I’m afraid I have to upset some expectations here. I did not ride a bike to Edinburgh. I might, someday; who knows… LEL doesn’t sound entirely unattractive. This time I took an airplane. But since I am dead serious about my #cycle365 mission I had to have a bike…
Why Edinburgh? It’s not that I hadn’t eaten Haggis before, but always wanted to try it. (I ended up having Haggis. Wasn’t a last. This is not a food blog. Let us move on!) The reason is that I’m a die-hard fan of track and cross-country runners Shelby and Taylor Werner. Taylor had been invited to run in the Great Edinburgh XCountry Challenge (#GEXC2017). I hadn’t had a chance to see her run live before. A race in Europe seemed like a perfect opportunity to change just that.
Immediately after booking the flights through easyJet (Friday flight to Scotland, with a return on Sunday) I started checking my options of living up to my new year’s resolution. While I could have an early morning ride in Hamburg on Friday and an evening ride on Sunday, my only option for Saturday was finding a bike I could ride in Edinburgh.
There’s the Brompton folding bike on my fleet, and it’s definitely #madefortravel. But easyJet is a low-budget airline squeezing every penny they can out of their valued customers, charging you extra for checked luggage. Taking the Brompton would have cost me over 50 EUR. On top of that there’s the fact that the folded Brompton per se is not fit to be checked as hold luggage. You’d have to put it in a case of some sort.
Brompton offer the B bag. Add an extra 200 EUR. Add having to carry the bag from the airport to the hotel. Would I use it again, or would it just sit at home collecting dust?
Fellow Bromptoneers have shared other ways of packing the bike on their websites. Various approaches include IKEA Dimpa bags and the like, where you have to remove the saddle and clamps, add padding, etc., all of which takes extra time and effort. Plus, if anything goes wrong you will have the hassle of having to get the bike repaired.
Since I was really looking at 2 days of biking (less than 48 hours) I started checking bike rentals in Edinburgh. As it turns out, Edinburgh has a number of bike shops with bikes for rent. Lucky me: There’s Biketrax, who let you rent their Brompton demo bikes. They charge a reasonable fee (2 days come at less than the easyJet luggage option). They are open Sundays (needed to return the bike). They had a Brompton S-type available for the weekend in question. Booked.
Picking up the bike was simple. I took the bus from the airport into the city center. It was a 10-minute walk from the Shandwick Place bus stop to Biketrax. They were expecting me, with the bike ready by the counter. I paid the rental fee by credit card. They also used my credit card for a 100 GBP safety deposit. Left them with a copy of my ID card. Had some chitchat with the guy behind the counter about Bromptons in general. Bought a battery-powered headlight (more on lights in a later post). And off I was. No intro into folding or anything. I must have made it clear enough that I was a Brompton owner.
The rental bike was a 2016 S2L red demo bike with the standard chain ring and the standard (a.k.a. soft) suspension block.
As I was still carrying my backpack I quickly mounted my Quad lock and had Google maps navigate me to the hotel. To be honest I was almost disappointed that nobody said a word about the bike, which stood by me folded during check-in and which I took up to my room (better than any other anti-theft solution that I am aware of).
I unpacked my bag and took off on the bike again, to check out routes and parking options for the running event the next day. Before dinner, I went on my first of a handful of rides around Arthur’s Seat. Nothing extraordinary, but mostly because I missed a turn in the dark and went on a wider circle with less elevation.
On Saturday morning I had breakfast at the Serenity Café.
Then I spent half a day watching other people run. Once Taylor had finished her race (awesome performance, placed 8th out of 63 runners), I decided to take the bike for a spin. This time I made the right turn and found myself climbing some 150 meters on the northeast end of Holyrood Park.
I managed to get up there. The road never felt as steep as the Waseberg in Hamburg, which is sort of a reference climb. Nevertheless, I must confess to having cursed the 2-speed most of the way up. (Later, upon return of the bike on Sunday, Biketrax told me they recommend the 6-speed with the -12% option to all their customers.)
On the way down, when I got up to speed, the 2-speed was not so bad. It required very high cadence, sure. I honestly think that this is not a bad thing after all. However, something else bugged me. The suspension would start to resonate. Looking at a glass half-full of water that means I made the right choice when I ordered the firm suspension block for my own Brompton. Yeah me.
On my evening ride later that day, I stumbled across the United Kingdom’s National Cycle Network. I ‘accidentally’ hit one of the dedicated bike paths. I was quite impressed. Not so much by the fact that it was a dedicated path, as in: it had on- and off-ramps, and no pedestrian let alone car crossings. More by the fact that the network has its own numbering system, excellent Google Maps support. The icing on the cake were the lights:
Bear in mind that Copenhagen and Amsterdam are still on my list of places to go because of a genuine interest in their cycling infrastructure: These dedicated bike paths in Edinburgh do set a standard that Hamburg will have to live up to on the way of becoming a “Fahrradstadt”.
On Sunday morning, I went up and around Arthur’s Seat again. After packing my bag and then returning the bike I had breakfast at The Forest Cafe, walked to the bus, rode to the airport, and flew back home.
I flew to Edinburgh to watch Taylor Werner run. I rented a Brompton from a local shop, because checking my own bike seemed too much of a hassle. I have confirmation that 2-speed Bromptons are not made for me, or that I am not made for 2-speed. Similar experiences with other Brompton features. Edinburgh is worth coming back to.