Club Run, Saturday 23rd January, 2016
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 102 km/63 miles with 968 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 36 minutes
Average Speed: 22.0 km/h
Group size: 34 riders, 1 FNG
Weather in a word or two: Typically Tropical?
Main topic of conversation at the start:
Along with the latest FNG, I found myself being hugely entertained by one of Taffy Steve’s inspired rants at the meeting point. The target for his ire this time around was bike manufacturers who inflict narrow, hard and excruciatingly uncomfortable saddles on the uneducated, new bikers – who then accept them simply because they look “racy” – despite perching on them being akin to straddling the thin edge of a 2×4 piece of timber.
He concluded by suggesting that if the FNG was looking for more comfort he should perhaps look for a Specialized saddle as, “they’ve had years of experience catering to fat-ass Americans.”
It was at this point that Crazy Legs spun up and declared the weather was Typically Tropical©- self-inflicting his own savage ear-worm and instantly banishing the more credible, post-punk tune he’d earlier embedded into his brainbox.
As he vigorously hummed “Whoa, we’re going to Barbados” and waved his arms around with some exaggerated (and less than convincing) reggae-styling, he caught a whiff of his own gloves and recoiled in horror at their rancid staleness.
Part in shock, part in amazement he had a Spinal Tap moment and asked everyone to “smell the glove.” When I politely declined he tried to balance on one leg and lift his foot into my face, inviting me to sniff his boots instead.
This then reminded him of the bizarre time Dave Le Taxi innocently asked if anyone else’s cycling shoes ever smelled of cat’s pee. The rather obvious response – apart from the sea of uncomprehending and blank looks – “Oh, so have you got a cat then, Dave?”
I learned the club annual dinner and awards event had gone down a storm and Taffy Steve had won the accolade of “Most Improved Rider”. There was some discussion about whether he should have this engraved on his frame and if there was an accompanying jersey for the year ahead followed by some coloured bands for cuff and collar that could be worn in perpetuity.
I’m sure that solely to avoid disappointing my expectations, OGL then reminded everyone that club fees were now due.
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:
One of the waitresses approached our table and enquired if anyone had ordered the teacake. One of our number somehow misheard this simple request and thought she’d asked if anyone had ordered a haiku. Unfortunately, we were all too leg weary and brain battered to come up with a suitable, short Japanese ode to teacakes.
We decided that the indomitable, indestructible G-Dawg was our own version of Jens “Shut Up Legs!” Voigt. It was suggested that he didn’t suffer road rash when he fell off, but the tarmac wore the signs of G-Dawg rash for weeks afterwards.
With all the other family combos in the club, you could trace a trajectory to when the still improving, maturing son would supplant the ageing, slowing father. We saw it happen with beZ and the Prof, and for all the Red Max’s denials, evil machinations, deceptions and manipulations I think he’s just delaying the inevitable day when the Monkey Butler Boy regularly whups his ass.
You wonder though if Son of G-Dawg will ever face a day when he doesn’t have to fight tooth, nail and claw to get one over on his Pa. I likened this to Prince Charles’s attitude to the Queen, desperate for her to abdicate so he could take over before falling into useless senility (as opposed to his current state of useless cogency).
Not of course that G-Dawg in anyway resembles “Her Madgeness” (despite similar hairstyles) … nor does Son of G-Dawg remind me of Prince Charles for that matter.
Goose related discovering a posh, custom-build bike shop on a recent trip to London and with a few minutes to spare did that thing that all cyclists do, went to sate his more voyeuristic instincts on some suitably over-priced, but shiny, shiny bike porn.
He found the door to said establishment firmly barred however and had to wait for someone to unlock and unbolt it before he was allowed to even peek over the threshold. Interrogated as to precisely what he wanted, he lamely mumbled something about, “Just wanting to look around.” This was met with stony silence and a mighty frown, until things became so uncomfortable that he was discouraged from investigating further and fled the scene.
He rather satisfyingly reported that he’d since heard the shop had closed. Doesn’t sound like a great loss to me.
As we were finishing up, beZ returned along with other members Demon Cult of the Racing Snakes to report that they’d been delayed when the Cow Ranger somehow destroyed his front mech with what turned out to be a less than simple gear change.
This opened up a whole new discussion about completely contrasting riding styles and how some are sympathetic and perhaps empathetic to their bikes mechanical limitations, while others take a, shall we say, more direct and agricultural approach. Interesting.
Finally, in a fit of overwhelming juvenility we decided “arse hat” was a suitably disparaging, underutilised profanity that deserves greater recognition. We even had cause to test it out on several brain-dead drivers on the return home.
For three whole weeks, twenty-one entire days I’ve been out of action with a bad chest infection which had filled my lungs to overflowing with a claggy, slightly radioactive and luminous industrial gunge and left me with all the aerobic capacity of an asthmatic gerbil.
Recovery has to start somewhere however, and working on the principle that riding a bike is … well, like riding a bike, something you don’t forget, I embarked on two straight days of light testing, commuting en vélo.
Having just about survived this, I tentatively set off for the rough and tumble of a first club run in what seemed an absolute age, not sure how well I’d manage, but certain it was going to hurt. Destry rides again?
Mother Nature had continued to roll around in my enforced absence, so at least it was near daylight as I checked over the bike one last time and pushed off for the meeting point.
For a winters day it was also surprisingly mild, so no chance of any ice and the forecast was for it to remain dry throughout. Sounded like too good an opportunity to miss.
It was still early enough for the roads to be relatively quiet, although the peacefulness was brutally shattered at one point by a van with a slipping fan belt that managed to sound like a barrel of cats being drowned in scalding water.
Despite this audible assault, I made it to the rendezvous point with plenty of time to spare and in not too bad a shape. There I found Taffy Steve complaining he was over heating in just a Gore winter jacket and short sleeved base layer and threatening to confine the jacket to the back of his wardrobe until at least October next year.
I was far from being alone in deciding the weather was too good an opportunity to miss and a large pack of 34 lads and lasses were soon clustered along the pavement. By some bizarre coincidence an appreciable number of us had turned up in matching red jackets, so that it appeared as if the Red Max was fielding a full team of personal domestiques.
As we pushed off, clipped in and set out I noticed that, rather tellingly, and in contrast to the “red wedge”, only 3 riders in this large group were wearing the official (and officially lurid) club jersey that nobody likes, but we seem stuck with.
I drifted to the back of the group where I had a long chat with the Prof, who predictably wanted a wee stop minutes after we set out. How refreshing to learn that nothing had changed in my absence.
I found going along the flat to be generally fine, but was struggling on the hills and panting like a crazed, over-excited phone pest as I tried to force air into less than optimal lungs. Stepping up off the pedals and climbing in a bigger than usual gear seemed marginally less demanding aerobically, but I knew the likely trade-off was more quickly sapping whatever leg strength I still possessed.
We finally stopped to allow the Prof some much needed relief and split the group. I slowly and quietly edged toward the amblers, intent on taking the slightly more direct route to the café, but I wasn’t sneaky enough and was spotted and called out.
I tried to look suitably ill and enfeebled, even throwing in a dramatic hacking cough as I pointed weakly at my chest and gasped loudly, but it wasn’t going to wash. Taffy Steve however promised I wouldn’t be left too far behind and since it would obviously be churlish to spurn an offer of assistance from the clubs most improved rider, I shuffled back into line, hoping I wouldn’t regret the decision too much.
The next split saw us lose the Demon Cult of the Racing Snakes as they switched into full self-flagellation mode. When Zardoz then took an impromptu left (later claiming voices in his head made him do it) I gladly followed him and half a dozen others to make the longer, harder, faster ride slightly shorter, slower and easier by cutting out the ascent of Middleton Bank.
With Taffy Steve as point man, lead out, wheel to follow, wind foil and general protector, we skilfully negotiated a small hunt and their horses, road surfaces cratered like a lunar landscape and several huge pools of water as I clung onto his back wheel.
I managed to stay in touch as the pace wound up and we dropped through Milestone Woods to crest the rollers, before dropping back on the final long drag uphill, completely oblivious to any sprint that may have been going on in the distance ahead of me.
I arrived at the café to find it mobbed with other cyclists and the general public, or as they’re more commonly referred to, normal people.
Luckily it was just about warm enough to get away with sitting outside as long as we huddled together and eked out our body warmth, so half a dozen of us decamped to the garden
As I wrestled with my tray in the wind outside, I noticed that someone had thoughtfully placed a large section of discarded mudguard on one of the benches, obviously in the expectation that whoever it belonged to might return to claim it.
A nice gesture, but I felt sure that with mudguards being so inexpensive it would be far easier and much more effective to just go out and buy a complete new set, rather than try to jury rig something using cast off pieces.
One benefit of sitting outside was that we didn’t have the struggle of leaving the warm sanctuary of the café, and with no incentive to hang around we finished our mandatory refills quite briskly and set out for home before the others.
I rode at the front with Taffy Steve and we seemed to be clipping along at a fairly reasonable pace, despite a growing headwind. As we approached his turn for home, I remarked how surprised I was that the other group hadn’t caught and passed us, waved him away and pressed on.
I’d gone no more than a few pedal strokes into the Mad Mile, when G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg whipped past as they wound up their personal race for home and first use of a hot shower. All the other riders from the café then whistled past, including zeB, who, no doubt under explicit instructions from the Prof, now carried the discarded piece of mudguard from the café precariously balanced across his handlebars.
I couldn’t help but laugh, only the Prof would want to reclaim such a cast-off bit of kit, with no doubt grand plans to turn it into some semi-functional, eccentric, Heath Robinson, gimcrack something-or-other in his secret laboratory/workshop/lair.
As the last few riders passed, I dropped my own pace feeling my legs were now totally and completely empty and as I made the turn for home the last dozen miles were starting to look like a real challenge.
The drag into a headwind, up past the golf course proved a real grind, but things eased after that. I don’t think I’ve ever climbed the Heinous Hill quite so slowly (in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever climbed any hill quite so slowly)
My assault on its lower slopes definitely wasn’t helped by having to breathe through the acrid, all pervasive, lingering and uniquely rank stench of some arse hat driver burning up his clutch, but I somehow survived and made it home.
Hopefully the ensuing sore throat doesn’t mark the re-emergence of the illness, but is just a consequence of having to forcefully drag rasping, cold air down into malfunctioning lungs.
After 3 weeks of enforced inactivity I expected the difficulty breathing, the tired, heavy legs and all the associated hurt. I wasn’t however prepared for how quickly my posterior had become sensitised and how much it would object to having to perch for long periods on a saddle again.
In recovery, I don’t much resemble Jimmy Stewart in Destry Rides Again, but I have developed the buttock clenched, stiff-kneed, bow-legged and awkward gait of a Shootist-era John Wayne.
Right, I’m off to google Specialized saddles.
The Teacake Haiku
To ride pale winter light
Promises a rich reward, then
Hot, toasted teacake.
YTD Totals: 252 km /157 miles with 2016 metres of climbing