Category Archives: cyclist

A Wee Ride with the Occasional Hill?

It was the club’s Sunday ride, up to the Humbie Hub, a delightful local cafe, post office, general store etc. I think 25 of us assembled beside the fountain with Samson, of biblical fame, on top. I had the day free of obligations so was determined to venture a bit further.

After stoking up on an egg roll, scone with jam and coffee, I set off with 3 companions with a vague route in mind, depending on how I felt. It was chilly (average 5°C), but I had just enough on to keep the chill away.

The colours were beautiful, a superb, sunny autumn day with the trees changing to brown and the odd carpet of leaves 🍁 🍁 🍁 to woosh through and scatter.

A few miles in, we went down to 3 of us and the first serious hill loomed into view – The Rigg. Luckily it was a northerly wind so we were ably assisted by the weather up to the moors!

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Up on the moors, East Lothian spread out below

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Terry arrives

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John makes it up

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The way forward, love the wee walker at the bottom of the signpost

At the top the others departed for a shorter route, I was feeling good and went onwards over the switchback hills bathed in sunshine and shadows into the Scottish Borders. I was warmed up on the ascents and then chilled on the speedy downhills, but still felt good. I reached the turning after 8 miles so onto a wee road across, a meeting with a couple of glorious brilliant looking peacocks and then some more steep ascents and descents. A quick dodge down the main road and then guess what?

Yes, more climbing and hurtling down with the pull of gravity, seems this was today’s theme. It was now into the wind as well, just to add to the determination.

This time nearing a summit I realised I had that empty feeling, I think this was about 40 miles in. So a stop, an Aldi paleo bar later and some slurps of water too, I was refreshed. I don’t feel the need to drink much water on rides, especially when it’s cold and I had drunk a large coffee at the Hub, so felt fine.

Another 20 miles on after bumpy back roads and many more ups & downs I was beginning to feel it a bit, but the sight of the sea and the feeling of getting near home territory, plus another slurp or two of water revived me for a good finish.

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Looking down to the sea, Torness Nuclear Power Station mars the view

All in all, a glorious day’s cycling, grabbed from near the end of the October days.

Today was cold again, but a bracing walk in Dunbar cleared away the cobwebs.

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An art installation at Dunbar Battery

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Winter throws it all at you

It’s been quite a winter here so far. Temperatures have been bouncing around all over the place, -2°c one day +11°C the next. It’s also been blowing a hooley one day and calm as can be the next. So what has that meant for cycling? Basically unless it is icy, just get happed up and out the door, then turn the pedals.

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Sunset ride and on with the snow, though near home

It helps that it is so gorgeous round here, wether it be the waves with white horses pounding on the sea in the bays, the farmers going about their business in the fields or the dusting of snow on the hills.

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Rainbows near home

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Up in the hills

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One of the ‘interesting’ roads up high

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Below the hills with sunset approaching

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Another dodgy local road

We had a gale recently with cold sleet lower down. I had previously got out my skis for a failed cross country attempt up in the Lammermuir hills. This time I was lucky. I got up to the start before the reservoir and put on my skis beside the car, then away. Conditions were amazing considering there had been no snow at all two days before. Hardly any wind, deep blue sky and not too cold. I took a fun route up, the wax on my skis just gripping enough to get me up the first slopes. I then came across the wee feeder dam with its water channel leading off. Enough snow to pop along it for a mile or so. As I skied gently along the grouse were calling, making that sound like small motorbikes. I skied round the reservoir then fitted the skins for the steeper ascent to the tops. The snow was slightly crusted but I was soon up above the valleys, only breaking through the crust occasionally. It was glorious up high, calm, views for miles and white all round the horizon. A day to dream about? I only saw two folk out and passed only one, pausing for a wee chat. The descent was ‘interesting’, a few quick turns, but with a mixture of heather end breakable crust it was mainly a stop, a kick turn of my freeheel skis and a scoot off again on a long travers. I somehow managed to ski down, with the occasional slow speed tumble. Just a wee bit along from the car I had to unclip as the patchy snow lower down had decided it was time to melt.

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Hare tracks near the start

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Collecting water for the reservoir

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The viaduct just waiting to be skied

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Not too much snow low down

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Getting higher, with Hopes reservoir below

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A distant wind farm – Crystal Rigg

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Looking back at my ski tracks

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At the summit for today

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I came down the snowy bit in the sun, snow had melted now lower down

Next day, another storm and almost all the snow had disappeared. Sometimes you just have to grasp the opportunity!

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Up in the Lammermuirs again, 2 days after skiing, where’s the snow?

A couple of days later we were up over the hills again, this time on our bikes. It was blowing hard again, but we dug in and ploughed our way up Humbie for coffee and scones. Then with the wind behind us Terry & I peeled off to climb over the Rigg – a locally renowned section. We knew we would see plenty of folk as an audax was on and going that way. After scooting fast along the back roads, pushed by the winds, we came across bunches of cyclists heading upwards. We joined them and pottered slowly up. On the steepest section, (17°), I was hit by a ferocious gust and stopped dead with a quick dismount. I was fairly puggled anyway from fighting the wind uphill, so rested for a bit to regain my breath, once there was a slight lessening I mounted again and carried on to the top. The descent was fabulous, whizzing down at 45 mph. On the way we had met other friends so we pottered along, more or less together , chatting away. So a good 65 mile ride, not bad for February?

How do I keep warm on these cold days? Plenty of layers. Above 2 or 3°, 3 layers on top, double fleece gloves with oversize cycle gloves on top, buff and head cap too. Breathable waterproof socks over solid soled cycling shoes with no vents and bright pink neoprene overshoes. No real fancy expensive clothing, just stuff that does the job for me. If it gets below -2Âș another layer on top, winter cycling shoes and a ninja style neoprene face mask and bright yellow, horrible to us mitts. The final tip is to put shoes, socks and gloves on the radiator to warm up well before I go out. Works a treat and makes all the difference to me. I can cycle easily for 4-5 hours if I need to, and my circulation is rubbish!

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November 2016 – A rare pic of me, dressed for winter

Lastly a treat coming up. I’ve been looking at a newer bike as mine is now 8 years old. The new Specialized Roubaix Expert is looking just the bike for me, so I’ve been enquiring after deals – I’ll let you all now how it goes.

On a final note, there was a march through Edinburgh expressing our distaste and fear of Trump’s actions, as America affects us all. We joined in and it was good to see the home made posters appearing.img_8599img_3541img_3554And a wee antidote to politics from my ride today (2nd March)

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Snowdrops in the woods at a ‘comfort’ break

Lang Time Away

It’s been quite a while since I posted. An event happened that has thrown me for a while. I’ve also been away to weddings, visits, swimming with newts, cycling etc.

The event that upset me was the death of a former colleague and sometime partner in skiing, mountaineering, climbing, canoeing etc. over the years.

He fell off a descending a 4,000 metre peak in the Alps, which I had also climbed some years back.  He was a well respected mountaineer, known over the world and was usually a very safe pair of hands in the hills. We taught Outdoor Education in similar schools in Edinburgh in areas of multiple deprivation so had much in common in our outlook on life and education.

His commemoration was packed, with folk outside, me included, listening on a loudspeaker relay.  It was very, very moving.

There was an irony which he would have loved. Des was a keen cyclist and the family had asked for a cortĂšge to accompany him on his final journey. About 40 of us gathered at the undertakers, along with a police escort. The wickerwork coffin was to be carried on a cycle tandem with a side car type arrangement. When it was placed on top the tyre was flat. The undertakers didn’t have a pump. They asked us for one and out of all of us only two of us had one. As the undertakers finished pumping up the tyre, one of Edinburgh’s tourist buses stopped opposite with the banner Majestic Tours on the side. All in all a real send-off which Des would have really chuckled at.

I was very much affected by his death and miss seeing his posts of adventures round the world, online banter and very occasional meetings.

Life goes on – I think I’m getting to the age where folk will pass away more often but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Coming up at the weekend is the Tour of Tweeddale sportive. This is a lovely, laid back event in the Scottish Borders which I’ve taken part in for the last 5 years. The long route, which I’m doing is just over 100 miles this year, the forecast so far is reasonable, there are some some good hills and I’ll be together with some good companions. It looks like the usual superb day out, if a longish one.

Finally, as usual, some recent pics from our part of the country.

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Harvest time around the village

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The London train passes the former station

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Up in the hills, the coos & sheep

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One of our rougher hill roads, this is one of the better sections

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Up high in the Scottish Borders

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After the deluge – heading for Sunny Dunny (Dunbar)

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A wee coo at peace with the world, ignoring the cyclist passing

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On a local walk

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Fa’side Castle, a great sight on a ride

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Mending our old bridge, been there several hundred years already

Wet, dry, wet, wind, wind, wind, Portugal and still learning

What a turbulent December it has been. The weather has been all over the place. Cycling in negative temperatures, then next day over 12°C. Cruising along on dry roads to be followed by splashing carefully avoiding potholes hidden in flooded byways. All this to be repeated from one day to the next. Makes for interesting bicycling.

Then there’s the wind, today is howling from the south,  two days ago from the south east, but mostly from the south west with occasional notherly blasts just to round things off. Ah the great Scottish climate!December0

The snow arrived locally at the end of November, disappeared for a wee bit then dusted the hills again for a while before the temperatures rose again. On the occasional day it has cleared enough to see the Southern Cairngorms way up north, they seem to have more than a dusting of the white stuff, but the thought of being out in the mountains on skis in this weather is frightening, or seriously not to be contemplated at least. And the snow is forecast for here again tomorrow – ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la mĂȘme chose’!

But, in spite, or maybe because of it all I have managed to rack up the miles, dodging the wild winds behind hedges or hills, choosing the weather window carefully, looking out the lights for a bit of night cycling, meeting up with other daft minded biking companions and other such strategies.

And it’s been so enjoyable, that amazing clarity when the rain clears, the sense of adventure in familiar territory, that joint feeling of accomplishment shared with others, and the craic over coffee & scones halfway through a ride.

Yippee, bring it on!

Thomas Metcalfe found my blog recently, so welcome to him and all the rest of you. Thomas runs a cycling business in the Algarve in Portugal and was really good to me in the Spring. My sister has a significant birthday. We’ll be meeting up there again in the early summer, so I better get my bike booking firmed up. What a transformation it will be from the Scottish winter. I’m not too good with the heat, but loved the smells and sights in the back roads of the Algarve -looking forward to renewing my acquaintance, though not so much the busier main roads. Time to look out some decent maps for the trip as well:

https://fossilcycle.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/portugal-and-hills-hills-hills/

https://www.swiftmomentumsports.com

The other news is that I’m just about finished with my video of the local mini hills part 2, with some odd music, mucky roads and dodgy fords so maybe I’ll get it out before the year end.

You’re never too old to learn? Well I certainly hope so! Over the year I’ve been doing some online short (6 week) courses with Future Learn – https://www.futurelearn.com. I have found the courses to be superb and they are free. So far I’ve taken the following courses:

Introduction to Forensic Science, Web Science: How the web is changing, Kitchen Chemistry (too basic for me though), Explore Filmmaking, Digital Storytelling. I’ve signed up for two more – Explore Animation and Visual Effects for Guerrilla Filmmakers.

The courses are designed by Universities or the National Film & Television School, the standards are very high and the online discussions with other students excellent, with good advice or positive critical response. The range of courses is very broad, so have a look you might find a new interest: https://www.futurelearn.com

So anyway, enough rambling – have a good New Year, and a few recent local photos to finish.

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Once in a while

Every so often I manage a photo that satisfies me. Technically I’m sure this is wrong on so many counts. Taken into the sun, hazy, blotchy etc. But I was pleased with it.

This is on Sunday’s ride, billed as ‘The Kippielaw Extravaganza’, we all met from various localities, climbed a few of the wee steep ascents and after 25 miles landed up here at Kippielaw (law is the Scots word for a hill). I was trying to get my sportscam working, was delayed, looked up and grabbed my old camera slung around my neck.

So glad I did.

Why I don’t upgrade, a target plus winter is here!

I like old, worn-in stuff, though it is pleasant to get new gear, usually out of necessity. The same applies to my bike. I got it 2nd hand off eBay after much research several years back. It’s a Specialized Roubaix compact, that has undergone a few transformations since I got it.

Why the Roubaix? Comfort!

For those who don’t know it was designed for rough, cobbled road sections in France & Belgium. We have rough, though only a tiny, tiny minute cobbled bit locally. They designed the geometry to be forgiving, put ‘Zetrz’ inserts in the frame and seatpost and gel wrapping on the bars, all to dampen vibration. And it does. As we fly down roads locally I can hear the other bikes clatter and chatter, while mine appears to me to run quieter. The rest complain of jarred arms, while I try not to appear too smug at my comfort.IMG_3433

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The other addition to comfort has been my Brookes Cambrian saddle. It was comfortable for me from the moment I sat on it, and has now done quite a bit of mileage, still a delight to use – I usually forget about it, which must be good?IMG_3432

During this time others have got upgrades, lighter, flashier bikes and delight in them. That’s great, but do I need to climb hills 10 seconds faster? Do I need to be more aerodynamic to gain another 24.34567 seconds advantage? And do I need to up my fashionista cred? I think not!

But, onto my target – I’ve been increasing my mileage year on year, so I made up a target for the year, and I’m now just over 120 99 miles from it. It’s a wee bit hilly round these here parts so I’ve also racked up a bit of height climbed as well. All I have to do now is to hope that December doesn’t become intolerable with the weather, though it should OK if it carries on as it is. And the goal I’m aiming for – you’ll just have to wait and see.

So on to the final bit, Winter has most definitely arrived. A storm is raging outside, though I’m toasty enough inside. The snow on the hills has come and gone and come and gone and come again. It has been raining, flooding, dry, snowing, sun shining, cold, warm, freezing, blowing hard, still etc. So a typical Scottish time of year then, but still cycleable as long as I’m happed up well, though even the shorts have been on at times. Most of all it is absolutely not boring!

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Snow just visible in the far hills - the Lammermuirs

Snow just visible in the far hills – the Lammermuirs

Took 4 tubes to sort this one - 1 faulty valve, 1 blow out, 1 faulty and it was cold & windy of course

Took 4 tubes to sort this one – 1 faulty valve, 1 blow out, 1 faulty crease with a hole and it was cold & windy of course, Kevin not a happy bunny!

Taken today - another day & night of rain, but warmer

Taken today – another day & night of rain, but warmer

Make Do and Mend

I wasn’t quite a war baby, but I wasn’t born long after the Second World War. My parents had obviously been through the hostilities and the rationing that involved and lasted for a 8 years more. So I learnt by their example to be fairly thrifty.

When I was younger, before outdoor clothing became trendy and the thing to wear, I used to make my own clothes including wetsuits, latex dry suits tops, over trousers, cagoulesc, summer & winter climbing trousers etc. I also made my own rucksack with clips used in convertible sportscar tops so I could just unclip the lid.

This has spilled over into my cycling. Recently I found myself mending some overshoes that had gone underneath. I had some Gortex and so sewed some new pieces into the overshoes. I bought some mudguards recently unfortunately I caught them on a fence and it broke off the rear section. I just drilled holes through and adapted the pieces to fit complete new ones. I’m really bad at checking things like tires and have won them right down through the tread at times. So for better or worse it looks like this early training has lasted through my life.

I also like browsing through charity shops for stuff at times.

My road bike was bought on EBay, and is now over 8 years old, comfortable with it’s Roubaix flex inserts, paddle bars etc, ideal for our roughish roads round here. So I’ve no intentions of changing it any time soon.

This attitude may be not too good at times, but it has served me well and I wonder if the emphasis on modern consumerism has gone too far these days, or am I turning into a grumpy old yin? Several of my older pals are similar to myself, maybe it’s also that we have the time as well?

But, it is good to have the skills to sew, mend and repair stuff surely? I never quite got the hang of knitting though!

   
I’m sure black thread would have been more appropriate?

 Looks like I’ll have to redo the taping!

  
The ‘Zertz’ inserts on the Roubaix that help absorb vibration.