I have been back cycling in the Scottish borders from Edinburgh for the last two weeks now and
it’s great to be back here. I am currently weighing up options with what to do next with my life but inbetween all those fun and games, I have been out on a bike most days. I have been rediscovering why Edinburgh and the borders is such a great place to ride bikes. There’s a mix of fantastic road, cyclo cross and mountain biking options surrounding Edinburgh. After three back to back alpine winters and a spell of 19 months continuous snowboarding it was good to get stuck into my love of all things bike related, firstly by cycling to China this summer. Building on that I have been busy riding in the UK Lake District over new years before returning to Scotland and the weather has been challenging to say the least or maybe I have softened up after being abroad so long!
Last week started out at Innerleithen and mountain biking with a friendly group of riders including Neil and Scott two of the Tweed valleys busy trail builders and who better to show me the best trails in the area! It has been fun exploring all the new stuff that has been built since I left a few years ago. The trail centres remain the same but everything else has gone Enduro crazy, there’s so many great tight, steep twisty trails hidden in the trees. The trails are way more varied than the old DH tracks meaning I enjoy them more and you need sharp technical skills passing inches away from trees.
These new routes are also properly built trails, not just the old skool cut branches and cleared dirt revealing off camber roots and sketchy riding. The trails are bermed, benched and they are as sustainable as they can be given the mud and huge number of riders enjoying them. There is a lot of wet mud roots and generally after so much riding in BC it has taken a while to adjust to the riding. The tyres needed to be changed and theres less two wheel drifting on loose loom and more weight over the front wheel trying to stay upright. That’s the beauty of MTB’ing it’s always different but always fun.
What surprised me is the popularity of the new trails, even the guys building them are amazed by the volume of use. The popularity of GPS tracking and Strava explains how lots of new people are finding out about them, but also so many more people are regularly riding in the Tweed valley, in large part thanks to how fashionable Enduro is at the moment and it’s great to see.
I’ve also had a fun couple of days riding with friends old and new at Glentress exploring some off-piste routes that without fail are fun to ride although maybe slightly easier than the hidden steeps at Innerleithen!
After my Enduro days in the mud I went on a couple of epic winter road rides in the borders this week to stretch the legs and get some miles under my belt. The scenery was beautiful in a cold and desolate kind of way, with monotone snowy scenes as I headed down the somewhat sketchy main road to Peebles. Riding past the chicken farm I always get bombed by huge Buzzards keen for the inevitable free meal that the farm must leave out.
From Peebles the old railway cycle path to Innerleithen was like an ice rink before I reached the scenic granites road up into the hills again.
The snow started to fall heavily as I reached the first slight climb and in no time the road was a white out. A short eared owl appeared out of nowhere and flew alongside me while I concentrated on not sliding over, it was all slightly surreal enveloped in the blizzard. Eventually I descended out of the worst of it and continued along a rather indirect route through Midlothian’s quiet back roads towards Edinburgh. My feet were new levels of cold and stepping into the shower brought tears to my eyes as the blood returned to them. I was thankful to be wearing these Winter Warmers
The next ride was another trip to Glentress with Marion on a freshly dusted snow day. The powder was soft and light meaning it was fun to ride as we did a variation on the standard red route that got a bit Enduro too. It was fun times sliding about before what was a beautiful sunset over the frosted hills.
The sun was out in full force on Friday so I went on a road ride through the Pentland hills, yep on 28mm slick road tyres I went off road riding. The snow was deep in places but the tyres cut through it well and gripped surprisingly well on the solid frozen ground. I firstly overtook some XC whippets who seemed understandably confused to see me and my road bike. Then I over took a fat bike rider, which made me smile, on the one day of the year he should be winning he still got overtaken by a roadie! I’m sure he was having more fun on the descent, when I couldn’t tell if the brakes weren’t working or if the wheels were just locked up. It was really just an excuse to get out and photograph the hills in their winter splendour.
A final ride I’ve done this week was one I have been keen to do for many years, it is the ultimate Cyclo Cross ride from Edinburgh. With grippier CX tyres fitted I Started out along the canal and then climbed past Bonaly towards Currie then up into the Pentland hills for a loop ending in Flotterstone. A quick dash to Penicuik and down to Peebles before climbing up to the blue route for a quick circuit. It was icy but fun as I descended down towards Cardrona. In Innerleithen I bailed out of a loop on the red and with tired legs I rode up the Granites again towards Edinburgh. Not a bad 75 mile loop and certainly a leg buster in the freezing Scottish winter! Although I will be buying some of these:Winter Essentials
Sadly my smaller micro 4/3 camera lens gave up so there’s not too many pictures.