Sunday, August 15, 2010

Stung into action - Part 1

I am a regular cyclist, I like cycling, I will cycle in all weathers - snow, rain and even wind. So what is it about cycling that when you have a few days off it becomes easier not to cycle? I have reasons excuses for why it has taken me a while to start getting out and about after my Mum's visit. I had some mild head-achey lurgy thingy, I have had to catch up on stuff, there have been some heavy showers (for this part of the world), a little boredom with the same Cambridge routes. Also I have not had to go anywhere for meetings which is always a good reason to get me cycling - it's just so much easier and quicker in Cambridge, not to mention parking.

So why have I been off my bike for 10 days? (Well except for 2Km of cycling to the newsagents.) A brief digression; apparently there is a new term to describe a certain and growing class of cyclist - Mamils -(middle-aged men in Lycra) or perhaps a mid-life crisis. Apparently cycling is on the rise in a certain demographic - but shockingly I seem to fall outside of the demographic and the wrong side as well (the age part - humph). Then I read a recent Yehuda Moon cartoon - "A Hint of Fall" which nicely summed up the problem - End of Summer melancholy - but it is not really the end of Summer and even with the showers the temperature has been pleasant for cycling.

So I needed to top up my gumption levels. (This is a concept from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which I bought when my brother and I were into motorbikes many years ago, my brother still is. The book isn't really about motorcycle maintenance though or Zen for that matter.) So how do I top p those gumption levels? Well Cycling+ and the CTC magazine are a good start, plus various Blogs they all provide a bit of food for thought. I have also checked out the Oxford to Cambridge cycle ride on Sunday October the 3rd. The only downside is that the coaches leave Cambridge Midsummer Common at 5.45am (to get you to Oxford for the ride back). It is some 89 miles, so long enough to encourage me to get in a few longer rides and it might also increase my cycling Eddington Number. Most of my rides have been around 50-70Km mark this year, whereas last year I tended to do 2-3 120Km plus rides a month. I am also hoping to do the C2C with my son - but he has a tight window between giving up work and starting his final year at Uni.

I first picked up on the Eddington Number from a blog - well it looks as if he has also had some minor issues with clocking up the miles in his July round-up. I am pleased I am not the only one who keeps a spreadsheet! Which reminds me I must do a Blogroll of various cycling-related Websites that I follow. So once Saturday's chores were out of the way and there showers looked to be quite far apart it was time to get out and cycle, but where? In the end I decided to visit the recently-opened Wandlebury cycle path, check out the soon-to-be-finished Southern section of the CGB (Cambridge Guided Busway) and flesh willing see what progress has been made on the Horningsea cycle path. In the end I did cycle around Horningsea back via Quy, although it would have been quicker to cycle up to Waterbeach and back along the River Cam. Here is the BRT link to the route. The distance is 58Km with 177m of climbing - the worst bit was on the A1307 from the byway to the new cycle path.

Wandlebury Coton and Quy.JPG

I have annotated the map above to show the off-road bits, generally I don't mark the shared cycle/pavement sections although technically they are off road. I try to highlight the bits that might not be suitable for thin tyred racing-type bikes.My route out towards Fulbourn took me past the airfield along Airport Way Cycleway as you can see in this sponsorship sign. There is a joke there somewhere - "when is a pavement not a pavement - when it's a cycle way". I am not complaining, when I cycle out this way I pretty much never use the road, I always use the pavement cycleway, it is wider than most cycleways and pretty flat, not many people walk along it and it does not have any side roads of note. This means its safety is not compromised, nor do you pay a time penalty for using it.


I turned off towards Fulbourn from Cherry Hinton on a cycle path alongside Tescos - this is a bit thinner in width - but they have put dotted white lines on each side. I wish they would add white lines more often I find them helpful at night.


Just before the shared-use path meets the road (Fulbourn Old Drift) there is some modern art - I wonder if it was sponsored by Sustrans? I was going to take a picture of the Fulbourn Old Drift road surface as it is was atrocious - but it has been re-surfaced - so a non-issue!


I think that this used to be called Poor's Well (or even Poor Well) and was a spring-pond along Cow Lane in Fulbourn. The area certainly looks green as if well supplied with water.


The route I followed then headed out of Fulbourn along the Babraham Road, which no longer goes to Babraham, unless you consider the by-ways as part of the route. It is a very straight tree-lined small road which takes you to the Roman Road between Cambridge and near Haverhill which I used along with a by-way alongside Wandlebury Country Park to get to Wandlebury (or at least the new cycle path).


This view looks West along the Roman Road (towards Cambridge) despite all the rain there were very few muddy bits. In fact the only muddy bit was where tractors needed to cross over when passing from fields on either side. The woods on the left hand side show the eastern boundary of the Country park and the byway runs alongside them.


This is the byway alongside the Country Park, it opens out after a while and then turns into a gravel track.


This is where the byway joins the A1307, just before a short bit of dual carriageway, just alongside the Country park. Short bits of dual carriageway along otherwise normal roads used to be more poplar as they provided safe over-taking opportunities. Nowadays they are less popular - and bits of the dual carriageway are annexed for turnings.


This was taken just up the road from the last picture - at this point the road is now a dual-carriageway, although on the other side the road has markings to show it is reverting back to a single-carriageway. The car you can see has been travelling fat too fast and is being eroded into the time vortex. Actually I did not have the patience to wait until I could take three pictures in a row (for the HDR effect) without cars driving by - this is a busy road.


This is a fairly common sight around here. In fact last week when travelling back from the seaside we saw three dead deer alongside the road.


After cycling up the main road to the top of the hill alongside the Wandlebury Country Park gates I switched over to the newly built newly-opened shared-use cycle path. According to the website there is an intention to continue this down to the byway - which will be great. For the most part cars overtake leaving a reasonable gap - but this is a fast road with cars passing at 70mph+ and some drivers don't seem to realise they are passing a cyclist until they have gone past. It is weird to be passed by a car which then moves over once it is past as if there is a phantom cyclist! The trouble is at that speed it only takes one inattentive idiot and you get wiped out (as a cyclist without armoured protection). So despite the lack of evidence that cyclists are safer on paths than roads when it comes to this sort of road I prefer the cycle path.


The hill gets to around 70m above sea level so there is slight hill up from the Country Park before you get to see Cambridge in the distance. The path is flat and reasonably wide, better than quite a few of the cycle paths although I am not sure whether it meets the guidelines for such paths. It is good to see that there are white lines painted on each side - they do help at night. (Especially when you are a pMamil - past-Mamil). The drop is around 50m which means you can pick up a reasonable amount of speed - so beware. There are a number of benches for people to sit and get some rest when travelling in the reverse direction.


Over the hill and far away - Cambridge in close-up - the cranes are on the Addenbrookes' site.


The main problem with cycleways like this is that where they pass turnings the cycleway inevitably gets treated as lower priority than the turn-in it crosses. So if you cycle down the road you can blast on down until the roundabout, on the cycleway there are several turns including one to a farm shop and what looks like a used car lot. In fact when passing the "car lot" a chap wondered into the path - a good job I was not going too fast. Unfortunately I can see this as being a bit of an issue for cycling families with young kids - in my experience they tend to want to go whizzing down hills. (I would link to a picture, but Google Streetview misses this small piece of the A1307 aka Babraham Road.) In this case the hill makes the issue worse as it is easy to pick up quite a bit of speed cycling down the cycleway - although in general cycleways and hills are not much in evidence in Cambridge.

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