Cycling at Cambridge Summer School 2019-2020

Last year, Johnsonville Club member Désirée Patterson gave us a personal account of the Summer Schools she has attended and what they involve including classes, Hogmanay, the President’s Ball and other social occasions, and optional activities.

Below, Désirée shares her experiences of cycling to and from class with Hilary Ferral, also a Johnsonville Club member, at the recent Cambridge Summer School.

Désirée on the cycle track alongside the Waikato River in Cambridge

The last of the pre-Summer School newsletters suggested: “Definitely bring your bike if you can, for cycling around the campus. There is a cycle track from the school to the Cambridge township”. That sounded like an excellent idea!

Hilary and I were planning to travel to Cambridge in her car, and she emailed me: “Are you going to take your bike to Cambridge?” So John suggested we take our (non-e) folding bikes.

On Boxing Day, I met up with Hilary to check that the bikes fitted in her car, and we went for a short pedal, to see how she liked riding a ‘foldie’.

The venue for Summer School was St Peter’s School in Cambridge. What a fabulous campus! It is vast, with many lovely buildings, beautiful manicured gardens and lots of trees, and wide open spaces.

The class we had both enrolled in (Advanced Low Impact) was meeting at Cambridge Primary School, in the township, about 5 km away. On the first morning, we set out quite early because we were not sure how long it would take us to get to class, or even where the cycle track to Cambridge started from!

We eventually found the start of the track, tucked away beyond a car parking area by the Velodrome. A nice wide, sealed track took us down towards the Waikato River. It was quite exhilarating to zoom down the winding track, which flattened out after a long downhill. Little ups and downs along the way went through farmland, with some cattle and lots of pūkeko. But at the back of my mind was the thought “we went down such a long way, we will have to start climbing soon”. And so it was.  

I usually ride an e-bike because I am not good at climbing hills. But we had brought the non-electric bikes, so I would have to rely on my own internal motor and leg-power to get me up the hill.

The road up to town level was relatively short, but steep! I think I managed to pedal up for about three metres, before I stalled and had to walk the rest of the way. But even walking and pushing my bike was a mission. I maintain that I am a Dutchie, a flatlander, and was never designed to climb up hills! (Having a somewhat defective ‘motor’ – leaky heart valve – doesn’t help either.)

Hilary on the cycle track with one of the “little up and downs” behind her. The real hill climbs were much steeper!

Hilary, meanwhile, did very well and got almost to the top before she had to give in and walk. There were two pretty big climbs, and while I was huffing and puffing my way up, she very patiently waited for me. By the end of the week, she got to the top without having to get off and walk.

After a very hard-working class, we had the prospect of biking back. Knowing that the lovely long downhill at the start would translate into a horribly long uphill slog going back, we were not keen to go back the way we came. So we found our way to the main road, and biked home along the flat!

We biked to class every day, except on the last day, I decided that I really couldn’t do any more cycling. I had danced far too many of the dances the night before, at the President’s Ball, and my calves were so sore I could hardly walk, let alone bike. And I knew that our teacher Melvyn Short would make us work hard at class, so I chickened out. Hilary heroically decided she would be OK biking, and she got there before I and the rest of the class arrived on the bus.

It was surprising that we were the only attendees to bring our bikes to Summer School. After the suggestion in the newsletter, I would have thought that lots more people might have done so. The only people we saw biking around the campus were some of the local organisers.

The track down towards the Waikato River is part of a much longer track, Te Awa River Ride, which stretches from Ngaruawahia to Karapiro. John and I cycled parts of that track some years ago (on our e-bikes!). You can read more about that in my blog

from Désirée Patterson
14 April 2020

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