Ride to the Sun, Carlisle to Edinburgh
20/21 June 2015
On Saturday June 20th, a group of 11 riders set off from Edinburgh Waverley (with a Burger King to fill the stomach) in the glorious evening sunshine to get the train down to Carlisle with our bikes travelling down separately in the trusty hands of ‘a man with a van’. After reuniting with our bikes at Carlisle station and enduring a conversation along the lines of ‘Where are you cycling to?’ ‘Edinburgh.’ ‘But we’ve just come from there…’ we headed to Bitts Park to meet up with our amazing support crew for some pre-ride photos and the official start point of the Ride to the Sun. Then at about 8.15pm we set off into the night.
We couldn’t have hoped for a better start… except for Alasdair’s puncture… as the sun shone down, the miles ticked by out of Carlisle, to Gretna Green and onwards to Ecclefechan. It was a lovely flat route and, with numerous cheers of encouragement from the Sanderson/Williams support vehicle, the ‘Ronde train’ was in full swing! We stopped to check everybody’s lights, add some more layers of clothing and munch on some snacks. This was just in time as the rain then began – light at first, but enough to get everyone pretty wet as the darkness crept in. We then ran into a patch of bad luck as Neil endured two punctures in quick succession – luckily aided by Alex’s donation of a spare tyre and John’s nimble fingers we were on the road again quick enough but not before the midges had arrived. It seemed the warm, wet evening was perfect for them!
By this point we weren’t too far from Moffat and it was a welcome relief to roll into the town and see the lights of Maria’s Fish and Chips Shop greeting us. The place was packed out with other mad cyclists and there was a great atmosphere and sense of achievement to have made it this far already. It was about 11.30pm and we didn’t want to wait around for too long as people were getting rather cold. Just enough time to wolf down some chips or chicken kebabs before we set off again and onto the infamous ‘Devil’s Beef Tub’ climb. Luckily, I had heard someone mentioning in the chippy that it was 7 miles long (rather than the 4 that I had previously believed) and so for the first time, our group split as everyone went at their own paces up the climb. It was long but steady and never reached a gradient of more than 4%... unfortunately the downhill section on the other side was the same and so there was no opportunity for freewheeling and it was pretty hard work as fatigue and cold crept in. It was quite a sight to see the red flashing lights of other cyclists stretched out along the road in front.
After a very welcome rest, re-grouping and re-fuelling (courtesy of our wonderful support vehicle’s supply of donuts and hot drinks!) we set off altogether for the final slog to the finish. It was at this point that the benefit of riding as group was so useful as those struggling could rest up and let some of the others take a turn at the front… I had (very wisely!) opted to take my lengthy turn at the front along with Kayhan at the beginning of the ride, which turned out to have 2 major advantages – we got in all the photos, and we were both feeling fresh at that point! We were joined by different riders along the way as our train snaked its way through Tweedsmuir, Broughton and Blyth Bridge.
I was beginning to feel slightly more encouraged by this stage as the miles ticked by, the roads and place names became ever more familiar and the chicken kebab finally seemed to have left my stomach and reached my legs! The support crew again provided massive moral support and with one more brief stop we headed on through Milton Bridge, Penicuik and into the centre of Edinburgh… for a brief date with the 3.30am party-goers who were rather surprised to see 11 road bikes come flying past them. We reached Charlotte Square and Ben lead us expertly along the road to Cramond for a date with the sun rise. With 700m to go I clocked 100miles on my Garmin (which was a relief as Ben and I had both said we would have to keep going if it was 100 miles by the time we were at Cramond!) and we rolled down the hill to the shore to reunite one last time with our support crew (and Margie) for the obligatory post-ride hugs, handshakes and photographs at 4am.
What an achievement – 11 riders set out and 11 returned, 3 punctures, 100.7 miles, 4131 ft elevation, 16.2 mph average and many, many calories consumed!
Would I do it again?
Words by Fiona McDonnell, photos courtesy of Alex Sanderson (banner from Strava.com)