Monday, 2 January 2017

2 Jan: Special ride to St Ives and St Neots

Nigel writes: Our first club ride of 2017 took place, rather unusually, on a Monday, following a decision to cancel Sunday's ride due to a forecast of rain, and hold it the following day instead. This proved to be an excellent decision, since "holiday Monday" turned out to be bright and sunny, and about fourteen riders turning out to spend the final day of their Christmas and New Year holidays on a bike ride.

Our route today was essentially a repeat of a very successful ride we had enjoyed a month ago, and with the same leader, Alex, though with different food stops.

Eddington junction

We set off north out of Cambridge on our way to meet the busway just beyond Girton. It was a glorious sunny morning, but it was also very cold, with the temperature just above freezing. The ride had started at 10am to reduce the risk of early-morning ice and for the first few miles everything appeared to be going well, until we turned east onto New Road, Histon, the final section of road before the busway. A high hedge along the southern side had shielded the road from the sun. When we met a pair of oncoming horses, a ripple of braking passed along the group, and we sudden discovered we were riding on ice. Russell drew the short straw and tumbled over, fortunately with no damage to rider or cycle.

New Road, Histon: very icy

Alex wisely turned the group around and we continued on to Oakington, joining the busway a little further along. Fortunately we didn't encounter any more ice, apart from a couple of small patches along the busway which we passed carefully.

On the busway

We arrived at St Ives at about 11.15am and stopped for coffee at the "Local Cafe". This is a traditional cafe of the "fried food" variety, and although we frequently stop for coffee in St Ives, this was our first visit here for several years. I think it's quite a good place to visit, especially with a large group, as they had plenty of room inside and our food and drink orders were handled speedily. The main drawback is a lack of cycle parking, though fortunately the shop next door was closed so there was no-one to object when we piled our bikes up outside.

Bikes outside the cafe in St Ives

The last person to arrive in the cafe was Alex, who had been delayed by a puncture. Alex rides on tubeless tyres, filled with sealant, and a small hole usually mends itself. However on this occasion the hole was large enough to require plugging with an "anchovy", a curious name that only makes sense when you see what it looks like before insertion.

Alex's "anchovy"

Afterwards we reassembled outside, and it became apparent that almost everyone was in the mood to take advantage of the sunshine and carry on with the group to lunch in St Neots.

Setting off after coffee in St Ives

Alex's original plan had been to ride along the Thicket Path to Houghton and across the Ouse Meadows to Hemingford Abbots, but after objections from Rupert (probably on the grounds that it would be muddy) we took the on-road route via Hemingford Grey instead. After passing through Hemingford Abbots we continued across Eastside Common and on to Godmanchester.

Eastside Common, Hemingford Abbots

In Godmanchester we turned south onto the B1043. This heads directly for St Neots, and I became concerned that we would get there before I had time to digest the beans on toast that I had just eaten for breakfast. Fortunately when we reached Offord D'Arcy turned east for a pleasant loop through Graveley and Toseland before turning back west towards St Neots.

Approaching Graveley

We arrived in St Neots at about 1.25pm and stopped at The Weeping Ash, a Wetherspoons pub just north of the main street. We parked our bikes in the yard outside and went inside to find most of the tables occupied. About half the group stayed in the pub to have lunch, with the other half walking the short distance to eat at the Market Cafe and Cafe Nero instead.

Backwater in St Neots

After lunch it was time to return home to Cambridge. Alex and Rupert were both mindful of the possibility of ice on the minor roads so we skipped the scenic route via Waresley and took a more direct route via Abbotsley instead. For this final stage home we had a slight tailwind, and with the sun still shining this was a very pleasant ride home.


As we approached the outskirts of Cambridge the sun set and the temperature started to fall. I was glad that we didn't have far to go. I arrived home at about 4.15pm, having cycled 90km (56 miles). A fine start to 2017. Nigel Deakin

Download GPS track (GPX).

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