From Cambrigde to Ely by bike on the death trap A10 is 17.5 miles. On light traffic roads and paths National Cycle Route (NCR) 11 it is 21.5 miles.
But there is a snag:
National Route 11 follows the traffic-free Fen Rivers Way/ Hailing Way on the west side of the River Cam as far as Waterbeach, where due to a missing bridge the route breaks, before beginning again to the south of the Rover Cam.
I thought I’d try and complete the route on the Fen Rivers Way on the East Bank as this is the shortest, traffic free, route at 15 miles.
At Clayhithe the route marker is there (although now hidden behind a Cam conservancy notice):
Follow the arrow and the last maker is passed on the way into Waterbeach:
The route North to Ely from Waterbeach can be completed by taking Long Drove (a swift ride in a following wind) to the bridleway starting just south of the pillbox at Joist Farm.
The bridleway to the river is fairly easy going, the surface is mostly grassy and firm in the dry.
Then picking up the Fen Rivers Way LDP along the bank top for 6 miles, a slog on cow grazed banks and waist high growth. In anything other than dry summer weather this is a mud bath.
I’d not attempt this on a road bike, the going is fairly hard work involving lifting the bike though gates and over footbridges,
the route is a footpath and not really suited to cycling.
If you ride out of Cambridge and hope the signposted NCR 11 will get you to Ely it won’t. Google sends you out along NCR 51 (which is the Sustrans route) at 21.5 miles:
On the upside I now know the bike can take quite a pasting, I have wondered if the hefty weight penalty of the Genesis all steel design has advantages, this ride made the point: 6 miles of rim crunching and fork bending abuse had no impact on the bike at all.
Proposals to build a new traffic free route from Cambridge to Waterbeach are expected soon:
but closing the gap on Route 11 is not in the scheme.