Club Run, Saturday 10th November, 2018
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 110 km / 68 miles with 1,174 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 40 minutes
Average Speed: 23.6 km/h
Group size: 26
Weather in a word or two: Not bad at all
First off, my apologies if, in my incessant babbling last week, I wrote off your cycling club and it’s still going strong. This was prompted by a blerg comment I received, suggesting the members of the Tyne Road Club would be very surprised to learn of their apparent demise.
In my own paltry defence, I will say that they must be operating in a particularly clandestine manner, or at least one that easily thwarted my (admittedly amateurish) research capabilities: the club no longer appear to be registered with British Cycling and their web domain registration has expired.
I did subsequently find a Strava group for the club, but this had the same link to the lapsed website and was only showing a single, solitary member. Still, I’m very happy to be proven wrong and do hope the club continues.
The one benefit of my research activities was stumbling across this film of the 1960 Dunston C.C. road race. (I think I’m safe in asserting that this club, is no more.)
Meanwhile discussions between Toshi San and OGL revealed that VC Electric were composed of electricians from the Swan-Hunter shipyards. Since the once mighty Swan-Hunter closed a long time ago, I think VC Electric are another club we can safely consign to the past.
Anyway, back to the present … A lone seagull, circling high over the house marked the start of my ride with a series of plaintive, mournful cries. I’ve no idea why it was so sad, it was a bright, breezy, not too cold day. A large band of heavy rain had passed over us through the night, but now the skies were clearing and it would be a dry throughout. Not bad. Not bad at all.
My trip across the river to the meeting point was wholly unremarkable and I arrived to find G-Dawg, the Hammer and the Colossus already there and waiting.
Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:
That film of that 1960’s road race did spark some lively debate about the two front pockets that used to adorn all cycling jersey’s and just what purpose they could possibly serve. Too shallow for spares, or tools, too precarious for money, or valuables, I felt they were perhaps ideally sized to carry a pack of fags, or maybe they were designed for more refined times and specifically for a gentleman’s, freshly pressed, linen handkerchief or pocket square.
OGL was the only one of us who could remember owning a jersey with front pockets, which he suggested were simply there to catch the wind, like twin drogue parachutes. Like us, he had no earthly idea of their actual purpose and could recall getting his mum to sew a couple of press-studs on, to try and keep them from gaping, like a slack-jawed village idiot.
The Garrulous Kid started telling us about his “posse” of “friends” and their university choices and I wondered where he ranked in the group pecking order, was he the Alpha Male or Beta? Perhaps he was even his own man and a newly-minted Zeta?
Talk of his peer group prompted Plumose Pappus to muse what collective noun we might best apply. A “chatter” I suggested. He countered with a “chaos” which seemed altogether more appropriate.
It was time for route announcements, with Richard of Flanders bounding up onto the wall and, somewhat astonishingly, priming the crowd with his opening declaration, “Hello! For those that don’t know me, I’m Richard and this … is your route for the day …”
With numbers requiring a split into two groups, he then broke standard etiquette, by declaring he would be leading the front group and hustled off before anyone could object.
In the second group, OGL wanted a more organised rotation, with no one doing more than 3 miles on the front, before ceding their position and dropping all the way to the back. No one had any real objections, so off we set, with this rather novel restriction in mind.
I found myself riding along beside Ovis, out on his fixie because he’s not happy with the cantilever brakes on his winter bike. He’s dropped it in to his LBS for a service and to see if they could find a way of increasing braking power. I suggested better brake blocks could be helpful.
“Oh, I have to admit the last pair I bought were cheap as chips,” he conceded ruefully, “and for all the effect they were having, I might as well have been using chips.”
After three miles, Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs dutifully swung off the front, accompanied with loud cries of “get thee behind me!” and “go on, all the way to the back now.”
Spoons and Goose took over and we pressed onward. Out through Ponteland and up Limestone Lane, until it was our turn and I moved onto the front with Ovis, as, with perfect timing, my Garmin ticked over to 23 miles.
“That must be three miles done already, ” Ovis suggested hopefully a few moments later.
“Close, but that’s actually only about 0.2 of a mile. But don’t worry, we’re about to a hit a nice, smooth patch of tarmac.”
And we did, to a noticeable, collective, dare I say, almost orgasmic sigh from those behind.
Ovis considered calling for a pee stop, but wavered as he couldn’t remember the right gate and he recalled the Gategate incident, when all sorts of trouble accrued to those who dared to worship and … ahem, “spend their tribute” at the wrong gate. Much better to ride with the discomfort of a full bladder and treat it as a sort of humble debasement, a sign of true dedication.
A little further on a cluster of cyclists could be seen at the side of the road. “Perhaps,” I mused, “they’re at the right gate and they’re pilgrims paying homage to that most holy of cyclist sites?”
But no, it was just our front group, stopped and pulled up at the side of the road with what looked like another front wheel puncture for G-Dawg.
I doffed an imaginary cap and we pressed on. After exactly three miles, I had us swing over and the next pair took to the front as we drifted all the way to the back. In this way the ride progressed, sensibly, orderly, organised, equitable, overly fussy and, according to Crazy Legs, ultimately boring.
A bit further on and we had to stop for our own puncture, as Spoons rear tyre was slowly softening. He set to work changing the tube and then starting to re-seat the tyre, lining up three tyre levers to help him. Even without Crazy Legs’s magic thumb, I thought it was worth trying to push the tyre on manually and with a bit of grunting, gurning and groaning I managed to roll it back onto the rim. It was only at this point that I realised I’d been wrestling with a Schwalbe Marathon, tyres that are notoriously difficult to fit. I have to admit I was quite smugly pleased with myself.
As Spoons began inflating his tyre, Goose fished a snack-sized Malt Loaf out and devoured it in three bites. Ovis snorted in derision, then drawled, “That’s not a malt loaf, this is a malt loaf,” reaching back and pulling out his usual, family-sized, malt loaf brick out of a jersey pocket.
In between bites, he explained how he’d completed the Fred Whitton Challenge fuelled purely on malt loaf, with two stashed in his jersey pockets and a third, for emergencies, strapped to his top tube.
“Only trouble was, I was a bit sick of it by the time I got to the last feed-station. You know what they were serving there? Bleedin’ malt loaf!”
I was fully expecting our front group to catch us while we were tyre wrangling and talking nonsense, but there was no sign of them. I later learned we’d deviated slightly from the planned route. (Shh! Don’t tell Richard.)
Underway again, Biden Fecht was struggling to hold the wheels and obviously in the throes of a major jour sans. We nursed him along to the Quarry, where he joined those making a quick strike for the café, while the rest of us went plummeting down the Ryals.
It must have been on the cusp of the 11th hour, of the … wait, what? 10th day? … when we shot past a small group observing a (surely premature) minutes silence at the war memorial at the bottom of the hill. Hopefully we didn’t disturb them too much.
The planned route was for us to climb back up through Hallington, but we took the longer, less hilly loop around the reservoir instead – Taffy Steve’s preferred option, even on his svelte summer bike and given even greater appeal now he was astride the thrice-cursed winter bike.
Half way around and Spoons was calling a stop to sort out his leaky, rapidly softening tyre, going for a few blasts of his pump rather than a full tube change. He set out for the café, pushing well ahead of everyone in a desperate race against time, hoping to make it before having to stop and force more air into the troublesome tube.
We followed, accelerating toward coffee and losing Ovis on the short, but savage Brandy Well Bank, that could legitimately bear a warning sign declaring “death to all fixies.”
Speed was up and we were humming along now, with Taffy Steve pulling on the front and rapidly closing in on Spoons, as we hit the stretch down to the Snake Bends. I pushed through, as we caught and dropped our front runner, rattling along on what I suspect was an uncomfortably flaccid tyre. Then Taffy Steve went blasting past with Crazy Legs on his wheel and the pair opened up a gap as they duked it out for the final sprint.
Punctures and stops had us arriving at the cafe way behind our usual time and, while the other groups were already indulging in refills and thinking about leaving, we were just sitting down.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
Enthusiasm for the rugby international was somewhat dampened by realisation that the game would only be live on Sky, a company and service all right-thinking people should morally object to giving money to, regardless of your thoughts on their cycling team.
Crazy Legs questioned just how smart Sky were though, as he knew of at least one family sharing their Multiroom package between a house in Tyneside and a flat in East Finchley.
“You could always argue you’ve just got a very big house,” I decided.
“And the Multiroom subscription was just for the west wing,” the Colossus added.
Talk of big houses reminded OGL he’d once been asked to deliver a boatload of expensive Pinarello gear to a certain chubby, charmless, money-grubbing, shifty-grifter, Sir Alan Sugar. Mrs. OGL had been suspicious of the order, so OGL had Googled the address to reveal a palatial, sprawling monstrosity of a house, that convinced him this was no scam.
This reminded Crazy Legs of a tale he’d heard about a fellow cyclist who’d hauled himself to the top of an Alpine climb to find Sir Alan Sugar, complete with personalised Pinarello, camped outside a cafe, sipping an espresso.
“I know you!” the cyclist had declared, seemingly much to Lord Sugar’s initial delight, until the cyclist pointed a finger and declared, “You’re fired!”
“Oh, fuck off!” Lord Sugar had allegedly replied, with remarkable wit and sagacity, before throwing a leg over his bike and quickly riding off.
The Garrulous Kid dropped by wondering if he’d done enough to deserve a prize at the club’s annual dinner and awards ceremony.
“What would you like a prize for,” G-Dawg queried, “The shortest club ride, ever?”
“How about finishing a ride without falling over?” I suggested, “Oh, wait …”
But the Garrulous Kid had already flitted to the next topic, declaring he had a great idea for improving the club run: free rides. I’m not sure what he was getting at, we don’t pay anyway.
As everyone seemed to be packing up to leave, Big Dunc finally arrived at the cafe, having been riding with our group, but suffering an unremarked puncture on the run in. I persuaded Crazy Legs to join me in a coffee refill (to be honest, it wasn’t difficult) and we stayed behind to keep Big Dunc company, as everyone else left for the run home.
The three of us finally left the cafe and started to head back. I was riding on the front chatting with Crazy Legs, until he turned round and we finally noticed our trio had become a duo.
We back-tracked to find Big Dunc stopped by another puncture. We hustled into the entrance to a farm track and started to replace the tube. The tyre proved to be a complete and utter bastard to get off the rim, with tyre levers pinging everywhere, skinned knuckles, a lot of polite swearing and everyone trying and failing horribly.
Finally, we managed to drag the tyre off, pulled the tube out and replaced it. If we thought getting the tyre off was difficult, getting it back on was to be even more of an ordeal. Rolling it didn’t work, levering it didn’t work and in this instance, even the Crazy Legs magic thumb failed us.
All the while we were entertained by a postman driving his van in and out of farm entrances as if he was auditioning for the Fast & Furious 10 (Ogle Burn Up) and Crazy Legs started judging the steady stream of passing cyclists by how sincerely they enquired if they could assist us in any way.
Meanwhile, I wondered how Big Dunc had managed on his own, when he’d punctured on the run into the café? Truth be told he didn’t know – I suspect a supernatural burst of adrenaline, similar to the phenomena that lets desperate mothers lift cars off their run-over children.
My new found confidence in being able to handle difficult tyres following success with the Schwalbe Marathon’s, quickly evaporated, defeated by an unholy alliance of Continental Grand Prix tyres and Shimano rims.
Finally, with all hands to the pump and injudicious application of tyre levers, gloved hands, grunting, straining and swearing, the tyre grudgingly snapped over the rim. Unfortunately we could see numerous places where it had trapped the tube under the bead and it would be impossible to inflate.
Working the tyre vigorously from side to side for five minutes, we thought we’d finally released the tube, screwed a pump onto the valve and I gave it a dozen or so good blows.
Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Either my pump was refusing to work, or, much more likely we’d damaged the tube with all our industrial manhandling.
Unable to face another round of tyre wrangling, Crazy Legs volunteered to ride home, get his car and come and pick Big Dunc up. We agreed the plan and I handed over a spare tube in case Big Dunc’s superhuman strength and mystical tyre changing abilities suddenly reasserted themselves. Then we left him, vowing to replace his tyres with something that was a little more forgiving and easier to fit.
Pushing along with Crazy Legs and discussing year end distance totals, he recalled last year being stuck on 3,973 miles at Christmas and having to spend an hour or so on the turbo, just to round things up to an even 4,000.
This compulsion was something he’d previously tried to explain to an uncomprehending Taffy Steve and me, when he was horrified to learn we track our Garmin numbers in both miles and kilometres and therefore would have the impossibility of two numbers to round-up.
“I’ve probably topped 4,000 miles sometime this week,” I told him.
“Bloody hell, 4,000 miles in a week? That’s impressive.”
As we approached Kirkley Hall, about 45 minutes behind our usual schedule, Crazy Legs proved we’ve been riding together too long, by rightly guessing I was planning to turn right to shave a mile or two off my route home. Or, maybe he was trying to prompt me to go that way, because as soon as I confirmed it, he started grinning.
“Good,” he said, “Then I can ride the rest of the way at a more comfortable pace.”
“But, I’m only riding at this speed to keep up with you!” I insisted.
We fell into an uneasy silence, until we approached the junction.
“Bye. I’ll see you next week.”
Next week, when we’ll probably continue to ride together at a pace just a little too fast for either of us to be truly comfortable, but we’ll both be to stubborn and conceited to admit it, or back down …
YTD Totals: 6,584 km / 4,091 miles with 80,581 metres of climbing