CTC Sunday ride — Saffron Walden for coffee

It started as one of those mornings — pissing it down with rain and no sign of stopping.  British winters, pah!  Hey-ho, never mind, it's only water.  I donned waterproofs and set off from home leaving myself barely 15 minutes to get to the start point where a group had gathered — John, Alex, Nigel (leader), Sheila, David, Greg and Seb.  Overall a decent turnout for a wet Sunday.

We took aim for Saffron Walden via a well-trod route: Huntingdon road, back streets to the busway, over the bridge to Addenbrooke's, the DNA Path to Gt Shelford and then the Whittlesford road.  I sat at or near the front with Nigel, the leader, chatting about this and that and we might've accidentally picked the pace up a bit.

At the Duxford crossing of the A505 Nigel discovered we'd lost some of the group, left behind in our spray … actually, David had had a visitation and John and Sheila had gone back to assist, or giggle, whatever.  Unfortunately they'd dropped back so far, Nigel wasn't able to find them when he rolled back up the road.

After quarter of an hour of fruitless waiting, we rode on without the others, figuring they had turned back to Cambridge.

In Ickleton we headed straight on at the crossroads to climb Coploe Hill to Strathall.  This is quite a nice climb, because most of the climbing is done at the start and then it's a gentle roll up the rest of the way.  As usual everyone else was clicking down the block and spinning up the hill, whereas I had nowhere to hide and climbed off the front rolls eyes

Anyway, it was a good excuse to stop at the top and take pictures of the other four riding past, one …

Nigel on Coploe Hill

Nigel on Coploe Hill

… at …

Alex on Coploe Hill

Alex on Coploe Hill

… a …

Seb on Coploe Hill

Seb on Coploe Hill

… time …

Greg on Coploe Hill

Greg on Coploe Hill

Any excuse to take some pictureswink

On the climb later Alex mentioned that the day before he'd been on a wheel-building course — surprisingly coincidental, since I'd just built up a new back wheel for my fixie the day before too!  We shared notes — I reckon it's straightforward but you have to want to spend the time on it; Alex reckons the course taught him that it's hard.  Ah well, it's not for everyone.

And on that — I checked my rear wheel this evening after riding 80-something kilometres on it and it's still perfectly true smug

At the top of the Strethall, it's a left turn (right's a dead-end if you're not on a mountain bike) and headed down the hill where shortly Nigel called a left — I've not been that way before, but unfortunately Seb had rolled off the front, so I drew the metaphorical short straw and set off to chase him down and bring him back into the group.

We dropped down the hill into Littlebury before heading straight on and joining the B184 to Saffron Walden.  This bit of the 184 is a lump that has to be climbed before dropping sharply into Walden.  Again, my fixed legs took over and I ended up dropping the group over the hill — at the cost of a great deal of pain in the quads! — and parked up just before the main high street to take more pictures.  Unfortunately only one good one came out, with a bit of a tight crop in post-production, because of the incessant motor traffic:

 Alex and Nigel climbing into Saffron Walden

Alex and Nigel climbing into Saffron Walden

I jumped back on and followed the group to the intriguing bike shop-cum-café, eponymously named Bicicletta con café.  A few minutes after arrived, John, Sheila and David turned up, we were back to full strength.

A smashing pot of tea and a huge slice of delicious coconut cake and we stepped back out.  The rain had stopped, but I wanted to get back home to help my eldest build his own new rear wheel, such a proud-dad moment grin  John and Greg also wanted to get back, so we formed a mini peloton and headed back out of Walden via Audley End — again, my fixed legs came out, although downhill this time — not a particularly spinny day, but still not bad at 156RPM.

Greg on the way down Coploe Hill

Greg on the way down Coploe Hill

It was a nice ride back: we rode steady, chatted on the way, back up to Strethall and back down Coploe Hill.  Duxford, Newton — where Greg peeled off for Cambridge — Harston, Haslingfield, and in Harlton John took me off-course on lanes I've not ridden before.  More climbing, thankfully smile

John raising the pace

John raising the pace

Comberton, then into a stiff headwind through Hardwick, Scotland Farm, and then a stiff tailwind all the way back to Oakington — John kept raising the pace the whole way back and by the time we went our separate ways we were rolling at 40kph/115RPM on the flat!  It felt good, thoughwink

All in all another fun ride — apart from the tail end with John, and a bit at the start with Nigel, the pace was steady.  I finished with 82km on the clock, which is a nice day out.  And I got home in time to watch my son build his first wheelthumbs up

Nigel's official CTC ride report here.

Nick Wilkinson

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