This tale of country lanes, medieval churches and unplanned exploration is shared by longtime Cruzbike Q rider Dave Godden. It will make you want to visit Norfolk with your Cruzbike...and maybe a working compass. Thanks Dave!
Getting lost in Norfolk
Most years I meet up with my old mate and we cycle for a few days along country lanes in Norfolk, England. It is a good area to explore on bikes as it is relatively less populated, it is a flatter part of the country and Andy happens to live there. No cycling records were broken as we stopped at cafes and looked at old churches on the way.
I have always loved the feeling of cycling, there is something about the swooping ride. I don’t get this feeling on stable tricycles or teetering unicycles – two wheels is the right number. And the Cruzbike, more than other recumbents that I have ridden, brings something extra to the experience as it has a way of making a ride more of a voyage.
Why I got one
Years ago I spent a day trying to ride a ‘Flevobike’ which was an early moving-bottom-bracket design. By the end of the afternoon I could balance on the thing but had little control over my direction. But it had been such fun that I was interested in the Cruzbike when it was launched and I bought one about ten years ago.
Making it mine
After learning to feel at home on it I made some modifications. I put these in a post on the Cruzbike forum years ago.
Dave's Q, above, is a modified predecessor to the Cruzbike Q45 Adventure Touring Bike.
- The seat support was changed to wooden(!) struts that actually go through a permanently-mounted rear bag. This is just big enough to stash stuff for a few nights away if you travel light.
- Mudguards were added with a strong mudguard stay at the front.
- After some experimentation I found that the bike felt better with a bit of self-centering built in, specially when pedalling or coasting hands-free. So a narrow inner-tube was stretched between the front mudguard stay and the bracket in front of the rear wheel. This gives the right amount of self-centering.
- As I ride in normal shoes I made a pair of bent wire heel-clips and attached them to the pedals. They prevent losing your footing if you get caught out by a big bump.
We get rolling
So we left Letheringsett on the 12th of July. It was a sunny morning and I settled back on the comfy seat and the quiet landscape of winding lanes, flint-faced cottages and fields started to roll past. It was most enjoyable. We stopped at Aylsham and visited the church in the centre. It’s striking feature to me was that the columns on either side of the aisle were leaning outwards. This looked unsettling and an app on Andy’s phone confirmed that they were in fact 2 degrees out. It was not mentioned in the guidebook.
After locking-up the bikes we went into Biddy’s Tearooms which was just by the church. It had an old-fashioned wood-panelled interior and a fine selection of teas. We sat on a couple of old sofas out in the back yard and ate quiche. There were gnomes in the flowerbed and an overgrown metal fire escape led up to the first floor. Quick work with the secateurs would be required in an emergency.
Then onwards. As always, the best bits for me were coasting down slopes with my hands in my lap, using the Cruzbike’s ability to be steered by feet and body movement alone. It’s as close to flying as can be done on the ground. We stopped to look at the church in Tuttington.
Photo courtesy of achurchnearyou.com
The Voice from Above
Much of the body of the church dates to the 1400s although its uncommon round tower is a survivor of an earlier phase and was built about 400 years earlier. Might frightened locals have looked out from it in 1066AD when the country was overrun by the Normans?
Andy was outside while I looked around the inside. I was alone. Then I heard a voice from above. It stopped but then I heard it again, a female voice. There was a very narrow arch, with its open door leading onto a dark and dusty narrow stone stairway spiralling upwards within the wall. The voice was audible here too. I called hello and a reply came from up high. A minute later a friendly woman descended the stairs and told me that she was a church surveyor and had been checking the condition of the underside of the roof. Rather than making notes in the dark she carried a torch and talked into a recorder, allowing her to write up her findings later. The stairway originally led up to the rood loft placed over the rood screen which had divided the nave from the chancel. The screen and loft had disappeared years ago, probably during the widespread vandalism that followed the split from the Pope and the founding of the Church of England in the 1500s.
A Failure of Navigation
We pedalled on, making some progress eastward. But not very much. To avoid the main roads we only used the back lanes which meandered around the landscape. Asking local people for directions was a gamble as they thought in terms of the quickest routes by car, that is if they had any idea at all. We followed just such directions at this point and it was the beginning of our woes. But we had two printed maps, Google maps was on Andy’s phone and there was also a compass mounted on his handlebars, not that it seemed to work very well. So we couldn’t get lost.
We passed a sign to RAF Coltishall. This was one of the many Norfolk airfields used in the Second World War. A while later we passed another sign for it which left me feeling uneasy. I noted an old garage shortly before we took a left turn, headed down a lane and stopped at another church. Apparently Norfolk has the highest concentration of medieval churches in the world. About half an hour later I was dismayed to see the old garage again. Darn it, we really were going round in circles. Andy couldn’t get a signal on his phone so that was no help and the compass on his handlebars couldn’t decide where North was. We had never been so lost on a trip before.
Racing the Storm
Across the wide flat Norfolk landscape a big dark storm was visible in the distance. It was some miles behind us though. We would have reached our destination before it caught up with us.
Some time later we were sheltering under dripping trees trying to judge if the rain was going to stop anytime soon. It wasn’t. Unlike me, Andy was bumsore by this stage. It is a pity that I have never persuaded him to get a Cruzbike.
So we just had to splash on along the wet lanes making fitful progress eastwards and it was 7.30pm when we finally arrived at the inn at Happisburg on the coast. It would have been a modest journey of less than 25 miles as the crow flies but we must have done at least twice that. The last part of the journey had been a test of our good humour but we had remained philosophical in adversity. I was wet and tired but not sore. It was time to dry off and get tucked into a few beers.