Thursday, 30 September 2010
As we enter autumn our weekly rides programme continues with up to five rides a week.
As always, our rides lists are subject to change, but you can always obtain the latest version from this website. If a ride is cancelled it will normally be announced here. In addition, members who are subscribed to our email discussion list will be notified by email.
Monday, 27 September 2010
The route took us along familiar roads through Great Shelford, Fulbourn and up to Great and Little Wilbraham, where I took off my fleece, but replaced my outer jacket. Crossing the A1303, I rode through Bottisham, turning up to Swaffham Bulbeck where we had to answer the first question on the Brevet card. I also found Malcolm and Mike mending a puncture – the first of three that day!
From the Swaffhams, we turned south following the ‘Newmarket Cycleway’ to Dullingham – still on familiar territory from Sunday afternoon rides, but then branched left towards Burrough Green, climbing the hill into Great Bradley and on to our first checkpoint at Little Thurlow around 11.30am. 40.4km down and "only" 63.6 to go. Simon P was waiting there with Gwen, dispensing drinks and some very sustaining chelsea buns to help us on our way. I arrived around the same time as David (from Surrey), an experienced Audax rider who I had chatted to along the way.
The route sheet directed us along a narrow "yellow" road to Carlton Green, which would have been quite scenic but for the steady drizzle. We dropped down to West Wickham, but the payback was a climb up to Balsham pedalling into the wind. From Balsham, the B1052 took us down to Linton across the A1307 and a long climb up to Hadstock. (I'm not sure I would have made it without that Chelsea bun!). The road levelled off and then dropped downhill to Saffron Walden, where we found the lunchtime checkpoint at the Mocha Cafe, manned by Ian D. Never has a ham and cheese bap with pasta side salad tasted so good, and hot chocolate, normally too sickly for me, provided welcome extra calories for the afternoon ride ahead. Mike and Malcolm arrived shortly afterwards (delayed by Mike’s second puncture), with Gwen providing encouraging back-up.
The intermittent morning drizzle was replaced in the afternoon by unrelenting rain as we headed out of Saffron Walden towards Wendens Ambo, some cyclists already using their lights, taking the road to Arkesden and then Duddenhoe End and Langley. The quiet lanes, green fields & pretty hamlets would have been lovely in bright sunshine, but today it was more head down and pedal determinedly on, as we swooped down to Little Chishill and then up to Barley. By now it was 4.30pm and the 5.08pm deadline was looming, but having cycled this far and being this wet there was no way I was going to give up! The road to Flint Cross seemed interminable, but at Fowlmere, the end was in sight. I arrived back at Hauxton at 4.50pm, fingers almost too numb to sign the Brevet card. Jacob and Mike S, lone riders from the afternoon ride, also arrived, and David, who had been delayed by a puncture, checked in about 5pm. We all sat down to thaw out and enjoy a welcome cup of tea.
Thanks to Simon for a varied and pleasant route – it's a shame he wasn’t able to organise similar weather conditions!
Today was the Cambridge 200km Randonee, an event organised by Simon Proven on behalf of CTC Cambridge and in conjunction with Audax UK. I had ridden a couple of 100km Audax rides in recent years (a 100km ride would leave from Hauxton a few hours later), but this was to be my first “200K”. At 124 miles (I always think in miles) this would be my longest ride ever, and only my third ride to exceed 100 miles.
I loaded a pannier with wet weather clothes and enough food for a picnic. I filled a small flask with coffee - I thought it might prove comforting whilst sheltering in a bus stop somewhere – and then set off for the 25 minute ride down to Hauxton Village Hall from where the ride was due to depart at 8am.
When I arrived at the start I found about twenty people preparing to depart. Quite a few people had registered but didn't turn up. Most people were from other cycling clubs, but I spotted Gareth, Chris and newcomer (but experienced Audaxer) Tony from CTC Cambridge. There was just time for me to collect my brevet card and drink a cup of tea. Then we assembled outside. Simon gave us a short briefing (an awkward turn here, a patch of loose gravel there) and then we were off.
A Randonnee (or Audax - the terms are often used interchangeably though they have distinct meanings) isn't a race. It's more of an endurance event. Participants are given a detailed route sheet with turn-by-turn directions. Spaced at intervals along the route are “control points”, where you either get your “brevet card” stamped by someone sitting outside a cafe or collect a sticker from the people inside. There are also “information controls”, which are simply places where you have to stop and answer a question such as the words on a sign. There's a photo of my completed brevet card near the bottom of this report.
Simon had divided the route into four “stages”, with a cafe stop at the end of each stage. The first stage was 30 miles. We first headed south to Fowlmere and Melbourn before turning north-west through Bassingbourn, up Croydon Hill and on through Gamlingay to St Neots. This was familiar countryside and I was able to follow the route without needing to use the route sheet.
After setting off from Hauxton I found myself riding in quite a large group at what seemed a moderate and restrained pace. Although a couple of people had soon disappeared into the distance it was clear that most people were starting cautiously, fully aware that they had a very long ride ahead of them. But with the northerly wind behind us the pace soon increased. I knew I would not be able to keep up with these other, more experienced, riders for long but I was keen to hang on for as long as possible and so soon found myself riding along at an alarmingly fast speed.
At Melbourn we turned north-west and into the wind, which made me even more determined to stick with the group and shelter behind them. And this I managed to do, as did Gareth, and we arrived in St Neots in a large group for the end of the first stage and a coffee stop in the Market Place. We had done 30 miles – a quarter of the way.
George and Peter were sitting outside Cafe Nero stamping brevet cards. After getting our cards stamped, Gareth and I went into the rather more basic Market Cafe next door; I ordered tea and a toasted sandwich.
Both Gareth and I were keen to stick with our group, so when the others prepared to move on, we did the same and after a 30 minute stop we were back on our way. We saw Chris arriving just as we left.
The second stage of the ride was a further 30 miles. As before, Gareth and I adopted a group of faster riders and tried to cling on, which we managed to do for most of the way. Our route took us west from St Neots, across the A1 and into Bedfordshire. After a series of small villages we reached Sharnbrook, where the use of a warm-coloured stone as the predominant building material shows how far we have travelled from Cambridge. But I didn't have time to admire the scenery (or take photos); I was concentrating on not getting left behind. After a while my legs began to protest, with occasional twinges of cramp – something I very rarely experience in normal club cycling. The sensible thing would be to stop and take on some calories, but it wasn't long before lunch and I decided I would stick with the group.
Just beyond Sharnbrook we turned south and crossed the River Great Ouse. We then followed the river west for a few miles before turning north towards Olney, crossing the river once again just before we entered this pretty stone-built town. This was the end of our second stage. It was 12.30pm and we had now completed 60 miles; just under half way. My moving average speed from the start was 14.8mph, despite the wind, making this by a long way the fastest 60 miles I had ever ridden.
We all had lunch in Beans Cafe in Olney. We queued up to order our food (and collect little coloured stickers for our brevet cards) and, expecting to be starving, ordered both soup and a jacket potato with beans. However this was when I experienced the second physiological novelty of the ride: I had absolutely no appetite. The soup was delicious but I couldn't face the potato. Gareth patiently explained that this was to be expected: digesting food takes energy, and my body didn't have any to spare.
After 30 minutes Gareth was keen to get moving again, so the two of us set off together leaving the others to enjoy a more leisurely lunch. Our third stage was the longest of the ride: this would take us 48 miles north-east to Sawtry - directly into the wind. Even without the wind, this was the time to slow right down and take it easy, switching to the lowest gears at even the slightest incline. The change of pace was a big relief and it was pleasant to be able to relax and chat to Gareth as we rode along. We had plenty of time in hand now.
At Swineshead, 20 miles from Olney, I stopped to replace the batteries in my GPS gadget. Gareth carried on, leaving me to follow on my own. As a result my pace slowed even further, and I was overtaken by a series of other riders who taken longer for lunch. But it was nice to ride at my own pace for a while.
I crossed over the A14 at Spaldwick and continued north, through a landscape that became steadily flatter and duller, towards Sawtry where I stopped for an information control near a line of recycling bins.
This marked the most northerly point in the ride. I had ridden 30 miles since lunch in Olney, so I paused for a few minutes to eat a banana and chew a sandwich. Several other riders arrived, including Tony who stopped to eat a tin of rice pudding and then stayed with me for the remainder of the stage to St Ives.
The 20 miles from Sawtry to St Ives took us south-east, giving us a tailwind for most of the way and in consequence our speed rose significantly. It also started to rain. We had had a bit of drizzle earlier, but this was proper rain, which became quite heavy at times and was to continue for the rest of the ride.
We arrived in St Ives at 5.25pm. The control point was at the “Local Cafe” in the main street, where I collected another coloured sticker, drank a mug of hot chocolate and ate a bowl of apple pie and custard (nothing much else on the menu tempted).
After a short break I was ready to set off for the final stage: 22 miles from St Ives to Hauxton via Fenstanton, Knapwell, Bourn and Kingston. Tony left ahead of me so I was riding on my own. I know this route from memory, so I put my route sheet away. It was still raining and the sky was quite dark; I turned on my lights.
With a tailwind all the way I made rapid progress; I seemed to be spending about half the time freewheeling. It was probably just as well that the final stage was so easy since I was beginning to suffer from the third unfamiliar physiological novelty of the ride: chafing, something I thought my leather saddle had made me immune to. Perhaps it was those new shorts. More probably it was simply the length of time I had been in the saddle – 10 or 11 hours.
I arrived at Hauxton Village Hall just before 7.30pm. Tony had arrived a few minutes before me, whilst Gareth was leaving for home just as I arrived. (Chris arrived about an hour later).
After handing my brevet card to Simon and drinking a cup of tea I headed back home to Cambridge. It was now quite dark but the rain had stopped. I arrived home just before 8.45pm. The Randonee had been 130 miles (210km). Including the ride from home and back, I had cycled 141 miles.
View this GPS track on a larger map
Thanks are due to Simon Proven for organising this event, and to the other helpers who assisted at the first control point and in Hauxton Village Hall. In addition to spending a long day running the event itself (plus the 100km randonee), Simon also researched the route, arranged the control points and rode the whole distance last week just to double-check everything. Thanks Simon! Nigel Deakin
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
We headed south-east out of Cambridge along Hills Road to Addenbrookes. We then joined the new cycle track along the A1307 which took us as far as Wandlebury.
When the cycle track ended we rejoined the road and continued for a further two miles as far as the turn to Babraham. This section of the A1307 is fast and busy though it was mostly downhill and we were only on it for about ten minutes. We rarely use this road on CTC rides but with the limited time available this allowed us to get out of Cambridge quickly.
We rode through Babraham and turned onto the off-road path that leads to the footbridge over the A11 and on to Abington. This peaceful path was lovely after the busy road before.
From Abington we climbed the hill to Balsham. Here, with the light rapidly declining, we reluctantly turned for home. The road to Fulbourn is slightly downhill and allowed us some exhilarating fast cycling.
When we reached Fulbourn we passed the White Hart pub, which looked inviting so we stopped here instead of the planned Baker's Arms nearby. Like last week, we ordered food as well as drinks and sat outside in the warm evening air.
After a short while we continued back to Cambridge via Fulbourn Old Drift and The Tins. We were back in central Cambridge by about 8.45pm, after cycling 22 miles with a moving average speed of 14.2 mph.
View this GPS track on a larger map
Tuesday, 21 September 2010
From there we went to Bridgham and then took the unsurfaced road to the South. We stopped for coffee at the same place where we stopped 2 months ago (my flask which I had left last time was still there). we continued to the end and turned right on the surfaced road, eventually joining the Thetford - Diss road to Shadwell and Brettenham then turning right for Bridgham and back to The Angel (past the St George English Whisky Distillery) for a large lunch. We chatted with some local businessmen including a former member of the Chester and North Wales D.A. After lunch we rode to Larling, Shropham, Great Hockham, East Wretham and Illington back to The Angel. Total 29 miles, sorry no pictures as I forgot my camera. Peter Rowell
With Battle of Britain events on over the country, I decided to take the DNA path to the Shelfods, Whittlesford then Duxford. There was no event on, but I hoped to hear a couple of Rolls Royce Merlin engines overhead, in the end we saw a lone Spitfire.
From Duxford we waved goodbye to the flat roads and started on the undulating hills that surround Saffron Walden. We rode from Duxford up to Strethall then swung around to pass Audley End with some long climbs, fast descents and splendid views.
We cycled through Saffron Walden then followed the Ashdon road to tea at the Ashdon Museum.
The pace had been reasonably quick, so we arrived at tea a little early, just in time to see 6 or so riders from the day ride leaving. Everyone appeared to have their energetic legs on today.
The route home was more direct via the Abingdons, arriving back in Cambridge with the light fading fast, if it had been a later tea, I would certainly have needed my lights.
46 miles on the clock at home. Ian Driver
Photos by Julia Hochbach.
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
When we reached Six Mile Bottom we stopped for a breather. We then followed the A1304 north for a short distance before turning right onto the track that leads to the level crossing at Westley Bottom. From here we continued up the hill to Dullingham. The weather was bright and the sun came out from behind the clouds as it dropped lower and lower in the sky.
From Dullingham I had intended to return to Cambridge via Swaffham Bulbeck but it was getting dark and begining to rain so when we reached the A1303 instead of crossing over we joined it and followed it all the way back to Quy. There was quite a headwind, and the rain increased in intensity so the journey back was a bit of a trudge.
By 8pm when we reached Fen Ditton it was raining quite hard. We stopped at The Plough for a quick drink but since we were quite wet we felt we deserved a longer stop and several of us ordered food.
After a very pleasant hour we emerged from the pub to discover that it was no longer raining and we returned to Cambridge. We were back in the city centre by 9.20pm after having cycled a useful 26 miles.
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Sunday, 12 September 2010
The reason why we were heading into the Fens today was the opening of the new cycle bridge over Reach Lode. I had explored this a couple of weeks ago (see the ride report here) but today was its official opening.
We had a good turnout for today's ride, with more than a dozen riders. I led the group east out of Cambridge, following the river as far as Ditton Meadows and then along the Wadloes Path to Fen Ditton. We continued via the tunnel under the A14 to Quy.
From Quy we followed the NCR 51 cycleway along the A1303 to Bottisham. Until now, the route to Wicken Fen would have continued via Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior, Reach and Burwell. However today we had a new route option: north to Lode.
Beyond Lode the road became very narrow and quiet, and we spotted several new signs showing that this was the new route of NCR 11.
We turned onto White Fen Drove and the path across White Fen which took us to the bridge over Swaffham Bulbeck Lode. This section of route opened a couple of years ago but until today hadn't opened up any new route opportunities. We continued along a series of quiet public roads until we reached the new bridge over Reach Lode.
As we approached the bridge we passed a dozen or two cyclists (and the occasional car) coming the other way. Presumably they were retuning home after having attended the opening ceremony at 1pm and the associated barbecue. However by the time we crossed the bridge everybody had gone and the only sign that there had been a party was a couple of portaloos.
As we approached the bridge, new National Trust signs indicated that this area is known as Tubney Fen.
(For more photos of the bridge see the earlier ride report ).
After crossing the bridge we followed a mile of completely new path to Burwell Lode.
When we reached Burwell Lode we dismounted and wheeled our bikes up the mown path to the top of the floodbank and lifted them up the steps and over the footbridge.
After crossing the bridge we met the road from Reach and the longstanding route to Wicken Fen. We arrived at the cafe at about 3.50pm. George and Clive were here but were just leaving.
Wicken Fen cafe is pleasant enough but the service is slow and it is relatively expensive, so whilst I had a coffee and cake here with about half a dozen others, Jacob led the other half of the group to Wicken Methodist Church, which was open for teas this afternoon.
We had only ridden sixteen miles so after tea we continued north to Ely along NCR 11.
We reached Ely at about 5.10pm. This was the half-way point of the ride but since we had already had tea we rode through without stopping, taking the road to West Fen and Coveney. After the slow tracks of NCR 11 it was nice to be on proper roads again and our pace increased, despite a westerly headwind. The sun also came out properly at last and stayed out for the rest of the afternoon.
At Coveney we stopped to admire the view back towards Ely before turning south towards Cambridge. We followed minor roads to Wentworth and Grunty Fen before joining the B1049 at Wilburton.
The B1049 is a long, boring road so I turned off it as soon as I could, which was just after crossing the Great Ouse. Here the group split: four riders stayed on the B1049 to Cambridge whilst the main group took a longer but quieter route via Long Drove to Landbeach and then through Milton to the cycle bridge over the A14.
With various people turning off in various directions, I continued down Milton Road to the city centre. We were back in central Cambridge by 7.15pm, after a mileage of 48 miles.
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Thursday, 9 September 2010
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
In compensation for a shorter ride the four of us (Cheryl, Rob, Daniel and me) had a slightly faster ride than usual. We first headed south out of Cambridge to Trumpington and Great Shelford, where we turned right onto the road to Little Shelford and Whittlesford. We then then crossed the A505 and continued to Duxford where we turned west onto Grange Road, the road which runs along the southern edge of Duxford Airfield to Chrishall Grange.
Although it had been dull and overcast all day the sun came out for a final half hour before setting.
At Chrishall Grange we turned north, crossed the A505 once more and continued to Fowlmere. By now the sun had set and the light was beginning to disappear, giving us just enough time for a loop via Thriplow before we arrived at The Queen's Head in Newton a little before 8pm.
It was nice to visit this basic but charming pub again (we had come here back in May). We ordered some food and enjoyed a pleasant drink for half an hour or so before returning back to Cambridge in the dark. We arrived back in central Cambridge at 9.15pm, after riding a distance of 26 miles.
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Next week we're moving the start time forward to 6pm.
Tuesday, 7 September 2010
The ride starts at Hampton Hill in west London, heads east through the City to Greenwich, mostly along the north bank of the Thames, then crosses the river and returns mostly on the south bank, taking in as many famous landmarks as possible, and keeping to parks, back streets and cycle routes as much as is practical.
I persuaded my friend Nick to ride with me, since he lives just 10 miles from the start. I rode down from Cambridge on Saturday, going via Baldock, St Albans, Uxbridge, Staines. This is a very nice route as far as Uxbridge. The first section, over Barrington Hill to Bassingbourn, Litlington and Ashwell, is familiar territory for CTC Cambridge. The route from Ashwell, through Baldock and then over the A1 and around the south of Letchworth, I learned from Mike Stapleton, who took us along it on a day ride in August 2008. Then there’s a pleasant fifteen miles or so along the B651, taking in some wooded hills and passing through the villages of Whitwell, Kimpton and Wheathampstead before arriving in St Albans, where I stopped at the Merchant Tea and Coffee Company, but balked at the cake prices (£3.95 for a piece of carrot cake!) and bought doughnuts at the market instead. From St Albans there some quiet lanes weave over and under the M10 and the M1 to Bedmond, Abbots Langley, Rickmansworth, and over the hill to Harefield and Uxbridge. The last ten miles are a bit grim, taking in some very busy roads around Heathrow and the M25/M4 junction. It would be nice to figure out a better way through this section, without going too far out of the way, but the main difficulty is crossing the M4. I’ll say more about this later.
On Sunday morning Nick and I rode up to Hampton Hill under cool and cloudy skies. There was a good turnout, with riders already lined up along the street at 09:00.
Bill Carnaby sent us off about half an hour before the official start, with fifty or sixty brevet cards still waiting on the table.
Nick and I were sharing the burdens of navigation on this very complicated route. I had a set of Transport for London cycle maps (which TfL will send you for free—well worth it) with the route marked in red, and Nick had the route sheet. Mostly the map was best, but later on the fiddly bits of the Thames Cycle Path in Rotherhithe, Bermondsey and Southwark the routesheet was essential—for example, the instruction "L up ramp before RH bend (easy to miss)" was indeed easy to miss (it was up here and then though the building to the right).
The first leg of the route crossed the Thames at Teddington Lock, then followed a gravelly riverside path for about three miles before crossing back again on Richmond Bridge. More riverside paths took us into Twickenham, and through Syon Park to Brentford, Kew, and Chiswick to the first control
We turned away from the river, under Hammersmith Flyover, and into a maze of backstreets up and over Notting Hill to Kensington Gardens. In Hyde Park barriers were set up for the Adidas Women’s 5k Challenge (won by Linet Masai) and there seemed to be some kind of fun run too, plus many cyclists heading for the London Skyride. It took quite a while to get through to Hyde Park Corner.
Along Constitution Hill and the Mall we mingled with the Skyriders. Apparently there were around 85,000 cyclists on this 15 km route. Who knows, maybe some of them will graduate to the Sightseer in years to come? It was nice to see so many cyclists on the streets, and also nice that it was early enough that the route hadn't got really crowded yet.
Near St Paul's Cathedral, we found ourselves following the organizer himself as he rode to the control at North Greenwich. By sticking to his wheel, we avoided many route-finding difficulties and we were through the City, Wapping, Canary Wharf and the Isle of Dogs, reaching the main control at the Island Gardens Café in North Greenwich at about midday. We had averaged just 14 km/h for the first three hours.
We wheeled our bikes under the Thames only to discover that the lift on the south bank was out of order. Carrying our bikes up the stairs was the hardest bit of the ride, much harder than any of the small hills that London has to offer.
We zoomed down the 17% Vanbrugh Hill and joined the Thames path encircling the Greenwich peninsula. This path starts out very pleasantly, but then peters out into an industrial wasteland. The inadequacies of this path were to become a bit of a theme for the next section of the ride, as we followed it through cobbled streets, narrow back alleys, across locks, and along crowded embankments in front of Victorian warehouses converted into posh flats.
I enjoyed the little sections of canal along the route—Spirit Quay and Shadwell Basin in Wapping, and Surrey Basin in Deptford (formerly part of the Surrey Commercial Docks). Russia Dock, formerly a landing point for timber from Scandinavia and Russia, has been infilled to make Russia Dock Woodland, which made a pleasant spot for a short rest.
Westminster Bridge had been closed to motor vehicles for the Skyride, which was great. It was also great to get off the Thames path. I guess Transport for London means well, but really it's a very shoddy route—poor road surfaces, cobbles, twists and turns and “Cyclists Dismount” signs.
We crossed and recrossed the river several times here: north over Westminster Bridge, then south over Chelsea Bridge, north again over Battersea Bridge, and south over Putney Bridge, where we left the river and entered Richmond Park. Near the top of the hill I missed a turning but the afternoon was so pleasant it didn't really matter, and soon we were back on route and crossing Teddington Lock for the second time, and onto the final page of instructions.
Round Hampton Court Palace, through Bushy Park, and we were home. 104 km (which includes an extra one for the mistake in Richmond Park) in 8:10, at an average speed of just under 13 km/h. I don’t know if it was the cobbles or the navigation, but I was quite worn out.
A fantastic ride, and quite an occasion. I recommend it highly.
On the way back to Cambridge, I wanted to see if there was a good way to bypass Uxbridge. With the TfL cycle maps to hand, I could see that I could take a bridleway alongside the M25 to Stanwell Moor, then roads to Colnbrook, another bridleway to cross the M4 near Ritchings Park, and then get on to the Grand Union Canal towpath, which would take me all the way past Uxbridge, Ickenham and Harefield to Rickmansworth.
This is a scenic route and I think it would be good for a day out if you lived locally, but the unsurfaced paths are ever so slow. It took about three hours for me to do the 40 km to Rickmansworth, and then there was a vicious north-easterly headwind with occasional spots of rain, so I packed the ride and caught a train home from Welwyn Garden City.
Not a bad weekend, though: 334 km (208 miles) in all.