Alpine RidesThe Failed Overnighter
Tiso, Alpine and Blues staff tend to enjoy exploring Scotland in a variety of ways: on the water, on two wheels or on foot, to name a few. We love hearing their adventure stories regaled over a coffee (or a whisky) and we thought you would too!
by Gav Robbins
Gav works in our Edinburgh Rose St store and is aiming to climb the highest mountain in every country in Europe.
When I was sat at my kitchen table, pontificating on what I should do with my two days off, I remembered I'd recently heard from an old friend, who lived outside Edinburgh in Prestonpans, well there's a good idea for one day at least, take the bike along the John Muir costal path out to visit her. Subsequently it turns out she'd actually moved to Dunbar, a bit further out, 30 miles as the crow flies, so the natural evolution of the trip was to simply make it an over nighter.
I then got on my GPS app (rideGPS) and plotted a fairly sizeable route that I could do over two days, taking in the Lothian coast line, Berwick law, Dunbar castle, then south to the Lammermuir hills, Crystal Rigg wind farm, Whiteadder reservoir, finishing off via the old Pencaitland railway track and finally a trail at Carberry. Seemed like a most excellent trip.
The night before I packed my gear onto my bike, a Cube Reaction, the set up is all to important, and many people have there preferred method.
As the weather was looking good, I packed up just the inner and groundsheet of my M.S.R. Elixir 2, I then velcro strapped this to my top tube. I got my Therm-a-rest roll matt and velcro strapped that to my bottom tube, making sure to tie behind the cabling! I got my nice lightweight Rab Neutrino 200 sleeping bag, clipped the dry bag it comes in to the handle bar, and then fastened down the other side with, yep, you've guessed it, another velcro strap, it fits really nicely under all the cabling at the front. Finally I took my Ortlieb saddle bag and attached that, using the poles of the tent as a spine makes it a lot more stable. For anyone working on a budget, velcro strapping things to your bike is an ideal solution. Duct taping a spare inner tube to your bike is also a convenient way to carry that essential item!
All that remained was to pack the food in the morning, bacon, cheese, ketchup croissants! A favourite of mine and saves bringing the stove. Dinner was simply the remnants of the previous night's dinner, in this case, pasta Carbonara. Don't get me wrong, still plenty of room in that saddle bag for a stove, so always potential for a hot dinner and coffee, but waste is a terrible thing, and I'm not as dependent on coffee as what your supposed to be.
Had a quick check on the weather on Ventusky, all looked good, so I set off at around 09:30.
This was my first mistake. If you are planning an overnighter, don't leave so early.
The route from Edinburgh to Dunbar, along the John Muir Way, was actually a lot more fun than I had thought it would be, yes, it's very flat, but you get a whole host of terrains to cycle on, from roads, paths, beaches, single track and some forest. The views were excellent, from lighthouses built onto huge rocks off shore, a llama farm, Bass rock, the fairly impressive hunk of rock mass that is Berwick law, finally finishing on cool coastal paths to Dunbar and there ancient castle ruins. Very enjoyable. And as the wind was behind me, only took me 3 hours. This is when I made my 2nd mistake. It's midday, my estimated time to finish was 5 hours, so your brain starts thinking, yeah, why not, let's just turn it into one big day. The appeal of a second day off to chill in my flat was pretty good, the idea of doing a day trip with over night gear, not so much, but I just figured, with the extra weight, I'll just pick up more speed on any downhill sections.
Well, I left Dunbar and the coast and headed for a wee place called Spott. Let's just say you knew you were no longer coastal, as this road went up, and up, and up, I thought I might end up looking at the top of a beanstalk, it was relentless! Then there was a pathless section up a steep rough grounded hill, this eventually led to the windfarm and was the hardest section, as you really do need to push the bike up all the way, and the path to the wind farm is more like an animal track. But that was really the only bad section, every other part was rideable. Coming past Whiteadder reservoir is very scenic, the heather was out in full force and the patches of sun coming through emboldened everything they touched. That was where I had planned to camp, but feeling good I bounded along to the foot of Lammer Law. Serious note, there is a section on this route, that drops you about 290 metres, in a very short space of time, maybe a quarter of a kilometer. I almost made it down without having to come off the bike, but when smoke starts coming off your disc brake, I err on the side of caution! Here I can't lie, the plan was to go up Lammer law, but given my overnighter had been abandoned and I was on a misery mission, I bowed out and went around it.
Over picturesque back roads and a surprisingly fun downhill single track through a little forest, I finally arrived at the Pencaitland way, an express lane for east coast bikers. Turning off at Elphinstone, I took the road and nipped into the back of Carberry estate, where there are a few fun downhill tracks, and a cheeky bonus to the end of my ride. Then following the river Esk to Musselburgh, this got me close enough to home. Where a long shower and a stiff drink awaited me!
All in all, an excellent route, quite capable for anyone to do, but if I was doing it again, I'd do it in two! So a failed overnighter, but an epic day outer!