Club Run, Saturday 9th April, 2016
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 118 km/73 miles with 1,128 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 43 minutes
Average Speed: 24.9 km/h
Group size: 20 riders no FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Bryter layter
Main topic of conversation at the start:
The Prof was once again sporting his rubberised canvas workman’s gloves, much to the delight of Crazy Legs who’d missed their grand unveiling last week and now wanted to know if we’d be stopping along the route to trim hedges and do a bit of impromptu gardening.
G-Dawg had been tempted to engage in a bit of one-upmanship and wear Mrs. G-Dawg’s heavy duty gardening gauntlets which he described as having cuffs that come up well past the elbows, but sense, or perhaps the limited space in his back pocket prevailed.
The Prof compounded his eccentric image by slipping off the gloves to reveal he wore but one single inner liner under them. Perhaps he alternated this left to right to make sure he always had at least one warm hand?
He then complained that this blog had ridiculed his gloves for being orange, when they were in fact fuchsia pink. I somehow feel he’s missing the point if he thinks the exact shade of the gloves was the source of our amusement.
The Red Max revealed the Monkey Butler Boy had been allowed to go out for his first ride sans parental guidance yesterday, despite the obvious concerns of his Mum. He’d completed a ride of over 50 miles and returned safely, but as Red Max concluded, even if he’d become lost it would have been a valuable lesson. I seem to recall the Apache tribe had a similar form of child upbringing, letting them put their hands in a fire because that’s how they learn that fire hurts and is dangerous.
A very hungover OGL rolled up having been out the previous night for some celebration or other for the King of the Grogs. He was able to update us about the status of Plumose Pappus, last seen painting the café red from a deep wound in his arm. Luckily nothing was broken and no plastic surgery was required, but the elbow is now held together by over twenty stitches like a bad piece of macramé.
OGL then informed us the local council were a little irate at our misuse of the Great North Road Cyclemaze and Deathtrap™ and one angry local resident had started taking pictures of scofflaw cyclists daring to ride on the roads. I can just imagine the pitchforks being sharpened and residents Faecesbook pages starting to burn up.
I sometimes wonder if all the general public hate cyclists.
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:
Captain Black complained about over-heating having dressed appropriately for the deluge forecast by AccuWeather that never actually arrived and he had to be enticed out a corner where he was railing loudly about how they should “re-name their bloody site “INaccuWeather.”
G-Dawg owned up to inflicting an inappropriate ear-worm on Crazy Legs, whose usual selection of punky-new wave-alternative had been subverted by a loud rendition of MOR hen-night staple, “Dancing on the Ceiling.” The inspiration for this had been G-Dawg’s retelling of encountering a commercial van emblazoned with the legend: “Lino Ritchie – Flooring Contractor” complete with the unforgettable tagline “Is it me you’re looking for…”
(Edit: Or according to one commentator possibly, “is it me your looking floor” which is even worse)
For cheesiness this ranks up there with female tiling contractor, “Bonnie Tiler” or the D.C. Poultry Farm vans that bear the tagline, “Poultry in motion.”
We pondered whether G-Dawgs heartbeat was calibrated in beats per hour, or maybe per day. He did remind us of his “funny turn” last year though, when like a bad house re-mix his heart rate had inexplicably hit 225 beats per minute and how for a brief period he was able to completely baffle medical science.
Crazy Legs had been absent last week due to a big family gathering in London from where he’d returned full of wry observations about the differences between “us” and “them down there.” He also came back flushed with multiple successes while playing Cards Against Humanity, and felt he was so good at the game he was wondering if there was a semi-pro circuit he could join.
He then mentioned an obituary for “some dead Country and Western singer” (Merle Haggard) where the writer suggested you hadn’t lived unless you’d heard him perform. It has to be said that Crazy Legs was wholly and completely unconvinced.
This led to a wide ranging discussion about music, dancing, if Harry Connick Jnr ever lived down the burden of being labelled as the new Sinatra, the relationship between Nick Hornby and Bruce Springsteen and ultimately – ever divisive little Bobby Dylan. Keel piped up to reveal he’d actually seen Bob Dylan live and when I asked if he’d seen “Good Dylan” or “Bad Dylan” cryptically replied, “Half and half.”
I woke to the rain drumming its fingers impatiently on the roof, promising yet another wet and cold club run, with conditions perhaps miserable enough to match last week for sheer bleakness and discomfort.
I was then faced with the choice between the summer bike and the potentially more comfortable, but less fun winter bike, complete with mudguards. Oh well, skin is waterproof and bikes can be cleaned, it wasn’t that difficult a choice after all.
By the time I rolled out encased in waterproof jacket and overshoes the rain had eased to a fine drizzle, but the roads were awash, the spray was flying and I was grateful for all the protection I could get.
I eased gently down the hill beneath a sky banded in distinct layers of cloud, from light to dark like a giant monochrome Neapolitan. Pewter clouds overlaid a silver base, while the whole was capped by a thick, dark layer of ominous, brooding graphite that looked heavy with the potential for more serious rain. Yet, off to the west patches of blue were starting to appear with the fleeting promise of improved weather.
I made good time and arrived very early at the meeting place, circling around the block a few times until others started to show. Surprisingly the rain had stopped and the sky lightened enough to suggest we were no longer in danger of a downpour. I took a gamble and slipped off and stowed the rain jacket.
As we pushed off, clipped in and set out I dropped in alongside Moscas, discussing how it was still too cold for shorts despite the numerous showings of pale flesh and goose-pimpled legs –those around me must be more hardened, or simply lulled into believing it is actually summer just because we’ve passed some totally arbitrary calendar milestone.
Today was definitely a one where we could prove Horner’s Theorem: the direct and measureable relationship between the number of shiny, posh and clean carbon bikes out on a spring or autumn morning and the number of crap-covered farm tracks, pothole and gravel strewn roads, gates and cattle grids OGL will “accidently” include in our ride.
We deviated from one of our more normal routes, ostensibly to recce the course for a race tomorrow that a few of group were competing in, but in reality more as a punishment for those who dared risk riding without mudguards – or smuguards as I commonly refer to them in these situations – given the superior, contented looks on the faces of those who have them.
Mud was very much the order of the day, the roads were filthy and caked so deep in places that I was surprised they hadn’t been ploughed and planted. Bikes and riders were quickly pebble-dashed with a fine layer of wet grime, slimy mud and whatever effluvia had been washed out of the fields to liberally coat the tarmac such a disturbing and distasteful shade of brown.
A very hungover OGL was soon tailing off the back on a long but fairly moderate uphill grind and never seemed to regain control of the group.
While waiting for him to re-join at a junction I was able to admire Richard of Flanders new saddle, a harlequin patterned Cinelli number he liked the look of, but declared was actually bloody uncomfortable.
We then learned about his plans for future bike upgrades while Taffy Steve took him to task for not fully engaging with outrageous Italian pronunciation and exaggerated arm waving:
“Kahm-pahn-nyoh-lo Vell-oh-chay. Badda-bing, badda-boom!”
OGL disappeared for good soon afterwards, slipping quietly away to the café nursing his hangover. We split the group at Dyke Neuk, but I only saw Moscas and the Red Max heading off for a shorter, easier route, everyone else opting for a longer, harder, faster run which soon had us grinding our way up through Longwitton.
We next hurtled downhill, over some teeth-rattling, filling-loosening speed bumps before hauling hard on the brakes and swinging left along a lane that eventually spat us out at the bottom of Middleton Bank.
An old junker car farted loudly past us and then backfired, releasing a cloud of noxious fumes. The driver redlined it, attacking the hill at maximum revs with the engine clattering and sputtering, coughing and screaming while we all laughed, jeered loudly and egged him on.
The air cleared and a kind of silence had returned before we started our own assault on the slope. As the steepest ramp bit and G-Dawg levered himself up to stomp on the pedals I slipped around him and pushed on off the front, easing as I neared the top so we could regroup. Keel and G-Dawg caught and passed me and I tucked in to follow the wheels.
A fairly large bunch now began homing in on the café and the pace started to ramp up predictably. We held together over the rollers, before the Plank launched a kamikaze attack down the outside and directly into the path of an onrushing car. He quickly switched back to the left hand lane, but his attack seemed to sputter and die out suddenly and he was washed away by a surging front group.
I wasn’t particularly engaged in the sprint as we started up the last rise, so pretty much tried to keep my pace at a steady level, hard enough to hurt somewhat, but without threatening to blow up. I passed a few and a few passed me. Some of those I’d passed managed to recuperate and pass me again, while some who’d passed me faded and were overhauled. It was all a little chaotic and confusing and I have to admit I wasn’t keeping count of who ended up where.
In the café I sat round the table with G-Dawg, Crazy Legs and Taffy Steve talking a massive volume of complete and utter garbage as the rest of our group flowed in and around us, then finished and flowed out, leaving us behind as we waved them away.
The café was almost empty when we finally decided it was time to leave, stopping only to have a chat and reassure the staff that Plumose Pappus was well and recovering and that yes, he is actually more than 14 years old.
As the four of us rolled home Crazy Legs returned to his Cards Against Humanity theme declaring with complete conviction that childishness was the key to winning and that he would easily win simply because he was the most childish amongst us.
At first I was unconvinced, but midway through his argument an immense blob on a big motorbike roared closely past, ruffling G-Dawgs hair and startling him so much he reckoned he’d see a visible heart-rate spike in his Strava data.
“Feck off, you fat fecker!” Crazy Legs screamed petulantly after the impressively loud, already distant motorbike and I held up my hand in resignation and readily admitted he was right all along … he really was the most childish amongst us.
Crazy Legs was now in a very happy place and declared that it had been a great ride. Taffy Steve concluded that this was probably in no small part to OGL’s early departure and suggested we had a whip-round to see if we could encourage him to indulge in a hangover inducing drinking session every Friday. This sounded remarkably similar to our very cunning plan to nobble Son of G-Dawg in the café sprint and it’s all beginning to sound a bit expensive. Probably worth it though.
Crazy Legs and Taffy Steve turned off and I led G-Dawg through the Mad Mile at a (hopefully) respectable pace before swinging off to head home.
At the next T-Junction I saw a large swarm of riders approaching and signalling that they were turning left in front of where I waited. With the car inside acting like an NFL pulling guard on an end-around and effectively screening me from other road users I swung out behind it to cross the lanes, but was struck simultaneously by vicious cramp in both my left calf and right foot.
I managed to groan and grimace across to the other side and pull up haltingly at the kerb, barely registering or acknowledging that the passing cyclists were the rest of our group who’d left the café twenty minutes ahead of us.
Stretching and flexing until the pain finally faded, I began to pick my way home, although for a few miles I was conscious of a general tightening of the calf muscles and more cramps lurking in the background. In a Crazy Legs inspired moment I became hooked on an ear-worm that pulled me into a song-cycle by The Cramps, while I found myself emptying my water bottle to try and stave off further attacks.
I was well into my 3rd internalised chorus of “Goo Goo Muck” as I climbed the Heinous Hill, only to be stopped mid-song as I was flagged down by a uniformed nurse walking down the hill. I pulled to the side of the road and unclipped wondering if she needed directions, thought I’d dropped something, or just maybe had a grievance with cyclists she felt an urgent need to express.
“’Scuse me,” she said, “I just wanted to say how much I admire you for riding up this hill!”
Somewhat taken aback and quite flustered by this unexpected praise I muttered something barely comprehensible about how much I hated the damn slope before pushing off, clipping in and resuming my upward grind, although not I’ll admit without an added spring in my legs.
Maybe not all the general public hate cyclists after all…
YTD Totals: 2,055 km / 1,277 miles with 19,089 metres of climbing