Club Run, Saturday 27th September, 2015
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 109 km/68 miles with 941 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
Group size: 30 plus – no FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Grey. Cool.
Main topic of conversation at the start: OGL turned up to solemnly inform us that one or more of the FNG’s had been in touch to tell him they’d joined a rival club because the pace of our rides was too high right from the start. While OGL’s tone was one of mild censure, surely I wasn’t alone in thinking this was a positive result all round. The FNG’s now get to ride with a group maybe more suited to their current level, while we don’t have to constantly nursemaid riders who need to honestly assess their own capabilities before signing up to a club run.
Although that might sound harsh I’m not actually convinced the speed on the first parts of our ride are any faster now than they were when I was the struggling FNG, and plenty of others since have started, found it ok and still continue to come out with us. In fact I worked hard riding on my own to make sure when I rocked up the first time I wasn’t going to embarrass myself too much. Despite my preparations I still remember the hammer blow of that first climb, or being tailed off and constantly chasing while trying to keep the last rider in sight, along with all the encouragement and aid of others.
While there is a great deal of goodwill and help doled out to new starters there has to come a point where slowing the pace too much is simply going to ruin the ride for everyone else. At what point do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? A certain, smart, but entirely fictional, pointy-eared alien would have a very clear answer to that.
This does suggests that a “once size fits all approach” doesn’t always work and we should consider splitting the group much earlier (goodness knows it’s big enough) and have different groups to match different abilities and desires. This suggestion isn’t universally popular though and has led to schisms and rancour in the past. Answers on a postcard, please – I haven’t got any.
On a different note, apparently the Prof fears that he’s being dealt a duff hand by Father Time and is increasingly worried by a loss of elasticity in the skin on his legs. He’s been going round inspecting and comparing the calves of anyone in the same approximate age bracket who’ll allow him to get up close and personal.
According to Red Max the Prof has so much loose skin he’s pulling it up from his ankles and over his knees a bit like a pair of baggy socks with perished elastic. For whatever reason, my twisted mind immediately conjured up an image of two legs like flaccid, wrinkled, elephant foreskins, though I wasn’t even marginally tempted to look for a suitable photo to illustrate it.
Anyway, if you’re ever accosted by a fella on a small-wheeled bike of curious design asking to feel your calves, try to let him down gently. He’ll probably tilt his head back to peer myopically at you from under his dark glasses, then just shrug and pedal off. Don’t be alarmed, he’s mostly harmless.
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: The Red Max demonstrated his hard won, encyclopaedic knowledge of cake, by correctly identifying a Viennese Whirl, despite it being incorrectly labelled as a Malteser Tray Bake.
He gambled on this new confection being to his tastes, and it duly transported him to unforeseen heavenly delights. I’ve never seen him eat anything quite so slowly, as he delicately nibbled away like a bulimic teenager, savouring every morsel and pausing for long periods of deep contemplation. On finishing he promptly declared it was much too good for his son, the Monkey Butler Boy who he would now have to ban from ever seeing, let alone tasting such forbidden fruit.
The wasps had again disappeared – but someone obviously mentioned their absence 5 times, and like Clive Barker’s Candyman this seemed to be sufficient invocation for them to suddenly swarm our table and remind us that summer wasn’t quite over.
The pair of punctures led to a discussion of pumps, shot through with dubious double entendre’s which concluded it was all about the length, girth and hand-action as well as course of how hard it would get (your tyre , obviously.) Oh. Dear.
Crazy Legs then fished in his back pocket and delicately pulled out the smallest, frailest looking micro pump known to man, holding it carefully aloft between a thumb and forefinger. It looked like it could barely deliver sufficient volume to give CPR to a sparrow, let alone inflate a tyre. G-Dawg raised an eyebrow and asked how big it was when extended, “It is extended,” was the flat response.
Then Szell started talking about his sweaty helmet and we knew it was time to make a swift exit.
Saturday brought a dry, but chilly day with the sun barred and barricaded behind a flat, iron-grey blanket of cloud. Another day ticked off where shorts still remained a viable, comfortable option. Everyone feels like a bonus now.
I reached the rendezvous point early, so did a quick spin around the car park, coming back to the start from a slightly unusual direction and converging with 4 other riders, all arriving from different angles like a highly choreographed Red Arrows manoeuvre.
Thankfully we narrowly missed an embarrassing mass pile-up and as our well-published start-time rolled past we hunkered down for the inevitable wait for everyone else to show – which they did in increasing numbers, until the concourse was awash with brightly coloured, skinny limbs, shiny plastic bikes and the hum of unrepressed badinage.
Eventually over 30 guys and gals pushed off, clipped in and set out, in a long snake and I chuckled as an unsuspecting lone rider appeared at the back and had to surge over pavements, jump kerb’s and hammer down side-roads to try and get past our extended train.
We’d just left the urban sprawl behind when Son of G-Dawg punctured, and we all huddled in a lay-by as repairs were effected. Half a dozen strokes from Taffy Steve’s mighty frame pump had us rolling again, although Son of G-Dawg would later complain his tyre felt squishy as we hadn’t quite managed to inflate it to his usual 140 psi!
We rolled along merrily for a while, until the puncture curse struck again, this time it was Crazy Leg’s turn to get that sinking feeling as his rear tyre sighed one last gasp and expired. Repairs took slightly longer this time as the sidewall was gashed and needed a bit of emergency patching. Again we regrouped and pressed on until we reached a suitable splitting point.
Here a large contingent looked set to head straight to the café, until OGL revealed the route travelled down a farm track, through closed gates and over cattle-grids, before delicately picking a route between extensive, steaming piles of cow ordure. A few changed their mind at this point, figuring it was just an evil ploy for OGL to rack up sales of inner tubes, and concluding the pain of the longer ride was preferable to off-road adventure’s and the need to deep-clean and sterilise the bike on returning home.
It was a large, unusually disciplined group then that hit Middleton Bank, and for once we churned up it in tight formation, at a fairly respectable, but not blazing speed, losing only one or two out the back. I was alongside Red Max, who seemed at ease with climb, although he later admitted just hanging on had been fast enough to blunt his enthusiasm for a Forlorn Hope long attack. We regrouped over the top and no one was really pressing hard as we swept through Milestone Wood, over the rollers and down toward the final climb to the café.
Rounding the last corner, Shoeless and Son of G-Dawg kicked away, and I dug in to follow on G-Dawg’s wheel, but he didn’t respond. Somewhat surprised I slowed, waiting for a surge that didn’t come and trying to recover from the shock. I then somewhat apologetically did the unthinkable and passed him on the inside, trying to build some lost momentum back up.
Goose, Ovis and maybe a couple of others swept over me at this point, and I gave chase with my front wheel skipping and skeetering on the broken surface near the gutter, managing to hold them without actually closing the gap as we ground up and over the final rise.
Luckily we got into the café and served before it was mobbed by a twitchy herd of arriving pensioners, who managed to mill around aimlessly and glare at anyone they thought might have been queue jumping.
I went into the car park looking for the coach which had disgorged this ominous horde, but they had either all air-dropped into the café, or travelled there independently – perhaps part of a pensioner flash mob co-ordinated months in advance through the pages of their radical ‘zine, The People’s Friend.
Fearing a Sanatogen-fuelled riot we sent G-Dawg in for re-fills, reasoning he’d be the most likely to intimidate them into silence, and somehow he managed to pull it off.
It was at this point that attention was drawn to Szell’s bike which he’d dropped and abandoned in the middle of a flower bed, before staggering away weak-limbed, shaking and utterly spent from his efforts to hang on in the sprint. Red Max tutted disgustedly however , arguing you were never truly spent, until it’s you found lying on your back in the flower bed with the bike in the air, still cleated into slowly turning pedals and occasionally twitching and buzzing like a freshly swatted blue-bottle.
We left the café before the pensioners kicked off, and I found myself riding on the front with Taffy Steve. We were just debating if anyone was going to surge past and push the pace on Berwick Hill, when Szell suffered either a puncture or an assassination attempt, his tyre exploding with a retort like a rifle-shot.
Once again we stopped, and sprawled across the road while repairs were undertaken. This was somewhat delayed as Crazy Legs first paraded the offending inner tube which had ruptured as badly as the Kalamazoo Pipeline.
Back up and running, I resumed the vanguard position with Taffy Steve and we crested Berwick Hill and dropped down again in a fairly close ordered, compact bunch, managing to keep our discipline and everyone together until we all split up for home.
YTD Totals: 4,848 km/ 3,012 miles with 54,961 metres of climbing.