Winter is coming

Winter is coming

Club Run, Saturday 15th October, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  101 km/63 miles with 754 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 17 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.6 km/h

Group size:                                         16 riders

Temperature:                                    13°C

Weather in a word or two:          Filthy to fair


Ride Profile


The Ride:

With the glorious weather of last week’s hill climb proving unsurprisingly transitory, a week of constant forecast checking kept coming back with grim consitency: the morning to early afternoon of Saturday would apparently be dominated by rain, with the only questionable element being its severity – which roughly translates to the near imperceptible difference between “rain showers” and “heavy rain showers.”

I was quite encouraged by waking Saturday morning to the absence of rain drumming noisily on the roof and windows, only to find this was because the cloud-base was so low that the water was simply leaching out and didn’t have to fall very far or very hard. A thoroughly grey and dismal start to the day then, with only a vaguely brighter bit of sky to perhaps-maybe indicate where a well-shrouded sun was still trying to drag itself clear of the horizon.

I dressed for the worst: full-length tights, long-sleeved, water-resistant jersey with a rain jacket over the top, overshoes and long fingered gloves. A spare pair of gloves went in my back pocket and I stuck a cap under my helmet in the hope the peak could help keep a little of the spray out of my eyes. I even tried a wrapping a layer of cling film between socks and shoes before pulling on my overshoes. It may have helped a little and my feet were never cold, but still socks and shoes came home sodden.

The first few hundred yards out on the roads confirmed my suspicions – it was cold, it was very, very wet and it was going to be a little unpleasant. As my front tyre cut a hissing bow wave down the Heinous Hill, the rain tapped probing, impatient fingers on my back and helmet in a “Little Pig, Little Pig, let me in” sort of way.

Climbing out the valley on the other side of the river though proved that it wasn’t quite cold enough and I was caught in one of those damned if you do/damned if you don’t conundrums – take the rain jacket off and get soaked from the outside-in, or keep it on and get soaked from the inside out. You pays your money…

I noticed the first signs of autumn, the leaves on the trees losing colour in increasing numbers and beginning to fall and collect in drifts and slippery wet clumps along the sides of the road. Winter is coming. Slowly, but inexorably winter is coming.

Our meeting point had naturally migrated to the bowels of the nearby car park, where it was dark and dank, but critically sheltered from the still constant rainfall.  There the usual all-weather idiots slowly congregated and added a few new faces to our ranks with the Monkey Butler Boy, Jimmy Cornfeed, Carlton and Mellstock Quire all joining us in defying the elements.

Main topics of discussion at the start

OGL was the bearer of bad news concerning the untimely death and funeral arrangements for long-standing club member and all-round good guy, Russ Snowdon. A track champion of some repute, Russ was an integral member of the coaching team at the National Velodrome in Manchester. Always willing to help out, I remember him growling good humouredly at me at the start of one of our hill climbs – something along the lines of, “If I can hold up Sir Chris Hoy for his starts, I can handle you.”

The solemn news couldn’t quite repress the very, very naughty Taffy Steve, who leaned across and enquired sotto voce, “Is it too early to ask what size frame he rode?” Ooph!

With the weather set to improve later in the day, we discussed options for a ride-in-reverse  – heading straight to the café and then taking a big loop back. As if taking it seriously, we even discussed what time the café actually opened, as it wouldn’t do to high-tail it there and then have to hang around for half an hour banging on the door to be let in and out of the rain. In the end, the inherent conservatism of your average club cyclist won out and we set off for a very normal, if very wet club run.

Carlton arrived well-wrapped against the weather and with the rear of his bike studded with more flashing red lights than the control panel in the Chernobyl nuclear reactor before it was vaporised. One in particular we had to ask him to turn off for fear it would burn-out retinas, or induce violent epileptic fits. He proudly declared (and we all believed him) that this particular light was visible from 3km away.

There was just time for OGL to curse the godless amongst us – those without mudguards, not those who had adopted blasphemous, sacrilegious ways (although there’s probably a fair degree of overlap) – before we were forsaking the sanctuary of our car park, pushing off, clipping in and riding out into the downpour.

As we stopped at the first set of lights I tried to sort out the rain cover on the Red Max’s back pack that the Monkey Butler Boy had pulled around without actually fitting. I explained to Max that he looked like he was pulling a drogue parachute behind him, but he seemed unconcerned and suggested it was just the excuse he needed so he could convince himself he wasn’t being held back by lack of talent or fitness.

Running past the airport a jet thundered low overhead, but looking up into the drizzle, there was nothing visible in the dank and murky sky. I was just pleased we’d made Carlton turn his super-bright rear light off, or the thing might have mistaken us for the runway and tried landing.

As we made our way up the Bell’s Hill climb we had to swerve around two dozen or so car tyres spilling out from where they’d been oddly dumped into a layby. Around the corner, a bit further on and we were picking our way through another dozen or so tyres that had been strewn across the road in a makeshift barricade. Perhaps we were caught in the middle of some Northumbrian farmers’ feud? We cycled on anyway, safe in the knowledge that the Prof had clearly marked the location and would probably return to claim the tyres for his secret workshop/laboratory/lair.



I dropped into line beside Son of G-Dawg, who was one of the few amongst who hadn’t made the switch to a winter bike, his excuse being it didn’t seem right for the last outing of his carbon flying machine to be the brutal and unenjoyable hill climb.

I’m not certain how enjoyable today’s ride was going to be though and to add to the less than ideal weather, the roads were proving particularly filthy. As we rode through another wet, claggy, filthy-dirty, muddy patch that bespattered everyone and their bikes in a deeply unappealing coating of filth, I suggested the final sprint for home between G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg would be particularly fiercely contested today. At stake for the winner would be first use of the shower, while the loser would be left with two filthy bikes to clean.

Just in case, Son of G-Dawg was planning to plead that he had important things to attend to, although he wasn’t prepared to reveal this could be neatly summarised as eating pizza and having a nap. As a last resort I suggested he could just leave the bike in its filthy state until the OCD demons started whispering in G-Dawgs ear. We both knew he wouldn’t be able to relax properly while a dirty bike befouled his home.

At a hastily called pee stop, OGL declared that we were all outcasts and renegades, as apparently the club had been sanctioned by the CTT – the governing body for cycling time-trials, after someone informed them we were holding an illegal hill climb last week! It all seemed like officious stuff and nonsense to me, considering it was a club-confined event. Crazy Legs though was particularly delighted with the renegade badge and the thought that he now had an official excuse not to ride in anymore time-trials.

We stopped again to split the ride, but OGL looked to be the only one heading straight to the café, so we persuaded him just to tag along with the rest of us. With the rain slowly easing, I took the opportunity to swap soaked gloves for dry ones and we pressed on.

We were pretty much still altogether as a group as we swung around Bolam Lake and the pace picked up a little in anticipation of the final drive to the café. I sat on the back behind Taffy Steve and the Red Max as we dived through Milestone Wood and over the rollers and stayed there as a small group broke away off the front to contest the sprint.

The group upfront splintered and we were soon closing on the jettisoned Crazy Legs as we approached the last ramp. Sensing another mugging was about to occur I dropped in behind Taffy Steve as he attacked to close down Crazy Legs, who in turn responded and picked up his pace again.

I went diving down the inside to pass Taffy Steve, but our acceleration had brought us up to the Prof who’d also been shelled out by the lead group and was weaving all over the road. He drifted to his right until he realised an immoveable Taffy Steve was already occupying the space there, barrelling along with sharp elbows bristling, so he did the sensible thing, chickened out and swept back across the road into my line.

I shouted and touched the brakes to buy some room to manoeuvre around the Prof, but all momentum was lost and there was no way back. Curses! Foiled again.

Main topics of discussion at the coffee stop:

They’d had a new till fitted in the café and the staff were grappling to come to terms with its intricacies. Service that’s normally slow now became glacial and very confused. Still, at least we were welcome and not made to feel responsible for their own short-comings.

The Prof took the German “towel-on-sun-lounger thing” to the extreme, scattering various bits of sodden kit and clothing around the café to claim numerous tables and chairs. I was pretty certain he’d need at least 5 minutes’ head start to gather everything back together before we set off for home.

Meanwhile OGL was in hysterics laughing at all our dirty, mud-splattered faces and suggested Jacques Anquetil would be turning in his grave. Anquetil was a classy, multiple Tour de France winner, who allegedly never went anywhere without a comb in his back pocket.

I naturally suggested like all successful cyclists that he was of a slightly odd disposition – hugely superstitious to the point of being terrified to leave his room when a mystic predicted his death on a particular day. He also seduced and married the wife of his dedicated personal doctor and then had a child with her step-daughter, lived with both women for a dozen years, then livened things up further by having a child with his stepson’s ex-wife!

Carlton was somewhat taken aback by my casting of all successful cyclists as flakes and oddballs and protested that, “Surely that nice Mr. Froome is a decent chap?” He then contended that the other “seemingly nice fellow who left Team Sky for BMC” was quite obviously another decent chap too. He couldn’t be dissuaded even when Taffy Steve countered, “Yeah, but he’s Tasmanian.”

We were just getting settled when the Red Max’s phone notified him of an incoming text with two loud parps like a clown’s horn. I wondered aloud if it was Charlie Cairoli asking for his shoes back, while it prompted some discussion about the killer clown craze. The best story alleged that one creepy perpetrator had been bottled by his victim and I could detect absolutely no sympathy for him around the table.

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs spotted son of G-Dawg playing with his mobile phone. “Is that a Samsung?” he enquired, drawing back nervously and raising his hands to protect his face. I made to warm my hands on the device, then Crazy Legs tried blowing gently to see if he could coax a flame from it. We speculated that perhaps Ray Mears needed to carry a Samsung in case he had to start a fire in the Outback without any kindling.

Crazy Legs suggested Mrs. Crazy Legs was so paranoid about his phone spontaneously bursting into flame, she was constantly asking him what make it was.

“Is your phone a …

“It’s a MOTOROLA!”

With it still being early and the weather clearing to reveal the best part of the day, a group of us decided to take a long loop home through Stamfordham.

The return run was largely uneventful, though we did spot a small domestic cat stalking down the road in the middle of nowhere, had a grey squirrel skitter across our path and the the dubious pleasure of a driver leaning on his horn in admonishment, even though he was travelling in the opposite direction on the other side of a wide road. I’ve no idea what that was all about.

On a fast downhill everyone swung off  on a sharp left, while I continued on, cutting a big corner of my route home. Pretty soon I was climbing the damn hill again, somewhat happier that my clothes had transitioned from wringing wet to just sodden. Another couple of hours and I might even have been merely damp by the time I’d crawled home.

YTD Totals: 5,672 km / 3,524 miles with 55,384 metres of climbing


One thought on “Winter is coming

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