So this trip out to Crammond Island had been in the planning for a month or so and I was getting fairly excited about it until last Monday when the snow arrived. As the week progressed things didn't get much better, lashing rain, howling winds and even the shortest commutes were leaving me feeling drained from fighting against the elements. I found myself trying to come up with excuses to get out of going but it had been my idea so I couldn't bail out at this late stage.
Thankfully Friday dawned bright and airy, my enthusiasm returned and the lead like legs that had plagued me all week had all but gone. Game on!
Friday night was spent with the usual pre-trip faffage that I've come to rather enjoy. Bike cleaned and lubed, new grips and Cane Creek bar ends fitted, tyre pressures checked, bags packed, electronics charged, endless checks and double checks to make sure I'm ready to hit the road first thing in the morning. I also managed to slim my kit down even further that previous trips and totally avoided the need for a backpack, this meant that I would be carrying much less food than usual but we were going to be in a relatively urban area with the promise of a bar tea before we made camp for the night.
Saturday morning rolled around and I was awake before my alarm went off and raring to get on with it, the sunlight was pouring through the gaps in the curtains and it promised to be a beautiful day. Last nights meticulous packing paid off as I was showered, dressed, fed, and out the door well ahead of schedule and I arrived at the station half an hour before my train was due in. I reached Edinburgh about 20 minutes before the others were due so I filled up on pain au' chocolate and Lucozade while I waited.
Ray appeared first with Gari's train drawing in 5 minutes later, Gari had been out the night before so required a quick cup of coffee before we set off. While we waited I admired his Bish Bash Bosh gravel bike, I had previously considered one of these however the awful graphics have always put me off, Gari however had done a meticulous job of covering these with black tape on the down tube and inside the chain stays resulting in a beautiful looking bike.
Finally about half 10 we set off through the streets of Edinburgh, like Gari I'm not particularly comfortable in the big city so I stuck to Rays tail making sure I didn't get lost. After a short sprint up the canal and an old railway we entered the Pentlands. Having never ridden here I was at Rays mercy and having ridden with Ray before I knew there'd be hike-a-bike involved at some point. My legs felt great as we climbed up into the hills and before I knew it we were off road properly. We took a great bit of single track around the side of Clubbiedean Reservoir where we met Rapha "Expensive Hipster Brand" the dog followed by some double track and then came the inevitable, a push up and around Harbour hill. Gari started to struggle here, his 40c tyres weren't really up to the task of navigating this boggy track. Once we got back on some double track he decided to head straight to Castlelaw farm while we took "Goat Track" round the side of Castlelaw hill, this resulted in an arse over tit moment for me when I just couldn't get stopped in time for a deep looking puddle. Composure regained we headed off to meet back up with Gari.
Next up was a nice road section along the side of Glencorse and Loganlea reservoirs, this section was busy with walkers out enjoying the summer like weather so we just took it easy and chatted whilst weaving in and out of everyone. A great bit of track spat us out at the bottom of Black hill, once again Gari took a different route more suited to his bike while Ray and I shoved up onto the hill. The descent down the other side was great as Ray had promised, you really had to be alert and pick your line otherwise you'd be over the bars.
Balerno was our next stop for some lunch courtesy of the Co-op, refuelled we headed off down the Water of Leith for a few miles before making our way through the outskirts of the City to the airport. From there we joined up with the river Almond and followed it down into Crammond, our destination for the evening. The plan was to have a couple of pints and something to eat before heading across to Crammond Island along a causeway before the tide cut it off. By the time we were ready to eat the kitchen had stopped taking orders and there were no shops around so I ordered 3 bags of crisps, stuffed them down my jacket and off we headed.
I had just necked a third pint before we left and it was somewhat affecting my vision, couple this with the rapidly diminishing daylight and the journey across the causeway was a bit of a blur but we made it across unscathed. Setting up camp was an easy affair, Ray had been for a recce the week before so he knew exactly where to go. He even brought an easy light log to get a fire going in an existing fire pit. We spent the next few hours chatting round the camp fire while I sipped away on my hip flask. Sleep came easy when we finally headed off to bed around midnight, however I did wake a few times through the night due to the cold, nothing a quick readjustment of the sleeping bag didn't sort out.
Next morning we were all up at the crack of dawn, we had a quick brew down by the fire pit and then broke down camp. After a quick look around some of the old buildings on the island we set course for the mainland. Todays first destination was South Queensferry for breakfast, a short 8 mile blast along some great coastal single track. I was starving after missing out on dinner the night before and really wanted a cooked breakfast but there was no where obvious so we settled on a The Little Bakery, a braw wee upmarket cafe where Ray and I tucked into bowls of porridge while Gary went for scrambled egg, smoked salmon, a toasted bagel and a croissant. Lashings of tea and Irn Bru washed this down, water bottles were filled and then we were off again.
Another old railway line led us from here back to the canal at Ratho and then it was a relentless spin from there back into the city center. When we arrived at Princes Street we said goodbyes with Ray then Gari and I headed back to Waverly for our trains. I felt quite bad leaving Gari with a four hour wait for his train as I only had 15 mins to wait on mine but he assured me he would fill his time taking photos and watching the world go by so we also said our goodbyes and off I went homeward bound.
Another great weekend on the bikes was had, I've never ridden the Pentlands before so it was good to go and explore a new area. They feel really remote yet you are always aware or your proximity to the city. It was great meeting Gari and getting out with Ray again as well, I really should make more of an effort to go riding with other people as I always enjoy it far more than my solitary forays.
I'd also like to thank Gari for letting me use his photos, I only managed to snap a few on Saturday and my phone died over night so I got none on Sunday