Out with 14, back with 11!

14 of us assembled on a cold, damp, still day on Drury Lane, ready to head north to Baythorne End.

Mick took us out along Rayne Road, and turned right through the Health Centre and up the shared use footpath coming out at Tabor Academy. We pedalled down to Panfield, and most of us rode straight through Jaspers Green … except Ian, who fortunately had a couple of riders with him, as he punctured here. Here he became an associate member of the illustrious Puncture Club (full membership requires more than one puncture on a single bike ride!).

We rode on to Shalford, and the lead group pulled over at the George, to reassemble. I am reluctant to stop at the bottom of any hill, so believing we were all riding well, dropped down the gears and spun up the hill. What I did not realise, was that Dick’s chain had come off at the George, and Bill B was assisting. Most of the group turned left at the top of the hill to toil up and down the hills towards Waltham’s Cross. Peter S realised our group was short of members, and went back to see where Dick and Bill were. Mick was on the phone trying to raise them, only to discover once home that Dick had left his phone in the car!

Our group (minus Dick and Bill B) reassembled and rode through Great Bardfield, heading north, then taking a left turn at Bridge End, to head up to Little Sampford. We rode across some beautiful smaller roads and turned right onto the B1054. Here again our party split into several smaller groups. Approaching Steeple Bumstead Peter and I realised we’d lost Ian. Peter and Mick went back, discovering Ian had a second puncture (thereby promoting himself to full membership of the Puncture Club). Mick sent Gifford, Peter S forward to meet me and ride on to the lunch stop. The three of us became separated from the main group somehow – we rode back roads to New England and Baythorne End, arriving first at the café - Tarka's. The second group had taken a longer route, waiting for us at the top of a hill, while admiring a shepherd and his dog working a flock of sheep. Paul and the dog struck up quite a friendship.

There was a bit of a wait for the rest of our group, but everyone got there eventually – 23 miles. 12 of us fell on our lunch at the café. This is a good new venue found by Mick.

Today’s health and safety tip continues with a review of the small bits of kit that cyclists find useful. I’ve recently been given a new buff (with instructions for use!). I did not know you could wear it as a double layer hat! Images at the end show how to twist and invert it to wear under your crash hat. For people who get cold hands, Jim suggested lobster claw gloves. These are a cross between mittens and gloves – rather than four fingers on each hand, they have two wide fingers, so you retain manual dexterity but your fingers keep each other warm.

The 12 of us set off home from Baythorne End. Bill T had pulled a muscle, and was applying freeze gel, and also had a blistered foot. It was cold when we came out of the café, and the warmest part of the day was obviously over. We pedalled towards Birdbrook, with Ian and me at the back, chatting constantly. We went over a humpback bridge, and took a left turn, dropping down the gears to spin up the hill. A couple of miles further on, at the top of a rise, we stopped for a drink, and realised Bill was no longer with us. I felt really guilty as I’d been yapping too much and not looking out for my companions. Ian, Paul, Mick and Brian went back to see if they could find him. (As it turned out Bill had missed the left turn at the humpback bridge and came home via Gainsford End and Wethersfield). The remaining group of 6 went forward via Toppesfield, Blackmore End and Beazley End to Panfield where we dispersed home.

43 miles, 4 hours pedalling time, 2,000 calories! A great day out, making the best of a cold damp day.

Ed - it was a funny old ride - just unravelled as some rides do. At one point we were split in to 4 groups, but hey the roads were quiet we got to have a chat and something to eat and got home safely ;-)

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