Sunday, 22 August 2010

• Waterbeach - Madingley Route (34 miles)

"Today's route was a slight variation on our ride of three weeks ago. Again we headed north to Waterbeach and then struck out west. Just before Cottenham, we departed from our previous route and rode 3 miles north on "Long Drove" before turning south for a straight run through as far as Dry Drayton. At this point we cut through to Coton via Madingley before returning home via Grantchester and Newnham to complete our 34 mile circuit." - Steve

It all sounds so straightforward when put that way, doesn't it? This was no ordinary ride, though; I was testing my new handlebars!

Lately I've been suffering from a malady common to cyclists - I lean too heavily on my handlebars (probably because I need to strengthen my 'core' muscles...). With too much of my weight on my hands, my ulnar nerves are pinched and pressed on to the point that my hands first begin to tingle and then go "uncomfortably numb". All of this is very unpleasant (and, indeed, dangerous!) and, so far, shows no sign of letting up. I resolved to do something about it:

For a while now, I've noted that long-distance cyclists (I mean REALLY LONG distance cyclists; eg. people who set out one day and wind up back where they started - several years later, having circumnavigated the globe) have lately been seen using 'Butterfly' or 'trekking' handlebars. So, after much (much!) deliberation, I decided to swap my drops for one of these.

When I say "much deliberation" I mean that I thought about the change-over for at least a year and then made an appointment with my ever-faithful (and ever-patient!) cycle shop here in Cambridge, Howes Cycles, and then at the last moment I CANCELLED on them.  I just wasn't sure this radical move would do the trick.  Weeks later, however, I decided that I'd never know if I didn't take the plunge.  And so I did.

Weird.  The whole experience was slightly weird; I took my bike into the shop one morning and picked it up in the afternoon (NOT weird).  To my surprise, I was reminded of a time when I took my beloved Yorkshire Terrier, Charley (now deceased) for his first grooming.  I chatted with the groomer and then left Charley in her capable hands.  When I returned to the shop some hours later, I was greeted by an animal that recognised me but who looked nothing like my dog Charley!  He was shampooed and dried and clipped... he even sported a little blue ribbon, tied around a tuft of fur gathered between his (well-groomed!) ears! (Yep, weird)

Although my beloved Dawes Galaxy (c. 1997) didn't have a little blue ribbon like Charly did, this struck me as being nearly as radical a change in appearance as Charly's transformation was.  Moreover, the brakes and gear levers were in entirely different places to their former positons, which complicated matters. My well-honed reflexes for shifting and, importantly, BRAKING, needed to be re-trained... or else!

So we went for a short ride yesterday to get me used to the different positions and make adjustments to the handlebars and saddle.  Today we planned a longer jaunt...

... TBC ...

Monday, 2 August 2010

• Waterbeach-Hardwick loop (31mi)

Waterbeach-Hardwick loop 31mi, originally uploaded by Lisa Fagg.
"Our long weekend concluded with yet more changing plans. Originally conceived as a 50+ mile day trip to Ely, the inclement weather forced us to reconsider. Our revised route, of only 30 miles, headed North from Cambridge as far as Waterbeach. We then headed West through Landbeach to Cottenham before turning Southwest for a more-or-less straight run through to Hardwick. From there, we returned home on familiar roads, through Grantchester to complete our circuit of the city." -- Steve

• Norwich-to-Aylesham via Marriott's Way (I)

"Today's ride was intended to be the first leg of a long weekend cycling round the North and East coast of Norfolk. Our plan for the day was to take the train from Cambridge to Norwich and cycle from there to Cromer, on the North coast. After some initial difficulty finding our way out of Norfolk City Centre, we found our way onto the Marriott's Way cycle path which runs along the route of a disused railway line. We followed the path almost all the way to Reepham. Having learned that we would be unable to spend the night in Cromer, after all, we took to the roads and headed due East through Aylesham to North Walsham. At North Walsham we boarded a train on the Heron Line back to Norwich and returned home." -- Steve

Ah, well. We really planned this trip; this, our first ever attempt at doing the 'B&B Thing' (as opposed to the 'Camping Thing' which, although almost flawless in the dependability department, was heavy on the panniers)  In my view camping also lacked a certain breathy sense of risk and adventure...

So we packed carefully but kept our panniers rather light in weight; after all, we would be sleeping in a bed and eating in a pub (or so we thought!)

For a start, getting out of Norwich itself was a real hassle as we hadn't thought to bring (or find) a Norwich street plan! Navigating in a fairly substantial town/city with an Ordinance Survey map is not advisable. Neither was the offering from Google Maps (which was flawed only because Morrison's wasn't on it!)

Anyway, truth-be-told, we erred quite early on - taking a wrong turn and having to double back on ourselves to set on course. By the time we made the Marriott's Way we were nigh on knackered. But we carried on anyway deciding to take our first break just beyond Drayton. We cycled another hour or so before realising that our initial estimate of time of arrival at the B&B was (having started out 2 hrs late and lost 30 minutes in Norwich) more than somewhat inaccurate.  We would have to 'phone the B&B to advise them of our delay. This task fell to Steve - only because he had made the reservation (and because I wasn't in the mood to volunteer...). So, at our scheduled lunch stop, Steve did his duty...

What should have been a simple 'phone call to confirm our reservation and revise our time of arrival turned out to be a very different affair indeed! The B&B end of the 'phone was in crisis - there was a family emergency and the host at the end of the line to Steve was doing his best to funnel B&B guests like us to other guest houses - whilst maintaining his composure. In our case, he was not successful on either count - we needed to make 'other arrangements', which  - all things considered - meant that we were pretty screwed.


We decided to have a go and cycle on, in hopes that we might find a random place along the way which might have a vacancy...

--- ...To be Continued... ---