From Fantasy to Reality
I had heard that riding the Lang Whang can be quite an experience. It is something I had never done, until recently, but some friends had tried it and had said it was something they recommend everyone should do; even if it was just once. So last week I decided that I would take it on and see what all the fuss is about.
I usually have an all-day ride on a Monday. It is the only day of the week when I can indulge in my fantasy rides; the ones where I want to take my time, savour the moment and make it last all day. Last Monday I aimed to take on something big so I made a plan. A hundred and fifty kilometres (ninety-three miles) with seventeen-hundred metres (five-and-a-half thousand feet) of ascent is big by most people’s standards. Merely the thought of doing it on a singlespeed bike would make any cyclists’ eyes water, but I wanted a challenge. Taking on the Lang Whang seemed like a great way to stretch myself a bit further.
Getting Up On To It is Part of the Challenge
As I was to discover, the problem with the Lang Whang was not so much handling it’s length, but the effort you need to exert to get up on it. On the morning in question I set off from home and headed for the Lanark Road, teasing my way around the outer rim of Edinburgh before plunging into the deep groove of Colinton Dell. Then after easing my way back out and catching my breath I set off up the Lanark Road; ploughing my way through Juniper Green and Currie on my way to Balerno. It would not be long before the Lang Whang was before me. By then though, I had climbed from just above sea level to over three-hundred metres (just under a thousand feet) in under 25km. Because I was on my singlespeed bike that was a fairly big exertion and I was already on my knees. But I was ready, so I opened myself up to it’s enormity and the challenge of riding it to completion.
The Perils of Riding Outdoors in Winter
It was January, so inclement weather was always going to be a possibility. Riding outdoors in Winter can often mean a high risk of you getting a bit wet or your extremeties getting cold. Luckily that Monday was mild and, although overcast, there was no rain. Unfortunately the night before had been a wet one so there was a fair bit of spray coming up from down below. There was also some unwanted wind in my face, which is always unpleasant when you are ploughing away, so I kept my head down and concentrated on keeping a steady rhythm going.
The Full Length
“Lang Whang” in Scots vernacular means “the long way”. “Lang” means long and the word “whang” was often used in reference to a long, leather bootlace. It is thought that the road called the Lang Whang was given it’s nickname by Scots poet Robert Burns because of it’s long, sinewy nature; very reminiscent of a bootlace. The route meanders South-West towards his home county of Ayrshire, from the city of Edinburgh, and rises and falls with many undulations along it’s length. As I took in it’s every inch my leg muscles were burning as I thrust myself forward. Gritting my teeth and holding out for the release that would come, I reached the climax and eased myself off upon reaching Carnwath. With sweat running down my face and stars in my eyes I looked back over my shoulder at what I had just ridden and stared in awe. I was spent.
An Insatiable Appetite
So it was true, what I had heard. Riding the Lang Whang is not for the faint of heart. It is a challenge, an accomplishment and also deeply pleasurable. Did it live up to the hype? Yes. Would I do it again? Probably. However, that was just the start of that day’s adventure. You see I have an insatiable appetite for riding. I just have to keep going!