Helmet-head and riding the thin line between the cycle paths and the psychopaths …

Club Run – Weekend of 13th to 14th of June, 2015

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                     112.7km/70.0 miles with 1,015 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                             4 hours 14 minutes

Group size:                                           32 cyclists at the start. 1 (returning!) FNG.

 Weather in a word or two:               Surprising.

Main topic of conversation at the start: The emerging new sport of eBay style sniping Cyclone Sportive entries to see just how close to the deadline we can get – perhaps an evil, but seemingly uncoordinated plan to give OGL conniptions that no one from the club is going to ride? Queries, (and I’m not sure if these were related), about how long it takes to wear out East European wives and whatever happened to the Tuxedo Princess. The Tuxedo Princess was a seedy nightclub entombed in the rusting bowels of a ship that even the most heartless Libyan people-smuggler would think twice about using. Much like Mos Eisley spaceport, or even my old school you would be hard-pressed to “find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

Note: I was once roundly castigated for comparing my old school to Mos Eisley spaceport, and strangely enough not by those upstanding, fictional inter-stellar denizens. I will apologise in advance therefore for any offence caused.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: Whether Sir Bradley Wiggins (OBE) will follow through on his threat promise to marshal one of the corners at the Beaumont Trophy road race next week. OGL’s continuing search for a pillion rider brave enough to serve as official timekeeper on the back of a motorbike. (If you want to apply you must provide your own helmet and chalkboard, we however should be able to find some chalk). We discussed if a pub blackboard would be an adequate substitute and possible consequences of inadvertently revealing this week’s dessert specials instead of the time back to the chasing bunch. This was followed by the horrible and shameful confession from The Red Max that he ordered the monkey-butler, slave-boy to “ease up” last week, and in the process destroyed many patient years of relentless parental programming. Finally, is helmet-head better or worse than helmet-hair?

Ride Profile
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

When does a FNG become a full blood-brother of the club cycling fraternity? We obviously haven’t been making the new guys unwelcome enough, as one brave soul actually returned two weeks in a row. Our Ex-Ex-Pat, The Last Air Bender, reappeared having fully recovered from grinding in the wind, bonking and baptising himself in lukewarm coffee. If he keeps this up he may even earn a nickname. (Oh!)

Rather worryingly he was wearing a jersey from his previous club in New Yawk, sponsored by what I assume was their LBS, the “Montclair Bikery.” Bikery? Hmm, isn’t that where our Australian cousins buy their pastries? Begad sir! When will those uppity colonists stop mangling the Queen’s English, eh what?

helmet hair
Helmet-head or helmet hair – you decide which is worse

33 brave lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and set out into the maw of the brand, spanking-new Great North Road cycle path. This is a very narrow ribbon of tarmac designed solely to protect all the other rightful and righteous road-users from us pesky cyclists. To achieve this, the roadside edge is studded with a series of hefty rubberised tank traps the like of which haven’t been seen since Hitler’s panzers threatened these shores. Deviating even slightly from a straight line and clipping one of these protruberences is likely to catapult the unfortunate cyclist over the kerb and onto the pavement, where, lying dazed and bruised, he’ll be easy prey to packs of vengeful, marauding pedestrians. As if these obstacles weren’t enough, and in keeping with the WW2 theme, every so often along the perimeter someone has thoughtfully dotted some “Rommelspargel” cheerful, candy striped poles at just the right height to catch on your handlebars.

I’m all for providing sensible segregation for cyclists where it’s not substandard, but this narrow, fenced in canyon leaving no room for manoeuvre and nowhere to go if the path is blocked feels more dangerous than the open road.

Anyhow, out onto the actual open roads we sped, the weather proving to be much kinder than the forecast had suggested, with only the slightest hint of rain, sunny interludes between high broken cloud cover and the barest breath of wind. Absolutely perfect.

Things went smoothly until we split onto one of my least favourite routes, the draggy climb up to Rothley Crossroads, where I resolutely camped behind G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg’s wheels. I grimly hung there through the white-knuckle descent and scamper along to Middleton Bank, and was still there at the top of the climb. I’ve got no idea who else was with us at that point, I couldn’t hear because of the asthmatic death-rattle in my lungs and the blood pounding in my ears – and had absolutely zero interest in looking back to find out.

After a general regrouping I stayed on Son of G-Dawg’s wheel as The Red Max’s predictable “Forlorn Hope” attack went briefly clear, pulling a few other riders along. As the road climbed along with the pace, Son of G-Dawg started picking off the back-markers one by one. I refused to budge from his wheel, making sure any late attacks would have to come around us both, and if I’d had any breath to spare I might have been tempted to cackle maniacally in glee. Then Plumose Papuss put in a searing uphill attack, Son of G-Dawg accelerated in response and I was slowly disengaged and cast adrift to fall back to Earth like the spent, burned out stage of a Saturn V rocket. Still, I was far enough ahead of most of the group to roll in 6th (but who’s counting!)

Road rage (male)
Beware RIM encounters

The post-café run for home came replete with two Random Indignant Motorist (RIM) encounters. The first barrelling toward us down a narrow country lane in an over-sized pick-up truck, hogging fully two-thirds of the road and with absolutely no intention of stopping or even slowing. Given no time to single out I bumped up hard against the FNG and luckily we both stayed upright as the truck wing mirror whistled inches past my skull. Yikes! Incident number two came when a dozy bimbo overtook me, only to pull in sharply and then turn immediately left into a shopping centre car park causing me to haul hard on the brakes. Aargh! What was the point of that? I have to say, that although these are the incidents that stick in my mind there were many more motorists who pulled over and stopped, gave us plenty of room or waved us cheerfully through. One bad apple, and all that.

Until next week…

YTD Totals: 2,827km/ 1,757 miles with 31,088 metres of climbing.


2 thoughts on “Helmet-head and riding the thin line between the cycle paths and the psychopaths …

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