Tractor and Verse

Tractor and Verse

The weekend before I’d spent in Ambleside, avoiding all the Chuck 3 profligacy and ridiculousness, while taking in a few walks to use sets of muscles I don’t normally stress. I didn’t realise my visit to the Lake District coincided with the Fred Whitton Challenge and the descent of 2,500 cyclists, aka “skinny blokes with big watches” (TM Mrs. G-Dawg) on the town. So, lots of expensive bike porn to admire and also a great opportunity to walk around in civvies, tutting loudly and declaring my discontent with all the bloody cyclists at every available opportunity. I thought it was funny anyway.

This Saturday’s club run was the epitome of the hoary, old footballer cliche, a game of two halves. It was dry, but bitterly cold to start with, while a chill easterly wind stripped another couple of degrees off the temperature, while the astonishingly accurate forecasts foretold we’d have bright sunshine and be hit with temperatures nudging toward 20℃ by midafternoon. Layering then was a challenge that needed even more consideration than usual.

I went with a baselayer, short sleeve jersey, arm warmers, and windproof jacket, both gloves and mitts for changeable conditions, and, for the first time this year, shorts with no knee warmers and no casquette up top. It wasn’t quite right and I was plain cold for the first couple of hours, then not wholly comfortable until we were heading home in bright sunshine and my pockets finally began to bulge with discarded layers. Just to add insult to injury, even in a very brief encounter with the sun, I managed to burn my knees an unsightly shade of pink.

I arrived at the meeting point to find Crazy Legs attempting to coopting a stranger into joining us, while explaining that he’d be guaranteed to be back at the meeting point by 1.00, no matter how long or short the route was. The guy naturally assumed that we tailored the duration of our cafe stop to the length of the ride to achieve this, but we had to admit the length of the coffee stop depended more on how freely the bullshit was flowing and the fact that we were always back around the same time every week was more happenstance than careful planning.

As we started to amass on the pavement we all turned in silent admiration to watch as the Enigma cruised past, majestically sipping from a bottle as he sailed by.

Someone wondered if any of this was an act solely for our benefit and what he might do next week to build on this.

“Next week, he’ll probably be chomping on a kebab,” Crazy Legs declared, pausing briefly before asking if he’d ever told us about the time he awoke from a thoroughly debauched night of drinking to find a kebab lying in the middle of his floor. This was a new revelation to us, as was his verdict that he couldn’t determine if he’d previously ingested the kebab or not, but either way was quite happy with this deliciously unexpected bounty.

“Come on,” Crazy Legs protested at our horror, “We’ve all been there!”

From the look on Brassneck’s face, I was guessing this wasn’t strictly true.

With a sizable contingent of us enjoying some fun and sun on a club trip to Mallorca, we weren’t expecting a particularly large group, but numbers were bolstered by a gaggle of less regular members we hadn’t really seen much of so far this year, including the Ticker, Taffy Steve, Famous Sean’s and Ion.

Richard of Flanders queried whether he had the authority to ban Spoons from the ride on the grounds that his bike was in desperate need of a clean. He didn’t, so he set about briefing in our route for the day which included a drop down the Ryals and loop around Hallington Reservoir to a cafe stop at Capheaton. I joined the third group along with the guy Crazy Legs had persuaded to join us and his newly arrived mate who was apparently on an e-bike.

We made it only as far as Ponteland before we were stopped by some sort of terminal e-bike mechanical that had its rider pushing his machine home. I’m convinced e-bikes are the future, but when they go wrong they’re chunky, heavy things to have to push.

Onto the lane just through Fenwick and we had a bit of pacing from a grey squirrel that decided to belt straight down the road ahead of us, instead of stepping off into the vegetation. I can’t honestly say drafting a small furry mammal doesn’t give you much of an advantage, but we appreciated the effort nonetheless. The squirrel finally saw sense and darted away and we pushed on toward the Quarry turn where the coopted new guy turned off, while we dropped down the Ryals, which is pretty much always fun.

I had a very close encounter with a tractor as we shot toward the choke point of the bridge over the Whittledene watercourse, somehow getting away with a bit of cross-country mud-slinging, in an instance that left me with a new appreciation of the utility of AG2R’s choice of brown shorts.

From there it was all eyes down for the long loop around the Hallington Reservoir, a route I’d actually forgotten was quite a distance and it certainly contributed to my slightly longer than-usual ride. Still, we made Capheaton apparently just before they ran out of cakes! That was a close call as let’s face it, no one likes to see grown cyclists cry.

Carlton explained to Taffy Steve that he was going to be using the bike he’d bought specifically for winter as a summer bike, while he would turn the bike he bought as his dedicated summer bike into a winter bike. Taffy Steve struggled to follow the logic, suggesting it involved more U-turns than the current Cabinet makes in a week.

He then complimented Richard of Flanders on his “boom and bonk” riding style, indulged in a bit of acerbic tilting at windmills, and declared group composition should probably be determined with a weigh-in at the meeting point. Yep, Taffy Steve was back.

We all left the cafe en masse, but a dozen or so of us hung back so we formed two groups for the run for home which was nicely uneventful. By the time I’d left the group, the sun was well and truly out and I stopped to finally shed the arm warmers. That was a pleasant end to the ride and hopefully, we can now look forward to some better weather.

Today, two people told me my bike was very shiny.

Day & Date:Club Run, Saturday 29th April 2023
Riding Time:4 hours 21 minutes
Riding Distance:119km/73 miles with 1,115m of climbing
Average Speed:25.2km/h
Group Size:28
Temperature:3℃ to 17℃
Weather in a word or two:A game of two halves.
Year to date:3,079km/1,913 miles with 30,706m of climbing

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