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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tour de Suffolk

On Sunday I did a Tour de Suffolk. I cycled from Beccles to Ipswich following the National Cycle Network Route 1 (NCN1) as it meandered round the Suffolk countryside. I had not been to any of the places en route before. The closest I had got would have been on the train between Lowestoft and Ipswich.

On the cycle route there were even two vineyards, a castle and quite a few farms and animals (including farm parks). I did not have time to stop at any of these.

The weather was cloudy and cool with a slight breeze and about 14c, although it felt colder than that due to the wind while cycling. I was navigating myself using the signs en route and occasionally also had to use the map of the route that I had bought the previous week, I did not need to use my GPS phone to find out where I was but I had that as a backup.

What surprised me was the amount of hills/undulations there was. I was expecting it to be virtually all flat and the route profile looked like it was. However it was not with a total of over 8,000 ft for combined ascents and descents on the whole route according to my Garmin GPS watch.

When I got to the edge of Ipswich I had done 45 miles. I decided against cycling into the town due to time constraints and started to cycle back. I thought I would take a slightly different route on the way back navigating myself in between the main places I had to go to get back to my car which I had drove to Beccles. As there is no safe option avoiding main A roads and high bridges to there from Lowestoft.

Although I turned out to be only a few miles shorter and even hillier than expected. This was just to the west of the NCN1 route and still avoid main roads apart from a few 100m sections to cross a main road. Plus on the way back it was on to a head wind of about 10mph virtually all the way back.

The one thing I noticed that only one village had a shop (actually two shops) on the main road, although I did avoid the 2 other main towns on the route. So on the way back I was planning to stop at one of these local shops. However as I was cycling back I was working out I might get there just after 4pm which I thought that they may close then or even before this, so I stopped at a petrol station and got a can of drink, sports drink and chocolate covered flap jack. With the extra sports drink I had enough drink for the whole ride, although I did not drink as much as normal but felt ok. I did have 5 individual flapjacks while cycling at about every hour and one isotonic gel and I had one gel and flapjack left at the end.

I was glad I was wearing my full length skins for cycling, which as they are thin did keep the wind chill out but not too warm and my leg muscles felt ok. I could have done with another full length layer underneath as my arms were occasionally cold this was not helped by having on fingerless gloves. My core body was warm as I had two running tops (vest and t shirt) underneath my long sleeve cycling top.

I enjoyed this route and seen places of the Suffolk countryside I have not been too before which were quite scenic. I did a total of 86.5 miles in 6 hours 28 minutes. This was slower than normal but I needed a long ride and this had a few undulations and I had stopped a few times to eat something or look at the map for directions.

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