Sunday Training Ride

It’s seven o’clock on a Sunday morning and while the majority of Edinburgh hasn’t even woken yet with a craving for bacon, eggs and fried bread I’m rolling away from home on a 30 mile training ride. September still feels like a while away, but it’s catching up with me with worrying pace – and when it arrives I’ll be lining up with hundreds of other cyclists north of the Kyle of Lochalsh, ready to ride 90 miles round the Applecross Peninsula. The distance isn’t the real worry, it’s more the climbing, because in the course of this ‘sportive’ event we climb up and over the Bealach Na-Ba (the Pass of the Cattle), which just happens to be the UK’s highest road pass. And we start at sea level.

Three 10 mile stages
And so it is that I find myself planning early morning rides at the weekends, taking advantage of the quieter roads, and the varied landscape that the Lothians can offer for such training. And so it was with this ride, providing three separate ten mile stages of very different terrain.

Leaving from Edinburgh I head south towards Dalkeith, slowly climbing more than dropping as I make my way inland. I pass the new school and continue upwards, aiming for what promises to be the high point of the ride at Cousland. En route I cross the new Dalkeith bypass as it cuts a huge swathe through the vista that not too long ago would have been dominated by sites further afield like Arthur’s Seat and the Firth of Forth. For now I indulge in the quiet and take a breather, knowing that in a few miles I will have reached Cousland (after one more climb, accompanied by a different modern landmark, two, what look like privately-owned, wind turbines).

Cousland enjoys a nice location, high up with views to the north, it is small and feels welcoming, but knowing that I have reached the second pahse of the ride, the downhill phase, I push on towards Ormiston, where I pick up a bigger road to turn north in search of Tranent. The centre of Ormiston has a traditional feel to it, with the obligatory war memorial, and central raised patch of grass which you just know has been there long before being encircled by tarmac. Tranent is altogether larger, and is starting to wake up to the Sunday papers as I roll in, through, and out, passing the lovely old Kirk that keeps an eye on the A1 below.

Passing over that road you get a sense of what is in store with the Dalkeith bypass. It’s only 8am, on a Sunday, and the traffic is already making its thunderous progress. I’m glad to leave it behind, but find the thunder no less loud as I hit a headwind turning east towards Longniddry. Here I consider my options, which include turning round and heading straight back towards Edinburgh with the wind at my heels, but I know it’s only 3 miles or so, around 10 minutes effort if I can just dig in and keep up this pace. The Bealach Na-Ba is 6 miles long. It’s playing on my mind.

Traffic is also building on this main road, and one section feels slightly foolhardy as it briefly opens out into a dual carriageway. There’s a path off the road to the left, but poor though the road surface is the path is mere dirt and gravel and on this road bike it wouldn’t be long before I’d have given up in disgust. So I stick to the road, and with drivers whizzing by at 70mph+ remark to myself that when the roads are quiet, and people are more relaxed, you really do get a lot more room and respect.

With the head down into the wind, Longniddry actually arrives a minute or so before I expect it, and turning left at the railway station I can ease off slightly as I find myself into the last section, easing out of the wind to the shore and turning onto the main coast road at the Longniddry Bents I’m suddenly easing into a pace that I’d hoped for when I realised the wind was easterly that morning.

I’m flying now, passing car parks and golf courses, I can think of the fry-up at the end as a pleasure rather than an incentive. Cockenzie and Port Seton, then Prestonpans see me come and go in a flash, slowing only where the traffic builds up around newsagents. Sitting up and humming to myself the previous 20 miles are a vague memory. A commited road rider, with Edinburgh Road Club jersey, slowly pulls alongside as we’re about to hit Musselburgh. He’s obviously on his way to a club run and we exchange pleasantries (try doing THAT as a car overtakes you). I try to hang onto his wheel as we ride past the race course, but discretion being the better part of valour I ease off before I make a fool of myself.

The 10 mile run home proves an excellent wind down, as well as a boost to my average speed for the ride, and (after buying a paper half a mile from home) I’m home in time to have a quick shower before breakfast is on the table and the day can start properly.

The ride proved one thing to me, there really is something for everyone when it comes to riding in the Lothians. Heading inland you can climb to your heart’s content, stick to the coast and a relatively easy flat ride can be your’s. And with small white roads criss-crossing Mid-, East and West Lothians the choice of where to go is never going to leave you bored.

And so my Sunday training rides will continue for the foreseable future as I try to go further and faster from home in Duddingston each week. If you happen to see a chap on a white or sandy bike early on Sunday mornings, looking hungry but happy, it’s altogether possible it’s me. And if you think, when you see me, that I’m mad for being out at that time on a Sunday morning, just think of me in September, 3 miles into the Bealach Na-Ba, wondering what on earth I’ve let myself in for…

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Anthony Robson Anthony is the editor of online cycling magazine Enjoying most forms of cycling he does his daily work commute by bike, mountain bikes at the weekend, and fills other spare time renovating old bikes. Anthony is 30 and lives with his girlfriend Mel in Edinburgh, where he also works, but enjoys getting out of the city, especially by bike, but also in his pride and joy, a fun red Mini. At last check Anthony had three bikes (mountain bike, road bike, fixed wheel commuter), but this number is expected to increase with the addition of a garage to the household.

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