This article was published in 2011, in Newsletter 94.
There is something quite magical about the junction between the Cambridge Road and the Whittlesford Road in Fowlmere. As you approach, two members of your group signal right and turn. For a few seconds, they remain in your view as they speed off away from you: the angles stay the same, only the distances gradually get smaller. There is a sense of gracefulness and beauty that is hard to explain.
That was my experience of the ending of the second of two of CTC Cambridge’s Thursday rides I attended during my Christmas break. As well as the pleasure of cycling in the English countryside, I found them to be a friendly and welcoming group: I hope that I will be able to join them again!
Usually known as CTC, the Cyclists’ Touring Club of Great Britain was founded in 1878. As its name suggests, its original focus was ‘touring’, i.e. recreational cycling. CTC has since broadened its interests, and a lot of its present-day work revolves around everyday cycling. CTC local groups continue to organise recreational cycle rides. Having been a member for seven years, I felt it was about time that I went along to see what was involved.
I arrived in good time for the 9.30 start. I was the first one there, but I was quickly joined by a regular, Robert, who made me welcome and took care to introduce me to others as they arrived. We set off in the direction of Eltisley, close to the Cambridgeshire-Bedfordshire border. In total, we covered forty miles as a group. In summer, when the weather is better, rides tend to last longer and cover a greater distance.
Country lanes and good cake
The group rides moderately fast, though not so fast that people will find themselves breathless or drenched in sweat: when you’re cycling for a substantial part of the day, you do need to make sure that you can keep going! Most of the rides take place on quiet country lanes. It is often safe to ride two abreast, and members take the opportunity to ride alongside each other and talk. There are further opportunities for socialising at the morning coffee stop (always somewhere with good cake!) and at lunch (a moderately priced pub). The group itself has a good mix of people. Many of the Thursday Rides regulars are of retirement age, though they do seem to enjoy a youthfulness that does not tally with their years! CTC Cambridge also organises Sunday Rides that are more accessible to a wider audience.
The rides I went on were fairly brisk, and most riders were using touring bikes or well-equipped fitness bikes. However, CTC Cambridge is keen to welcome all riders and in the summer it offers shorter Saturday morning rides, intended to be well within the reach of any rider on any bike.
I very much enjoyed my rides with CTC Cambridge, and now my holidays are over I hope that I can join some of the Sunday rides. If anyone else is wondering how they can spend more time cycling for pure recreation, I’d strongly recommend giving CTC a try. You can find details online at http://site.ctc-cambridge.org.uk.