Saturday, 31 October 2015

31 Oct: A ride to the top of Mount Tamalpais

Nigel writes: Once again I found myself in Silicon Valley at the weekend, so naturally I returned to my favourite Bay Area bike shop, The Bike Connection in Palo Alto, to rent a top-quality road bike for the day. This was the third time I'd rented a bike from here: regular readers of this blog may remember my Ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains in 2013 and my Ride from the Bay to the Ocean in 2014.

As before, I was able to rent a really good bike for a remarkably low price. This time I was offered a Marin Stelvio Di2, with carbon frame and electronic shifters, for a very reasonable $38 (£25) for 24 hours. (By way of comparison, Station Cycles in Cambridge charges £35/day for a ho-hum aluminium road bike)

A member of staff fetches my bike from overhead storage

My previous two rides from here had started at the bike shop and taken me west into the Santa Cruz mountains, which offer superb cycling country with quiet roads, lovely scenery and challenging climbs. This time, however, I fancied doing something different. So after handing over my credit card and receiving the bike I bundled it into the back of my rental car and drove north towards San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County.

My plan today was to spend half a day on a ride to the top of Mount Tamalpais. This is the highest peak in the Marin Hills, about 20 miles north of San Francisco. I was tempted by an article I found online which described the ascent of this mountain as being a Bucket List ride if there ever was one.

The ride started in the small town of Fairfax, one of a series of pretty and very well-todo towns in Marin County. The moment I arrived it was clear that this was a popular base for bike rides: the Marin Museum of Cycling is here, and I saw dozens of sports cyclists riding around. I parked the car, got on the bike and set off south-west along Bolinas Road towards Mount Tamalpais. It was about 2pm, which would give me just enough time for a 37 mile loop to the summit and back before sunset at 6.15pm.

The initial climb from Fairfax along Bolinas Road

The road started to climb almost immediately, but it didn't take me long to work out how to use the electronic gear shifters and I settled into a comfortable low gear for the long climb into the Mount Tamalpais State Park. As I rode along I encountered several cyclists speeding down the hill in the opposite direction, and was overtaken by one or two going the same way as me.

It was about 30C in the sunshine

Today was 31st October but it was hot in the afternoon sunshine. I hadn't brought sunscreen so was relieved to discover that I was soon riding in the shade of redwood trees.


The road wasn't particularly steep and my lowest gear allowed me to climb fairly easily from about 50m in Fairfax to over 300m before descending 100m or so down to Alpine Lake, a reservoir on the Lagunitas Creek. Rather to my surprise the road surface was quite poor, with numerous bumps and patches making it necessary to take care on the downhill sections.

Cyclists on Alpine Dam

I crossed Alpine Dam and began a long climb up to the ridge. Once again the gradient was not especially steep and I was happy to take my time, winching myself up in my lowest gear. I wasn't the slowest climber, but inevitably I found myself overtaken by one or two others on the way up.

The climb up onto the ridge

After a while the trees came to an end and I found myself riding along an exposed ridge, with the Pacific Ocean below me on my right.

View of the Pacific ocean from Ridgecrest Boulevard

This was probably the most enjoyable section of the journey to the top, with fine views and an undulating gradient that allowed me to try out some of my higher gears for the first time.

Ridgecrest Boulevard, apparently used in many car adverts

After a while I reached a tee-junction and turned left for the final few miles of ascent to the summit. Once again this was easier than I had expected, and it wasn't long before I spotted the spherical radar domes of the West Summit.

Mount Tamalpais west summit, 758m, with the San Francisco bay behind

The view from the top was astonishing, with a huge vista of the San Francisco bay before me and the towers of San Francisco clearly visible below. My immediate reaction was to wonder why I had never been here before: I've visited San Francisco about ten times now but I've never seen a view like this.

I continued on for a couple more miles to the east summit, where the road ended. I wasn't the only cyclist catching the breath and admiring the view, so it was easy to find someone to take my photo.

Mount Tamalpais east summit, 785m

San Francisco Bay from Mount Tamalpais

San Francisco from Mount Tamalpais

To reach the actual summit I had to park the bike (fortunately I had been loaned a lock) and walk along a rather rough rocky path for about ten minutes to the top.

Lookout on top of East Summit

View north towards Alpine Lake and Fairfax

After about twenty minutes or so at the summit it was time to begin my descent. It was now 4.20pm, two hours from sunset, and I still had 20 miles to go. Naturally the journey back down was much faster than the journey up, and I enjoyed an exhilarating ten mile descent along smooth roads down to the town of Mill Valley.

The final leg of the ride took me through a series of Marin County towns: Mill Valley, Corte Madiera, Larkspur, Ross and San Anselmo. This section was much more urban than before, and there were numerous reminders that it was Halloween. In the town of Ross I found myself riding along a residential street which had been closed to motor traffic and taken over by trick-or-treaters dressed in elaborate costumes.

My Marin Stelvio T3 Pro Ultegra Di2. $4200 new (£2700), or $2000 for the bike I rented. Plus sales tax, no doubt. Typical Halloween decorations behind.

This section of the ride was the busiest in term of motor traffic, but it was still very quiet by Cambridge standards, and the busier roads had reasonably good cycle lanes.

Cycle lane on Camino Alto between Mill Valley and Corte Madiera. Note 25mph speed limit.

I arrived back at Fairfax at about 6.10pm, just before sunset, and having cycled 38 miles.





Download GPS track (GPX).

Support the Chisholm Trail

The Chisholm Trail is almost within reach. A public consultation has started on the route and we hope all local cyclists will take part in the consultation and support this important new cross-city cycle route.

The Chisholm Trail will improve access to the existing Cambridge Station and will create a direct connection between the existing Busway cycle paths at each end of the route.

The route lies to the east of the city centre and links Coldhams Common with Ditton Meadows (and Stourbridge Common beyond) via Barnwell Lake, crossing underneath Newmarket Road with a new underpass and passing the historic Leper Chapel (pictured).

Visit our Right to Ride pages for a more detailed discussion of the plans.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

29 Oct: Thursday ride to Gamlingay and Moggerhanger

Edward writes: It may be autumn but the day, although overcast, came with a southerly wind and mild temperatures which remained at about fifteen degrees all day.

Lunch today had been planned for Jordan's Mill at Broom but in view of the forecast for rain in the afternoon it was decided that we should shorten the ride and take lunch at Moggerhanger.

Gathering at Haslingfield (Photo: Alex Brown)

With about fifteen riders at Haslingfield Green, and today we welcomed Heather making her first Thursday ride with us, we split into two groups to try again to avoid being a nuisance to other traffic.

Approaching Kingston (Photo: Alex Brown)

Mike C, today's leader, led the first group out to Harlton and a few minutes later I led the second group.

Mike C is leader today (Photo: Alex Brown)

Our route took us to over the A603 and through the Eversdens, Kingston and Bourn where Mike, bearing in mind yesterday's rain, avoided the ford and took the route up the hill for the turning to Caxton.

Caxton Road (Photo: Alex Brown)

In Caxton, Sheila, who was in the first group, had a puncture and as the second group approached it quickly became the lead group. Just before reaching Great Gransden we turned into Sand Lane which took us through both Great and Little Gransden where we made the turning for Gamlingay. As we climbed the slight hill and out into the open road we also faced southwards and therefore we rode directly into the wind. A mile out of Gamlingay it soon became downhill enabling us to reach LJ's, our coffee stop, just before 11.am.

It wasn't long before the second group followed us in and we were also joined by Richard M, Mike S, Doug, Sarah and Andy who was looking resplendent in his green striped wind-cheater.

Andy rocks up (Photo: Alex Brown)

LJ's is popular with the Thursday riders, especially for their bacon sarnies, with nobody being put off by the reports from the World Health Organisation. After coffee and the usual exchange of personnel thirteen riders carried on for lunch as we left Gamlingay over the heath and on to Everton.

Gamlingay Heath

Everton, of course, means Tempsford hill but no great speeds were recorded as the wind was a bit strong for any adventurous riding. Soon we reached the main line railway and we had to wait about five minutes for one Grand Central and three Virgin expresses to pass before the gates rose allowing us to press on to Tempsford and the crossing of the A1.

Waiting at Tempsford Crossing


Tempsford

We cleared the A1 and came to Blunham and shortly after we arrived in Moggerhanger and the Woodland Cafe for lunch. As the route had been shortened it was about 12.45pm when we arrived to find the cafe full and those who ate inside were told to expect waits of thirty to forty minutes.

Eddie places his order (Photo: Alex Brown)

Shortly before 2pm we set off in three groups for the afternoon ride home with Sharon and Belinda heading northwards; Doug, Sheila and Mia to head for Hertfordshire, and everyone else retracing the route back to Blunham to take the former railway track into Sandy.

Ready to leave Moggerhanger

Once out of Sandy we made our way back to Everton where John J, Stuart, Andy and Sarah went home via Gamlingay while Mike, Craig, Geoff and me proceeded to Potton. Our route home took us via Potton, Wrestlingworth, Guilden Morden and Bassingbourn. This was all comfortable riding as, for the most part, the wind was behind us and we finished our day through Meldreth, Shepreth and Barrington. (After three years, when the quarry at the former cement works has been filled in, the railway track is expected to be lifted and converted to a cycle route to Foxton station.) After the climb over Chapel Hill we arrived back in Haslingfield at 4pm and 52 miles, and after all the re-planning only a few spots of rain! Our thanks go to Mike for another enjoyable day out. Edward Elmer

While the riders eat, the bikes rest (Photo: Alex Brown)



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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Rides in November and December

Our November and December rides lists are now available. During these winter months our rides become shorter, with both our Sunday and Thursday rides aiming to get home before dark. But please do bring lights for these rides in case of delays and fading light. We also have Wednesday evening rides on 25 Nov (details) and 16 Dec (details). You'll definitely need lights for these! In addition we continue our twice-monthly Saturday morning social rides.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

25 Oct: Sunday ride to Wilburton and Ely

Alex writes: Nine of us gathered at Brookside for this morning's ride: me, Tom, Rupert, Peter, John S, Li, Paul, Ian and Seb. The forecast for today had been improving all week and we were promised sunshine and light winds for today's excursion north of Cambridge.

We cycled through town along Regent Street and then up Castle Hill, along the Huntingdon Road and through Girton to join the guided busway heading west.

Knowing that some members wanted to “intercept” the ride on-the-fly I had circulated a GPX of the route beforehand and estimated we would arrive at the Longstanton bus stop at 10:10. We arrived exactly on time to find Andy and Sarah waiting to join us. We then headed north to Willingham where Mike CC and Mike P joined too.

Rendezvous at Longstanton

There's not a lot of choice of roads in this part of the country, and today I had chosen to take a direct route to coffee along the B1049 from Cottenham. This is a well-surfaced road and with light traffic and a slight tail wind we made good progress arriving in Wilburton at around 11 o'clock where we found Eva and Adrian already installed in the café.

At the coffee stop

The Twenty Pence Garden Centre had a large variety of different cakes, tarts and other temptations on offer. I chose to have a slice of treacle tart.

Calories on a ride don't count, they said

After the usual comings and goings, eleven us were riding on to lunch. We rode north of Wilburton and entered Grunty Fen for our first taste of characteristic Fenland cycling with its long straights and ninety-degree bends. Fortunately today the wind was light and the sun was out, making it a pleasant experience.

We continued north to Coveney where, looking south we could see Ely Cathedral clearly in the distance. Then looping east through Little Downham and then turning south we rode along the B1411, swept into Ely, rode past the cathedral, and zoomed down the slope to the River's edge and the Cutter Inn, our lunch destination. We had made good time and were placing our orders by 12:45.

Enjoying lunch at the Cutter Inn (photo: Mike CC)

After lunch our return to Cambridge was to be mostly on National Cycle Route 11. We took the narrow path on the bank by the Great Ouse and then the succession of tracks and quiet roads that eventually took us to Lode. With he clocks just gone back the sun was already low in the sky and the quality of the light made for some attractive views on the way.

It's that bridge again

The recent rains had made some of the going a bit squidgey, necessitating some pauses to de-clog mud-filled mudguards. Still we made good progress and were confident of getting back to Cambridge before dark. As usual various people peeled off to make their ways home as we progressed, and Seb and I were the only two riders left when we reached Brookside. I had cycled 91½ km (57 miles). My metric Eddington number stands at 66.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

22 Oct: Thurday ride to Newmarket and Chippenham

Edward writes: This Thursday's ride was something of an experiment because we began the ride in Stow-cum-Quy instead of the usual start points of Hauxton and Haslingfield. It would be of value if club members were to give their thoughts as to whether or not we should continue to do this for some rides, or even from another start point. In the event nine riders turned up for this ride which is probably less than half the number who have been out on recent Thursday rides. Early on the weather wasn't particularly pleasant and this may have accounted for the low turn-out.

Today's ride leader was Adrian for our trip out to Newmarket for coffee and onto the La Hogue Farm Shop at Chippenham for lunch.

Swaffham Bulbeck to Dullingham

In the overcast and blustery conditions Adrian led us away from Stow-cum-Quy up to the cycleway alongside the old Newmarket Road until the turning into Bottisham and on to Swaffham Bulbeck. Here we turned back up to the Newmarket Road and shortly after we crossed over the A1304 to start the slight incline up to Dullingham. Today the wind was a prevailing south westerly and this would give us assistance for most of the morning session, and as we approached Dullingham a light drizzle developed but it didn't last too long.

Swaffham Bulbeck to Dullingham

When we reached the crossroads we set course for Stetchworth followed by Woodditton and as we looked around at the fields it's marvellous to see how quickly they have been transformed with winter wheat now well out of the ground and oil seed rape also well advanced.

Woodditton

When we had cleared Woodditton we just had the run into Newmarket where we passed the forlorn looking railway station, although still open, a long way from its pomp when it brought thousands of racing fans into the town.

A few minutes later we arrived at the Horse Racing Museum where we found Richard already enjoying his coffee. The staff at the museum are always very thoughtful and allow us to bring our bikes through into the courtyard. It was quiet in the cafe and we were able to enjoy a very pleasant break.

Newmarket

After coffee Richard left us leaving the original nine to head out of Newmarket with a climb along Duchess Drive for the turning to Cheveley where the trees looked splendid in their autumn colours.

Ashley

We cycled through Ashley and Dalham where we encountered a particularly stiff climb through the woods before beginning the descent into Kentford.

Kentford

Mike CC steaming into Kentford

Ready for Halloween in Kentford

We went over the B1506, the railway and the A14 and north to Red Lodge where we crossed the A11 and turned west towards Freckenham. This became the first taste of riding into the wind but soon we turned away from Freckenham and took a delightfully quiet road into Chippenham, arriving at the La Hogue at 1. pm and 34 miles from Stow-cum-Quy.

Towards Chippenham

It was all very pleasant at lunch, where we found John S, with the usual arrangement of some with sandwiches and some ordering a lunch inside, but all coming together for a tea or coffee after eating. Soon after 2 pm Adrian called his team to order and we set off to circumnavigate Chippenham Park where we joined the road into Snailwell, and even though we now faced the wind, in the event it wasn't too much trouble.

Towards Snailwell

In fact the sun was becoming a bit more successful after one or two feeble efforts earlier on and at times we could actually feels its warmth. Snailwell was followed by Exning which was followed by Burwell. This could have been a quick way home, but bearing in mind this was the last Thursday ride before the clocks go back Adrian took us down to Reach which enabled us to join the Lodes Way to Lode.

Lodes Way

We took the longer route round by going back to Bottisham and then the cycleway alongside the B1303 until the turning to Stow-cum-Quy which Sarah and Mike CC took to go back to the cars. This effectively ended the ride - it was now 4 pm and we had cycled a very pleasant 55 miles. Our thanks to Adrian for the ride and it was noticeable how much easier it had been to manage only nine riders as the same nine who set out in the morning finished the ride together in the afternoon. Edward Elmer



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