There’s the Rub

There’s the Rub

Into a new year we stumble and it’s back to the Saturday routine following two consecutive Monday rides during the holidays. The first of these would put a cap on my 2021 efforts in truly dire fashion as I appeared to bonk halfway around a 100km route, dropped off the back of the group and crawled the rest of the way home solo and most appropriately sur la jante.

This meant I also missed our annual pilgrimage to the cabin in the woods – the café at Bolam lake, which is perfectly servicable, reliably open when everything else is shuttered for the holidays, but for some reason, we seldom use if other choices are available.

The first Monday into the new year was much more successful, as we battled a strong headwind along the banks of the Tyne to the café at Bywell. Then, when everyone else had to turn north to climb out of the valley, I went rogue, crossed the bridge at Wylam and had a brilliantly fast, tailwind assisted and hugely enjoyable blast down the south bank of the river and home.

Although a somewhat shortened jaunt, at least it mean’t I had a few miles already banked for my first official club run of 2022.

Except …

Well, except the clubs affiliation to British Cycling has been actively suspended, so we can no longer have official club runs.

We first became aware of this when an eagle-eyed clubmate noticed our listing had abruptly disappeared from the BC website, but we had to wait three or four days before we got any sort of confirmation from the club hierarchy. (Is heirarchy an applicable term when all structures and governance are embodied in the whims of a single, solitary person?)

The official confirmation that the club’s affiliation to British Cycling had indeed been suspended came in the form of a terse, poorly worded and contradictory club communique which raised more questions than it answered, while suggesting the suspension was:

a). An utter shock that was unheralded and completely out of the blue with absolutely no hint of forewarning

b.) Totally and utterly unwarranted, and …

c.) Most importantly of all, somebody else’s fault entirely …

Call me cynical, but I’m not convinced by any of these points and this one is likely to run and run. Oh well, looks like we’re fully earning our subscriptions to the Chinese Curse (may you live in interesting times) to keep us entertained, although sometimes a bit of peace, calm and stability might be nice.

With no club run (ahem) to be planned, G-Dawg posted up a route just to let all his friends know where and when he intended to ride on Saturday and suggest that, if we should just happen to be on the exact same roads at the exact same time, well, that was pure coincidence wasn’t it…

There is, of course, nothing illegal about us riding as a group, it’s simply that this is no longer an official BC club run and as such we have no benefit from the blanket public liability insurance cover for club organised activities. (Or, at least that’s my very poor understanding of how things work, anyway.)

It wasn’t the best day for it either, cold, darkly overcast and with the threat of rain as an almost constant companion. I set off in darkness and swear 5-miles into my ride, it actually started to get darker. Then the rain bounced down, just enough to ensure I was suitably damp around the edges and ever so slightly uncomfortable.

I had to stop a few times to sort out my disapproving mudguards too, as their constant, censorious, tsk-tsk of my riding on every climb started to wear thin. I’ve no idea why mudguards that fitted perfectly last week should suddenly become an irritant. I guess that’s just the way it is.

I arrived at the meeting point to seek shelter in the dark recesses of the multi-storey car park, where we slowly assembled as a six-strong cohort. The weather didn’t seem that bad, so it was a fairly disappointing turnout, although perhaps people had been put off by Rainman’s prediction that violent thunderstorms would be sweeping the region just as we were due to set out. I’m still at a loss to work out where he picked up this idea from and, despite his blerg-moniker, he proved fantastically unreliable when it came to predicting levels of precipitation.

G-Dawg and Crazy Leg were on their fixies, Tri-Guy and me on single-speed bikes and Brassneck and Between were on normal road bikes. This was then perhaps the largest proportion of single-geared velocipedes on a club run in at least a quarter of a century and we estimated that between us we probably only had an average of just 8 gears each to choose from. Oh, wait, it wasn’t a club run at all. Scrub that.

Tri-Guy (it turns out he isn’t a triathlete at all, but a gravel biker) had managed to find some ice on a cycle path on the way across and had slid out. He reported there was no damage done, but he’d managed to plant his mitt in an icy puddle on his way down and his glove was now completely soaked through. It sounded innocuous at the time, but would result in having one seriously cold hand throughout the ride, like Michael Jackson asked to scrape a car windscreen, and he would eventually skip the café stop to head straight home to defrost (once he finally worked out exactly where the hell we had taken him and how to get back).

Crazy Legs declared he was grappling with last night’s curry and was in danger of losing and “doing a Dumoulin”, so set out for a solo ride which included a brief detour home, agreeing to meet up with us again at Kirkley café. The remaining 5 of us set out and just so happened to choose the exact same roads at the exact same time. What a coincidence.

At the top of Berwick Hill and with no sign of ice, we decided to risk at least part of the original route and take the lane through Kirkley Mill and out. Brassneck politely ushered me to the front for the descent as a sort of early warning device, relying on my penchant for finding errant patches of ice and reasoning if he saw me fall over he’d have plenty of time to stop or take evasive action. Charming.

We did find the odd rime of ice lurking in the gutters at the side of the road, which was not enough to cause any problems, but sufficient for us to skip the section planned for the shady lanes around Shilvington.

As we had passed through Kirkley on our outbound leg I’d glanced across at the rather gloomy, still dark horizon and asked G-Dawg if he knew what time sunrise was meant to be today.

It was meant as a rhetorical question, but, as we headed back an hour or so later the sun briefly broke cover to reveal itself skimming along, low on the horizon.

“Aha! There’s your sunrise,” G-Dawg exclaimed.

It seemed like it too, at 11.30 only three and a half hours later than scheduled. Still, I had to do a hard double-take just to convince myself that I wasn’t actually seeing a premature sunset, as our nearest star just didn’t seem to have the energy to clamber any higher into the sky and it was still pretty gloomy.

We eventually made it to the café at Kirkley, where we lost Tri-Guy to his frozen digits, but picked up a now substantially lighter Crazy Legs who’d enjoyed on his own solo ride. He went for the popular Mint Aero traybake as a reward and was gifted with a hugely massive, thick slab of doubly-delicious empty calories that buckled his paper plate as he tried to pick it up.

“That looks more like a block of pavé rather than something you’d want to ingest,” I suggested and Crazy Legs hauled it up triumphantly for all to see, posing as proud and content as Tom Boonen celebrating his fourth Paris-Roubaix win by kissing yet another hunk of stett.

We stepped over a large pooch sprawled bonelessly across the floor and to claim a table in the corner where, for some reason the talk turned to odd names. Crazy Legs was pleased I could confirm that he’d once worked with a guy called Robert Sherunkel (Mrs. SLJ used to be employed in the same organisation) while Brassneck contributed a colleague called Helmut Klingor. Luckily Taffy Steve wasn’t there, or we’d have had to include NASCAR driver, Dick Trickle in the conversation too.

We also had some thoughts about the prospects of meaningful change in the club and whether British Cycling’s sanctions would have any effect. I think we were all just as realistic as we were hopeful. Time will tell.

And then, it was time to leave, but … hold on … what was this? Crazy Legs couldn’t finish off his block of pavé? He’s obviously not a proper cyclist. He quietly folded the plate around blocky remains, ostensibly to keep it away from the dog stretched out snoring and completely uninterested beside us, but really just to conceal his inadequacy as a cyclist.

We then had a conversation about the bizarre things our canine friends will eat (G-Dawgs apparently have a very weird penchant for fox scat) while I wondered when chocolate had suddenly become such deadly poison to dogs. I remember my aunt and uncle had a dog that was seriously addicted to KitKats, but always seemed in remarkably rude health, so I remain confused.

We left the café with no clear answers about anything, other than the fact that, someplace, somewhere, Bob Sherunkle’s parents were probably still chuckling quietly to themselves.

I indicated I was heading home via Ponteland and the rest decided to join me for a change of route, so I had company as far as my turn at Twin Farms before I struck out for home alone. Not a bad not-a-club-run after all.

[Update: With the entirety of the rest of the household succumbing to the COVID-19 virus across the past fortnight, the inevitable has finally happened and I’ve just tested positive and embarked on my own period of splendid isolation. This obviously rules out club runs (of both the official and non-official variety) in the near future and pretty much writes off the whole of January for me. Oh well. Later.]


Day & Date:Non-club ride, Saturday 8th January 2022
Riding Time:94km/58 miles with 883m of climbing
Riding Distance:3 hours 59 minutes
Average Speed:23.6km/h
Group Size:6 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:3℃
Weather in a word or two:Darkling day-oh
Year to Date:172km/107 miles with 1,774m of climbing

My COVID-themed Jenga Game takes shape.

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