Club Run, Saturday 30th April, 2016
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 116 km / 72 miles with 1,044 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 37 minutes
Average Speed: 25.0 km/h
Group size: 24 riders, 0 FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Bright, bit chilly
Main topic of conversation at the start:
The BFG was sporting new and very, very shiny shoes and could be seen occasionally pausing to admire his own smile reflected in their supreme shininess. He ventured some tale about finagling a free tooth-whitening session as part of the process for having dental veneers fitted and I suggested he’d missed a trick and could have taken colour co-ordination to a new level, if only he’d matched his teeth to his wooden rims.
Although forgoing rim-coloured teeth, he had invested a small fortune on just the right colour of new socks, reasoning that nothing in his old wardrobe could quite do the extreme shininess of his new shoes justice.
Taffy Steve unzipped his saddle bag to reveal everything within was individually wrapped in little plastic bags, carefully labelled and incredibly neatly organized. I felt he’d possibly missed his vocation organising handbags for socialites, or maybe stashes for drug lords. He explained that everything needed individual wrapping because his saddle bag wasn’t weatherproof. The BFG suggested copious amounts of silicone sealant on the zip would perhaps make it watertight, if less than functional.
The Prof disappeared around the corner and we speculated he’d spotted more castoff treasure he was now swooping in to claim. “Just watch,” the BFG instructed, “He’ll come back shaking the piss off some old abandoned glove or something.” He returned empty handed however and I don’t know who was the more disappointed, him or us.
G-Dawg surmised that OGL was very unlikely to show as he’d last been seen early on Friday evening be-kilted, supine and already ever so slightly inebriated, during one of the many events in the month long wedding celebrations to honour the King of the Grogs.
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:
The BFG revealed that, in the days long before he determined hair was debilitatingly un-aerodynamic and decided to stop using it, he’d been a 6’6” Goth with hugely spiky hair, commonly referred to as “The Krogan.”
The hairstyle had been achieved using hazardous chemicals on an industrial scale, including a dangerously combustible mix of several tins of hairspray, super-strength hair wax, red hot crimping irons and prolonged backcombing with a garden rake.
He suggested that using these techniques he’d been able to achieve a Sideshow Bob barnet of unsurpassed magnificence, but one that any stray spark might have turned into a towering inferno. “Like Michael Jackson” he prompted, but all I could visualise was a wellhead fire.
Brewster joined us at the table with a dire tale of how his friend had snapped the steerer tube on his Scott Speedster bike while trying to climb up Heinous Hill. The story was illustrated with photos of the well trashed bike, the rider narrowly avoiding being run over by the following car and managing to escape with only superficial injuries. Luckily the accident hadn’t happened going downhill at great speed – a sobering thought and one that suggests it’s best not to ignore bike recall warnings.
[NB: Scott voluntarily recalled about 8,000 2014 Speedster road bikes worldwide “due to a finding that the steerer tube in the front fork could break, creating a possible fall hazard,” according to a statement issued by the company. Judging from Brewster’s story it would seem the danger is very real.]
We determined that bikes made of graphene and carbon nanotubes were the future, but would requiring chaining up at all times when unattended, in case they blew away.
The Prof sidled up to the table to invite the BFG to join some of them on a longer ride home. The BFG instantly agreed, but then lined up with the rest of us for the normal route back. He was perhaps mindful of a hugely enjoyable ride he’d taken earlier in the week, returning home smiling and full of joie de vivre, only to be confronted by a scowling Mrs. BFG standing arms-crossed, coat buttoned up and foot tapping furiously. Being late for a family appointment = serious buzzkill.
I was almost ready to leave early Saturday morning when a quick and frantic search finally revealed my phone still in my jacket pocket from Friday’s commute and with a battery as flat as a flounder. Wanting to carry it in case of any emergencies, I decided to modify my route and delay the departure long enough to trickle a little life back into it. It had managed to suck up a charge of around 20% by the time I decided it was time to leave – it would have to do.
My revised route cut around 3 or 4 miles off my journey at the expense of a short distance travelling along a dual carriageway. This is usually quiet enough early in the morning, but I guess it only takes one idiot. This time that was exemplified by a racing hatchback that screamed past me, much too close and much too fast, before undertaking and cutting dangerously in front of another car. A nice little adrenaline spike to start the day. Perfect.
Perhaps the jolt helped me scramble up the other side quicker than usual, as the next time I looked at my Garmin it was 8:52 and I’d done 8:52 miles and was closing in on the meeting point. I was one of the earliest to arrive and along with Aveline and the BFG I was able to sit sheltered from the wind and soak up some welcome, warming sun.
With no OGL we left the route up to G-Dawg who quickly gathered consensus for a too rare trip down into the Tyne Valley – quiet roads, a picturesque route, great descents, but of course some serious climbing to get out again.
The only other obstacle was the riverside road that had been undercut and washed out by some recent flooding, but we were assured there was still a narrow path traversable by bike and as an added bonus it was now completely closed to cars.
24 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and managed to instantly annoy a bus driver before we’d even cleared the meeting point. He wasn’t prepared to wait for us all to pass, so in an act either born of pure ignorance or simple malice, he pulled out into the middle of our throng, muscling his lumbering double-decker in between us. This left the front of the group squashed up waiting by the traffic lights while the rest were caught behind, being intensely fumigated by the diesel belching out the back of the bus. It seems we have a rare talent for annoying drivers just by occupying a bit of public highway.
Finally, out onto the open roads, fresh air and into a cold wind, we found it was still quite chilly, especially when the sun was occasionally shrouded by high racing clouds which felt like someone leaving the door open in an Arctic weather station. Shut the bloody door!
At some point I rode with Taffy Steve and we spent some time reminiscing about all things 2000AD: Rogue Trooper, Ace Garp and Strontium Dog et al. Judge Dredd and the League of Fatties seemed to be a particular high point for him.
He then regaled me with the observations about the increasingly shrill exclamations of Geordie women and contrasted this with the surprisingly low, rumbling, bone vibrating timbre of their Scouse counterparts.
We were soon dropping into the Tyne Valley, the road a long sinuous curve of smooth tarmac that encouraged you to build and maintain speed all the way down. A few were bending low and tucking in, but dropping into their slipstream I had no trouble keeping up with minimal effort and without any extreme body contortions.
A long line of us carved our way down the hill and through the first of the sleepy villages dotted along the river bank. Just before we hit the washed out section of road a pee stop was called and a couple of the girls pushed on down the hill to try and find a “ladies room.”
A few minutes later a rather ashen-faced mountain biker hauled himself past us. “Are those two girls with you lot?” he enquired. I answered in the affirmative, and he shook his head and declared rather unsteadily, “Err, they’re done with whatever they were doing!”
Then he pedalled stolidly past trying to retain some modicum of dignity. “There,” beZ wryly noted, “Is a man who doesn’t live with women.”
The washed out section of the river road was indeed passable, although a little muddy in places and just as advertised, completely free of cars.
Once clear we rolled through a massive Gymkhana, marvelling at the vast array of expensive 4×4’s parked up in a field, each one with its own horsebox. They’re not shy of a bob or two around here. Some kids were having their own event in a separate field and I was astonished at just how round some of the ponies were, like barrels with little legs.
“Aren’t they all incredibly fat?” one of the girls asked, I agreed, suggesting it must be how they were bred. “I didn’t mean the horses!” she countered. Meow.
We clambered up a few hills to reach the junction of the road we could take down into Corbridge and waited for a few backmarkers. A quick headcount determined that Another Engine was still adrift and as we waited dark murmurings about the approaching climb began to circulate, along with worrying and frankly blasphemous rumours that G-Dawg might need to use the inner ring.
Sneaky Pete sneaked back down the road to see if he could locate Another Engine, leaving G-Dawg to wonder who he should send out next if Sneaky Pete didn’t return. Just as he was about to select a new sacrificial lamb though, both riders hauled themselves into view.
We seemed to snake back and through and around Corbridge, caught in its labyrinthine one-way system for an age, before it spat us out onto Aydon Road, apparently a 4th Category Strava Climb: 1.6km at an average gradient of 6%. It wasn’t as bad as forecast, G-Dawg’s inner ring remained blissfully untroubled and we were soon regrouping and heading back onto familiar roads.
I used the climb out of Matfen to skip from the back to the front of the group. As we turned off for the Quarry Climb we were all strung out and it was decided we’d press on, but regroup at the top of the climb.
Having crested the Quarry, I pulled over with G-Dawg and Son, but no one else seemed bothered and the BFG set off on a push for the café. I belatedly gave chase, leaving the G-Dawg Collective to handicap themselves even further, before they instigated a two-up team time trial in pursuit of everyone else.
With a sizeable gap to make up I dived downhill after the front-runners, braking late and hard for a junction and sweeping round on the wrong side of the road when the “Clear” call went up. I managed to tag onto the back of the group and then work my way slowly forward.
The smell of coffee must have been in the air as the BFG pushed hard and a gap opened. Taffy Steve pulled me across leaving everyone else behind as we thundered along.
I was now hanging onto the coat tails of two big, powerful units, capable of laying down huge watts and both much faster than me in straight line speed. They also made great wind blocks though and I started surfing the wheels, kicking the pedals hard around 3 or 4 times then freewheeling for a bit in an attempt to conserve energy.
With the BFG skittering all over the road like Ilnur Zakarin contesting a sprint, Taffy Steve started to get nervous and tried nudging ahead. The BFG though seemed to take this as a personal affront and responded. My acceleration to close coincided with the road starting to rise up slightly. I jumped past the two, kicking out of the saddle to attack up the slope and drive up and over the top.
I opened up a small advantage before the BFG closed me down and passed me with the admonishment, “You cheeky beggar, you can’t do that!” But I had – and I’d managed to shake Taffy Steve loose as well. Now there were just the two of us, at high speed, wheels skipping and skittering on the rough surface, rattling and thrumming, my whole body braced and shaking as the pace increased again.
The road dipped a little and the BFG smashed it, stomping hard on the pedals to try and pull away. I was now out of gears and out of breath, with no hope of any freewheeling, fixated on the wheel in front. Slowly the elastic began to stretch and the gap between our wheels grew even as I slid onto the drops and tucked my head down. The gap became a couple of feet as the road slowly levelled and then the faintest of rises took the edge of the BFG’s speed and I clawed back up to him.
The road dipped again and the BFG buried himself in one last massive effort and then sat up slightly to look over his right shoulder to see nothing but empty road. He seemed to hesitate slightly and then slowly looked over his left shoulder to find me sitting there grinning up at him like some malevolent gnome.
“Oh!” he sounded somewhat surprised, “You’re still there.” And then the fight seemed to leave him, he laughed, swore loudly and eased. His speed dropped and I shamelessly and cruelly mugged him, sliding past to open up clear air long before we hit the Snake Bends. A marvellous piece of devilish wheel-sucking skulduggery that only a low-down snake like Simon Gerrans could possibly approve of.
I crossed the junction to ride up the carpet-bombed country lane in splendid isolation, while everyone seemed to take the shorter faster main route. I still made the café just behind the front group spearheaded by the charging G-Dawg tag team.
On the way back there was just time for Taffy Steve and I to ponder if Crazy Legs and The Red Max would make a suitable “Odd Couple” – I had Max pegged as Oscar Madison and Crazy Legs as the neat freak Felix Unger, but then I thought about all of Taffy Steve’s little ordered baggies in his saddle bag…
For some reason we then decided that Castelli should adopt a more accurate sizing guide based on Lord of the Rings characters, so no longer would you need to order XXXL if you wanted a medium jersey, you would just order an Aragorn. Racing Snakes would need a Legolas, while for those with a fuller figure a Gimli would be required. We both agreed we knew one or two Treebeard’s as well as some “tricksy little hobbitses.”
Our hugely intellectual cogitations were rudely interrupted by a small, ancient hatchback that came beetling along the narrow lane. The RIM obviously thought he was driving a massive, road-hogging Hummer and braked to a stop in the middle of the road, obviously befuddled that we hadn’t immediately pulled over to doff our caps and allow him passage.
As I rode past grinning hugely, the Alpha male driver made one of those furious WTF gestures and I couldn’t resist giving him a very cheery wave back. Somewhat incensed he punched his hand down hard onto the horn and the car emitted a very belated, weak, completely innocuous and comical little, “Parp, parp!” OMG – I nearly rode into Noddy!
I was still chuckling over that many miles later as I dragged myself back up the hill and safely home.
YTD Totals: 2,406 km / 1,495 miles with 22,603 metres of climbing