Tag Archives: sheep

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!

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-04

Almost ready

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-05

Gorgeous snow conditions lower down

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-06

Have to wait for the descent

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-12

More fence icicles

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-11

Strange icicles growing vertically

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-10

Looking east

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-08

Hare and fox tracks

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-18

Over to Fife and the Firth of Forth

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-16

A gulley to the east over the valley

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-15

Another gully to the east

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-07

Follow the hare in reverse

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-09

Gate number 3

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-13

Sun, sun, sun

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-02

Lammerlaw ahead, waits for another day

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-17

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

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-19

Haddington, down low

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-14

Time to head down

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-20

Starting the ski back

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-21

These specs were clear when I left the car

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-30

Oh so elegant!!

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-23

Ski tips lead the way down

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-01

Trapain Law and the Bass Rock

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-28

Quad bike & ski tracks up

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-22

Gate number 2

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-25

turns in the snow

 

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-26

The car waits at the bottom

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-24

Ski track up and down, put delight

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

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-03

The sheep & hill at the finish

Lammermuirs Track

The Strava trace of the ski track up & down

Lammermuirs Feb 2016-29

The road home

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Coos, Gravel, Wet Leaves, Fences, Needles and Glaur.

It was another Tuesday ride. We had gathered together outside The Smithy as usual. It was a wee bit blowy, but not too bad and a bit damp underwheel.

“Let’s go over the hills” one of our bright sparks suggested. Two of our number had to be back early, but would come up part of the way, so off we went.

It was wet on the roads and there had been a bit of a blow so it was soggy leaves as well. So taking it easy, especially on the downhills we gradually wended our way upwards.

After a punishing climb up, It was just stunning as ever on the tops with great views and the sheep behaving themselves. Though we were taking care as Ali had come a cropper a few weeks before on one of the steep descents near here, damaging himself badly when a woolly beast ran out in front of him.

Dodging the loose stones, gravel and puddles we made our past the Whiteadder reservoir with it’s short steep climb at the end, then on to the turn off, about 20 miles in. I once got here to find it blocked off as a car rally was being staged. No big deal for a motorist, but a bit of a way out for a cyclist.

We climbed up the road which deteriorated as we went, steeply (yet again), past the hairpin with more gravel, potholes, stones, puddles and glaur. Eventually we made it up to the top and into the forest. The road was a beautiful shade of brown, covered in wet pine needles from the surrounding trees. So cautiously we made our way down to start the relatively easy climb out of the next valley. We passed a few coos (cows) by the side of the road, then more a more till a big herd blocked the road. Peddling slowly Ali led us up to them, shouting and gesturing. Luckily they moved, mainly sauntering off to the side. Then up once more, this time through the Triffids (giant wind turbines) to the last big summit, through mud, cow pats and road works. I always love this section as it usually is deserted and remote, but not so much this day.

From the top it’s a glorious, fast descent, usually at well over 40 mph (65 mph). But not today, the road was wet, covered in mud and slime and just too dicy to contemplate going quickly. Then by the farm at the bottom a closed gate, which I had never even realised was there. Luckily we were creeping down because of the conditions under our wheels. After hoiking our bikes over the gate, more ups and downs, more glaur, more gravel, more potholes. A cyclocross bike might have been a better bet than a road bike.

Eventually we got down to Dunbar, a welcome coffee break with scones and meeting pals accidentally. Then away hame. Altogether an enjoyable ride despite (or because) of the conditions.

On a relevant tack, I never usually recommend stuff, but I’ve been using a chain lube called Squirt, which I’ve mentioned before. It performed wonderfully and despite the bike being plastered with muck at the end of the ride, the chain was clean. It also just needs a quick wipe occasionally, nothing more. It seems to be extending the chain life and makes the chain run so smooth. And I have nothing to do with the product at all, it just works for me.IMG_0685Up onto the Lammermuirs, the road ahead
IMG_0688Ali comes up, with lowland East Lothian spread out below
IMG_0689IMG_0692Johnny emerging from the climb
IMG_0693IMG_0694After Whiteadder the valley before the hill beyond, the Triffids await.
IMG_0695Another top, looking over the Scottish BordersIMG_0698A wee rest for a changeIMG_0700Into the forest and the pine needle road, easy does it!
IMG_0710The “Day of the Triffids” arrives
IMG_0711IMG_0712A glimpse of the sea, our coffee and scones await down there somewhere?
IMG_0713More glaur on what is normally a super fast descent. Torness, a nuclear power station is below usIMG_0716The farm gate I’ve never noticed before and more glaurIMG_0718Yes, muddy again? We had just come out of the hills top right

IMG_0719Dunbar, coffee and scones await

IMG_0720Made it!IMG_0722

Should you do this to a bike? Of course, a wee bit of water & all is OK!

Meanderings, Thanks, Diets and other stuff

So here we go again, haven’t posted for a while, just been ruminating on possible topics.

I’ve never set out to gain followers, just wanted to see how or if they accumulated blog, by blog. So I wanted to say a huge, huge thanks to all of you who are following, have commented and\or encouraged me. Also a big thanks to those who’ve enjoyed (?) my comments on their posts.

I’ve also learnt about other cultures, countries, customs, adventures etc. It’s been fun following folk from and to all over the place and the photos have been a delight. I’ve not met anyone for real yet, even though some are to to far away, but maybe sometime? I’m also surprised at how I have concern for people I haven’t met, when hurricanes hit the Phillipines I wonder how Chyrel from ‘Ride All the Way’ is doing & that she is OK. Same when I read others have had accidents or illnesses.

Now, one of my pals asked how I managed to ride so well, was there something special in my veggie diet? I replied I do have a special diet, it’s called The Hill Diet. We are lucky round here in my part of S.E. Scotland. If I go east I can cycle along by the North Sea, if I go north I can do some wee steep hills pass castles and follow the Firth of Forth. To the west I have a slightly more even ride as the glaciers of old carved the landscape east west. Finally head south and I’m into the hills over the Lammermuirs, a glorious upland landscape of ancient hills smoothed down full of sheep, heather, grouse, birds of prey and more plus, yes, lots of hills. So for my hill diet I tend to head south, it’s as simple as that!

And here’s one I climbed yesterday, just outside the village peaking at 18% – aye, a goodie, though short!


There’s also the joy of fellow cyclists, I’m lucky to have three local groups I bike with. One is a group of FOSSILs like me, we meet near the village and there’s a mostly compulsory coffee & scone/cake stop along the way, usually covering 40 miles plus, loverly. The other two are mixed groups on a Sunday and I alternate between them, I manage the ‘faster’ group with one and the slower group with the other as the faster riders head for the hills and are too like whippets for me & I feel I’m holding them up (in fact I know am!) So all in all good times. But I do a fair amount of solo riding, just loving being out and I find most of my faster times or PRs on segments are when I’m alone. It also means I can stop and take photos/ look at things without feeling I’m holding folk up again.

Tonight:



Then there’s advice, given and received. I’m fairly sceptical about all the guff I feel is discussed in cycling. For example I do not drink too much on rides under 40 miles, even when pushing hard, unless I’m thirsty which is not often. Yet almost all the advice is drink, drink, drink. And as for some of the ‘rules’, fashionistas etc. Just don’t get me started!

But the best advice for me to myself is to enjoy myself out there.

The weather, in typical British fashion is another influence. It is so changeable, here we are almost into November in Scotland and the shorts were on again. Maybe it will be the winter togs next week and time to get the skis prepped instead of the bike?

So there you are, or rather, there I am, just a couple of recent pics to leave you with as ever.
Enjoy yourselves.

Alastair

An update – as we assembled for our Sunday ride, one of the guys said “I read your blog yesterday”, so now I’ve met a follower – and only 5 miles away! So cheers Craig, long may you read & enjoy.

Also a wee treat for geeks when I manage to get it uploaded. I’ve done a video of one of the Sportives I did in September, but cannot get YouTube to accept it. So back to re-editing and trying again. It may be the music I made up is too like something else that’s in copyright, ah well back to the drawing board – or in this case Garageband.


  

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

Giving and Getting

What do I give?

I try to give an interesting, maybe sometimes thought provoking, reflection of life around me.

I like to show folk aspects of places and things around me, with maybe too many photos?

I try to reach out to folk, by answering questions, giving suggestions and occasionally disagreement.

I also try to give an older (than who?) persons view of things, sometimes sceptical, but hopefully enthusiastic.

I also try to get over the joy of cycling in its many forms.

And I’m sure many other things.

and . . . What do I get?

So much basically.

I am in contact with folk from around the world, with different cultures, climates, experiences, fauna, flora and environment.

I have been able to participate in discussions about cycling and other topics.

I have been able to connect with other bloggers on Strava and have the privilege of following their cycling progress.

I have learnt stuff and tried out others’ ideas.

I have been given an impetus to try out new projects.

And then there was ‘The Challenge’ from Rachel.

So many, many thanks to all for being participants in this wonderful process.

Finally, me being me, some photos to entertain or otherwise:

Posing beneath the full size metal giraffes in Edinburgh

Posing beneath the full size metal giraffes in Edinburgh, taken by my wonderful granddaughter

Used for weighing grain sacks

Used for weighing grain sacks

A deep gorge between East Lothian and the Scottish Borders with 2 road bridges and a train bridge.

A deep gorge between East Lothian and the Scottish Borders with 2 road bridges and a train bridge.

The famous white cattle at Lennoxlove

The famous white cattle at Lennoxlove

A local cycling hazard

A local cycling hazard, the gate not the state of the road, the cattle grid or the sheep poo!

Another local hazard

Another local hazard

A badger, sad road kill seen on a recent ride.

A badger, sad road kill seen on a recent ride.

A salmon on our local river, resting in a pool after spawning.

A salmon on our local river, resting in a pool after spawning.

Seen recently on our local river.

An art work seen recently on our local river.

Tatties (potatoes) in front of the Doocot (dove cot)

Tatties (potatoes) in front of the Doocot (dove cot)

With a golden cockerel weathervane, Whitekirk  (white church) isn't white, but the original was. A site of pilgrimage for 1000s in Medieval times.

With a golden cockerel weathervane, Whitekirk (white church) isn’t white, but the original was. A site of pilgrimage for 1000s in Medieval times.

An Art Nouveau gravestone in Whitekirk graveyard, lit by the morning sun

An Art Nouveau gravestone in Whitekirk graveyard, lit by the morning sun

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?

What do you hear?

Heading down from the Col du Galibier to Lauteret just before overtaking

Heading down from the Col du Galibier to Lauteret just before overtaking

Think this could be a theme coming on, wandering around the senses?

I was very conscious of the sound of my tyres on the road the other day. It was quite windy & I was freewheeling down hill with the wind behind. The tarmac was fairly smooth and a delightful hum came from the front wheel, with no other sound. It set me thinking.

Normal bike sounds, the usual sound of the freewheel, usually fairly quiet on my Shimano set up. The clunk of the gear change or horrendous crunch if, as I occasionally do, get it wrong. The rasp of the tyres in an occasional skid to stop or over-egging it, the squelch through a puddle or ford, the crunch through gravel, the click over the local train level crossing (which is far from level) or the thud over lumps of tractor mud.  The different noises from the brakes – a gentle rub of pads on the rim, a short squeal if there is dust around or a foul crunching if a wet day has thrown gravel onto the rim. The chatter of cycling companions around or beside you usually entertains you. Then there is the explosion of an inner-tube blowing or the hiss of it leaking.

Then there’s the traffic. The quiet hum of cars, or noisier deep throated rumble of a diesel vehicle, coming up behind. The click of a bike gear change that lets you know a fellow cyclist has teamed up. The roar of a boy racer’s car (not usually women) as it violently accelerates past you. The disturbing hoot of a horn sounding from an impatient motorist behind. There’s also the shout of an irate motorist from beside you, often for no reason, ah the joys of pathetic road rage. The sounds of trains running on nearby railway tracks or tractors working in the fields.

Then there are nature’s sounds surrounding you. The different wind noises is almost always a variable constant, sometimes the patter of rain, the crunch of hail or the crack of thunder. There is also the cries of birds and the flurry of wings as they fly towards or away from you. The sparking of the hooves of deer or sheep as they scamper out of your way, hopefully.  Dogs often bark, or sometimes growl as you ride past, sometimes giving you a doppler effect. Horses in fields or ridden along the road give a whole variety of snorts, whimpers coughs etc, with riders often shouting out a cheery greeting, or a quick ‘thanks’.

Also the welcome salutations of friends, other pedestrians or cyclists are an ever welcome part of the soundscape.

But, the worst is the sound of a fall or crash and the groans of the one who has come to grief, such a compendium of grating noises – hopefully hardly ever heard.

And the strangest thing of all, the fact that for those of us lucky enough to have hearing, we mostly just take all of this for granted.

So . . . . . . . . what do you hear?