Dry but very chilly weather at least gave us a break from all the horrible and wet Saturdays we seem to be enduring lately and the conditions were good enough to tempt a few more riders to opt for their summer bikes. Luckily, I’m still enjoying riding the Scott, which is just as well as the Holdsworth remains attached to the smart trainer, while the 13 has been pressed into service as an ad hoc TT machine, so it’s very much a Hobson’s Choice.

There was very little traffic on the route across to the meeting point, which may be why seemingly random encounters with a trio of Fiat 500’s seemed to stand out. These, one each in red, white, and green, had me speculating that perhaps I was in the middle of a shoot for a Latin remake of the Italian Job, which would obviously be titled Il Lavoro Inglese.

Dovresti solo far saltare quelle dannate porte! … if you believe Google Translate.

Feeling uncharacteristically enthusiastic, I took the route up Hospital Lane for a change and to test the legs. Everything seemed to be working as it should, which I always find helpful.

The most notable moment at the meeting point was when the Enigma stuck entirely to the main road for his cruise past, by-passing our silent, admiring homage to his grace and style. I worried that this might signal a permanent change in routine, but Jimmy Mac suggested it was simply that he’d hit the traffic lights just right, so hadn’t taken his usual sneaky shortcut through the bus station transport interchange to avoid stopping. Jimmy Mac explained that particular stretch of road is apparently a hotly contested Strave segment, awarded to the person who can best time their run to sync perfectly with the right sequence of green lights.

The BFG put in a rare appearance on his latest steel-framed, vintage velocipede, complete with tubular tyres and the same spare that had so confused the Garrulous Kid. The Kid couldn’t understand the concept of a tube within a tube and was worried that the BFG’s spare had a tread pattern on it while his was perfectly smooth.

Andy Mapp had designed another labyrinthian route for us, including cycle paths, dual carriageway hopping and borrowed bits of other routes cobbled together in odd, unforeseen, and novel combinations and directions. He was late showing up though, so once Carlton appeared and we knew time was nearly up, so G-Dawg stepped up and did his best with the Herculean task of briefing in the route. (I think I was lost by the second major turn). Then we got organised and set out.

I rode out in the middle group of three this week, alongside Mini Miss, who was almost as confused as I was by the intended route. We were already hoping our stint on the front would coincide with a long straight bit of road without any pesky decisions about which way we should be turning.

A rotation brought Brassneck onto the front alongside Captain Black and I was forced to issue a few easy tiger’s as the novelty of a first club ride on his summer bike had him upping the pace a little too enthusiastically. Mini Miss mentioned that he’d confided that his first impression on being reunited with his good bike was that he’d shrunk a little over the winter as it felt unfamiliar and “not quite right.”

I slid up alongside him. “Is that bike the right size?” I innocently enquired, “It looks a little large to me.”

Ooph. I never suspected he knew such salty words. Still, my intervention wasn’t enough to keep the big grin off his face for long.

Once through Belsay, we started to pass competitors warming up for the GS Metro time-trial, a rather hilly affair over 26 miles. Even with their game faces on, most of the competitors waved as we passed them, including one who simply acknowledged us with a cool, minimalist two-fingered salute (no, no, not that kind!)

“Is that what you do?” Crazy Legs enquired, part of his ongoing campaign to insinuate I’m some kind of TT fanatic. This is despite the fact he’s done far, far more events than I have and only one of us has ever bought an actual time-trial bike. (Hint: it’s not me.)

“Nah,” I told him, “I’m not cool enough.”

I then demonstrated my patented new salute, banging my fist over my heart twice in quick succession, then off the front of my helmet, before pointing to the far horizon. Now that was cool and might just catch on…

Alongside Mini Miss, we got our turn on the front on the approach to Whalton, facing into our first headwind of the day, but that was ok because at least we were on a long, straight stretch of road and didn’t have to think about the route and any turns.

We then dropped down toward Mitford, ceding the front to someone who at least had an inkling of the route as we followed the River Wansbeck past the foot of the Mur de Mitford, before turning right to climb up High House Lane.

Halfway up, Cowboy’s slid alongside me to tell me I had a very shiny bike (I’m not sure if it was a compliment or not) and then asked how much further the climb was. I was surprised he didn’t recognise it from the dozens of times we’d ridden it in the opposite direction to get to the Mur, although to be fair it’s a completely different beast and much, much harder and longer going up than you’d expect from the descent. (I’ll concede that’s probably a very obvious, universal truth of cycling).

A brief flirtation with the main A1 and we reached our coffee stop for the day, within the Moorhouse Farm Shop at Stannington Station. Here, already hyper-excited to be out riding his summer bike, Brassneck grew positively giddy with his first introduction to this cafe and its seemingly vast array of sandwiches, cakes, and sweet treats, bouncing from foot to foot, with his eyes wide and constantly flicking between the long, long menu on the wall and the counter wantonly spilling over with the temptation of selected wares. For one moment I thought he was going to be paralysed by too much choice, but finally pulled himself together enough to order without embarrassing us too much.

At the table, I couldn’t find any enthusiasm for the impending coronation of Chuck 3, just mild disquiet that the whole thing was going to limit the availability of coffee stops on the club run next Saturday. Needless to say, there was going to be no swearing of allegiance but maybe quite a bit of swearing at the lack of coffee and cake options. Luckily. I’ll be away next week so hopefully can give the entire thing a miss.

We routed home via Bell’s Hill and Horton Grange, where I pushed onto the front. By the time we were passing the airport, Cowboy’s told me we’d split the group and he sat up to wait. I was feeling cheekily strong though and that doesn’t happen all that often, so I just stomped on the pedals a little harder and started my solo ride home early.

Day & Date:Club Run, Saturday 29th April 2023
Riding Time:4 hours 21 minutes
Riding Distance:104km/65 miles with 914m of climbing
Average Speed:23.9km/h
Group Size:24
Weather in a word or two:Chilly but dry.
Year to date:2,781km/1,728 miles with 28,167m of climbing


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