may have been one or two heart-in-the-mouth moments, everyone got through safely. The fact the leader had warned everyone of what was to come obviously helped. A little more riding on a better quality path and we emerged onto the road at the top of Falside Hill. So it was true! It had been possible to get to the top of Falside Hill without too much effort. The only compromise being the need to negotiate a couple of off-road sections; one short stretch of which had been quite tricky. Now for the reward. We sped down the steep hill. A very quick and enjoyable way to get to our lunch stop at Craig House on the edge of Whitecraig.

Suitably replenished after a good lunch, we rolled away from Craig House and made our way to the pleasant village of Inveresk. By St Michael's kirk we negotiated a gate and made our way down to the path beside the River Esk which took us back to Tesco in Musselburgh. We crossed the busy Mall Avenue and made our way towards Fisherrow Harbour via Eskside West; remembering to duck as we rode under the bridge which carries the aptly named Bridge Street. After a brief pause at Fisherrow, one final detour took us up Newhailes Avenue and Newhailes Crescent to emerge on the busy Edinburgh Road through a gate set into the wall. A few hundred yards on this road and we turned left through another hole in the wall to join the Brunstane path. This lovely path which hugs the Brunstane Burn brought us out at Brunstane station. From there we joined the familiar NCN 1 for our run back into town. It was on this path at Jewel Park that we had our only puncture of the day. Thanks to Alan Orr for ensuring the unfortunate rider was back under way with minimal delay. Positive feedback suggested that everyone enjoyed the day's ride. Good weather, some unfamiliar territory, a short stretch of challenging off-road riding, good company - what more could anyone want from a 20 Milers outing? Ah, of course; the chance to ascend a very tough hill with minimal climbing.

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




Monday, 5 September 2016

Two rides planned for September


We've got an interesting ride planned for next Saturday - see below for full details. We've also got one of our Extra rides scheduled for the following weekend; there are brief details of that at the end of this post.

Monthly ride: 10th September

For our September run, Glenn will be leading us into East Lothian, on a route that takes in parts of the River Esk Walkway, the Peniciuk Railway Path and the Pencaitland Path. The high point of the morning will be the summit of Falside Hill (144 metres above sea level). Now, if you've ever cycled up Falside, you'll know that it is a long steep slog to the summit from Tranent or Prestonpans, and even more of a grind from Whitecraig. But don't worry. Glenn has come up with an interesting route that will get us close to the top with only a very gentle ascent. I recently cycled the route myself, and can assure you that it works as advertised.

But be warned. While much of the route will be on tarmac, there will also be some sections that are very much off-road. These include a mile or two on rough paths that might also be muddy, and a particularly narrow stretch where some riders might prefer to dismount and walk. There will also be a short flight of steps to negotiate.

The total length of the ride will be about 26 miles.

Lunch stop

For lunch, we'll head to one  of our regular stops: the Premier Inn near Whitecraig. This offers basic pub food at reasonable prices. It's by no means gourmet fare, but it should provide us with the calories we need. As always, you have the option of bringing your own food for a picnic lunch.

Because most of the mileage for the ride will be in the morning, with a relatively short afternoon leg, the lunch stop might be on the late side. So adjust your appetite accordingly.

Logistics

The ride will start from our usual meeting place at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. As the route will be a little longer than usual, we'll aim to set out sharp at 10.30. We'll probably arrive back at the Meadows some time between 3.30 and 4.00 pm (but don't hold me to that).

Remember, all our rides are free and open to all. You don't need to book in advance - just turn up on the day.

20-Milers Extra: 17th September

For our second ride this month, Julia (Richardson) will be taking us on a rare excursion into Fife. This will be one of our longer and faster runs. I'll post more details nearer the time, but for now, note the date, and also that we will be starting at 10 am (half an hour earlier than usual), from our alternative meeting point in Craigleith.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

20-Milers Extra to Merryhatton


Whilst today's ride did go ahead; unfortunately neither of the group's usual scribes were available to bring you a report. Mike was leading guided walks around Edinburgh as part of the Festival, and Glenn was recovering from a crash at the Meadowbank velodrome.

By way of compensation, here are a few photos instead. Normal service should be resumed by the time of our next ride.













Leader: Logan
Photos: Michael
Map trace: Jim



Sunday, 14 August 2016

20-Milers Extra this coming Saturday


We've got another of our Extra rides this coming Saturday. Logan will be leading us on what promises to be a very pleasant run into East Lothian, with a lunch stop at Merryhatton, near East Fortune.

Please keep in mind that these Extra rides are longer and faster than our usual "second Saturday" runs. We start a little earlier, finish a little later, and maintain a slightly higher average speed - although not so fast that you can't keep up a conversation. Most of our riders find the pace comfortable, but, if you haven't cycled for a while or are unsure of your abilities, you may prefer to give this ride a miss.

Our route on Saturday will be either 44 or 50 miles, depending on the start point (see below). There will be some short stretches that might be busy with traffic, but there should be no other difficulties. Most of the route will be on quiet roads or well-surfaced paths, and there won't be any nasty hills.

Lunch venue

Our lunch stop will the Merryhatton Garden Centre, where there is an above-average café serving a good range of light lunches (soup, sandwiches, baked potatoes, etc.) as well as more substantial meals. As always, you have the option of bringing food for a picnic lunch if you prefer.

Meeting time and place

For this ride, there will be a choice of meeting place. You can turn up either:

(i) At our usual spot at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk, but at the earlier departure time of 09.45; or

(ii) At Fisherrow Harbour in Musselburgh. We will be leaving from there at 10.30.

Choose whichever meeting point is more convenient for you. Either way, you don't need to let anyone know in advance. As with all our rides, you can just turn up on the day.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Festival escape to Dalkeith


Our regular meeting point at the top of Middle Meadow Walk was heaving with people courtesy of the Edinburgh Festival. Today's ride to Dalkeith was something of an antidote to the hustle  and bustle of the city in August. A bright, sunny and pleasantly warm morning greeted the 24 riders that turned up at the start. One unicycle and one recumbent made for a more eclectic mix of cycles than usual. It was nice to see some new comers in amongst the regulars. Numbers meant we could manage with one group. It's always nice to have a big turnout; but it becomes more challenging when a second group leader and back marker need to be pressed into action. Following the customary leader's briefing we headed off. A one way system in operation around George Square forced us to take an alternative route. For once we rode up, rather than down Middle Meadow Walk. Going round the Forrest Road and Bristow Place triangle soon had us back on the right road. From Potterow we turned into West Nicolson Street and made our way into Holyrood Park. Due to the volume of traffic, it took a couple of minutes to get all of the  group safely across Queen's Drive and onto the cycle path at the other side. Unsurprisingly, there were quite a few pedestrians about on this shared path. But we made good progress and were soon climbing the steepest hill of the ride up towards Dunsapie Loch. The hill wasn't too steep, and we turned off before too long to head onto the quiet residential back streets of Willowbrae. We crossed the busy Willowbrae Road quite easily, before heading through Northfield and into the delightful Figgate Park. A quick whizz through the park and we found ourselves rattling down the bumpy cobbles of Brighton Place. We were soon heading along the Portobello prom. Despite the sunshine and games of beach volleyball, it would take some stretch of the imagination to think we had magically arrived in Rio! The coast road took us to Fisherrow Harbour where we had a brief comfort stop. From there we headed out past Tesco and onto the Grove and onwards to Whitecraig. As it is no longer possible to ride through Dalkeith Country Park free of charge; we opted to take the busy A6094 into Dalkeith. That really is not a pleasant road to cycle along. The way some drivers drive along it making it quite a dangerous option. Fortunately, we made it safely into Dalkeith in time for lunch. Part of the group went to the pub with the remainder heading to King's Park. For a cycling group renowned for riding on it's stomach; there was nearly a major incident when the leader inadvertently ate someone else's lunch in the pub! With the situation rectified and everyone fed, we hit the road again.

Through a new housing estate and an obstructive gate and we were in the grounds of Newbattle Abbey. Leaving the estate behind, we made our way to Dalkeith High School via quiet residential streets and cycle paths. At the school we joined NCN 1 for a pleasant run to Whitecraig. Much nicer than the busy A6094 we had encountered earlier. Remaining on NCN 1 we made our way down the Grove back towards Musselburgh. Just before the bridge that carries the East Coast mainline, we turned off and crossed the bridge over the River Esk. This path took us past the golf course, under another railway bridge and through a housing estate, bringing us out at Musselburgh station. A run down the quiet path to Newcraighall was followed by a short spell on the busy road through the village. We soon left that behind and most of the remainder of our ride back to the Meadows was on the delightful Innocent Railway. Our respite from the busyness of the  Festival was clearly over when we arrived back at the Meadows. Thanks to Michael for leading a pleasant ride that allowed us to escape from the Festival for a few hours.


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