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Archives for January 2014

Route 525 – London to Peterborough

#525 London to Peterborough

#525 London to Peterborough

CRB_route525_textBrowsing through my new acquired Contour Road book for possible routes to try, #525 caught my eye. Basically the London to Peterborough must be the Great North Road, nowadays called the A1, and in places A1(M). At just one furlong under 80 miles, the could be quite a nice days ride. Total distance is likely to be increased as we avoid the A1(M) and other bits of the A1 where the old road no longer exists. I suppose an early Sunday morning start from London would be required to avoid traffic. The first train from Peterborough is the 05:46 which gets into Kings Cross at 07:21 so probably be able to start easily before 8am.

Next, I need to work out a route which matches the original as closely as possible.

The Post Office in St Martin le Grand by Thomas Shepherd late 1820s.

The Post Office in St Martin le Grand by Thomas Shepherd late 1820s.

The start will be the site of the General Post Office in St Martins-le-Grand just to the north of St Paul’s Cathedral. This is where mail coaches started from on their way up to York as well as other destinations all over the country.

Follow the A1 through Islington – Holloway Station – Archway Tavern – Highgate Station. Just after Highgate station, take the right fork onto the A1000 Great North Road. Follow this road through Barnet to Potter’s Bar and then Hatfield.

In Hatfield the A1000 turns right at lights but we will got straight on into Bull Stag Lane. At the end of this street we need to cross the railway line by way of a cycle path to rejoin the Great North Road on the other side. After about a half a mile we will rejoin a main road and after 4 roundabouts join the B197 in Stanborough. The B197 follows a parallel path to the A1, which we will continue until Welwyn after which we switch to the B656 through Codicote, Langley and St Ibbs until Hitchin (35 miles). From Hitchin Market Sq, we now will take the A 600 Bedford Rd until Henlow Station (now called Henlow Camp) where we will turn right onto the A659. After Henlow village, this road becomes the B659 which we will follow all the way to Biggleswade.

From Biggleswade until Tempsford the route becomes the A1 apart from a small section over Girtford Bridge. From Tempsford we have an adjacent road to follow until just before Tempsford Bridge, however, if we take this road we have no way of crossing the bridge…and the road takes us into St Neots on the wrong side of the Great Ouse river. The section needs thinking about, do we just follow the A1 all the way to Eaton Socon (about 10 miles)? Then we have the same problem after Little Paxton all the way up to Alconbury. From Alconbury the A1 becomes a motorway so there is the adjacent non-motorway traffic road to follow all the way up to Norman Cross. The alternative route would be from just before Tempsford Bridge carry on into St Neots and then Godmanchester, Huntington joining Ermine Street until it meets the A1 at Alconbury. This would reduce the total amount of actual A1 riding to under 5 miles, but this would be approx 3 hours after leaving London. How busy would it be at 11am?

The final section is turning right at Norman Cross and follow the London Road into Peterborough.



The Rapha Festive 500

festive-500-2013-v1The aim is simple, ride 500km in 8 days. As someone who is comfortable riding 200km in a day, an average of 62.5km per day for a little over a week sounds easy. However, the challenge runs from 24-31 Dec, over a busy festive period and with potentially poor weather. This makes for a worthy challenge…

My plan was to get in three 100km rides (on hopefully dryish days) and then fit in the remainder as short four 50km rides giving a day in hand if needed.

Day 1: Distance 83.1km – Speed 23.1 kph – Elevation 524m

Returning from Manchester where I had completed the Winter Solstice 200km audax on fixed, Helen dropped me off at Coventry so that I could get some miles in on day 1. Stopped at a garage in North Kilworth (28km) as I realised that we had left Manchester before breakfast and I was now feeling hungry. Apart from a small flood on one of the back roads near Fosse Way, it was an uneventful ride mainly on roads I know well. The section from Lutterworth to N Kilworth was on main roads but on Christmas Eve there was not very much traffic, the rest was generally lovely quiet country lanes.

Day 2: Distance 42.9km – Speed 22.2 kph – Elevation 205m

Popped out for an early morning spin after present unwrapping in order to earn my Xmas dinner later in the day. My normal Wansford-Bulwick loop with a slight extension at the end. Slightly up on the average km/day needed to complete the challenge.

Day 3: Distance 46.0km – Speed 19.3 kph – Elevation 320m

I had planned this as an 80km day, taking a scenic route to my parents for our traditional Boxing Day family get together. However the weather was not particularly nice so I opted for the shortest possible route and for the first time fell behind the required “run rate”.

Day 4: Distance 0km 

The original plan was to ride up to Nottingham for a night out with my brothers. That with the ride back the next day would contribute a considerable chunk of the overall distance needed (approx 220km). However a dental appointment first thing in the morning, and a 2pm start to the beer drinking festivities meant that I had to drive up, and consequently would have to drive back the next day. Halfway point and only 172km completed, now need to average 82km/day.

Day 5: Distance 52.5km – Speed 19.6 kph – Elevation 258m

My brother had given me a copy of the Contour Road Book yesterday so for a little extra motivation I looked up a nearby route I could follow for today’s ride. Route 364 Oundle to Wansford looked favourite, a road well travelled but by adding a little detour to Caster (as mentioned in the route notes) I could ride somewhere I had never been to before. A below par day distance-wise though so my required average crept up to 92km/day.

Day 6: Distance 78.2km – Speed 22.9 kph – Elevation 655m

The coldest day so far, frost on the roads and no-one turned up for the Oundle based Gorilla club social ride which I was leading today, so I joined in with the fast group. Unfortunately I was on 66″ fixed and the fast group was aiming to hit the hills! Apart from Jo coming a cropper descending an icy Rockingham Hill, it was a great way to work up an appetite for the Gorilla Xmas Curry. Not only was my track iron decked out in fairy lights, I was also playing Xmas tunes (plus some T-Rex!) from the portable mp3 speaker bought recently at a market in Hong Kong, slipped neatly into one of my bottle cages. Now left with 197 km to do in the next two days.

Day 7: Distance 105.8 km – Speed  19.2 kph – Elevation 297 m

So far I had ridden all the previous 303 km on 66″ fixed but with a gale blowing outside I switched to my touring bike and headed out to the fens via Route 337 Stamford to Crowland. I had pretty much decided to give up the challenge at this point with almost 200km to go and the forecast for two very wet and windy days but somehow managed to motivate myself to get out there today and see what happened. With a 35 mph tailwind the first leg up to Stamford was great until I noticed that my disc brakes needed adjustment. Now I remembered why I was riding my fixed a lot! The front pads were completely worn and useless, but I suspected the rear just needed adjustment. I did have spare pads in my tool bag but it was too wet and cold to fit them so I adjusted the rear to give me some stopping power and just took it nice and easy… From Stamford to Market Deeping I rode the main road which was not a lot of fun but with the wind still helping it was bearable. Once I was beyond Deeping St James it was very flat and very exposed, I had not yet turned into the headwind but where the road turned SE it was a struggle holding the bike up. A number of times I was concerned about being blown into a road side ditch or dyke so I tried to stay in the middle of the road wherever possible. The section from Thorney to Ramsey St James was hell, barely able to keep the speed up above 12kph, I though about turning for home at Whittlesey but my route would then not look vaguely like the outline of France so I manfully struggled on. End result – biggest day so far and only 92 km to go.

Day 8a: Distance 47.1 km – Speed  21.6 kph – Elevation 340 m

I had arranged a ride from Pitsford School today for interested staff and parents and a group of 6 had agreed to meet at 10.30 for a ride of about 25-30 miles. My original plan was to ride to school, do the ride and then ride back. However by now I did not want to ride any further than I absolutely had to so I was thinking that if the group ride was 30 miles, that and my ride home would be almost exactly the distance needed to complete the Festive 500. So I drove to Pitsford, aiming to ride out and pick up the car a few days later. Apart from the rain, it was a very enjoyable ride, as it always is riding with new people.

Day 8b: Distance 44.9 km – Speed  22.3 kph – Elevation 243 m

A glance at my phone app told me that the ride home would be almost exactly the distance needed to complete 500 km. I could have added a bit extra in just to make sure but I fancied the excitement of not knowing until I got home and uploaded the files…It was my normal commuting route home, although in daylight it was much easier to see the potholes that Northants Highways sees fit to leave until they grow to sink-hole proportions before filling. It continued to rain but at least with a wind on my back for the most part it was not too uncomfortable. My phone was in my pocket so a couple of times I stopped just to hear my app say “workout paused” to assure me that it was still recording and hadn’t somehow turned itself off or ran out of batteries. Finally arriving at home I uploaded the last track but for some reason it only uploaded half of it! That sometimes happens when the upload is interrupted by losing signal but a number of attempts later and it still wouldn’t upload. Slight panic, would I need to go out again, into the now dark cold night? I thought maybe it was a low battery issue so I plugged the phone into it’s charger and hey presto, upload completed. Now to access the Strava web-site and check the total distance…

500.4 km – Challenge completed! Now claim to my badge and wait for it to drop through my letter box 🙂

Review of 2013

Crossing the Plover Cove dam/causeway in the New Territories, Hong Kong.

Crossing the Plover Cove dam/causeway in the New Territories, Hong Kong.

I started the year with a few cycling themed targets, how did I do?

Cycling targets for 2013:

1. Average 10 mile per day, which will result in 3650 miles for the year, my previous best was 3144 in 1990.
2. Ride up Mont Ventoux, will have to lose at least another 2 stone before that though so a third target is;
3. Get weight down to below 12 st
4. Ride at least one metric century each month (100 km = 62.1 miles).
5. Ride a 200km audax
6. Complete a Randonneur 500 (i.e. completing a 50, 100, 150 and 200km audax ride in one season)
7. Complete a Brevet 500 (i.e. complete 5 x 100km audax BP rides)


1. HIT: Reached target on October 26 and ended year with 4832 miles. With 868 miles being ridden in December, that was my biggest month every recorded, beating the previous best of 815 miles in July 1979.

2. MISS: See #3 below

3. MISS: Expected to lose weight simply by cycling a lot and not counting calories. It didn’t work, I ended up the year at exactly the same weight I started!

4. MISS: After a good start riding 65 miles on 1st January, a combination of illness, business trips abroad and poor weather resulted in only another 2 rides and 65 miles in the first three months of the year.

5. HIT: Rode four 200km audacia – two on fixed, one in Snowdonia (not fixed!) gaining 2.75 Audax Altitude Award (AAA) points in the process.

6. HIT: Once I had done the 200 this was easy to achieve but I did the 150 on fixed too so I could claim an (unofficial) “Fixed Wheel” Randonneur 500.

7. HIT: In fact I achieved the Brevet 1000 award by riding ten 100km events this season, finishing with the Oundle 114.


I cycled more miles this year than ever before since I started in 1978, 36 years ago. I rode on 112 days averaging 43 miles on those days. Of the 4832 miles this year, 1407 were done of fixed, and 924 on my commute which means I rode to work and back 16.5 times.

I rode more than 100 miles on six of those days, with my longest being 136 miles. I had not done a century ride since 1981.

I rode two tours, Lands End to Oundle (B&B), and Normandy (camping). I also managed to cycle in 3 other countries I had not cycled in before, Hong Kong, Spain and China.

Strava Heat Map

Strava Heat Map

From the Strava Heat Map above, it appears the roads I have most often cycled is the Pitsford to Brigstock portion of my commute and the Glapthorn to Oundle road. (Click map for larger version)