Leving it up

When Mood Music
2012-04-01 23:02:00 tired Loony On The Bus – Roy Harper

or Shaking our stuff – all over the place!

Yesterday I felt ready to take Lev Davidovitch on a long run and my hostess felt ready to try her first distance cycle of the summer. After much discussion, we settled on heading towards Stirling via Linlithgow, Polmont, Falkirk and Larbert: this allowed plenty of bailing-out points. Matters were complicated by by my hostess having a piano lesson that morning, so I was to join her in Colinton at 12:30 and then we’d head off and see how far we’d get.

I didn’t sleep at all well on the previous night – I woke at 3am with my head full of ideas about how to write my WEB coursework. The narrative had eluded me until now so, unable to get back to sleep, I sat and typed until about 7. After breakfast, my hostess headed off to Colinton while I blogged and then transferred the lights and iPhone from Vilior to Lev Davidovitch. I also tweaked the saddle position and the positions of the panniers’ mounts so I wouldn’t clip them with my heels.

At 11:45 I departed for Colinton, travelling via Merchiston rather than the much steeper route I’d normally take. The Merchiston route isn’t flat by any means – there’s a long drag up Colinton Road – but has the advantage of being the way I go to University most days – I know the lane-changes and traffic-light sequences along Lothian Road and Bruntsfield Place fairly well and so could concentrate on getting to know Lev Davidovitch.

Via Merchiston (4·9 miles)
Steep route

Just before arriving at Colinton I felt the ride get squidgy. At first I thought the brake-friction had returned but soon recognised the dreaded feel of a deflating rear tyre. I gingerly rode the final metres and set about replacing the inner tube. (I’ve never found patching an inner tube to work except when at home and not under pressure to get going. I do carry puncture-repair gubbins in case I run out of spares.)

This is where I relearnt at least one reason for not using tyre-levers when putting the tyre back into place. It’s quite possible to pinch the inner tube and I duly did so. Fortunately I had two spares and was a lot more careful with the second one. I would learn another reason for not using tyre-levers later…

Anyway, somewhat nervous about not having any spare inner tubes, we set off towards the Gogar roundabout. This involves a fast drop through Wester Hailes, crossing the A71 via a challenging roundabout and a charge through South Gyle. My hostess’ cycling app indicated there was a way to avoid cycling around the roundabout. It has all the traffic heading too and from the airport, South Gyle shopping hemall and the bypass. Normally I’d try it but it’s also messed up by tram works. My hostess was sensible enough to not even contemplate it. So, having found the cycling app to be misinformed, we gingerly walked around the roundabout (there are pavements) to the cycle path on the north of the A8.

Colinton to Gogar

After this, travel was daily uneventful: we had to carry our bikes over the footbridge at Ratho because neither of us fancied doing 360° around Newbridge Roundabout. There’s a steep hill as you get into Kirkliston. I used Lev’s 27 gears while my hostess used Che’s 8 gears and fantastic determination to get up it.

The sun was beginning to lower as we travelled west towards Linlithgow. I imagined I could feel rear-wheel squidginess but whenever I checked the tyre seemed solid enough. However, because I was beginning to trip out from the sun flickering through the roadside hedges, the squidginess could have been purely imagination.

Colinton to Linlithgow (17·5 miles)

I took a much-needed comfort break at Linlithgow while my hostess pondered whether to travel on. Her feet had been giving her some discomfort and already we’d done over 20 miles. We decided to press on at least as far as Falkirk – this would take another hour, by which time the afternoon sun would be waning. We were enjoying being out on the road, despite the huge amount of traffic overtaking us. (Far more than when I’d cycled this route a few weeks ago.)

Linlithgow to Falkirk (8·1 miles)
Triumphal arrival in Falkirk 1
Triumphal arrival in Falkirk 2

We arrived at Falkirk Grahamston station in comfortable time for a train back to Edinburgh. However the cycle-spaces on this train were all occupied and the next train wasn’t for another hour. So recycled off to Falkirk High Station – this is on the main Edinburgh to Glasgow line and so the trains are more frequent and have more cycle space. Despite being only 1·5 miles, the cycle from Grahamston to High is fraught with traffic and hills and was difficult in our states (me: tired-to-the-point-of-tripping; my hostess: physically fatigued).

Grahamston to High (1·5 miles)

I’m inordinately proud of my hostess. She’s only cycled to work and back a few times so far this year, and only took up cycling a couple of years ago. Yet yesterday she did 32 miles with lots of hills on a bike that’s not designed for long runs. (It’s well-made and runs fine but is designed for comfort and commuting.) And this morning we’ve booked a cycling holiday for July!


Here’s a map of the overall route.


Back in Edinburgh, I discovered why the last few miles had felt squiggly and as if the rear brake was rubbing again: the rear tyre had suffered a hernia. This may have been due to tyre-lever damage too. Seriously, they are evil! I left Lev Davidovitch on the stand in the lounge while we ate. This turned out to be a mistake: the inner tube exploded noisily, shocking us both and leaving Lev Davidovitch completely unridable.

This morning we hoisted Lev Davidovitch onto the car’s rack and took him back to the cycle co-op. In exchange for a reasonable amount of beer-tokens, Lev Davidovitch was fitted with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres while I watched and learned how to replace tyres without bionic thumbs. (The secret’s in the wrist action and pushing against your thighs.) I had wanted Gatorskins: a pair of these had seen Vilior through 3 puncture-free years. (See the reviews on Amazon!) However, Gatorskins aren’t available for Lev Davidovitch’s wheels (700 x 32) but I’m assured that the Marathons are as good.

Leaving the co-op I noticed more rubbing – Lev Davidovitch’s rear mudguard had distorted to rub against the wheel and headed back in to ask how to cure it. The mechanic feared I’d had a puncture already. The rear mudguard hangs from the pannier rack: there isn’t room for both conventional mudguard stays and disk brakes. The weight of my pannier had pulled the combination against the tyre. While adjusting the mudguard/rack interface, the mechanic suggested the rack was somewhat, ahem, budget and suggested I use 2 panniers to balance the load. More living and learning!


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