2012 ambition achieved

When Mood Music
2012-10-14 20:51:00 Neon Knights – Black Sabbath

About a month ago, I realised that decent distance-cycling days would be few and far between for the rest of this year, so if I wanted to achieve my ambition of cycling to Glasgow and back the same day I’d need to get on with it.  After two days of torrential rain towards the end of last week, yesterday looked clear enough to attempt this 88-mile jaunt.

So after seeing Elly off to her piano lesson and a prolonged Bruce-faff, I loaded up Lev Davidovitch Bikestein and left the warmth of Servants’ Quarters. After about a minute of walking Lev up to the road, I realised I needed to wear another layer, grabbed the winter jacket from Lev’s pannier and pondered going back for another layer. However, I’d faffed enough for today and so just set off along my my almost traditional route A8 and A89 westwards. I have no idea why the cyclemeter map shows me going through the Apex European hotel on Haymarket Terrace – I promise you I didn’t!

The wind was in my face as I left Edinburgh. I was almost glad of this – if there has to be wind, I prefer it to be helping me in the later, more tired stages of any ride. However, I felt slow and clunky as I passed through Corstorphine and on to the outskirts of Edinburgh. I wimped out of staying on the road and using Gogar roundabout’s high-speed underpass, taking the cycle path that starts at Maybury Road and lead over the RBS squinty bridge at Gogarburn. However, as soon as possible, Lev and I rejoined the road. As I continue to opine, the A8 is a dual carriageway but has no ‘no bike’ signs so it’s legal for us to be there and there should be plenty of room for bikes and cars to co-exist.

This route also gave me an opportunity to try out different approaches to entry and exit lanes. The textbook for my ‘teaching cycle-skills’ course recommends pulling into an exit lane, then signalling right and pulling out again to reduce exposure. I think this is insane: you’ll be moving across the path of 4WWs who aren’t expecting this, then rejoining the main carriageway from an even more unexpected direction. I think this is just begging to become strawberry jam and another SMIDSY statistic. Instead, I’d recommend just dropping the hammer and sprinting, in the primary road position,  in the main carriageway until you’ve safely passed the exit lane. If necessary, you can wait before the start of the exit lane for a suitable gap in the traffic.

I agree more with the textbook’s recommendation for passing entry-lanes. Drivers on the main carriageway should be looking out for traffic coming out of entry lanes, while 4WWs coming up an entry lane may not see (or may just not care) a bike on the main carriageway. I guess this is especially true of entry-lanes from airports, where the drivers are likely to be jet-lagged and tired from a couple of weeks of chemical stimulation in Ibiza. Indeed during my return to Edinburgh, I did have to slow to avoid being hit by some speed-freak knob-end 4WW who didn’t know the meaning of the give-way road markings.

This danger passed, Newbridge roundabout posed no problems apart from the wind and rain. I reached Broxburn after just over an hour of cycling. As ever, I cursed whoever who decided that 20-meter slabs of concrete, separated by 4-inch gaps across the carriageway were a good idea. Even more idiot was filling these gaps with frogspawn or whatever: the filling is long gone and regular groin-bashing bumps are the result. Not a good thing when cycling uphill into the wind.

Uphall was the usual uphill struggle, followed by a continued uphill drag through Dechmont. After this began the part I’d most dreaded, the horrible tarmac on the A89 between Dechmont and the Tesco depot at Livingstone. To a 4WW driver, the tarmac might look smooth. However, to a cyclist it’s not – it’s speed-sappingly rough. By the end of this stretch, the wind, cold and bum-bashing tarmac had my tinter and right testicle in severe pain. Despite this, Lev and I carried on towards out first ‘scheduled’ stopping point at Bathgate station. This was 18 miles in 1 hour 46 minutes: an average of 10·2 mph. Also my feet were freezing – light ‘summer’ cycling shoes aren’t enough for Scottish wind and rain so today (Sunday) I bought some neoprene overshoes. By the way, Endura are a Scottish company (based in Livingston).

A quick energy bar and half a banana later, Lev and I pushed on through the wind towards the gloom of western West Lothian and eastern North Lanarkshire. There was a traffic jam in Armadale but this was a revelation – a polite driver warned me he was about to pull out to reverse into a parking space, so that I should get in front of him to avoid being splatted. The pull up from Blackridge station into the town was painfully slow – I was considering giving up. However, realising I’d taken under 3 hours to reach Caldercruix (average speed 11·1 mph) and hadn’t noticed the transition to North Lanarkshire was heartening. The next few miles to Airdrie passed without event. I took another short break at Airdrie station and then pushed on. By now, the weather was lifting and the road was dropping – I achieved 14mph in the 5 miles between Coatbridge and Shettleston. After this, the few miles from Glasgow’s eastern ghettos to the city centre went smoothly – the only hold-ups were traffic-lights. My total cycling time to Queen Street was around 4 hours, hence average speed of 11mph. (I’m not too pleased with that.)

At Queen Street I stopped to munch a bag of fries and down a diet coke – a pleasant change from the cold water from my camelbak. Thanks to the left-luggage folk at Queen Street for looking after Lev while I found a tiled tree. I also replaced the batteries in a couple of Lev’s lights and realised that one of Lev’s rear lights was missing. The internet told me that there was a bike shop north of Queen Street station. It didn’t tell me that the staff at Dales Cycles would be friendly and helpful – thanks indeed folks for warnings and hints on how to handle some of the junctions in Airdrie. So Lev was fitted with two orange skullies and now has lots of lights.

By now it was 4:30, so I knew I’d be cycling the last 15-20 miles in the dark. I don’t mind night-cycling – in fact it can be preferable because there’s less traffic and 4WWs have no excuse to miss Lev’s multiple bright-flashing LEDs. Also, the rain held off and the wind was now behind me. Despite feeling much faster, the return journey still took just under 4 hours cycling-time. I had brief breaks in Blackridge (mainly to ease my bruised backside) and Bathgate. Apart from the long drag up and out of Airdrie, the return journey from felt mostly downhill. I wasn’t able to enjoy as much as I’d hoped the descent from Dechmont via Uphall to Broxburn because by now my lower thighs were stiffening up. The rain came back with a vengeance just as I got back into Edinburgh but went away fairly quickly.

I got home at 8:46, so my total trip time for the 88 miles was 9 hours and 43 minutes. However, actual pedalling time was under 8 hours. The ever-wonderful Elly was waiting with a tofu stir-fry and a big mug of tea – I can’t tell you how much I appreciated these! Thanks also to the spinning folk – without their help there’s no way I’d have been fit enough to do an 88 mile trip. I was proud to wear a Lifescycle top [link to image on Facebook] – shame it was too cold to keep it uncovered.

And so now I have my challenges for 2013:

  • cycle from Edinburgh to Ardrossan (under 80 miles but I think the stretches through Ayrshire will be hilly, windy and tough)
  • take part in a >100-mile event, ideally a sportive (although I might need to get a lightweight road-beast for that, and there’s no way I can currently afford one)
  • do the Edinburgh-Glasgow-Edinburgh cycle non-stop, ideally averaging 15 mph or more.

These are based on some texts I sent.

time place distance
time taken
average speed
cumulative distance
cumulative time
cumulative average speed
10:56 Start 0 0 0 0 0 0
11:57 Broxburn 10·4 61 10·2 10·4 61 10·2
12:46 Bathgate station 7·4 49 9·1 17·8 110 9·7
13:20 Blackridge 5·9 24
(assuming 10-minute break at Bathgate)
14·7 23·7 134 10·6
13:45 Caldercruix 4·2 25 10·1 27·9 159 10·5
14:09 Airdrie station 4·6 24 11·5 32·5 183 10·7
14:37 Glasgow border 4·5 18
(assuming 10-minute break at Airdrie)
15·0 37·0 201 11·0
15:14 Saltmarket 6·4 37 10·4 43·4 238 10·9
15:21 Queen Street station 0·6 7 5·1 44·0 245 10·8

Door-to-door average speed was 10·0 mph.

time place distance
time taken
average speed
cumulative distance
cumulative time
cumulative average speed
16:53 Gallowgate 1·0 8
(assuming I set off from Queen Street at 16:45)
7·5 1·0 8 7·5
17:32 Exiting Glasgow 6·1 39 9·4 7·1 47 9·1
17:42 Coatbridge 3·2 10 19·2
No, I don’t believe this either!
10·3 57 10·8
17:57 Airdrie 1·6 15 6·4 11·9 72 9·9
18:20 Caldercruix 4·5 23 11·7 16·4 95 10·4
18:31 Re-enter West Lothian 2·6 11 14·2 19·0 106 10·7
18:39 Blackridge break 1·9 8 14·2 20·9 114 11·0
18:45 On my way again. 0 0 0 20·9 114 11·0
19:00 Bathgate station break 6·0 15 24
26·9 129 12·5
19:13 restart 0 0 0 26·9 129 12·5
19:38 Dechmont 4·8 25 11·5 31·7 154 12·3
19:59 Edinburgh border. Rain 3·9 21 11·1 35·6 175 12·2
20:22 Marriott hotel. Rain stopped 4·8 23 12·5 40·4 198 12·2
20:39 Roseburn 3·1 17 10·9 43·5 215 12·1
20:47 Home 1·1 8 8·2 44·6 223 12·0

Door-to-door average speed was 11·1 mph.

How to carry too much stuff

  • jPhone 4
  • frame bag containing a porridge bar and a number of Organica vegan energy bars
  • under-saddle bag containing
    1. multi-tool
    2. chain-tool
    3. inner-tube patches, glue and sandpaper
    4. combination hex spanners, cone spanner and spoke key
    5. oil
    6. mini-pump
    7. small adjustable spanner
    8. tyre levers
    9. wet-wipes
    10. polythene gloves

    (Items 1 to 4 came with the bag. It also came with light plastic tyre levers but they’re not strong enough to move Lev’s heavy-duty tyres, so I carry old-school metal levers.)

  • pannier containing over-trousers, two spare inner tubes, two bananas, jPhone 4GS, USB battery pack for recharging the phones, winter jacket and gloves, pain-cream, arnica cream and 6 spare batteries for Lev’s many lights.


  • handlebar drops: skullies
  • head-tube: skully and knog
  • pannier rack: knog, skully, skully, knog



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