Braving the ice on our November ride

We were a little worried overnight about today’s planned jaunt to Ae – not only was the Met Office issuing dire warnings of ice, but there were also reports coming in of frozen roads around Ae yesterday. But that didn’t seem to put off the 11 riders (include one 11-year-old) who assembled at Devorgilla Bridge in the winter sunshine.

Winter ride group photo

Gathering at the start of the ride

It seems it takes a little more than some ice to put off your Dumfries cyclist when there is the Ae Cafe hot chocolate as a draw.

group at Quarry Road

Setting off along Quarry Road

As it was, the Caledonian cycleway was pretty clear (someone seems to have sorted out the leaves for a start …) and we soon reached Quarry Road ready for the pull up to Ae. The winter sunshine was very welcome after the rain and sleet we’ve been having and people were soon warming up that every stop at the top of each climb (to ‘admire the view’, or possibly catch our breath …) was accompanied by some rearranging of various winter layers. There were a few icy spots still on the last mile before the village but nothing too difficult for anyone to handle.

road to Ae

Clouds looming – but they fortunately passed us by

There were  also a few threatening clouds, but they passed us by and we soon made it to the welcome embrace of Ae Cafe where we promptly finished the lentil soup and then proceeded to make inroads into the hot chocolate …

At Ae Cafe

Refuelling (and apologies to Steve for lining up that shot so he has apparently grown a fine set of antlers …)

It took a bit of effort to lever ourselves out of the cafe and back onto the bikes but at least it was mostly downhill home (even if that meant it was a bit chillier than the ride in!). Two of our number took advantage of their mountain bikes and set off on an off-road cross-country route, but for the rest of us, it was a simple question of retracing our route back to Dumfries, with much anticipation of warming baths, hot drinks and fires for when we got home!

This will be our last ride of 2017 so thank you to everyone who made it such a nice day out. Our next ride will be on New Year’s Day – starting as we mean to go on with a run out to Caerlaverock WWT.

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Next ride: out to Ae

With winter closing in, now is not the time to put the bike away – but to wrap up a bit warmer and start plotting which cafes will warm you up best on a nippy Sunday lunchtime.

Route out to Ae Forest (and cafe). Click for full route information

Ae Cafe, being in the middle of mountain biking mecca Ae Forest, knows a thing or two about hungry cyclists – so we  thought we’d give it a try for the first of our daytime winter rides. As Ae is almost exactly 10 miles from Dumfries (as the bike cycles anyway), it’s a good distance for those wanting to try out longer rides than we offer in the summer.

We’ll be meeting on Sunday 26th November at Devorgilla Bridge on the Whitesands at 11am, ready for an easy paced ride up to Ae, lunch, and then back to town in good time before the daylight starts to go.

We’ll be using the Caledonian Cycle Path (hopefully still clear of leaves after last weekend’s effort!) and then the very quiet rural road that forms NCN10, so it should be a safe and pleasant ride for everyone.

We tend to get a mixed group of abilities on our winter rides, with some faster folk and some slower. Depending on the group, we may split the ride into fast and slow (as long as the fast bunch promise not to eat everything before the slower riders arrive).

Hope to see you there!

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A Job Well Done

broomstick on bike

In case you were wondering how to transport a broom on a bike …

Big thanks to everyone who turned out today to help clear leaves off the various cycle paths around Dumfries. It was a gloriously sunny if chilly day, and many hands definitely made light work, especially in the morning.

We started at Castledykes Park, where a combination of beech mast and leaves, bends and steep gradients has caused problems for many cyclists at this time of year. Although the path had clearly had some attention, the banks of leaves on either side were just waiting to be blown back over the path – while there was a fair build up of ‘leaf jam’ even on the swept sections.

Castledykes before

Castledykes before we started

Forty minutes later we had 8 bags of leaves and a much wider path – round one completed!

Castledykes after

The cleanup gang on a much wider path

After fortifying ourselves with mince pies we set off to our next port of call – the Maidenbower Path. With a 12% gradient, and overhanging trees, this is a spectacular route from Georgetown to the Crichton but leaves very little room for error when it’s leafy underfoot (or underwheel). The crew were so eager to get going we didn’t manage a proper before photo.

starting work on the Maidenbower Path

Getting cracking on the worst section of the Maidenbower

Once again, it didn’t take long with eight helpers to reveal a much wider path underneath all those leaves.

Maidenbower aftef

The same stretch of path after clearing

After a well-deserved warming lunch of soup, courtesy of the Rutherfords, a somewhat depleted crew headed to the Caledonian path, which always seems to be thick with leaves. By this time, arms were tired and we’d already killed one broom and fatally wounded a rake, so we concentrated on the worst stretch, from the Moffat Road down towards the station.

Caledonian path before clearing

The Caledonian path before clearing

The leaves had begun to break down and were well stuck to the tarmac but we were pretty practised by then and managed to get the worst of it off and once more reveal a much wider path than you might expect. This means not only are cyclists safer on their bikes, but there’s more room for everyone on the path, reducing conflict.

Caledonian finishing

Finishing off on the Caledonian path in the last of the afternoon light

While we were out on those paths, the Rotary Club were also hard at work on the Maxwelltown Path, with the viaduct looking absolutely sparkling on the way back. All in all, a good day’s work – and hopefully it will set us all up for a safer winter. Thanks again to everyone who helped out

We couldn’t do everything – and the leaves are still falling in places – but the council do sweep the paths when they get reports that it’s needed. So if your own route is hazardous with leaves, do let the council know, or tell us and we’ll pass it on.

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Short notice: Leaf clearing day of action this Sunday (12th)

Can you help us blitz the cycle paths of Dumfries to clear them of leaves before the winter freeze arrives in earnest?

There has been some leaf clearing done, particularly on the station path, but we’re still getting reports of problems on the Caledonian and the Castledykes Park – and unsurprisingly, more leaves have fallen since the clearing has been done. Given how slippery a mass of wet – or worse, frozen – leaves can be, we’ve decided to act now and we hope you can join us.

We will be leaf clearing from 11-1 and 2-4pm on Sunday 12th November. The Rutherfords have very kindly agreed to supply a warming lunch in between, for those who can make it, but you don’t need to join us for the whole day. Either meet at Castledykes Park at 11am for the first session (we will then likely spread out to other locations) or at the station forecourt at 2pm for the afternoon session. Bring stout gardening gloves (there may be glass or other nasties lurking in the leaves), brooms, rakes, or any other implements you have that might prove handy. We will also do some litter picking where needed.

If you are coming, and might want lunch, it would be great if you could let us know how many to cater for. Just reply here, or email cyclingdumfries AT gmail DOT com. Also if you regularly cycling in other areas where leaves are a nuisance, let us know so we can prioritise the work.

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Chills and Thrills on our Halloween Ride

When the clocks go back at the end of October, many cyclists use that as a signal to put away their bikes for the winter, but not the eight of us that gathered at Dock Park on Sunday on a crisp and sunny afternoon.

Halloween ride start

Gathering at the start of the ride – after that it was too dark and too cold to take any photos!

Having checked that everyone had lights (and gloves!), we set off along the Maxwelltown Path, and headed up the Glen where we picked up another rider who happened to be out anyway and decided to tag along.  With a clear night and a moon that was more than half full, it took a while for it to get properly dark, but as we cut through from the Terregles Road to Shawhead, dusk had fallen and it was certainly dark enough to appreciate a couple of Jack O’Lanterns waiting at the turn. By the time we had climbed up to the reservoir it was fully dark. We stopped to check for bats, but they had all sensibly gone into hibernation, and fortified ourselves with some gingerbread for the final climb.

The Speddoch loop – up past the reservoir and then down again past Speddoch and on to the Routin Brig – is a lovely ride day or night.  We may not have enjoyed the same views as you get in daylight but away from the lights of Dumfries – and with no traffic about to speak of – there was a real atmosphere of quiet and isolation. The descent back down is a magic carpet ride, where you barely need to turn a pedal, just steer, brake, and follow the curves of the road. With nine of us by this time, all lit up with excellent lights, we made quite a spectacle – in fact the only car we encountered once we were back down on the road to Dumfries, just stopped dead and waited until the cavalcade was safely past. They must have thought it was an alien invasion, not just a bike ride.

By this time the cold was making itself felt – indeed there were overnight frosts – so people were glad to be pedalling again to warm up somewhat for the ride back into town (or straight home for those who stay further west).  The feedback we got was that it had been a bit mad, but great fun, like all the best bike rides.

Dumfries and Galloway is blessed with dark skies and many such quiet rural roads, and if you’ve got the right lights, it’s wonderful to get out and experience them for yourself. However, our next winter ride will be in full daylight – up to Ae and back, on quiet roads and cycle paths. More details coming soon.

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Double Trouble for Halloween …

After the success of our night ride for Halloween last year, we’re going to run another one – but this year there’s twice the fun with two rides, including one that’s more suitable for younger children

Ghost Riderz posterOn Wednesday 25th October, Buddies will be running a led ride and ghost hunt along the cycle paths beside the river and through Dock Park for anyone who fancies a bit of spooky fun – it will be on cycle paths and off road the whole way and Buddies can also arrange loans of bikes (including trikes) for those who don’t have their own, but please get in touch with them first to let them know if you need this.  Buddies supports adults with learning disabilities, but this ride is open to everyone and will be particularly suitable for families with young kids. Meet at Buddies on Castle St at 4:30 pm. Don’t believe in ghosts? Maybe this ride will change your mind!  Come in fancy dress if that’s your thing.

Halloween rideFor those who can manage a few more miles on quiet roads (around 26 miles, some quite hilly), and who have good lights on their bike, our  own Halloween Night Ride is on Sunday 29th October, just as the clocks go back.  Don’t put your bike away just because the evenings have gone dark – instead embrace the night and enjoy the dark skies of our country roads.

We’ll meet at Dock Park at 4pm, and then set out along the Maxwellton Path, up the Glen, towards Glenkiln Reservoir just as the dusk descends and the bats start to fly. We’ll climb up and descend past Speddoch, coming back along the Irongray Road into Dumfries again and undoubtedly the pub.

Note that we will be riding on unlit country roads, so it will be dark! You will need good lights, especially the front one.

night group shot

Who knows what terrifying creatures you might encounter …

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A fun-packed Saturday awaits: consultation event and our AGM

Mark your diaries because it is the Cycling Dumfries AGM on Saturday 7th October – we’ll be holding it at 4pm at the Aviation Museum at Heathhall. This will be in lieu of our regular Tuesday meeting.

And because AGMs sound a bit dull, we’re going to liven it up with a short easy ride beforehand – meet at Dock Park at 3pm for a gentle pootle up to Heathhall, passing a few Beat Boxes on the way. We should arrive in time for people to have a wander around the museum before getting down to serious business (and cake) at 4pm.

Hospital route consultationMeanwhile, we have had word of another consultation event about changes to the roads to prepare for the opening of the new hospital which will be held at Troqueer Primary School on Thursday 5th October (5-8pm) and Saturday 7th October (10am-2pm) – unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a way to comment online.

The plans as we currently understand them include some improvements over the current situation: a light-controlled crossing of the New Abbey Road, and a shared use path along the other side of the Dalbeattie Road, removing the need to cross it, or Park Road twice as currently happens.  Some of the changes have already proved controversial, although around 3/4 of those responding support the New Abbey Road crossing, and over 80% support the need for a safe cycling and walking route to the hospital. If you are likely to use this route, and feel the plans are an improvement on the current situation (or if you think they aren’t!) then please do try and go along and have your say. If you can’t make it, then you should also contact your councillors with your views.

This shows the proposed cycle route through Troqueer and along the Dalbeattie road (click for a more detailed version)

Proposed hospital route

Proposed hospital route – click for larger image

This shows the preferred option for crossing the New Abbey Road (click for a more detailed version)

New Abbey Road crossing plans

Detail of crossings for New Abbey Road – click for larger version

You can read in great detail about the options considered and the recommended plans in this report (particularly sections 3.7, 3.10 and 3.11) and the council’s decision (Section 17 of the committee minutes).

Our verdict is that the revised plans are a mild improvement on the version consulted on last February (see our verdict on those plans here), in that there will be waiting/parking restrictions on the Dalbeattie Road. This makes the proposed on-road cycle lanes for the top half of the Dalbeattie Road marginally less useless, as long as they are enforced. However, because there will be no change in priority between Dalbeattie Road and Park Road, we think that traffic levels on the Dalbeattie Road will be too high for comfortable cycling, even with bike lanes. It’s not clear whether the proposed 20mph limit for Hermitage Drive will also be extended to that section of the Dalbeattie Road either. We will continue to monitor the situation and plans and press for a route that keeps cyclists away from all but the lightest traffic.

It is also worth noting that whichever route cyclists or pedestrians take, they will still need to cross the Garroch Loaning (a national speed limit road) without the benefit of any traffic signals and we will continue to make the case for this situation to change.

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