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The Annual Yaxley Riders Hunstanton Ride

On the way to Hunstanton

Many, if not all cycling clubs and groups have their key rides of the year. It may be a specific much loved route, it may be a particular event like a reliability ride, a particular TT or hill climb or something on a certain weekend or day of the year. For many who have recently joined the club or group these rides can often become rite of passage. Rides that will be talked about throughout the year on other rides. The journeyman riders may even speak of ‘the time we had gale force winds and driving rain all the way home’ or ‘the inaugural year when there was only 3 of us’ and such like. Well for any cyclists in my riding group Yaxley Riders, riding out to the coast at Hunstanton is one of those rides.

Hunstanton is the closest beach resort from where we are and for your average road cyclist it’s probably at the limit of a there and back day trip. A good chunk over 100 miles but not too tough even so, because of the generally flat terrain. For Yaxley Riders this regular yearly event was originally known as ‘Wayne’s Sunny Hunny Ride’ and although Wayne doesn’t tend to ride with the Yaxley group these days that’s still how I’ll always think of this ride. Of course in 2020 the ride didn’t happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions but this year in 2021 we headed off as a couple of groups following our noses towards the salty air of the seaside once again.

The green in Hunstanton
The green in Hunstanton

I’m not going to make this a blow for blow account of this year’s ride but rather a montage or a homage to the Sunny Hunny ride in general. The ride is not a fixed route. I think there have been several different variations of the trip along the way. In fact even the weekend on which it happens is not fixed in stone. On my first few years it was definitely a May trip and it was a good tester at the start of the road riding season. This year due to the restrictions earlier in the year it ended up being a July event instead. The one constant, year to year, is an nice early start to allow plenty of time to get out to Hunstanton, have some lunch and a bit of a wander around or lay in the sun and be back in time for dinner. I vividly remember an occasion meeting up in Peterborough Cathedral Square (which was the traditional start point) in my shorts and short sleeve jersey, no arm or leg warmers as I didn’t own any, prepped for a long sunny day in the saddle but shivering in the freshness of the early morning. Trying to stand in one of the small slivers of sun shining through from between the city centre buildings.

Posing in Cathedral Square ready for the day ahead

Going back to the route not being specifically fixed but more general, I also remember an occasion when the route became much more general than it ought to have been. Some might call it ‘getting lost’ but it was just more of a ‘missed our turning and didn’t realise’ than actually not knowing where we were. Certainly it was the only year that I rode through Castle Acre on my way to Hunstanton from Peterborough. That year I rode 253 km whereas this year’s route was a mere 213 km in comparison. One thing that’s been fairly consistent year on year is that the route brings you up and into Hunstanton from the East via Old Hunstanton and not from the South which would be the most direct route. This is because as cyclists we are obsessed with doing our rides in loops and so this allows for us to ride through Hunstanton and out the other side to head home. It does mean that invariably there will be a point on the way where you reach a junction and there’s a sign the other way for Hunstanton. And invariably someone in the group will exclaim that we’re going the wrong way, as the group heads right and the sign points left!

The ride is generally one of the most popular rides of the calendar and will often see as many as 20 or 30 riders setting off in appropriate groups. For a ride like this finding a group that fits your ability is key and something that I have occasionally failed in my attempt at. I remember a year when I completely lost my group riding at speed through the Sandringham Estate on the way back, being full of fish and chips doesn’t tend to help either. Fortunately the guys in the group recognised that I’d gone missing and waited for me at the next junction and I caught back up. This year was probably one of the fastest that I’ve ever ridden this ride, an average of ~32 km/h and completing the whole 215 km trip in less than 7 hours. Fortunately, although there were times when I wondered if I’d manage to stay in touch with the group, I managed to right up until the last little bit coming back into Peterborough. Which I think is a good demonstration that my Vittoria Terrano gravel tyres aren’t excessively draggy on the road even though they are larger 32c size and have shoulder treads for added grip.

Although it’s planned to avoid riding the same roads there and back and to create a loop if at all possible, it is still essentially an out and back ride. So at the furthest point you can be around 100 km from home. This brings with it the concern of ‘what if’, relating mostly to bike mechanical problems. So on some of the earlier rides a support vehicle was arranged for the day. On this year’s ride we were just all encouraged to be as self sufficient as possible and have a friend pre-warned for emergency pickup duties if push came to shove. It’s not a distance that you can just walk back! And of course there are the occasional mechanical issues, this year one of our group had a Shimano Di2 electronic gearing issue and got stuck in one gear of the cassette – fortunately a middle one. It reminded me of when I had to ride most of a peak district ride (including up Holme Moss) in one gear of the cassette due to snapping a shifter cable many years back. Punctures do of course occur and I remember an occasion one year when we were skirting around the edge of Wisbech through a housing estate and one of the group punctured. So of course the group stopped to wait and then noticed that we’d happened to stop right next to an ice-cream van doing it’s rounds! On the way back from a long ride, on a hot sunny day an ice cream goes down a treat!

Arriving back from the ride may be just like any other ride where you break off from the group and just go back home. This year I’d dropped off the back already and the legs were feeling the miles so this is what I did. But other groups or riders at this point may decide that one final coffee stop is in order or in the case of one year, my group just fancied finding a beer. And having returned to Cathedral Square in Peterborough, one of the nearby restaurants provided just what was needed. I’m not so sure alcohol provides the best route to recovery but if you’re not training for anything specific then it certainly rounds off the day nicely.

The beer that cost a small fortune
The beer that cost a small fortune

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