The Covid Cycle Club
The premise was simple. Keeping within Government guidelines we agreed to meet every Thursday afternoon to take our hour of exercise on bikes which meant we were socially distanced and getting the recommended amount of exercise and fresh air.
The minimum amount of exercise for all adults, and we qualified for that in age, if not in behaviour, is 150 minutes each week. That’s only half an hour each day for 5 days but you can do more and you should.
Walking briskly counts so you don’t have to be cycling, running, or swimming. As one well-known brand puts it ‘Just do it’. And we did just that and expanded our activities and continue to do so.
As a lifelong cyclist I was asked to find some runs that would be suitable for all. It was a real joy to show my fellow cyclists some of the routes learned over a lifetime of cycling in, around and out of the city.
One run took us from the Roseburn cycle path via the Telfer subway to Lochrin basin to have lunch on a canal boat before returning to our start point.
Restriction to city limits meant that one run went via the Innocent Railway tunnel to Joppa before returning to Leith and a well-earned coffee at the ever excellent Rocksalt.
The return was another route I knew - the sea wall around Seafield Waste Water Treatment Centre, a first for club members. We all remarked on how good it would be to join up this segment so that a coastal route could be taken from Leith to Portobello.
Once we got some miles in our legs the run through the Dalmeny Estate to South Queensferry and return became a favourite. We would stop for a bite to eat at Hound Point and admire the view, which inspired repeat trips. A return by boat under the bridges was a real highlight and inspired another couple of sailings…
Eating fresh oysters in the harbour at Inchkeith Island was a real treat from our skipper (the redoubtable William Barr – Ed). However, I would strongly advise not doing this during the gull breeding season.
As it happens, we also managed a cycle on the water as our friends at Bridge 8 Hub let us have a shot of a brand new paddlebike on the Union Canal at their space at Sighthill.
‘Land cyclists’ stopped to confirm that “these lunatics” really were cycling on water before trying their luck and asking “for a shot.” The canal became a favoured excursion, being level and easier on the joints for the less able.
There were other spin offs from our cycle club activities. One member proposed playing Boules/Petanque on the piste - that’s a sporting term not a drinking one - beside the tennis courts at Leith Links.
Unused and unloved since The Pond Petanque Players stopped playing, this brought some real interest in what we were doing.
Members of Leith Links Community Council and some local residents have returned to play, and it is our hope to return the piste here to a playable condition, rather than the glorified dog toilet which it is at the moment.
A couple of club members are now members at Inverleith Petanque Club. This led to us being part of a team that won a playoff involving the top four clubs in Scotland to win the right to be the Scottish representatives in the Euro Cup.
With 26 clubs, from Austria right through to Wales playing over four days indoors in Angouleme. This venue had 63 indoor pistes and 129 outdoor, Petanque is a big sport in France. It was quite an experience to be there seeing the top players compete. A steep learning curve from scuffing about on Leith Links to competing internationally.
Our bike runs and associated activities have involved frank conversations on men’s health. Such as managing blood pressure, irregular heartbeats and arthritis diagnosis, all during a viral epidemic, which is still out there impacted our lives in different ways and taking lives as you read this.
Our journey has deepened friendships whilst encouraging rivalries regarding new bike purchases and speculation about which member will be the first to get an electric bike (this member says it’s a good idea, given the number of hills in Edinburgh). The best thing of all is, it has been wonderful fun.
Lately, we met in our unofficial club house - the Scotch Malt Whisky Society on Giles Street - to plan our 2023 season which started with a short off road run for lunch at Saughton Winter Gardens. We have had, and will continue to have, adventures in bike land. ■
The writer’s cycle club is best represented by the image top left. Image: postercabaret.com