Author: Anthony Robson

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Monday, November 13th, 2006 at 6:53 pm
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Out and About

Hills

Hills. You can’t escape them. Certainly not if you’re going to be cycling or walking in the Lothians…

If there’s one thing guaranteed to turn someone off cycling even more than having to ride in the rain it’s hills, especially to the leisure cyclist, who simply wants to have a nice day out, indulging in a small amount of exercise, but essentially having a pleasant day.

Hills spoil that. They rise up, and keep going up, generally outlasting your desire to be heading in that particular direction, and ruining your enjoyment of the surrounding countryside.

Sticking to the coast is one of the few safe havens from these uphill struggles. The ride along the coast from Edinburgh, through Musselburgh and on to Prestonpans and beyond, can be a joy in the warmth of summer. Riding into a headwind on the outward leg might replicate the hill experience, but there’s the knowledge of that headwind all the way home. With a hill, you know that going down the other side means you’ve got to do it all over again on the homeward leg.

Unfortunately the coast rule doesn’t work heading in the opposite direction, with hills of length and severity en route to South Queensferry. Even coming from West Lothian, you have the Bathgate Hills to negotiate. And all the while you are sitting with your ice cream down at the harbour, the spectre of having to climb from the town centre to make your escape is forever looming.

Plans are afoot for a route through the grounds of the Dalmeny estate, which will see the hills flattened, and a wonderful route from South Queensferry, all the way along the coast into East Lothian, opened up.

But hills should not remain under-appreciated. Until not long ago I could not understand the attraction in hillwalking; a misunderstanding which persisted until one glorious day walking up my first Munro, Ben Vane. The view as we crested the summit, and it opened out before us was one of those moments to cheer the soul. And it’s the same making it up that particular climb on a bike.

Daunting they may be but there’s a double sense of achievement as you make the top, then look down at where you’ve come from. Such is this feeling that at times I will actively seek out hills to ride up, adding a few miles onto my route so that I can open out a vista and plan, with the real-world map below, my route on and home.

We might at times bemoan our surfeit of hills in the Lothians, but I would urge anyone to leave the flat path every now and then, point their front wheel upwards, and revel in what our countryside has to offer.

By the way, there is now a Flickr group where you can post a photo and info about your bike in case it is stolen. Further information on cyclingedinburgh.info/theft

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