From Pillow to Post and Riding with Marley’s Ghost


Club Run, Saturday 10th October, 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:                                           34 riders, 2 or 3 FNG’s, 3 guests.

Weather in a word or two:               Grey. Cool

Main topic of conversation at the start: Trying to determine how a discussion on the club Faecesbook page about the discrepancies between Strava and official hill climb times somehow mutated into a debate about the theory of relativity, time dilation and relativistic speeds. Perhaps this could be used to explain the general tardiness associated with the start of our club runs?

Cruelly derided for being a “wee sassenach twiddler” by a group of burly, be-kilted, braveheart, Scottish rugby fans last week, OGL was keen to avoid further disparaging comments about his national allegiances and so rolled up wearing a Scottish cycling jersey, proudly declaring that he is not in fact a wee sassenach twiddler, just a wee twiddler.

In a discussion with Crazy Legs we determined that, although it’s ailing, summer isn’t quite dead as we haven’t yet been forced to reach into the darkest, deepest recesses of our wardrobes in search of bib tights, hats, long-sleeve base layers and assorted thermal clothing that has been in aestivation since Spring.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: Sneaky Pete sneaked (snuck? snucked?) onto our table only long enough to insult Red Max’s portable workshop and then inform us that it was the 50th anniversary of maverick maestro, Bob Dylan’s seminal “Like a Rolling Stone”.

A music-related, round-robin of reminiscing took in favourite local venues and revealed a busy itinerary of concert going planned for the next few months, including the likes of Paul Weller, Chvrches and The Stranglers. Then someone had to go and spoil it all by mentioning Rush.

As a final act of sabotage, Sneaky Pete then dropped us into that perennial, hoary-favourite, the Campagnolo vs. Shimano debate, before sneaking away in classic agent provocateur fashion…

Carlton, already paranoidly protective of his bikes, has a new steed and, like an opportunistic suffragette, has taken to carrying a security chain with him everywhere and seeking out suitably sturdy railings. And this is not just any chain, but one allegedly forged of carbon-tempered steel, recycled from the hulks of old Panzerkampwagen’s in the depths of the Vulcan electric-arc furnace of the Thyssen-Krupp steelworks. It’s of sufficient length to fully encase both frame and wheels in its mighty links which are as thick as a wrist, and it’s strong enough to serve as an anchor chain for the new Ark Royal. As Red Max brilliantly quipped, “He carries around more chains than Jacob Marley.”

The Rugby World Cup seeding which allowed the RFU to take deliberate and very careful aim before boldly shooting itself in the foot – great for all the Anglophobes everywhere, perhaps not so good for the long-term development of the game (and almost succeeding in making the UCI look sensible.)


Ride Profile

The Waffle:

Saturday morning dawned clear and cold and reassuringly dry, postponing the need to break the winter-bike out of mothballs for at least one more week. (Every week is an unlooked for bonus). It was however chilly enough for me to go with full-fingered gloves, a long-sleeved jersey, leg warmers and Belgian booties.

Things looked quite pleasant until halfway down the Heinous Hill when I unexpectedly rolled into a bank of seriously thick, grey fog, which almost had me turning around to head back up the hill for a rear light. It was just the fact that I couldn’t see any approaching cars, rather than thoughts of the steep incline back up to the house that dissuaded me from backtracking. Honest. Luckily the fog was squeezed around the middle of the hill like an over-sized gastric band and I was soon spat out into the clear air below.


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness? Well, certainly plenty of the former.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness? Well, we’re certainly seeing plenty of the former.

I found other patches of mist on my trek across to the meeting point, especially lurking around the bottom of the river valley, but thankfully it had all burned away by the time I reached the magical Transport Interchange Centre.

Today seemed to be a day for bringing along guests, one of our riders, who originally hailed from South Africa, returned after a long absence from the club runs and brought two friends with him from the homelands. Surprisingly they weren’t here for the rugby, but were a Dad accompanying his daughter to a work internship in the lands of the mythical Pant Cudd – via a complex and oddly circuitous route which managed to take in the Masters World Track cycling at Manchester velodrome and then a club run out through the wilds of Northumbria.

Our South African guests seemed very disappointed at the low turn-out, and we had to explain that the 9.00 meet scheduled on the website actually meant no sooner than 9.15 in the strangely elastic (relativistic?) concept of time held by North East cyclists.

Sure enough, 15 minutes after the scheduled departure time there was a mass of riders and bikes spilling across the pavement as huge numbers returned from The Wooler Wheel, Kielder Run-Bike-Run, or wherever it was they had hidden to avoid the hill climb last week.

Punctually, bang on 20 minutes late, 34 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and set out into the cool grey morning.

It was at this point that the Prof drew my attention to another guest, up from York, visiting a club member and joining us for a run out. He was notable because he was riding completely without a saddle and careful questioning revealed he did this out of choice, and had even taken part in a 48 hour Edinburgh to King’s Cross marathon with the same set up.


Unless your saddle looks like this ...
Unless your saddle looks like this …

He related how he first got started after someone nicked his saddle and he got used to doing without, had a period when he reverted back to having a saddle, but developed bad sores so had given up for good. He felt his new riding style was great for developing a super-strong core, but was admittedly horribly inefficient and un-aerodynamic. In fact when he tucked into a “sprinting position,” hovering inches above the empty seat tube he looked like someone uncomfortably squatting while trying to defecate on a campfire without singeing their ass hairs.

While I usually admire individualism, I couldn’t help feeling his choice had no real benefit and was just bloody-minded and wilfully odd. G-Dawg suggested there was a fine line between eccentric and insane and this fella was so far over the line it was probably as easy for him to press on and hope to return to sanity the long way round, rather than trying to turn back now.


Surely there's no need for this.
… surely there’s no need for this.

Still, the guy must never be short of chat while riding – at the café around half a dozen of us admitted quizzing him and I’m pretty certain we all asked the same questions, principle among them being, “Why?” – and he managed to easily stay with us as we rolled round to our usual stopping point.

Here the amblers split off for the café, then the ride split again as the Racing Snakes took off for the hills and I followed the middle group. Crazy Legs led from the front with G-Dawg, manfully battling a viciously strong headwind that existed solely in his head.

Regrouping after a short, sharp climb, we pressed on for the café and started to build up speed. Sweeping through Milestone Wood we hit the rollers and I decided to stretch things out and inject a bit of pace, narrowly skirting the crumbling edge of a long trench that wouldn’t have looked out of place at Passchendaele and had suddenly appeared gouged into the road surface.


“The pothole was so deep, ah had to change gear te climb oot!” Geordie cycling folklore.

Over on the left Cowin’ Bovril must have had the same idea and jumped as well, but I swiftly overhauled him and he fell away as I kicked over the first hump and hit the bottom slopes of the second ramp. I poured on the pace over the top and down the hill to the last climb up to the café.

Just before a turn in the road the Red Max attacked and seven or eight riders slipped off my wheel and whistled past in pursuit. Breathless I tried to maintain some semblance of speed and managed to overhaul a couple as they flagged and their legs died on the uphill grind. Then we were through to the café and much deserved cake and coffee, followed by a spirited dash home.

This ride marked a little bit of a milestone, as I’ve now topped over 5,000 kilometres for the year and hopefully there’s plenty more to come, although not next weekend when I’m cruelly being dragged away to a wedding. I mean, what kind of inconsiderate, low-life arranges weddings for the weekend where they inevitably clash with the club run?


YTD Totals: 5,134 km/ 3,190 miles with 58,002 metres of climbing.

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