Friday, 29 September 2017

28 Sep: Thursday ride to St Neots and Kimbolton

Edward writes: By the time a dozen riders met in Haslingfield the overnight rain had cleared and all was set fair for our ride out to Kimbolton via St Neots. Susan was in charge today with Dr John doing the honours in the city. Not unexpectedly we started with a climb over Chapel Hill into Barrington where, at the re-grouping point by the church, we discovered that Averil was not with us. Immediately Mike, soon followed by Adrian and ever-ready to rescue a damsel in distress returned back over the hill to Haslingfield. Here they found Averil's chain had trapped itself between two of the front chain rings. This left the main group to carry on with the ride leaving Mike, Adrian and Averil to make their own way to St Neots.


Our route took us through Wimpole Hall and, after Arrington and Croydon, the climb up Croydon Hill. This achieved, we took the five miles through the Hatleys to Gamlingay, but by now we were running late and we didn’t arrive at the Ambiance Cafe in St. Neots until 11.30am to find that the city group were nearly ready to leave. To our surprise we found that Averil, Mike and Adrian had already arrived and drinking their coffee.

Arriving at St Neots

Susan cracked the whip and had us on the road again by 11.50 am only to find that Averil's front tyre had punctured and consequently one group became two whilst some waited for Mike to do the honours with the tyre. After the repairs we handed over the reins to Adrian to lead us as quickly as possible to Kimbolton. This took us through Duloe, Staploe, Little Staughton and Pertenhall and as we approached Kimbolton Averil’s back tyre punctured - she certainly likes to spread the pain around! As ever Mike took charge, assisted by Adrian, while Averil looked on. As you would expect Mike by now is quite good at fixing punctures (especially Averil's) and so we were not delayed long and arrived in Kimbolton at 1.30pm.

Puncture No. 2 in Kimbolton

Lunch was at Oliver's cafe and by all accounts they coped pretty well with us all. Dr John led his group away at 2pm and at 2.15pm Susan assembled her group and we started the return leg. This took us east along the B645 until the turning for Perry and after Grafham it was mainly downhill to Buckden and the Offords.

What little wind there was assisted us as we passed through Graveley, Hilton and Fenstanton. Next came the sluggish ride through Connington and Knapwell before arriving at the St Neots old road. We finished the ride through Hardwick and Coton and arrived home by 5pm and with 68 miles under our belts. Our thanks to John and Susan and, for the village group at least, an eventful day out. (Note for Averil: Make an early appointment at Shelford Cycle Engineering Company.) Edward Elmer

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Thursday, 28 September 2017

27 Sep: Evening ride to Babraham

Nigel writes: Despite sunset taking place only fifteen minutes after the start of tonight's ride, and a forecast of rain from mid-evening, four other riders turned out at Brookside for tonight's ride: Yasmin, Sophie, Tom and Andrew. We set off east along the river to Fen Ditton and Quy and then along the long straight road to Six Mile Bottom.

Ditton Meadows just before sunset

By the time we reached Six Mile Bottom it was completely dark for the climb up past Wadlow Farm to West Wratting. This is a rather undulating climb, with varying gradients and short sections of downhill along the way. Several riders remarked that it was surprisingly difficult to judge the gradient in the dark, so I gave regular updates on our progress ("short steep section coming up", "nearly at the top" and so on) using the elevation profile displayed on my Garmin.

When we reached Balsham it started to rain. It was fairly light, but since the rain was expected to persist for the rest of the evening we stopped to put on waterproofs before the long descent to Hildersham and Abington.

I didn't fancy taking the group over the A11 footbridge and across the fields to Babraham, so we took a rather longer route via the A505 cycleway to get to The George Inn in Babraham, which we reached at about 8.25pm.

Afterwards we returned to Cambridge via the cycleway through the Babraham Institute (very good) and the cycleway along the Babraham Road (less good). Just before we reached the Addenbrooke's roundabout Sophie sustained a puncture, but since she lived a little over a mile away she announced she would simply wheel her bike home and fix it at the weekend. So we dispersed and rode home. I arrived home at 10pm, having cycled 50km (33 miles). Nigel Deakin

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Sunday, 24 September 2017

24 Sep: Sunday ride to Finchingfield, Terling and Thaxted

Rupert writes: There are some people who seem to like early starts - let's call them the smarm-mites - and some who struggle to get to Brookside by 8.30am. I fall into the latter category. It doesn't matter how early I get up, my cycling legs are not ready to go until 9.15am due to years of Thursday ride conditioning.

Fortunately, the smarm-mites were in the majority today so that six riders were ready and raring to go at the start and a seventh was at least ready. We set off along Hills Road enjoying the new section of cycleway outside Addenbrookes before being dumped back into the road for the Addenbookes roundabout - which is about to be remodelled to handle increased volumes of motor vehicles as part of the not-very-joined-up road planning by Cambridge traffic engineers.

Happy riders at the end of the ride

From there we took the nice ascent of the Gogs with unhappy legs still protesting but eyes enjoying the open view of sunny uplands as we whoosh down into Fulbourn. Then we have the grim drag from Fulbourn to Balsham as we are forced to share the road with the Sunday drag racers. From Balsham we can start to relax and enjoy the back roads to head via Horseheath and Steeple Bumpstead before taking the long straight road past Spains Hall to arrive at Finchingfield even earlier than planned.

And there our first taste of cycling cafe disaster strikes. The cafe is heaving with a recently arrived group of motor-bikers and a coach party of older ladies. Of course I could be guilty of stereotyping here - maybe the Harleys belonged to the ladies and the lads in leather had arrived by coach - but somehow I doubt it. The cafe staff were working hard, but the big groups meant that we had a long wait for our drinks and our early start advantage was rather lost.

But while sitting in the cafe we were entertained by multiple groups of cyclists speeding through Finchingfield with steely determination. It turns out they were taking part in the L'Etape London". Our back road route kept us clear of these riders for the first few miles but at Shalford we rejoined their speeding flow and were soon being overtaken by hundreds of cyclists. On occasions, we felt more at risk from a cycle-cycle collision than the cars but all was well despite a near miss on one of the junctions.

In a few villages there were groups of spectators cheering the riders on - possibly confused by the cycle route markers which seemed to have been "borrowed" from the Tour de France (the Tour followed the same route through Essex a few years ago). Our group was evenly divided in opinion (in proper CTC style) with half acknowledging the cheers and others protesting "we're not with them!". Our slower pace than the Etapers was softened by a brief moment of success when our leader took us along the Flitch Way shortcut into Rayne to emrge ahead of a speeding group that had passed us just moments earlier. But eventually (and with some relief) our routes diverged as we turned to head across to Terling arriving just a few minutes behind schedule.

After a nice lunch in the sunshine it was time to head back, once again sharing another route that mixed with the Etape cycle race but by this time their numbers were reduced and anyway we were now going in opposite directions. After the obligatory wriggles to cross those pesky A131 and A120 main roads we emerged at Andrewsfield airfield in Great Saling - a club favourite but not a stop for today - before pressing on along the bridleway and more nice roads to arrive at Thaxted for our tea stop. Another potential cafe disaster loomed when they ran out of lemon drizzle cake, but we had toughened up now and shrugged it off.

As we left the tea stop, real disaster struck. Rupert managed to break the valve in Alex's rear tyre by offering to pump it up and snapping off the valve with his pump head when the bike moved. Bit like Brexit I thought, where the offer of free air corresponds to the promised nirvana of new trade deals and the broken valve and unrideable flat tyre is the reality. Apologies somehow don't seem enough in this situation, but a brave Alex offered to repair it himself while the rest of us could set off, in part because the late hour highlighted (not!) that a few folk had forgotten to bring lights.

From Thaxted it was the direct ride home via Debden and Saffron Walden, then opting for the B-road to Ickleton to avoid Coploe Hill in recognition of tired legs. By now my legs had finally woken up and I seemed to riding well as others were started to fade. But it was still a welcome shortcut, and we arrived back at Shelford just before 6pm. Best of all, after pausing for the end-of-ride group photo (thanks to a timely encounter with John S) we were joined by our lost leader Alex who had managed a speedy repair of his tyre, slightly assuaging my guilt. This blog was my agreed penance.

So thankyou to Alex for planning and leading one of our longest rides of the year at 91 miles, taking in lots of nice roads and dealing graciously with my valve bending "brexit" disaster. Rupert Goodings

Download this route (GPX).

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Adrian's holiday in the Isle of Wight

Mike writes: Adrian took 17 members of CTC Cambridge to the Isle of Wight. Initially we were concerned that the weather would be a problem but in fact it all worked out well. We had to keep a sharp eye on the forecast so as to cycle either with the wind behind us or on sheltered roads. We had one huge storm, fortunately in the evening when we were having our dinner. It was dramatic. You could hardly stand up in the wind outside and the sea at in Freshwater Bay was a seething cauldron of white foam.

Freshwater Bay (good)

We had one bad bit to the ride on Sunday when we came home over the hills straight into a very strong wind. We were buffeted about and I did hear someone got blown off but saw no evidence of injury. It was only about two miles but everyone commented on it.

Geoff, Adrian, Davie and Jackie at the goat farm

The next day because of the wind four including Vic and Adrian abandoned our bikes and went by car to the Steam Railway at Haven Street. It is superb and we spent several hours riding the trains and viewing the exhibitions. The train connected with the Tube Trains used on the main Island Line at Smallbrook Junction.

There is a large new shed with three tracks of carriages and other rolling stock at various stages of restoration. Most have been repaired and there is a staging so you can look inside at the inside of the carriages. Others that have still to be repaired are arranged on tracks where you look up to the carriages. They even have some very early carriages that look like stage coaches. Vic and Adrian love old trains. Vic used to work at Cambridge station in the fifties when they had about 150 locos in the yard. I recommend visiting the Isle of Wight Steam Railway as it is one of the best preserved railways I have ever seen.


Various groups visited various places on the island. I don't think any of us got to the east coast at Sandown and Ryde but one group went to Ventnor. Ventnor has spectacular climbs up toward St Boniface Down. The riders claimed one in four gradients which is quite possible. On the last day ten of us went to West Cowes. The wind had eased and the sun was out. Several of us repaired to the Anchor Inn which has a balcony looking out over the entrance to Cowes harbour. We felt like Royalty. We saw lots of boats sailing in and out and the Southampton ferries including the cheeky Red Funnel Ferries which love to compete with the big liners by tooting their horns. Return home was difficult as the climb from the promenade is 20% but it is very short. Fortunately further on the road goes over a bridge under repair which has a footbridge so no traffic. They have almost finished it and have just painted the parapet black and white which looks very nice. The workers were very friendly. Six of the group continued to East Cowes via the foot ferry and then headed south to Chale Green before returning on the military road.

Model village at Godshill Church

The roads on the Island are generally a cyclists' paradise. Several old railways have been converted for cyclists. There are lots country roads. There are lots of hills. We were led up Strawberry hill near Brighstone. The maps says it is one in seven but it was far the hardest hill we tackled. I only just made it with my ebike helping for all it was worth. It took nearly a quarter of its charge in just 6 miles, phew! Adrian took us to Winkle Street near Calbourne. Very picturesque.

Bridge under repair

I had a fantastic ride on my own with the wind behind me on the military road from Freshwater bay to Chale. You start with an easy climb up at about one in ten that looks very steep and then on and upwards for about a mile. Then you dive back down nearly to the sea and the up and down along the road near the cliff edge. There are virtually no trees for over ten miles.

New town altar centre

Adrian led his traditional walk from Poets Corner along the cliffs past the Tennyson Memorial to the Needles. It is a surprising distance of over two miles. The wind was very strong in exposed places.

We had the usual gang of cyclists. We make a varied crew with Jim, Val, Averil, and Mick, who did longer rides. Edgar, Tom, Lorraine, John, Geoff, Doug, Edgar and me (electric Mike) generally rode with groups. David W was up for anything.

We were accommodated in two fantastic houses. There were ten in the house on the hill, called Greystones, and the other seven at Peots Corner. The latter was named after the poets including Tennyson who live nearby. Both houses were very well appointed. Poets Corner was so near the sea that the brochure said you could see the sea from it which was just true.

We were worried by the news on Wednesday that one of the two Wight Ferries was out of commission having had an engine fire during the storm. By Thursday a spare ferry had brought in and everything returned to normal. John went to East Cowes on Thursday and reported that the Cowes Chain Ferry was also out of action. A new ferry had been built for the route but when it arrived it did not fit the landings and was the wrong height so cars were grounding as the drove on board.

Other members of the group are welcome to add their own experiences to this report: just send your text and photos to Nigel. I have many more photos, and video, for those interested. Mike Stapleton

Thursday, 21 September 2017

21 Sep: Thursday ride to Horseheath and Castle Hedingham

Edward writes: This Thursday Edmund our leader took us out to Horseheath for coffee and Castle Hedingham for lunch, with Rupert leading the city six from Brookside. The start time had been brought forward to 9.15am but this didn't prevent a latecomer who has to remains nameless.

Edmund got a grip on matters from the start and divided the sixteen or so riders into two groups. His plans, though, had to be changed owing to the level crossing at Sawston being closed. This meant a diversion through Great Shelford, a bit busy at this time of the morning, which took us past the Gog Magog golf course and the climb over the Gogs to Fulbourn.

Gogs Summit, but business as usual

This now meant a long straight road to Balsham which must be about five miles and all of it uphill; not a pleasant ride but we reached Balsham unscathed.

Fulbourn to Balsham

Now further out into the country we arrived at Balsham by way of Streetly End. As is usual with the Old Red Lion in Horseheath we found a number of 'independents', including Malcolm and Gwen, such that we more or less took over the pub.

Preparing to leave Horseheath

After coffee we seemed to leave in a number of different groups with the usual smattering returning home. As we crossed the A1307 for Cardinal's Green we encountered a lone cyclist pedalling this main road and it turned out that he was cycle-touring and was heading to the Harwich ferry to his home in Holland. Adrian persuaded him that he would be better off with us rather than staying on the A1307 as directed by his GPS. He was quite prominent in that he was riding bare-chested and he stayed with us all the way to Castle Hedingham where he also lunched with us.

Towards Castle Camps

We made slow but steady progress through the Bumpsteads, Stambourne and Toppesfield. All went well through good cycling countryside until a junction caused some confusion, but not to Adrian. It never pays to go against Adrian and those who did found themselves having to turn back and shamefacedly returning to the junction and going the way the Adrian had originally said. What would Homer Simpson have said!

Helions Bumpstead

Finally we arrived in Castle Hedingham but only as the leading group was leaving. It seems that Buckley's, our lunch stop, had coped well despite the numbers exceeding our estimate.

Sible Hedingham to Wethersfield

Sible Hedingham to Wethersfield

Our now small group left Castle Hedingham at 2.20pm and made our way to Wethersfield which now shows little sign of the large American airbase which closed some years ago. This proved the turning point as now we were no longer riding into the wind as we had all morning but now faced more north-westerly and the wind was more or less behind us.

Finchingfield came next and then back to Helions Bumpstead and as we were obviously far behind the leading group we carried on to Castle Camps rather than Edmund's chosen route via Olmstead Green.

At least after Castle Camps it was all downhill to Bartlow and Linton. We completed the ride through Little Abington, over the farm track to Babraham, Sawston and Great Shelford, arriving at 5 pm and for those doing the route correctly about 68 miles. Although we didn't see much of our leaders our thanks to both of them for their efforts. Edward Elmer

Download GPS track (GPX).

Saturday, 16 September 2017

6 Sep: Evening ride to Balsham

Nigel writes: There were six of us on tonight's ride, with a seventh joining us at the pub. The nights are drawing in rapidly now, and the sun set after little more than an hour. The Bull in Balsham is still a relatively new stop on these evening rides, but it has already become a firm fixture due to its excellent location which allows a nice route from Cambridge: over the Gogs to Fulbourn, through the Wilbrahams to Six Mile Bottom, up Brinkley Hill to Brinkley and finally a loop through Carlton and West Wickham back to Balsham.

On the way to Great Wilbraham

As always these are chatty, sociable rides and I was probably distracted when I added an unplanned diversion via West Wratting, but we were soon back on track and arrived at the pub in good time at 8.20pm.

Dinner in Balsham

After a pleasant hour or so we set off back towards Cambridge. It was now completely dark, and I encouraged the group to stay close together for the fast descent down to Charterhouse Bridge and Fulbourn. This proved a good road to use in the dark: simple to navigate and free from unexpected bumps and potholes.

From Fulbourn we took the Old Drift route to Cherry Hinton and along the tins to Mill Road, where the group dispersed. I arrived back home in Cambridge at about 10.10pm, having cycled 56km (35 miles).Nigel Deakin

Download GPS track (GPX).