05 January 2014 – West Lothian loop

Whenever we’re in town, it is quite remarkable how the cyclists we see and the bikes they ride come in so many shapes and forms. That’s because on our usual runs around the Midlothian countryside we almost invariably come across fit young cyclists, often matching pairs, whizzing past on sleek racing bikes. Nothing wrong with this of course, but it sometimes makes us old plodders feel a little out of place.

So when on a couple of occasions last year, we crossed paths with a cycling group that was composed of people more like us, we thought we’d like to join in too. We regretted not stopping anyone at the time to enquire, and it wasn’t until recently that I chanced upon the Lothian Cyclists group online and worked out who they were. We promptly joined up and went along to the first meetup of the year, congregating in a car park in Livingston for a 10am start. I was glad when we got underway, as it was a chilly old morning and my knees were trembling in the cold (or was that just anticipation?!).

The group is led by CJ, who does a fantastic job of marshalling everyone and zooming up and down between the front and back of the group. Following CJ, we made our way through Sainsbury’s car park, out of Livingston through Brucefield Industrial Estate and continued south into the countryside.

All the time we were going uphill, but the gradient was easy so it was possible to talk to the others without gasping for breath inbetween sentences. We paused at a crossroads for the group to come together then carried on up a straight tree lined road with an enormous wind turbine dominating the horizon. At the top of the road, we turned left and carried on climbing for a while longer.

After passing through Auchengray, we hit a nice fast downhill section that took us over a level crossing. There was no cyclists dismount sign, but I went over carefully nonetheless and had a good look out for any trains. When we paused at the top of the next uphill and looked back, we could see a train go through, and its arrival at the level crossing was accompanied by ample warning, so it should be difficult to miss!

A snazzy velomobile went past - what a wonderful sight!

A snazzy velomobile went past – what a wonderful sight!

At our next pause, we got the chance to wave to a small group of recumbent riders as they passed. One of their number was particularly striking: a “Velo-City” almost fully enclosed red bullet of a thing. I bet it’s a lot of fun to use, but not as easy to fit in your car.

Carnwath was signposted left at the next junction, and Braehead right. The original plan was to go via the pub in Braehead, but it was closed and so we went the opposite direction, finally reaching the Robertson Arms in Carnwath at lunchtime, with some specks of light rain falling.

Warming up in the pub!

Warming up in the pub!

Ordering lunch and drinks was a tortuous affair, but once ordered, the food came promptly and mine at least (cheeseburger and chips) was really tasty. We were there over an hour until everyone finished, so there was plenty of time to chat with the others. During that time, it apparently rained then died down just as we were leaving. A well timed break indeed!

We left Carnwath on the A70 Edinburgh Road, going uphill again. It started lightly raining again and it was very dull, matching the bleak outlook over the moor. One section of the road is amusingly known as the Lang Whang, and it certainly took a good bit of effort to get along it. Luckily, the wind which had strengthened a lot, was at our backs and helping us along.

A dull, dull day on the West Lothian moors

A dull, dull day on the West Lothian moors

We then reached the highest point of the route, at about 1090 feet, then it was pretty much downhill all the way back to Livingston. Some of the group left Colette and me way behind at that stage, and those of us in the middle decided not to wait for the back of the group to catch up, as it was way too cold and windy to stand around.

I have to admit getting a little confused about the road layout through Livingston on the way back, but we made it back to Sainsbury’s unscathed and in time to say cheerio to the group. It had been a dull, dreich day, and if it had just been the two of us, it might have been a bit of a damp squib, but doing it with the group made it so much more enjoyable.  There are lots more rides scheduled throughout the year, so we plan to join in plenty more.

Just as a final note, you need to join Lothian Cyclists to be able to read about the planned rides and the members on the club website, so I am deliberately not mentioning names here. Maybe that’s OTT, I’ll ask around at the next meetup…


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2 Responses to 05 January 2014 – West Lothian loop

  1. Becky Taylor says:

    Hello Alan! I’m the rider of the Quest velomobile, and I remember that ride. It was pretty cold. We did a big loop from Curriehill station out to the Apple Pie at Carnwath, then back in along the Whang to Balerno, thence all points north, east and (for me) south, only a few miles away from North Middleton actually.

    • alan_admin says:

      Hi Becky. Thanks for your comment. I remember your colourful velomobile brightened up what was quite a dull day. It was the first and only time that I’ve come across anyone riding one.

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