Sunday, 20 June 2010

• Cycle Route - 35 miles

"Today's ride was planned meticulously before we even got out of bed. For the first time this year we set off to the southwest of Cambridge, initially heading for Shelford via the amazing DNA Cycle Way. From there we went from village to village out as far as Shepreth and then climbed the hill between Barrington and Haslingfield on our way to Toft. By this time, the nagging wind and cool weather had left us feeling rather drained. The return to Cambridge via Coton and Grantchester left us feeling very tired but the day's total distance of 35 miles was the most we've done this year, so far." - Steve

We were able to plan today's ride in so much detail because we found a cycle route-planning website that allows users to plot routes using Google Maps. This website, Cycle Routes UK, is a goldmine of resources and information for cyclists. The route-planning side of this site lets you plan routes which you can then share with the Cycle Routes community. The site also calculates the mileages of the routes and organises users' routes by area so that you can choose a route near where you live (or want to cycle) to use. Route planners are encouraged to rank their routes in terms of difficulty and to provide useful information on the route such as points of interest, warnings about obstructions or detours and reasons to try the route out. It's a fantastic resource - indeed it is exactly the sort of thing that we were wishing we had last Summer!

This was an ambitious ride and to our credit, we set out in spite of the fact that conditions were not perfect. The weather was uneven - it wasn't particularly warm and, as we were to discover, it was windy. Not the blustery destabilising sort of wind but the kind of wind that seems to know where you want to go and adjusts its force and direction so that you are faced with wind the whole way 'round! We rarely were able to freewheel and we had to peddle against either the wind or gravity, most of the way. Not my favourite sort of ride. There were not very many leisure riders out today - perhaps on account of the doubtful weather.

On the bright side, it was mostly sunny and the landscape was lovely; the villages were as beautiful as we remembered them from last years' rides. At Toft we met an older man walking his dog. We recognised each other as we'd met in the same spot last year! We chatted a bit (mostly about the weather!) before moving onto Hardwick, then Coton, Grantchester and, finally, home.

Once home, we rested while busying ourselves gathering our ride data from various heart rate monitors, cycle computers and GPS mapping iPhone Apps. A meal of pizzas and a blog post later we are ready to retire for the night! zzzzzzzzzzz...

Saturday, 12 June 2010

• Cycle Route - 33 miles

"After a leisurely morning, it was 4:30pm before we set out for our ride today. Conditions were perfect and the forecast was good so we were unconcerned that we'd be returning home quite late in the evening. We reprised last week's route out through Bottisham to Burwell and back to Bottisham. But we diverged to return home via the Wilbrahams and Fulbourn clocking up 33 miles on the day and over 60 for the two rides so far this year." - Steve

After last Sunday's ride (27 mi) I was keen to get over the 30 mile hump which would make this year's debut really stand out above previous years' starting mileage. While not an amazing distance, I feel that starting off fairly strongly predicts a good Summer total. It's really encouraging for me to think back to my beginnings over a decade ago and see (and feel!) my improvement over time.

We prepared our stomachs for the ride with a brunch consisting of plenty of tasty biryani (with grated paneer and hard boiled egg added for protein!) and salad. Unlike last week, our preparation was leisurely and focussed with none of the 'jitters' of the first ride of the season.

The weather was just perfect today - the air was dry, visibility was excellent and the temperature was just a bit on the cool side. This time of year the farmland is verdant and scarlet poppies line the roadside in patches providing plenty of cheerful colour to the landscape. Bunnies are everywhere and they seem to be sticking fairly close to home, scampering in the grass verges. There are, as yet, no sad little flattened furry patches on the roads. Thank goodness!

We arrived home at around 8:30pm having stopped off at Sainsbury's for provisions and immediately busied ourselves with downloading the data from our various electronic bits into our computers. I was very disappointed to discover that my phone had lost my GPS signal after 13.5 miles but was relieved that Steve's had not. Something for me to keep and eye on in the future...

All-in-all it was a great day out. Now we can plan for next week...

Sunday, 6 June 2010

• Cycle Route - 27.5 miles

"Today we shook the dust off our touring bikes and set off for our first leisure ride of the year. After a nervous beginning, we headed out Northeast from Cambridge on a familiar route. Passing through the villages of Bottisham, Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior we reached Reach where we frequently turn for home. Feeling unusually full of energy, this time we pressed on for the next village - Burwell. After a pause for a comfort break we re-traced our steps as far as Bottisham. As it was now starting to rain, we returned to Cambridge via Fen Ditton: 27.5 miles in 2.5 hours." --Steve

I wasn't sure how far we'd go, as usually our inaugural ride of the year is characterised by false starts (forgot something), numerous stops (instigated by me) to adjust my bicycle (the pedals, the handlebars, the saddle). The weather didn't look brilliant, either as it was overcast. But off we went.

I'd brought along my new toy - my iPhone - enhanced by an App I just bought called Cyclemeter which would engage the GPS function of my phone and feedback ride data. Not having an easy way to record and analyse our rides last year was frustrating as we were discovering new routes that I wanted to post on my blog. This programme promised a lot - in fact, all I really wanted from a GPS device - and, amazingly, it delivered!  Cyclemeter records (and stores) your time, location, distance, elevation, and speed. The program lets you organise your rides by route and you can view your ride data on a Google map, on graphs and in a calendar. Cyclemeter even allows you to keep track of your progress by announcing distance, time, speed, elevation, climb, and more - at user defined time or distance intervals. You can even race against yourself!  Oh, and, of course it comes complete with all the usual social connections so you can share details of your rides, including maps and graphs, via Twitter and Facebook.  Here's the hoopiest bit -

"Use Facebook, Twitter, and email to share Google Maps of your rides, automatically updated every 5 minutes. Hear replies from family, coaches, and friends spoken using text-to-speech technology. Have emails automatically sent as you ride to keep family and friends notified of your progress and location."

Clearly, it's jam-packed with features.  All this, for less than the price of a Roast Beef sandwich from Marks and Spencer!

It was nice to be back on the bike and in the countryside. I felt more fit than I usually do on the first long-ish ride of the year - I hope this bodes well for the rest of the Summer!


On the return leg of the ride, I spotted some poppies by the roadside and stopped for a photograph.


Further along, on Coldham's Common, we were delayed at one of the gates by a rather large group of grazing cattle. At first it seemed that neither the cattle nor we knew exactly what the etiquette was in such situations - the cows were completely blocking the bridge but we were blocking their progress to the field they were headed for. We backed up a bit and they took their sweet time filing across. A few stopped to stare at me and one of them even licked my leg!

About five minutes after arriving home, the heavens opened up and a thunderstorm ensued. We only just avoided a soaking!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

• Greek Salad

Greek Salad, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.

I craved salad today. It might have been the weather; it was warm and sunny and the cricket was on in the kitchen. It felt like Summer - at last!

A rummage in the fridge turned up some lettuce, tomatoes, salted anchovies, Kalamata olives, cucumber and feta cheese. Always helpful, Robby, our youngest cat came in from the garden and offered a small, half-dead baby bird but I wasn't tempted!

I assembled the salad (the anchovies, brought back from Nice on our most recent trip, proved quite labour-intesive to gut and debone!) and dressed it with some good olive oil and vinegar. Steve boiled some eggs. It all went together very nicely - and we ate it out in the garden, in the sunshine while listening to Test Match Special.

Ah....... Summer!