Tour de Forth

When Mood Music
2012-08-19 18:44:00

Lev Davidovitch Bikestein, Marianne the cuddly pig and I have done our longest journey together. Here’s the cyclemeter map for the first 60 miles. Here’s my guess at the last bit. So that’s 72·5 miles, plus cycling from Edinburgh’s west end to Ocean Terminal and back.

I know I did the first 60 miles in 4 hours 37 minutes of pedalling, hence averaging 13·0 mph. I believe I arrived at Ocean Terminal at 15:20, thus taking 65 minutes to do 12·5 miles (11·5 mph). So let’s call that 5 hours 43 minutes of pedalling and hence 12·7 mph for the whole course. I’d intended to do the 70 mile route in at most 6 hours (11·7 mph) but hoped to do it in around 5 hours (14 mph). I heard later that the really fit folk did it in 3·5 hours (20 mph). That’s some comfort, as is remembering that until today I didn’t know for sure that I could do this event.

I can blame some of the slowness for the last section on traffic (cars blocking narrow roads on the way through Cramond) and humans and dogs along the promenade. I can blame my overall slowness on

  1. Me – I’m just slow!
  2. Lev being a sturdy touring bike, not a carbon-fibre sprint-beast
  3. the amount of stuff I was carrying:
    1. jPhone 4 on Lev’s handlebars
    2. hip pouch containing wallet, keys and other usual impedimenta
    3. frame-bag containing 3 chocolate energy-bars, spare inner tube and a tube of pain-cream
    4. under-saddle bag containing tire levers, chain-breaker, multi-tool, oil, polythene gloves, adjustable spanner, wet-wipes and a swiss army knife.
    5. pannier containing Marianne the cuddly pig, spare batteries for lights, tour-de-forth t-shirt, toilet roll, 5 flapjacks, fleece jumper, overtrousers, jPhone 3GS, autumn cycling jacket, bad-weather gloves and an extra bottle of water!

Here’s some wibbling about the day:
I met the spinners and spinnerettes (Lifecyclers) around 8:10 at the registration tent in Ocean Terminal. Here’s Lev and I just before the start. It turned out all but I were doing the sportive version (same route but setting off first, and racing). So I felt a bit alone and unsure of the route. This wasn’t the organisers’ fault: we had been given details but I can’t memorise such things. Fortunately, there were marshalls at most of the turns. I tried ‘latching on’ to a rider with a distinctive top but she left me for dust up a hill towards the first refreshment stop at Craigie’s Farm.

I didn’t stop there but carried on towards and over the Forth Road Bridge and along Fife’s south coast to Culross. I did stop here briefly to eat a banana and use the toilet. I also met up with Martin, a spinner. His bike’s left gear shifter had died, leaving him the choice of big or small front gear. Despite this, and him using his lowest rear gear, he still set what for me was a blistering pace!

We missed the official route slightly and found ourselves at Kincardine Bridge, so we cycled through Kincardine to the start of the Clackmannanshire bridge. Here, some friends were waiting. (They’d cycled from Stirling just to wave hello!) They’ve sent this photo. After this the route meandered through countryside and then some hard roads (and more traffic-jams) to South Queensferry. After a banana-stop here, I followed what I believe was the marked route along NCN route 76 to Hopetoun House. Don’t do this – it’s full of potholes and cobbled sections. Very nasty, especially as by now my knees and backside were quite sore indeed! I believe others took a road-route as far as Hopetoun.

I stopped tracking at 60 miles because jPhone 4 was about to give out. I tried tracking the rest of the way with jPhone 3GS but his GPS reception is poor. (He claims I only did 3 miles!) Coming out of the Hopetoun estate, I must have missed a sign: I realised I was cycling away from Edinburgh when I saw the hill up to Craigie’s farm again! So I whipped Lev through 180° and started back towards the A90 cyclepath. After this, I just plodded on, dreaming of stopping, while avoiding human and 4-wheeled traffic and traffic jams.

I chatted with folk for a while and then headed home through the increasing rain. (I encountered yet more rubbish driving: if I’ve not signalled left and am not in a lane marked ‘left turn only’, I’m going straight on. So don’t overtake just before the corner and then force me to take evasive action, git in the white saloon!) The end had been very welcome but I felt a bit sad when I got home – I had stopped 3 times for bananas (although I was pleased that I’d been able to reach the energy-bars in the frame bag without stopping), I’d not been able to track the entire route and I’d not achieved my pipe-dream time.
Huge thanks to

  • all the folk who sponsored me: £195 so far for Mercy Corps
  • Martin for keeping me going
  • Lev Davidovitch for not breaking down. (I saw a couple of broken bikes along the way.)
  • Lev’s ‘marathon plus’ tires for getting no punctures, despite potholes, kerbs and cobbled stretches
  • the organisers for providing this masochistic fun time!
  • the folk at Lifescycle who are so fun and yet professional and dedicated and who let me know about this event.

I’m a bit sore in the unmentionables but I still feel alive enough to cycle to a party tonight! (Update – I even danced for an hour or so!) And blow me but I’m looking forward to the next event, and carrying far less kit!


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