Cycling on ice – not recommended

Derby Cycling Groups Think twICE awareness campaign logo - shame I didn't pay attention....
Derby Cycling Groups Think twICE awareness campaign – shame I didn’t pay attention….

START NOTE – It’s a testament to how busy I’ve been of late that this ride report – which occurred and was competed back in January of this year – has lain in my DRAFTS section for so long that it nearly didn’t make it online at all.

Readers should note that references to timescales and weather should bear in mind the words “Scotland January 2013” and “snow”. You get the picture……


I had recently contacted a couple of friends fom the Celtic Challenge earlier in 2012 and suggested we get out on the bikes together.

Stupidly , they blindly followed my suggestion – and I quickly cooked up a good route in my head – heading east from Edinburgh to Gullane then South to Haddington and then northwest back to Edinburgh via the back roads.

A series of emails and texts followed – the meeting venue changed and so did the time but finally it was all agreed.

I was insanely busy at work in the rush in the run up to Christmas. We were constructing apartments to a tight deadline and the clients were anxious to get in. In terms of light relief the up and coming ride was going to be a great break from a very stressful work environment – and I was looking forward to it more and more as the time approached. The weather had been crap for weeks, I’d been too busy to get out and I was beginning to get that closed in feeling when you can’t get out for a decent cycle. And I was making a determined break from the all demanding and hugely time consuming architecture / construction machine that was my job. Cycling is my cry for “Freedom!!” and I was just desperate to go.

All I could think of was meeting upwith Jane and Phil and getting going on the road…… can imagine my dismay when Friday afternoon brought overhanging grey clouds, low light levels and grey overcast steady drizzle conditions. This stretched on into the evening and the last of the day faded fast – along with my hopes of a good cycle. I expected lots of calls crying “cancel!” and was anxiously checking phone and facebook all evening as the gloom descended.

Good day for a cycle?


Saturday AM was an early start as I checked the weather and went in to the controlled frenzy that is my pre-ride mantra or ritual.

Clean bike – check

lube chain – check

brakes – checked – brake blocks – checked

Tyres – checked

Clothing had been looked out the night before and laid aside and was now stepped into with almost religious awe.

There something powerful for me about pre-cycling preparation in the same vein that I get when I am preparing for a 10k run. There’s a focus and a concentration that is deeply calming. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a pre-race preparation, a sportive challange or just getting together with friends. There is something intensly focused about donning your running gear or your cycling gear that focus’s you right down to the point of it all. You’re going cycling…..It’s what the clothes are made for …and so were you. Time to go….

Time is ticking down to the allocated and pre-decided meeting place and I’ve already made a projection of how long it will take to get there – 15 minutes. With only ten minutes to go, I’m still pumping up my tyres having decide at the last moment that they really were too soft…. Gloves on- last check –  Garmins got the satellite signal (finally) and we’re off.

I’m straining my legs from the get-go to make up for lost time. No warm-up this – I’m late.

I charge down the road, passing the cars waiting at traffic lights up to the head of the queue and waiting impatiently for the lights to change. I out-accelerate all of the motor vehicles and strain down the hill only to be overhauled  by them as they indignantly catch me pushing at 28mph and blast past with the disdain that only motorised vehicles can have for lumps of flesh on bits of metal and plastic.

Whilst I cycle, I’m mentally noting that the day is freezing cold but the skies are clear – it’s going to be a great day for cycling as long as we stick to roads that are clear of snow or ice and keep out of the puddles from last night. My multi layered aproach under my jacket seems to paying off and I’m noting that my full fingered gloves are probably a bit too thin and will need to be replaced with my insulated all weather gloves shortly as it really is that cold. Legs and back are fine though – nicely warmed by the effort. I’ts going to be a good day….

Except I got there too early – 10.00am as opposed to 10.30am. A late change email by Jane had been missed by me entirely so I was left (literally) out in the cold.

Oh well –  time to get a coffee then and shelter from the cold.. Jane pulled up shortly after I’d got my coffee and Phil (the other Phil) as she was padlocking her bike.

Coffee time at Victor Hugo’s in Portobello.

Coffee Time from Starz above at
Coffee Time from Starz above at

Various teas and coffees later, we ventured forth into the cold again. It was biting – but the roads seemed fine.

We cycled through Portobello and on to Musselburgh. The traffic was steady but not too bad and our pace was even. Cycling past the Musselburgh Racecourse on the main road heading east, we turned left and headed out towards the power station at Prestonpans.

Prestonpans Power Station - taken from Bikeloves blog page
Prestonpans Power Station – taken from Bikeloves blog page

My thanks to Bikeloves most excellent blog page for the image  – if you ever need some extra information regarding a lot of the areas or towns I’m mentioning in my blog – you should check out Bike Loves blog on

We cycled over Longniddry Bents to Aberlady – the temperature was cold – very cold – and our breath clouded the air as we chatted along the way, but the roads were clear. Turning right at Aberlady, we headed south to the roundabout near Drem and over the hill past the monument to Haddington, where a well deserved coffee and cake were enjoyed.

Hopetoun Monument near Haddington -  Image courtesy of trekearth,com
Hopetoun Monument near Haddington Image courtesy of trekearth,com

So far the trip had been good – I was just really get my cycling legs back after an extended break over the Christmas Season and Jane and Phil hadn’t cycled much either so we weren’t pushing on too hard and had stopped a few times as Jane laboured up the hill over towards Haddington.

Trouble on the return leg….or I should say hip….

Our troubles started on the return leg because I decided to take  a back road, the B6368, that snaked further inland around the back of Haddington and then headed south then west towards East Saltoun and Pencaitland.

We had passed Begbie Wood and were on a long straight that would come out onto the B6355 Main Street North of  East Saltoun. The world had gone jackfrost and winter wonderland on us – snow on the edges of the road had become snow in the fields and heavy frost on the ground. The road surfaces were becoming slippier and slippier but we persevered. About 1 mile away from the B6368, the heavy frost on the road became crunchy snow.

Just as I rounded a slight bend and came to the top of a rise I realised that I was cycling over packed ice and was sliding forward as much as pedalling under my own power. I slowly braked and slithered to a stop in order to warn the others who were coming up behind me. I’d no sooner turned to shout back when I saw Jane land with a heavy thump on her side. Phil twitched slightly to the right to avoid Jane and Thump! he was down too. I was immediately concerned as the both of them had toppled heavily onto hard tarmac and ice and there was a real risk of serious injury. The road was lightly trafficked with only a few cars passing every 5 minutes or so, but we needed to get up and over to the edge in case a car came along and had similar sliding / braking issues. I gingerly tiptoed over to my cycling buddies – legs slipping sideways often with both ice and cycling cleats contributing to the unsteadiness in equal measure. Jane was up but holding her side and Phil was still sitting on the ice looking dazed. This didn’t look so good. After a quick confab and a quick check on both of them, it was agreed that whilst a bit sore both Phil and Jane were okay to continue but we’d walk for a bit until we got past the packed ice. We slithered / slipped / walked slowly onwards for a mile until we got to the B6355 which had been gritted and was therefore clear of ice / snow / frost etc…….

It seemed to take forever to walk that stretch of road.

A quick check of the bikes before resuming cycling revealed that Jane had landed badly on her rear derailleur and its bottom bracket  had become twisted so the chain wouldn’t move. Ho hum….

We managed to unbend it enough to get the chain moving again but we were not long going again when “bang” – her chain jammed, the gearing twisted up into the spokes of her wheel and no way of moving unless we break of the derailleur altogther. Jane now needed new gears as well as a new hip.

Oh dear – not going so well then….

Thankfully we were on the outskirts of civilisation, in the form of Pencaitland, when this occurred so we retired to the delights of the Winton Arms to have a drink whilst an emergency call went out to Janes husband. To be fair, whatever Janes husband was doing was dropped for him to drive out and pick both bike and cyclist up to take them home for repair.

The young local football fans in the pub looked slightly bemused and confused in equal measure when my brightly coloured, lycra clad cycling crew arrived and asked for tea and coffee in the very traditional scottish pub. You could almost see the confusion written on their faces.

The good news…

Jane has since purchased a new Dawes bike. Good for you Jane…sorry it took a bruised hip and full tilt collapse onto packed ice to bring all of that about.

The other Phil and I made it back intact….and both agreed that it was a great route.

Just a shame about the weather ..and the roads…and Janes bike..and hip.

You get the picture…..


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