Club Run, Saturday 21st January, 2017
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 95 km/59 miles with 624 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 11 minutes
Average Speed: 22.6 km/h
Group size: 18 riders, 0 FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Grim
At the last minute I swapped the windproof winter jacket for the waterproof, windproof and slightly thicker version and as I dropped down the hill, lashed with freezing cold rain I began to suspect it had been a wise choice. The day was grey, dank and miserable with the cloud closed in tight, shrouding the hill tops and dulling all the light.
I had an uneventful jaunt across to the meeting place, arriving early enough that the only person already there and waiting was the Garrulous Kid, standing outside and being rained on. I indicated I was heading to the shelter of the car park and invited him to join me there. We’d all be soaked through soon enough, I couldn’t see the point in hastening the discomfort.
Main topics of conversation at the start:
The Prof arrived, peering uncertainly through ultra-dark Raybans to try and make out the faces sheltering in the gloom of the multi-storey. OGL suggesting his choice of eye-wear wasn’t best suited to the conditions, while G-Dawg expressed concern that he might have a dangerously myopic Prof trying to ride on his wheel.
The Prof tried to justify his clothing choice with an erudite quote and asked, “What was that thing John Hurt said?”
“Probably nothing, or maybe just urgh?” I suggested, reflecting on the actors very recent demise.
OGL volunteered Spike Milligans self-penned epitaph, “See, I told you I was ill,” but neither selection was met with any great appreciation by the Prof, who instead started wittering something about being gay and wearing pink shirts. Who knows?
OGL started to tell me about servicing some sturdy mountain bike and taking the big, 1½” headset apart to find there were only 3 ball-bearings left inside. I kind of lost the thread of the conversation after that, as I was left wondering how the bearings had disappeared from inside a sealed unit. I’ll never understand bikes.
The Red Max rolled up sans the Monkey Butler Boy, who he said had been laid low with a bad illness after skipping the club run last week in favour of a trip to the theatre. I suggested he was probably suffering from culture shock and concluded no good would ever come of cyclists dabbling with the liberal arts.
Having hung around long enough for all the brave and the good and true to join our merry throng, we decided it was time to set off and I followed the Prof as we led another 15 lads and lasses out into the grim weather.
Safely negotiating the first set of traffic lights, I almost came to grief, garrotted by a dog leash as an owner blindly hustled his pooch across the road against the lights.
A little further on and Richard of Flanders joined us, slipping across the road from the opposite carriageway and slotting in beside me on the front for the first part of the ride.
As we turned out of Brunton Lane a mass of blinking lights in the distance signalled the approach of another club and I suspect for the next few miles we may have merged to form one extraordinarily long, super-peloton – no doubt much to the delight of any following motorists. Or at least that’s what I’m guessing happened, as I was quite removed from things at the head of affairs. Anyway, none of the other riders passed us, so I’m guessing they were comfortable with the pace we were setting on the front, at least until they could find a place to turn off and pursue their own ride.
Up towards the airport, the verge at the side of the road had been well mangled by the less than careful passage of some poorly driven, large and heavy vehicle, patterning the grass with deep tyre-treads and spreading a thick carpet of muddy divots across the kerb and into our path.
Carefully negotiated, we then hit Dinnington to find the road was even worse, though thankfully this was largely confined to the opposite, southbound lane. Here traffic, to and through a building site, had left the road buried under a thick carpet of slippery, slimy, claggy mud and assorted effluvium. This was the road we’d been forewarned about last week and had deliberately avoided. Now, if anything it was perhaps worse and we made quick plans to alter our route back and avoid being sprayed by whatever dubious coating had turned the road such a deeply unpleasant colour, or worse, slipping and crashing down into a slick of frozen slurry.
With Richard of Flanders railing about the duty of care construction sites are actually obliged to afford the local environment, we pressed on in search of more welcoming and less problematic road surfaces.
As we made our way toward Shilvington, we agreed we’d done our fair share on the front and on cue we split to either side to wave the next pair through. I drifted slowly back down the outside of our line, looking for an opportunity to tuck back into the wheels, but only after carefully assessing each bikes mudguards, or lack thereof.
A space opened up invitingly behind G-Dawg, but one look at his short, seat-post mounted sliver of hard plastic positioned a good hands span above his rear tyre and I kept drifting, finally slotting in behind Jimmy Mac and his much more expansive protection.
After the briefest of stops, we pushed on again, with OGL determined to make a bee-line straight for the café in the face of the cold, dank and miserable weather. As we all turned that way I began to suspect, for the first time I could remember, we were all going to head straight in for coffee and cake.
G-Dawg had other ideas however and took a group of us off for a more extended loop around Bolam Lake, adding at a few more miles and a bit of climbing to our totals for the day. Nevertheless, this was to prove one of our shorter club runs.
As this longer, harder faster group approached the final climb, I could sense Biden Fecht trapped on the inside and eager to get out as the pace increased. With a shouted, “Come on, then!” I eased slightly and allowed gap to open so he could nip through. It was a manoeuvre I thought we accomplished with some aplomb, but unfortunately my slackening coincided with Son of G-Dawgs attack.
I was blissfully unaware of this, as he twitched violently aside at the last moment from what in aviation terms would be a very, very near miss and used the adrenaline fuelled horror of nearly running into my back wheel to catapult off the front.
G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg and Biden Fecht whirred away to contest the sprint, a detached Geordie Shaw gave chase, while I led home the rest of our splintered group.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
Son of G-Dawg said he was already getting twitchy and looking ahead to setting aside the winter hack and being able to unleash his good bike, but I suspect winter isn’t done with us yet.
In the meantime, he admitted to being tempted by new direct-drive turbo that incorporates an integral freewheel, so you don’t need specialist tyres and its quick and easy to set up. As he described it, I couldn’t help but be impressed with his eidetic recall of the marketing hyperbole being used to promote the thing.
I suggested he was a marketeers dream and wondered which phrases in particular had resonated with him.
“Elite?” I suggested.
“Yes, that too, but the thing that really swayed it … was the internal lasers!”
Lasers. Now I understood and so did every bloke at the table, as we all discovered we had a pressing need for a new turbo.
Jimmy Mac extolled the virtues of Zwift, which he said now lets you ride everywhere, including inside a volcano, or under the sea. He said you could even get it to simulate Classic routes like Paris-Robubaix.
“Or,” I suggested, “you can really turn it up a notch and select a club run through Northumberland.”
“When it will immediately simulate smashing your front wheel into a pothole and rip your chain off.” Son of G-Dawg added.
We then wondered if you could employ people to periodically douse you with buckets of freezing, muddy water for the full effect.
G-Dawg sought advice to try and sort out a malfunctioning rear shifter, discovered out on a ride where he found he could only change up and never down. He’d ended up having to stop and move the chain manually – once his legs began whirring round like a demented washing machine but still failed to generate any traction.
Funnily enough, after careful testing he found his front shifter works fine. I was quite surprised by this, given that he only uses it about twice a year, I thought it may have atrophied and dropped off.
We left the café in dribs and drabs of different groups, all with their own plans for avoiding the mud slick in Dinnington.
Our group was the last to leave and like last week, opted for an alternative loop around Stamfordham – slightly longer and hillier, but hopefully a little less dirty.
As we rode out, I found myself riding behind Geordie Shaw and wondering why his bike was making a loud rumbling noise and why he was so intent on riding out of the saddle. I finally twigged that he’d had a rear puncture and was just trying to escape off the main road before stopping to make repairs.
There then followed one of those priceless moments that remind me why I love club runs so much, as half a dozen blokes stood around in the freezing cold and icy rain, talking a complete and utter, but fantastically entertaining load of auld bolleaux™
It started when Geordie Shaw found the cause of his puncture, one of our special, super-tough, steel-tipped thorns, which laugh in the face of Kevlar puncture-protection strips. Having trouble removing this, I recalled how the Red Max had helped me out of a similar predicament by supplying a pair of needle-nosed pliers from the depths of his portable workshop buried in his bottomless bag of tricks.
When this failed to work, he’d resorted to removing the thorn with his teeth, while the large contingent of dentists our club seems to attract, looked on either with concern, or in gleeful anticipation of some expensive, restorative dental work.
[Since we had a diversion last week to discuss the collective noun for monkeys, I feel a similar need to identify one for dentists. The best suggestions so far are either a “brace” – or my own particular favourite, an “amalgam” of dentists.]
We decided that from now on the only truly manly way to deal with embedded thorns was with your teeth: clench, suck and spit – sort of like how crusty old cowboys tackle a rattlesnake bite, cutting a big X in the skin to suck the poison out.
Still struggling to remove the thorn, G-Dawg played Daniel to Geordie Shaw’s lion, suggesting using something to help push the offending splinter out. And lo! We discovered the only possible use for the 2mm Allen Wrench on a bike multi-tool.
This, I suggested was a great breakthrough for all cycling kind, its only drawback being the 2mm wide, perfectly symmetrical and hexagonal hole it left drilled through the surface of your tyre.
In a brief discussion about tyres, Son of G-Dawg revealed that his choice of winter tyre, Vredestein All-Weather, All Seasons, recommended inflation to a minimum 170 psi. I don’t think my track pump could even handle that kind of pressure and I’d be worried about it blowing out my rims!
We decided what Son of G-Dawg was probably riding were hand-made, silk, track tyres and only remotely “all weather” and “all seasons” if you only rode with them in a climate-controlled indoor velodrome. Jimmy Mac suggested even then, they’d probably recommend you replaced them every 500 metres.
As Geordie Shaw set to with his mini pump, the conversation turned to C02 canisters and how much pressure they would put into a tyre, which Son of G-Dawg reckoned was about 80 psi, but warned they were a bit hit and miss and only seemed to work effectively half the time.
“Plus, you can freeze your hand to the rim.” He added.
“And have to piss on it to release it.” I concluded helpfully.
Working frenetically to push air into his tyre, Geordie Shaw declared he felt the weather was changing and starting to warm up. I simply gestured at his strenuous upper-body work out, while G-Dawg stated it was probably the hardest he’d worked all day.
“You’re going to look at your maximum heart-rate spike on Strava and realise it wasn’t in the sprint, or climbing the steepest hill, but when you were trying to inflate your tyre,” he suggested.
Finally back under way, I had time to check with Carlton how his cheap gloves had held up last week. The verdict was pretty good and as he said, “Who needs Castelli when you have a Jet Service Station.”
Feeling much better than the previous week and without De Uitheems Bloem driving the pace up and beyond unbearable, I swung off for home having thoroughly enjoyed myself despite the atrocious weather.
YTD Totals: 518 km / 322 miles with 5,426 metres of climbing