Thursday, 30 December 2010

Almost the Upper Nidderdale 2 Lakes Figure of Eight

North Nidderdale, Lakes and Ice

(UPDATE: More routes and maps on this later post or just scan for Nidderdale.)

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

This route is almost the same as my summer time route but has, unfortunately, to remove the off road sections. This seems a bit chicken, but actually would completely destroy the fun of the ride and make it a hard mud slog. This would be fine sometimes, but it simply would be just a bit too far for me to do on a slow, winter's day.

Pateley Bridge High Street to Swimming Pool & School. The main high street of Pateley Bridge has a classic Yorkshire Dales look. I've done a more complete view from my last winter visit here. As always a joy to be here, especially as the snow has gone affording a reasonable ride up the valley to take place.

Near Wath to Gouthewaite Water. This is the last little bit before the main section beside Gouthewaite water. The reservoir itself is vaguely famous for being in the opening titles of Emmerdale, Britain's third soap. Today's water is considerably colder than the body shown twice weekly on TV. The ducks are stood on the surface, albeit covered in pools of just defrosted water. Vast cracks stretch across and up the lake as if a playful giant has been tapping their finger in various points across the expanse. And a dull mist hangs over and up the valley, keeping the small amount of warmth in.

Ramsgill. This little hamlet comprises a few small houses, and church, and The Yorke Arms, a Michelin starred restaurant. Yes, I did say, Michelin starred restaurant. I've often wondered what it's doing in the middle of the moorland of the Yorkshire Dales, well past the last town in the valley. The only thing I can come up with is that it's a beautiful little place to be! I have had the good fortune to eat here once, courtesy of my friends. However, the bill is not for the fainthearted.

Into Lofthouse from South. Lofthouse is the last village i the valley floor. There isn't much of the valley left and the next village, Middlesmoor, is perched on a outcrop of the medial moraine between the last two remaining valleys.

After Lofthouse, I turn up a non-public road owned by Yorkshire water which acts as an access road to Scar House Reservoir. It's a perfectly fine unclassified road but may not have permanent public access. The first bit has an water extraction point for the valley below, but luckily has preserved the small waterfall above. A delightful small fall that sets one for the remainder of the route up to the Reservoir.

The route up is just a steady slog gaining around 170m elevation in about 3.8miles. This is only around 2.5%, but it feels a tad more! The rough surface of the road can't help. It's split into a northerly section, then a westerly section with the final half mile to the car park near the reservoir really taking up a lot of the strain.

The mountain tops on either side close in the first section and remnants of old mine workings can be seen on the top and along the valley. Turning the corner to the second section opens out again with the height gained giving access to the mountain tops themselves. Scar House Reservoir looks about as bleak as anything up here, with it's Victorian Dam and cracked ice surface.

In the summer, I happily start up the tracks here and cut back across the moorland to the high village of Middlesmoor. It's an unforgiving track that would clearly destroy bikes of lower standard build. Negotiating rocks as big as coffee mugs whilst hurtling downhill is not for the fainthearted. And not for winter for me. There are sections where if you don't look out, you're suddenly 6 foot above the proper track and with 6 foot to stop before a sheer drop to it.

Downhill from Scar House Reservoir. So winter time means a straight reversal of my previous route. This is no bad thing and allows me the opportunity to do the fastest 3.8 miles I've ever done in this country. (Sorry, the Alpes and the Pyrenees offer much longer and faster rides!) The top mile is the joy and comes in at an average, even at this time of year, of around 30mph. After that it's a steady push all the way down. Although hat this time of year, with legs getting very cold on the descent, it's hard to maintain 25mph.

Ramsgill and Gouthewaite Water. A last section alongside the lake, taking in misty views.

Wath to Pateley Bridge up Silver Hill. And finally the back road to east Pateley, avoiding the climb in the town centre but pulling up some pretty tough ones along the valley side. Silver Hill, the first one I do, is graded as a 14-20% climb. However, that's only half of Silver Hill. The turn to the left at the top of the shown Silver Hill, gets you to the second section. Although it's not graded, I reckon it's 20-25% in places. It's at the edge of my abilities certainly. Well, the hard work is all worth it to see some spectacular views from the roadside of the river below.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Blewbury to a Snowy Churn Knob

A New Year's Whatever

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

After being up The Chalk Pit for the past 3 days, it was time to look for a new route. And I didn't have to think very hard to remember the more demanding Churb Knob path, passing the delightful Frying Pan Wood.

First a little wander round the village. The Churchyard, Play Close, and further Cob Walls before passing The Red Lion and heading up to the beginning of the path.

Then, the delight of up.

The views are worth the effort.

Finally, to release all that potential.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Blewbury Snowy Circuit, Added Anglo-Saxon Walls and Hills

A New Year's Challenge, Part Deux

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

After sucessfully negotiating the challenge to video my bike ride yesterday by @russwillis, I thought I'd raise the stakes and add in some further hazards. Again, I do the honour of sharing such an adventure, albeit on the same level as navel gazing. (No, that's not boat spotting.)

Since yesterday, with a degree of ice melting and further passing traffic, the side roads have become a lot more awkward on two wheels. Paths seemed to be the way forward, so my route was carefully planned.

The first section took a gentle route through the village past one of our historic monuments. The thatched Cob wall (appearing at 35 seconds) were partly built in Anglo-Saxon times and are thus over 1000 years old. I do confess that for that period it's like the old "I've 'ad this broom for 20 years, 3 new handles and 4 new brushes" joke. But, they are pretty rare and majestic, and there are several sections in the village.

After the wall, turning up a side road to the pub. Ah, many a happy teenage hour spent in there. Rarely get there now, just one day a year usually: Boxing Day (see Walk).

One last slow corner into Watery Lane. Why, did I choose to come down here? Lethally slippery mud and ice combo with the added attaction of falling off into freezing water. And on a sharp bend! What was I thinking? Then, I clearly lost sight of my marbles and rode across a two-plank wide bridge with very little to stop a slide to either side. Megatastic, not 'arf!

Well, that's where my camera decided it was too cold to work. Having charged the battery so I could get some of the fantastic off-road experience down, the card refused to get any acknowledgement from the machine. What did you miss? Well, quite a bit of fun.

After discovering the joys (and surprising ease) of offroading in the snow yesterday, I thought I'd up the ante. I thought I'd try the hill path to the chalk pit. Having seen the cob walls (and a lot of the cottages) are made of chalk, I'm now going to the place where they dug that chalk out of the ground. This is a haven for adventurous children. I spent many a happy hour (prior to the pub being an interest) performing stupid stunts down the steep sides of this place and up and down the path that goes there. I still venture there now in the summer, but tend to head onwards as it's not that far and coming off a bike brings a lot more bruises and pain than it did aged 10.

The path itself is a bit of a madness. It's just about as steep as you want it both going up and down. As it's in chalk and having had 100s of tons of chalk taken down it, the path is worn into the hillside up to about 10 foot deep. That means for much of the route, visibility is restricted to up and down only. Additionally, as a nice, out of the wind place, it's a great spot for small trees and shrubs to grow. This means the actual path is barely 2 foot across with a lot of scrub around and above. In a couple of places the small path makes it's way up the side of the scar leaving a nice drop into a muddy gully in case of lost footage. Of course, when ending the path and reaching the top of the chalk pit, the view across the Vale of the White Horse is the massive 180 degree view, unfortunately including the "delightful" Didcot Power Station.

Anyway, back to biking in the snow. Needless to say a lot of the path was a case of "push down on pedal, back wheel turns round full cycle, bike goes 1mm further foward, rider topples to left or right ranting mercilessly about the futility of it all". See, told you it was fun!

Actually, it was worth the ride up. I did manage to ride some of it but it was pretty hardpacked by the hundreds of children's feet who'd made the pilgrimage I used to make, with sledges. And also, it was worth seeing the incredulity on a sledging family's face as I made the past the last corner pedalling away in bottom gear!

Getting round the pit really didn't happen in the saddle, but from the top it was onto leather (well, modern plastic, I'm sure) and slide downhill with the brakes full on. Weee! A drop of 20 foot on one side and a barbed wire fence on the other. What could possibly go wrong? Actually it was the straight ahead that went wrong and a nice sideways slide with a flurry of snow as I hurtled towards the sledging family trying to get our of the pit. I dismounted gracefully* and let them have their right of way (* possibly read "shrieking"). The offered me the path for the entirely sane reason that they didn't want me behind them.

The path was a similar joy. A foot off a pedal pretty much all the time with the option of just putting the bike on the side and me ending up sliding down on my feet. The normal dip and tuck around the bushes and ditch that I'm used to down that path replaced with a plough and slip-slide just avoiding* the bushes on either side (* possibly read as "going through").

After that it was back to the normal flat path along crunchy snow until home arrived in view. But with a feeling that a hearty gin might just sort me out for nerves.

From Christmas Eve. I managed to get the camera to work for the trip up and down. Here they are.

The fun of up, including just a bit of walking.

The view is great, even if not sunny.

Then the joy of down. Feet did touch the ground but not entirely in a walking sense.

Then, the short path home.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Blewbury Snowy Circuit

A New Year's Challenge

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

After being challenged to video my bike ride today by @russwillis, I thought I'd share it with all. A very short but challenging route based on the tricky surface, jumping between lumpy soft slush and rock hard crevatous ice without visible warning, and a complete lack of snow tyres!

Anyway, here's the map. Looks very simple, doesn't it?

Well, here are some videos of me slipping and sliding around until confidence slips in!

First of all up Church Road. The first section, a few corners and people to nod to and assuage them of my good purpose. All at the death defying speed of 5mph. I tell you, modern roller coasters have nothing on me!

Followed by South Street. A few twists and turns to quicken the heart rate, but now it all seemed a bit easy. However, pride comes before a fall. Or in my case, startlement, as a Post Office van skids out of a side track just in front of me! It wasn't as near as it looks though.

Then Berry Lane. A level of mastery starts to pervade my mind. "Ha, I've got this" I thought. Then a group of girls in front slip over without the slightest provocation. Instant karma as my confidence disappears in a flash!

Then, at 1:42 and 1:50 along Westbrook Street, what you all wanted to happen to me. Only I didn't go too far from off the saddle! Of course, I had to put up with the lads early on wanting to pelt me with snowballs. They did have the decency to ask if I minded. And people worry about the youth of today.

Unfortunately, the camera ran out of battery (and I couldn't be bothered) before I got to the completely offroad bit. It looked utterly treacherous, and I did question my sanity. However, once going, it was considerable easier than any of the road sections. The lack of compacted snow meant the underlying surface offered much more grip as the tyre mould sank into the powder. Fantastic! A good speed was achievable. I'm not saying over 10mph of course, but certainly more than the 5mph the road had offered.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Chalford Canal Path

A short route along the Golden Valley near Stroud

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

The map of the route alongside a very down at heels section of the Thames & Severn Canal.

It's possible to extend the route at both ends but it's not for too much longer and gets a bit rougher.

The canal is part of the Cotswold Canals Restoration Project with this section being led by Stroud District Council. This map seems to show it a little better than we found.

Old Neighbouring, the Chalford Climb

A short route up the side of the Golden Valley near Stroud

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

The map of the route (on Bikely) up the hill. The climb goes up the side of the Golden Valley from the west end of Chalford. It's dominated by the lower slopes that have a sharp slope. The road, called Old Neighbourhood, twists it's way up. The path, our choice, just goes straight up the side.

A few stills from the video. The first is at the junction with the A419 at hte bottom of the hill. The roadsign on the left warns of a 12% slope, but that's by the road and we're doing the steeper path!

This is a bit beyond halfway along the path. The leaves are starting to get thicker on a slope that's hard to ride when clean. This path starts at an impossible slope and just gets steeper. For the stats freaks, it averages 15.2% (673m-312m=361m distance with 143m-88m=55m gain) with the last 46m going up 10m to give 21.7%.

Finally, out of the top of the path and everything seems easy. Apart from it's still around 7% and drags on for another 1300m.

Yes, this is nothing like climbing the Alpes or Pyrenees, but does rate for the UK.

I did Plateau de Beille in 2007, which is one of the top rated Tour climbs. It’s 1220m up in 15.6km averaging 7.8%. That rates 150 on the widely adopted climb rating scale. On the same scale this climb comes in at 73. This is pretty high given it takes me around 5% of the time of the French ride. And, if you do the path, then shoot back down by road to the bottom and do it again 9 further times (thus taking half the time as Plateau de Beille), the rating is 152!

And finally, the video. It's cut in two places for adjustment stops. At first my gears needed to be checked to get to the very bottom ratio and then the weather changed sufficiently by the top requiring some camera protection.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Cycling Videos

A series of videos of routes in and around Cambridge, Oxfordshire, and other rural places

This series of videos were taken by a simple Canon IXUS 105 running 640x480 (and converted smaller) on a homemade lightweight wooden mount on the front of my bike. I've gone away from specialised helmet-mounted cameras as they seem very expensive and deliver very little. The foreshortening of the video pictures does make this series seem a little racy in sections. I was not dangerous at any time, despite the view!

This blog was put together with a few aims in mind.

  • To encourage cycling, taking town cyclists out into the lovely country around and getting new cyclists on their bikes
  • To show easier ways to handle certain junctions
  • To highlight good and poor road layout and design
  • To highlight good and poor behaviour by (other!) road users

Sometimes I do get on my high horse about some aspects of poor behaviour. I think all I'd like to say is that it's a adenaline buzz usually, caused by feeling very vunerable next to anything between 1 and 10 tons of metal.

I want more people to get out on their bikes to challenge that kind of behaviour. It's been shown that the more bikes on the road leads to less accidents due to more familarity.

I cannot emphasise enough that despite some ranting and rolling, there's nothing better than getting out on your bike and the joys of the cycling and being out in the countryside far, far outweigh the perceived dangers. This blog can help people to find the right way to reduce the sometimes scary moments and good ways of avoiding them completely.

I have tri-bars (yes, I'm that fast!) which give me a nice mount position.

I've fashioned a wooden mount for the Canon Ixus camera. It does need the odd tweak to keep the camera steady, although road noise coming up the frame is a problem.

And this is how the screw mounting works.

Recently I've also adjusted the bars to handle maps. The paper create-by-yourself kind. Found it really worked. Cable ties are used to clip keyring mounts for multiple pages. Elastic bands enable a sheet to be rolled up and kept out of the way.

It flaps a bit in the wind, but not enough to be unreadable.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Wenhaston, Bramfield, Sibton Green, Warpole, Halesworth

A short route round Coastal Suffolk

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

The map of the route.

The Route sectioned into Videos.
Wenhaston to Bramfield
- The Street
- Hall Road
- Blackheath Road
- Bramfield Road
- Thorington Road
- Pitman's Grove
- Bridge Street
Bramfield to Sibton Green
- The Street
- Sibton Green
Sibton Green to East Warpole
- (unnamed lane)
- Warpole Road
- (unnamed lane)
East Warpole to Halesworth
- Halesworth Road
- Warpole Road
- London Road
Halesworth to Mells Lane
- London Road
- Bramfield Road
Some of Mells Lane
- Mells Lane
- Heath Road (unvideoed)
- Back Road (unvideoed)

Wenhaston to Bramfield.

A steady section of uphill through Wenhaston leading past the village hall and school and then a nice 25mph descent past The Star pub before turning onto Blackheath Road and past Wootons. The heath has got a couple of small hills just to get the blood pumping before turning left to cross a stream tributary of the river Blyth. This is where cyclists notice the sand, which has been drained by rain water into one place. It's sometimes piled up so high that cycling is really awkward. Then turn up and over the hill (ish) to Bramfield. Alomst a 30mph descent into the village and a turn left onto the main A road.

Bramfield to Sibton Green.

The A144 is possibly the busiest section of this route. Off it quickly and up the hill (ish) to the railway and past Bridge Farm. A steady pace all the way gently up to White Post Farm in Sibton Green.

Sibton Green to East Warpole.

Turning right towards Warpole joins National Cycle Route One! Yep, the middle of nowhere has this main cycle route in it. The route of this cycle-route is best described as "interesting". It's clearly not designed for getting from one point ot another but to swirl around the interesting and quiet places of this area. Hmmm. Anyway, after crossing Warpole Road, a nice downhill section to the B road into Halesworth.

East Warpole to Halesworth.

After joining the B road into Halesworth, the National Cycle Route wanders off to the left to do a nice loop to Cookley Grange before coming back to this route in Halesworth. And, yes, this section of B road is possbiyl also the busiest on this route. It's quickly over and Halesworth looms. The road surface just into town is fantastically smooth, and needs to be as downhill to the Co-op can almost reach 30mph before whipping into the garage for a newspaper.

Halesworth to Mells Lane.

Back out of the Co-op garage and up the hill (ish) out of town. Back onto the A144 to get out of Halesworth. This is where one or two motor vehicles seem to do silly things. Regularly on this section I will get up to, but not exceed, 30mph. Despite being a 30mph limit I've regularly been overtaken, even taking into consideration the turns onto the road adn number of houses close by.

Some of Mells Lane.

And Mells Lane is a nice, back route all the way to Wenhaston. Occasional tractors and locals, and the very odd lorry, as seen towards the end, going to the gravel pit. I managed to run out of camera battery, so didn't get it all.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Cambridge, Coton, Madingley, Comberton, Barton, Granchester, Trumpington, Shelford Ride

A short route round west Cambridge

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

The route in Bikely is here.

Hills Road, Brooklands Avenue, Trumpington Street, Fen Causeway, Queens Road, Cycleway, Adams Road.

Adams Road Cycle Path to Coton.

Coton to Madingley Road A428 Junction.

Madingley Road to Madingley.

Madingley to A428 and Comberton Road.

Comberton Road to Comberton.

Comberton to M11 J12.

M11 J12 to Granchester and Trumpington.

Trumpington to Brooklands Avenue.

New Coe Fen Cyclepath.

Coe Fen Cyclepath and Brooklands Avenue.

Cherry Hinton, Fulbourn, Worsted Street, Magogs, Stapleford, Shelford, Addenbrookes

A short route round south Cambridge

This series of videos were taken mid-afternoon in mid October by a simple Canon IXUS 105 running 640x480 (and converted smaller) on a homemade mount on the front of my bike. I've gone away from specialised helmet-mounted cameras as they seem very expensive and deliver very little. The foreshortening of the video pictures does make this series seem a little racy in some sections. I was not dangerous at any time, despite the view!

Hills Road to Cherry Hinton.

Cherry Hinton to Fulbourn.

Fulbourn to Worsted Street.

Worsted Street to Magogs.

Magogs on A1303.

Magogs to Stapleford.

Stapleford to Shelford.

Addenbrookes Cycle Path BRCA2.

Addenbrookes Cycle Path to Hills Road.

Hills Road including Railway Bridge.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Round Wenhaston

A short route round the Village

This series of videos were taken mid-afternoon in mid October by a simple Canon IXUS 105 running 640x480 (and converted smaller) on a homemade mount on the front of my bike. I've gone away from specialised helmet-mounted cameras as they seem very expensive and deliver very little. The foreshortening of the video pictures does make this series seem a little racy in some sections. I was not dangerous at any time, despite the view!

Wenhaston to Queens Head.

Queens Head Look Around.

Queens Head to Heath Farm.

Over Heath to Wenhaston.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Worsted Street, Hildersham, Babraham, Stapleford, Shelford Route

A short route round South Cambridgeshire

This series of videos were taken mid-afternoon in mid October by a simple Canon IXUS 105 running 640x480 (and converted smaller) on a homemade mount on the front of my bike. I've gone away from specialised helmet-mounted cameras as they seem very expensive and deliver very little. The foreshortening of the video pictures does make this series seem a little racy in the city sections. I was not dangerous at any time, despite the view!

Hills Road past Addenbrookes.

Worts Causeway Hill.

Worsted Street from Wandlebury to Copley Hill.

Worsted Street from Copley Hill to A11.

Worsted Street from A11 to Hildersham Path.

Hildersham Path.

Hildersham to Abington.

Abington to Babraham Path.

Babraham Path.

Rowley Lane from Babraham to Stapleford.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Cambridge, Coton, Granchester, Trumpington, Shelford Ride

A short route round West Cambridge

A technical and emotional note about the reasoning behind these blogs.

The map of the full route (on Bikely) through the outskirts and villages just to the west and south of Cambridge. The view from this route will change a lot over the next few years with all the developments in this area. The West Cambridge development, the southern hospital access road, and Hills Road Bridge improvements should all make for a better cycling experience. Let's see if it delivers!

The Route sectioned into Videos.
Hills Road to the West Cambridge Cycle Path
- Brooklands Avenue
- Trumpington Street
- Silver Street
- Sedgewick Avenue
- Grange Road
- Adam Road
The West Cambridge Cycle Path to Coton.
- West Cambridge Cycle Path
- The Footpath
Coton to M11 J12.
- Brook Lane
- Granchester Road
- Barton Road Roundabout
M11 J12 to River Cam.
- Barton Road Roundabout
- Coton Road
- High Street
- Mill Lane
River Cam to Trumpington Crossing.
- Granchester Road
- Maris Lane
- High Street
Trumpington Crossing to Addenbrookes Cycle Path, Shelford.
- High Street
- Shelford Road
- Cambridge Road
- Granham's Road
Addenbrookes Cycle Path to Addenbrookes Roundabout.
- Addenbrookes Cycle Path
- Robinson Way
Addenbrookes Roundabout up to and over Hills Road Bridge.
- Robinson Way
- Hills Road

Hills Road to the West Cambridge Cycle Path.

With the work going on Hills Road Bridge, the turn down into Brooklands Avenue is a might awkward, and impossible by car. I'm not sure the cycle path comes all the way up Brooklands Avenue to the junction, but given there's nowhere to go if you are cycling up it, there really isn't anything to do but assume its okay. However, at this time of day, minimal use of it is advised as there are far too many pedestrians and side entrances to make it a reasonable cycle path.

At the end of Brooklands Avenue turning right into Trumpington Street means crossing a lane. I always find it slightly amusing how many cars overtake just before the lights only to pull up and get passed by my smaller bike. Again, a lot of people do the manoeuvre up to lights, I'm not sure how properly legal it is.

The offroad path across the Coe Fen is being rebuilt much bigger. It's been quite a time, but it's an excellent upgrade! Unfortunately, the only way round that makes any sense is to stick to the road for now. This brings up the first irk of the ride.

At 2:34 into the video, a Sainsbury's delivery van parked in the cyclepath, despite there being plenty of space to park elsewhere. Registration CE60 ORH at 13:35 on Thursday 7th October. Does Sainsbury's support this action? The danger is quite clear as a driving instructor passes me quite close as I'm having to pull out. And I do look before making the move, as with all other moves.

Now, it's not just Sainbury's van drivers that do this. Tesco's have also been spotted. Although I do find that Waitrose/Ocado seem to behave like they know that cyclists are also their customers.

Further along crossing the mini-roundabouts into town is awkward again. A lot of traffic is turning left here, and the cycle path just disappears depositing cyclists into a complex junction. At my speed, around 15-20mph, it's better to mingle with traffic as they are not doing anything too different. Even so the amount of traffic that simply passes and turns left across me at this junction is frightening. I spot the next car turning in front of me hesitating so I jump through the junction quickly. I was ready to stop if he'd had moved, but luckily I didn't get to lose all my kinetic energy.

Central Trumpington Street has it's own joys. Although starting off wide, it quickly narrows. It is also the only one of two way cars can get into the central car park, so can be quite busy. Lots of stopping and starting to pass bikes and I end up in the back end of a 4x4. The Fitzwilliam museum on the left is a nice distraction on less busy days. And the Loch Fyne restaurant on the right is fun at night too! Towards the end, pretty much all cars turn right to the car park, so some judicious moves on the side of the road are appropriate. Threading the needle between the 8 inch deep gutter and the cars looks a lot more dangerous than it actually is. At least there are no pedestrians right at the side of the road! Finally the almost traffic free Silver Street!

Heading into the student areas means a lot more cyclists and some moving reasonably quickly. Although central Cambridge is quite nice, the suburbs do have a more leafy feel. Grange Road is one of those nicer areas, although there seems to be a big increase in the amount of parking now available. Finally, waiting at the turn to go up Adams Road to the West Cambridge Cycle Path seems a little annoying. A good place for a left turn cycle slipway to avoid the lights.

The West Cambridge Cycle Path to Coton.

The entrance to the West Cambridge cycle path is almost certainly deliberately staggered to stop cyclists shooting out into the middle of a road and going under a passing car. This sounds very sensible, but actually doesn't really do anything apart from potentially putting riders going in opposite direction against each other.

After a steady drag (about a 1 metre increase in height over 100 metres, arrrgggg, so hard!) the last thing a cyclist travelling from Adams Road into the path wants to do is lose that hard-fought speed by looping around a frankly irritating wooden pillar. As you see with me, a shortcut allows the retention of that speed however putting me right in the path of oncoming cyclists. Although this is a rare event, it's not as rare as the chances of any kind of serious accident happening here.

The road is on a raised section, on a sharp, blind corner. Most cars are doing less than 10mph and when I say most, I'm painfully aware that this is around 30 or so cars an hour. Cyclists coming onto the road can see very clearly along one direction and reasonably clearly the other. The chances of them flying under a rare, slow moving car is about as good as seeing pigs fly. This is a classic example of an overplanned junction, with an eye on potential (albeit incredibly unlikely) lawsuits rather than helping cyclists have a good overall experience. This awkwardness is heightened by the complicated route ensuring you loose sight of any potential hazards whilst coming on and off the path. Why, oh, why!

Once on the path, the experience rapidly changes to one of delight. It is a joy to ride down a wide, cleverly separated path, taking you out of the leavy suburbs into the first fields of the country. The width of the path allows for cyclists to be going in both directions easily and for overtaking of slightly slower pedallers without interruption, ideal! Along with the wide cycle path, the cleverly raised footpath next to it naturally draws pedestrians out of the way without shouting, glaring, obstruficating, officious signage. It's a shame they didn't learn that one for the new Coe Fen cyclepath, a really awkward clash between cyclists and pedestrians could have enhanced that recent development so much.

The surface is gloriously smooth, allowing a good speed even into the prevailing westerly. However, despite the space and clear visibility, you still have to keep your wits abotu you when riding. At 1:22 into the video, this is ably demonstrated. A cyclist pulls into the middle of the path and signals to turn right. A the last moment he decides not to take this route and starts to pull back into the path that I'm rapidly approaching. Only a quick back glance allows us both the space to not collide.

I've thought about this since and remember the split second decision I made to keep going through which was more based on the notion that it was better to quickly get through the gap before it closed. The alternative of slamming on the anchors and still have a high likelyhood of sliding into the other cyclist who would have closed the gap by then seemed worse. This kind of thing happens in cars all the time, often with tooting of horns and raised tempers. The great benefit about bikes is that you can hear what's going on around you not just see what's in front of you.

The path narrows as it eascapes the clutches of the west Cambridge development. In years to come this won't happen for a good while longer. The expansion of the west Cambridge development will take away these fields. Although it's a shame in a way, it's also exciting to see Cambridge growing and enabling new scientific discovery to take place.

The path takes a couple of slightly unsighted corners round some small copse (I did see a black squirrel here once!) and heads towards the joys of the M11. The bridge gives a chance for a little harder work, maybe a jump out of the saddle to retain some momentum. Again, maybe a small moan about the lack of visibility just at a time when a cyclist really doesn't want to apply the brakes. This is true for the turn up onto the bridge as well as the turn away from the bridge at the bottom. Especially as during autumn there is this horrible build up of slippery leaves. Not sure there's too much that can be done about that though!

The last part of the path enjoys leavy shade (excellent in summer!) and comes out into Coton at the bottom of the green and cricket square.

Coton to M11 J12.

Turning left onto the road towards Granchester is a small relief as it starts dropping slightly allowing an increase of speed with less effort. Unfortunately, this joy is shared by car drivers who see the lack of houses as a good reason to increase their speed above the 30mph limit. Along these twisting narrow roads this seems a little scary to any cyclists and/or pedestrians. Once out of the trees, visibility improves significantly and the jumpiness subsides.

The road has been roughly resurfaced which brings me onto another of my general gripes about road maintenance. If you look carefully at the road about 50cm from the verge you can see that it is intermittently broken up. Sometimes this is slightly filled by a rough resurface, sometimes not.

The issue from a cyclists point of view is that you can't see when this happens after a rough resurface. Before the resurface it would have been very clear where the problems lay. So, the resurfacing process has evened out the tarmac for cars but made it a hazard for cyclists. Hmm, methinks that's not the best result. My action is to cycle outside this area, from about 75cm to 1m off the verge. And, yes, you've guessed it, this really irritates drivers! So, who's won?

The road heads south east which usually makes it wind-neutral. When it's not, boy, do you feel it! The M11 bridge heightens that considerably putting you another 10 metres into whatever wind is doing. Then the joy of descending the bridge into two alarming dangers: M11 exiting traffic and a roundabout that isn't for cyclists.

Taking those in order, Although there is no demonstration of it on this clip, I've had a number of drivers coming off the M11 pull out in front of me from the left rather too close. Again, it's drivers assuming that because I'm a bike, I must be doing 10mph and they have plenty of space. So, as I jam on my brakes and scream down from my 30mph to avoid pancaking into the back of their car/van/lorry, I'd like to reflect on the fact that they cannot actually go any faster than I am at time point with the impending roundabout.

The roundabout is designed for motor vehicles, with motor vehicles in mind, and carful consideration is placed to ensure anything that isn't a motor vehicle is sent away, the long way, the hard way, the "we faurt in yoore gineral directeeshun" way round.

Again, this is the "we must get cyclists safe, whatever the cost" process, where the cost is usually the cyclists comfort and ease of ride, not anything that might impinge upon those wonderful petrol engines. the one cycle route put in takes cyclists from town simply directly out of town. It takes them the long way round the junction ensuring that they have to stop for the darling gas-guzzlers at every point.

This might be fine, apart from the direction I'm going get's nothing at all! In some respects, this is BETTER! So, I mingle with traffic. I actually like this. It heightens your sense of life, gives you all kinds of flash moments, and ensures that I keep pedalling to maintain my speed throughout the experience so that I might travel at the same speed as surrounding lumps of between one and thirty ton metal. I can see that not everyone will like this.

M11 J12 to River Cam.

Ah, you say, now you're off the nasty roads and heading towards the tranquility of that worldly famous village of Granchester. Well, disallusionment follows. This next section of road is one of the nastiest bits I know. It's actually quite a nice area but the cars using it as a rat run ruin everything. Quite why it's used as a rat run is beyond me. The sections within Granchester and Trumpington are slow and have low priority at junctions. Surely the nearby M11 is much quicker?

This first section of road is very straight and will allow two cars to pass each other safely. This means that cars doing 60mph along here is not unexpected. I would perfectly well expect this and there's nothing inherently wrong with that. It's that if there is anything else on the road there is nothing like enough space. I have regularly been passed by cars doing 60mph within a few inches of my handlebars. At this speed, even a few feet away is enough for the airflow to knock my direction, so the really close ones get near to knocking me off completely.

It's not so different from this spot, where I had a really close call. Luckily, nothing has happened so far. But it's one of the roads I dread. I'm a fairly competent, strong cyclist. I can't think of how anyone who's a bit less confident would handle this bombardment. It's no surprise that despite being a very useful route very few people cycle along here. It's hardly a good advert to encourage people making short journeys to get on a bike rather than use the car.

The final fun with this section is a large manhole cover on a bend just before the village of Granchester. It appears at around 2:43 in the clip. Going anywhere apart from around the outside of it is a really rough ride, even on a mountain bike. Unfortunately, this does put you at odds with anything overtaking. Not everyone realises that as cyclists you have the right to avoid poor road surfaces and seems to assume that the space that all bikes take up is within 20cm of the verge. Maybe this is a Cambridge thing, where traffic is so used to having cyclists on the inside and expects that's where they stay at all times.

Anyway, Granchester arrives and is a fairly pleasant place. Past central green, Green Man pub, and the church then down the hill swinging to the left and to the right until passing one reach of the river Cam that runs through the mill. This is the highest point above Cambridge to which one can punt. It's a lovely pool with open banks, willow trees, and sculpture of a horse. In late spring you'll see a swan's nest with several cygnets. Across the plain to the main reach of the Cam that leads up to Byron's Pool.

River Cam to Trumpington Crossing.

Trumpington Crossing to Addenbrookes Cycle Path, Shelford.

Addenbrookes Cycle Path to Addenbrookes Roundabout.

Addenbrookes Roundabout up to and over Hills Road Bridge.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Some Pictures Taken Along the Way

A photojourney

I have several hundred photos, far too many for here. Here's a few.

The rural scene at our first night hotel and restaurant.

The view up valley from our campsite at Port de Pailheres.

The view down valley from our campsite at Port de Pailheres after the fog cleared.

The begining of the caravanne.

The surprise rider, Rafael Valls Ferri.

Carlos Sastre cycles past Lorna

Carlos Sastre on TV on Port de Pailheres with Lorna in Turquoise in the middle of the shot.

A few more riders with the Polka Dot, Chartreau.

The view from just behind our tent on Col de Portet d'Aspet.

A butterfly just behind our tent.

The French entertainment. He didn't stop for 5 hours. The loved him.

The view down the valley towards Portet d'Aspet.

Voeckler in the first set of riders over Portet d'Aspet.

Schleck, in yellow, over Portet d'Aspet.

And the sprinters, with Mark Cavendish, bring up the rear.

Tommy Voeckler's win in Luchon on the TV coverage.

And our view of the same.

Andy Schleck trying to limit his losses into Luchon after the chain debacle.

A wine shop in Luchon, with a bike in the window?

Bradley Wiggins cycles past the Shack Attack tour bus at Luchon start.

Mark Cavendish has a mechanical at the start in Luchon.

Thor Hushovd on his way to the start at Luchon.

Eric Zabel, 6 times green jersey winner and Mark Cavendish coach, at Luchon start.

Christian Prudhomme, the organiser of the Tour de France, at Luchon start.

A butterfly in the hills near Port de Bales.

Another butterfly.

Lance Armstrong's escape group going into Pau.

That arrow is mine.

Our shelter when the rain appeared.

The view down the La Vallee d'Ossau above the clouds.

Another butterfly.

Our shelter at the col de Soulor, at 1540m above see level.

The 3 amigos, parked together as they always are.

Contador, in yellow, with Voerckler behind.

Lance Armstrong comes past with George Hincapie.

TV Coverage of Col de Soulor with my car (green Saab with yellow arrow) on left.

TV Coverage of Col de Soulor me (grey lump) and Lorna (white hat back from road) on left.

TV Coverage of Col de Soulor me (grey lump) on right.

Mark Cavendish's bike.

Mark Cavendish's bike detail.

Mark Cavendish.

Mark Cavendish's detail.

Sky management.