Pugs and Uggs

 

Total Distance:                                     103 km / 74 miles with 781 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                            3 hours 59 minutes

Average Speed:                                   25.8 km/h

Group size:                                           28 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                      16°C

Weather in a word or two:               Chilly and very, very wet


12 aug
Ride Profile

The Ride:

They say a week is a long time in politics, but I have to say it’s even longer in relation to the rapidly plummeting fitness levels of ageing and mediocre club cyclists. I returned from holiday four pounds heavier and over a twelve hundred pounds lighter in the wallet, with nothing to show for it but blurred tan lines and a sharp decline in whatever small measure of cycling ability I possess.

This manifested as a real struggle to commute in and out of work, where I felt slow, weak and generally out of sorts. I tried to ride through it and managed to fit in three days commuting before Saturday and the chance to make up for the two club runs I’d missed.

On the commutes I’d noticed the mornings have a distinct chill to them already and had started to think about digging out some long-fingered gloves. In August? Maybe I’m just getting soft.

Saturday morning wasn’t quite so bad, but this was probably the result of the banks of thick, leaden cloud that had been scrawled heavily across the sky in various shades of grey, by my estimation using 2B to 9B pencils. This cloud cover may have provided some degree of insulation overnight, but totally precluded any chance we’d see the sun today.

Still, the roads were dry and the weather forecasts suggested no rain until mid-afternoon, when we’d hopefully be home and hosed.

I slipped smoothly down the Heinous Hill on a new patch of pristine tarmac and pushed on along the valley floor, immediately butting up against a strong westerly. I was rolling along, minding my own business along a wide, straight and totally empty road, when a small, silver hatchback snarled past, too fast and much too close, in what I can only assume was a deliberate attempt at provocation or intimidation.

I gave the driver my best WTF gesture, which he responded to in kind, which only seemed to suggest the close pass had been deliberate and he was watching to see what sort of reaction he’d get. Dick.

The rest of the ride was thankfully uneventful, but I was delayed by even more roadworks and traffic lights along the route. Nevertheless, when I hit my mark of 8.42 miles covered at 8:41 I knew I was on schedule and eased back.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

The Colossus of Roads was there showing off his newly pimped up bike, complete with a new red and shiny chainring to accessorize with all the other red and shiny bling bits: hubs, jockey wheels, quick release skewers, cable ends, bar plugs, seat clamp, gear hanger, headset spacers and the like. To cap it all he’d gone for a gleaming gold chain, which prompted a frankly disapproving OGL to remark that if he took the bike into his shop the first thing he’d do would be to clean the chain because he thought it looked rusty. Let’s just say he seems to have a different aesthetic appreciation than me.

OGL himself was sporting his own “new look” – a sort of scruffy Abe Lincoln-meets-the-Amish with a hint of hill-billy, face fringe with a bare upper lip that reminded me of Mad Willie McDougal, the caretaker at Springfield Elementary School. Crazy Legs wondered aloud if OGL had deliberately cultivated his face fungus in club colours, the mix of ginger and white bristles lacking only a touch of lime to be a perfect match for the white, tangerine and green of the club jersey.

OGL suggested he was considering keeping the face fringe for a function he was attending at a local brewery, when a plan for excess libation could perhaps induce a gangrenous, green tinge to his features to complete the transformation to club colours in their full … err … glory.

The Monkey Butler Boy was at the meeting point, as a precursor to joining up with his new clubmates somewhere en route and took the opportunity to terrify me by flashing his startlingly white, utterly blank and featureless chest, the likes of which I’ve only ever seen on strangely asexual, abstract shop mannequins.

The pristine snowscape of the Monkey Butler Boy’s unblemished upper torso contrasted starkly with the dark brown of his lower limbs, creating some razor-sharp, cyclists tan lines, a badge of honour that he seemed inordinately proud of. So proud, in fact then when joining a new college and being pressed to help come up with a suitable nickname, he’d flashed a half brown-half white bicep and suggested “Tan Lines.” In this way and much to his regret, he’s now been saddled with the unwanted moniker of “Fake Tan.”

(Still, it could have been worse, the last time I saw the Monkey Butler Boy in civvies (or at least his Mother’s jeans!) he was a combination of deep tan, red and raw sunburn and a rather startling ghostly and underexposed white, that looked like nothing so much as a giant Neopolitan ice cream.)

We wondered why Crazy Legs was uncharacteristically quiet, but apparently he was simply mesmerised and in the thrall of the larger than life “Atomic Blonde” movie poster splashed across the entire side of a double-decker bus. Apparently he was having trouble speaking through the puddle of drool that was overflowing from his mouth and dripping noisily onto the pavement. The Garrulous Kid confirmed I was looking at a picture of the rather anodyne and strangely characterless (IMHO) beauty that is actress “Charlies Felon.”

Crazy Legs finally managed to stir himself long enough to outline our plans for the day and left to lead the front group, pulling with him a strong group bolstered by a couple of University racing snakes.

I dropped into the smaller, second group, ostensibly and titularly led by OGL, but in reality following the Red Max. We were joined by a handful of Grogs, a few irregulars, Sneaky Pete, Captain Black, Szell and the Garrulous Kid. The Big Yin looked at the composition of our group, shook his head and quickly set off in pursuit of the first group.

Who can blame him?

Leaving a decent interval, Red Max led the way and we pushed off, clipped in and rode out on yet another fun-filled adventure.


I dropped in alongside Sneaky Pete for a catch-up, but it wasn’t long before our conversation was being rudely interrupted by a persistent clacking, which we finally traced to the back end of his bike. We called a halt so OGL could try and determine what the issue was and after some investigative work he expertly diagnosed the issue as cracked balls – either a euphemism for a particularly nasty testicular fungal infection, or a serious issue with the bearings in his rear hub.

Both potential diagnoses were equally distressing, and leery of suffering a terminal malfunction in the middle of nowhere, Sneaky Pete reluctantly cut short his ride and headed for home.

I next caught up with Captain Black, fresh from a holiday in Majorca where he’d somehow managed to smuggle his bike along. He listened to my complaint of too little cycling while on holiday and raised me a case of too much cycling on holiday, suggesting he was so worn out he wouldn’t even contemplate engaging in the coffee shop sprint. (Hah!)

Our discussion of our much derided club jersey was interrupted by OGL who objected when I complained about its 1970’s styling, by informing me it was actually designed in the 80’s – “but as a tribute to the 70’s,” Captain Black added sotto voce.

I then learned that not only was it designed in the 80’s, but it was the collaborative work of “a committee” – which rather appropriately suggested the old saw about how a camel is just a horse designed by committee. We were then informed that the jersey’s garish colours and hideous, dated design are a positive virtue as nobody wears anything quite like it and it allows you an instant appreciation of where all your teammates are during a race.

OGL’s final argument in defence of his beloved jersey was that many pro teams use a similar design, although considering some of the efforts the likes of Skil-Shimano, Teka, Mapei, Castorama, Phonak, Polti or Tonton Tapis have turned out over the years, I’m not sure that’s exactly an endorsement.

At the top of Brunswick Hill, the Red Max rolled off the front, while, with impeccable timing and a great deal of affected insouciance, the Grog next in line slowly reached for his bottle and took a very long and involved drink, while drifting back down the line. With no one willing to come through and take up the lead, a mentally shrugging Red Max moved back onto the front and stuck his nose into the wind yet again.

On the downhill run I worked my way through the group until I could relieve Max on the front, dropping in beside a relative newcomer who said he’d been out with the club quite a few times, but I didn’t recognise. We set what I felt was a remarkably sensible and sedate pace, only to be castigated for racing. In truth, the ride was so slow and unthreatening, that a weasel was able to stroll across the road in front of us, stop, eye us up speculatively, then hop unconcernedly through a hedge and disappear.

As we pushed through Whalton we were met with a lashing rain shower and a halt was called so we could pull on jackets, before pushing on again. The shower slowly eased and passed, so that by the next stop, at Dyke Neuk, jackets were doffed and stowed once again. Here I caught Szell singing the praises of his Castelli Gabba waterproof and had to inform him it wasn’t as good as The Ramones version, the Gabba Gabba Hey.

I now found myself on the front with Captain Black and we plotted altering the planned route in light of the deteriorating weather, chopping off the leg up to Rothley Crossroads. Re-worked route agreed, we dropped down through Hartburn and began to grind our way across to Middleton Bank.


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With the rain slashing down again and bouncing off the tarmac, I pushed on ahead of everyone and stopped at the next junction to fish out my jacket again. As the rest whipped past and away, I found Szell stopping behind me and also reaching for his jacket. I warned him it was a case of bad timing as his bete noire, Middleton Bank was looming and we’d already been left some distance behind.

I started to give chase and Szell, realising his predicament followed, not even delaying long enough to zip his jacket closed. On the run down toward the base of the climb we slowly clawed our way onto the back of the group, but by this point Captain Black and the Red Max were already tackling the steeper ramps up ahead. Still, there were plenty of hares to chase and act as relay points as I set off in pursuit.

Working my way up the outside, I found the Garrulous Kids wheel as we hit the steep section and, as he accelerated, I dropped in behind and followed until the road straightened. As I rode around and past him he started complaining his gears weren’t working, which seems rather unusual given the … ahem … ultra-precise and exacting standards of his German engineered bike.

I’d reeled in the Red Max by the crest of the climb and then set off in pursuit of Captain Black, not even thinking about stopping and regrouping and just wanting to get out of the rain. Between the two of us we then drove the pace along. I never looked back and had no idea who was following, or who was floundering.

Down through Milestone Woods and onto the rollers I tried attacking the slope, but the road was awash and my rear wheel started slipping and spinning without traction. I dropped back down onto the saddle and ground my way over the top and down toward the last climb up to the café.

As I took the last corner Captain Black whirred past (Hah! I say again) and away, shortly followed by Kipper and I was left competing for the minor places with Mini Miss and the Red Max.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the café, soaking wet and dripping it was black bin bags all around to keep wet posteriors away from the furniture.

We’d been served and were sitting comfortably by the time the Garrulous Kid rolled in, easy prey to Red Max’s wind-up that he’d not only been beaten in the sprint, but thoroughly thrashed. He bit. Hard. He started leaning on a sorry pile of excuses, stuck gears, malfunctioning brakes, poor visibility, too little pressure in one tyre, too much pressure in the other, before simply vowing revenge next week, when, he warned he would “utterly destroy everyone.”

The Red Max related being asked by the Monkey Butler Boy to take a day off work, theoretically so father and son could do a bit of bonding on a long ride into North Northumberland. Giving up a precious day’s holiday, Red Max had suggested Wooler as a good destination, only to be told, no, they were actually going to Ford. En route, he then learned that they were heading to Ford because that’s where the Monkey Butler Boy’s current squeeze was holidaying en famille.

It then turned out that the Monkey Butler Boy had not only not informed the Red Max about the real purpose of his trip, but he hadn’t bothered to tell his girlfriend either. So, after valiantly battling away for fifty odd miles, up hill, down dale and through the elements, the Monkey Butler Boy’s surprised reception was a somewhat less than welcoming, “What are you doing here?”

As if on cue, the Monkey Butler Boy and his wrecking crew rolled up through the sheeting rain, eventually followed in by their harassed-looking, out of breath, grey-faced and thoroughly exhausted looking coach. The Red Max sympathised with the coach, suggesting riding with the wrecking crew was a quick route to self-annihilation and prompting questions about whether the Monkey Butler Boy is deserving of a more dynamic and sympathetic name change – maybe to The A-nyallator, or similar…

Nah, of course not.

Talk of the Monkey Butler Boy’s girlfriend led the Red Max to an intense interrogation around the Garrulous Kid’s holiday romance with the girl from Hull, with the Garrulous Kid protesting they were “just friends” – even though he had a photo of her on his phone … and even though he had a photo of her dog on his phone too – a Pug called Doug (the dog, not the girl.)

A rather bemused Mini Miss wondered why they were discussing Ugg boots and I had to explain they were actually talking about Pugs and not Uggs – and, one particular Pug called Doug. We agreed they were both equally as ugly (the dog and the sloppy and shapeless footwear, not the girl)

This did lead to some idle speculation that Uggs were actually made out of dead Pugs, which would explain some of their shared characteristics…

The Garrulous Kid protested that he liked Pugs, especially the cute, wheezing, snuffling, distressed little grunting noises they make trying to breathe through their in-bred, facial deformities. I suggested this was the exact same distressed noise he was emitting when I rode past him on Middleton Bank earlier – and I didn’t think it was at all cute.  (I never did establish his position on Uggs.)

One of our number started squeezing a long stream of dirty water from his track mitts and directly into his coffee cup. “You don’t have to do that, mate” the Red Max told him, “They’ll give you a free refill if you ask.”

Just then the Monkey Butler Boy wandered up, soaking wet and leaving a long trail of water in his wake. He’d decided to wear his club skinsuit for the ride and so had no way of carrying a rain jacket and was thoroughly drenched. Typical teen, he did of course have his phone clutched firmly in his hand and I wondered where he stored this when riding. Apparently, clenched between his buttocks, according to the Red Max, who also suggested this was why he always used it hands-free as he didn’t want it anywhere near his nose.

Pulling on wet gear again, gloves, arm warmers, helmets, jackets and the like, is always an unpleasant end to the otherwise enjoyable café stop, but it had to be done and once more we ventured out into the teeming rain.


I rode back with the Red Max, finding out that he isn’t away on holiday until a trip to Spain in October. I queried if the weather would be all right then.

“Well, it’ll be better than this,” was the terse reply and I couldn’t argue.

This time around he’s persuaded Mrs. Max to take her bike too and I suggested that with the Monkey Butler Boys new-found prowess, this was at least one way in which Max could ensure he wouldn’t be last in all the sprints.

“Hmm, I’m not so sure about that.” He concluded glumly.

He then suggested tonight would be great conditions for venturing outdoors to watch for Perseid meteor showers and seemed serious in his assertion.

I looked at him quizzically, soaking wet and thoroughly sodden and bedraggled, rain dripping off his nose and running in rivulets down his bike, shoes squelching with every pedal stroke. He seemed sincere, there was no hint of a smile, or the slightest trace of any irony.

I then looked through the gloom at the rain hammering down all around us, the long puddles stretching out from the verges to reach across a road awash with water, and then I looked up at the louring dark, mass of low, unbroken cloud…

Well, you’ve got to admire his optimism.

The Monkey Butler Boy and Garrulous Kid took to racing each other up Berwick Hill, but I was heavy legged and tired out and couldn’t react, so just plugged up behind them. We caught up with OGL who’d left the café ahead of us and, rather bizarrely, he too joined the youngsters for some sparring up the hill to Dinnington.

Before too long everyone else was swing away and I was cast free to plod my way home, being battered by two more heavy, stinging showers, a particular low point amidst the otherwise continual and steadily unrelenting downpour.

I was beginning to feel a bit chilled by the time I reached the bottom of the Heinous Hill, so for once its demands at least had some side benefits and I it wasn’t long before I was home and heading for a very welcome hot shower.


YTD Totals: 4,825 km / 2,777 miles with 55,162 metres of climbing

Radiation Vibe

Radiation Vibe

Club Run, Saturday 22nd July, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  105 km / 65 miles with 436* metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 17 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.4 km/h

Group size:                                         24 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    17°C

Weather in a word or two:          Dreich


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Ride Profile
* Stop me if you’ve heard this before – it rained throughout the ride and my Garmin naturally had a hissy-fit in protest. The official route Crazy Legs posted up had over 700 metres of climbing and that’s not counting my clambering up Heinous Hill or the other side of the Tyne valley. Nonetheless, I officially managed only 436 metres.

The Ride:

7:10 Saturday morning and I’m lying in bed listening to the rain hammering on the roof and window and the noisy gargle of the overflow racing down the drain pipe. Another rain swept Saturday in summer, it must be a club run day.

45 minutes later and leaving the house, the rain has eased from torrential, to just plain annoying and I’m pulling on a light, easily stowable waterproof jacket in anticipation of it actually stopping at some point. It’s always good to travel in hope.

Still, I’m more accepting of the weather than I was last week, I’d prepped the Peugeot the night before, so rolled out with the protection of full length mudguards. I’d also combined the thinnest socks I could find with my waterproof winter boots, assured of keeping my feet dry, but a bit concerned about them getting too warm.

The ride across to the meeting point was totally unremarkable, no exotic wildlife, no homicidal drivers, no near misses and the noteworthy, but not altogether unexpected absence of other cyclists on the road. It was horribly wet.

I ducked into the multi-storey car park to join the only other early arrival, the Garrulous Kid and to wait for the intrepid and insane to assemble.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

OGL was noticeable by his absence, having been called to attend some interminably dull, extraordinary general meeting for British Cycling. Someone wondered why G-Dawg hadn’t accompanied him and he visibly shuddered at the thought – explaining that not only would you have to sit through a long, boring meeting, but relive it in minute, forensic detail, blow-by-blow, in the car all the way back.

The Garrulous Kid proved he was in the running for a name change to the Hyperbolic Kid, declaring the Star Wars movies were the greatest film series ever made. Taffy Steve and I pondered if Chewbacca was still being played by the same “actor” Peter Mayhew and, rather bizarrely, the Garrulous Kid suggested Maria Sharapova, would make a great replacement Wookie.

“Only if she wears high heels.” G-Dawg drawled, while I tried to decide if in the Star Wars universe, dressing a Wookie in high heels was equated to a similar Terran expression about putting lipstick on a pig.

Jimmy Mac returned from a long absence and declared he’d qualified to represent Great Britain at the UCI Gran Fondo World Championship in Albi, in August. I had to express surprise, not so much because he’d qualified, more at the thought there was an actual Gran Fondo World Championship.

Still, if we wanted someone to represent us in a Gran Fondo World Championship, who better than the clean-cut, super-smart, highly practical, ultra-dexterous, unflappably cool, always in control, Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon and all round good guy Jimmy Mac.

Meanwhile Richard of Flanders reported that ex-club member, Arnold had completed the L’Etape du Tour and found it not only expensive, but massive, chaotic and very, very badly organised.

Richard of Flanders wondered about heading home to swap his good bike for his winter bike, but decided not to. He wasn’t alone and there was a distinct lack of mudguards on offer throughout the bunch. There were lots of ass-savers though – or perhaps they should be re-named i’m-all-right-jacks, or ass-covers – only useful for covering your own ass. I feel if you’re going to subject your fellow riders to the constant deluge of spray off your back wheel, the least you can do is accept your own share of the misery and discomfort and not hide behind these flimsy bits of plastic. Go on – take it like a man.

In spite of the weather, it was a surprisingly large group of two dozen riders who pushed off, clipped in and sallied forth into the deluge.


We hadn’t made it through Dinnington, when we had a puncture and all piled into a car park while repairs were made. Here Jimmy Mac found he could drag his wet buttocks across his damp saddle and create a fearsome squeal, akin to someone dragging their fingernails down a blackboard. Real squeaky bum time.

He took time off from setting my teeth on edge to compliment the Garrulous Kid who was now sporting the biggest, blackest chain ring tattoo I’ve ever seen.

“How did that happen?” the Garrulous Kid asked, I assume in all seriousness, as he looked down at his calf in befuddlement.

A bit further on and he’d added a second grungy, oily brand above the first, just to prove it was no fluke. I wondered if he always cleaned his chain on random bits of exposed flesh, but apparently not. Actually, I think it was probably foolish of me to assume he ever cleaned his chain.

Tracking through Tranwell, someone behind hit a pothole and went down in a clatter and we stopped again to allow everyone to pick themselves up and check for damage.

“Oh, they’re alright.” The Garrulous Kid declared from his vantage point 30 metres or so away from the accident and Jimmy Mac was forced to admire the assuredness of the declaration and acknowledge that the Garrulous Kid had exceptional X-ray vision to go with his 20/20 hindsight.

At the bottom of the Mur de Mitford we lost a large contingent of Grogs, as they by-passed the hill for a shorter route to the café, while the rest of us grappled with the slope, wheels slipping and sliding on the wet road as grip became somewhat negotiable. Topping out the climb we traced a new (to me anyway) route to the Trench passing around Stanton.

At one point I dropped off the back with Taffy Steve who was struggling on his thrice-cursed winter bike and we found Rab Dee patrolling the rear about 20 metres back. He confirmed this was the ideal distance to avoid both crashes and the showers of shit being spat off everyone’s wheels.


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Down through Hartburn and rising up the other side, Jimmy Mac had a front wheel puncture and pulled over to the side of the road to effect repairs. Crazy Legs popped up to where we all waited to borrow Taffy Steve’s mighty frame pump and we were soon underway again. We even managed to make it round the very next corner, before a loud hiss of escaping air announced Jimmy Macs original repair hadn’t fared too well, the tyre had popped off the rim and the tube had gone again.

Yet another unscheduled stop had Crazy Legs urging everyone on to the café, while he said he’d hang back with Jimmy Mac. Only then did he realise he’d left his saddle bag on his other bike and wasn’t carrying a spare tube. He too, then decided to go with the larger group in case he needed assistance.

Biden Fecht donated a spare tube and I hung back with Rab Dee, Richard of Flanders and the Big Yin to provide assistance, moral support and a ragged, surely highly-prized and always welcome, running commentary of piss-taking. Rab Dee lifted the front of Jimmy Mac’s bike up for him and he set to work wrestling the wheel out of the forks.

Watching on, the Big Yin admitted he’d rather take a dump in public than have to change a tyre in front of an attentive and critical audience of fellow cyclists … then went back to critically and attentively watching his fellow cyclist change a tyre.

I do have a lot of sympathy with his view and tend to try slipping quietly off the back, rather than wrestle with tyres and tubes while a censorious “puncture congregation” bears unholy witness.

Extended wheel-wrangling left Jimmy Mac with filthy black lines and marks up and down his legs, that were even more embarrassing than the Garrulous Kids chain-ring tatt and it was suggested he looked like an SAS sniper covered in camo paint for a night mission. Fighting through the grit and crud and crap and mud on his wheel, somehow he finally managed to get the tube in and seat the tyre back in place.

Taffy Steve had left with the larger group, taking his mighty frame pump with him, so Jimmy Mac fished out his own molto piccolo, Leznye Pressure Drive out of a pocket, screwed the hose into one end of it and attached the other to his tyre valve.

As he set manfully to work, inflating his tyre, Rab Dee kept a careful eye on Jimmy Mac’s Garmin, reading off his heart rate and we were all super-impressed that after about 5 minutes of pumping it never rose above 128 bpm. That’s the kind of cardio-vascular fitness we’d all like to have.

Unfortunately, the tyre remained as flat as Jimmy Mac’s heart rate and after several more minutes he surmised his pump must be broken. Richard of Flanders took over and pulled out his own, identical Leznye Pressure Drive. He screwed the rubber hose slowly into his pump, sizing-up the errant tyre with a dead-eyed looked as he walked toward it, much like an assassin fitting a suppressor to his pistol muzzle before administering the coup de grace.

Jimmy Mac, our UCI Gran Fondo World Championship representative, the clean-cut, super-smart, highly practical, ultra-dexterous, unflappably cool, always in control, Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon and all round good guy, then watched as Richard screwed the other end of the hose onto his tyre valve and began to inflate the tube…

“Hold on, do you have to screw that end onto the valve too?” he pondered loudly. “I just thought you had to press it on …”

Oh. Dear.

Richard of Flanders made light work of inflating the tyre and we were finally back underway again.

Perhaps as recompense for delaying us, or perhaps to leave the scene of his shame firmly behind him, Jimmy Mac surged to the front and drove the pace up. As we climbed past Angerton, I glanced back, finding totally empty road and told him we were alone, had split the group and needed to ease up a little.

We managed to regroup around Bolam Lake, but Rab Dee and Jimmy Mac seemed intent on making up for lost time and lined us out again. I dropped into their slipstream and hung there as the speed ratcheted up, hanging onto the coattails as we swept through Milestone Wood, drove over the rollers, down the hill and onto the final climb to the café.

At some point along the final stretch we zipped past Taffy Steve and Szell, who had taken a longer route to allow Szell tackle his bete noire, Middleton Bank and face down his own personal demons.

As we passed the pair, I eased and let go of Jimmy Macs wheel, coasting through the finish flags planted at the end of the lane for some event or other sponsored by the GS Metro club – I don’t know what it was for and there was no one around to ask, but it was nice of them to mark the finish of our club sprint for us.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Szell announced that his brand new dental x-ray produced no more radiation than you would get from eating 8 bananas and you didn’t even need to leave the room when using it.  I contrasted this to my last dental x-ray, where the dentist first put on a lead-lined apron and heavy duty goggles, before unspooling the remote-control trigger wire behind him as he left the room. I then heard the surgery front door open and close and saw him duck past the window, still unreeling the wire. A pause of about a minute, was followed by a deep hum, blinding flash and the smell of burning rubber. A few minutes later the dentist wandered back whistling nonchalantly, winding up the wire and declaring we’re all done.

We discovered that Banana Equivalent Dose was an accepted (well, almost) scientific measure of radiation exposure and eating one banana equivalent to roughly 0.1 Sieverts of radiation, while a flight from New York to LA was equivalent to 40 Sieverts.

From this Jimmy Mac concluded it was unwise to eat bananas on an aeroplane – and, never mind Snakes on a Plane, the next Hollywood low-budget schlockbuster could well involve aviation travel with everyone’s favourite Musaceae.

(Don’t worry by the way, a lethal dose of radiation is about 35 million Sieverts, you’re not going to get that from fruit – even if you’re in first class and constantly eating bananas washed down with daiquiris on a long-haul flight to Australia, or Hawaii)

The Big Yin was interested in organising a ride out to see the Tour of Britain, travelling on familiar roads somewhere on its route from Kielder to Blyth on Monday 4th September. It sounded like a reasonable excuse for a day off work and a ride out, although Szell raised the worrying spectre of us meeting other OGL’s from the all the different areas of Britain congregating on the same spot.

I dismissed his worries out of hand – there couldn’t possibly be other OGL’s out there. Could there?


On the way out, a quick word with the Red Max confirmed he could lay his hands on Tyvek overalls, a respirator and rubberised boots, should I ever find work in a banana plantation.

Given our puncture-crash-puncture-puncture ride interruptions, we were late leaving the café and it looked like we’d be late getting back. As we rolled down Berwick Hill I found myself on the front with the Red Max and encouraging his almost constant half-wheeling, even as Crazy Legs reported we’d split the group.

We kept going, nonetheless, up through Dinnington and around the the airport. Fast. I didn’t look back once and have no idea what was going on behind. I was still surprised, however to exit the Mad Mile without being caught and overtaken by a duelling G-Dawg and Colossus, sprinting for home and first use of the shower.

Just before crossing the river I tentatively removed my rain jacket. Oh well, better late than never and was soon heading uphill and home.

And that’s it for the next couple of weeks, as I’m off to Nice on a family holiday.

I think it’s just as well I’m leaving work before someone punches me in the face for being annoying. The trouble is, whenever I’m asked where I’m going, I can never resist:

“Where you off to then?”

“Nice.”

“That’s nice.”

“No, I’m pretty sure it’s pronounced Niece.”

It reminds me of the time a work colleague spent some time in Scotland.

“Where’ve you been?”

“Ayr”

“I SAID, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?”

Don’t worry, I’ve finished now and you won’t be subjected to any more crap jokes for a couple of weeks. Hopefully the weather will have improved by the time I get back too (Ha ha. Sorry, I promised no more crap jokes, didn’t I)

In the meantime, enjoy the peace.


YTD Totals: 4,609 km / 2,863 miles with 52,634 metres of climbing

Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

Club Run, Saturday 15th July, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  119 km / 74 miles with 516* metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 27 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.8 km/h

Group size:                                         18 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    19°C

Weather in a word or two:          Miserably damp


 

15th july
Ride Profile

* It was raining throughout the day and my Garmin really, really doesn’t like the rain. I don’t for one moment believe we only had 516 metres of climbing, but that’s what I’m going with.

The Ride:

Let’s talk about the weather, eh? Its mid-July, supposedly British Summer Time and in the Tour de France, the riders are struggling through a heatwave. Now my expectations have naturally been tempered by years of disappointment, but nonetheless, Saturday was like the nadir for summer rides – as bleak, dreary and wet as a dank, November day. Except … it was warm. As in shorts warm. As in too warm to wear a rain jacket … and too wet not to.

I’m becoming as confused as my kit choices.

The start of the day wasn’t too bad, with a very light, quite refreshing rain, drifting down on a pleasantly cooling breeze and the roads not yet wet enough to slow me into the corners. I chased cars down the Heinous Hill, just to prove I could go faster than them – and they really shouldn’t be pulling out in front of cyclists like that.

I turned along the valley floor and directly into a headwind, but I was feeling decent, it wasn’t much of an issue and I was pressing on at a fair clip. After a few miles I climbed up to the traffic lights and then swung down toward the river, spotting a familiar cyclist churning up the ramp toward me. It was the Prof, riding with beZ and Jimmy Cornfeed on their way to a time-trial somewhere in the dangerous, wildlands south of the river.

I only had time for a quick salute as I swept past in the opposite direction, although I did catch the Prof muttering something about the Heinous Hill as I darted by. (Just to be clear, for the record the slope he was tackling is but a speed bump, a mere pimple, a trifling minor irritation of little consequence, compared to the true heinousness of the Heinous Hill.)

By the time I reached the meeting point, the rain was becoming constant and heavy and I was glad to duck into the shelter of the multi-storey car park while our numbers slowly assembled.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

After a long, long absence, the Dabman reappeared for his first ride out with us since snapping his collar bone like a dry stick.

“Have you actually got written permission from your lass?” a surprised Red Max demanded to know.

“Oh, she’s away for a few days…” Dabman ruefully admitted.

It was obvious that he was out on a stealth-ride and would need to get back (preferably in one, whole piece) and restore everything to pre-ride condition, prior to Mrs. Dabman’s return. He was warned to stay away from my camera, so there’d be no photographic evidence of his ride and if anyone asks, his very appearance in this blerg is just another of my wild imaginings, with no actual foundation in the truth – or, if you like, the same as pretty much everything else I write.

Speaking of expunging rides from the data banks, Crazy Legs returned having survived the club time-trial last weekend, but couldn’t really say how it had gone as he’d blanked much of the experience. He did recall however that his, somewhat cobbled together, time-trial bike had caused a few problems – he hadn’t bothered to fit a front derailleur, reasoning he’d only need the big ring and it would just add to the weight and cost.

Things were working fine until he hit a bump in the road and the chain skipped down onto the inner ring. Faced with the choice of pressing on, or wasting time by stopping to manually lift the chain back up again, he chose the former option.

Waiting at the finish, G-Dawg reported he never knew legs could actually spin that fast and that they had been “a smerking blur” as Crazy Legs crossed the finish line with one last, all-out effort.

OGL reported that he’d been invited to take part in an episode of Come Dine with Me, but had sadly declined. I must admit my imagination completely fails when I try to imagine what that would have been like, perhaps somewhere between toe-curling embarrassment and the fascinating horror of a slow-motion car crash. He offered the opportunity around, but apparently we all still retain at least some iota of self-esteem and there were no takers.

The Monkey Butler Boy was out with us, having been abandoned by his wrecking crew of young guns (as they are all, apparently scared of getting wet). He was fascinated by the Colossus’s Time iClic pedals, but dissuaded from further investigation when the Colossus pointed out the blunt, dagger like protrusion that encased the spindle and the corresponding, identically matched bruises and indentations they’d made in his shins.

The Garrulous Kid announced he was thinking of taking Geography as one of his A-level options next year, as apparently he likes his teacher, Mrs. Naff.

Crazy Legs was about to embark on an extended dialogue about how you can tell the difference between good teachers and naff teachers, when I interrupted.

“Hold, on. Mrs. Naff. How do you spell that?”

“You know, Naff,” the Garrulous Kid replied, “N-A-T-H.”

In spite of the rain, Szell put in a rare appearance. The Garrulous Kid wondered when he would be disappearing into hibernation and Szell explained it was usually after the summer Bank Holiday. He said that, like Freda the Blue Peter tortoise, he had a big cardboard box filled with straw, that his wife had prepared by punching holes in the lid. He said he’d be putting it in a darkened cupboard and retiring to it in good order, long before the leaves started to turn.

I explained to the Garrulous Kid that this was all nonsense, you couldn’t believe a word Szell was saying and he was obviously lying. No one was going to believe he actually had a wife.


We could delay no longer and looking out at the rain falling with increasing intensity, I pulled on my rain jacket and reluctantly pushed off, clipped in and followed everyone out onto the roads.

For the first part of the ride I was entertained by the Garrulous Kid providing a running commentary on exactly where and how quickly, the rain was creeping through his clothing. He became particularly animated as he started getting a wet bum, especially as he declared the rain seemed to have soaked straight through his underpants.

“What? Wait! You’re wearing underpants?”

“Of course I’m wearing underpants.”

“Under your cycling shorts?”

“Yes. But not just any underpants, they’re from the Marks and Spencer’s Autograph range.”

The Garrulous Kid refused to accept that he was the only one among us wearing underpants under their cycling shorts – although, when questioned, the Monkey Butler Boy did later admit he had. Once. When he was about 11.

But, apparently we’re all wrong, or depraved, or masochists and wearing underpants beneath cycling shorts should be de rigueur because it’s much more comfortable, much more hygenic and … and … much warmer!

Forget about the chafing, forget about the horrendous bunching and rubbing and the irritation. Forget about Betty Swollocks and the broiling, swarming petri dish of a breeding ground underpants will create for all kinds of bacterium and fungal spores. Remember, you’re improperly dressed unless you’re wearing your tighty-whities. At all times. Preferably from M&S. (Other makes are available.)

The rain continued to fall and, as usual, the poor weather seemed to have an adverse effect on driver comprehension, as if giving them something else to consider somehow befuddles and overloads their brains.

Our first indication of this was a skip lorry that tried overtaking our bunch, going uphill and around a blind corner. It lumbered all the way across to the other side of the road and huffed noisily upwards, before having to come to an abrupt halt in front of a car parked at the kerb and leaving too little room to squeeze past.

A few miles further on and it was the turn of an Astra driver, who almost made it to the head of our “peloton,” before meeting a Mercedes travelling in the opposite direction. Both cars stopped dead, bumper to bumper, while we rolled past amazed at just how dumb and reckless some drivers actually are.

Just before we dropped down towards the Tyne, OGL, a delegation of Grogs and a few others took a shorter more direct route to the café, effectively halving our numbers.

We swept down into the river valley and picked our way through a few sleepy villages, before climbing out again via Newton. I suspect G-Dawg found the going much more amenable than the last time, when he’d been forced to tackle this route on his fixie, following one of the Prof’s characteristics “route lapses.”

The heat generated by some prolonged climbing, combined with the briefest cessation of the rain, lulled us into shedding our rain jackets, well for a couple of miles anyway.

G-Dawg now led us on a wholly new, untried route through to Matfen, travelling on roads he’d identified courtesy of the complete novelty of looking at an actual map. This he’d carefully and craftily folded into his back pocket and we would catch him occasionally consulting its arcane mysteries, while muttering strange incantations at it. You know, those map things are actually quite useful and I have a strange feeling they could perhaps catch on one day.

Stopping at the next junction, just about everyone who’d previously doffed their jackets now pulled them back on, as the rain returned with even greater intensity. We held station as another group of cyclists appeared, clambering uphill through the gloomy veil of this renewed downpour. They slowly coalesced into another local club, the Tyneside Vagabonds, or Vags, who looked almost as wet and bedraggled as we did.

“Oh, is it raining down there?” Szell asked brightly as they filed past, smiling and greeting us enthusiastically, probably just happy in the knowledge they weren’t the only raving lunatics riding a bike in such utterly miserable conditions.


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Our group splintered on the climb to the Quarry and we swung right for the shorter run to the café, not even bothering to pause and let everyone back on. With the pace picking up on the run in to the Snake Bends, the Red Max suddenly appeared on my shoulder, having completed an epic chase to catch up. This he’d accomplished in part thanks to some kamikaze cornering around wet bends that I’m glad I didn’t see.

We exchanged a few words, before he declared our pace was “far too civilised” and attacked off the front. Having also chased on, Taffy Steve followed him through and I latched onto his wheel, until I sensed the Colossus winding up to follow the attacks. I eased and let the gap grow so he could slot in behind Taffy Steve and the trio burst away to contest the sprint.

I picked up the pace again and followed in their wake, sparring with the Garrulous Kid for the minor placings, before sitting up and coasting through the bends.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

At the café, Caracol started eyeing up one of the tray bakes like a predator assessing the herd for the choicest prey and he quickly determined that one of the segments was considerably larger than the others – or in his eyes, old, infirm and separated from the herd.

He turned on the full charm, which was a bit like a dusty, old 40-watt light-bulb attached to a dodgy and backfiring generator. Still, it flickered briefly into life and he quickly made a plea for the over-sized portion. Inexplicably, it somehow worked and the serving girl carefully shuffled the pieces of cake around to fish out his marked prize.

The Monkey Butler Boy was even more delighted when she did the same for him – and he didn’t even have to ask. I was going to suggest it’s because he’s younger and better looking, but didn’t want to start a bitch fight.

The Grogs were already done, leaving as we were sitting down and we caught Mini Miss, hovering, peering out the door and waiting for everyone to assemble before making a dash out into the rain for her own bike. Or maybe she’s just in training for a triathlon transition.

The Monkey Butler Boy continues to outgrow his bikes and is looking for something new to ride. At present he’s struggling with the choice between an aero road bike, or a light-weight climbing machine. I suspect he’s leaning toward the aero-bike, but on canvassing the table wasn’t getting much support. The Colossus however came to his rescue suggesting it didn’t matter which bike was the lightest, had the best spec’ or was the most practical, what really mattered was which one looked the best.

Crazy Legs was happily reminiscing about a video of old-school Raleigh Grifters and recalled owning an iconic Raleigh Chopper. I only ever remember seeing them in orange, but Crazy Legs insisted he had “a purple Chopper” before admitting that’s “not something you tend to talk about in polite company.”

What wasn’t there to love about the Raleigh Chopper? A tiny, small wheel at the front, a big tractor tyre at the back, tall ape-hanger bars, an elongated saddle with a sissy rail, hub gears and a centrally mounted gear lever that always seemed poised to emasculate the unwary. Choppers were expensive, a pig to ride, incredibly heavy, impractical, dangerously unbalanced and unstable, but super-cool. And every kid coveted one.

Hmm, maybe the Colossus was right, insisting it only mattered which bike actually looks the best.

I could even recall one particular abortion of a Chopper variant, the Sprint, which incongruously had drop handlebars.

“Who on earth would want to ride such a thing?” I pondered.

“Well, the Prof, obviously.” Crazy Legs suggested and I had to laugh as I found myself heartily agreeing.

As if talk of childhood bikes had instigated a return to purely juvenile ways, we spent the next 10 minutes or so discussing who would win in a fight between Nacer “Boxer” Bouhanni and Marcel “Pretty Boy” Kittel. The judges finally gave the win to Bouhanni, by a majority of 6 votes to 1.


Our return home was briefly delayed behind a horse drawn cart, trundling slowly along the lanes and laden with middle-aged, horsey types. I hate to imagine where their mounts had disappeared and suspect they could have walked faster than the lumbering cart.

Safely negotiated, the rest of the ride was without incident and I was soon turning off for home. Passing the rugby ground I saw the flash of a hi-vis, green, rain jacket disappearing round the corner and I gave chase, only to be caught on the wrong side of the level crossing as a Metro clattered through and the lone cyclist got away to built a good lead.

With the way clear again, I chased up the hill past the golf course, through the junction and then up another hill past Twin Farms . He was probably younger and most certainly fitter and faster than me and it was hard work closing him down, even though he wasn’t even aware he was in a race.

Through the lights past the Fire Station, I stomped hard on the pedals and tucked in for the downhill, swept over the dual-carriageway and caught him just as the lights ahead turned red.

I issued a nonchalant, “how do?” and pressed on downhill when the lights released us again, thinking my mission was complete.

Unluckily, I’d either picked a cyclist going my way, or one with no fixed destination in mind and happy to just follow the wheels. Hoist by my own petard of vanity and refusing to ease up, I led him down the hill to the river, along the valley floor, across the bridge, up the sharp ramp where I’d saluted the Prof that morning, then down and all the way along to Blaydon.

As we exited the town, he swished past, thanked me politely for the tow and disappeared and I could finally draw breath and complete the rest of my ride at a far more sensible pace.

It turned out to be another long one, though if I’m to believe Strava (I don’t) one that was much less hilly than usual.


YTD Totals: 4,469 km / 2,777 miles with 51,679 metres of climbing

The Keyser Soze Ride

The Keyser Soze Ride

Club Run, Saturday 8th July, 2017             

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 111 km / 69 miles with 1,037 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                26. km/h

Group size:                                        28 riders, 1 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   21°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and breezy


 

8 jul
Ride Profile

The weather forecast had predicted wall-to-wall sunshine, but as I stepped outside I realised the air was still surprisingly chilly and quickly ducked back inside to find and pull on some arm warmers. A quick squirt of WD-40 cleared up an annoying, squeaky cleat and I was off.

The ride across to the meeting point was without incident, until Postman Plod (the miserable sod) clocked me approaching a roundabout at speed and decided his carefully honed-Formula 1 race reactions and uber-powerful van could safely squeeze into the gap. There may well have been … just … enough time and space, perhaps for Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes-Benz, but there certainly wasn’t for Plod and his coughing and spluttering van, especially after his shaky, jerky start, that perhaps only Billy-Ray Cyrus’s lyricist would have approved of.

He lurched out onto the roundabout in a loud squeal of tyres … and immediately stalled. I slalomed round the van, stationary in middle of the road and gave the driver my most censorious head shake, which I’m absolutely certain had precisely zero effect.

The only other thing of note on my journey was a de-badged, souped-up, boy-racer saloon car of rather indeterminate make, that had custom alloys in a deep, glittery purple. Dubious. Probably expensive and worth more than the rest of the car combined, but very dubious.

I met up with the Colossus of Roads approaching the meeting point and we rolled in together.


Main topic of conversation at the meeting point:

The Colossus reported that G-Dawg was still away on holiday, in his element and thoroughly enjoying sitting in cafes in Keswick, watching the world go by. I suggested all he really needed for it to be perfect break was an accompanying bevvy of cyclists to sit around the table and talk bolleaux with him.

G-Dawg is due to return tomorrow in time for the club 25-mile time-trial. The Colossus re-affirmed he had no intention of subjecting himself to such pain and misery, suggesting he has the same aversion to time-trials as root canal treatment.

Talk turned to gyms, with the Colossus impressed he’s somehow managed to avoid paying his gym membership, while somehow retaining access. I declared my own interest in gyms can be placed in pretty much the same category as time-trials and root canal.

OGL had his own tale of the gym – recently having found himself on a static bike next to four professional athletes, who turned out to be Newcastle United footballers. They were also (according to his tale) utterly clueless and totally disorganised.

“Ah, that’ll be their back four then.” Caracol quipped. (Oh, come on, you’d have to pay a host of script-writers a fortune for a killer line like that.)

OGL of course, never shy in coming forward, had to point out exactly what they were doing wrong and ensure they all benefited from an unexpected and unasked for dip in his vast pool of knowledge and experience. Surprisingly, he suggested one or two weren’t particularly receptive to his input …

The Garrulous Kid took me to task for grammatical errors and poor spelling throughout my blerg and wondered if I wasn’t perhaps dyslexic. He suggested my writing is littered with elementary and unforgiveable typo’s, such as spelling maths as maffs and three as free. Shoddy, must do better.

With the designated ride leader, the Hammer unavoidably delayed, Big Dunc manfully stepped up to the breach and determined we should stick to the route that had previously been planned and posted.

OGL interjected with some scaremongering, suggesting any pre-designated group hierarchy, or pre-publicised route would see the ride leader legally responsible and liable for everyone’s well-being, conduct and safe return.

“Ok, then” Big Dunc announced smoothly, “This is the wholly impromptu route we planned earlier.”

 OGL then suggested that, as there were only 20 of us, we didn’t need to split into two groups.

“Huh?” The Colossus observed from his perch on high (atop the wall), “There’s got to be more than 20 of us here.”

“28 at the last headcount,” I confirmed, “Looks like we’re rounding down. Bigly.”


We pushed off, clipped in and rode out, but not before delaying our start slightly to deliberately manufacture several distinct groups on the road, maintaining the gaps until we were well clear of the suburbs and busy roads.

By the time we past the Cheese Farm, we were all together again. A bit further on and we cleverly stopped for a further regrouping, sprawled across the middle of a road junction (I’ve still no idea why) with seemingly no regard for other road users. From there we plunged downhill, before braking, almost to a standstill, for a sharp left turn that deposited us at the bottom of the Mur de Mitford.

On the uphill drag the order got all mixed up and I found myself riding alongside a girl I didn’t recognise. She told me she’d been out with the club on a couple of Sunday runs, but this was her first on a Saturday.

Originally from San Francisco, she’d been brought to the far more exotic environs of North East England on a temporary work assignment and had brought her bike with her. This was a particularly smart, vintage, steel Moser in blue and chrome and called “Peggy”. It was also a bit of a family heirloom, as it was the bike her mother had used when she had first started riding and had been in the family since new. How cool is that?

I noticed another rider I didn’t recognise, abruptly pull over to the side of the road.

“Are you ok?” I asked.

“Just a puncture.”

“Puncture!” I instantly shouted, to let everyone know and stop.

“Oh, I’m not with your group.”

Ah! Infiltrator. Oh, bugger. Sorry, guys.


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At Netherwitton, we stopped to split the group, with most heading up the Trench, while I followed a handful of others on the longer route up Ritton Bank and the Rothley Lakes climb. Faced with his nemesis of the Trench, a climb he’d been complaining about miles in advance, Sneaky Pete immediately sneaked away to get a bit of a head start on everyone else, while I turned around and tagged onto the back of the group for the longer ride.

Heading up Ritton Bank, a cry of “Ease up!” floated up from the back, which was rather unfortunate as it immediately set Kermit off singing, “Ease up, Mother Brown, Ease up, Mother Brown.” Really, there’s no need for that.

We stopped at the top to regroup and pressed on, hitting the long, dragging climb up toward Rothley Crossroads, where the group splintered and it was every man for himself. Half way up the climb my Garmin beeped indignantly at me – I’d done 45 miles already and were still some miles out from the café, this was going to be a long one.

I hung around at the back, making sure we left no one behind, but needn’t have worried too much as everyone waited at the crossroads to regroup anyway.

Off again, I stayed with the front runners as we hit Middleton Bank, just so I could test my climbing legs. They were surprisingly still good and I romped up fairly easily (by my standards anyway) before pulling over to wait for our stragglers.

Others pushed on, while some waited with me, so we had a fairly tight group of half a dozen or so picking up speed as we made the run toward the café. As we swooped through Milestone Woods, Aether braked for a lorry turning on the opposite side of the road and I swept passed and attacked the rollers hard, managing to open up a sizable gap on everyone else.

Dropping down the other side, Taffy Steve led the chase behind, while I freewheeled as much as possible to try and save my legs for the final climb. I rounded the corner and dug in hard, but I was caught by Biden Fecht on the last ramp and we rolled into the café together.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the café queue, I found myself discussing plausible deniability with Taffy Steve (I don’t recall why) when he injected a few lines of the Usual Suspects into the dialogue. This gave him pause and he then mused, “There’s someone in the club nicknamed The Kaiser, isn’t there?”

I affirmed there was indeed.

“You know who it is don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“You probably call him something else, though.”

“Yes. True.”

“Ok, but don’t tell me, it seems fitting that I don’t know who Keyser Soze is.”

Sneaky Pete appeared to prove he isn’t quite as sneaky as he should be. In the absence of her regular man-servant, Captain Black, he had somehow been coerced into collecting Princess Fiona’s coffee refills and he was now wandering around carrying her dainty, little cup aloft like a trophy. Charging it with coffee and milk, he checked to ensure it was an acceptable colour and he would be granted the royal seal of approval, before returning with his prize.

I suggested about 10cc of milk would be about right …

Out in the garden we were plagued by swarms of tiny black flies that seemed particularly enamoured with the colour yellow. The relevant bits of Reg soon became flecked with a mass of shiny black carapaces and one or two of the critters infiltrated my cake. They neither improved or detracted from the flavour, but perhaps the added protein was beneficial.

The Garrulous Kid appeared out of nowhere to challenge Caracol, “You’re from Baff aren’t you, or is it Barf?”

I tried to settle this issue once and for all, by applying impeccable (and therefore dubious) Sur La Jante logic, “Look, you never hear that Jesus rode into Bethlehem on his arse, do you, so why would it be pronounced Barth.”

“Ok,” The Garrulous Kid was back on track now, “Is Baff not near London?”

“Your right, Bath is – not near London.” Caracol replied dryly and perhaps a bit too cryptically for the Kid.

We next learned the Garrulous Kid had never heard of the Beach Boys, that “Good Vibrations” sounds weird and dodgy and that all the Beatles songs are rubbish. I’m pleased we’ve got that cleared up.

I did later find out that, before my arrival the Garrulous Kid was extolling his love of wrestling, which I rank alongside his other inexplicable and slavish devotion to things I loathe, such as Gordon Ramsay, The Hangover series of films, Bear Grylls Celebratory Island, Porsche’s, BMW drivers and the Young Conservative Party. It wouldn’t surprise me if he liked golf and tennis too, but I digress.

Intent on tripping him up, OGL challenged the Garrulous Kid to prove he was a true aficionado of the “sport” and tell everyone Big Daddy’s real name.

“Oh, you mean Shirley Crabtree?” The Garrulous Kid replied, without skipping a beat.

An obviously narked and momentarily speechless (no small feat in itself) OGL then countered with a demand to know Robert Millar’s new name, but was quickly shouted down by everyone for being unfair. After all, and to the best of my knowledge, neither Robert Millar or Philippa York have ever been particularly renowned in wrestling circles.


On the return home I spent some time with Caracol and we concluded that Fabio Aru had all the characteristics of a young, awkward, amiable and lolloping Labrador. Caracol conjured up a delightful picture of Aru in the Astana team car, sitting in the front seat, head out of the window and tongue lolling in the airstream.

It’s a heavy burden to bear, but I think the lolloping Aru and the often aggressive and cerebral, Romain Bardet might just be our best chance to keep Le Tour interesting in the face of Chris Froome, Sky dominance and the devastation of the sprint contenders.

On the last run before the split, Taffy Steve was asking what I had in store for the rest of the day. I have a fairly set routine on a Saturday afternoon that involves tackling the family ironing while watching cycling, or failing that a TV box set or two, Breaking Bad, Penny Dreadful, Black Sails, The Wire, or something similar. I told him today it would be me, the ironing board, the family laundry and the Tour de France Stage 8 from Dole to Station des Rousses.

He wondered if I ironed any quicker when the action hots up in the cycling – but sadly not, in fact the reverse is generally the case, which is why I’ve petitioned the UCI to ensure only long, boring sprint stages, or individual time-trials are held on a Saturday. Taffy Steve recalled an aunt who used to knit through rugby matches and said every 5 metre scrum heralded a staccato flurry of needle clacking and a sudden surge in woolly jumper production.

And then we were done for another week and I was turning off for home and my appointment with the ironing board.


YTD Totals: 4,294 km / 2,668 miles with 50,396 metres of climbing

Tricolore, Tricolore


The last time Astana had an Italian champion in their ranks, a certain Vincenzo Nibali, they made a right pigs ear of his jersey and were rightly criticised for a horribly muted, understated, almost disrespectful design that did nothing to celebrate their riders outstanding achievement.


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Great to see that this time they’ve done Fabio Aru proud with his stunning jersey that he showed off to great effect with a hugely impressive attack on La Planche des Belles Filles to take victory on Stage 5 of the Tour de France – an attack that was fittingly reminiscent of how he actually won the national title.

National champions jerseys are some of the most iconic in cycling and the wearer should be instantly recognisable. The Italian one is right up there with the Belgian and French ones in terms of class and style and deserves to be seen in its full glory.

Chapeau Fabio and chapeau Astana


 

Jumping Someone Else’s Train

Jumping Someone Else’s Train

Club Run, Saturday 1st July, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 105 km / 65 miles with 960 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 1 minute

Average Speed:                                26.1 km/h

Group size:                                         28 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    22°C

Weather in a word or two:          Warm and bright


 

i july
Ride Profile

I set out first thing Saturday morning still in the dark as to whether climbing in the Alps is a help or hindrance to cycling form. I got an early indication of which way the coin would fall though, when I turned up at the meeting point some 20 minutes early and had to take a long, impromptu peregrination around Fawdon to fill in some time. I’ve nothing personally against Fawdon, but I’m sure even its most ardent resident would agree it’s not the best place in the world to kill some time on a bike.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

In honour of the Tour de France start, Crazy Legs had donned an ancient Ariostea pro-team top, a riot of zig-zagging diagonal lines in bright red and yellow – it’s perhaps offensive enough to even match my bike. I lamented the lack of truly standout, hideous jersey’s in the pro peloton today – although I find Cannondale’s green and red combination a little unsettling, it’s tame compared to the glories of the past such as Ariostea, Mapei and Teka.

In contrast, another rider was wearing a white version of the La Vie Claire jersey, which still remains a timeless classic.

Crazy Legs mentioned it was the Queen Stage for Mini Miss, currently away enjoying sun and smooth roads in Majorca, and (probably) looking forward to Sa Colabra today.

“Psycha-what?” The Prof enquired.

“Sa Colabra,” I explained, “It’s a style of folk dance, popular in the Balearic Islands.”

“No, no, it’s a spirit-based drink, infused with Mediterranean herbs.” The BFG piped up, further confusticating the issue and leaving the Prof suitably bewildered.

The Garrulous Kid wanted to know how probable it was that one of his riding colleagues had seen a raccoon while out on a bike. (Just to be clear, the Garrulous Kid’s riding colleague was out on the bike, not the masked, furry North American mammal.) I suggested what he actually might have seen was a polecat, which are ever so slightly more prevalent than raccoons in rural Northumberland.

“A polka?”

“No, pole – cat.”

“Bobcat!”

“P-O-L-E-C … oh, I give up.”

Crazy Legs wanted to know if the Garrulous Kid remembered the time he’s been afraid of his own tyres. Meanwhile, testing his brakes, the Prof found that, despite all the benefits afforded from its hand-built construction in the most advanced bike factory in the world, by the planet’s greatest race of precision engineers and bike designers, the Kid’s Focus had a loose headset.

“Bring that bike here, boy” he demanded in a voice that brooked no argument, “And fetch me an Allen key.”

“Ooh, I’ve got one of those!” the Garrulous Kid squealed, digging frantically through his saddle bag, scattering tubes, tyre levers and repair patches everywhere, but singularly failing to turn up his famed Allen key. This was a shame as I was particularly interested to see which one size he had decided to carry from all the myriad choices available.

The Prof whipped out his own multi-tool, slackened off the stem, gave the cap bolt half a dozen full turns and then tightened the stem back up again.

“That was really loose.” The Colossus of Roads observed as he gazed down benevolently from on high (well, the top of the wall where he’d perched his butt) and noted the spacers spinning as freely as a roulette wheel.

“Was it dangerous?” the Garrulous Kid wondered.

“No, but you probably felt your whole bike shudder when you were braking.” The Colossus replied.

“And now you’ll know exactly what to do when it happens again.” The Prof observed at his pedagogic best.

“Yep,” The Garrulous Kid replied dutifully, “Take it straight back to the bike shop.”

The Prof outlined the planned route for the day and had us split into two, with an ultimate destination of Bellingham for the long distance randonneurs, but with plenty of options for groups to step off at various points to tailor the ride to their preference.


I dropped into the second group and we waited a couple of minutes for the first bunch to clear, before we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.

With a build-up of cars trailing us into Ponteland, we singled out to encourage them pass, but no matter how much frantic waving Crazy Legs engaged in, the driver of the first car refused to overtake – perhaps blinded, mesmerised or simply intimidated by the aggressive and unsettling design of his Ariostea jersey.

I spent some time behind the Colossus and got my first good look at his custom-painted cassette spacers, in the same colours and sequence as the World Champion Rainbow bands. He too had made the pilgrimage to the local model shop to baffle them with enquiries about what paints worked best on Shimano cassette’s.

He told me everything had worked perfectly, except for the bright fluorescent green, which initially looked black when applied, so he’d had to switch to a white undercoat. (I include this information simply as a public service, in case you’re ever tempted to paint your own cassette spacers.)

At the first stop, I noticed slightly different micturition practices, as one of the group pulled up a shorts leg to pee – while I always pull down the waistband. Perhaps this could be a bone of contention and spark a Lilliputian vs. Blefuscan conflict of Brobdignagian proportions. Or, maybe not.

It was during this stop that Crazy Legs overheard a conversation in which one of our esteemed members claimed to have been informed he was a peerless descender by no lesser authority than “world champion (sic) Alberto Contador.”

Options were outlined and decision were made on different route choices, with the first splinter group happily turning to head up the Quarry, while the rest of us went tearing down the Ryals.

I tucked in, freewheeling all the way and quickly picked up speed, hitting the front until the Red Max and the Plank, swept past pedalling furiously. As soon as they eased I closed them down again, all the while pulling Crazy Legs along behind me as he surfed in my slipstream.

At the bottom and while everyone flashed past and on to loop around Hallington Reservoir, I turned right and pulled over to wait for Sneaky Pete, having previously agreed to take the shorter, but much hillier option up past Hallington Hall, Sol Campbells stately pile. This narrow, partly shady, tree-lined route, climbs and twists through a series of relatively sharp ramps and is one of my favourite roads, if only because we don’t use it all that often.


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I was climbing well and felt good as we crested the hill and started to drop back down to the junction with the main road. This spat us out directly in front of a bunch of cyclists that I thought were the group we’d just left, but actually turned out to be our first group. As we closed on the testing drag, up Humiliation Hill, beZ and Andeven whirred past, followed a split second later by Shoeless and the rider in the old La Vie Clair jersey and I dropped in behind them.

beZ and Andeven started to pull away on the climb, so I threaded the needle between Shoeless and La Vie Claire (or perhaps from their perspective, simply barged them out of the way) and gave chase. Tagging onto the back of the front two, I camped there comfortably as they swept uphill, quickly pulling away from everyone else, before we swung east and powered toward Capheaton.

At the last, steep clamber up to road that leads to the Snake Bends, I floated up beside beZ and we rolled the rest of the way, chatting about his experiences of mixing it with the big boys during the Beaumont Trophy and where he needs to improve his bike handling skills and confidence, seemingly the only thing limiting his brilliant performances from being bloody brilliant performances.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

At the café, I joined Captain Black and Princess Fiona at one of the tables outside. She’d just returned from a cycling-motorbiking trip to the Pyrenees. First reassuring myself that she hadn’t been on a Harley, I was interested to know what it was like as Crazy Legs is eyeing up this area for our next foreign expedition.

Talk of the Pyrenees and the Tour, had me extolling the Cycling Anthology series of books and in particular Volume 5 which includes a chapter on Superbagnères by Edward Pickering. This described Stage 15 of the 1971 Tour de France, which was a balls-to-the-wall, short stage of just 19.6km straight up from Bagnères-de-Luchon to the summit. The author described the action as being like a mass start time-trial, with every man for himself. The stage was won by Jose Manuel-Fuente, but all 99 riders in the field were separated by just 10 minutes and the biggest group across line was only 4 strong.

Apart from reminding me of Fuente, a rider whose name I was particularly fond of chanting to encourage struggling riders up hills when I was a kid … Foo-entay! … Foo-entay! … I thought the idea of a super-short, chaotic and uncontrollable stage, straight up a mountain was well worth revisiting – a real mano a mano contest among the climbers and GC riders, stripping away all the team support and tactical “footsie” that usually takes place before a decisive summit finish.

Recognising the stage would be perhaps too short to make good TV, it could then be combined with the sort of downhill time-trial Sean Kelly seems to advocate. I’d watch anyway.

With the first cup of coffee consumed, Princess Fiona somehow manouvered Captain Black into attending to her refill needs, before presenting him with her dainty, little cup.

Captain Black looked quizzically at it:

“What’s that?”

“It’s because she’s a lay-dee.” I explained.

Captain Black listened carefully to the very precise specification required for Princess Fiona’s coffee refill, tugged his forelock, bowed and backed away from the table.

“Yus, m’lady.”

He then wandered into the café, determined to get it wrong so he’d never be asked again.

Princess Fiona and Captain Black decided to take the long route back via Stamfordham and started to gather their things together to leave.

“Is there anything you need him to carry for you?” I joked, but could see Princess Fiona giving the question very serious consideration, before she demurred.

As they left, I moved across to the next table, where the Colossus was handing out free advice on how to go about painting cassette spacers. Given the fact he’d bought 3 different paint colours (green, red and blue) to go with G-Dawg’s yellow to recreate the World Champion bands and used only a tiny amount of each, there was talk of establishing a set of “club paints” that could be handed to those most in need. It was decided however that these would probably go the way of the semi-mythical “club rollers” that we know exist, we just don’t know where they are and who has them.

Appreciation of the La Vie Clare jersey brought a slightly too enthusiastic, near orgasmic, “Oh, yes,” from Taffy Steve, in a voice that was an unfortunate cross between the Churchill dog, a Kenneth Williams, “ooh matron” and a Terry Thomas-style, “ring-a-ding-ding.” Not that we drew any attention to it, of course.

Talk turned to upcoming movie releases, with the majority expressing their boredom with super-hero movies, for which the best antidote was deemed to be Lego Batman.

The Garrulous Kid though wasn’t done with super-heroes.

“I’m really looking forward to Four. Will you go and see that?” he asked me.

“Well, no, I haven’t seen One, Two or Three, so there doesn’t seem much point.” I replied, struggling to keep a straight face.

“No, I mean Four:Free.”

“Huh?” I feigned incomprehension.

“You know, the one with Four, the Norse God of Funder…”

As we were leaving the Garrulous Kid announced that now he’s finished school for the summer he was free to ride at any time. He asked if there were any mid-week groups he could join up with.

“Don’t you regularly go out on a Wednesday?” I innocently asked Sneaky Pete, earning a very sneaky kick in the shin for my efforts as he shushed me. Ouch!


We set off for home and I found myself climbing Berwick Hill with Crazy Legs.

“How you doing?” he asked and I had to admit I was floating and feeling good. Bet that’s not going to last.

As I turned off for home and left the others behind, Princess Fiona sailed past in the opposite direction having completed the longer route back through Stamfordham. Then, the obligatory 5 paces behind, Captain Black followed, undoubtedly slowed-down by all the baggage he was carrying for her.

Dropping down toward the river I had one last challenge as a racing trap sped past at a full speed gallop on the road below. I swung through the junction onto the road behind and gave chase. At about 25 mph I think I was beginning to close it down, but the driver was already easing the horse back to a trot. Those things are fast.

Across the river I found myself in the middle of a massive traffic jam and took to a bit of pavement surfing and threading between the cars, which earned me at least one “dick-head” comment from a very frustrated driver. A small price to pay to avoid being stuck for half an hour or more, sucking up exhaust fumes and going nowhere fast.

After that it was a relief to break out onto quieter roads, even if they did lead straight up the Heinous Hill to home.


YTD Totals: 4,140 km / 2,572 miles with 48,613 metres of climbing

The Colossus of Roads

The Colossus of Roads

Club Run, Saturday 24th June, 2017         

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 111 km / 69 miles with 1,037 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                26. km/h

Group size:                                        28 riders, 3 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    21°C

Weather in a word or two:           Blustery and bright


 

24 jun
Ride Profie

Back in Blighty, after expeditions to foreign shores, I find myself behind in my club run reports. I’m sure nobody else cares, but I seem to have developed an OCD for completeness, so, in an attempt to catch up, here goes.

I’ll try to keep it short and sharp, but I do recognise that’s not really my style, so if you’ll forgive the writing logorrhoea and usual tumult of words (never use one where three will do) and are still awake out there, hang on while we try and get back on terms.

I did a couple of commutes into work on the week of my return and expected my trip to have granted me some benefit and at least a few marginal gains, but oddly I felt leaden-legged and slow. It wasn’t helped that the rear wheel of single-speed isn’t running freely, but even the second day, when I used the trusty Peugeot instead, didn’t offer any encouragement.

It was with some feeling of trepidation then that I turned up at the meeting point for the Saturday club run in very uncertain form.

The Red Max had posted up the route a couple of days before, so at least I knew what I was facing and there were no nasty, hidden surprises to ambush me along the way. I’d just have to wait and see how things went.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I had a chat with G-Dawg about the Cyclone, which had been a good ride and they had glorious weather, although he complained it had been, if anything a little too hot. After riding on the Saturday, he’d then spent a long, long day Sunday organising the marshalling for the Beaumont Trophy and Curlew Cup. He’d then followed this up with a day midweek, driving around taking down all the signs for all the events – a task which he dryly reported took longer than actually riding the Cyclone.

I wondered where Son of G-Dawg was and G-Dawg confessed he didn’t know, but suspected that he was perhaps malingering at home in order to watch the Lions vs. All Blacks First Test.

The Garrulous Kid bounded across to declare, “Next week’s my birffday. I’ll be sixteen!”

I congratulated him on making it so far and suggested he could now get married, or form a civil partnership, drink alcohol with meals, get a National Insurance number, join a trade union, buy a lottery ticket … or even join the Army.

“I would never join the Army,” The Garrulous Kid avowed, “Even though I’d be brilliant at it.”

(Look, I’m sorry – I took the bait, but you can’t blame me – I was really intrigued.)

“Why’s that, then?”

The Garrulous Kid knowingly tapped his temple with a long, bony finger, “Because I’m a tactical genius.”

A few others rolled up and enquired where Son of G-Dawg was and once again G-Dawg could only speculate about the lure of the rugby test match.

OGL owned up to a flat battery on his Di2, which meant he was stuck in one gear. He thought it was better to ‘fess up early and suffer the ridicule, rather than get found out half way round when we hit a hill and he disappeared out the back.


There weren’t enough of us to warrant splitting into groups, so off we went, following Red Max’s planned route. I immediately drifted to the back, still uncertain if my legs were going to behave and staying as sheltered as I could as the front was battered by a strong, gusting wind.

We dipped through Ponteland and out the other side and, as we made to swing down Limestone Lane, there was Son of G-Dawg, standing upright on the grass at the apex of the turn, arms folded across his chest, surveying the horizon and waiting patiently for us to arrive. Apparently, although very hungover, he hadn’t bunked off to watch the rugby, but had slept right through his alarm, missed the start and time-trialled out to this impromptu rendezvous point to first throw up and then settle down to wait for us.

The fact he could meet up with us without the almost impossible task of guessing which roads we would take, reinforced the idea that publishing the route beforehand had real benefits. He late suggested that he’d actually waited so long, that if he hadn’t known we were sure to pass through that point, he would have assumed we’d gone elsewhere and moved on to try and find us somewhere else.


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After Whittledene Reservoir we called a quick stop and Crazy Legs, still in Alpine-recovery mode, opted for the shortest route to the café. Surprisingly the Garrulous Kid decided to go with him and, at the last moment, Son of G-Dawg, tagged on, still suffering from his hangover and willing to lend moral support and a bit of aural relief to Crazy Legs. (I said aural, damn it, stop sniggering at the back)

On the rest of us went, up a serious of short, sharp climbs. The group then split apart as the road dipped on the fast run down to Matfen and I found myself between groups and trying to chase down G-Dawg and the BFG, who were themselves chasing the leaders.


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As we turned off for the Quarry those in and around the second group on the road stopped to regroup and when we restarted I poked my nose into the wind on the front for the first time.  We swung around the first corner on the approach to the climb, finding brief respite as the wind shifted behind us, but the relief was short-lived as we were soon swinging round again and riding into a headwind as we tackled the climb.

I spun to the top of the Quarry as the BFG pounded away up the outside, pipping me to the top. Once more re-grouping, we started to push on toward the cafe and the Red Max whipped us into a very ragged, impromptu paceline. Although it wasn’t the smoothest and people were pushing through a little too fast, it quickly ratcheted up the speed.

We pushed on, faster and faster, but the group was starting to thin out as riders faded and dropped away one by one. My Alpine companions, Goose and surprisingly, the always strong Captain Black disappeared out the back and I guessed this was their first ride since returning and I was a bit further ahead in terms of recovery.

By the time we hit the straight down to the Snake Bends there was only three of us left, G-Dawg, the BFG and me. The BFG hammered off the front and started to press powerfully on the pedals as he drove us onwards, while I clung onto G-Dawg’s wheel at the back, banging and jostling along as my tyres skipped and skittered on the most hated stretch of rough road surface that I know.

The BFG increased the pressure and managed to prise open a gap, as he slowly, slowly, started to pull away from G-Dawg. I hesitated, waiting to see if G-Dawg would react, then decided it wasn’t going to happen, pulled outside him and dug deep to accelerate past.

The BFG swung left, spent and easing back and as he looked behind to assess the damage he’d done, I kicked past, kept going long enough to open up clear air, then sat up and rolled through the bends.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

At the cafe, we tucked ourselves around the side of the building to try and find some shelter from a troublesome, gusting wind.

Red Max regaled me with tales of the Cyclone, which he rode with Taffy Steve in support of the Monkey Butler Boy and his crew, who had thrashed themselves to pieces trying to set a fast time.

While they did this, the older pair combined Red Max’s innate cunning with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the local back roads, to eschew the official course and always stay one step ahead of the youngsters. In this way, they were able to strategically position themselves prominently at the side of the road, conspicuously enjoying cakes, coffees, ice creams and iced cokes and giving the kids a big thumbs up each time they sweated and toiled their way past.

The Garrulous Kid wanted to know why I never used any pictures of him in the blog. I told him I didn’t want to scare people off, but I always posted all the decent photos up on our club Facebook page if he wanted to see any. This however was deemed unhelpful as, “Facebook is shit.” Oh well.

We were visited by a cheeky robin that kept hopping and flitting around us, begging for crumbs, despite being told by Crazy Legs he was out of season and should bugger off and come back at Christmas.

Captain Black dropped his cherry scone off at one of the tables and leaned over the fence to chat with us. While he was momentarily distracted, the robin sensed a golden opportunity, fluttered down onto his plate and started eyeing up the cherry scone and trying to work out just how he could cart away something ten times his own body weight. His hesitation was his undoing however, as the Captain was alerted to the “robin bastard” scone thief and quickly returned to thwart the most incredible and improbable of avian heists.

Despite it avowedly “being shit,” we discussed the benefits of posting up the route on Facebook and how it had allowed Son of G-Dawg to miss the start, but still meet up with our group. Crazy Legs said it had been a bit of a surprise seeing him standing their “like a colossus” – outlined by the sun, legs akimbo and arms folded across his chest, while declaring in a deep and godly voice, “I’m waiting for my people. Where are my people?”

“A colossus of the roads?” I suggested. And that dear reader is how Son of G-Dawg came out from under his father’s shadow and earned himself a new blerg moniker.


I remember nothing remarkable happening on the ride home, by which time I seem to have fully recovered from my post-trip hangover. Maybe next week I’ll actually feel some benefit, But I’m not counting on it.


YTD Totals: 3,993 km / 2,481 miles with 47,098 metres of climbing