What could be nicer than a leisurely ride to the seaside through the Norfolk countryside with a couple of coffee/lunch stops along the way, with friends! Stop over with fish & chips for tea, a couple of local ales in a nearby pub and then return back the following day. That was the plan. Four of us, road bikes, 100 miles each way. Tough enough to be a challenge but nothing beyond our ability that’s for sure.
A couple of days before the weekend one rider dropped out and so we became three. A little more awkward as a riding group because pairing up as a three leaves one person out no matter how you try to do the maths. But beyond the loss of a rider day 1 pretty much went to plan, we even had a nice tailwind to speed us on our way. Peterborough to Sheringham in 5 hrs 50 mins moving time is good going and we managed the coffee stops we’d hoped for too, stopping at Greggs in Downham Market for lunch and then again at Gallery Bistro in Fakenham before heading on to Cromer and eventually Sheringham.
The weather stayed nice enough, sunny spells on a mostly cloudy day, the route was good and for most part we had a lovely breeze from behind to give us the push we needed. The wide open exposed spaces we cycled through to begin with, to us are quite boring. We all live in Cambridgeshire and this is the landscape that we’re pretty much used to most of the time. For other’s maybe it makes a change from the rolling hills! Certainly, if you ever get the chance to experience one of the fenland sunsets, that’s quite an impressive experience but riding through in the morning this was never going to happen.
Onward into Norfolk the flat lands slowly start to undulate a bit and before you know it you are in quite a nice rolling landscape with short but continual ups and downs. Phil had plotted a suitably picturesque route too and although we had somewhat tired legs by this point the final miles to Cromer were very nice. One point to mention though; taking this route to the coast does mean that you don’t see the sea until you ride out onto the Cromer seafront road. For miles we would see the crest of each next hill up ahead and hope that over the top off in the distance we’d see the expanse of water filling our horizon, or even just a little peek, but disappointingly never did this happen! Once we did get there everyone set about taking bike pictures up against the railings!
After the stop at Cromer and with evening fast approaching we decided to hot-foot it to Sheringham and Phil in particular seemed especially eager, so Andy and I tried to hang on to his wheel for this last few miles. Sheringham Youth Hostel provided us with our accomodations for the evening; a 4 man dorm, simple but sufficient and certainly cost effective! And well positioned for the evening’s activity of Fish & Chips followed by a couple of pints in The Lobster Inn.
Next morning after a decent breakfast we set about packing up and prepping the bikes ready for the return journey back to Peterborough. The weather forecast all week had been for wind and rain on this particular Sunday and in the morning the outlook for the day remained grim, although the early morning was actually quite pleasant. I just had a top tube bag from Alpkit and a small simple saddlebag to attach to my bike as I was riding with a rucksack. Phil and Andy on the other hand had more complex big bags to attach and so it took them just a little longer!
I had hope that we’d make Hunstanton before the rain set in and we set off from Sheringham in pretty fine sunshine but the further we rode along that coastal road (A149) the more cloudy it became. Eventually the first few spots of rain started to be felt. I’m sure all three of us had recognised that feeling but tried to imagine it wasn’t actually happening, or maybe just hoping that it would be a false start. Before long though the rain was unmistakable as rain and we hadn’t quite made it to our first stop.
By the time we rolled along the seafront road into Hunstanton the rain was coming pretty heavily but fortunately we hadn’t been out in it long enough to get properly soaked. So we made it into Caffe Chai without dripping all over the floor and looking like drowned rats! Coffee and Cake time and a moment of confusion as we were asked if we wanted ‘fresh’ coffee. I’m not sure what the other option would have been, maybe they also serve yesterday’s coffee as an option for those who like a mature cup! Anyway the ‘fresh’ coffee hit the spot and with the rain getting heavier all the time we were glad to be inside. Unfortunately with so many miles still left to ride we did eventually have to get moving and so out into ‘monsoon’ conditions we stepped.
Of course when you make the brave decision to step out into driving rain and push on rather than waiting for the rain to die down, you can almost guarantee that the rain will calm down when you’re about 20 minutes further up the road, which of course it did! So apart from the initial rain after Hunstanton our ride from there down to Kings Lynn wasn’t too bad. Sure there were periods of rain and some of those quite heavy but it wasn’t constant all the time! We stopped just short of Kings Lynn for some photos and I changed my gloves. Spare gloves being a luxury that I was glad to have taken with me; your hands feel so much warmer when your gloves are dry.
The second scheduled stop of the day, for lunch, was in Kings Lynn and for ease of access we picked a McDonalds that we’d been to on previous rides. Unfortunately just a few hundred yards short we had our first (and only) puncture of the weekend but being seasoned pros this was sorted out in decent time and soon we were tucking in to burgers and fries and more coffee.
What followed Kings Lynn is probably best not talked about too much. Lets just say the Fenland that follows is very flat, very open and very exposed and we were riding through it in one direction, West, and into a howling wind that was going East. Progress was not quick. It rained, not constantly but quite a bit. We took turns on the front and sheltered behind each other as best you can in a group of only three. It was tough. We pressed on though and eventually we made in back to the Millennium Bridge near Whittlesey where we had our final photos and parted company and headed our separate ways home.
It was a great weekend of cycling and camaraderie despite the rain and although tired by this point I did find the resolve to ride the long way home to ensure I’d made the full 200 miles for the week. I’d been tweeting #200mileweekend so I could hardly now stop at mile 197 could I. In fact to my surprise as I rode up one road near home I burst into a spontaneous sprint up the shallow slope and managed a 7th overall on the Strava segment. Not too bad for 200 mile legs!
You can watch our relive.cc video of the trip below:
…and the way back…
And you can follow me on Strava – https://www.strava.com/athletes/294599 – if you wish to see all the weekend’s stats, route etc.