I have had many a day out in Cambridge, usually just by car or by car and ‘Park and Ride’ taking advantage of the pensioners perk of a free bus pass for the last few miles into town. This time was different, my first trip there by bike.
I was using it as a test ride for the Audax coming up next weekend. Its a 200km event and I was becoming a little unsure about my ability to survive the trip. Its much further than I have ridden in one go since my comeback to cycling a few years ago. I thought I would try myself by doing what is an up to now longest ride of recent years albeit not as long as Saturdays ride. I was even doubtful over the 145km distance of this ride but if I had problems I wouldn’t be that far away from home. If I had problems in the 200km event I was going to be on the return leg anyway so there would be no shortcut back, I would just have to drag myself to the finish.
I had been trying to fit a longer ride in for a couple of weeks but weather, life and circumstances intervened. Originally my plan was to ride to Oxford and back as for the last few weeks the wind has been from the south-west. I know the wind direction cancels itself out but I always feel happier knowing I have a tail-wind for the return leg. This week on Monday there was a south-west wind but I couldn’t go then. Tuesday, the day of the ride was a north-east wind so I chose Cambridge instead, being kind east of my home but a little north of east. Both destinations are around the same distance so it didn’t make a lot of difference, except I think the Oxford would have been more picturesque. Thats a ride for another day now though.
I had used some new software (to me) to plan the ride, Ride GPS. It has a ‘pay for’ version but the free one seemed enough for me for now as a trial anyway. It seems to have plenty of features, including the ability to put in waypoints along the route. This would be useful to me for putting in control points on the Audax routes.
I mapped out the route and had several options of format to load it to the Garmin in. I chose .tcx over the usual .gpx. This turned out to be a mistake I think, but more of that later.
I started my ride just after 8:15am and the first thing I noticed was that the navigation was at least working. This though is where I discovered that I may have loaded the file in the wrong format. Instead of the advanced notice of an upcoming corner all there was, was an arrow on the map indicating which direction to turn but no enlarged detail. As I made the turn It told me the name of the road I should be on though, but I prefer the advance notice if possible.
I headed out towards Bedford which I had to get around and planner had found a nice route through using cycle paths on the National Cycling Network (Sustrans) . These led me from the outskirts of the north west of Bedford to my exit on the south west. It made use of a few ‘ordinary’ roads on the way but it was a trouble free route. Given that it was still the time that people were going to work that wasn’t bad.
I headed towards Sandy next and just after that another piece of cycle way was made use of and took me uphill onto the road towards the village of Everton, no Goodison Park (football associated) there though. After this I was onto quiet country roads and into Cambridgeshire and the long flat straight roads associated with that county, I did seem to be up on some kind of plateau though as there was quite a strong wind to be felt and I hadn’t done any descending since my short sharp climb up out of Sandy.
The sun was shining by now and I was feeling good as the distance to Cambrideg kept decreasing at a steady rate until I found myself crossing over the M11 and into the outskirts of Cambridge. Here I moved onto the roadside cycle paths to make life easier and safer. The lack of advance notice of upcoming turns make life a little difficult but eventually I saw a sign on a path that said ‘City Cente” which i took and within a couple of hundred across a little meadow by a water mill and a little wooden bridge I surprisingly found myself right in the middle of Cambridge where all the punts are stationed for hire or for being guided by a ‘punting chauffeur’, usually students making a bit of spare cash.
I am quite familiar with this part of Cambridge and took several photographs as I slowly cycled my way around the paths and back streets, it did a lot of damage to my average speed for the trip i think but it was too nice a day to worry about that.
I had a brief sit down outside Kings Collegs Chapel to devour two cereal bars by way of sustenance for the return trip and watching the tourists, mainly foreign, milling around in groups with guides or alone, its always busy there, very good for people watching.
I started my return journey by self guiding my way through the city towards the A428 road until the Garmin flashed up ‘Route Found’ and I was on my way again. It was a long steady climb up out of Cambridge and soon i was approaching the main road, a new dual carriageway that replaced the old main road. The old A428 main road is still in use though, but very little used and makes a good cycle route as it runs parralel to the new road.
This nice bit of road/cycle path ran all the way to the roundabout at Caxton Gibbet. The gibbet is still there and allegedly is where they used to hang Highwaymen in the old days. Its now surrounded by a big Macdonalds restaurant and the big roundabout has replaced a crossroads where the Gibbet was originally located. I think it has been moved unfortunately to make way for progress? I could see signs of metal reinforcement being being used around the base but hardly surprising I suppose given its great age.
The next stretch of road, the A428 still, to St Neots wasn’t very nice at all. Just a single carriageway road with plenty of traffic, mainly trucks too. Some cut there passing manoeuvres a bit fine but I lived to tell the tale and the draft from them passing towed me along pretty well until I reached St Neots. I turned off to ride through the town and out the other side, stopping in the riverside park for a photo and a bit of a sit-down and liquid refreshment.
For some distance now I hadn’t needed the navigation aspect as I was familiar with the route now but I kept it running anyway. Soon enough I was nearly home but I noticed my average speed was hovering around 23.8kph and i was feeling good enough to push on a bit to get to round figures and just clicked over 24kph mark as I got home. It was actually a bit over on the Garmin. When I downloaded the rides the Garmin site said 24.1kph and Strava said 23.9 😦
I was pleased with my performance on the ride and now feeling quietly confident about being able to complete the extra 60km that will be required on Saturday, something around 37 miles. The Ribble behaved perfectly too..
My next move is to plan a local ride on the RideGPS site and put the route in the Garmin as .gpx and see what kind of navigation I get, and do this before the weekend so I can be all set for Saturdays ride.