Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Warm Day brings out the Cyclists and the Leaves on the CGB

The weather seems to keep on getting better and better - Horse Chestnut Trees, usually amongst the first to come into leaf (along with Willows) are starting to look fairly green. In fact it was such a lovely day that I decided to get to the bottom of the cause of puncture on my Hybrid Bike (Marin). A while ago a big flint had penetrated the rear tyre, causing a puncture and I replaced the tyre as it was fairly worn along with the inner tube. I usually patch tubes a few times - but, this time because I put on a new tyre I treated the bike to a new tube as well. The trouble is that it has had had a slow puncture since. The last time I used the bike was to go to Cambridge Railway Station. The tyre was fine, going, but when I returned from London at the end of the day the tyre had not deflated but was a bit squidgy. I did cycle on it, but stopped to pump it up as a partially inflated tyre is prone to snake bites. When a partially inflated tyre hits a kerb the inner tube can get nipped on either side by the rim - which can cause two holes on the inner tube - looking like a snakebite - hence the name.

So far I have "solved" the problem by pumping up the tyre from time to time - well today I decided I had to get to the root of the cause. Whilst I did not mind short distances I did not really want to embark on longer journeys on the bike. Perhaps there was a bit of flint still stuck in the tyre causing a minute hole or a spoke sticking through or a metal burr on the rim? As it was sunny I sat outside with a bucket of water to find the puncture by looking for a tell-tale stream of bubbles. The first step is to ensure you know the alignment of the inner tube with the wheel so that when the puncture is found you can locate cause on the wheel.

After putting some air into the inner tube I fed a section at a time into the bucket - hum should have put some warm water in it as well. No bubbles - this must be such a small leak it barely shows. (Which is strange for a puncture caused by a flint). So I pumped up the inner tube a bit more and repeated the exercise, making sure to brush of any random bubbles of air from the tube - you'd be surprised how many cling on - still nothing. At this point I had stopped at the valve and by chance noticed the very occasional bubble coming out of the top of the valve. Thinking about it I had not taken this tube out of a new box, it had been in one of the side compartments on my cycle toolbox. A long time ago I had had a valve problem and meant to look at the valve to check it out - unfortunately I had re-used it without fixing it. This time I threw it out.

Work is starting on some more cycling infrastructure in Cambridge - "Start on new links in bid to put more cyclists in saddle". Whilst Cambridge "prides" itself on having the highest cycling levels of anywhere in Britain - given how flat and relatively dry the area is I think a lot more needs to be done. Whilst I am not a total advocate of the safety in numbers arguments I do believe that encouraging more cycling is good, especially for schoolchildren and that even in Cambridge the Councils under-estimate the distances cyclists are capable of. I also believe that roads are becoming more hostile to cyclists, not always because of hostile intent on the part of motorists but because of badly designed roads - speed humps and "speed reducing" traffic islands are two things that spring to mind. Most motor vehicles do give a reasonable amount of space when they pass, but a significant number do not - and it only takes one. I have been cycling for 10s of years and over a 105,000Km/65,000miles and the behaviour of some drivers scares me.

One of the pieces of work mentioned lies between Horningsea and Fen Ditton where they are creating a 2.5m shared cycle path. Would I use it - possibly, although the road in question is a fast road it has reasonable visibility and turns into a traffic jam during the morning rush hour - but this will make it easier for parents to let their children cycle. Other work also seems to be happening - this picture was taken where Sustrans Route 51 crosses the Horningsea Road in Fen Ditton. The paths up to the crossing have been subtly improved - I wonder if they will also upgrade the crossing - at the moment you have to walk across. it is quite fast though - it changes reasonably quickly after pushing the button - unlike the crossing on Sustrans 51 at Quy which takes ages.


It was such a sunny day I set out without any real plan - just somewhere off in the Godmanchester direction. I ended up cycling through Milton which seems to have acquired some extra cycling signs through the "new" estate - although they do not seem to be complete, nor do the OS and Sustrans maps concur! Then across to Impington and on to Histon - where I was knocked off my bike in Feb '09. The village green was looking very spring-like with the Willow out and a good sprinkling of green on the Horse Chestnut.


On the way out of Histon towards the Cambridge Guided Busway (CGB) there is a bridle path towards Oakington where an avenue of Horse Chestnut trees was looking resplendent in green leaf. Horse Chestnuts are taking a battering at the moment with Leaf Miner and Bleeding Canker being two such problems. From observation it seems that trees with red blossom suffer less than trees with white blossom. Apparently young trees (10-30 years old) are at greatest risk and can "succumb in just a few years".


The CGB - where is crosses the Histon/Girton Road - a family out cycling - the parents setting a good example - the kids on the concrete tracks - it is easier.


The route is signed, as a Bridleway at this point I thought why not pop up to St Ives and then back via the Sustrans 51 route - 10 miles up the path.


The bridleway is still impassable in places due to flooding - I tried the bank but got bogged down in mud.


The Fen Drayton Lakes looked very serene.


The flooding is still reducing - but in all there were three places where I had to resort to the Busway track.


I was going to cycle through this - but sanity took hold - the path has been flooded for so long that the bottom is very muddy and silty - not easy to cycle though even on my hybrid bike.


There were 20-30 cyclists out, from families to friends to single cyclists enjoying the sun.


When I got to St Ives I carried on through Hemingford Abbots up to Godmanchester - now this is what I call a nice cycle route. The route passes through a field alongside Godmanchester Eastside Common - this has a decent bit of tarmac - much, much easier to cycle along than the gravelly stuff alongside the CGB.


After reaching the town of Godmanchester I turned back and headed towards Cambridge on the sustrans 51 route. - detouring through Fen Drayton Bird Reserve - not so much a short cut between Fen Drayton and Swavesey, more a quieter and bumpier route. I again detoured up past Mare Fen to Over, crossing the CGB twice before rejoining the Sustrans 51 route. Mare Fen, in the picture is looking a lot less flooded - which implies that the bridleway on the CGB will be flooded a lot of the time.


The detour route passes over the CGB at Mill Villa - I wonder how it got its name?


That looks like a railway waggon next to the Windmill, since the old railway passes at the bottom of a cutting at this point I wonder how they got it up to the windmill?


The view from the bridge over the CGB - walkers and cyclists on the path and tracks.


A water tower. over has a Windmill, communications tower, Church Spire and water tower in close proximity. A nice bit of blossom to the left of the Water Tower.


The route passes through Longstanton, along a road banned to motor traffic, unless for access, although I am amazed how many drivers of vehicles seem to consider the "need" access. It does pass a rather nice Church - All Saint's which closed for repair for 4 years up until September 2007. It looks as if the Horse Chestnut tree in the Church Yard has had some judicious trimming as well.


My route through Cambridge diverged from the Sustrans 51 route again before crossing the River Cam via the Jesus Lock footbridge from which this picture was taken.


A lovely day for a bit of cycle meandering - sometimes it is better to cycle where the whim takes you. I was impressed with the number of groups of cyclists and walkers on the CGB - I wonder what will happen when they get buses running - will the bridleway be fit for purpose. What agreement has been reached on reducing the flooding of the pathway?

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