Club Run, Saturday 27th August, 2016
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 115 km/71 miles with 977 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 25 minutes
Average Speed: 26.1 km/h
Group size: 26 riders, 1 FNG
Weather in a word or two: Just about perfect
Saturday morning and I’m up at my usual time and shovelling down my usual pre-ride breakfast, sitting at my usual seat at the dining table and surfing all the usual websites as I go.
I then start to collect my gear. In the right-hand pocket of my jersey (always) goes a spare tube to supplement the two I carry in a tool tub in my bottle cage, a mini-pump, two tyre levers and a multi-tool.
In the left-hand pocket (always) goes my wallet containing money and rather ancient, cracked and thankfully never needed tyre patches – just in case three tubes isn’t quite enough (it always is) – my mobile phone with the free Road Id tracking app already enabled and running and an emergency gel for, well emergencies and potential catastrophic body failures.
In the middle pocket (always) goes my rain jacket, unless it’s already raining, in which case I’ll be wearing it. Occasionally, on very rare “Ribble Days*” I’ll leave the jacket behind, but the middle pocket is still always reserved for spare items of clothing – gloves, caps, arm warmers, knee warmers etc.
* Ribble Days – those with absolutely zero chance of precipitation – i.e. the kind of day when Crazy Legs is willing to take his much cossetted Ribble out of its hermetically-sealed storage pod and, rather daringly expose it to the vicissitudes of the weather.
I’ll then leave the house at roughly the same time each week and follow the exact same-route to the meeting point where I’ll usually find, in amongst an ever-changing cast of extras, the same dozen or so “Usual Suspects” – those whose absence from a club ride is more noteworthy than their actual appearance at one.
It struck me as I began to carefully load up my jersey pockets that the whole thing has become very routine and predictable. Of course, there are obvious benefits too – knowing precisely what goes in each jersey pocket helps me remember to take everything I need and I know what I can comfortably carry and where it needs be stored, while taking the same route ensures I should always arrive predictably on time.
There are other times though when change would be welcome, which could explain why we occasionally pay to ride local sportive events and traverse the same roads we could ride for free on club runs.
It also means that doing something just a little bit different on a ride can elevate it from good to great. What would today’s ride bring?
It was quite chilly early on, but promised to be dry, so the middle jersey pocket was empty, but available for when the arm warmers were no longer needed. The ride across to the meeting point was rather uneventful, although I did find myself hunting down another cyclist as I clambered out of the valley, which is foolish, but who can resist?
At the meeting point it was good to see Crazy Legs on his Ribble and have it confirmed we were in for a dry day.
Main topic of conversation at the start:
OGL rolled up trying to brake and steer while carrying a cup of coffee in one hand, successfully slopping coffee onto his new, pristinely-white bar tape and down his newly polished frame. No doubt a cleaning job for his cadre of trained monkey minions when he gets back.
Crazy Legs described how he’d nearly “done a Prof” (or even a Kristina Vogel) and jettisoned his saddle halfway round a ride, after one of its retaining bolts worked loose and dropped away.
He had a brief exchange with OGL and they agreed how difficult it was to source replacement seat post bolts, even when you run your own bike shop. OGL did suggest a local ironmonger where you could potentially buy all sorts of nuts, screws, washers and bolts. This in turn reminded him of a hoary old joke and he was still cackling to himself when Crazy Legs cut him off before the punchline to describe his personal epiphany as, after an extensive search of his entire house, he’d found the exact bolt he needed as part of his sons Ikea bed.
Crazy Legs has now firmly secured his saddle to his bike, while we await the news of the imminent collapse of the sons bed.
As a footnote, Kristina Vogel did make me laugh with her mealy-mouthed, cowardly comments about the successes of British Olympic cycling, “I don’t want to accuse anyone of anything but it is all very questionable” – she said accusingly – a statement uttered with not the slightest hint of irony after she beat British athletes into second and third place.
It was phrased exactly the same way as one of those disrespectful statements that always begins “I don’t want to appear disrespectful, but…” or the belief you can say anything you want as long as you tag allegedly onto the end. Allegedly. Honestly, if she suspects foul play why not say it, instead of hiding behind crass insinuation?
As we made our way from pavement to road, young Mellford and the X11 bus to Blyth started vying to occupy the exact same space at the exact same time. He was forced to turn sharply and ride along the kerb parallel to the bus as it slid to a halt in front of him and he was directly opposite the doors as they hissed open. With nowhere else to go, for an instant I thought he was going to bunny-hop straight on-board a la Eduardo Sepulveda, but he somehow managed to slip around the front of the bus and escape an unwanted journey to the coast.
As we left the meeting point I dropped in alongside Sneaky Pete, who’d been missing the past few weeks on doctor’s orders, but now appeared to have recovered and was keen to make up for lost time.
I also had a chat with Keel who between his work in a call-centre and taking in guests for Airbnb had in short order managed to plumb the depths of social boorishness, rudeness, selfishness, discourtesy and impatience – from the kind of people you hope only exist amongst the worst kind of trolls in the febrile, disconnected world of social media and on rabid Internet forum’s. Apparently however they walk (or drive) among us too.
We’d just turned off the main road onto a narrow lane with houses and parked cars down one side and open fields on the other, a road so narrow that it would be dangerous to try and overtake and where such rashness is actively discouraged by a series of 7 or 8 rather savage speed bumps.
We were however directly impeding an aged RIM in his bright red Hyundai, who announced his presence and displeasure behind us by leaning long and hard on his horn. How dare we delay him on his vital journey by blocking his road and not immediately pulling over to wave him and his tutting harridan of a wife through.
Half way along the lane his impatience got the better of him and he managed to overtake a few back-markers before a parked car on the opposite side of the road blocked his progress and he had to brake hard and swing back, forcing his way into the long line of cyclists.
He tried again and this time his progress was curtailed by an approaching car and once again he swung dangerously back into our group, seemingly oblivious to just how much damage even his tinny little car could do to a load of skinny lads, lasses and kids on plastic bikes.
Finally, the road opened up, he was able to accelerate hard, crash through a few gears and once again lean hard on his horn as he overtook and then pulled sharply across the front of our group.
Naturally we all gave him our biggest, friendliest, cheesiest waves. I’m ridden with guilt that we delayed him those precious 60 seconds or so, but he’s a big, brave and considerate human being so I’m sure he’ll get over it. Arse hat.
The ride progressed smoothly and without incident, until Sneaky Pete looked behind and realised he was last in line having been beaten at his own game – an entire bunch had dropped off the back and sneaked away to the café unannounced.
And then, because change can be a good thing, we rode straight past the place on the route where we usually stop and split into different groups. Obviously already unnerved by being at the very back of the group, Sneaky Pete decided this was too much and sneaked away to the café by himself.
Around one bend we were waved to slow down by a very concerned dog walker who seemed insistent we didn’t disturb her Labrador mid-dump. I’m not an expert on these things so I can only assume the highly-strung animal would suffer dire psychological consequences if disturbed au toilette, which seems rather strange for an animal which has such an interest in sticking its nose into all manner of faeces.
We clawed our way up toward a crossroads, where two or three took the opportunity for a faster, longer, harder ride, while the rest of us worked our way to the café via a route that avoided our usual assault on Middleton Bank or the Quarry climb.
On the hill out from Stamfordham, I took the chance to move from the back to the front of the group, skipping up the outside and earning a growl of “keep in pairs!” as I passed OGL who was doing the exact same thing I was, only a lot slower.
The pace started to pick up as we closed on the café – but at the junction to the road which would lead us down to the Snake Bends, Crazy Legs spotted another of our group, Big Dunc barrelling down toward us at high speed on a completely different re-entry vector. Crazy Legs called out a warning, but a few slipped dangerously across the road anyway, seemingly oblivious to the fast approaching rider.
Big Dunc managed to pull some smart evasive manoeuvres and catastrophe was averted, a situation he would later refer to rather phlegmatically as “a bit chaotic!”
The rest of us now exited the junction and gave chase to the first group and I pulled us all across the gap to Keel’s back wheel. Somewhere ahead Son of G-Dawg nipped off the front to steal the sprint, but just like last week everyone was more or less together in a mass hurtle as we eased for the Snake Bends.
With the speed still high and everyone bunched together we swept into the café car park like (according to the Prof) a “herd of rampaging stallions.” I suggested more like a herd of stampeding bison and the Prof wondered aloud what the difference was between a bison and a buffalo.
“I know,” Bydand Fecht volunteered, “An Australian can’t wash his hands in a buffalo.”
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:
Once again the weather was good enough for us to sit out in the garden and once again we taunted the wasps by carelessly flaunting numerous pots of jam. Will we never learn?
Ovis tried hiding his jam under a napkin, but the wasps just laughed at his foolishness, while the Monkey Butler Boy circled the table endlessly, hoping to present a moving target to discourage their attentions. He then sat down just long enough to pour a can of Coke down his jersey, an act as foolish as stirring blood and chum into shark infested waters. He couldn’t circle the table quickly enough after this mishap.
We discovered that he was not only scared of wasps but spiders as well and didn’t take well to Crazy Legs’s suggestion that he needed to embrace his fear and let himself get stung a few times.
Being manly and brave, Son of G-Dawg related wrestling with and capturing a massive hairy spider in his bare hands, going to throw it out the window and being surprised when he found it had just vanished without trace. Crazy Legs said there was a website for disappearing spiders, while I earned worst joke of the day honours by suggesting that surely all spiders had a website. Obviously no one else at the table had heard Bydand Fecht’s buffalo comment.
Szell was then distracted by a tiny, red spider mite that was whizzing round and round his saucer in perfect synchronous orbit with the Monkey Butler Boy. Going for a hat-trick of groans, I said it was probably racing for the cup, but luckily no one heard … or I’d sunk so low that this time that they’d all chosen to ignore me.
Szell was amazed at how fast the mite was running and wondered what it would look like if it was scaled up. (Probably the Monkey Butler Boy’s worst nightmare.) “Have you seen the acceleration!” he called, while Red Max commented that he was surprised Szell even knew what acceleration looked like. Ouch.
Luckily we were distracted by Sneaky Pete sneaking off home early and then we fed Szell two or three dubious lines about spouts, rims and curtains and let him lose himself in a blizzard of single-entendres.
The ride home was suitably civilised, all the lights were in my favour and the traffic was sparse. Perfect conditions and a bit of a different route all helped make it another great ride and there can’t be too many of them left for this year.
YTD Totals: 4,772 km / 2,965 miles with 47,235 metres of climbing