The Happy New Year Bike Ride
"Winter came down to our home one night
Quietly pirouetting in on silvery-toed slippers of snow,
And we, we were children once again." ~ Bill Morgan, Jr.
14 people turned up on a cold day. The cycle paths still hadn't thawed out, so a road route was chosen, and as it was the first ride of the year, on the second day of the year, the route would be short. I also anticipated delays to people turning up for the ride, so we did not leave until 20 past. The worst path was the cycle route at Roseburn / Ravelston.
Meadows Ice Free
So we headed up Lothian road, then used the first cycle path of the day, across the Meadows, which was, thankfully, relatively ice free. At least there was a clear path through for cyclists. The only real obstacles were the Sunday morning joggers, who realising a whole load of cyclists were on the cycle part of the path, had to quickly move on to the nearest ice-free piece of tarmac or grass. We had the usual delays at traffic lights, but by keeping the pace slow and steady, we were soon all going through lights as a whole group, in one attempt.
Holyrood Park was quiet, thanks to the Sunday traffic ban. As we passed beneath Samson's Ribs, you could see the Innocent Railway path glistening white with compact ice. The cold east wind did its best to chill us to our bones. Duddingston Loch still had a covering of ice, upon which waterfowl of various sorts did a weird ice dance. Through the old Duddingston Village, most of the footpaths were covered in the red grit. We head down to Portobello from here, an easy ride until we hit the cobbles. While the cycling is easily, it doesn't offer much in the way of exertion, which meant fingers and toes begin to feel nippy. In Portobello we head toward Musselburgh, sheltered from the East wind until we reach Eastfield. Here the houses stopped, the wind was allowed to come in off the sea. The breeze felt a lot warmer. The sea here is 8 deg C. My fingers were still cold, so my mind raced through the maps in my mind to seek out a route that would warm us, but would not be so arduous as to put people off cycling. The temperature recorded by the bike computer crept up to 3 deg C.
At Fisherrow harbour, a group of identically dressed sailors were working on a boat. They looked like they were RNLI. The masts of boats in the harbour played their musical tune in the breeze. The over the River Esk, islands in the river still clinging on to blocks of ice, covered in snow. The second cycle path of the day goes behind the racecourse. As we head toward Levenhall, the whole path has been remodelled, presumably to prevent vehicles going up to the ash lagoons. The BMX track has been reinstated, in an almost pristine state, apart from the shards of glass. A few of us had a quick shot. My bottom bracket was too low, so possibly because I didn't go around the right way. We found our path, considerably narrowed, but was ice free. It was on the 'tarmac' car park road the we had to look where we were going in case the route chosen ended with a lump of ice. We reached the main road, where we headed towards Prestonpans.
It was very much a holiday in East Lothian. The public conveniences were inconveniently closed, as if one day after New Year, no one actually needs to go!!! We headed inland passing the old Preston village, and the decided to take a risk using a small lane to head up to Falside Hill. This was actually a good choice. We have climbed up from Prestonpans, but the hill was not so steep that the group had to keep stopping to regroup. We stop a while at the top to admire the view, behind a high wire fence, and to snack on Jelly Babies (other sweets are available!) As we were about to leave the viewpoint, a group of cyclists came up the route we were to head down. They warned us about several icy patches that stretched across the road. Falside Castle presented a larger profile, and the trees seemed to be very intrusive. We navigated the first icy patch quite easily. As we turned Falside castle looked quite small again, and we zoomed down the hill. At the bottom of the hill, the next icy patch was navigated by cycling on the wrong side of the road. We are just a short hop away from the lunch venue.
Craig House Hotel was the lunch venue, and warm. An advantage of choosing a restaurant chain is that they are easily able to cater for a group of us, and everyone got served quickly and fairly efficiently. I had a lovely, if slightly overdone, vegetable pie, which warmed my core. I felt human again.
After lunch we headed to my house for desert, mince pies and Iona's cake. Through Inveresk, the speed monitors smiled at us as we just about reached 14mph. The quick route to my house involved going through Newcraighall and Niddrie, before turning off to head up over the Braids. In Musselburgh, the 'old' Tesco has been demolished, replaced with a larger Tesco Extra. Newcraighall was busy, but the junction with the A1 was very quiet, and we all made it through the lights as two groups. By keeping the pace slow, but the time we got to Niddrie, we had all joined together as one group. Heading out of Craigmillar, Craigmillar Castle looms darkly against the grey sky as we make a small climb. At Liberton I phoned ahead to warn that the group of cyclists were near. Braid Hills drive gave us a lovely view over Edinburgh. The Braids were devoid of the snow that a few weeks ago were packed with sledgers. Scenery was dark.
Soon the riders were enjoying the cake that Iona baked and Mince Pies. The company was warm. Outside, it tried to snow, the child inside glowed
Explore, Dream, Discover
"One kind word can warm three winter months." ~ Japanese Proverb
Distance: 40.5km (20.2 miles)
Average Speed: 16.1kmh (10 mph) Max 41 kph
Total Climbing: 392m (1286 ft) Max 150m, Max Incline 11%
Time: 2 hours 31 minutes
Max. Temp.: 3 deg C (37 deg F)
Start: Usher Hall
Out: Meadows, Holyrood Park, Duddingston, Portobello, Joppa, Musselburgh, Prestonpans, Birsley Brae, Falside Hill, Craig House Hotel
Return: Craig House Hotel, Inveresk, Musselburgh, Newcraighall, Niddrie Mains, Craigmillar Castle, Liberton, Braid Hills
End: Comiston Road