Tag Archives: effort

Hard, hard: spondoolics worth of high tech, “Hold the Train”

The invite arrived in the electronic post, come and try out the new Specialized road bikes. Seemed churlish to refuse. But, it was at Knockhill race course about 50 miles away, ah well. So I requested a place – I could always get the train back if it all got too much.

The day dawned, the forecast was rubbish, windy with showers and heavy showers. But a simple thing like that wouldn’t stop me. So beans and egg to stoke up for lunch then away. The wind was awful, straight into it for mile after mile. I thought I’d get a wee bit of shelter through Edinburgh, but it was not to be. The wind was funnelling down the cycle ways, so aching legs and only half way there. I battled on, 3 drops of rain fell on me and I thought that’s it, some wetness to add ramp up any misery. Strangely enough my obstinacy gene kicked in and determination overcame any bad thoughts. So hey, on with the show, no more rain drops and the sun came out as I crossed the Forth Road Bridge, with the iconic rail bridge to one side and the building of the new road bridge to the other. At one point a ship crossed at an angle 300 feet below, a very strange feeling similar to when a train pulls away beside your carriage in a station and you feel that you’re going backwards.

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Forth Road Bridge – 300 foot down

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A wee rest & photo session

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A bad shot of the pillar for the newForth Road Bridge

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The old Victorian iconic Forth Rail Bridge

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Ships below

At least the wind was from the rear on the beam for the first time. That didn’t last as I climbed up and up to Knockhill (so well named!), the wind once more was angled towards me as well as sweeping down towards me. But I knew I was closing with my destination so no chance of feeling sorry for myself now.

I arrived to a seemingly deserted race course, with the scream of tuned race cars whizzing round the track. I was directed down a back door into the pits and spotted the Specialized team setting up racks for the bikes.

Enough – I needed a break. After 50 of the hardest miles I’ve ever done, into hard winds almost all the way, the cafe called. I signed in, went into the cafe and just wasn’t impressed. But a large coffee & chocolate muffin later and the legs had recovered slightly.

Then after a quick briefing it was back to the pits, and by now the racing cars had gone and an array of expensive Specialized bikes were on the racks tempting us nicely.

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Temptation

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More temptation

Despite my white beard and ragged looks, plus probably slightly staggering gait I was offered a pick of the crop. After all Bgddyjim had said, it had to be the Venge. What a bike, it exuded fast, fast, fast. It had the deep, deep wheels on it, so I was warned it might be temperamental in the wind. On with the pedals and after a couple of warnings I was off. It was lucky that they had put a chicane at the end of the straight to slow us down cause this just flew. There was a sharp bend at the bottom of the hill and I nearly overcooked it, but the handling was impeccable. Even on the Venge, the steep hill up meant I was way down in the gears, like everyone, as the wind was charging down towards us. We were all panting going up, but then for me it was a zoom down the straight, through the chicane and nailing the corner at the bottom this time. A wonderful bike but totally not for me. We have lots of small twisty country lanes, steep hills, mud, potholes, gravel etc. Even on the smoothish race track I could feel the bum massage would have been horrendous and as for submitting an expensive top notch machine to treatment like that – it would be doing it a total misservice. I can see why Bgddyjim loves this one, but twas not a choice I would make.

Next came the Tarmac, with disk brakes, once again a lovely ride, though not as sensitive as the Venge, but I felt once again a bit too stiff for comfort for my ageing banes!

Then I tried the Ruby, they didn’t have a Roubaix in my size, so this was the women’s version. It had disk brakes, electronic gears and a climbing pod so you could easily change gears going up hills on the bars. This I loved, with it’s Zertz inserts in the forks and forgiving geometry it just felt good, the gears were great and it felt perfect for our area. No slouch either!

So an hour shot past and I was ready for the trip home. Back down the hill it was magic, wind behind, sunshine, a bit of warmth, this was the biz! I retraced my route. Over the Forth Road Bridge and a pleasant chat with a cyclist going the same way, then shooting back into Edinburgh with the wind and sun behind me. I ruminated on my experience and concluded that my faithful Specialized Roubaix was fine for me for now, though it was good to try different stuff. The staff had bee so good as well, taking everything in their stride and being very knowledgeable but not at all pushy, superb.

I stopped to put my super Cree light on the bike and discovered somehow I’d picked up the charger instead of the light – how dumb?

At least I had my tiny emergency light I leave on the handlebar to flash my way through the town roads. It would be no good though once I got to the country roads. It was also getting cold. I was a wee bit (OK quite) tired by now as well, 50 miles of nasty headwinds earlier had taken it out of me. So off to Musselburgh station. As I turned on to the ramp down to the platform I saw all the passengers were piling out of the train & coming up the ramp towards me. I yelled to the train guard “Hold the train – HOLD THE TRAIN”. He acknowledged my strangled cry and I battled my way through the crowds and on to the train. Hurrah, made it, just as well the next one would have been an hour or two away. And how I thanked the guard when he came round for my ticket!

So 86 miles of cycling with over 4,500 feet of climbing, some of the hardest windward pushing I’ve done on a bike, racing round the track and trying to beat the dark.

Was it worth it – well aye!!!!

and . . . . . the ribs were fine as well as the white beard.

(As a postscript, I’ve also suggested to Specialized that our local race track at East Fortune would be a great place to hold the event, just over the hill and down. Not as challenging to get there, but that sounds good to me right now.)

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East Fortune next time – without the motorbikes?

 

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Bike or Ski?

There’s snow on our local hills, so the dilemma arises. I often manage a wee ski trip or two when conditions are right.

I had already managed one very small one this year so yesterday was a bonus. Snow, sunshine, no wind and the hills had looked good on the bike ride the day before. There was no real choice! I had some of the afternoon free so just had to go. And it was glorious. The snow lower down was perfect, though it turned a bit softer higher up.

A quick drive up (it’s only 10 – 15 minutes away), skins on the skis, heel lifts fitted, hop over the gate, say hello to the sheep and away. Got into a loverly rythym going up with occasional brief pauses for photos. Met the secondd gate and managed to hop(?) over it fairly disgracefully, then the undulating climb upwards to the top of the hill. The views on the way up and at the top were wonderful. Above me was Lammerlaw, but not enough time and the snow was getting too soft for the return journey. So, off with the skins and away. Gliding along the ridge and then the speedier descents. The wax on the skis worked well gripping on the flatter sections and gliding nicely on the faster downhill sections.

Lower down the snow was perfect for telemarking and the turns felt good. Though I was back down I was high as a kite. Glorious!!!!!!

For those who don’t know the terminology, skins are attached to the bottom of the skis with releasable glue. The nap of the fabric (it used to be seal skins in the old days) faces backwards and enables the skier to climb up hills. The heel lifts up the heel of the ski boot, this makes the boot level & puts less strain on your leg muscles. The wax, applied to the bottom of the ski, grips when you put pressure on it to go forward, but glides when there’s no pressure. You need different grades of wax for different temperatures – a real black art! A telemark turn is one where one leg slides backwards behind the other and the two skis form effectively one long one.You can only do this on freewheel skis. I also use telescopic poles, adjusted to be longer for pushing uphill but shorter for the downhills to help with the turns.So there you go, a wonderful pursuit when conditions are right.

There’s worse to come though, a cheesy video is in production!

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Almost ready

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Gorgeous snow conditions lower down

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Have to wait for the descent

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More fence icicles

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Strange icicles growing vertically

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Looking east

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Hare and fox tracks

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Over to Fife and the Firth of Forth

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A gulley to the east over the valley

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Another gully to the east

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Follow the hare in reverse

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Gate number 3

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Sun, sun, sun

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Lammerlaw ahead, waits for another day

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As far as I go, skins off & ready to go

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Haddington, down low

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Time to head down

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Starting the ski back

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These specs were clear when I left the car

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Oh so elegant!!

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Ski tips lead the way down

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Trapain Law and the Bass Rock

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Quad bike & ski tracks up

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Gate number 2

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turns in the snow

 

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The car waits at the bottom

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Ski track up and down, put delight

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-27quad bike, ski and sheep tracks

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The sheep & hill at the finish

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The Strava trace of the ski track up & down

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The road home

Little Things Mean a Lot?

The song says it.

There I was, just over half way through a 25 mile ride. I’d decided it was to be a hill day so up and away. As I rode through the lovely old village full of old red sandstone houses, tucked in a fold in the landscape, I changed gear for the climb up the main street, or so I thought.

Houses at Garvald just before the break

Houses at Garvald just before the break

The Inn at Garvald

The Inn at Garvald

Ping went the gears of my heart, sort of. The cable had broken, no warning, no slight tension in changing, no missed gears, nothing, just Ping. Well, it was going to be top gear home all the way, or rather a choice of two with a double front ring, though the lower one scraped a bit, so best to avoid it if possible.

Look - no gear change!

Look – no gear change!

At the end of the village the road ramp up for a short, sharp hill with the gradient going over 10%. No way was this cycleable by me. A quick unclip, dismount and trundle up to the top, hop on, clip in and away again. Then, just a wee bit of time to visualise a suitable route home before I reach the junction. OK, decision made, turn left and up, maintaining speed, calves feeling it already. imageTurn right and more up and a glorious sweeping top gear descent awaits, just as well as I have no other option. A little later on after a few ups and downs I remember the steep hill to come. Luckily there’s a big descent before it, a sweeping bend and then up. I hurtle down, checking there’s nowt coming, whoosh round the bend, stand up near the top and creep over the crest and then away – phew. Then it’s just undulating along beside the River Tyne, well pleased, only one walk – hurrah.

I get home, look out my spare gear cables – all too short. Naughty words quickly follow this discovery.

Next day the local bike shop beckons. It’s mostly a gentle downhill plus a following wind with only one short real hill so I arrive in reasonable order, with only slightly aching calves. Stop at the door, it’s looking absolutely not right. No bikes stacked outside, no John Muir metal sculpture to welcome me. It’s a Saturday, Colin never closes on a Saturday, he’s always there on a Saturday!!!! But not this one, there’s a notice on the door – closed till Wednesday, oh dear.

Colin's John Muir statue, outside his bike shop

Colin’s John Muir statue, outside his bike shop on an ‘open day’

So, back home, pushing that top gear against a wild wind and slight rise. So far it has been almost 25 miles pushing hard on that big gear. on the way back I call in on a pal but he’s out of cables as well. Once home I give up, I cannot face the hills and wind up to one of the other bike shops, plus it’s my Tuesday ride with the gang coming up, so I submit to the car journey there and back.  No problem, three cables and nipples bought, one for the bike, one for a spare and one for my pal. The cable quickly fitted, the gears run smooth again and all is set fair again, ah the joys? So that little thing, a wee broken cable certainly meant a lot!

And – where’s the team car when it’s needed?

A wee addendum, had a bit of bother getting the old bit of cable out, gear lever wouldn’t move up, eventually turned the bike upside down – result!

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

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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?

It was meant to be 67, the best laid plans . . . . .

Well, I had promised myself I would try to do 67 miles on the bike for my 67th birthday a couple of days ago. The forecast was unpleasant so I decided to go yesterday instead. I had planned an interesting route to Stirling with a lot of cycle path mileage and a train journey back. Then Terry rang me up. He fancied chumming me so that was settled then. Back to the drawing board for a route amendment.

So, early (for me!) start, and off at 7.30 am, temperature rising to the dizzy heights of 1ºC. But, the wind, though slight, was behind. So off up the road to meet Terry and then along the cycle track on the site of the old railway. A bit muddy and slidey in places, but hey life’s an adventure?

The mucky cycle track

The mucky cycle track

Then back on to real roads and a sweep down to and along the Firth of Forth, past Musselburgh Race Course & over the Tyne.

Musselburgh race course

Musselburgh race course

Over the River Esk at Musselburgh

Over the River Esk at Musselburgh

As you’ve probably realised it was a bit grey and murky, but sunshine was on offer later. We then had a short section on the main road, till we got to Joppa and the start of ‘The Prom’. This is a lovely section except for dodging pedestrians, children, dogs, a boxing group doing an outdoor session and other cyclists.

Down the promenade at Portobello

Down the promenade at Portobello – this bit was empty though

Then at the end of The Prom a bit more main road stuff till Leith Links, back on to cycle paths. I had loaded the route on to my Garmin and it urged me to go right. We obeyed and swept magnificently round in a triangle to land up where we started. This would not be the last time! So pedal on, the right way this time. Down past Lamb’s House and then cobbles and more cobbles – felt like the Leith Roubaix! So ‘Sunshine on Leith’, except it wasn’t. We passed over the Water of Leith, strangely enough where I had watched the filming a couple of years back. This time there was a rather odd cormorant of a type we’d not seen before.

No sunshine over Leith

No sunshine over Leith

Strange cormorant

Strange cormorant

Once more we delved into the mysteries of the former railways of Lothian. I think because we were low down in the cuttings the GPS signal was somewhat erratic. Once again we shot off completely away from our intended route and landed up by the sea again. So it looked like another unintentional diversion – and once again not for the last time. At least this time as we meandered round the coast and the deliciously named Silverknowes we passed by Muirhouse Mansion with its superb fancy chimneys. The area is now better known for its housing estates, but back in the day it must have been quite a place.

Muirhouse Mansion

Muirhouse Mansion

We managed to get back on track more or less and passed by J K Rowling’s Edinburgh house. Time for a quick break. We stopped on Crammond Brig (Bridge) for a quick, a stretch and a non-fashion show. The river tumbled way down beneath us, brown with the recent rains.

Break at Crammond Brig

Break at Crammond Brig

Disreputable Crew?

Disreputable Crew?

So refreshed, onwards and upwards – the tiny hill from the Brig beckoned. Great, a good stretch of cycle way, reasonably surfaced, lay ahead of us. We bowled along happy as anything after all the various twists and turns. Then, a big yellow sign lay ahead. DIVERSION it screamed in big, big letters. The cycle path was closed and the main road was definitely not an option. Off we went into the estate on a road that seemed as though the diversion would be a pleasant experience. We passed the local posh house, not sure if it is still occupied, but the horse outside was quite something.

Dalmenny House

Dalmenny House

Then things became worse. The track deteriorated into bumpy, lumpy gravel, stones and mud. Arms, legs and backside were being hammered – it was the Dalmenny Roubaix this time, a special vibro masssage for free! Thank you Specialised for making a bike with zertz inserts and gel covered handlebars, and me for fitting 25mm tyres. Gradually though we came into sight of the Bridges. The iconic Forth Railway Bridge drifted into view vague behind the trees and gradually looming larger and larger in front of us.

Dalmenny Estate

Dalmenny Estate

Forth Rail Bridge

Forth Rail Bridge

Classic View?

Classic View?

The three bridges & a tug

The three bridges & a tug

Train Time

Train Time

So the first part of our journey was nearly over, all we had to do was find a way up onto the road bridge. Off we went through the town. Oh No!! More cobbles and this time the worst of the lot. It was the South Queensferry Roubaix. With chattering teeth from the vibrations we popped out at the far end and lo and behold a wee ramp leading up to bridge appeared before us. My Garmin informed us that we were on the right route again. And we had a lovely cycle track across the road bridge and the Forth, even though the cars and lorries were thundering past beside us.

Forth Road Bridge

Forth Road Bridge

Hurrah, we had at least reached Fife. We trundled through Inverkeithing, up past a fine old fashioned bike shop, but no time to browse. North, go north we did and eventually picked up a cycle track leading off to the east along a former railway with the wind pushing us gently along. Oh joy. Unfortunately we had to skirt through Dunfermline and guess what? Yes we got mislaid yet again, not sure why but at least it was just for a little. Eventually we started tramping along passing dogs, runners, walkers, cyclists, prams but this time horses as well. The Ochill hills also began to get closer. Only downside was stopping to stretch and eat some Jelly Babies, which we promptly spilled onto the ground covered with effects of all the various human and animal traffic and certainly not too edible after the baby spill.

Looking to The Ochils

Looking to The Ochils

We managed to to divert not too much coming through Alloa, though we meandered a bit true to form. The local architecture looked amazing, even without the promised sun, and the little track was a joy, with things like an old ruined doocot (dove cot or pigeon loft) not that long after the town

Back end of Alloa

Back end of Alloa

An old doocot

An old doocot

More of The Ochils

More of The Ochils

Now guess again what happened after this? Yup – maybe going too fast, maybe day dreaming, maybe taking in the scenery too much. We missed another turning and landed up too far north at Menstrie. This time it was a busy main road with loads of unpleasant traffic after the quiet of the cycle tracks and a cold headwind to add insult and still no sun. Drafting time after having been companionable most of the way. But the Wallace Monument (aye, him of Braveheart fame) grew closer and our destination was not far down the road.

The Wallace Monument gets nearer

The Wallace Monument gets nearer

Past the monument (must go one day), wheech down the side roads, over the Forth, a lot smaller here, over the bridge and into the station. Hurrah we’ve made it, coffee, rolls maybe cake as well. But no chance, the next train was leaving in 7 minutes, so tickets hurriedly bought, bikes hauled up and down station stairs and onto the platform for a short wait before the train announce itself. Onto the carriage and a nice young lady removed her bike from the rack to make way for us as she was getting off at the next station.

Stirling Station

Stirling Station

Cramped bike transport

Cramped bike transport

Back to Edinburgh, there was a connecting train in a few minutes but we couldn’t face it. Off to get a giant coffee and a massive baguette, much needed by now. Then over to the platform for the next train, this time using the lifts. In this busy station we couldn’t face lifting our bikes up and down the crowded stairs. Then onto the train, a bit of luxury for the bikes and views of Edinburgh’s old jail as we sped towards our final section of the journey.

A bit of luxury for the bikes

A bit of luxury for the bikes

Leaving Edinburgh

Leaving Edinburgh

Back along the chilly, muddy cycle path when suddenly Terry was going really slowly. I thought the distance had got to him a bit. He complained that the bike sounded as though the rear wheel bearing was going. When I looked the rear tyre was flat. We pumped it up and with just 1 km to home Terry was totally determined just to get back. After a cheery farewell I was on my own again, into the wind and the temperature down to 3ºC. I got to the hill above the village and looked at the mileage. It was 137km. The latest Strava Grand Fondo Challenge was 150 km – how could I resist. So off on an extra circuit with a wee bit extra thrown in and then home. Yeh, done it!!!!!!! With all the extras thrown in my 67 mile trip had become 94.4 miles (151km) and I felt great.

And today as a mini celebration I went sea & surf canoeing with a pal.

Roll on 68?

Note: Normally I take a route map along as I find the Garmin map hard to read. Because of the last minute changes I didn’t manage to print one off – the very time I could have done with it.

Also apologies for the photo quality, lots of them taken on the move from a camera over my shoulder on automatic, ah well.

The Birthday Bash

The Birthday Bash

Snow, ice, rain, cold – no probs – but wind and thorns!!!!

A Standing stone on the hill above the village

A Standing stone on the hill above the village

Well, Scottish winters are strange beasts. You get just about everything that weather can throw at you, or beguile you with.

Recently it has been no exception. It has been yo-yoing from -3ºC to 13ºC, from gloriously sunny days to cloud and murk, from total calm to wild winds, from dry delightful roads to torrents streaming down the street or ice & snow patches.

Most of this I don’t mind. Just put on a few more layers or discard them. Wear a wind/ waterproof jacket. Go slow for dodgy conditions, or climb to warm up.

But, recently, the winds have been ferocious. I can hear it clattering against the pan-tiles on the roof, I can see the rain being battered against the windows, we even had one blow in. And as for thoughts of riding in it – just forget it.

If my ride was all downwind, maybe, just maybe I’d venture a tiny weeny thought about it. But, upward into the teeth of a gale just ain’t my idea of fun. Done it too many times mountaineering or sailing. And as for side winds, those gaps in the hedges and fences are scary places to be if a gust hits at the wrong time, especially if there are other vehicles around.

Today the wind dropped about, so I was out with the gang. Just icy patches to contend with, wee snow flurries with sun shining through so taking it very easy and the warm delights of the cafe beckoned. Mostly stayed just above zero as well. But, we came back along my bête noire – a local road that had its hedges cut over a month ago. I think I’ve now had 4 punctures on that road from thorns within that time and that’s on puncture resistant tyres. Ah well, nature will have its way – I just wish it wouldn’t. It’s so wretched replacing inner tubes this weather, and the the cadence thingy decided to get tangled up in the spokes a bit – hurrumph!

But at least I got out, good company, sunny day and some good roads in places.

Now it’s time to batten down the hatches again, the next storm is coming through soonish.

My boat was in there somewhere!

My boat was in there somewhere!

“And I would ride 8,000 km” – not quite the same ring as . . . . . . .

Looking across Belhaven Bay towards Traprain Law, next to the cycle path

Looking across Belhaven Bay towards Traprain Law, Scotland next to the cycle path

to paraphrase The Proclaimers famous song – ‘And I would ride 5,000 miles’ – it sounds so much better, even though it is less impressive, maybe?

Being a maths graduate (seems another lifetime away with the flares & tie die shirts), I love statistics, numbers & spreadsheets etc. So I accumulate masses of stats (thank you Garmin).

Just recently I reached the 8,000 km mark on the bike this year, which included 86,00 metres of ascent, over 350 hours of cycling and endless amounts of fun, happiness, companionship and enjoyment. My biggest ride so far was 147 km (92 miles) with 1,478 metres ascent (4877) – this was done on a blisteringly hot Scottish day, ending up fairly dehydrated. Was going for the century ride, but enough was enough. So, call me a geek if you wish, but, that’s your problem not mine.

There was also some angst, pain and frustration mixed in.

So what does it all mean? Not too much I suppose to most, but recollections of some excellent times for me & my pals. I usually annotate rides with weird titles & descriptions, but they mean something to me. So looking over my rides what churns away in the memory banks?

“Wott!! No coffee, scones or sprinkles?” – I have been out with one Sunday crew for a while now, but was requested to join another so popped along to see. The group is around 25, so we cycled along sort of together for a while, then split into fast & slow. Knowing there was a lot of downhill & flat I went for the fast and we flew, managed to stay with them for a long while till we hit the sea front and woosh, off they went, clung on for a few miles & then finally acted my age, and I wasn’t alone. But – no coffee stop as is usual for me. So – nowadays I alternate between the two groups, both of them good in their own ways.

“Tour of Tweedale,1ºC at the start, 30+ miles to warm up – then glorious”  – a Sportive in the Scottish Borders, 82 miles and 1,270 metres (4,000 ft) of ascent with a few tough climbs (one ramps up to over 20% – the Wall of Talla!) It was great, with a couple of pals, a magical food stop with wonderful home made soup and goodies plus plenty of good craic & meetings with pals and groups to follow (and lead) – just perfect despite the initial cold. I’ve done this for the last 3 years and the distance has varied from 80 to 99 miles – definitely the best Sportive I’ve taken part in.

“No Day of the Triffids” – a ride over the hills on the Sunday, the Triffids were the huge wind turbines which usually suddenly loomed close by as we crested the top of the hills.  Because of the thick, thick mist we couldn’t see them this time so had to creep down the hill slowly, slowly dodging gravel, potholes each other and one daft, mad car – so no daft 45+ mph descent for me this time!

And then there was South Africa – a whole different experience in oh so many ways.

Out in the bush, South Africa on "that bike" @£$%$&^%)?!!!!

Out in the bush, South Africa on “that bike” @£$%$&^%)?!!!!

And then there’s the wildlife met en route. Deer, badgers, swans, hares, rabbits, stoats, weasels, skeins of geese, rabbits, dogs, heron, eider ducks, fish, sheep, skylarks, pheasant etc. etc. Wow. are we cyclists sometimes so lucky to be involved in biking?

And looking forward already to next year, I’ve booked a week in Mallorca with the Tuesday bunch I cycle with – yippee!!!!