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 Post subject: LEPRA Embra - St Andrews
PostPosted: Mon Jun 26, 2006 3:41 pm 
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The LEPRA (click on the link if you want a Gmaps route) was quite good fun. Frood and I ended up doing a nice round 80 miles, which is not the century we had planned. It was still the longest ride he had ever done and it was certainly the longest and most challenging ride I had ever done on a 70" fixed. I think I was the only fixie rider out of the 800 fair souls participating. This supposition was certainly supported by the habit of the whippet-thin roadies of riding past with the normal sideways scan of the bike, only to get about 3 lengths ahead, do a double take and drop back to say: "You're on a fixed gear? You're a nutter!"

We took the 06:36 train from Cupar to Inverkeithing in the end. This meant getting up stupidly early, and I only had about three hours sleep the night before. There were already a couple of people on the train who had embarked at Leuchars and we had a nice chat with the guard. He told us how last year there had been a lot of people trying to get on the train and he had been about to try squeezing one guy on when the chap had said: "Don't you give me any of that crap about not being able to fit the bike on!"

At which point the guard, quite rightly, decided he could stuff it. Always start off being polite. The guards are generally quite nice. They're not all jobsworths.

We rode straight along the A90 dual carriageway on the way into Embra, meeting up with a few folk from South Queensferry after Cramond Brig. The closer we got to the start the more cyclists we gathered until there was quite a pack. After a brief stop at Waverley station to use the loo, during which time I had a fight with the rotary gate thing that left me with a black bruise the size of a hen's egg on my thigh, we made it to the start where we met Mr and Mrs Pingu (Duncan and Clare) and Noggin. Chewa was there but we didn't see him (he did see us though!)

The start was pretty chaotic. There was no police escort so there were 800 cyclists all trying to get out of Embra along the main central through route all at the same time. The organisers had impressed upon us that traffic lights applied to us too, but frankly it would have been less hassle to the rest of the traffic if we'd just massed it and got out of the way as quickly as possible. But we didn't, so we had a slow exit from the city.

The directions through Rosyth were pretty shoddy, but I'd had the presence aforethought to sit down and go through the directions the night before and write out an audax-style route sheet, which spent the day folded neatly and slotted down inside my bra next to my sweaty bosom. Very handy, but do make sure you use waterproof ink if you're going to try this.

It was all fairly easy until Crossgates, although I did start to regret sleeping on the train rather than stuffing my face with flapjacks. Then the topography woke up and started making itself known. I asked Pingu nicely not to talk to me for half an hour, assuming that half an hour would see me over the top of Cleish Hill, which I had been fretting about. Immediately after this some bloke on a road bike came up and hovered on my off side (guaranteed to irritate, as I'm blind on that side).

Quote:
"That's a fixed."

"Uh-huh."

"You're really brave doing it on fixed."

"Right."

"It gets worse from here."

"That's nice."

"I'll be really interested to see how you get up the hill on that."

"I did just ask to be left alone for half an hour."


Pingu, by this point, had made a swift exit rather than getting between me and someone making me cross.

As it turned out I was soothed by a cheery conversation with a chap on a recumbent from Laid Back Bikes (on the left of that photo), just in time to get a Stinger down my neck before the serious climbing started.

I made it. I muscled that 70" up to the top of Cleish Hill for ice cream and a quick gasper, although I did have to stop for a minute to let the lactic acid die down before hitting that last steepest section.

I arrived at the top of Cleish Hill to discover Pingu had already been there for 5 minutes and a queue was starting to form at the Irn Bru-liveried ice cream van. It occurred to me, as I stood there dripping sweat, that there was a reason that no one else was doing the ride on fixed.

Quote:
Hi. My name's Sam and I ride fixed.

It started, you know, with just a suggestion and a nub of an idea that it might improve my spinning technique. Before I knew it I'd built up this Raleigh Sun Solo with contemporary Cinnelli bars. Then I bought some Campag Record Aero levers for it over the now-defunct C+ classified section. Then came the Goldtech chainring and the new headset.

It wasn't long before I started craving something more. Something less hack. Something that didn't look like it was made of scaffolding poles and rust. That's when I got in touch with Brant. A couple of months later and I had bought an Il Pompino. For a while I had to ride singlespeed, saving up for the money to convert to fixed. Then I did it. I bought the double fixed hub and rebuilt the rear wheel to ride 42x16 - 70". Did my first medium distance ride carrying the C+ forum jersey.

I can't get enough of it now. My other bikes are neglected. My Orbit Harrier is barely speaking to me - it's now nearly July and he still has his winter hokey-spokes on. I just haven't taken them off because I can't stop riding fixed.

I guess... I guess maybe I have a problem.


Five minutes later Clare and Frood arrived. Frood had paused to scoff flapjacks just where I had stopped to catch my breath. He arrived growling about a need for the largest ice cream the world had ever seen. I bought a round of ice cream. While I was buying ice cream I spotted clouds of midges, but thought no more of it. We wouldn't feel the effects of those until the next day.

After ice cream, more flapjacks and coffee it was time for the descent. Again I thought that maybe there was a reason people weren't doing the ride on fixed. By the time I got to the bottom of the steep, twisty, narrow descent my hands were cramping and I was having serious concerns about rim failure or brakes catching on fire.

It seemed hardly any time at all before we reached Kinross and the lunch stop. For all you Dun Runners out there, this was like the Dun Run only better. I am not a big eater when riding, so I was content with a banana, but everyone else got their filled rolls in good order, and Mrs Pingu got her flippers on some millionaire's shortbread. Well done to the Kinross Round Table for that.

Out of Kinross and round the back of Falkland Hill via Balgeddie to Freuchie. Some more long, gentle descents that, with the tailwind, ended up being almost as hard as the climbs. I discovered that being forced to ride at 140rpm for 15 minutes at a stretch is very good for improving spinning technique but doesn't half bugger your knees.

Next stop tea and cake at Freuchie, with the ladies at the Church Hall. Again, the sort of spread of which the Women's Institute could have been proud. It was welcomed and needed because the next obstacle was Cadger's Brae — a 1 in 6 climb of narrow, twisty proportions that didn't even have the decency to be on a smooth road surface.

I attacked, but really I was defeated before I made the attempt. The sight of the riders ahead, crawling into the sky at what seemed to be a 45° angle, had done for me while I was still on the slow slog to the foot of the climb proper. I managed about ¾ of the climb and had to decide to get off before my front wheel touched the steepest section and I stalled and fell off. Perhaps if I had been on a smaller gear or the road had been smoother, or there had been more room to tack — or perhaps if I had spent the first half of the year in serious hill training — I might have made it. As it was I had to walk approximately 100 yards before climbing back on and taking the last quarter mile of ascent en velo.

And that was pretty much the last point of interest. The rest of the ride was rolling, with a couple of surprise climbs — notably the one by Craigrothie. The signage in St Andrews was appalling, and quite a few folk got lost. But we got there in the end and collected our certificates.

By about 11pm that night I was aware that I had been badly sunburnt on my face and I could barely walk because my knees were so painful. I had a bruise on my left thigh the size of Manhattan and some serious lady-chafing, the latter of which I hope to solve before the Dun Run with a bit of judicious saddle beaking.

My knees were both better by Sunday, although not completely splendid, and we had also discovered the midge bites. I am covered in them. Any exposed skin has been subject to the ravages of Scotland's top predator. Bizarrely, out of the blue the physio called me on my mobile on Sunday evening. I had failed to get back to them after my first speculative email because my knee seemed to be better. With the state it was in I had already resolved to phone today and make an appointment. The physio had gone one better — he had already made me one. It sounds as if he's exactly the sort of physio I need.

I think I'll be fit enough to manage this year's Dun Run on fixed, assuming my knee issues are resolved. I would certainly recommend LEPRA as a good test bed to see if you have the legs and the machine for it. While it's only half the distance, it's a much tougher ride in terms of terrain.

For photos we're going to have to be very nice to Mr and Mrs Pingu.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Jun 26, 2006 5:19 pm 
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Was Laid Back riding his metallic blue recumbent by any chance?

I said hi to him at York yesterday, though didn't have much time to sit and chat this time as he was busy collecting another recumbent to bring back to Edinburgh.

And, you took the A90 from South Queensferry? On a bike? I'm impressed. :D


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 26, 2006 11:42 pm 
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Quote:
Pingu, by this point, had made a swift exit rather than getting between me and someone making me cross.


I went for it 'cos I thought we were at the bottom of Cleish Hill at that point :oops:

Quote:
I spotted clouds of midges


And I thought I had flea bites from the in-law's cats on Sunday :D

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 10:26 am 
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Arellcat wrote:
Was Laid Back riding his metallic blue recumbent by any chance?

And, you took the A90 from South Queensferry? On a bike? I'm impressed. :D


I think it was black. To be honest it was hard to tell as it was underneath him. I'm fairly sure it was black.

We thought about going through Dalmeny but frankly we couldn't be arsed navigating. The A90 was straightforward and looked like it would be fairly quick. it wasn't until we were on our way back out that we saw the sign saying "no cyclists or pedestrians". I don't know if there is a sign saying that on the way in to Embra, but if there is it's somewhere not easily seen by cyclists or pedestrians.

If you have to avoid the A90 it looks like the route is so round the houses it's daft. And the A90 isn't that bad at 8am on a Saturday.

Sam

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 1:17 pm 
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Ravenbait wrote:
Arellcat wrote:
Was Laid Back riding his metallic blue recumbent by any chance?

And, you took the A90 from South Queensferry? On a bike? I'm impressed. :D


I think it was black. To be honest it was hard to tell as it was underneath him. I'm fairly sure it was black.

We thought about going through Dalmeny but frankly we couldn't be arsed navigating. The A90 was straightforward and looked like it would be fairly quick. it wasn't until we were on our way back out that we saw the sign saying "no cyclists or pedestrians". I don't know if there is a sign saying that on the way in to Embra, but if there is it's somewhere not easily seen by cyclists or pedestrians.

If you have to avoid the A90 it looks like the route is so round the houses it's daft. And the A90 isn't that bad at 8am on a Saturday.

Sam


The sign is at the slip-road off the A90 as you come off the bridge ...

... I have a picture taken on the C+ forum ride (to be used I'm not quite sure how).

Anyway - main point: chapeau!

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 1:51 pm 
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RJ wrote:
The sign is at the slip-road off the A90 as you come off the bridge ...


How is anyone supposed to see it there? We came off the Forth Bridge cycle path and went straight up to the roundabout where you turn left to go to South Queensferry, then carried straight on over that roundabout to go back down onto the A90 in such a way as to slip seamlessly in with the traffic.

No one stopped us. No one got cross. No one seemed to mind at all. No one even honked.

The only altercation I had was with a taxi driver sat in an ASL at one of the junctions in town.

Sam

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