Tailwinds and headwinds on our winter ride

In January, you take your chances with the weather – if it’s not raining (or snowing) it can be icy and if it’s neither it’s often blowy! And so it proved on Sunday when just five hardy souls decided that the lure of the winter sunshine was enough to outweigh the somewhat blustery wind and head off for a jaunt to Brow Well and back via Caerlaverock Castle tea rooms.

Maidenbower Path
Descending down the Maidenbower Path to Georgetown. This and most of the other photos for the day were largely taken by John Henry.

We started off by heading through the Crichton and up and over the Maidenbower Path and then took Craigs Road from Georgetown towards the Bankend Road. This adds a bit of up and down and a detour, but makes for a much quieter and more pleasant ride than the top end of the Bankend Road

Group shot as we joined the Bankend Road

Once on the Bankend Road we enjoyed an epic tailwind all the way to the turnoff and then a mostly-tailwind blowing us out to Brow Well. It was clear from the faces of the cyclists coming the other way that we should make the most of it as it was going to be hard work coming back. The wind aside, the skies were clear and it was nice to enjoy the sunshine and the sight of a huge flock of geese taking to the sky at our approach (for some reason, five bikes were scarier than any of the cars going past).

Turning into Brow Well
Taking the turn into Brow Well

It’s fair to say, the group were unimpressed by Brow Well itself which is perhaps more historically interesting than visually inspiring. Still, a few people had fun trying to take a more artistic impression of the place

brow well
Going for the artistic angle
Brow well sign
None of us were tempted. The general verdict was that Burns would have been better off sticking to the whisky

Then there was nothing for it but to turn back into the wind and head to Caerlaverock Castle to get some lunch. At least with a small group it was easier going – it’s much more pleasant to ride with a companion, especially if they’re acting as a bit of a windbreak into the headwind.

At Caerlaverock Castle
Lunched and ready for the ride home!

Once at the castle tearooms we had a warm welcome and were soon happily enjoying soup, toasted sandwiches and the tea room’s excellent scones. The headwind hadn’t eased particularly but we had at least fortified ourselves, and stuck together as much as we could to minimise the effect of the wind. A few impatient drivers didn’t spoil our day, but were a reminder that the Glencaple Road isn’t as cycle friendly as a stretch of the NCN 7 really ought to be.

All in all, a good day’s outing and we certainly felt we had earned our lunch! Our next winter ride is to New Abbey, on February 24th so please do join us then – but if you can’t wait, there’s always our Georgetown Safari on the 10th February.


A Burns Ride – and a ‘safari’

Don’t forget this Sunday is our winter ride – a chance to get out into the fresh air and enjoy whatever January can throw at us! With Burns Night approaching we’ll be celebrating Robbie Burns in our own way, by riding out to Brow Well, where he sought a cure for rheumatic fever.

At Brow Well
Our first ride out to Brow Well

As always, the pace will be at the speed of the slowest and we genuinely won’t care about being ‘held up’ – indeed we enjoy the chance to just pootle along and enjoy the scenery and the chat. We’ll aim for a cafe stop either at Caerlaverock Castle or the Boathouse at Glencaple. Join us on the Whitesands at Devorgilla Bridge for an 11 am start.

Maidenbower aftef
Maidenbower Path – a lovely traffic free route from Georgetown to the Crichton – but up a 1 in 5 hill …

Then, on Sunday 10th of February we’ll be doing something a little different. Despite being home to so many people in Dumfries, Georgetown is one of the hardest places to get to and get around by bike – especially for families or those who aren’t keen on tangling with traffic. In recent years there have been some paths and bike routes added but they’re not well signposted and not particularly joined up either.

The plan is a ‘safari’ to investigate some of the existing cycle paths and routes, to look at where the worst gaps are, and perhaps identify where we think some infrastructure is needed to connect Georgetown up to the rest of the cycling network. We’ll be meeting outside the Spar on Georgtown Road at 1:30pm for a couple of hours exploring.

If you know Georgetown well and have ideas about what would make it better, why not come along? Or if you live or cycle there (or want to cycle) and would like to learn more about the routes that exist this might also be useful. It won’t be a led ride in the traditional sense but a bike would be helpful, and you’d need to be comfortable cycling in Georgetown as it is, rather than as we’d like it to be.

Sunny start for 2019!


New years day gathering
Starting to gather for the ride on the Whitesands – this photo (and most of the others) by John Henry

Our New Year’s Day ride is usually well attended (it helps that for the last three years the first of January has usually been sunny, if not warm) but even with the rather glorious weather we had yesterday, we were pretty pleased with a turnout of 21 for our first ride of 2019 – including one youngster who was making  longest ride of her life so far on her shiny new-for-Christmas red Frog bike.

Group photo
Group photo at the start – one more joined us en route having suffered the attentions of the puncture fairy on the way in

With such a large gathering – and a variety of different speeds and experience – we decided to let the ride naturally split on the road,  regrouping after the climb up from Kingholm and again at Glencaple, to make sure all was well and everyone was happy with the pace and route.

We made quite a bright and festive sight strung out along the Whitesands and through Dock Park and although the park and river path were fairly busy with people on foot enjoying the sunshine too, allowing the ride to break into smaller groups meant there was room for everyone.

Normally the Glencaple Road isn’t our favourite as it can be quite busy and fast, but the morning of New Year’s Day was the perfect time to enjoy it with almost no cars and what few drivers we encountered mostly in a patient mood.  This gave our little ‘back marker’ group a chance to practise riding in a group taking turns at the front – a bit of fun and a new skill for some of us! The views of the Nith and Criffel were spectacular in the sunshine and unusually for a sunny winter day, it wasn’t that cold either. Just rather glorious cycling weather.

group on the road
One of our groups on the road

We’d hoped that by letting the speedy folk have their head at the front, that we might have less of a queue at the cafe in Caerlaverock but unfortunately there had been a big group in before us. The queue moved fairly quickly, though, and it gave people further chances to chat. With so many new faces as well as some old regulars, there were just too many conversations to be had and not enough time to have them in.

in the WWT centre cafe
Queuing for lunch!

With everyone fed and watered we retrieved our bikes (we’d completely overwhelmed the official bike shed) and set off for the longish pull up the Bankend Road and home. Taking it slow and steady, even our youngest participant made it up (with maybe a little bit of a push from Dad).

At WWT Caerlaverock
First find your bike! Getting ready to set off after lunch

Thanks to John Henry for most of the photos on here – I think he’s captured the flavour of the day! And thanks to everyone who came and made it such a pleasant way to start the year.

If you enjoyed it (or missed it!) – mark your diaries for our next outing, a Burns Night excursion to Brow Well on Sunday 27th January.




To Ae and Back …

We had a good turnout of eight-and-a-half for today’s ride up to Ae (the half being Paul, who rode down from Moffat to join us in the cafe) – despite a raw Novemberish sort of day.

The ride out – via the Caledonian Cycleway and then north along Quarry Road and direct up to Ae – was very quiet, with almost no traffic at all to contend with. We even had a boost as we headed up Quarry Road, with one child (wielding an imaginary cow bell) cheering us on as we passed.

The road to Ae is a fairly steady, but not particularly steep, climb – we probably could have done without the added headwind – but it’s not too difficult a ride, and we paused a few times to regroup briefly to make sure nobody got lost.

We’d worried the cafe might be busy as there was a race event on at Ae, but we got in at around 12:15, before there was too much of a crowd. Soup, hot rolls and coffee all round soon revived anyone who’d got a bit chilled and the chat flowed.

Rushing to get to the cafe!

After a hasty group shot (having forgotten at the start), the ride back quickly developed some splinter groups with people peeling off to take a shorter (or in one case, longer) route home.

group photo

Another very pleasant day out – and our last for 2018. Never fear, though – we’ll be starting 2019 as we mean to go on with our New Year’s Day ride. Do join us if you can!

Can you help? Leaf clearing Sunday 11th November

Can you join us on Sunday 11th November (from 10am) for a little DIY path clearing action?

Castledykes after
Clearer paths mean there’s room for everyone

Winter isn’t just coming – it seems like it’s already here, and as ever, there are still leaves on the paths around our cycling and walking network. Wet and frozen leaves are pretty slippy things so – given the continued lack of gritting on most of the off road paths – clearing them away helps keep cyclists and walkers safe (and also makes more room on our shared paths for everyone).

Every year we report issues with slippery paths and encroaching vegetation, but we’re also happy to take matters into our own hands if it helps!  That’s why we’re planning another leaf clearing day of action after the success of our last one last year.

If you can help, join us from 10am on Sunday 11th November at the station, ready to tackle the station path and beyond. If there are any paths you use which are particularly bad, let us know so we can prioritise our efforts. We will observe the traditional 2 minute silence at 11, or if you’re attending a Remembrance Day service, you may join us later.

Join us and Buddies on a Halloween Spooktacular

For families (or those who are still big kids at heart …) we have a Halloween treat in store for you on Wednesday 24th October

Buddies Halloween Ride poster

Join our buddies Buddies for an afternoon of Halloween thrills and chills. Starting at 2:30 with face painting fun at the Buddies Bike Barn (on Friars Vennel), we’ll then be taking a ride out at 4 for Dock Park – all along cycle paths so no fear of the traffic…

… There might be other things to fear though! By special appointment a few ghoulies and ghosties might well be waiting in the park, so if you’re of a nervous disposition be warned!

This is a family friendly ride, but children must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Bring your own bikes, or contact Buddies beforehand if you need to rent one of theirs – they have a range of options, including just standard bikes.

A note: although Buddies is an organisation for adults with learning difficulties, and the Bike Barn offers accessible and inclusive cycles for those who need a little extra help to get cycling, the members are very keen to share this event  (and the Bike Barn) with the whole community, so please do come along!

Autumn fun: Halloween rides and AGM …

It’s October and as we wind down from summer and get ready for our autumn and winter programme, it’s time to take stock of the year we’ve had and look forward to the year to come.

We invite all members (or those who want to join us) to attend our AGM on Saturday 20th October, at 4pm at Buddies Bike Barn on Friar’s Vennel. If you come along early (from 3pm) there will be a chance to try out some of the adapted and accessible bikes that Buddies have on offer. These are great fun regardless of your cycling needs so do pop along and have a go.

buddies bikes

There will be more details to follow – but this is also advance notice of not one but two Halloween rides.  Our traditional Halloween After-Dark Ride will be celebrating the clocks going back in our usual fashion with a ride on the Sunday the clocks go back to laugh in the face of the long winter lights. Join us on Sunday 28th October for with 26 spooky miles out under the (hopefully) stars around the Glenkiln Reservoir and back through Speddoch. Lights (and warm clothes!) essential.

For those with littler legs, we’ll be joining forces with Buddies for a pre-Halloween fancy dress ride in Dock Park on Wednesday 24th October. More details to follow but there will be face painting beforehand – and a very high probability of seeing some ghoulies and ghosties on the ride itself…


night group shot
Who knows what you might encounter …