East Anglia doesn’t have a reputation for lung busting climbs, but there are certain lumpy bits if you know where to look for them. “Cambridgeshire: Phoenix Rising” was used on our first ADX-CX event and proved popular for it’s varied mix of terrain. So rather than keep it locked in the vaults, here it is in all it’s glory.
We often use this as our test loop. Drop us a message on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want a guide!
70 miles | 2,050ft elevation | Mixed Surfaces | Download GPX
A few things to note; the region has a unique blend of soil that is super hardpacked and fast when bone dry, claggy and sticky when wet. This route can vary immensely depending on the season, but it’s always a challenge. Just remember to crank up the Tough-Ometer if you decide to do this route in the depths of winter.
42% of the route is offroad and a large majority of the roads could be described as ‘post nuclear-holocaust’. You’ll be avoiding larger holes on the road than you’ll ever find on the trails!
Finally… Cambridgeshire is quite popular with a certain nomadic tribe that travel the country in white vans, towing caravans. They temporarily settle from time to time on the droves and byways that this route follows. You’ll spot them easily enough and I’d recommend you keep your cadence up rather than pause to observe their mobile community. I’ve never had a real problem with them other than one very determined Jack Russel that wanted to examine my ankles.
The Phoenix of this tale
The ride starts and finishes over the border in Suffolk at Phoenix Cycle Works in Kentford. This out-of-town cycle shop offers plenty of parking and the chance to stock up on any spares you may need before heading out. It also boasts an MTB Bike Park and pump track… So if you need to warm up, do a couple of loops of these! They’re also in the process of opening a cafe, so what better to place to start and finish a ride?
You can head out of the Phoenix compound via their pump track and head towards the underpass of the A14, where you’ll find a gravel path that takes you onto the roadway – be alert here as traffic does travel quite fast as it’s merging onto the dual carriageway – and then take the left turn under the railway bridge and left again onto a service road. After this, you’re clear of traffic and after the service road switches to dirt, you can hammer your way on to Herringswell.
Pretty straightforward until you get the Fordham roundabout outside Snailwell. You’re going straight over here but be on the lookout for lorries taking the corner wide. Safely over this stretch and you are back on clear roads again before the next offroad section up at Landwades Farm.
In Exning you will eventually join Sustrans 51 and follow Laceys Lane out into countryside parallel once mote with the A14. If you are in need of refreshment/warmth then there is a Starbucks at the Heath Road Services which you can easily gain access to by just hopping over the fence.
Coffee stop or not, you’ll spot some large warehousing on your right and shortly after this the road will bend round to the right. You’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for a gap in the hedge directly in front of you; keep going straight rather than following the road as our route continues on a path parallel to the ever noisy A14.
Back off this trail and right again onto tarmac for a short climb up the hill towards Swaffham Bulbeck. Watch out for a sign on the left for a bridleway. If you end up in the village, you’ve gone too far.
Up and over the fields from Swaffham Bulbeck, you’ll hit another road. Turn right and then keep your eyes peeled for a layby on the left a few 100 yards up the road. This bit is a little tricky to navigate: you’ll dogleg left back on yourself and appear to head directly into a scrapyard. Look out for a gap in the hedge on the right – keep in your mind that you’re looking for a bridge to cross the A14 and you shouldn’t go wrong.
Over the bridge and you are in open fields all the way to Great Wilbraham before embarking on to a quiet road to Fulbourn where things get a little busier as you approach the outskirts of Cambridge. Right and then left onto Shelford Road for a long slog up before taking a left turn off the road, through some narrow barriers and then another left turn onto a bridleway.
Roman Drag Strip
This ancient Roman Road can be great fun on a quiet day but if the weather is nice, be on the lookout for walkers. And if you are in need of a coffee stop, be extra vigilant for the turning on the right that’ll lead you onto the Babraham-Cambridge cycleway.
The cafe is located at The Gog farm shop and is named The Shack. This is important as we’ve made the mistake of wondering in to the main cafe where young waitresses will extort you for more money than most Highwaymen can only dream of. The Shack is an ‘outdoor’ cafe (it’s a barn) and the prices are much more sensible.
Retrace your tracks along the cycleway and back to the Roman Road to continue your journey towards Balsham and some excellent gravel riding where you can really put the hammer down.
After the gravel fun, you’ll ride through a ford next to a building owned by Anglian Water and then back onto a short stretch of tarmac before turning right and up a muddy climb towards Brinkley. If you want an early escape, just keep heading straight up the road to Dullingham. Follow signs for Cheveley, Moulton, Kentford and you’ll be back to Phoenix in 40 minutes.
For everyone still sticking with the route, there’s plenty more fun if you’ve got the legs for it!.
A shining Star
The route becomes a lot easier to navigate once back over the border into Suffolk, so the directions are a lot more brief and the roads are also much quieter. If you are craving food or beer, the Star Inn, Lidgate is a great pub that sits on the route shortly before a left turn that’ll take you up a byway to the outskirts of Ousden.
The final few miles back to Phoenix Cycleworks are mainly road except for one section which, depending on when you chose to do the route and what mood the farmer is in, may require a bit of hike-a-bike across a field. But by this point, you’ll probably welcome a short walk to stretch your legs!
Last modified: 14th February 2018