The Wrong Trousers, or A Close Shave

The Wrong Trousers, or A Close Shave

Club Run, Saturday 17th September, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  109 km/68 miles with 1,039 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 19 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.2 km/h

Group size:                                         30 riders, 3 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    20°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cold then warm, but always breezy


 

sept-17
Ride Profile

The Ride:

Rain and wind overnight had scrubbed the sky clean, leaving behind a bright blue and sunny Saturday morning. A “Battle of Britain Sky,” an old mate used to call this type of day and I couldn’t help looking around to see if I could spot the odd contrail from a lone Spitfire or two.

Despite benign looking weather, stepping outside to prep the bike revealed that it was actually surprisingly chilly and the wind was stiff and cold. Remembering last week, when the morning had been considerably warmer, but my fingers were still numb as I dropped down the hill, I stepped back inside and picked up a pair of light gloves and some arm-warmers.

That did the trick, now the only thing feeling chilled were my toes where the wind was whistling through vents and mesh on my shoes. Perhaps I need to dig out those seriously odd-looking toe-covers I bought and haven’t used and add those to my arsenal of early morning, flexible wardrobe accoutrements.

Otherwise, the journey across to the meeting point was remarkably unremarkable and the bike was running smoothly, silently and properly. Cause in itself for celebration after the past two weeks or so.

I arrived at the Meeting Point with plenty of time to clamber up onto the wall and sit and wait for the gathering, enjoying the crack and the sun and the warmth that finally persuaded me I could safely swap my gloves for mitts, although the arm-warmers, for the time being at least remained in place.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Crazy Legs told us he’d unwittingly emulated Isaac Newton and been bonked on the head by a falling apple as he rode in this morning. Sadly, it didn’t seem to engender any great eureka moment for him, but it did have me singing, “Newton got beamed by the apple good… yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah” for the rest of the day.

As good as his word, the FNG with a snapped gear cable from last week had returned, and was there extra early to introduce himself to everyone. Dressed from head to toe in heavy, black and heat absorbing garb, I took in the full length leggings, long-sleeved jersey and long-fingered gloves, tied his clothing choices to a somewhat exotic and alien accent and, with Sherlockian intuition deduced he must be from somewhere with a much hotter climate and must still struggling to adjust to the North East “summer.”

“I’m guessing you’re not from around these parts then?” I confidently ventured.

“No,” he replied, “I’m from Amsterdam-via-Oxford.”

Hmm, not the sub-tropical paradise I had assumed then, but I guess Oxford is closer to the equator than Newcastle and maybe it’s warmed by the Gulf Stream. Or something. I did wonder how our visitor was going to cope with the real North East winter when it starts to rear its ugly head, probably in the next 2-3 days or so.

Perhaps making up for lost time, the Monkey Butler Boy had recovered from his serious, debilitating boy-flu and ventured out early with the Red Max, having already clocked up a dozen miles or so. Like me, they’d marked the chilly start to the day and layered up accordingly, although with perhaps less flexibility in mind.

Noticing his tights, I queried whether Max’s legs had been put away until next summer, which he agreed was pretty much the case, although the family did have a week or so in Spain to look forward to, so the poor people of Andalucia may need to brace themselves and learn to look away.

Unfortunately, the logistics of getting both his bike and the Monkey Butler Boys out there with them was proving a little problematic. He’d bought two hard-shell bike boxes, only to find he was struggling to fit them both into even his impressively spacious Škoda Octavia estate.

This then meant a re-think of hire car options at the other end and a necessary upgrade to a van with more carrying capacity, which hadn’t proved particularly popular with Mrs. Max.

Meanwhile, the Monkey Butler Boy had been studying the local maps and declared he’d identified several massive climbs that had featured on La Vuelta. Now Max has the additional problem of careful route planning so he can skilfully avoid all of these hilltop challenges.


At the anointed hour, OGT (Official Garmin Time) Crazy Legs invited me to take to the front with him and we pushed off, clipped in and led a handily-sized group of 30 or so lads and lasses out from the suntrap and oddly sheltered micro-climate of the Transport Interchange Centre: a haven which is no doubt warmed by the gentle throbbing of badly tuned diesel engines and the subtle insulating properties of noisome fumes.

We were horribly splintered at the start and took a good while to regroup, but finally we got all formed up and pushed on.


NOVATEK CAMERA


As we rode through Dinnington a young kid at the side of the road lifted a pretend machine-gun and sprayed the entire peloton “rat-ta-ta-tat!” At least, I think it was a pretend gun, but it was Dinnington after all, so anything’s possible.

I melodramatically clutched at the imaginary, gaping bullet wounds stitched across my chest, while beside me Crazy Legs emitted the strangled cry of a gunshot victim and slumped down as we rode past our grinning assassin. Little did I know he would only be the first of several out to do me harm today.

Somehow making a miraculous recovery from “being plugged” or, more accurately “having his ass capped” (which I believe is the more common argot of today’s youth) – Crazy Legs wondered if the Monkey Butler Boy had squealed like a girl when he saw someone pointing a gun at us. Perhaps though he’s remarkably fearless in the face of firearms and its only buzzing insects and itsy-bitsy spiders that reduce him to a terrified, quivering wreck?

We climbed out past the Cheese Farm, but the Prof was with us, so naturally we had to stop at his favourite bush for a pee before we could really get going. Crazy Legs took the opportunity to relinquish his place on the front to Son of G-Dawg and we pressed on.

We were having one of those days when route communication was utterly random and seemed to be on a delayed feed, with OGL playing the part of a cranky and oddly recalcitrant sat-nav. Crazy Legs had pre-empted any problems by relaying a call back for directions as we were approaching each junction, but once he’d rotated off the front and I was joined by Son of G-Dawg, information seemed to suddenly dry up.

Once again we started a game of “guess the route” – but like playing Russian Roulette, you know that sooner or later you will lose. We finally reached that point, sailing straight on at a junction instead of taking a sharp left and just like that, we had slipped from the front to the back of the group before we had a chance to recover.

A few miles further on and we found the road blocked by what we at first thought was a herd of skeletally-skinny, pale, stilt-legged sheep, but transpired to be one of the local hunts with a full pack of foxhounds. Is it that time of the year already? We slowed and trailed them awhile, until the huntsmen found a space by the side of the road to corral the dogs, allowing us to single out and slip past.

Somewhat taken aback by the size of our group, I heard one of the huntsmen-toffs turn to his companion to query bemusedly, “Ay say, is it the Tawdee Fronce?”

Things had warmed up substantially by now and it was turning into a really pleasant day. Along with many others I took the slight drop in our pace to strip off my arm warmers and tuck them away.

We split, with the self-flagellation ride disappearing off to Rothley Crossroads, while the amblers and the longer, harder, faster group again found themselves travelling the same roads for the second week in succession.

A badly judged and executed gear change on the run up through Hartburn left my legs spinning uselessly, whirring around with no traction or momentum and I once again dropped back through the group, but slowly recovered the lost ground as we plummeted toward Middleton Bank.

I hung back until the steepest ramp began to bite, then spun the revs up and, still seated, pushed up the outside and past everyone to pull clear. As the slope eased I changed up and tried to keep a consistent tempo while, through all my strenuous wheezing my lungs did a remarkably apt impersonation of a malfunctioning vacuum cleaner in desperate need of a bag change, singularly failing to deliver enough oxygen, no matter how rapid my panting became.

I’d only intended to put a bit of hurt in the legs of everyone for the final sprint to the café, but the twinkle-eyed, avuncular and cold-calculating assassin that is Zardoz was the first to catch up with me. “Through and off?” he suggested rather innocently and instead of waiting for everyone to regroup, a small selection was soon pressing on and building momentum.

A couple of the younger and stronger FNG’s jumped off the front and opened a sizable gap. “Too early?” I asked Crazy Legs and, “Too early” I affirmed to my own question when he didn’t answer. But it wasn’t and they continued to work well together to build their lead.

There were 5 of us pushing hard in pursuit, myself, Zardoz, Crazy Legs, G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg, but we all seemed flat-out and our efforts didn’t mesh and were becoming ragged.

Further along, we lifted our pace again, but Zardoz was taking longer and longer to fight his way past me and then he blew. I tried filling in the gap he’d left and managed to pull just about parallel to Crazy Legs but no further. I hung there awkwardly for a while, like a human cannonball whose trajectory carries him briefly up alongside a jet plane, until gravity re-exerts its cruel grip and plummets him back down to earth once more. That time quickly arrived for me and I waved goodbye to the pilot, peeled off and dropped away.

Finding a second-wind, Zardoz charged past me to cling to the back of our group while they slowly but inexorably pulled away from me. I hammered down through Milestone Woods, sweeping round the corners while planted right in the middle of the road, only to encounter a motorcyclist similarly occupying the middle of the road, which I wouldn’t usually mind, but he was on my side while travelling in the opposite direction.

He had come thundering around the corner too fast, too wide and barely in control, sweeping right across the white line into my lane and nearly into my face. I instinctively twitched away as he swept by, much, much too close for comfort. If I’d been a car, further across the road, or even a few centimetres wider, it might have ended in disaster.

Perhaps fuelled by a sudden kick of adrenaline I hammered over the rollers, catching and immediately dropping Zardoz and trying to recover as the road tipped down to the last drag up to the café.

Even as I began the last climb, the terrible-triplets of G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg and Crazy Legs were already rounding the bend up ahead, where a supreme effort by G-Dawg pulled him past the first, but not up to the second FNG escapee.

We rolled into the café, to congratulate the FNG’s, equal parts exhilarated by the chase and utterly spent.  At least Son of G-Dawg couldn’t complain that we’d followed the exact same formula this time and it had produced the same result. All we then had to ponder was how we could replicate the mad chase next time.

Comparing notes, it seemed Zardoz also had a too-close encounter with the suicidal motorcyclist, but Crazy Legs and the others hadn’t even noticed him through their hypoxia-induced tunnel vision.

I obviously hadn’t been thinking clearly either, as Crazy Legs convinced me that I should look on the advantages a crash could have brought, as at least I would have had an excuse to stop pedalling!

On that point we retreated to the garden, for a continuation of our on-going battle with our deadly enemy, wasp-kind.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

It was pondered (not all seriously, I hasten to add) if setting rollers up at an angle would simulate climbing a hill and if so, would it be possible to emulate the whole of the Tour de France route without ever leaving your garage. Taffy Steve even suggested that with a bit of creative thinking and enough time and money you could probably get a disgruntled Frenchman to scream abuse in your ear and douse you in urine – for that added touch of authenticity.

He then took me to task for attacking up Middleton Bank and depriving him of his weekly pleasure of mugging me on the line in the sprint, all the while screaming something incoherent, which he actually claimed to have been, “Dip for the line, bitch!”

We mourned the loss of one of the regular waitresses, who had left for a job in Sunderland and I pondered if she’d gone to the cycling café there which bears the very witty title: “Fausto Coffee.” We all agreed it was a great name, but wondered how well it translated in the mackem dialect.

Talk of the new £5 plastic notes seemed to focus on the fact that they would survive being washed with your clothes. Son of G-Dawg claimed than American dollars were already capable of surviving repeated washes without recourse to plasticizing the shit out of them. To illustrate he said he’d found a $5 bill buried in the pockets of his walk-in trousers, having survived several years and numerous washes in pristine condition.

Or at least I thought he said walk-in trousers, imagining something rather roomy and capacious that you never had to struggle into, even after a big meal out and several pints.

By the time I’d been corrected and we knew he was talking about walking trousers, G-Dawg and Crazy Legs were already off and running with the thought of Son of G-Dawg wearing Wallace and Gromit style techno-trousers.

“They’re the wrong trousers, Gromit and they’ve gone wrong!”

Caracol looked down at his plate to find a wasp trapped and struggling under his great slab of Snickers tray bake, looking for all the world like it had been trying to lift the cake and make off with it. We urged him to crush it flat under the cake and then, like a true man, eat the cake, smeared wasp and all, but being a gentle soul (or maybe just a wimp) he set the critter free.

The conversation then pinged randomly around starting with double-decker bikes: how unsuitable they are for riding over river bridges with low-railings and how even with a novelty bike you need to keep your chain clean. Are you listening hipsters?

This led on to decorators in stilts so they can paint ceilings (how do they pick up a dropped paintbrush?) and the dark arts of plastering, with all of us DIY-ophobes convinced magic was involved in getting a smooth finish.

Taffy Steve’s eminently sensible solution for patching plaster-work: mix up copious amounts of filler, smear it into and all around the offending hole, let it set hard and then smooth to a nice finish with an orbital sander. Works for me.

We then ended up talking about rugby players and how even the weedy looking ones, like Rob Andrew were actually all built like reinforced brick outhouses. This seems to be the reverse impressions cyclists generate, you see a Marcel Kittel or Andre “The Gorilla” Griepel and you immediately think of a big hulking bloke, but in a crowd they’d look remarkably normal if not malnourished. You could then take a weedy rugby player like Rob “Squeaky” Andrew, put him in a crowd and he’d look like a hulking man-beast, or Master of the Universe. Very different sports, very different worlds.

I guess the conclusion I drew was that we’re all reflected and framed by the company we keep. Looking around the table at my fellow club cyclists, that’s not an entirely comfortable or reassuring thought. (But don’t tell them I said that.)


I caught up with the news from an assortment of riders as we made our way home, revelling in the glorious weather and particularly enjoying Mini Miss questioning what on earth had possessed Red Max to wrap up as if he was on a Polar expedition … and then compound his error by pressuring the Monkey Butler Boy to similarly over-dress. She claimed this came perilously close to systematic child abuse.

A bit further on, I found our exotic flower from Amsterdam, who professed to have thoroughly enjoyed his ride, even going as far as declaring Northumberland even more beautiful than the Yorkshire Dales. Even he though, was forced to admit he was just a trifle over-dressed for the occasion.

As we entered the Mad Mile I had a bit of a gap to make up to the front of the group, where the G-Dawg boys had already started battling for the rights to first shower and to avoid the booby prize of having to clean the bikes. I flew past Cowin’ Bovril, suggesting he jump onto my wheel and hang on, but he sensibly demurred, as I shot across the gap, netting myself a Strava PR for my efforts.

Latching onto the tail of our racing front-runners, I used my momentum to slingshot me across the roundabout as they pulled a hard left. Here another cyclist, perhaps mesmerised by the rest of our group piling off down the left-hand exit at full bore, rode directly out and into my path without even looking.

I slammed the brakes on and swerved around him letting out the cyclist’s universal WTF roar of “Whoa-ah!” I’m not convinced he ever saw or heard me, but I hope he did and learns to pay a little more attention.

I climbed uphill to drop down into the valley again, slaloming narrowly around a car door that an inattentive driver flung open in my path and arrived at the bridge over the river. Still enjoying my ride, despite a seemingly unending litany of people wanting to do me harm, I decided on a slight extension, so I turned and just kept going up the valley.

The road was heavy, a constant uphill drag and straight into a headwind, so it quickly wore me down, but I made it as far as Heddon-on-the-Wall, before I swung around for a rapid downhill descent all the way back down to the bridge and home.

Had I kept going I would eventually have hit Wylam and I could have crossed the river on a different bridge and looped home that way as well. Perhaps a choice for the next glorious day, whenever that will be.

I do know it’s not going to be next Saturday though, I’m off for a University Open Day visit with Daughter#1, so if I don’t get out next weekend at least I had a perfect blast to carry me over until the next ride.


YTD Totals: 5,242 km / 3,257 miles with 51,883 metres of climbing

Clunking Hell

Clunking Hell

Club Run, Saturday 10th September, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  107 km/66 miles with 942 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 12 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                         26 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cool, calm, clear


The Ride:

profile-10th-sep
Ride Profile

Well, here’s a novelty – a Saturday that every forecast was insisting was going to be dry and with only a relatively mild wind to deal with after a series of forceful gusts blew themselves out overnight. Sounded great and ideal to trial a brand, spanking new bottom bracket to see if it could fend off an attack by freaky wallabies.

Despite the promise of a lack of rain, it was still sharply cold as I set off early, gathering speed as I swept down the Heinous Hill until the wind chill numbed my fingers and I began to wish I’d worn gloves. Things would warm up later, but it was a very slow and gradual process and I didn’t feel comfortable enough to shed the arm warmers until well past midday, when I was alone and already heading homeward.

Still, the main thing was the ride was smooth and most assuredly squeak free, lacking last week’s cacophony of annoying little ticks, squeals, creaks and groans. The only sounds now were the slight hiss of tyres lightly kissing the tarmac and the faint thrum of a new chain running smoothly over the gears. Ah, that’s more like it.

I made good time and was soon crossing the river, swinging back on myself and starting to climb up the other side of the valley. Here the chain announced some newfound dissatisfaction with a loud clunk as it skipped and slipped on the cassette. Suddenly pedalling became hard and then too easy and then hard again. I eased back and tried to spin up the climb without applying too much pressure, but every few revolutions brought a clunk and a scuff and a whirr and I topped out the climb with a strange staccato, stop-start rhythm.

My mechanical hiccups kept me so distracted I didn’t notice the miles slipping away and I was soon rolling up to the meeting point to find the early arrivees clustered around an FNG’s bike while I wondered how I got there so quickly. The FNG’s mechanical woes were considerably worse than mine – he’d snapped his gear cable, so had no choice but to limped off home, vowing to return and try again.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

OGL announced that due to a spate of cancellations at various events we wouldn’t be able to piggy-back on another clubs time-trial this year, so he suggested people submit their best 10-mile timetrial time to work out who the club champion would be. This had OGL and G-Dawg pondering where the world’s fastest downhill 10-course was, and whether they could get away with a bit of motor-pacing and verifying of each other’s times.

OGL then gave us the date for the clubs dreaded hill-climb, the day when grown men compete to inflict the most physical harm on their own bodies and see who can come closest to resembling a freshly interred corpse.

There was then a discussion about downhill trials, still practiced in certain parts of the country where riders will deliberately ship their chain to  see who can freewheel the furthest after rolling down a hill.

Taffy Steve was mightily attracted to not only the simplicity of this challenge, but also the two words downhill and freewheel. He also quite liked the sound of its associated intensive nutritional and dietary plan, which he translated as eating as many pies as possible in order to build body mass, then hoping that gravity would do the rest.  I think he saw the concept as the ultimate revenge on all the racing snakes with their starved-whippet physiques and disturbing ability to float uphills. Yes Plumose Pappus, I’m looking at you.

The Cow Ranger arrived on a vintage steel, Paul Hewitt bike that he’d built for his son while at university in London, only to find out it had mouldered away, largely unused. The Cow Ranger had now reclaimed it as a hack/potential winter bike and wanted to see how it would ride. There were tsk-tsk’s of disapproval from OGL at the slightly rust-spotted chain and then complete outrage when he spotted the non-standard seat pin bolt.

The Red Max was again without the Monkey Butler Boy, apparently laid low by the worst head cold ever known to man, so bad in fact that it has received special categorisation as “Boy Flu” by the World Health Organisation and declared as fifty times more debilitating than “Man Flu.” Or at least that’s what it sounded like according to how the Monkey Butler Boy (a.k.a. the Slacker and the Malingerer) was reportedly behaving.


26 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out and I slotted in, two or three back from the front of our group alongside OGL, chatting about what Machiavellian plans that Sky, Saxo Bank and Ulrika Bike Exchange (©Sean Kelly) might unleash to try and unsettle old Stone Face, as the ever entertaining Vuelta reached its climax. I must admit I didn’t fancy their chances.

I tried to soft-pedal along and keep all the embarrassing clunks and clangs to a bare minimum, chatting more than usual in a vain attempt to cover up the mechanical dissonance, or at least take my mind-off the racket. No one seemed to notice, or if they did they were nowhere near as perturbed as I was.

The route we took this week was once again and old and familiar, but with large sections completed in reverse, so the roads looked disconcertingly familiar, but not quite and all the hard uphill bits and easy downhill bits got confusingly mixed around. This prompted some discussion as to whether these were in fact different routes, or the same-old, same-old with just a fairly obvious twist.

As we completed a familiar loop around Angerton, but in a novel northwards direction I definitely found one major disadvantage as we battled away into a bit of a stiff headwind – if we been travelling in our usual direction we would actually have enjoyed a tailwind on this section – for the first time ever! That would have been a rare and unexpected luxury worth forgoing the novelty of the same-old, same-old in a slightly different way.

After a long stint Crazy Legs and the Red Max rotated off the front, allowing a capable and willing FNG and the Cow Ranger to assume point and pull us along. I found a gear that seemed a little more stable and less jittery than some of the others, but it meant I was attacking the hills a bit harder than everyone else as I tried to keep my momentum going. On one elongated ramp I passed the Cow Ranger who ceded the front to me and I dropped back to work alongside the seemingly indefatigable FNG.

Just as the youngsters started to get frisky and began jumping ahead on the climbs, there was a puncture at the back and everyone rolled to a stop. Here I found a perplexed and frustrated Red Max jabbing at random buttons on his brand new, all-singing, all-dancing Garmin as he looked at his slowly dwindling average speed in dismay, unable to work out how to toggle the computer to adjust its calculations to ignore stationary time.

“Maps!” he declared at one point, “I’ve found maps,” but still the device played the role of R2-D2 refusing to give up its secret Death Star plans and beeping and squealing indignantly beneath Max-as-C3PO’s prodding fingers.

Finally, before I suggested he tried slapping it hard and calling it an overweight glob of grease, he admitted defeat and vowed to turn to the dark side and actually read the manual. This, he obviously feels is a slight on his technical prowess and manhood that he may never recover from.

Puncture repaired and underway, OGL again suggested we split on the fly instead of stopping again. Luckily this week Happy Cat wasn’t around to follow the wrong wheels and we all seemed to find the right group. While the self-flagellation ride zipped off, everyone else actually took the same route, but the longer-harder-faster group were quickly up to speed and pulling away from the amblers.

There may have been some strange, strangled shouting from behind, but by this time it was quite faint and indistinct … so maybe not. Soon around a dozen of us had formed a compact, fast-moving swarm and the pace got kicked up another notch.

We hit Middleton Bank without appreciably slowing and a steady pace was maintained when my attempted attack was derailed by an extended bout of clunks and clangs as my chain started slipping frenziedly. I had no choice but to ease back into line, change down and just spin up the hill behind everyone as best I could.

The road levelled out and with a keen sense of self-preservation Crazy Legs urged the Red Max swap places. Once complete, Max was now on the outside with space to launch his inevitable forlorn hope attack without needing to barge through non-existent gaps. He duly delivered, but his lead never stretched beyond a couple of metres and he was closed down as we thundered through the Milestone Woods.

At the base of the first of the rollers I attacked hard and managed to keep going over the first and second ramp, before running out of steam on the third and last. I think I managed to open up a few gaps and splinter the group, but to be honest I wasn’t looking back.

I did manage to draw Crazy Legs out in pursuit and he closed me down and passed me as the road tipped downwards, somewhat scuppering his plans to save himself for the final drag and sprint up to the café.

Done for the day, I tagged onto the back of the line and then just tried to hang on and keep the gaps to a minimum as we crested the last rise and sailed across a junction to roll up to the café.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Apropos of nothing, Taffy Steve declared it was ridiculous that Rab Dee’s black-carbon, stealth BMC was known as a Time-Machine, when surely his own titanium love-child was more obviously suited to the name.

Everyone looked suitably blank, until he prompted, “You know, like a DeLorean.”

I was confused because I was thinking of blue boxes and flashing lights, like the Tardis, while Crazy Legs was imagining some baroque, H.G. Wells-type sleigh with levers, dials and spinning discs and he’d begun checking anxiously over his shoulder to ensure no subhuman troglodytes were creeping up to steal his cake.

We then had a minute or two racking our brains to try and remember what  said troglodytes were called.

“Morlocks!” Son of G-Dawg finally volunteered and we were all amazed that the youngest person at the table had been the one to remember a fleeting piece of ephemera from a creaky black and white movie released in 1960.

That was until he explained he simply remembered it from an episode of The Big Bang Theory.


maxresdefault
Watch out for Morlocks!

Crazy Legs joined The Doc, Michael Hutchinson in (figuratively) lamenting the demise of the Singing Cycling Club – at one point they were almost as infamous as the Singing Ringing Tree apparently.

This reminded me of a mass club run when I was out with the Barnesbury CC when I was a kid. One guy had a small transistor radio (ask your parents, children) strapped to the handlebars and tuned into a station playing songs from old musicals. I can recall 30 odd of us riding along, swinging our arms from side to side, while spontaneously bursting into song – lustily bellowing:

“There is nothing like a dame

Nothing in the world

There is nothing you can name

That is anything like a dame”

As we rode through  one of the genteel villages in Northumberland. Priceless.

We dissected our café sprint, recognising the same old patterns occurred week after week: a hopeless long range attack from Red Max and/or Taffy Steve, an idiotic attack over the rollers, the BFG, if he’s with us, running out of steam at the exact same point every time, then the G-Dawg collective battling through to the bitter end where Son of G-Dawg will just nip away to steal the honours. Well, it’s like deja vu all over again. 

Son of G-Dawg laughed at how we employed the same tactics and did  exactly the the same thing week in and week out, but somehow always expected a different outcome. By  Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, we are all certifiable lunatics.

Talk of the BFG predictably running out of steam reminded Crazy Legs of the time they had been hammering it up Middleton Bank and he’d heard a hoarse wheezing, gurgling, gasping from behind. He’d ridden away from the strange noise, only to later learn it was the BFG who’d clawed his way up to Crazy Leg’s back wheel, desperate to borrow his asthma inhaler but, sounding like a latter day Elephant Man,  he had  utterly failed to articulate his needs in any coherent way.


The main group left while we were still enjoying a second round of coffee so we waved them off. We guessed Taffy Steve was soon itching to go though when he started buckling on his helmet while still sitting at the table.

When this failed to impel us into action, he started trotting between the table and his bike, alternatively whimpering and panting and trying to look appealing with his head cocked to one side. If he had a leash he probably would have carried it over in his mouth and dropped it on the table as a hint.

Taffy Steve then followed Crazy Legs’s suggestion that the best way to get everyone to move was to just slap your foot on a pedal and clip-in as loudly as possible. This worked, provoking an almost Pavlovian response and a scramble for bikes and helmets.

A relatively straightforward and uneventful ride back had me on the inside of Taffy Steve as we approached a major split point. An elegantly performed do-si-do then saw us swapping places and as he swung off left I accelerated onto G-Dawg’s rear wheel to cling on through the last crazy burst of the Mad Mile.

Then I was all alone with my madly clunking chain, finally working out that the worst problem was somewhere in the middle of the cassette and trying to work around it. I then planned and executed an impromptu stop at Pedalling Squares café, located at the bottom of the Heinous Hill and home of Patrick the Mechanic and the Brassworks Bicycle Company. Here I reasoned I could get a caffeine fix for me and a mechanical one for Reg.

I grabbed an excellent flat white and clambered up into the bike workshop, where I found Patrick the Mechanic deep in conversation with … err… Patrick the Cyclist.

Huh?

I did a very, very obvious double-take, looking confusedly from one identical Patrick to the other. “Yes,” Patrick the Cyclist and sometime doppelgänger reassured me, “We get that a lot.”

Honing in on the real Patrick, or the one I assumed was the real Patrick simply by dint of the mechanics apron, I explained the problem. A quick test, a bit of tinkering with the gear hanger and a minute twiddle of the barrel adjuster and he was done. I wish I had the confidence to do that, but any twiddling I do tends to just compound my issues, so I’ve learned to leave it to the experts.

Bike restored to fully-functioning condition and fortified by yet more coffee, I was soon off, caffeine fuelled and floating up the hill and home like some erstwhile Plumose Pappus.


NOVATEK CAMERA


YTD Totals: 5,085 km / 3,159 miles with 50,264 metres of climbing

Freak Wallaby

Freak Wallaby

Club Run, Saturday 27th August, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  102 km/63 miles with 700 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                        4 hours 4 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.0 km/h

Group size:                                       20 riders, 3 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   16°C

Weather in a word or two:           A game of two halves


The Ride:

3 september
Ride Profile

By heck, isn’t the Vuelta entertaining this year, in a way the Tour singularly failed to be. Not that I’m one of those people who would say the Tour was boring. Predictable? Yeah… maybe, in that the final result was widely known half way in, but boring? Then again I’m a person who sees a certain savage grandeur in the way Team Sky ratchet up the pressure on climbs until the rest of the field get gradually worked loose and slowly whittled down. Or “strangled” as the critics would unkindly insist.

Anyway, at least old Stone Face has actually decided to fight for the Vuelta, he’s climbing fantastically well and the Ungainly One is just about hanging on by his fingernails. We could yet see someone giving the Sky behemoth a right kicking*.

One minor gripe though – is it just me, or has Sean Kelly decided that Simon Yates rides for Ulrika Bike Exchange?

[*After Sunday’s stage it looks like only a catastrophe will derail Stone Face as the Sky behemoth and the Ungainly One were well and truly outfought and outthought in a classic Contador ambush that Quintana profited from. El Pistolero might not have the legs anymore, but there’s no one to match him tactically – he’s what my old boss would call a “wiry old fox”]

Meanwhile, somewhere in the North of England, Saturday’s weather was promising heavy rain showers on just about every forecast I checked – the only real question was just when they were going to hit, although mid-ride at 11.00 seemed to be the general consensus.

The promise of perhaps-maybe half a ride in dry conditions was enough to tip the balance in favour of Reg, despite the newly serviced and primed Peugeot, complete with mudguards, sitting there looking hopeful. Not yet, mon ami, but your time will come.

Of course I may have made the wrong decision as the slight grating noise of a couple of weeks ago seems to have returned. As I levelled out along the valley floor and the noise of traffic fell away I heard a strange, chirping from the drive-train which was grumbling away and seemed to be calling out to me: freak, freak, freak – wallaby … pause … freak, freak, freak – wallaby.

The noise disappeared when I freewheeled, or quietened to a whisper when I jumped out of the saddle, but always came back annoyingly, freak, freak, freak – wallaby. I pressed on, knowing the problem wasn’t going to get any better, but hoping it wasn’t going to get worse and plotting how I could get the bike to Patrick at Brassworks Bicycle Company to let him try and figure out what the problem is.

As I made my way across to the meeting point I passed a group of half a dozen riders, all decked out for extreme weather in rain jackets, tights and overshoes. In just a jersey and shorts, they made me feel rather under-dressed and perhaps wildly unprepared for what was to come. Did they know something I didn’t?

At the meeting point though, I was re-assured to find very few of us had our winter bikes out and even fewer were wearing much beyond shorts and jerseys – if we were going to get soaked – we’d be doing it all together.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Rab D arrived astride his old winter hack, with the BMC Time Machine left safely at home, not because he worried about riding it in the rain, but because he felt if things turned really mucky he’d have to disassemble half the bike just to clean it properly.

If he was waiting for ideal atmospheric conditions to ride his new toy, we determined there was probably only 3 days a year when he could safely use it – and we’d had 2 of those already.

Crazy Legs turned up with tales of the Bank Holiday club run last Monday, which he described as the worst ride. Ever. I had been tempted to ride too, but had missed out and in the process perhaps dodged a bullet.

The day had started auspiciously enough with a plan to ride to the coast, but the group had somehow ended up travelling along the Spine Road, one of the most heavily trafficked routes in the County, on a Bank Holiday, in decent weather and with the Tall Ships departure from Blyth enticing an inordinate amount of cars onto the road.

Unable to find a misplaced, mis-remembered crossing point and desperate to escape the deadly rush of traffic, Crazy Legs had utilised Google Earth to identify an old track they could use to by-pass the road and led them down it.

The track however narrowed, turned boggy and then marooned them in the middle of wildly, overgrown and nettle-riddled field as it completely disappeared. At this point there was some discussion about whether they should turn back and face death by road traffic accident, or press on and face drowning in quicksand. Crazy Legs though was convinced nothing could be worse than riding down a dual carriageway in that traffic.

At one point, he said he was riding through the wilderness so carefully and so precariously that horseflies were feasting on his legs, but he didn’t dare let go of the handlebars to swat at them.

Finally shouldering their bikes, the group fought and clambered their way out onto a farm track, muddied, bloodied, bitten, stung, lost, tired and utterly miserable – emerging like a defeated army from the jungle and right under the nose of a local famer, who must have seen nothing quite like it in all his days, but didn’t bat an eyelid and completely ignored them!

They’d then found themselves traversing back along the Spine Road battling the terrifying, Tall Ships and Bank Holiday swollen traffic. Crazy Legs rode the entire way home behind Plumose Pappus to try and shelter him a little, convinced the youngster was going to be sucked under the wheels as he fluttered like a moth caught on a windscreen every time a lorry thundered past.

Red Max showed up without the Monkey Butler Boy, the allure of riding his new bike apparently having worn off, allowing him to once again reconnect with his teenage genes and demand to be left in bed.

Max had warned him there would be dire consequences and sure enough, as he left the Monkey Butler Boy was being presented with a list of domestic chores to complete since he wasn’t out riding. Now that’s the kind of motivation that can make an Olympic champion.

Mini Miss was out on her brand new Focus, having had her old bike completely replaced by the company after it had developed a crack along the top tube. She said she’d received a particularly terse and uncommunicative text from her daughter the previous night that simply read, “I’m not coming home.” We were assuming this was just a one off arrangement and not a long term declaration of intent.

Even Mini Miss however had to admit that Red Max trumped her, when he described a similar text from his daughter, “Dad, I’m moving out and I’m pregnant.”  Kids, eh?


I dropped into place, 3rd in line alongside Son of G-Dawg as we pushed off, clipped in and rode out, chuckling as the Red Max proved he’d chase down just about anything, swerving across the road in vain pursuit of a crow while shouting Ca-Caw, Ca-Caw and receiving a remarkably similar squawk of complaint in return.

We did wonder what might have happened if the bird had been so panicked it had flown off into his front wheel and it reminded us of the time we were ambushed by a pheasant that had clattered into flight from the roadside, right under the nose of our lead rider as we lined it out downhill for the café sprint. That had been a close enough call for us to treat our avian friends with a degree of caution.


NOVATEK CAMERA


Red Max and Crazy Legs rotated off the front as we crested the hill past the Cheese Farm and Taffy Steve and Ovis took up the pace as we rattled and bumped along a series of badly cracked and cratered rode surfaces that are becoming pretty much the norm in these parts.

Further on and I rolled through onto the front with Son of G-Dawg, starting to pick our own route as we came to junctions with no instruction from further back and guessing we were making the right choices when there were no barking complaints from behind. It was a bit like playing Russian Roulette with a route map, or reading one of those adventure game-books. I hoped we didn’t take a wrong turn and end up in a den full of rabid trolls and kobolds.

At one junction we went left simply because they’d been trimming hedges on the right and we had visions of mass punctures. Yes, it’s autumn already so they’re starting to strew the clippings from thorn bushes across the road to deter cyclists.

Caught in a slightly too large gear with an immediate climb after the turn, I rose out of the saddle and stamped hard on the pedals and we flew upwards dragging everyone out in a long line behind.

Bursting round a sharp right hand turn at the top of the climb, our sudden appearance surprised a BMW approaching at too high a speed and already starting to swing wide across the road. Luckily the driver had time to brake and correct their line and the group behind managed to squeeze past.

A bit further on and travelling down a narrow country lane, Son of G-Dawg called out, “Car up!” and accelerated sharply so I could tuck in behind him. Even singled out and hugging the gutter, the bright red Toyota Yaris passed frighteningly close and frighteningly fast – and behind us the almost inevitable happened.

I’m still not quite sure if the car actually clipped Mini Miss, or came so close she took desperate and evasive action, but she ended up tangling wheels with Buster and coming down, while he bailed out for the safety of a roadside ditch.

I was astounded that the driver even stopped, but apparently this was just so she could tell us that we shouldn’t be riding on the road, while we, being the nicest, most polite cycling club known to man tried to reason with her in a rational manner. Perhaps this was the time when some incoherent swearing and outright anger might actually have served us better and made more of an impression.  Then again, maybe not.

As it was, satisfied she hadn’t quite managed to seriously injure anyone, completely unrepentant, utterly convinced she’d done nothing wrong and wasn’t in any way responsible, the driver climbed back into her car, slammed the door and roared away to endanger other weird people who mistakenly feel they have the right to use the roads, leaving us to assess the damage.

Mini Miss has somehow snapped the end completely off her brake lever and Buster was particularly chagrined to find his rear mudguard had been smashed to pieces, just after he’d finally managed to get it to stop rubbing. Luckily all the damage seemed to be to bikes rather than people, although on the ride back Buster complained his hip was causing some discomfort.

We regrouped slowly before pressing on and since we were close to a usual split point decided we wouldn’t stop again, but drop into different groups on the fly. Unfortunately, not everyone got the message and as the amblers split off for the café, Happy Cat missed the turn and uncharacteristically found herself tagging along with the faster, longer, harder group.


NOVATEK CAMERA


She’d also taken the weather forecasts to heart and was wearing a baggy and billowing waterproof jacket that not only acted like a drogue parachute, but slowly began to boil her as the pace increased and she fought to hang on.

We finally called a halt to split the group again, carefully steering Happy Cat away from the longer, harder, faster self-flagellation ride, but Taffy Steve failed to convince another struggler who was lured away by the siren song of the racing snakes, perhaps never to be seen again.

Happy Cat managed to ditch the jacket, stuffing it roughly into two of the pockets of her jersey and then it was just a case of hanging on as we wound our way back to the café.

I suggested that now she’d ridden and survived with the longer, harder, faster group she’d struggle to ever go back to the amblers. She was still smiling, but I don’t think I convinced her.

Down through Milestone Woods and over the rollers, I ran up the outside of the group and was sitting perched on the shoulder of the lead man as we dropped down and then began the long drag up to the café. A quick glance behind showed me Son of G-Dawg and G-Dawg stacked on my wheel, so I buried myself in an impromptu lead out until they swept around me and I could sit up.

A few others passed me as well, but faded as the slope ground on and I managed to claw back and overhaul them. Then just as I approached the white finish line, Taffy Steve charged up on my outside, screaming incoherently and threw his bike over the line in a fair imitation of Chris Hoy, stealing the sprint by a tyre’s tread.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A deeply traumatised Crazy Legs couldn’t let it go and circulated photos of their epic trek into the Northumberland Badlands during the Bank Holiday Club Run from Hell, including one shot of OGL leading his bike while he tip-toed gingerly along a very narrow, very muddy trail perched precariously above a marshy and incredibly boggy rivulet.

Another photo showed cyclists adrift in an overgrown field that had deliberately been left fallow … for a decade or three perhaps, while the most damning was left until last – a picture of the much cosseted Ribble, befouled, begrimed and mud-spattered to such a degree that the brakes would no longer function because of the build-up of mud, grit and crap caught up in them.

The conversation turned to the Planet X outlet where Crazy Legs suggested he’d been lucky to escape without treating himself to a new TT bike on a recent visit. I happened to mention the Vittoria Anniversary, limited edition shoes they were currently selling, RRP £220, but reduced to £34 and made from very glossy, very shiny “gold medal microfibre.”

Sadly, they didn’t have my size, nevertheless I think I managed to horrify everyone by suggesting that I would even consider wearing bright gold shoes and they all agreed it was a step too far and I would need to dominate every sprint to be able to carry something like that off.


SHVIUNQ30_P2
Check out these bad boys

The conversation then turned to Reg, my Holdsworth frame which had also come to me via Planet-X. Being a somewhat, err, distinctive design in an eye-bleeding combination of vile red, poisonous black and acid yellow, with the group wondering if I’d been instantly attracted to it.

I had to confess to loathing the frame on first sight, but it had been an absolute bargain and I thought it would serve as a stopgap until I got something better. Then I’d slowly grown to appreciate it’s somewhat esoteric and divisive looks – to such an extent that it now influences what I wear.

Taffy Steve suggested it was somewhat akin to going to the puppy pound for a pedigree dog and being chosen by the ugliest, rattiest, scrattiest, flea- ridden pug in the entire place, that wouldn’t let you leave without it.


Tour des Flandres 2010
We might be the ugliest, rattiest, scrattiest, flea-ridden combo going, but in my minds-eye at least we (almost) look this cool!

Crazy Legs had been out with G-Dawg the night before, sampling the wares at a local brewery, where the pair of them wrestled myopically with a long, poorly printed beer menu in bad light. Crazy Legs had resorted to his Nooz reading glasses, slipping them out of his wallet and slapping them on long enough to determine that Beer#1 was a lager and #2 was a bitter.

Of course G-Dawg was utterly delighted by the slightly unusual style of the Nooz specs and had ripped the piss mercilessly out of Crazy Legs for the rest of the night, until leaning conspiratorially across and quietly asking – “What do you call them specs and where can I get some?”

Taffy Steve was questioned about the NTR Club Runs which take place every Tuesday and Thursday evening, involving upwards of 80 riders at a time and all impeccably organised into different groups and abilities via Facebook. In the realms of club run organisation they are multi-spectral and satellite earth-imaging compared to our water dousing with bent willow twigs.

I was interested to learn if they continued the rides throughout the year, even when the nights became dark and cold and Taffy Steve reminded us he’d first started riding with them just before Christmas last year. We decided he was perhaps unique in British Cycling as the only person to ever join a club in the middle of December.


I left Crazy Legs and the G-Dawg collective camped out in the café declaring it was too early to leave and if they went home now they’d be expected back at the same time every week, but everyone else was pressing to see if they could beat the rain home, so I joined the general exodus.

It wasn’t to be, however and the much-forecast rain finally arrived as we grouped up before setting off, delaying slightly while everyone dug out their rain jackets. Once started the rain didn’t ease and everything and everyone were soon soaked through, but at least it wasn’t cold and the rain had had the good grace to hold off until after we exited the café.

The Prof introduced me to one of the FNG’s who also lives south of the river, so as I exited the Mad Mile I had company for a change as we worked our way down to the bridge.

Crossing the river, he then turned right, while I swung left and I was soon alone again with just my thoughts, the rain drumming on my helmet and back and that insistent, persistent murmur of protest from the bike under me; freak, freak, freak – wallaby…


YTD Totals: 4,938 km / 3,068 miles with 48,766 metres of climbing

Nut Screws Washers and Bolts

Nut Screws Washers and Bolts

Club Run, Saturday 27th August, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  115 km/71 miles with 977 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 25 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.1 km/h

Group size:                                         26 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    21°C

Weather in a word or two:          Just about perfect


The Ride:

Ride profile
Ride Profile

Saturday morning and I’m up at my usual time and shovelling down my usual pre-ride breakfast, sitting at my usual seat at the dining table and surfing all the usual websites as I go.

I then start to collect my gear. In the right-hand pocket of my jersey (always) goes a spare tube to supplement the two I carry in a tool tub in my bottle cage, a mini-pump, two tyre levers and a multi-tool.

In the left-hand pocket (always) goes my wallet containing money and rather ancient, cracked and thankfully never needed tyre patches – just in case three tubes isn’t quite enough (it always is) – my mobile phone with the free Road Id tracking app already enabled and running and an emergency gel for, well emergencies and potential catastrophic body failures.

In the middle pocket (always) goes my rain jacket, unless it’s already raining, in which case I’ll be wearing it. Occasionally, on very rare “Ribble Days*” I’ll leave the jacket behind, but the middle pocket is still always reserved for spare items of clothing – gloves, caps, arm warmers, knee warmers etc.

* Ribble Days – those with absolutely zero chance of precipitation – i.e. the kind of day when Crazy Legs is willing to take his much cossetted Ribble out of its hermetically-sealed storage pod and, rather daringly expose it to the vicissitudes of the weather.

I’ll then leave the house at roughly the same time each week and follow the exact same-route to the meeting point where I’ll usually find, in amongst an ever-changing cast of extras, the same dozen or so “Usual Suspects” – those whose absence from a club ride is more noteworthy than their actual appearance at one.

It struck me as I began to carefully load up my jersey pockets that the whole thing has become very routine and predictable. Of course, there are obvious benefits too – knowing precisely what goes in each jersey pocket helps me remember to take everything I need and I know what I can comfortably carry and where it needs be stored, while taking the same route ensures I should always arrive predictably on time.

There are other times though when change would be welcome, which could explain why we occasionally pay to ride local sportive events and traverse the same roads we could ride for free on club runs.

It also means that doing something just a little bit different on a ride can elevate it from good to great. What would today’s ride bring?

It was quite chilly early on, but promised to be dry, so the middle jersey pocket was empty, but available for when the arm warmers were no longer needed. The ride across to the meeting point was rather uneventful, although I did find myself hunting down another cyclist as I clambered out of the valley, which is foolish, but who can resist?

At the meeting point it was good to see Crazy Legs on his Ribble and have it confirmed we were in for a dry day.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

OGL rolled up trying to brake and steer while carrying a cup of coffee in one hand, successfully slopping coffee onto his new, pristinely-white bar tape and down his newly polished frame. No doubt a cleaning job for his cadre of trained monkey minions when he gets back.

Crazy Legs described how he’d nearly “done a Prof” (or even a Kristina Vogel) and jettisoned his saddle halfway round a ride, after one of its retaining bolts worked loose and dropped away.

He had a brief exchange with OGL and they agreed how difficult it was to source replacement seat post bolts, even when you run your own bike shop. OGL did suggest a local ironmonger where you could potentially buy all sorts of nuts, screws, washers and bolts. This in turn reminded him of a hoary old joke and he was still cackling to himself when Crazy Legs cut him off before the punchline to describe his personal epiphany as, after an extensive search of his entire house, he’d found the exact bolt he needed as part of his sons Ikea bed.

Crazy Legs has now firmly secured his saddle to his bike, while we await the news of the imminent collapse of the sons bed.

As a footnote, Kristina Vogel did make me laugh with her mealy-mouthed, cowardly comments about the successes of British Olympic cycling, “I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything but it is all very questionable” – she said accusingly – a statement uttered with not the slightest hint of irony after she beat British athletes into second and third place.

It was phrased exactly the same way as one of those disrespectful statements that always begins “I don’t want to appear disrespectful, but…” or the belief you can say anything you want as long as you tag allegedly onto the end. Allegedly. Honestly, if she suspects foul play why not say it, instead of hiding behind crass insinuation?


As we made our way from pavement to road, young Mellford and the X11 bus to Blyth started vying to occupy the exact same space at the exact same time. He was forced to turn sharply and ride along the kerb parallel to the bus as it slid to a halt in front of him and he was directly opposite the doors as they hissed open. With nowhere else to go, for an instant I thought he was going to bunny-hop straight on-board a la Eduardo Sepulveda, but he somehow managed to slip around the front of the bus and escape an unwanted journey to the coast.

As we left the meeting point I dropped in alongside Sneaky Pete, who’d been missing the past few weeks on doctor’s orders, but now appeared to have recovered and was keen to make up for lost time.


NOVATEK CAMERA


I also had a chat with Keel who between his work in a call-centre and taking in guests for Airbnb had in short order managed to plumb the depths of social boorishness, rudeness, selfishness, discourtesy and impatience – from the kind of people you hope only exist amongst the worst kind of trolls in the febrile, disconnected world of social media and on rabid Internet forum’s. Apparently however they walk (or drive) among us too.

We’d just turned off the main road onto a narrow lane with houses and parked cars down one side and open fields on the other, a road so narrow that it would be dangerous to try and overtake and where such rashness is actively discouraged by a series of 7 or 8 rather savage speed bumps.

We were however directly impeding an aged RIM in his bright red Hyundai, who announced his presence and displeasure behind us by leaning long and hard on his horn. How dare we delay him on his vital journey by blocking his road and not immediately pulling over to wave him and his tutting harridan of a wife through.


NOVATEK CAMERA
Spot the Arse Hat – I’ve added colour highlights to help

Half way along the lane his impatience got the better of him and he managed to overtake a few back-markers before a parked car on the opposite side of the road blocked his progress and he had to brake hard and swing back, forcing his way into the long line of cyclists.

He tried again and this time his progress was curtailed by an approaching car and once again he swung dangerously back into our group, seemingly oblivious to just how much damage even his tinny little car could do to a load of skinny lads, lasses and kids on plastic bikes.

Finally, the road opened up, he was able to accelerate hard, crash through a few gears and once again lean hard on his horn as he overtook and then pulled sharply across the front of our group.

Naturally we all gave him our biggest, friendliest, cheesiest waves. I’m ridden with guilt that we delayed him those precious 60 seconds or so, but he’s a big, brave and considerate human being so I’m sure he’ll get over it. Arse hat.

The ride progressed smoothly and without incident, until Sneaky Pete looked behind and realised he was last in line having been beaten at his own game – an entire bunch had dropped off the back and sneaked away to the café unannounced.


NOVATEK CAMERA
The terrible moment when you realise you’re the last man on the road

And then, because change can be a good thing, we rode straight past the place on the route where we usually stop and split into different groups. Obviously already unnerved by being at the very back of the group, Sneaky Pete decided this was too much and sneaked away to the café by himself.

Around one bend we were waved to slow down by a very concerned dog walker who seemed insistent we didn’t disturb her Labrador mid-dump. I’m not an expert on these things so I can only assume the highly-strung animal would suffer dire psychological consequences if disturbed au toilette, which seems rather strange for an animal which has such an interest in sticking its nose into all manner of faeces.


NOVATEK CAMERA


We clawed our way up toward a crossroads, where two or three took the opportunity for a faster, longer, harder ride, while the rest of us worked our way to the café via a route that avoided our usual assault on Middleton Bank or the Quarry climb.

On the hill out from Stamfordham, I took the chance to move from the back to the front of the group, skipping up the outside and earning a growl of “keep in pairs!” as I passed OGL who was doing the exact same thing I was, only a lot slower.

The pace started to pick up as we closed on the café – but at the junction to the road which would lead us down to the Snake Bends, Crazy Legs spotted another of our group, Big Dunc barrelling down toward us at high speed on a completely different re-entry vector. Crazy Legs called out a warning, but a few slipped dangerously across the road anyway, seemingly oblivious to the fast approaching rider.

Big Dunc managed to pull some smart evasive manoeuvres and catastrophe was averted, a situation he would later refer to rather phlegmatically as “a bit chaotic!”

The rest of us now exited the junction and gave chase to the first group and I pulled us all across the gap to Keel’s back wheel. Somewhere ahead Son of G-Dawg nipped off the front to steal the sprint, but just like last week everyone was more or less together in a mass hurtle as we eased for the Snake Bends.

With the speed still high and everyone bunched together we swept into the café car park like (according to the Prof) a “herd of rampaging stallions.” I suggested more like a herd of stampeding bison and the Prof wondered aloud what the difference was between a bison and a buffalo.

“I know,” Bydand Fecht volunteered, “An Australian can’t wash his hands in a buffalo.”

Groan.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Once again the weather was good enough for us to sit out in the garden and once again we taunted the wasps by carelessly flaunting numerous pots of jam. Will we never learn?

Ovis tried hiding his jam under a napkin, but the wasps just laughed at his foolishness, while the Monkey Butler Boy circled the table endlessly, hoping to present a moving target to discourage their attentions. He then sat down just long enough to pour a can of Coke down his jersey, an act as foolish as stirring blood and chum into shark infested waters. He couldn’t circle the table quickly enough after this mishap.

We discovered that he was not only scared of wasps but spiders as well and didn’t take well to Crazy Legs’s suggestion that he needed to embrace his fear and let himself get stung a few times.

Being manly and brave, Son of G-Dawg related wrestling with and capturing a massive hairy spider in his bare hands, going to throw it out the window and being surprised when he found it had just vanished without trace. Crazy Legs said there was a website for disappearing spiders, while I earned worst joke of the day honours by suggesting that surely all spiders had a website. Obviously no one else at the table had heard Bydand Fecht’s buffalo comment.

Szell was then distracted by a tiny, red spider mite that was whizzing round and round his saucer in perfect synchronous orbit with the Monkey Butler Boy. Going for a hat-trick of groans, I said it was probably racing for the cup, but luckily no one heard … or I’d sunk so low that this time that they’d all chosen to ignore me.

Szell was amazed at how fast the mite was running and wondered what it would look like if it was scaled up. (Probably the Monkey Butler Boy’s worst nightmare.) “Have you seen the acceleration!” he called, while Red Max commented that he was surprised Szell even knew what acceleration looked like. Ouch.

Luckily we were distracted by Sneaky Pete sneaking off home early and then we fed Szell two or three dubious lines about spouts, rims and curtains and let him lose himself in a blizzard of single-entendres.  


The ride home was suitably civilised, all the lights were in my favour and the traffic was sparse. Perfect conditions and a bit of a different route all helped make it another great ride and there can’t be too many of them left for this year.


YTD Totals: 4,772 km / 2,965 miles with 47,235 metres of climbing

A Plethora of Punctures and the Mass Hurtle

A Plethora of Punctures and the Mass Hurtle

Club Run, Saturday 20th August, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   99 km/61 miles with 1,064 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           3 hours 55 minutes

Average Speed:                                   25.2 km/h

Group size:                                           21 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                      18°C

Weather in a word or two:              Chilly with showers


The Ride:

ride profile 20 august
Ride Profile

The on-board camera failed today, reporting Error Code: 2754/86#3, which checking in the on-line manual appears to translate as “extreme user idiocy”. So, no pretty pictures, just the usual flood of err… coruscating and witty effulgence?

Late August already and this is beginning to feel more like monsoon season rather than the Indian Summer that’s been widely predicted. All the forecasts for Saturday were predicting a relatively dry start, giving way to heavy and prolonged, lashing rain showers at about 11.00 – or at just about the time when we hit the furthest point from home on our outward trajectory. It looked impossible to avoid a drenching, the only question was just how bad it was going to be.

I might have considered breaking the Peugeot out of storage, but it’s enjoying an extended holiday in the LBS for a full service in preparation for winter. The only other choice with mudguards was the single-speed hack the venerable Toshi San built for me, which sees intermittent use as a commuter when I get tired of the ratbag MTB.

I say intermittent because we’ve only just managed to get it up and running again after some initial teething problems. First the chain kept slipping as the standard tensioner failed to do its job properly.


soxks
Never mind sock length, what’s the UCI doing about the far more important shorts length?

Toshi San did some deep thunking and bike-tinkering par excellence and replaced the chain tensioner with a converted rear mech. This cleverly utilises a length of brake cable to provide the tension to keep the mech properly aligned and the chain taut, but don’t ask me for the technical details – it’s all techno mumbo-jumbo and dark arts as far as I’m concerned.

With the chain sorted, further downtime became necessary when I snapped a crank off while trying to climb the Heinous Hill. I suspect this had more to do with stresses through the crank arm caused by slightly too loose fitting, rather than a manufacturing flaw in Campagnolo cranks – not even in the darkest recesses of my own fevered imaginings did I suspect it was due to the immense strength and power I was putting down on the climb.

I’m not sure the single-speed was the right answer for a high-speed club run and I’d already used it three times on commutes throughout the week, so it looked like a day for Reg and sitting on black bin bags in the café.

It was a strange ride across to the meeting point as I felt largely disassociated, lost in thought while, paradoxically not really thinking about anything at all. I also started to feel strange aches as if my saddle had suddenly become ultra-uncomfortable, which is odd because I’ve probably spent more time on it than any other and it’s always been reliably comfortable. Maybe it was just a reaction of a week away, or swapping from one bike to another?

First at the meeting point, I was soon joined by Crazy Legs, unexpectedly out on the much cossetted Ribble. Perhaps this was a divine sign that the weather wasn’t going to be too bad after all.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

Jason Kenny’s travails with false starts in the Keirin were the main topic du jour – with everyone convinced he was going to be disqualified, but impressed with him endlessly circling the track, arms folded, looking cool and blithely unconcerned while debate and uncertainty raged all around him.

To have survived this, a second and even more blatant false start and further delays, before toying with the rest of the field and then destroying them with contemptuous ease had to be one of the highlights of the Olympic track cycling.

OGL said that he’d done some work with the British Track Team and suggested they were inflating tyres to 240 psi, with mechanics approaching very cautiously with the air hoses and treating the tyres like unexploded bombs.

He also mentioned they were using Dordoigne tubs, which I remember from my youth, along with some very poor jokes about how they gave a very bumpy ride, going “du-doing, du-doing, du-doing” as you rode along. Simpler times.

Crazy Legs jabbed a thumb into Caracol’s front tyre and winced at its all-round flabbiness and flaccidity. “It’s for improved grip in the wet!” Caracol argued.

A quick conversation with the Prof helped us to determine that the wind was either blowing from the North West or perhaps the South East, illustrated with exaggerated arm movements that looked like he was trying to land a fully-laden bomber on a pitching aircraft carrier-deck. We thanked him for his erudite wisdom, very, very useful.


At precisely 9:15 Garmin time, there was a general movement toward bikes and someone intoned, “Gentlemen, start your motors.”  With numbers somewhat reduced by the poor forecast, 21 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and set out and I dropped toward the back and slotted into line.

By the time we reached the first major junction the rain had started in earnest and everyone took the opportunity to pull on rain jackets. A fairly uneventful, if wet first hour passed by until our progress was punctuated by a puncture.

While we waited, the Monkey Butler Boy started insisting his saddle was too low and he wanted it raised. The Red Max was having none of it, but it took OGL’s intervention to settle the debate. With the Monkey Butler Boy perched on his bike, OGL quickly determined that, if anything his saddle was already a smidge high (smidge: a technical expression, generally used to cover the range between 1.5mm to 2.5mm.)

The Monkey Butler Boy seemed to accept this decision with good grace, prompting us to wonder why children treat their parents as foolhardy lack-wits. The Red Max said he was used to this, having two daughters who would never listen to him once they turned 5. I suggested he’d had a good run, as my two daughters have never listened to me.

OGL confided one son in his late thirties had finally, belatedly, conceded, “You know Dad, you were right all along.” The Red Max was confident he would never have to admit this to his Dad, simply because he had to all intents and purposes simply turned into his Dad.

Somewhere around this time the rain eased and stopped and I had the opportunity to take off the rain jacket, but reasoned the rain would be returning fairly shortly so didn’t bother. Ok, everyone makes mistakes.

Repairs were quickly effected, but no sooner had we pushed off to resume our ride than Caracol was pulling over with his own puncture, discovered before he’d even managed to clip in properly. Surprisingly, this turned out to be his rear tyre, not his super-soft front one.

This time I lent a hand as we swapped out the tube while discussing tyre choice and Mad Colin’s assertion that a torque wrench was the best and most useful bit of kit he’d ever bought. Repairs made, Taffy Steve lent his mighty frame pump to the task of forcing air into the tyre, and I estimated Caracol’s most strenuous efforts probably managed to get the pressure up to a massive 50 psi.

Re-starting again we had maybe a half hour of trouble free riding before Aether pulled up with another puncture and a small group of us circled back to help him. It was here that the Prof began to illustrate his uncanny levels of prescience, declaring that the car we heard approaching would be a 5 cylinder, Volvo S40 in sapphire blue, while it was still hidden around the bend. Impressive…

… and ruined only by the fact that the car was a small, non-descript and very beige Renault hatchback.

As another cycling club whistled past in the opposite direction with a series of hearty “How do’s!” he then pondered why they all felt the need to sport matching, hipster beards. I could only shake my head in wonder as I hadn’t seen a single beard amongst them.

Repairs made we pressed on again. Quickly rounding a corner, we passed a large open lay-by which would have been the ideal spot for the club to wait for us while we repaired the puncture. It was empty however, so I assumed they’d had enough of punctures for the day and decided not to stop.

Immediately after I rode past a large, stone-built house to find the rest of the club pulled up and pressed tightly together, waiting on the narrowest, muddiest and steepest verge you could possibly imagine. Cyclists, eh?

It was determined we’d wasted enough time with punctures and everyone seemed keen to head straight to the café without splitting the group, so we set course for the Quarry Climb.

A quick scamper up the climb, a dive down to the next junction and a large front group started to assemble and accelerate for a mass hurtle toward the café. The Red Max appeared on my inside and we did a quick swap so he could launch his trademark kamikaze attack down the middle of the road.

Everything got strung out and a small gap opened to the wheel in front, I didn’t feel any pressure to jump to close it immediately so only slowly started to accelerate. I then felt Mad Colin’s giant mitt on my back and he gently eased me across, closing the gap in an eye-blink with his turbo-assisted aid and a minimum of effort.

A few more tried to jump off the front, without creating any real gaps as we swarmed down the road in a compact, buzzing and rattling thrum.

Somehow I found Captain Black’s wheel and since he’d begun tearing it up on the café sprints recently, decided it was as good a place as any. I still felt comfortably within my limits and think I had a couple of gears left as we started passing other riders on the final run down to the Snake Bends, where I rolled up within the first half dozen or so riders.

And the most valuable lesson from this madcap escapade – sprinting in a rain jacket totally defeats its primary purpose of keeping you dry.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop

Crazy legs noted wryly that now we were all sitting indoors, the weather was miserable and cold and there was zero chance of us being assailed by wasps … not a single person had bought anything accompanied by that ultimate wasp lure – jam.

This was in direct contrast to the past couple of weeks where we seemed to be having jam with everything, even the ham and egg pie, before sitting outside and deliberately taunting the pesky critters, who had revelled in and grown over-excited by our largesse.

Crazy Legs revealed that last week the little boogers had been so bad that the Monkey Butler Boy had been ostracised from all the tables for having a too sticky, too sweet cake. Pressed into service as a makeshift, sacrificial wasp decoy, he apparently played the role with remarkable aplomb, until they actually started to notice him. At this point he squealed like a prepubescent schoolgirl, hurled his plate into an agitated mass of the wee beasties and ran away. Allegedly.

Son of G-Dawg commented on the sprint where he felt everyone had played a part taking a few turns on the front, he’d apparently missed me lurking among the wheels and fearful of ever sticking my nose in the wind.

This brought back fond recollections of the one time we had somehow managed to force the clubs worst inveterate wheelsucker (yes, even worse than me) onto the front to lead the sprint out. Known simply as the wheelsucker, he wasn’t allowed to drop back, even as the speed slowed to a snail’s pace and we ended up almost doing track stands to keep him in place, while I’m sure he must have wondered why everyone behind was giggling so much.

An oblivious Prof was fascinated to learn we had a codename for a particular rider and wondered if we had others. “Well, Crash-Kill,” I addressed him directly, “Just one or two.”

Caracol then made the cardinal mistake of asking which brand of tyres he should look for if he wanted to replace his current worn set. Amongst cyclists this is almost as dangerous as playing pass-the-parcel with a live hand-grenade or, even worse initiating the hoary old Campagnolo-Shimano-SRAM debate.

Of course he asked three different people and got three completely different answers. Crazy Legs suggested Continental Grand Prix’s, Son of G-Dawg said Schwalbe Ultremo’s, while as a loyal Vittorian I naturally stuck up for the Corsa Evo’s.

Captain Black was questioned about a recent holiday in Spain when he’d managed to get some sneaky miles and much climbing in. Crazy Leg’s was surprised to learn the Captain wasn’t on Strava, so of course declared it never happened. As the Captain made to protest Crazy Leg’s looked straight through him. “Who said that?” He asked me, “Did you hear something?”


We had been slightly distracted in the café by the appearance of an older, rather rotund gentleman cyclist wearing the tightest, skimpiest, briefest pair of cycling shorts known to man, something so tasteless in fact it would put a mid-80’s footballer to shame.


dave
Oh my!

Crazy Leg’s was so perturbed by the sight he’d given the feller an extra 2 metres of space in the queue, while I wondered if he’d worn his garish and jarring fuschia, navy blue and moss green Lampre-Merida jersey to try and distract from the disconcerting display, err… “downstairs.”

I now came out of the café to find G-Dawg, Red Max and a few others cavorting around with their shorts legs rolled right up to their crotches, exposing huge expanses of lily-white thigh above their tan-lines in bizarre tribute to the strange feller. Thankfully good taste prevailed and shorts lengths were restored before we rode out, or anyone thought to whip out a phone and preserve the disturbing images for posterity.

Never mind sock length – what the hell’s the UCI doing about shorts length?

The good order on the way home was disturbed when a TT’er went huffing past, in an aero-tuck and with a serious game-face on. This predictably flipped the switch to send the Red Max into loopy Labrador mode and he immediately gave chase and everyone got pulled along.

As I shot out of the Mad Mile and turned for home, my drive-train started to grind a little, hopefully just a consequence of the rain and accumulated grit and crud. And then to make matters worse, someone granted the puncture fairy visitation rights. I felt the front tyre go sloppy as the rim started to rumble on the tarmac and had to stop for a quick tube change.

So, a bit of a stop-start, frustrating day and a somewhat foreshortened ride, but at least it wasn’t as wet as predicted.


YTD Totals: 4,603 km / 2,860 miles with 45,572 metres of climbing

The Hills Are Alive

The Hills Are Alive

Club Run, Saturday 8th August, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   110 km/68 miles with 1,043 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 14 minutes

Average Speed:                                   25.8 km/h

Group size:                                           32 riders, No FNG’s

Temperature:                                      23°C

Weather in a word or two:              Bright and breezy


The Ride:

Ride Profile 6 August
Ride Profile

 

Well, I’m off on holiday tomorrow, so this could be quick and dirty – let’s see where it goes…

Saturday was again bright and breezy and looked like another great day for a ride, so I was up in good time and raring to go, but delayed when Cat#2 decided to violently reject his breakfast all over the office floor. Leaving 10 minutes late as a consequence of cat-yark cleaning-up duties, I had the choice of shortening my route in, or just pedalling a little bit harder.

I chose the latter, perhaps unwisely, as I wasn’t feeling super-fit: a lingering but very mild cold (even by man-flu standards) had plagued me all week with a sore throat and seemed to have brought on a visitation from the snot fairy overnight.


Snot Fairy
An Unwelcome Visitation from the Snot Fairy

The happy circumstances of kids’ holidays, fine weather and Mrs. SLJ working from home had also allowed me to commute into work by bike on four consecutive days. I’ve taken to riding the last third of the Heinous Hill climb sur la plaque (although I realise that’s a rather relative term on a mountain bike) and three or four cogs down the cassette to try and build some leg power. Four iterations in a week had left me suitably leaden-legged.

Even worse when I hit the valley floor, the “benign and gentle summer breezes” promised for the day in a series of overly optimistic forecasts, turned out to be a rather stiff headwind. I pressed on with the plan to use my normal route nonetheless, figuring I’d be able to make up some of the lost time once I crossed the river and picked up a tailwind, or failing that on the climb out of the valley.

For such a promising day the roads were surprisingly cyclist free, but there was an increased volume of cars to contend with, perhaps a consequence of the on-going repairs to stop the A1 Tyne crossing slowly crumbling and I found myself queuing behind a long line of traffic to cross the Newburn Bridge, just managing to skip through the lights as they were changing.

Once across the river I picked up the pace and managed a couple Strava PR’s and four 2nd fastest times clambering up the other side of the valley. When I hit my usual checkpoint: 8.42 miles into the ride, the time was only 8.40, I was 2 minutes ahead of schedule and I could relax and enjoy the rest of the ride to the meeting point.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

Rab Dee’s new bike saga has finally reached a satisfactory conclusion and he was out astride his new, super-smart BMC Time Machine, having actually delayed his holidays in order to be able to ride his first club run on it. His only minor gripe was that OGL had charged him more than he expected for help assembly help. We suggested this was just the storage costs for keeping the bike securely in the shop for such an over-extended period of time. It also seems like a small price to pay for the horrible ball-ache involved in routing the internal cabling through the frame and making sure everything worked “just so” – you know, a hap’p’orth of tar and all that.

Crazy Legs politely asked permission and then did the standard, UCI approved weight-test, hefting the bike off the ground on extended fingers. He put it down, slightly perplexed and pursed his lips and shook his head a little. Ah! He fished both full water-bottles out of their cages and set them carefully on the pavement, then picked up the bike again, this time nodding approvingly.

New bikes seemed to be the order of the day and the Monkey Butler Boy was there on his new steed, wearing what the BFG described as a “carbon-fibre cushion smile” courtesy of the saddle he’d donated to the project. I expressed surprise at finding the Monkey Butler Boy and Red Max at the meeting so early and put this down to the simple enthusiasm of the new bike.

Apparently it was even worse than I suspected though, as Max related how the Monkey Butler Boy had been awake dressed and down to the Post Office at 6.30 that morning to pick up a parcel containing his new carbon fibre pedals and then pestered his dad to fix them on immediately – all this from someone that Max says he usually has to pry out of bed with a crowbar.

The Red Max then confirmed the Monkey Butler Boy had blown his entire life-savings on his new bike and now only had only one single penny left to his name. Crazy Legs surmised that weight-saving on bikes must cost about a £1 for every gram lost, perhaps £2 a gram once you get below a certain threshold.

The consensus among the club seems to be that Lizzie Armitstead should not be riding in the Olympics and should accept the sanction imposed for missing three drugs-tests, even though many gave her the benefit of the doubt and suspected she probably wasn’t cheating, but just a bit dopey. Crazy Legs made the valid point of asking what sort of reaction we’d had to Christine Ohuruogu following her series of missed tests. Fair point.

Spry, who has an unrequited love affair with Miss Armitstead (unrequited only because they haven’t yet met, of course) remained silent, but I suspect he wasn’t actually paying attention as he’s lately been much too busy devising ever more labyrinthine plots whereby Philip Deignan would meet a gruesome end in an unfortunate accident with an out-of-control agricultural threshing machine.


The good weather had enticed a large bunch out for the run, so at 9.15 Crazy Legs led a procession of over 30 lads and lasses as we pushed off, clipped in and rode out. I joined him on the front as we spent the first couple of mile at a very gentle pace ensuring everyone negotiated the lights, traffic and roundabouts in good order and we were “all on” as we picked our way out into the countryside and began to pick up speed.


 

NOVATEK CAMERA


As we started up Berwick Hill, Crazy Legs song of choice for the day was “Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy” and I wondered aloud about where Kid Creole is now, and if he was living under a witness protection programme after turning state’s evidence. Naturally and as intended, the requisite ear-worm was planted and Crazy Legs started singing “Stool Pigeon” while I added some appropriate “Ha-cha-cha-cha’s!”

Crazy Legs determined that our recent duets – “Rawhide”, “Jimmy, Jimmy” and now “Stool Pigeon” actually helped on the climbs and made them go a little quicker and easier. We decided we needed a song for every hill and he wondered what songs the professional might adopt.

I felt it was obvious Andy Shleck would choose some cheesy Euro-hit and suggested “Barbie Girl” or anything else by Aqua. Crazy Legs disagreed, saying that you couldn’t possibly be expected to complete a long climb Alpe d’Huez or the Hautacam singing “Barbie Girl” over and over, well not without suffering serious psychological repercussions. Hmm, well if the cap fits…


NOVATEK CAMERA


We found the hills were not only alive with the sound of … well I daren’t suggest music, but singing at least … but we were intermittingly riding through clouds of black flies that had been enticed out by the weather and were proving difficult  to both avoid and ingest. Crazy Legs gagged on one particularly meaty example, coughed and spat it out where it ricocheted of the road and pinged solidly off someone’s frame.

We then had a discussion about the collective noun for flies. I suggested swarm would be acceptable, Crazy Legs though thought that given the bullet-like, armour-plated nature of the kamikaze insect that had just dive-bombed his larynx, then perhaps “bolus” would be more appropriate.

Tired of breaking through each new bolus of flies, we ceded the front to Caracol and Moose Bumps and dropped in behind their wheels. Speeding up to the turn-off to Mitford we always take, all was quiet behind as Crazy Legs began a deliberate countdown, “Three … Two… One…Now!”

“Left, left, turn left!” OGL bellowed, but too late – we were well past the junction and there was no turning back. Oh well, that’s one way of finding some slightly less-travelled routes.


NOVATEK CAMERA


Tracing our way back onto the right roads, it wasn’t long before we were climbing up to Dyke Neuk and waving goodbye to G-Dawg who had to zip off home early to look after the family dogs. A few miles further on we stopped to split the group and at this point both the BFG and me were found floundering and wondering what to do in the absence of G-Dawg who we always follow. The BFG admitted to feeling quite bereft now we’d lost our spiritual, if not de facto leader.


NOVATEK CAMERA


While the faster-harder-longer, self-flagellation group set off for a faster-harder-longer, self-flagellation ride, Crazy Legs took charge of the rest and suggested a Hartburn to Middleton Bank route, even getting Szell’s approval for his nemesis climb, as he growled, “Bring it on!” with a just the smallest hint of trembling behind his misplaced bravado.

As we dropped down to the bridge at Hartburn and kicked up the other side I saw the BFG get his gearing all wrong to send his legs spinning in a wild, ineffective blur and I was laughing so hard I could barely climb up the hill after him and dropped to the back of the group trying to recover. I was still there as we began the climb up Middleton Bank, but was happy to take it at my own pace even as a small group broke clear ahead and rode away, reasoning that we always regroup over the top for the race to the café.


NOVATEK CAMERA


Today however was one of those rare days where there would be no re-grouping and I found myself cresting the hill to see the front group disappearing into the distance. I set off in pursuit, eventually catching Carlton and the BFG, but our chase was disorganised and I couldn’t see us catching the leaders, so I eased back, determined to at least win the sprint for the minor placings. I dropped onto the BFG’s wheel as we started the last climb to the café and just waited until his tank inevitably clicked over onto empty and the strength fled his legs. Simple.

“Is that it?” I asked, easing past him.

“Exact same bloody place as last week.” He moaned as I rode away from him.

Well, there’s certainly a virtue in consistency.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Yet more new bikes were noticed at the café, this time belonging to a couple of riders who’d both had Litespeed titanium “bikes for life” that had suffered cracks and frame failures and both concluded their “Lifetime Warranty” was actually worthless.

They now both have shiny new plastic/carbon bikes to look after. This caused Szell no little discomfort, having just recently invested in a top of the line Van Nicholas titanium or “fat lad’s bike” as he described it. OGL assured him that Van Nicholas don’t have the same seemingly desperate reputation that Litespeed seems to be garnering … but then again he is a Van Nicholas dealer.

For some reason the conversation turned to dead pop stars with Crazy Legs lamenting the loss of Prince, who Szell declared he’d hated. When asked why, Szell seemed to suggest it was just pure jealousy as Prince was richer, better-looking, more successful, a better singer, more talented, “Hell,” he concluded, “Prince could probably climb Middleton Bank better.”

This naturally led to us considering what kind of cyclist Prince would be – obviously a grimpeur and Crazy Legs wondering what his climbing song would be and nominating “Starfish and Coffee” a song he’d spent quite some time trying to make sense of, before realising it was quite nonsensical.

So the cycling world missed out on a potential King of the Mountains contender, but as Crazy Legs surmised, you really wouldn’t want to watch a climber who would punctuate every pedal stroke with a “Whoo!” or “Ee-ee!”


As we were gathering everything up to leave the café, Taffy Steve appeared, having snapped his chain on the ride in from the coast that morning and being delayed by a diversion to a bike shop for repairs. He was just sitting down to a well-deserved coffee and cake combo as we were leaving and waved us off.

As we started down Berwick Hill someone was just saying how unusually civilized and orderly the run back had been, when a yellow blur flashed past, Taffy Steve going full-bore having chased us from the café in an epic pursuit and intent on finishing his solo ride in style. All hell then broke loose as a chase began, amidst much futile OGL shouting.

Things seemed to calm briefly for the steep ramp into Dinnington, before disintegrating again and we were soon scattered all over the road in small groups and single riders. I worked my way forwards jumping from wheel to wheel until I hit the roundabout to turn for home and eased, determined to enjoy the sunshine and the ride back alone at a more relaxed pace.

There was still time for the unusual sight of the day, a wedding procession that almost rivalled the 3 massive tractors of a few weeks ago, as I passed an entire wedding party aboard two ribbon-adorned, big red double-decker buses, before I was dropping down toward the river.

Again traffic was queued up and it was busier than I’d ever seen it on the approach to the bridge. This was nothing, however compared to the south side where the line of waiting cars must have been half a mile long, as I guess some sort of diversion was in effect. As I rode past all the frustrated impatient drivers, sweltering in their hot cars, I couldn’t help but feel glad that I was out in the open, moving freely and actually able to enjoy the weather.


YTD Totals: 4,603 km / 2,860 miles with 45,572 metres of climbing

Club Rules


A Series of unWritten Club Rules …

I’ve been at this club run malarkey long enough to recognise that our club is constantly evolving and developing our own unique rules of etiquette for the safety and eminent enjoyment of all.

I felt it was about time some of these rules were formally enshrined in writing, so they can be disseminated, discussed and adopted among my brother and sister cyclists.


rb


Rule#1 – the club run only adheres to Official Garmin Time (OGT). The departure time for club runs will always be precisely 15 minutes after any advertised start-time (OGT+15). Why? Just because.

Official Garmin Time is used to ensure perfect accuracy and synchronisation – if we can’t be on time, we can at least be precise!

Rule#2 – A club run can only commence when at least two members verify via separate Garmin devices that the Official Garmin Time has ticked over to the requisite 15 minutes from the advertised start-time.  (OGT+15).

In the absence of two Garmin’s, one or both timing devices can be substituted for mobile phones, other bike computers or any other satellite-synchronised timepiece. Mechanical or digital wristwatches, pocket watches, clocks, sundials, the height of the sun above the horizon, avian migratory patterns or the inexplicably variable timings employed by local public transport services are not adequate substitutes.

In the absence of two properly configured Garmin devices or other adequate and suitable substitutes, the time of departure must be determined by a show of hands and intoning of the single word of consensus: “Aye.” Only when a majority have indicated it is time to leave will the club run officially commence.

Rule#3 – departure (when at least two members verify via their Garmin devices that the Official Garmin Time has ticked over to the requisite 15 minutes from the advertised start-time) is to be announced by nothing further than the ostentatious and audibly pronounced application of foot to pedal and clipping in.

Rule#4 – any items found on the road that are not immediately claimed by a member of the group are forfeit and belong, in their entirety to the Prof. This includes, but is not confined to: all articles of clothing, regardless of if they are cycling related or not, bike, motor car or motorcycle componentry, any and all roadkill, any and all fly-tipping or littering and any and all other manner of detritus, leavings or flotsam and jetsam.

In the Prof’s absence, beZ is his legally appointed lieutenant and proxy and will maintain the right of first refusal on all roadside items discovered during the ride.

If the Prof or beZ declare the materials as unwanted, they will in all likelihood be left in situ until such time as the Prof believes they have mouldered long enough to be of value.

Rule#5 – when riding two abreast, the correct point of alignment should always be the leading edge of your companions front most tyre. This is to allow for strange and misguided eccentrics who may occasionally wish to accompany us astride small-wheeled velocipedes.

Rule#6 – Is the only exception to Rule#5 – when riding alongside the Red Max the correct positioning is to have the leading edge of your front most tyre advanced no further forward than his front hub.

Rule#7 – it is bad form for any coffee order placed in the café to be anything other than a standard mug or cup of filter coffee.

Effete, premium and exotic orders such as Espresso’s, Flat White’s, Cappuccino’s, Latte’s, Machiato’s, Americano’s etc. etc. shall only be ordered if you are the very last person in the queue and you are certain that the time-consuming making of said beverages will not delay or impede the service afforded your brother or sister cyclists. The needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the one.

Rule#8 – Other exotic, non-standard hot beverages may be purchased and consumed, such as green tea, jasmine tea, peppermint tea, chamomile tea, hot chocolate et al. as long as said purchaser understands they will be called an “effete poseur” and may be told at anytime to MTFU.

Rule#9 – we are not the Velominati – socks can be any colour, any length and any style. But, they must be straight at all times.

Rule#10 – When the inevitable occurs and we are harassed, harangued, sworn at, swerved at, honked or tooted at, flipped off, abused or otherwise threatened by a Random Indignant Motorist (RIM) it is the duty of all cyclists to give them the biggest, friendliest, most exaggerated, cheesy and cheerful wave possible.

I’ve no idea if it confuses the RIM’s or even registers across their tiny brains, but it looks bloody hilarious.

Now, what have I missed?