Cambridge Shipping Lanes 200 Perm  Enter this ride

This is a permanent ride and can be ridden at any time.  This event can be validated by GPS.

200km (209km by the routesheet), 14.3 to 30kph (7h to 14h).  1500m of climbing.

Cambridge always seems to be toward the centre of the country, but with careful routing it's barely 100km from the coast.  Fortuitously, the bit of coast — actually, coastal estuary — that's closest is a quietly scenic promontory between the Stour and Orwell estuaries, overlooking the old international port of Harwich and the new container megaport of Felixstowe, which makes for a fascinating view while drinking coffee on the quayside.

A small part of the container port of Felixstowe, as seen from Shotley Gate marina

The route to get there covers some quiet, picturesque lanery, which we've come to expect of East Anglia, taking in the lovely and historic town of Lavenham on the way to the sea.  After the turn at Shotley Gate, it's back into a lot of new lanes to get back to Sudbury for a briefly civilised stop and then back into the lanes for the gently uphill run to Balsham and the long descent back to Cambridge.

The older international port at Harwich isn't quite as impressive

This is a lovely, quiet, gentle route to a definitely different destination and back via newly experienced lanes.  Just two controls, one at the halfway point of the route, makes this a lovely, easy event, without the stress of other rides with lots of forced stops to interrupt your momentum.  It's one of the first routes I designed, but it has taken two years to iron out the kinks and turn it into a keeper :)

The route

The route leaves Cambridge city centre along Newmarket Road, crossing the A14 twice — the A14 being the main access route for cargo shipped in through Felixstowe port to be taken to the Midlands — but shortly turns south-east and climbs the Chilterns' chalk escarpment via Six-Mile Bottom up to Brinkley.  A steadily rolling, laney route through beautiful villages follows, including the historic Lavenham.  After crossing the A12 for the first time — the A12 being the main access route for cargo being shipped to London and the south east from Felixstowe — there's a short permissive bridleway on a concrete track through an old oak woodland before a fast 10km B-road sprint to the halfway point and control at Shotley Gate.

One of many pretty views on the route

From Shotley Gate, you head a couple of kilometres back up the road to Shotley before diving left and taking a very quiet, laney route all the way back to Sudbury — I found it surprisingly quiet and scenic, and I think this may be some of my favourite cycling in the area!  You also cross the A12 for a second time, opportunity enough to see a surfeit of containers being hauled over-land — fortunately you don't share any roads with this freight at all.

From Sudbury, you start that climb out of the town, but immediately turn right and head back into the lanes for a very quiet and away-from-it-all run all the way back through Stoke-by-Clare and skirting Haverhill to finally arrive in Balsham for the — now infamous — 7km Balsham Descent down into Cambridge.

This is a very laney route in both directions with very little proper climbing (excepting one short, stiff climb out of Hartest), so it is easy on the legs and very fixed-friendly.  The navigation is straightforward, although a couple of instructions might need careful attention if riding purely by routesheet, due to missing signage (which will get replaced in due course, I'm sure); by GPS then it's all really easy.

Note — the route has been tested in cold weather and caution should definiltey be applied should you choose to ride it in icy conditions.  There is an alternative main-road route for much of the route, but the laney sections near the coast are unavoidable and so may make the route a little discomfiting if ice abounds!

The controls

Start and finish in the centre of Cambridge, opposite the entrance to John Lewis on Emmanuel Street (the bus station).  Grab a receipt from a cash machine or any shop within 100m. If you leave your bike then you will need a good lock with you!

The first control is at the halfway point at Shotley Gate.  This means the first leg is 100km, which sounds like a long way — and probably is — but personally I don't seem to feel it any longer, as most of the worry of it is in the head, the legs just keep on turning the pedals.  On the plus side, you do pass through Lavenham (not a control) just after the halfway point to the halfway point (so to speak), so there is the perfect opportunity for a café break in the town centre and there's another café a further 5km up the road, should you feel the need — that's for you to decide for yourself.

At Shotley Gate itself there's a new café next to the pub on the quayside.  There's also the Bristol Arms pub, which has limited opening hours (it's closed between 3pm and 6pm some days).  And there's the museum and another pub in the marina.  Unfortunately there is no 24-hour provision, so you must — if riding by classic brevet — avoid controlling in Shotley Gate in the early hours; perm-by-GPS riders, of course, should have no problem.  If you get to Shotley Gate and everything is closed then take a selfie on the quayside in front of the pub and then control at Shotley Store 2km back up the road. 

For validation purposes you must get a proof-of-passage on the quayside in Shotley Gate at or after the Bristol Arms (receipt, selfie, GPS).

The only other control is in Sudbury where you have a plethora of choices — McDonald's and a BP on the way into town, or the full range of 24-hour services in the centre.

Alternatively you can start at either control on the route and ride in either direction.  If you wish to start at a point on the route between controls, please confirm with the organiser first.

Toilets are available in Lavenham (not a control), Shotley Gate and Sudbury, or behind the many hedges on the route.

The routesheet and GPS files

There are two versions of the routesheet, depending on what you want: one has distances between instructions and holds your hand; the other contains just the turn-by-turn instructions with only as many distances as necessary for navigation and planning, as preferred by old-school audaxers:  (updated 18 June 2017)

There are several versions of the GPS files, depending on your device and preference: TCX files provide turn-by-turn in Garmin Edge devices; GPX files provide a track to follow on-screen on all devices and is more universally compatible, although older devices need tracks with fewer than 500 points.  The following links are to the FULL 200km route in a single file:  (updated 18 June 2017)

And the following links are to ZIP files containing two GPS files in each — one file to get you to the turn; the second file to get you back to Cambridge — obviously you need both:

Getting to the start

Hopefully you live close enough to cycle to the start, but if not then park in one of the residential areas near the city centre and cycle in.  There is no cheap, all-day parking in the centre of Cambridge!

Cambridge is well-served by train, and it’s an easy 2km ride from the station to the historic centre of Cambridge — just turn right at the end of Station Road and keep going straight ahead until you see John Lewis.

Before you start

It is a requirement that you notify the organiser of the date of your ride for validation and insurance purposes — a text or email is sufficient.

On completion

When you have completed the ride, write the control establishment names and times on the brevet, complete your details on the reverse and then send your brevet card and receipts to the organiser (details are on the routesheet). And please remember to sign your brevet!

Have a great, safe ride!  Enter this ride