Monday, 7 February 2011

Wind Assisted: Cambridge to King's Lynn

There's barely an undulation in this part of the country. The Wikipedia entry for Cottenham begins with:

"Before the fens were drained in the 19th century Cottenham was on the last contour before the waterlogged marshes, with Ely being the nearest dry land around 20 miles (32 km) to the north-east"

And being one of the most tree-less counties there's nothing to stop the wind engulfing this land. For the last few days we have been exeriencing high winds, somewhere near 32kmh(20mph) plus gusts, quite like you'd experience at the beach.

Headwinds are evil for cyclists. I've started to get used to them, thinking of them like hills for training but at this strength they can bring you to a virtual standstill. The weather man said 20mph south westerly, so I hatched a plan - to King's Lynn, wind assisted.

Cottenham to King's Lynn (75km), then train to Cambridge, then cycle back to Cottenham (11km). Total cycling 86km.

This should be a walk in the park with such a tail wind. I'd ridden the route before with a friend who was on a road bike and very fit. In a headwind he was averaging 29km/h with me on a touring bike drafting where possible. On a long ride of this distance, I can normally average 26km/h on the touring bike, so surely, with such a back wind I could average 35km/h.

I ended up doing this ride solo so I turned it into a quick run. Setting off from Cottenham up to Wilburton I was immediately pushed to 38km/h. Wow, this feels great, I'll be in King's Lynn inside two hours. Past Wilburton, I head for Coveney and the fen roads zig zag NW and NE.

The first North West section was where my morale was crushed. I've got the wind mostly side on, slightly ahead, and now I'm trying to hold a straight line with the bike leaning over into the wind. Speedo says 16km/h. Luckily, the wind was smooth and predictable so survivable. Head down, on the drops, trying to make it to the turn back towards the north east. Turning the corner, the wind catches me like a sail and with little effort I am back doing 38km/h again.

The most assistance was between Pymoor, past Welney Wetland Centre, to Ten Mile Bank. Smooth roads, and a perfect back wind saw the speeds really picking up. Spinning as smoothly as possible I was comfortable squeezing out 48kmh(30mph) and maxing at 53km/h on the flat on a touring bike.

50km/h past Welney Wetland Centre

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It was a total buzz going so fast on a bicycle, a real pure feeling. And, with a back wind, I was doing this without the deafening roar of the wind - it was near silence. The loudest sound was my wheel bearings absolutely racing but sounding so smooth, with the pitch swishing to the rhythm of my pedal stroke.

I finally smelled the sea as I arrived in King's Lynn after 75km and 2hr25m moving time powered by breakfast and four fig rolls. The train back was a surprising non event, and a pleasant break. Legs stiffened it took me another 30 minutes to get back to Cottenham and complete the 86km.

The oddest sight was the fishermen Denver. One was on a camp bed lying flat out resting, maybe sheltering from the gale that was blowing. Perhaps a little strange, but they probably think cycling in that weather is strange. Each to their own.

Downham Market Anglers come for a lie down here

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For pictures and a different story of the route, check out this blog. Keep Pushing Those Pedals.

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