Ride of the Long Shadows

Club Run, Sunday 27th December, 2015

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                     111 km/69 miles with 987 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                             4 hours 28 minutes

Group size:                                            16 riders, no FNG’s, 1 guest

Weather in a word or two:               Bright and chilly

Main topic of conversation at the start: Thoughts turned to the fixie gaucho and whether we should invest in a set of club brakes that we could loan out to those in need, much like the fabled, semi-mythical club rollers.

Talk of the fabled, semi-mythical club rollers brought us round to where they were now and whether Dave le Taxi still has them, which in turn led to Crazy Legs explaining to Suds how Davey Pat became Dave le Taxi – a shameful, sordid tale of reaching the café with “tired legs” and, without even bothering to concoct a faked mechanical or family emergency, blatantly calling the missus for a lift home. A deep and indelible, black mark that can never be scoured away.

We had a guest with us for the ride, a girl from a club in Cambridge who was up for the holidays visiting parents and actually looking forward to riding some hills! She went around all of us in turn asking if we were OGL and, like Spartacus in reverse, we all denied it.

We patiently explained that since it was only 9.25 and we weren’t scheduled to leave until 9.30, then OGL was unlikely to put in an appearance anytime before 9.38. She seemed somewhat bemused by our strange time-keeping ways, which would suggest that this actually isn’t normal amongst cycling clubs. Who’d have thought it?

She also wanted to know what signals we used while riding in a group, and like one of those supremely disinterested attendants you sometimes get on Ryan Air flight, I gave her the shortened version, pointing desultorily at the ground: “pothole” jerking a thumb over my shoulder: “car back” and pointing ahead: “car up”.

I also explained that in some parts of the country I understood that “car up” actually means there’s a car behind and she told me this was the case with their fast group … but not their slow group, and this did cause occasional confusion when fast riders dropped down to the slower group. Ha! And I thought we were weird?

She then did that bent arm thing behind her back and asked if we “do that bent arm thing behind the back” to warn the rider behind we were approaching an obstruction and needed to pull out. I assured her that we did indeed do that bent arm thing behind the back, concluding lamely that I’m sure she’d be fine and it wasn’t exactly rocket science, although as Suds noted dryly we do, somehow manage to over-complicate everything and indeed turn it into rocket science.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: Crazy Legs pondered if putting rollers on a slope would mimic riding uphill, but didn’t get a decent answer as OGL went off on one about the GB track team and their ramp tests.

Halfway through the ramble Crazy Legs was distracted as rows of tiny lights seemed to periodically sweep over us and he started looking around to try and find out who’d installed a disco mirrorball in the café and where it was.

We finally concluded the lights were just the low sun reflecting off watches, plates or cutlery, although we couldn’t determine the exact source. Having a disco mirrorball in the cafe is, for now, just a pleasant but wholly unfulfilled fantasy.

The guest from Cambridge got a tiny thimble-full of espresso which she pretty much downed in one and started to pull her gear on to leave. It appears her club view café stops as nothing more than a quick transition between riding out and turning round to ride back, and you get extra kudos the quicker you are.

Ours is, thankfully a much more relaxed affair as we exorcise our inner demons through the incessant, gloriously incoherent, babble of chatter and offer up coffee and cakes to appease the gods of cycling.

Crazy Legs wanted to know when the Cambridge riders ever had time to talk, to which the answer was that they “talk while they ride”. He sat back looking astounded and shaking his head in wonder – “Why haven’t we thought of that?” he asked, somehow, unbelievably managing to convey not even slightest trace of sarcasm.


Ride 27 December
Ride Profile


The Waffle:

The Sunday start, half an hour later meant that at least darkness had pretty much retreated as I dropped into the valley and set off toward the rendezvous point. I rode toward a huge full moon hanging low over the trees and houses and slowly turning from brass, to pale gold, to bone white as the sun clawed its way up behind me.

The sky had been washed clean of clouds by last night’s rain and scoured and polished a brilliant blue by the high winds. It was chilly, but bright and clear up to the heavens, as perfect a cycling day as you’re going to get in northern England in the midst of winter.

I arrived fairly early at the meeting point, so got into a prolonged “what to expect” discussion with our guest for the day, a girl from Cambridge Cycling Club, which even got as far as her telling me where I could find her ICE contact details in the event of a catastrophic accident!

Luckily Princess Fiona and Mini Miss eventually turned up so she wasn’t cast loose into a pack of hairy-arsed male riders incapable of discussing anything more culturally relevant than Sharknado 3, Fallout 4, Star Wars 7, a re-hashed Shimano vs. Campagnolo debate, or whether Yeats’s “A Dialogue of Self and Soul” can be read as the poet arguing that our existence is inexorably tied to the intrinsic difficulty of life itself.

Some 15 minutes after our scheduled start-time, around 16 lads and lasses were able to push off, clip in and roll out for a ride to blow away all the Christmas cobwebs and start slowly paring away some of the festive excess.

Although continuously bright the sun never did rise much above eye-level, casting long shadows that were a constant accompaniment, rotating slowly around us as we wove our way out into a rather bleak and water-logged countryside.


The Ride of the Long Shadows


Despite numerous flooded fields I didn’t realise just how much water the landscape had absorbed until we stopped to split the group and I stepped onto the grass verge and cold water instantly enveloped my foot and raced through the holes in my shoes to soak my socks.

As we split into two groups, our guest still hadn’t seen enough testing hills, so was encouraged to go with the longer, harder, faster group. Within a few miles though we hit the climb up Cobbler’s Lane and she was gasping like a fish out of water and dropping off the back.

We regrouped, climbed and then regrouped again, until hitting a long, straight and gradual descent where, for some inexplicable reason, our guest rider seemed to have a rush of blood to the head, or perhaps more accurately the legs and attacked.

The Red Max was having none of this and accelerated in pursuit, as whatever order we had instantly exploded. I found myself riding off the front, tucked in behind Crazy Legs and Ovis as they churned away at high speed.

The three of us were beginning to feel a little heavy legged at this point, so Crazy Legs suggested a slightly longer, more rolling route to the café, but crucially one that missed out the stiff climb up to the Quarry, which would have been an extra effort for Ovis and him on their fixies.

Course plotted and agreed, we scorched straight-ahead at the next junction, where a quick look over the shoulder confirmed we were all alone with everyone else turning for the Quarry.

The two upfront continued to drive on, keeping their momentum going over each small rise, while I had the luxury of dropping down a gear or two, dropping back and spinning up at a more leisurely pace, which was about all the legs could cope with.


Almost inevitably, there was yet more of this …


At one point we ripped through a flooded section of the road, once again the water level topping overshoe height and leaving us with water-logged socks. Then we were up to the junction and turning to head down to the Snake Bends.

Crazy Legs led the charge and, when he reached terminal velocity on his fixie, his upper body began to rock like Charlie Carolli on a wonky-wheeled mini-bike.

I clicked down a gear, nudged out of his slipstream and eased past, nonchalantly whistling “The March of the Clowns.”

This earned me his deepest respect and the highest of accolades, which if I recall correctly he forcefully expressed in just a few, short words: “You utter bastard!”


Yat-dat-daddle, didlle-yat-dat-da-da


We regrouped just before the Bends and pressed on to the café, arriving comfortably before those who’d taken in the Quarry climb.

The ride home was pleasant enough for Crazy Legs to declare this as the best, most successful, post-Christmas holiday ride we’d had, as even ripping through the flooded road sections was better than grappling with ice and the pace had been hard enough, for long enough, to hurt.

Even his rendition of “Disco Duck” failed to spoil the ride, and it was with more weary resignation than actual ire that I remonstrated with a B52 style BUFF in a pick-up truck who cut me up as I tried to cross the river.

Potentially the last ride of the year (unless I can sneak something else in) has left me 57 miles short of 4,000 for the year and 2 metres shy of topping 70,000 metres of climbing. Not a bad effort and a decent target to try and surpass next year.

YTD Totals: 6,345 km / 3,943 miles with 69,998 metres of climbing



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