Club Run, Saturday 29nd October, 2016
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 111 km/69 miles with 1,025 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 1 minutes
Average Speed: 26.0 km/h
Group size: 16 riders, 0 FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Cool and dry
Well, a dry Saturday with no rain forecast seemed like a great opportunity for a good ride, compounded by the fact that OGL and G-Dawg were travelling up to the Braveheart Dinner in Scotland and so we were left pretty much to our own devices.
Crazy Legs had manfully stepped up to the breach and outlined a proposed route. Then, to confound us all he’d even posted it a day in advance on Facebook. Unheard of, who’d have thought social media could actually be used to effectively communicate and inform?
It was at this point that revelation turned to revolution, as it transpired he’d proposed to forsake our usual café stop to try and find somewhere new and novel. An undoubted heretical act of the greatest magnitude and seriousness.
Based on change as being as good as a rest and even the sweetest honey being “loathsome in its own deliciousness” (yadda, yadda, yadda) it looked like we were off on a bit of an adventure, so it was with more than the usual sense of anticipation that I set out early Saturday morning.
The changes wrought by increasingly autumnal weather were well in evidence, with deep moraines of fallen leaves humped down either side of the road like a golden braid, while more twisted and spiralled down from the trees even as I rolled slowly down the hill to the valley floor.
At one point on my descent the wind caught a slew of these dry leaves and they skittered and scattered noisily across the road surface. I couldn’t help but feel if I’d been riding with little Tommy Eliot he would have said something clever about rats’ feet over broken glass in our dry cellar.
I crossed the river and began to clamber up the other side of the valley where, half-way up the hill I approached a zebra crossing to find crows lining the railings on one side, seemingly staring down a row of seagulls lining the opposite railing. With the black and white striped crossing in-between it looked like some strangely Dali-esque, chess game – with birds for pieces. Maybe they weren’t crows after all, but rooks?
The nearest of the birds took flight as I approached and the others scattered in alarm with a clatter and whirr of wings. That was actually re-assuring, at least I wasn’t facing some Hitchcockian-nightmare “Birds” style jury, arrayed to judge and condemn me to death by pecking.
Luckily I was able to make my way to the meeting place, arriving early and without further incident from man or beast.
Main topics of conversation at the start:
There’s an old military adage that plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy and so it was to prove for our suggested Grand Day Out. Crazy Legs had tried to contact the cafe owners to check they were happy to receive 20 or so sweaty, hungry cyclists. They shoulda-coulda-would have been I’m sure, after all our planned destination was Activ Cycles in Corbridge and in all of its promo materials it succinctly promises that most magical of all combinations – “coffee and bikes”
… but, unfortunately, Crazy Legs had discovered the owners were away for the half-term holidays and the cafe was closed. Dang it! Plan B.
Plan B – following a Facebook appeal – appeared to be the Watling Coffee House, just opposite Activ Cycles, but this looked like it would only work if our numbers were restricted to around half a dozen or so and that seemed a very remote possibility.
We knew we were down on numbers with many of the regulars being elsewhere – as previously mentioned OGL and G-Dawg were being entertained in Jockland, while the Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy were assiduously avoiding all the most gruelling climbs of La Vuelta somewhere in Spain.
That old romantic, Aether had taken Mrs. Aether for a ride on the Orient Express (not a euphemism, I assure you) while the Prof was sojourning in the Lakes. And then there was the strange case of Taffy Steve, off delivering a dog to the Isle of Man, or was it a man to the Isle of Dogs? A dog, I hasten to add which, despite all the opprobrium heaped on such choices last week, seemed to have a suspiciously stripper-like name: “Jordy.” He’d tried to convince me the dog actually had the gruff and manly name of Geordie, but I wasn’t buying it.
In any case it’s probably as well the dog is returning from whence it came, as Son of G-Dawg pointed out, imagine the reaction and confusion of calling out for “Geordie” on a crowded Tynemouth beach.
But, still the numbers on the pavement grew, even as Crazy Legs tried shooing some of the riders away. When this failed, he admitted defeat and resorted to Plan C – the same route out and along the Tyne Valley, followed by a sharp right hand turn and a clamber back north to Matfen and then out to our usual coffee stop venue.
With a goodly number still on “best bikes” and the weather promising to be fine all day, I queried whether we needed to be on winter bikes at all and if it wasn’t a day for the much cosseted Ribble to have a run out. Crazy Legs had gone for the halfway house, his venerable Bianchi rather than the wet and windy winter bike or his redoubtable all-weather fixie. He suggested he may perhaps have been tempted, but had already let all the air out of the Ribble’s tyres as a disincentive to help avoid this type of dilemma.
At the appointed, Garmin time, 16 brave lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out for a route with hopefully enough “alternative” left to still make it a bit different – so maybe New Wave rather than Punk?
I dropped onto the front alongside Crazy Legs for the first 10 kilometres or so, setting a fairly brisk pace, our order only briefly disrupted early on when the Plank pondered the perfect places to postpone progress to pee. Astonishingly it seems the Prof has some serious competition for the clubs most miniscule and leakiest bladder prize.
As we pushed along we wondered if we could perhaps ride half the group off our wheels and whittle the numbers down enough to fit into a different café, but sense prevailed and we decided to stick to Plan C and save the excitement of a different café stop for another day.
After 10km we swung off the front and let the Plank and Jimmy Cornfeed take over, while we drifted back and slotted in halfway down the line. From here I was in the perfect position to witness our first RIM of the day, overtaking a lone cyclist coming the other way.
The trouble was he was over-taking too fast and on a blind corner, swinging ridiculously wide and cutting right across the white line and into our lane. Noticing at the last minute that a bunch of skinny people on bikes were already occupying the space he was accelerating towards, he braked, swung back sharply across the path of the other cyclist, then roared past us leaning on his horn in rebuke. Whaaa? … Really? … Wow.
We then began the drop down into the Tyne Valley, but lost a few of our number to what turned out to be a puncture, so we pulled over to the side of the road to wait. Repairs duly completed we regrouped and then swooped and whooped our way to the valley floor and started following the river upstream.
Unfortunately, Newton can’t “uninvent” gravity and what goes down has to come back up again. It wasn’t long before we were climbing up toward the main east-west road, the A69. Learning from past mistakes we actually found a crossing point directly opposite where we emerged onto the road and didn’t have to traverse half of its length before we could scuttle across.
A bit of real-life Frogger with the speeding cars safely negotiated and we were onto the very steep and very narrow climb to Newton, becoming strung out and somewhat scattered as we struggled upwards. The road kept climbing and everyone kept going for a few more miles, before a halt was called and we regrouped for the last part of our run, through Matfen, up to the Quarry and on to the café.
As we passed through Matfen, the ultra-protective Crazy Legs asked if I’d seen the surface of one of the side roads still looked to be somewhat moist. Not quite sure where the conversation was heading, I had to admit I hadn’t noticed. “Hah!” he declared, “I knew I was right not to bring the Ribble out.”
To be fair he had been riding along all day looking to justify his decision, at one point even misinterpreting the blowback from one of Zardoz’s errant snot rockets as rain, looking quizzically up at the clouds and pondering, “Have I just felt a drop of precipitation?”
I caught up with Sneaky Pete and we had a chat about Clive James’s writing, the hilarious Dave Barry (“The metric system didn’t really catch on in the States, well unless you count the increasing popularity of the 9mm.”) and my having to batter a mouse to death with a cycling shoe last night, an incident we determined probably deserved the blog title “Blood on the Cleats.”
I mentioned I’d bought some new tyres for Reg next year, Vittoria Rubino’s with added graphene, only to discover that Sneaky Pete had already sneaked the exact same tyres onto his bike and had been using them for a while. He couldn’t honestly say if they were any better or worse for “that mother-fecken graphene stuff” as Taffy Steve had dubbed it. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.
As the only other Vittoria acolyte I’ve found in the club, I asked Sneaky Pete if he too had joined the inner circle and received his regular copy of “The Vittorian”- the newsletter of Vittoria tyres. Sadly, he hasn’t seen it and I guess I’m still unable to prove it isn’t just a figment of my fevered imagination. Guess I’ll have to wait until its inevitable appearance as an eccentric and outlandish guest publication on Have I Got News for You for that.
We scrambled up the Quarry Climb and I dropped into line beside Laurelan, who has been AWOL for a while, trying to recover from an injured foot. As we were catching up and chatting I half-saw and half-sensed movement off the front of the group and rudely leaving her mid-sentence, jumped across the growing gap as the drive for the café began, pulling Son of G-Dawg with me.
A small group of young racing snakes soon pulled away from the front, while I was just content to follow Son of G-Dawg and Crazy Legs as we tracked them at a distance, pulling away from everyone else behind. Meanwhile, Crazy Legs kept himself amused for a while nudging his front tyre against the rain flap of my mudguard, which for some reason had decided to stick up horizontally.
A fast descent, a couple of leg-burning rises and we were spat out onto the road down to the Snake Bends, which we rolled through without contesting a sprint and we kept the pace high right through to the cafe.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
Staff in the café still haven’t got to grips with their new till system and I knew we were in trouble when one of them went diving through multiple menu’s to try and find Son of G-Dawg’s ham and egg pie in the Salads category!
Someone mentioned that Cyclone entries are now open, so then only 231 days, 7 months, 33 weeks, 5,544 hours, 332,640 minutes or almost 20,000,000 seconds until the ride, or as Crazy Legs suggested only 224 days, 32 weeks, 5,376 hours or 322,560 minutes of agonising about which ride to enter, before plumping for the one he always does.
Re-visiting the stupid names conversation from last week I mentioned the best one I’d found so far was the rather innocuous (at first glance) Jenny Taylor.
Crazy Legs lamented the loss of his favourite no-hoper from The Apprentice, someone who was so up himself he’d proudly proclaimed something nonsensical like, “I’m fluid, pour me in a glass and I’m the glass, pour me in a bucket and I’m the bucket.”
This gave me the opportunity to recount some of the genuine bon mots from an old boss of mine, who’d once described a client as “a wiry, old fox,” said talking to a female member of staff was “a bit like the Taming of the Shrewd” and declared I “wouldn’t say hello to a boo goose.” The recollections still amuse me, 20 years later.
Talk turned to G-Dawgs inclination to retire gracefully from the annual sufferfest that is our Hill Climb – before he has a heart-attack that kills him. We wondered if setting a new personal best would be adequate compensation for killing yourself – perhaps earning an epitaph somewhere along the lines of “it was/wasn’t worth it.” [Delete as applicable.]
Crazy Legs then revealed there was hope for us old ones yet, as John Glenn had been an incredible 77 when he last took a trip into space.
Meanwhile, Son of G-Dawg revealed that not only will a dirty bike left at his Pa’s miraculously clean itself, but if he left his kit there as well he would return to find it freshly laundered and neatly put away. There were some suggestions that he didn’t really need to make a pretence of helping clean his bike, he simply needed a laundry basket big enough to take both bike and kit.
The return home was suitably stress and incident-free and made in good order to cap a very enjoyable ride and we now have the target of trying a new café for the next time OGL drops the leash.
YTD Totals: 5,961 km / 3,704 miles with 59,372 metres of climbing