Monday, 21 November 2011

19 Nov: Saturday morning ride to Fen Ditton

Julia writes: The forecast for today was for sunshine after a dull start, and this is exactly how it turned out. It was bright and sunny already when Parul - a friend of mine who lives in Hitchin but had stayed over for the night especially to come on the ride - and I set off from home, so I expected at least ten people at Brookside. And I was not disappointed: A total of 14 riders had assembled at the start, including some regular Saturday riders and a few more guests. Ian, our leader for today, asked non-members to fill out the guest entry forms and I took a group photo before we set off just after 10 o'clock.

We went south on Brookside, crossed over Trumpington Road and went on to Newnham via the little green called the New Bit. Ian had planned a clockwise mini circuit to the west and north of Cambridge, avoiding the popular tow path by the river near Chesterton, which was very busy with walkers, cyclists, dogs and spectators as a rowing race was taking place this morning. As we went on along the cycle path on Barton Road and then took a right turn into Grange Road, people were happily chatting, and nobody noticed that suddenly the last three riders of the group had stopped as Rob from Linton had a problem with his rear wheel. I stayed with him while he readjusted things, not least because I had volunteered to be the "back marker" of our group. Having a person at the back who makes sure that nobody gets left behind is a good idea in a large group. The general rule is: If you can see your back marker, everything is OK. If you can't, there may be a problem and somebody may have been left behind, so slow down or stop. Of course this means that ideally the person at the back should be easily visible amongst the crowd, so that the leader can spot them with a quick glance back over his or her shoulder. I was quite the opposite in my inconspicuous grey and brown outfit, so it is no surprise that Ian did not notice that I had gone missing. It took a little while for Rob to get his wheel sorted out, by which time the group had gone out of sight and I wasn't sure which way to go as we tried to catch them up. A quick phone call with the leader brought the main group to a halt and us back on track, and before long we had caught them up just off the Coton footpath, on the way up to Madingley road. After this little incidence we decided that Kathy in her bright yellow coat would be a far better back marker, and everything went smoothly after that.

We crossed over the main road and continued on the secluded little paths through the observatory up to Huntington Road, then via Girton towards Oakington. We turned right on to Park Lane where we picked up the guided busway.

We followed the smooth tarmac path along the busway as far as the old railway station in Histon and from there went on to Impington and over the A10 bridge which comes out in Butt Lane in Milton. We turned right off Milton High Street and went along Fen Road to the river path, then right again and to Baits Bite Lock. Kathy went straight home from there, leaving 13 of us to carry or push our bikes over the bridge by the lock, and continue our way on the path up to Horningsea Road.

I had used the stop at the lock to nick Peter's Super Galaxy for a test ride, leaving him to carry on with my Kingpin. Both bikes are made by Dawes, but could hardly be more different from each other. A nearly 30-year-old, heavy little folding bike on 20 inch wheels with 3-speed hub gears vs. a modern, high-spec and lightweight touring bike. Even though the Super Galaxy wasn't quite the right size for me (I felt a bit too stretched out on it), I certainly enjoyed the quick and smooth ride that the light and stiff frame delivered, as well as the neat gear shifters, which are integrated with the brake levers. If I ever wondered why people would spend well over £1000.00 on a bicycle, here was my answer. The last few minutes of the ride flew by, and we soon arrived at Green End in Fen Ditton where we stopped at our home for the usual coffee, tea and cakes. This was the first time I served tea in the fabulous giant tea pot which my house mates had given me as a birthday present earlier this year. It holds about 12 cups of tea and is hand painted with the names of a selection of classic British bicycle brands - perfect for CTC occasions! I was so busy eating and chatting that I completely forgot to take a picture of the crowd in our kitchen and dining room, so here is just a still life, featuring some flowers, left over cake and said tea pot.

Soon most people were on their way back to Cambridge, making a total distance of 16.5 miles. Meanwhile Ian carried out some impromptu repairs on Annie's bike in our back yard - another Kingpin, dating back to 1969, which once belonged to Annie's mum and has been well used over the past 40 years. It always makes me happy to see vintage bikes like this still used and loved by their owners.

It seems like the Saturday rides remain popular, so could well continue for a bit longer! Watch this space. Julia Hochbach

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