The Coalition of Chaos – A S’Winter Ride

The Coalition of Chaos – A S’Winter Ride

Club Run, Saturday 3rd June, 2017           

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  95 km / 59 miles with 378 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          3 hours 56 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.2 km/h

Group size:                                         9 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    14°C

Weather in a word or two:          S’Winter

 


10 june
Ride Profile

 

Capture
Glorious British Summer Time

The Ride:

Once again the fickle British weather continues to toy with us and swing from one extreme to another, substituting last weekend’s glorious warmth and wall to wall sunshine, with a lumpen mass of oppressive grey cloud. This was due to stay hunched over Northern England for most of Saturday, emitting a constant stream of rain that hardly ever stopped, although it did occasionally vary in intensity – from light shower to a hard, stinging deluge and all points in-between.

Assuming the forecasts were going to be at least part-right, the Peugeot had been prepped the night before and made ready for a day when even cursed and rubbing mudguards would be, not only tolerated, but considered a necessity and a small price to pay for added protection. Luckily they even behaved.

Along with a change back to winter bikes, waterproof socks and my most impermeable jacket were selected for a real field test of effectiveness. (The Santini jacket passed admirably, the Sealskinz socks were an abject failure.)

It was also one of those days when the rain was heavy enough to screw with my Garmin, so the ride profile probably isn’t very accurate. If it is, then not only did I ride off a vertical cliff after 60km, but my home finished the day over 50 metres lower than where it was when I set out in the morning, even though the climb back up the hill was no easier.

Setting out and onto the Heinous Hill, I floated downstream with the current, noticing as I bottomed out on the valley floor just how noisy wet roads make the rest of the traffic, car tyres ripping and hissing past on the water-slicked tarmac.

Across the bridge and the River Tyne was a flat, sullen and grey below, devoid of boats or any other movement. Perhaps it was too wet even for the rowers?

Working back along the other side of the river, the Cobblestone Runway was now flanked by two new sets of traffic lights and temporary road works. At the first of these I queued behind a stream of cars for a good five minutes before the drivers decided the lights weren’t working and started to drive through on red.

Not wanting to come face-to-face with any approaching traffic that had the same idea, I picked out a large, heavy goods vehicle that looked suitably intimidating, tucked in behind it for protection and used it as a lead blocker for my own end-around through the roadworks.

Climbing up, out of the valley on the other side, more temporary lights pulled me to a stop half way up the slope, but this time I had only moments to wait before I was released by the green light.

The rest of the way was plain sailing and I swept through the meeting place and ducked into the shelter on the multi-storey car park just as Crazy Legs rolled in from the other side.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

The Hammer would be leading the ride today and had proposed a route that included wheat fields aplenty to run through, for those needing to get in touch with their rebellious side. The weather though was going to be the deciding factor and a shorter, more direct route to the café looked considerably more appealing – even if it meant foregoing such total, May-esque frivolity and utterly wicked abandon.

Crazy Legs admitted to being tired after following the extraordinary events of Thursday’s election as they had unfolded across his TV screen like a slow-motion car crash. I suspect he watched with the same glee and satisfaction most of us felt, as the overweening hubris of our elected government was shattered in a completely unnecessary, wasteful election they had brought solely on themselves. Smugness, conceit and presumption put to the sword – empty slogans, a robotic, delusional, uninspiring, empty and arrogant “leader” horribly exposed and a rabidly vicious and horribly twisted, biased press largely ignored.

Sometimes, just sometimes, the great British public can surprise me in a good way.

With world attention seemingly focussed, however briefly on this small island, we did wonder what outsiders might have made of some of our more colourful candidates, such as Lord Buckethead who, on the same platform as our incumbent PM, somehow seemed warmer and more genuine and appealing.

Others included a very large, very red Elmo, Howling “Laud” Hope of the Monster Raving Loony Party and one hopeful dressed (and I don’t think even he knows why) as a giant fishfinger.

Crazy Legs in particular liked Lord Buckethead’s manifesto, built on a platform of “strong, but not very stable leadership” it included the pledge of no third runway at Heathrow: (“where we’re going we don’t need runways”) the nationalisation of Adele and a firm public commitment to build the £100bn renewal of the Trident weapons system, followed by an equally private commitment not to build it, the flawless logic being: “they’re secret submarines, no one will ever know. It’s a win win.”

Particularly appealing, Lord Buckethead promised free bikes for everyone, to help combat obesity, traffic congestion and, err … bike theft.

The ever pragmatic Taffy Steve, suggested we didn’t need to an election to negotiate Brexit, we simply had to point at the Norwegian model, say that’s what we want and how much will it cost. The only slight flaw in this argument is the presumption of some that we can somehow leave the EU and they’ll then give us for free everything we used to pay for. I don’t even think Lord Buckethead is that delusional.

European adventures were also under discussion in relation to our upcoming Alpine invasion, with the plan Crazy Legs proposed of riding the Marmotte Granfondo route possibly under threat due to the closure of one of the tunnels. He’d checked out the recommended traffic diversion, but backed out quickly when he found it involved an additional 2½ hours just to drive it!

Latest reports from Carlton and Cowin’ Bovril who are across there this weekend suggest the route is now open and we may yet be spared a circumnavigation of the entire mountain range.


It was a small group of only 9 diehards who pushed off clipped in and rode out into the rain. After some discussion we’d agreed to amend the route and head, more or less directly to the café, the only real contention being which café, with Big Dunc’s suggestion of the Costa, 800 metres away on the High Street getting serious consideration.

I took to the front with Big Dunc as we set out. We hadn’t gone far when the BFG trailing us closely drew our attention to what he thought might be two cycling ghosts up ahead. I suggested they might be the restless spirits of Coppi and Bartali, but received only an uneducated, “Huh?” in response.

As we drew closer we saw it wasn’t the ghosts of long dead, Italian cycling campionissimo’s we were tracking, but a father and son on mountain-bikes and wearing long, white rain ponchos. Hmm, bit early for trick or treat?

As an act of sheer, devil-may-care, rebellion, almost as reckless as running through a field of wheat, we decided to head straight up Brunton Lane, rather than taking the usual route past the Sage HQ.

Unfortunately, rebellion isn’t without consequence and we hadn’t gone far when our path was blocked by hundreds upon hundreds of soaking wet, T-shirt clad kids doing a “fun run” in the most atrocious conditions imaginable. It looked to me like nothing so much as the Pied Piper leading an army of wet and bedraggled rats out of Hamelin. Still, to be fair, despite the horrible weather the kids did actually look to be enjoying themselves.

We turned around and back-tracked toward the Sage HQ, to find the road here was closed as well, but the run had already passed and once the cones had been cleared, we were free to proceed.

Having lost my station at the front I drifted back to find Sneaky Pete, who was starting to wonder what kind of lunacy had tempted him out on a day like this. I tried to convince him it wasn’t so bad and once he was home in his slippers and silk smoking jacket, toasting his feet by the fire while enjoying a cigar and sturdy snifter of brandy, he’d look back fondly on the day and realise how much fun it had been. Honest.

With my socks slowly getting waterlogged and cold water squelching up between my toes on every pedal stroke, we pressed on and out into the rather grey and sodden countryside, occasionally skirting the wide puddles that crept out from the verges and into the road.


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We called a pee stop and discussed route options, with the Hammer’s suggestion for a referendum and then a vote, roundly shouted down, before finding a degree of consensus. With it still being too early for a direct run to the café, G-Dawg led us on a route across the top of the Quarry climb.

Loop successfully completed, we started to close in on the café and the pace unconsciously quickened a little, while the BFG specs misted horribly. With the rain now lashing down hard and caught in the spray kicked up from the wheel in front, he started wailing that he was blind and couldn’t see.

Crazy Legs suggested he wasn’t going to be contesting any sprints today as the weather was rank, our run-in was down the horribly potted and rutted surface that led to the Snake Bends and he was conscious of a big week ahead.

This conviction lasted almost as long as the BFG’s sudden attack, as he jumped hard and out of the saddle, briefly opening up a small gap which Crazy Legs almost instantly moved to close down.

I assumed the BFG was just trying to force a Damascene conversion and hoping a bit of clear air and open road might help the scales fall from his eyes. His effort was quite short-lived and he was soon back in the fold. We then reformed and I took to the front alongside G-Dawg, bouncing and rattling down the road and the speed starting to build again.

The Hammer was the next to attack, appropriately hammering down the outside and everyone swept around me to give chase, while I just kept pounding away, not looking to add any speed and just trying to maintain what I already had.

We flashed past a junction where another large group of cyclist were waiting to turn onto the road. Luckily they’d seen us and held back, otherwise it could have become sketchy – our lot were at full bore and unlikely to be happy with anyone riding into their path.

I was too far back and it was too murky to see the outcome of the sprint, but I do know that despite all his protestations Crazy Legs was in the mix right up to the end. No surprise there then.

We regrouped at the junction and then pressed on down the narrow, horribly potholed lane that paralleled the main drag. Here the other group of cyclists caught up and pointlessly forced their way past, while we singled out and everyone had to slalom and weave precariously around the fissures, holes and divots that littered our route.

At the end of the lane they turned right along with us, just before our last hurrah, a short ramp that we traditionally take at full gas as a full-stop to our actual café sprint. Traditions have to be upheld, even though the other group seemed particularly disgruntled and nonplussed as we bustled them out of the way and burst up the outside of their line, before easing and rolling into the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the café, with black bin bags to park our water-logged derriere’s on, we pushed a few tables into one long line and convened around it.

The Hammer finished his poached eggs on toast and then started in on a bacon sarnie, suggesting he’d been so hungry in the week he’d eaten an entire box of muesli in one sitting. Crazy Legs mimed upending a large box of cereal and pouring it directly into his mouth, before asking how the Hammer could still manage to talk without constantly coughing out a cloud of muesli dust.

Crazy Legs next suggested drinking down a pint of milk to see if it would cause the Hammer’s stomach to suddenly bulge like an instant pregnancy, or John Hurts chest just before the Alien rips its way out of his innards.

For some reason talk turned to glam-rock legends, The Sweet, as Crazy Legs tried to recall one of their songs that was always on heavy rotation at the ice hockey. I felt anything was good as long as it wasn’t “Love is Like Oxygen” – a song the Hammer would later declare “has an elegiac quality, reminiscent of running alone through a field of wheat.”

He then suggested that The Sweet were the kind of band Led Zeppelin could have been if only … (I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t inadvertently discovered the secret identity of Lord Buckethead and now know who the person is under that … err… bucket.)

The Hammer and Big Dunc became all misty-eyed and nostalgic about prog rock and discussions about the best Pink Floyd album, while both Crazy Legs and I excused ourselves from the discussion and affirmed our Punk, Post-Punk-New Wave, Ska and Mod credentials by  declaring we’d never even consider listening to Pink Floyd and would instantly destroy any of their material that might infiltrate our households and taint our music sensibilities.

Meanwhile, as the rain continued to lash down outside and despite our dripping, soaked through gear, we all agreed we were strangely content to live in a moderate if changeable climate and pleased we didn’t have to suffer the extremes of long, baking hot summers, or deep frozen, snowbound winters.

Crazy Legs started toying with his track mitts and I told him it was too late to try and dry them out now. He gave us a fine display of jazz hands and suggested if he could ride home like that, his gloves would probably be dry before he made it back. The Hammer felt he might as well go the whole hog, black up and ride home doing a bad impersonation of Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer.

And then it was time to leave and with a quick rendition of “Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goo’ Bye)” make our way out into the rain again, while the rest of the cafe patrons heaved a huge sigh of relief.

As we were making for the exit someone in the café seemed to suggest we were, as my water-logged ears interpreted it, as “mad as otters” – perhaps I misheard, but I have to say that given the wet weather that seemed an altogether appropriate epithet.


I had a chat with Taffy Steve as we rode back and we both agreed the ride had the feel of one of our winter epics – a small band of die-hard compadre’s, gamely battling the elements together, while spouting all sorts of complete and utter nonsense. The only difference was, this time the rain was warm!

This reminded me of the  Phineas and Ferb episode where they used a snow-cone machine to create “a unique and logic defying amalgam of winter and summer” or S’Winter. Leaving the others and heading for home,  the S’Winter song became deeply lodged in my brain and I found myself pedalling along quite happily, singing:

It’s a S’Winter S’Wonderland,

Unusual and grand,

You can freeze while you get tan,

Because it’s S’Winter.

(Apparently, some people call it W’ummer too!)


YTD Totals: 3,593 km / 2,233 miles with 38,618 metres of climbing

Go Long, Bullseye

Go Long, Bullseye

Club Run, Saturday 3rd June, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  116 km / 72 miles with 1,183 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 24 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.3 km/h

Group size:                                         40+ riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    23°C

Weather in a word or two:          Warm and bright


 

3 june
Ride Profile

The Ride:

A quick look out of the window, early Saturday morning showed bright blue skies and the trees utterly motionless in the still air. It looked like being a good one.

Outside it was still surprisingly chilly, but I was convinced it was going to warm up and my “just in case” arm warmers stayed firmly in my jersey pocket as I made my way to the meeting point.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Shoeless was one of the first to arrive for a very rare outing with the club. He explained it needed a precise alignment of weather, shift patterns, family commitments, lack of other “triathlony” type sporting events along with his own personal inclination and motivation for him to make a ride these days.

It was so hot that … oh, sorry, I’ve done that one haven’t I. Nevertheless, it was warm enough once again to encourage Szell in another general disrobing and the removal of unwarranted base layers. I think perhaps he’s developing an exhibitionist’s streak – he certainly seems incapable of finding a reliable weather forecast.

OGL turned up with a new seat clamp for Szell’s “fat lad’s bike” and fitted it while we waited. Now that’s service for you. Meanwhile Crazy Legs urged Szell to make a careful examination of OGL’s new, custom-painted Orbea as this is what he’s likely be inheriting in the near future.

The Orbea is supposed to be highlighted in club colours, but both shades of tangerine and green look a touch off to my untrained eye. To compound the issues, OGL was wearing a sample pair of customised shorts a new potential supplier had sent him to review. These too were meant to be in club colours, but they had been matched from nothing more than a photo on a web page and were also quite subtly, wrong. the colours yet again different from both the club jersey and the bike.

The overall effect was like a kids drawing  where they’d been forced to change pens halfway through and got bored with too precise colouring in.

Sneaky Peter sneaked up, back on his beloved, impeccably fixed and restored De Rosa. Where OGL showed us the perils of mismatching colours, the repair work on the De Rosa was so accomplished that not even G-Dawg’s hyper-critical eye (able to spot the difference between a 3mm and 2.5mm spoke at 30 paces) could find fault or discern where the cracked chainstay had been repaired.

Taffy Steve likened this to his own patch job on his favourite sunglasses, having snapped an arm off these while polishing the lenses the previous week, these too had been restored to fully functioning order by the liberal application of superglue.

He suggested there was little difference between the job done on his glasses and the De Rosa, while I suspected he’d used probably twenty times the amount of superglue for his small repair, which seemed functional and robust, but was perhaps lacking a little in artisanship.

Talk turned to football, with the Garrulous Kid announcing Germany would win the next World Cup and he was so confident he’d put money on it. If anyone wants to take him up on the offer, let me know and I’ll forward his details.

Ridiculed for suggesting Phillip Lham would be a driving force (he’s apparently retired) – Crazy Legs was unfazed and unbothered by the criticism and declared he’d be happy and content as long as Joachim Löw was still in charge of Germany, so he could once again entertain with his nose-picking, testicle-cupping, anus-fingering and hand-sniffing exploits.

This week’s route had been conceived, pre-published and would be led by Aether and with over 40 cyclists crowding the pavement, it’s never been so obvious we needed to split into at least two groups on the road. Aether outlined his plans for the ride and led the first group off.

Perhaps simply to sow a bit of confusion and discord, OGL wondered aloud who would lead the second group, but whatever point he was trying to make was lost when the Red Max instantly stepped up to the mark and volunteered.

As the first riders pulled away, Crazy Legs suggested a few of us hang back, so there were no complaints about the two groups being unbalanced or all the stronger riders disappearing up the road. He certainly needn’t have worried on the latter count as super-strong riders, Benedict and Den Haag were still behind and they set off at the head of the second group.


Three of us were delayed at the first set of lights and we were joined by a few latecomers as we started to slowly converge on the back of the second group. By the time we were negotiating Brunton Lane several groups of riders had all merged and our small group became a peloton in its own right.

One moment Szell had been riding with half a dozen others and the next he’d been surrounded by over 20 riders swooping around to form up behind him. “Bloody hell,”  he declared, “It’s just like Taras Bulba!” Cossacks Hourra! Hourra!

As we cleared the city traffic, Benedict and OGL became involved in a very intense conversation about the structure of the club runs and how best to organise them so no one felt left out, disadvantaged or held back.

This left Den Haag ploughing a lone furrow on the front of the group, so I moved up to slot in alongside him for a chat about the Giro, Dumoulin’s Dump (or defecategate as one Internet wag dubbed it) the Hammer series, time-trialling, cyclo-cross and other such things, all the while trying to keep half an ear on the increasingly animated conversation behind.

Through Dinnington and up past the Cheese Farm, OGL and Benedict kept at it, until the clamber up Bell’s Hill splintered the group apart and offered some respite for both parties. I’m still not sure anything was resolved.

I called a halt at the top of Bell’s Hill so we could regroup and also because we’d started to close in on the first group and needed to give them a bit more space.

“Is that the fast group, up ahead?” Facebook-postin’ carbon-stress-loadin’ Guiness-slurpin’ pie-chompin’ platter-spinnin’ real-ale-swilling curry-gobblin’ all-azione Thom-Thom suggested, tongue lodged firmly in his cheek and blatantly fishing with an apparently irresistable lump of bait.

“There is no fast group.” OGL snapped.

“Are you sure?” Thom-Thom asked, deliberately misunderstanding, “That looks like the fast group…”

Oh, dear. Moving swiftly on, we set off again and I had a chuckle with Taffy Steve as we first determined that if Bugs Bunny rode with the club he’d doubtless refer to the Kia Sportage as a Spore-tadjee and then compared OGL to Foghorn Leghorn.

The strangest sight of the day had to be a dog owner taking their small, very young puppy for “a walk” by dragging it on a lead behind his mountain bike. I couldn’t help thinking if he went too slow the excitable pup was going to wrap the lead around his forks, get caught under the knobbly tyres and bring him down, but if he went too fast he probably end up dragging the luckless pup behind him and wear its legs down to stubs. I’m not utterly convinced the kennel club or Canine Defence League would have approved of his training methods.


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A long looping descent dropped us off at the bottom of the Mur de Mitford and up we went, with Taffy Steve messing up his gear change and storming up it in the big ring, while I messed up in the opposite direction and ended up in the granny ring and twiddling my way to the top.

Again we regrouped and pressed on with Benedict and Den Haag re-united on the front and keeping the pace decidedly brisk as we closed in on Netherwhitton. We stopped here for some respite and to split the group, with half taking the left turn to track their way up the Trench, while the rest of us pressed on to Ritton Bank, still at speed.

Ritton Bank is one of the first real tests on the Cyclone route, but today we would take a sharp left just before its rather gnarly summit. Nonetheless it was a decent leg stretcher and strung us out into a long line.

Regrouping at the top we followed a twisting rolling road just below the top of the fells, flanked by dry stone walls that were lined with thoroughly disinterested and somnolent shaggy black cows. Crazy Legs gave them a rather desultory “Moo” while, riding up behind him, I unleashed my own imitation of a bovine greeting, which was apparently so realistic he visibly flinched and looked back in panic like a sweating fat lad tripping over his own feet on the Pamplona Bull Run.

Crazy Legs was so taken with my “cow call” he had me repeat it several times and then again to a visibly unimpressed Taffy Steve, who I think only responds to sheep. Luckily there were no locals around to wonder about the strange, randomly mooing cyclist riding down their road.

A long, screaming descent down into the Font Valley saw Benedict and Den Haag open up a gap at the front and then we were onto the Category 4 Rothley Lakes climb, 3kms at an average of 3% with the sharpest ramps of almost 13% at the bottom.

Working out of the saddle, I overhauled Taffy Steve and then Crazy Legs and as the slope eased, I plonked myself down, found a good rhythm and started to work my way upwards, managing to hold the distance on the front two and opening up a gap to those behind.

Topping out the Rothley Lakes climb led to 5km of mixed climbing and descending on rolling roads and the front pair started to pull ahead. Nonetheless I pressed on in solo pursuit, indulging in a rather grand bout of chasse patate and thoroughly enjoying myself. Twists and turns on the route conspired to keep my quarry out of sight through Scots Gap, but as they took the sharp turn for Middleton Bank I saw a flash of red that was Benedict’s jersey.

As I approached the climb I could see a long stream of riders disappearing over the crest, which included the notable, shocking-pink jersey beZ was wearing that morning. I reasoned Benedict and Den Haag must have caught and joined up with our first group and found I had something else to chase now.

Up Middleton Bank, I passed a labouring Richard of Flanders, detached from the front group and pushing on alone. I tried to give him some encouragement and thought he might be able to hold onto my wheel, but I’m not even certain he tried and I was off solo once again.

With the front group winding up for the final sprint, there was no way I was going to catch them now and reasoned the gap was going to grow. Sure enough, I caught only one or two further glimpses of the pack and it wasn’t long until they were well out of sight and my ride to the café was completed in splendid isolation.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

As I parked up the bike and made my away indoors, the BFG called me across. “Where did we drop you and how far off the back must you have been?” he asked, glancing at his watch.

Ha ha, everyone’s a comedian.

I tagged onto the back of the queue inside and was soon joined by Taffy Steve, Crazy Legs and the others as they arrived in in ones and twos.

The Garrulous Kid appeared to buy a can of Coke and to tell us of another epic failure of his cornering skills. This had seen him engaging, not for the first time, in a little cyclo-cross riding, off the road and up an embankment. He said that it had looked so dangerous someone had apparently called him a stunt rider.

I naturally suggested he may have misheard the actual comment, while Taffy Steve wanted to know if they might perhaps have included the word cunning in their appreciation of his off-piste skills.

Collecting his coffee and cake, Taffy Steve carefully made his way to the table outside on jelly legs, or what he perceptively described as baby giraffe legs, the special feeling you get after a hard, intensive effort on what had proven to be a fairly demanding route.

Later, Szell would make his way to the table, wobbly and stumbling like the town drunk.

“You see,” Taffy Steve declared, “Baby giraffe legs.” Couldn’t argue there.

Enjoying our relaxation and recovery in the sun and against all accepted protocol, we sneaked two refills of coffee, which caused the Garrulous Kid to declare, “I’m not allowed coffee.” while he bounced around the table like a chipmunk on speed.

“I’m not surprised, I can’t begin to imagine you loaded on caffeine,” I offered, looking pointedly at his Coke.

“Yeah,” he giggled madly, “I’m not supposed to have Coke either.”

Amped up like a toddler overdosing on E-numbers and a blood-boiling sugar rush, the Garrulous Kid returned to a recurring complaint, the fact he doesn’t like the particular moniker I’ve bestowed on him.

As before I listened patiently and then told him he had been given numerous name suggestions he could choose from, Crap Gob, Fresh Trim, Jar-Jar Binks, Zoolander or the Garrulous Kid. In fact, I’m not sure anyone in the club can claim more potential names, which I think is quite an achievement in so short a space of time.

Receiving very little sympathy and with his attention span stretched way beyond capacity, he bounded away to another table to repeat his complaint and in the process apparently admitted to hating his middle name too.

“What’s that then?” was the obvious question.

From all accounts – and I’ve gathered these from numerous independent witnesses and reliable sources – the answer that came back most closely sounded like “Helen.”

So, one more choice to add to his options, Crap Gob, Fresh Trim, Jar-Jar Binks, Zoolander, the Garrulous Kid or … Helen.

All good things must come to an end, so three coffees’ later and with our brief sojourn in the sunny garden coming to a close, we gathered together, formed up and rode out.


Riding along beside Zardoz, he nodded his head at the Red Max’s back pack and whispered conspiratorially, “Do you think there’s actually anything in there?”

I assured him it was like Felix the Cat’s magical bag of tricks and the Red Max would reach into it whenever he was in a fix. I could only begin to speculate to its precise contents, but had seen him pull tools such as pliers, spanners and screwdrivers from the bag, complete sets of clothing, rain jackets, spare bike components, chains, assorted nuts, bolts, screws and brake blocks, food, drink, snacks, gels, sun creams, spare specs, hats, socks, gloves, bike spares and repairs, inner tubes, tyre shoes, patches, gaffer tape, zip ties, chain links – the list was almost endless.

In fact, I suggested the only time Red Max’s bag of tricks had let him down was when someone snapped their gear hanger. Red Max didn’t have one and to his everlasting shame was mortified when OGL produced one out of his back-pocket. I’m fairly confident his bag also includes a spare gear hanger now.

Descending Berwick Hill and perhaps in appreciation of last weeks splenetic, Mr. Angry the cyclist, we had Mr. Angry, the splenetic RIM, over-taking at high speed and bellowing “Ride in single file!” out of the window. We all gave him our biggest, friendliest, cheeriest waves and I’m not certain, but I think G-Dawg may have even have blown him a kiss.

Moments later and another RIM in a massive 4×4  was cutting across into our lane to overtake a slower car and came powering straight at us. Thankfully he swooped back at the last instant, just before we started hurling ourselves off the road to escape the brain-dead moron.

Still even these incidents couldn’t sour what had been a good, long and testing ride over some less travelled routes and challenging climbs. I’d gone over 72 miles by the time I made it home, grinning from ear to ear and looking forward to doing it all again next week.


YTD Totals: 3,442 km / 2,139 miles with 37,377 metres of climbing

Swept Up

Swept Up

Club Run, Saturday 27th May, 2017       

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  113 km / 70 miles with 1,069 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 27 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                         38 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    24°C

Weather in a word or two:          Hot and sticky


 

27 May
Ride Profile

The Ride:

Saturday morning found me smeared in Factor 30 and dropping down the hill under pale skies that were only slightly marred by a few, high altitude, chalky-gauze clouds. The real start of summer? Doubtful, but it will do for now.

It was actually considerably cooler than it had been mid-week, when early evening commutes home had been like riding through a sauna. Today we were even promised some sharp showers, possibly punctuated by an occassional thunderstorm, but hopefully we’d all be home and hosed by the time they arrived.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

The ride across town was pleasant and uneventful and I pulled up at the meeting place to be instantly greeted by a happy, bouncing Garrulous Kid, who announced rather ominously, “I’m Back!”

Lord, help us.

He then proudly told me he’d managed to fix a puncture last week.

“Did you do it all by yourself?” I asked.

“Yes. I was with the Prof and he just rode away and left me …”

“Ah, yes,” I explained, “He does have a habit of doing that…”

It was so hot … that our even our delicate, Dutch flower, De Uitheems Bloem had arrived in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey, revealing limbs that might not have seen the light of day since last July.

G-Dawg rolled in to proudly show off the yellow spacers in his cassette.

“Did you manage to source some, then?” The BFG enquired, a hint of jealousy creeping into his voice.

“Nope, I made them myself.” G-Dawg replied proudly, explaining how he’d visited a model shop and started quizzing them about the different paints they had and what they were suitable for.

Apparently he had the entire shop staff around him, intrigued by his request for hard-wearing, gloss paint in bright canary yellow and wondering why he needed it. Was it for the ailerons on a B17 perhaps, or the propeller tips of a Focke-Wulf 190? I’m not sure they would have believed him if he’d ‘fessed up.

I wanted to know if he’d gone for Humbrol or Tamiya paint.

“Hah!” the BFG instantly pounced, “I bet you used to make models. Is that when you were young, had no personality and couldn’t talk to girls?”

“What?” I countered, “As opposed to now, when I’m old, have no personality and can’t talk to girls?”

“Ah, so that’s why you became a cyclist?” Son of G-Dawg declared.

You see what a cruel and heartless bunch I’m forced to ride with?

We then learned that G-Dawg had made his own paint rig from a toilet roll tube and fully prepped and prepared his cassette spacers, before giving them two full coats of paint, because, as Son of G-Dawg confirmed: “he’s not an amateur you know.”

Of course, everyone’s a critic and Crazy Legs wanted to know why he hadn’t gone for World Championship rainbow stripes (“There’s only 3 spacers.”) while I thought a bit of creative painting could have produced a hypnotic Zoetrope effect once the cassette was spinning – perhaps galloping horses or something similar.

I then, jokingly suggested G-Dawg could paint his brake blocks to match and was quite surprised when this was duly taken into consideration and he started planning how he could do this without actually ruining the braking surface.

It was so hot … that the Garrulous Kid had filled his bottle with water, stuck it in the freezer to chill and forgotten to remove it. He was now carting around a solid block of ice in his bottle cage and hoping it would melt before he became too desperate for a drink. This led to some discussion about the efficacy of insulated water bottles, which I suggested could also be useful if you wanted a hot drink of tea midway through a winter ride.

“Oh, I can just see it now.” G-Dawg laughed, miming drinking from a bottle with his pinkie finger ostentatiously raised. Son of G-Dawg suggested he could spread a crisp, white linen tablecloth over his handlebars too, just so we were compliant with all the rules of etiquette.

You see, utterly heartless. All of them.

It was so hot … that our mindless banter was interrupted by the unseemly sight of Szell disrobing, after he had decided that even a thin base-layer was too much insulation. It was not a pretty sight and the local residents hate us enough already without that kind of provocation.

Sur-reality was restored by the Garrulous Kid arguing that the black, sticky tape on his handlebars wasn’t black, sticky tape at all – I’m not sure what he actually thought it was and no one was brave, or foolish enough to ask.

It was so hot … that the fine weather seemed to have drawn just about everyone out and we formed a massive block of 38 riders. As the clock ticked down to official Garmin Time, a couple of groups were agreed and we managed a reasonable two-thirds, one third split as we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


I started out in the first group alongside Taffy Steve, had a chat with Slim Michael (who doesn’t often ride with us much anymore) and then slotted in beside the Garrulous Kid. As we dropped through Dinnington, the group split behind us and a Colnago riding, Mr. Angry infiltrated our ranks.

“Do youse lot never single out when there’s a car behind?” He demanded aggressively.

Oh dear, this wasn’t a conversation I wanted at this time and in this place. Truth be told we were on a fairly twisting road with reduced visibility and there was no safe place to pass, even if we’d all been in single file. (Notwithstanding the fact the line would have been at least twice as long, with the head disappearing around the next corner even as the tail reached any semblance of a straight.) So, no, we weren’t going to single out and ride in the gutter so some motorist could try and squeeze past, too fast and too close, in order to save a few seconds on their journey.

I muttered something non-committal, along the lines of “No, not always,” only to be castigated with, “It’s no wonder cyclists get a bad name with motorists.”

Perhaps expecting some kind of reasoned debate was probably too much at this point and anyway, Mr Angry seemed to succumb to a sudden attack of Tourette’s as he sat behind, frothing at the mouth and proving he had a quite remarkable and extensive vocabulary of swear words that he could direct at us.

It’s bad enough dealing with indignant motorists, but abusive, splenetic fellow cyclists too?

Sadly, much as I was enjoying Mr. Angry’s apoplectic and foul-mouthed diatribe, he obviously decided we were too amateurish, selfish, arrogant and egotistical to ride with and turned off at the first opportunity. Hopefully he found some misplaced inner calm once he was riding solo and only had to deal with the demons in his own head, while he could give way to motorists to his heart’s desire.

Our own ride returned to its former peaceable state and we pressed on. As we swung through Mitford we were greeted by a hearty “Good morning, chaps,” as OGL bridged across with our second group, who’d taken a different route to get to the same place at around the same time.


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A bounce through an unexpected pot then jettisoned my tool-tub and I swung over to the side of the road and pulled to a stop to let the long, long line of cyclist’s whirr past. I rode back down the road and retrieved my tub, turned around again and set off in pursuit.

Sneaky Pete, having seen me pull over and stop, had sneaked off the back and was soft pedalling, waiting for me to catch up  to provide some company for the chase. As the road started to twist and rise up to Dyke Neuk, we worked together to close down the gap and catch back on.

Up ahead, the second group had called a halt at the junction to regroup and we were able to tag onto the back, which was perfect and saved a much harder and much longer chase. I had in effect been swept up.

Off we set again, dropping down, then scrambling up through Hartburn. Here a bit of dithering and indecision about which way to go, left Moscas almost doing a track-stand half way up a sharp rise, his bike parallel to whichever direction we decided to take and horribly stuck in the wrong gear.

OGL and a few others decided to set off for Middleton Bank, while the rest of us pushed on for Angerton. With a route finally determined, a grunting, straining effort from Moscas somehow saw him turn the pedals over, swing his bike around and  finally accelerate away up the climb.

We pressed on with the BFG and Laurelan a mismatched, little and large pairing on the front, climbing up toward Bolam Lake, where we stopped to regroup and wait. This wait proved a little longer than expected, as the back-markers had stopped when the group heading to Middleton Bank had become engaged in an altercation with a RIM in a black Volvo, who seemed incapable of grasping the meaning of a simple Give Way sign and markers.

The driver had cut in so close that one of our riders had been able to deliver a hefty thump to the side of his precious car. He’d reversed for a confrontation, only to back off quickly when he found himself up against half a dozen pissed-off cyclists, all of whom seemed to have a much better grasp of the Highway Code than he was able to muster. I think the fact one of them was blatantly videoing the entire episode didn’t help either.

Back together again, things stayed that way until we swept through Milestone Wood and the BFG unleashed a powerful attack at the foot of the first slope – a move about as unexpected as the room going dark when you turn off the light.

I was already accelerating up onto his wheel in anticipation of the jump and trailed him up and over the first two ramps, before sitting back in the saddle and drifting to one side where he couldn’t miss me. Despite the effort, I took a moment to control my breathing and composed my face to look as calm, reassured and as at ease as possible.

When the BFG finally looked back over his shoulder he found me sitting there, seemingly comfortable and smiling benevolently back at him.

“Oh, you’re still there!” He exclaimed in surprise, before swinging aside and ceding the front in disgust.

I nudged ahead over the last rise and soft-pedalled a little as we dropped down the other side. As the road started to ramp up again I waited until the sweeping left hand corner and then started to accelerate. Slowly, slowly the BFG pulled alongside, nudged his wheel in front and then with a long, loud hiss like a deflating tyre, he blew and dropped away.

I pressed on and could hear other riders rattling along behind in pursuit, but no one seemed to have either the legs or the inclination to come past as I rolled through the junction and onto the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The BFG explained that Gardening was the new Cycling, or at least it is for him in terms of his most recent obsession. It’s all very well and good him slipping new bikes and bits of bikes into the house, but I’m not sure how he’s going to cover up buying another garden. Perhaps he can smuggle it in shovel load by shovel-load, shaking it our from secret pockets inside his pants like a latter day Great Escapee?

Part of his current plan of expansion by subterfuge (if a massive, hulking, scary, Kurgan looking feller can ever do anything by subterfuge) is to subsume land at the back of his garden into his own plot, stealing it from under the nose of rightful owners RailTrack.

He revealed that if he could secure this land he could then fulfill a long term ambition of dressing like Jenny Agutter in the Railway Children and skip down the tracks waving a white flag to stop approaching trains. It takes all sorts.

Meanwhile Sneaky Pete was pacing all around the table like an expectant father awaiting for news of his firtsborn. The reason for his anxiety was the impending return of his beloved De Rosa after he’d cracked the chainstay on one of the Orca tank traps that line the Great North Road Cycle Maze and Deathtrap and had to have it sent away for specialist repair.

Soon incessant pacing was coupled with terse phone calls to find out of delivery had been deemed successful and without complication. The denouement was all positive and a smiling and much relieved Sneaky Pete was finally able to relax and return to the table, although I was disappointed he didn’t hand round celebratory cigars.

Buster was suffering with pollen allergies and regretted not having wrap-around shades. A divers face mask was offered up as the perfect solution, perhaps even with the addition of a snorkel with a cotton wool filter. The face mask was deemed a strong possibility, but Buster wasn’t sold on the snorkel idea – unless he could get one about 70 foot long that he could use to draw in air from above the tree tops.

The conversation about face masks led to Sneaky Pete testing us to name two films where the main character wears a divers face mask – the answers he was looking for were The Graduate and Notting Hill.

Laurelan was slightly taken aback when the BFG revealed he would much rather watch Notting Hill, Love Actually or some other standard Rom-Com, than a testosterone-fuelled, action thriller like The Fast and the Furious 32 or Die Hard with a Zimmer Frame. Then again, what can you expect with a man who feels the need to dress up like Jenny Agutter in the Railway Children.

OGL wandered by to announce tomorrow’s club ride would be longer than normal, maybe 70 miles or more.

“What about Monday?” Crazy Legs asked.

“Oh, you should be back long before then.” The BFG quipped. Ba-boom! It made me laugh anyway.


It was, if anything a too quick jaunt home from the cafe and I found myself at the river before 1.00 o’clock had even rolled up. I decided I had time to tack on another loop up to Westerhope and back, padding my totals with a few more miles and metres of climbing.

This got me home at about normal time, but also gave the rain a chance to catch me as I climbed the Heinous Hill. It wasn’t too unpleasant though and luckily I was well indoors when the real storm arrived and unleashed a fusilade of stinging hailstones the size of marbles, that rattled and bounced ominously off the windows and roof. I can’t imagine being caught out in that while on a bike would have been a whole heap of fun.


YTD Totals: 3,216 km / 1,998 miles with 35,288 metres of climbing

 

 

 

The Devil’s in the Detail

The Devil’s in the Detail

Club Run, Saturday 20th May, 2017       

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  112 km / 70 miles with 879 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 14 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.3 km/h

Group size:                                         24 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    16°C

Weather in a word or two:          Showery


 

May 20th
Ride Profile

The Ride:

I awoke from a disturbed night of chasing multiple wet cats and their multiple mice “house guests” through multiple rooms, feeling generally unrested and mildly nauseous and with thundering headache pounding dully in the back of my skull.

Unusually, I also hadn’t prepared anything the night before, so wasted a whole heap of time dithering about what to wear and trying to second-guess the weather.

Heavy rain showers had rolled over during the night, but now seemed to be clearing. The roads though were still awash and there was every chance we’d be hit by further rain throughout the day. So jersey, shorts and arm warmers were the starting point, but overshoes or not? Knee or leg warmers? Jacket or gilet? I even (very) briefly considered breaking the Peugeot out of mothballs for the added protection of mudguards.

Unpreparedness translated into dithering and then dithering into delay.  As a consequence, it was 15 minutes later than usual when I finally saddled up and pushed off from the kerb. The showers seemed to have cleared for the time being, but the roads were still wet and I dropped down the hill taking extra care to avoid the slickly shining manhole covers and white lines.

In the valley a mental inventory of my back pockets revealed I’d left my spare inner tube as an ugly, useless and impromptu centrepiece in the middle of the dining room table. Having bragged about how pleased I was with my tyres last week, I couldn’t help feel this was tempting fate and the spare was something I might be needing later. Too late now, I just hoped the other two tubes I carried on the bike would be enough if the cycling gods wanted to punish me for my Vittorian-inspired hubris.

Still feeling generally washed-out and a bit “meh” (funnily enough, a word whose precise meaning I’d recently been debating with the Prof) – I took the dual-carriageway-surfing, short-cut across the river and out of the valley.

Somehow, someway I managed to make up lost time and found myself arriving at the meeting point a good ten minutes earlier than usual, my only company a huge, scavenging Herring Gull that seemed intent on giving me the evil eye.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Today the Prof had volunteered to lead us and had posted up a suitably eccentric route that included precisely 666 metres of climbing and a fun trip, straight down the A69. Trying to share the road with a hurtling mass of death-dealing traffic wasn’t in anyone’s best interests, so various suggestions and amendments had been made, until the proposed route had been knocked into a shape that everyone seemed happy with.

(I quite liked the initial, satanically-inspired 666 metres of climbing, but suspect it didn’t survive the final cut. Maybe that’s just as well though as we have had one rider in the past who refused to wear a club jersey simply because it was made by (the totally respectable) Imp Sport and (allegedly) actively encouraged devil worship. Luckily this rider never learned about my unhealthy Van Impe obsession, or I might have been declared unclean, excommunicated and cast out.)

I was chatting with Taffy Steve and De Uitheems Bloem, when the Prof rolled to a stop behind us.

“Hmm, where is your helmet?” De Uitheems Bloem asked, glancing over at the Prof.

In a moment of surprised befuddlement, the Prof raised both of his hands to comically pat all around his naked head, as if indeed trying to discern exactly where his helmet might have gone. When this failed to reveal the errant headgear hiding somewhere in the fairly limited space between his ears, he finally had to concede he’d simply forgotten to pick it up on the way out of the door.

With the clock ticking down toward official Garmin Muppet Time, a compromise solution was reached and the Prof disappeared around a nearby corner to borrow a helmet from De Uitheems Bloem’s family stock.

By this time G-Dawg had arrived on his winter fixie, apparently in an attempt to preserve the true blue tyres of his best bike in their still pristine condition. Realising that the impending weather was simply too much for “Cloudchaser” to cope with, Crazy Legs had also swapped the cossetted Ribble for his Bianchi, while OGL pulled up and declared, “W.R.W.B.”

I looked at him quizzically, “Huh?”

“Wet roads, winter bike.” He explained.

“Ah.”

Son of G-Dawg had no such qualms about subjecting his all-carbon, aero-stealth bike to a little variable weather and looking it over I noticed his short, stubby stem had no cap on. I wondered if it whistled in the wind and would fill up with water if it rained. Jimmy Mac suggested sticking a straw in it for a handy mid-ride drink, while I finally decided it most resembled an ink well and needed a quill pen to complete the look.

The Red Max was more concerned with the aerodynamic effects and turbulence the hole might cause. Son of G-Dawg indicated his own size compared to the small void in his stem and suggested it really wasn’t going to make that much difference.

The Red Max insisted though that now the issue had been raised it would prey on Son of G-Dawg’s mind. Son of G-Dawg finally conceded the truth of this and promised by next week he’d have carefully fashioned a diaphragm from cling film to smooth out any troublesome airflow.

The Prof returned having not only scored a borrowed helmet, but some specs as well and we were good to go.

With only 24 riders out a single-group with a pre-planned split was agreed and we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


I spent the first part of the ride chatting with the Prof about the intricacies of the Dutch education system and the benefits of a meritocracy. I then had some time with Laurelan discussing festivals and holidays and, more bizarrely, silent jazz disco’s.

From here I rotated through Richard of Flanders, Ovis and the Plank, before ending up back with Laurelan.

“It’s a bit like a barn dance, with ever changing partners,” she suggested as I slotted in beside her again.

“Yep, do-si-do,” I agreed.

“The next thing you know, we’ll all be chucking keys into a bowl,” she added.

“Hmm, that’s not going to work for cyclists,” I countered, “What about multi-tools instead?”

Before we could finalise the correct etiquette to follow for cycling-partner swaps, we were calling a pee stop and I found Crazy Legs ferreting around in his back pocket. Half-expecting him to whip out a multi-tool to throw into a bowl, I was more than a little relieved when he simply brandished a cereal bar in my face, declaring with seemingly great enthusiasm that these were the best, because they were so dry they instantly sucked all the moisture out of your body

“Try some,” he urged.

I cautiously nibbled off a corner which instantly sucked in my cheeks, made my teeth so dry they stuck to my lips, and caused my tongue to curl up and shrivel like a slug basted in salt.

Bloody hell, I can only assume these bars were forged in the heat of the Gobi Desert from a mix of oven-baked sawdust, desiccated coconut, wood ash and silica gel. How on earth do you swallow that? Five minutes later I was still speechless, coughing out dust like a broken vacuum cleaner and I’d gone through half a bottle trying to wash the dustbowl out of my chalky, mummified mouth.


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As we dropped into the Tyne Valley, I slipped to the back of the group and watched the sky turn ominously dark as a light shower transformed itself into lashing rain. Caracol sensibly called a halt and we ducked into a convenient parking space at the side of the road to pull on jackets.

The shower continued to increase in intensity and soon the rain was stotting off the road and cold tendrils of water started sliding their way slowly and unpleasantly into my shoes and shorts.

Cold, wet and feeling decidedly queasy, I was concentrating on ignoring the unpleasant water-ingress while trying to avoid doing a “Mollema” as we pressed on.

I think it’s fair to say that no one was surprised to find the Prof and De Uitheems Bloem riding off the front and away from everyone else in another attempt at Dutch independence, or a Hexit. We chased them down, catching up sometime later as they stopped at a junction, dithering about which way to go next.

“Your planned and published route had us turning off this road long before now.” G-Dawg informed the Prof. Oh dear.

We were now faced with either back-tracking or finding another way to climb out of the valley, using a route that G-Dawg stood at least a fighting chance of managing on his fixie. I recalled Zardoz telling me of one ride with the Wednesday Wrecking Crew of Venerable Gentlemen Cyclists™ when he’d seen G-Dawg and fixie defeated by one particularly steep hill and he’d simply clambered off, shouldered his bike cyclo-cross style and ran up the hill faster than anyone could ride up it.

Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that today.

A few options were discussed, before we settled on a likely route up to the A69, across and then onto the 4th category climb up through Newton. It would be bloody hard going on a fixie, but should be doable for G-Dawg if he got a clear run at it.

Yet more games of Frogger with the A69 gave us a new High Score and Bonus and we managed to escape with all lives intact to start the climb upwards.

I sat and spun away behind G-Dawg, trying to give him as much room as possible and marvelling at the raw power, as he ground the hill slowly down into submission. As we approached the village of Newton a car turned down into the narrow lane, and the riders all slowed and bunched. For an instant it looked like G-Dawg was going to lose all momentum and be forced to stop, but the driver saw us, pulled over to the side and we were able to squeeze past to complete the climb.

More climbing followed and the group started to splinter apart, while I slipped to the back to find Szell struggling on the inclines.

Apparently, up ahead open-season had been declared and all informed that now it was “everyone for themselves” – or as Ovis commented to Crazy Legs, “Ah, a Margaret Thatcher ride!”

I joined a small group that slowly coalesced at the back with G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Taffy Steve, Red Max, Crazy Legs and Laurelan and we eased to allow Szell to re-join, before picking up speed to follow the rest.

Passing through Matfen, we decided on the fly to miss out the Quarry Climb and route through Stamfordham instead, where we kept the group together and at a civilised pace right up to the road down to the Snake Bends.

At the last, Son of G-Dawg, Taffy Steve and the Red Max popped out to play, skipping off the front to contest a rather subdued sprint, while I was content to sit in amongst the wheels. We regrouped to dart down the lane parallel to the main road and rolled our way to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the café queue, Crazy Legs likened OGL to South Park’s Cartman, patrolling the roads on his “Big Wheel” and demanding everyone: “respect my authoritah!”

“Did you ever watch South Park?” he asked Laurelan.

“Only when I was allowed to,” she replied innocently.

Ouch. Burn.

Meanwhile, on Taffy Steve’s advice, Szell passed up on his usual scone and went for an exotic Mars-Snickers-Malteser-Twix sort of chocolate combination tray bake, only to take a bite and recoil in horror because it was chilled.

We then learned that Szell was the only one around the table who has never had cold chocolate and it was a revelation to him that we all thought it perfectly natural to keep our Dairy Milk and Galaxy in the refrigerator

He was quite astounded that this seemed such a common trait and he eyed up everyone around the table and demanded, “So what else does everyone do that I don’t?”

“Err… ride our bikes from September to April?” Taffy Steve dead-panned.

Ouch. And. Burn.

Dissecting today’s ride, everyone decided that it had gone exactly as they had expected and if they’d prepared a check list in advance the Prof would have managed to tick every box:

Riding away from everyone off the front. Check.

Missing the right route and going off piste. Check.

Leading us onto a dangerous road. Check.

Instigating a hell for leather, chaotic free for all finale. Check.

Taffy Steve was the only one who demurred, insisting at least one thing had been different … because the Prof had borrowed a different pair of specs from his usual pitch-black, Ray-Ban welders goggles, he hadn’t felt the need to tilt his head back and peer myopically out from underneath them when addressing us. Vive le difference.

I then asked if it had been a good ride and if we’d trust the Prof to lead us again and received a resounding yes to both questions. Cyclists, eh?

Thoughts turned to succession planning within the club and we tried to establish if OGL’s son had ever had any interest in cycling. Crazy Legs suspected he’d probably have feigned interest in anything but cycling, even synchronised swimming, in order to avoid riding with his dad.

Despite this lack of cycling interest, we still suspected he might turn up at the meeting point one morning in a carefully staged, super-smooth succession coup, that would make the power transfer of Kim Jong-il to Kim Jong-un look as complex as a Kudzu plot.


With a bit of food inside, I began to feel better and abandoning my cap, which had served its primary purpose and kept rain and spray out of my eyes, let some air through my helmet vents to my noggin which seemed to help ease the headache.

A heavy hail shower had come and gone as we sat sheltered in the café and now the day slowly started to brighten as we set off. I rode back for the most part alongside Biden Fecht, chatting about books and authors, both cycling and in general, until it was time to split for home.

An uneventful trip back followed and sometime later, sitting in front of my computer, a message popped up from Taffy Steve declaring Strava was “on glue” because he’d been comparing our estimated power outputs on one of the climbs and determined that in order for him to match me he’d need to put out a frankly impossible 750 watts for several minutes.

I have to admit I never pay a great deal of attention to cycling’s more esoteric stats such as power outputs, VAM, heart rates and all the rest. I’d even given up on measuring my heart rate because I kept forgetting to wear the monitor and never looked at the data anyway.

Still, I was mildly intrigued by Taffy Steve’s assertion. I thought I might find some answers by checking my personal details on Strava, reasoning that I’d set the account up a couple of years ago and had shed a few pounds since then and this might be throwing things off.

I was however completely unprepared for what I found – apparently in the box for Weight: I’d entered 170 kgs or 375 pounds – I’d tricked Strava into believing I resembled a starting calibre, NFL defensive lineman who could climb like a gazelle!

I had to shamefacedly admit to Taffy Steve that Strava wasn’t on glue, but I obviously had been when setting up my account. I’ve still no idea where the 170 figure came from and what it refers to – perhaps I’d simply tried to enter my weight in “old money” – troys, cloves or maybe scruples?

I’ve corrected it now, so my Strava stats will no longer look stratospheric and might start to more accurately reflect the travails of a mediocre to startlingly average, strictly amateur, middle-aged cyclist, rather than a freak of nature.


YTD Totals: 3,054 km / 1,898 miles with 33,505 metres of climbing

Buzzing

Buzzing

Club Run, Saturday 13th May, 2017       

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  112 km / 70 miles with 991 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 22 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.6 km/h

Group size:                                         20 riders

Temperature:                                    16°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cold and breezy


13th may
Ride Profile

The Ride:

A grey cool and cloudy morning, the roads were bone dry and empty of traffic as I ripped down the hill, able to use the full width of the lane and just let the bike run with gravity.

I’m pretty content with my setup at the moment and the new tyres in particular have massively exceeded expectations. I don’t make a habit of recommending things, as I’m aware everyone has their own preferences and needs, and how they use something will probably be different from how I would, but I will say that when it comes to replacing my tyres I can’t see me looking much beyond these Vittoria Pro G+ Rubino’s. Then again, I am a committed Vittorian, so there’s probably a huge amount of confirmation bias in my assessment.

I’ve been running the Rubino’s since early April, so probably around 1,000 km and despite the horrible state of the roads around here, there’s not a mark on them – usually after a few runs I would expect at least a few nicks and cuts in the tread, but there’s nothing, nada, zip, zilch.

I’ve no idea if the graphene component actually makes any difference whatsoever and I suspect it’s all just marketing hyperbole, but the tyres undoubtedly roll well and grip seems very good. I was also expecting some loss of performance switching down from the more expensive, lighter and more supple, Corsa Evo’s, but if it’s happened it’s not remotely discernible to a plodder like me.

They also seem more comfortable and able to iron out at least some of the imperfections in the road, but I’m largely putting this down to switching from 23mm to 25mm width and the extra bit of cushioning that provides. Anyway, it all helps and I need all the help I can get – I’ve dropped around 4-5 pounds since Christmas and find it increasingly difficult to keep a high pace on broken and rough road surfaces.

There was no exotic birdlife to distract me on this week’s journey to our start point, although the Canada Geese had over spilled from Shibdon Pond and were lining the side of the road honking at the traffic like some avian picket line. The flying pickets? Hmm, maybe not.

For the first section, I had a brisk wind at my back, but that would change as soon as I crossed the river. Cloud cover overhead was fairly dark and uniform and the flags at a car dealership snapped away in the wind, lanyards clanging furiously on their poles – it was warm, but some distance from being a calm and settled day and rain looked a distinct possibility.

As I passed the power station on the run up to the bridge, the overhead lines hummed and buzzed relentlessly, suggesting the air was already full of moisture and lending credence to some of the forecasts that determined there was even a chance of a few isolated thunderstorms.

Over the river and yet more temporary lights delayed progress where it looked like they were busy extending the cobblestone runway. Oh well, more bits of road to avoid. This new obstacle finally negotiated, I slogged my way out of the valley, up and on to the meeting point.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

G-Dawg was already waiting, eager to show off his new blue Michelin tyres, carefully colour coordinated to match his frame and very, very blue. Did I mention they were blue? When questioned he made the valid point that he didn’t know how good the tyres were performance-wise– but that wasn’t the point was it? They were blue!

He did however suggest blue tyres probably weren’t that big a seller and the dealer reportedly had hundreds in stock, so he too looks well set for tyre choice from now on.

Crazy Legs complained that the gold chain was beginning to look just a little out of place. Whether or not G-Dawg can source a more aesthetically pleasing, matching blue one remains to be seen.

Szell rolled up, leapt off his “fat lad’s bike” and immediately started fiddling with his seatpost clamp. We immediately asked if he’d seen OGL’s new bike, wondered how it would fit Szell for size and if he actually liked the custom colour scheme he’d soon be inheriting.

He admitted he’d thought of taking his bike to OGL to have the seatclamp fettled, but was worried the whole thing would be condemned outright and he’d be told nothing was salvageable, except maybe the bottle cages. Then it would be revealed, that it just so happened there was one of OGL’s old bikes he could have that would be a perfect fit…

Zardoz sidled up and began playing possum, feigning weakness, decrepitude and general infirmity before we’d even started out … but managing to fool no one.

“Hey, you were limping on the other leg just before.” Taffy Steve, noted dryly.

Zardoz finally admitted that even among the infamous Wednesday Wrecking Crew of Venerable Gentlemen Cyclists™ (WWCVGC) it had been his turn to dish out the pain this week and try to rip everyone’s legs off. It’s duly noted, he’s flying.

Considering we have a bevy of people in Majorca, some off doing the Wooler Wheel and even one or two apparently tracing one of the Prof’s eccentric routes up and down the north east coast to Seahouses for, err… fun, the turnout wasn’t too bad for the ride that had been pre-planned and publicised by Crazy Legs. It was worth noting however that shorn of “chick-magnet” Benedict, none of the girls were present.

With a reasonable group size of just twenty riders and no need to split at the start, a turn-off for a shorter route up past the Quarry was planned, while the rest would head down the Ryals before looping back round to the café.


Off we set and I dropped in alongside Richard of Flanders for the first section. The Plank, newly returned from a posting overseas and a bad racing crash, proved that the competition for the clubs smallest, leakiest bladder was still very much alive, highlighted by his constant forays off the front to ensure maximum exposure for his micturition ministrations.

The Prof is due to set a route and lead us out next week, so we’ll probably have more pee stops than a Saga coach trip around British micro-breweries – and an opportunity to assess pee performance head-to-head. This should go some way to identifying which of the two is in the running as a role model for TENA.

I found myself riding alongside Keel for the next section and discovered we both share a mutual fascination with the odious, venal, perfidious, paranoid, incompetent, infantile, thin-skinned and (what I find most surprising and disturbing) dumb as a stump Trump. There’s reportedly an old Chinese saying – “may you live in interesting times” and America’s presidential selection (as Crazy Legs rightly predicted) has delivered in droves.

We then called timeout for an official pee-stop, much to the Plank’s relief and I observed several of my fellow cyclists huddled among bushes – not I hasten to add actually “in the bushes” – just so that’s clear.

We passed through the village of Ryal and pinned back our ears to hurtle down its attendant slopes, hitting almost 70 kph, before by-passing our usual route and the sharp climbs through Hallington, for a wider sweep to the west before back-tracking toward the café.


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This new, longer, but less severe route met with Taffy Steve’s approval, but I couldn’t help missing the stiffer climbing test through Hallington, if only as a means of injecting a little pain, and tiredness into the legs of the rouleurs among us before the final run in.

Now we only had the ascent of what Strava identifies as “Humiliation Hill” to soften up the big boys and it wasn’t going to be enough. I found myself climbing next to Szell, who was going full bore and interspersed deep and heavy panting with an unseemly series of grunts, groans and moans, like the soundtrack to a bad 80’s porn film.

At the climax, so to speak and as we crested the top, Zardoz breezed past, puffed out his cheeks and issued an explosive per-te-cusht. Bloody hell, I didn’t know I was riding with Ivor the Engine!

A scooter gang in a long, spluttering and farting line then buzzed past in the opposite direction. They seemed disappointingly dowdy and unkempt bunch, with to none of the vintage, well-maintained Vespa’s, bright shining chrome and mirrors, or the sharp clothes I would associate with a proper scooter club.

In their wake, they trailed the smell of 2-stroke exhaust fumes, something I always find strangely redolent of ice-cream vans parked by a beach in summer – an odd juxtaposition with a grey, gloomy and chill day in the wilds of Northumberland.

Now on a long, straight, rolling stretch of road and still miles short of the café, Crazy Legs decided to shake things up and attacked off the front and soon a small knot of four or five had opened up a sizeable gap. I started to work my way forward to try and jump across, flitting from wheel to wheel as riders were spat out the back.

I jumped from Taffy Steve’s wheel to the Big Yin’s and from there into the no-mans-land between the two groups, slowly starting to close before progress stalled and I hung chasse patate for a while. Luckily, I’d either dragged G-Dawg with me, or he’d bridged onto my back wheel, as he then came pounding past and I dropped in behind and we started to home in on the front group again.

With the gap down to about 20 metres, it was G-Dawg’s turn to stall and hang in space, but I was finally able to pull us across and we latched onto the back of the train, just as it barrelled down and around a series of long sweeping curves.

We then hit the last, short, sharp rise to the junction of the road leading down to the Snake Bends. Boxed in between Crazy Legs and G-Dawg I attacked the slope too hard and in danger of running into the wheels in front and with nowhere to go either side, I eased, touched the brakes and bang – a gap instantly opened up.

I gave chase, but the group was in full cry and there was no getting back this time, as I bounced and battered away down the heavily pitted and cratered surface. Trying to find a slightly smoother ride away from the road buzz, I swung out across the lane, surfing along the white lines, which helped, but just a little.

Crazy Legs was the next to lose contact, eased out of the back of the hurtling front group and I slowly started to claw my way across to him. A rattling, banging and clunking behind announced another rider had tracked me down and, as the road dipped and straightened, the Big Yin whirred past. I knew he was coming and tried to follow but had nothing left and couldn’t hold his wheel. Meanwhile up ahead he passed Crazy Legs, who was able to latch on and they pulled away from me.

Through the Snake Bends, across the main road and onto the parallel lane, I resumed the chase and finally caught up with everyone at the last junction, just in time to see a black and yellow blur flash past as Taffy Steve barrelled down the main drag and past us all. “Never mind first in the sprint, it’s first in the café queue that really counts,” he later proclaimed.

As ever that was fast, fun and furious, although I’m beginning to develop a bit of an aversion for that particular run in and its horrible road surface. Still, even if glass smooth I don’t think I’ll be up contesting the final sprint anytime soon.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

G-Dawg sat down with his usual ham and egg pie, then had a bacon buttie delivered to the table and when a waitress turned up with a toastie, we all thought that was his as well. Taffy Steve concluded that it didn’t matter if G-Dawg was alone, or with Son of G-Dawg, he always bought and consumed exactly the same amount of food.

With another successful, pre-determined, pre-publicised, non-OGL dictated ride under our belts, we were all looking forward to next week, when the Prof has volunteered to boldly lead us onward.

This could prove interesting, or challenging – or maybe both. The Prof does not enjoy a reputation for having an infallible, unerring sense of direction and has been known to lead us merrily down one hill, only to realise his mistake, turn us sharply around at the bottom and make us climb straight back up again. He also has a curious affinity for long, long rides along unknown roads with unknown destinations.

Eon seem somewhat wistful that he would be away next week and would miss our adventures on the Prof’s route, declaring that he was off visiting family and would be riding around Blackpool.

“Don’t worry,” I told him, “We’ll probably see you there.”

With rain starting to batter the café windows, Richard of Flanders wondered if it was “cape weather” on the way back and I wondered if he thought he was Batman.

This led to us re-visiting the concept of actual cycling capes and whether the World Champion wasn’t deserving of a rainbow, striped cape. Everyone imagined that Peter Sagan, the ultimate showman, would be well up for this, although Taffy Steve thought he’d probably demand his cape have an ermine collar and be lined in leopard skin.

Well-educated through multiple screenings of The Incredibles, Richard of Flanders was concerned that any cape was likely to be a liability that could catch in the back wheel. We explained that as a World Champion, the wearer was expected to be able to pedal fast enough to keep the cape always streaming out behind them, except in the neutralised zones of course, where their domestiques would be required to form a procession either side of the champion and hold up his train.

In a sudden flash of insight, Taffy Steve declared that Peter Sagan was the Chris Eubank of the cycling world. Things took a turn for the truly bizarre when he next mentioned his idea of a great reality programme involved getting Peter Sagan, Chris Eubank and Jean-Claude Van Damme all off on a bike ride together. Shudder.

Talk of Rab Dee’s super-dense brownies, so dense in fact that that they’ve been credited with having their own gravitational pull, led to the suggestion that he was deserving of an award for being the most gentlemanly of our riders.

Trying to think of someone who could challenge Rab in this category, Richard of Flanders suggested Grover and was somewhat shocked to learn of his (probably) undeserved reputation as OGL’s enforcer in absentia. That’s the secret police for you  – insidious and innocuous, until they’re kicking in doors and taking down the names of anyone who hasn’t paid their subs, or dares to ride without mudguards.

Taffy Steve and I then had a brief chuckle when he cast OGL in the role of Raffles, the Gentleman Thug from Viz.

With no Garrulous Kid to provide a suitable injection of fresh ridiculousness, we were heartened by recalling the time he asked G-Dawg if he knew Son of G-Dawg. This it was suggested was the most asinine question since Donna Air asked The Corrs how they first met, although personally I didn’t think it was as funny as when Shouty finally realised the pair were father and son and all the food G-Dawg bought Son of G-Dawg at the café wasn’t some sinister form of grooming.

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs recalled his days spent working government contracts and pondering such deep, philosophical questions as the difference between a midget and a dwarf and the apparently popular conundrum (amongst the IT Crowd) – if you had the chance to sleep with all of the Corrs, but only if you did actually sleep with all of the Corrs, in what order would you do it? I wonder if Jim Corr would be happy that he’s the cause of so much inefficiency within the public sector?


We set out for the trip back in a fairly depressing, quite heavy and chill shower and I immediately kicked off onto the front with Richard of Flanders to try an warm up. As we passed Kirkley Hall and turned along the narrow lane up to Berwick Hill I pondered how many lunatics we’d likely meet, driving too fast in the opposite direction. Richard suggested three and asked for the over-under – I was feeling strangely optimistic, so went with under.

As we hit the bottom of the climb, Richard of Flanders slipped back and was replaced on the front by Crazy Legs and as we started to climb side by side, I pressed on the pedals just a little bit harder to try and keep us at an even pace.

We passed under an electric pylon with the cables audibly buzzing and spitting in the damp air – as sure a sign as any, according to Crazy Legs that there was a lot of rain about and that Cloudchaser had failed in his primary task.

As we approached the crest of the hill, I remarked that, “It’s very quiet back there.” Turning around we found we’d managed to drop everyone but G-Dawg and were climbing in splendid isolation. Oops. We slowed to regroup and we pushed along through Dinnington, before ceding the front to G-Dawg and Eon.

I dropped in alongside Taffy Steve, who looked at the dark band of clouds boiling up over Mordor and suggested it was going to be a long, wet ride back into the wind. Still feeling optimistic, I told him I was sure the rain was going to stop and I’d at least get the chance to dry off before I got home. He laughed at me and suggested I might as well wish that Theresa May wouldn’t win the General Election in a landslide.

I told him if you were going to dream, you might as well dream big, something I’d seen on a poster a long time ago, so knew it must be profoundly true. Then the rest of the group were turning off and I followed Eon and G-Dawg through the Mad Mile before spinning away, directly into the headwind to pick my way home.

The wind made absolutely sure that there’d be no chance of any Strava PR’s on the trip back, but just as I started the climb of Heinous Hill, I swear the sun poked a hole in the clouds and briefly threw my shadow up alongside me for company. It wasn’t quite enough to dry me out, but at least provided a more pleasant finale to another good ride.


YTD Totals: 2,887 km / 1,794 miles with 31,684 metres of climbing

Shiny Happy People and the Strava Nazis

Shiny Happy People and the Strava Nazis

Club Run, Saturday 6th May, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  114 km / 71 miles with 1,131 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 23 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.9 km/h

Group size:                                        34 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                   14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cold and breezy


 

6 may
Ride Profile

Another chilly Saturday. I don’t think I can recall getting into May and only having had one ride warm enough for shorts. Today certainly wasn’t going to be the exception and it felt like my knee and arm warmers combined with long-fingered gloves were just the bare minimum.

Shock! Horror! Could Donald J. Trump actually be right and is climate change a complete fallacy. Well, no children – don’t be ridiculous, of course not.

Crossing the bridge I was distracted by a strange, piping, peep-peep-peep call as a pair of unusual looking white gulls with grey-chevrons on their wings and long, curved beaks skimmed low over the parapet and carried on downriver. Avocet’s perhaps, if I read the RSPB bird-identification website correctly, but really, really don’t trust me on that.

As I approached the Cobblestone Runway I was held up by a new set of temporary traffic lights. At first I thought perhaps they’d recognised how horrible the new road surface was and had set about rectifying the problem. But no, of course not, they were actually digging up the other side of the road no doubt in preparation for the installation of another anti-cycling, stealth-rumble strip on the opposite carriageway.

(Chatting with work colleague Mr T. he’s encountered something similar and is blaming Northumbrian Water and whatever contractors they employ. You have been warned.)


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Despite the depredations of the wind and occasional discomfiting road surface, I made it to the meeting point in good time, but I still wasn’t the first to arrive. That honour went to Facebook-postin’ carbon-stress-loadin’ Guiness-slurpin’ pie-chompin’ platter-spinnin’ real-ale-swilling curry-gobblin’ all-azione Thom-Thom – who had arrived from the opposite direction and been blown in from the coast in record time.

Either that or, by his own admission, he was having a spectacularly glorious good day.

We had a brief chat about Holdsworth and Holdsworthy bikes and wondered if there was any link between the two – I’d seen the Holdsworth business “empire” referred to as Holdsworthy before, but didn’t honestly know the answer to that one.

Benedict had planned and posted the ride for today and I think everyone must have underestimated his magnetic appeal and winning personality, as the pavement was soon crowded with well over 30 riders, which included an unusually high proportion of lasses too.

Crazy Legs looked on in mildly irritated disbelief at the massive turnout, which you couldn’t even attribute to the weather as it wasn’t sunny and was still decidedly chilly.

As he’s due to set the route and lead the ride next week, he vowed that if the turnout for his ride isn’t at least half as popular as Benedict’s he’ll stamp his foot loudly and quit in a fit of pique. This almost had the feel of a self-fulfilling prophecy though, as a load of us are due to be missing next week, either off for a training camp in sunny Majorca, or grinding their way through the Cheviot Hills in this year’s edition of the Wooler Wheel.

The Red Max suggested his hallowed bike shed was uncharacteristically unkempt at present, as he admitted defeat in his search to locate a spare crankset he was generously donating to the Crazy Legs Time-trial Bike Build Project. (CLTTBBP – JustGiving reference #OG7783682). I wondered what could possibly have caused such a disruption to the natural order of things and Red Max blamed a badly misunderstood, natural phenomenon known as “Monkey Butler Boy.”

I just hoped the sacred ziggurat of used bottom brackets escaped unsullied and still sacrosanct.

There was only time to salute the plucky winner of the first stage of the Giro – even though no one could remember his name (isn’t it fun when the sprinters teams screw up?) – and we were off.

(Chapeau of course to relatively unknown, Lukas Postlberger and the deeply unfancied (without Peter Sagan) Bora-Hansgroe team for winning Stage 1 of the Giro in such an impressive and surprising way. If he’d listened to Crazy Legs he would have immediately retired, as it just wont get any better than this.)


As we streamed out onto the road I dropped in beside Zardoz as we chatted about our cycling experiences “back in the day” – rock hard chamois inserts, wooden brake blocks, tweed plus-fours and having to be preceded everywhere by a walking man waving a red flag. The days before Shimano existed and when you either had expensive, market leading Campagnolo kit, or something markedly inferior. And most people chose Campagnolo.

We hadn’t gone far before we spotted a bulging black bin bag by the side of the road. Imagining something as horrific as last weeks “bag o’ bloody birds” we gave it a wide berth, only to find it appeared to be filled with nothing more sinister than grass clippings. Why?


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Spinning along at a decent pace, despite the increasingly problematic headwind, we were soon skirting Whittledene Reservoir, calling a quick pee stop and giving Zardoz the chance to slide backwards and well away from the front of the group. Here we discovered that Crazy Leg’s chain was slipping every time he applied too much pressure through the pedals.

He attributed this to perhaps mixing up his spacers when re-assembling the cassette after cleaning. He now toured round our group, looking for someone else with Campagnolo gears so he could compare cassettes, only to realise he was the only one who wasn’t riding a Shimano equipped bike, as even Andeven astride his fabulous, pure-bred, Italian Colnago had an Ultegra groupset.

Off we went again, with Crazy Legs trying to contain his problems by riding off the front and easing gently up the hills, or hanging off the back. The usual, short-sharp climbing brought us to a T-Junction, where we usually swing right and then sharp left, but today our route took us directly left and we began a long straight descent into the Tyne Valley.

We then hit the A69, four crazy-ass lanes of speeding traffic we’ve engaged with in a few breathless games of Frogger before. This time the junction spat us out at an actual crossing point, with a safe-haven of space half way across, where we could gather ourselves before a final dash to safety.

It wasn’t long before we were all stacked up behind Crazy Legs, crowded onto this small, tarmac meridian, in a weird game of cyclist sardines.

“Just watch,” Caracol suggested, “Crazy Legs will spot a gap, try darting across, then his chain will slip and we’ll all pile into the back of him and be killed in a massive accident.”

Luckily it wasn’t to be, and in bits and pieces, dribs and drabs we managed to scuttle across to safety, regroup and press on down, down into the Tyne Valley.

The valley floor led through a massive gymkhana, row upon row of shiny 4×4’s and horseboxes parked on one side of the road and lots of fat, little girls jiggling on fat, little ponies and bobbing along on the other side. For a brief moment I thought we might lose G-Dawg to the lure of the attendant chip, waffle and do-nut vans, as he turned his big, puppy-dog eyes in their direction and his nose started twitching at all the attendant fast-food smells, but he somehow managed to restrain himself.

A bit of climbing, a bit of regrouping and we were heading for Aydon, then more climbing across the bridge that soared back over the A69 and yet more climbing to escape the valley. From here we picked out a course for Matfen and the Quarry Climb and then the mad, helter-skelter dash to the café.

The indefatigable G-Dawg was once again on the front of things, with Andeven alongside as we turned off for the Quarry and straight into a buffeting and chilling gale.

Our two leaders were both equally effective, despite a massive contrast in styles. G-Dawg pushed a huge gear in stately, slow motion, while a languid Andeven spun unfussily up the inside. Both did fantastic work driving us straight into the vicious block headwind and keeping the pace high.

Near the very crest of the Quarry Climb, Zardoz shimmied and shook and hurled himself clear of the pack, darting to the top before everyone else, then we regrouped and G-Dawg once more found himself on the front.

He then turned his puppy dog eyes on me, a look he’d obviously been perfecting ever since we’d passed the takeaway trucks at the gymkhana. Against all better judgement, I felt duty bound to reward his herculean efforts and take over on the front to give him a breather before everyone started battling it out for the sprint finish.

Pushing ahead, I took us round the last junction and onto the road down to the Snake Bends, at least having the benefit of being able to pick my own line down the horribly pitted and broken road surface.

I was joined on the front by Benedict and I tried to push the pace on, tucking in low to help minimise wind drag and even attempting to accelerate over the small humps and dips along the road, each one of which soon began to feel like a major climb to me.

I battered away for as long as I could, which probably wasn’t all that long, desperately trying to remember how much further we had to go and then, suddenly I was done. I looked back to check the road was clear, then swung wide, sat up and let the pack off the leash, as they howled past and away.

At the back I found Crazy Legs still glass cranking to try and avoid his chain slipping. He offered up the shelter of his back wheel, but even that was too much and too fast for me and he was soon rolling away.

As we crossed the main road and skipped down the adjoining lane I’d just about recovered enough to catch Crazy Legs and we had a chat about how today’s route was on the limits of how far we could go and hope to be back at a reasonable time. We’d have really been pushing it if we’d had a mechanical or a puncture and as it was we’d still likely be late leaving the café and getting back home.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

We managed to dart into the café just in front of a bunch of burly mountain-bikers and joined a very long queue, which seemed to be moving with glacial slowness. I caught Sneaky Pete just as he was sneaking off home and he warned us about dark mutterings of discontent among the other group, who apparently weren’t  quite bought into the new world order.

As we waited to be served, Crazy Legs admitted he’d quite enjoyed his enforced, glass-cranking “recovery ride” – which made a pleasant, very occasional change from a lung-bursting sprint. He said it was particularly welcome after riding last Saturday, Monday and then Tuesday night at our newly inaugurated chain-gang session.

I mentioned I myself had ridden Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday … only to learn that “commutes don’t count.”

Crazy Legs revealed that Taffy Steve is a bit of a Strava Nazi and once, when he’d inadvertently recorded a turbo session on Strava, Taffy Steve had  heaped opprobrium on him from the first to the last pedal stroke of following weeks club run. By the same token he reasoned commuter rides shouldn’t count.

Well, bollocks to that. If you can say it didn’t happen because it wasn’t on Strava, then by default, if it is on Strava then it must have happened. Anyway, I’m quite proud of my single-speed commutes up and down the Heinous Hill, even if the front chainring is admittedly the size of an asprin and the rear sprocket bigger than a dinner plate.

At the table, Crazy Legs imparted how his son has become a connoisseur of dad jokes, which he’d realised when a simple query of, “All right, son?” was met with the hoary old, “No, I’m half left.”

We then had a round-robin of crap dad jokes:

“What do you call a blind elk? No idea.”

“What do you call a dead, blind elk? Still no idea.”

“What do you call a fly with no wings? A walk.”

Our collection was then topped, tailed and signed off in unbeatable style when Son of G-Dawg wondered, “If you pour root beer into a square glass, does it become just beer?”

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs’ issue with his cassette led to a discussion about cassette spacers and how G-Dawg was desperate to find someone who could make him coloured ones. He wanted some in yellow to add just a little more co-ordination to his bike and have yet one more excuse to keep his cassette spotlessly clean.

Crazy Legs suggested that for anyone with an 8-speed, a rainbow coloured series of spacers would always ensure you assembled your cassette correctly and avoid any embarrassment caused by slipping chains.

I could just imagine him, beavering away in his garage and muttering to himself, “Now, how does it go again? Richard of York gave battle  …”

Meanwhile, the BFG revealed he has no such issues as he keeps all the instructions he’s ever got with any bike components handily pinned to his fridge door with magnets. He (and his family) now enjoy easy access to instructions on assembling a cassette in 17 different languages, complete with multiple exploded diagrams.

Suddenly, Zardoz started chuckling away and when we looked at him quizzically chortled, “Root beer in a square glass. That’s funny.”

He then revealed he’d once been working in New York and learned that the natives would always suggest the best way to keep an Englishman happy in his old age was to tell him lots of jokes when he was young…

I had a chat with Famous Sean’s as we queued for the loo. He hadn’t been out with us for a good long time, but gave the new, split group option a big thumbs up and said how much he’d enjoyed the ride.

Meanwhile Crazy Legs had a chat with Rad-Man who’d been with the second group and he to said the ride had been great and he was more than happy with how things had gone.

Later, Facebook-postin’ carbon-stress-loadin’ Guiness-slurpin’ pie-chompin’ platter-spinnin’ real-ale-swilling curry-gobblin’ all-azione Thom-Thom, also riding with the second group would, true to his name, take to Facebook to declare that it had been an “excellent ride.”

None of this stopped OGL collaring Bendict and suggesting some of the older club members were unhappy with the arrangements, felt the club was descending into chaos and complain how the second group had been left with no strong riders to sit on the front all day and shelter them from the wind!

He then came by our table to reiterate the same points.

I personally haven’t spoken to anyone who doesn’t think the changes we are trying to implement aren’t for the better,  but would suggest everyone is open to discussing how we could sensibly improve things and the best way forward.

Hmm, well, maybe not everyone…


We set off for home and I rode alongside the BFG as we tried to guess what the square box  prominent in G-Dawg’s rear pocket could possibly be. We finally decided it was a pack of 20 Rothman’s King Size cigarettes that he (probably) carried only for show.

With us running fairly late, I took early leave of the group, skipping the dubious pleasures of Berwick Hill and Dinnington to swing right and cut a big corner off by looping back through Ponteland.

From here I decided to try and trace a different route home – crossing the River Pont and then turning immediately right. I thought I had swung too far to the west and I was back tracking, but checking the route on Strava afterwards it was pretty direct and threw up lots of other alternative  ways I could take for a bit of welcome variety.

I was even more delighted to see I’d secured the 4th best time ever on a short, Strava segment called Hillhead Barps, which I only mention as it gave me bragging rights over ex-club mate, work colleague and the much younger, super-strong racer Nick Spencer. By a whole second.

I made it home just shy of 6 hours after leaving, having completed over 70 miles and feeling suitably tired. Still, I guess the “officially recognised” Strava riding’s over for another week so I can rest up. Well, unless I’m tempted out by our newly instigated Tuesday night chain-gang, although to be honest, I can’t think of any other style of cycling that I’m less suited to.


YTD Totals: 2,727 km / 1,694 miles with 29,968 metres of climbing

The War in the Trenches

The War in the Trenches

Club Run, Saturday 29th April, 2017        

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  111 km / 69 miles with 1,200 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 22 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                        22 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                   16°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cool


 

 

29 April
Ride Profile

Last week the nice people at WordPress, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say their politely programmed bots, sent me best wishes on Sur La Jante’s 3rd birthday.

So three years in and still churning out this lowly ‘column’ (as one reader rather grandiosely labelled it) or my ‘diary’ as another refers to it. (I thought diaries were meant to be honestly truthful, whereas I’m very liberal with the truth and have been known to outrageously embellish – in fact anything for a cheap laugh).

Anyway, it remains to me, nothing more than a humble blog or, as we decided a couple of weeks ago after adopting the Ashington idiom, blerg.

I think blerg seems an especially appropriate name as it sounds onomatopoeically redolent of vomiting; the disgorging of the wordy effluvia that passes as wit and wisdom around here, but I digress.

Saturday morning found me working up to another blerg entry as I pulled up at the meeting point after a wholly remarkable ride to get there, where nothing much happened at all. After the travails of the last few weeks, I’ll take that kind of boredom any day.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

I found Taffy Steve in mid-spiel talking about Uh-murca, Uh-murcan politicians and how to make Uh-murca great again, all the while pondering why the ruling elite always referred to their country as Uh-murca and never America.

This provided the perfect cue for my entry into the dad-joke of the week competition – which, by the way I feel I won hands down: “I hear the Trump Administration are trying to ban shredded cheese. They’re trying to make Uh-murca grate again.”

I swear you could actually hear the wind soughing softly through the tumbleweeds as I dropped the punchline.

Taffy Steve then tried to put the Garrulous Kid’s Uh-murcan upbringing to the test, by having him re-enact the pledge of allegiance that all school kids are supposed to start the day with. It was a decidedly disappointing, lame, half-hearted performance though, carried out with about as much conviction as (I like to hope) any real American kid with half a brain would adopt.

The Prof rolled up on the Frankenbike that he’s adorned with some deep section, carbon rimmed Zipp wheels – something akin to slapping lipstick on a pig. He still struggles getting on and off a “proper” bike without a mounting block, even after a couple of years of trying. I blame far too long riding his glorified-Meccano built, folding-shopping trolley of a small-wheeled velocipede, with its girlie step-over styling.

Yet again I instructed him to try tilting the frame away from the vertical before swinging a leg over it. Yet again, I’m not sure he quite grasped the concept.

Crazy Legs was chatting with OGL about new cars and comparing notes on the Citroen Picasso. Crazy Legs himself has somewhat reluctantly just swapped his own Picasso for a Cactus and the memories of his old car brought a sad tear of reminiscence to his eye. He professed that he really, really missed the ability of opening up the Picasso’s hatchback so he could sit sheltered under the tailgate whenever it rained. It was left to a clearly perplexed Taffy Steve to ask the painfully obvious and perfectly logical question, “Err, couldn’t you just sit inside the car when it rains?”

Princess Fiona reported that she had successfully led her “fish out of water” expedition of cyclists on a walk into the Cheviots last weekend, but the pleasant stroll had unintentionally turned into a 6-hour forced death march. Caracol was conspicuous by his absence today and while Princess Fiona was quick to re-assure me he was actually at a music festival in Leeds, I have my suspicions that she may somehow have broken him.

Crazy Legs outlined the planned and pre-publicised route for the day, which was heavy on climbing with perennial favourites, the Mur de Mitford, the Trench and Middleton Bank all thrown into the mix.

Zardoz shuffled up, already enacting another charade to highlight his (entirely feigned) dreadful enfeeblement and pitiful inability to propel a bike with any great vim or vigour.  In a perfectly judged, slightly quavering voice he pleaded, “You won’t abandon me in the Trench, will you?” a line I’m fairly certain he lifted in its entirety out of some patriotic, creaky old movie about the Great War.

With only 22 lads and lasses out, we decided not to split the group until the Mur de Mitford, when those looking for less hilly alternatives could follow OGL for an alternative, slightly gentler ride.


Off we set and I was soon shuttling between OGL and the Garrulous Kid, trying to follow two random conversations at once. We passed the eye-brow raising sight of what appeared to be a runner in cyling shorts and jersey. “Hmm, I think he’s forgot his bike,” someone quipped, even as the runner seemed to wave and acknowledge us as being in the same “tribe” as him.

I was discussing the Badlands of Dinnington, with the Garrulous Kid and talking about what a strange place it and its (possibly) unjustifiably denigrated citizens were. Then, as we swept down from the village,  frantic hand signals upfront sent us swerving around a major obstacle in our path. This turned out to be a black bin bag, stuffed to overflowing with the countless, bloody corpses of dead pigeons and dumped on the side of the road. Too weird for words.

Unfortunately, this prompted a bizarre and rather random conversation with the Garrulous Kid, which started when he ask if I’d ever been to the Royal Fee-ayter in Newcastle (I have) for the pantomime (yes, to that too) which he insists always, always, always, traditionally includes a sketch about dead pigeons. (Err, no.)

Naturally, once I’d doubted the veracity of his claim, he then had to work back through the entire group, trying to find someone who’d been to the Royal Fee-ayter and seen the pantomime that involved dead pigeons. I think he’s still looking for some sort of positive corroboration.

A quick pee stop found two of the oldest members of our group immediately reaching for their mobile phones, like social-media obsessed, needy teenagers, or perhaps sex pest’s let loose on Tinder.

Then a sharp scramble upwards, followed by a sharp dip down, found us approaching the Mur de Mitford around a tight, momentum sapping left-hand turn, horrible for anyone who didn’t realise what was coming  and found themselves caught in the wrong gear. Up we went in a rush, before regrouping over the top and assessing the damage and who was left.

Surprisingly only a couple had taken the opportunity of a less demanding route to the café and followed OGL and I was somewhat surprised to find Szell still with us, but reasoned the lure of tackling his bete noir of Middleton Bank had been too tempting to refuse, no matter how hard he had to work to get there.

With Biden Fecht and Ovis driving on the front, we were soon scaling the Trench and strung out in a long line. I eased approaching the top, recognising there were still plenty more hills to come and heard the unmistakable “swash-swash-swash” of G-Dawg turning a massive gear and climbing out of the saddle as he bridged across to me.

Another general regrouping and then we were climbing the long, hard drag up to Rothley Crossroads. At the top, an obviously fatigued Garrulous Kid was asking how much further we had to go. I told him it wasn’t too far, but heard a distinct groan when I mentioned we still had Middleton Bank to scale.


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A rolling road led us onto the approach to this hill and hoping to take maximum advantage of any help he could get from gravity, Szell pulled out wide and began hurtling down the outside, pulling just about everyone else along with him, while Crazy Legs cried out in disgust at being swamped by hurtling bodies and chaos on either side.

We then hit the bottom of the bank and the natural order was quickly restored, with G-Dawg and Biden Fecht pulling away at the front, while those less enamoured of gravity began slipping backwards.

I found myself amongst the wheels as we reached the steepest ramp and, as the incline bit, the Garrulous Kid did a bit of ill-conceived fishing for another gear. With the change down, his legs started whirring round ineffectually and as he lost momentum, I pushed around him, rose out of the saddle and began to lead the chase to the front pair.

I ran out of hill before making it across, but the pace slowed briefly so we could reform and then we slowly started to wind it back up again. As we swept around Bolam Lake I manoeuvred to the back of the pack, waiting to see if anyone attacked up the rollers, but holding station as nothing happened up front. Where was the Red Max when we needed him?

Down the dip and onto the final climb and, as we rounded the last corner, Ovis attacked from the back and I slid onto his wheel. He dragged me up toward the front of the group and he sparked a reaction from G-Dawg before slowly fading and drifting to the side. Crazy Legs followed G-Dawg’s acceleration and I switched across onto his wheel, as we slowly wound in and passed Keel, hitting the front just as we crested the last rise and all finishing line-astern.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

As we stood at the counter being served, Crazy Legs unconsciously prepped my coffee with milk, while I handed him a knife for his scone. “We’re like an old, married couple,” he remarked.

“Well, except we don’t hate each other,” I replied.

“Speak for yourself,” he countered.

Charming.

For some reason, completely unknown to me, Crazy Legs then became fixated on describing pictures he’d seen of the Chuckle Brothers sharing a bath with a young female model, an image he encouraged everyone to Google – before concluding it would scar you for life. If that’s incentive enough for you, then feel free, I have to admit I’m not brave enough.

Under poor and imprecise instructions, we had G-Dawg chasing a speck of errant butter all around his face and I wondered if there’d be any aerodynamic benefits gained from greasing your head. This, quite naturally led to discussions about Spanish footballers, whose de rigueur, hairstyle of choice appears to be anything long, slicked back and very, very greasy.

Talk then progressed to Ronaldo’s unfortunate bronze bust, with its uncanny resemblance to ex-Sunderland plodder striker, Niall Quinn. We thought perhaps that only the Garrulous Kid and the artist would be able to see a resemblance between these two remarkably different footballers.

As if on cue, the Garrulous Kid then showed up, hovering over the table to ask everyone if they’d ever been to a pantomime at the Royal Fee-ayter, while I sat with my head in my hands.

Deciding to put him to more practical use, I asked him to go get some coffee and learned he wasn’t allowed coffee. I have to admit that far more than anything else he’d ever said to me, this made the most sense – he’s hyper enough that I just can’t imagine what he’d be like wired on caffeine.

I explained that what I actually wanted him to do was get refills for our coffees and off he went and dutifully delivered.

As he returned and finally pulled a chair up to the table, talk uncharacteristically turned political and serious, with Crazy Legs revealing he’d actually been paid a visit by his incumbent Labour MP. In person!

He’d discovered she was quite human, honest and had a decent sense of humour and he’d actually quite liked her. I’m not sure my MP ever leaves his party office, other than to shuffle down to Westminster periodically and draw his cheque and the only time we ever hear anything is when he wants our vote.

The Garrulous Kid then derided Jeremy Corbyn as a communist and I couldn’t help wondering why he thought this was necessarily such a bad thing.  Apart from the preposterous notion that he was a traitor working for the (now defunct) Soviet Union, the big reason the Garrulous Kid gave for disliking Corbyn was he would … dan – dan – dan … raise taxes!

I find the common, prevailing meta-narrative that always portrays taxes as wholly evil and some how wrong to be incredibly facile and tiresome. Just to be bad, I found myself asking why he felt those with higher incomes and incredibly comfortable lives shouldn’t be asked to pay a little more to help support a crumbling health care system, or our shockingly under-provisioned schools.

The ensuing conversation had Zardoz wondering what school the Garrulous Kid went to and what they were actually teaching them, but Crazy Legs felt the answer for his views could probably be attributed closer to home than school.

Lending an ear to the fast evolving conversation the Garrulous Kid was now having with G-Dawg about PSHE and Citizenship lessons, Zardoz nudged me and muttered, “It’s alright, we’re back on safe ground now, he’s off talking about chlamydia again.”

Turning the tables on the Garrulous Kid, who always seems to find at least one obscure and unlikely resemblances between a club member and some obscure celebrity, Crazy Legs suggested the Kid reminded him of no one quite as much as Jar Jar Binks. I think this was quite a blow to his ego, as he sees himself more as a bad-ass, Kylo Ren.

It was far too early for G-Dawg to leave for home as he’s conscious getting back before 1.00pm would set a very bad and unhealthy precedent. So, while Taffy Steve joined up with the rest for the return back and then his epic solo journey on to the coast, we settled in to waste a little more time with idle and inane chatter.

Finally judging it was safe to leave, we left Zardoz in the café to meet up with his venerable wrecking crew of veteran cyclists, while G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, the Garrulous Kid and me set off for home.


Crazy Legs and G-Dawg took up station on the front for the first part of the ride, while I rode alongside the Garrulous Kid and asked him the burning, million-dollar question – had he ever tried riding and talking to OGL?

In my own mind I was already imagining with horror the tsunami of verbal diarrhoea that might be unleashed if the two spent any time together. Disappointingly though, the Garrulous Kid reported riding with OGL is boring, as “all he ever talks about is bikes.”

At the top of Berwick Hill we pushed through and took over pace-making duties from the front two. By his standards, the Garrulous Kid seemed quiet and a little subdued over the last few miles. Perhaps he ran out of words, or was feeling tired after our rather lumpy ride?

Perhaps he was just savouring his last club run for a while as he’s been condemned to more Saturday schooling to try and improve his maffs. Either way it was a quite peaceable end to the ride.

With the sun finally breaking through I declared it was probably the best part of the day. Crazy Legs then rather astonishingly claimed credit and declared that from now on we should refer to his bike, the much-cossetted Ribble, as “Cloudchaser.” Hmm.

The Garrulous Kid and Crazy Legs then turned off and I entered the Mad Mile with G-Dawg at a quite sedate pace. With Son of G-Dawg absent, I guess there was no competition for first use of the shower so we had a more relaxed run in.

I waved G-Dawg off and then set course for home, which, like the trip out that morning, was unremarkable and incident free. I unclipped at the front gate having ridden bang on 69 miles with exactly 1,200 metres of climbing. Hard but fun.


YTD Totals: 2,480 km / 1,541 miles with 26,625 metres of climbing