No Honky Ride!

No Honky Ride!

This week we found ourselves dancing around the remnants of Storm Otto for a bit of added attrition. This was most obviously manifest in turning the Tyne Valley into a ferocious wind tunnel that had me longing for the now seemingly benign buffeting headwinds I’d complained about just last week. Even finally escaping this grind, I was certain the wind would be making life just that extra bit more difficult for anyone trying to push on the front of a group, so a good day to shelter in the pack.

For the second week in a row there was a bustle of activity around the river and this time much more of it. A parked up coach from the University of Bath suggested some kind of major, national BUCS rowing event was about to get underway and the sides of the road were already stacked with cars. Once again the boats would have a great tailwind to help them along – if that’s a thing in rowing?

Even more similarities to last week came with a route that once again took in the unholy combination of the Mur de Mitford and a ride across the valley top before plunging down to climb out of the Trench. This time around though the cafe of choice was to be Belsay, so we’d have Middleton Bank to cap off the climbing effort too. My legs were tired just thinking about it.

At the meeting point Not Anthony was the only rider there when I arrived. Not Anthony was Not Happy, realising he’d turned up much too early, before admitting he had no one else to blame but himself as, not only is he the clubs elected Most Improved Rider, but also a master of his own manifest destiny.

Or is he …

Crazy Legs arrived already infected with a dangerous ear-worm, the theme to the children’s TV-series, Here Come the Double Deckers. This early-70’s production ran for only 17 episodes, but I would have guessed there were many, many more, probably as it was one of a handful of programmes that were repeated ad nauseum throughout every single one of my school holidays for over a decade. The others, a real curate’s egg of popular entertainment, were The Banana Splits, The Flashing Blade (recently featured in this very blerg), Belle and Sebastien, Robinson Crusoe and White Horses.

Crazy Legs had become aurally infected when attempting a YouTube quiz to identify kids TV programmes by their theme tune, something he claimed to be very good at, until he’d drawn a blank with The Poddington Peas – quote: “WTF are The Poddington Peas?”

As well as being suitably ropey and having a dangerously addictive theme tune, the Double Deckers is perhaps best known for launching the careers of actor Peter Firth (Spooks, Polanski’s Tess) and Brinsley Forde, singer with Aswad, or Ass-Wad as they were unfortunately known at my school. I would later have a conversation with Crazy Legs about dub pirate radio stations and whether Aswad sold-out their radical reggae roots with their hit “Don’t Turn Around.” I don’t think we reached a conclusion one way or the other.

Apart from giving voice to dodgy theme songs from bad TV shows, Crazy Legs was hopeful for a chill, relaxed ride with no hassle from aggressive motorists leaning on their car horns to abuse us.

“A no honky ride?” the Cow Ranger suggested hopefully, while we quickly backed off from his somewhat unfortunate choice of words, as the spectre of even more naff 70’s TV, this time in the form of the execrable Love Thy Neighbour, stirred uneasily.

“To your right, to your right,” Crazy Legs urged. I turned just in time to catch what has become a very solid fixture within our Saturday morning routine, the quite stately procession past us of a guy bolt upright on a mountain bike and placidly rolling a big gear. For the past 4 or 5 months he’s been ever-present, always dressed in trainers, T-shirt and gym shorts regardless of the weather, or the temperature and appearing around 9:10 every single Saturday to cruise serenely and unhurriedly past us with a palpable air of casual, yet impenetrable contentment.

His regularity and unhurried insouciance have led to us projecting all sorts of fantastic explanations onto his appearance and demeanour, the most colourful of which has him having just rolled out of his mistress’s bed in order to be home before his unsuspecting family wake to discover his absence. Despite our best conjecture he remains thoroughly and inscrutably enigmatic.

Almost as regular as our enigma is the precise arrival of Carlton, always timed to exactly 9:15. But not this week. He’s so predictable in his time-keeping that at just 16 minutes past and with still no sign, our metronomic companion was declared missing. AWOL?

“Did you sign him off for this week?” Crazy Legs demanded.

“No, only Brassneck,” I confirmed.

Ooph, he’s in trouble.

Goose was our ride leader and route architect for the week. He briefed us all and received a round of muffled applause, not because his maiden effort wasn’t whole-heartedly appreciated, but simply because it was cold enough for everyone to still be wearing thick gloves. Then the real challenge began, as we tried to split the 17 gathered riders into two more-or-less equal groups.

Having difficulty getting enough bodies into the front group, Crazy Legs tried a bit of cajoling, suggesting Not Anthony most definitely belonged up there, especially now he was officially the bearer of clubs most improved rider award. I may just have added a teeny little bit of encouragement too, suggesting he’d be perfectly fine in their company, he was strong enough and fast enough and had nothing to worry about. Finally he gaving in to the pressure, or maybe just to get away from our nagging, he bumped down the kerb to bolster the number in the front group.

Just as we were about to leave, Taffy Steve rolled up with what I suggested was either very good timing, straight out-and-at-it, with no hanging around, or perfectly horrible timing if he was hoping to ‘accidentally’ miss us and was looking forward to a pleasant, unhurried solo ride. As he slotted in, I took to the front with Crazy Legs and led out.

The first turn had us struggling into a pronounced headwind, that only became stronger as we hit the wide open expanse around the old Sage offices. Out onto the new road running parallel to Brunton Lane and we were fully exposed and grinding horribly at what felt barely above walking pace. Crazy Legs would complain he simply never recovered from this full-on, horribly debilitating early effort. Maybe he had a point, my whole ride from this point seemed to be accompanied by tired legs.

We wanted to relinquish the front just past Dinnington, but the traffic didn’t allow us the space, so we took the group through to Horton Grange, where the quieter lanes finally provided the opportunity to slip back to try to find shelter amongst the wheels and hopefully recover.

Somewhere along the way I had a brief chat with Taffy Steve, fresh from a minor cameo on Jeremy Clarkson’s Farm, and convinced the Danes had deliberately named the latest storm as Otto just so they could cackle with glee whenever Geordie forecasters talked about the dangers of Storm Ott-oohw.

The Mur was the Mur, just an out of the saddle grind while trying to keep enough weight aft to stop the rear wheel slipping on the slimy surface. Everything felt harder than last week. Perhaps I wasn’t alone in this impression as, at the junction, Crazy Legs outlined our options to either follow the planned route with more climbing on draggy, rolling terrain, or drop down into the Wansbeck Valley and make our way straight to the bottom of the Trench.

We didn’t even make a pretence of considering the options, before deciding with indecorous haste the latter choice was probably best.

“Hah!,” Crazy Legs snorted, “I didn’t have to push very hard on that particular door.”

We should be ashamed.

We weren’t.

The Wansbeck Valleys was almost as effective a wind tunnel as the Tyne Valley, but we had the two strongest riders in Captain Black and Ovis on front and they did a sterling job to push us through to Netherwitton and the bottom of the Trench, where it was everyman (and woman) for themselves with a general regrouping at the top.

By the time we crested Middleton Bank I really was “proper tired” although I don’t understand how you can be improperly tired? Nonetheless I pushed onto the front alongside Ovis for the final run in. He was experiencing the new, super-smooth road surface around Bolam lake for the first time and suggested we have a club run that just shuttled back and forth on this single strip of plush tarmac.

Onto the rollers and I accelerated up and over because, well, because I always do. I almost managed to keep the momentum going over the last hump, but not quite, though I did manage to latch onto Ovis’s back wheel as we started up the final climb. Around the last corner he simply rode away from me and I had no response. Captain Black and Anders swept past in hot pursuit.

The final slope really started to bite now and, using the impetus of an over-taking car approaching from behind, Crazy Legs bustled past and pulled in front, before slowly opening a gap. As the gradient finally eased, I managed to drag my legs around just a timy bit faster and with glacial slowness started to incrementally close the gap.

Almost up to Crazy Legs’ back wheel, I pulled out to try and pass, he saw me lurking with intent and found another acceleration to pull clear again.


That hurt.

In the cafe, I decapitated my scone to find I’d hit the motherlode, it was liberally studded throughout with plump, glistening half cherries nestled in a bed of golden, fluffy, buttery dough. It shoo did look purdy.

“Like a Christmas bauble,” according to Crazy Legs, while Captain Black suggested it was the scone embodiment of the King of the Mountains prize and worthy of a photo. I refused based simply on the fact that we’re not adolescent girls obsessed by the need to photograph every single meal and post it on social media.

Crazy Legs recounted our epic, magnificent clash of the titan’s sprint for the cafe, which he likened to two knackered old carthorses knocking lumps off each other while racing up a steep and slippery down escalator. That sounded about right. I assured everyone that there was absolutely no need for a slow-motion replay as it would just look like a static image and Crazy Legs suggested even a Victorian photographer with a plate camera would have had no issues capturing a sharp image, unblurred by any hint of movement.

As I went up for our coffee refills the first group arrived, followed after a short delay by Not Anthony. Not Anthony was Not Happy and told me he felt he’d been duped by certain individuals into riding with the first group, and whatever reassurances they’d given him that it would be relatively easy and he’d be absolutely fine turned out to be false.


Back at the table, our talk turned to the wonder that is the centre aisle in Lidl, a veritable cornucopia of all the stuff that you didn’t know you didn’t need. And at a bargain price too. Ovis neatly outlined its perils: “You go in for a pint of milk and come out with an angle grinder,” while it’s simply known as the “canoe aisle” in Captain Blacks household, with the expectation that one day that’s exactly what you’ll walk out having bought, for no earthly reason that you can think of.

It can occasionally be a boon of cycling bargains too though, as both Crazy Legs and Ovis swore by the excellent bike workstands they’d both bought from Lidl and that were still going strong today.

In the car park and gathering for the run home I told Crazy Legs that Not Anthony was Not Happy and we were to blame for persuading him to ride with the front group.

“What, he struggled even though he’s the most improved rider?” Crazy Legs enquired.

“Perhaps the most gullible too,” Captain Black suggested archly. And then we were off…

The cafe stop and a bit of refuelling seemed to have done wonders for my tiredness and although I didn’t have to dig very deep to find the underlying hurt lurking in my legs, I was able to comfortably keep up with the rest of the group and even maintain a reasonable pace once I’d split off and headed home alone. I think the wind must have died down by this time too, as I don’t recall any particular grindy bits, even travelling head-on into it.

I made it back to find that, despite our route detour, I’d clocked up another 70-mile round trip. I know better than to complain, but hopefully we’ll get a bit of route variety next week?

Day & Date:Club Run, Saturday 11th February 2023
Riding Time:5 hours 11 minutes
Riding Distance:113km/70 miles with 1,009m of climbing
Average Speed:23.0km/h
Group Size:18 riders, 0 FNG’s
Weather in a word or two:A Storm Called Otto
Year to date:1,030km/640 miles with 10,283m of climbing


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