Club Run, Saturday 19th October, 2019
|Total Distance:||104 km/65 miles with 1,064 m of climbing|
|Riding Time:||4 hours 13 minutes|
|Group Size:||21 riders, 1 FNG|
|Weather in a word or two:||OK. OK. OK. Rain.|
The weather forecast said rain and the traditional milestone of the hill climb has now been passed, all of which suggested it was time to break out the winter bike until the glorious rebirth of carbon next Spring.
In preparation for this day, the Peugeot had undergone a full service, new headset, bottom bracket, chain ring, chain, cassette, cables and tyres. Phew. It seemed good to go. I pulled it out of the shed and went back in to fetch a water bottle. As I stepped back outside, the rear tyre gave out a wet, flatulent guff and the back of the bike sank slowly and gracefully to the ground. Was it something I said?
Not a great start, but at least it happened outside my front door and not halfway down the hill. I worked to replace the tube in the comfort and warmth of the dining room, finally leaving, but now almost twenty minutes behind schedule.
Needing to shorten my route, I once more took to the muddy trails and bike paths that can, if you navigate them right, take you right up to the foot of the nearest bridge, without ever having to tangle with the busy dual-carriageways that make up the more standard approach.
Notice, I mentioned if you navigate them right. I think I’ve tried this on maybe three or four occasions and every time I’ve ended up in a slightly different place. Today was no different and somehow the trail spat me out on the fringes of that monument to Mammon, the Metrocentre shopping centre. I didn’t have the time or the will to backtrack, so took to the dual-carriageway at this point for the short hop to the bridge.
Luckily, it was still early and the roads were relatively car free. I made it across the river and picked up the pace to arrive at the meeting point more or less at the usual time.
Main topics of conversation at the meeting place:
Expecting a smaller than usual turnout, with a contingent off for some mountain-biking in the Kielder forest, I was surprised when Crazy Legs turned up, expecting him to be one of the key protagonists for some fat-tyre fun.
“I’ve torn something in my groin,” he explained.
“A guh-guh-guh-roin injury?”
His pronouncement had immediately caused flashbacks to the Cheers episode, where Sam as TV-sports pundit tried his hand at rapping … “Time to rap about a controversy…Gonna take a stand, won’t show no mer-cy… Lotta folks says jocks shouldn’t be…doing the sports news on TV…I don’t wanna hear the latest scores…from a bunch broadcast school boys…So get your scores from a guy like me…who knows what it’s like to have a guh-roin injury….Guh-guh-guh-roin, guh-guh-guh-roin injury.”
“Hmm, was this caused by some exotic, over-energetic, sexual misadventures?” I mused.
Apparently not, Crazy Legs explained it was actually the result of an incredible lightness of well-being – plagued by a (very) long-standing chest infection, he had just finished a course of antibiotics that left his lungs and airways uncharacteristically free of any breathing impediment. Buoyed by this startling feeling, Crazy Legs had decided to give the last half a mile of a ride home “the full welly” at maximum warp. The lungs had held up well, but the rest of his body decided to rebel instead.
Now he had no choice but to take things easy. “I won’t just be the slow group,” he confirmed, “I’ll be the ultra-slow group.”
“OK, the Ultra’s it is then,” I acknowledged, which cheered him up no end as the Ultra’s sounded much, much cooler than the Ultra Slow Group.
As an alternative to the main ride and the Ultra’s ride, Sneaky Pete had hatched a sneaky plan to hold a meeting of the Flat White Club targeted on the Gubeon cafe. This, Crazy Legs affirmed, would also be a good destination for the Ultra’s too.
Wincing and hobbling across to perch gingerly on the wall, the Crazy Legs wince deepened into a concerned scowl when the Cow Ranger rolled up on a Ribble he’d decided to convert to a winter bike. Identical to the much cossetted Ribble, this particular model had (in the eyes of Crazy Legs) been sacrilegiously yoked to full mudguards and heavy winter tyres, with the intent on riding it even when the weather wasn’t completely perfect.
Worse was to come, as the Cow Ranger determined he’d got a slow puncture in the front tyre. He took the wheel out, then bodily lifted the bike overhead and hauled it over the wall and out of the way.
“I thought you were just going to dump it in the bin there,” OGL quipped.
Everyone laughed. Well, everyone except for Crazy Legs, who just scowled with a face like thunder and told anyone who’d listen that he wasn’t happy …
Plumose Pappus reported that he’s already miserably failed in an attempt to be amongst the worlds most qualified unemployed, having just secured a job with the local NHS Trust. He’d even been out the night before to celebrate, discovering an unexpected love of karaoke and apparently finding his pièce de résistance in a full-throated rendition of The Proclaimers “500 miles“.
Once the Cow Ranger’s new winter bike was restored to working order, we were ready to go. I just had the chance to wonder how he could possibly cope with a bike that didn’t keep dropping its chain, when we were off, heading toward the lights and waiting for them to release us out onto the roads.
As we rotated in and out of the line, I had a chat with Sneaky Pete about Venetian detectives, French cop-shows and the possible casting of Tom Hanks as a grumpy Swedish man called Ove.
I then found myself alongside the Hammer, only riding with us for a while, as he’d promised to take his 13-year old daughter on the People’s March in Newcastle, where she was looking forward to heckling Brexiteers. I was just advising him not to treat her to a milkshake, when his chain started clunking and clanking.
“I’m going to stop to sort this out,” he told me, “just keep going.”
He slipped to the side and drifted back and, as instructed, we just kept going. Well, we did, until someone shouted “mechanical!” a sort of over-dramatic, premature ejaculation, if you will.
The pace instantly dissipated as the front pair eased uncertainly and we began to bunch up and fill out the lane on a dangerous stretch of road near the airport. This led to more unintelligible shouting and bellowing, with OGL and Taffy Steve becoming involved in an unseemly spat.
We found a safe place to pull over for a bit more kvetching and bitching and a shouty-sweary, handbags-at-ten-paces, sort of clamour, even as the Hammer sailed serenely past, brief mechanical almost instantly sorted.
Oh well …
Dropping down from Dinnington, the Cow Ranger determined things just weren’t right with his bike and decided to abort his ride. No doubt this secretly pleased Crazy Legs, who was probably convinced the Ribble had rebelled at the utter indignity of being treated as a winter bike and simply decided to stop working in protest.
Past the Cheese Farm, up Bells Hill and into Tranwell Woods we went, at which point, Aether had inserted one of his patented “there and back again” Twizzel Twists into our route. Biden Fecht flung out his arm to indicate we were turning left and almost smacked his riding companion in the face.
Dear me, we were a fractious lot today.
We rolled round the corner, found a lay-by and called a pee stop. Carlton enquired after Crazy Legs’ injury and wondered how he’d hurt himself. I assured him it wasn’t a result of any “carnal gymnastics” – a phrase he seemed to take such delight in, I invited him to use it as often as liked and suggested he should even consider building it into his c.v.
Under way again, the young FNG, Sid, pushed onto the front and was left dangling there, with all the grizzled vets queued up in the shelter of his rear wheel.
I eventually took pity on him and pushed up alongside him on the front, until the climb up to Dyke Neuk, where I let myself slide to the back. Once there we hung around, chatting about nothing in particular, while re-buffing Aether’s earnest attempts to get us moving again.
He finally prevailed and off went, the indefatigable Sid still on the front, but this time alongside Biden Fecht. I found myself riding with Plumose Pappus, ardently keen to convert me to his new-found love of all things karaoke. He even replayed last night’s highlight, his resolute rendition of The Proclaimers “500 Miles” complete with authentic accent, well … it would have been authentic, if The Proclaimers happened to be Irish and hailed from Dublin.
From there, the conversation took an unexpected turn to cover popular artists who all became a bit too self-importantly pompous and wont to disappear up their own rissoles. My prime example was Bono, who once booked his hat a $1,700 first-class seat on a trans-Atlantic flight. I assume Bono accompanied said hat on its trip, but who knows …
Plumose Pappus wondered if Sting belonged in this particular group, before wondering where Sting was now.
“Is he even still alive?” Plumose Pappus pondered.
“Ah, sort of death, where art thou Sting?” I queried, drawing a blank from Plumose Pappus, but a wry chuckle from Biden Fecht. To be fair, I think that was a cheap laugh, as even the most tenuous allusion to John Donne is likely to meet with the approval of our Professor of Renaissance Literature and Culture, Biden Fecht.
I followed up by explaining the last time I’d heard of Sting he was, somewhat preposterously singing about TWOC’ing cars in a Paris suburb, in duet with slinky French siren, Mylene Farmer.
Plumose Pappus then revealed that his mother had actually had some kind of close physical encounter with Sting, back in the day, which (I felt) I was able to top with my experience of peeing in the same urinal as AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson.
This inevitably led to some excited follow-up questions – (Oh OK, perhaps, it was more a feeling of dear-lord-what-is-he-on about-we’d-better-indulge-him, rather than actually excited.)
“The same urinal? At the same time?”
Well, it was technically a trough, so yes …
“Did you talk to him?”
I’m a bloke, standing peeing in a public toilet. What do you think?
“Was he wearing his cap?”
Obviously … but I don’t know if it had its own seat.
“Where was this?”
Lobley Hill Social Club.
“What was Brian Johnson, multi-millionaire, lead singer of mega rock band AC/DC doing in Lobley Hill Social Club?”
That I didn’t know – perhaps he was there for the Bingo?
I found myself at the back of the group as we closed on Middleton Bank. I managed to pass a few stragglers as we went up, but my legs suddenly felt weak and empty.
“I’m too old for this,” I gasped as I drew alongside Aether. He didn’t disagree. How rude.
Over the top, I gave chase to the front group, even though I already suspected I was never going to close the gap.
I did catch the young, indefatigable Sid on the approach to the Rollers, however, as he finally showed he was actually fatigable and we pushed on to the cafe together.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop
Aether learned that Mr. Boom was actually called Danny and sparked a table-wide rendition of Danny Boy.
“Oh Danny boy, the pipes the pipes are calling,
From glen to glen and down the mountain side …”
For some bizarre reason, this prompted Biden Fecht to try remembering a song about a mouse that nobody else recognised. Did he mean Em-I-See-Kay-Ee-Why-Em-Oh-You-Ess-Ee?
I saw a mouse?
No – but this did prompt him into song, although I had to pull him up when what he started warbling was prime Barrington Levy …
Shoodilley-wop, shoodilley-woop, ooh woh ooh,
Eeh-ooh, eeh-ooh, Ooh-eeh-ooh,
Rather than the you-n-eek, Eek …
A wa do dem? A wa do dem dem dem?
A wa do dem? A wa do dem dem dem?
And me nuh know, and me nuh kno-o-ow
Me nuh know, and me nuh kno-o-ow
Honestly, you’d think a professor of renaissance literature would have a better understanding of the distinction between singjay and ragga reggae…
I had a further chat with Plumose Pappus on the way home. Now gainfully employed, he was looking forward to getting married, starting a family, crippling himself with a massive, unaffordable mortgage and the first signs of male pattern baldness, all before the end of the year.
I began to wonder if he wasn’t more mayfly than thistledown.
We contrasted his seemingly heavily-strictured, pre-ordained and homogenised life path, with that of our ex-companion and his near contemporary, Yoshi, who, in his latest adventure had travelled to Shanghai to pick up a new Giant bike, that he was now riding home, documenting his journey in a video-diary.
Undoubtedly an adventurous, profoundly life-changing and exciting experience though this is – and one Plumose Pappus suspected his mother might heartily encourage him to take on – we agreed that neither of us were cut out for such extreme stuff, while wondering what Yoshi could possible find to do next that wouldn’t seem impossibly dull and restricting.
As we entered the Mad Mile the rain started and once I’d struck out on my own, I stopped to pull on a rain jacket, suspecting that as soon as I did so the rain would stop.
Naturally it did, but it was only a temporary pause and as I was crossing the river, it came back with a vengeance.
Unusually, climbing Heinous Hill, I found myself in the company of another cyclist closing in on home. We had a brief chat as we toiled breathlessly upward, though, to be fair it wasn’t really the time, or the place to be sociable.
Still, it’s good to know I’m not the only bike in the village. Or something.
YTD Totals: 6,478 km / 4,025 miles with 85,188 metres of climbing