Norfolking right in the head.
The furthest the train line goes from our neck of the woods is Norwich. I’ve only ever been to Norwich once, on a stag do. I fell asleep in a disco party club and watched a group of men fight each other while sitting on a wall outside a kebab shop, indulging in a chicken shish. I haven’t rushed back.
Sometimes you should grab ideas when you can (before you realise how stupid they are and actually a day on the sofa would have been a better idea) so a quick check of the weather on the Thursday while booking a one way return ticket in the next window, the all clear from the diary manager and we were set for a grand day out on the Saturday.
How to spend a Saturday...
Strangely for the first Saturday in January there wasn’t a rush of people volunteering to join up with “oh sorry I said yes by mistake and pressed the wrong button on the Strava invite” being the closest to some company so "we" unsurprisingly stayed at "I".
Unusually I decided it was the best thing to put absolute faith in the aforementioned website for route planning. Using their most popular roads to plan the voyage and linking in a stop at Wangford (aptly but totally coincidentally named) to have a cup of tea at the end of the runway at RAF Lakenheath in the hope of seeing a fighter jet or two.
Aaaaaaaannnnd off we went!
A century in the first week of January is always a good start to the year. Like most, even though activity levels were fair over the festive period time, our inclination was not sufficient enough for earning an online badge of any sort. As a result we were feeling a bit sluggish so this enforced point to point served a purpose. Our route out of Essex took us on a familiar corridor past the illustrious Blue Egg Café through Finchingfield and out towards the wilds of Suffolk. Unfortunately even though our North Easterly journey the prevailing wind should have been of assistance today. However as we headed north the cold winter breeze bit into our bills and in the moments where the earbuds were removed between podcasts the desolation became apparent. We’ve found over the years that the best way out of a headwind other than turning round or hiding behind the big guy, is to dilute the wind noise with some music or podcasts and on long solo rides they do help pass the time. Current and long term favourites? Adam Buxton, a few cycling and cricket podcasts and currently the latest Perfect Circle record (Eat The Elephant) with the Radio One Drum and Bass podcast for hours of power. But you know, each to their own.
Entering Suffolk... Just following the purple line.
The point of no return here was probably Haverhill or just past it. No point turning back really at 40 miles because in 10 miles or so Norwich will now be closer than home. Either way the route took us north until Lakenheath at 60 miles and from there we’d turn east and take a tail wind for the last two hours into Norwich. So there was something to look forward to! And there was indeed something to look forward to. My last visit to the runway at Lakenheath after some mountain biking at Thetford Forest (an oxymoron if there ever was one) was highly successful. A couple of sightings of some fighter jets and cargo planes alongside a reasonable cup of tea and a sandwich made to the viewing area more than worthwhile. But what if, what just if the mobile café dude wasn’t there… I mean, I cant remember when I went last and a few things have happened since so maybe he’s not allowed there anymore. The voice of experience resonated and stopped at the local stores in Lakenheath to where Veganuary was well and truly broken with the purchase of a chicken tikka roll alongside a redbull and a bag of emergency Tangfastics. With these stuffed up the front of my jersey I rode onto Wangford Road to the runway viewing area hopeful of seeing something loud and fast and cool.
One day we'll have an office here.
“Is there some sort of timetable?”
“Eh?” I replied.
“You know some sort of timetable for the planes” said the man approaching me as I removed my earbuds, I didn’t really hear him first time round.
“I don’t think so mate, you know it’s a military base don’t you. How long have you been here?”
It turned out he’d driven from London with his six year old who is mad keen on aeroplanes. They were the only souls here. The base was dead. No one was seeing any planes.
“Mate you’re best taking the little one taking the little fella to Thetford Forest for a couple of hours.” Despite being more or less in the middle of Thetford Forest he didn’t know where that was. Fortunately Google saved the day for him and the family day out.
The man selling tea and coffee had also taken the day off and although the wind was still cold a smug smile drew across my face as I retrieved the chicken tikka roll from under my jersey. Quickly guzzled and it was off on the long, straight, flat roads of Norfolk. And boy are they long and straight. And flat.
Where did the tea and coffee guy go? Maybe he tried to hop the fence.
There was however a tailwind and even a couple of downhill corners in Hingham but honestly the bit between Thetford and Norwich was fairly uneventful (although there seems to be a healthy population of Red Kites in Norfolk which is good news for everyone apart from, presumably, anyone smaller than a Red Kite). The flatlands were good in a way. January legs don’t need hills between miles 70 and 100 to be honest but sometimes it is good to move about on the saddle a bit! The villages scrolled away and soon enough after another small handful of Haribo we were navigating the cycle paths of Norwich into the centre of the city, past the football stadium on FA cup day and into the train station just as it was becoming a little bit too gloomy to be riding around with only a rear light! Just in time.
All in all though, like all of these things this was a proper adventure and a great way to get out of our normal range, ride some different roads and explore a bit. Just another thing that bikes give you!
For reference our route is here and we’d love to hear about your own adventures on twitter or any of our other social channels.