Strawberries, Swans, and Soaking Mist – Cycling adventures in Scotland, Part 2 (Guest Post)

by Sarah

Sam at the Innocent Railway Tunnel entrance

Sam at the Innocent Railway Tunnel entrance

In her post about our cycling adventure, Sam makes me sound organized, but in reality all I managed to do before we left for Scotland was a little research on hiring (renting) bikes. I did learn some interesting things, though! For example, many of the cycle hire companies in Edinburgh don’t have a storefront, but will actually come to you in a van (or should I say lorry?) with your bike and fit you out on the spot.

Coincidentally, though this shouldn’t be entirely surprising in the city of festivals, our time in Edinburgh managed to overlap with their Festival of Cycling, which had many wonderful and exciting events, including talks, exhibitions, and rides. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to fit any into our tight schedule, but we did manage to get out for a day on two wheels.

We ended up finding road bikes to hire the old fashioned way : one morning while Sam was busy at her conference, I wandered into a bicycle shop down the road from the hotel and asked if they hired bikes. They didn’t, but the friendly staff did send me on to the place they said they would go if they needed one. As it turned out, there was a wonderful shop just around the corner that just happened to have a pair of road bikes available on the same day we were – and so £50 later we were all set!

Bike store map

Bike store map

Besides festivals, Edinburgh is also known for its green spaces, and its network of cycle paths snakes its way along the edges of its many parks. Outside of the green spaces, though, the cycle “routes” are a bit of a mixed bag – sometimes they are fully separated bike lanes with separate signaled crossings, sometimes they are well signed shortcuts through residential streets (even housing estate parking lots!), and sometimes they dump you unceremoniously out onto a stretch of arterial road with no signage at all (yikes!). This last type took a fair bit of getting used to, and our Canadian cyclist instincts had us back-tracking a lot, wondering if we had missed a sign directing us onto another safe path. We eventually gave up looking for signs and leaned on our data plans by studying the map whenever we were on the dreaded dotted green (according to Google) stretches of cycle route, which appear to mean “yer on your own, lasses!”.

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That said, we had a magnificent ride through the countryside on Cycle Route #1, the John Muir Way, to the seaside town of Musselburgh. We arrived in perfect time to enjoy a strawberry social at the church (yum!) and then adventured our way back, stopping to watch so many swans a’ swimming lazily down the river as the tide went out, and other local sights as we followed our noses home along the coast.

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Once we got back into Edinburgh, though, I chose a special route home. After watching Sam admire the racing cyclists do hill repeats on the road around Arthur’s Seat, we rode through Holyrood Park. While without clipless pedals we couldn’t take the short sharp route up and over the shoulder of the crag, we instead took the long way round – which still ends with a long steady climb. It was a great workout to cap a lovely day of touring and the views of the old city were magnificent. Sam handily beat me to the roundabout at the top of the hill (I don’t even think she knew it was a race!) but I think we were both happily tired as neither one of us remembered to stop to take a photo of the scenic vista.

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Sarah Hinchcliffe is an engineer who participates in many sports. She is renewing a life-long love of cycling to join the feminist bloggers on this year’s Friends for Life Bike Rally. Please consider sponsoring her! Friends might say she is a primarily bacon-fueled athlete but the truth is she doesn’t discriminate between delicious foods and did enjoy a full Scottish breakfast before setting out on this adventure.

About Sam B

Philosopher, feminist, parent, and cyclist!

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