After postponing the ride one more time to give me a chance to recover from two days' hard labouring, I finally set out on the Big Bike Ride just after 8.am on Sunday. The aim was to visit all the Crack On shops within a day's ride.
The first stop was at the Bury Boutique. Here we are (we being the bike and me) outside the shop at about 8.15.
Well, I had to take the picture of course - my bike isn't quite that clever.
Total distance 1.3 miles!
After Bury St Edmunds the next stop was to be Newmarket, about 18 miles away. This part of the route is quite familiar, as I've used it for a few of my training rides. It's the hilliest part of the planned route and there was a slight headwind, so I paced myself carefully, knowing I had over 100 miles ahead of me.
After about six miles I realised I'd left my route plan at home - meaning I'd have to navigate some unfamiliar territory later on. For now, though, and for the second leg, this wasn't a problem. I found the Newmarket shop easily enough, as it's directly opposite All Saints Church, and was there just after 9.30.
Time for a photo shoot, a snack and a drink. Peanuts, an almond pastry and a bit of coffee, washed down with a few gulps of water. Here's the bike and the Newmarket shop after18.6 miles.
I felt fresh and was fairly sure I knew the best route to Mildenhall, having ridden it recently. After the hills and headwind, a flat stretch with more of a tail or side wind ought to be faster, without trying.
One minor wrong turn took me a quarter of a mile in the wrong direction before I realised. Apart from that, this leg was easy and proved to be the fastest, as expected.
I knew where the Mildenhall shop was, since it's pretty hard to miss as you enter the town from Newmarket direction.
At about 10.30 I was snacking again and taking this picture of the Mildenhall Crack On shop.More peanuts, almond pastries and a little coffee.
By this point I had done 29.5 miles - about a quarter of the total, I thought...
Now the question was whether to try to remember the minor road route recommended for cyclists or to take the main road and at least know I wouldn't get lost. This leg would also be about 15 miles directly into the freshening wind.
I opted for the main road, reasoning that it wouldn't be too busy on a Sunday. In the event, the traffic wasn't too bad, but the head wind did make this leg a bit of a slog. I paced myself, rode on the middle chainwheel the whole way and, apart from a toilet stop after ten miles or so (when I had another snack), I got to Littleport in a reasonable time of one hour twenty minutes. So I was there before midday, which was the aim.
Finding the shop wasn't easy without my directions, though, and I probably added a couple of miles to my total before I pulled up outside and took this picture.
Littleport is a bigger place than I realised, and the High Street is not the one with the shops in it!
More nuts, another pastry and the last of my first flask of coffee was enough to get me to my lunchtime stop - wherever that turned out to be.
Total so far was 46.8 miles.
Now came the tricky bit - navigating to Watton. The route I'd planned took up two pages of directions, with lots of 'first right, second left, left again' kinds of directions. How much of this could I remember, or would there be enough signs to make navigation easier than I feared? I knew the way out of Littleport, and knew there was a right turn to be made after a few miles on the A10, so I set off on the Lynn Road.
The right turn was a long time coming, but the A10 was okay, if a bit busier than I would have liked. Eventually, a narrow and obviously little-used road appeared alongside a ditch and heading east.This had to be it, and so it proved. Totally empty, not too bumpy, and with a favourable wind, this was one of the nicest parts of the whole ride, despite the flat countryside. I know I would meet a B-road after several miles, where I would turn right and then take another left soon after. Well, the only left I saw was an unmade road, which might have been okay for a short distance, but not for the next ten miles, so I carried on, knowing I was now definitely not on the right road. No matter - I was going roughly southeast, rather than east, so all I had to do was keep going until I hit another road and a signpost.
With about 28 miles as the crow flies between Littleport and Watton, there was quite a big potential for error. However, the road gradually turned eastwards and it was soon time for lunch, and after about sixty miles I saw the perfect spot - a gateway leading to a grassy path beside a river.
I stopped and took this picture, then fled about 50 yards down the road to escape the flies!
I feasted on cheese sandwiches, more nuts and almond pastries, and half a flask of coffee. With a clearer head, I realised I had to try to head northeast. As the time approached mid afternoon, I knew the sun would be roughly SSW, so I could estimate a northeasterly bearing, as long as I could find a road that went in that direction. I was almost immediately in the village of Feltwell, which didn't mean much to me. There was a road heading north to Methwold, which sounded familiar but I wasn't sure about, so I carried on eastwards for a short time until I decided Methwold was probably where I needed to head for, and I took the next left turn. Just short of Methwold I realised I was now heading slightly west of north, which wasn't good, and I took a right turn towards Cranwich Heath. Again, the name was familiar but it didn't feature on any mental map; it just happened to involve heading east...
Then I saw a sign for Northwold, and turned north again. Methwold and Northwold were the two related villages I orininally planned to reach for my lunch stop. Then, as I got near to Northwold I saw another left turn and recognised one of the few named roads in the area - Little London Road. I vagguely remembered that this came after Northwold in my directions and that I would have turned left coming out of the village. This meant, as I was approaching from the right, that I needed to go straight on. The bearing was about right, maybe NNE at that point. Soon afterwards, I guessed that a right fork would take me even nearer to the ENE direction that I needed.
From that point on the narrow road was more or less straight, with passing places, but still with no signs for Watton. I knew I was going roughly the right way but had no idea what road I was on. I crossed the A134, Thetford to Swaffham road and continued through the forest on a more or less straight road. As I crossed the A1065, Thetford to Kings Lynn road, my road suddenly got much wider, although I still didn't see any helpful signs. Still, I kept going in what I was fairly sure was the right direction until, suddenly, I was on the outskirts of Watton. I knew the Crack On shop was on this road, near the town centre, and so it proved.
It was 3.20pm and I was ready for another snack. More nuts and a pastry, plus the last of my coffee, did the trick.This leg, from Littleport, had been 32.3 miles, so I had now covered covered 79.1 miles.
With little hope of finding the approved cycle route, I set off down the A1075 towards Thetford. It's a decent road, with good surfaces and visibility, and on a sunny afternoon it was irresistible to bikers - the motorised kind, that is. A dozen or more of them must have passed me in the next hour or so as I headed south towards Thetford. I was weary but still doing a reasonable average speed. Time was beginning to drag, though, and this bit of road seemed longer than I expected. 15.2 miles seemed like quite a long way when everyone else was going so much faster! I reached Thetford after about an hour, almost out of water, and pulled into a Tesco Express.
Ignoring the water, I bought a large bottle of energy drink - sometimes, you just have to have what your body craves, and the sugar hit had an immediate effect. I did the last mile or so to the
Crack On HQ at Legacy House after about an hour and five minutes pedalling.
I had done 94.3 miles. I ate the last of my bread and cheese, some more nuts and my last almond slice. I took a few pictures, drank some more energy drink and set off for Bury St Edmunds and home. It was about 5.pm .
Again, the main road was the only sensible option. There were no dramas, my legs kept going and I had just about enough water.
I still felt okay as I entered Bury St Edmunds - I even managaed a short (downhill) sprint to beat the lights at the bottom of Northgate Street. After 107.9 miles, and at 6.15pm, I pulled up outside my home.
It had been a good day's ride!
Total time ten hours. Total time actually moving, 7hrs, 51min 46 seconds. Average speed 13.7 mph.
Labels: Big Bike Ride, century, Crack On, Move-A-Thon