Miles and miles and miles

When Mood Music
2012-04-29 19:27:00 pleased I’m the Least You Could Do – Bloodhound Gang

Raise your shields and don your anti-waffle devices (should that be ‘switch on your waffle-iron’?), reader, because here comes another batch of turgid Bruce-prose.

The main alternative activity to my sweating over programming coursework and to my hostess’ employment has been preparing for our summer holiday. We’ll cycle along the Danube from Passau to Vienna then spend a few days exploring bits of Vienna we’ve not yet seen. Both of us are uncertain whether we could currently cycle 40 miles each day for 5 successive days so we’ve been devoting Saturdays to training.


30 March: Edinburgh to Falkirk (32 miles)

Our first foray is chronicled here – nothing more to add.


7 April: Edinburgh to Stirling (37 miles)

My hostess found a a cycling app that draws route maps as you travel, so here’s this trip’s map.

I recall stops at Linlithgow and Larbert Cross. I remain impressed with my hostess cycling over 35 miles on a bike that’s not designed for distance.


14 April: to Broxburn and back (30 miles)

Here’s this trip’s map.

My hostess had wanted to revisit Uphall: there’s a slight but draining incline through Broxburn but it gets bad at Uphall. She also wanted to see if we could revisit the canal towpath without fear or incident. To achieve both in one trip, we did most (and the worst parts) of the Broxburn-Uphall torture incline, before turning north and finding even more challenging gradients.

A couple of miles along the canal convinced us it wasn’t fun: the path was by turns muddy and hence slippery, challenging even Che’s grip, and gravelly, threatening to do worse things to Lev’s wheels. So as soon as we could, we reverted to road: what a relief!


21 April: around Edinburgh (22 miles)

Here’s this trip’s map.

I was only 3 days away from needing to demonstrate and turn in my programming project so didn’t want to go too. My hostess expressed slight disappointment our route being relatively short. A year ago this distance, by her own admission, would have been very challenging. As happens so often, I’m impressed by her determination to improve and her stamina. As we cycled, she mused about getting a road bike or a faster, higher geared hybrid because she was dissatisfied with her speed. She loves Che – and he’s ideal for Edinburgh’s currently-abysmal road surfaces – but she feels the need for speed.


27 April: Bruce’s let-off-steam solo (28·5 miles)

I don’t have the app so this trip’s map is glommed from Google.

I may have mentioned that I’d agreed to help teach cycling skills to some P7 (11- to 12-year-old) students by one of my hostess’ friends. I’d been told that I would need to apply for ‘I’m not a kiddie-fiddler’ certification while the teaching was in progress. So this morning, after the second session, I took my documentation and completed form to the school office and received a strong ticking off for not having the certification in place.

While I understand the need for such things, I was made to feel as if I had done something dirty by even being near the children without this piece of paper. This soon became anger: if it had been the school who had asked me to help, told me the criteria and then changed their opinion, I’d have walked. However, I’d been asked by the parent organising these sessions – and she had been told an en-route application would be acceptable. So I’m not going to let her – or the children – down. I know I’m not evil (I admit I might be stupid – and have acted cruelly to some adults as a result – but that’s another matter) and I don’t think my hostess would have anything to do with me if I was harmful in the way so nearly alleged.

Anyway, utterly fuming, I decided to try to expiate my anger through my pedals. I also wanted to take Lev on a long spin to see if I could begin to learn to love him. He still seems to have friction, even though the brakes have been sorted. (Both wheels spin freely so maybe it’s me.) So I decided to head west and see where I got to. I left Servants’ Quarters at 1:18 knowing I’d need to be back around 5:30 to get ready to go to a social event that evening. My texts to let my hostess know where I was were as follows:

position distance time speed notes
Broxburn 10·5 miles 14:21 10 mph On cycle paths, I could get up to 28th gear and feel quite fast, as if friction wasn’t happening
Tesco depot near Livingston 4·7 miles 14:49 7·4 mph The road surfaces along this stretch of the A89 look smooth but aren’t. The coarseness does bad things to speed and my posterior suspension.
Bathgate station 2·7 miles 15:03 11·5 mph The station toilet is the most aromatic I’ve experienced in this country. Ugh!
enter East Lanarkshire 7·2 miles 15:52 8·8 mph What a relief to leave the dreariness of west West Lothian and enter the wild west. Honestly, the sky brightened and the buildings looked less run-down and threatening.
Caldercruix Station 3·4 miles 16:09 12·0 mph I could have pushed for Airdrie but I was beginning to get concerned about lack of time, trains and light. As it was, while I waited at Caldercruix the weather worsened.
overall 28·5 miles 2 hours 51 minutes 10·0 mph I’m not impressed with this average speed.

It was interesting that at some points, mostly on cycle paths, I didn’t feel the friction that seems to be Lev’s leitmotiv. At other points, I definitely did. The towns at the far west of West Lothian seem so dead. Their appearance wasn’t helped by the weather: cold dark and overcast. Yet as soon as I passed into East Lanarkshire, the sky brightened. There is a cycle path running along the railway but I’ve yet to see how to get onto it. Instead, I plodded along the A89 until I saw the sign for Caldercruix station. The remaining 4 miles to Airdrie would have taken another 20 minutes, so I could have got there within my self-imposed 3-hour limit – and if I’d realised I’d done under 30 miles I would have pushed on anyway.

Also, until today I’d been scared to take on the Newbridge roundabout. However there’s no need. It has traffic lights strictly controlling who has access, so it’s far safer than, for example, Gogar roundabout. using this means you don’t have to carry your bike over the awful stepped bridge at Ratho. No more of that nonsense ever!


28 April: Edinburgh to Spott (35 miles)

Here’s this trip’s map.

We had arranged to go and visit a friend who lives in Spott in East Lothian. This meant setting off into a biting east wind. Worse was to come. From just outside Musselburgh, the road (A199) slopes up inexorably until the centre of Tranent. There’s a fairly nasty spot where the gradient gets steep as the road crosses the A1. From Tranent to Haddinton the only obstacle was the wind but thereafter a long and grinding gradient and hailstorms forced us to stop slightly west of East Linton. Also, this section of the A199 was treated as an F1 track by everything that passed us. Surely the A1 is the local road for petrol-heads? Anyway, once the weather had abated slightly, we plodded on into Dunbar, convinced the station staff that we really were the people who’d booked the bike-spaces on the 18:41 train back to Edinburgh and turned south towards Spott. We’ve always feared that the road up to Spott would be fearsome. It’s not – we’ve been tricked by our friend’s drive which is. (Broken potholed concrete at crazy angles isn’t good for road bikes!). Thanks indeed to the inestimable Ms B for warmth, sustenance, tea and very pleasant company.



  • I can cycle 30 miles one day, then do it again the next day.
  • I need cycling gloves with are simultaneously
    1. warm
    2. waterproof
    3. good for wiping my nose en route.

    My current fleece gloves achieve 1 and 3 when dry, while my current waterproof gloves are cold.

  • I need to wear much thicker socks in inclement weather.
  • Lev will never be a speed demon. I think he’ll always be a sturdy plodder. At 7-8 mph, he can keep going without real effort by me. If I want speed, I’ll need to look into a lower-geared, lighter-framed racer (or speed-centric commuter if it’s to survive Edinburgh).
  • East Lothian road surfaces are quite good. They also have cycle paths where they are needed. Edinburgh council needs a time-machine to go back, not bother with the bloody trams (it breaks my heart to say this because I like trams) and invest the money in road-maintenance and cycle-paths. How much fitter would we all be?

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