Tag Archives: steep

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 -2º 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

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A Wee Bit of a Ride

Early September – it was time for the Tour of Tweeddale again.

Tweeddale is in the Scottish Borders and is a fabulous venue for cycling of all sorts. I’ve done this event for the last five years, since it started. The distance in the past has varied from 85 to 99 miles but this time it was just over the 100 mile mark.

So having done what I hoped was sufficient training, I met up with some cycling pals ready for the off from Peebles. Another couple joined us on the line so a nice group of five were ready to go. I had stayed in the town the night before so had till 7.30 to wake up and get ready. In previous years, it was over an hour to drive down, so usually up at 5.30 to 6 am and I’m not good at mornings.

It was a chilly start, but not desperate and we were soon away and getting warmed up. The first section headed eastwards down beside the River Tweed on the back roads of the Tweed  Way. It was gorgeous, zooming up and mainly down with the wind behind and good views as we sped along. After the first 20 miles we left the Tweed Valley and climbed up and over to descend towards Selkirk.

We bypassed the town and headed for The Swire, otherwise know as the Witchy Knowe, the first real and steepest climb of the day.

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First food stop, bottom of ‘The Swire’

A quick food stop and then on up.

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Ronnie replenishing

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Theo at the bottom of the Swire

A lovely climb, reasonably steep but at a fairly constant gradient, and the countryside looked fabulous in the sun.

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Heading up the Swire from the north

Up and over the cattle grid and a swoop down to the next valley.

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Top of the Witchy Knowe

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Bottom of the Swire

In a wee while came Berrybush, another lovely climb, less steep but extensive forestry at the top.

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A wee break before the climb – the bottom of Berrybush

We hurtled back down and arrived at the Gordon Arms for the next food stop. Ah, the soup – just brilliant. The volunteers were great, the food stops full of lovely stuff and some chat with other riders in the sun, bliss or what.

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The Gordon Arms, 2nd food stop

Then back on the bikes to trundle down to Moffat, except for one thing. The wind was head on and mush stronger than expected, having been forecast to come up later. So it was a bit of a gruelling ride down with us swapping leads while the others sheltered behind. But, as compensation, the scenery was fabulous, with the gentle border hills vivid green in the sun, St. Marys Loch glinting and outlining the sailing boats busy out racing and the occasional bursts of chat when a lull in the wind allowed.

We rattled through Moffat, just stopping at road junctions, before heading for the last real climb of the day – The Devil’s Beeftub. This was the long one, 6 1/2 miles of climbing ascending just over 1000 feet, but not too steep and highly enjoyable, especially with the wind behind us now. After the climb it was a rapid descent for over 25 miles back to Peebles, going so well we even ignored the food stop on the way.

So at the end of the trip a great ride together.

ps. I am working on the video – you have been warned!!

Funny old Spring and bum cream

It’s been a pretty weird Spring this year, hot, cold, windy, still, rain, sun, snow. As I tap the rain is pelting down outside, but the sun is due late on today.

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Hairy gorse out for Spring

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Tulips in the sun

I was cycling up on the hills two days ago with snow around and the week before I was back in shorts a few times. But then variety is the spice of life?

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A 50 miler 2 weeks ago

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Johnny trying not to run me over (me lying on the road!)

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Climbing up Redstone Rigg 2 days ago

My ribs have mostly healed but a couple of weeks ago I forgot I was recovering. I’m involved with the local community cinema (Pix in the Stix). We were putting on ‘Bill’ for the kids film, a comedy about William Shakespeare – great if you haven’t seen it. The adult film was ‘The Lady in the Van’, another terrific one. While setting up for the shows I lifted over the speakers, fairly light and easy. Then I hoiked up the amp in its flight case. Big mistake, I felt something in my ribcage tug and knew I should not have done that! So I was set back a wee bit, but still out on the bike. It was the 25th anniversary of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Wall’, so we decided to put on the film of Roger Waters, from the band, reflecting on this. He visited his grandfather’s grave from the first world war, and his father’s grave from the second world war, as well as giving a huge performance of The Wall. We also had a band playing, a younger member of Pix played some background music and I sang some old blues numbers. A brilliant night indeed, held in the old village hall at Tyninghame, which at one time was a bakehouse.

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Sound checks

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Setting up Pix in the Stix

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The band before ‘The Wall’

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Special cakes for the Pink Floyd night

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Aghghghghgh

I’ve had some good rides, as usual. I’m lucky as I relish variety in conditions. I’ve been up and down our local hills quite a bit. As regular followers know it’s steep round here, so I’ve needed to take it easyish as standing up peddling has caused discomfort or pain, till the last week or so. I look forward to going out with the groups I ride with, keeps me going pushing with folk a few decades younger than me. And there is good banter along the way or at the cafe too.

One of my favourite cafés is re-opening soon under new management. It’s going to be called The Lanterne Rouge, so it’s obviously going to give a huge welcome to cyclists. For those who are not into racing, the Lanterne Rouge was awarded to the rider who finishes the Tour de France in last place.

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Un Lanterne Rouge

Now the final bit, bum cream. As with all cycling things, eating, drinking, equipment, training etc. there are masses of opinions on what we should be doing and how, where, why etc. One of these is the more delicate parts of our anatomy which connect with the saddle. I am fairly scrupulous about spreading ‘chamois cream’ on my susceptable parts before a longer ride, but recently I forgot (or couldn’t be bothered – for want of a more appropriate word). One of these was an 85 mile jaunt to test bikes. Surprisingly I find few bad effects, so I’ve been experimenting a bit and it sometimes it makes a difference, others not. So I’ve reached totally no conclusion, not for the first time either.

So as ever a few extra pics for your delectation or otherwise:

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Up by the monument looking north to N Berwick Law and the Paps o’ Fife

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Subtle overshoes?

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Deep Spring ploughing locally

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Spring snow in the hills

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The climb ahead up to the tops, a mere 17%er

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At the top of ‘The Rigg’, warmer than it looks!

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Looking back over the Firth of Forth and the hills up north

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The Bass Rock below with the northern mountains behind

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

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?
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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?