I don’t often need an excuse to go for a longer ride at the weekend, hitting the Lothian countryside for a longer wander than the daily commute allows. But every now and then an event comes up which gives a purpose to the Saturday randonnÃ©e, and such an indulgence is served up by the Museum of Flight at East Fortune with their annual Airshow.
Twenty and a bit miles from home in Edinburgh it affords a choice of routes, the one I picked taking me away from the coast, which I thought might become a bit busy with motorised traffic heading in the same direction. Instead I would head inland from Musselburgh, climbing to Longniddry, then further upwards taking in the Bangly Brae en route to Athelstaneford. At this point the roads starts to point downhill, and you’re only four miles from the target. Not that the ride was without incident that same distance from my start in Duddingston, the rear tyre on my tourer letting go with an almighty bang as I was riding alongside the race course.
Puncture repair kit out of the bag, wheel off, tube out andâ€¦ There was a two inch gash in the tyre that no patch was going to be able to cover. Starting the trudge back into Musselburgh where I knew there was a bike shop to obtain a new tube, a shout comes from across the road. A cycle club has obviously been out on a weekend run and an old gent stops and simply donates me a tube. I ask his name so that I can thank him properly, but he just hops on his bike saying it’s not necessary and heads on his way. My ride is saved. So, ignoring the fact that there’s a tailwind behind me I let myself believe there’s energy to spare in the legs and my pace picks towards Longniddry.
Hanging a right under the railway as I go a few miles further on I can see the Bangly Brae rising up. It doesn’t look high. Or steep. But halfway up the folly of my confidence is shown in technicolor and by the top my legs want a divorce; my lungs a breather; and my heart an extension to the ribcage. Perhaps it’s the rough road surface, but that hill is deceptive.
Thankfully, however, it’s not long, and I regain my tailwind to breeze into and through Athelstaneford, the home of the Saltire. From there the cones at the side of the road start to appear, an attempt to stop drivers parking their cars to watch the show for free. And then there are roads completely closed to traffic, cutting off rat runs between the larger B roads. Happily not to bikes however, and I cruise through, chatting to the security guard on the other end, before breezing past the queuing cars for the car park, and into the main area itself, hopping off to make my way through the crowds on foot. No stress; no hassle; and a saddlebag full of goodies for a well-earned picnic with half an hour or so to go before the displays hit the skies.
Locking the bike up, it’s clear that the museum caters for a ‘few’ cyclists, with a small rack beside the main reception building, but hadn’t expected as large a number of cyclists as had turned up for the show. Which is surprising given the numbers I’ve seen in previous years as well. In fact before riding I called the museum to ask if bikes would be allowed into the main area, or would have to be left in the car park, and the response was ‘good questionâ€¦’. One for the museum to think about in the future.
A decent spot found for a seat, sandwiches and pork pie and biscuits and soft drinks are consumed while watching some wonderful machines take to the air. It’s naturally a smaller, less ‘macho’ show than you get somewhere like Leuchars, but it’s this gentle aspect I love. There’s a delight to seeing an acrobatic display from a glider (trust me, it was stunning), and the jets they get are the type you don’t normally see elsewhere, like the De Haviland Vampire. And things like the Skyraider I’ve never seen fly before and was immediately impressed. And of course the stars of any show like this, the Battle of Britain flypast. Marvellous.
However the whole time I was thinking about the ride home. I’d decided to take the same route home (for the same quiet roads reasons) and knew that there would be a headwind all the way. Nothing for it but to plug away, with at least the slightest solace sought in the fact that I was higher than where I started, and after the initial climb back up through Athelstaneford I was afforded a really nice ride home. Especially the Bangly Brae. My nemesis on the outward leg was now a whooping and smiling and bumpy descent. By the time I got back to Musselburgh the legs were starting to tire, but I could still afford myself a happy reflection on the generosity of one other cyclist, someone many others would describe as a ‘lycra lout’, which had allowed me to have the day out unhindered.
And by the time I was home (via an alcoholic beverage emporium in Portobello that’s a particular favourite) I was already wondering how I could improve on the route for next year’s event. The Lothians once again giving a diversity of cycling, from flat coastal to steep wooded hills, with quiet enough roads to enjoy every turn of the pedals, that reminds me why I love cycling around here.