Club Run, Saturday 12th August, 2017
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 83 km / 52 miles with 900 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 3 hours 09 minutes
Average Speed: 26.3 km/h
Group size: 33 riders, 0 FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Blustery
Not only composed on the Cornish Coast, but tapped into an iPad too – which I can’t say was an experience I’d care to repeat.
I managed to commute into work every day last week, which not only allowed me to try and recover some cycling fitness, but also gave our office cleaner the opportunity to wish me “good morning,” on ten separate occasions. I like this, as it affirms the complete transformation and very clear distinction between a skinny, scraggy weird bloke in odd, too tight, clothing and clippety-clop, clown shoes, to someone who, after showering and changing, might look sober, respectable and perhaps, dare I say it, almost professional.
Given that she chats away to both figures, someday soon she will twig it’s the same person, but, even with double the exposure, it wasn’t to be this week.
The increased commuting was necessary, because I’m flying off on holiday again and set to miss more club runs. Not this Saturday though, as a late afternoon flight and careful negotiations meant I could just about squeeze in a ride, if I drove to and from the meeting point to allow a decent margin of error.
Saturday morning then found me up later than usual and loading the bike into the back of the car for a quick trip across town.
Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:
I arrived in time for the Prof’s ride briefing to explain the route he’d set. After the usual heckling and demand for hoary old clichés – it’s not a race, you don’t have a number on your back, we are the biggest club in the world, bar none, nobody ever uses Facebook etc. – the Prof outlined the route that would take us down into the Tyne Valley. This had an option, for those wanting a longer ride, to indulge in a much too rare venture south of the river and around Blanchland. Some of my favourite rides are around this area, so on any normal weekend I would have been well up for it, but it wasn’t going to happen today.
There was then a call-out for others to post up routes and lead rides, with our current group of stalwart lieutenants and ride leaders getting a name-check, G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, the Hammer, the Red Max, Benedict, Taffy Steve, Aether and the Prof. With my attention wandering at this point, I mistook the call for additional ride volunteers with the Prof’s pedagogic prevalence’s, raised my hand and declared I was present, only to realise he wasn’t actually taking a register. Hmm, perhaps not a bad idea though.
There was only time then to learn the Garrulous Kids travails last week could be traced to a snapped gear cable, obviously a case of inferior Far East componentry letting down Teutonic engineering par excellence, before we conducted a quick split into two groups and we were off.
Unusually, especially with a strong, gusting wind to contend with, I spent long portions of the first part of the ride on the front with a succession of partners, the Garrulous Kid (nervous and jittery about his impending GCSE results) the Red Max ( full of dire tales about the “beastings” the Monkey Butler Boy now turns every ride into) and Ovis (who’d dropped a pile of weight, confessed he was feeling super-strong and had managed 3 whole Shredded Wheat for breakfast.)
The Monkey Butler Boy was using us only as a relay to get him out to where he was to meet up with the rest of his wrecking crew. He spent the last 15 minutes with our group arguing with the Red Max about the best route to take, convinced his dad was trying to send him the hilly way round. He may no longer officially ride with our club, but something’s never change …
Taking pity on my extended spell on the front, or more likely being bored sitting mid-pack, Crazy Legs moved up to the front to provide some relief along with Sneaky Pete. I dropped through the group and onto the back, as we crested the last rise before the long drop into the Tyne Valley.
We pushed along the valley floor passing a couple of clusters of other cyclists, including a group from the Sunderland Clarion (I always like the name!) if I’m not mistaken, quite a long way from home. Then we rolled around a corner and into the back of our front group.
They’d pulled up at the junction just before the Bywell Bridge, the route they were planning to use to slip across the border and into the dark lands south of the Tyne. Rather ominously though, the bridge was littered with traffic cones and road closed signs.
Luckily, the maintenance work was confined to the parapets and it was still possible for a group of hardy cyclists to sneak across. Still, we seemed to stand around for an inordinate amount of time, spilling across the road and clogging up the junction while those intent on crossing the river built up their courage.
In fact, we hung around so long that both groups of cyclists we had passed in the valley caught us up and had to swing into the opposite lane and weave dangerously around oncoming traffic to find a way through the melee. Sorry fellow cyclists, that was not our finest hour.
With the split finally made and many of us wondering if we ever see our adventurous comrades again as they filed across the river, the rest of us turned away and almost immediately began climbing our way back out of the valley.
Ahead of me G-Dawg was now riding with his attention totally fixated on what was happening under his feet, or perhaps not happening is a more accurate description. Perhaps for only the second time this year, he was attempting to coax his chain down and onto the inner ring. Seized or atrophied from lack of use, or perhaps just confused and lost, never having travelled in that direction before, his chain was having none of it. Finally, in exasperation, he pulled over to the side of the road and manually lifted the chain over.
I started climbing alongside Princess Fiona, but the cadence wasn’t quite right, so I switched up a gear, increased the pace and started to reel in Ovis and the Garrulous Kid who’d forged on ahead. G-Dawg pulled up alongside and then the BFG bridged across to us, moaning all the while at the pace, at how little shelter he was getting on our back wheels and totally ignoring my urging to attack over the top.
We all regrouped just before the thundering cataract of traffic that marked the A69, before engaging in another of our occasional games of Frogger. I can’t recall ever seeing the road quite so busy, but we finally made it across safely and pushed up the last climb to finally escape the valley.
As we closed on Matfen the Colossus of Roads nodded at the Garrulous Kid’s bike, indicating a horrendous piece of cross-chaining, as he thundered along, the chain stretched taut from inner ring to the smallest sprocket. I assured the Colossus that, unlike a normal bike, the precise and exceptional Teutonic engineering of the Garrulous Kid’s ride meant it would laugh off such abuses and, in fact, probably actively encouraged them.
“Ah,” he replied sagely, “Like his gear cable.”
Once again I found myself on the front, battling into the wind and trying to contain an utterly rampant Ovis. As we approached the Quarry, the BFG continued to complain about the pace and even started lamenting the controlling (i.e. slowing) absence of OGL.
We turned off toward the climb, following the road as it swung right and – for perhaps the first time all day – found we actually has a tailwind to help us along. Ovis forged up the Quarry Climb, while I just about hung onto his wheel and then pausing to allow everyone to regroup, he lined us out in a charge for the café.
I was sitting comfortably second wheel as the pace increased, but a low rumbling indicated a rapidly softening back tyre and I eased, sat up and waved everyone through, coasting to a halt beside the entrance to a field.
Sneaky Pete and then Carlton slowed to check on me as I set about changing the tube, but I had everything in hand and waved them on. I managed to fix the puncture with relative ease and trailed into the cafe, at least making it before the last of our group had been served.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
Mini Miss revealed that no matter what address she typed into her Sat-Nav it always plotted a route to Hull. She dismissed my suggestion that a higher authority was guiding her to attend the new messiah, although it seemed obvious to me the Sat-Nav was the modern equivalent of following a star.
Trying to find something positive to say about Hull (UK City of Culture, 2017) the best we could come up with was Teekay’s recollection of a fine Victorian public convenience there, which had massive in- built fish tanks lining the walls. We of course couldn’t help wonder what happened to the fish whenever someone flushed.
Talk about brakeless fixies somehow led to a discussion about driverless cars. I have to say I’ve yet to meet the cyclist who doesn’t think the roads will be a safer place once the erratic, irrational, impatient, conceited and occasionally aggressive and inept human driver is replaced by the cold calculation and logic of a computer.
While Teekay suggested one drawback of driverless cars was that mad drunken moment when you come out of the pub and think it would be a brilliant wheeze to tell your driveless vehicle to take you to France. He imagined waking up, hours later, horribly hungover and finding you’re parked in a ferry terminal somewhere in Dover.
Mini Miss was convinced she’d seen some advertising for a plugless electronic car and we imagined every house having a massive induction charging plate that not only cut off all your mobile communications, but could play havoc with a pacemaker. It was suggested that standing on it would be an ideal way to generate a new hairstyle – well, if you want to look like Albert Einstein on one of his bad hair days.
The BFG then reminisced about Muhammad Ali’s seemingly impromptu visit to South Shields in 1977 – an event that, despite its startling unlikelihood, I confess I couldn’t recall at all. Perhaps he had a faulty Sat-Nav too?
The group decided on a longer loop back home through Stamfordham, but I was on a schedule so decided to stick to our usual routine. I had Taffy Steve for company and at the last minute the Garrulous Kid decided to come with us, while for some unknown and unrelated reason, Sneaky Pete changed his mind and decided he’d like to go with the rest after all, so sneaked smartly away to try and tag onto the back.
It was a good ride home and I was able to catch up with Taffy Steve, fresh from his return from holidaying in Canada. In between times we became acquainted with the Garrulous Kid’s execrable taste in comedy and music and a deep, underlying streak of racism which had him suggesting all French are blue-eyed, blonde-haired, beret-wearing Aryans and all oriental people, be they Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Taiwanese all look exactly the same.
To top it all, for some reason after our conversation touched on Coldplay and Chris Martin, the Garrulous Kid had lots of questions for Taffy Steve about Martin’s Welsh wife. Apparently anyone called Gwyneth couldn’t be anything else but Welsh in the Garrulous Kid’s world.
Still at least mention of Miss Paltrow sparked a quite remarkable and unexpected conversational boon about vagina steaming – which I have to say is an unusual topic for a bike ride, even by our most eclectic and wayward standards.
YTD Totals: 5,005 km / 3,110 miles with 57,511 metres of climbing