Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Kilsyth to Edinburgh

Berit provides the words for this ride:

Mitchell's parents live in Kilsyth, so it was fairly early on that we started to cycle out there from Edinburgh - traditionally from Edinburgh parkrun on a Saturday morning, occasionally making a very early start and doing Falkirk parkrun at the half way point. We've honed the route several times, and now know a very pleasant way with plenty of hills and country roads, and no Cumbernauld or A803. It's more unusual to do the route in the opposite direction, as we usually get the train back on Sunday night after a weekend visit, however on this occasion we were over to see some of the Commie Games with Mitch's dad, and after an overnight stay thought we'd take the opportunity to spend a day in the saddle, and avoid the overfilled trains.

We started a bit later than planned (as usual) after getting distracted by a surprisingly gripping lawn bowls match. As we set off the weather looked a bit ominous, but within 20 minutes I had to insist on a quick stop to remove layers. I also took the opportunity to admit defeat and give Mitch my pannier to carry - he was clearly nearly falling off trying to cycle slowly enough, while I was spluttering behind him with a progressively redder complexion. In my defence, I can usually manage fine behind him if we're both on our tourers, but since Mitch has put a rack on his old road bike and started using it for these trips I'm basically riding a truck while he's speeding along in a Jag!

Taps aff or Taps oan? The weather couldn't decide.
We set off again through very changeable weather and I was pleased to see a could keep on his wheel again. It's a pretty challenging route out of Kilsyth with plenty of hills, but plenty of stunning scenery to keep you distracted. Still, I was pleased when we approached Cupcake Cafe bar just before Torphichen, where we had agreed earlier to have lunch. We've stopped here a few times for food on our Kilsyth trips and have always received a warm welcome despite our often wet and dirty state. Today was no different, although we'd started to dry off again in the sun after the most recent shower. We both went for baked potatoes, and neither of us were disappointed other than that we were so full afterwards we couldn't try a cupcake! Total £15.25 for 2 baked potatoes  a ginger beer and a coffee.

When we set out again I knew there was some climbing ahead, and as usual I had a post-prandial struggle with jelly legs and a heavy belly. The Torphichen  road was actually closed with roadworks but as usual we pressed on regardless, and as usual it paid off as we cycled through without mishap and had the benefit of a car free road. As we came to the top of the final big climb after Beecraigs country park we came upon another cyclist pushing her bike, at first we thought she didn't have the legs, but it was soon obvious that she had a rear puncture. She'd gone out without a repair kit, so we provided some roadside assistance and were all soon on our way again.

Good deed for the day.
We had a good 15mph back wind, so I knew once we were up that last climb the going would be good. I don't think we dropped below 20mph all the way to the Crammond brig. What I hadn't reckoned on was that my draft was less with the tailwind, and Mitch therefore managed to completely burn me up on this section. He dropped me just as we crossed the A90, and from this point on my legs were burning and weak.

Luckily we decided to follow the bike path network for the rest of the route, so our speed had to be fairly slow anyway. I still got dropped on all the tiny gradients, but we made it home in bright sunshine before 4pm, and then it was tea and cake time :-)

Total time: 4:03:59  (1 lunch stop and 1 repair stop)
Actual Riding Time: 2:58:10
Distance: 44.6 miles.

google says:
Public Transport: 1:17:00
Driving: 1:09:00

Kilsyth to Galashiels

We were staying overnight with my Dad on Saturday and needed to get to Berit's flat in Galashiels on the Sunday.

Berit goes on the attack!
We started on our usual route out of Kilysth by climbing through Dullatar and skirting round the edges of Cumbernauld - one of a select list of towns that I will always try to avoid cycling through or near (I'm sure the others will feature in this blog sooner or later) - but were soon on to small unknown roads.  The first part of the route headed south-east through a succession of small Lanarkshire villages. Each contained a mix of boarded-up churches, run down council houses and new-money mansions bordering on the vulgar.  One guy seemed to be in the middle of paving his entire front garden with actual cobbles.  Not your suburban keeping-up-with-the-joneses monoblock but actual old-school cobbles.  Maybe it's his tribute to the Queen of the Classics, but more likely it's just to give the two 4x4s parked on top of it a taste of the bumps they are missing on the school run.
Waiting on a lift?
We herded these guys for a while

By Carnwath we were ready for lunch so opted for the Robertson Arms Hotel - it being the only option.  It didn't look too inviting from the outside, but we were warmly welcomed and shown to a table in the outside non-smoking seating area.  The sun was beating down and we baked while waiting for our lunches.  We both went for cheese, ham and pickle toastie - an off-menu choice that raised a comment but didn't fluster the kitchen - paired with the soup of the day: potato and turnip. The soup was tasty but perhaps not quite as thick as I would have liked. The toasties were excellent - generously filled and tasty. Add a pint of fresh orange and lemonade and  £12.40 for the lot is pretty good value.
Some map checking along the way

After Carnwath our route turned eastward and became more downhill than up. With the light westerly wind the more favourable gradient and lunch in our bellies we started to up the pace.

Before long we were at Peebles. A quick water stop and now it feels like home turf: familiar roads and signs for Galashiels. The back road from Peebles to Innerleithen is familiar from many a training weekend but is no less enjoyable for it. At innerleithen the back road was closed for a mountain bike event, but we could pass in a break in the action and so had the road to Gala pretty much to ourselves.
We were not alone.

When we made it to Berit's flat and rehydrated with a couple of quick pints in the Ladhope before showering and heading out to Quinn's for dinner.

You might think that a route cutting through the central belt like this would be all on busy, ugly, roads.  No - they were pretty much all quiet and many of them were beautiful. This was a great day out on the bike - and it got us where we needed to be.

Total time to ride there: 5:47:09  (including 1 lunch stop)
Actual riding time: 4:54:33
Distance: 75 miles

Google says...
To drive 1:29:00

Pubic Transport: 2:45:00

Monday, 21 July 2014

Edinburgh To Aberdeen

Berit's parents live up in Aberdeen.  We live in Edinburgh.  Normally we drove or got the train up to visit them, but one day back in 2010 we asked the question: "Can we ride there"?  We weren't sure - it'd be the longest either of us had ridden in one day and we didn't know what the roads would be like.  We decided the best thing was to wait until the forecast was favourable and just go for it without telling them we were coming.  So if we failed we could slink off to the nearest train station and head for home with our tails between our legs.

Normally for long rides to stay overnight we'd ride on our touring bikes, but for this sort of distance we decided to travel light: road bikes and no change of clothes. We'd borrow clothes, chuck everything in the machine and then get the train back the next day.

I'd had the parkrun laptop that week, so we swung by Cramond to drop it off on the way to the bridge.  We set off before the run started though and were soon heading for Fife.

It wasn't long before we had reached our first coffee stop in Perth.  I can't remember what this place was called back then, but it is now The Crack'd Pot and is excellent.  The lady who runs it remembers us each time and we get a good bit of chat about cycling.  It's too early for lunch, but the last few times we've got her to make us sandwiches for later. The natural lunch stop would be Kirriemuir - but all the food places there are weird. They're stuck in some kind of time warp - the cafes that never grew up if you will (google it, it's a proper literary reference).
First cake stop
From Perth it was onwards to lunch in Kirriemuir - stopping only to watch the start of a bike race.  Despite the 70 miles in our legs we hung on to the back of the race convoy and then tried to pace a girl who'd been dropped back into the race.  She couldn't hold our wheels though, so we waited where our route took us off the race course (we had no choice but to stop, I think the marshal would have thrown himself in front of us to stop us going the 'wrong' way) and cheered her on.  I don't know if it helped.
Waiting for the Petit Depart

Lunch in Kirriemuir that first year was a sorry affair, but it gave us enough energy to keep going until first dinner at Subway in Banchory - including the climb of  the fearsome Cairn 'o Mount 100 miles in to the trip.
Cairn 'o mount

Subway in Banchory for first dinner   

From Banchory it's a pretty short ride to Greenmoss, where we found Berit's surprised mother working in the front garden.  We'd made it and despite the lack of warning, Janet managed to rustle us up a very welcome cold beer and an even more welcome second dinner.

We've done the trip four times now, each time improving the route slightly, but sticking to the same basic plan.  The roads are mostly quiet and although we've never had such favourable weather as that first time, it's always been basically fine.