I met Edward cycling through Harston on the way to the start in Haslingfield, and after dodging around delivery vans parked on the pavement cycleway we both agreed that riding on the path is about as bad a riding on the road, and looked forward to the planned upgrade to the cycling facilities there.
The peloton assembles at Haslingfield Green (Photo: Edward Elmer)
We were the first to arrive at Haslingfield, but were soon joined by others including three assorted Johns, Adrian, Mick, Sue, Simon, Edmund, Sheila, Richard B and Dave W. As we set off, a stranger on a fine white Dutch town bike rode past, but on closer inspection this turned out to be Ian W, who was travelling incognito, without his customary small wheels.
We set off fairly cautiously as there had been a hard frost, but the sunshine won through after half an hour or so. We proceeded via Barton and Coton to Madingley, where we had to do a double-take as regular Sunday rider Nigel sped alongside and made a welcome guest appearance on a Thursday ride.
Dr John's festive bike (Photo: Edward Elmer)
The road from Dry Drayton over the A14 towards Cottenham was busier than usual, but I expect the pre-Christmas panic-shopping traffic on the parallel route via Bar Hill would have been at least as bad. We turned off onto the quieter NCN24 at Oakington and headed towards Longstanton and followed the guided busway for a short distance before turning off onto Reynolds Drove, a short section of off-road that leads to Rampton. This was muddier than usual, which was OK for me with mudguard clearance that would probably allow for tractor tyres, but caused some issues for owners of fancier, sleeker bikes with less mudguard clearance. The ride leader was left in no doubt about the folly of his route choice, and it was suggested that he might like to offer a bike washing service over coffee time to make amends!
At the coffee stop in Cottenham Community Centre, we met riders who had arrived independently from Cambridge and beyond, including Rupert, Susan, Russell, and a brace of Peter Ws. There was quite a queue so it took a while for everyone to get served. A group of 10 then continued towards Willingham and Over.
We paused as we crossed the busway, and decided to take the longer planned route to St Ives rather than a short cut along the busway. Riders who had been at the back of the group helpfully pointed out that they felt we had been holding up cars more than we should, and after that, more of an effort was made to divide into easier to overtake clusters of riders, separated by reasonable gaps, taking inspiration from the new guidelines for riding in a group.
In St Ives, Rupert left us briefly to search for any coffee stop that would be open for the ride on New Year’s Day. We continued along the Thicket Path to Houghton and then on to Wyevale Garden Centre at Wyton. We filed through to the café at the back, where we found both Conrad and Julia, dressed in "civvies", dining with associated young people. We were also joined by yet another John, who was missing his customary red socks.
Lunch was delivered fairly promptly and accurately, thanks to the electronic tags that tell staff where different diners are sitting. I ordered a "Festive Christmas Bap", expecting perhaps a soft bread roll with a bit of turkey and some stuffing. When this arrived, it exceeded my expectations in every way, with a saucer-sized roll, a separate jug of gravy, and managing to incorporate turkey, sausages, roast parsnip, stuffing, cranberry sauce and bread sauce.
Asking Santa for new bikes for Christmas
After eating, we filed out, pausing briefly for a group photo next to the giant inflatable Father Christmas. We set off via Houghton Mill and the Hemingfords back towards St Ives, where people left us for Swavesey and Cambridge. From there we re-traced the morning route to Fenstanton, where Dr John left us, and then crossed under the A14 and on towards Conington, where Ian W and Peter W left us.
The sat-nav geeks amongst us compared notes on how different models of sat-nav coped with the cross-over between the morning and afternoon rides, based in the same route information. Mine had a tantrum, and declared there was a route error, and promptly switched itself off, Susan's got confused and tried to take her back to the start of the ride the long way round, reporting that there was more and more distance to complete as we rode on, while others seemed to cope with the confusion.
Lighting up time in Bourn
There were now just five of us to continue back towards Haslingfield, pausing only to sort out our lighting when we got to the turning for Bourn. We continued through the Eversdens and Harlton to arrive back at Haslingfield just before 4pm, after a round trip of 87km (54 miles). Here we were treated to a wonderful "red sky at night" over Chapel Hill, which was made even better by not having had to cycle up it to enjoy the spectacle. John Seton
Download GPS track (GPX).