Club Run, Saturday 14th November, 2015
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 119 km/72 miles with 1,270 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 5 hours 06 minutes
Group size: 22 riders, no FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Chilly. Gusty.
Main topic of conversation at the start: We discussed the paradox of how – despite spending hours together and the almost endless stream of incessant chatter – we actually know so little about our fellow riders. Sometimes this knowledge consists of nothing more than a name, approximate age and a thoroughly murky and probably incorrect brief bio, which will include only the most rudimentary understanding of job and family circumstances.
To be honest even this is a best-case scenario and there are people I been riding with almost every weekend for years whose name I’m still uncertain of. Having said that, I can probably tell you in infinite detail about what sort of bike they ride and recognise them in a crowd with their back to me while wearing a helmet and dark glasses, even, or perhaps especially if they’re dressed from head to toe in lycra.
This naturally led to musings about what it is we do actually talk about, along with the realisation (no doubt highlighted by the meanderings of this blog) that while we always find it massively entertaining, it never rises much above pure escapism: the ephemera of life and bikes and popular culture. So it was that the incomprehensible, barbaric and despicable atrocities in Paris overnight barely got a mention, other than to note that we didn’t really talk about them much.
Ever reliable, the Prof roused us from any dark, philosophical musings by turning up and asking around to see if anyone could lend him, “Ein 8mm kranken handle.” Or at least we thought that’s what he was asking for. I’ve no idea if such a thing as a kranken handle actually exists, or what it could possibly be used for, but I’m fairly certain that if I ever write a novel about an evil Nazi he’ll bear the moniker of Dr. Kranken Handel…
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: Crazy Legs took one look at my glazed eyes, corpse-like pallor and general state of complete and utter exhaustion and told me I looked like his granddad … who’d been dead several years.
We then discussed and tried to formalise plans to thwart one of our more annoying, inveterate wheel-suckers from ever winning the café sprint.
G-Dawg is doing some volunteering work for the National Trust that seems to involve chopping down and then up (into smaller pieces) very large trees. This brought us to the universal truth that no matter what saw you choose, at some point in the process it’s going to get stuck, the blade is going to bend spectacularly and your wavy cuts are going to look like something a skater would be proud to carve into the ice while performing the perfect double-salchow.
The weather has taken on a decidedly chilly note, so thicker gloves, a skull cap and winter base layer were all added to the arsenal for the day. Things were however generally dry, a decidedly pleasant change from last week, with only an adversarial gusting wind to contend with.
While battling through the wind to the meeting point my ears were assaulted by the “thump-thumpa-thumpa-thump-thump” of a boy-racer, disco-car. Odd, I like to think I have a fairly wide taste in music, but have you noticed that whenever one of these cars passes you – and it’s by no means an uncommon event – you can never, ever identify the actual music they’re intent on mangling?
For this ride we were without OGL who was away representing the club at some British Cycling function, so it was left to some of the heads of state, G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, Red Max and Taffy Steve put their heads together and come up with a ride that wasn’t just one of our usual 4 iterations of the same old route.
Looking forward to a few new roads, another good turnout of around 22 lads and lasses gathered, before pushing off and clipping in. We followed the dark cabal of around a dozen or so of our Grogs onto the road, as they swept past intent on their own privately organised and exclusive ride.
I fell in with Sneaky Pete as we set out, sheltering at the back, catching up and learning all about his past misdemeanours and misadventures scaling mountain peaks, just for the hell of it.
This week it was Taffy Steve’s turn to test the sturdiness of one of his lights, gently releasing it from its handlebar clamp to see just how far it would bounce along the road before coming to a stop, at the same time checking it for impact resistance and durability.
We dropped the pace to await the successful conclusion of his retrieval mission, reformed and pressed on, carving a new, wide orbit around the Murder Path in order to avoid the Mur de Mitford climb.
As we dropped into and then climbed up out of the Trench, the bunch started to fracture and once we regrouped we decided to split, with maybe eight or nine of us convening for a longer ride, while the rest headed for a slightly shorter, but equally hilly alternate route to the café.
The Prof and G-Dawg briefly discussed possible routes, the Prof seemingly determined to circumnavigate the café to try and find a point where we’d have a full on tail-wind to push us home. Unfortunately this involved describing a massively wide, hilly circle all the way around the café to try and locate the precise vector where we would have the wind directly at our backs for the final run in.
Like some clichéd horror film, every time I turned around another rider seemed to have been picked off, disappearing one by one as they gave up on our ever widening gyre and turned inward to seek a more direct route to the café.
Finally I looked back to find the road behind was empty – it was just me and the Prof. I led up the hills, the Prof drilled it on the flat and we made decent time, but I failed to notice the needle of my internal fuel tank was ticking inexorably down toward empty.
With maybe 15 miles and umpteen hills still to go I was struck by la fringale; the bonk, the hunger knock – in runner parlance I, “hit the wall” – a sad state of hypoglycaemia – where my legs were trying to draw down funds my body couldn’t cover. Call it what you will, the results are always the same – leaden, empty legs, total lack of power and a struggle just to turn the cranks.
The worst thing is I’ve no idea why this happened; it’s just one of those utterly unpredictable, inexplicable things we all love about cycling. I’d done nothing difficult during the week, my morning routine hadn’t varied and I’d had my usual breakfast. Once the groups had split I’d spent a little time on the front in the wind, but far less than many others, yet I was running on fumes.
Suffering mightily I gulped down the emergency gel I always carry and spent the last ten mile or so trying to stay glued to the improbably small rear wheel of the Prof’s eccentric cycling contraption.
At least in this position I got to admire his hand-crafted, super-long mudflap which I believe he grew in his secret laboratory from a single, solitary cell. I only mention this because he was upset that it hadn’t merited at least a paragraph (his words, not mine) in last week’s blog.
Eventually drifting off the Prof’s wheel I reached the café last, utterly spent and only able to muster the most desultory salute to the shorter ride group who were already replete, rested and lining up to head home.
I went for a double hit of cake (feeling crap has to have some benefits) and even went so far as to load my coffee with a couple of sugar lumps, hoping this would be enough fuel to get me back. After a brief rest I set out for home with the Double G-Dawgs, Crazy Legs and the Prof, sitting firmly at the back of this small group and trying to get as much shelter as possible.
Already running late for a trip away for the evening I modified my return route and split from the group early, jousting with some heavy traffic and testing the new tyres with a series of demanding detours along tow paths, pavements, cycle ways, car parks and woodland trails.
The new Schwalbes seemed to cope rather admirably with this rather unorthodox, often off-road journey and I dragged myself up the final climb to home, arriving only 5 minutes behind schedule and just about managing to escape the collective ire of the family.
Tiredness and familial expedience saw the Peugeot “ridden hard and put away wet” without its usual post-ride grooming. I hate to think what I might find when I finally pluck up the courage to open the shed door for our next adventure…
YTD Totals: 5,593 km/ 3,362 miles with 62,799 metres of climbing.