Next Spokes Ride

Sorry, but due to the COVID-19 Social Distancing and Lockdown restrictions all Spokes Rides are cancelled until further notice.

If you're feeling fine, go out for a bike ride and enjoy the fresh air.

Hope to see you when it's all over.

April 2020
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This weather forecast is generated by the Met Office Weather Widget


"When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man's convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man's brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle." ~ Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills

I looked out of the window, it didn't look good. I ignored the fact I couldn't see across the road. 5 people turned out for what would possibly the most beautiful, if a little hilly, bike ride to the Borders. This report is only a précis of what happened. When I lead a ride, I am not just looking out for you; I am drinking in the landscape, the conversations. Nothing should pass in a blur, it helps to have a remembrance of where you have been and don't concentrate too much on the road or path, Although I must admit that not concentrating enough can result in you landing in a hedge, or the back of a vehicle. I am also constantly thinking which way is the best for time and for views, how can I keep the group together, but allow for socialising and keep everyone moving at a comfortable pace. It is difficult to decide what to keep in and what to throw out in a report. Ultimately, most of it could not be included. Some of it is extra. How else do you to find out about Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller?

Spokes Ride to The Borders

Spokes rides are not fast, but are aimed at cyclists. You can get fit for a Spokes Ride very easily by riding your bike at least 3 times per week for about 20 to 30 minutes. That's all it takes. Ride your bike, and enjoy your life. There's a lot to be said for mapping out a route beforehand, but also for keeping rides fresh.

As I got down to the Usher Hall, a pleasant surprise, the building works had gone. And it wasn't raining. We cannot complain. As we set off, the cloud was beginning to burn off, but it was still cool. I thought that we would remain under cloud as we travelled south, but the sky cleared before us. At the top of Lasswade Rd, clouds could be seen to cover the tops of the Pentland Hills. In the sunlight, vibrant colours assaulted the eye. Wheat was golden. Trees and green had that glossy green shine you only get after weeks of rain to encourage growth, and reflect. In the Distance, the tops of the Pentland Hills were obscured by cloud. This was, however, just a taster of what was to come, and we weren't fully out of the urban area yet, only passing through a finger of nature. Reality returns as we pass under the bypass. At the A768 through Lasswade, everyone who is in a car is in a hurry. The pace is slowed to allow these vehicles to pass, so we turn right and head through Bonnyrigg on the B704, and on to NCR 1. In the centre of Bonnyrigg everyone is turning, and has to wait for the cyclists to cross over. It all seems a mad panic.

Once on to the road to Carrington, the silence was deafening. One person states "This is my favourite road". The road slowly climbs, and the sun shines as we continue along a sleepy, if slightly bumpy country lane. Wait at Carrington in the peace and quiet, and then carry on up to B6372 turning left here and then right through Castleton. Deep in Countryside and bad road surfaces abound. Some parts of the road to Middleton have has full resurfacing, other places have short stretches; the rest is bumpy and head shaking. The road through Middleton is shaky from poor maintenance and mud from fields.

We reach the B7007 which will take us up over the Granites. Fortunately this was resurfaced a few years ago, and the climb from the north is not so steep that the gradient is marked on OS maps. It is the length of climb that can sap energy. With the wind behind us, the smooth road and the blue sky, the climb goes very well, everyone at their own pace. At the top, we cross in to The Borders. Wind turbines turn sleepily in the summer sunshine. The clouds have now fully receded; you'd need to travel very fast to end up under them. From the top we have a sweeping descent to the road to Heriot, a fairly flat section follows, which then leads to an imperceptible change in gradient up to The Piper's Grave. From here it's all downhill to Innerleithen. sheep add to excitement, especially those that unexpectedly walk across the road at the last moment. This has cyclists, motorists and motorcyclists weaving from side to side through constantly moving sheep slalom. Then the golf course which presents the problem of avoiding badly hit drives, but not on this occasion, they must be better golfers.

Lazy lunch

At Innerleithen we stay on NCR 1 to access the banks of the Tweed for a well deserved rest. Local's chat with us, and aid us with bike lifting. Lunch is taken in the shade of a pine tree. We gaze as horses graze on the south bank, a bird of prey leisurely flew over us and dogs swam in the river. This is summer at its best. It would be very easy to end the ride here, but we have to carry on.

Alpine View

We headed across the Tweed and following NCR 1heading east towards Galashiels. A lovely road through that dips and climbs and offers lovely views across the valley, but is quite strange. The road the trees are quite thick here, the Elibank and Traquair Forest. When tree tunnels of opens up, the scenery has changed. All sense of time is lost. Walkerburn comes up quite quickly after Innerleithen, but there are no other larger settlements. You have no markers to give a sense of distance. If your watch didn't move, you wouldn't have a sense of time. The Alpine feel of the road is heightened by drop to river on the left, and the high hill to the right. It is only at the descent from Ashiestiel to Peel that you realise you have travelled a long distance. The Tweed is squeezed through a narrow gap in the hills, and the road cuts through rock.

Don't have a Cow

Caddenfoot we head north on an old B710 road through Clovenfords, then turn on to the road through Staintling Craig. No shelter from the sun here. South facing hills we climb. At Staintling Craig, there are lovely views down Caddon water, a bit further up above Bowland; we can see the Eildon Hills. We break for refreshment, and then enjoy another long descent to Lugate Water, over the old bridge for a short climb to Stow. Just before Stow, chickens watch us before dashing across the road. On the way out of Stow, a cow blocks the road. A householder says "Watch out for the cow". It is nervously watches us, and decides to head towards Fountainhall. We follow at a respectful distance until the dry stone walls pull back at a wooded area, allowing the cow to move off the road and us to safely pass without upsetting the cow. From here, apart fro a short section, there are fields, hedges trees and isolated houses.

As we travel towards the Midlothian border, the road goes up then down, but the down sections are slightly shorter than and not quite as steep as the up sections, with the result that you do not perceive the gain in altitude. From here the road is undulating, or even 'updulating'? The road also sweeps around the hillsides. This makes it interesting to ride. An old bridge marks the start of the cow road, one of these roads that are delimited by cattle grids. Open road like this are OK when, as we were, you ascend. It is when these roads are descending that you have to watch out for errant sheep and / or cattle. On this occasion there were no animals, only motorcyclists resting at the top of the hill. We cross over one more cattle grid, and then another drop down through Fountainhall, where we bear left on towards Heriot.

Heriot is where we stop to acquire a Tunnock's log, to be kept until the top of the Granites. Heriot is very high up, so it feels like you are on the top of the Borders. Heading west on the B709, the road continues to climb, not that the road gives any perception of height until you pass Borthwick Hall. Pasture, hedges and trees give way to high hills alive with purple heather, dry stone walls and high grassland. We have a final push back to the top of the Granites, on NCR 1 B7007, where we stand at 404m above sea level and admire the view. The cloud has cleared to the North, only a light haze, and the 270 degree view extends from Berwick and Trapain Laws, East Lothian, Midlothian, Arthur's Seat, Braid Hills, The Pentland Hills and Gladhouse reservoir.

Cool easy riding

Descending is cool, the temperature reads 24 deg C, but the keen easterly wind comes off the North Sea. It is refreshing rather than cold, but it is only for a short while as we soon reach the bottom, and head towards Middleton. The farmer is on his buggy with the sheepdogs, and the bumpy roads make an unwelcome return. Generally we are moving downhill, carrying enough momentum to zoom up the small climbs and with a small change of the gear we are using. It is easy to maintain Cadence. In no time we pass through Castleton, on to the B6372, then the country lane to Carrington.

We head west from Carrington to preserve altitude, with rolling countryside, and a rather steep ascent out of Roslin Glen. The temperature is dropping now as it is last afternoon, although the sun remains quite high in the sky. A typical Midlothian road that feels very rough on a road bike, but not as rough as the roads around Middleton. Over the A6094, a short climb then the long descent to Roslin Glen. It's like a long slide, a quick start, and a long almost flat bit, then steeper and faster. As we get closer to the river, the road bottoms out. The climb up from Roslin Glen is not too long, so while steep, a bit of determination to keep the pedals turning, the wheels moving and soon it is over. The ride through Bush, Seafield and Damhead are uneventful. The satisfaction of completing such a ride is tempered with realisation that the ride is nearly over.

The final climb is up to Fairmilehead, and the end of the ride. From here, the long descent homeward awaits a hot shower, an evening meal, home.

I remember the lovely hills, and the sleepy motion of the wind turbines. My trail, while tarmac, had several incarnations. a line of purple, a carpet of green and gold to the side, and a roof of blue.

Warm Regards,

Explore, Dream, Discover

"If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, Rejoice, for your soul is alive." ~ Eleanora Duse quotes (Italian Actress. 1858-1924)

Ride Statistics

Distance:       130.7km (81.2 miles)
Average Speed:  20.7kmh (12.9mph) Max 52.0 kmh
Total Climbing: 1619m (5312ft) Max 408m, Max Incline 16%
Time:           6 hours 18 minutes
Max. Temp.:     28 deg C (77 deg F), but generally around 24 Deg C

Route Description

Start: Usher Hall
Out: Lothian Rd, The Meadows, Mayfield Rd, Liberton, Lasswade, Bonnyrigg, Carrington, Castleton, Middleton, The Granites, Piper's Grave, Innerleithen
Return: Innerleithen, Caddenfoot, Clovenfords, Stow, Fountainhall, Heriot, The Granites (NCR 1), Middleton, Castleton, Carrington, Roslin Glen, Bush, Hillend, Fairmilehead
End: Fairmilehead

Interactive Route Map

The map belows shows the route that we took on the August 2010 Summer Spokes Ride.

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