19 January 2015 – An “eventful” ride round Edinburgh

This was planned to be a regular Lothian Cyclists Monday outing, starting at the canal and taking in a circuit around Arthur’s Seat before heading west for lunch. The forecast was for dry and sunny weather, but cold. By the night before, there had been a number of call offs: one because of broken bones but mostly due to fears of black ice.

The bike I had planned to take was out of action due to problems with the gears, so I was going to take the Mustang instead. However, I didn’t get a very good sleep, worrying about the slick tyres on that bike and possible ice-slip-crash scenarios, so I got up around 6am and started working on the gear problem. After swapping out the rear derailleur for a spare, the gears now changed acceptably, and I set about getting ready for the ride.

Colette wasn’t with me this time, as she was up visiting her mum, so I put just the one bike on the back of the car and set off for the start point with the dashboard reading -3 C outside. By the time I reached Meggetland, the temperature had gone up to zeo and the car park was bathed in bright sunshine. A lovely day for a cycle, as long as we kept warm enough (and stayed upright, of course).

The run was hosted by Willie, who had invited his friend Grace to come along and experience the Lothian Cyclists for herself. A few more hardy souls arrived and we were then ready to set off east along the canal.

The towpath was dry and free of ice, in contrast to the canal itself, which was topped with a dangerously thin layer of the stuff. As we progressed along the canal, I found myself going slower and slower to stay with Grace at the tail end. Finally she stopped and I went back to see what was the problem. She was feeling very unwell, dizzy and sick, and felt she couldn’t carry on.

The only thing for it was to walk back to the car park as best we could. I needed to let the others know what was happening, but by this time, they were way ahead out of sight. I realised that I hadn’t put Willie’s phone number into my phone, so I asked Grace to hang on while I went to catch them up. After a minute or so, I met Willie coming back, so I explained the situation to him and let him carry on to Grace while I went off to inform the rest of the group who were waiting at Leamington lift bridge.

Once there, I explained the situation, and Colin and Angus joined me in heading back to see how Grace was feeling. Almost there, Willie phoned to say that he was taking Grace back home and that we should just carry on – he would aim to rejoin us at the lunch stop.

So we turned round and headed back to the lift bridge where Fiona took charge of the route. We were now quite a bit behind time, so the decision was taken to drop the Arthur’s Seat loop and head for the coast instead. That meant backtracking along the canal again. There was a sense of deja-vu after passing along the same stretch of tow path for the fourth time!

We left the canal after a while and found our way to the Roseburn cycle path and made good progress northwards, taking the Telford Path then the West Granton access path, to bring us to the coast at Granton. From there it was westwards towards Cramond along the coastal path. The downside was that we were now heading into the wind, and though it was hardly a gale, the windchill made us feel a lot colder.

When we reached Cramond, Fiona said she was struggling with the cold and needed to warm up in the cafe alongside the River Almond. My fingers and toes were freezing too, so I was easily persuaded. So we sat around a big table drinking mugs of coffee and letting the circulation gradually return to the extremities. Willie also got in touch to say that Grace was feeling back to normal after getting back home and warmed up again. He was now on his way to meet us at Craigie Farm cafe…

Our route took us through Barnton then on a couple more miles to our lunch stop. After cycling up the hill to Craigie Farm and stopping at the bicycle racks, we noticed a member of staff wheeling Willie’s bike towards a shed. She said he’s inside the cafe but he’d taken a tumble and hit his head. This came as a bit of a shock, so we went inside to find him being tended to by the cafe’s first aider, Sue. On the other side of him was Alison, one of the regulars who was playing it safe today, but had driven to join us for lunch.

Willie looked a bit dazed and confused, while Sue was cleaning up the blood and applying a blue catering plaster to a cut on the side of his temple. It turned out the Willie had got all the way to the entrance to the cafe when he had somehow skidded and fell off, landing on his shoulder and banging his head on the road into the bargain. Sue was keen to call an ambulance, but since Alison was there with her car, she volunteered to take Willie to A&E herself. And off they went, leaving us all feeling a little concerned, both for Willie and for the possibility of more ice on the way back.

After stoking the boilers, we got back on the road, heading to Kirliston, where Fiona directed us to the cycle path leading to Ratho, before taking her leave and heading home. Now down to four, we followed the route of an old railway bed southwards, skirting past the side of Edinburgh Airport. We then crossed the A8 using a footbridge and headed uphill towards Ratho, where we rejoined the canal once more. After that, it was simply a case of following the towpath all the way back to Meggetland, where we had started.

The ice on the canal seemed a bit thicker now, but nowhere near safe enough to step on, far less drive a car onto, as some lads did here a few years ago! My worry was that with our luck, one of us might end up going for an unintended swim, but we reached our destination with no further incident. Good news came later that Grace was still feeling fine, and that Willie checked out OK at casualty and was back home taking it easy. Phew, what a day! It was great being back out in the sunshine, but it’s no wonder that some of us prefer not to cycle in these conditions.


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