Category Archives: steep

Some Local Hills and so many stats – aghhhhhhhh!

 

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After the Kippielaw extravaganza ride I was annoyed that I’d messed up sportscamming (?) it. So A couple of days later I went out to film a few local short step ascents. I’ve also discovered that you can map any footage to the Garmin GPS so I thought I’d combine the two to really mess with folks minds. And as for the music!!!

So a wee Christmassy fillum to waste a bit of time on.

Before that a wee greeting for all my virtual followers, I’ve had so much fun seeing your posts and reading and responding to your comments.

Have a great festivity time.

Alastair

The Greeting: http://www.electroniccottage.co.uk/XmasAnim2015.html

The Vid – part 1 (still working on part 2): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXoMPSd2pmE

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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.

Flying Sheep and Somersaults

I’ve been biking over our local hills a bit recently. Usually this entails some steep climbs and a minimum of 3,000 feet of climbing. It’s been magic but hard going, tempered by fabulous descents.

The roads are a bit rough and gravelly in places, so a bit of caution is required. The wildlife has been a bit manic as well, not sure if it’s the youngsters being a bit hung ho, or just that’s the way it is.

But there is a dangerous side to all this. A pal a wee while back had a pheasant try to run through his front wheel while on a group ride. He was barreling along downhill at over 35 mph when the bird ran out in front of the group, dashed back into the hedgerow then swung but out again. The bike stopped dead, Eric catapulted over the front and broke his hip and the bike’s forks were broken.

Then last week another pal was coming down off the hills, I would imagine going pretty fast. This time it was a sheep that dashed out. After his abrupt stop and sumersault he is now recovering from a broken elbow and arm, so a few weeks off the bike.

It’s dangerous in them there hills!

My encounters have been luckier. Some roe deer hopped out in front, but I managed to slow down and let them caper about for a while before they disappeared into the undergrowth. Various pheasant, grouse and partridge have threatened to try to bring their lives to an end, all thwarted by a bit of caution. The worst have been the sheep, running harum scarum all over the place.

I took a sports cam with me on one of our trips to make a wee vid of a journey over the hills. At the moment it is too long (15 minutes) and I haven’t done the music so it’s not ready to inflict it on you all yet.

One of the shots was a sheep running out in front of me on a fast downhill section. It looks incredibly close on the video, but I had seen it and it didn’t feel anything like as bad in reality. When I was editing that section of the video I noticed when I looked at the still, the sheep was levitating across the road, so maybe hover biking is the way to go?
Sheep1

Sheep2

Sheep3

Sheep4

Sheep5

6 climbs and a few more

 When I wrote about 6 steep climbs round about here,  Jean (https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/) suggested that some photos would have enhanced the blog. At the same time I was trying out an app called footpath, which is great for working out routes for cycling. I decided that I would link them together in a cycle/ photo bonanza. So I managed it, though some of the photos are a bit dodgy as they were taken on the move with the camera slung around my neck.  The weather was ideal, warm enough for shorts & short sleeve top, cool enough to not become dehydrated easily. What a ride, some of my favourite climbs here, and when the gradient was less than 10% it was a real bonus. First of all the boring bits for some, the route & profile:

   Over 110 feet climbed for every mile

  Quite a few ups and downs?

   

 Hill no. 1: Kippielaw
The first hill, not even a mile away, this is short but with a real lurch into the sky at the end. The hill in the distance is Traprain Law with the remains of an Iron Age fort on the top, complete with hut circles and a magnificent view over the Firth of Forth, north up to the Highland and south to the lowland hills.

   
 Hill no. 2: Up into the Beil Estate

After a fabulous colonnade of yew trees you cycle past rhododendrons till another wee steep ramp leads up to the top. Just after this a deer stopped in the road and gazed at my approach for a while before it sauntered off into the woods 

 Then on and up another a couple of ascents before reaching Pitcox, another good climb (though not one of the chosen) past the water bottling plant. Pitcox is a tiny place, but a couple of 100 years ago it had a religious house where monks from the refectory in Melrose who had misbehaved were sent. 

 The climb up from Pitcox past Findlay’s Water

Then it was past the Witch’s Stone at Spott, which often has coins left on it. I tried to take a photo but had nudged the dial of the camera on to the wrong setting. Just before this a fox had sauntered across the road in front of me, my day for wildlife? 

 Hill no.3: Starvation Brae – a local test piece 

 Then came the climb out of Spott – Starvation Brae, not sure why it is called this though. This one is hard – gradually steepens, then has 3 steep bits to the top. A real heavy breathing one by the top.

Onwards and downwards and upwards and downwards . . . . . . . . 

   
Hill no. 4: The Brunt – east side

Then it was across the ford, luckily dry but the road is a mess, then up The Brunt, another climb leaving you puffing at the top. 

 One of my favourite sections, a gorgeous half mile through a wooded dell, dappled in the sunshine. Then came the big one, over a mile long with an average gradient of 9%+ and several steep ramps double that.

   
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the first ramp  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, looking up to the second steep ramp, climbing at 5-8% here
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, a sight I saw a few times  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, getting near the summit
 Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the cattle grid at the top usually a good descent now!Hurrah, a lovely swoop back down the other side to look forward to, but:

Roadworks slowed progress, looks like they are putting in a new track for the wind turbines.
   
Some climb? 

Then it was down for a while, this time slowed by gates. After the valley in the distance it would be another undulating climb back over the distant hills.  Up beside Whitadder reservoir dam

I was now on the section of the road that the Tour of Britain will come down in September. should be fun!  

Whitadder Reservoir, not too many cheering crowds this day.

 
  Another great section with lots of undulations over the moors, I would do this section a couple of times this trip. Many sheep, birds including oyster catchers some way from the sea and cows.
  Approaching Redstone Rigg  Hill no. 6: Redstone Rigg, another local test piece
So the last of the 6 hills loomed up. This is one spoken of in awe locally, though Elmscleugh is far harder, but being further away from Edinburgh is cycled less. I’ve already booked my place here for the Tour of Britain, fantastic views of the riders coming up from miles away, unfortunately it will probably be mobbed with other cycling fans.

Bog cotton and a butt for grouse shooting at the top of ‘The Rigg’   

The wonderful descent with Whiteadder Reservoir in the distance. I went down here at 46 mph, but on a good day have manage 55 so what will the Tour riders be doing? They will have to watch out on the cattle grid in the middle of the descent .
  Iron Age Green Castle Fort, with its 3 ring defence
So back down & up & down & up till home, passing a dead badger on the way. Well pleased and satisfied. And for those who still think Central Scotland is flat?

Sometimes Magicke

I thought I would try out an app on the iPhone/iPad to devise cycling routes. From somewhere Footpath appeared. I sometimes think that this sort of app is modern magic. Once the app kicks off, all you do is touch the draw button, then draw a vague line along a part of the route you want to take, the app then joins up the roads. You can also fill in the route manually for off road stuff. Clicking on the gradient box at the top shows the profiles and amount of climbing to look forward to(?) Clicking on the distance box changes the display from miles & feet to km & metres. All very simple, plus you can save the route to upload to your GPS or other mapping apps.

In my last blog I outlined some of the steep ascents round about and and Jean (https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/) suggested that photographs would have enhanced the blog. So, the idea came to link them all and photograph them all as I went round. I have mapped the route, with just a tiny bit of climbing? And as I said before some folk think central Scotland is flat. So next time I have the inclination and the weather it will be time to pack some goodies and document a special ride. The link for the app is: https://footpathapp.com

And – here’s the proposed route

5 Weeks, 5 Bikes – Hills – and Dangerous Things

An interesting 5 weeks, first in Portugal, back home, next in Majorca, then back home & off the bike for 2 weeks coughing, then back riding, including a demo bike. My own bike is a Specialised Roubaix Compact, heavier by modern standards, but I got it on ebay and it is so comfy with it’s built in micro suspension, especially on the rough roads we have round here. I ride it summer and winter and it has gone through several reincarnations in the last few years. I could get a lighter bike, but not being in the first flush of youth I feel it would make little difference to my performance. As if to reinforce this view I have been lucky enough to get away a bit recently. Rather than the faff & worry of taking my bike away, for just a wee bit more than the cost of to fly it over I have hired bikes. When I got back the bottom bracket had gone on my own bike, so Colin at Belhaven Bikes at Dunbar lent me a demo to try out. None of these were super high spec, but it was interesting to try them out.

Jorbi Mountain Bike

Jorbi Mountain Bike

Portugal: a Jorbi 29er MTB for 4 days. I really liked this, it was quick, responsive and several steps up from my old alloy cheapo MTB – great fun. The tyres rolled really well, the wee lever to click off the suspension for climbing worked well and it was fun blasting down loose gravel tracks. Only downsides were the clunky feeling gears, but I suppose that might mean they last longer or are more sturdy, also the handlebars made me ache after an hour or so in the saddle, but I get this on my own as well. This may be the width of the bars? The bike had only been out once and was immaculate.

Jorbi road bike

Jorbi road bike

Portugal: a brand new Jorbi road bike which was light, responsive with internal cabling. The gears were Campags, which I found clunky and awkward, I think I’m just to used too my Shimano. I found the high ratios a bit of a trial on the steeper sections, but it was great on the curvy downhills. The saddle was not to my posterior’s liking either. Both bikes were from Tomás Swift Metcalfe of https://www.swiftmomentumsports.com/, he’s a pro rider and was great apart from a wee blip at the start. Full of good tales, advice and with superb bikes.

Trek Madonne - the one behind

Trek Madonne – the one behind

Next hire was in Majorca. This time a Trek Madonne III. I took my own saddle (a Brookes Cambian C17) this time! It was a nice bike but sort of flopped into corners which I found disconcerting at first, but once I got used to it I found it cornered very well. Most of the roads in Majorca are nothing short of superb, but on some of the rougher back roads I found the vibration a bit hard. I had asked them to put on an 11-32 cassette which helped on the longer climbs, but meant the gear change was maybe not as smooth as normal. Overall a good bike for the week.

Dawes Giro Alto photo from the Dawes website

Dawes Giro Alto photo from the Dawes website

Last bike was the Dawes Giro Alto Demo bike from Colin. I thought this was the nicest of the alternatives. Not hugely high spec, but a good spec, reasonably light and very stiff. Cornering and downhill was fabby, but on the rougher roads round here there was too much vibration for me, but I think I’m spoilt.

My Specialized Roubaix recently

My Specialized Roubaix recently

Then back on my own bike – bliss!!! Okay, it’s not as light, it’s a bit battered. I probably carry too much but it’s comfortable, predictable and I just love it. The 11-34 cassette really helps round here as well!

Ronnie following me up the

Ronnie following me up the “Wall of Talla” in the Scottish Borders

So – Hills – bgddyjim had an interesting post on hills recently. I enjoy climbing hills. I love the physicality of pushing yourself, the tactics for arriving at the top in some sort of reasonable shape and the variety. The south of Scotland is not renowned for hills but we have some real challenges round here. The hills to the south rear up a steep escarpment so getting on up is always a challenge, especially if the wind is blowing a hooley into your face. So I thought I’d look at a few.Kippielaw Kippielaw, just outside our village, only (?) 10% and short but gets my heart and lungs going every time. With the steep bit at just under 13% maybe I try too hard?Beil Biel Climb, again close by, not steep except for the deceptive looking last bit – that 15% feels like it!Spott Spott Hill, known locally as Starvation Brae, this ramps up to just over 14%, relents for a moment & then hits you again – a local classic.Brunt Brunt west to east, another short sharp climb, with a few steep ramps, one over 17%Woodhall Woodhall Farm Cottages Climb – a real test piece of the district, starts off at 15%+ steadily climbs at 6-9% before hitting you with a 20% rise. Bad enough normally, but with a good westerly wind – more than interesting.Rigg And finally Redstone Rigg – Rigg 17% section “Going up the Rigg” is a favourite expression for locals, just a short climb at 11% (part of a larger ascent), but Strava reckons it is 22%+ at it’s steepest. I just know it has me puffin’ and the legs know they’re there. So just a few delights of our part of ‘Lowland’ Scotland.

Now for the ‘dangerous’ bit: a great talk on TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/gever_tulley_on_5_dangerous_things_for_kids#t-539486, only thing I disagree with shouldn’t the cars be bikes?

Roasting in Majorca: quite a few pics

As I’ve posted before, I’m not a fan of very hot and sunny weather so when a bike trip to Majorca was mooted and I found out that the temperature was usually in the low 20s I thought that this would be great. So bike hired, saddle from my own bike taken off and all packed and ready to go – I was definitely up for it. We arrived at Palma, coached over to Port de Pollensa and had a late lunch and unpacking session before heading for the bike hire. The bike was a Trek Madone and looked ok. I had asked them to put an 11-34 on the back, but an 11-32 was fitted, which was fine. Went for a wee 5 mile tootle in the sun up over 1200 ft to a local 16th century tower with Johnny and then back to the shop to get the rear gears adjusted. After that everything was sorted. But it was still hot. So back to the pool for a relax and beer.

Johnny climbing up into the tower, too dodgy with look cleats!

Johnny climbing up into the tower, too dodgy for me with Look cleats!

Near the tower above Port de Pollensa

Near the tower above Port de Pollensa

In the town

In the town

Looking over the beach to the tower

Looking over the beach to the tower

Day two the group pottered about getting first day things sorted and as we set off the heat started to build up. We climbed over the first col, I felt a real drouth, despite drinking loads. Slapping on even more suncream we carried on to a monastery where shade, huge fresh pressed orange drinks and coffees were indulged in and even in the shade it was hot, hot hot. I’d had to leave my bike in the sun & the Garmin went up to 47°C – ouch, more suncream.

Map reading time again

Map reading time again

Lunch at the monastry

Lunch at the monastry

Coming down from the col

Coming down from the col

Some of the crew on the road

Some of the crew on the road

Next ride was a ‘flat’ day! We were mainly in the central plains area. Being lower down it was even hotter. All the cliches about heat became true for me. It was good to be mainly on the wee roads again and the traffic was great, giving us wide berths when passing and slowing down when appropriate. Goats, sheep with deep clanging sheep bells occasional cows or bulls and loads of twittery birds in the trees and bushes. After a bit Pete & I became ‘detached’ from the main group. They hadn’t waited at a particular point and we went a different route. So, up into the village square and a coffee and orange while we waited for them. Unfortunately they had waited at the bottom of the village while we were at the top. Eventually we carried on without them, going through some pretty towns and villages on the way.

San Pablos, a lovely town

San Pablos, a lovely town

Majorca10

San Pablos Square

Looking back

Looking back

Pete had been to a cafe in Petra almost a year before to the day so we went there for lunch, it had been mentioned as a place we would aim for and sure enough there, in one of the squares, were the others. After a bit of chat they went off for lunch and Pete & I demolished another Zumo (giant fresh pressed orange) and coffee. The cafe was totally geared up for cyclists (ho ho?), fresh orange segments were served to us, water bottles filled with ‘go fast’ natural, osmosis filtered spring water for free and ice cubes put into water bottles. Plus we had pleasant banter with the family owning the cafe in a mixture of Spanish and English – just superb.

Petra Square, just a few cyclists

Petra Square, just a few cyclists?

Then it was the hot road back. I lost my cool a bit at the others dithering over route choice for the umpteenth time and just made my own way back eventually. At least I choose a route with a slightly cooling sea breeze. Because it was a ‘flat’ day we only climbed just over 2000 feet.

Tree roots through sandstone by the road

Tree roots through sandstone by the road

One of the many lovely churches

One of the many lovely churches

Good sign?

Good sign?

Another day and guess what? Yes, it was hot, hot, hot again. Pete & I left early to catch the cool. We went up to Lucc, this time by the shady route, which was magic. Once over the col we switchedbacked our way over to the highlight of the day, Sa Calobra. This is a must for cyclists to the area. First you climb up to a wee pass, then you go down to the deep turquoise sea . The descent is fabulous, over one of europe’s few spiral bridges and down a multitude of hairpins. After whooping with delight a lot you reach the bottom, knowing “The Only Way is Up” as the group used to sing. But first, yes, coffee, zumo and a trip through the tunnels to the local ‘Torrente’.

Pots but no pans, one broken, one stapled together

Pots but no pans, one broken, one stapled together

Pete finishing a long, hot climb

Pete finishing a long, hot climb

Under the aqueduct, now defunct

Under the aqueduct, now defunct

Sa Calobra, far busier than it looked

Sa Calobra, far busier than it looks

The tunnel to the Torrente

The tunnel to the Torrente

The rugged limestone cliffs on the coast

The rugged limestone cliffs on the coast

Then back up, 7+ miles at 7+% in the heat. So slowly, slowly spinning my way up with spectacular views, smiles and a sense of wonder at this amazing road. Plenty of time to look at everything, with wee stops for photies and a derailed chain. Just over an hour later – the top and this time a fanta, just for a change. The whole team were together again and we flew along, relatively speaking, to the fantastic descent to Pollenta, oh I love going quick and this had it all, glorious, sinuous curves, occasional sharp bends or hairpins, straight smooth bits and scenery to match, bliss!

Squeeze past?

Squeeze past?

Looking back at the last bit of a wonderful 2,00+ foot climb.

Looking back at the last bit of a wonderful 2,000+ foot climb.

The spiral bridge, where the road crosses itself

The spiral bridge, where the road crosses itself

We needed an easy next time so it was  off to the Cap Formentor. I just missed the others setting off so pushed hard up the first hill to meet them. This just knackered me for the trip out. I tried to film the decent, another smooth but curly road, but the sportscam switched off for some reason. The route was spectacular with huge sea cliffs, shady roads, a tunnel and wonderful views. Coffee and orange at the Cap with hundreds of tourists and cyclists milling about. The way back was scary, hire cars coming round blind bends half way across the road, others trying to scrape past or blowing their horns and on one blind bend downhill a woman walked out in front of me without looking, that one was so close, so close. Eventually back to the hotel shaking my head a bit as almost all the other days had been so different.

Tunnel on the road to Cap Formentor

Tunnel on the road to Cap Formentor

Cap Formentor, amazing scenery but cycle early otherwise busy and dangerous

Cap Formentor, amazing scenery but cycle early otherwise busy and dangerous

Coming back from Cap Formentor

Coming back from Cap Formentor

The morning after saw us all take off together to wander around the lower foothills and onto the plains again, just for a change it was hot.

A huge ladslide

A huge ladslide

One of the many round-a-bout sculptures, a touch of Miro?

One of the many round-a-bout sculptures, a touch of Miro?

Love the tiles

Love the tiles

Pete rcovers

Pete recovers

I fancied a mainly solo day for my last ride , so initially Johnny & I pottered  over to Cala de Sant Vincenc for morning coffee by the sea. It was gorgeous, steep limestone cliffs dropping into the bay, with vivid turquoise water. We pottered round the bay and made our way back up towards Pollenta. Johnny left to go back & I did my last climb up to the Col de Femenia via lovely back roads and some rough stoney paths. The descent from the Col was fantastic, speeding down, it was great to have my Garmin map highlighting the approaching tight turns and hairpins.

Cana de Vincenc restaurant for coffee

Cana de Vincenc restaurant for coffee

A cove at Cana de Vincenc

A cove at Cana de Vincenc

The hire bike and a rustic gate

The hire bike and a rustic gate

A restored donkey powered grinding mill with wooden gears

A restored donkey powered grinding mill with wooden gears

Strange limestone scenery

Strange limestone scenery

An egret (I think) in the meadow

An egret (I think) in the meadow

Sensible donkey?

Sensible donkey?

So that was it, 7 days of sun, sun, sun.  Over 300 miles and 20,000 feet of ascent travelled.

And what did I think? The landscape, the villages and the roads were lovely and in places spectacular, but for me the heat was a real problem, one day the average temperature was 29.5ºC. Just too much, I felt permanently thirsty, with a searing throat, though this may have have more about my developing cough. The road users were mainly delightful and except for the Formentor day, very courteous and patient. It was wonderful to see cyclists everywhere and some of the climbs were like something out of a fantasy world – especially Sa Calobra with its twists and turns and the amazing spiral at the top. Would I go back -possibly if cooler, but dry weather and a certain lack of lurgi could be guaranteed. So for your delight, here are a couple of local gravestones as a finisher for the article.

A happy gravestone?

A happy gravestone?

Hope she's got her suncream?

Hope she’s got her suncream?