TWOCing ‘copters and the consternation of choice …

Club Run, 4th July, 2015

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                     100km/62 miles with 831 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                             3 hours 58 minutes

Group size:                                           22 including the kids. No FNG’s.

Weather in a word or two:             Meh.

Main topic of conversation at the start: I was disappointed to learn that the Newcastle Chilli Festival wasn’t a chance for all the chilli growers in the North East to exhibit their prize winning peppers and compete against each other for “Best in Class”. Apparently it’s nowhere close to being quite as dull as a modern take on the traditional Leek Show.

With the Tour de France starting and already concerns about the Astana team, it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to le dopage in the peloton. I recounted Michel Pollentier’s legendary failed dope test at l’Alpe d’Huez – when he was told the good news was his sample was clean, but the bad news was that he was pregnant. Always worth a chuckle.

A quick discussion concluded that probably 99% of bike frames were made in Taiwan. A quick check of bikes found some are quite open about this, with “Made in Taiwan” proudly stencilled on the frame, others played with weasel-words, declaring things like; “designed in Germany,” but leaving the actual provenance of manufacture reassuringly vague.

“They’re all made in the same factory in Taiwan!” is the kind of argument OGL all too regularly screeches to disparage just about anything that doesn’t come from his own shop. Then again, where would you prefer your bike was manufactured – in an ultra-modern, high volume, hyper-controlled, computerised factory in the Far East, or in a back-street workshop in Rotherhide by some surly, anonymous, chain-smoking British bloke called Dave, with a CSE in Woodwork, home-made tattoos and an on-going battle with last night’s hangover? Just a thought.

“What kind of bike’s that anyway?” One of the youngsters then asked, with a vague nod of his head in the general direction of, well just about everyone. I did a quick double-take, looking all around in bewilderment as I tried to spot some stealthy, un-badged, über-bike. Finally it dawned on me he meant Reg. I’m not usually so slow on the uptake, but was rather puzzled by the question as my bike has “Holdsworth” emblazoned on it in big, bold, gaudy letters in at least a dozen places. We finally realised he simply hadn’t heard of Holdsworth, or their venerated and rich heritage within British Cycling. #Sigh# The youth of today.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: OGL gleefully recounted several methods for beating dope tests, the majority of which seemed to involve shoving something up your anal canal. Curiously he wasn’t forthcoming about his own personal history with doping control. He then recounted Michel Pollentier’s legendary failed dope test at l’Alpe d’Huez -when he was told the good news was his sample was clean, but the bad news was … yeah, ok, you’ve got it.

We discussed the potential for holding a race along the route of one of OGL’s magical mystery tours: down farm tracks, through gates and across cattle grids, while carefully negotiating flocks of sheep, herds of cows and their assorted effluvia. On paper the tactical nuances sounded compelling, with the breakaway hurrying to get through and close a gate before the peloton arrives. Much like fighting for position on the pavé, everyone would have to scramble to ensure they weren’t the last through and be held responsible for stopping and closing the gate behind them.

G-Dawg then recounted how he once bunny-hopped a cattle grid on his fixie, but foolishly forgot to pedal in mid-air, enduring a turbo-charged kick up the backside on landing.


ride 4 july
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

The forecasts all predicted heavy, thundery rain in the early morning, followed by increasing brightness that would finally morph into all-round fabulous summer weather. Yeah, right.

Sure enough I woke to a heavy downpour that sounded like an army of clog wearing ants vigorously enacting River Dance across our roof, and found myself almost paralysed by the consternation of choice: the decision between winter bike with mudguards or best bike was bad enough without having to consider all the clothing options for what promised to be a very changeable day. Having just “blinged up” Reg with new wheels and tyres however I was anxious to give them a whirl no matter what the conditions, so style won out over sense. (When was it ever a fair contest?)

I then eventually settled on arm warmers and waterproof jacket (bizarrely often referred to as a racing cape in cycling parlance, as if we’re all wannabe-super heroes), over my usual jersey and shorts, mistakenly leaving behind a pair of waterproof overshoes so by the time I’d reached the rendezvous point my once pristine, white socks were a very grimy shade of grey and I was in danger of developing a bad case of trench foot.

I arrived to find a smattering of winter bikes in amongst all the high gloss carbon, and a wide range of different clothing choices that reflected the same levels of indecision and uncertainty that I had felt.

The kids were out too for their monthly ride on the roads, including The Red Max and Monkey Butler, fresh from conquering the Cyclone. The Monkey Butler was complaining vigorously that his brake blocks were catching and to illustrate the point lifted up his front wheel and gave it a quick spin. It managed about a quarter of a slow-motion revolution before stuttering to a stop. Red Max tried to convince him such small impediments were character building and it would help him grow stronger, but finally relented to peer pressure and adjusted the brakes.

The Prof then declared he was ready to ride and already in need of a wee stop! With that as impetus 12 brave lads (no lasses) and a handful of kids pushed off, clipped in and set out into warm humid air and an all pervading drizzle.

With the choice of either shipping the jacket and getting soaked from the outside-in, or keeping it on, boiling and getting soaked from the inside-out, I went with the latter and stowed the waterproof.

Needless to say there was no right choice as the weather swung from utterly minging to barely passable and back again and we were constantly riding through an unrelenting, muggy and misty drizzle.

We once agian endured the dangers and depredations of the Great North Road Cyclemaze, emerging victorious (if bemused) like an all-conquering Theseus who’s a bit slow on the uptake. We split from the kids who went their own merry way shortly afterwards and we became a rather compact Dirty Dozen.

In between him calling for more wee stops than a dog with an irritable bladder in an ice-field full of lampposts, I fell into a rather bizarre philosophical conversation with the Prof about whether the Samurai Bushido code was actually a religion, if Catholicism was founded on guilt, all Protestants were unhappy and how you knew when you’d actually learned something. [???]. I’m still bewildered.


If The Prof. had his way there'd be a lot more of this.
If The Prof. had his way there’d be a lot more of this.

With such a small group we didn’t split as usual, although beZ flew off early to top-off his ride with another 100 miles or so. I was having one of those days where the pedals were floating round seemingly of their own volition and quickly romped to the top of the Quarry Climb.

As we pushed on toward the café though my rear cassette started to sound like a bag of ball-bearings in a tumble drier. At this point I vaguely recalled tightening the locking ring on the cassette by hand with the intention of taking the tool to it before slapping the new wheels onto the bike. I had then completely forgotten to do this and over the course of the ride the whole thing had worked itself loose. Oops. Idiot.


Medre! Some imbecile has forgotten to tighten the locking ring.
Merde! Some imbecile has forgotten to tighten the locking ring.

I dropped away from the lead group, more embarrassed by the awful jangling clatter than suffering any serious mechanical impediment, and so missed Taffy Steve claiming second place in the race to the café, only beaten by all-round Racing Snake and Pierre Rolland lookalike, Spry.

Finally, sometime in that jingle-jangle morning, I rolled into the café suitably sur la jante.

The guy who rode the Cyclone on a Raleigh Chopper pulled in as I was jury rigging my cassette with the edge of a multi-tool, hoping it would suffice to get me home with some semblance of quietude. I had a chat with him and he moaned that the rain had forced him to leave the Chopper in the garage, explaining that the stainless steel wheel rims make braking a bit of a lottery in the wet!

Once I split from the club on the way home I found I was being stalked by a Police helicopter that seemed to parallel my route. This always gives me a sense of trepidation as over-active imagination thinks they’re pursuing some TWOCing bastard in a stolen hot-hatch who isn’t going to see a skinny bloke on a plastic bike as much of an impediment to his escape.

Luckily our paths didn’t cross and they buzzed away as I turned for the climb up Heinous Hill and home. Finally, as I rounded the last hairpin the sun burst out in full, glorious splendour, the beautiful summer’s day the forecast had promised. Ah well, only 4 hours too late.

Until next week…


YTD Totals: 3,346km/ 2,079 miles with 37,158 metres of climbing.


[Footnote: as the superb* “Alpe d’Huez: The Story of Pro Cycling’s Greatest Climb” by Peter Cossins and many other sources make clear, the story of Pollentier’s failed dope test is completely apocryphal and totally untrue. He was actually caught trying to use some Byzantine apparatus to deliver a clean sample of urine from a bulb under his arm and was eventually left to produce his own, much tainted sample au naturel.]

[* Footnote to the footnote: I have to admit to total bias as the book’s centrepiece is the battle between Joop Zoetemelk and fabulous Lucien van Impe during the latter’s glorious Tour win in 1976.]

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