Sunday, 30 October 2016

30 Oct: Sunday ride to Newmarket and Chippenham

John R writes: It was nice to have an extra hour in bed but as I cycled down the Guided busway from Swavesey at 8.30am it was clear that autumn was now well in train with cool, damp, foggy conditions.

I arrived at Brookside to find a good turnout for this time of year – there were 11 of us in total including Rupert, Alex, Ray, David T, Sheila, Camille, Mike CC, Tom and Averil. We rarely see Averil on a Sunday but she is a regular on Thursdays. Rumour had it that she had put her clocks back three days rather than just the one hour.

The start at Brookside

Averil asks "Is today Thursday?"

We set off along Hills Road onto Wort's Causeway and then up the first climb of the day (Mike CC was to comment later about the number of hills which kept appearing in front of us!) to Fulbourn. We were now 12 with Seb C having joined us somewhere along Hills Road. With 20 miles to go to coffee at Newmarket we had to set a fairly brisk pace but everyone seemed happy. We took the usual route through Great Wilbraham and across to Six Mile Bottom. From here we rode along Balsham Lane and Eagle Lane to just north of the parklands of Stetchworth.

The fog was slowly lifting and exposing the fantastic autumnal colours of deep reds, oranges and yellows amongst the trees and hedgerows.

We arrived at Coffee and Co in Newmarket just after 11am and already there were Eva, Jim, Keith, Mike C and Eddie. To speed up the buying of drinks a few of us wandered a few yards up the road to the new Horseracing Museum café for coffees and pastries where we sat outside in glorious sunshine. John S and Edmund joined us here (Edmund having been delayed by a broken chain).

The usual lengthy process of gathering the various groups together took us till 11.45am when 11 of us set off for lunch at Chippenham plus John S and Edmund who planned to make their own way there.

Again we all set a fairly brisk pace as Rupert had pre-booked La Hogue for 1pm. The roads through Moulton, Gazeley and Higham were quiet. Then we crossed the A14 and hit a relatively busy road to Tuddenham which ran steadily downhill for three miles and allowed us to steam on at around 28kph.

In Tuddenham we turned off the main road and set off for the final section to lunch through Hemingswell, Kennett and finally Chippenham. We arrived at just after 1pm and the staff at La Hogue were expecting us and had set aside a table for ten. Here we met up with John S and Edmund who had also just arrived. Lunch at La Hogue is always a pleasure and service very quick.

Alex’s latest dietary delight

At 1.50pm we set off on the final leg of the ride back to Cambridge. This was taken at a more sedate pace through Exning, Reach, Swafham Bulbeck, Bottisham, Quy, Fen Ditton and over the meadows to Cambridge. The round trip had been a very pleasant 61 miles. John Ross

Download GPS track (GPX).

20 Oct: Sunday afternoon ride to Waresley

Simon writes: This week's ride to Waresley Park Garden Centre went even more smoothly than last Sunday afternoon; no-one's front light reverse engineered itself on the road, no-one's gear mechanism got confused by the ouroboros nature of the chain it shares a relationship with and, of course, the blog editor didn't augment any of my split infinitives.

That's not to say everyone managed to assimilate the daylight saving change.

Our group count for today was calculated as being 6.28 riders, or 2 pi () for those who are hungry enough!

Leaving Brookside at 1pm included Mike K, Alison, Johns E and F and Neil.

The route I had planned was designed to take us directly out through Granchester, Barton, Comberton, Toft, Bourn and Longstowe. This was to allow us the time to visit such villages that might normally be less easy to access on a half day ride with darkness catching us up just at the end – hence the orbital loop through Gamlingay, Cinques and Abbotsley before the only short hill climb of the afternoon to Waresley itself. There were four other hills on our ride, but they were all downhill.

Tea at Waresley

At tea we were joined for a pleasant half hour by Richard who had cycled from Bedford but normally drives to Cambridge to join the Thursday rides, and Paul D who, finding himself at Brookside at 1.27pm, realises that he's 27 minutes late instead of 33 minutes early but still did well to reach Waresley in time to meet us after our loop.

My thanks go to Neil, who supplied the GPS track for last week's report and to John F for the photos. Simon Gallaway

Download route (GPX).

Thursday, 27 October 2016

27 Oct: Thursday ride to Cottenham and Ely

Edward writes: Today's ride would take us out into the fens for a trip to Cottenham and Ely, not always a popular ride but nevertheless it attracted thirteen riders to Haslingfield, including Jim and Jill making one of their rare but welcome visits from Stevenage, and seven more starting at Brookside.


Mike C led from Haslingfield and John Seton looked after the city starters. This Thursday was another milestone in our cycling year, being the last ride before we move to shorter winter rides with the clocks changing this weekend. The weather, though, was quite good, cool with little wind which by now was in its more usual position from the south west, and no rain was forecast.

Sidgwick Avenue

Pembroke Street

We left Haslingfield and headed into town via Barton and then Barton Road where we turned into Grange Road. We now began a trip across town which included Sidgwick Avenue, Silver Street, Pembroke Street and Downing Street which at this hour were busy times with students rushing between lectures plus any number of sundry delivery vehicles.

Clarendon Street

It was a little quieter alongside Parkers Piece and on Clarendon Street but busy again over Midsummer Common and Riverside. We wended our way through the streets of Chesterton before reaching the busway on Milton Road, and were finally able to relax a little after being at action stations riding through the city.

Midsummer Common


We went down the busway as far as the Cottenham turn and arrived at the Community Centre in Cottenham at a well-judged 11am. There we found the city riders already settling down with their refreshments. There were probably about twenty-five members there including Vic and Richard M, both of whom came on with us to Ely.

On the busway

Cottenham Community Centre was very busy with mothers and young children, and it's also half-term, but the staff coped very methodically with the large queue of cyclists.


After coffee about twenty riders set off for the next session and we left the village along Twentypence Road for the five miles across the fens to Wilburton followed by more fen roads to Wentworth. In these flat lands we were able to see once again the changing farming scene as two months ago it was harvest and now the fields are developing a green sheen as next year's crop breaks the surface.

At Wentworth we crossed the A141 and took the road to Coveney which sits on a rare hill in the fens but offers a splendid view to Ely Cathedral.


This left us with four miles for the run into Ely and with a following wind we arrived for lunch soon after 1pm. We don't have a set lunch venue in Ely so it's a case of finding a cafe or bringing sandwiches. Those with sandwiches sat by the river before repairing to the nearby cafe for a drink.

Ely Cathedral

After lunch nineteen began the return journey which started on the Ouse Valley Way and a ride beside the river. We went past the hostelry for the farm workers at Barway and then to Wicken.

Soon after Wicken we turned off through Adventurers Fen into Burwell and then on to Reach, followed by both Swaffhams and then Bottisham before riding beside the A1303 up to the airport turning. Some of the group had already left by turning to head towards Fen Ditton and Stourbridge Common, with others going south of Cambridge via Cherry Hinton.

The ride finished at 5pm and almost everyone would have completed over 60 enjoyable miles. As ever our, thanks to Mike and John for being today's leaders. Edward Elmer

Download GPS track (GPX).

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Rides in Nov and Dec

Our November and December rides lists are now available. With the clocks going back on 30th October we are bracing ourselves for shorter and colder days, and our Sunday and Thursday rides are also becoming shorter as a result.

Please remember to bring your lights on all these rides: they may be needed for final part of the ride and can also be a good idea if it's misty or foggy.

Our Sunday rides change to the winter ride format just as soon as the clocks change. This means that our all-day rides start half an hour later at 09.30am and return straight home after lunch, whilst our Sunday afternoon rides start one hour earlier at 1pm, with a tea stop at 3pm. Our Thursday rides continue to start at 9.30am but the route will be shorter to reflect the shorter days.

We've also made a few changes to our other rides. Our Tuesday seniors' rides continue in November but they will stop in December and then restart in the new year. Our Wednesday evening rides will continue once a month on the night nearest the full moon. And our Saturday Social rides have just a single ride, in December.

During the Christmas holiday we're planning a reduced set of Sunday and Thursday rides, but we may add more rides depending on the weather and the availability of leaders - keep an eye on the website (and the members' email list) for the latest status.

Some of our rides still need a leader, so if you're able to lead a ride (or would like to lead an extra ride around Christmas) please contact Rupert.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

23 Oct: Sunday afternoon ride to Houghton

Simon writes: This was probably the largest group I've led so far in the short time that I've been leading rides: Our group today included John F (my back marker), Neil, David, Mike K, Paul D, John E, Stan and guest rider Alison L – who I'm very pleased decided to upgrade to a Sunday afternoon after having tried us out on a Saturday ride introduction to the club (please correct me if I've got that wrong).



Our route took us west out of Cambridge to Hardwick and along the "old" St Neots Road to the edge of Cambourne, where we turned north to Knapwell, Conington and Fenstanton. The subway between Conington and Fenstanton is one of my favourite A14 crossings, as it tests the skills of balance in trying to do it without putting a foot down and there's always at least one member of the group who didn’t know it was there, and so convenient it is.

The refectory at Houghton Mill is not right next to it but just round the corner and had us confused for about 20 nano seconds. They didn’t appear to have a lot of indoor seating but as long as it’s not raining or freezing the outdoor seating was adequate for our needs.

Houghton Mill

Houghton Mill

The all day riders had made good time since their lunch and arrived at 4.10pm to join us.

However the day was cooling off and we decided not to hang around long before setting off home. Any one who hasn’t walked or cycled from Houghton to St Ives through The Thicket is in for a beautiful traffic free woodland treat – an easy and rewarding must do for cyclists reaching a fitness range of a 16 mile radius of Cambridge. Simon Galloway

Download GPS track (GPX).

23 Oct: Sunday ride to St Neots, Wadenhoe and Houghton

Nigel writes: Today was our final full-day ride of the season, and we ended in fine style with one of the best rides of the year: an extra-long ride which took us all the way to Northamptonshire, with dry, sunny weather giving us some gorgeous displays of autumnal leaf colour along the way.

Our leader today was Alex, attracted a large turnout at Brookside for today's ride: Seb C, Ray, Rupert, Camille, David T, John S, Mike P, Eva, Ian W, Dimitris, Mike CC, Susan and me. Almost everyone stayed for the entire ride, which was impressive given that this was explicitly advertised as a "longer" ride.

Heading out of Cambridge on the Barton Road cycleway

The first stage of today's ride took us west out of Cambridge to St Neots. Since we had a long way to go today we took a fairly direct route, following the B1046 almost all the way. It was clear right from the start that this would be a good ride, with sunshine, a gentle tailwind, and unusually quiet roads.

When we reached St Neots we stopped for coffee at the Ambiance Cafe in Riverside Park, which as always handled a sudden influx of customers very efficiently.

Coffee at Ambiance Cafe, St Neots

After coffee we carried on west and then north for a relatively long stage to our lunch stop in Wadenhoe, a tiny village about 5km south of Oundle. For much of the way I found myself in a faster breakaway group with Camille, Ray, David T and Dimitris, following the route that Alex had published earlier in the week and which I had loaded onto my Garmin.

My group reached Wadenhoe a little after 1pm and were followed by the main group about ten minutes later. Our lunch stop was a cafe called The Old Barn, which we were visiting for the first time.

Lunch at The Old Barn, Wadenhoe

The cafe is indeed in an old barn, a large, pleasant space with a high roof. The menu was ideal for visiting cyclists, with a good choice of light meals on offer, and when it arrived the food, although not exceptional, was entirely satisfactory.

Lunch at The Old Barn, Wadenhoe (Photo: Seb Cosnefroy)

The Old Barn, Wadenhoe

After lunch we set off eastwards. Our goal for this third stage of the ride was Houghton near St Ives, where we were due to stop for tea.

We had enjoyed a light tailwind during the morning and now, for the first time today, we had a bit of a headwind. However this was never very much of a problem and we made good progress, arriving in Houghton on time at about 4.15pm.

Just after the turning at Thurning

Winwick. The sign says "Breed better pigs with Thorleys food".

We stopped for tea at the National Trust cafe at Houghton Mill. The afternoon ride was already here, sitting outside the cafe with Simon their leader, whilst inside the cafe we found several members of the all-day ride who had taken a shorter route. The temperature was falling but it was just warm enough to sit outside.

Tea by the River Great Ouse at Houghton Mill

After tea we returned to Cambridge, following the Thicket Path to St Ives and then the busway. I arrived home just after 6pm, having cycled 147km (91 miles), making this probably our longest club ride of 2016. Nigel Deakin

Download GPS track (GPX).

Thursday, 20 October 2016

21 Oct: Thursday ride to Withersfield and Great Yeldham

Edward writes: At Brookside nine members met, whilst over in Hauxton another nine assembled for today's ride out to Withersfield and Great Yeldham. From Hauxton Sarah (our new chairman's wife) was in charge and good order could be expected to be maintained, whilst in the city I had the leader’s role.


By heading out to Withersfield, which is more than 20 miles distant, there are few options of route when aiming to be at coffee by 11am. Thus the plan was to go by the Botanic Garden and via Brooklands Avenue to join the busway at the station. In the event Rupert, that well know free spirit, practised his well rehearsed routine and was almost out of sight in seconds, heading off past Brooklands Avenue and down Trumpington Road. Too far ahead to be heard so there was no alternative but to adjust the route to join the busway from Long Road.

Finally we were all together on the busway and DNA path to Great Shelford for the rather uninteresting ride along to Sawston. We used the cycleway to Babraham and then the A505 cycleway to Great Abington. The good news is that the Cambridge News reported this week on the beginning of construction of the cycleway through the Babraham Institute.

The weather today was distinctly autumnal with a brisk north easterly wind and after recent rides this was an unpleasant shock to the system. After Great Abington came Hildersham and the long climb up to Balsham and West Wratting. We now had the four miles over Wratting Common to reach our destination, arriving about 11.15am to find the Hauxton group already enjoying their cakes.

Bradman's has been used about three time now and they looked after us very well and it is still developing the cricketing theme with one bar displaying the letters Bodyline, enough to make visiting Australians wince! Despite the weather, which by now was looking a bit less promising, there were probably about twenty-five of us there; some of course would be returning home after coffee.

Leaving Withersfield

Leaving Withersfield

At about 11.50am we started the second leg of our ride through Withersfield into Great Wratting where we turned north taking the quiet lane up to the A143. Unfortunately Susan had a front wheel puncture and, cue Mike, who duly played the leading role in getting her on the road again. By agreement Sarah's group went ahead, leaving a small group of six to follow on once the repairs were complete.

Mike on puncture duty

We turned south on the A143 for a few hundred yards before turning off to head in the direction of Hundon. At last we were on much quieter country lanes and this would have all been very pleasant were it not for the onset of rain, not very heavy maybe but the waterproofs had to go on. At the turning for Brockley Green, which was on the route Andy and I had agreed, we took Adrian's advice and went a little further on before turning south to make for Stoke by Clare. The purpose of this was to avoid the steep climbs on the road to Brockley Green - and Adrian's advice is always worth taking.

We reached Stoke by Clare and then climbed up to Ashen followed by the road across the old airfield to Tilbury Juxta Clare and then the final run into Great Yeldham and the Waggon and Horses. Much to our surprise we were the first to arrive - now how did this happen as our route, although different, was no shorter? The chairman would surely have words, and sure enough he did! However, it turned out that they had had a couple of punctures (or was it trying to keep Rupert in check?)


Also having lunch was a group of 40 Plus riders from Essex and we had to wait a little longer to be served but everyone seemed satisfied and it was a lot better than being out in the rain which had now started in earnest. At 2.20pm eleven set off for home in steady rain all the way to Stambourne. It wasn't all that pleasant riding with the rain and the wind but we pressed on through both the Bumpsteads and then Castle Camps.

Steeple Bumpstead

The ascent out of Castle Camps was the last serious climb of the day, much to Mike CC’s relief, and at the Ashdon turning we left Sarah and Andy with thanks for their efforts during the day.

Castle Camps

This left us to press on through Bartlow and Linton. The A1307 at this point was incredibly busy and it took some time to get over. One is always aware of the appalling fatality rate on this road. We finished the ride as the city group had started, though Hildersham, Abington, A505 cycleway, Babraham, Sawston, arriving in Great Shelford at 5pm, ironically with the sun shining. For those going back to Cambridge this would have been a ride of 58 miles. Edward Elmer

Download GPS track (GPX).

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

19 Oct: Evening ride to Hemingford Abbots

Nigel writes: With the sun now setting before 6pm, our evening rides have changed to their winter pattern and now take place one a month, on the Wednesday evening closest to the full moon. Despite these rides taking place entirely in the dark they have a small but regular following - and not just from people who are working during the day.

There were five of us at Brookside for tonight's run along the busway to St Ives and Hemingford Abbots: Alex, John R, Mike P and Tim. As we rode north out of Cambridge along Huntingdon we were joined by Ray and Dimitris. bringing our number up to seven.

The weather this evening was cool and dry, about 10-13C, with a light north-westerly breeze and a cloudy sky which meant we say nothing of the promised full moon. Despite the headwind, everyone seemed happy to ride quite quickly and we made rapid progress along the busway to St Ives. Although the pace then relaxed as we continued along the Thicket Path to Houghton and across the Ouse Meadows to Hemingford Abbots, we nevertheless arrived at the Axe and Compass 15 minutes early at 7.45pm.

Already at the pub were Paul and Mike CC, who had each made their own way there. Alex and I ordered burgers whilst most of the others ordered bowls of chips to accompany our beers and shandies.

After a pleasant 45 minutes in the pub six of us set off back to Cambridge, leaving three local members to stay a little longer. We had a tailwind this time, making the ride back fairly effortless. I arrived home just before 10pm, having cycled about 58km (36 miles).

Nigel Deakin

Download GPS track (GPX).

Monday, 17 October 2016

New committee for 2017.

Our AGM on Sunday 17th October elected a new committee for 2017.

Honorary President: George Rich

Chair: Andy Carlyle
Secretary: John Ross
Treasurer: Mike Culnane
Runs secretary: Rupert Goodings
Registrations and publicity officer: John Seton
Welfare officer: Sharon Jackson
Web officer: Nigel Deakin
Committee members: Chris Emerson, Julia Hochbach, Tom Howes

Honorary Auditor: Malcolm Stennett

An up-to-date committee list can also be found on our About us page.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Book now for the Christmas Lunch

Our annual Christmas Lunch will be on Sunday 11th December 2016 at Bourn Golf Club. 12.30pm for 1pm.

Three courses are £23.95, two courses £19.95, with the club paying the service charge. To book, please print the menu, make your selections and send it with a cheque to the address on the form by Sun 27th Nov.

Web Officer Report 2016

Nigel writes: This is a brief report on my activities as CTC Cambridge's elected web officer for the past year (November 2015 to October 2016).

Review of activities

Over the past year I have continued to manage and improve the various online services provided by the club:
  • The main website ( has separate desktop and mobile versions, and includes
    • a front page containing news items, a list of the next week's rides (generated automatically from a central rides database), and links to recent ride reports,
    • the monthly rides lists (generated automatically from the rides database) - desktop version only currently,
    • over 2000 automatically-generated pages of information about each ride we organise, each cafe we visit, and each of our start points, and
    • about 50 static pages of information about the club.

    Hidden behind the website is the "rides database", which contains details of all our rides, start points and stopping places, and which is updated directly by the runs secretary using a special online tool developed for this purpose.

  • The blog section of the website ( contains 192 news items and a remarkable 1086 ride reports contributed by members.

    Any member is welcome to submit a ride report: they should simply email the text, photos (if available) and a GPX file (if available) to In addition to reports of club rides, reports of cycling holidays, Audax rides and other rides are also welcome.

  • The campaigning section of the website ( contains campaigning articles contributed by the campaigning team.
  • There are a number of live calendar feeds (details at which members can use to add club rides to the calendar application on their mobile phone.

    I'd welcome contributions to improve the step-by-step instructions provided.

  • We have a Twitter account (@CTCCambridge). This is used to publish details of every club ride (using an automatic system) and to promote the club's rides.

    The account has 295 followers, including several senior local politicians and council officers. The account is actively monitored and occasionally people use it to contact the club and ask questions. There is scope to use it more to promote the club's campaigning activities.

  • We also have a Facebook page

    This is currently not actively maintained and would benefit from active management, perhaps by the club's membership and promotion officer. At present all tweets from @CTCCambridge are automatically reposted to this page, though since most tweets are ride announcements the result is not currently very satisfactory: it would be better to publish our rides lists as Facebook events. We currently don't promote this on the club's website and I don't plan to do so until it becomes more attractive.

  • There is a members-only discussion forum. This is a "Google group". Most members particulate using email but it's also possible to read and send posts online at!forum/ctc-cambridge.

    My main activity here is to verify applications to join the group and help members configure their subscriptions. I also manage a similar Google Group for members of the elected committee. I think it would be helpful if we provided a page of information which explained how the forum worked.

Significant projects in 2015-2016

In addition to normal mantenance, I have carried a number of significant projects over the past year:
  • Ride information pages: These are web pages, one for each ride, that contains all the information about a ride in a single place, including an Ordinance Survey map showing where the ride starts and where each of the cafe or pub stops are. If the ride organiser has provided the planned route as a GPX file then this will be displayed here. After the ride has finished, it is updated to contain a link to any ride report, and the map is updated to show the route that was actually used (if available).

    Users can get to the information page for a given ride by clicking or tapping on the date or name of the ride (e.g. "Thursday 22nd Sep: Thursday ride - village start") in either the rides list or on the weekly summary.

  • Start point information pages: These are web pages, one for reach start point, which contain information about each of the places where our rides start, including an Ordinance Survey map showing exactly where the start point is.

    Users can get to the information page for a start point simply by clicking its name whenever it is mentioned in the rides list, weekly summary, or on a ride information page (e.g. "Haslingfield Green").

  • Stopping place information pages: Once again these are web pages, one for reach stopping place, which contain information about each of the cafes, pubs or restaurants visited by our rides. This always includes an Ordinance Survey map showing exactly where it is, but may also include a photo and additional information such as the street address, phone number and opening times. This information is contained in the central database and members are invited to contribute details and corrections.

    Users can get to the information page for a stopping place simply by clicking its name whenever it is mentioned in the rides list, weekly summary, or on a ride information page (e.g. "LJ's Sandwich Bar").

A smaller project carried out during the year consisted of the changes to rebrand the website to reflect the change of name of CTC to Cycling UK at national level. My role here was to carry out the decision made by the committee to keep the name "CTC Cambridge" but update the website to acknowledge the new name and branding of the national organisation. This involved updates to the banner and the removal of the old yellow and blue CTC logo, which is no longer used.

Planned projects for 2016-2017

A number of projects are planned for next year (subject to being re-appointed to the post of web officer). In additional to normal maintenance these include:

  • Rides lists: Making the full rides lists available on the mobile website, and improving the way these are displayed (on both desktop and mobile versions). This would include improving the appearance of the printed versions.
  • Better menus: Layout modernisation on both desktop and mobile version. This would replace the left column on the main website with a dynamic (pop-up) menu and adding a proper menu system to the mobile version.
  • More maps: Extending the current facility to display the route of a club ride on an OS map to allow any ad-hoc route to be displayed. Currently anyone wanting to publish a ride report which is not a club ride (i.e. on the rides list) needs to publish the route as a Google map rather than as an OS map. This will also make it possible to embed maps showing short fragments of route into a larger document (e.g. a map showing how to cross the A11).
  • More modern website: The website in general is in need of modernisation to reflect the much greater use of mobiles and tablets. There is also scope to improve its appearance and overall style. Major changes are unlikely to occur within the next year, but smaller improvements may be possible.
  • Better navigation in the blog: The hundreds of ride reports on our blog constitute a valuable resource, especially when planning new rides. However it can be difficult to navigate the blog and find the report you want. I'm looking into improving this to make it easier to search for particular types of rides or rides in particular areas.
  • Is there anything you'd particularly like to see? Get in touch at, add a comment below, or speak to me on a ride.

Nigel Deakin, Web officer

Sunday, 9 October 2016

9 Oct: Sunday ride to Depden, Lavenham and West Wratting

Mike P writes: I arrived at Brookside to meet just three riders today, namely Eva, Tom and Mike CC later to be joined by Rupert on Chesterton Meadow. Several of the usual Sunday riders had been Audaxing on the previous day so I expected the turnout would be smaller than usual.

The morning promised good autumnal weather. It was mainly dry and bright although there was the threat of an occasional heavy shower coming through on a moderate northerly breeze.

As one of the last "three-stop" summer rides the route from Brookside was relatively demanding so we set off at a reasonable pace to Dullingham, riding via Six Mile Bottom rather than electing to detour through Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck. Thereafter we skirted the south side of Newmarket to Cheveley and Ashley before hitting rolling single-track country lanes to arrive at Depden farm shop and café just before 11.30am.

After a welcome coffee, bacon roll and cake, Mike CC and Rupert headed back to Cambridge. Their discussion about a pub stop on the way sounded tempting.

This left just Eva, Tom and myself to head east to lunch at Lavenham. Despite having cycled this section of the route only the day before I still managed to miss a couple of turns between Chedburgh and Stanningfield. Nonetheless, with the wind on our backs we pushed hard and made excellent time arriving at Lavenham at 1.15 pm. The sun obligingly came out whilst we ate lunch on the benches outside the Guildhall. Tom applied sun cream.

Leaving at 1.45pm we headed west to our pre-ordered tea stop at the Chestnut Tree Pub in West Wratting. This is a challenging section with plenty of rolling Suffolk countryside to put under our wheels before 4pm, not made any easier by an unplanned detour to Harrow Green. At least the route back to Hartest was all downhill.

A short time later, as we approached Denston, our luck with the weather ran out when we were caught in a heavy and prolonged shower. We dived for cover for a while but elected to continue on in the rain and under unrelenting dark clouds. Fortunately, the shower dissipated before too long and thereafter we made good progress on largely dry roads west of Highpoint onwards to West Wratting via Great Thurlow.

After a refreshing tea at the Chestnut Tree, where we joined by the afternoon group, we headed back to Cambridge via Balsham and Fulbourn, where both Tom and Eva peeled off to their respective routes home. I continued on through Cambridge, passing Brookside at 5.35 pm having ridden 134km (84 miles) at an average speed of 21.3 km/ hour (13.31 mph). Mike Pearce

Saturday, 8 October 2016

8 Oct: The Cambridge Autumnal 200km Audax

Nigel writes: Today was the Cambridge Autumnal 200. This was an Audax calendar event, the second to be organised by Nick Wilkinson under the banner of Cambridge Audax (the first was the Cambridge Pork Pie 200 in March).

Nearly 130 riders took part, including ten regulars from CTC Cambridge: Bill, Nigel, Alex, French Seb, Daniel, Sven, John S, Susan, David T and Edmund, easily the best club turnout on a local Audax I can remember. Of this group of ten, five were attempting their first ever 200, and all completed the ride successfully.

As with "The Pork Pie", the start and finish of the ride was in Girton, at the recreation pavilion. However on this occasion the goal was not pork pies but sausages, since our destination was the town of Framlingham in Suffolk which today, by happy coincidence, would be celebrating a sausage festival.

As I've described before, Audax is a form of cycle touring where riders aim to visit a sequence of controls by following a set route. It's not a race, although there is a time limit for completing the ride which places riders under a certain amount of pressure. Today there were just two intermediate controls.

The route out from Girton followed a fairly direct line eastwards, passing through Cambridge, Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds and on to Framlingham which was the first control (101km). The route then returned by a slightly more southerly route, visiting the Maglia Rosso cycle cafe near Bury for the second control (153km) before continuing back to Cambridge and finally Girton (214km).

With a total distance of 214km and a minimum speed of 15km/h, riders had to complete the ride within 13 hours 29 minutes. With a start time of 8am that meant everyone had to be back by 9.29pm.

Bill's story

Bill P writes: This was my first 200km Audax ride, though I had done a few 100km rides some years ago. I recognized a few faces from Cambridge CTC at the start, but I have not been that regular at CTC rides in the last year so I was a bit rusty on names!
Nigel sorted a frozen Garmin for me at the start; I was very grateful as the route was easily followed after that.

After chatting to Alex on the way to Newmarket I rode with a guy from London who was completely deaf, so it was hand signals and lip reading while we rode. After a brief stop at Debenham I arrived in Framingham to have a delicious hot sausage roll at the little cafe by the mini roundabout.

I saw a few familiar faces on the return including John S. I stopped briefly a few times for food bars, rode with a guy from Warwick, and then joined and finished with a young guy from Southend.

I enjoyed this challenge. But what I really want to emphasize is that I was so impressed with the selfless organization and especially the efforts of Ewa (Nick's wife) at the finish. It was incredible to be able to recover at the end whilst chatting to others and enjoying unlimited tea, chilli con carne soup and cake. A massive thank you to Nick, Ewa and other helpers.

Oh, and I was happy to dip under 9 hours for my first 200km Audax, arriving back before 5pm. Bill Perry

Organiser Nick Wilkinson gives a short briefing before the start

Nigel's story

Nigel writes: After many years riding with CTC Cambridge, this has definitely been the year of Audax for me, and since completing a rather tiring Pork Pie back in March (when I had to stop for a lie-down on the grass only 8km before the end) I have done a 200 or longer every month since then. My usual time for a 200 has been between 11h30 and 12h and although that's well within the time limit for a 200, if I am to do some multi-day rides next year I really need to ride a bit faster than that in order to save up time for sleep stops. So my goal today was to take the ride at a faster pace than usual, whilst trying not to completely wear myself out.

I think Alex had also set himself a similar goal, but in the event I found myself riding not with Alex but with another rider, Rob from Portsmouth, who I had met on the Three Coasts 600km Audax in July and who had generously helped me keep my pace up for long sections of that ride.

But today wasn't just about training, it was a great ride. It was a distinctly dull day, with some heavy drizzle for a few hours in the morning, but the ride out to Framlingham with dozens of other riders, at a pace well above that of a typical CTC Cambridge ride, was exhilarating. A highpoint for me was the climb out of Newmarket, past the Moulton Road gallops, which today were busy with dozens of parading racehorses. I don't know how often this takes place but I'd never seen it before.

I was charmed by Framlingham when I visited it on a sunny day last month. Today the weather was less charming, and the market place was packed with people for the sausage festival. With long queues everywhere, I just bought some food at the Co-op (saving my receipt with my brevet) and ate my lunch whilst sitting on a wall, chatting to Rob and Alex.

After lunch my legs were singing and telling me to slow down a bit, so after a few fast miles with Rob I took my leave and dropped back to ride at a more moderate pace and allow my legs to have a rest. I'm not sure whether I'd been over-doing it or whether this was simply because I had been stopped for a while. Fortunately I didn't have to slow down very much to feel much more comfortable and after a while I caught up with Rob who had also slowed down a bit.

When I arrived at Maglia Rosso I didn't actually feel I needed to stop for very long and didn't order any food, but I ended staying longer than planned, chatting both to Rob and to Alex who arrived about fifteen minutes after me.

The weather brightened up for the final leg back to Cambridge. My legs were tired and my pace had dropped but I was still fairly comfortable and arrived back in Girton at 6.30pm exactly, just after sunset and with an overall time of 10h30, including three stops totalling 90 minutes. Nigel Deakin

50km: A quick coffee stop for Nigel in Bury St Edmunds

Alex's story

Alex writes: Unwittingly I found myself leading the pack out through Girton, but before long the faster riders started streaming by, among them Nigel who was riding in a pair with Rob from Portsmouth – a rider we'd met on a few previous audaxes.

The early stages were pretty frantic and I had a chance to chat to Sven and Bill as we sped along the A1303 closing in on Newmarket. From there we took the familiar route past the gallops and through Moulton and Gazeley heading east. The weather was definitely autumnal as advertised, with mizzle in the air, a cool light wind from the north east and fallen leaves and other detritus on the roads. The puncture faerie was evidently hard at work today.

I didn't stop at Bury St Edmunds (50km) as I wanted to press on to lunch and improve my tolerance for riding 100km stages non-stop. As the distance ticked by this became quite hard work and I looked wistfully at a couple of tempting-looking bakeries en route. Then the mizzle intensified into outright rain and I passed several riders huddled for shelter under trees. I kept going: while I didn't quite achieve Nick W's goal of "Framlingham without putting a foot down" (traffic lights put paid to that) I was also intent on making steady progress without pausing unnecessarily.

As I closed in on Framlingham the riders at the head of the field started passing me, as the route doubles back on itself for some distance. I arrived in the buzzing market square at 12.30pm and chatted to Rob and Nigel while eating a hog roast bap and spiced apple cake from the market stalls.

I got away at 1pm and while leaving Framlingham passed many CTC friends who were just arriving. The wind was now lending some assistance and I opted for some high-gear low-cadence cruising (probably a bad habit) to make for a very relaxing ride for this stage, in line with the smooth and unruffled mode of audaxing I aspire to. The weather had dried up now, and an occasional patch of blue sky and shaft of sunshine cheered the scenery as I closed in on the Maglia Rosso cycle cafe.

The final stage was on largely familiar roads through Hawkedon and Stradishall, and then up unto the Newmarket ridge for a final descent from Balsham. After about 180km my heart rate began dropping and my body started its familiar switch into endurance mode: I felt comfy and efficient as I neared Cambridge: it was a shame the ride was nearly over.

I made the arrivée at 6.48pm making this my fastest 200km to date. Not a bad start to the season, but I'm going to need to get a lot faster to face the rides that lie ahead next year...

After the ride I waited at the arrivée to take advantage of the soup and excellent cakes on offer from Mrs W, and to watch the other riders return – chapeau! especially to the five Cambridge CTC riders for whom this was a first 200! Alex Brown

Waiting for the lights on Newmarket Road, Cambridge, with Alex and Rob at the front

Seb's story

Seb C writes: I found myself at the back when we left Girton, but passed many people who were already fixing punctures even before we had left Cambridge...

This being my third 200km Audax, I fell well-prepared and carried out a "solo strategy" which involving not pushing hard (using the granny gears on hills most of the time) and staying in charge of my own pace. I was able to eat on the bike and that helped me keep the control stops short: I went straight to Framlingham, arriving there in five hours and staying there for 45 minutes (there was no time for sausage).

With no mechanical problems whatsoever, I found the ride easy and much enjoyed the scenery, particularly the return leg and especially when the sun was setting after the control at Maglia Rosso. Before I knew it I was in Balsham! I made to the arrivée a little after 8pm, in little more than 12 hours and feeling not that tired.

I really want to thank Nick W for organizing such great events, and everyone involved (including Gareth and Ewa). Cambridge CTC has proven to be an excellent training club for such adventures, and I think joining last year was one of the best things I ever did! Sebastien Cosnefroy

Sven's story

Sven writes: I approached my first Audax, and my first 200, with a mixture of excitement, nerves, and a lot of preparation. The weekend before the ride, I properly cleaned my bike, including the chain and the cassette (a procedure that involved a heated ultrasonic water bath), mounted a pair of new Graphene clad Vittoria Rubino’s, and had my things packed on the Thursday evening.

Come Saturday, I had managed to slightly pull a muscle in my back the previous evening, but thought that all this preparation should not go to waste and swiftly made my way to Girton, leaving the house at 7.15am.

It was reassuring to see the faces of fellow CTC Cambridge riders at the start, along with a growing crowd of other riders who, as I found out at the two controls, had come from afar as London and Kent, and probably even further, to join us for this Audax. Still, a number of things were new to me. Riding from a route sheet, for starters. It would take me quite a while to become familiar with the language of abbreviations and symbols. I wanted to accustom myself to it, even while relying mostly on my Garmin during the first kilometres. In the beginning, of course, neither was necessary, as the group I was in sped with unhindered speed out of Cambridge and into Newmarket. These were speeds I was used to on short group rides, but maintaining anything like this for upwards of 100km seemed like lunacy to me. Caught up in the moment as I was, it wasn’t until Bury St Edmonds that I slowed down, leaving Alex to intend to push on without a stop, as he mentioned to me. Props to him, I thought, but I needed to settle at a different tempo. Also my rear derailleur had been making strange sounds, so I attempted some adjustments at a cafe in Bury.

After this brief stop I carried on, finding myself in a group of four which quickly split up, two faster riders ahead, and a slower one behind. This is the second big change from all the group rides I am usually on. There the operative word is "group", where we aim to stay together most of the ride. Of course, audaxing is not like that, with everyone intent on riding their own tempo. I needed to make that mental adjustment to not look for a wheel ahead of me, and to not worry about wheels being left behind.

Roughly halfway between Bury and Framlingham rain started to come down more heavily. Also my derailleur worsened. I needed to stop, found a dry place under a large tree and took out the small satchel of chain lube that I carry. Roughly half the size of a standard ketchup packet, I emptied this amount of oil onto both jockey wheels. My intense cleaning efforts a week before might have left them with not enough lubrication. It helped, as from now on things seemed smoother.

I soon realised that the combination of my fairly intense first 50km, paired with the rain, had left me drenched from the outside and wet with sweat underneath. Perfect to draw all warmth out of me. The cafe in Framlingham was a welcome sight, and I stayed longer than intended to warm up properly, before heading back out.

I rode to the second control, the Cafe Maglia Rosso, at a steady and more Audax-appropriate tempo, and had finally found the "zen" of my own rhythm. The weather was much friendlier, and I regained enough core temperature to thoroughly enjoy every kilometre. It had only taken me 100km to get to this point.
I made my stop at Maglia Rosso a short one, as I was by now in the last 20 to make it to the control. Daylight would soon fade.

Just beyond Denston I was answering a call of nature when a group of four other riders appeared. With darkness now approaching rapidly, I was glad to see them and proposed joining their small group for the last 35 km into Cambridge. Whereas on my regular rides groups regularly disperse closer to home, with everyone rushing into town at full tilt, here we were all happy to ride together, making our way through the fading light and oncoming darkness in our own grupetto. The lights of Cambridge were greeted with a cry of joy by one of my fellow riders.

We arrived at the arrivée at 8.45pm, and the supplied goodies of soup, bread and cake were eagerly consumed. The other CTC Cambridge riders had stayed at the arrivée to welcome the remaining clubs members back. Apparently some had been hit by far greater woes than a clattery derailleur. Suffice to say, they arrived well and in time to tell the tale.

It was a journey of firsts: my first 200, my first ride longer than 10 hours, and my first with more than 1500m of ascending. I am certain there will be more to follow. Sven Sewitz

Daniel's story

Daniel writes: After doing my first 200 last August I seem to have caught the bug as Saturday was my 13th successful 200. Nick had provided another great route and I had the reverse of the weather from last week when, on an Audax from Great Dunmow the faster riders missed the rain and folks like me got totally soaked. This time I had only a couple of light showers and it sounds as if faster riders got more.

After riding unexpectedly with the "CTC Cambridge four" (John S, Edmund, Susan and David T) from the start through Cambridge I joined up with another regular full-value rider, Raymond from Sudbury, on the way to Newmarket. Then we joined another, John T from Lowestoft whilst climbing the rise by the gallops, getting encouragement from the horseriders and strange looks from the punters. John had helped me a lot on the final 60km of last week's ride, getting me back in time after spending most of the first 150km on my own, so it was good to see him again. (A "full-value rider" is one who aims to reach the end of the ride close, but not too close, to the time limit for the event, and uses the time to make the most of the day). Raymond and I stopped in Bury for a tasty savoury crepe and coffee at a market stall and said farewell to John until later.

The final 20km or so to Framlingham was repeated on the way back so it was encouraging to see and greet a fair number of those ahead of us who were on their way back. Framlingham was very busy and the cafés looked full by the time we arrived at about 1.30pm so we went to a local store for the required receipt and got a hog roast from a stall. We had a short rest enjoying the festivities.

After setting off for home it became our turn to be greeted by the CTC Cambridge four as they approached Framlingham. On this third 50km leg of the ride I started to struggle mentally to keep going, but I knew, from experience, that if I kept going I'd get through that. We picked up another rider, Mike, at Stowmarket and rode steadily to the Maglia Rosso cafe, where we met up with John again.

We had a welcome stop for food and cake, and our brevet card stickered by a friendly Kiwi (Nik Brunner). The four of us were tempted to take a short cut back but in the end we stuck to the official route. Just as we were leaving we saw the CTC Cambridge four arriving.

As Sven mentioned in his story we bumped into him on the final leg to make five of us heading into the dark. From previous experience I know that I slow down a lot, on my own, in the dark, even with lights, so it was very helpful to be in a group. There were joyful noises as we saw the signs for Balsham and Cambridge, and sighs as we passed near Sven's home and John T's B&B. Then it was back to Girton to enjoy Ewa's welcome and excellent hospitality, meet those waiting for us and wait for the CTC Cambridge four and others to arrive. It was an enjoyable day out. Daniel Glassey

Nik Brunner (seated) stamps brevet cards at the second control at Maglia Rosso

John's (and Edmund's, David's and Susan's) story

John S writes: For me this was a great day’s ride through a mix of familiar and less familiar countryside. The route had clearly been carefully designed and took in some lovely roads with fantastic views. The route files for Garmin devices worked well, and the route sheets were exemplary, right down to instructions on how to fold them.

Our group of four CTC Cambridge riders – Edmund, David, Susan and me - set off at a sustainable "CTC ride" pace. There were then a couple of punctures, and the last of these was effectively doubled as a time loss when a new inner tube exploded when inflated.

A feature of most Audax rides is that the overall average speed including all stops needs to be above 15km/h. This is normally not hard to do, and allows plenty of time for ad hoc stops and meeting other riders at control points. You naturally build up a bit of a time buffer early on so you can stop when you feel like it, and generally enjoy the day without watching the clock.

Our group had been unlucky with multiple punctures early on, and by Little Saxham, just before Bury, we were almost 40 minutes behind a 15km/h schedule. The good news was that there were no intermediate controls between there and Framlingham, so we had around 60km, and 3 hours, before the first time check. We needed to arrive in Framlingham before 2.40pm, and did this by riding pretty much non-stop (apart from a rushed but much-needed jelly baby, quiche and coffee pit-stop at an "award-winning" bakers in Haughley) and got to Framlingham by 2.10pm. I think we did really well to make up the time arrears, and then gain enough of a buffer to have a coffee and snack in Framlingham and leave by around 2.55pm, just 15 minutes behind schedule.

The same pattern was repeated riding from Framlingham to Maglia Rosa café at Hawstead – we arrived in time to have some tea and a cake, with about 40 minutes in hand. We left at 6pm, just about on time for our schedule, which gave us well over 3 hours to cover the final 60km back to Girton. The route took in the lovely countryside between Hawstead and Balsham, but as the sun set, we were soon navigating narrow twisty lanes and searching for unmarked turns in the dark, which reduced the average speed we could maintain. We rode to Girton non-stop, apart from a quick break in the chalet-style wooden bus shelter in Carlton to gobble down another packet of jelly babies. We finished with around 20 minutes to spare, and found welcome hot drinks and hot soup, and a warm welcome from other CTC Cambridge riders.

The day was a bit frustrating, as Edmund, David and Susan's first experience of riding a 200km Audax event was one where we had to spend much of the day trying to make up time rather than enjoying the ride. It would be more fun to be taking in the scenery, and the delights of the Framlingham Sausage Fair, rather than clock-watching. The timing is honestly not normally so "down to the wire" as it felt on this ride, so I really hope people won't be put off having another go by the various "acts of God" that set us back at the start of the ride.

Well done to Edmund, Susan and David for successfully completing their first 200km ride. It’s great that we all kept going rather than abandoning the ride after the early multiple punctures and delays, and stayed together and then completed the ride within the time limit.

I'd also like to give a special thank-you to Susan, who on several occasions highlighted places where I had been at the front of the group and took a wrong turn, either by not reading the routesheet carefully enough, or in one case, not looking at it at all. By spotting those mistakes Susan saved us all from going off down completely the wrong road for miles and miles...

This all sounds like a day spent fighting against the clock – but it wasn't. It was a great group to ride with, and sights like watching dozens of horses on the gallops in the early mist and drizzle at Newmarket, the wonderful meandering quiet lane from Earl Soham to Framlingham, and seeing the far-away orange glow, and then eventually the bright lights of Cambridge, from the hills near Balsham were all very special. John Seton

The quartet: David, Susan, John S and Edmund

Edmund's story

Edmund adds: As a newbie to 200km Audaxes, I approached this with some trepidation, especially when I discovered it was actually rather more than 200km.

As John explained, I rode as part of a quartet consisting of three first-timers: me, David T and Susan together with John who is a seasoned Audaxer. We started off well enough, steady not fast but soon we had a run of bad luck - or to be more precise David did. Two punctures in a short time cost us an hour as we provided moral and technical support.

We moved steadily on with no more incidents and managed to fit in two pasty breaks before returning to Girton last but happy around 9.15pm.

I found the whole day a tiring but rewarding experience and, in hindsight, enjoyable. I was surprised I managed it in the time and at the speed we did and I put it down to all those day rides over a period of months.

I'd like to thank John for leading and navigating more or less all day, as well as providing a taxi service before and after and to all for mutual support to make a success of the day. Edmund Rose

David's story

David T adds: It was me who nearly blew it for the famous four, John, Susan, Ed and myself. I had two punctures, one blown tube and a damaged tyre, with John saving the day by providing a spare tyre!

David and Edmund


Gareth's story

Gareth "ran the desk" at Girton Recreation Centre, issuing brevet cards at the start and taking them back at the end of both the 200km ride and the 100km ride that took place the same day. Here's his perspective on the day:

Gareth writes:
06:25 Set out for Girton. 
06:40 Arrive Girton. Nick just arrived, opens up the village hall. 
06:41 Start setting out tables and chairs, help unpack catering supplies. 
06:55 Set up desk, get out the master entry list, stickers, and brevet cards for the 200. 
07:00 First riders pick up their brevet cards. 
07:15 Steady trickle of riders picking up brevet cards and a few entries on the line. 
07:30 Ewa is working hard to get everyone served with tea, coffee, toast, flapjacks. 
07:45 Struggling to keep up with the flood of riders, entries on line have to wait a bit. 
08:00 Nick sends off the 200 riders. 
08:05 Still processing late-comers for the 200. 
08:10 Make initial count of riders on the 200. 
08:15 Get out the master entry list, stickers, and brevet cards for the 100. 
08:20 First few riders arrive for the 100. 
08:25 Last few riders for the 200 — faulty alarms, missed trains etc. 
08:45 Plenty of 100 riders now, but nothing like so busy as on the 200. 
09:00 Nick sends off the 100 riders. 
09:05 Make final counts of riders — 127 riders on the 200 (including 11 on the line); 38 on the 100 (including 3 on the line). 
09:15 The room has to be cleared for a judo class, so tidy desk, clear away the tables and chairs, sweep floor. 
09:30 Set out for home. 
09:45 Arrive home, change into running gear. 
09:47 Set out for a run to Grantchester. 
11:23 Arrive home (17.3 km at 5:23 minutes/km). Shower, change. Put laundry on. 
13:10 Hang out laundry. 
13:25 Set out for Girton. Busway closed at Histon! Take detour. 
13:40 Arrive Girton. First rider from the 100 is already back! Nick wasn't expecting that and the hall isn’t open yet. Oops. 
13:45 Nick arrives to open up the hall. Start setting out tables and chairs again. 
14:00 Quick cup of soup before the riders start turning up. 
14:05 Riders from the 100 start appearing. Everyone says they had a good time. Some were surprised by the hills around Saffron Walden! 
15:00 Lots of riders from the 100 now. Each one should have a control stamp, two receipts, and the answer to the info question. One or two riders have neglected to pick up one of the receipts — I refer them to Nick for adjudication. 
16:30 Last riders are back on the 100. All 38 riders who started finished the route. Well done everyone! 
17:00 Half a dozen riders on the 200 have come in under nine hours. Impressive! 
17:05 Grab a sandwich before the rush begins. 
18:00 Lots of riders now. Ewa is working very hard in the kitchen to keep them fed and watered. 
19:00 Rush in full swing, sometimes there are more riders than I can keep up with and a small queue builds up. Luckily there is only one receipt to check and nearly everyone remembered it. It’s important for me to be systematic otherwise I might lose track of who's returned their brevet card and who’s still out there on the road. That would require a laborious time-consuming recount. 
20:00 Rush is over, but there are still about 30 riders unaccounted for. There are a lot of first-timers on this ride. 
20:10 Time for a piece of cake. Ewa says she feels like she ran a marathon. 
20:30 Counting them down one by one now, just 17 riders left. 
21:00 Just 6 riders left. It’s been dark for a couple of hours now, hope they are OK. 
21:05 Hanging around the door now, looking for bike lights in the distance. 
21:07 Group of 5 riders come in! They tell an epic tale involving many punctures. 
21:12 There’s just one rider unaccounted for. Nick attempts telephone contact. 
21:15 Nick receives text. Rider completed the route but forgot to hand in brevet card. So that's everyone! 
21:25 Start clearing the room: washing up, packing catering supplies, clear tables and chairs, sweep floor. 
21:45 Set out for home. 
Gareth Rees

Gareth (seated) processes returning riders. Organiser Nick (left) observes proceedings

Download GPS track (GPX). Note that this is the route Nigel took, with a modified route back into Cambridge via Fulbourn Old Drift.

Organiser Nick Wilkinson has written a report on YACF and published an album of photos on Facebook.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

2 Oct: Sunday ride to Newmarket and Depden

John S writes: The weather today was hard to predict early on, in terms of how warm and how wet it would be. I compromised with sandals and arm warmers at the start, where I met Sheila, Seb, Mike CC, Rupert, Alex, David T, and Edmund.

A couple of minutes before the official start time, Rupert had a call from Mike P, John R and Dr John, who were in Chesterton, having been delayed by a puncture. As I had not planned any route, apart from vaguely setting off via Fulbourn, it was easy enough to seamlessly create a new plan to meet the successfully re-inflated trio by the Green Dragon Bridge, and instead head out via Fen Ditton and Bottisham towards Dullingham and then Newmarket.

The official coffee stop was Coffee and Co. in Newmarket, but prompted by Rupert a few of us relocated to try out the new Horse Racing museum cafe at their new site in Palace Street - just a few yards from Coffee and Co. The new Palace House has a big courtyard that could take lots of bikes, and a restaurant/café called The Tack Room, together with a take-away shop that does hot drinks, cakes and savoury items. There is plenty of outside seating for people to consume items bought from the take-away shop in good weather.

The general view was that the new place is good, and offers good value and prompt service on the take-away side of things. The sit-down indoor restaurant also looks good for lunches and light bites, though prices are perhaps a little higher than at the old NHRM site. Purely for selfless research purposes, I had a take–away home-made sausage roll and a spinach quiche, and I am pleased to report that these were both good quality and good value.

A feature of our rides is that it is hard to predict numbers, and most coffee/lunch stops will struggle to serve everyone quickly when there are 20 or 30 people out on the day. Having two good places a few yards apart in the same street in Newmarket now means that we have the option to balance the load and get everyone served more quickly according to numbers. I think the plan will be to use Palace House again, and explore using it on Thursdays as well as Sundays, and for lunch as well as coffee.

We re-convened outside Coffee and Co, from where a number of people including Mick C, Mike CC, Edward E and Alex B rode back towards Cambridge. The rest of us proceeded east from Newmarket with the help of a benign tailwind through Ashley, Dalham (after which Rupert headed back), Barrow, Little Saxham, Chevington, Hargrave and on to lunch in the farm shop at Depden. The roads around Little Saxham showed that we had been very lucky with the weather, as there were big puddles everywhere and there had clearly been a recent torrential downpour.

When we arrived, the staff at the farm shop in Depden stared at us blankly and denied all knowledge of any cyclists having being booked in for lunch by anyone called Rupert, and upon further investigation it turned out that they were instead expecting a party of actors from a "Cambridge Theatre Company" - or "CTC Cambridge" for short. Maybe this is evidence of the ruthless efficiency with which the Cycling UK re-branding has now been implemented!

The farm shop were offering a reduced Sunday menu, which only has roasts as a hot meal, but everyone was able to find things that worked on the menu, so this turned out not to be much of a restriction on choice. While we were having lunch, Dave W and Susan arrived, having cycled direct, and David T and Sheila rejoined us after eating their sandwiches nearby.

Adrian headed off to make his own way back, and nine of us set off through the southern fringes of Wickhambrook towards Cowlinge. This is an area with no obvious centre to it, and I am convinced someone jumbles the roads up differently each time I try and navigate around there. Today, things were different, and I managed to find the correct twisty little roads, and just for once we came out where I had expected on the A134.

After a short stretch on the (thankfully not too busy) A-road we headed off on quieter roads through Little Thurlow, where Dave W pointed out a house with a replica aircraft in thatch on the crest of the roof. It isn't an exact scale model, but my misspent youth of Airfix kit building suggests that it is most likely based on a Short Stirling bomber, which flew from nearby RAF Wratting Common in 1943.

The thatch bomber in Little Thurlow

There were dark clouds to the west, and there was a brief burst of rain, but thankfully this quickly passed. At the T-junction in Carlton Green we split into "Central Cambridge and beyond" and "South Cambridge" groups and went our separate ways. I continued with Susan, Edmund, Seb and Dave W through West Wratting, Balsham, Hildersham and Great Abington. Some of the party declared themselves not to be big fans of the A11 footbridge, so we instead went past Granta Park and under the A505 to Sawston and Stapleford, were we went our separate ways.

We were lucky with the rain, and the wind was helpful on the way out, and dropped a bit for the return journey. I normally over-plan rides on my Garmin satnav and then get discombobulated when things change. Today I turned up to lead a ride with not much of a plan, and a couple of dog-eared OS maps, and this meant that we could embrace change, and fit the length of ride to the weather. I think the lesson for me may be that there’s a life beyond Garmin!

I didn't take any pictures of cyclists, which suggests that I rather take it for granted that someone else such as Nigel or Ed will be doing this on all our rides. Neither of them was riding with us today, so if anyone else has any more relevant pictures, please send these to Nigel! John Seton

Download GPS track (GPX).