Black Mirror


Club Run, Saturday 5th March, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   102 km/63 miles with 997 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 17 minutes

Average Speed:                                   23.7 km/h

Group size:                                           32 riders, no FNG’s

Temperature:                                     7°C

Weather in a word or two:             Bright to bruising

Main topic of conversation at the start:

Crazy Legs was still counting down the incomprehensibly precise 39 days until the arrival of his new, fake Oakley jawbone specs from the Far East and wondering what sort of subtle Chinglish branding might adorn them.

We speculated that 39 days was the amount of time to gather enough orders to make it worthwhile breaking into the factory at night for a quick production run, sort of the cycling equivalent of the shoemaking elves in Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

It was a small leap of logic to then wonder if these were the same magic elves who mysteriously clean and pimp Son of G-Dawgs bike whenever he leaves it in his Pa’s garage overnight.

Ovis appeared in one of the thoroughly indestructible jerseys from his old Triathlon club which appeared to have cannibalistically part-consumed another jersey, leaving only the tell-tale sign of a faint branding transfer where there should have been none. Appropriately for Ovis, it’s all a bit “Silence of the Lambs”, with the Buffalo Bill jersey first skinning and then wearing its conquests like a second skin.

It now seems certain that at least one of his seemingly endless stock of identical jerseys has mutated, perhaps as a result of the successful stress-testing undertaken on the kit to give it that bright, acid yellow colour that appears nowhere in the natural world, as well as to check it will survive through an all-out thermonuclear war.

The mutated, uber- jersey is now quite obviously sentient and intent on growing stronger by absorbing all the other jerseys and garments in Ovis’s collection through forcible osmosis – a strange, Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest struggle for lycra supremacy.

A discussion about solid rubber tyres had OGL reminiscing misty-eyed about pram tyres which were apparently delivered as one long coil of rubber that had to be cut to size to fit the wheel diameter and then secured in place with a stripped wire core that was twisted into a cork-screw gimlet, before the whole thing was folded over itself. I didn’t quite understand the baffling intricacies, but I was certainly convinced they were a complete and utter bastard to fit. Think I’ll stick with clinchers.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Ovis stood in the queue with a face almost unrecognisable behind patchwork spatters of mud and dirt and grime, pointed at my similarly begrimed face and laughed out loud. We were all and without exception utterly filthy. I deployed my buff for official use #43 and managed to wipe at least some of the excess crud away, but I still needed the coffee to wash the grit out from between my teeth.

G-Dawg had been in a gym where a static bike complete with monitor had let him simulate an Alpine climb. His verdict was that it wasn’t particularly impressive, but better than staring at the wall. I queried whether there weren’t more rewarding, err, distractions in the gym, but we all agreed that we were beyond the age when we could safely lift our eyes up from the floor in such environments.

This led to general discussion about how uncomfortable and careful we feel we have to be around children these days. Taffy Steve talked about a recent social experiment when observers set a lost-looking child to wander around a shopping centre just to see how people interacted with them.

After being studiously ignored for an uncomfortable amount of time, a Scout Master was finally brave enough to cautiously approach the child to find out if they needed help, moving carefully from downwind while maintaining eye-contact and a safe exclusion zone of at least 3 metres. What’s the world coming to, eh?

Another Engine then back-tracked on a story about “his paperboy” to explain his paperboy isn’t actually his paperboy because:

  1. He doesn’t deliver their paper and
  2. They don’t actually have a paper-delivered

Anyway, the actual kernel of this story is that the paper-boy who operates in Another Engine’s street rides a bike with a chain so rusty that it’s ginger and furry and squeaks like a demented polecat with its paw caught in a snare.

In the old days Another Engine would have combined his benevolent, avuncular nature, keen understanding of cycling mechanics and easy access to machine oil to provide a lubricating salve to the offending chain, before affectionately patting the lad on the head and sending him off, probably with a spare ha’penny so he could buy his own oil for next time.

Now Another Engine says he sees the lad and just crosses the road, realising that any offer of help is likely to be dangerously misconstrued. We were of course determined to find a way to make innocent assistance sound as damning as possible, with suggested euphemistic approaches such as, “Does your chain need a good lubing?” or, “Step into the hallway and I’ll give you a bit of oily relief.” Things were admittedly juvenile and shockingly low brow, but thankfully Szell, the master of the single-entendre wasn’t around to drag the conversation even lower than we’d managed to achieve all by ourselves.

Taffy Steve was left to once again ponder the vagaries of Italian sizing and wonder aloud where their rugby team managed to find clothing to fit a proper props body. Aether speculated that Evans Cycles and Evans “plus size” shops were in fact one and the same and they had tricked us all into thinking UK cycling kit was the norm when in fact it was all over-sized.


profile 5 march
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

The day started in the worst possible way, a sudden chilling downpour that had the roads instantly awash with surface water. My Garmin seemed to be struggling mightily with the atmospheric conditions and I had to reboot it 2 or 3 times before it could even find a satellite. Meanwhile the rain and road spray quickly soaked through my overshoes to my shoes and socks and tights and gloves became unpleasantly damp and chilled.

At the bridge a local rowing club were completing shuttle runs in the pouring rain, chanting en masse about closing with the enemy and killing them with their bare hands, driven along like rookie marines under the tutelage of a beasting, sadistic drill sergeant. Odd.

While stopped at the lights I exchanged pleasantries with an Eee-Emm-Cee rider (I believe they started out as an offshoot of our club) utilising the traditional and UCI approved cycling lexicon and subject guide:

“How do?”

”Going far?”

“Do you think the rain’ll ever stop?”

As I started to retrace my route on the opposite side of the river one half of the sky was smothered in an angry towering mass of ominously thick, dirty grey cloud while ahead a swollen sun had just about pulled itself over the horizon into startling clear sky and burned down with shattering brilliance, the light bouncing savagely back off wet tarmac that burned like a black mirror.

I began to worry that drivers approaching from behind would be blinded and unable to see me and kept as far left as I could, almost riding in the gutter and flicking on my rear light, even though I suspected it would be far too feeble to provide any counter against the suns vicious glare.

At one point the road was reflecting the sun so brilliantly that I had trouble looking forward and if the car in the outside lane hadn’t come to a sudden halt I would have sailed straight through a junction, completely oblivious to the red light that was demanding I stop.

Turning to climb up the other side of the valley and putting the sun behind me brought some welcome relief, even with the front wheel ripping through the stream that poured down the inside of the road. The rain finally started to ease just as I made it to the meeting point, intact but uncomfortably damp around the edges.

With it being the first Saturday in the month the kids were out to accompany us some of the way, and there was a good turnout of over 30 riders including the Red Max’s son, the Monkey Butler Boy set to ride the entire route with us.

With the rain easing I slipped off and stowed the waterproof, before we pushed off, clipped in and sailed out.

I dropped into line near the back and alongside Mini Miss, chatting as we pushed along. At one point we swung by Red Max and he paused from shouting abuse encouragement at the Monkey Butler Boy long enough to confirm he’d recovered from the desperate ride he inadvisably completed in the throes of his illness, despite being flushed out the back of the bunch like a blue ice meteorite from a 747. Mini Miss said she’d been concerned and continuously checking on Strava until he’d posted up his ride to prove he’d made finally made it home.

At a quick, Prof encouraged pee stop we learned from OGL that peeing au naturel had inspired the first weed-killers. He then went on to correct the unforgiveable gaping hole in my education with a discourse on Scottish and Newcastle brewing and the genesis of Newcastle Brown Ale.


Clambering, climbing, swooping and regrouping


Taking the open road, as distinct from last weeks closed road, we clambered and climbed and swooped and regrouped until the time came to split away from the amblers for a slightly harder, faster and longer run to the café. The Red Max left with the slightly more sedate group, understandably taking the Monkey Butler Boy with him, along with a distinctly under the weather Son of G-Dawg

As our group approached Middleton Bank I was castigated for freewheeling past all the fixies, but they had the last laugh as I hit the bottom slopes at high speed and in completely the wrong gear. I found my legs spinning as fast as theirs had on the descent, but there was no resistance.

Figuring it was too late to go hunting for another gear and being inherently lazy I let everyone sweep past and freewheeled until the slope finally began to bite and I could actually gain some traction, only then was I able to set off in pursuit of everyone else.


Going over the top


It seems to have been an age since we last tackled Middleton Bank, so it was good to know it’s still hateful and the gradient remains awkward enough to confuse me so I rarely feel I’m in the right gear.

Everyone regrouped over the top and we set off for the café, gradually winding the speed up. This was it, this was fun bit – a dozen or so of us in a tight bunch, hurtling around corners at break-neck speed, shoulder to shoulder and inches from the wheel in front as the pace ramped up along with a booming heart rate.

Legs burning, a face-full of grit and cold spray, leaning hard into the corners and scrambling up the hills as we jockeyed for position and raced along finely poised between exhilaration and catastrophic disaster. It hurt, but I found myself grinning like an idiot.

As the front of our arrow-head hit the final slopes on the drag up to the café it shed riders like bits of sabot being stripped from an armour piercing shell. I clung to Crazy Legs’s wheel as long as I could before sitting-up and drifting back as Taffy Steve swept past with Laurelan in hot pursuit. Great fun.


The lipsmackin’heartpoundin’lungscreamin’leg shreddin’death defyin’madcoursin’unforgivin’nosurrendrin’cafe sprint in full flow


On the return the Mad Mile proved not quite as breakneck with Son of G-Dawg obviously suffering and I surfed along on the back, getting a mighty slingshot around the roundabout as I split for home. I found myself briefly in the company of the Cow Ranger who wanted to put in a few extra miles and as I left him and turned uphill the hail started pelting down, ticking off my helmet and seemingly intent on filling up the vents.

The hailstorm accompanied me almost all the way home, rattling and pinging off car roofs while bouncing and drumming off the road. It wasn’t particularly unpleasant as I was well wrapped up and it was falling more or less vertically so couldn’t find any exposed skin to sting. I soon found myself happily swinging up onto Heinous Hill to cap another good run.

YTD Totals: 1,155 km /718 miles with 11,547 metres of climbing


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