Nigel writes: This was supposedly the day when winter arrived, with a forecast of cold weather all day. In fact the weather didn't turn out too bad. It was certainly cold, only a few degrees above freezing, though once we had got warmed up I felt perfectly comfortable. Although there was ice along the edges of the roads, the road itself was dry. And although it stayed overcast all day, there was no wind.
There was a good turnout at Brookside for today's ride. We didn't have a leader arranged, but I suggested a route and off we went. We headed west out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycleway to Barton where we turned onto the B1046 to Comberton and Toft. A mile beyond Toft we turned left to Kingston.
After Kingston we continued through Great Eversden to Little Eversden, where we crossed the A603.
Soon we arrived in Haslingfield. Haslingfield, of course, means an inevitable ride over Chapel Hill. If we had still been feeling cold at the bottom, we were definitely warmed up at the top! We continued through Barrington to Shepreth, arriving at the Teacake Cafe at almost exactly 11am.
The cafe was as welcoming and friendly as ever. When I walked in there was a lovely smell in the air, which turned out to be hot scones coming out of the oven. Lovely. I ordered a scone with jam and a pot of tea and sat down in the main room where several members were already waiting. More turned up later and there must have been about sixteen or so in total.
Teacake Cafe, Shepreth
Afterwards, as usual, several members turned back to Cambridge leaving ten of us to carry on to lunch at Clavering Lakes. I had agreed a route with Mick in the cafe which took us first across the A10 and along the narrow road past the Bird Sanctuary to Fowlmere.
Mill Road, approaching Fowlmere
At Fowlmere we turned south. We crossed the A505 to Chrishall Grange and began the long climb up towards Chrishall. Just before Chrishall (at a place which is probably best referred to as Crawley End) we turned right towards Heydon.
After Heydon we rode past the animal shelter to Great Chishill. This is highest village in Cambridgeshire and allowed us a fast descent to Shaftenhoe End. I had been worried that the pleasure of this lovely hill would be spoiled by ice, but the road was dry and we could speed down as usual.
At Shaftenhoe End at the bottom of the hill we turned left onto the lovely narrow lane that leads through Little Chishill to Langley Lower Green.
A few miles further on we reached our lunch stop at Clavering Lakes, where a reserved table was waiting for us.
After lunch we discussed what we would do next. I suggested a short loop to the south before turning back north for home, but everyone else was happy to go straight home leaving me to do the loop on my own.
I rode south to Clavering village where my GPS indicated that I should go through a ford. It didn't look particularly deep (and certainly wasn't flooded) but I decided not to risk it on a cold day and used the adjacent footbridge instead.
I continued south for about three miles, taking a faster pace than in the morning, to Manuden. Here I turned left (and north once more) onto the road to Rickling Green. This was a particularly nice lane and I made a mental note to visit it the next time I led a ride in the area.
After Rickling Green came Wicken Bonhunt, Arkesden and the steep but scenic climb past the transmitters to Littlebury Green. It was now about 3.20pm. My faster pace (and several hills) had tired me out and I decided that when I reached Ickleton in about 15 minutes I would stop at the Riverside cafe, where the afternoon ride would be.
I never reached Ickleton. I was climbing slowly up to Catmere End when mechanical disaster struck. My derailleur ran into the spokes of my rear wheel. I was going slowly and I came to a halt without difficulty. However it was immediately obvious this was serious. The "hanger" - the little piece of metal which connects the rear mech to the frame, was bent. Perhaps it had been damaged when I had slid over in the ice last month. I tried to bend it back but it broke off (I think it is deliberately weak, to protect the frame itself). Clearly I wouldn't be doing any more cycling today.
Fortunately, of all the places to have a complete mechanical breakdown, this one wasn't too bad. In most places I would have no choice other to phone for a taxi, but here I was only about two miles from the nearest railway station at Audley End, so it was simply a case of strapping the broken derailleur out of the way with a zip-tie from my bag and starting to walk. I got out the map and checked the best route: this was to retrace my steps back up the hill past the transmitters and then down the other side to Wendens Ambo. The walk back along some very quiet and pretty lanes took about 50 minutes, and was not unpleasant. It was 3.45pm, and the sun was beginning to set, allowing me to enjoy some beautiful views as I walked along. When I got to the top by the transmitters I got back on my bike and freewheeled all the way down the other side.
Sunset on the walk home
I reached Audley End station at about 4.35pm. I bought a ticket and after only about ten minutes a train arrived and whisked me back to Cambridge. Another ten minute walk and I was home by 5.25pm, having cycled 50 miles, walked about 2.5 miles, and travelled by train for 15 miles.
The bike, with rear dérailleur tied out of the way.
View this GPS track on a larger map