Cold, but bright and mainly dry, it was another day when we could risk breaking out the summer bikes.
At the meeting point, James III was wrestling impotently with his gloves as he suffered that most annoying of complications, a liner that had become detached from each and every individual finger. Pushing, prodding and poking, he spent an age trying to coax each liner pocket back into its proper place, before trying on the gloves to find he was down to just three workable fingers. I suggested riding with both pinkies upraised might be considered good etiquette, but he wasn’t buying it and started poking violently around inside his gloves with his pump.
At one point in obvious frustration he hurled one of the gloves to the ground, just as Brasneck rolled up.
“He’s thrown down the gauntlet,” I explained, “Now you have to duel and if he wins, he’ll steal your gloves.”
It was two degrees above freezing and gloves were definitely needed. It was also precisely 1℃ warmer than it had been last week, so naturally, G-Dawg had reverted to wearing shorts …
“Anyway,” Brassneck continued, “There’s no need for that kind of reaction. I’m the bearer of good news.”
And he was too. Apparently, the road from Ponteland out to Dobbie’s garden centre (no relation) has been resurfaced and now is a delight to ride. This is certainly something to look forward to if the legs are hurting and I want to sneak away from the main group and start my solo ride home early.
Buster was the architect of today’s ride and apologised for it being “a bit boring”. Even more so when we realised that the road just before Ryal was still closed, so we had to cut off a little of the back end. To compensate he suggested we add on a bit of a detour after the cafe stop at Capheaton, taking the track down to Bolam Lake. I’m not convinced a route can be intrinsically boring anyway, but the slight detour would prove worthwhile and added a frisson of unexpected excitement and enjoyment, so was definitely a positive. Yes, I know, I’m easily pleased.
We had enough out for 3 groups, got the fast movers underway and then split the remainder equally. Well by headcount anyway. As it was I left with the last group that was 7-strong, but would rely on just 4 of us, Big Dunc, G-Dawg, Taffy Steve and me rotating off the front in the face of a surprisingly strong and persistent headwind. No wonder I was tired when we finally made it to the cafe.
At one point we almost caught the second group on the road, much to the amusement of Taffy Steve who noted they’d put Mini Miss and TripleD-El to work on the front, while all the blokes sat sheltering behind.
“Well, you can’t say we’re not an equal opportunities club,” I told him.
Through Stamfordham and out toward Matfen we lost OGL to a puncture -not a puncture- yes a puncture – maybe a puncture moment. I still have no idea what was going on, but he dropped off the back and relayed a message for us to just keep going as he was heading to Belsay cafe anyway.
A bit further along we also lost Sneaky Pete, who sneaked off to sample the delights of the cafe at Matfen.
Somewhere along the way Taffy Steve then suggested that he preferred windy days as they made the riding much more interesting and there was always the anticipation of a tailwind at some point during the ride. I wasn’t buying.
There was however a brief moment of relief as we turned off for the Quarry and for the first time all day swung away from the headwind, but it was back in time for the final steep ramp which, horror of horrors, G-Dawg assaulted in the inner ring. And pigs can fly and the Earth is flat too.
The same thing happened again on the last steep incline up to the cafe, just to prove it wasn’t a mistake and I (probably) wasn’t hallucinating. Is this the dawning of a new era?
They’re stepping up their game at the Capheaton cafe and have done away with the horrid disposable cups in favour of an eclectic collection of diverse and different mugs. Not only does this seem environmentally better, but somehow it seems perfectly apt for our club, which is itself an eclectic collection of diverse and different mugs.
They still provide the fastest service around too.
While the mugs are good and the service is great there was some minor disappointment for G-Dawg when he found out his favoured ham and pease pudding sandwich wasn’t available.
“Pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold, pease pudding in the pot, nine days old,” Big Dunc began chanting, while Taffy Steve described his absolute horror when first encountering pease pudding on his arrival in the North East.
It was a bit rich coming from a Welshman, I mean howay, laverbread anyone?
“I think this is officially now my favourite cafe stop,” Taffy Steve suggested as we sat down. This observation was only reinforced a few seconds later when the cheese savoury sandwich he had ordered arrived somewhat surprisingly accompanied by a full bag of crisps as … err… garnish?
He looked most happy.
He then relayed that, on the good authority of the Ticker, the River Tyne isn’t actually in a valley, but a canyon as it was largely formed by glaciation. While I agreed it sounded much more dramatic to say that you’ve climbed out of a canyon, my half-forgotten A-level Geography would suggest more of a U-shaped valley than a canyon.
Speaking of climbing, G-Dawg revealed he was indeed trialing the use of his inner ring on some of the more challenging climbs. This apparently is a work in progress and subject to future review.
Done with coffee and cake for another week, we dropped down from the cafe to the crossroads, where we took a left turn along a farm track where the surface was at least the equal of the road we would normally take.
This track brought us to a halt at a T-junction with the busy and dangerous A696 main road, where we paused.
“Straight across,” the Big Yin instructed.
“What into the field?” stuck right at the back behind all the bikes and bodies I couldn’t see what was ahead.
“Yep,” the Big Yin confirmed.
It wasn’t until we got moving again that I saw the farm track continued on the other side of the road. I was trying to follow, but one of the young racing snakes wasn’t budging, so had to manouvre around him.
“What’s up?” someone queried.
“Oh, I’ve punctured, so I’ve phoned home for a lift and I’ll just wait here.”
Ah. Oh. Ok.
It’s only a puncture ferfeckssake! Repair it and get moving again. I. Don’t. Understand?
We spilled out of the farm track onto the super-smooth road opposite Bolam Lake. Then a collective madness seemed to descend and the pace ratcheted up … and then up again … and then up again.
I could blame the super-smooth tarmac, or the fact for the first time today we now had an impelling tailwind, or maybe it was because most of us were on a summer-bike high. Maybe it was a caffeine and sugar rush so soon after the cafe, but, truth be told, I think we just found ourselves on the road that is typically a precursor to the cafe sprint into Belsay and instinct just kicked in.
“Ding, ding, ding! Cafe sprint round 2,” I called out as all hell broke loose.
Behind me TripleD-El kept shouting to slow things down as the group was splintered to pieces, but it was too late to try and put this particular genie back into the bottle. I accelerated and dropped down the gears and by the time I hit the rollers I was fully engulfed in the madness. I cut inside the Big Yin and launched myself into a yawning gap where Aether had just been jettisoned by a small and fast-moving front group.
I bridged across to Aether, then as the road started to climb again thrashed past him and resumed my madcap chase, thoroughly enjoying myself, totally immune to the chaos behind and grinning like a lunatic all the way.
I caught the front group just past Belsay, with Taffy Steve and Brassneck right behind me, then it was all in for a fast run all the way back. Now that was spectacularly enjoyable.
A boring route? I don’t think so.
|Day & Date:||Club ride, Saturday 9th April 2022|
|Riding Time:||4 hours 35 minutes|
|Riding Distance:||107km/66 miles with 967m of climbing|
|Group Size:||21 riders, 1 FNG|
|Weather in a word or two:||Brittle|
|Year to date:||1.162km/722 miles with 11,965m of climbing|