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Cyclist Doorstep Rides, No5: komoot ambassador Mark Beaumont's epic gravel adventure around Edinburgh

In-depth
7 May 2021
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Over an eight-week period, Cyclist and komoot are sharing some of their favourite rides and routes that are accessible from the doorstep. Our fifth instalment comes courtesy of round-the-world record holding endurance cyclist and komoot ambassador Mark Beaumont

My Cyclist Doorstep Ride is a gravel route, with small sections of road around the very edge of Edinburgh council boundary. It is 65 miles or 105km, so a big day out with friends or a half day blast if you are riding fast!

Edinburgh is a pretty unique place to live, with an extinct volcano in the middle of it (Arthur’s Seat), a historic city of just over half a million people, hemmed in by the sea on the north and the Pentland hills in the south. 

See the Cyclist Doorstep Rides Collection on komoot

This geography creates some amazing riding within a few miles of the centre where I live, and a labyrinth of old train lines that have been converted to cycle paths, so you can escape the city without having to jostle with the traffic.

Edinburgh city is one of the smallest council areas in Scotland, so I was intrigued to explore the boundary, and find the furthest circumference without entering East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian.

Finding this boundary route meant finding a GPX file online for the council boundary, importing it into Komoot, then asking the app to suggest the nearest rideable tracks on the gravel biking setting. 

The outcome was a fascinating explore on some familiar tracks, but also trails and paths that I had never considered, and wouldn’t unlikely have found myself.

On January 2nd, I set out with fellow round-the-world cyclist Markus Stitz at 6am in the snow for a 13-hour epic around-the-boundary route, enjoying following the coastline to Portobello beach before cutting inland for the biggest test, a hike-a-bike section above Hillend into the Pentlands and some tough winter riding as we headed east.

On March 21st the snow had all melted and I wanted to explore the exact same route, but this time alone and as some training for big gravel races later in the year.

So this time it took 6 hours and 2 minutes, as a flat out time-trial effort. Whilst going much faster, there were still sections where I had to push the bike, and run with it, so good all-round fitness is needed!

However, the beauty and diverse landscapes were not lost on me, despite going at twice the speed as our first winter explore.

In terms of highlights, I particularly enjoy the wilder, less explored western parts of the Pentlands, beyond Threipsmuir Reservoir.

The trails can get a big wet and boggy, but it feels like you have been dropped into the highlands of Scotland with heather hills all around and compete emptiness, before being rewarded with a fast road descent to South Queensferry and into Damleny estate, with some great fun single track along the front of the First of Forth.

Riding the route a couple of times has meant so much to me, as it has allowed me to have big adventures, whilst not being able to travel far from home.

It is a complete circumnavigation of my home county, feeling like I am in the wilds of remote Scotland yet in reality never being more than 10 miles from home as the crow flies.

It has allowed me to see ‘home’, and the familiar, in a very new and unfamiliar way – and by sharing #exploreyourboundaries on Komoot, I have loved seeing many other people also explore the route, sharing their highlights and photos.

I would suggest that a decent fitness level is needed to tackle this route, or else splitting it into two days, if the whole 65 miles is a bit intimidating in one go.

But for anyone visiting Scotland’s capital, this should become a bucket list ride, it really does showcase Edinburgh and its surrounding countryside in such a fantastic way.