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Archive for July, 2010

I have recently learned that with the CTC rides you do not have to start at the stating point as long as you know where they are going you can meet them along the way. Also you can always cycle home by yourself any time you want to. You are not committing when starting the ride to finish at the same point as the CTC ride leader.

On Sunday, I planned to try to cycle 100 miles. However, my wife and I were at the evening reception of the wedding of a colleague of mine and staying at a hotel near Bedford. In morning, we had a full English breakfast and got back home after 10am. Still wanting to ride as much as possible that day looked at where the all day ride was going to (http://rides.ctc-cambridge.org.uk/search/label/201007). Where the coffee stop was in St. Neots, and lunch stop in Harrold, Bedford and thought I could catch them up. I emailed the CTC to discover what time the coffee stop and lunch stops were. I several replies from CTC ride leaders stating that generally they get to a coffee stop about 11am and stay for 30 minutes and they generally get to lunch stop about 1pm. I already knew that the tea stops where about 5pm where the all day riders and the afternoon riders join up and sometimes ride back together.

I got into my cycling gear, I then looked at the google maps as I could not find my OS map to prepare a route. I plotted my route and wrote down villages that I would pass in order to reach the Coffee stop. I then prepared my bike e.g filling my water bottles and waterproofs and tools and attaching them all to the bike. When I left it was 10:50 am. I knew that the CTC had two hours on me but I was prepared to try to catch them. I set off from Cottenham, through Oakington then across the A14 to Dry Drayton. I then headed west to Highfields. the reality that I would not catch them for Coffee was setting in when I reached Bourn at 11:20 am. Heard the sound of a low flying aeroplane and stopped to get a photograph. When I stopped I realised that it was a plane towing a glider. I took my pictures and then I pressed on. Longstowe then Little Gransden and Great Gransden before getting to Abbotsley. When I arrived at Abbotsley it reminded me of the Avengers. I travelled along the street and there where all sorts of Scarecrows dressed as different people for example there were some that looked like witches and others that looked like in suits. I asked a local what it was all about and they said that it was Abbotsleys annual Scarecrow festival and people make scarecrows to make money for the Community centre. Each year they have a theme, this year it is people from history, fact or fiction. This explained a lot. But they were still odd.

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I spent a while looking at these and following scarecrow signs around the village that I gave up on catching up with the CTC until tea.

After eventually leaving Abbotsley, I cycled the short distance to St. Neots, stopped at a pub called “The New Inn” and had a very nice Hunter’s chicken meal and a glass of Orange and soda. Whilst in the pub, I decided to plan my route to the tea stop. I opened the browser on my Android phone and went to the ctc-cambridge web site and found out that the tea stop was the Axe and Compass pub in Hemingford Abbots. I opened up Google maps on myphone and decided to take the scenic route there via Grafham Water as it was not much of a detour.

I set off North West through Hail Weston and Perry, stopping for a few minutes at Grafham Water to watch the people in boats and wind surfers before continuing. I headed through the underpass  under the A1 and on to Offord Cluny. I then headed north again to Godmanchester and then south east down the A1196 which was quite a busy road. I then travelled though Hilton and on to Hemingford Grey arriving at the Axe and compass in Hemingford Abbots at 4:30pm.

Knowing that the CTC will be there about 5pm I got another orange and soda and waited for them whilst I watched the golf on TV. When the others got there we had sandwiches and cakes in the back room with a cup of tea. After tea I travelled back with the CTC as far as Oakington and then left them and travelled on to Cottenham. I got home about 7pm, having done a total of 70 miles that day. It is not the hundred miles that I was after, but since I will be doing the London to Cambridge next weekend and I will have very little time for cycling between now and then, it is not bad.

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Sunday 27th June 2010

I woke up early, about 6:00am. I had taken some advice of a touring blog that I should take a book with me for entertainment. It was a double book of H.G Wells and it had ‘The Time Machine’ and ‘The Invisible Man’. As I had to wait for everyone else to wake up, I decided to start reading ‘The Time Machine’. When Mark came down he made us all a full English breakfast and a cup of tea to start the holiday well. Phil and I made ourselves useful by washing up the bots.

After breakfast I got a shower and got changed into my cycling gear. we then re-packed our panniers, checked I had all of the essentials, we filled our water bottles packed our bikes and set off about 8:30am for another relative short ride to the station. We arrived at the station about 8:50am, which gave us plenty of time to find out which platform our train to Cardiff was setting off from.

After finding the train and the cycle storage area, we had to then wait for someone to unlock it. We were informed not to lock our bikes for safety reasons. We asked the Virgin Rail lady if the bike storage gets locked during the trip, she replied “No, it does not”. As each of us had spent over a thousand pounds getting our bikes and setting them up for touring, we would have preferred to lock them up. We loaded our bikes, and had to tie them in as the Velcro straps had badly worn, we then had to take all of our panniers etc. to the train car where our seat reservations where. It is a good job we had the extra time, we needed it.

We set off and enjoyed the couple of hour journey to Cardiff. When we reached Cardiff, we had to get our panniers etc off the train, then rush to get our bikes off as Cardiff was not the trains last stop. The train companies could make it easier by putting seat reservations of the people that have bike reservations in the car next to the bike storage. After a mad rush, we had to check that we had everything before the train set off again. We then put everything back onto the bikes and set off.

Cardiff Station

We got outside the station and had to get our bearings. We noticed a map of the local area, which we used with a combination of our maps and a compass to locate our position and discover the best route to travel.

We set off down a couple of city streets and found our way onto a cycle track. The cycle track took us by the river and a slight bit of off-roading to get us in the touring mood. We then had to cross a bridge where the floor was wooden boards with gaps in between them. As we came to the end of this bridge, Phil who was in front of be did an emergency stop to avoid a small child on a bike. I had to swerve to avoid him and ended up with my front wheel in between a couple of wooden boards.

I pulled my front wheel out and we stopped for our first repair of the trip. Mark and I fixed the issue with the use of Mark’s piers. We then started to speak to some other cyclists about our trip. As we mentioned that we were cycling to Bangor, everyone gasped.

We stopped for lunch at a by the river near Pontipridd for lunch. Where I was able to use my camping stove to cook my rice packet. We hung around in the area for a while after lunch giving our legs a rest. We then set off for Merthyr Tydfil and carried climbing slowly.

We once again headed north mostly on national cycle route 8. We cycled though many cycle routes up slight hills, but not anything like the hills that we were expecting. The track turned a little more rustic, but stayed solid under our wheels. We had to content with getting our fully loaded bikes though lots of gates and stiles. We were only on our bikes for a couple of minutes before we reached another one and another. By the end of it, we had tried just about every way to get our bikes though these things.

We cycled up a hill and found a nice tea stop. We ordered tea and orange squash each, we were offered cake, but as the stop was not to long after lunch we declined the cake.

When we set off again we went though more  trees and we found a very humped back bridge. This bridge acually looked like the pictures of humped backed bridges that you see on the road side.

Once we thought we had got through all of the obstacles that the creator of this route had put in front of us, we found a set of steps where you had to wheel your bike up a slope on the left side whilst walking up the stairs. About half way up you had to change position of the bike to it was now on your right and you walked on the left side of it. It was a complicated system and difficult of get a fully loaded bike up there.

Because Phil had very little food with him, we decided to stop at the shop in Merthyl Tydfil. By this stage we were very hungry to we ended up buying lots of food to eat. We cooked most of it that evening.

We got to a camp site about 15 miles shorter than we had expected to do on the first day. It was a very nice camp site with nice owners, After pitching our tents we had made food and chatted and went to bed pretty early as we were quite tired from the cycling. We had to hide from the midges behind the mesh doors of our tents, which is one of the reasons for us going to bed early.

Day 2 >

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Saturday 26th June 2010

Phil, Mark and I had met up a few times and discussed strategies by email a lot about which route we will take, what campsites we should use and the mode of transport that we should use in order to get to Wales and back. Mark found a good deal which would cost £24 on the train, including bike bookings from London to Cardiff and return from Bangor to London. There was a part of the journey where we did not know if we could get our bikes on and that was from Bangor to Chester, so this may be an extra £16 each.

As Phil and I live in the same village and Mark lives in London, Mark offered for us to crash at his place on the Saturday night and therefore we would be able to make our 9:30am train from London to Cardiff.

My wife and two daughters were aware that I would be leaving on the Saturday and I had a plan to do some carbo-loading (eat as much food that is high in carbohydrates as possible for a few days before the trip). Unfortunately, the few days leading up to the trip I was still suffering (mildly) from a virus and had a tummy bug. This meant that I was limited to the foods that did not make me feel ill. My wife thought it would be nice to send me off with a roast chicken dinner, I asked here for lots of roast potatoes (trying for a little carbo-loading).

Phil and I arranged to meet in the village at 7:30 pm. So, my day was spent going through my things, making sure that I had everything and going to Tesco’s to load up on items that I did not have. I had all of my camping things, cycling clothes, clothes to wear at the campsite including a pair of  canvas deck shoes, cooking equipment, first aid kit, insect repellent etc. I also decided that I would carry all the dried food that I would need for the week and bulk it out with meat and vegetables that I can find in shops on the way. I also decided to take protein bars, power bars, cereal bars, protein shake powder, energy powder, electrolyte powder and recovery powder. I thought I could mix and match these for the days that I had a lack of energy the energy powder would come in handy and for hot days when I was sweating a lot the electrolyte powder would work well. The good thing about having powders and dried food in your panniers is every day your bags get lighter. Well that was the idea anyway.

I measured the powders into different freezer bags each marked what it is and how much water you put it with. I could then drop them into my water bottles on the way. When all of my stuff was ready and tea time was nearly upon us, I spent some time with the kids and then whilst eating tea we watched ‘Doctor Who’. When I was growing up Saturday night was family night watching Doctor Who and now that Doctor Who is back on our screens and the girls love it, Saturday night is once again family (Doctor Who) night. We watched Doctor Who whilst eating our roast chicken dinner and enjoyed our last evening together for a week.

After tea and Doctor Who, I put the 2 rear panniers, 2 front panniers, saddle bag (containing emergency tools and spare parts), 3 water bottles, tent, sleeping mat, empty hydration pack, bar bag and pump onto my bike. My bike now seemed heavier than it had ever before. I said goodbye to my family and headed off to meet Phil.

When I arrived where I was meeting Phil, he was already there and he pointed out that I was 5 minutes late.

After discussing the items that we had on our bikes and made sure we had the essentials, we set off to the nearest train station that had trains to London. On our arrival at the train station Phil started to order a ticket to London from the platform ticket machine. A short time later Phil discovered the dim screen, bright sunlight, fast timeout time and bad user interface that we would get both of our tickets on the way there and I would get our tickets for the way back. Phil had been prodding away at the touchscreen of the ticket machine for about a minute when I saw a train coming. I shouted, “HURRY, our train is coming!”. Phil began to panic a little as he was getting more and more frustrated with this machine. As it arrived at the platform, it was clear that it was an express train and it was not going to stop. When we had arrived at the platform I had put my bike on its stand knowing that the weight of all the panniers made this unstable. I knew the gust of wind from a high-speed train could knock over my bike. I ran up the platform shouting “MY BIKE!!!”. The train whizzed though the platform before I could get to my bike, but luckily it stayed upright. When I reached my bike I turned around to see Phil laughing at my antics. I could see the funny side of how this looked and started to laugh also. A few minutes later we got on the train to London with Phil still complaining about the ticket machine.

We got to London, where Mark was waiting on the platform for us, after a short cycle ride through the streets and back alleyways of London, we were at Mark’s flat.

We discussed the kit that we had and Mark weighed our panniers etc to see how much they weighed. My 4 panniers came to a total of 20Kg, plus 2.8kg for my tent, 0.8kg for my sleeping mat 1.5kg for my saddle bag, plus my heavy duty D-Lock, spare spokes, pump etc was over 2kg. Which is a total of 27.1kg. 3 full water bottles and a full 2 litre hydration pack would make it up to 30kg of weight. Wow, I had only practised with half of that weight.

Still feeling ill, I made us all a strong hot toddy (whiskey, lemon, honey and hot water). Which was welcomed by all apart from Phil whoo only drank half and threw the rest down the sink. Blasphemy!!!

Following this we got out the maps of Wales and discussed the routes that we would take on the trip. We ended up crashing out about 1:30am, which was unfortunate as we needed to be up at 7am to have time to get ready, have breakfast and cycle to the train station in plenty of time for the train. Unfortunately, I only got a couple of hours sleep as the night was way too warm for comfort and every time I turned over the sound of the polyester sleeping bag against the leather sofa made a sound like thunder, which kept waking me up. You do not realise how much you move in the night until it wakes you up every time you move.

Thank you to Phil for taking the pictures on this blog post.

Day 1 >

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