Club Run, Saturday 30th January, 2016
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 100 km/62 miles with 1,156 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 28 minutes
Average Speed: 22.3 km/h
Group size: 14 riders, no FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Bright, blowy, brisk
Main topic of conversation at the start:
When G-Dawg rolled up wearing what looked like over-sized oven gloves and a muffler made of thick, carpet underfelt, we knew we were in for a cold, cold ride.
Crazy Legs was next in, lamenting that supplies of strawberry jam in his household were wholly depleted so breakfast had been a minor disappointment. As a consequence, and without its sugary boost, he declared his ride was probably doomed before it had even started. How fragile we are.
He’d already conducted his patented ice-test however, wandering out, into the road and finding a puddle to dip his finger into before declaring it safe to ride. I suggested he should just have jumped into the puddle, if it splashed everywhere then all was good, if he slipped and fell on his arse then a degree of caution needed to be exercised.
He said this was impractical as he wasn’t fully dressed at this point and during this exchange we discovered we both had an inimical hatred of slippers. Perhaps both of us thought that footwear that’s soft, fluffy, brightly patterned and utterly shapeless is the clearest indicator yet that you’d taken the first step (or shuffle) toward terminal decline and dotage, a road that all too easily leads to baggy, zip-up nylon cardigans, a complete wardrobe makeover to ensure all your clothes are the same dingy shade of beige or pale blue and a world where wing-backed La-z-boy chairs seem like a good idea.
We differed only in our solutions to this issue, he opts for a kind of hybrid sports slipper or plimsoll, while my choice are kung-fu shoes. Yes, we are officially weird.
What I presume was a mother and daughter approached us to ask if we knew where Bulman House, or some such place was. As we dithered, Taffy Steve popped up out of nowhere to display an encyclopaedic grasp of the local area that would shame “The Knowledge” of a competent cab driver. Even more startling, he’s “not from around these parts” and doesn’t actually live anywhere close to our meeting point.
He proceeded to confidently and assuredly issue precise, step-by-step instructions and the couple disappeared in the indicated direction.
As the woman returned sans daughter, Crazy Legs cheerily asked if she’d found the building, then as she passed archly suggested that the daughter was stealthily working her way around behind us and didn’t want to be caught and have to admit we’d suckered her into going in completely the wrong direction.
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:
Carlton declared this was officially a Cold Hand Day – his unique measuring system for defining exact ride temperature, so now we knew we were operating somewhere between a Frozen Toes Day and a Frost-bitten Face Day.
Goose recalled having a steel-framed Peugeot which would be classed as a vintage bike nowadays and we briefly discussed the provenance of my winter bike, a (fairly) modern, aluminium framed Peugeot. These had only been available for one year before seemingly disappearing without trace as Peugeot re-entered the bike market, then just as quickly abandoned it again.
The cold had obviously addled our brains because Goose then asked if Peugeot still made cars and I have to admit I had to think really long and hard about it, before unconvincingly confirming they did.
One of OGL’s long-term acquaintances was at the café when we arrived and he kept us hugely entertained with a series of anecdotes of spurious origin, all wickedly laced with the type of language that might make Chubby Brown blush. In that instant my Teacake Haiku inspired dream of a cadre of sensitive, poetry writing cyclists, staring thoughtfully out of the café window before illuminating their experiences in contemplative verse, died a quick and horrible death.
At some point in our ride, Crazy Legs had wandered off for adventures on his own and entered the café late to tell us how he’d ran into the back of a car that had stopped suddenly as the driver dithered and changed their mind when approaching a junction. When Crazy Legs clambered off and approached the driver to apologise for the tyre sized groove he’d left imprinted in the rear bumper, she’d taken fright and bolted.
Discussion about the inability to stop a fixie quite so unexpectedly inevitably led to the issue of disk brakes. Crazy Legs informed us he was very impressed with the brakes on his new mountain bike but felt the “cockpit” (as the trade magazines like to call the handlebar area) was incredibly cluttered and restrictive. He demonstrated this by wiggling outstretched fingers and flapping his elbows in and out, doing a fair approximation of the funky chicken.
G-Dawg dryly queried if this wasn’t more akin to a demonstration of one-man-band skills rather than bike-handling and wondered whether Crazy Legs preferred cymbals or a horn under his arms.
Isn’t the Internet a strange and wonderful thing? Not only because my witless meanderings find an audience, who amazingly seemed to appreciate and, even more astonishingly, occasionally ask for more. There also seems to be quite a refreshingly friendly community amongst bloggers, who all provide slightly different perspectives, read each other’s work, contribute with insightful or amusing comments and promote competitor blogs to their own readers.
This week I was able to offer a tiny modicum of help to a club mate who’s undertaking the rather daunting and Herculean task of building a searchable database of all the grand tour stage winners, complete with their nationalities, ages, teams, bikes et al. For an esoteric take on cycling stats and an eclectic mix of pro cycling insights, try SiCycle.
Sur La Jante also got a name check in a blog entry from the The Lonely Cyclist who provides a completely different perspective on British cycling and cycling clubs, not surprising really as the Lonely Cyclist is neither male, middle-aged, cynical, sardonic nor quite as jaded as this old blogger. Hmm, now I think of it, old blogger sounds somewhat pejorative, if not quite as bad as arse hat.
Then, either inspired by my teacake haiku, or alternatively wholly embarrassed by my putrid efforts, Ragtime Cyclist responded with a haiku of his own:
What is riding for?
If not the mid-ride teacake.
Helps to shut up legs.
For one, brief moment I had a clear, lofty vision of cycling clubs up and down the land immortalising their weekly rides in verse form, and presiding over a renaissance of British poetry … but the dream didn’t survive the hard reality of first contact with my fellow cyclists.
It’s well worth stopping by to see what the Ragtime Cyclist has to say, such as his take on Haribo abuse – it made me laugh and I can’t think of a better endorsement than that.
This week I was also proud to learn I’m a Vittorian. Somewhere along the line my appreciation of Vittoria tyres has seen my details captured in a random database and now I receive periodic copies of their newsletter; The Vittorian. This is obviously a thoroughly gripping (no pun intended) read, dedicated to all things tyre-related and doubtless ripe for parody on Have I Got News for You.
Through this less than august journal, I found out their secret for the new season – tyres reinforced with graphene, the wonder-substance that’s a 100 times stronger than steel. I wonder how long it will be before we’ll all be lusting after exquisitely light, super-strong and shockingly expensive graphene frames and our love affair with all things carbon will be dead and buried.
We’ll still be going no faster, but the bike manufacturers will be rubbing their hands with glee. This also makes we worry about what we’ll do with all the useless discarded carbon frames that are all but indestructible and non-biodegradable.
Anyway, I digress wildly. Feeling much, much better than last week I was looking forward to another club run, despite the temperature which would struggle to reach a heady 5°C and gusting westerly winds predicted to hit 45 mph.
Just in case of any lingering ice, I eased down the hill slowly and immediately turned to greet this wind head-on for a slow grind to cross the river. Here I could enjoy a brief respite with added tailwind benefits before I had to clamber out of the valley again.
I had just about found the right gear and cadence to battle my way into the wind when, seemingly out of nowhere, a black clad, ninja cyclist cruised past, greeted me with the universal and UCI approved, “How do?” and invited me onto his wheel. Not wanting to look a gift horse in the mouth, I latched on behind and had a couple of miles of relative shelter until I decided his pace was slightly too high, too early in the ride.
As I dropped off and turned to cross the river he disappeared up the road, pounding away into the headwind that seemed to be having no appreciable effect on his speed and effortless riding.
14 lads and lasses eventually gathered at our rendezvous point, where surprisingly there was no mention of ride etiquette, mechanical or wardrobe faux pas or overdue club fees. We pushed off, clipped in and rode out, looking for routes that might give a modicum of shelter and some small relief from a gusting wind.
We were warned however to be on our best behaviour at the café, as OGL was meeting some journalist from Cycling Weekly – presumably for a forthcoming feature on the Cyclone Festival of Cycling™.
As we rode out I immediately dropped to the back of the group, my usual position, but more imperative on a day like this when I didn’t really fancy sticking my nose into the wind.
Here I found Mad Colin, riding with us mere mortals, whilst bemoaning age and responsibility and we were soon discussing daughters, body building, structured training, proper rest, drugs and Lance Armstrong. He revealed how he felt that, even before Jon Tiernan-Locke registered his breakthrough wins on the Continent, racing against him was a somewhat, err shall we say, other-worldly experience.
First OGL, then Crazy Legs, Red Max, G-Dawg, Taffy Steve and Carlton all took turns at the front as, pummelled by the incessant wind, we started to track 3 riders in the far distance. I felt sooner or later their lack of numbers would tell and we’d catch them, but we weren’t rotating off the front often enough to keep our pace really high.
With the other group dangling annoyingly in front of us for what seemed miles, Mad Colin finally took a hand, rode to the front and with Crazy Legs pushed the pace up a notch higher. We closed in, finding much to everyone’s disbelief one of them riding in shorts and his raw, angry legs looked the colour and texture of corned beef. Luckily we were soon past and leaving this uncomfortable sight behind.
As we made the turn for the café, I dropped back to check on Taffy Steve who was starting to feel the effects of prolonged efforts riding on the front. Then, as we battered up the Quarry Climb, he became slightly detached with OGL and cresting the climb they found themselves stuck behind a huge, slow-moving tractor and trailer at the precise moment that the Red Max launched a Forlorn Hope attack.
Max quickly gained about 100 to 150 metres lead with Goose stuck firmly to his wheel and Carlton queried whether we shouldn’t be chasing them down. I told him to wait and explained that it was still far too early.
We duly held formation until the road began to rise and Max’s efforts began to get a bit ragged, then a quick injection of pace had the group reforming before the road kicked down again. Meanwhile, further behind, Taffy Steve having failed to convince OGL to join the chase, finally overtook the tractor and began a madcap pursuit on his own, closing fast, but ultimately running out of road.
On the next descent and aided by some daredevil cornering, Max attacked again and again managed to open up a sizeable lead only for Mad Colin, G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg to quickly overhaul him as once more the road kicked up.
With the strong riders pulling away up front, I dragged myself through the last junction slightly distanced from a group that included Goose, Red Max and Shouty. I pressed harder on the pedals to pick up speed and with glacial slowness the gap started to close. I made contact and decided to keep going, swinging over onto the other side of the road and sliding past down the outside of the group.
I’d just eased past Max when we hit the approach to the Snake Bends and braking sharply we zipped and switched our way through and into the final run to the café.
We left OGL at the café staring morosely into a second and now empty cup of coffee and still waiting for his contact from Cycling Weekly to show, as we piled out and saddled up for an uneventful ride home. The group split and we entered the Mad Mile, where the pace was kicked up I slipped slowly backwards through the group.
As everyone else zipped left, I swung to the right, then right again until I was pointed directly into a headwind that I suspect had been waiting for this precise moment to amp up its intensity. As I started the long drag uphill I quickly ran through the gears, trying to find something that I could spin relatively easy but still feel like I was making some headway.
I settled into the grind, watching the fog of my breathing starting to coalesce in the cold air as the temperature noticeably dropped. A stinging shower of ice-hail-snow was swept horizontally down the road to needle my face numb for the last few miles, until I could once again cross the river and ride the tailwind home.
YTD Totals: 392 km /244 miles with 3,855 metres of climbing