Julia writes: Readers of our blog may have been wondering if we're not doing our Saturday rides any more, or if perhaps they have not been well attended as they have not yet featured on the blog this year. Far from it - I am just struggling to find the time to write a report on them! So here, finally, is an update on what we have been doing on our popular introductory rides, which are held twice a month on a Saturday morning.
When our baby Florian was born in January, I thought it might be quite a while yet before I go out with the club again; the Sunday and Wednesday rides which I had often joined before would certainly be going too fast and too far to come along on a heavy cargo bike! Our leisurely Saturday rides, however, covering typically around 20 miles at a gentle pace, turned out to be perfect for us. Flo and I have been on five of them so far: In April to Grantchester and Cottenham, in May to Anglesey Abbey, and in June to Coton and Milton Country Park.
On Flo's first CTC ride on the 6th of April, he was not yet three months old - perhaps the youngest participant on a ride of our group? Eva led us on a nice route to the Orchard in Grantchester on this lovely spring day, and the fine weather allowed us to sit outside in the garden enjoying our coffees and cakes.
Flo was perfectly content on the ride; we had been taking him out in the box of the cargo bike (or bakfiets, which is the Dutch name for it and literally means box bike) since he was just a month old, and he certainly seems to enjoy our outings on two wheels. Most of the time he goes to sleep pretty soon after we get moving, but now that he's a bit older, he also enjoys looking around, watching the sky, houses and trees go by as we ride along cycle paths and country roads.
The second ride in April was led by Ian who took a group of nine riders to Cottenham on a route via Coton, Dry Drayton and Oakington. Due to a last-minute hiccup in preparation for the ride (Flo ejecting his breakfast feed just as I got him dressed to go out), I wasn't able to join them from the start, but after getting things sorted I took a more direct route and met them at the community centre. There was a little craft market set up in the back room which I would have loved to explore, but after we had all finished our coffees or teas (and I had finished the obligatory nappy change, too), it was soon time to get moving again, so I just quickly bought two jars of delicious home made jam and we were on our way back to Cambridge via Waterbeach and the tow path along the river.
Next was the ride to Anglesey Abbey on the 18th of May, for which I had signed up as the leader. This was the first ride I led since October last year, and I was pleased to see a good number of people at the start despite the rather cool weather. Among them was a group of five from Clavering, who had parked their cars at the Park & Ride in Trumpington and cycled from there to Brookside to meet us, as well as two guests from Cambridge. After greeting everyone and collecting guest entry forms, we set off and I took a route through Cherry Hinton along back roads and cycle paths, then on to Fulbourn, the Wilbrahams and via Bottisham to Lode. I was a bit worried whether I would be very slow - especially when cycling into the wind - and hold things up too much with my heavy bike, but people were in no rush and busy chatting along the way, so in fact I had to stop a few times and wait for the group to catch up.
After coffee at Anglesey Abbey I was stopped by a woman as we were about to set off again who had noticed our group and wondered if we were a club and what sort of rides we did. Luckily, I had one of our leaflets handy, so I handed this to her and encouraged her to come a long some time. We then rode back along the road to Quy and further along the cycle path and High Ditch Road to Fen Ditton. Here Florian and I parted company with the rest of the group and went home while Ian continued with them into town. The ride was very much enjoyed by all, and Craig from the Clavering group sent me a text afterwards saying they'd be back again soon.
The first ride in June was led by Eva again, this time to Polhill Garden Centre in Coton. We left home a bit late and arrived at Brookside just after 10 o'clock, just as the group, including some new people as well as George - our president and chairman who had not been out on a Saturday ride for some time - were about to set off. It was a windy day and initially I struggled a bit to keep up with the main group, and so did George. The route took us out of town on Barton Road and on to Haslingfield, by which time Eva had realised that we had fallen behind, so she and the rest of the group waited for us at the turn to Harlton. From there we continued at a gentler pace, and I managed to get ahead and take a picture of the group as they passed a large patch of cow parsley in full bloom by the side of the road. On we went along familiar lanes via the Eversdens and Toft, where we turned left and up the hill to Hardwick. This part was again hard work for me - on the bakfiets you really do feel the hills! But once we got to St Neots Road at the top, it was all flat or downhill to our coffee destination in Coton. It occurred to me that with both Florian (four and a half months at the time) and George (83 years) on the ride, this must have been the greatest age range we ever had on a CTC ride! To commemorate the occasion, we took a photo of the youngest and oldest participant at the garden centre.
The Coton footpath was chosen for the way home, and at Grange Road we parted from the group to ride home via Chesterton, the Green Dragon Bridge and the Jubilee cycleway on the other side of the river. There, by Stourbridge Common where the chestnut trees were showing off their blossom, Ian could be persuaded to stop and take a picture of me. After having been out on the bakfiets almost every day for three and a half months, this is actually the first picture I have of me riding it!
Yesterday, on the 15th of June, it was my turn to lead again. It was rather cool for this time of the year and we got caught in a shower on the way to the start, but nonetheless we found a good number of people already assembled there. The group from Clavering had come back again, this time with two more people, and we were twelve in total when we set off. I took a route out on Barton Road and along the track through the Coton Countryside Reserve. The weather improved as we rode along, and soon we were able to enjoy some sunshine and more pleasant temperatures. We joined the Coton footpath at the other end of the reserve, and I noticed that it was becoming rather overgrown by long grass on either side.
We followed the path as far as the West Cambridge site, where we turned off to the left towards Madingley Road. Having crossed the road, we then continued through the grounds of the observatory and the Institute of Astronomy. This is a beautiful, almost park-like site with many old, impressive trees and a somewhat "hidden" cycle path that brings you out on Huntingdon Road. From there we cycled through Girton to Histon and along the busway back to Cambridge, then across the bridge over the A14 to Milton and to our coffee destination, Cafe Diem in Milton Country Park.
As it was still rather windy, we decided it wasn't quite warm enough to sit outside, so we all enjoyed our coffees, teas and snacks inside the café. After about half an hour of rest and refreshments, we were back on our bikes for the final leg of the ride. As the bumps boat races were in full swing on the Cam between Baits Bite Lock and Chesterton, we decided it would be best to avoid the busy tow path going into town, so instead we did a detour down the river to Clayhithe and back on the road to Horningsea. When we reached Fen Ditton, we turned off onto the little bridleway that brings you out on Green End, where we live. This short stretch of off-road is not exactly bakfiets friendly, but going very slowly it is perfectly doable, and little Flo wasn't bounced around too much. In fact, he was still asleep when we arrived back home, where once again I left the group while Ian continued with them back into town to complete the ride.
It's great to take part in our club rides again after the baby break - I look forward to more Saturday rides over the coming months, and I hope that Flo will continue to enjoy them, too. Julia Hochbach