Riders on the Storm

Riders on the Storm

Club Run & Hill Climb, Saturday 13th October, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  105 km / 65 miles with 536 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 28 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.4 km/h

Group size:                                        8 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    17°C

Weather in a word or two:          Delugional New word alert! 


 

Hill Climn
Ride Profile -(with obligatory Garmin in the rain brain fart)

Friday through to Saturday and Storm Callum was having its wicked way with the British Isles, causing mass disruption, extensive flooding and even loss of life. For the North East of England it meant rain and lots of it, incessant, unrelenting, unremitting and seemingly immovable.

Oddly though, the temperatures remained relatively mild, which gave life to this rather alarming forecast from the BBC, suggesting not only persistent, heavy rain across the entire day, but also the real risk of thunderstorms…


hill climb weather


The forecast appeared just minutes before I set out to begin my journey across to the meeting point for the club run … and not just any old club run, either, but our annual festival of self-flagellation, the Hill Climb.

This is traditionally a last hurrah for carbon summer bikes, before bad weather, rain, wind, ice, mud, frost and salted roads force a swap to something heavier, more sturdy, more easily replaceable and (unless you’re a complete madman and misanthrope) preferably with mudguards.

The horrendous weather then was at direct odds with the aim of selecting the lightest bike possible to hurl uphill in a very unequal battle with gravity. As I opened the backdoor and looked at the rain teeming down, up popped a Messenger feed from Jimmy Mac: “I have never been as confused over which bike to take out….”

I had no such worries, having decided a few weeks ago I wouldn’t do the hill climb this year, feeling a distinct lack of anything approaching “form” that had me toiling on even the most innocuous rides. I’d spent last Sunday engaged in a changing of the guard, putting away Reg and the single-speed and breaking the winter bike out of storage and prepping it for just this kind of day. 13.5 kilos of slab-sided, cold aluminium and steel, the Pug (Peugeot) shrugs at the rain and positively hates good weather.

It was gloomy enough for me to switch on some lights before hissing down the hill and starting to pick my way across to the meeting point. Having swapped bikes around, I’d only remembered at the last moment my pump was still in the tool tub in the Holdsworth’s bottle-cage and I’d grabbed a spare as I ran out the door.

Now approaching the river and 3 or 4 mile into my ride, I realised I’d also forgotten any tyre levers. I weighed up the option of turning around, but I wouldn’t have time to do that and still get to the meeting point on time. I decided to risk it, working through everything I was carrying and determining that, in extremis, I could probably use my house keys as impromptu tyre levers in the event of a puncture.

Luckily this theory was never actually put to the test.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

What a sad, sorry and small, wet and bedraggled group I found, huddling out of the downpour in the bowels of the multi-storey car park and chatting with OGL, who was about to drive up to the start of the hill climb to get things set up.

A (less than) magnificent 7 included our official start team of Crazy Legs and G-Dawg, those of us too cowardly, or too sensible to ride the hill and just three actual competitors, the Garrulous Kid, the Colossus and Jimmy Mac.

We determined that with so few contestants, we could just call the results now and didn’t need to actually venture out into the rain. We even had a contestant in each category, so not only would everyone “podium” for the overall, but they’d also be a guaranteed category winner. Final placings could be determined with a quick game of rock-paper-scissors, and then we could all ride to a warm, dry café and be done with the whole, horrible exercise until next year. Perfect.

Then Buster rolled up, intent on competing too … and he ruined it for everyone.

News had filtered back that triathlon-virgin, Princess Fiona, had successfully completed the Barcelona Ironman Ironwoman Ironprincess event, a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile ride and then a full 26 mile marathon. A fantastic achievement, although not wholly unexpected and all done in a highly respectable time of just over 12 hours. It’s good that she’ll have a target time to beat next time!

We hung around as long as possible, before submitting to the inevitable and making a move to head out into the all-enveloping deluge.

“Don’t worry, it’s eased to just a downpour now,” OGL reassured us cheerily, before climbing into the warm, dry cab of his car and driving off.

Ugh. Oh well, here we go then …


It was bad out on the roads, even protected by a rain jacket, on top of a windproof jacket, over a long-sleeved baselayer and arm warmers, complete with leg warmers and winter boots, gloves and full length mudguards front and rear.

Our would-be competitors, to a man shivered in shorts and were soaked by rain and road spray in equal measure, the only consolation they had was that at least it wasn’t all that cold, otherwise it would have been a truly miserable ride out.

Wracked by indecision, Jimmy Mac had finally resorted to a round of eenie-meenie-miney-mo, before choosing not to ride his all-singing, all-dancing, all-carbon, uber-stealth machine, but an older, slightly less-posh Specialized, complete with clip-on mudguards.

Riding behind him, it didn’t take me long to realise that while the mudguards were doing an admirable job of keeping his posterior dry, they were somehow focussing a concentrated and fierce jet of dirty water directly into my face.

While this was going on, confusingly and inexplicably, the Garrulous Kid’s mudguard-less bike was somehow producing no cast-off spray whatsoever. Odd.

Meanwhile, Buster seemed in two minds about actually riding the event, especially after I told him I would be sitting this one out, so he didn’t have the safety net of at least one person he could comfortably beat. (He did finally do it and managed a cracking time to boot.)

I swapped bike preparation tales with Taffy Steve, vehement hill-climb denier and unapologetically sat astride his ponderous, thrice-cursed winter bike, as good as an excuse as any for not even looking at Prospect Hill, let alone trying to race up it.

Despite carefully cleaning and stowing the winter bike last spring, he reported one of the brake calipers had refused to release and needed emergency remedial work. For my own part, the rear mech on the Peugeot had seized and had needed some coaxing back to life.

We finally arrived at the hill climb course to find our numbers bolstered by a whole host of kids from our Go-Ride section, bright, cheerful and chatty and seemingly looking forward to their ordeal.

In all 23 brave, brave souls would hurl themselves up the hill, including the four condemned we’d escorted to their fate, Ion, who’d ridden up on his own and Kermit, who’d sensibly travelled there by car.

The competitors signed on and I helped Buster pin his number onto his back. There was no escape now. He then realised he couldn’t get his chain onto the big sprocket and enlisted OGL’s help, at the expense of having his wheel bearings roundly and roughly condemned. It’s the price you have to pay.

Ion was wearing strange, waterproof, baggy, knee-length shorts that he insisted were the next big thing. Hmm, I’m not so sure. He wondered aloud if there were any “gamers” present who might steal his title.

I thought he was asking for tips, and gave him my sage advice – “don’t bother”- before suggesting the only gamer was him, having signed up to another club to support his racing ambitions. He now has dual-club membership, much to the (very obvious) and (completely irrational) disgust of OGL.

With final preparations underway and the first rider already off and tackling the climb, I started to ride up the hill to seek out a good vantage point. I found myself following the second rider off, one of the young, Go-Ride girls, and I saw first-hand that this hill was a real and imposing test for some of the youngsters, as she struggled mightily just to keep the pedals turning over on the first and steepest ramps.

About a third of the way up, I stopped at a junction and joined an Irish Dad waiting to support his son’s ride, thinking I could do a bit of traffic control as well as cheer on the riders winching themselves up the slope.

It was great watching some of the young kids tackling the climb, all different shapes, ages, sizes and abilities, some on mountain bikes, some with a parental outrider as escort, some struggling mightily, but refusing to give in and others zipping up, apparently without a care in the world.

One or two were so unaffected by their efforts they had the breath to thank me for cheering them on!


IMG_0392
The future is bright…

Ion went storming up, followed by his only serious contender, junior European triathlon championship winner, Dan-Di who I felt looked more ragged and not as fast. So it was to prove, with Ion pipping Dan-Di to the win, but by only a handful of seconds, proving that appearances can be deceptive.

Irish Dad cheered his son through and set off walking to the top of the hill to meet him at the finish, while I took up the role of impromptu event photographer, achieving several impressive and impromptu close-ups of my own thumb.

As I watched one of the tiny girls struggle slowly upwards, weaving from side to side and with her dad as an outrider, a car approached from behind me, aiming to head down the hill, straight into the riders hauling their way up.

I waved the car to a stop and was relieved when they seemed patient, good-natured and happy to wait, hanging well back from the junction. The girl and dad passed, but Jimmy Mac was in sight and chasing hard after her. I held the car a few more moments to let him past, then waved it on with a big thumbs up. A patient, considerate and amicable driver? What’s the world coming to?

We were into a straight run of seniors now, the Colossus guffawing as I gave him my best Zardoz impersonation, complete with inspirational lying: “You’re catching them!” and “Come on, only one more corner!”

Next up was Buster, complaining loudly that his legs were already shot and his entire ride was a disaster. (They weren’t. It wasn’t).

Kermit whipped through, game-face on and concentrating hard and then it was our last man, the Garrulous Kid, who went past grinning beatifically, as if he was actually enjoying the moment and had entered a transcendent state of grace!

As the last rider disappeared around the bend, I picked my way to the bottom of the hill to find our starting team, G-Dawg and Crazy Legs, chilled through and visibly shivering. Taffy Steve took Crazy Legs off to find a café and pour hot drinks into him, while I waited for the others to coalesce, so we could hand back various bits of “deadweight” they’d jettisoned into our care.

Buster arrived looking like he’d aged 10 years in 10 minutes, perhaps a lesser version of what Crazy Legs sees in my face after the hill climb, when he’s wont to compare me to a wasted, grey-faced, shambling zombie, or John Major – whichever of them you find the most disturbing. (It’s close, but for me John Major just about shades it.)

We then followed G-Dawg to the chosen café – this year thankfully without the extended guided (de)tour around the entire outer suburbs of Corbridge.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A new café means a new choice of cakes and my eye was immediately drawn to a massive slab of Lemon Meringue pie – which turned out to be so big that Crazy Legs felt the need to take a photo of it, giving me flashbacks to almost every family meal out, where my daughters seem compelled to photograph each and every dish that’s put in front of them and woe betide anyone who takes a mouthful before the perfect picture has been composed. I’m simply too old to understand any of this malarkey and, you know what … I don’t care.

The lemon meringue pie was good, but I realised, when I was about halfway through, it was much, much too big for a single person to manage. I finished it anyway and I somehow tucked the last morsel away without initiating a Mr. Creosote moment – sheesh, and those fellers thought the hill climb was hard!

(I chuckled, but was largely unsurprised to later find that the Strava segment leading up to the café was titled Lemon Meringue Pie, Please, in tribute to this monstrosity.)

Talk turned to the clubs Annual Christmas Dinner and awards ceremony, with Crazy Legs happy to point out that since Ion won both our time-trial and hill climb events, OGL would have to acknowledge the “turncoats” achievements through ferociously clenched teeth. I proposed we added to OGL’s chagrin by going for the full sweep of awards and nominating Ion for the most improved rider award too.

Crazy Legs then related a train journey he’d recently made where he’d been royally entertained by a random encounter with a really, really weird fellow traveller. (Trust me, if a regular member of a cycling club describes someone else as really weird, then that person’s weirdness must be truly off the charts.)

Apparently, this particular fellow traveller didn’t get off to a good start when she declared she was a whale aficionado, but challenged to name her favourite, could only come up with an Orca. This, clever fellow that he is, Crazy Legs knew wasn’t actually a whale at all, just a very big, very angry dolphin on steroids.

She then revealed her pièce de résistance though, an odd affection and perverse interest in container ships, which she’d travel far and wide to look at. And just container ships mind you, not all ships, nor merchant ships in general. Not tankers, nor freighters, or ferries, not reefers, or ro-ro’s … just container ships. Apparently, it had something to do with how the containers all align when fully loaded.

Isn’t the world a many splendoured thing?


We left the café to find the rain was actually starting to ease and off we went. “Just around the next corner,” Jimmy Mac started the mantra a few miles in, soaked through and looking forward to finally finishing the ride and getting in a hot shower.

“Just around the next corner,” Jimmy Mac repeated yet again and he was partially rewarded when G-Dawg finally acknowledged, “Just one more hill to go.” Well, for some anyway. Everyone slowed to take a sharp left, but my path led straight on and as the road dropped away downhill before starting to climb again, I waved everyone else off and kicked on.

The rain had stopped and the hedgerows seemed alive with chattering birds celebrating, or maybe just idly commentating on the astonishing amounts of rain that had fallen in the past 6 hours.

The rain had stopped, but a troubling wind had sprung up in its place and I watched as a crow hung in the air, beating its wings slowly and ponderously, going precisely nowhere, before giving up, dipping a wing and sliding away to one side.

Oh well, it wasn’t like I was in a rush to avoid any bad weather …


YTD Totals: 5,956 km / 3,701 miles with 71,525 metres of climbing

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Fick and Fin

Fick and Fin

Club Run, Saturday 6th October, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  115 km / 71 miles with 1,091 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 24 minute

Average Speed:                                26.2 km/h

Group size:                                         23 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    12°C

Weather in a word or two:          Coolly pleasant


 

fik and fin
Ride Profile

This week seemed to be a carbon copy of last week, with one major difference. No wind!

This meant what worked last week, should work this week too, so jersey, tights, arm warmers and a lightweight rain jacket for an extra layer of protection, just until I got across to the meeting point and the morning air lost its chill edge.

I was passed by several cars, elongated with long thin hulls strapped to their roofs, as I made my way down the valley and the rowing club was busy with vehicles parking up and rowers clambering out and about, obviously gearing up for some event or other.

It turned out to be the Tyne Long Distance Sculls, whatever that involves. I guessed they wouldn’t be starting in the near future though as, when I rolled over the bridge, I saw the tide was most assuredly out and the river reduced to just a thin ribbon of dark water between two shiny, featureless mud flats.

I was so busy avoiding aimlessly meandering rowers from the Tees Rowing club that I almost missed the fact that the cable, that had been dragged across the road at the end of the bridge, had been removed, along with its temporary barrow of tarmac. It was all smooth sailing from there on – well, for me anyway.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting place:

I arrived at the meeting place to find Jimmy Mac admiring the Garrulous Kid’s vintage Castelli jersey, a hand-me-down from a benevolent uncle, which Jimmy Mac commended as very retro.

“Yeah,” the Garrulous Kid explained, “It’s good for this weather, as it’s not fick and it’s not fin.”

Despite the need for a not fick and not fin jersey, the Garrulous Kid was still wearing shorts, along with G-Dawg who is flat-out refusing to accept that summer is actually over. At the other extreme and true to his word, the Rainman had already broken out his winter bike, a week before the traditional last hurrah for carbon, our Hill Climb event.

“Sheee-orts!” an arriving OGL exclaimed loudly, in a pitch I had previously thought only attainable by pre-pubescent castrati, caught sucking down a lungful of helium.

Taffy Steve was visibly taken aback by this shocking squeal of outrage, “Remarkable! I didn’t know you could emit that sort of noise, I only ever associated you with gruff bellowing, ranting and swearing…”

The Garrulous Kid contended he was perfectly comfortable in his shorts, even when Taffy Steve declared his legs had the appearance of corned beef. We then had to spend a good few minutes explaining that corned beef and spam were not the same thing and came from completely different animals.

(For those interested in a, “I never knew that” sort of way, the corn in corn beef refers to the salt pellets traditionally used to cure the meat and not niblets of the Green Giant variety. I never knew that!)

The Garrulous Kid then rolled up his shorts legs to, shockingly, reveal his tan-line, or I should say the very, very subtle, almost indiscernible shading between unhealthy and just plain pallid. He was right in a way though, if his lower extremities resembled corned beef, the tops did look a lot like spam.

Needing a distraction, any kind of distraction, Taffy Steve quickly diverted the Garrulous Kid by asking him why 6 was so afraid of 7.

“Huh?” the Garrulous Kid replied brightly.

“I don’t know Steve,” I asked, “Why is 6 so afraid of 7.”

“Because 7-8-9!” Taffy Steve chuckled at his obvious winner in the Dad-Joke-of-the-Week competition.

“Huh?” the Garrulous Kid replied brightly.

“Seven … ate … nine … uh, furgeddaboudit.”

The Hammer took centre stage to outline the intended route for the day, which would take us, down into the Tyne Valley and then out again. He concluded with a set of admonitions that, at first, had everyone nodding along in agreement:

“No profanity, no smoking, no expectoration.  Always be polite to fellow road users, doff your cap to lady pedestrians, signal your intent with clarity and celerity … and no half-wheeling.”

“What?” the Red Max exploded, “Nah, I’m not having that!” The last statement was a bridge too far, the straw that broke the camel’s back and an inimical impediment to the Red Max’s whole raison d’etre.

Arf.

With numbers borderline for split groups, we left en masse, once more picking our way safely along the Broadway “war zone” and out into the countryside.


 

OGL had a bit of a rant about people who only showed up once in a blue moon and dictated our route, but I just let it wash over me. He was luckily distracted by the high pace being set up front, so at least had something else to complain about. Then, as we approached the airport, his phone started ringing loudly and incessantly from his back pocket.

He ignored it.

A bit further on and it started ringing again, he decided he had to answer and dived into the layby on the roundabout, just outside the airport entrance. I caught the others up, told them what was happening and we pulled into a bus stop to wait.

The last of our riders pulled up, someone said OGL wasn’t going to follow and that we should just push on. So we did.

Along the way it was suggested that, like the classic preparation for a blind date, we should all have a pre-arranged call set-up, one that we can answer if the pace of the group is too high and we need an excuse to abandon mid-ride.

At some point I found myself just behind Crazy Legs, already planning a shorter route and, naturally, inspired to sing about it. He settled on a fine version of Fleetwood Mac’s, “Go Your Own Way” and I was able to contribute in small part, with backing vocals for the chorus.

We swung left toward the river and called a pee stop, while Crazy Legs and the Red Max took their splinter group away for a shorter ride, much to the disgust of the Monkey Butler Boy who hadn’t been invited along and now had to face the longer ride with us.

There was only time for the Garrulous Kid to half-inhale a Snickers bar and then we were off again.

For some unknown reason, I indulged in a bit of joyful scat singing with Biden Fecht as we rolled along, “Be-ba-ba-boop-bap-baddaber-ap!”

“Zoober-za-deep-za-boo-da.”

“What? That sounds like Saudi. Why are you singing in Saudi?” the Garrulous Kid demanded to know, much to the amusement of Plumose Pappus, who declared he’d never seen me at a loss for words until that moment.

Meanwhile, the Monkey Butler Boy confessed that he’d spent some time carefully aligning his bar end plugs, following my stinging criticism last week. I had to admit his bike looked much, much better for it.

We enjoyed a swooping drop into the Tyne Valley, on a new, smooth road surface that seemed to have been stripped of its old rumble strips, and I hit the front (and a bit of a pesky headwind) along with Biden Fecht, as we followed the river and then started to climb toward Corbridge.


20170625_131018A


It was a day of scattered road kill and we passed deer, squirrel, rabbit and hedgehog corpses all splayed on the tarmac, or flung carelessly down the side of the road. Apart from obviously being dead, the squirrel in particular looked in rude health, remarkably fat and glossy. I surmised it had probably died of some obesity related disease, but according to Biden Fecht I needn’t have worried too much as “it was one of those ferrin’ grey ones.”

As if keeping to a theme, our stint on the front finally brought us to a road junction marked by some tawny, speckled and formless, feathering pile of a dead bird. Glory be to dappled things, indeed.

We turned left onto the main road and then first right, up toward Aydon, where the bridge took us safely up, up – and over the teeming, car-clogged, A69.

As the road continued to climb, I dropped toward the back of the group, taking it relatively easy and testing how the legs were after my struggles last week.

We regrouped over the top and pressed on toward Matfen. A group eased off the front and I found myself in a small knot of riders following on, with others scattered behind. The Colossus surveyed our little group and declared we’d gone from a dozen and a half riders to just four in little over a mile.

Toledo Tomás, our Swedish-educated-Spanish-newcomer, riding with us while studying for a masters at Newcastle University, joined on to the back of the group. At one point he attempted to bridge across to the front group, he’s fit and fast enough to do it, but he missed a turn and had to backtrack to re-join us. The misdirection seemed to temporarily subdue him and he hung off the back and seemed content just to follow the wheels after this.

We piled up the Quarry climb, swung right and accelerated up and through Wallridge crossroads and then down. I took it up for the last drag up to the final junction, then pulled over to let the Colossus, G-Dawg and the Garrulous Kid contest the sprint. I expected Toledo to join in, but he hesitated, so I pushed past and followed the others.

Tomás unleashed a devastating sprint, much, much too late, but he latched onto the others, while I managed to re-join only once we had crossed the main road and ducked down the lane for the last 500 metres or so to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

With a large group in front, plus our shorter route followers, along with the Back Street Boys (or Back Door Bikers, as the Red Max has gleefully taken to calling them), already ensconced inside, the café was packed to heaving, leaving little choice but to retire to the garden, where we found it was surprisingly mild and comfortable.

As I wandered out, I bumped into OGL and Another Engine who’d just arrived.

“What happened to you?” I wondered.

“I had to take a call,” OGL.

“We waited.”

“No they didn’t!” Another Engine snorted.

“Well, we did a bit…”

“They went a different way.” OGL insisted.

“No they didn’t!” Another Engine snorted.

Wondering if I’d inadvertently wandered into a panto rehearsal, I left them arguing between themselves and went to find a table, not that it was difficult, the garden being otherwise empty.

Talk of the TV series “The Bodyguard” somehow turned to Theresa May and her party conference “dancing” which I admitted had severely scarred my soul. G-Dawg had quickly realised it was something you sadly couldn’t un-see, which was the single reason he hadn’t plucked his own eyeballs out in response.

(I particularly liked Josh Widdicombe’s take, that she danced like someone trying to move a fridge, with a nod of respect to Stewart Lee’s “like a mantis with an inner ear infection.”)

We decided that, not only was it mild and pleasant out in the garden, but there was an appealing absence of wasps too.

Another Engine declared that wasps got a bad press and then somewhat ruined it by admitting he’d never been stung by one. This was despite once sitting on a wasps nest in Scarborough’s Peasholm Park to watch the miniature naval battle re-enacted on the lake.

To be fair, he said he didn’t realise he was sitting on a wasps nest at the time, although he did wonder why he got such a great spot, with a grandstand view and nobody pressed in beside him.

G-Dawg, a man known to frequently crush wasps with his bare thumbs, carried grim tales of a bus being stopped and evacuated mid-route after half the passengers had panicked when a wasp flew in the window.

Never mind crushing them, Another Engine determined, in polite company you were meant to gently waft them away.

“Ah, like an errant fart?” I suggested, which led to the unfortunate revelation that both Another Engine and the Garrulous Kid suffer from sustained and impromptu flatulence following a long bike ride.

“I’ll bet that’s an excuse that’s worn thin by a Thursday evening,” G-Dawg mused.

OGL complained he’d found some bearings in a MTB bottom bracket that were so esoteric he’d had to ring the manufacturer, Giant for guidance.

Childishly, I couldn’t help but imagine how that particular phone-call might have sounded, intoning: “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, Giant headquarters, how can we help you human?”

With just one week to go until the club hill climb, Another Engine fondly recalled his last experience competing.

“Do you remember the time we were waiting to start and those two women on touring bikes with panneers rode by en route to who knows where and asked if they could join in?” he asked.

“Panneers? Are they posh panniers?” OGL demanded.

Panneers, panniers, whatever,” Another Engine continued. “The point is, these two women rode the event, without preparation and on touring bikes loaded down with full panniers.”

“That was the year I was second last,” he concluded, glumly.

There was just time to deride the increasing proliferation of “official” world boxing champions titles, determine Tyson Fury had perhaps the perfect name for a boxer and discuss how after shedding over 122 pounds in weight, from fick to fin, he’s still burdened with the skin of a 385 pound man … and it’s not a good look.


Then we were off and away. Luckily the Backstreet Boys has left earlier, so there was no intermingling of clubs and testosterone levels were capped off well below the danger level. The ride back was fast-paced, but controlled and I swung away at the end of the Mad Mile feeling in good fettle and looking forward to a ride back without having to constantly battle with a headwind.

Perfect timing saw the traffic parting like the Red Sea and I skipped straight over the roundabout on the approach to the Heinous Hill without even having to slow. For once the capricious gods of cycling had aligned everything in my favour, the lights at the bottom of the climb burned green and I was able to carry a bit of speed up the first ramps, before picking my way upwards and home again.


YTD Totals: 5,805 km / 3,607 miles with 71,525 metres of upness

Idiot Wind

Idiot Wind

Club Run, Saturday 29th September, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  113 km / 70 miles with 1,060 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 33 minute

Average Speed:                                24.9 km/h

Group size:                                         26 riders, 1 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Happy winds-day


 

idiot wind
Ride Profile

Well I had a Goldilocks-style week of commuting in to work to help me determine what to wear on Saturday and I’m not sure it helped. Wednesday, an unexpectedly, uncharacteristically and uncomfortably warm and mild, anomaly of a day (where did that come from?), I’d gone for a long base layer, windproof jacket, gilet and leg warmers … and cooked. Too hot.

Thursday I went for a summer weight jersey, short-sleeved base layer and arm warmers and shivered, when the cold snapped back. Fingers, toes and ears in particular were downright uncomfortable. Too cold.

Friday saw me trying a summer weight jersey, short-sleeved base layer, arm warmers, with a gilet and gloves for the ride in, before stowing them away for the ride home. Just perfect? Well, no, but better and bearable.

Saturday promised to be just as tricky and over a much more extended period of time and the usual efforts involved in riding at a sustained tempo, rather than just pootling along to work. The early, post-dawn start was likely to be cruelly chill – especially the first couple of miles dropping off the hill – and then hopefully the sun would come out, but it wouldn’t be so hot that I’d need to take off more layers than I had pockets for.

To combat the cold start, I pulled on a lightweight rain jacket for the trip across town. It flapped and fluttered like a supermarket bag caught on a barbed wire fence during a gale, as I sped down the hill, but cut out some of the wind.

Pushing on, the helpful digital sign on the factory unit told me it was a chilly 9°C, as I made my way toward the (finally) fully re-opened bridge and its newly re-instigated traffic lights, which made me wait before I was released onto the new, super smooth surface across the river …

… ruined by the fact that they’d seemingly forgotten to embed one particular cable or pipe and simply dragged it across the road and piled a mouldering heap of loose tarmac over the top. I thudded jarringly over this impromptu, already crumbling, speed bump, which I’m hoping is only a temporary measure.

A few delays for traffic lights and at some new road works, convinced me I was running late, so I injected a bit of pace to my climb out the other side of the valley and made it only a few minutes late and suitably warmed through.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Princess Fiona was out putting the finishing touches to her form with a last ride before jetting off for her Barcelona Ironman Ironwoman Ironprincess event.

“Are you tapering?” someone enquired

“And exactly how long have you been tapering for?” I asked cheekily.

“I think I’ve been tapering my entire life,” the Red Max mumbled, somewhat ruefully.

He was consoled though, by thoughts of the Monkey Butler Boy, who’d ridden out today with the Back Street Boys, for a planned foray, south across the river and deep into Mordor.

“I hope he doesn’t get dropped,” the Red Max relayed, “He doesn’t know the roads across there and I’m not sure the phones work.”

“Phones?” I queried, “Of what do you speak?”

Even more delightful, the Red Max relayed how the Monkey Butler Boy is busy building him a new winter hack (if that isn’t an oxymoron) and had sprayed the frame silver after the Red Max reneged on his promise to ride a bright pink bike throughout the winter.

With enough silver spray left for a few little side projects, the Monkey Butler Boy decided to bling up an old pair of specs, too. Popping the lenses out and coating the frames in smooth layers of shiny silver.

Declaring himself well pleased with the results, the Monkey Butler Boy did the Wednesday night chain-gang kitted out in his spiffy new specs. “Of course, he didn’t lacquer them,” the Red Max explained, “So when he took his specs off, he still looked like he had them on!” Or, at least a semi-indelible silver impression around his eyes where the frames had been.

I told Max that I’d read his route when he’d posted it up on Facebook, but didn’t understand any of it. He patiently explained it in precise detail, while I nodded along in encouragement.

“Nah,” I finally concluded, “Haven’t got a clue.”


Away the route was set and would slowly unfold before my eyes. Garmin Muppet Time arrived and I tagged onto the front group for what was, for us, surprisingly a fairly even split of numbers. Almost as soon as we got underway a strong and gusting wind made its presence felt and it would dog us for the rest of the day.

It was hard work, two or three wheels back from the front and even harder for those brave souls who spearheaded the ride, with G-Dawg, the Colossus, Caracol, Richard of Flanders and the Rainman doing especially long and impressive stints at the head of affairs. Sterling efforts all around and much appreciated.

I didn’t spend as much time and effort assiduously avoiding the front like some of our number, but my stint up there was quite limited. It was just as well, for whatever reason my legs were sore and heavy, I was having a major jour sans and our average speed would have suffered horribly if I’d kept at it long.

I was in conversation with the Rainman as we approached one junction. “It’s left and then first right here,” he assured me smoothly.

“Left or right?” the call came from the front.

“Left, left,” I answered with confidence, only to be shouted down seconds later with cries of “Right! Right! Right!” from behind.

“Well, you had 50% chance of being right,” someone said as the confusion died down.

I naturally blamed the Rainman, who shrugged and declared he knew the right way all along, but the truth was simply lost in translation.

Caracol called for a comfort break, so we cast around a bit until we found a suitable gate, figuring that even if it wasn’t an officially approved pee-stop, at least we had the basic principles down pat.


iddiott


Then, we pushed on briefly, until Goose picked up a puncture and we rolled to a stop. Odd how the cruel and capricious gods of cycling always seem to insist we pay for any voluntary stops with an equal length, or even longer, enforced one.

Goose wanted us to all push on without him, but naturally we all wanted to stay, just for the opportunity to watch and criticise his technique as he fumbled to change his tube.

We half expected the second group to catch us, but they were having fun and games of their own, so on we pressed, battered and buffeted by the wind, which, if we weren’t grinding headlong and directly into it, would rip and swirl through any gaps in the fields and trees and slap us sideways across the road.

Other than that it would have been a perfect day, bright, clear, dry and a reasonable temperature now the sun was fully up.

We started to splinter as we approached a turn-off point for longer and shorter rides, but quickly regrouped. A handful then set off to work their way through Hallington and scale the Ryals, seemingly convinced they would have a vicious tailwind to help drive them to new KOM’s on the climb.

My legs certainly didn’t have a clamber up the Ryals in them, wind-assisted or not, so I opted for the shorter route and we set off towards Capheaton.

As we approached the short, but savage Brandywell Bank climb, Two Trousers dropped back with a puncture, but urged the rest of us on. With the smell of cake and coffee already in our nostrils, we took very little urging to leave him behind, without so much as a backward glance.

I used the last of my energy reserves on the climb and then we were swinging onto the road that would take us all the way down to the Snake Bends.

I was just about hanging on, until Richard of Flanders attempted a speculative, forlorn hope, long-range attack. (He’s been riding with the Red Max far too much lately). I didn’t have legs to immediately follow and a bunch sped away while I plodded on at my own speed.

Richard of Flanders faltered and I slid past him, but the rest were long gone and I didn’t see anyone else until I caught up with the Colossus freewheeling through the Bends and recovering from his sprinting efforts.

We cheated, taking the high road, straight down the A696, while the rest took to more scenic, less busy lanes of the low road, allowing us to sneak into the café at the head of the queue.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

I took a seat opposite OGL and Taffy Steve, directly in the full glare of a very bright and low sun. When OGL left to head home early, I immediately jumped into his seat, blinking to try and restore vision to my sun blasted retinas.

“I don’t know what was more painful to watch,” Taffy Steve sniggered, “You trying to look attentive and interested when OGL was talking, or the way you were suffering in the light.”

I had to admit it was actually the light that had been the most oppressive.

Caracol said he had a relaxing afternoon planned, watching the World Championship road race and then the Ryder Cup.

Taffy Steve suggested there was half a decent idea in there, but there weren’t any other golf fans amongst us. Sneaky Pete said he endorsed John Peel’s comments, “I do regard the playing of golf as like entering the antechamber to death. When my mates tell me they’ve started playing golf, I mentally cross them off the Christmas card list.”

The Red Max moaned that he had a far less relaxing afternoon planned, as he’d been press-ganged into replacing a malfunctioning bedroom light-fitting. We found common ground cursing electricians who install fittings with the wires stretched taut and with not a millimetre of give in them.

Taffy Steve said that his multimeter was one of the best D-I-Y purchases he’d ever made and really useful for determining if there’s any current running through a wire.

“Oh, I’ve got one of them,” the Red Max declared, licking his thumb and forefinger and miming quickly pinching them together. “My dad taught me this trick.”

“He’s quite sane and sensible, you know.  Well, apart from his collection of ancient, broken and useless vacuum cleaners,” he continued

I suggested that the Red Max’s ziggurat of old and worn out bottom brackets could very easily be likened to a collection of old and worn out vacuum cleaners, but he wasn’t having it, insisting sooner or later someone will invent the tools and components he needs to repurpose all the old bottom brackets and put them back to use.

Zardoz wandered in, first to return from the longer group that had ventured up the Ryals. “He looks happy,” Taffy Steve observed, “He must have mugged someone off!”

We determined that Zardoz’s skittishness was probably caused by the outside conditions and we compared notes on our pets’ behaviour to the wind, something that always seems to send them ever so slightly loopy. One of our cats in particular goes into hyper-drive, seeing everything that moves as something to attack and belting around the garden in a state of increasing agitation and excitement.

We later learned that the Rainman had punctured at the bottom of the Ryals and Zardoz had ridden on with one of those patented, classic Sneaky Pete declarations, “I’ll just press on, I’m sure you’ll soon catch me.”

The Red Max reported that the second group had had a couple of punctures too, including one for OGL, who had somehow and uncharacteristically fumbled his repair.

The punctures had also delayed everyone, so we were running late and some were already packing to go home. We decided that a third cup of coffee was in order though and determined Sneaky Pete looked the most innocent amongst us and had the best chance of flying under the radar to successfully secure 2nd refills all round.

Talk of punctures inevitably led to a discussion about tyre choice and I naturally defended my Vittoria Rubino’s (with added graphene!) that have now ably served me through two summers of cycling, probably over 4,000 miles and trips through both the Alps and Pyrenees. I should have known better.

Then Ovis turned up, seemingly with his entire family in tow, and he declared it was late and we should already have left the café by now. The place was full to bursting and seating was scarce, so we got the bum’s rush from Ovis. “Hi, how you doing? Good to see you, isn’t it time you were going? Here’s your helmet. Bye!”

He skilfully manoeuvred his family into our warm seats, even as he smoothly ushered us out the door, where we briefly stood blinking and bewildered and once more being battered by the wind. Nicely done!


There were only five or six of us laggards left. I took to the front with Taffy Steve and away we went, battling our way once more into the wind, until Taffy Steve noticed my squishy back tyre and I stopped to repair the inevitable puncture, even as the cruel and capricious gods of cycling chuckled smugly to themselves.

With time running late, I urged everyone to just press on, insisting I’d be ok on my own. They were having none of it though and wanted to hang around, just so they could constantly remind me of my boasting about my faith in Vittoria Rubino’s (with added graphene!)

Bastards.

Job done, we set off again. As we dragged ourselves up the climb to Dinnington, the Red Max confessed his legs were “well tired” as he was slowly distanced.

Just before the Mad Mile, I dropped back to check he was okay, before setting off for my solo ride home. The first part of this was determinedly uphill and straight into the teeth of the wind. I’d felt tired and heavy-legged before, this was just adding insult to injury.

I finally crested the lip of the valley and started to drop down to the river, finding I still had to pedal to maintain momentum. Across the river and along the valley floor and I was finally at the foot of the Heinous Hill, with just one more battle with the wind and gradient before I could finish what had been an unexpectedly hard ride.


YTD Totals: 5,633 km / 3,500 miles with 69,467 metres of upness

Descent into Madness

Descent into Madness

Club Run, Saturday 15th September, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 111 km / 69 miles with 1,115 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 14 minute

Average Speed:                                26.3 km/h

Group size:                                        24 riders, 1 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Changing


 

decsent
Ride Profile

As I swept around the Blaydon roundabout, a red, a white and a then a blue car all stopped to give way, spreading across the three lanes of the feeder road in an impromptu display of colour co-ordination and forming an unexpected French tricolour. Liberté, égalité, fraternité. I like it when three disparate things come together and create something greater than the sum of their parts.

The digital display on the factory unit en route to the river read a fairly autumnal 11°C, and, as if in confirmation of the changing seasons, wind and rain had started to pluck leaves from the trees overnight and these were strewn across the road.

Oh and, yep, the bridge was still closed to cars.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I found myself pilloried by Jimmy Mac and the Monkey Butler Boy when I suggested Jimmy Mac’s stem, an unsubtle, chunky, slab-sided, oversized and over-engineered lump of (no doubt reassuringly expensive) carbon fibre, not only lacked elegance, but was in fact downright ugly.

I should have realised the Monkey Butler Boy would defend anything that looked expensively engineered, even if it didn’t conform to his own primary concern of being “aero”. He was after all showing off an aero-faring on his bike (of dubious legality) his aero wheels and was wearing aero socks, aero-helmet and an aero skinsuit – apparently the new essentials of a normal club run.

“He’ll buy almost anything if it’s described as aero,” the Red Max confirmed.

“Hmm, what’s his favourite chocolate bar? “ I asked, setting the Red Max up to deadpan “Snickers” or something similar, but he missed the open goal, or perhaps decided this was too puerile, even by our less than exacting dad-joke standards.

The Garrulous Kid revealed he’d returned from holiday exactly the same weight he’d been when he left. “Hmm, “the Colossus pondered, “I think you’re doing it all wrong.”

“And, have you decided on a university yet?” Jimmy Mac wondered.

“Yeah …” the Garrulous Kid replied, before obviously being distracted by a passing red-head, a falling leaf, or perhaps intermittent flatulence …

“Well?” Jimmy Mac prodded the uncharacteristically taciturn Garrulous Kid.

“Oh, Edinburgh or Newcastle. I decided Aberdeen was too far away.”

“Not for us,” I assured him.

Meanwhile, we discussed the strange phenomena of how Aberdeen always seemed to be four hours journey away, whether you went by car, plane or train. Or even, we suspect, bike.

We’ve evolved leadership of the Saturday club run so that the route planner and designated leader on the day rides with the second group. Those in the front group are expected to more or less fend for themselves, though they do have the safety net of being able to drop back to the second group if things go awry. As such the first group doesn’t need a leader per se, but it makes sense that it sticks to the same roads and so needs someone who knows the agreed route.

Aether had volunteered to act as this week’s route-master and had written down the key turns on a cylinder of paper that, like a pro, he’d taped around his handlebars. The only issue I could see was his cylinder would could rotate in the wind, and I was worried he’d lose his place and start calling out turns in all the wrong order, getting us hopelessly lost.

The Monkey Butler Boy seems to have lost his OCD-like, gleaming white shoe fetish, or at least he’s run out of baby wipes to clean them with. I castigated him for a coffee stain across the toe of one of his shoes.

“That’s not coffee,” he assured me, before adding somewhat unnecessarily, “I know my stains.” With him being an adolescent male, I could only bow to his superior wisdom and concede he was probably right, without enquiring further about that particular stains provenance…

Jimmy Mac outlined the route for the day, once again routing us up Broadway West. The Lone Dissenting Voice grumbled a bit (well, ok, a lot) and tried to convince us that the lunar landscape that is the bombed out, shell-torn, no-mans-land of a road through Dinnington, had been resurfaced.

“What, since yesterday?” a very, very doubtful, G-Dawg queried.

“Well, we can consider it next week,” Jimmy Mac interjected smoothly, killing the discussion at least for the day. We would later find that repairs have indeed started on the road through Dinnington, but it very much remains a work in progress.

We split into two, with Aether leading the first group out and away, while I hung back to see where the balance of numbers would lie.

The front group continued to swell until it easily comprised two-thirds of our number, with someone suggesting many abandoned the second group so they didn’t have to listen to the incessant grumbling of the Lone Dissenting Voice. Still, I hung back with group two in an attempt to at least try and balance the numbers, before Jimmy Mac led us out and I joined him on the front.


Things went smoothly on the first part of the ride, in fact, so smoothly we were constantly in danger of running into the back of the first group, so once out into the countryside we called for an extended pee stop to allow the gap to be padded out.

Before that, there was an opportunity for the Monkey Butler Boy to complain that my socks weren’t straight. Sensing my extreme disquiet at this revelation, Jimmy Mac wondered if I wanted him to call a stop, so I could immediately correct my glaring and very major wardrobe malfunction. Like the brave soldier I am, I determined I could live with the eternal shame and told him to press on.

(I later got revenge by insisting the Monkey Butler Boy’s bar end plugs were misaligned. Hah! That’ll teach him…)

By the time we swept through Matfen our lone FNG was struggling on the hills and OGL was starting to work up toward a full-blown rant-storm. I dropped back to where a gruppetto was starting to form, but the Red Max insisted he had it all under control and shooed me away.

A quick burst took me up to the front group and we pressed on to the top of the Quarry, a rendezvous with the first group and an eventually reforming of the entire ride. Splits were agreed for shorter and longer routes to the café and away we went again.

The longer ride group clambered up through Capheaton, encountering the tweedy-clad, reedy-voiced ladies of the local hunt for the first time this year, happy to be looking down on the strange cycling proles from atop their stupidly-big horses.

“Aye sey, there’s an awful lot of yooze,” one complained, after having to respond to about the fourteenth hearty “Good morning!” in a row.

The Big Yin wondered if they thought us fair game and if it would not be a lot more fun to hunt random cyclists, instead of poor, defenceless foxes. I immediately shushed him, I didn’t want to give them any ideas…


descent


I’d foolishly drifted toward the back as we swooped downhill and hit the climb to Wallington. The group immediately began to stretch out and break apart, making for a hard climb as I worked my way through the back markers and up to where a knot out front were making a concentrated effort to pull clear.

We then rattled through Cambo and up Middleton Bank at a fairly testing pace. Over the top, I pushed onto the front and started to wind the speed up. Ovis took over for a spell on the front, then G-Dawg.

Through Milestone Woods and over the rollers, I actually managed to hold back and stayed in the wheels until we were around the last bend and G-Dawg and the Colossus burned away to contest the sprint. Zardoz took a well-timed third, while I rolled home alongside Ovis.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A new offer in the café, Full-English Breakfast Pie made G-Dawg’s eyes go big with wonder.

“The usual ham and egg pie, but with added sausage!” the Colossus added, “What’s not to like!”

“I wonder what else is in there?” Ovis pondered.

“Mushrooms?”

“Tomatoes?”

“Beans?”

“Fried bread?” I suggested.

Sadly, the massive plate dish with the Full English Breakfast Pie wasn’t one, individual serving, like a Desperate Dan Cow Pie, but the Colossus and G-Dawg took a large slice each and, with the café full to heaving with civilians and numerous groups of cyclists, ventured into the garden to find a seat.

I followed them out to be confronted by a whole host of Monkey Butler Boy mini-me’s, his Wrecking Crew were out in full force, all dressed identically in their club shirts and shorts and helmets.

I rubbed my eyes, feigning incomprehension. “Which one’s the Monkey Butler Boy?”

“I’m the Monkey Butler Boy!” the smallest declared.

“No, I’m the Monkey Butler Boy!” another argued…

Meanwhile, I wondered what the collective noun was for a group of Monkey Butler Boys.  A troop? A whoop? A chatter? A clatter? A flange?

They berated the actual Monkey Butler Boy as a traitor for riding with us, instead of them, but were soon distracted by shiny, shiny bicycles and moved off en masse, clustering around one bike to jabber and point and prod excitedly, before moving onto the next … and then the next.

G-Dawg was just about to celebrate a ride free of harassment from motorcyclists, when the Colossus reminded him that the front group had been on the receiving end of some obscene gesticulations from one fine, leather-clad gentleman. I’m beginning to think this is a single, solitary biker with a grudge to bear and an unfortunate schedule that coincides almost exactly with ours.

 The Garrulous Kid went on a wasp killing spree, bravely armed with nothing more than a teaspoon. For the most part he was outwitted by our vespidae friends, but he did manage to cut one notch in his teaspoon, after some insanely wild flailing.

It was chilly in the garden, so we were more than ready to depart when a group began to coalesce. Here we found we would be sharing the road back not only with the Monkey Butler Boy’s Wrecking Crew, but the Prof’s Backstreet Boys tribute act too – a mass of perhaps 30, all male, cyclists, somewhere between the ages of 15 and 70 plus. (Yes, yes, some of us should know how to behave better.)


“This could be kee-otic!” the Red Max predicted, channelling his inner Nostradamus, as we stacked up to join the main road outside the café.  He was, perhaps remembering the last time we got into a pissing contest with another club, that had seen some frenzied and risky racing, with no one willing to give an inch as we piled around a parked up, double-decker bus, pushing blindly onto the wrong side of the road and into the face of on-coming traffic. I still don’t know how we got away with that one.

An uneasy truce held, as we made our way through Ogle and past Kirkley Hall, even in the face of extreme provocation from White Van Man who thought it would be funny to squirt water at us as he roared past. What a wag.

The pace started to build as we made our way up Berwick Hill. Then, no doubt stung by criticism that the Backstreet Boys were nothing but a teen-orientated boy band, more flash than substance and that their entire musical ouvre was distinctly lacking in artistic merit … the Prof attacked … on the wrong side of the road around a blind bend.

“A nice bit of Dutch over-taking,” someone muttered as the Prof, as Donnie, was quickly joined by others – presumably his Nick, Brian, Kevin and A.J. counterparts They had opened up a sizeable gap by the time the rest of us made the turn through the junction and started down the other side of Berwick Hill.

From there, I watched and waited for the inevitable, even as I rolled my chain down the cassette in preparation. Sure enough, the Red Max was the first to move, making his early prognostication of chaos a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. He slid out of line and accelerated away in pursuit of the Back Street Boys, even as the Monkey Butler Boy rolled his eyes and sighed in exasperation.

Like a string being pulled through a knot, all order slowly unravelled and we were drawn into one long line, everyone diving onto any available wheel as the speed built and built, surfing a tsunami of testosterone. Those without the legs, caught unaware, or in the wrong gear, were swamped and unmercifully spat out the back, as we went howling down the hill.

It was brutal.

It was madness.

It was magnificent.

And oddly compelling.

The catch was made well before the hill levelled out, but there was no sense that order had been restored, we slowed just barely enough to sweep through the sharp right-hand turn to Dinnington and then the power was immediately piled back on again.

I tried to stay alert to everything, recognising a certain fever and a gung-ho madness had gripped the ride, no quarter would be asked, or given and risk assessment was likely to be badly compromised.

I was also aware that we were hurtling along, packed together, millimetres from the wheel in front and with no margins for error, in a group containing a smattering of those my fellow riders had consigned to an unofficial black-list for erratic or thoughtless riding, bad bike handling and an increased likelihood of doing something stupid and causing a crash.

Luckily, today there were no unexpected pots, parked up buses, or impatient drivers trying to overtake and, more importantly, thankfully no cycling brain farts.

As the road began to slowly rise, Andeven, a giant in a field of midgets, came effortlessly floating past. I latched onto his wheel like a hungry remora on a prowling shark and followed. As the Prof’s speed faltered on the hill up to Dinnington, Andeven breezed past and took me through to the front of the group.

Here we found the truth of the rumours about repairs to the road through Dinnington. The top layers of tarmac had been peeled back and the underlying surface had been scarified, raked and ploughed into deep, corrugated ridges and furrows. We hit it at full tilt and my bike and body started to shake wildly, oscillating almost painfully with a deep, thrumming vibration.

Then we were banging back up onto the old, unreconstructed surface and hurtling up the long grind past the airport, with no let-up in the speed, even as the gradient stiffened and I slipped back a couple of places. I knew it was a still a full-on effort, because just ahead of me Jimmy Mac had started that upper-body pecking motion he develops whenever he’s laying the power down.

The Colossus swung up alongside me and dared a quick glance across.

“What the hell just happened?” he wondered. I had no answer, I was as bewildered as he was.

Finally the road began to dip and anticipating a possible pinch-point, where some of us would swing left and the rest dive into the narrow, twisting lanes of the Mad Mile, I eased and dropped back, allowing myself plenty of space and time.

From here, I tracked the remnants of the group through the Mad Mile, before swinging away to start my ride home, which I completed in warm sunshine, a pleasant change to last week’s sudden appearance of rain.

So, today I learned that there’s something else that can happen when you bring three disparate things together and create something greater than the sum of their parts: Collective madness.

I think I might prefer liberté, égalité and fraternité, they’re a little less chaotic.

Right, I won’t be out next week as I’m taking Thing#1 off to start university and I’m relying on my club mates to report any sightings of our motorcycling serial abuser, I’m keen, obviously, to see if we can keep the streak going.


YTD Totals: 5,406 km / 3,359 miles with 66,597 metres of climbing

The Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio

Club Run, Saturday 8th September, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 110 km / 69 miles with 1,139 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 11 minute

Average Speed:                                  26.4 km/h

Group size:                                          28 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                      16°C

Weather in a word or two:              Passable


 

ratio
Ride Profile

I passed a small cluster of cyclists who were meeting up at the traffic lights leading down to the river, less than three miles or so into my journey. It did make me ponder why I was riding a further 7-8 miles to meet up with the usual gang of reprobates, when there were obviously perfectly pleasant, companionable cyclists and clubs much closer to home.

Still at least there are possibilities if we ever attempt a palace coup that fails…

Once again I found myself arriving at the meeting point early, despite leaving at more or less the same time and following the same route. I seem to be getting faster, but it’s probably not worth making adjustments, the switch to the winter bike will soon fettle that.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting place:

Forget about the melting polar ice caps, receding glaciers and spiralling average temperatures. Forget about the increasing incidence of extreme and violent weather, rising sea levels and the carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere. If you want incontrovertible proof that global warming is an actual, real phenomenon, then that evidence was proudly on display this Saturday morning – we’re well into September and yet the first cyclist to join me at our meeting place was Szell, someone who we’d expect to be deep into his hibernation cycle at this time of the year.

And yet, here he was, blinking in the milky autumn light and questioning whether he had made the right clothing choices to cope with the variable temperatures.

I told him that this conundrum was all too common and no one had the right answer – even the most hardened, experienced, all-weather, all-year round, veteran cyclists wasted long minutes every day pondering what clothing layers and accessories to wear and deciding what could be easily pulled on and taken off at a moment’s notice. And, I assured him, they still, invariably got it wrong.

The Garrulous Kid was back and announced he’d had a great holiday in Florida.

“Florida is horrider, than Whitley Bay,” Szell intoned.

“There’s no McEwan’s Best Scotch in the USA,” I followed up with the next line in a creaky TV ad campaign from the distant, hazy annals of our youth.

Florida? Nice Place, Shame about the Beer.

We had a laugh at the conceit behind labelling McEwan’s Best Scotch, a mass-produced, fizzy, bland and utterly un-noteworthy, generic beer as the “one you had to come back for.”

Szell seemed to remember a whole series of these ads, but the only other one that I could recall was the Russian one:

“Red Square’s dead square, we know that for a fact,

No McEwans’s Best Scotch in the Warsaw Pact

They’ve just got propaganda, not proper Geordie brew,

They asked about Marx? Well …one out of ten for you.”

I had to admit, I much preferred the much simpler, smarter Newcastle Brown Ale posters in (probably) indecipherable Geordie, the only one of which I still recall said simply:

AHCUDDOONABROON.

G-Dawg outlined the route for the day, including a raid down into the Tyne Valley and, with another good turnout of 28 riders, we split into two groups that, somewhat surprisingly, turned out to be more or less equal.

Well … ish.


I rolled onto the front of the first group alongside Caracol and we pushed out, safely traversed the deadly and treacherous Broadway West and then we were away.

I spent the first few miles chatting about the Vuelta and, in particular, Simon Yates distinct lack of media training and polish. This, I felt was a refreshing change from the corporate blandness of Sky, even if it did leave to some rather terse and uncomfortable interviews.

Caracol was fully sympathetic and wondered how any normal person would cope with being asked the same inane questions, over and over, in French, English and Spanish and maybe half a dozen other languages beside.

Interviewer: “What went wrong at the Giro.”

Simon Yates: “I don’t know what went wrong at the Giro.”

Interviewer: “Will what happened at the Giro happen here to?”

Simon Yates: “I don’t know if what happened at the Giro will happen here to.”

Etc.

G-Dawg’s route included a new wrinkle that took us up Birney Hill, a narrow country lane, seemingly frequented by only the most considerate and polite of drivers. As the third of these in quick succession pulled over to the side and stopped to let us through, the Red Max somewhat ruined my impression of the denizens of the area by nodding at all the parked-up cars and muttering cynically, “It’s a bit early for dogging, isn’t it?”

Back onto more familiar roads, we had a third incident with a biker in as many weeks. Does this mark a new departure in the conflict between motorist and cyclist? Have all bikers now been seduced by the dark side and the four-wheeled forces of oppression? Or, is it perhaps the same biker who has a very particular grudge against this club and has been stalking us for the past 3 weeks, just so he can vent?

This particular biker slowed, mid-overtake, to ride alongside Crazy Legs and loudly declare, “Mare allah bunda munts!”

“Pardon me?” Crazy Legs, enquired politely.

“Mare allah bunda munts!” the biker repeated, but just as unintelligibly as the first time.

“What?” Crazy Legs shook his head, acting perplexed.

“Mare. Allah. Bunda. Munts!” the biker shouted, trying to enunciate each word carefully through the constricting confines of his helmet.

“Eh?” Crazy Legs responded, smiling at the biker in a manner he hoped would encourage further elucidation.

By now it was obvious that the biker wasn’t trying to convey a friendly greeting, but this comedic interchange had robbed his intended invective of any sting.

Even better, having paused mid-overtake to berate us for holding up the traffic, he was now getting serious grief from the cars behind that couldn’t get past him. Perhaps it finally dawned on him just how foolish he looked, and our new biker friend gave up and roared off. Maybe he’s planning to give it another go next week?

I found myself riding alongside the Monkey Butler Boy, who’d finally determined the osymetric chain-ring he’d invested all his hard earned currency in was, to quote the Red Max’s expert opinion, “utter crap.”

He’d since bitten the bullet and reverted back to more traditional style chain ring, but was bemoaning the fact that he’d having also switched from a 36 to a 39, the ratios were all wrong and he was struggling to get used to the change. It was also a ready-made excuse if he started to struggle on the hills. (Just saying).


ratiotr


Down into the Tyne valley we went, skirting the river for a while and rolling straight through our usual re-grouping point at Bywell Bridge, determining in conversation with the Red Max that our pace probably meant the second group were well adrift and it would be an overly prolonged wait.

So, we kept going and almost immediately started the scrabble to climb back out the valley. We were soon splintered and strung up and own down the road, but stopped to regroup after threading our way across the 4-thundering lanes of A69 traffic. This was safely achieved with a lot of patience, a couple of sharp kamikaze dashes and the use of a handily placed median strip, where we could temporarily kneel in prayer and claim sanctuary.

Once across the dual carriageway, there was yet more climbing to be done before the road would level and lead us on toward Matfen. On the climb the Garrulous Kid became detached, allegedly distracted while trying to inhale a Snickers bar whole. Then the Monkey Butler Boy lost contact, still trying to come to grips with his new and completely alien gear-ratios.

The other stragglers may have had their excuses too, but if they did they were more stoical and refused to acknowledge them.

We regrouped once again and then pushed on toward Matfen and from there to the Quarry. The pace started to pick up and a handful went off the front as we made the turn for the climb.

I rounded the corner and dropped back to make sure we collected any stragglers before pushing on. As I rolled back up to speed I encountered a happy, freewheeling Crazy Legs engaged in a bit of Rick Rolling, booling along and merrily engaged in an energetic rendition of Never Gonna Give You Up…

The front runners had long disappeared when our group made it to the top of the Quarry, to the accompaniment of Mr. Astley’s finest only moment. Here we swung right and started our final run to the café.

As the road straightened, the Monkey Butler Boy was the first to attack surging off the front and opening a short-lived lead, before the inevitable response reeled him in.

Richard of Flanders and the Red Max tried next, each attacking in turn, but on the long drag up toward the crossroads their speed and advantage quickly bled away. Caracol caught and drove past them, I dropped onto his wheel and as we darted through the crossroads, he looked back and saw we’d opened up a sizeable gap.

“Looks like it’s just me and you,” he declared … and so it was, as we hammered down through the curves, swept through the junction and ground our way up the last few ramps.

As we swung onto the road down toward the Snake Bends, Caracol was questioning the wisdom of the Monkey Butler Boy’s premature attack that had lit the blue touch-paper and set everything off.

He was, I suggested, simply a hostage to genetic imperative and couldn’t help uphold the family traditions of attacking early and quite forlornly.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

At the café, the Red Max played us all expertly, suggesting it was still warm enough to sit outside and then, after we had all dutifully trooped out to the garden, taking his pick of chairs inside.

Despite the deception he wasn’t wrong, it was perfectly pleasant outside and the bothersome wasps were fewer in number and not quite as aggressive as they had been last week.

We settled down for a “3-mugger” and a classic spot of blather and bullshit …

It started when the Garrulous Kid wandered past, digging in his back pockets and dislodging an empty Snickers wrapper that spiralled slowly down to the ground.

“I do like a Snickers,” Zardoz commented, “It’s been shown to have the perfect, irresistible ratio between sugar and fat content”

“Ah, a sort of golden ratio. I thought that was the ring donut?” I countered, obviously having heard somewhere that the perfect ratio between sugar and fat was to be found in ring donuts.

“Those as well.” Zardoz affirmed, “But for your 70p, a Snickers bar will give you the highest calorific content and the perfect ratio. It’s the peanuts.”

“What? Wait, 70p! I remember when they used to be only 20p. And a lot bigger too.”

“Yeah, yeah and they used to be called a Marathon.” Zardoz was only slightly sympathetic.

“Exactly, it was named after the most recent tussle between them Persians and Greeks.”

“It’s all ancient history now, old boy.” Zardoz observed dryly.

We were joined by G-Dawg, the Colossus and Taffy Steve, having just led the second group in, and talk turned to various cycling commentators. We wondered how Sean Kelly and his indecipherable accent had ever been seen as a prime candidate to be the expert voice of Eurosport.

Although thankfully he’s grown into this role, Richard of Flanders still recalled a memorable, early radio interview with Kelly when he had to be constantly reminded that listeners couldn’t actually see him nodding away or shaking his head, no matter how vigorously he did this.

From there it was just a hop, step and jump (luckily bypassing the even more puzzling choice of Jonathan Edwards as a cycling presenter) en route to talk about how the rather odious sounding Brian Clough had publicly humiliated Peter Shilton on national TV for a standard, run-of-the-mill, goal-keeping blunder.

Speaking of inappropriate job choices, Richard of Flanders recalled Peter Shilton had then moved into management with Plymouth Argyle, or some other remote (well, to us, anyway) team, where he didn’t seem to have a clue and constantly demanded his players do push-ups as punishment for minor infractions.

This, I suggested was exactly the kind of thing our club was missing and I moved that push-ups for any kind of infraction be immediately added to the club rule book.

Ah, the club rule book. Did such a mythical creation even exist?

We imagined it as a massive tome, bound in ancient, flayed skin of indeterminate origin, covered in arcane motifs and sigils and sealed with a massive, black iron hasp and padlock.

If allowed access to its hallowed content, the yellowed parchment pages would crackle dryly as you opened it up, each section headed with massive illuminated letters and consisting solely of a series of dire instructions: “Though shalt” and “Though shalt not’s.”

G-Dawg felt the tome would be hidden within a secret chamber, the fuhrer bunker, buried deep beneath OGL’s house.

“Guarded by traps, trip-wires and a giant boulder,” Taffy Steve imagined.

“Poison darts and snakes,” I added.

“And even if you find it, you’ll still have to fight the ghost of Pat Roach for it, somewhere along the line,” Taffy Steve concluded, while Richard of Flanders looked on in bewildered incomprehension.

Talk of old football legends, brought up talk of old football stadiums, with Richard of Flanders, on safer ground now, wondering if anyone could recall going to the toilets at old Ayresome Park.

As I remember the stadium itself was like one big toilet, so my imagination failed when it came to picturing what the actual toilets within it could be like.

“Just a long, blank wall with a gutter at the bottom,” according to Richard of Flanders.

“And no drains,” G-Dawg stated.

“Apparently, you’ve never experienced Liverpool until you’ve felt the Kop warm leg welcome.” Sneaky Pete relayed and then there were numerous stories about football spectating in the good old days, terraces awash with urine, pitches showing more mud than grass and leather case balls that would dislocate your neck if you tried to head them when they got sodden and heavy.

Oh, and the ever present threat of violence.

Back talking about a slightly more civilized sport, everyone wanted to know why Szell was still riding, even though it was already September. We wondered if he’d even keep going right up until the Club Hill Climb and if he might perhaps participate?

Szell revealed he’d ridden it once before in the dim and distant past and had no desire to revisit that particular form of intense self-flagellation, a view much supported by Taffy Steve.

“You could always come along and push people off,” a well-meaning, Richard of Flanders suggested, but off course we took his suggestion the wrong way.

“Like, hide in the bushes half way up and leap out at unsuspecting riders?” the Colossus wondered, imagining a Takeshi’s Castle style contest, with a ninja-style, anti-cyclist who would suddenly appear and push each rider over as they strained upwards.

As if a hill climb isn’t already hard enough.

The Colossus suggested he was facing a near impossible task with the hill climb and couldn’t better his first ever time, just back from uni, when he was younger, fitter and most importantly, much lighter. Now, getting older and heavier, his chances of a new personal best time were receding, despite the vagaries and inconsistencies in OGL’s official time-keeping.

Someone countered that weight followed a typical bell-curve through age and there would be a point where you could expect to start getting lighter again.

“Great,” I suggested, “Another 17 years and I might be at my optimum for the hill climb.”

Of course at that age, all dry sinew and skeleton, there’s a good chance that you would simply snap attempting a hill climb.

We speculated about our assailant, potty-mouthed motorbiker and G-Dawg concluded he must surely know us as he had correctly identified that we were a bunda munts. Perhaps, he suggested, it was a disgruntled, ex-club member – although that would be casting the net ridiculously wide and would in no way help us narrow down the biker’s identity.

I then learned that Canyon were a German bike brand (I didn’t know, but can’t say I’d given it much thought) and could also be considered when the Garrulous Kid looks to replace his Focus and insists that only precision and world-renowned Teutonic engineering will suffice. So, from our count he can choose, Canyon, Focus, Rose, Cube or Stork. Not a bad line up.

Speaking of German bikes, we learned that the Garrulous Kid was on his winter bike because he “broke his tyres.” (The tyres were obviously not engineered in Germany.)

He seemed rather nonplussed when Taffy Steve suggested he could have  just swapped over the wheels.

“They’re too heavy.”

“But they’d still be better on your Focus than on your winter bike.”

“I hate my winter bike,” the Garrulous Kid declared.

“Yes,” Taffy Steve affirmed, “That’s the point.”


Off we went and I found myself riding alongside the BFG. He’s taking his newly achieved granddad status very, very seriously and has been regularly riding out with the new grand kid perched on a seat fixed to the front of his bike.

Unfortunately, all he can see when he’s riding is the back of the kid’s head, so it’s always a shock when he gets home and sees the snot-encrusted mask that the wind and speed has dragged out and dried like cement across the kids face.

Even worse, he got home one time to find the kid had somehow eviscerated his helmet, the hollow shell sitting on the back of his head, while the disengaged padding was wrapped tightly around his face.

I suggested this was probably a defence mechanism and the kid was so terrified he had pulled the helmet lining down to cover his eyes, like a condemned man before a firing squad.

The BFG was having none of this though, insisting he knew the kid had been smiling all the way around because of the flies stuck to his teeth.

A turn on the front, through Dinnington to the turn-off, was my last major effort of the day, then the main body swung left and I dropped behind Caracol and G-Dawg to surf through the Mad Mile and away.

The rain blew in as I plugged my way across the river toward home and I stopped to pull on a jacket. The poor weather seemed to have the effect of boosting the appeal of the shopping centre and the traffic was starting to back up. I had to queue patiently on the approach to the roundabout at the bottom of the Heinous Hill, slowly getting soaked ad cold.

Finally across and through the traffic lights, I spun my way up and home to end another ride, at least on a high point, if not an actual high.


YTD Totals: 5,239 km / 3,255 miles with 64,597 metres of climbing

The Wasp Factory

The Wasp Factory

Club Run, Saturday 1st September, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 111 km / 69 miles with 1,159 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 10 minute

Average Speed:                                26.6 km/h

Group size:                                        31 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   21°C

Weather in a word or two:          Perfect


 

wasp profile
Ride Profile

Saturday morning proved a good bit warmer than Thursday and Friday, when my commutes had been distinctly chilly affairs. Perhaps this was due to the insulating effect of fairly solid cloud cover that gave the early morning light a dimly suffused and milky quality and turned the river a notable flat and evil-looking slate grey. Still it was dry and, apart from a niggling, occasional bit of wind, looked like being a perfect for a ride.

I was pleased to find the bridge across the river still closed to cars, but it’s surely only a matter of time before they finally finish the longstanding repairs and I no longer get sole and unhindered use of its nice, shiny new surface. I’ve no idea what’s causing the delay, it’s been closed since May, but for once I’m happy to celebrate the inefficiency of the great British workforce.

I was first to arrive at the meeting point, just a little ahead of G-Dawg and the Colossus who I spotted approaching on my own run in.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Seeing one of our number wearing the new Holdsworth racing team jersey, OGL was unsurprised to learn it had been on special offer, revealing that he understood the team was going to fold before it had even got really started. If true, then they would join the likes of Aqua Blue and One Pro Cycling as emblems of the parlous state of British professional bike racing.

The complete and utter malfunction in marketing of Aqua Blue was also discussed as a quick, straw-poll of all those gathered revealed that only one of us realised Aqua Blue was actually a website selling cycling gear, similar to Wiggle or Chain Reaction . We variously thought it was a brand of designer water, a type of deodorant … or a make of prophylactic.

The lone person amongst us who recognised that Aqua Blue was, ahem, “the No.1 marketplace for all things pedal powered” was the Colossus and he only knew this because Aqua Blue ads constantly kept appearing on all his social media sites. In fact he said they were so intrusive, so frequent and so annoying, that he vowed never to visit the website out of principle.

Wasps were to become a recurring theme throughout the day and the little beggars provided Crazy Legs with an opportunity to expound on his interesting factoid of the week – apparently figs have to be pollinated by a wasp crawling through a hole, so small and tight that its wings are ripped off in the process. (Think of something akin to a normal sized human trying to squeeze into a medium sized Castelli jersey). The wasp becomes trapped and is then digested by enzymes in its fruit cell – one explanation for the crunchy bits in figs.

Crazy Legs said when someone first told him this, he immediately called bullshit, but a bit of research proved it was true and he challenged us to do our own research if we didn’t believe him. He also reassured us the crunchy bits in figs were just the seeds and not partially digested wasp parts.

I was surprised by the return of cycling heavyweight, Plumose Pappus and wondered when he’d be heading back to university, only to be even more surprised when he told me he’d finished his course, graduated with flying honours and was now looking to do a masters at Newcastle University. Has it really been 3 years? Have I been writing this drivel for that long? The horror…

Our leader for the week Aether outlined the route, including a late amendment which would have us using Broadway West as a route out of the city, ostensibly a measure to avoid the heavily potholed route through the Dinnington Badlands. Any other reasons for these last minute route change went unremarked and were, we felt, covered by plausible deniability.

With our numbers again bolstered by a large contingent of Grogs, we split into two groups and, seeing the balance of numbers lay with the second group, I tagged on to the back of the first one, as we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


Yet again, we made it through Broadway West without incident. Benedict drifted to the back to ride alongside me and we passed the time chatting about commuting, cycling holidays, club runs and the like.

Today seemed to be National Cyclist Abuse Day, we had a number of drivers celebrating our very presence on their roads by serenading us sweetly with their horns –  including one passing in the opposite direction at high speed, who barely had time to register his disapproval, let alone be in any way discomfited by our group.

Even the bikers wanted in on the act today though, with a particularly friendly specimen using sign language to query if we perhaps belonged to the lost tribe of Onan?

After the Monkey Butler Boy swept away to meet up with his hormonally charged Wrecking Crew, we shuffled around a bit and, once again, I dropped to the back where I was soon joined by the King of the Grogs, who’d bridged across from the second group and reported that they weren’t all that far behind.

Amongst other things, we had a brief chat about the clubs (complete lack of) succession planning for when OGL hangs up his wheels and retires, or, simply cannot summon the will to ride above the Augustus Windsock speeds that frustrate everyone else.

As we hit Whalton, he dropped back to wait for the second group, while I pushed on with the original members of the first group until we reached Dyke Neuk.

Here we paused to regroup, before choosing various shorter/longer, faster/slower options. Having been told the second group had been snapping at our heels only a few miles back, we didn’t expect a long wait, but minutes dragged past with no sign of them.

Finally the bulk of group 2 emerged, clambering up the hill to join us and we learned the King of the Grogs had hit a pothole and punctured at the bottom of the climb. We settled in for a longer than expected wait while repairs were made.


wasp factory


The delay gave the Red Max an opportunity to carefully inspect his rear tyre, revealing it was on its last legs and had previously been condemned to the turbo. It had been pressed back into service at short notice when the Monkey Butler Boy had decided to “borrow” Max’s Continental Grand Prix tyres to save his own, high-end, super-supple, Vittoria Corsa race tyres from unnecessary wear and tear.

Max then pointed to his front wheel, where the Monkey Butler Boy had also inexplicably swapped out the inner tube for one with a 60mm valve, 95% of which poked out, rudely and ridiculously from the skinny rims.

I couldn’t help thinking this was a case of biter-bit, recalling all the times throughout the winter when the Red Max had manically cackled about replacing one failing component after another with bits “borrowed “ from Mr’s Max’s bike.

“The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree,” I suggested.

Combined, the Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy could probably strip a bike down to the frame, while removing all useful components, faster than Blofeld’s  piranha pit could reduce a super-secret agent, or bumbling henchman to a loose collection of bare bones.

Apparently they could be just as lethal as well, with the Red Max stating he’d actually started  one ride before he realised the Monkey Butler Boy had decided to ride alloy instead of carbon wheels that day and “borrowed” Max’s brake blocks when he made the switch.

With the puncture finally repaired, there was a brief coalescing before everyone split and I tagged onto the group heading up the hated climb to Rothley Crossroads and points beyond. We became strung out and splintered on the grinding climb and not a little disorganised. At the crossroads, I followed Caracol and Ovis straight across the junction. while behind some decided to wait, some went left and some, who had initially followed us, turned back again.

Caracol hesitated and looked at us quizzically.  Ovis gestured we should just press on and I nodded in assent, so the three of us did just that, happy to ride as a small group. We would later learn that others had followed, but we didn’t see them and they never caught up.

Caracol led from the front, forging his way up Middleton Bank and then accelerating hard toward the café. Ovis and I contributed a couple of short turns, but I suspect we were only slowing things down and, after thrashing ourselves breathless we’d just drift back to hang off Caracol’s back wheel again, trying to recover.

Then we hit the rollers and I accelerated up and over the ramps, dragged our group up to the last corner and last climb, before I sat up. Caracol zipped past, Ovis followed a little bit later and a little more laboriously and I trailed the pair into the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

It was just about pleasant enough to sit outside in the garden, where we found ourselves constantly assailed by wasps, especially when Ovis broke the edict and had jam with his toasted teacake.

This was in direct contravention of Standing Order#414 and much to the chagrin of Carlton, who was sitting alongside him, suffering from the same over-attentive wasp activity, while looking ruefully between his own dry teacake and the one laden with gooey, sticky and sweet jam that Ovis was blithely chomping his way through.

Buster downed his cappuccino and declared it was good, much better in fact than the muddy, often tasteless big mugs of coffee we usually indulge in. This, we decided, was a classic case of quantity over quality. Not only was the cappuccino too small, effete and more costly, but crucially it didn’t come with the “free” refill. I could only quote that quantity has a quality all of its own, an aphorism I always associate with Napoleon, but has been variously attributed to Stalin, von Clauswitz and others.

After the wasp-fig bombshell from earlier this morning, Buster took up the cudgels on behalf of our vespidae friends (fiends?) He suggested that they were an essential part of the ecosystem, contributing massively toward insect pest control and that without them there’d be a massive increase in the use of pesticides.

He explained he knew so much about them because he participated in a study where members of the public were tasked with building wasp traps, collecting the contents, freezing all the little wasp corpses and them posting them off to the Royal Entomological Society for counting and identification.

This sounded like a Blue Peter appeal from some nightmarish alternate reality, with kids encouraged to make traps (out of beer bottles and baited with beer no less) and then collect dead animals. Still, probably easier and more worthwhile than collecting milk bottle tops.

We wondered why the wasps had to be frozen before posting, reasoning that they would thaw out in transit – unless, Caracol suggested, they were transported in one of those organ donor ice boxes. I could also see issues with people mistaking their collected wasp corpses for frozen mince and cooking a chilli with far more kick than intended.

Meanwhile, on an adjacent table, I could hear Crazy Legs, no doubt having already wowed his audience with facts about wasps and figs, describing how one of his neighbours had tackled a wasp nest with a Dyson…

We finally decided to retreat and leave the wasps in temporary charge of the garden, swiftly packing up to head home.

Conducting a quick headcount, G-Dawg wondered where everyone had gone. Someone pointed out the Grogs were predictably missing, having slipped away to do their own thing, while I could account for a few more who’d left early, setting out in one and two’s as they needed to get back home by a certain time.

“Oh,” I added, And Plumose Pappus was abducted by wasps. They picked him up and just flew away.”  Somewhat surprisingly, everyone seemed to accept my explanation as at least plausible, if not 100% accurate.

I’m not so sure they believed my next assertion, that the wasps were going to make him their God-Emperor and the Chief Overseer of the wasp factory, responsible for making all the new wasps to replace the ones we’d killed today.


On the return I dropped in alongside Crazy Legs and we decided the Vuelta had become the Tour of Redemption for both the French, through Bouhanni and Gallopin and for previously hapless and winless, under-performing teams like EF Education First–Drapac, AG2R La Mondiale and Dimension Data.

While reminiscing about now dissolved retailer Toys R Us, Crazy Legs recalled a girlfriend who was convinced there name was actually pronounced Toysaurus. I guess either version is still better than Aqua Blue.

We’d made it almost to the top of Berwick Hill, when I declared, “Hey, no cars this week! Naturally, scant seconds later a car barrelled around the corner and we dived to the side of the lane so it could squeeze past. Me and my big mouth.

There was only time for G-Dawg to hope that if anyone did happen to have an accident on Broadway West, they would have the decency to drag their broken body and bike into a side street before calling for help, then I was swinging away and starting to pick my way back home.

A very brief shower peppered me as I crested the top of the Heinous Hill and disappeared as quickly as it came. Then I was back, done and dusted, home and hosed, or however else you want to describe it.


YTD Totals: 5,182 km / 3,219 miles with 63,722 metres of climbing

Nipple Knockers and Mods vs. Rockers

Nipple Knockers and Mods vs. Rockers

Club Run, Saturday 25th August, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  107 km / 67 miles with 1,038 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 3 minute

Average Speed:                                26.5 km/h

Group size:                                         33 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Chilly


 

nipknock
Ride Profile

A chilly start to the day and as I dropped downhill, gradually picking up speed I was glad of the arm warmers and long fingered gloves I’d dug out of deep storage.

First to arrive at the meeting point, I clambered up to sit on the wall, enjoying the deceptive warmth in the shelter of the Transport Interchange’s (i.e. Bus Station) micro-climate.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Szell was the first of my riding companions to arrive climbing stiffly off his bike and complaining of a stiff back which he felt was an occupational hazard common to all dentists.

Odd, as he’s not a dentist …

Oh, ok, I lied, he is really.

We had a discussion about holidays and I admitted the only thing remotely akin to cycling I’d managed in the past week was piloting a pedalo (badly) through a flotilla of yachts, speedboats and ferries.

In complete agreement with Mrs. Sur la Jante, Szell firmly declared that family vacations were not for cycling and he was always bemused when talk about a forthcoming holiday was interrupted by the inevitable “are you taking your bike?” query.

I told him I was largely detached in holiday destination selection and trip planning anyway, so I typically had a poor grasp of any cycling opportunities that could be on offer – my only tasks are to book the time off work and act as porter for numerous suitcases full of clothes, which invariably returned home in the same clean, unworn and uncreased state they left in.

Szell proved quite envious of my approach, seemingly in contrast to his own, where he does all the choosing, booking, preparations and arrangements, solely to provide his missus with a surfeit of ammunition to complain, berate, castigate and criticise all of his choices for the entire duration of their holiday.

The Red Max rolled up and added his own unique spin on the conversation – he has a whole three-weeks lined up in Spain (with bikes!) but he doesn’t go until the temperature is manageable and still has a seven long, long weeks to wait.

Everyone had responded to the chilly start to the day with a varied selection of gloves, arm warmers, legwarmers, jackets and gilet’s. Crazy Legs had taken things one step further, with winter boots, tights and gloves, a long-sleeved jacket, a gilet and a buff pulled up to his sunglasses to cover the lower half of his face. He looked like the Invisible Man, or at least a set of clothes the Invisible Man would be proud to be seen in. All apparently an attempt to, once and for all, rid himself of his lingering chest infection.

Spoons had bravely volunteered to plan and lead the ride and began outlining the route, reading from a carefully prepared crib sheet on his phone “Up Broadway West and …”

He was immediately and rudely interrupted by the return of the Lone Dissenting Voice. “Nah, nah,  not Broadway,” it snarled, “It’s bloody lethal. Lethal! I’m not going up Broadway!”

Odd. I’ve been on countless rides where the Lone Dissenting Voice has led us merrily up Broadway West. Still, it’s a free country and everyone’s entitled to change their mind, I guess.

Spoons managed to complete the route outline without further interruption and a bumper mass of 33 riders (minus 1 exception) agreed to split, intending to rendezvous and regroup at the top of the Quarry.


I joined a disappointingly small, eight man front group and off we went, navigating up Broadway West, with great caution, huge amounts of trepidation and much muttering, “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti …”

Having negotiated the road, surprisingly without incident or grievous harm, I fell into conversation with the Monkey Butler Boy. He said he was only going to accompany us for a short while, en route to meeting up with his callow Wrecking Crew, then they were off to tackle the Gibbet, a famous local climb just outside Elsdon.

Although marked by an actual, reconstructed gibbet, the gallows marking the spot – where local ne’er-do-well and murderer William Winter was hanged in 1792 – there’s nothing particularly murderous about the climb and I was surprised by the Monkey Butler Boy’s claim he’d never ridden it before.

(The Red Max would later suggest that, “once again” the Monkey Butler Boy was talking complete and utter nonsense and had in fact tackled the climb on numerous occasions.)

The Monkey Butler Boy swept away and I dropped in alongside Richard of Flanders, as Caracol and Rab Dee set a furious pace on the front. Spoons and Benedict took over from them and then, as we approached Fenwick and turned both uphill and into the wind, it was suddenly our turn on the front.

Perfect timing. Thanks guys.

As I pushed on alongside Richard of Flanders, I was describing my latest work, improving ailing University courses and supporting the development of new ones. This, I explained had given me some hard-earned knowledge (but little understanding) of an eclectic range of subjects, such as Mechatronic Engineering, Cryptocurrencies,  Merkle Trees and Animal Energetics.

Richard suggested things had changed rapidly since his days working in the Potteries, when every other client was a Nipple Knocker. Now he felt this much-storied profession was dying out, overtaken by sadly prosaic job titles such as Search Engine Optimisation Engineer.

He started to expound on the historical, philosophical, economic, social and nationalistic characteristics that might explain why the French seemed particularly interested in Robotics courses, before stopping mid-sentence to laugh at himself, “Listen to me, talking shite.”

He then declared that there was no greater pleasure than “talking shite on a bike” which we’ve found has particular synergies with talking shite in the pub, or talking shite over coffee and cake.

“This,” I explained, “Is the quintessential essence of club cycling. Talking shite on a bike is what keeps us coming back week, after week, after week.”

We then both commented on how odd it was to be approaching the Quarry climb relatively fresh and early, rather than toward the end of the ride, after much leg-shredding and as a prelude to a mass café gallop.


nknock


Then we were grunting and groaning up the ramps as we took the group up to the top. Here we settled in to wait for the rest, but after long minutes, with no one in sight, we started to imagine the worst and concluded that the second group had probably been decimated while trying to negotiate the acute, but well-hidden perils of Broadway West.

Rab Dee reckoned they’d all been picked off, one by one, in a macabre game of devil-take-the-hindmost, while Caracol imagined a series a floral, roadside shrines spaced at intervals along the route, each marking the final resting place of a fallen comrade, before culminating in a grandiose tomb for the Lone Dissenting Voice, bearing a simple, but pithy epitaph: “See, I told you it was lethal.”

We filled in some time discussing new bikes. Rab Dee has one he was using for the first time today, while Caracol had a new winter bike and had sentenced his old one to life on the turbo. This had him pondering the value of Zwift as a potential training aid.

I told him to ask Crazy Legs, who had used something similar and reported riding the Oslo World Championship course, in splendid isolation from the comfort of his own garage, but also, simultaneously in collective-cyberspace with a bunch of virtual strangers.

He’d ended up laughing at himself for futilely flicking out an elbow to try and get one of them to come through and do a turn on the front, before realising he was still in his garage, there was no one behind him to come through and no matter how professional his elbow waggling looked, no one could actually see it.

An amused Caracol wondered if he had also taken the time to point out any old oil spills or stray nails that might have been lurking on the garage floor.

After a long, long wait, we determined our second group had in fact encountered problems along the way, or had simply decided to take to different roads, so we pressed on without them.

We then took a circuitous route through Capheaton and up to Wallington. Richard of Flanders, Keel and Zardoz headed straight through to Middleton Bank from there, while the rest of us climbed up to Scots Gap before looping back to the hill.

When we got there, a frisky Caracol blasted away, with Rab Dee in hot pursuit, while the rest of us were left to follow as best we could.

Alongside Benedict, I caught up with a waiting Rab Dee as we crossed the top of the hill and, as the road levelled, we found ourselves with Caracol a distant speck in front and Spoons a similar distance behind. Our choices were simple, to wait, to chase, or to stay where we were, hanging somewhere between the two.

After a fairly lengthy consideration, we decided to chase (sorry, Spoons) and set off in pursuit of Caracol. With Rab Dee pushing on the front, we slowly reeled in our front runner, while I sat at the back, just about hanging on.

We were all together for the sweep around Bolam Lake and the swoop through Milestone Woods. Then we hit the rollers and I attacked up the first slope … because … well, because I always do. This gave Caracol and Rab Dee a springboard to slingshot around me as my legs inevitably failed on the last slope and while I chased hard, I had no chance of narrowing the gap on the final climb to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The Red Max reported that the Lone Dissenting Voice had indeed rejected the planned route and led a splinter group away from the perils of Broadway West – the splinter group consisting of exactly one, single, solitary rider.

I can neither deny, nor confirm rumours that the Lone Dissenting Voice still found something to argue about, even as he rode off in his own company.

Crazy Legs then said a new guy had shown up just as the second group were pulling out and asked to join on. He had apparently “seen people riding in a group before” which Crazy Legs took as a tacit admission that he hadn’t actually done it himself.

The new guy, let’s call him Joe (simply because I understand that’s his actual name) seemed to be doing fine, until he showed a remarkable affinity for spelunking and drawn in by the lure of a deep, unfathomable pothole, planted his wheel in it, smashing down and fracturing his collarbone.

Emergency services and concerned-partner calls were made and Crazy Legs, Carlton and a delegation hung back to look after our fallen rider until the ambulance arrived, while the rest of the group pressed on. At some point the LDV had sailed past and away, I’m not sure what words were emitted at this point, but I do know his contributions were not well received.

Further mishap then befell the group, when Crazy Legs suffered a stupidly close punishment pass from a motorcyclist, tangled handlebars with Carlton and came down. Luckily his much cossetted Ribble managed to escape without harm, while Crazy Legs collected a few bruises and scratches, a hole in his leggings (which he thought added street cred) and a stinger from landing heavily on his side.

(For the sake of clarity, it’s worth pointing out that neither of these incidents occurred anywhere near Broadway West, although our mindless transgression of its sacred boundaries may have accrued the bad karma that contributed to them.)

I told the Red Max that Crazy Legs has form when it came to tangling with motorcyclists, remembering his game of chicken with the Harley Hogs when descending the Galibier at speed. We wondered (purely theoretically, of course) what the consequences of a more physical confrontation might have been had the motor cyclist bothered to stop to survey the damage he’d caused.

Crazy Legs was quite sanguine about his chances, suggesting cyclists were lighter and more nimble, so he could easily sway out of the way of jumbo haymakers and quickly jab back. He also felt if he could somehow bring the biker down, it would be game over – like a tortoise on its back, or an unhorsed knight in armour, there be no getting back up.

The Red Max appeared to support these fantastical delusions, insisting many cyclists and bikers shared a mid-life crisis engendered by the onset of inherent lardiness, but we channelled ours into physical activity that would directly address the issue, while they channelled theirs into a more sedentary activity that would simply exacerbate it.

Giving the cyclist vs. biker (or mods vs. rockers, if you will) fight-scenario far greater consideration than was justified, Crazy Legs concluded that his slippery cleats would put him at a disadvantage and determined it would be better to fight in his stockinged feet. This, he assured us, would be OK, as he would appeal to the sporting nature of his adversary and politely request that he too remove any footwear, in the interests of fairness.

Quite how he was going to land his punches through the letter box sized visor of a full face helmet I never did get a satisfactory answer to, luckily someone decided it was time to leave.


I joined a small group for the ride back, progressing at a sensible, sustained pace which was ideal for my tired legs that appeared to be suffering a holiday hangover.  A larger group had coalesced in front of us, but no one had any inclination to chase them down and the gap simply expanded until we could no longer see them on the road.

As we set our own, comfortable pace back, I dropped in beside Sneaky Pete for a quick chat and learned that the heatwave is officially over, as he revealed he’d taken to wearing long trousers instead of shorts for the first time in 3 months.

Oh well, it’s been a good run…


YTD Totals: 5,014 km / 2,814 miles with 61,645 metres of climbing