Saturday, 27 February 2016

25 Feb (& 16 Feb): Cambridge Suffolk Eye-full - 200km Audax

Alex writes: It was with a sense of déjà vu that I met with John R, Daniel and Seb C in dark, cold central Cambridge for another early start to a 200k audax.

Today it was to be the Cambridge Suffolk Eye-full, another of Nick W’s creations. Like last month’s ride, we were to venture east of Cambridge, but this time to the town of Eye in Suffolk, then back home via Lavenham and Great Yeldham.

After getting cashpoint receipts, at 06:30 we headed out of Cambridge along the Newmarket Road, but our progress was soon hampered by some mechanical and biological issues which needed urgent attention, so the group became split and as it ended up Seb, John and me were riding ahead with Daniel some minutes behind.

Riding into danger?

The temperature was well below freezing and there were patches of ice on the crunchy roads, requiring constant care. Nevertheless we made good progress, riding within ourselves, working steadily over the undulating route Nick had designed, and exclaiming over the succession of picture postcard scenes of Suffolk that unfolded before us.

After 45km we arrived in the first control in Glemsford, and bought the obligatory superfluous items in the local convenience store to get receipts. “You’re brave, out riding in this” said the till girl, gratifyingly.

At Glemsford

As we left Glemsford the sun was fully out and the sky bright blue. The temperature started rising above freezing and we stopped a few times to adjust layers accordingly. Before long we arrived at for our breakfast at the Maglia Rosso cycle café, a well-liked club stop. There we re-fueled on cake and baked beans on toast, and relaxed for a while watching the Tour of Dubai on TV.

Leaving Glemsford

After breakfast we swung east to begin working our way along the lanes towards Eye, still marvelling at the glorious views and weather, and congratulating ourselves on having selected the best day of the year so far for cycling.

Then, 80 km into the ride my front wheel suddenly sweeps from under me and I and my bike skid along the ground. I feel the impact of John’s bike behind and watch as, in slow motion, he lands in front of me with a helmet-crunching thud.

Quick self-assessment: nothing broken. I get up and see John is lying on the ground in a worse way, being badly shaken from the heavy fall. Various motorists stop and proffer assistance and then a chap (Simon) emerges from the nearby house. He and his wife take John inside to fix him up while Seb and I collect the bikes and inspect the road. The offending patch of road looks normal and ice-free, but as we tread on it we nearly slip over ourselves: black ice.

Inside, John regathers his composure with the help of sweet tea. It seems the ride is over for us, not only because of cuts and bruises (luckily nothing worse) but because of bike damage: broken handlebars and a dented frame (me), and a wonky wheel and cracked frame (John). Seb however is good to go: contacting Nick at mission control we establish Daniel is very close, so Seb heads off to rendezvous with him in Eye and continue the audax.

Meanwhile Simon very kindly drives John and me to Bury to catch the train back to Cambridge. For both of us it is a first audax DNF (“Did Not Finish”). We sit grumpily on the train as it speeds through the splendidly sunny countryside that seems to mock us, cross not just because of the crash but more especially because of the 130 km of fine cycling we are now missing …

Seb continues: And so with John and Alex in good hands I left the lovely people that provided us with a cuppa after the accident, and continued on my own.

I soon stopped again to contact Daniel and get an idea of where he was; maybe I could catch him up and we could ride along together …

Approaching Eye just over an hour later, I saw Daniel coming towards me. He said that 2nd control at Eye wasn't far. I rushed to get a receipt from an ATM and headed back out of town the way I came. Eventually I caught up again with Daniel and we rode together for about an hour, but I left him again in Haughley at 15:30 where he packed from exhaustion.

Continuing alone, I saw a lot of pretty countryside, went past "Tandem House" and had a break in Lavenham where I took some pictures and ate energy bars. It seemed a lovely town in the late afternoon sunshine. I set off again, heading for the next control in Great Yeldham. The night fell and I was very reliant on my GPS with its batteries running down. I was also getting hungry and thirsty again.

I arrived in the Great Yeldham and my Garmin declared I'd reached the control right opposite a Fish/Chip/Kebab/Pizza shop. Thank you Nick!

I absolutely love pizza, furthermore there was a buy one get one free offer on – so I spent a bit too much time restoring myself, but I left in better spirits.

After leaving Great Yeldam, I got lost. This is because I was trying not to use the backlight nor the navigation page on my Garmin to save battery, relying on the device to alert me when I'm going off course, except it hadn't locked onto it properly when I restarted, so I had to head back to Great Yeldham the way I came. It soon found the course again.

Onwards still, the desperate navigation tactic without helmet light and low battery on the GPS was to pick a sensible road at junctions, sometime turning back when the gizmo told me I was "off course".

I came back into known territory where Dean Road crosses the A1307, and looked forward to the downhill after Balsham going towards Fulbourn: it was nice to feel the pull from gravity.

After Cherry Hinton I was soon on Hills Road and then at the Arrivée where I got my receipt straight away. I particularly wanted a celebration pint, so decided to head to my local pub. When I got there I had cycled 230 km (143 miles). (Strava)

Second outing, 25 Feb

Alex writes: It was déjà vu all over again as I arrived at the cashpoints in central Cambridge ready to begin a second attempt at this course. John R was still recovering from last week’s crash so my sole companion for today was to be Mike P, on his first audax.

New handlebars, and ready for the off – again

We had decided to wait until 09:00 to start to give the ice a chance to melt, and so it was already light as we headed out of Cambridge. Still, it was wintry and there were thin layers of ice on the roadside puddles. As we reached the (ahem) summit at Brinkley a few snowflakes danced in the air. Soon though the early morning cloud cleared and sun came out, making once again for a very attractive landscape through which to cycle – not quite so pretty as last week’s frosty spectacular but, in compensation, probably rather safer.

We made good progress to the control at Glemsford and then to the Maglia Rosso, where we took brunch watching the Tour of Oman on TV. Everything was slightly different from last time. And so it proved at 80 km where, instead of crashing, we would continue on dry roads to the control at Eye at 103 km.

The wind was light and from the north, so did not trouble us much throughout the day. However when we arrived at Eye it was blowing a foul stench over the town from a poultry processing plant. Luckily this did not permeate the Bank café, where we drank tea and watched a potter at work on his wheel. We were ahead of schedule and feeling good, although conscious we were barely half-way round and already well into the afternoon.

From Eye, we started heading back west on a succession of pretty lanes and through gently rolling countryside. By the time we reached Lavenham (145 km) it was 16:45 and starting to get dark. As the tearooms and cafés were shut (which we had anticipated), we bought some snacks at the Co-op, had a quick stretch and got our heads down heading for the final control at Great Yeldham, still 25 km away. We were beginning to feel tired: this winter riding takes its toll.

By the time we reached Great Yeldham it was properly dark. One consequence of starting later was that we would have to do more riding in the dark at the end of the ride (or be very fast – which wasn't going to happen). On the credit side however, pub stops come into their own and so we pushed on another 10 km to Steeple Bumpstead and the Fox and Hounds. We had originally intended for this to be a brisk and efficient stop but the scene inside was a convivial one and once we discovered it was Steak Night ... well, everything went a bit ... full value.

Refueling in Steeple Bumpstead

And so, suitably replete with steak, chips and shandy we set out on the final 35 km to home. The pub stop had pushed our magic reset buttons, and we were both now pedalling easily and cheerfully. Before long we were at Balsham (“as good as home”) and we sped down into Fulbourn and along the Tins cycle path.

Just as we reached Mill Road a cyclist appeared. It was Nick! At the start of the ride I had sent him a link to my Garmin's LiveTrack. He had been able to follow our progress all day via the web and so knew where we were to intercept us. Nick rode with us into town (taking care to stay behind us so as not to render assistance, which is against the rules), and witnessed out triumphant arrivée at 21:35. The ride had taken 12 hrs 50 mins and I had ridden 217 km (135 miles) (Strava). Special kudos for Mike for also tackling the extra 40 km round trip to Over!

This is a great course: it has attractive countryside, quiet lanes, enough undulation to keep things interesting and a good selection of shops and food stops along the way. Thoroughly recommended!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

25 Feb: Thursday ride (village start) to Gamlingay and Biggleswade

Edward writes: This morning there was a touch of frost, and the day started overcast, but luckily with little wind, which was good as what little there was had a very cold edge to it. As for the past few days the temperature wasn’t expected to rise much above five or six degrees centigrade. All in all conditions for cycling were very good encouraging thirteen riders to gather at Haslingfield Green and seven started from the city centre.

Haslingfield

Today we had Averil in charge for ride out to Gamlingay for coffee and then on to Jordan’s Mill in Broom for lunch. We left Haslingfield and out to Harlton and the Eversdens and already the clouds began to disperse and the sun was making a serious effort to break through. When we reached Bourn we veered left and made the gentle climb up to the A1198 and Longstowe. The road from Longstowe to Little Gransden, although not especially busy, is a bit of a bone shaker as the original sections of concrete are still evident beneath subsequent re-surfacing.

Longstowe

At the junction for Little Gransden we turned left which put us on the road for Gamlingay and this finishes with a nice, long descent. Woodview Farm, our coffee stop is barely a mile out of town on the road to Potton and we duly arrived just before 11am.

Little Gransden

Already enjoying coffee were Sharon and Belinda and arriving at the same time as us, Richard M. The group from town arrived a few minutes later with Susan arriving a little later still. Fortunately the cafe had been informed of our arrival and they were able to deal admirably with such a vast throng in such a short time.

Approaching Gamlingay

Preparing to leave after coffee

By 11.40 am Averil assembled everyone for the departure which was to be in two groups with Rupert leading the second group.

Potton

We went along the B1040 to Potton and then Everton which, of course, took us on to the very exhilarating Tempsford Hill and with the momentum gained doesn’t take much pedalling to reach the level crossing which this time was only closed for one Grand Central express to pass through. It was a nice thought that the Flying Scotsman had passed along this line only a couple of hours or so earlier!

Puncture repair in Blunham

After the railway we came to the A1 and shortly after into Blunham where Peter Wi had a puncture - which sounded more like an explosion! If a puncture happens it’s always a good policy to have Mike C close at hand and he duly obliged with the repairs and Mike CC kindly gave Peter his folding tyre to use, and not many minutes had passed before we were on our way again.

Leaving Blunham

At the Chalton turning we turned left and travelled south out to the A603 for a few hundred yards before turning off to travel south again to the tiny village of Hatch. This was followed by a road called Vinegar Hill which brought us into Upper Caldecote and here we turned east on to the B658 until we turned south to run parallel with the A1 and soon we arrived at Jordan’s Mill just before 1 pm. We later learned that Rupert had taken his group by way off Southill, whether by accident or design is not known.

Leaving Broom (Jordan's Mill)

The usual format for lunch occurred, with those eating sandwiches outside joining everybody else for teas and coffees later. We set off again at 2pm and after Sharon, Belinda and Richard had left seventeen began the journey home. Our homeward route took us through Langford and the long, but not arduous, climb up to the A1; descending on the slip road the wind felt very cold, but luckily our road home would be more easterly, and with the sun out conditions were very nice. In fact, under the sun, the countryside began to show its many colours and it was good to observe that the recent frosts had not damaged the early blossoms. We passed through Hinxworth and, via Loves Lane, we by-passed Ashwell and on to Steeple Morden.

Abington Pigotts

When we approached Littlington we veered left and took the more attractive road via Abington Pigotts and then Bassingbourn. This left us with Kneesworth, Meldreth, Shepreth and Barrington. This left a few to go over Chapel Hill into Haslingfield whilst others went home via the A10 cycle way to Harston. Those completing the full circuit would have covered 54 miles and our thanks to Averil for a splendid day out, ably assisted by the weather forecasters, which took us via some new, or less frequently-visited roads. Edward Elmer



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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

24 Feb: Evening ride to Hemingford Abbots

Nigel writes: Our evening rides in winter are normally held on the Wednesday nearest to the full moon, which allows me to describe them as moonlit rides even if in practice the moon is often hidden behind thick cloud. I was therefore very pleased that our final evening ride of this particular winter was held on a clear, dry and moonlit evening, even if the clear skies meant that this evening's ride was held in very low temperatures which were close to freezing for the whole ride.

My companions this evening were Tom, Seb, Gareth and newcomer David F who had chosen this particular ride for his first outing with us. The route we took was the same as on many previous such rides: through the city centre and out along Huntingdon Road, joining the busway just beyond Girton.

It was bitterly cold right from the start, and by the time we reached the busway my fingers were frozen and no doubt everone else's were too. There was only one thing to do: to blast along the busway as quickly as possible in the hope that this would warm us up. Rather surprisingly it worked, and by the time we reached the bright lights of St Ives at about 7.30pm I was feeling much more comfortable. Along the way we picked up Mike CC, who was making his own way to join us and bringing our total number to six.

We continued along the Thicket Path to Houghton, crossed the meadows to Hemingford Abbots, and stopped for drinks and food at The Axe and Compass.

Afterwards we said goodbye to David, who lives locally, and set off back to Cambridge via Hemingford Grey, St Ives and the busway. Soon Gareth was disappearing off into the distance, and Mike CC told us not to wait, leaving Tom, Seb and me to ride back in the freezing cold but by the light of a beautiful moon. I arrived home at 10.05pm, having cycled 36 miles.



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Monday, 22 February 2016

Rides in March and April

We're pleased to announce our rides lists for March and April, with up to seven rides each week.

During March our main Sunday rides will continue to start at 9.30am as they have throughout the winter. Then from Sunday 3rd April (a week after the clocks change) the start time will change to 9.00am and our rides will become slightly longer to reflect the earlier start and the lengthening days. Our Sunday afternoon rides will continue to start at 1.00pm, though the time of our afternoon tea stop will change to 3.30pm to allow us a slightly longer ride.

Our rides on Thursdays have become so popular that we have recently experimented with "split starts", with both village and city centre starts points but the same coffee and lunch stops. This has proven to be very successful and we're going to continue with this approach. Introducing the additional start point gives us more manageable numbers of riders in each group and is also more convenient for Cambridge residents. However one consequence is that we now need twice as many ride leaders!

In addition our senior cyclists' group continues to meet for lunch every Tuesday, our leisurely Saturday morning rides continue twice a month, and our Wednesday evening rides become weekly from 30th March.

We aim to have a leader listed for every one of our rides, so please contact Rupert, runs secretary, if you are able to lead a ride.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

21 Feb: Sunday ride to Ickleton

Nigel writes: Today's ride, like last week's, was dominated by wind. However whereas the wind last Sunday was from the north and bitterly cold, today's wind was from the south and not cold at all, and in fact the temperature today was so mild that we saw other cyclists out wearing shorts.

Ten riders turned out at Brookside for today's ride: Li, Paul, Rupert, Edmund, Sheila, David, Tom and Clare on their tandem, Alex our leader, and me, and just as we were setting off we were joined by an eleventh rider, Orlando.

The start at Brookside

Alex led us south out of Cambridge, taking the familar route that involves joining the busway at Long Road, taking the spur to Addenbrookes and then, after a short section along Francis Crick Avenue, the DNA path to Great Shelford. As usual I sprinted ahead to take photos, which today was made rather more difficult than usual by the strong headwind.

On the busway to Addenbrooke's

We continued from Great Shelford to Little Shelford and turned onto the B1368 to Newton. Once again this was directly into the wind.

The loop through Thriplow (Photo: Alex Brown)

Early daffodils in Thriplow

After a short diversion via Thriplow we reached Fowlmere and a few minutes later reached the A505. We crossed to Chrishall Grange and turned left onto Royston Lane.

Chrishall Grange (Photo: Alex Brown)

Cycling along Royston Lane allowed us the luxury of a tailwind for the first time.

Royston Lane

Approaching Royston Lane summit

We arrived at Ickleton just after 11am and stopped for coffee at Riverside Barns. Already at the cafe were Mick, Andy, Sarah and Vic, and a short while later we were joined by Adrian.

Coffee at Ickleton

Over coffee we checked the weather forecast and discussed what to do next. According to the BBC the day would remain dry and mild, but the 20mph winds we had experienced so far would increase to over 40mph by midday. Not unreasonably Alex decided that cycling in such intense wind would not be very safe and announced that we would be returning back to Cambridge. After some more discussion it was agreed that we would take an indirect route home, continuing south to Saffron Walden before looping back via Ashdon and Linton.

We left the cafe, crossed the road and turned onto a farm track that brought us out on the road that leads up Coploe Hill and on to Catmere End.

Climbing Coploe Hill (Photo: Alex Brown)

Descending Coploe Hill

After Catmere End we descended along Chestnut Avenue to Audley End and then climbed back up into Saffron Walden.

Crossing the River Cam at Audley End

Our ride through Saffron Walden took us past both The Temeraire and Bicicletta Coffee, but we ignored the tempotations of both and turned onto the road to Ashdon. This is a long climb but today we had a strong tailwind and I found myself sailing up. Ashdon was followed by Bartlow, Linton and Abington, where we took the track that leads to a footbridge over the A11 and on to Babraham. This involves cycling along a narrow rut, only a foot wide, and with a strong sidewind I found myself nearly blown off the path on a number of occasions.

The track from Abington to Babraham

When we reached Babraham we turned right to join the A1307 for the final few miles back into Cambridge. This involved cycling along a busy, fast road for about half a mile after which we were able to join the cycleway which runs alongside the A1307 all the way to Addenbrooke's. I continued towards the city centre and arrived home at 2.30pm, having cycled 45 miles.



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Thursday, 18 February 2016

18 Feb: Thursday ride (city start) to Saffron Walden and Dullingham

Mike P writes: Despite an unpromising overnight forecast of sleet and snow flurries in the Cambridgeshire area for the early morning, eight riders arrived at Brookside for the 9:30 departure. Roads were damp from the overnight rain but conditions were dry and cold with no wind to speak of.

Mike CC, Rupert, John, Eva, Dr John, Stuart and I were joined by guest rider Russell Griffin. Russell had recently invested in a new bike and decided to "test the waters" with the run out to the coffee stop.

(Read Edward's report of the parallel ride from Hauxton to the same destinations: Thursday ride (village start) to Saffron Walden and Dullingham.)

Gathering for the city start (Photo: Alex Brown)

We headed out of Cambridge on Trumpington Road turning off towards Great Shelford at the Waitrose intersection. We forked right just over the railway bridge taking the village route through Little Shelford and onwards to Whittlesford by which time the first rays of sun were coming through an otherwise grey sky.

Whittlesford Road (Photo: Alex Brown)

Having crossed the A505 we headed into Duxford and detoured via the ford into Hinxton with all wisely opting for the footbridge crossing.

Mike CC shows how to cross Hinxton Ford safely(Photo: Alex Brown)

Dropping into Ickleton we headed up the familiar Coploe Hill before stopping at the summit to catch our breath and admire the views.

Coploe Climb (Photo: Alex Brown)

Coploe Summit (Photo: Alex Brown)

By now the sun was working its magic and temperature was much more pleasant. We pushed south towards Catmere End and enjoyed a quick descent to Audley End before the final climb into Saffron Walden and a well-earned coffee at the Temeraire arriving shortly after Eddie’s group about 11.15 am.

Suitably replenished we headed out to Ashdon on what is a surprisingly busy unclassified road, seemingly popular with lorries and transit vans.

At Ashdon, John and Russell decided to head back into Cambridge, leaving a group of just five to make our way to lunch. Conditions were so nice we opted to take a detour from my original route and, just after the village, we headed out into the rolling South Cambridgeshire countryside towards Shudy Camps and crossed the A1307 Haverhill Road at Horseheath. The villages and countryside looked fantastic in what was rapidly becoming a day to remember. We worked our way up to Carlton and joined the B1052 at Brinkley for the short ride north into Dullingham.

Approaching lunch (Photo: Alex Brown)

Approaching lunch (Photo: Alex Brown)

Once again we were just pipped to the post by Eddie's group and arrived at The Boot in Dullingham at 1.15pm. Such were the numbers it took a while to replenish lunchtime stomachs although I thought the food looked universally good and excellent value, not to mention the Adnams.

We left Dullingham at 2.30pm opting for a relatively direct route back via Swaffham Bulbeck and Bottisham. Although the sun was still shining, a noticeable north westerly headwind made it feel like hard work pulling up towards Swaffham. Fortunately, once we “turned the corner” and started heading west on the A1303 cycle way towards Stow cum Quy the wind wasn’t so noticeable and we returned to Cambridge via Fen Ditton before picking up the cycleway along the Cam past Chesterton and back across town.

We arrived back at Brookside at 4.10 pm having cycled 53 miles. Mike Pearce

18 Feb: Thursday ride (village start) to Saffron Walden and Dullingham

Edward writes: All week, even up to last night, the weather forecast had predicted rain or snow until well into the morning. Not a bit of it; true, there had been plenty of overnight rain but after a cloudy start it was sunshine all the way. So, at Hauxton thirteen gathered (and nine at Brookside) for today’s ride out to Saffron Walden and Dullingham for lunch. The original plan had been to have lunch at the Chestnut Tree in West Wratting but because of a kitchen refurbishment we had to rearrange the ride.

(Read Mike P's report of the parallel ride from Brookside to the same destinations: Thursday ride (city start) to Saffron Walden and Dullingham.)

We started the ride through Little Shelford and Newton and Thriplow where, with so many flowers appearing early, the daffodil weekend organisers, which is April 16 and 17, must be concerned if there will be any left to flower. We had to leave them with that problem as we passed through the village on our way to Fowlmere and to the A505.

Chrishall Grange

We didn't have to wait long to cross the A505 today and we crossed safely and made our way towards Chrishall Grange. We took the left turning at the foot of the hill which put us on Royston Lane with its very steep climb, but worth it for the views it afforded, especially under the bright sunlight.

Royston Lane

This took us to the last bit of Coploe Hill and Catmere End where we saw a herd of deer in the field next to the road (photo below).

Coploe Hill

Catmere End

A long downhill swoop of Chestnut Avenue brought us to the B1383, past the mansion, into Saffron Walden, arriving at the Temeraire at 11am.

Deer at Catmere End

Edward continues: Already at the Temeraire we found Craig, Frances, Joseph, David W and Peter W and it was only a few minutes before Mike P brought in the Brookside group. Refreshments were served quickly and at 11.40 am we were ready for the next session.

From Saffron Walden to Dullingham we took entirely separate routes; Mike took a group via Ashdon, whereas our group went out of the town up to Little Walden and the fairly easy climb up to the former RAF Hadstock airfield.

Hadstock

A nice descent into Hadstock and a sharp turn at the bottom of the hill and we were on the road to Bartlow going under the former railway to Haverhill.

The former railway between Hadstock & Bartlow

Another gentle climb to a crossing of the A1307, still climbing gently, took us over the crossroads between Balsham and West Wickham and a final flourish of climbing (a bit steeper here) took us into West Wratting. By now the temperature had shaken off the cold of early morning and with the beautiful sunshine, little wind, cycling was really pleasant.

Bartlow to West Wratting Crossroads

Bartlow to West Wratting Crossroads

After West Wratting we came to Weston Colville and a bit more easy climbing to Carlton. We joined the B1061 to go through Burrough Green and finally the B1052 for the descent into Dullingham and The Boot for the luncheon interval, at 1.20 pm.

Weston Colville

Although we had called ahead with an estimate of the numbers we made it very difficult for them as the pub has a very small staff but even so they coped very well. For another time they wondered if we could ring ahead with our orders as it seems their menu is always the same. This is a nice friendly pub and perhaps we should consider helping them in this way.

Anyway, by 2.30pm we were all ready to start the return journey and, with Dullingham being so close to Cambridge, Mike took a group on a more direct route home while our group of nine, keen to stay out in the nice weather, went down the busy B1061 into Newmarket; luckily it’s only just over two miles but with a lot of fast moving traffic not a nice ride. In Newmarket we went into Hamilton Road which passes close to the racecourse and many of the stables and also avoids most of the busy road to Exning. We soon came to Exning and on to a quiet Heath Road which took us into Burwell and then Reach.

On the Lodes Way

The weather was still bright and sunny and everyone was happy to join the Lodes Way for a traffic-free ride to Lode. We went out to Bottisham so that we could cycle along the cycle path beside the A1303 all the way up to the airport where we considered the ride at an end at 4.30 pm and 56 miles. Edward Elmer



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