God Speed You! Black Emperor

Club Run, Saturday 28th November, 2015

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                    98 km/61 miles with 952 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                             4 hours 7 minutes

Group size:                                           16 riders, no FNG’s

Weather in a word or two:               Challenging and changeable

Main topic of conversation at the start: OGL rolled up in his car to tell us he wouldn’t be riding today as he was travelling to Glasgow as a guest of honour at the Revolution Series track meet. Crazy Legs, lost in some internal song sequence, had largely tuned the conversation out, so only the words “revolution” and “guest of honour” actually registered. He took these quite literally and was left pondering if OGL’s Napoleon complex was rising to the fore, and if we’d soon be made to line up either side of the road and greet him with cries of “Vive l’Empereur!”

He then pondered aloud the folly of invading Russia, but I was able to convince him that although OGL might have a Russian wife, she hadn’t been claimed as the spoils of war and he was confusing our leader with some other megalomaniac despot, or despots.

OGL then went on to complain that he’d turned up at 9.31 last Sunday and everyone had already left. He’d even gone so far as to record his disgruntlement on the club forum, where his comments no doubt languish, largely unread amongst the dust, cobwebs and tumbleweed.

Far be it for me to claim any great skills of prescience, but I recall a slight degree of concern about the confusion likely to arise when he first announced that Sunday runs would now meet at 9.30 for a 9.30 start.

It’s ironic that OGL was “hoist by his own petard” – but I’m fairly certain he hasn’t been the first and is unlikely to be the last to miss out in this way. Oh hell, I might as well go for a full-house of clichés and offer some less than sage advice – “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Elsewhere, Richard of Flanders rode up, immediately dismounted, lifted his bike, spun the rear wheel and pressed his ear to the frame. He started muttering under his breath, leaving us suitably impressed that we were in the presence of a “Bike Whisperer”, but thoroughly bemused by what words of encouragement he might have been impressing on his machine.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: Having ridden fast and arrived earlier than usual, we had to dawdle through our café visit so that the G-Dawg collective wouldn’t arrive home too early and be confronted by one of those “Well, if you can get back at this time today, you can get back at this time every week” arguments. As it was they had a contingency plan that involved loitering around outside the house for twenty-minutes or so and hoping the neighbours weren’t in a curtain-twitching mode.

So, more time than usual this week for the unending, ceaseless cascade of drivel, banter and waffle that is hugely entertaining, but only to us…

Taffy Steve dropped his home-made purse/pouch onto the table, a formless lump of thick, much worn, creased and crumpled, pachyderm hide of uncertain age and origin. When Son of G-Dawg asked what the hell it was I guessed elephant foreskin, G-Dawg demurred though and suggested, given its age and general condition that mammoth foreskin was more likely.

Although no one seemed to have been tempted by Black Friday excesses there were several tales of acquiring TV sets bigger than rooms. Son of G-Dawg recollected buying one before he moved out that filled his bedroom and took up one entire wall. He could only take in the whole picture by sitting pressed up hard against the opposite wall and found it badly affected his Call of Duty game-play as he kept getting fragged by people creeping up on him outside his peripheral vision.

This was accompanied by reminiscing about the “good old days” when TV’s were deeper than they were wide and even the portable ones weighed about as much as an industrial washing machine.

Talk of Christmas meals prompted the Red Max to reveal that he’s the only source of culinary competence in the house as Mrs. Max manages to regularly burn even beans. If there’s any doubt about the provenance of a meal the kids won’t eat it before conducting a thorough parental interrogation to re-assure themselves that Max has actually prepared it.

Completely independent of Laura Trott’s Twitter posting of sweet potato cremation by microwave, the Red Max recounted how Mrs. Max had so completely incinerated a potato in the microwave that it looked like slag from a blast furnace and took 6 hours to cool down enough to be safely handled. She had then indignantly declared that she didn’t know what could possibly have gone wrong as she’d “pricked it beforehand!”

An imaginary chapeau was doffed to local legend, the septuagenarian veteran Ray Wetherall, still riding every week in all weathers, despite being regularly blasted with chemotherapy.


ride profile 28 Nov
Ride Profile


The Waffle: Following last week’s sub-zero excursion, today felt positively balmy with the temperatures around 5-6° and no danger of ice. The wind was high and gusting however and everything was predicted to deteriorate as the day wore on with gales, lashing rain and sleet all forecast for later. It was more a case of when exactly the bad weather was due to arrive rather than if, and whether we would make it home before then.


Laura Trott – following in the august footsteps of Mrs. Max

There was a decent turnout of 16 lads and lasses pushing off, clipping in and rolling out, bolstered by a couple of late arrivals who just caught the back of us disappearing up the road and managed tag on before we took a couple of less traveled routes out into the countryside.

I drifted around the back of the group as we set a fairly hard pace into the wind, catching up with the Red Max who had risen from his sick bed to ride, but seemed to be feeling pretty damn chipper. In between gasping for breath as we pounded up several hills at near maximum warp, we spent some time discussing super-skinny pros and how small and weedy they looked in real life.

Seen “in the flesh” even those we think of as big, hulking brutes like “The Gorilla” Andre Greipel probably wouldn’t give you pause if you encountered him alone in a dark alley (apart from the fact Herr Griepel seems like a perfect gentleman and all-round nice guy anyway).

I mentioned the photos of a Garmin-Slipstream Wiggins looking dangerously unhealthy and frighteningly malnourished during his 2009 Tour de France break-out ride, as if he’d just been rescued from the Burma Railroad. We decided such radical weight loss simply wasn’t healthy and how extremely unnatural it is to be a cyclist and deny yourself pizza and cake. We also pondered why none of the women pros looked quite so unattractively gaunt.


Just say no

The conversation reminded me just how weak and puny we cyclists actually are, with no discernible upper body strength to speak of. Hell, I even have to get Mrs. SLJ or one of the kids to help open bags of crisps for me these days.

I remember watching one of those ageing, menopausal motorcycle gangs congregating opposite our meeting point last year, all brand new, shiny Harley’s in the hands of middle-aged, balding, white-collar professionals, strapped into identical black leather to support their low slung paunches. I wondered aloud if it might lead to a bit of a cyclist vs. biker turf war, or what the American’s rather strangely refer to as gang-banging (or at least they do in a world informed only by The Wire and NYPD Blue.)

Crazy Legs snorted in derision at my idle musings, suggesting it wouldn’t be much of a competition, a dozen or so “160 pound skinny guys in lycra-underwear” against eight or nine burly bikers dressed like extras from Mad Max. Sometimes the truth is harsh.

On recounting this discussion and its rather sobering conclusions to someone, the “ageing motorcycle gang” was misheard and morphed into an “Asian motorcycle gang” which somehow sounded much more exotic and threatening. Maybe I should stick to that version for future re-telling? I’m not sure who the bikers opposite us were, but they were most definitely not the Black Emperors.


Sometimes my mind makes connections I don’t quite understand. I wonder if I should be worried…

Meanwhile, back on the ride we eventually hit the Quarry climb at top speed and we split on the fly, most turning left at the top, but G-Dawg swinging right and declaring “an experiment” to see which route to the café was the quickest. The left-hand route is longer but has a long-straight downhill run to the Snake Bends, while momentum on the right-hand route is interrupted by several leg-sapping inclines, dodgy corners and blind road junctions.


We enjoyed an extended cafe break – no doubt to the great delight of the other patrons.

I took the right-hand option with Son of G-Dawg and we were joined by the Red Max with, I think, a couple of others trailing in his wake. I tried to tell him what was going on, but all Max heard was “experiment” and “race” – this was enough for the red mist (appropriately) to descend and the competitive juices to kick in.

Max immediately engaged the turbo and hit the front, dragging us all along on his madcap venture to beat the other group. There then followed about 7km of balls to the wall, on the rivet, crazy-assed, pedal-pounding as everyone else tried to just hang on.

Throwing caution to the wind, Max barely slowed for junctions and was swinging wide, right across and onto the opposite side of the road to find the best line through the corners. As Taffy Steve remarked we would still have heard him giggling madly as he slammed into a car coming the opposite way, but luckily the roads were clear and he pulled out a sizeable gap on those with a more, shall we say “sober” approach.


Somehow, some way, Max survived some vertiginous cornering

I passed G-Dawg on the last downhill section as his legs reached terminal velocity on his fixie, slowed for the junction then tried to pull as hard as I could up the last drag. Son of G-Dawg jumped away to ultimately hunt down and overhaul Max, while I heard the metronomic, swish-swish-swish as G-Dawg ground past me, turning his massive gear in slow motion and with apparent ease. I ducked onto his rear wheel and just managed to cling there, on the limit with burning legs and lungs that felt short-changed of oxygen.

Behind us the other group, playing fox to our hare, could now see us and were in full-on pursuit with two of our young prodigies, Josher and beZ spearheading the chase. We were able to quickly re-gather the momentum lost at the last junction though and held on to prove the right hand route is quicker (but there’s not that much in it.)

The return from the café was a rather civilised, somewhat sedate affair, but the sky was growing increasingly dark as we pressed on. After a not-so-mad Mad Mile, I turned for home and straight into the teeth of a punishing headwind. The long drag up past the golf course saw me drop down to the inner ring and run quickly through the gears, searching in vain for something I could turn with ease.

I pressed on, with no company except the irregular, desultory rasping of my front mudguard, as an icy, wind started peppering me with stinging, frozen rain and the sky darkened further until it looked like late evening and all the cars were driving with full headlights.

As I made my long and somewhat torturous way up Heinous Hill I think I could have been overtaken by grannies pushing wheeled shopping bags, or mothers with pushchairs. Luckily though the wintry rain had driven everyone indoors and there were no witnesses to my embarrassingly slow, dragging crawl homeward.


Climbing slow enough to hinder pedestrians is never a good sign…

Another fun ride, but for the third week in a row I felt utterly drained, heavy-legged and exhausted by the end. I can’t decide if this is a result of the cold weather, the wind, the pace we’re riding at, lack of recovery time, the winter bike, some lingering, indiscernible ailment or just creeping age and decrepitude. Maybe it’s all of these combined?

Oh well, I’m obviously going to have to keep trying until things improve.

YTD Totals: 5,873 km/ 3,649 miles with 65,767 metres of climbing.


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