The previous evening I’d set myself the challenge of greeting the dawn sunrise at Aberlady Bay Nature Reserve in East Lothian. Of course, this meant getting up a 5 o’clock in the morning, which is Silly o’clock to most normal people. But fat-bike riders are not normal people and they do silly things like riding in blizzards and, yes, getting out of a nice warm bed at the Crack of Dawn to go cycling in temperatures around freezing.
Well, I did indeed manage to drag myself from between the sheets, do all those normal things you do in the morning – mostly on automatic pilot – loaded the bike onto the car and started the 40 minute drive for Aberlady. The drive was un-eventful, as you would expect at this ungodly hour and by 6.30am I was crossing the bridge into the reserve.
My intention was to make a video of the ride and I started this immediately, recording some footage crossing the bridge. Usually when I’ve set out to make a video, I find that actually starting to film is the difficult part, especially when you have to remove gloves to set up the camera and tripod and a biting east wind does not help. But once I’ve got a few scenes in the bag, the rest becomes much easier. I suppose it’s like a writer having a blank sheet of paper before them.
I followed the trail into the reserve, stopping en-route to get some pre-dawn shots. It was deathly quite out there this morning. No wee birdies tweeting on Twitter in the bushes, no Roe deer barking my passage to their pals. I did detect the faint sound of geese in the distance and immediately thought that a big bunch of those would good to get on film.
My planned route was my usual one. Follow the trail towards the dunes then veer left at the sheep pens and then straight out for the remains of the WW2 midget submarines that have become something of a Mecca for fat-bikers, almost a right-of-passage when you get a new fat-bike.
But before we go any further let us not forget that this ride is my first on the new Pugsley, only completed the other evening.
This Pugsley was built to replace the 9zero7 I’d built during the summer which I just didn’t like. I sold the 9zero7 frame, bought a new Surly Pugsley frame and used the left-over components to build the bike. I wasn’t expecting any problems as the build was pretty much the same as my other Pugsley which is a Krampug, but still a Pugsley underneath, if you see what I meant. If not, reading my other blogs will enlighten.
I was quite pleased that everything was running smoothly. The gear change was slick, the brakes were not rubbing and the ride position was just perfect. It was only later, when back home, that I noticed some slight play in the headset and the chain tension needed adjusting, but other than that, not bad at all.
First stop was to try and get some footage of the geese I’d heard earlier, now that I was closer to the bay, I could see large numbers of geese out on the sand flats. I hoped they would all rise up together as I’ve witnessed in the past and what a sight it is. Unfortunately, for reasons of their own – probably knew I was filming – they chose to take off in smaller groups. I could see a larger group still on the sands and waited for a while to see what they would do but it was too cold to hang around.
My ride then took me to both the subs, having first ridden past the remains of an old car (above). I spent a lot if time filming, stopping, setting up the camera, riding the scene, going back for the camera, checking I’d actually got the footage I was after – making sure I’d not chopped my head off in the frame, and so on and so forth. It takes a lot of time to not go very far when making Pugsley on Patrol videos.
With enough footage of the subs in the can, I then headed back towards the dunes. By now the sun was just beginning to rise above the horizon and I thought that rather than follow the coast, I’d shoot some footage in the dunes. The early morning light on the sand and dune grasses would be ideal for filming.
It is only at this time of the year when I would even consider riding in the dunes, always leaving them alone during the summer months when birds and other wildlife are breeding. The paths through the dunes are quite fragile and while they can take a reasonable amount of fat-bike traffic I don’t like to ride them too often.
I had originally planned to ride along the coast to Muirfield but by 10 o’clock I was beginning to feel the effects of 4 hours combined riding and filming, so decided to drop down to the shore at Gullane Point to find some shelter out of the wind and stop for a brew. After a final few frames for the video, I started back to the car and then home.