Day 1: Wednesday December 26
Vix and I decided we would work off our Christmas dinners and hangovers by
cycling in a 60 mile loop around Cambridge, trundling through many of the
local villages that we have not yet visited up to Cottenham, and then back
again. The outward journey went round the East side of Cambridge, and we
came back to the West of Cambridge.
We set off at 8.30am. The sun had risen, more or less, and we had plenty of
light. The plan was to be in Cottenham by midday-ish, enjoy a fabulous pub
lunch, and be home again in time to watch the sunset. Things didn’t go quite
according to this plan.
Given that this was Boxing Day, having got ourselves up and ready by this
time is little short of a miracle. The pain hit after only a couple of miles,
when we both found our porridge sitting rather heavily on top of undigested
roasties swimming in beer, gin, Baileys and whisky. With no option but to
carry on, we carried on, and the indigestion soon passed.
After that, all we had to contend with was being less than supremely fit.
Progress was a bit slower than we had anticipated, so we didn’t arrive in
Cottenham until after 1.00pm. I was concerned that we were going to be
completing the ride in the dark.
There’s nothing much to report about the villages we cycled through, but
I’ll comment on a few ‘highlights’.
The first section to Great Chishill had signs saying it was blocked. A
landslide had occurred but this seemed to have been mostly cleared, and didn’t
trouble us. The road surface had the consistency of clay slip but was rideable.
We took a detour after Teversham, along a farm track. At first it was very
rideable gravel, but then turned into slimy mud. This was not one of our best
ever ideas, but we were soon back on the road to Horningsea and thinking about
It transpired that the Chequers Pub in Cottenham does not do lunch nor even
sandwiches on Boxing Day. They didn’t do much beer either. The decent ales were
all off, so I had to make do with John Smiths. Those who have been on many (in
fact, any) rides with me will know the fundamental importance of beer to the
smooth running of my Coker. I’d forgone the pleasure of trying pubs in all the
other villages because we had so little daylight time, only to face this …
this … travesty! Ho hum. we made a picnic of our cycling snacks, and set off
on the return leg.
We took fewer pictures on the way back, seeing as we were racing against the
sunset. It was seriously dusky by the time we reached Newton. I had a wonderful
experience on the road from here to Fowlmere: a barn owl was flying low along
the hedgerow a little in front of me, and at about the same speed, clearly
hunting for dinner. It crossed the road twice just as I was catching it up,
and seemed unconcerned about my presence. It’s passage was silent. In the end,
it descended onto a field and I assume some hapless rodent went to complain
to it’s maker. A little later, in Barley, we heard owls calling, but it just
wasn’t the same.
By the time we reached Fowlmere, it was dark, so I’m counting the last seven
miles as night riding. We had lights but, thanks to poor planning on my part,
we had only one rear light between us. So we leap-frogged along the road. I’d
go ahead, but not too far, and wait for Vix to catch up. Vix had the rear light
at first, and I turned to dazzle any approaching drivers with my Lumis. As a
safety strategy, this worked, but probably did not endear me to those drivers.
I normally curse cyclists who don’t use lights, so you can imagine my
We were very glad to reach home. I’m pleased to report that I suffered no numb
bum during the day at all. This pleasing outcome is something of a first for
such a distance, though my legs were tired by the end. Wearing two pairs of
cycle shorts is clearly the way forward.
Distance: The ride was 62.4 miles (100 km). My odometer was on the blink so I
got the distance from Google Maps. 10 km of this were ridden at night.
Climbing: Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire are not known for their hills, but
there are some little ones. Most of the climbing is concentrated in the Southern
part of our loop - i.e. at the start and, worse, the end. I don’t have a GPS device,
so I’ve estimated the climbing by counting the contours on the OS map.
Some were faint, or not obviously crossing the route, so it’s a ballpark figure.
Contours are spaced at 10 metres, so the actual height was probably more than
my estimate of 570 metres up and 570 metres down.
Time: We arrived home at 5.30pm, and had stopped for at least 2 hours worth
of bum breaks during the day. The odo, when it was working, reckoned I was
averaging 11 mph. So, the average speed was quite low, but not too bad
considering I haven’t ridden my Coker for months.
Weather: Aside from the light conditions already mentioned, the weather was
generally fine. Scattered clouds, no rain, not much wind (ignored in my score).
If you are interested, the following directions can be pasted into Google Maps
to show you our journey.
Bogmoor Rd @52.021120, 0.048010 to:
Heydon Ln @52.040813, 0.092843 to:
Grange Rd @52.069760, 0.170770 to:
Moorfield Rd @52.096755, 0.158511 to:
N Rd @52.115106, 0.145965 to:
Church St @52.144010, 0.123240 to:
Hinton Way @52.155208, 0.150428 to:
Pierce Ln @52.184960, 0.212790 to:
High Ditch Rd @52.219280, 0.177030 to:
Clayhithe Rd @52.256850, 0.199170 to:
Dry Drayton Rd @52.250964, 0.049123 to:
Dry Drayton Rd @52.229729, 0.039758 to:
Long Rd @52.194773, 0.030130 to:
Washpit Ln @52.156116, 0.025335 to:
Newton Rd @52.131256, 0.089762 to:
Day 2: Thursday December 27
This was a workday for me. The office is 20 miles from home, so the plan was
basically to commute to work on the Coker, but to do the whole things in the
dark to make up for the shorter distance. This meant setting off from home
at 5.35am, so I could arrive at work before the sunrise.
The ride to work was pretty uneventful. It took 1 hour 56 minutes, including
one five minute stop for food and a much-needed liberal application of butt
butter (bit of nut roast going on with the gentleman’s vegetables). The only
other dismount was to cross the A505, which was surprisingly busy at that time.
Most of the ride is along quiet unlit country lanes, and only four vehicles
passed me before I reached the A10 at 6.35.
Despite the almost complete absence of traffic or pedestrians to witness them,
I observed that the Christmas lights/displays were turned on at all of those
houses whose owners had seen fit to festoon them with Santas, snowmen, reindeer
and the rest. My working hypothesis is that these displays are landing strips
for Father Christmas. It would be a tragedy if the modern world’s light
pollution caused him to overlook your house, so obviously the solution is to
create even more light pollution. And if you’ve gone to all the trouble of
creating the display, you’re going to want to leave it turned on until January
(at least), aren’t you. Can you say ‘global warming’? Bah! Humbug! And other
exclamations of a generally Dickensian tone!
The ride home was much, much harder. By this time, my legs had pretty much
had enough, and I seemed to spend the whole time fighting the Coker, which
kept pulling to the right. I don’t know if the seat was twisted, the wheel
was lopsided in the frame, my bag was badly packed, my cycle shorts were
lumpy, or all of the above, but I ended up with a sore back, which slowed
There was also something of a headwind. I don’t think it really qualified as
‘strong winds’, but there was a persistent drag factor to combat, especially
on the more exposed sections. I’ve found over the years that a headwind when
going downhill makes you feel like you’re going on the flat, when going on
the flat it makes you feel like you’re going uphill, and when going uphill
makes you feel like getting off (I didn’t). I’ve guestimated this to be
equivalent to 5 km of strong winds.
I stopped more often on the way home, partly to take some pictures, but mainly
to rest my legs. The last few climbs, between Barley and Barkway, were particularly
unpleasant, and I was very happy indeed to reach the sign for Barkway - downhill
all the way to the house. The medical term for my condition as I staggered into
the house is ‘utterly bollocksed’. I’m more tired than I’ve been during longer
tours, so I need to get myself back into shape. Cycling to work on two wheels
clearly isn’t doing the job. I didn’t even have the energy to drink beer, a
condition best described as disconcerting. The only other time I felt this way
was after the century ride with Roger and the gang.
Distance: The ride was 40.1 miles (64 km). My odometer was working today. The
entire ride was at night.
Climbing: I once again estimated the climbing from OS map contours. My estimate
is 250 metres up and 250 metres down.
Time: The odometer said my average speed overall was only 9.8 mph, which is
quite poor, especially when you consider that it was about 11 mph for the
first half. A little over four hours of riding, with a five minute break in
the morning, and about 45 minutes of breaks in the evening.
Weather: The weather was basically fine, but a little breezy as mentioned. No
rain. Though it was dark, it was overcast, and the clouds were dimly reflecting
the lights from all those Christmas displays. When I reached Cambridge, the sky
was just starting to take on that dark blue tinge that means the sun is beginning
to think about rising soon. I’ve claimed 5 km of strong winds.
If you are interested, the following directions can be pasted into Google Maps
to show you my route. There is an odd little excursion in central Cambridge, due
to the one way system. My route was slightly different, but about the same distance.
Unknown road @52.097670, 0.089762 to:
Brook Rd @52.114479, 0.098551 to:
A1134/Trumpington Rd @52.197390, 0.122194 to:
Trumpington St @52.201897, 0.118081 to:
Emmanuel St @52.205007, 0.124408 to:
Warkworth St @52.204756, 0.129990 to:
Elm St @52.206176, 0.126944 to:
Victoria Ave @52.213405, 0.125720 to:
PS: I’ve placed photos on Facebook, having forgotten that you can’t do diddly on
there without having an account. I was myself forced to open my account by being
made a ‘friend’ of someone. I hate this insidious level of instrusive ID acquisition
so, if you don’t want to create an account, let me know and I’ll find somewhere more