Winter Cycling

The wet weather and short days in December didn’t fill me with enthusiasm for outdoor adventures.  The weeks were brightened by social gatherings with former colleagues.  The short days and unreliable weather limited the opportunities for bike rides.  I haven’t been doing much cycling recently either so I was concerned not to bite off more than I could chew.

I’ve been keeping an eye on Bartimaeus remotely.  The small electric heater on board seems to be keeping the inside safely above freezing.  So far the external temperature has only strayed below zero very briefly, which is fortunate because there is little I could do if the cabin did start to get too cold.  I phoned about progress on the repair of the heater last month.  I was told that it was fixed, but that they hadn’t yet found the time to get to the boat to re-install it.  This week I got a follow-up email saying they hope to visit next week.

The weather in Edinburgh turned drier but noticeably colder in recent days.  Kenny and I were not deterred from taking the train to Falkirk yesterday hoping for a sunny ride home.  The station at Falkirk is very near to the Union Canal and our route started along the towpath.  The canal was frozen in parts, though it wasn’t thick ice.  If you’d needed to move a narrowboat it would still have been possible – just.

A view over a wide section of the Union Canal.  The towpath is covered in frost, and the water surface is covered in ice.  The sky is blue and cloudless with sun shining on the bushes further along the water.
Frozen Union Canal at Falkirk

The towpath surface here is rough enough to give a good grip for our tyres despite a covering of frost.  The towpath was closed for winter maintenance near the Millennium Wheel so we followed the diversion.  The tarmac there looked less reliable, but we managed to join the towpath of the Forth and Clyde Canal without incident.  We followed that canal to the Kelpies, which were shining magnificently in the sunshine.

Kelpies. Two sculptures of the head and neck of horses.  Each is a hundred feet high.  The sun is glinting off the metal , the sky is bright blue behind them.
Kelpies in the Winter Sun

We were grateful that there was very little wind as we headed north over the flat land towards the Kincardine Bridge.  The cafe in Kincardine provided an excellent lunch – very welcome even though it wasn’t yet midday.

We turned east along the north side of the Forth towards home.  At this time of year, the sun is so low that the routes on the south side of the Firth are in shade most of the day.  Riding on the north side maximised our sunshine.  We stuck to the road on the section past Longannet.  The cycle track alongside was in the shade of the hedge and had not been treated.  The road was frost-free and fortunately very quiet.

We took the diversion around the outside of the Valleyfield Ash Lagoons to stay in the sunshine.  On the east side there was an enormous icy puddle across the path.  Walkers were queueing up to hold on to the fence while standing on a collection of driftwood arranged as a rickety causeway.  We were able to ride (slowly) through without any difficulty.

Queensferry Crossing.  The sun is reflected on the waters of the Forth.  The Queensferry Crossing with its three towers largely obscure the older Forth Road Bridge beyond.  The sky is blue but with a bank of low cloud visible.
Queensferry Crossing – Not Our Forth Crossing

We crossed on the Forth Road Bridge.  Now that most of the traffic is on the Queensferry Crossing, the cycle and walking path on the side of the older bridge are very pleasant.  There were hundreds of pedestrians on it enjoying the walk and the view.

At the far end we chose the route which stays high across the top of South Queensferry.  We were on a short section of residential street at walking pace when I suffered what I have termed a Rapid Unscheduled Dismount Event.  As I went round a ninety degree corner the bike slipped out from under me leaving me sitting in the road.  Kenny managed to stop with his front wheel on the same patch of black ice.  I was able to get up easily enough with no obvious damage to me or the bike.  After a short walk to get away from the worst of the black ice we were able to continue the ride home.