An early, though slightly later than planned start, saw me parking the car at the old whinstone quarry at Galla Hill, situated on a sharp bend where the A198 cuts through Luffness Links golf course, between Aberlady and Gullane. I prefer this location rather than the parking area at the entrance to Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve just outside Aberlady. Why? It’s never busy here and you don’t have to dodge all the visitors walking dogs along the narrow path leading out into the reserve. Off course, the only downside is you have to cross the golf course – on a tarmac access road, I should add – not the actual course itself. But that’s not really an issue.
I’ve been kind-of “off” cycling the last few months, mostly due to recurring back ache but things have been better recently and to give me a wee boose to entice me to get back on the saddle, I treated Pugsley to a pair of Surly Nate tyres for his (early) Christmas.
They were bought online from Triton Cycles on the Monday and arrived on the Wednesday. How’s that for service? I recall when I built my first Pugsley about four years ago I had to source tyres from the USA. Nates were not available in those days. It was Endomorph’s or nothing. Interestingly, they arrived just as quickly as the Nates did in the UK.
Fitting the tyres was a doddle. I’d bought the 120 tpi (threads per inch) version with the Kevlar bead, same as the Larry tyes I’m using at present. This makes swapping tyres so much easier than some wire beaded tyres.
Start by removing the wheel from the frame and deflate the inner tube, removing the valve cap and lock collar. Next, break tyre to rim seal by pushing each side of the tyre into the centre of the rim. Then, simply pull one side of the tyre outwards and over the rim. You can do this with or without tools, just using your fingers, but watch you don’t trap them between rim and tyres.
Fitting the Nates was just as easy. I always dust the inner tubes with talcum powder. This helps the inner tube slide freely inside the tyre casing, helping to prevent pinch flats. Pinch flats can also be avoided by keeping a small amount of air in the tube. Just enough to give it shape but not too much that you have difficulty seating the tyre.
My route followed the tarmac access road across the golf course, past the ever-smelly water treatment works, past a couple of shipping containers lurking in the Sea Buckthorn and along the main track out towards the dunes. Plently of Roe deer about at this time of the morning.
My first target for the day was the remains of the XT-type midget submarines out in the bay. It was low tide so plenty of time to cross the sand flats. It was hard going on the sand this morning. Not only was the surface of the beach deeply rippled but the sand was also very soft. The hard packed berms of the summer months seemed to be absent.
I then followed the shore eastwards. My plan this morning was flexible. If I felt like it I would follow the shore to North Berwick and return inland along the John Muir Way. If I didn’t feel like it, I would probably go as far as Archerfield and return from there. I do tend to find myself lingering along the coast here as there is just so much to see and explore. I have a hard time not stopping to watch birds, hunt for sea shells, rocks and fossils, take photographs, spot any bricks encountered on the way, and so on and so forth. Which is probably the reason I like to ride alone. No-one else to bother about!
The light at this time of the day is fantastic. The sun was still fairly low, rising above the Garlton Hills to the south and casting long shadows of self and Pugsley. Just had to take some snaps. You can see how rippled the sand surface is in the image below.
There are a handful of ship wrecks along the sand between the subs and Gullane Point and every day they are different. The sand seems always to be on the move. Sometimes the wrecks are almost completly buried. At others times, you can even see the bottom timbers of the hull. The light is always different as well and I must have hundreds of images of me, Pugsley and the wrecks stored away.
Rounding Gullane Point, I heard a commotion amoungst the rocks and soon picked up a couple of stoats having a go at each other. There were quite close by and heading in my direction so was able to get the camera ready and zoomed in. However, a bloody collie dog shot past me and chased them away. I wish people would control their dogs rather than let them run wild. The owner actually said she hadn’t seen animals like those before and were they otters? Being slightly annoyed I was tempted to yes they were but didn’t, telling her they were indeed stoats.
My route continued to follow the shore, keeping to the beach were possible and using the many dunes trails when encountering rocky outcrops. The low tide was not low enough this morning to allow me to ride along the sea edge all the way to Eyebroughty. I was hoping to explore the island now that nesting had finished but will have to wait for a lower tide.
The beaches were pretty much deserted with only a few people on the beach at Gullane. Nice to have the place to myself. 10.30 am is coffee and Kit-Kat time and I found a nice sheltered spot near the caves at Hanging Rocks. I then headed inland following the tracks part-way across Sandy Knowe before dropping down onto the beach again to look for rocks and agate. Found a few interesting samples to take home for the shed display.
At Red House, I headed inland along what has become known as the “Baked Bean Trail” in local fat biking circles, taking its name from the bright orange berries of the Sea Buckthorn that line the paths along this part of the coast. I’ve taken the image shown below previously and couldn’t resist taking another. I reckon a fat bike could be easily classed as a “course vehicle”?
As it was nearing lunch time I wanted an spot with a good view and decided to head up the the summit of Gullane Hill to the bench at the Millenium Cairn. Unfortunatley, the bench was missing and I had to settle for an alternative location. But with a view like this who’s complaining?
And finally, the Nates. To be honest I did not find any noticeable difference between riding the Pugsley with Nates and riding shod with Larry’s. They do take a bit more effort to pedal than the Larry’s but nothing too arduous. They might have provided better grip on the rain saturated grass path up the Gullane Hill but nothing really obvious. The Nates are noticeably noisier on tarmac and on compacted sand, sounding like a passing Landrover. However, I must admit that they do make Pugsley look that little bit more knarly which I don’t mind at all.
I’ve yet to try them in muddy forest conditions where I think they will provide their true worth when coping with slipppery roots and muddy trails. I don’t think I’ll use them for day-to-day cycling prefering the Larry’s but will be looking forwards to testing them on snow, if any arrives this winter.