The Spoke August 17, 2013

Cycling Around Senlis (Part 2 of some)

Flight paths, Google Maps and Bug Munching

My last foray around Senlis was a year ago and it turned into quite an event, punctuated by the odd navigational error and running into angry Gendarmes. I hoped that my second 'proper' ride around the vicinity would be less eventful and more focused on the cycling. To a point, it was.

Earlier that day I had eaten at a nice Italian restaurant on the Avenue de Chantilly near the N1017. This was important since this was a local road that would take me South towards Charles de Gaulle airport. From here, I would ride a square 'loop' heading towards Cergy, then North to Criel, East to Chantilly and then ultimately back to Senlis. I had deliberately chosen that route because I could easily remember the road numbers, rather than having to refer to my phone for location details all the time. This, it transpired, was just as well.

I rode through the back roads of Senlis, basking in the evening sunshine. It was 6.45 PM local time and still well over 30 degrees. A light, warm wind provided a gentle breeze; you might say these were perfect cycling conditions. Certainly one of the best evenings for cycling I had experienced so far this year. I was soon beyond the outskirts of the town, maintaining a steady 31 km heading towards CDG. I figured it would be about 20 km on this road before I needed to take a right on the D9X and traverse the N104 that led to Cergy. Surprisingly, it turned out to be relatively busy and the road surface reminded me of home in places. Avoiding any pot hole that might damage the sexy wheels, I could see Terminal 1 in the distance off to the left. You could see at least two planes on final approach, just moments before landing. Must be time to turn off. I found a small local road and decided that would do me. No signage, but it felt about right. I didn't want to end up on the runway which was looking increasingly likely if I stayed on this road.....

Heading west and in land seemed the right choice. Eventually I came to Marly-la-Ville, a sleepy little town with a limited amount to offer a tourist. I was navigating by guess work so I decided to consult google maps for good measure. I pulled over to the side of the road and waited for the maps to load. And waited. And waited. Nothing was happening. Nothing at all. After a couple of minutes, I realised nothing was going to happen. So here I was, approximately 25 km south of Senlis, not really sure where I was. There was a learning point here somewhere. I recalled the D9X traversed the D104 and I knew I definitely needed to stay off that road. So off I set again, looking for signposts to places I might recall (I wouldn't, it just made me feel better) or road numbers (where I might do the same). It was all a blank. Anyway I continued and enjoyed breezing through empty back roads in the sun. The terrain was benign, with at best only mild undulations to contend with. All I had to do was navigate. And stop eating bugs. 

I kept seeing signposts trying to take me to the D104 and this was making me nervous. This was not the way I wanted. At a random roundabout I decided I would head North as far as I could make out. I was, in fact, heading for another small town called Belloy-en-France. Riding through town I spotted an official cycle route signpost and joined the route. I had skirted the back of the town but unfortunately already managed to lose track of where I was meant to be heading. Soon after, I joined a 'main road'. The advice as far as I could make out was cyclists should use the cycle lane that suddenly appeared, however it had a touch of the UK cycle lanes about it, insofar as it was a pavement in a very poor state of repair. CX anyone? The path was completely overgrown in places; this was not the terrain the 404s had signed up for. In the end I gave up. The road was practically empty and the cycle path was a joke. 

I came to junction. A decision was required. Straight ahead was the town of Viarmes. Head East, Luzarches was signposted. Didn't want to keep heading North as I would eventually overshoot Senlis. Not really sure where Luzarches was going to take me other than East. I'll go East. What I didn't know was this was actually quite a fast road, underlined by the man in a Ferrari taking his beloved car out for an evening burn-up. At least you could hear it coming. I pulled over into a lay by and checked the phone again. Still no google maps. In a flash of inspiration, I thought to check Cyclemeter. Although it was not picking up any detail, it was, nevertheless, showing me where I'd been and where I'd started. I was doing the rough 'square' I had originally intended on and was broadly heading in the right direction, give or take some minor wrong turns. Luzarches seemed the way to go. 

It didn't take long to get there. Heading North, I stayed on the D909, signposted Gouvieux. There was very little traffic about and soon I started to see signs for Chantilly, indicating I was getting close to home. I was riding through some very pretty countryside. The chateaux at Chantilly is impressive. Infact Chantilly is a beautiful place, with its cobbled streets and historic race course. I found myself with a view of the back of the Chateaux and had the urge to stop and take a photo. It looked imperious in the evening light.

10 km later I was cycling up the Avenue du Chantillly through the outskirts of Senlis. I had ridden 67 km and my typical lack of planning had again been highlighted. I had had to use some common sense (always a worry), but successfully navigated around some quiet roads and enjoyed a beautiful evening just north of Paris. I would do this route again I mused. I would return in early August....

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