Domestic Duties

Domestic Duties

Club Run, Saturday 18th February, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  107 km / 67 miles with 1,061 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 25 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.2 km/h

Group size:                                         22 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    13°C

Weather in a word or two:          Föhntastic!

Ride Profile

The Ride:

Catching the end of the BBC weather, I learned the weekend was going to see the whole of the North East of England exposed to what they were labelling the Föhn effect. That sounded serious, in a Scandinavian sort of way and they’re not a region renowned for fine weather. After last week’s dreadful conditions, it was not what I was hoping for.

In actual fact the Föhn effect is relatively benevolent as, to the best of my limited understanding, it meant that we were going to be sheltered in the lee side of a plume of tropical air that got hung up in the process of dumping a heavy, hearty rainfall all over the Pennines. This in turn would generate strong and gusty downslope winds accompanied by abrupt warming and drying over our entire region. Sorry, Manchester, but lucky us.

What this actually meant in practice was an unseasonably mild, dry but windy Saturday. .

In fact, the forecast was so mild and so dry for Saturday, that Facebook chatter started early about the rare possibility for breaking out the best, summer bikes, if only on a day release basis. It was an opportunity many decided could not be missed, but Reg was clearly unprepared for such a rude and abrupt early awakening, so I stuck to the Pug.

Down by the riverside (Catchy. Someone should use that line in a song) I found lots of fit looking young people in muddy wellies milling around. The car parks in both boat clubs were clogged with trailers piled high with white hulls, while cars spilled out onto either side of the road. It looked like being a big day of competition out on the river for our local rowing clubs and they’d struck lucky with the weather too.

It was mild enough outside for a single base-layer and light, windproof jersey and by the time I reached the meeting point, both the weather and my efforts had warmed me up enough that I was able to discard the buff, headband and inner gloves.

Main topics of conversation at the start:

G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg were the first to arrive on their “best bikes” the latter adorned with a gleaming new chain. And not just any chain, but a gleaming, new and glistening golden chain. We suggested other bits of gold bling Son of G-Dawg could add to the bike, although there was a sharp intake of breath when he proposed, “Maybe gold shoes, too.”

You see, he just had to push it too far (although, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’d wear gold shoes, even if it was just as ultimate mark of my style over substance approach to cycling.)

It wasn’t quite mild enough for Crazy Legs to risk the cossetted Ribble, but he’d traded in the fixie for the Bianchi. Jimmy Mac tried to interest Crazy Legs in a celeste coloured chain for the Bianchi, but the option had already been contemplated and rejected because:

a. It would mean keeping the chain even more scrupulously clean.

b. How much!!? £80 for a consumable chain seems a little excessive.

Taffy Steve had abandoned the thrice-cursed winter-bike for his titanium love-child, but cited on-going mechanical issues with the winter hack as the principle reason for the change, including jockey wheels that had assumed the same rough shape and dimensions as a shark’s teeth. Likewise, the Red Max had no choice but to go with his best bike after the terminal disintegration of his drive train last week.

Keel, also out on his best bike, had invested in some scarily, glaringly white, plush, Lizard Skins bar tape, but was uncertain how long it would keep its pristine loveliness. He suggested he might be riding the entire way with his hands clasped precariously around the front of his brake levers.

White bar tape had finally defeated even G-Dawg, who usually relishes even the most taxing bike-cleaning challenge, but had eventually recognised the futility of a battle he couldn’t hope to win. We’ll see, maybe the Lizard Skins stuff is easy to clean – it has a good reputation to go with its hefty price.

Meanwhile the Garrulous Kid was talking at Taffy Steve, explaining he would be missing a few club runs as he needed some extra weekend tuition for his Maffs A-Level.

“Maffs?” I enquired.

“Yes, Maffs.”

“Not English?”

“No, my English is really good, just Maffs.”


Meanwhile, Sneaky Pete had sneaked in amongst the group, presenting us with a unique photo-opportunity, as the bus shelter nearby was currently adorned with a poster for the eponymous TV Series of Sneaky Pete’s life.

Acting as both press officer and official photographer, Crazy Legs was soon lining up Sneaky Pete alongside the poster, to record the moment for posterity.


He looks grumpy because he’s entirely disowned the production as (allegedly) the series takes far too many liberties with his real life story: turning the mild-mannered, retired-physics teacher, Oxford Blue and occasional mountaineering-cyclist, into a con man on the run from a vicious gangster, while transplanting the whole story from the gritty north of the UK, to a ritzy New York City. Hollywood, eh?

After a slight delay, while the Red Max swapped his cleats around – 24 or so cyclists pushed off, clipped in and rode out,  an odd mix of posh plastic bikes and battered and benighted winter-hacks.

Those on their good bikes were especially giddy, none more so that the Red Max, who swooped delightedly from the head of the line, completely around one roundabout and back onto the rear of our group – the world’s first Immelmann Turn performed by bicycle.

I was riding with the Monkey Butler Boy when we had our first RIM encounter of the day, a white-van man who took exception to us, even though he was driving in completely the opposite direction. Face twisted in malevolent outrage, he considerately took time away from the conversation he was having on his mobile, to lean heavily on his horn and gesticulate that we were all violent self-abusers. How pleasant.

Moments later a driver tried to pass us, only to find the outside lane already occupied by an approaching car, forcing him to dither disconcertedly, obviously tempted to turn back into our group.

If he was a short-sighted, impatient lunatic, I didn’t know what to make of the driver who blindly followed the overtaking manoeuvre, glued to his rear bumper and with even less idea if the road ahead was clear.

Luckily the approaching driver braked to a halt, allowing the two morons the opportunity to accelerate away and pull across in front of us. I was going to say safely in front of us, but there was wasn’t a scintilla of safety or consideration in anything this pair were doing.

Looking for less trafficked lanes, we turned right at the top of Berwick Hill and lined out for a fairly rapid descent. Half way down Sneaky Pete’s bottle bounced out and down the road and, after a short delay he finally seemed to notice and decided to turn about and retrieve it.

I found a place to pull in, stop and wait, while the rest of the group flashed past and away, just in case he needed any help chasing on. After a short delay, Sneaky Pete appeared over the brow of the hill, led by Rab Dee who’d also waited to help out. As Rab is younger, faster than fitter than me, my services weren’t really required, so I simply tagged onto the back, while he pulled us up to where our group was being trailed by a couple of cars, like a loyal domestique drafting through the caravan of team cars and service vehicles to deliver his leader back to the front.

Further on and passing Kirkley Cycles, G-Dawg pulled over as his STI lever had worked loose on his handlebars. As this was the same STI lever OGL’s shop had recently spent some time fixing, he was instantly on hand to help sort the problem, while we naturally all suggested G-Dawg should have used a more reputable mechanic.

None of the proffered multi-tools were long enough to get the job done, so OGL and G-Dawg disappeared up the lane to the cycle workshop to seek technical assistance and pro tools. Unbeknown to anyone, Zardoz also trailed after them, looking for the toilet.

While we waited, Crazy Legs’s Bianchi and my Peugeot decided to re-ignite the long dormant Franco-Italian War, with a bit of tyre-butting, like two rutting stags going head to head. Meanwhile, Jimmy Mac’s German Storck tried to maintain neutrality with an air of imperious disdain.

Thankfully easily distracted, Crazy Legs tilted his head to one side to read the name emblazoned down the side of the Storcks fork. “Stiletto, that’s a good name for a bike,” he declared.

“Just not very Germanic.” I added, before suggesting maybe Stuka or Panzerkampfwagen would have been more appropriate.

Elsewhere, the Monkey Butler Boy was extolling the virtues of Morgan Blue Cleaning Brushes, which I interpreted as booshes and Crazy Legs as Morgan Freeman. In an instant we were left wondering what Morgan Freeman Booshes were … and whether we needed any.

Luckily Taffy Steve wasn’t around to advise us that you shouldn’t really be calling bike cleaning products anything that could be confused with a stripper, or porn stars’ stage name.


Repairs safely effected, OGL and G-Dawg returned and we set off, inadvertently abandoning Zardoz in the toilet and forcing him to chase on for a good few miles. As I reiterated later, no one is knowingly left behind, but we’re just not very knowing.

Despite the beneficial, drying Föhn effect, through sheer persistence, cunning local knowledge and a degree of malevolent serendipity, OGL finally managed to lead us onto a section of road that was wet, rutted, filthy-muddy and horribly exposed – seemingly on no more than a whim to ensure all the posh bikes got clarty.

Rounding one bend on a narrow road, we forced a lane-hogging Qashqai to slow and reluctantly pull over. As we squeezed past the driver wound down her window to gesticulate angrily to the side of the road.

“There’s a parsing ployce,” she cried, “Yoos should use the parsing ployce!”

A great idea in principle, but I’m not sure how we could have crowded 2 dozen bikes and riders into the narrow strip that barely deserved to be called a lay-by, or how long that would have delayed her while we all huddled up and squeezed in tight together.

As we stopped to split the group, Son of G-Dawg bemoaned his spattered and muddy bike. An unsympathetic OGL told him smugly he needed mudguards. Smug guards?

“Got him,” Son of G-Dawg muttered, “Hook, line and sinker.”

“Yep,” I agreed, “He’s done, gaff him and pull him on-board.”

OGL then took the amblers group off to the left, while we pushed past Dyke Neuk, before splitting the group. A small selection of longer, harder, faster riders headed away for a loop around Long Whitton, while we set off for a rendezvous with Middleton Bank.

Jimmy Mac rode off the front on the approaches to the climb and everyone was strung out in a long line as we hit the lower slopes. I found myself at the bottom of the steepest ramp and some way off a rapidly coalescing front group and knew immediately it just wasn’t going to happen today, I didn’t have the legs to close them down. Still, I tried to keep the gap manageable, pulling clear of the rest with Zardoz in tow.

Over the top, I pushed on with the lone chase, now battling a fairly stiff headwind along with horrendous oxygen deprivation. It was hard, hard work, even as the distance to the front slowly dwindled. I suspect at some point they then looked back, saw me and took pity on my ineffectual thrashing, easing slightly so I was finally able to drag myself and Zardoz up to the wheels.

There we joined, G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Taffy Steve and Captain Black as they set off again, in mad pursuit of Jimmy Mac. Slowly, inexorably, the screw was turned and the pace increased as we slipped from riding in pairs, to one long, drawn out line, hammering over a series of short rises and sweeping through the bends.

I was at my limit on Captain Black’s wheel as he became slowly detached and I had nothing to give to help him bridge back across, so just hung there uselessly. He dug in to stop the gap expanding further, but couldn’t close up again.

We yowled through Milestone Woods towards the rollers and I felt there was a chance if I buried myself I might be able to pull our small group across the leaders on the climb. Carrying as much speed as I could around the final corner, I attacked from the bottom of the first ramp, managed to maintain momentum up the second and then attacked the third and final rise in a ragged, out of the saddle, leg pounding, snaking effort.

Pushing on and pedalling furiously on the descent to the final climb, I got within a few metres of Taffy Steve’s back wheel, before the slope bit, the legs went and I sat up. Zardoz swept past with a quizzical look, but I was cooked and there was nothing more I could do. He at least managed to bridge up to Taffy Steve to contest the minor placings, while I plugged along behind.

We regrouped at a temporary set of traffic lights, before rolling into the café en masse.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A quick scrutiny of £5 notes revealed that no one had the last £50,000 engraved version. Maybe next week.

Max Stöckl’s world record downhill speed of 167 kph (over 100 mph!) was rightfully appreciated, while we wondered just how good his brakes were, if there was a wall at the end of his run, maybe speed bumps, or perhaps even train lines.

This inevitably led to further discussion of Biden Fecht’s escapades sans braking, with G-Dawg revealing that now, whenever he drives past the Metro station, he always looks for the escape lane/service road that our hapless riding companion took to avoid slamming into the level crossing barriers or the train. He wondered if Biden Fecht knew the lane was there, or whether he was just got very, very lucky. I strongly suspect the latter.

Son of G-Dawg said he realised how bad the situation was when Biden Fecht took the first corner out of Stamfordham like a speedway rider, foot down and trailing a plume of smoke, bike leaning over impossibly and at a right angle to its direction of travel. G-Dawg wondered if he’s had to buy new cleats as well as brake blocks and maybe even new shoes, perhaps with a better braking surface – just in case.

There’d been a cyclo-cross race at Kirkley Cycles when we’d stopped there earlier, but none of us could quite see the attraction of wallowing through all that mud and crud and getting your bike, in the immortal words of Daughter#2, “all bogey’d up.” In fact, given the group response to the mild mud speckling we’d encountered today, I sensed no one in our group would deliberately subject their bikes to prolonged dirt grubbing.

G-Dawg said he’d once tried a cyclo-cross event on his mountain bike, but felt parts of the course were so technical he would have been better off running the whole way. We then idly speculated on the chances of an Olympic-class middle distance runner just shouldering a bike and running an entire cyclo-cross race, potentially doable if the course is technical enough and the bike you carry doesn’t actually need all those superfluous heavy bits cyclo-cross riders use, you know like a chains, pedals, group sets and … oh … err … hidden motors.

With the café busy and new arrivals stacking up and waiting for free tables, G-Dawg declared to a waiting civilian that we’d be done in five minutes, while Son of G-Dawg snorted in disdain. Apparently, G-Dawg’s “just five minutes” are notoriously elastic in a “I told you half an hour ago I’d be 5 minutes” type of way.

We left the café to find the Red Max had been divulging copious advice on how to deal with the fairer sex to a suitably scandalised Garrulous Kid, while the Monkey Butler Boy rolled his eyes in a “I’ve heard it all before” kind of way and tried to ignore his embarrassing Dad. The Garrulous Kid wanted to know whether the information was sound and sensible. I could only suggest he think of it as a modified game of Simon Says, in which he the aim is to ignore anything and everything that Simon Says.

Heading back, we were overtaken by a lone cyclist in a Ride London jersey and both Captain Black and I noted the lack of response from Red Max, who would usually fire off and hunt down any visible cyclists like a heat-seeking missile in lycra. We concluded creeping age and the responsibility of being a grandparent must have tempered his hunter-killer instincts.

As it was, we caught the lone rider the first time the road swung uphill. Then beZ and Jimmy Cornfeed hammered past and this time the seeker head engaged and locked on.  The Red Max was launched from the pack in pursuit and half a dozen others followed as all order was shattered. I guess he was just waiting for a more challenging target.

The rest of us continued at a more restrained pace, which gave Zardoz the opportunity to demonstrate the peculiar grinding, grating warble his rear wheel had developed. This sounded like some kind of baa-ing electronic sheep whose batteries were running dangerously low – a weird bleating, droning whine. He rode up to OGL, let the bike emit it’s wail of distress and asked archly, “Do you think this sounds expensive, then?”

We started to haul in our errant attackers as we climbed to the top of Berwick Hill and began the long straight descent, at one point OGL hunkering down onto the drops and ratcheting the pace up. I know not why.

In no time at all most of the group had swung off and the small remainder hit the Mad Mile. I hung onto G-Dawg’s wheel as long as I could, until his drag race for the shower with Son of G-Dawg became too heated and then I was on my own battering into a suddenly brisk and debilitating headwind.

The grind uphill into the wind and out past the golf course was a real struggle, but before too long I was able to tip over into the valley and head for the river. Skipping across the bridge, the water below was still aswarm with narrow boats, while the crew of an 8 slowly carried their upside down hull toward the water, from above looking like nothing so much as an over-sized, gleaming white centipede.

At home, I found the bike was surprisingly muddy after the ride, despite a relatively dry day. Still, a pleasant interlude before the return to true winter riding, which I suspect is just around the corner and will be with us for a few weeks yet.

YTD Totals: 949 km / 590 miles with 8,937 metres of climbing

Greasing the Rim

Greasing the Rim

Club Run, Saturday 11th February, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  89 km/55 miles with 458 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                                20.6 km/h

Group size:                                         10 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    5°C

Weather in a word or two:          Brutal

Ride profile

The Ride:

If the soundtrack to last week was Felt’s Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow, this week the needle had skipped a few tracks and we had to contend with The Day the Rain Came Down.

The previous Saturday included a small celebration for not having to use the lights on the bike on my way across to our meeting point. Today, in contrast was a reminder of just how much gloomy, wet and wild winter-weather we may still have to get through before we emerge into spring. It was wet (it was very wet), it was cold (it was very cold) and it was drab, dark and dismal enough that I turned the lights on as I set out … and didn’t turn them off again until I’d dragged myself back up the Heinous Hill and home.

I went with a series of double layers, Planet-X Mr. Krabbe lobster gloves and liners, winter jacket topped with a rain jacket, waterproof socks under Thermolite socks. It wasn’t enough.

Hoping to minimise my exposure to the rain, or at least delay the moment until became soaked through, I left a little later than usual, heading for the nearest bridge over the river, instead of my usual, quieter but longer route. Ripping down the hill, the spray flung up by my wheels was handily repelled by my winter boots, but I was quickly soaked in freezing water from ankles to knees. This was going to be a bit grim.

Still, I made good time and was soon ducking into the cold, inhospitable but dry shelter of the multi-storey car-park, wondering just who else would be mad enough to ride today.

OGL was the first to turn up, shaking his head ruefully and wondering what strange, insane compulsion drove us to ride in this kind of weather and predicting a low turnout. And so it proved, as a hard core, crazy few gathered to point and laugh at our own stupidity before setting back out into the rain.

Main conversations at the start:

As we were wearing identical lobster mitts, Crazy Legs invented a lobster mitt greeting, that progressed from a Vulcan-style “live long and prosper” to something I can only describes as … err… something akin to “tribbing” or “scissoring” maybe?

Still, moving swiftly on, OGL had repaired the right-hand shifter of G-Dawg’s “best bike” and confessed he hadn’t even bothered to test to see if the left-hand shifter was fully working.

“I wouldn’t worry,” Crazy Legs assured him, “It’s only there for decoration.”

We did then ponder what might happen if G-Dawg couldn’t actually utilise his inner ring on the two planned occasions each year when we suspected it might be needed – once to grind up the Ryals at the end of the Cyclone and once for the masochistic, torture-fest of the club hill-climb.

OGL then talked about completing a £250 service on an £350 bike. To be fair the owner had ridden it frequently, but had done no servicing or maintenance for the past 18 months. We wondered why OGL didn’t just sell him a new bike and he confessed he’d actually make more money from a £250 service than a £350 sale, such are the harsh economics of your local, much-endagered bike shop and the depressed margins to be made on new kit.

Someone had posted a video on Facebook showing a frame dipped through a thin layer of paints floated on top of water. This resulted a super-cool and much coveted paint job that looked like snakeskin.

“You’d know it was even carried right through, inside your bottom bracket, even though no one else would see it.” Son of G-Dawg enthused, clearly demonstrating that he is indeed his father’s son.

A distant figure approaching at high speed through the gloom transformed into Biden Fecht and we all waved our arms in horror and shouted “Stop! Brake!”  He swept over the kerb, and carved a big arc toward us, before touching his brakes and drawing to an abrupt stop, patting his newly replaced, still shiny and obviously effective new brake blocks affectionately. Guess he made it home, after all.

OGL then went all misty-eyed as he reminisced about the “good old days” of steel rims which had shocking traction in the wet and a braking performance that was not enhanced by the fact that club riders used to regularly coat them in a protective film of Vaseline to stop rusting.

Biden Fecht’s mechanical misfortune had been redressed so he was allowed out, but the Red Max, as big a gibbering loon as anyone currently standing huddled in the car park, was conspicuously absent. We later learned he had a semi-reasonable excuse – his ambition to nurse the winter bike into spring had been cruelly curtailed last Sunday when his crank finally fell off. Still, he won’t have been too disappointed to have missed the ride as he’s now enjoying the euphoric, pre-purchase high of researching which new bike to buy.

Taffy Steve had instigated a bit of a social-media feeding frenzy, by posting up the completely innocent and highly sensible ride information from another club which listed 6 different, colour coded route options, depending on distance, average speed and ability. These ranged from a Black Ride of 50 or more miles at 17+ mph to a Ladies ride of 25 miles at 10 mph and a remarkably gentle “New to cycling” 10 miles at 5 mph.

While all this pre-planning and ride segregation was eminently sensible and well-meaning, it just brought out our very worst excesses in a flood of cynical, jaded, sardonic, disreputable and wholly unforgivable egesta extraction.

Red Max had just been happy to find there was a Red Ride, he wasn’t fussed how long or how fast it was.  Our self-flagellating, racing snakes wanted a black diamond 100 mile ride at an average of 20 mph with no coffee stops allowed, just to ensure they managed to suck the last scintilla of joy and entertainment from the run.

Laurelan wanted to know whether she’d be excused from the Ladies ride if she proved she could swear like a trooper and wondered if anyone needed any socks darning, as something to keep her occupied on a ride of such genteel pace.

Now Aether added to the fun, wondering aloud if the beginners ride was slow enough to allow someone with a red flag to walk in front of all the new cyclists.

Mean-spirited cynicism finally, if only temporarily tamped down, the mad/sad (delete as appropriate) Big Ten, pushed off, clipped in and sallied forth: OGL, Crazy Legs, G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Biden Fecht, Taffy Steve, Aether, the Big Yin, Kermit and me.

We hadn’t travelled far when a mismatched pair of cyclists ripped past in the other direction, one so big and tall, his passing created a transitory rain shadow that gave us an instant of relief.

“Was that the BFG?” Crazy Legs asked.

“If it was, he didn’t notice or acknowledge us.” G-Dawg replied.

“We must have been outside his field of view.” Crazy Legs surmised

Ah, he meant that narrow cone that extends up to 3 metres and no more than 10⁰ either side of the BFG’s nose. That could explain it.

Pressing on, OGL observed that Biden Fecht’s truncated bit of plastic represented “almost a mudguard.”

“Perhaps it’s a semi-guard, or possibly even a demi-guard.” I suggested.

“A Demi Moore?” Crazy Legs wondered.

“Hmm, surely a demi-Moore would be a Dudley.”

OGL then began talking about a couple of hapless chancers who’d had a deal worth £-millions turn good and it took us an age to work out he was talking about the plot of an old episode of “Only Fools and Horses.” At about the same time, we were buzzed by an impatient boy-racer in his souped-up, red Vauxhall Corsa, complete with big bore exhaust and tawdry body kit. Taffy Steve launched into a memorable tirade about that kind of car and that kind of driver, before succinctly concluding “Only Fools and Corsa’s!” with a wry shake of the head.

Meanwhile and completely unrelated, I was trying to name a Four Tops song for Crazy Legs, but the best I could come up with was “I Can’t Give You Anything.” I was challenged to sing it and then challenged to sing it properly, failing miserably on both counts. I would need to endure my own personal Testicular Armageddon to get anywhere near some of those high notes.

(Being of white, English, punk and New Wave up-bringing and shockingly ignorant and uncultured, neither of us knew the song was actually a hit for the Stylistics, or could confidently name a Four Tops song.)

In such errant and foolish ways, we passed the time, talking complete and utter nonsense as we threaded our way around puddles and pot holes. All the while a freezing rain continued to fall down on us and the cold and damp slowly wormed it way through multiple layers to add a frisson of discomfort to the ride.

A somewhat truncated route had us heading for the Quarry Climb and on to the café, with Kermit and Biden Fecht on the front, Crazy Legs and me following second wheel.

Crazy Legs suspected as soon as we hung a sharp right up to the climb and directly into a fairly gusty headwind, the two on the front would peel away and we’d have to take over for the worst part of the ride. The stalwart front pair held course however, dragging us to the last corner before peeling off to either side, a well-executed manoeuvre, ruined only by the fact that we were already half way round the bend when they swung across the road.


We regained order and pushed on, dragging the group to the bottom of the climb proper, when it was everyman for himself. Those on fixies taking a good run at the slope, but perhaps because of the headwind, found themselves struggling on the incline. Nevertheless, everyone made it up, no one’s chain shattered and no one punctured on errant fragments of razor-sharp, tyre-shredding chain shrapnel left behind from last week.

We regrouped at the top and swung right, picking the pace up a little, until we ran into a slowly coalescing hunt and had to ease up to pass numerous horses and horse boxes. This confirmed what we’d long come to expect about who would voluntarily venture out in this kind of weather – “Only Fools and Horses.”

We carefully threaded our way through a somewhat subdued, miserable and drab looking hunt, their usual bright colours mainly hidden under waxed jackets, before swinging right to start the final run down to the café.

Son of G-Dawg kicked away with G-Dawg and Biden Fecht closely following. Taffy Steve made to give chase, but a clunk-whirr-whirr-clunk of slipping gears persuaded him we didn’t need another snapped chain and he dropped back to where the rest of were intent on cruising in at a relatively sedate pace

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The car park was almost completely full, but the café itself was surprisingly empty and we calculated that every single person there must have arrived in an individual car. We couldn’t quite work out what was going on, as surely there was nowhere nearby where you might want to park and walk up to – especially in this weather.

Once a large group spread over a couple of pushed together tables left, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was going to be a quiet day, which may have been just as well as when I went for coffee re-fills I found the new till warbling and wailing in distress, obviously trying to contact the mother-ship and refusing to take any more orders from its Earthling operators.

In a discussion about new technology, Crazy Legs said his new smart-TV could be voice activated, something so impractical and redundant could see no earthly use for it. OGL seemed quite intrigued by the idea though and queried if you could just instruct it to “find porn.”

Crazy Legs admitted he hadn’t tried that particular feature, but couldn’t see why not, while I had a vision of a masked-OGL riding round the streets shouting “find porn” at smart-TV’s through open windows, before riding away cackling like a madman.

Son of G-Dawg reported that the Amazon Echo’s voice-activated ordering had run into trouble when a news report repeated how a small child had inadvertently bought an expensive doll’s house and hundreds of cookies. Apparently picking up on the commands from the TV broadcast, hundreds of consumers in San Diego then found their units responding in a like manner and ordering them doll’s houses and cookies.

Crazy Legs brought up the proposed Amazon Airship – a massive, floating warehouse in the sky, which would be serviced by aerial drone-delivery. I suggested they didn’t need the drones, just a good bomb sight – delivery via gravity! We them envisaged someone like Red Max ordering the Monkey Butler Boy to go out into the garden to catch a delivery that Amazon were about to drop-off … and failing to mention it was a new washing machine.

In another encounter with technology, G-Dawg recounted being asked to park someone’s car that had a new-fangled, remote, keyless system that he’d never used before. He parked up, locked the car and walked away, then began second guessing the system and walking back to the car to check if it was still locked. Just as well he checked, the door opened straight away to his touch…

This reminded me of the time the venerable Toshi San arranged to meet up for a bike ride at the local town hall. Waking to find a good covering of snow on the ground he set out anyway, but found no one waiting at the meeting point. Thinking someone might be sheltering around the other side of the building, he rode around just to check.

He arrived back at the start having failed to find anyone, but then noticed a new set of tyre tracks in the snow that hadn’t been there before. Reasoning someone else had arrived and decided to ride around and look for the others, he set off in pursuit, didn’t see anyone, but got back to the start to find someone else had joined the first rider and there were now two sets of tracks in the snow…

Meanwhile Crazy Legs confessed to loving his flip, folding car key which he said made him feel like D’Artagnan

“But, D’Artagnan didn’t have a flick knife, or even a flick épée.” I protested.

“The Scicilian version did.” Taffy Steve reassured me.

We tried, but failed miserably to decipher the colour coding of hunt blazers – do they denote different ranks and if so how could you tell who was in charge if everyone was hiding their colours under a wax jacket.

OGL suggested he was distantly acquainted with the Barbour family and one lived quite nearby. Crazy Legs was largely disinterested, judging the Barbour jacket as a naff, fashion faux-pas, but suggested if OGL knew Monsieur Gore-Tex, he’d like an introduction so he could shake the man’s hand.

G-Dawg declared this was the kind of day when he would be stepping into his shower while wearing his jacket and overshoes, the most effective way of getting them clean. I mentioned I’d tried this trick with my rain jacket a couple of weeks ago and all was going well till the rear pockets filled up with water and it pulled me to the floor where I was left floundering on my back like an upside down turtle. Son of G-Dawg was highly amused by the ignominious thought of me drowning in my own shower and my body being found there while, somewhat bizarrely wearing a rain coat.

And then, we were done and suffering the absolute distress of having to pull on cold, wet gloves, hats, scarves and helmets and stepping out of the womb-like safety of the café for the ride home. The horror! The horror!

Back out and the weather seemed, if anything to be getting worse. The frozen rain was pelting down harder, stinging any and all exposed flesh and the temperature seemed to have dipped further while we were sheltering indoors.

On the first hill I took to the front with Son of G-Dawg in a futile effort to try and warm up and we pressed on. As the awful conditions showed no sign of relenting, I finally swapped places with Son of G-Dawg so I could ride on the outside, intending to leave the group early and turn right through Ponteland. This way I could swing over the top of the airport to cut a big corner off my ride home.

By now though, the weather was so unrelentingly unpleasant, that the entire group decided that this slightly more direct route was the better option. In this way I had company for longer than normal, before I turned off for my trip home.

2 days on, my gloves are sitting on the radiator still damp. I hope they recover in time for the weekend.

YTD Totals: 799 km / 496 miles with 8,356 metres of climbing

Garmin Muppet Time

Garmin Muppet Time

Club Run, Saturday 4th February, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  113 km/70 miles with 1,286 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 52 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.3 km/h

Group size:                                         22 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    8°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and brisk

Ride Profile

The Ride:

Garmin Muppet Time … or perhaps much better titled as a Series of Unfortunate Events, which is what Carlton dubbed this ride on Strava.  (Don’t you hate it when someone proves themselves much wittier and cleverer than you?)

Commuting to and from work on Friday, I had been ambushed by some astonishingly mild weather and had quickly found myself over-dressed and over-heating. This suggested getting the clothing right for Saturday was going to be a challenge.

Temperatures had dropped overnight though, perhaps driven down by a belt of heavy rain that had evidently swept across and over us in the dark before being blown away into the North Sea.

The rain had left its mark, with puddles and pools of standing water dotting the roads, and the tarmac was still wet, slick and shining. The rainfall had also scoured the sky clean, high and empty, cloudless and oddly colourless in the pale and watery light of a newly risen sun.

Mixing and matching, I’d chosen a heavy base layer under a lighter jacket and thinner gloves with liners. It was to prove a little too cold for the first couple of hours, but comfortable afterwards and I never got over-heated. Then again, this week we didn’t get to enjoy the mad, heart-pounding, pell-mell and balls-to-the-wall dash to the café that is the traditional highlight of our usual Saturday morning rides.

The great thing was it was bright enough as I set out to be able to dispense with the lights, and the sun had already hauled itself well above the horizon as I crossed the bridge, turning the remarkably still and placid river into a burnished, pale gold mirror all the way downriver and toward the east.

After riding with mismatched wheels following an unprecedented spate of front-wheel punctures (SLJ: The Big Let Down) that had seen me abandon one (seemingly errant) Fulcrum 7, I’d finally got round to matching the replacement wheel to its estranged partner.

Now on two seemingly lighter, maybe in Mr. Brailsford’s world … rounder, wheel’s, inherited from my crashed and trashed Focus (a.k.a. the Prof’s Frankenbike) everything was smooth and thrumming and all was well with the world.

The new-old wheels, recovered from the depths of my man-cave/bike shed are Forza (4ZA) Cirrus, the in-house components brand for Belgian’s Ridley bikes. As such I’m hoping their Flemish/Classics heritage has delivered something that is rugged and robust enough to stand up to a few North East winters.

Even after the Christmas seasonal debauchery, I’m well inside their 95kg recommended limit for the wheelset and don’t think I’m as harsh on my bike and equipment as some others. Assuming they’re structurally good then, the only major drawback I can see is that the rims are white. Not exactly ideal for winter riding on these muddy and filth strewn roads. Keeping them gleaming and pristine is the kind of challenge G-Dawg would embrace with glee, we’ll just have to see how long my slipshod cleaning regimen will put up with them.

Across the river and climbing out of the valley, the bright sun struck me directly from behind and threw a huge exaggerated shadow onto the road in front, where it appeared someone with a tiny pin-head was riding a bike while wearing ridiculously long stilts. Either that, or there was a mutant daddy-long legs stalking me all the way to the meeting point.

Main topics of conversation at the start:

G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg arrived, full of tales of Biden Fecht’s ride home after I left the group last week. Usually when someone tells you their brakes aren’t working, what they really mean is that their brakes aren’t performing as well as they could and they’re having problems coming to a quick stop. They then usually drop off the back of the group to give themselves a little more time to react to unforeseen circumstances and proceed as slowly as practical.

When Biden Fecht announced his brakes weren’t working, he actually meant that his brakes weren’t working. At all. Even slightly. He then proved this by shooting away from everyone on one downhill section just past Black Callerton, accelerating rapidly toward where an alarm was sounding, bright lights were flashing a warning and descending barriers announced the approach of an unstoppable Metro train.

Just when G-Dawg thought he was going to be smeared across the front of the train and with tyres squealing in protest, foot down and smoking on the tarmac and the bike leaning over at an impossibly acute angle, he somehow managed to swerve uncontrollably up a service road parallel to the tracks and come to a shuddering halt.

That would have been enough for me and I’d have been calling home for the voiture balai, but an undaunted Biden Fecht had pressed on, occasionally using his feet for braking, occasionally – when things got too out of control, simply swooping blind through junctions where he was always forced to turn left with the traffic, no matter which direction actually led home.

In this way, and by carving out a series of ever-decreasing circles we suspect he made it home, although no one could confirm it and he wasn’t out today.

We imagined him getting up this morning, picking up his bike and having a moment when he desperately tried to remember what it was he’d promised he’d do before riding it again. Drawing a complete blank, we then had him swinging a leg over his still brake-less bike and …

Crazy Legs told us he’d been away visiting a Mini factory in Germany, which Son of G-Dawg correctly guessed, “Ironically, wasn’t all that mini.” It was agreed that in actual fact Mini’s themselves aren’t all that mini anymore, while we all learned the Garrulous Kid’s dad drives a BMW.

The Red Max pulled up with the Monkey Butler Boy in tow and wearing identical specs to match their identical wheels. I wondered just how far they were likely to take this matching, bikes, jerseys, shorts, helmets, shoes … the possibilities were endless.

“Yes, but he’ll never be able to match my talent.” The Red Max suggested.

The Monkey Butler Boy rolled his eyes heavenward, while Son of G-Dawg suggested this was something else to add to the list of remembered father-son slights, a list I suggested that was already unmanageably long.

Zardoz put in a second appearance of the year and I caught him pulling a bright orange floral buff over his head.

“Does your wife know you’ve borrowed her headscarf?” I asked.

Apparently he’s misplaced his own buff and had to make do with whatever he could find.

“What’s wrong,” he enquired, “do the colours clash?”

“No, not at all.” Taffy Steve reassured him smoothly, “And your bum doesn’t look big in it, either.”

“Time to go … It’s 9.15 GMT.” The Red Max announced.

“Garmin Muppet Time!” Taffy Steve quipped, and we were off.

I dropped into line beside Captain Black for an extended chat about life, children, jobs and just about everything else under the sun, until our wide-ranging discourse was interrupted by a puncture that had us all bundled into an innocuous, narrow side-road. This proved to be perhaps one of the most over-used junctions in the whole of Northumberland and we had to constantly shuffle out of the way of turning cars. I couldn’t decide whether we’d pulled up on a track into some extensive, much-used allotments, or just happened upon a popular all day dogging-site.


“You’re looking very svelte.” Zardoz opined and I had to confess it was simply the constraining power of Spanx. We then had a mild flight of fancy regarding cycling corsets and wondered if Lycra and whalebone were a good combination.

Meanwhile, Goose informed us he’s booked his first eye-test in over thirty years, although it was suggested he always receives an annual reminder, he just can’t read it. We then learned that the Red Max’s dad had a huge collection of old, worn-out and knackered hoovers, none of which worked properly and which he insisted on keeping, wouldn’t part with for anything and indeed he was actively looking for more.

I tried to work out who had punctured by trying to see who was missing. Failing miserably, OGL back-tracked to see what was going on. He returned to report G-Dawg was busy trying to repair his puncture, while the Prof hovered in close attendance, like a buzzard over a dying animal, or a seagull circling a trawler, hoping for some cast-offs – a pricked inner tube, empty CO2 canister or any other discarded bits and pieces.

Finally, we were back underway and I picked up with Captain Black again as if nothing had interrupted our earlier conversation.

At some point we lost OGL, cutting his ride short as he’s off to enjoy some “corporate hostility” at the Falcons vs. Bath rugby game this afternoon. The rest of the group made it to the reservoir at Whittle Dene, where we called a halt to split, only to discover no one wanted to be an ambler and everyone was up for a longer, harder, faster ride. Well, everyone except the Monkey Butler Boy, who again rolled his eyes in disbelief as he was nudged away from the shorter route.

Zardoz pleaded extreme fatigue and made me promise not to leave him behind as we pressed on, even though I suspected that as usual he would soon be on the front and whipping up the pace. And indeed, he was soon on the front and whipping up the pace.

At one point we passed G-Dawg making some running repairs to his slipping seatpost, which he’d removed (probably because it was the only way he could polish the bottom part that sits inside his frame) and hadn’t quite tightened up enough. Catching up, he was quick to inform me that riding side-saddle wasn’t comfortable and not at all recommended. Giving his Testicular Armageddon of a few weeks past, it looks like he’s continuing to search for new ways to emsaculate himself.

The first few climbs revealed Taffy Steve to be struggling with un jour sans, or perhaps feeling the effects of grinding into the wind on the front earlier and I dropped back to keep him company. A few miles further on and our little group had picked up Red Max and the Monkey Butler Boy.

I then saw Carlton detached from the front of the main group, relayed up to him and invited him to ease and join our impromptu gruppetto.

The Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy became a little distanced across the rolling roads and we made plans to stop and wait for them at the top of the Quarry Climb. Halfway up the climb however we found G-Dawg walking back down, carefully scanning either side of the road. A large group were then found waiting at the top, where Crazy Legs’s fixie lay, mortally wounded after he’d snapped the chain on the steepest part of the climb.

Son of G-Dawg explained it had exploded like a frag grenade, with everyone diving out of the way to avoid the flying shrapnel. This seemed entirely plausible given that G-Dawgs forensic examination of the climb failed to yield any sizable fragments of the chain, which had seemingly disintegrated.

If Crazy Legs had been on a standard bike we could have simply made the chain a little shorter and had him moving again, albeit with a limited range of gears. His fixie however meant that this wasn’t an option and there was no obvious solution. Not even the darkest, remotest corners of the portable workshop buried in in the depths of the Red Max’s bottomless bag of tricks held a suitable, intact chain.

Finally, Carlton suggested we should push Crazy Legs to the café, where he could re-assess his options and, if worst came to the worst, call for the dreaded voiture balai and earn himself the dreaded “Le Taxi” stigmata to his name.

We quickly agreed this was the best option, so Crazy Legs remounted, took a few foot-slapping strides a la Fred Flintstone … and we were off.

Freewheelin’ as much as a young Bobbie Dylan, whenever gravity worked against him and momentum dropped, Crazy Legs found a stalwart brother or two on either side, ready to lend a hand, with Taffy Steve, Rab Dee, The Red Max and Carlton all manfully pitching in and pushing as needed.

Band of Brothers

Half-way to the café and G-Dawg pulled over with another puncture, but waved the rest of us on. A quick shouted conversation revealed his early puncture had left him short of supplies, so I relayed his need up to Son of G-Dawg. This is a roundabout way of saying I shouted for him to come back, realising that Son of G-Dawg was obviously on domestique duties for this ride and carrying all the necessary bits for spares and repairs.

I followed the group, impressed that Crazy Legs never felt the need to pedal, something I feel I would have tried, even knowing it was completely useless. We proceeded at a regal pace, oftentimes three-abreast and blocking the entire road as we sailed serenely on, dropping Crazy Legs at the bottom of the last ramp, where he could easily walk to the café.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the café we found Richard of Flanders, sitting in almost the exact spot the Red Max had occupied after crashing down in mid-November (SLJ: Vortices of Madness) with the same white face and pained expression, while awkwardly nursing the same right arm, elbow, shoulder and rib combination.

Apparently a bad coincidence of corner, car and slippery surface had seen Richard kissing the tarmac and having to have (in his own phlegmatic words) a quick lie down by the side of the road. This brief nap it would later transpire had caused a nasty, fractured elbow. Ouch and Ooph! Take care and get well soon Richard, I hope you’re back before too long and bring the better weather with you.

With Richard of Flanders out for the count and waiting for his good wife to transport him to A&E, I suggested Crazy Legs could perhaps help both himself and Richard out by riding his bike home for him. A plan was quickly hatched and agreed despite incompatible cleats and an aborted attempt to swap over pedals: Crazy Legs found secure storage for his bike at the café and took Richard’s mount for the ride home, while Richard’s wife could bundle him into the car without having to worry about having to fit a dirty, wet bike in there as well.

Taffy Steve had a quick prod at the Velo Culture, Cake Stop Caddy purse that both Crazy Legs and I use and which are made from recycled inner tubes. He suggested we didn’t let the Prof see them, otherwise he’d probably be press-ganging Mrs. Prof into manufacturing something similar from his vast array of (spoon polished) used inner tubes.

Crazy Legs has upgraded his Motorola and now has the latest hand-sized model. This he declared wasn’t as bulky or awkward to carry as he thought it would be and he reckoned the bigger screen was a great boon for his deteriorating eye sight when he didn’t have his swanky Nooz Optics to hand.

The Garrulous Kid swung by to enquire why Crazy Legs insisted on calling him “fresh trim.” I suggested it might have something to do with his convoluted hair-cut arrangements, while Taffy Steve recommended he just use his youthful initiative and Google it. But not before warning him darkly not to do it at school, or on a restricted and monitored computer, just in case.

Meanwhile, the Red Max revealed his bike has had a litany of failings since his own unfortunate accident and that he suspects his crank is now in danger of falling off and it would need nursing home. He’s already started to assess new bikes and “quite likes the look” of the new Trek Madone – ## Cough ### How much?

He’s also begun talking about a radical break with tradition and not necessarily buying a red bike, as long as it has “red highlights.” I’m not so sure he isn’t still suffering from post-crash concussion.

Anyway, he’s grimly determined to see the winter out on his current bike and just needs to somehow coax a few more weeks and rides out it before allowing it to disintegrate totally. Not at all dissimilar to flogging a dead horse then.

So, off we set for home, with Crazy Legs astride Richard of Flanders’s bike, the front of his cleats at least partly wedged into the pedals and his brain slowly getting to grips with freewheeling and the shock of having to use Shimano gears. He professed it was a good ride, but the frame is slightly too small for him, so hopefully Richard will get his bike back.

I was chatting with the Red Max who was bemoaning the genetic traits he’d passed on to the Monkey Butler Boy, both powerful diesels on the flat who struggle when the road rises. On more than one occasion in the hills I’ve found the Red Max roundly cursing Sir Isaac Newton for ever inventing gravity.

At least, I suggested he didn’t need a paternity test to prove the Monkey Butler Boy was his own, close progeny. This also got me thinking about the genetic disposition that compels one man to collect assorted useless hoovers and yet another to build a massive ziggurat of worn out bottom brackets …

Up through Dinnington and the Monkey Butler Boy began to show signs of his genetic fallibilities and struggle on the climbs. I dropped back to provide a bit of shelter and to pace him, as a gap opened up to our group in front and slowly filled with cars.

We soon reached his turn off and I was out on my own for the ride home. It was a long day, covering just over 70 miles and our series of unfortunate events had delayed us enough so I was half an hour later back than usual.

Still, a hugely memorable ride and one where the weather had actually been kind to us for once. A few less incidents wouldn’t have gone amiss though and I’m looking forward to the ride when nothing much happens at all.

YTD Totals: 670 km / 416 miles with 7,201 metres of climbing



Club Run, Saturday 21st January, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  95 km/59 miles with 624 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 11 minutes

Average Speed:                                22.6 km/h

Group size:                                         18 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    5°C

Weather in a word or two:          Grim


Ride profile

The Ride:

At the last minute I swapped the windproof winter jacket for the waterproof, windproof and slightly thicker version and as I dropped down the hill, lashed with freezing cold rain I began to suspect it had been a wise choice. The day was grey, dank and miserable with the cloud closed in tight, shrouding the hill tops and dulling all the light.

I had an uneventful jaunt across to the meeting place, arriving early enough that the only person already there and waiting was the Garrulous Kid, standing outside and being rained on. I indicated I was heading to the shelter of the car park and invited him to join me there. We’d all be soaked through soon enough, I couldn’t see the point in hastening the discomfort.

Main topics of conversation at the start:

The Prof arrived, peering uncertainly through ultra-dark Raybans to try and make out the faces sheltering in the gloom of the multi-storey. OGL suggesting his choice of eye-wear wasn’t best suited to the conditions, while G-Dawg expressed concern that he might have a dangerously myopic Prof trying to ride on his wheel.

The Prof tried to justify his clothing choice with an erudite quote and asked, “What was that thing John Hurt said?”

“Probably nothing, or maybe just urgh?” I suggested, reflecting on the actors very recent demise.

OGL volunteered Spike Milligans self-penned epitaph, “See, I told you I was ill,” but neither selection was met with any great appreciation by the Prof, who instead started wittering something about being gay and wearing pink shirts. Who knows?

OGL started to tell me about servicing some sturdy mountain bike and taking the big, 1½” headset apart to find there were only 3 ball-bearings left inside. I kind of lost the thread of the conversation after that, as I was left wondering how the bearings had disappeared from inside a sealed unit. I’ll never understand bikes.

The Red Max rolled up sans the Monkey Butler Boy, who he said had been laid low with a bad illness after skipping the club run last week in favour of a trip to the theatre. I suggested he was probably suffering from culture shock and concluded no good would ever come of cyclists dabbling with the liberal arts.

Having hung around long enough for all the brave and the good and true to join our merry throng, we decided it was time to set off and I followed the Prof as we led another 15 lads and lasses out into the grim weather.

Safely negotiating the first set of traffic lights, I almost came to grief, garrotted by a dog leash as an owner blindly hustled his pooch across the road against the lights.

A little further on and Richard of Flanders joined us, slipping across the road from the opposite carriageway and slotting in beside me on the front for the first part of the ride.

As we turned out of Brunton Lane a mass of blinking lights in the distance signalled the approach of another club and I suspect for the next few miles we may have merged to form one extraordinarily long, super-peloton – no doubt much to the delight of any following motorists. Or at least that’s what I’m guessing happened, as I was quite removed from things at the head of affairs. Anyway, none of the other riders passed us, so I’m guessing they were comfortable with the pace we were setting on the front, at least until they could find a place to turn off and pursue their own ride.


Up towards the airport, the verge at the side of the road had been well mangled by the less than careful passage of some poorly driven, large and heavy vehicle, patterning the grass with deep tyre-treads and spreading a thick carpet of muddy divots across the kerb and into our path.

Carefully negotiated, we then hit Dinnington to find the road was even worse, though thankfully this was largely confined to the opposite, southbound lane. Here traffic, to and through a building site, had left the road buried under a thick carpet of slippery, slimy, claggy mud and assorted effluvium. This was the road we’d been forewarned about last week and had deliberately avoided. Now, if anything it was perhaps worse and we made quick plans to alter our route back and avoid being sprayed by whatever dubious coating had turned the road such a deeply unpleasant colour, or worse, slipping and crashing down into a slick of frozen slurry.

With Richard of Flanders railing about the duty of care construction sites are actually obliged to afford the local environment, we pressed on in search of more welcoming and less problematic road surfaces.

As we made our way toward Shilvington, we agreed we’d done our fair share on the front and on cue we split to either side to wave the next pair through. I drifted slowly back down the outside of our line, looking for an opportunity to tuck back into the wheels, but only after carefully assessing each bikes mudguards, or lack thereof.

A space opened up invitingly behind G-Dawg, but one look at his short, seat-post mounted sliver of hard plastic positioned a good hands span above his rear tyre and I kept drifting, finally slotting in behind Jimmy Mac and his much more expansive protection.

After the briefest of stops, we pushed on again, with OGL determined to make a bee-line straight for the café in the face of the cold, dank and miserable weather. As we all turned that way I began to suspect, for the first time I could remember, we were all going to head straight in for coffee and cake.

G-Dawg had other ideas however and took a group of us off for a more extended loop around Bolam Lake, adding at a few more miles and a bit of climbing to our totals for the day. Nevertheless, this was to prove one of our shorter club runs.

As this longer, harder faster group approached the final climb, I could sense Biden Fecht trapped on the inside and eager to get out as the pace increased. With a shouted, “Come on, then!” I eased slightly and allowed gap to open so he could nip through. It was a manoeuvre I thought we accomplished with some aplomb, but unfortunately my slackening coincided with Son of G-Dawgs attack.

I was blissfully unaware of this, as he twitched violently aside at the last moment from what in aviation terms would be a very, very near miss and used the adrenaline fuelled horror of nearly running into my back wheel to catapult off the front.

G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg and Biden Fecht whirred away to contest the sprint, a detached Geordie Shaw gave chase, while I led home the rest of our splintered group.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Son of G-Dawg said he was already getting twitchy and looking ahead to setting aside the winter hack and being able to unleash his good bike, but I suspect winter isn’t done with us yet.

In the meantime, he admitted to being tempted by new direct-drive turbo that incorporates an integral freewheel, so you don’t need specialist tyres and its quick and easy to set up. As he described it, I couldn’t help but be impressed with his eidetic recall of the marketing hyperbole being used to promote the thing.

I suggested he was a marketeers dream and wondered which phrases in particular had resonated with him.

“Elite?” I suggested.


“Fluid technology?”


“Transmission belt?”


“Torque meter?”

“Yes, that too, but the thing that really swayed it … was the internal lasers!”

Lasers. Now I understood and so did every bloke at the table, as we all discovered we had a pressing need for a new turbo.

Jimmy Mac extolled the virtues of Zwift, which he said now lets you ride everywhere, including inside a volcano, or under the sea. He said you could even get it to simulate Classic routes like Paris-Robubaix.

“Or,” I suggested, “you can really turn it up a notch and select a club run through Northumberland.”

“When it will immediately simulate smashing your front wheel into a pothole and rip your chain off.” Son of G-Dawg added.

We then wondered if you could employ people to periodically douse you with buckets of freezing, muddy water for the full effect.

G-Dawg sought advice to try and sort out a malfunctioning rear shifter, discovered out on a ride where he found he could only change up and never down. He’d ended up having to stop and move the chain manually – once his legs began whirring round like a demented washing machine but still failed to generate any traction.

Funnily enough, after careful testing he found his front shifter works fine. I was quite surprised by this, given that he only uses it about twice a year, I thought it may have atrophied and dropped off.

We left the café in dribs and drabs of different groups, all with their own plans for avoiding the mud slick in Dinnington.

Our group was the last to leave and like last week, opted for an alternative loop around Stamfordham – slightly longer and hillier, but hopefully a little less dirty.

As we rode out, I found myself riding behind Geordie Shaw and wondering why his bike was making a loud rumbling noise and why he was so intent on riding out of the saddle. I finally twigged that he’d had a rear puncture and was just trying to escape off the main road before stopping to make repairs.

There then followed one of those priceless moments that remind me why I love club runs so much, as half a dozen blokes stood around in the freezing cold and icy rain, talking a complete and utter, but fantastically entertaining load of auld bolleaux™

It started when Geordie Shaw found the cause of his puncture, one of our special, super-tough, steel-tipped thorns, which laugh in the face of Kevlar puncture-protection strips. Having trouble removing this, I recalled how the Red Max had helped me out of a similar predicament by supplying a pair of needle-nosed pliers from the depths of his portable workshop buried in his bottomless bag of tricks.

When this failed to work, he’d resorted to removing the thorn with his teeth, while the large contingent of dentists our club seems to attract, looked on either with concern, or in gleeful anticipation of some expensive, restorative dental work.

[Since we had a diversion last week to discuss the collective noun for monkeys, I feel a similar need to identify one for dentists. The best suggestions so far are either a “brace” – or my own particular favourite, an “amalgam” of dentists.]

We decided that from now on the only truly manly way to deal with embedded thorns was with your teeth: clench, suck and spit – sort of like how crusty old cowboys tackle a rattlesnake bite, cutting a big X in the skin to suck the poison out.

Still struggling to remove the thorn, G-Dawg played Daniel to Geordie Shaw’s lion, suggesting using something to help push the offending splinter out. And lo! We discovered the only possible use for the 2mm Allen Wrench on a bike multi-tool.

This, I suggested was a great breakthrough for all cycling kind, its only drawback being the 2mm wide, perfectly symmetrical and hexagonal hole it left drilled through the surface of your tyre.

In a brief discussion about tyres, Son of G-Dawg revealed that his choice of winter tyre, Vredestein All-Weather, All Seasons, recommended inflation to a minimum 170 psi. I don’t think my track pump could even handle that kind of pressure and I’d be worried about it blowing out my rims!

We decided what Son of G-Dawg was probably riding were hand-made, silk, track tyres and only remotely “all weather” and “all seasons” if you only rode with them in a climate-controlled indoor velodrome. Jimmy Mac suggested even then, they’d probably recommend you replaced them every 500 metres.

As Geordie Shaw set to with his mini pump, the conversation turned to C02 canisters and how much pressure they would put into a tyre, which Son of G-Dawg reckoned was about 80 psi, but warned they were a bit hit and miss and only seemed to work effectively half the time.

“Plus, you can freeze your hand to the rim.” He added.

“And have to piss on it to release it.” I concluded helpfully.

Working frenetically to push air into his tyre, Geordie Shaw declared he felt the weather was changing and starting to warm up. I simply gestured at his strenuous upper-body work out, while G-Dawg stated it was probably the hardest he’d worked all day.

“You’re going to look at your maximum heart-rate spike on Strava and realise it wasn’t in the sprint, or climbing the steepest hill, but when you were trying to inflate your tyre,” he suggested.

Finally back under way, I had time to check with Carlton how his cheap gloves had held up last week. The verdict was pretty good and as he said, “Who needs Castelli when you have a Jet Service Station.”

Feeling much better than the previous week and without De Uitheems Bloem driving the pace up and beyond unbearable, I swung off for home having thoroughly enjoyed myself despite the atrocious weather.

YTD Totals: 518 km / 322 miles with 5,426 metres of climbing

Testicular Armageddon

Testicular Armageddon


Club Run, Saturday 21st January, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  103 km/64 miles with 1,014 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 23 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.4 km/h

Group size:                                         19 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    4°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bitter


Ride Profile

The Ride:                                                 [Relive the ride]

The weather had promised a chilly night, down to -2⁰C with morning temperatures flat-lining and barely managing to claw their way into positive figures throughout the day. I was expecting it to be cold … but this!

As I dropped down the Heinous Hill, the wind clawed tears from my eyes and where they tracked down my face they burned. I became instantly aware of every little gap in my clothing and even knew where two layers gave out to one, as every weakness in my defences was quickly found out. I adjusted my gloves to close a miniscule gap between cuff and sleeve and pulled my buff up over half my face as the exposed skin quickly chilled. The tops of my thighs stung in the wind and then slowly went numb. It. Was. Freezing…

And yet the air was dry and there was no ice.

As I sank lower and lower down to the valley floor, the temperature seemed to fall with me. The flood plains either side of the river appeared to be smoking into the still and chilled air and the grass was limned in glittering frost and curled up protectively against the cold.

Every time I stopped my breath coalesced in glittering plumes, like I was vaping oxygen, my lungs ached dully and my nose streamed constantly. C-c-c-c-cold.

I was cheered though by the sight of a three-legged dog, trotting along happily beside his owner, somehow managing to both carry a large ball and smile through his muzzle. I was even more cheered by the sight of the rowing club on the south bank of the river, wearing shorts and running calisthenics in their car park in a futile attempt to warm up before taking to the water. And I thought I was mad.

Even further along, I swear there was a troop of brass monkeys, futilely searching the frozen ground for some spherical objects they’d misplaced, but maybe that was just the cold addling my brain. (As an aside, I couldn’t decide if the collective noun for monkeys was a troop or a troupe, so googled it to find troop was the correct form, but I could also have used tribe, or barrel, or cartload or even, apparently … carload! I can admit to being assailed by a metaphorical car load of monkeys, but it seems a strange expression in relation to the actual animal.)

Anyway, I was either warming to my task, or slowly acclimatising to the cold as I back-tracked along the opposite bank of the river, now heading toward where a dull red sun crept slowly upwards, then clambering out of the valley to pick my way through to the meeting place.

It seemed that for once I’d somehow managed to judge the layers just right, well at least for now: headband, helmet, buff, slightly thicker, slightly itchy merino base-layer, winter jacket, gilet, glove liners, gloves, tights, trusty Thermolite socks and winter boots. All set and good to go.

Main topics of conversation at the start:

The BFG was a little surprised to see me and wondered if I’d had to slide down the Heinous Hill sideways, like a deranged speedway rider, Ivan Mauger incarnate. All I could tell him was that it was bloody freezing, but there was no ice and my passage across had been uneventful.

Since I was there, he wanted to know if he’d discovered a new Jewish-Scottish hybrid, having recently met a ginger Hasidic Jew. Having grown up around a large Jewish community in Bensham, I was able to place his “amazing discovery” in the context that it was in fact quite commonplace.

The Garrulous Kid had traded in his Bontrager tyres for a set of Continental 4-Season’s and declared they’d given him both his confidence and mojo back. He was still struggling with his new pedals though, which had solved his old problem of inadvertently unclipping by holding his foot in a vice-like, unbreakable grip. He enlisted the help of the BFG and a multi-tool to slacken the tension enough to allow for a quick release, so he was hopefully a bit less of a liability to himself, or those around him.

As a sign of just how damned cold it was, G-Dawg had resurrected his massive oven gloves. Later, Crazy Legs would demand to know if he was on call at Greggs and might need to disappear at any moment to help lift a tray of pasties out of the oven, while the BFG suggested all the various straps and buckles needed bells attached to the ends for sartorial completeness.

Carlton revealed he’d gone for the £3.99 option of ski gloves bought from his local petrol station. There were suggestions that he should either have saved his money, or bought two or three pairs to wear together, but at least today would be a good test of whether non-cycling specific (i.e. considerably cheaper) kit works just as well.

De Uitheems Bloem rolled up, shielding his eyes from the glare that even a weak winter sun could produce its light bounced off G-Dawg’s impeccably polished frame, wheels and chain. G-Dawg revealed the bike had to be spotless, otherwise he wouldn’t be allowed to keep it in the bedroom. I think he was joking.

A decent crowd had gathered, before I spotted, but didn’t fully register an unfamiliar spry looking, youngster with his buff pulled up over his lower face. I looked away, looked back and the buff had been pulled down to reveal the bristling white ‘tache of Zardoz. Not quite so young then, but still plenty spry.

I mentioned this first Zardoz sighting of the year to the Red Max, who said he’d had an inkling of his return as, riding in with the Monkey Butler Boy he’d passed a masked, lone cyclist who’d growled, “Don’t you be over-taking me!”

“Was that Zardoz’s voice?” A giggling Monkey Butler Boy had asked. Yep, he’s back.

OGL was celebrating his 70th birthday and had received a bottle of fine, single-malt from G-Dawg. He was keen to reassure us he still had the bottle, but was far less convincing when it came to verifying its actual contents were intact.

A band of 18 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode into the freezing air. Or at least we tried to. For some reason we decided it was a good idea to stop and re-group in front of the traffic lights that were showing green on the Transport Interchange/Bus Station exit. Here we carefully paused just long enough to ensure the lights changed to red as soon as no more than half of us had passed through and rode away, leaving the rest stuck behind.

We finally all got going and the group coalesced to take an alternative route out, as reports had filtered through that the road through Dinnington was a mess of treacherous mud following building works in the village. I rode along with the Red Max for a while, chatting aimlessly while we digested just how cold it was and both wondered where the ice was hiding.

After an hour or so, the Monkey Butler Boy approached to whimper that the extreme cold have overwhelmed his gloves and his hands were frozen.  The Red Max offered to sacrifice his spare pair of gloves so he could double-up and they dropped back to make the change.

As we clambered up one hill, a strangled shout rose from behind:

“Ease up!”

“What was that?” someone asked.

“Speed up, I think,” someone else replied.

So we did.

Later on and more incoherent shouting was translated variously as dog, pots, horse, puncture, accident, stray bird or mechanical and we ground to disordered halt, to find nothing much was happening at all behind. The Prof, who had been pleading for some time about needing a pee stop took the opportunity to wander off in search of a suitable hedge, while G-Dawg revealed that not only were his feet freezing and painfully cold, but he was even more shockingly discomfited by the extreme distress the conditions had imposed on his testicles.

Ooph! It’s cold

It was at this point that I really missed Crazy Legs, as I felt for sure I could have implanted an irresistible ear-worm that would have him singing a la Bonnie Tyler, all the way to the café: “It’s a ball’s ache, nothing but a ball’s ache…”

A quick query revealed G-Dawg had encased his feet in three pairs of socks and overshoes, but they weren’t helping. I suggested he needed a pair of trusty Prendas Thermolite socks.

“I took your recommendation and bought a pair of those Prenda socks.” Sneaky Pete chipped in. “My feet are still bloody freezing!” Hey, you can please some of the people, some of the time …

Meanwhile, OGL regaled us with a tale of local legend Ron Longstaff, caught gloveless on one winter run and resorting to riding the whole way one-handed, while alternately cupping his warm testicles with first one frozen paw and then the other.

G-Dawg suggested that wasn’t going to help in his situation, but if anyone had any spare gloves he’d be tempted to stick them down his pants for a bit of relief.

I wondered if he could, like a mythical Sumo wrestler retract his testicles back up into his body cavity for a bit of protection, then advised against it in case he had trouble enticing them back out again.

Luckily we were soon underway again and leaving such nonsense firmly behind.  Pressing on, we passed a couple out on horseback and I could see G-Dawg eyeing up the long, equine gaiters one of the horses was sporting. Perhaps we’ll see him adopt something similar for our next cold ride – along with a fur-lined cricket box.

We took the back road up to Ryal village where, by utilising the most untraveled, secluded and desolate routes available to us, we did finally manage to find some ice in the deepest, darkest dip. It had taken a hell of an effort, but we finally had something to be wary off. Passage was however safely negotiated and we were away again.

I then chased G-Dawg up the Quarry Climb, the highest point of our route, before we took the left-hand route, the most bombed-out, pot-holed, rough and distressed road to the café.  I ceded the front and dropped onto G-Dawgs wheel, while the BFG tried a forlorn hope, long range attack, only to find Caracol firmly glued to his wheel. The BFG twitched left, swung hard right and then swooped left again, but Caracol mirrored each move closely and there was no getting away.

The BFG gave up and dropped in alongside me as the pace began to build, with Caracol and G-Dawg leading the charge.

We hit the final stretch en masse and at high speed, with riders attacking and fading and jostling for position, while I held firm on the wheel in front. The BFG dropped away and I noticed Zardoz and De Uitheems Bloem moving up in the general melee, before a determined OGL surged to the front.

For one brief, glorious moment I thought he was going to roll back the years and win the bunch sprint, before Caracol edged past with one last lunge and then we were braking and diving through the Snake Bends.

We hit the narrow, bombed out lane to the crossroads and I jumped away for one final attack on the last ramp, but G-Dawg was watching and waiting in close attendance and burned me away across the top across the top to lead us into the café.

Main conversation at the coffee stop:

We spotted Crazy Legs’s unmistakable fixie, leaning insouciantly up against a fencepost and found him warmly ensconced inside, having waited an additional, precautionary hour before setting out this morning to give any ice extra time to melt.

He roundly praised the lobster mitts I’d recommended he bought during one of Planet X’s recent sales, admitting if anything they were actually too warm, but a bargain even at their full retail price. See, you can please some of the people, at least some of the time…

While acknowledging the cold outside and in particular G-Dawgs testicular discomfort, Crazy Legs declared it could be a lot worse, having recently returned from Stuttgart where it was a bone-chilling, ball-aching -15⁰.

The BFG enquired if G-Dawg also had a single-speed car to match his bike, leading to reminiscing about the DAF Variomatic and its odd continuously variable transmission. I took this as an indication that the Dutch might have the world’s most impressive gutters, but when it came to motor-vehicle manufacturing they still had some way to go.

Crazy Legs related asking a slightly “large-boned” colleague about progress with a new fitness regime he was monitoring through a Fitbit.

“Over 10,000 steps today and I’ve hardly moved from my chair,” was the enthusiastic verdict, accompanied by that unmistakable Gareth Hunt/Nescafé coffee bean fist pumping, or Battle Tops “it’s all in the wrist action” gesture, if you will.

In turn, I recalled sitting in a cinema listening to a lad behind dismissing an ad for Seiko kinetic watches, declaring, “I had one of those, but it was useless – every time I had a wank it gained 5 minutes …”

For some reason, talk turned to breakfasts and the “Full English Stottie” – an experience I’ve luckily managed to avoid. Crazy Legs tried baiting OGL by suggesting Ready Brek was porridge, while I had to ask if he used a spurtle – a word it’s impossible to say without sounding suitably Scottish.

A “should we/shouldn’t we” moment ensued on leaving the café leading to a little disorganised chaos, as half our number swung to the left, while the rest took the more usual route to the right. I went left too, as we decided the road through to Ogle had a good chance of being a bit icy and a little iffy.

I had another chat with the BFG about Scottish-Jews, revealing that Mrs. SLJ as a schoolgirl had once had a much too detailed encounter with a Jewish student at a yeshiva in Bensham, when he exposed himself as she was walking past.

“How did you know he was Jewish?” someone had asked her.

Quick as a flash, she replied, “Well … he was wearing a skullcap.”

G-Dawg and Caracol ramped up the pace to such an extent that the BFG was soon spluttering, floundering and complaining. When they swung over, I didn’t have the legs to take the front, so Crazy Legs and De Uitheems Bloem took over and the speed increased another notch.

I hung on grimly for a while, swerving to avoid the salvoes of Dutch snot rockets that were occasionally fired back toward me and then I eased and slipped off the back as the group hammered down to swing left well I went straight on for home.

Cooked, both literally and metaphorically, I pulled over and started to strip off a few layers to try and cool down before I continued, remembering the short-cut past the Golf Club that shaved off two or three miles.

The cold on my newly exposed scalp and ears was still surprisingly raw and I soon cooled down. It did however serve to remind me I’d managed to get the layers just about right and I was particularly pleased with the winter boots that had kept my feet reasonably warm along with only a single pair of (trusty Thermolite) socks.

Back at home, I had a brief chuckle at an email from – a free service that takes your Strava or Garmin Connect feed and converts it into a video recap of your ride. They’d been in contact to ask if “I wanted to relive testicular Armageddon.” Be honest, that’s not an offer you get every day now, is it?

YTD Totals: 264 km / 164 miles with 2,842 metres of climbing

Sketchy, Skatey, Skitey, Slippery Slick

Sketchy, Skatey, Skitey, Slippery Slick

Club Run, Saturday 7th January, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  98 km/59 miles with 868 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 33 minutes

Average Speed:                                21.4 km/h

Group size:                                         7 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    10°C

Weather in a word or two:          Dull and damp


Ride Profile

The Ride:

In terms of the weather, things started deteriorating on Friday last week, unfortunately the only day I could manage for a bike commute. I woke to a blanket of quite deep and very wet snow that clung to everything and furred up the roads in a slick, thoroughly sodden layer. Despite days of advance warning, I suspect none of the roads had been treated and early morning traffic had churned the lying snow to frozen, dirty slush.

The ratbag mountain bike probably offers substantially better grip than a road bike, but mudguards and rider protection are far less effective and the chunky tyres tend to hurl spray to the winds. The worst seemed to come from the front wheel, which directed a freezing jet of ice water onto my feet and ankles, rapidly soaking through my leggings and eventually trickling insidious, cold fingers down into my boots. Not pleasant.

The descent to the valley was undertaken at a snail’s pace, helped by temporary traffic lights half way down the bank that at least gave me a reason to inch gingerly down, carefully perpendicular, hogging the entire lane on the corners and obstructing any following cars from trying to squeeze past.

Once down, a quick blast through a housing estate brought me out onto the riverside cycle-path, a gleaming and pristine white, unsullied by the passage of any cars, or bikes, or even early morning dog walkers.

A dip, a sharp, 90⁰ right-turn and steep ramp up to a bridge over the River Team though proved my undoing, the wheels slid out from under me and I thumped down wetly into the snow. Ooph! Still, at least there were no witnesses to my ignominy and I picked myself up, dusted myself down and was soon underway again, my only regret being that I didn’t think to look back to see what kind of graceless, uncoordinated snow angel my floundering imprint had left in the snow.



A little more cautious now, I dismounted and walked down the very slippery ramp to the Millennium Bridge, which I crawled across at low speed – I don’t trust the slick metal surface of its cycleway even when its dry.

By the time I returned home, the snow had largely disappeared everywhere, except for the top of the Heinous Hill, where the extra couple of metres of altitude were enough to still make things troublesome.

The problem now though was plunging and depressed temperatures, with the forecasts suggesting a hard frost overnight and a high the following day that would struggle to reach 3⁰C in the city. This suggested something only a little above freezing out in the sticks and the real danger of any club run encountering ice-slick roads.

A quick discussion on Facebook soon hatched plans for a G-Dawg led, off-road, mountain bike expedition for those who wanted to brave the conditions on Saturday. While a few cried off for the entire weekend, I suggested Sunday was the more promising day as, although heavy rain was forecast from early in the morning to late in the afternoon, the lowest temperature was set for a relatively balmy 5⁰C.

OGL interjected with a social-media version of his “we’re all doomed” routine, suggesting even off-road, a ride on Saturday might be sketchy and that the temperatures could get as low as -5⁰C, leaving G-Dawg to politely suggest he must have been looking at the forecast for Reykjavik instead of Newcastle.

So the stage was set: a brave few would venture off-road on fat-tyred bikes on Saturday and a few more would trade a reduced risk of ice for what promised to be a very, very wet Sunday ride.

[Special mention and a “Chapeau!” has to go to the Prof though, who managed to ride both days, Saturday and Sunday]

So, a pleasant and indolent Saturday morning in bed, soon gave way to a dull, grey Sunday morning with the rain hammering on the roof and windows. Luckily the weather eased as I set off and although the ride was never completely dry, the heavy rain forecast seemed to have skipped over us and riding conditions were a lot more pleasant than predicted.

The Sunday morning roads were also very quiet and the Peugeot decided to be at its most refined best too, with no creaking, clunking, whisking or rattles. At one point the only sound I could hear was the gentle ticking of the rain bouncing off my helmet and jacket.

I arrived at the meeting point and ducked into the shelter of the multi-storey car park to settle down and see who else was going to brave the weather.

Main topics of conversation at the start:

Mini Miss was one of the first to arrive, bringing with her tales from our Club Annual Dinner and Awards from the previous night, which prior family engagements had given me an excuse to avoid. Despite OGL promising to spring a number of surprises during the evening, the most unexpected and noteworthy thing seemed to have been the lasagne, which engendered a raging debate about whether it could technically be called a lasagne.

I suggested to Carlton that he was wearing his helmet in a rather louche manner, the straps loose and dangling like Bassett Hound ears. He admitted that the intricacies of helmet engineering and the practical adjustment of straps had left him completely baffled and befuddled – somehow he just couldn’t seem to get to grips with them.

Apparently manual dexterity isn’t really his forte and as illustration, he said he’d managed to make it through medical school without ever mastering the art of sutures. Now, if he needed to stitch anything at home he was more likely to resort to Wundaweb. I couldn’t help suggest that iron-on hemming wasn’t really an option when it came to dealing with injured patients …

The Prof enlightened us with tales of the derring-do of our handful of brave, mountain bikers on the Saturday ride. The whole experience seems to have been great fun, although the time when their trail petered out to nothing and they had to build a human chain to ferry the bikes across a swollen brook seemed a little extreme.

Some of the roads they’d traversed had indeed proven to be a little sketchy, including the stretch from the café to Ogle, where standard icy operating procedures applied:

No sudden movements. Stay in the saddle. Don’t lean. Don’t steer. Don’t touch your brakes. And for goodness sake, no matter what happens, do not stop!

A hardy band then, a Magnificent 7 pushed off, clipped in and set out – myself, Mini Miss, the Prof, Carlton, Carlton’s young son: Jake, Kipper, Brink and a potential FNG, or Sunday only rider I’d only seen once before – a large, bearded feller, who became the Big Yin.

The Big Yin was strong as an ox, but appeared to lack any experience or affinity for group riding and was missing a degree of finesse or supplesse. I spent the first few miles riding alongside him on the front, trying to rein him in and maintain a pace that was comfortable and sustainable for everyone.


As with many big fellers, his particular kryptonite was the hills, where he tended to slide backwards, allowing Carlton’s son to prove he was much more deserving of the Dormanator tag Crazy Legs had bestowed on his Dad last week.

I was going to suggest the New Dormanator was like a mini-Esteban Chaves, but I’m not sure you can have a mini-Chaves? Maybe it would be more accurate to say he rode each hill like a full-sized, full-bore, shockingly enthusiastic Chaves replica – and one engaged in a vicious and incredibly close fight for the polka-dot jersey and convinced there were King of the Mountain points on offer at every crest.

I periodically managed to restore a bit of order at the front with the Prof as we pressed on, chatting away about home-made mudguards, letting your kids make their own mistakes, sailing, staying warm, modern musicals, the club’s succession policy, and a hundred and one other things, until we hit Stamfordham where Kipper and Brink took a more direct route to the café, while we pressed on for a loop around the Quarry.

The New Dormantor attacked early for his KoM prime at the top of the Quarry Climb, while I gave chase from the back of the group, closing on his wheel as the final steep ramp bit and he noticeably slowed.

“Making it look as effortless as ever.” Mini Miss suggested as I whirred past.

“I only wish it was.” I just about managed to gasp back through the pain and blood-boiling hypoxia.

Over the top the Big Yin barrelled his way to the front and set off for the café. I matched him for a while, but as he seemed intent on continuously ramping up the pace, I soon dropped onto his rear wheel and let him get on with it, as we slowly distanced everyone else.

I noticed he had a small commuting mirror on the right of his bars and he would occasionally check if anyone was following, so drifted to his left and stalked him silently. Then, as we approached a road spanning pool of water and he paused to freewheel through it, I kept pedalling, swung out and drove past, opening a sizeable gap that I held to the Bends. I couldn’t help but be smugly satisfied at another fine piece of immoral and ignoble, wheel-sucking skulduggery.

I don’t know whether my mugging upset the Big Yin, or if he still had energy to burn and wanted a longer ride, but he disappeared soon after and didn’t make it to the café. Meanwhile, I was pleasantly surprised at how waterproof my boots proved, despite a solid dunking along the flooded section of road.

The rest weren’t far behind as I unclipped at the café and watched the Prof skid the last few feet and stop his bike by slamming it into a fencepost. I couldn’t believe he travelled all that way on the open roads without incident, before almost coming to grief in a car park.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In an eerily quiet café, I managed to question Mini Miss about why she’d stopped so suddenly on a climb last week. She had absolutely no recollection of the incident, but after a huge amount of prompting, finally remembered her chain had seized. Good to know she hadn’t lost the plot, though now I suspect she may have lost her short-term memory.

She decided that when it came to cycling kit, you get what you pay for, with cheap tights equating to a cheap and uncomfortable pad. I suggested buying tights without a pad and wearing shorts under them, while Kipper had a more radical solution – padded shorts under padded tights, for a double-dose of cushioning.

“Is that not like wearing a nappy?” Mini Miss enquired.

“I don’t know, I can’t remember wearing nappies.” He replied laconically.

Digging in her pocket, she then unearthed a sorry looking, flatly compressed cake-bar that could probably have been successfully used as a door wedge. This bore an indeterminate sell by date that rather vaguely and unhelpfully just said September – no year was indicated. Since she couldn’t remember when she bought it, she decided it was probably out of date and decided to play it safe and ditch it. Of course given her fallible memory, she may only have bought it last week and it could still safely have an 8-month shelf-life, but no one was desperate enough to risk it.

Speaking of undateable things, I received a cryptic text message from Daughter#1 that she’s blaming wholly on auto-correct:

“What are ass burgers?”

Apparently the text had been prompted by the Undateables TV show she’s been watching, where someone couldn’t develop a relationship because he suffers from Asperger’s – which I guess might actually be less debilitating than ass burgers. Who knows?

Although we’d lost the Big Yin, we gained Laurelan, who’d ridden up on her own, on the off chance of meeting some company for the trip back. She was proudly displaying filthy-dirty hands, a badge of honour gained by successfully repairing her own puncture.

The Prof thought she could perhaps learn from Penelope Pitstop, who has us all so well-trained, she only has to mention a mechanical problem and a cadre of well-trained mechanics will leap into action and sort it, while she stands back and looks on in beatific contentment.

As we were gathering our stuff to leave, the Prof suggested he’d been so convinced we were going to get soaked on the ride that he’d followed Red Max protocol and brought along a spare pair of gloves. He turned round to display his jersey pockets, were a pair of brown, rubberised workmen’s gloves had been unceremoniously stuffed, cuff-first, so the fat fingers spilled over the top and looked like he was carrying a pocketful of Knackwurst. Only slightly less disturbing than the time he declared they were his udders.

We set off for home, the Prof dropping briefly back so he could bang his handlebars and brake levers back into position. He’d smacked the fence post harder than I realised. This left me on the front with Carlton, who’d decided to shed one of his layers in the café because he was too warm. Now though he was starting to feel chilled and needed to push the pace up to try and generate some heat.

I rode with the group until just passed Kirkley Hall, when they swung North, while I started South to cut the corner off my route home. Feeling quite strong, I was zipping along nicely, until I reached Ponteland, where I was forced to stop by a chain of pensioners crossing the road, obviously off to the bookies and pub, or perhaps to TWOC a hot hatchback and raise merry hell.

They crossed the road slowly and in single file – (perhaps like Sandpeople on a raid: to hide their numbers) – determinedly pushing Zimmer frames and walkers like a long crocodile of schoolkids with absolutely no road sense and the utter conviction that the traffic would mysteriously part for them. It made me smile.

At one point, closing in on home, the whirr of wheels alerted me to passing cyclists and a gang of four whipped past as I waited at a junction to turn onto their route. I naturally gave chase, but the gap never closed and I was soon left floundering in their wake. I was saved from embarrassing myself further when I got caught behind the flashing lights and descending barriers at a level crossing, while they thankfully rode off into the distance.

I made it home with the bike and body, grimy, dirty and mud-flecked, but surprisingly dry, despite the portents for a day of unremitting heavy rain. Not a bad substitute for a Saturday run, I’m pleased I made the effort to get out on Sunday. Now my only concern is finding time to try and chip some of the mud off the bike before next weekend.

YTD Totals: 264 km / 164 miles with 2,842 metres of climbing

New Year’s Revolutions

New Year’s Revolutions

Club Run, Saturday 7th January, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  107 km/66 miles with 996 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 26 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.2 km/h

Group size:                                         28 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    10°C

Weather in a word or two:          Mild mannered


Ride Profile

The Ride:

So, a year ends and mileage totals get set back to zero – it’s time to start all over again. I already feel like a begrudging Sisyphus trudging disconsolately back down the hill to pick up the boulder that’s once again slipped from my despairing grasp and rolled away.

A couple of sneaky rides on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, both days when my inner blogger was lying quietly supine and dormant, managed to pad my annual totals and I finished the year on 7,328km or 4,553 miles.

I’m quite surprised how high the total mileage was and I’d love to say that I achieved some pre-set target or goal, but to be honest I just take whatever opportunities to ride that come my way. I have a vague notion of trying to get better and stronger, faster and fitter, but just a consequence of enjoying my riding. If I miss a weekend I’m going to be grumpy because I missed a run, not because I’m now behind on some self-imposed schedule.

There’s no ultimate end game other than to stay healthy as long as I can – I don’t feel any kind of compulsion to ride just to accumulate miles, or reach some pre-determined benchmark. That just seems an empty and utterly joyless task for the more numbers obsessed amongst us (yes, you know who you are) – each to their own I guess, vive le difference and all that.

Still, I have to admit 4,500 miles does sound vaguely impressive to the uninitiated, who always seem more interested in how far I ride, rather than why. They might not be so impressed if they knew it involved 332 hours actually propelling a bike (and that’s not even taking into account all those hours sitting round talking bikes, or just cleaning and fixing the damn things … or even writing about them!)

332 hours equates to about 41 eight-hour long work days. Perhaps there’s something more productive I could be doing with my time on the planet … I just can’t think what.

From here 4,500 miles also seems like a long, long way off, starting the new year from ground zero, but at least I’d started making inroads with a couple of commutes on my return to work. Handy, if only to start chipping away at the excess couple of pounds brought on by wine, wallowing and wanton wassailing.

My “off the record” ride on Christmas Eve had been somewhat ruined by another series of front wheel punctures that finally convinced me to discard my somewhat aged, but still decent looking Fulcrum wheel for good. It’s now in disgrace, lying, shunned and quietly mouldering in the darkest corner of the shed, stripped of tyre and inner tube. Even after careful, forensic inspection, I still have no idea why it was causing so many punctures. Hopefully they’ll now return to being an occasional, unwelcome interruption rather than an overwhelming expectation.

The New Year’s Eve ride was lashed by the tail end of Storm Barbara and ended up longer than planned, when we found our usual café closed and a handful of us back-tracked to find an alternative. After leaving the group, my solo ride home had proven to be a trial of strength against an increasingly enfeebling headwind. I lost. Badly, finally dragging myself to the top of the Heinous Hill some 20 minutes past my usual arrival time and utterly exhausted. Who’d have thought air could be so hard to push through?

Still, while I felt unlucky, it could have been a lot worse, a number of our group had come to grief with a multiple pile-up on black ice during a midweek holiday ride, leaving behind numerous contusions and several broken bikes and bodies. Worst affected seemed to be Andeven, who looks like being out for a couple of months with a fractured pelvis.

So, what has 2017 got in store and more importantly how was the first club run of the year going to measure up? Well, the start was certainly promising, the temperature nudging toward double figures and the wind no more than a cooling breeze.

I made decent time across to the meeting place and rolled up before everyone else, parked the bike up and settled in to see how many would be tempted out by the unusually mild weather.

Main topics of conversation at the start:

The Garrulous Kid was the first to show and I learned he’d gone down in the mass tumble and needed a new rear wheel, cassette and derailleur. He was also working through his own crash demons and suffering from a crisis of confidence, convinced that his rear wheel was constantly threatening to slip out from under him.

I had a look at the Bontrager tyres his LBS had fitted, but I’m not at all familiar with them, so didn’t know if they were particularly good or bad in terms of grip. He didn’t know how much pressure there was in them, but the rear one felt a bit hard and unforgiving to my extremely unscientific thumb-prodding, so I suggested he let a little air out to see if that would improve their handling.

He asked Crazy Legs what he thought and he made to prod the tyre and then – whoosh, let his hand quickly slide off.

“Did you see that!” he exclaimed, “They’re slippery.” Oh dear, this wasn’t helping.

The Garrulous Kid was wondering who else he could ask and someone suggested the BFG.

“Who’s the BFG?” he asked, bewildered.

“The Big Friendly Giant.” someone explained helpfully.

“Although he’s not really all that big.” Taffy Steve added.

“And not at all friendly.” I had to concede.

Speaking of big, Plumose Pappus rolled up for one last club ride before returning to university and complaining he’d over-indulged over Christmas, eaten far too many mince pies and his weight had ballooned – starting to inch, albeit with glacial slowness towards a mighty … 50 kilos!  (Or, in Plumose Pappus world, positively obese.)

The Garrulous Kid turned to Taffy Steve and, with either carefully calculated display of arch-deviousness, or (much more likely) completely blissful naivety, innocently asked:

“Steve, did you eat too many mince pies as well?”

#Cough# Splutter#

Moving swiftly on…

The Red Max confessed to having been lured in by the post-Christmas sales and had bought both himself and the Monkey Butler Boy matching wheelsets. Ah, nice…

Meanwhile, just before we set out OGL fielded a call, which I suggested was from the British Antarctic Survey, warning of dire weather heading our way, but at least for today we could set out safe in the knowledge there was absolutely zero chance of encountering any ice, even in the deepest, darkest depths of rural Northumberland.

The mild weather had indeed attracted a bumper crop out and almost 30 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out. As we got underway, Sneaky Pete sneaked out and directly onto the back of our group. I could only congratulate him on his masterful timing.

Sadly, for the rest of us timing was not so good and we got caught by the first set of traffic lights, having to chase on for the first mile or so. Not the best start to a ride when all you wanted to do was tuck onto someone else’s wheel and shelter at the back for a while.


Today was to prove to be a day of losses. First Taffy Steve lost a light which uncoupled from his frame and went bouncing away, forcing him to drop back to retrieve it. I then caught Son of G-Dawg, riding against the flow and back-tracking, looking for what I’m fairly sure he said was a missing brake block.

Next up the Red Max lost his rag with a taxi-driving RIM, who objected to the fact that we didn’t immediately pull over to the side of a narrow lane and doff our caps, while he thundered past at dangerously high speed.

In the sudden scrum of braking cyclists caused by the taxi, the Garrulous Kid lost his balance and toppled over.

Then Mini Miss lost the plot and stopped in the middle of the road halfway up a steep climb. Nobody seems to know why, including her, but it briefly caused utter chaos and much swerving and jinking around her stationery bike.

The biggest loss of the day though was reserved for the Garrulous Kid, who completely lost his mojo on the swooping descent just before the steep clamber up to Hartburn, plagued by the demons of last week’s group crash and convinced his tyres had been polished smooth and then liberally coated in grease.

Just before the sharp plunge down, he energetically bailed out, riding off the road and up a steeply banked verge, narrowly missing Crazy Legs and somehow managing to keep himself upright on the adverse camber of the muddy, gravel and leaf strewn strip.

He waited for the road to clear of cyclists before gingerly picking his way down at an exaggerated crawl, almost coming to a standstill at the bottom and losing all momentum before having to drag himself up the other side.

Rab Dee dropped back with him for a bit of mid-ride coaching and policing, while the rest of us pushed on.

“Angerton, or Middleton Bank?” G-Dawg enquired.

“Middleton Bank.” Carlton replied assuredly, “It’s easier.”

This show of forthright confidence, whether misplaced or not, impressed Crazy Legs, who decided Carlton deserved a new moniker to reflect his bravura assertiveness. He first tried out “The Dormanator” before discarding this and finally settling on “The Dormanatrix.” He then totally ruined the intended effect by declaring the name immediately conjured up images of Alan Partridge prancing about in leather S&M shorts.


Nevertheless, Middleton Bank it was – and as we approached, Bydand Fecht pushed up the pace and a small group went clear at the front. I coasted to the bottom of the hill, dropping back through the group until the slope began to bite and then pushing up the outside. As I approached the top, I had Goose for company, riding audibly up the inside gutter and puffing away like Ivor the Engine under heavy load.

At the crest I eased and dropped back, waiting for the rest to regroup and we slowly got ourselves organised to begin chasing the bunch up front who’d decided not to wait. Sneaky Pete pushed the pace up, before swinging over and declaring himself done. Our efforts became a little ragged as Carlton the Dormanatrix and Taffy Steve then vied for the lead before we hit Milestone Woods, with Crazy Legs pulling us up and over the rollers.

As we tipped down before the final climb, Taffy Steve whirred past inviting me onto his wheel with a, “Hang on and I’ll drop like a stone.”

We were closing on the front group as we hit the slopes of the last climb and I returned the favour, pushing past Taffy Steve and suggesting he grab onto my wheel, “and I’ll climb like a washing-machine!”

As we hit the final uphill push, Crazy Legs whirred off the front in a brave, but ultimately futile attempt to bridge to the front group, while Sneaky Pete sneaked off my back wheel to pip me on the line.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

 I caught up with Crazy Legs in the café queue and overheard him closing a conversation with the immortal phrase, “It’s immaterial”

“Ah,” I interjected, “A Gigantic Raft in the Philippines?”

He looked at me blankly


“A Gigantic Raft in the Philippines – It’s Immaterial. You know – Driving Away from Home.”

“Ah, thirty miles or more”

“That’s the one.”

“A whole thirty miles, eh? Woah!”

He was then served by a waitress whose hair had been green the previous week, blue the week before and had transitioned through various shades of orange to a more natural auburn colour. I left him proposing a weekly sweepstake where we’d try to guess her hair colour and trying to negotiate a deal, whereby she’d feed him the information he needed to win every week.

The Driving Away from Home pop-reference led to discussions about Milli Vanilli, surprisingly dead in a car crash with their wives according to Crazy Legs, more surprised that they had wives, than the fact they died in an automobile accident. This led to the sad acknowledgement of the much greater loss to music, that of Colin Vearncombe, a.k.a. Black, who died after a car crash in Ireland late last year.

[For those of you actually managing to keep up at the back, my Google skills suggest that despite Crazy Legs’s assertions, only one member of Milli Vanilli, Rob Pilatus is no longer with us and his death was the result of overdosing on pills and alcohol. I can only assume he wasn’t driving a car at the time – either with or without a wife.]

Penelope Pitstop described the extreme opprobrium heaped on her head by her own offspring, after she’d shown them around her office and dared describe it as “the bomb.” I empathised, mentioning how my own eldest, had threatened to disown me for suggesting she was “a crease”. Apparently appropriation of urban slang by the over 50’s is neither dope, nor bangin’. Word.

A discussion about ridiculous names harkened back to an earlier conversation, where we all endorsed the Natty Gnat’s call for an official list of acceptable names to prevent stupid parents saddling their off-spring with criminally ridiculous monikers. Particular ire today was reserved for numerous Celtic names, with incomprehensible spellings, Niamh, Siobhan, Aoife, Oisin et al.

In a discussion about winter tyres, Crazy Legs’s recommendation was to find out what I was riding and simply avoid buying anything similar. He then described how he himself had a spate of blow-outs before discovering his track pump was calibrated so that 40 PSI showed as zero on the dial.  Apparently riding tyres at 160 PSI is not conducive to inner tube longevity.

Finally, he declared that the Quote of the Year award had already been won, even at such an early date, with Taffy Steve’s observation that “It took Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator less than an hour to develop self-awareness, but the Prof ‘s still working on it after 55 years.”

The ride home was largely without note, although we were passed by a grim faced rider whose face was so black and begrimed that he looked like he’d just completed Paris-Roubaix in the most adverse weather imaginable, or, as Bydand Fecht suggested, spent a Saturday club run riding behind G-Dawg, who thinks mudguards are only for sissy’s.

I made it home in decent time, feeling comfortably tired, rather than utterly exhausted and with both tyres and tubes fully intact.

Not a bad start after all.

YTD Totals: 147 km / 91 miles with 1,727 metres of climbing