Club Run, Saturday 14th April, 2018
My Ride (according to Strava)
Total Distance: 115 km / 71 miles with 1,100 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 16 minutes
Average Speed: 26.9 km/h
Group size: 23 riders, 1 FNG
Weather in a word or two: Good. Or, maybe just better
Blue skies, blooming daffodils and temperatures slowly creeping toward comfortable? This was enough to ensure the first daring exposure of bare legs this year, or at least the two or three pallid inches in the place between where knee warmers end and socks begin.
It even seemed pleasant enough for me to finally break out and strap on my Christmas present too, a new pair of Gaerne cycling slippers in a fetching and subtly understated shade of red. (Well, to my mind, anyway.)
Then, with jacket swapped for a lighter jersey and a pair of arm warmers, I was set and good to go.
As I dropped down the Heinous Hill I passed a gaggle (bunch? peloton? chain?) of cyclists clustered around the turn-off for the Pedalling Squares café. Either they’d arranged some sort of mass ride with a very early start, or these were bargain hunters who’d queued overnight to grab the best deals in some kind of up and coming café-bake sale. Cyclists being cyclists, and notoriously likely to queue for up to 8 hours for just a hint of discounted flapjacks and coffee, I simply couldn’t discount the latter.
There was a goodly smattering of rain jackets on display amongst the group. Fools! I cackled maniacally to myself – didn’t they know it was officially summer and there’d be no turning back now.
Caught by the lights at the end of the bridge, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet and still it was, as if the world was ever so slightly holding its breath. Birdsong was rising and falling along the hedgerows, a weasel scuttled across the road, I could occasionally hear the whine of a distant still saw and the wires overhead were buzzing gently. Such a weird pastoral-urban amalgam.
Just before the lights changed, I was joined by another rider and in a quick exchange learned she was riding up to take part in a local time-trial. It looked like being the perfect weather for the event, I wished her luck, hoped she enjoyed it and then we were crossing the river and going our separate ways.
Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:
I arrived at the meeting point to find the Garrulous Kid, the sleeves of his winter jacket rolled up past his elbows while his illuminous gloves flapped around at the ends of his spindly arms – “All the better to point out the potholes,” he claimed.
“Which isn’t really much use when you spend all your time lurking at the back,” G-Dawg countered.
To much cheering, we had our first sighting of a lesser-spotted Grover, who now rolled up for his inaugural 2018 club ride. Like hearing the first cuckoo of spring, this was a watershed moment, reassuring us all that the worst of winter has passed and better weather is finally on its way.
This led to speculation about when Szell was likely to emerge from his winter hibernation. We felt we still have a few weeks more before he drags himself from his torpor and returns with his unique machine-gun rattle of single-entendres, personal crusade against all wasp-kind and continuous bitching and kvetching about how unfit he is compared to everyone else.
“He’s a decent rider,” the Garrulous Kid argued.
“Yeah, by the time we get to September,” someone countered.
The Colossus suggested he didn’t actually like it when Szell reappeared, as it’s an early portent that our summer days are already numbered and winter’s on its way!
The Garrulous Kid declared that the Monkey Butler Boy had a new pair of cycling shoes that were not only whiter than white, but somehow whiter than the Colossus’s very white shoes.
How does that work then?
I wondered if they might not be a whiter shade of pale, but not before having a quick glance around to make sure that neither Biden Fecht, nor Crazy Legs were within earshot, just in case we set them off on a truly unfortunate prog-rock song cycle.
The Garrulous Kid asserted that, not only were the Monkey Butler Boys new shoes the whitest-white possible, but he would also reveal his secret weapon in a Canute-style, futile battle to keep them in perfect, gleaming and pristine condition.
We looked up to find the Monkey Butler Boy himself, “coming in hot” and attempting a flashy bunny hop onto the pavement, only to misjudge things horribly and crack his rear wheel off the edge of the kerb with a noise like a pistol shot.
Checking there was no visible damage, he shrugged nonchalantly and announced he was getting a new bike anyway next week, so wasn’t all that bothered. I’m not so sure the Red Max would agree as he’s set to inherit the Monkey Butler Boy’s current ride and would obviously prefer it not to have been tested to destruction.
We learned the Monkey Butler Boy’s new bike would be arriving at the depot on Tuesday and he intended to be there for the birth. The Colossus prepared him for a long and frustrating wait, similar to his own experiences staying in to wait for DHL parcels. He contends he can see the DHL warehouse from his bedroom window, but whenever he tracks an imminent delivery, he spends hours watching a blip on the computer screen circumnavigate the entirety of the North East, before it finally arrives at his front door, the very last stop on a hugely attenuated route.
It turned out that the Monkey Butler Boy was indeed sporting a new pair of “fresh sneaks” (thank you Thing#1 for the sudden injection of street-cred to this otherwise pedestrian and sadly dated blerg) in the form of very white, brand spanking new fiz’i:k shoes. As promised, the Monkey Butler Boy also revealed his secret weapon in the war to keep them that way – a packet of baby wipes shoved deep into his back pocket.
With time approaching for our grand depart, G-Dawg spent some time anxiously looking round for Richard of Flanders, our route planner and leader for the day who appeared conspicuous by his absence. Then, the throng hushed and parted like the Red Sea and Richard of Flanders bestrode the pavement in all his glory.
He leaped nimbly up onto his pulpit-come-wall and formally introduced himself to his congregation, before outlining the route for the day. Then, after some consultation with his inner voices (and G-Dawg) he declared we would verily split into two distinct bands of acolytes for our weekly pilgrimage out into the wilderness.
I joined up with the first group and we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.
Things were going well until we hit the road through Dinnington, which local conspiracy theorists laughably assert was the location chosen by NASA to fake the Moon landings. This is obviously arrant nonsense, as no lunar landscape has ever looked so bleak, so desolate and quite so disturbingly … well … alien, as the road through Dinnington.
While weaving and dodging through this week’s collection of new craters, crevasse’s, fissures, potholes, cracks and divots, my whole bike started to shake with such force that my bottle decided it was safer to bail out and I ended up swinging out of line so I could back-track and retrieve it.
I waved the group through and turned around, finding Rab Dee standing protectively over my errant bottle, trying to direct the traffic away from splattering its contents across the road. I recouped and made to regroup, as we started to chase back on, rounding the corner to find everyone pulled up in front of the shops. We don’t usually stop when people jettison bits and pieces from their bikes – I almost felt honoured …
Rab Dee waved at them to start riding again and we’d drop onto the back, but no one moved. We swept by, ready to take up position on the front, but no one moved. We slowed and looked back. No one moved. We slowed some more, still nothing. We came almost to a halt, balancing in a near track-stand and looking back. No one moved. Finally, we pulled over to the side of the rode and unclipped. We looked back again. Nope, we weren’t wrong – no one moved.
Our second group passed us, along with numerous other cyclists in bunches both large and small. It seemed everyone was out enjoying the improving weather.
After chatting for a couple of minutes, we rode back to our group, where we found Caracol had hit a pot and punctured and they were busy making repairs.
“He was trying to avoid a dropped bottle,” someone told me.
“Good, as long as he didn’t hit it.”
As we waited, Taffy Steve reflected on how he often confused Castelli and
Caerphilly Llanelli and we wondered if a high-end, premium cycle wear was ever destined to be manufactured in the Valleys.
We finally got underway again, just in time to have our eardrums furiously assaulted by a boy racer, whose car thrashed past with a high-pitched shriek, like ten thousand cats having their tails force-fed into a blender.
I’m at a loss to see any merit in such a tortured, piercing, discordant and unattractive racket. I can see how some people are attracted to say the highly reminiscent drone of a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, or the powerful throb of a Harley-Davidson, but the “car engine on the very edge of disintegrating” sound is miles away from these, its sole purpose seems to be decidedly anti-social and simply to disturb and annoy.
I found myself riding with the Monkey Butler Boy, who loudly cursed every patch of mud and puddle strewn across our route. He soon ran out of baby wipes and resorted to spit and much rubbing of fingers to try and keep his shoes utterly spotless. So vigorous and frequent were his cleaning ministrations that I had to warn him he was in danger of dehydration.
At one point, faced with a road spanning puddle, he simply uncleated and raised his feet above the handlebars and out of danger. This seemed to save the shoes, but startled a girl riding past in the other direction who was unprepared for such extreme manoeuvres and must have wondered what the hell was going on.
As we approached the Ryals, the Monkey Butler Boy and Garrulous Kid struck up a Faustian pact to ride down to the bottom and then, immediately turn around and ride back up again. Zardoz declared he only had party legs today, and took the turn off to the Quarry with a few others. The rest of us went piling down the Ryals, to pass through Steel Rigg and around Hallington Reservoir, before pinning our ears back for the burn to the café.
We kept the pace relatively sedate until turning onto the road down to the Snake Bends, where early attacks from Taffy Steve and the Big Yin were quickly snuffed out. Then G-Dawg accelerated down the outside with the Colossus firmly planted on his wheel and I followed, just for fun. As the road levelled and straightened, the Colossus accelerated away. Biden Fecht clawed his way across the gap and I latched onto him.
Biden Fecht fought to come to turns with the Colossus, but every time he started to draw level, the Colossus simply pushed a tiny bit harder. Realising this just wasn’t going to be his day, Biden Fecht hesitated almost imperceptibly. It was enough and I darted through on the inside, while Taffy Steve swept over the top.
Through the Snake Bends and onto the road and yet again we cast tradition aside, as the Big Yin rode off the front. We resisted as long as we possibly could, before finally succumbing and giving chase, just managing to hunt him down amidst a little too much traffic for comfort. We really do need to let it go … but, we seemingly can’t.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
In the queue we sympathised with Biden Fecht, who concluded that the Colossus had been toying with him, sprinting just slow enough to keep you interested, while in reality he had plenty in reserve and you had no chance of actually catching him.
We determined the weather was just about good enough to sit outside in the garden and on the way out, passed the Monkey Butler Boy in stockinged feet, reverentially carrying his slightly mud-speckled shoes toward the toilets to clean them in the sink.
We’d been sitting, enjoying the peace and quiet of the garden for a while, when the Garrulous Kid suddenly appeared, having lost his previous seat in the café. This had apparently, been usurped by his companions for a late arriving OGL. I wondered if the Garrulous Kids appreciated how low his reputation had sunk, with people preferring to listen to OGL’s hoary and oft-repeated fables, rather than the Kid’s butterfly-mind, verbal pinball meanderings and stream of obtuse, unrelated pronouncements.
Now the Garrulous Kid seemed obsessed with the marks and streaks appearing on his illuminous gloves and we concluded he’d spent too long in the company of the Monkey Butler Boy. Someone suggested he could probably wipe his gloves clean on a certain new pair of very white fiz’i:k shoes.
We then wondered what would happen if gloves and shoes were accidently placed in a washing machine together, before concluding that the funniest thing would be if the shoes were inadvertently washed along with one of the Red Max’s rogue, red socks and came out a nice shade of pink.
In a startling revelation and for a reason I can no longer recall, Taffy Steve declared that if he had to be a woman, he would be Beyoncé. No one argued.
While we struggled mightily to picture Taffy Steve as Beyoncé, the next task proved to be beyond even our most creative, fanciful and fantastically fevered imaginings, when someone pondered what a gang formed by the Garrulous Kid might be like.
A pleasant ride back was punctuated by further evasive manoeuvring from the Monkey Butler Boy as he tried to keep his shoes clean, including more unclipping to lift his feet high as he sailed through puddles. The trick here was finding the Goldilocks speed – too fast and the spray kicked up by the wheels would catch his shoes anyway, too slow and he ran the risk of losing all momentum and falling off.
I had a chat with the Red Max and learned he was somehow intent on blaming me for the Monkey Butler Boy’s inappropriate sartorial choices. I’m not sure what role he thinks I played, but I strenuously denied any responsibility.
Then I was swinging away for home, intent of squeezing as much enjoyment out of the ride as possible. I’ll miss next week’s ride for a tour of university accommodations, which typically coincides with a forecast, mini-heatwave and the best riding conditions of the year to date. Typical.
YTD Totals: 2,148 km / 1,335 miles with 24,533 metres of climbing