Saturday, 19 October 2013

19 Oct: Saturday morning ride to King's Hedges

Julia writes: I did not expect many takers for last Saturday's ride as it was a rather dull and damp morning, but when I got to Brookside I saw quite a large group of riders assembled there. I had arrived just after 10 o'clock, so we promptly set off and I noticed that all of my fellow riders (we were 13 in total) had been out on Saturday rides with us before. Originally, we started these gentle morning rides as an "introduction" to the club, aimed mainly at people who are new to group cycling and perhaps not used to riding longer distances, thinking that many would soon either "graduate" to the longer Sunday rides or else decide that the club wasn't for them after all. It seems, however, that the Saturday rides have themselves graduated from being merely an entry point for a few newcomers to being a popular item on our rides calendar in their own right. We have a good crowd of regular Saturday riders now - it's nice to see that people are enjoying these rides enough to keep coming back time and time again.

Ian led the group out of Cambridge along the Barton Road cycle path until the first roundabout, where we turned right towards Coton. As always, I had baby Flo with me on board our cargo bike, and while he soon fell asleep I had to work quite hard in order to keep up with everyone, even though the pace was not very fast at all. The brief climb to the top of the bridge crossing the M11 was enough to separate me from the others for a short while, but I soon caught them up and we turned right again onto the bridle way through the Coton Countryside Reserve. This is normally a very pleasant ride, but with all the wet weather we've had recently the concrete track, which is mainly used by farm vehicles, was quite muddy and slippery in places - not ideal cycling conditions. Along the way I got chatting to Clive who was out on his new Dahon Vitesse which had been converted to an electric bike; this was his first longer ride on it as he wanted to test the range of the battery. Clive had not been out with us for some time and it was good to see him back.

The hedgerows and trees were showing off their autumn colours, the hawthorn bushes and wild roses were full of shiny red fruit, and despite the lack of sunshine I very much enjoyed the countryside views as we cycled through the reserve. We turned right once more at the end of the bridle way and crossed over the M11 again, following the Coton footpath until the West Cambridge site of the University. We took the first left turn that brings you out between the Department of Veterinary Medicine and the Computer Laboratory, then headed straight on across Madingley Road and through the grounds of the Observatory. Via Storey's Way and Huntingdon Road we carried on to Girton and then joined the busway at Histon. As we approached the Cambridge Regional College busway stop, Flo woke up and started to complain a little, letting me know that he was ready for a break. Luckily, our coffee destination was just around the corner - the Daily Bread shop on King's Hedges.

This was the first time we used them for a stop, so we were curious how it would turn out. While we locked up the bikes outside the shop (which looks rather like a warehouse), I explained briefly what the company is all about as none of the other riders seemed to be familiar with it. The Daily Bread is a Christian workers' co-operative, selling ethical, healthy and/or ecological products including wholefoods and organic foods, locally produced honey and natural cosmetics, hand made cards and gifts, cakes, and - of course - bread. Ian and I regularly do some of our grocery shopping there and a few weeks ago I noticed that they have a little seating area down the side of the shop were they serve tea, coffee and cake. With a group of thirteen cyclists and one baby we filled up this space completely and I doubt that the staff often deal with such large numbers at once. Nonetheless we were very well served: Extra chairs were brought in to accommodate everyone, and two very friendly members of staff took our orders. Cakes and drinks soon arrived and there was even a high chair and some toys for Flo. Everyone enjoyed the break, and I am sure we'll be back at the Daily Bread before long.

After we had paid for our refreshments we were soon on our way again for the final leg of the ride. In order to get back onto the busway, we had to negotiate a set of barriers that were so closely placed together and with so much overlap that it was impossible to get around them in one go with the extra long cargo bike. Even when I got off the bike and pushed it I had to reverse half way through and then lift the back end around - not the most helpful piece of "cycling infrastructure"! Instead of going directly back to the city centre, Ian led us out of town again along Milton Road and through Milton Country Park, and from there onto the tow path along the river and back into Cambridge. When we reached the city centre, we had cycled about 20 miles. Julia Hochbach

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