The original volcano loop - real life Zwift
When the weathers bad or time is limited but you just want some quick intervals then hopping on the indoor trainer, logging on to Zwift and riding a loop of watopia can seem like a quick solution. If you can face the weather though then I have a short ride that's just as quick, variable and more fulfilling than any digital simulation. This short inner city 5.27km loop has it all: a 1.43km climb, some short sharp steep sections, a gradual incline, a fast technical descent and two flat sections before repeating it all over again and again.
The ride stats
5.27km : Distance
110m : Elevation gained
1 : Climb
2/10 : Epic Matt Scale
This inner city loop circumnavigates Arthur's seat, Edinburgh's very own dormant volcano, within the grounds of Holyrood Park and commands incredible views over the city skyline. There aren't many places you can ride which offer stunning views of the whole cityscape whilst still on relatively quiet roads. With a fixed clockwise oneway system for half of the ride and a 20mph (31kph) speed limit it makes for a safe circuit. Yes it's only a short loop but it has a bit of everything for everyone.
There are four main access points by road to the Arthur loop. Usually I join from the south starting my first loop with a slight downhill warmup and followed by the flat section/gradual rise past Holyrood Palace towards the small Loch at the base of the climb. Theres often a westerly tailwind here which gives a bit of light relief and a small push up the start of the hill but don't be fooled getting a free ride right to the top.
The gradient although only at 4-6% initially hits a section of 10-13% half way up. This is where you'll really feel the burn and its a good idea to pace your effort before giving that extra push up over this steeper section. If you're worried about traffic there are ample passing/car-parking places on the way up, as I mentioned previously cars are limited to 20mph but be aware that its a popular route for tourists and short cut for taxi drivers so they can quickly come up behind you as you push on to the top. After the steeper section the gradient starts to dial back again to between 5-8% towards the top at Loch Dunsapie and often its where you can start to face the prevailing westerly wind.
Turning the corner before the loch you'll be met wi the view over to the summit of Arthu's seat, often silhouetted with small armies of people clambering all over. It's only a short section before the top now and from here its a fast flat section beside Dunsapie Loch all along the east and south side of Arthur. Here's where you'll often be really fully exposed to that westerly wind but if your careful you can still hit speeds up to 40kph sheltering along the winding road. As the road is all one way from the base of the climb theres less worry of meeting a car round a blind bend but I have been met several times by the unsuspecting driver whose in a rental car going the wrong way so be careful when your going into the red and flying around this section.
The final stretch of this loop after the westerly flat section has a short kick followed up with an offering of views over to Edinburgh Castle and the rest of the central city scape. Don't stop to gaze here too long though as it's all about speed as the hill drops away to 15%. An easy short right hander followed by a steeper left hander downwards is only made technical by the roundabout at the end, then its a steady right hand descent and the beginning of the whole loop all over again.