Club Run, Saturday 13th September, 2015
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 98.5 km/61 miles with 968 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 1 minute
Group size: 14 cyclists at the start. No FNG’s.
Weather in a word or two: Stottin’ doon.
Main topic of conversation at the start: I rolled up to the start point, which had temporarily shifted 10 metres north into the dim bowels of a multi-storey car-park, where I found the usual, grinning suspects sheltering from the rain, but ready and waiting for a business-as-usual club run. Weather be damned!
As a dripping OGL rode up we were expecting an immediate club sermon about inappropriate choice of gear, last week’s poor riding display or some such, but he was distracted by new cleats that held his feet to the pedals in a death grip. Narrowly avoiding an embarrassing pratfall and almost dislocating an ankle trying to dismount, we were given a brief reprise while he loosened the tension on his pedals.
It wasn’t until these critical adjustments were completed that he roundly cursed us all for having godless bikes! Oh, sorry, no – “guard-less” bikes – bikes without guards – mudguards, fenders, crud catchers, now I get it.
Charlie Bird got a “Chapeau!” for setting a Strava record for a lap on Saltwell Park Boating Lake, although I’m a little concerned anyone would think to take a Garmin on a pedalo. Sadly, but perhaps unsurprisingly there was no corresponding KOM prize to claim.
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: That awkward moment when you’re diligently cleaning your bike chain and your partner asks where their toothbrush has disappeared to …
Crazy Legs then gave us a vivid description and demonstration, replete with Mr. Bean facial contortions and appropriate gurning, of how he had futilely struggled to pull a sodden glove onto a wet hand with his teeth while riding at the back of the group.
This reminded me of the time Dave “Le Taxi” tried to doff a rain jacket with a ¾ length zip only to get it caught on his helmet halfway over his head. Having finally extricated himself he castigated me for being of no useful assistance as he wobbled all over the road and teetered blindly on the brink of disaster, but to be fair I was too paralysed with laughter to be of help to anyone.
We then asked Charlie Bird why he’d disappeared on the shorter, amblers ride and he muttered about his front derailleur not working so he couldn’t select the inner ring. G Dawg’s utterly baffled, uncomprehending expression was priceless.
For once the BBC weather forecast was spot on, predicting heavy rain all morning and uncharacteristically obliging, Mother Nature duly delivered. I was already resigned to the winter bike and had selected appropriate clothing the night before, including overshoes and my most waterproof rain jacket. I’d even given the winter bike a once over with an oily rag last weekend, so had nothing to do except check the tyre pressure before rolling out into the morning’s deluge and watery grey light.
Despite all the careful planning and preparations, leaving the best bike behind for a club run in September somehow felt all wrong, a little like sneaking off from your partner for a quiet date with an ex-girlfriend (or boyfriend, depending on your own personal preferences.)
At the RV point I found the usual suspects taking brief respite from the rain in the bottom of the multi-storey car park, and we might have been persuaded to stay there all day if the Strava KOM between the ground floor and top wasn’t so challenging.
Despite the weather Taffy Steve eschewed the thrice-cursed winter bike and bravely brought out his titanium love-child, while elsewhere there was a mix of the new and old, a few fixies and a smattering of mudguards, ass-savers and the like.
14 brave lads, no lasses (apparently rain plus helmet is murder on the hair) pushed off, clipped in and set out for a drenching. OGL’s plans were instantly washed away as the first mishap of misdirection saw us sailing blithely past the very first turn he wanted us to make.
We sped onwards nonetheless, tyres cutting through the surface water with a hiss like tearing silk, and everyone settling as comfortably as they could into the ride and conditions.
The second mishap of misdirection saw us reach a big, wide-open roundabout that RIMS like to orbit at maximum warp without slowing. With no clear instructions we hit the roundabout and Ether shouted left on the spur of the moment. Twenty seconds later and while the front group were leaning well into the turn, OGL bellowed straight-on and our organisation exploded like a water-filled balloon dropping 20 feet onto concrete.
Taffy Steve pulled around 7g circumnavigating the entire roundabout at speed, while a half dozen of us had to cut a sharp U-turn on a major feeder road which is notorious for kamikaze traffic. By the time we re-joined the right route I could barely make out the winking red lights of the back of the pack as it disappeared into the rain and so began a long, long chase into a headwind to catch back on.
Typically, I’d just bridged across when BFG punctured and we were forced to stop anyway Milling idly around, shooting the breeze, getting rained on and obliviously sprawled across about ⅔ of a narrow country lane, we waited for repairs to be made.
It was at this point that for some reason the Prof decided to flag down an approaching car. As the driver pulled up alongside us and wound down his window quizzically, we all looked nonplussed at him, and then at the Prof, then back at the driver. The Prof mumbled something, we apologised and the guy finally realising we weren’t in need of emergency assistance and we had stopped him for no apparent reason, drove away. I’m just guessing here, but suspect that isn’t the best way of befriending your average motorist.
Repairs made we were back up to speed again when we heard a loud clunk, rattle and bang, which Crazy Legs surmised was either a serious mechanical, or an ultra-smooth Campagnolo gear shift.
The sound repeated itself a short while later, but no shout drifted up, so we mentally shrugged and pressed on, shedding riders like a comet’s tail. First beZ shot off for a lone, long, self-flagellation ride, then OGL, Ether, Cowin’ Bovril and Carlton decided they’d had enough rain and took off on the direct route to the café.
Charlie Bird seemed to hesitate, then turned to follow, as Crazy Legs squealed after him, “Come back Chuck, come back!” like the erstwhile heroine of an 80’s Chewits ad – but to no avail, as like Chuck in the advert he pressed on to join up with the amblers.
By this point the BFG had disappeared who knows where, having perhaps succumbed to that all too audible mechanical failure and slipped away unseen from the herd with a quiet dignity – (or perhaps acute embarrassment?) – to seek out his very own elephant’s graveyard.
Now our somewhat depleted group wound ourselves up the Quarry climb and struck out for the café, traversing decidedly sketchy road surfaces into a tearing headwind and lashing rain.
Moose Bumps jumped away and Red Max and Taffy started to wind it up for the usual Forlorn Hope. I tried hanging onto their wheels, but the legs were leaden and unresponsive and they slowly slipped away, with everyone else piling past in earnest, but futile pursuit. There it was, proof if ever I doubted, that last week’s burst of almost human strength was but a flitting mirage.
In one unexpected turn however, the Forlorn Hope was spectacularly successful, as with a last burst Red Max bridged up to Moose’s back-wheel and Taffy Steve clinically delivered the coup de grace.
We regrouped at the café, earlier than usual following a somewhat shortened ride, to find much to G-Dawg’s disgust that his customary ham and egg pie was still in the oven. Sitting round the table with the Prof’s untenanted jacket presiding over us like Banquo’s ghost, we slurped coffee, talked nonsense, laughed a lot and no doubt annoyed everyone else in the café while we waited for G-Dawg’s pie.
The amblers left long before our vigil was complete, exiting the café to find the rain pelting down with a renewed vigour. When our turn came to leave Crazy Legs half-jokingly suggested a longer route home, but with the rain still unrelenting there was no great enthusiasm for a detour. The first few minutes were uncomfortable, but we soon warmed up and quickly clipped off the miles back to base.
I turned off for home accompanied only by a recurring Tom Waits song and arrived at the river crossing to find the skies, if not clearing, then at least no longer weeping. I was thankfully able to shuck the boil-in-the-bag jacket before my assault of the Heinous Hill and I stuffed it into my jersey pocket. It may have sat like a cold wet sponge in the middle of my back, but it was good to be free of it, no matter how briefly.
All in all an enjoyable run despite, or just maybe, perhaps because of the foul weather.
YTD Totals: 4,679 km/ 2,907 miles with 53,134 metres of climbing.