A positive outcome of our hotel being shunted ten miles further down the route than expected is that today’s leg would be ten miles shorter. At a nudge over 60 miles with just 680 metres of climbing, our run in to London was going to be relatively straight forward. So straightforward in fact, there was even time to squeeze in a quick visit to Lidl to pick up supplies.
The curse of the Great North Road
Out on the road at a positively nonchalant 9.30, it wasn’t long before we hit the A1 again. With Komoot struggling to know what to do after navigating us out of St Neots, it took us along our nemesis for a mile on a cycle path-cum-grass-verge-cum-nope-giving-up-all-together-you-sort-it-out. Luckily, at this point, we had reached a roundabout with traffic control so it wasn’t too difficult to get across without soiling the lycra that had only been washed in the shower yesterday.
Leaving Cambridgeshire behind, we welcomed the relative calm of a B Road in Bedfordshire and, if it hadn’t been for us deciding to take a detour so Sandra could have a photo taken next to a sign for Sandy, country roads would be where we remained for the next couple of hours. Instead, we went on a mission that was doomed to failure. No such signage was manifest along the former railway track into the town and, having stealthily passed under the A1, the Great North Road offered us one final slap in the face with yet another roundabout encounter.
Peace and quiet at last
Still, once closing our eyes and hoping for the best, we wouldn’t see another proper town until Welwyn Garden City. That’s not to say that we had our eyes shut for the next 30 miles, rather Komoot had calmed down and found some countryside which at worst would only tickle some urban edges. Through old airfields at Old Warden, to riding the surprisingly short length of Ireland, it was as if Komoot was trying to apologise for its behaviour over the last 24 hours.
The only real hill over this section could be seen looming on the horizon for all of two miles once we had rolled through Meppershall. Starting in earnest along the narrow B655 as we entered Hertfordshire, we were as pleased as the build up of traffic behind us to be turning right on a tiny little lane and the Chilterns Cycleway. The sign telling traffic that this route wasn’t open to through traffic should have been a warning as to Komoot’s intention and, sure enough, as tarmac faded to gravel we faced the steepest sections on slippery mud and rock.
Once on dry road again, we stayed with the Chilterns Cycleway to Whitwell where it went somewhere else and we went to Emily’s Cafe for refreshments. Here I took the opportunity to use my bendy tripod to take a photo of us enjoying our food in the afternoon sun. I did this for no other reason than I didn’t want to have carried it all this way without using it.
Heading back out, Komoot made familiar territory unfamiliar with off road shortcuts linking well trodden road to well trodden road and even when we were about to properly re-join civilisation at Welwyn Garden City, it took us through shaded woodland as one final treat. For the next ten miles we rode through one urban area to another and dallied with roads running parallel to the A1 (this time in its (M) guise). Finding what passes for a country pub in this area, the Woodman’s Inn at Water End, we had a quick pint and ate the snacks I had lugged all the way from Lidl.
Except passing under the M25 alongside Mimmshall Brook on National Cycle Route 12, the rest of the journey into London was a pretty standard, hideously dull, urban schlep. On the plus side, we had finished the ride earlier than any previous leg; we were spending the night in our own beds; and we didn’t have to wash our lycra in the shower. With the bikes stripped of all their bike packing paraphernalia, all we had to do tomorrow is remember we still had one leg to go.
Day Five: St Neots to Islington