Au revoir Pug, the time has come to retire the Peugeot from active, front-line duty. The frame is starting to look tired, is blistering in places and its been ridden to death and back on my commute, so needs extensive refurbishing and servicing and I can’t be bothered with all that. To take its place I’ve just spent £160 for an old, Scott Speedster 30 on Gumtree.
This is the 2010 version in retro/throwback bright metallic blue, a frame that features some very round and pleasingly fat (phat?) aluminium tubes and a seemingly random and eclectic mix of 105, Tiagra and Scott’s own kit. I’ll probably swap out the brakes, saddle and wheels at some point and definitely change the skinny 23mm Continental tyres for my favoured 25mm Vittoria Rubinos, but in the meantime all I had to do was slap on some Look pedals and it was good to go – I didn’t even need to adjust the saddle height.
Thing#1 has christened the new bike Bubbles, apparently after Bubbles Utonium, “the blue one” in the Powerpuff Girls cartoons? (No, me neither.) I don’t think it’s a name that’s likely to stick. Hopefully.
The Saturday Club Run provided the ideal first opportunity to test the new bike out on the road and see if I’ve made a good or bad choice. The weather kept us in suspense with plenty of rain showers overnight, but although all the roads were wet throughout, at least nothing fell from the sky during the ride and, eventually we even enjoyed some occasional sunny patches.
The Scott seemed a pleasingly refined companion on the ride across and got me to the meeting point in good time.
Regular as clockwork, the enigma cruised by, this time adding to his air of general, wasted insouciance by coolly draining a bottle of beer as he pedalled past, then, without pause he rode into the Metro station only to reappear some moments later, maintaining the same stately progression but having obviously divested himself of his empty beer bottle in the nearest bin. I like to think he nonchalantly lobbed it in from distance, like the perfect basketball 3-pointer.
I told Aether we had 28 riders as he began to brief in the route. By the time he started to divvy us up into various groups we were up to 34 and they were still appearing.
Once again, I formed up with the 3rd group, pushed onto the front alongside Aether and away we went. If the 3rd group was a bad choice last week, it was an even worse one this time around as the planned cafe stop was at Kirkley, notorious for glacially slow service and long, long queues at the best of times. This was likely to be compounded by our sheer weight of numbers and by the fact that it was also serving as the HQ for a 2-Up Time Trial today. Oh well.
Out into the wilds of Northumberland and wasn’t long before we were closing on our first test, a little jaunt up the Mur de Mitford. The last time I’d tried this had been on the single-speed and it was a long, slow grind, trying to keep the legs churning while fighting both the slope and lack of traction from the slimy, cracked tarmac.
Almost at a standstill for the sharp left turn onto the climb, I swung wide and started upwards. Almost immediately a car coming downhill pushed me to the left where I found myself riding alongside Jenga. This is perhaps the first time I’ve ridden with her and I hadn’t realised she climbed with such ease. As the slope stiffened toward the top I stood out of the saddle and put some weight through the pedals and was pleasantly surprised as the bike seemed to leap eagerly forward, responding instantly to the change as I scampered over the crest. Well hello, the bike was making me feel dangerously sprightly. Should I be worried?
From the Mur we took in the long, rolling roads across the top of the Font Valley out toward Longhorsley, where we kept catching glimpses of the second group on some of the straighter stretches of road and seemed to be closing in on them every time we took on another climb.
It was here that a combination of serendipity and all those live sacrifices to the Puncture Gods began to pay off as we passed the first group, huddled by the side of the road to repair a puncture. Then, not much further on, we found group two similarly stopped, while we just kept rolling.
“From three to one!” G-Dawg called out as we zipped past him and the rest of group two. I saluted, more than anything just to hide the big grin on my face.
We finally started the descent down toward Netherwitton and the bottom of the Trench, where we were passed by James III and a couple of youngsters who’d detached from one of the “puncture groups” and were all tucked in tight and pushing hard. We had no need to chase as we were still safely ahead of the majority and didn’t want to fracture the group with a big climb still to come.
I surprised myself riding the Trench in the big ring and plonked firmly in the saddle all the way up, then we waited at the top to regather our group. Here we were passed by Caracol, Not Anthony and a couple of the youngsters, who didn’t seem inclined to wait for anyone. It looked like the race to the cafe was already on.
As we set off again, Deuce suggested that if we tried, we could probably catch Caracol’s group and then we could sit on and get a free tow back. It was either genius, or madness, but we took on the challenge, increased the tempo and slowly began to reel them in. Our madcap chase was finally successful, and we managed to tag them on the approach to Dyke Neuk.
I learned from Not Antony that it was Jimmy Mac who’d punctured in the first group and then unfortunately blown out the replacement tube using a CO2 canister, ripping through his tyre wall in the process. That didn’t sound too good, but apparently Jimmy Mac had managed to get mobile again and was nursing his tyre homewards.
We swept through Dyke Neuk and dived downhill at speed. As the rode started to ramp up on the vicious little climb to Meldon, Jenga shot past, declaring she was off “to show the youngsters how it’s done” and quickly opening up a sizeable lead. The youngsters apparently had no response, and I pushed onto the front alongside Caracol as we trailed her up the hill.
“Bet it’s a long, long time since you were called a youngster,” Caracol suggested. Hah!. He wasn’t wrong.
We caught up with Jenga as the road flattened out.
“Well, you definitely showed them,” I congratulated her.
“Yeah, but I’m finished now!”
“But they don’t know that.”
She swung in behind us to recover and we pushed the group along, Caracol adding more detail to Jimmy Mac’s tyre travails, including the surprisingly sensible suggestion from Goose that a £5 note could be used as an emergency tyre boot to plug the tear in the tyre. We naturally agreed that being Jimmy Mac, he probably didn’t carry any “small change”, and would end up sacrificing a £50 note instead.
We managed to complete the rest of the ride without being caught by anyone else, so only had to queue with half the contestants of the 2-Up Time Trial to get served. It was of course painfully slow service but much worse for those coming in behind us. All praise the puncture gods.
While we waited I admitted to Zardoz I’d been shamefully neglecting my running this year, but needed to get back to it as I felt I need the impact to maintain mineral bone density and hopefully avoid osteopenia.
“We could always beat you with hammers,” Richard Rex suggested, perhaps a bit too enthusiastically for my liking.
Surprisingly, I didn’t totally dismiss his offer as I’m still weighing up if being beaten with hammers is any worse than going for a run…
We were finally served and found a seat outside where Zardoz was able to confirm the scones at this cafe are still well below standard and will remain on my embargoed list. The carrot and walnut cake was fine, though if a little crumbly.
Somewhat surprisingly Jimmy Mac had made it to the cafe, obviously intent on getting the full value out of his £50 and eventually everyone else turned up too, although some were still queuing while we were prepping to leave.
My ride back was as enjoyable as it was uneventful. I’ve got a feeling the Scott and me are going to get along just fine.
|Day & Date:||Club Run, Saturday 15th April 2023|
|Riding Time:||4 hours 51 minutes|
|Riding Distance:||112km/70 miles with 1,120m of climbing|
|Group Size:||34 plus|
|Weather in a word or two:||Adequate.|
|Year to date:||2,432km/1,511 miles with 25,676m of climbing|