Saturday, 30 April 2016

30 Apr: Green and Yellow Fields 300km Audax

Alex writes: John R very kindly gave me a lift from Cambridge to Maningtree for the start of this audax. It was to be his first 300km ride and my second. With good weather in prospect we were both looking forward to an experience that we hoped would be both pleasurable and challenging.

The basic idea of this event, the Green and Yellow Fields, is to ride through the night to breakfast (on the North Norfolk coast) and then ride back, all within 20 hours.


Some video from the ride

The ride would begin at one minute past midnight, and John and I had booked into the pre-ride curry beforehand for a chance to fuel ourselves and get some tips from more experienced riders. Night was just falling as we arrived in Manningtree and it was already so cold I started shivering on the short walk to the curry house.

Night falls on Maningtree Estuary beach

As usual I over-ordered curry, and today chose chicken jalferezi, pilau rice, sag aloo, and a peshwari naan. It was extremely good and really quite spicy, but I couldn't quite finish it all and settled back feeling stuffed to the gunwales. Was this a good way to start a long ride?

Already nippy

I was still feeling full as we made our way to the départ at Maningtree station. There we were pleasantly surprised to meet John S who was riding too, fresh from his conquest of Ventoux.

After the usual low key instructions ("... all right, off you go") we were underway in a field of around 50 riders. Unusually, this event has a maximum permitted speed of 25km/h, so there is no point in anybody riding very fast, as they would arrive at the controls before they "opened" and have to wait around. This speed restriction has the beneficial effect of keeping all riders together for the first hours of the ride, and indeed we soon found a group riding at our pace and rode á peloton for the first 75km leg up to Barton Mills services.

Normally the opening of a 24-hour McDonald's is not a noteworthy event, but the new one at Barton Mills has caused excitement in the audax community as it will make a number of night-time events in this part of the world much more pleasant.

A few of the more grizzled riders were complaining about this new soft option and reminiscing about having to negotiate with a grumpy till assistant through a garage shops's service hatch – but most of us were glad to see the golden arches and get into the warmth for some hot food – especially since the temperature was now below freezing.

Thawing out at Maccy D's

After (surprisingly good) coffee and a donut I was ready to face what I knew would be a hard leg of the ride: another 75km up to breakfast at Burnham Deepdale. To help, I activated a small electrical device on my bike which I hoped would aid progress: a bluetooth speaker which could play music from my phone. I fired up my souplesse-bosting selection of 1979-ish disco-ish tracks and the Bee Gee's Tragedy rang out into the night (appropriately enough for audaxing " ... when the feeling's gone and you can't go on ...").

This quickly attracted the attention of the crew of a tandem trike: Mark and Jane, who wanted to ride with us. This turned out to be a good deal because they – very experienced riders – had a superbly consistent pace, a machine that provided a draft like a tractor beam, and a cake box with some delicious home-made ginger cake that they generously shared. It was great to ride with them and this made the journey through the night a highlight of the ride.

As we zoomed up the A1065 (a road best avoided during the day) the temperature kept falling to reach a low of -6°C, and occasional wisps of icy mist drifted across the road; I was glad I was wearing full winter clothing. But soon the sky started lightening and we experienced a full technicolor dawn into a clear sky.

Mark and Jane on their tandem trike just after dawn

On quiet lanes now as the sun rose, we passed a number of beautiful scenes – brooks shrouded in mist, warm light on churches, infinities of green shades on grassy hills - which made me regret I couldn't linger to take photographs. We passed the occasional cyclist stopped in a spot of sunlight to try and thaw out but we weren't stopping: breakfast called and we were going strongly. At 07:45 we arrived at Burnham Deepdale; half-way.

Over coffee and scrambled eggs I said to John R that we could now forget the night, and say we just had a nice 150km day ride ahead of us on a sunny day with a couple of stops – easy!

And so it proved – the major challenge of the next leg being to cope with the rising temperature. From the full winter garb of the night I had transitioned – by the time we reached Wymondham – into riding gloveless in a short-sleeved jersey.

Titanium steeds at Wymondham

Brunch in Wymondham

At Wymondham (214 km done) I chose a cake and milkshake and remarked to John R that this was nearly the perfect audax. We just needed some rain to give us a fuller variety of experience.

Such jocularity did not go unpunished. Over the next leg the temperature dropped, the wind picked up, and it was clear that in the "big sky" around us a number of showers were on the prowl across the plains. We were hunted-down by one mid-way on the leg to Needham Market and experienced several unpleasant minutes of driving hail. That will teach me!

Needham Market came and went (with more cake) and we were soon on the final stretch. The course designer had thrown in a few sharp ramps just at the end to give the legs a final test, but John and I were in such a good mood we found them amusing rather than annoying. We rolled into Manningtree feeling fresh: we had completed the 300km (186 mile) course in 16 hours 50 minutes.

Despite not feeling too tired, when I got home I sat on the sofa for a moment and the next thing I knew I was being woken up and told to stop snoring.

And is a big curry a good prelude to a long cycle ride? The answer, it would seem, is yes!

30 Apr: Cambridge Diss’d Clare 200km Perm Audax

Nigel writes: Today Gareth and I rode the Cambridge Diss’d Clare 200 Perm, the latest in a series of 200km Audax rides designed by local CTC Cambridge member Nick Wilkinson and which can be ridden at any time. For those who don't know what a Audax "permanant" is, please read the explanation I wrote two weeks ago for our Chiltern Pathfinder 200 ride.

Today's ride started in Cambridge City Centre, which allowed me time to have a larger-than-usual breakfast before heading out to meet Gareth by NatWest in St Andrew's Street for a 7am start. When I arrived I was pleased to see Tony there as well: he's a very experienced Audaxer who would no doubt be able to help us maintain an appropriate pace.

6.55am: Gareth and Tony by the NatWest ATM that constitutes our first control, in an almost-deserted Cambridge City Centre

After visiting the ATM to obtain a balance slip to prove the time and place, the three of us set off. Today's ride was to be a long loop into Suffolk. After a quick run along main roads to Newmarket we would turn onto quieter roads, calling into our first control at Barrow and passing through other familar villages until we reached the edge of the region visited on CTC Cambridge rides. We would then continue east along unfamilar lanes to our second control at Diss (which is just in Norfolk). This would be followed by a short leg south to Debenham before turning west to visit controls at Elmswell and Clare on our way back to Cambridge. There's a much better description of the route than this on the CamAudax website

The weather today was excellent, with clear skies at the start and sunshine forecast for most of the day. There were a few showers around the place, but in the event we managed to miss all of them. This left the main feature of the weather today as being the wind: a cold, persistent breeze which would help us along in the morning but impede our progress in the afternoon as we were beginning to tire.

The run to Newmarket took us along the main A1303. This is wide and straight so was no particular problem to ride along, despite the surprisingly large amount of traffic even at this early hour.

Tony has ridden countless long Audax rides over the year and has great experience of pacing himself, so I was not surprised that when Gareth and I sped off eagerly at the start, Tony stayed back at a more sustainable pace. When we reached the Black Horse roundabout near Newmarket we stopped to wait but he was no-where to be seen, so we sent a text message and carried on, hoping to meet at the next control. Unfortunately our paths didn't cross again.

At Newmarket we turned right and followed a B-road to Ashley. It was only there that we turned onto our first quiet lane, and for me this is the point where the ride truly started. The route via Newmarket had been straightforward and efficient, but the next time I make this ride I will look into missing Newmarket altogether and taking a quieter and prettier route via Dullingham, even if at the expense of a few more miles.

It was whilst we were climbing out of Newmarket towards Ashley that Gareth first noticed that something was wrong with his bike, with a periodic scraping sound coming from his rear wheel. We stopped to take a closer look. There wasn't an obvious cause: the mudguard wasn't rubbing, so Gareth shrugged and we carried on.

West Suffolk is one of my favourite areas to cycle, and doing so early on a quiet Saturday morning, with a clear sky and a bright sun, with the whole day ahead of us, was a delightful experience. It was still fairly cool, but the sun was strong and we realised we should have used sunscreen for the first time this year.

Nigel looking back towards Dalham

We reached Barrow, our second control of the day, at 8.38am. We had ridden 22 miles so far and stopped to make a token purchase from the village store and munch some food before carrying on.

8.38am: Second control in Barrow

Along the way Gareth called out the names of various birds he had spotted, but I was never quick enough to get out my camera. Fortunately the moon, still high in the sky, stayed in position long enough for me to take a photo.

The Moon in a clear sky

We were soon at the edge of map for CTC Cambridge rides, which meant that from now onwards I would be enjoying the novelty of riding along completely unknown lanes, carefully following the suggested route but not really knowing where I was.

Ingham: a rare wooded section in a generally wide-open ride

It must have been somewhere along this section that Gareth stopped a second time to examine his bike. The scraping sound from his rear wheel had become more persistent, and he turned his bike upside down to allow a closer examination. He spun the rear wheel and the sound appeared again: there was some sort of problem with the hub, or perhaps the freewheel mechanism, which was causing the sound. Worse, it was causing resistance and preventing the wheel spin freely. Gareth remarked that this explained why he had been going more slowly than me (he had previously assumed that it was my speedy new bike). But there wasn't much we could do about it now, so we carried on.

Entering Pig Country

After a while we reached Diss, a busy little town just over the border with Norfolk. It was 11am on a Saturday morning and there was a lot of traffic, but we didn't take long to find the town centre and stop for hot food at a cafe in the main street.

11am: Late breakfast in Diss

Diss marked the north-easterly corner of the ride, and it was here that we turned south towards Debenham. Along the way we passed through Eye, and I was stuck by the large church in a dominating position in the main street.

Eye

We reached the pretty village of Debenham and visited the local Co-op to perform control formalities. It was 12.20pm, and we sat at a bench in the main street and eat some more food (in my case a yogurt).

After Debenham we turned west in the general direction of Cambridge. We were now riding into a gently but persistent headwind which would be our constant companion for the remainder of the day. In the sky, clouds had appeared but there was plenty of sky in between to allow the sun to shine through from time to time.

Big Sky Country

We could see various patches of rain in the distance, and for a few moments we experienced a few drops - but that was all there was and we never experienced any rain after that.

Haughley, just before Elswell

Haughley

Gareth doing his best to maintain local traditions in Elswell

Our fifth control was in Elmswell, and we rode up to the Co-op to visit the ATM there. I was tired, but because of the effort of riding with a rubbing rear wheel Gareth was exhausted. We decided to make it a proper stop and visit Dorothy's Tea Shop, a few hundred yards to the north, just beyond the railway crossing. I had discovered it whilst researching possible food stops on Google last night. We walked in, consulted the menu and both ordered bowls of apple pie and custard: perfect comfort food for riders with diminished appetite. Given that this appears the be the only cafe in the town it was very useful to know it was there, and demonstrates the value of researching the controls in advance to identify possible "emergency" cafe stops. (It's closed on Sundays).

2pm: Dorothy's Cafe Tea Room in Elswell serves an excellent apple pie and custard

As we waited at the level crossing by Elmsworth Station a train headed for Cambridge rolled in and stopped. I reminded Gareth that this was his last bail-out opportunity, but he was keen to press on.

Chocolate-box cottage between Elswell and Clare

We continued on towards our penultimate control at Clare. By now the threat of rain had completely disappeared and it was once again a lovely sunny afternoon. The lanes were quiet and pretty, with only natural tiredness and a persistent westerly headwind detracting from the pleasure. By now Gareth was riding slightly slower than me, though the difference was quite small, but it meant that I had a fairly easy time. No doubt if Gareth's bike had been in good order he would have been pushing the pace up noticeably.

We reached Clare at 4.15pm, with me arriving about five minutes ahead of Gareth. We knew from Alex's and John's visit in January not to expect hot food at this time, and in any case with only about 25 miles to go we were happy to sit outside in the sunshine, munching food (in my case a Ginster's meat pie) and watching the effect of what was by now quite a stiff wind on the flags in the market place.

4.15pm: Penultimate control in Clare

The final leg from Clare back to Cambridge was on mostly familar roads. It was still sunny and really rather warm, but the effect of the headwind and inevitable tiredness meant I was plodding a bit. I was now riding well ahead of Gareth and when I reached Great Wratting, about 20 miles from home, I decided we were sufficiently close to Cambridge that the requirements of camaraderie allowed me to push on without waiting for him to catch up.

The final descent from Balsham to Cambridge was relatively fast but nowhere as quick as normal, and the final miles from Fulbourn into the City Centre along busy roads were rather tedious. This was the first time I had ridden in via Fulbourn Road and Cherry Hinton Road for ages, and the next time I do this ride I will use my normal route via Fulbourn Old Drift instead.

I arrived back in the city centre and returned to the NatWest ATM in St Andrew's Street from where we had started and checked my balance for the final time. The time shown on the receipt was 6.35pm, making my overall time 11 hours 41 minutes.

I loitered nearby until Gareth arrived about twenty minutes later. After completing ATM formalities he lifted his rear wheel and spun it to demonstrate what he had been struggling against: the wheel stopped within half a turn. It must have been like cycling for 100 miles with the rear brake half-applied: a rather heroic achievement, though not one that comes as a surprise.

The sun was still shining and Cambridge City Centre was still very busy with pedestrians, buses, cyclists and Deliveroo riders who seemed to cycled past every thirty seconds or so with huge insulated food boxes perched rather uncomfortably on their back.

Gareth and I stood outside NatWest chatting for about ten minutes, enjoying the feeling of having completed the ride. We then went our separate ways. I arrived home a few minutes later at 7.15pm, having cycled 134 miles.



This is Nigel's GPS track. GPS and TCX files for this route can be downloaded from the CamAudax site here

Thursday, 28 April 2016

28 Apr: Thursday ride to Lode and Kentford

Edward writes: Apparently this ride would create history in that our two leaders today were both women, with Averil leading the group from the city and Sharon leading from Hauxton. This ride would also be a longer summer ride taking in Anglesey Abbey in Lode and the Animal Health Trust in Kentford. This morning we welcomed John who was riding with us for the first time. In the last week or so we seemed to have had more frosty mornings than all of the so-called winter months put together. However, after another overnight frost the skies were clear and bright but the biggest bonus was that the wind had finally shifted away from the North and was now much more westerly.

Young member at Hauxton

Sharon led the ride out of Hauxton which was a group of fifteen (eight at Brookside), into Little Shelford, Great Shelford, over the railway at the station and up Hinton Way to the Gog Magog golf course.

Little Shelford

With the wind now changed climbing the Gog hills was much less arduous than usual and we soon arrived in Fulbourn. Both the Wilbrahams came and went and we arrived in Bottisham for the final run in to Anglesey Abbey in Lode at exactly the same time as Avril’s group who had left Cambridge along side the river. As they were a bit early they did a loop round Bottisham and Swaffham Bulbeck.

About to cross over the A14 at Bottisham

Bottisham

As usual we were joined by many others, among them Vic who it is always a pleasure to see, which meant there were at least thirty club members at the cafe. After the usual exchange of personnel, and as we were going over the Lodes Way, we left Lode in rather a long convoy. Obviously, once on the Lodes Way and away from the traffic this was no problem.

On the Lodes Way

At the turning for Burwell we split into two groups; Avril took a small group of seven towards Burwell along Little Fen Drove whilst Sharon led a much larger group up to Wicken and subsequently to Fordham and Chippenham.

Those Red Sox again

Meanwhile Avril took us into the North end of Burwell, which was little error, but soon corrected, allowing us to take the long route via Heath Road past the solar farm to Exning. Another mile or so brought us to Newmarket and now the most attractive part of the route began as we left the town beside the gallops to join the pleasantly rural and mostly quiet ride to Moulton.

Newmarket Gallops

Moulton

This gave us a chance to see that the daffodils are finally fading away but are now replaced by the bluebells. When we reached Moulton we used the B1085 to run down to Kentford, a left turn along the B1056 and we arrived at the Animal Health Trust shortly after 1 pm and 34 miles after leaving Hauxton, and finding Sharon’s group already there.

Lunch at Kentford

With so many of us sitting in the courtyard we caused a minor panic amongst the staff, but they soon overcame their shock and it didn’t take long to get everyone served, especially as the group wasn’t quite as large as it first appeared as many had brought sandwiches. During lunch the skies clouded over and one or two threatening clouds loomed into view and the temperature dropped. This probably encouraged quite a few to leave early and make their own way home. About ten minutes later a final group of eleven set off for home. We went back into Moulton and now as we faced south west we would ride into the wind. Between Moulton and Cheveley there is a stiff climb which gives way to a great descent into Cheveley.

The hill between Moulton and Cheveley

We turned right in Cheveley and followed the signs for Stetchworth but never actually going there as we now branched off to Dullingham. When we reached Dullingham the group split again with about half going back to Cambridge via Swaffham Bulbeck and Sharon’s group headed off towards West Wratting.

Dullingham

We finished the ride via Balsham and Hildersham and the ride between these two villages was in sharp contrast to two weeks ago. Then it was thunder, lightening and torrential rain, but this time two Hercules aircraft appeared from behind the hill to our right and for a few moments it seemed they were only just above ground level - quite a sight. After Great Abington, Sawston and Great Shelford and back to Hauxton we finished the ride at 4.15 pm and 62 enjoyable miles. Warm thanks to Sharon for devising the route and to Averil for willingly leading the City start group. Edward Elmer



Download GPS track from Hauxton(GPX).











Wednesday, 27 April 2016

27 Apr: Evening ride to Hemingford Abbots

Nigel writes: The weather forecast for tonight's ride along the busway to St Ives and the Hemingfords was distinctly poor, with rain predicted to last all evening. However we have hardly ever have had to cancel an evening ride due to bad weather and so it was more out of habit than anything else that I got myself ready and set off to Brookside in good time for a 6.30pm start. It was drizzling steadily as I rode across town, and really rather cold, and I quickly decided that a ride this evening wouldn't be much fun and that I would simply turn up at the start and cancel it.

This idea evaporated the moment I arrived at Brookside. There I found John R and Dr John, who had already ridden over ten miles into Cambridge to take part in tonight's ride and would be riding back along the busway whether I came with them or not, so I decided I might as well.

We set off through the City Centre, up Castle Hill and along Huntingdon Road to Girton. Along the way in Bridge Street we were joined by Tom, bringing our number up to four. When we reached Girton we rode through the village and turned onto the busway, which we followed all the way to St Ives. From there a loop along the Thicket Path to Houghton followed by a rode across the Ouse Meadows would bring us to Hemingford Abbots for our pub stop.

On the busway

As we made our way along the busway it continued to drizzle steadily, but the main cause of our discomfort was the cold, with a temperature of 3C at the start falling steadily to about 2C by the time we reached Hemingford Abbots. You wouldn't have known that May 1st was only four days away.

St Ives

We stopped for drinks and bowls of chips at The Axe and Compass in Hemingford Abbots, where we were joined by Mike CC who had made his own way there.

Afterwards we set off back home. Fortunately the rain had stopped, though the temperature had continued to fall. As we rode back through Hemingford Grey, St Ives and then back along the busway the others peeled off in turn as they neared their houses, leaving just me to return all the way back to Cambridge. I arrived home at 9.50pm having cycled 36 miles.



Download GPS track (GPX).

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Rides in May and June

We're now approaching the longest days of summer, and our May and June rides lists contains our suggestions for how to enjoy them.

The main changes take place on Sundays, where we're offering a mix of rides which we hope will offer something for everyone. Our morning departures (from Brookside at 9am) will roughly alternate between what we're calling light day rides, which stop for morning coffee and lunch before returning back to Cambridge around 4pm, and full day rides which stop for tea as well, aiming to return before 6pm. In addition our afternoon rides depart from Brookside at either 1.30pm or 2pm with a stop for tea.

All our other rides continue as normal. Our hugely-popular rides every Thursday continue with parallel village and city centre starts points but the same coffee and lunch stops. Our evening rides continue every Wednesday. Our senior cyclists' group continues to meet for lunch every Tuesday, and our leisurely Saturday short social rides take place twice a month.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

24 Apr: Sunday afternoon ride to Ashdon

This is our 1001st ride report!

John F writes: Eight cyclists met at Brookside at 1pm, including a guest CTC member from the Cotswolds, Bob M. The weather was perfect with a slight southerly breeze. The early start time allowed us a longish ride to tea and we set off eastwards through Fen Ditton, Quy to Dullingham. There we turned south until the crossroads from there we went through West Wickham, Horseheath. Cardinal’s Green, Shudy Camps to Ashdon.

From Bottisham the route was along delightfully traffic-free lanes. Arriving at the museum at 3.40pm we met Mike S, Simon (back on his bike after a lay-off with knee problems) and Steve. A scrumptious tea was, as usual , enjoyed al fresco. Stan's GPS had recorded a distance of 25 miles.

The return route via Red Oaks Hill and the quiet lane to Seward's End into Saffron Walden, past Audley End House. over Coploe HiIl and on via Hinxton brought us into Cambridge at 6.15pm. Stan and his GPS were not with us on the return route but my guess for the total distance is 47 miles. John Ferguson

24th Apr: Sunday ride to Stradishall and Depden

This is our 1000th ride report!

Nigel writes: Although we're now almost at the end of April, the weather is still really rather cold, and it's not time to put away those winter longs quite yet. Last Sunday showed (here and here) that cold spring days can be bright and sunny, but today was not one of those days. It started off quite sunny, but after an hour or two the sky darkened, and although we never actually saw much in the way of rain, today's ride was mostly held on a cold, windy and overcast day.

Brookside, Cambridge

The weather didn't prevent a good turnout at Brookside for today's ride, though, my companions for the first stage of today's ride were Alex, Susan, English Seb, Rupert, Mike CC, Edmund, Jim, Stan and me. Noticeable by their absence, however, was John our leader, though a phone call soon established that he was on his way and running late. We agreed a rendezvous in eastern Cambridge and set off, heading across Parker's Piece and then across Midsummer Common on our way down to the river.

Parker's Piece, Cambridge

We followed the river east to Stourbridge Common and Ditton Meadows before turning away towards Fen Ditton and Quy. Somewhere along the way we were joined by John, bringing our number up to ten.

Riverside, Cambridge

At Quy we turned onto Little Wilbraham Road. This runs south-east in a straight line for almost four miles, all the way to Six Mile Bottom. Despite being almost flat this is something of a drag, and it was a relief to reach the end.

Six Mile Bottom is about nine miles east of Cambridge (the "six miles" monicker refers to the distance from Newmarket), and marks the transition point between the flatlands of Cambridge and the more interesting hills beyond (a role that Ickleton plays to the south). So this is where we started climbing, a long but fairly gentle 70m ascent to Brinkley. David W appeared at some point along this section, and disappeared a few miles later.

The long drag to Six Mile Bottom

When we reached Brinkley, Stan decided it was time for him to turn back for home, leaving the rest of us to continue on to Great Bradley for a short run along the B1061 to Little Thurlow.

Great Bradley

From Little Thurlow a pleasant quiet lane took us east for a couple of miles to the A143. We followed this for a short distance, passing Highpoint Prison along the way, and soon arrived at Adam's Cafe. This simple cafe, popular for its hearty breakfasts, is normally busy with motorcyclists but when we arrived today there were none to be seen; the only people there were Joseph and Keith.

Morning coffee at Adam's Cafe, Stradishall

Since the catering staff didn't seem to have much to do this morning I decided to order beans on toast to occupy them, and the others followed with rather lighter orders including bacon sandwiches.

After a pleasant, relaxed half hour or so it was time to continue on our way. As usual, several members turned back for home, leaving Alex, Susan, Edmund, Keith, John and me to continue on to lunch. This was in Depden, which is a mere five miles north-east along the A143, but we obviously didn't go straight there (not with beans on toast to digest). Instead John led is on a very pleasant loop to the east. This took us through Denston and Hawkedon to Hartest, where, instead of heading up Hartest Hill, we turned north-east to continue our loop through Whepstead before returning back west to Depden.

Hartest (but not That Hill)

We reached Depden Farm Cafe at almost exactly 1pm and stopped for lunch. This is one of my favourite lunch stops, probably because it is much smaller than the other farm shop cafes that we visit. Unfortunately their normal menu didn't seem to be available and instead we were presented with a rather limited Sunday menu, though it was perfectly adequate for us.

Lunch at Depden Farm Cafe

The lunch menu may have been limited, but the display of cakes most definitely was not (and neither was the portion size).

It's all about the cake, says Alex

After a leisurely lunch we set off back to Cambridge. John's route took us north-west, through Ousden, Ashley and along the B1063 onto Newmarket.

Lady's Green on the approach to Ousden

When we reached Newmarket, Keith and Alex left the group. Keith lives nearby, whilst Alex decided to head straight back along the A1303. This left Susan, Edmund, John and me to continue along John's planned route. This involved following the old NCN 51 along completely flat roads through Exning, Burwell, Reach and Bottisham. I arrived home at 4.30pm, having cycled 70 miles.



Download GPS track (GPX).