Monday, January 16, 2012

You don’t know how cold it is until you are hot!

Sunday, 15th January 2012: Trying to predict the weather seems to be quite tricky for our weather forecasters, although the results can be stunning. Some of the pictures in the link are taken near Glastonbury Tor, a place I grew up near.

The bigger challenge though for me as a cyclist is that of choosing what to wear. Unfortunately it is not a simple matter of checking the temperature and putting on an appropriate set of clothing. The trouble is as a cyclist you also need to consider the possibility of rain, wind and sun. Which can all occur on the same ride and occasionally at the same time.

The bigger problem is that my body overrules my head. If it is cold then I tend to wrap up much warmer than I really need to. Cycling is an activity that leads to a generation of heat, yet when I start off I seem to wilfully forget that. So on Sunday I had leggings and my fluorescent gloves with inner gloves and I popped on a pair of shorts for added comfort. I also wore a hat and stuck a tubular bit of cloth (a buff) around my neck to block the draft there.

So I felt quite comfortable despite the low temperatures which by lunchtime were well above the -2C and around 5C.  However when cold a good plan to generate heat is to climb hills, which of course is easier said than done when living in the Flatlands of East Anglia. So I planned my usual twin-peaks route which takes in the heights of the Swaffham Heath Road and the Gog Magog Hills.  here is the Bike Route Toaster link to the route shown on the map below. It is just around 50Km / 31 miles and doesn’t really have two peaks. I took a short cut off the Swaffham Heath Road after cycling up out of Swaffham Bulbeck and took to a bridleway instead.  The maximum elevation reached is 65m and the minimum is 6m so there isn’t really a lot of climbing!

It was fairly gloomy as I headed east out of Cambridge on the NCN51 towards Swaffham Bulbeck. I did stop at the Newmarket Road P&R site briefly to take this picture. The shared use path crosses this road section. It is the exit path from the back car park. The shared use path crosses left to right.  The path on the left of the picture leads of the shared-use path. To the right of that path there used to be a huge row of shrubs which meant that any pedestrian or cyclists coming through to the crossing didn’t have much of a view of the oncoming cars (and vice versa). As you can see where the shared-use path and road intersect the level has been raised to that of the path.

The new situation is much better and an example of how sometimes aesthetics can get in the way of safety. Whilst in the main, most car driver would stop unconditionally for pedestrians and cyclists there is a small but too significant minority that don’t. The trouble is who is in the right? Well these types of constructions seem to leave it ambiguous, perhaps deliberately. I much prefer this cycle route out of town than the Newmarket Road – but this is rather a compromise for an important cycle route.

(This can also be a pain when there are uncooperative pedestrians walking across the entire width of the path.) .

As it happens the P&R was not busy, so I didn’t have any cars or people to negotiate a way through – shared-use paths do work when there isn’t much sharing required – IMHO. It was pretty grey and I had reached a fairly comfortable operating temperature by now. That is until I reached the slight rise out of Swaffham Bulbeck. Which as you can see from the two pictures, isn’t much of a rise

Quarry Lane, Swaffham Bulbeck
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Swaffham Heath Road, Swaffham Bulbeck

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By now, I was too hot, and whilst grumbling did I also mention that the shorts I was wearing on the outside of my leggings kept slipping down the smooth Lycra! Sitting here in the comfort of my study it is obvious I could have taken them off and probably taken my hat off and still been too warm. I did stop to take a picture of the miracles shining down on the distant trees though. (My son when he was a toddler used to call the sunbeams “miracles” – hence the name.)

And here are those same miracles again, but with a bit more zoom.  I was listening to a radio program whilst out cycling talking about a technology that will give an assessment on how much tweaking a picture has been through (Click).  This is particularly important in  fashion and cosmetic advertising. They had one commentator talk about the virtual nature of digital photography compared with film photography.  He then went on to talk about the assessment technology and how he didn’t think it was that necessary. His “photoshopping” was more about correcting lens distortions.

Funny that since lens distortions are just as much part of film photography as they are digital photography. In the days when I did my own developing and printing it was also a common technique to dodge and burn to subdue or bring out various parts of a picture. 

What I ought to point out is that, as you might have guessed, the clouds did not look quite as dark and foreboding in real life as they do here. Shooting towards the sun tends to cause other parts of the picture to darken. Yes I could tweak it – but I rather like the dramatic air it gives the picture.

As I mentioned I then cycled along a bridleway that is yet to appear on the OSM map. It is on the OS map though and assuming that Where’s The Path still has capacity to serve map pages here it is. It runs alongside a 34m trig point (which gives rise to the sport of trigpointing) and down past Chalk Farm. This trig point is TP2104 – Chalk Farm. I took the shortcut because although it is harder work cycling on soggy grass than firm tarmac it is much nicer than cycling down the A1303 between the Heath Road and the junction with the A14. The hill after that is faster than the bridleway though.

As it happens there is a footpath that is perpendicular to the bridleway that is also missing from the OSM map. I am not moaning though, a lot of people have put in a lot of time and effort to generate the OSM.

I then headed through the Wilbrahams, stopping briefly before reaching Fulbourn to take another “dramatic clouds scene” with miracles shining down onto the trees.

I cycled up Haggis Gap in Fulbourn, where although you have right of way over the traffic on the right at the first mini-roundabout – quite a few cars seem to think that doesn’t apply to bicycles. So you have to be assertive and confident. Just don’t blame me if it goes wrong.

Haggis Gap, leading onto the Shelford Road, Fulbourn
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The main hill of the ride comes next, it is not that steep and although it is one of the few hills in the area compared to the Lake District you’d not think much of it. Once again I got pretty warm as I cycled up. Which is really a combination of too many layers of clothing and too much Christmas food. There were quite a few cars around the entrance to the Roman Road. I am not quite sure whether cars are intended to be able to park there or not. There is a narrow gap which will allow small cars but not much bigger. This leaflet from the Friends of the Roman Road does refer to limited parking there.

Apparently the hill is the highest point within the city boundary at 68m. You then get to cycle downhill. this is definitely big ring stuff, although not for long and you have to watch out for walkers and their dogs parking in a layby and then going for walks in the Beech Wood Nature Reserve. They don’t always appreciate that cyclists can easily be going 40mph down the hill. The other hazard is that most car drivers consider it a challenge to their manhood if they can’t overtake a bicycle. (And yes it does tend to be men). So they try to overtake, despite the fact that at 40mph on a bicycle you can’t just cycle along the very edge. All that being said, I rarely have those issue on that road.

At the bottom there is a staggered junction to stop vehicles (and cyclists) from accidentally shooting across. I remember when it wasn’t – I think. This road is called Worts Causeway – it must have been around long enough to lose its apostrophe. Although the aforementioned FRRFD (Friends of the Roman Road and Fleam Dyke) refer to it as Worts’ Causeway. The hill going up is Lime Kiln Road, which narrows considerably on the other side and is the scene for many a macho door-mirror slinging car driver showdown. The last time I cycled that way there were twenty plus door mirror remains at the side of the road. This being one of the few Cambridge high spots there are cellular base stations and a reservoir up there.

Worts Causeway leading into Cambridge. To avoid this being a rush-hour rat run it is bollard controlled a bit further along. Although I can’t recall seeing the bollard up, the sign indicates it is closed from 7.30am to 9.30am . Mind you I don’t pay that much attention to such trivial details when I am cycling, but more likely I haven’t cycled along the road in the restricted period.  The Strangeways Research Laboratory is along here though.


You can just see the incerator tower on the Addenbrookes site in the distance.

AI then cycled around the hospital via Red Cross lane and onto Long Road. I was in two minds as to whether to cycle along the CGB but didn’t. I then popped down Trumpington Road and followed NCN11 past Coe Fen before cycling back through Lammas Land and then along to the Coton path via Barton Road and Grange Road.

Grange Road runs past quite a few Colleges and University buildings and also has 20mph restrictions. It is also used by many students. I also think that it suffers from Advisory Cycle Lanes that are way too thin as well as traffic calming in the form of keep right bollards on each side of the road. These just serve to create pinch points where vehicles encroach on the ACL space. Maybe the problem is that the road is rather narrow.

Grange Road, Cambridge
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After that I cycled up along to Coton on the Coton Cycleway. Stopping once more to take a picture of the miracles. Perhaps this is how Spring happens – well I suppose it is really, when the warm sunshine shines down the plants come alive again.

The same scene, but backed off and focusing on the tree in the foreground.

As it got darker and greyer the opportunity to take pictures dropped off. Or perhaps my enthusiasm for grey, twilight pictures is not high. I cycled back along the laughable shared-use path alongside the Madingley Road. This is really a not very good pavement, which is quite uneven and wobbly in places, but you are allowed to cycle along. I keep meaning to take a picture of the Schlumberger Building – but never do.

In case you are wondering I did have lights and I did turn them on, there is no point in not doing so. Now I am tempted to use a helmet cam, but my kids keep pointing out how geeky that would be - which stops me. I came across this report on “How fast-talking cyclist got away with ‘jumping red light’ after tongue-tied policemen failed to arrest him”. All I can say is that, in my view. it is cyclists like this that give cyclists in general a bad name. Maybe the policeman didn’t cover himself in glory, but red-light jumping is against the law and winding the policemen doesn’t seem to be a very adult thing to do. (IMHO). At this point I would say read the comments, but of course the comments are self-selecting and so don’t really give much idea how widespread the views are.

I should also mentioned how much better Gilbert Road is since the improvements were made. Thank you to amongst other the Cambridge Cycling Campaign.

I did cycle alongside Riverside – which could cost  taxpayers £400,000 to build a pontoon. There are clearly some strong views held about the boats moored there as well as the Riverside.

Before I went home I did carry on through to Stourbridge Common to take some pictures of the sun setting. Here are a couple of them.  This is looking back towards the Cambridge Museum of Technology. As you can see there were some walkers out that way as well.

You can just about make out the train whizzing by slightly obscuring the setting sun.

And finally – some rather nice pictures of the “frost so fair”, it really is getting colder. I didn’t know they made jackets for lambs. Here are some abstract colour splodges – just add a loudspeaker.

Let’s finish on some good news – “City bike thefts slashed as police wheel out new tactics” (in Cambridge). The not so good news is that the number of stolen bikes in 2011 was 2,146, not far off 6 a day.

And finally I added my blog to a list in Cycling Info – as of yet I haven't noticed anyone come from that link. In fact over the last few days and have been the source of quite a few viewers/readers?

Oh yes, here is the answer  to several middle-aged male enigmas. See at the end for an explanation of MAMIL lack of small talk – but plenty of salivation (and why there are more pretty girls around as you get older.)

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