There were six riders at Brookside for our first ride of the new decade: Joseph, Averil, Richard, Martin, Alasdair and Nigel. Joseph offered to take the lead. The sky was clear and the sun was shining brightly, there was no snow on the ground, and the roads in Cambridge didn't seem icy. However there had been a heavy frost overnight, and it was still only just above freezing, and Joseph pointed out that rural roads would be slippery and suggested that we stick to main roads today. Wise advice.
So when we headed east out of Cambridge we eschewed the normal riverside route and followed the main East Road and Newmarket Road instead. Only when we reached the edge of the city did we join the cycle path alongside Newmarket Road. Although this didn't seem too slippery, it was covered with ice crystals and we cycled warily.
The route to Newmarket was along B-roads all the way. At Quy we joined the B1102 through Lode and the Swaffhams to Burwell, where we turned on to B1103 to Exning and Newmarket. These busy roads seemed quieter than normal; no doubt the cold weather had encouraged people to stay in bed a little longer than usual. Or perhaps everyone was fed up with shopping. In any case, this was a pleasant ride; the sun continued to shine brightly (as it did for the entire day) and there was no wind, so once we had ridden a few miles we were warm and comfortable.
We stopped for coffee at Waitrose, Newmarket. This was my first visit and it seemed very pleasant. Afterwards we continued east, taking the road to Moulton. This passed between racecourse training grounds and climbs gently, offering fine views of the town.
As we rode on through Suffolk it was clear that unlike further west there had been snow overnight. Although the road we were on was clear, side roads were covered with snow and ice. After Moulton we turned right onto the B1063 to Dalham. Here Joseph has planned to turn left onto a minor road but it looked too slippery and we continued to Lidgate. There, a possible right turn to Cowlinge looked treacherous (below), so we continued on the main road.
Despite having to stick to main roads, there was very little traffic and with the sun continuing to shine brightly the day was bright and the ride cheerful.
The B1063 took us through Wickhambrook to Stradishall, where we turned right onto the A143 for a couple of miles to Tubby T's cafe. Here we found Adrian and John T tucking into a all-day breakfast.
Although Tubby T's is in a handy location in the middle of some fine cycling country, and I will no doubt visit again many times, I can't say I'm a fan. The menu is composed almost entirely of fried food, and despite being almost empty (no motorcyclists today) service was rather slow. So it was at lunch that I decided that I needed to put on a few more miles to burn off all those chips. Most of the group was planning to return to Cambridge after lunch, but Alasdair said he wanted to continue to Saffron Walden and I said I would come too.
We all set off together and took the road from Sowlry Green to Great Thurlow.
At Great Thurlow everyone else continued west whilst Alasdair and I turned left on the B1061 towards Kedington and Sturmer.
At Sturmer we joined the minor road to Steeple Bumpstead. This is normally a charming little lane but today it was a technical challenge; it was icy most of the way, and required concentration and luck to stay upright. Fortunately we did, but it was good to see clear roads again at Steeple Bumpstead. From there the B1054 took us all the way to Saffron Walden, where at about 3.45pm we stopped at the Temeraire.
At the Temeraire we were joined by Gareth, who was the only afternoon rider, making this the first tea stop I have had in which day riders outnumbered the afternoon crowd.
For the route home we took the most direct route we could: Littlebury, Great Chesterford, Ickleton and the usual way home through Whittlesford and the Shelfords. I was home by 5.45pm. My cycle computer had failed, no doubt due to the low temperatures, but my GPS gadget showed that Alasdair and I had ridden a very satisfactory 68 miles.
Today's bright sunshine had protected us from the freezing temperatures, and I wasn't uncomfortably cold at any point. However when I emptied my (untouched) water bottle at home, I noticed that ice was floating at the top.
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