Sunday, 26 April 2015

Rides in May and June

Our rides lists for May and June are now available. Long days mean that our Sunday rides can have longer routes, with the addition of an afternoon tea stop. Many of these rides will be visiting various church halls for their delights of home-made tea and cakes.

Look out for two car-assisted rides on the last Sundays of May and June. On these days there will be no normal Sunday rides. On Sunday 31st May we offer a choice of two different rides: a car-assisted ride along NCN6 in Northants, or a longer, challenging ride from Brookside to Whitwell in Herts.

On Sunday 28th June there is no ride from Brookside; this time we offer two car-assisted rides in the rolling countryside near Rutland Water. These will have the same rendezvous/start point with a choice of a shorter, leisurely, ride or a longer, hillier ride.

The rest of our weekly rides also get a little taste of summer. Our Thursday rides get a little bit longer over the summer and our Wednesday evening rides continue each week. Meanwhile we continue our bimonthly "short Saturday social" rides and our weekly Tuesday seniors rides.

We urgently need some more leaders for the Sunday rides - any ride marked as "leader needed" needs a leader. Please email Rupert (runs secretary) to volunteer if you can lead one of these rides. We would also welcome a volunteer leader for two of the Tuesday senior rides when David (our regular Tuesday leader) is taking some holiday. Again, please email Rupert to volunteer. Contact details here.

26 Sep: Sunday ride to St Neots and Biggleswade

Alex writes: Maybe it was the dull weather, or maybe members were keeping their powder dry for next week's cycling jaunt in Suffolk, but only three of us assembled as Brookside for this morning's ride: me, Ian D and John Ross (today's ride leader).

Undaunted, we struck out through the centre of town, up Castle Hill and out through Girton, soon joining the Cambridge/St Ives busway heading West. The sky was leaden and there were spits of moisture in the air. In bird news, John pointed out a White Throat and Warblers warbled at us from the reeds.

And above them the sky

At Fenstanton, John took us left onto a new-to-the-club track, which was rough and gravelly, requiring concentration to thread through the potholes. Soon we re-joined the tarmac and continued West on the pleasantly quiet roads. In one of the many groups of cyclists passing on the other side of the road, suddenly one started waving at us: it was John J, out for a practice ride in preparation for a charity event.

Shortly after 11 o’clock we reached St Neots and, pulling up at market square, found 10 other members already settled in at the Market CafĂ©.

St Neots, Market Square

No cake here. I ordered a bacon baguette and watched with some jealously as Ian D devoured a stack of bacon and sausage sandwiches - with brown sauce.

Alas, not mine!

The weather was still dull, but David W was counteracting it with his fluoro argyle socks.

The fashion bar is raised

After the usual comings and goings, seven of us were to head on to lunch. Richard led us neatly out of St Neots and onto more remarkably quiet country lanes heading towards Biggleswade. As usual, Adrian decided to find some adventure for himself by going offroad for an alternative route and a taste of the “rough stuff”.

South of Duloe

At Jordan’s Mill I was tempted to roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding, and then further tempted to some Victoria Sponge and coffee. Over the meal it transpired that no member much fancied going on to tea in Ashwell, and so we resolved all to head home our separate ways.

Sunday lunch

I stuck with John who took us south, across the A1, and then on to Gamlingay on roads which remained pleasantly sparse of motor vehicles. We passed a hovering kestrel and a soaring buzzard. John set a good brisk pace and before long we arrived in Toft where we split, with me heading back to Cambridge through Barton; when I arrived home I had cycled 123km (76 miles).

Download GPS track (GPX).

25 Apr: Pork Pie Perm 200km Audax

Nigel writes: Today I joined Gareth on a 200km Audax ride from Cambridge to Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire. On a bright and breezy spring day it allowed me to visit a part of the region which I have rarely visited on a bike, and to push myself into cycling rather further than I usually do. .

Audax is a form of cycle touring where riders aim to visit a sequence of controls by following a set route. It's not a race, although there is a time limit for completing the ride which places riders under a certain amount of pressure.

Audax rides can be organised mass-participating events, with an organiser planning the route and operating the control points. They can also be more "DIY" affairs, with individuals planning their own route in advance, registering it with Audax UK, and then doing it on their own. In this case they collect shop or ATM receipts (or record a GPS track) as proof of their achievement. Today's ride was somewhere between the two: the participants would be just me and Gareth, but the route we took was a "permanent" route, designed by a local Audax UK member and already registered with Audax UK. Of the two of us, only Gareth was actually registered to collect points for the ride; I was just there for the journey.

Our ride today was the "Cambridge Pork Pie 200 perm", described temptingly on the Cambridge Audax website. The name, of course, reflects the fatty meat pie for which Melton Mowbray is famous.

I got up early and set off from Cambridge at about 7.35am to meet Gareth at the official start point of the ride, which was the Co-op in Girton. I arrived there just before 8am and was soon joined by Gareth, who called into the shop to obtain a receipt bearing the place and time which would serve as official proof of the start of the ride.

8am: Gareth emerges from the Co-op in Girton after obtaining a timestamped receipt

When setting off for a long bike ride it is always best to divide it, both practically and psychologically, into distinct stages with food stops in between. Today's ride divided neatly into four 30-mile stages: Cambridge to Oundle, Oundle to Melton Mowbray, Melton Mowbray to Oundle by a mostly different route, and finally Oundle back via a mostly different route to Cambridge.

The first stage started off on familiar ground, along the busway to St Ives before cutting north-west to Abbots Ripton and Sawtry. The first hour was cool and drizzly, but soon after St Ives the rain stopped, the sky brightened and the sun came out. There was a light but constant south-westerly wind. Periodically when we turned west we found ourselves riding into a headwind but for the most part it was just a side-wind and wasn't too much of a problem.

WW2 memorial near Lutton, just after crossing into Northamptonshire

After Sawtry we continued north-west and crossed from dull, flat Cambridgeshire into Northamptonshire. The landscape became more scenic, the local building material changed to light-brown stone, and the roads became quieter. I remarked how nice it was to cycle through, especially as the sun had now come out.

After a few more miles we arrived in Oundle, where we stopped for refreshments at one of several cafes in this very pretty small town. This was the first official control point of the ride, so, whilst I was waiting for my beans on toast, Gareth slipped outside to visit a nearby ATM and obtain another piece of paper proving his location and time.

Late breakfast at The Coffee Tavern, Oundle

For the next stage we continued north-west towards Melton Mowbray. This section of the ride was noticeable by a succession of descents into small river valleys followed by an immediate climb out the other side. The first of these was at Harringworth, where we crossed the River Welland.


Although we had no choice but to drop down into the Welland Valley and climb up the other side, when the East Midland Railway was constructed here in 1875 its builders had other ideas, and built one of Britain's longest railway viaducts across the valley instead.

Nigel enters England's smallest county (Photo: Gareth Rees)

We continued north-west, through Seaton, Glaston and Wing. This was a pleasant undulating landscape I remembered visiting last year on a CTC car-assisted ride from Wistow and the year before in a CTC car-assisted ride from near Stamford.

Gareth climbs up to Glaston

Nigel climbs up from the River Chater towards Manton (Photo: Gareth Rees)

When we reached Manton, about three miles south of Oakham, we joined the A6003 for a couple of miles. This took us right past the western edge of Rutland Water, but I couldn't see any sign of it.

Decorative garden in a bleak roadside location on the A6003 south of Oakham

We turned off the main road and rode into Oakham. On a Saturday morning this was busy and congested, but it didn't take us to get through the town and before long we were on quiet toads once more.

This speed sign in Oakham displays 16mph as Gareth approaches

As we approached the border with Leicestershir, signs along the road made us aware aware that a major professional cycle race was due to take place in this area the following day: the Rutland-Melton International CiCLE Classic.

Tomorrow's cycling event

Several teams were already in the area, warming up and researching the course.

Cycling team out for a recce

We arrived in Melton Mowbray at 1.30pm. We called at a butcher's in the High Street where Gareth bought some Pork Pies to take home and, more importantly, obtained yet another timestamped receipt.

Nigel outside our nominal destination in Melton Mowbray(Photo: Gareth Rees)

We then stopped for lunch. I spotted a quiet restaurant behind a market stall and we went in for a pleasant lunch of penne bolognaise - and a welcome rest.

Lunch in Melton Mowbray

After lunch we set off back south. This third stage would take us back to Oundle, taking a more westerly, and much hillier, route than our journey here. We were soon out of Melton and cycling up our first hill along a remarkably smooth, gated, road which forms part of NCN 64. This was the first of many times today where I was very impressived by the smoothness and high standard of maintenance of minor roads. Well done Leicestershire.

Smooth, gated road over Gartree Hill south of Melton

Despite the sometimes punishing hills this was easily the nicest part of the ride, with lovely scenery, and roads which were not only very smooth but surprisingly quiet.

Eventually we reached Glaston where we rejoined the route we had taken in the morning for the last few miles into Oundle via Harringworth, Bulwick and Southwick.

Descending for our second visit to Harringworth, with a fine view of the Welland Viaduct

Plethora of choices on offer at Harringworth

I had spotted a group of pro cyclists by the side of the road earlier. One of them had given me a dutiful wave as I passed. Now they were behind them and I braced myself to be passed at speed. With a distinct draft of air they passed me, their support car just behind them. We were going slightly downhill and they cruising along at a relaxed pace, and for a moment I considered tagging on the back before thinking better of it. Instead I followed them for just long enough to take a picture.

The JLT Condor professional racing team cruises past, followed by their support car

Whilst I had been distracted by the JLT team, Gareth had stopped to take a photo of a Red Kite.

A red kite flats lazily overhead (Photo: Gareth Rees)

The "Alpes de Leicestershire" had been hard work and our pace had lessened, particularly for Gareth who was riding steadily but who was not on his normal nippy form today. We arrived back in Oundle at 5.30pm. This time we stopped at Beans Cafe, where we ordered milkshakes and cakes which we enjoyed whilst sitting outside, contemplating the final stage back to Cambridge. By now we had ridden 102 miles, so we were entitled to feel tired.

Milkshakes and cake at Beans cafe, Oundle, before the final stage to Cambridge

The final stage of the ride began by taking a more southerly route than in the morning, though Winwick and Mamerton to Alconbury Weston. Fortunately this was fairly flat and easy. Also, the expected rain had not returned and the afternoon gradually transformed into a fine, sunny evening.

Ford at Alconbury Weston

After Alconbury we were on familar, if tedious ground. We crossed the A1(M) and A14 and followed Ermine Street into Huntingdon. After an uneventful half-circuit of its ghastly one-way town centre ring road (a sad planning error which more or less destroys Huntingdon as a nice place to either visit or live) we were on our way to Godmanchester and the familar off-road path across Eastside Common to the Hemingfords. We were soon in St Ives where I turned on my lights for the final few miles down to busway to Cambridge.

We reached the Co-op in Girton at 8.30pm, making this a slightly slower ride than on some earlier 200km Audaxes, but still comfortably within the Audax time limits. Here we stopped whilst Gareth popped in to get another receipt.

Gareth returns to the Girton Co-op to buy a well-deserved beer and, more importantly, obtained a timestamped receipt

Garmin display at the official end of the ride

I rolled on into Cambridge and arrived home at 8.50pm, having cycled a total of 141 miles, which rather unexpectedly matches the personal record I set almost five years ago for my longest ride ever, as well as incrementing my Eddingdon Number to 76.

Download GPS track (GPX).

Full details of the route, including route sheets and GPX files more suitable for navigation, can be found on the Cambridge Audax Site.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

23 Apr: Thursday ride to Newport and Great Saling

Edward writes: Today's weather forecast proved accurate to a fault; a cool, overcast start followed by sunny blue skies to arrive before lunch.

Not discouraged by the cool start about twenty five riders assembled in Hauxton for our ride out to Great Saling for lunch and taking in Newport for coffee.

At the start Photo: John Ferguson

Today's leader was Sarah and we left Hauxton in two groups to head out to the A505 at Whittlesford.


In many recent rides we have had to contend with a cold easterly wind, but today the wind was minimal but even so it still persisted from the east. The early stages of the ride felt quite cold but a good stretch of the legs up Coploe Hill is always good to get the circulation going.

Coploe Hill

As is our custom we re-grouped at the usual place on the top of the hill before racing away down to Catmere End.

The Throng on Coploe Hill

Coploe Hill

This was followed by the approach to Littlebury Green and the turning which after a few more climbs leads to the long descent to Wendens Ambo.

Near Littlebury Green

The village roads are narrow and when we came across an oil tanker making a delivery it completely blocked the road causing us to carefully thread our way past. We soon joined the B1383 for the last mile or so into Newport and Dorrington's for our first break of the day. Inside we were joined by Doug, Peter W, Vic and Craig and despite the numbers the staff were able to fulfil our orders in quick time.

Coffee stop in Newport Photo: John Ferguson

At 11.40 we left Newport, again in two groups, and climbed out of the village to make for the turn to Debden and now joined the very pleasant, undulating ride up to Thaxted.



For once the our two groups maintained their positions and kept apart from one another - no doubt due to some firm leadership - as we made our way along to Little Bardfield and then Great Bardfield where we stopped for a short pause. The Vine pub in the village has a bike perched on its roof, no doubt a feature of last year's Tour de France.

The Vine, Great Bardfield

After Great Bardfield we soon turned off the main road and joined a particularly pleasant route (two swallows were seen along here and we see now also the appearance of so many cowslips in the verges), through Bardfield Saling, Crow's Green, and finally onto the airstrip at Great Saling reaching it about 1.20pm.

Towards Bardfield Saling

Already there was Bill and shortly after Steve rolled up and lunch was very pleasant with everybody sitting outside to enjoy a beautiful day under the promised blue skies. The little cafe at the airfield coped extremely well with so many people including their usual visit by bikers on their vintage motor cycles.

Lunch at Andrew's Field Photo: John Ferguson

At 2.10pm the call to leave was sounded and we left the airfield to head north east and for the first time felt a slight breeze against us.

Leaving Andrew's Field, Great Saling

Sarah took us through Shalford Green and Shalford where we turned onto the delightful lanes which run for about four miles up to Finchingfield. Now what happened next was quite mysterious as somehow in Finchingfield Sarah and Mike CC became detached from everybody else and took the road to Steeple Bumpstead rather than Helions Bumpstead! How could this happen? Maybe they were right and everybody else was wrong. Between Finchingfield and Helions Bumpstead we rode through a sea of bright yellow oil seed rape which now seems to be everywhere.

The Lanes approaching Finchingfield

All was well that ends well and we all met up again in Helions Bumpstead and proceeded on to Castle Camps which signalled the end of the climbing as we made the most of the long descent into Bartlow and soon we reached Linton. The ride was nearing its end as we crossed into Little Abington followed by the farm track into Babraham, the cycle way into Sawston, Stapleford and Great Shelford where we arrived at exactly 4.56pm.

Waiting for the lost leader Photo: John Ferguson

Our 'lost leader' at Helions Bumpstead

Those going back to Hauxton would have had a round trip of 65 miles. This was almost a textbook ride - the groups stayed apart and all went the same way, well apart from losing our leader for a little while, the weather was near perfect and the Essex and Cambridgeshire countryside looked its finest. What more could we ask for? Edward Elmer

Download GPS track (GPX).