Pugs and Uggs

 

Total Distance:                                     103 km / 74 miles with 781 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                            3 hours 59 minutes

Average Speed:                                   25.8 km/h

Group size:                                           28 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                      16°C

Weather in a word or two:               Chilly and very, very wet


12 aug
Ride Profile

The Ride:

They say a week is a long time in politics, but I have to say it’s even longer in relation to the rapidly plummeting fitness levels of ageing and mediocre club cyclists. I returned from holiday four pounds heavier and over a twelve hundred pounds lighter in the wallet, with nothing to show for it but blurred tan lines and a sharp decline in whatever small measure of cycling ability I possess.

This manifested as a real struggle to commute in and out of work, where I felt slow, weak and generally out of sorts. I tried to ride through it and managed to fit in three days commuting before Saturday and the chance to make up for the two club runs I’d missed.

On the commutes I’d noticed the mornings have a distinct chill to them already and had started to think about digging out some long-fingered gloves. In August? Maybe I’m just getting soft.

Saturday morning wasn’t quite so bad, but this was probably the result of the banks of thick, leaden cloud that had been scrawled heavily across the sky in various shades of grey, by my estimation using 2B to 9B pencils. This cloud cover may have provided some degree of insulation overnight, but totally precluded any chance we’d see the sun today.

Still, the roads were dry and the weather forecasts suggested no rain until mid-afternoon, when we’d hopefully be home and hosed.

I slipped smoothly down the Heinous Hill on a new patch of pristine tarmac and pushed on along the valley floor, immediately butting up against a strong westerly. I was rolling along, minding my own business along a wide, straight and totally empty road, when a small, silver hatchback snarled past, too fast and much too close, in what I can only assume was a deliberate attempt at provocation or intimidation.

I gave the driver my best WTF gesture, which he responded to in kind, which only seemed to suggest the close pass had been deliberate and he was watching to see what sort of reaction he’d get. Dick.

The rest of the ride was thankfully uneventful, but I was delayed by even more roadworks and traffic lights along the route. Nevertheless, when I hit my mark of 8.42 miles covered at 8:41 I knew I was on schedule and eased back.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

The Colossus of Roads was there showing off his newly pimped up bike, complete with a new red and shiny chainring to accessorize with all the other red and shiny bling bits: hubs, jockey wheels, quick release skewers, cable ends, bar plugs, seat clamp, gear hanger, headset spacers and the like. To cap it all he’d gone for a gleaming gold chain, which prompted a frankly disapproving OGL to remark that if he took the bike into his shop the first thing he’d do would be to clean the chain because he thought it looked rusty. Let’s just say he seems to have a different aesthetic appreciation than me.

OGL himself was sporting his own “new look” – a sort of scruffy Abe Lincoln-meets-the-Amish with a hint of hill-billy, face fringe with a bare upper lip that reminded me of Mad Willie McDougal, the caretaker at Springfield Elementary School. Crazy Legs wondered aloud if OGL had deliberately cultivated his face fungus in club colours, the mix of ginger and white bristles lacking only a touch of lime to be a perfect match for the white, tangerine and green of the club jersey.

OGL suggested he was considering keeping the face fringe for a function he was attending at a local brewery, when a plan for excess libation could perhaps induce a gangrenous, green tinge to his features to complete the transformation to club colours in their full … err … glory.

The Monkey Butler Boy was at the meeting point, as a precursor to joining up with his new clubmates somewhere en route and took the opportunity to terrify me by flashing his startlingly white, utterly blank and featureless chest, the likes of which I’ve only ever seen on strangely asexual, abstract shop mannequins.

The pristine snowscape of the Monkey Butler Boy’s unblemished upper torso contrasted starkly with the dark brown of his lower limbs, creating some razor-sharp, cyclists tan lines, a badge of honour that he seemed inordinately proud of. So proud, in fact then when joining a new college and being pressed to help come up with a suitable nickname, he’d flashed a half brown-half white bicep and suggested “Tan Lines.” In this way and much to his regret, he’s now been saddled with the unwanted moniker of “Fake Tan.”

(Still, it could have been worse, the last time I saw the Monkey Butler Boy in civvies (or at least his Mother’s jeans!) he was a combination of deep tan, red and raw sunburn and a rather startling ghostly and underexposed white, that looked like nothing so much as a giant Neopolitan ice cream.)

We wondered why Crazy Legs was uncharacteristically quiet, but apparently he was simply mesmerised and in the thrall of the larger than life “Atomic Blonde” movie poster splashed across the entire side of a double-decker bus. Apparently he was having trouble speaking through the puddle of drool that was overflowing from his mouth and dripping noisily onto the pavement. The Garrulous Kid confirmed I was looking at a picture of the rather anodyne and strangely characterless (IMHO) beauty that is actress “Charlies Felon.”

Crazy Legs finally managed to stir himself long enough to outline our plans for the day and left to lead the front group, pulling with him a strong group bolstered by a couple of University racing snakes.

I dropped into the smaller, second group, ostensibly and titularly led by OGL, but in reality following the Red Max. We were joined by a handful of Grogs, a few irregulars, Sneaky Pete, Captain Black, Szell and the Garrulous Kid. The Big Yin looked at the composition of our group, shook his head and quickly set off in pursuit of the first group.

Who can blame him?

Leaving a decent interval, Red Max led the way and we pushed off, clipped in and rode out on yet another fun-filled adventure.


I dropped in alongside Sneaky Pete for a catch-up, but it wasn’t long before our conversation was being rudely interrupted by a persistent clacking, which we finally traced to the back end of his bike. We called a halt so OGL could try and determine what the issue was and after some investigative work he expertly diagnosed the issue as cracked balls – either a euphemism for a particularly nasty testicular fungal infection, or a serious issue with the bearings in his rear hub.

Both potential diagnoses were equally distressing, and leery of suffering a terminal malfunction in the middle of nowhere, Sneaky Pete reluctantly cut short his ride and headed for home.

I next caught up with Captain Black, fresh from a holiday in Majorca where he’d somehow managed to smuggle his bike along. He listened to my complaint of too little cycling while on holiday and raised me a case of too much cycling on holiday, suggesting he was so worn out he wouldn’t even contemplate engaging in the coffee shop sprint. (Hah!)

Our discussion of our much derided club jersey was interrupted by OGL who objected when I complained about its 1970’s styling, by informing me it was actually designed in the 80’s – “but as a tribute to the 70’s,” Captain Black added sotto voce.

I then learned that not only was it designed in the 80’s, but it was the collaborative work of “a committee” – which rather appropriately suggested the old saw about how a camel is just a horse designed by committee. We were then informed that the jersey’s garish colours and hideous, dated design are a positive virtue as nobody wears anything quite like it and it allows you an instant appreciation of where all your teammates are during a race.

OGL’s final argument in defence of his beloved jersey was that many pro teams use a similar design, although considering some of the efforts the likes of Skil-Shimano, Teka, Mapei, Castorama, Phonak, Polti or Tonton Tapis have turned out over the years, I’m not sure that’s exactly an endorsement.

At the top of Brunswick Hill, the Red Max rolled off the front, while, with impeccable timing and a great deal of affected insouciance, the Grog next in line slowly reached for his bottle and took a very long and involved drink, while drifting back down the line. With no one willing to come through and take up the lead, a mentally shrugging Red Max moved back onto the front and stuck his nose into the wind yet again.

On the downhill run I worked my way through the group until I could relieve Max on the front, dropping in beside a relative newcomer who said he’d been out with the club quite a few times, but I didn’t recognise. We set what I felt was a remarkably sensible and sedate pace, only to be castigated for racing. In truth, the ride was so slow and unthreatening, that a weasel was able to stroll across the road in front of us, stop, eye us up speculatively, then hop unconcernedly through a hedge and disappear.

As we pushed through Whalton we were met with a lashing rain shower and a halt was called so we could pull on jackets, before pushing on again. The shower slowly eased and passed, so that by the next stop, at Dyke Neuk, jackets were doffed and stowed once again. Here I caught Szell singing the praises of his Castelli Gabba waterproof and had to inform him it wasn’t as good as The Ramones version, the Gabba Gabba Hey.

I now found myself on the front with Captain Black and we plotted altering the planned route in light of the deteriorating weather, chopping off the leg up to Rothley Crossroads. Re-worked route agreed, we dropped down through Hartburn and began to grind our way across to Middleton Bank.


NOVATEK CAMERA


With the rain slashing down again and bouncing off the tarmac, I pushed on ahead of everyone and stopped at the next junction to fish out my jacket again. As the rest whipped past and away, I found Szell stopping behind me and also reaching for his jacket. I warned him it was a case of bad timing as his bete noire, Middleton Bank was looming and we’d already been left some distance behind.

I started to give chase and Szell, realising his predicament followed, not even delaying long enough to zip his jacket closed. On the run down toward the base of the climb we slowly clawed our way onto the back of the group, but by this point Captain Black and the Red Max were already tackling the steeper ramps up ahead. Still, there were plenty of hares to chase and act as relay points as I set off in pursuit.

Working my way up the outside, I found the Garrulous Kids wheel as we hit the steep section and, as he accelerated, I dropped in behind and followed until the road straightened. As I rode around and past him he started complaining his gears weren’t working, which seems rather unusual given the … ahem … ultra-precise and exacting standards of his German engineered bike.

I’d reeled in the Red Max by the crest of the climb and then set off in pursuit of Captain Black, not even thinking about stopping and regrouping and just wanting to get out of the rain. Between the two of us we then drove the pace along. I never looked back and had no idea who was following, or who was floundering.

Down through Milestone Woods and onto the rollers I tried attacking the slope, but the road was awash and my rear wheel started slipping and spinning without traction. I dropped back down onto the saddle and ground my way over the top and down toward the last climb up to the café.

As I took the last corner Captain Black whirred past (Hah! I say again) and away, shortly followed by Kipper and I was left competing for the minor places with Mini Miss and the Red Max.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the café, soaking wet and dripping it was black bin bags all around to keep wet posteriors away from the furniture.

We’d been served and were sitting comfortably by the time the Garrulous Kid rolled in, easy prey to Red Max’s wind-up that he’d not only been beaten in the sprint, but thoroughly thrashed. He bit. Hard. He started leaning on a sorry pile of excuses, stuck gears, malfunctioning brakes, poor visibility, too little pressure in one tyre, too much pressure in the other, before simply vowing revenge next week, when, he warned he would “utterly destroy everyone.”

The Red Max related being asked by the Monkey Butler Boy to take a day off work, theoretically so father and son could do a bit of bonding on a long ride into North Northumberland. Giving up a precious day’s holiday, Red Max had suggested Wooler as a good destination, only to be told, no, they were actually going to Ford. En route, he then learned that they were heading to Ford because that’s where the Monkey Butler Boy’s current squeeze was holidaying en famille.

It then turned out that the Monkey Butler Boy had not only not informed the Red Max about the real purpose of his trip, but he hadn’t bothered to tell his girlfriend either. So, after valiantly battling away for fifty odd miles, up hill, down dale and through the elements, the Monkey Butler Boy’s surprised reception was a somewhat less than welcoming, “What are you doing here?”

As if on cue, the Monkey Butler Boy and his wrecking crew rolled up through the sheeting rain, eventually followed in by their harassed-looking, out of breath, grey-faced and thoroughly exhausted looking coach. The Red Max sympathised with the coach, suggesting riding with the wrecking crew was a quick route to self-annihilation and prompting questions about whether the Monkey Butler Boy is deserving of a more dynamic and sympathetic name change – maybe to The A-nyallator, or similar…

Nah, of course not.

Talk of the Monkey Butler Boy’s girlfriend led the Red Max to an intense interrogation around the Garrulous Kid’s holiday romance with the girl from Hull, with the Garrulous Kid protesting they were “just friends” – even though he had a photo of her on his phone … and even though he had a photo of her dog on his phone too – a Pug called Doug (the dog, not the girl.)

A rather bemused Mini Miss wondered why they were discussing Ugg boots and I had to explain they were actually talking about Pugs and not Uggs – and, one particular Pug called Doug. We agreed they were both equally as ugly (the dog and the sloppy and shapeless footwear, not the girl)

This did lead to some idle speculation that Uggs were actually made out of dead Pugs, which would explain some of their shared characteristics…

The Garrulous Kid protested that he liked Pugs, especially the cute, wheezing, snuffling, distressed little grunting noises they make trying to breathe through their in-bred, facial deformities. I suggested this was the exact same distressed noise he was emitting when I rode past him on Middleton Bank earlier – and I didn’t think it was at all cute.  (I never did establish his position on Uggs.)

One of our number started squeezing a long stream of dirty water from his track mitts and directly into his coffee cup. “You don’t have to do that, mate” the Red Max told him, “They’ll give you a free refill if you ask.”

Just then the Monkey Butler Boy wandered up, soaking wet and leaving a long trail of water in his wake. He’d decided to wear his club skinsuit for the ride and so had no way of carrying a rain jacket and was thoroughly drenched. Typical teen, he did of course have his phone clutched firmly in his hand and I wondered where he stored this when riding. Apparently, clenched between his buttocks, according to the Red Max, who also suggested this was why he always used it hands-free as he didn’t want it anywhere near his nose.

Pulling on wet gear again, gloves, arm warmers, helmets, jackets and the like, is always an unpleasant end to the otherwise enjoyable café stop, but it had to be done and once more we ventured out into the teeming rain.


I rode back with the Red Max, finding out that he isn’t away on holiday until a trip to Spain in October. I queried if the weather would be all right then.

“Well, it’ll be better than this,” was the terse reply and I couldn’t argue.

This time around he’s persuaded Mrs. Max to take her bike too and I suggested that with the Monkey Butler Boys new-found prowess, this was at least one way in which Max could ensure he wouldn’t be last in all the sprints.

“Hmm, I’m not so sure about that.” He concluded glumly.

He then suggested tonight would be great conditions for venturing outdoors to watch for Perseid meteor showers and seemed serious in his assertion.

I looked at him quizzically, soaking wet and thoroughly sodden and bedraggled, rain dripping off his nose and running in rivulets down his bike, shoes squelching with every pedal stroke. He seemed sincere, there was no hint of a smile, or the slightest trace of any irony.

I then looked through the gloom at the rain hammering down all around us, the long puddles stretching out from the verges to reach across a road awash with water, and then I looked up at the louring dark, mass of low, unbroken cloud…

Well, you’ve got to admire his optimism.

The Monkey Butler Boy and Garrulous Kid took to racing each other up Berwick Hill, but I was heavy legged and tired out and couldn’t react, so just plugged up behind them. We caught up with OGL who’d left the café ahead of us and, rather bizarrely, he too joined the youngsters for some sparring up the hill to Dinnington.

Before too long everyone else was swing away and I was cast free to plod my way home, being battered by two more heavy, stinging showers, a particular low point amidst the otherwise continual and steadily unrelenting downpour.

I was beginning to feel a bit chilled by the time I reached the bottom of the Heinous Hill, so for once its demands at least had some side benefits and I it wasn’t long before I was home and heading for a very welcome hot shower.


YTD Totals: 4,825 km / 2,777 miles with 55,162 metres of climbing

Radiation Vibe

Radiation Vibe

Club Run, Saturday 22nd July, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  105 km / 65 miles with 436* metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 17 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.4 km/h

Group size:                                         24 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    17°C

Weather in a word or two:          Dreich


Untitled 1
Ride Profile
* Stop me if you’ve heard this before – it rained throughout the ride and my Garmin naturally had a hissy-fit in protest. The official route Crazy Legs posted up had over 700 metres of climbing and that’s not counting my clambering up Heinous Hill or the other side of the Tyne valley. Nonetheless, I officially managed only 436 metres.

The Ride:

7:10 Saturday morning and I’m lying in bed listening to the rain hammering on the roof and window and the noisy gargle of the overflow racing down the drain pipe. Another rain swept Saturday in summer, it must be a club run day.

45 minutes later and leaving the house, the rain has eased from torrential, to just plain annoying and I’m pulling on a light, easily stowable waterproof jacket in anticipation of it actually stopping at some point. It’s always good to travel in hope.

Still, I’m more accepting of the weather than I was last week, I’d prepped the Peugeot the night before, so rolled out with the protection of full length mudguards. I’d also combined the thinnest socks I could find with my waterproof winter boots, assured of keeping my feet dry, but a bit concerned about them getting too warm.

The ride across to the meeting point was totally unremarkable, no exotic wildlife, no homicidal drivers, no near misses and the noteworthy, but not altogether unexpected absence of other cyclists on the road. It was horribly wet.

I ducked into the multi-storey car park to join the only other early arrival, the Garrulous Kid and to wait for the intrepid and insane to assemble.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

OGL was noticeable by his absence, having been called to attend some interminably dull, extraordinary general meeting for British Cycling. Someone wondered why G-Dawg hadn’t accompanied him and he visibly shuddered at the thought – explaining that not only would you have to sit through a long, boring meeting, but relive it in minute, forensic detail, blow-by-blow, in the car all the way back.

The Garrulous Kid proved he was in the running for a name change to the Hyperbolic Kid, declaring the Star Wars movies were the greatest film series ever made. Taffy Steve and I pondered if Chewbacca was still being played by the same “actor” Peter Mayhew and, rather bizarrely, the Garrulous Kid suggested Maria Sharapova, would make a great replacement Wookie.

“Only if she wears high heels.” G-Dawg drawled, while I tried to decide if in the Star Wars universe, dressing a Wookie in high heels was equated to a similar Terran expression about putting lipstick on a pig.

Jimmy Mac returned from a long absence and declared he’d qualified to represent Great Britain at the UCI Gran Fondo World Championship in Albi, in August. I had to express surprise, not so much because he’d qualified, more at the thought there was an actual Gran Fondo World Championship.

Still, if we wanted someone to represent us in a Gran Fondo World Championship, who better than the clean-cut, super-smart, highly practical, ultra-dexterous, unflappably cool, always in control, Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon and all round good guy Jimmy Mac.

Meanwhile Richard of Flanders reported that ex-club member, Arnold had completed the L’Etape du Tour and found it not only expensive, but massive, chaotic and very, very badly organised.

Richard of Flanders wondered about heading home to swap his good bike for his winter bike, but decided not to. He wasn’t alone and there was a distinct lack of mudguards on offer throughout the bunch. There were lots of ass-savers though – or perhaps they should be re-named i’m-all-right-jacks, or ass-covers – only useful for covering your own ass. I feel if you’re going to subject your fellow riders to the constant deluge of spray off your back wheel, the least you can do is accept your own share of the misery and discomfort and not hide behind these flimsy bits of plastic. Go on – take it like a man.

In spite of the weather, it was a surprisingly large group of two dozen riders who pushed off, clipped in and sallied forth into the deluge.


We hadn’t made it through Dinnington, when we had a puncture and all piled into a car park while repairs were made. Here Jimmy Mac found he could drag his wet buttocks across his damp saddle and create a fearsome squeal, akin to someone dragging their fingernails down a blackboard. Real squeaky bum time.

He took time off from setting my teeth on edge to compliment the Garrulous Kid who was now sporting the biggest, blackest chain ring tattoo I’ve ever seen.

“How did that happen?” the Garrulous Kid asked, I assume in all seriousness, as he looked down at his calf in befuddlement.

A bit further on and he’d added a second grungy, oily brand above the first, just to prove it was no fluke. I wondered if he always cleaned his chain on random bits of exposed flesh, but apparently not. Actually, I think it was probably foolish of me to assume he ever cleaned his chain.

Tracking through Tranwell, someone behind hit a pothole and went down in a clatter and we stopped again to allow everyone to pick themselves up and check for damage.

“Oh, they’re alright.” The Garrulous Kid declared from his vantage point 30 metres or so away from the accident and Jimmy Mac was forced to admire the assuredness of the declaration and acknowledge that the Garrulous Kid had exceptional X-ray vision to go with his 20/20 hindsight.

At the bottom of the Mur de Mitford we lost a large contingent of Grogs, as they by-passed the hill for a shorter route to the café, while the rest of us grappled with the slope, wheels slipping and sliding on the wet road as grip became somewhat negotiable. Topping out the climb we traced a new (to me anyway) route to the Trench passing around Stanton.

At one point I dropped off the back with Taffy Steve who was struggling on his thrice-cursed winter bike and we found Rab Dee patrolling the rear about 20 metres back. He confirmed this was the ideal distance to avoid both crashes and the showers of shit being spat off everyone’s wheels.


NOVATEK CAMERA


Down through Hartburn and rising up the other side, Jimmy Mac had a front wheel puncture and pulled over to the side of the road to effect repairs. Crazy Legs popped up to where we all waited to borrow Taffy Steve’s mighty frame pump and we were soon underway again. We even managed to make it round the very next corner, before a loud hiss of escaping air announced Jimmy Macs original repair hadn’t fared too well, the tyre had popped off the rim and the tube had gone again.

Yet another unscheduled stop had Crazy Legs urging everyone on to the café, while he said he’d hang back with Jimmy Mac. Only then did he realise he’d left his saddle bag on his other bike and wasn’t carrying a spare tube. He too, then decided to go with the larger group in case he needed assistance.

Biden Fecht donated a spare tube and I hung back with Rab Dee, Richard of Flanders and the Big Yin to provide assistance, moral support and a ragged, surely highly-prized and always welcome, running commentary of piss-taking. Rab Dee lifted the front of Jimmy Mac’s bike up for him and he set to work wrestling the wheel out of the forks.

Watching on, the Big Yin admitted he’d rather take a dump in public than have to change a tyre in front of an attentive and critical audience of fellow cyclists … then went back to critically and attentively watching his fellow cyclist change a tyre.

I do have a lot of sympathy with his view and tend to try slipping quietly off the back, rather than wrestle with tyres and tubes while a censorious “puncture congregation” bears unholy witness.

Extended wheel-wrangling left Jimmy Mac with filthy black lines and marks up and down his legs, that were even more embarrassing than the Garrulous Kids chain-ring tatt and it was suggested he looked like an SAS sniper covered in camo paint for a night mission. Fighting through the grit and crud and crap and mud on his wheel, somehow he finally managed to get the tube in and seat the tyre back in place.

Taffy Steve had left with the larger group, taking his mighty frame pump with him, so Jimmy Mac fished out his own molto piccolo, Leznye Pressure Drive out of a pocket, screwed the hose into one end of it and attached the other to his tyre valve.

As he set manfully to work, inflating his tyre, Rab Dee kept a careful eye on Jimmy Mac’s Garmin, reading off his heart rate and we were all super-impressed that after about 5 minutes of pumping it never rose above 128 bpm. That’s the kind of cardio-vascular fitness we’d all like to have.

Unfortunately, the tyre remained as flat as Jimmy Mac’s heart rate and after several more minutes he surmised his pump must be broken. Richard of Flanders took over and pulled out his own, identical Leznye Pressure Drive. He screwed the rubber hose slowly into his pump, sizing-up the errant tyre with a dead-eyed looked as he walked toward it, much like an assassin fitting a suppressor to his pistol muzzle before administering the coup de grace.

Jimmy Mac, our UCI Gran Fondo World Championship representative, the clean-cut, super-smart, highly practical, ultra-dexterous, unflappably cool, always in control, Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon and all round good guy, then watched as Richard screwed the other end of the hose onto his tyre valve and began to inflate the tube…

“Hold on, do you have to screw that end onto the valve too?” he pondered loudly. “I just thought you had to press it on …”

Oh. Dear.

Richard of Flanders made light work of inflating the tyre and we were finally back underway again.

Perhaps as recompense for delaying us, or perhaps to leave the scene of his shame firmly behind him, Jimmy Mac surged to the front and drove the pace up. As we climbed past Angerton, I glanced back, finding totally empty road and told him we were alone, had split the group and needed to ease up a little.

We managed to regroup around Bolam Lake, but Rab Dee and Jimmy Mac seemed intent on making up for lost time and lined us out again. I dropped into their slipstream and hung there as the speed ratcheted up, hanging onto the coattails as we swept through Milestone Wood, drove over the rollers, down the hill and onto the final climb to the café.

At some point along the final stretch we zipped past Taffy Steve and Szell, who had taken a longer route to allow Szell tackle his bete noire, Middleton Bank and face down his own personal demons.

As we passed the pair, I eased and let go of Jimmy Macs wheel, coasting through the finish flags planted at the end of the lane for some event or other sponsored by the GS Metro club – I don’t know what it was for and there was no one around to ask, but it was nice of them to mark the finish of our club sprint for us.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Szell announced that his brand new dental x-ray produced no more radiation than you would get from eating 8 bananas and you didn’t even need to leave the room when using it.  I contrasted this to my last dental x-ray, where the dentist first put on a lead-lined apron and heavy duty goggles, before unspooling the remote-control trigger wire behind him as he left the room. I then heard the surgery front door open and close and saw him duck past the window, still unreeling the wire. A pause of about a minute, was followed by a deep hum, blinding flash and the smell of burning rubber. A few minutes later the dentist wandered back whistling nonchalantly, winding up the wire and declaring we’re all done.

We discovered that Banana Equivalent Dose was an accepted (well, almost) scientific measure of radiation exposure and eating one banana equivalent to roughly 0.1 Sieverts of radiation, while a flight from New York to LA was equivalent to 40 Sieverts.

From this Jimmy Mac concluded it was unwise to eat bananas on an aeroplane – and, never mind Snakes on a Plane, the next Hollywood low-budget schlockbuster could well involve aviation travel with everyone’s favourite Musaceae.

(Don’t worry by the way, a lethal dose of radiation is about 35 million Sieverts, you’re not going to get that from fruit – even if you’re in first class and constantly eating bananas washed down with daiquiris on a long-haul flight to Australia, or Hawaii)

The Big Yin was interested in organising a ride out to see the Tour of Britain, travelling on familiar roads somewhere on its route from Kielder to Blyth on Monday 4th September. It sounded like a reasonable excuse for a day off work and a ride out, although Szell raised the worrying spectre of us meeting other OGL’s from the all the different areas of Britain congregating on the same spot.

I dismissed his worries out of hand – there couldn’t possibly be other OGL’s out there. Could there?


On the way out, a quick word with the Red Max confirmed he could lay his hands on Tyvek overalls, a respirator and rubberised boots, should I ever find work in a banana plantation.

Given our puncture-crash-puncture-puncture ride interruptions, we were late leaving the café and it looked like we’d be late getting back. As we rolled down Berwick Hill I found myself on the front with the Red Max and encouraging his almost constant half-wheeling, even as Crazy Legs reported we’d split the group.

We kept going, nonetheless, up through Dinnington and around the the airport. Fast. I didn’t look back once and have no idea what was going on behind. I was still surprised, however to exit the Mad Mile without being caught and overtaken by a duelling G-Dawg and Colossus, sprinting for home and first use of the shower.

Just before crossing the river I tentatively removed my rain jacket. Oh well, better late than never and was soon heading uphill and home.

And that’s it for the next couple of weeks, as I’m off to Nice on a family holiday.

I think it’s just as well I’m leaving work before someone punches me in the face for being annoying. The trouble is, whenever I’m asked where I’m going, I can never resist:

“Where you off to then?”

“Nice.”

“That’s nice.”

“No, I’m pretty sure it’s pronounced Niece.”

It reminds me of the time a work colleague spent some time in Scotland.

“Where’ve you been?”

“Ayr”

“I SAID, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?”

Don’t worry, I’ve finished now and you won’t be subjected to any more crap jokes for a couple of weeks. Hopefully the weather will have improved by the time I get back too (Ha ha. Sorry, I promised no more crap jokes, didn’t I)

In the meantime, enjoy the peace.


YTD Totals: 4,609 km / 2,863 miles with 52,634 metres of climbing

I’m Free …

 


COVER2I’ve finally manged to wrap my head around the Amazon promotional stuff – (ok, it wasn’t that hard) and so can offer the eBook free for the next 5 days.

If you want it … go and get it and it’ll cost you nowt. Hell, go crazy and get two …

The UK version can be found here  – the US version here

And all the others via your usual, local Amazon marketplace.


 

Buy the Book Too

Buy the Book Too

Anyone with a Kindle and a strong and a powerful, unfulfilled Sur La Jante addiction (and who am I to judge?) can now access the collected witterings from all of 2016 in one handy volume.

All this for a nominal fee of 99p or US $1.29, or whatever the equivalent is in your local currency and exclusively available from an Amazon site near you.

The UK version can be found here and the US version (complete with whacky/wacky UK spellings)  here.

Amazon wouldn’t let me give the book away for free, so this is as low as it goes until I find a way to manipulate their marketing promotions. The exact same content is of course always available completely free on this very blog site.

Reviews of the first Sur La Jante Chronicles – Float Like a Buffalo, Sting Like a Moth:

“Genuinely funny, well at least my lines are.” Taffy Steve

“I hate that wheel-sucking scumbag.” G-Dawg

“Great. I’m pretty sure I can re-purpose this to make all sorts of different things.” The Prof

“Attack! Attack! Attack!” The Red Max

“Is. It. Safe?” Szell

“Who?  Nah … Never heard of him.” OGL


COVER2
Cover by the extraordinarily talented, Mr. Phil Smith

 

Of course, for the truly masochistic, the 2015 edition, Float Like a Buffalo, Sting Like a Moth is still available. The UK version can be found here and the US version (complete with whacky/wacky UK spellings)  here.

Unexpected Interlude


I woke fuzzily Saturday morning to find Storm Doris desultorily lashing the house with gusting winds, sleet and frozen rain, like some apathetic, under-paid, over-worked and put-upon dominatrix. It sounded quite nasty out – but for once, I didn’t care and knew I didn’t have to spend half an hour mixing and matching various bits of kit to try and find that perfectly impossible balance between insulation and ventilation.

Daughter#1 and Daughter#2 (aka Thing#1 and Thing#2) had embraced their role of Porton Down disease vectors with all the enthusiasm of a genocidal settler distributing smallpox infected blankets to Native Americans, leaving a patina of virulent germs on everything they touched and trailing a toxic, disease-laden miasma in their wake.

My poor, frail defences had finally been overwhelmed and whatever mild cold they’d managed to infect me with quickly mutated into a full-blown case of man flu’. This even had me waking late Friday night to what I thought was a full-blown cat-fight taking place in the bedroom, only to finally realise it was my own torturous breathing that had disturbed me. There would be no riding this week.

Still, someone actually told me that the Met Office had “issued a yellow snow warning” over the weekend. You know what they say about yellow snow and how you should avoid it. Perhaps I was better off the bike after all.


YTD Totals: 949 km / 590 miles with 8,937 metres of climbing. (Still)

New Year’s Revolutions

New Year’s Revolutions

Club Run, Saturday 7th January, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  107 km/66 miles with 996 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 26 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.2 km/h

Group size:                                         28 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    10°C

Weather in a word or two:          Mild mannered


 

ride-profil-7-jan
Ride Profile

The Ride:

So, a year ends and mileage totals get set back to zero – it’s time to start all over again. I already feel like a begrudging Sisyphus trudging disconsolately back down the hill to pick up the boulder that’s once again slipped from my despairing grasp and rolled away.

A couple of sneaky rides on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, both days when my inner blogger was lying quietly supine and dormant, managed to pad my annual totals and I finished the year on 7,328km or 4,553 miles.

I’m quite surprised how high the total mileage was and I’d love to say that I achieved some pre-set target or goal, but to be honest I just take whatever opportunities to ride that come my way. I have a vague notion of trying to get better and stronger, faster and fitter, but just a consequence of enjoying my riding. If I miss a weekend I’m going to be grumpy because I missed a run, not because I’m now behind on some self-imposed schedule.

There’s no ultimate end game other than to stay healthy as long as I can – I don’t feel any kind of compulsion to ride just to accumulate miles, or reach some pre-determined benchmark. That just seems an empty and utterly joyless task for the more numbers obsessed amongst us (yes, you know who you are) – each to their own I guess, vive le difference and all that.

Still, I have to admit 4,500 miles does sound vaguely impressive to the uninitiated, who always seem more interested in how far I ride, rather than why. They might not be so impressed if they knew it involved 332 hours actually propelling a bike (and that’s not even taking into account all those hours sitting round talking bikes, or just cleaning and fixing the damn things … or even writing about them!)

332 hours equates to about 41 eight-hour long work days. Perhaps there’s something more productive I could be doing with my time on the planet … I just can’t think what.

From here 4,500 miles also seems like a long, long way off, starting the new year from ground zero, but at least I’d started making inroads with a couple of commutes on my return to work. Handy, if only to start chipping away at the excess couple of pounds brought on by wine, wallowing and wanton wassailing.

My “off the record” ride on Christmas Eve had been somewhat ruined by another series of front wheel punctures that finally convinced me to discard my somewhat aged, but still decent looking Fulcrum wheel for good. It’s now in disgrace, lying, shunned and quietly mouldering in the darkest corner of the shed, stripped of tyre and inner tube. Even after careful, forensic inspection, I still have no idea why it was causing so many punctures. Hopefully they’ll now return to being an occasional, unwelcome interruption rather than an overwhelming expectation.

The New Year’s Eve ride was lashed by the tail end of Storm Barbara and ended up longer than planned, when we found our usual café closed and a handful of us back-tracked to find an alternative. After leaving the group, my solo ride home had proven to be a trial of strength against an increasingly enfeebling headwind. I lost. Badly, finally dragging myself to the top of the Heinous Hill some 20 minutes past my usual arrival time and utterly exhausted. Who’d have thought air could be so hard to push through?

Still, while I felt unlucky, it could have been a lot worse, a number of our group had come to grief with a multiple pile-up on black ice during a midweek holiday ride, leaving behind numerous contusions and several broken bikes and bodies. Worst affected seemed to be Andeven, who looks like being out for a couple of months with a fractured pelvis.

So, what has 2017 got in store and more importantly how was the first club run of the year going to measure up? Well, the start was certainly promising, the temperature nudging toward double figures and the wind no more than a cooling breeze.

I made decent time across to the meeting place and rolled up before everyone else, parked the bike up and settled in to see how many would be tempted out by the unusually mild weather.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

The Garrulous Kid was the first to show and I learned he’d gone down in the mass tumble and needed a new rear wheel, cassette and derailleur. He was also working through his own crash demons and suffering from a crisis of confidence, convinced that his rear wheel was constantly threatening to slip out from under him.

I had a look at the Bontrager tyres his LBS had fitted, but I’m not at all familiar with them, so didn’t know if they were particularly good or bad in terms of grip. He didn’t know how much pressure there was in them, but the rear one felt a bit hard and unforgiving to my extremely unscientific thumb-prodding, so I suggested he let a little air out to see if that would improve their handling.

He asked Crazy Legs what he thought and he made to prod the tyre and then – whoosh, let his hand quickly slide off.

“Did you see that!” he exclaimed, “They’re slippery.” Oh dear, this wasn’t helping.

The Garrulous Kid was wondering who else he could ask and someone suggested the BFG.

“Who’s the BFG?” he asked, bewildered.

“The Big Friendly Giant.” someone explained helpfully.

“Although he’s not really all that big.” Taffy Steve added.

“And not at all friendly.” I had to concede.

Speaking of big, Plumose Pappus rolled up for one last club ride before returning to university and complaining he’d over-indulged over Christmas, eaten far too many mince pies and his weight had ballooned – starting to inch, albeit with glacial slowness towards a mighty … 50 kilos!  (Or, in Plumose Pappus world, positively obese.)

The Garrulous Kid turned to Taffy Steve and, with either carefully calculated display of arch-deviousness, or (much more likely) completely blissful naivety, innocently asked:

“Steve, did you eat too many mince pies as well?”

#Cough# Splutter#

Moving swiftly on…

The Red Max confessed to having been lured in by the post-Christmas sales and had bought both himself and the Monkey Butler Boy matching wheelsets. Ah, nice…

Meanwhile, just before we set out OGL fielded a call, which I suggested was from the British Antarctic Survey, warning of dire weather heading our way, but at least for today we could set out safe in the knowledge there was absolutely zero chance of encountering any ice, even in the deepest, darkest depths of rural Northumberland.


The mild weather had indeed attracted a bumper crop out and almost 30 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out. As we got underway, Sneaky Pete sneaked out and directly onto the back of our group. I could only congratulate him on his masterful timing.

Sadly, for the rest of us timing was not so good and we got caught by the first set of traffic lights, having to chase on for the first mile or so. Not the best start to a ride when all you wanted to do was tuck onto someone else’s wheel and shelter at the back for a while.


NOVATEK CAMERA


Today was to prove to be a day of losses. First Taffy Steve lost a light which uncoupled from his frame and went bouncing away, forcing him to drop back to retrieve it. I then caught Son of G-Dawg, riding against the flow and back-tracking, looking for what I’m fairly sure he said was a missing brake block.

Next up the Red Max lost his rag with a taxi-driving RIM, who objected to the fact that we didn’t immediately pull over to the side of a narrow lane and doff our caps, while he thundered past at dangerously high speed.

In the sudden scrum of braking cyclists caused by the taxi, the Garrulous Kid lost his balance and toppled over.

Then Mini Miss lost the plot and stopped in the middle of the road halfway up a steep climb. Nobody seems to know why, including her, but it briefly caused utter chaos and much swerving and jinking around her stationery bike.

The biggest loss of the day though was reserved for the Garrulous Kid, who completely lost his mojo on the swooping descent just before the steep clamber up to Hartburn, plagued by the demons of last week’s group crash and convinced his tyres had been polished smooth and then liberally coated in grease.

Just before the sharp plunge down, he energetically bailed out, riding off the road and up a steeply banked verge, narrowly missing Crazy Legs and somehow managing to keep himself upright on the adverse camber of the muddy, gravel and leaf strewn strip.

He waited for the road to clear of cyclists before gingerly picking his way down at an exaggerated crawl, almost coming to a standstill at the bottom and losing all momentum before having to drag himself up the other side.

Rab Dee dropped back with him for a bit of mid-ride coaching and policing, while the rest of us pushed on.

“Angerton, or Middleton Bank?” G-Dawg enquired.

“Middleton Bank.” Carlton replied assuredly, “It’s easier.”

This show of forthright confidence, whether misplaced or not, impressed Crazy Legs, who decided Carlton deserved a new moniker to reflect his bravura assertiveness. He first tried out “The Dormanator” before discarding this and finally settling on “The Dormanatrix.” He then totally ruined the intended effect by declaring the name immediately conjured up images of Alan Partridge prancing about in leather S&M shorts.


s01e02-4mfpvlvb-thumb


Nevertheless, Middleton Bank it was – and as we approached, Bydand Fecht pushed up the pace and a small group went clear at the front. I coasted to the bottom of the hill, dropping back through the group until the slope began to bite and then pushing up the outside. As I approached the top, I had Goose for company, riding audibly up the inside gutter and puffing away like Ivor the Engine under heavy load.

At the crest I eased and dropped back, waiting for the rest to regroup and we slowly got ourselves organised to begin chasing the bunch up front who’d decided not to wait. Sneaky Pete pushed the pace up, before swinging over and declaring himself done. Our efforts became a little ragged as Carlton the Dormanatrix and Taffy Steve then vied for the lead before we hit Milestone Woods, with Crazy Legs pulling us up and over the rollers.

As we tipped down before the final climb, Taffy Steve whirred past inviting me onto his wheel with a, “Hang on and I’ll drop like a stone.”

We were closing on the front group as we hit the slopes of the last climb and I returned the favour, pushing past Taffy Steve and suggesting he grab onto my wheel, “and I’ll climb like a washing-machine!”

As we hit the final uphill push, Crazy Legs whirred off the front in a brave, but ultimately futile attempt to bridge to the front group, while Sneaky Pete sneaked off my back wheel to pip me on the line.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

 I caught up with Crazy Legs in the café queue and overheard him closing a conversation with the immortal phrase, “It’s immaterial”

“Ah,” I interjected, “A Gigantic Raft in the Philippines?”

He looked at me blankly

“Huh?”

“A Gigantic Raft in the Philippines – It’s Immaterial. You know – Driving Away from Home.”

“Ah, thirty miles or more”

“That’s the one.”

“A whole thirty miles, eh? Woah!”

He was then served by a waitress whose hair had been green the previous week, blue the week before and had transitioned through various shades of orange to a more natural auburn colour. I left him proposing a weekly sweepstake where we’d try to guess her hair colour and trying to negotiate a deal, whereby she’d feed him the information he needed to win every week.

The Driving Away from Home pop-reference led to discussions about Milli Vanilli, surprisingly dead in a car crash with their wives according to Crazy Legs, more surprised that they had wives, than the fact they died in an automobile accident. This led to the sad acknowledgement of the much greater loss to music, that of Colin Vearncombe, a.k.a. Black, who died after a car crash in Ireland late last year.

[For those of you actually managing to keep up at the back, my Google skills suggest that despite Crazy Legs’s assertions, only one member of Milli Vanilli, Rob Pilatus is no longer with us and his death was the result of overdosing on pills and alcohol. I can only assume he wasn’t driving a car at the time – either with or without a wife.]

Penelope Pitstop described the extreme opprobrium heaped on her head by her own offspring, after she’d shown them around her office and dared describe it as “the bomb.” I empathised, mentioning how my own eldest, had threatened to disown me for suggesting she was “a crease”. Apparently appropriation of urban slang by the over 50’s is neither dope, nor bangin’. Word.

A discussion about ridiculous names harkened back to an earlier conversation, where we all endorsed the Natty Gnat’s call for an official list of acceptable names to prevent stupid parents saddling their off-spring with criminally ridiculous monikers. Particular ire today was reserved for numerous Celtic names, with incomprehensible spellings, Niamh, Siobhan, Aoife, Oisin et al.

In a discussion about winter tyres, Crazy Legs’s recommendation was to find out what I was riding and simply avoid buying anything similar. He then described how he himself had a spate of blow-outs before discovering his track pump was calibrated so that 40 PSI showed as zero on the dial.  Apparently riding tyres at 160 PSI is not conducive to inner tube longevity.

Finally, he declared that the Quote of the Year award had already been won, even at such an early date, with Taffy Steve’s observation that “It took Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator less than an hour to develop self-awareness, but the Prof ‘s still working on it after 55 years.”


The ride home was largely without note, although we were passed by a grim faced rider whose face was so black and begrimed that he looked like he’d just completed Paris-Roubaix in the most adverse weather imaginable, or, as Bydand Fecht suggested, spent a Saturday club run riding behind G-Dawg, who thinks mudguards are only for sissy’s.

I made it home in decent time, feeling comfortably tired, rather than utterly exhausted and with both tyres and tubes fully intact.

Not a bad start after all.


YTD Totals: 147 km / 91 miles with 1,727 metres of climbing

Doggone … Drop the Leash

Doggone … Drop the Leash

Club Run, Saturday 29nd October, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  111 km/69 miles with 1,025 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 1 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.0 km/h

Group size:                                         16 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    13°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cool and dry


 

profile-29-oct
Ride Profile

The Ride:

Well, a dry Saturday with no rain forecast seemed like a great opportunity for a good ride, compounded by the fact that OGL and G-Dawg were travelling up to the Braveheart Dinner in Scotland and so we were left pretty much to our own devices.

Crazy Legs had manfully stepped up to the breach and outlined a proposed route. Then, to confound us all he’d even posted it a day in advance on Facebook. Unheard of, who’d have thought social media could actually be used to effectively communicate and inform?

It was at this point that revelation turned to revolution, as it transpired he’d proposed to forsake our usual café stop to try and find somewhere new and novel. An undoubted heretical act of the greatest magnitude and seriousness.

Based on change as being as good as a rest and even the sweetest honey being “loathsome in its own deliciousness” (yadda, yadda, yadda) it looked like we were off on a bit of an adventure, so it was with more than the usual sense of anticipation that I set out early Saturday morning.

The changes wrought by increasingly autumnal weather were well in evidence, with deep moraines of fallen leaves humped down either side of the road like a golden braid, while more twisted and spiralled down from the trees even as I rolled slowly down the hill to the valley floor.

At one point on my descent the wind caught a slew of these dry leaves and they skittered and scattered noisily across the road surface. I couldn’t help but feel if I’d been riding with little Tommy Eliot he would have said something clever about rats’ feet over broken glass in our dry cellar.

I crossed the river and began to clamber up the other side of the valley where, half-way up the hill I approached a zebra crossing to find crows lining the railings on one side, seemingly staring down a row of seagulls lining the opposite railing. With the black and white striped crossing in-between it looked like some strangely Dali-esque, chess game – with birds for pieces. Maybe they weren’t crows after all, but rooks?

The nearest of the birds took flight as I approached and the others scattered in alarm with a clatter and whirr of wings. That was actually re-assuring, at least I wasn’t facing some Hitchcockian-nightmare “Birds” style jury, arrayed to judge and condemn me to death by pecking.

Luckily I was able to make my way to the meeting place, arriving early and without further incident from man or beast.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

There’s an old military adage that plans rarely survive first contact with the enemy and so it was to prove for our suggested Grand Day Out. Crazy Legs had tried to contact the cafe owners to check they were happy to receive 20 or so sweaty, hungry cyclists. They shoulda-coulda-would have been I’m sure, after all our planned destination was Activ Cycles in Corbridge and in all of its promo materials it succinctly promises that most magical of all combinations – “coffee and bikes”

… but, unfortunately, Crazy Legs had discovered the owners were away for the half-term holidays and the cafe was closed. Dang it! Plan B.

Plan B – following a Facebook appeal – appeared to be the Watling Coffee House, just opposite Activ Cycles, but this looked like it would only work if our numbers were restricted to around half a dozen or so and that seemed a very remote possibility.

We knew we were down on numbers with many of the regulars being elsewhere – as previously mentioned OGL and G-Dawg were being entertained in Jockland, while the Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy were assiduously avoiding all the most gruelling climbs of La Vuelta somewhere in Spain.

That old romantic, Aether had taken Mrs. Aether for a ride on the Orient Express (not a euphemism, I assure you) while the Prof was sojourning in the Lakes. And then there was the strange case of Taffy Steve, off delivering a dog to the Isle of Man, or was it a man to the Isle of Dogs? A dog, I hasten to add which, despite all the opprobrium heaped on such choices last week, seemed to have a suspiciously stripper-like name: “Jordy.” He’d tried to convince me the dog actually had the gruff and manly name of Geordie, but I wasn’t buying it.

In any case it’s probably as well the dog is returning from whence it came, as Son of G-Dawg pointed out, imagine the reaction and confusion of calling out for “Geordie” on a crowded Tynemouth beach.

But, still the numbers on the pavement grew, even as Crazy Legs tried shooing some of the riders away. When this failed, he admitted defeat and resorted to Plan C – the same route out and along the Tyne Valley, followed by a sharp right hand turn and a clamber back north to Matfen and then out to our usual coffee stop venue.

With a goodly number still on “best bikes” and the weather promising to be fine all day, I queried whether we needed to be on winter bikes at all and if it wasn’t a day for the much cosseted Ribble to have a run out. Crazy Legs had gone for the halfway house, his venerable Bianchi rather than the wet and windy winter bike or his redoubtable all-weather fixie. He suggested he may perhaps have been tempted, but had already let all the air out of the Ribble’s tyres as a disincentive to help avoid this type of dilemma.


At the appointed, Garmin time, 16 brave lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out for a route with hopefully enough “alternative” left to still make it a bit different – so maybe New Wave rather than Punk?

I dropped onto the front alongside Crazy Legs for the first 10 kilometres or so, setting a fairly brisk pace, our order only briefly disrupted early on when the Plank pondered the perfect places to postpone progress to pee. Astonishingly it seems the Prof has some serious competition for the clubs most miniscule and leakiest bladder prize.

As we pushed along we wondered if we could perhaps ride half the group off our wheels and whittle the numbers down enough to fit into a different café, but sense prevailed and we decided to stick to Plan C and save the excitement of a different café stop for another day.

After 10km we swung off the front and let the Plank and Jimmy Cornfeed take over, while we drifted back and slotted in halfway down the line. From here I was in the perfect position to witness our first RIM of the day, overtaking a lone cyclist coming the other way.

The trouble was he was over-taking too fast and on a blind corner, swinging ridiculously wide and cutting right across the white line and into our lane. Noticing at the last minute that a bunch of skinny people on bikes were already occupying the space he was accelerating towards, he braked, swung back sharply across the path of the other cyclist, then roared past us leaning on his horn in rebuke. Whaaa? … Really? … Wow.

We then began the drop down into the Tyne Valley, but lost a few of our number to what turned out to be a puncture, so we pulled over to the side of the road to wait. Repairs duly completed we regrouped and then swooped and whooped our way to the valley floor and started following the river upstream.

Unfortunately, Newton can’t “uninvent” gravity and what goes down has to come back up again. It wasn’t long before we were climbing up toward the main east-west road, the A69. Learning from past mistakes we actually found a crossing point directly opposite where we emerged onto the road and didn’t have to traverse half of its length before we could scuttle across.

A bit of real-life Frogger with the speeding cars safely negotiated and we were onto the very steep and very narrow climb to Newton, becoming strung out and somewhat scattered as we struggled upwards. The road kept climbing and everyone kept going for a few more miles, before a halt was called and we regrouped for the last part of our run, through Matfen, up to the Quarry and on to the café.

As we passed through Matfen, the ultra-protective Crazy Legs asked if I’d seen the surface of one of the side roads still looked to be somewhat moist. Not quite sure where the conversation was heading, I had to admit I hadn’t noticed. “Hah!” he declared, “I knew I was right not to bring the Ribble out.”

To be fair he had been riding along all day looking to justify his decision, at one point even misinterpreting the blowback from one of Zardoz’s errant snot rockets as rain, looking quizzically up at the clouds and pondering, “Have I just felt a drop of precipitation?”

I caught up with Sneaky Pete and we had a chat about Clive James’s writing, the hilarious Dave Barry (“The metric system didn’t really catch on in the States, well unless you count the increasing popularity of the 9mm.”) and my having to batter a mouse to death with a cycling shoe last night, an incident we determined probably deserved the blog title “Blood on the Cleats.”

I mentioned I’d bought some new tyres for Reg next year, Vittoria Rubino’s with added graphene, only to discover that Sneaky Pete had already sneaked the exact same tyres onto his bike and had been using them for a while. He couldn’t honestly say if they were any better or worse for “that mother-fecken graphene stuff” as Taffy Steve had dubbed it. Guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

As the only other Vittoria acolyte I’ve found in the club, I asked Sneaky Pete if he too had joined the inner circle and received his regular copy of “The Vittorian”- the newsletter of Vittoria tyres. Sadly, he hasn’t seen it and I guess I’m still unable to prove it isn’t just a figment of my fevered imagination. Guess I’ll have to wait until its inevitable appearance as an eccentric and outlandish guest publication on Have I Got News for You for that.


NOVATEK CAMERA


We scrambled up the Quarry Climb and I dropped into line beside Laurelan, who has been AWOL for a while, trying to recover from an injured foot. As we were catching up and chatting I half-saw and half-sensed movement off the front of the group and rudely leaving her mid-sentence, jumped across the growing gap as the drive for the café began, pulling Son of G-Dawg with me.

A small group of young racing snakes soon pulled away from the front, while I was just content to follow Son of G-Dawg and Crazy Legs as we tracked them at a distance, pulling away from everyone else behind. Meanwhile, Crazy Legs kept himself amused for a while nudging his front tyre against the rain flap of my mudguard, which for some reason had decided to stick up horizontally.

A fast descent, a couple of leg-burning rises and we were spat out onto the road down to the Snake Bends, which we rolled through without contesting a sprint and we kept the pace high right through to the cafe.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Staff in the café still haven’t got to grips with their new till system and I knew we were in trouble when one of them went diving through multiple menu’s to try and find Son of G-Dawg’s ham and egg pie in the Salads category!

Someone mentioned that Cyclone entries are now open, so then only 231 days, 7 months, 33 weeks, 5,544 hours, 332,640 minutes or almost 20,000,000 seconds until the ride, or as Crazy Legs suggested only 224 days, 32 weeks, 5,376 hours or 322,560 minutes of agonising about which ride to enter, before plumping for the one he always does.

Re-visiting the stupid names conversation from last week I mentioned the best one I’d found so far was the rather innocuous (at first glance) Jenny Taylor.

Crazy Legs lamented the loss of his favourite no-hoper from The Apprentice, someone who was so up himself he’d proudly proclaimed something nonsensical like, “I’m fluid, pour me in a glass and I’m the glass, pour me in a bucket and I’m the bucket.”

This gave me the opportunity to recount some of the genuine bon mots from an old boss of mine, who’d once described a client as “a wiry, old fox,” said talking to a female member of staff was “a bit like the Taming of the Shrewd” and declared I “wouldn’t say hello to a boo goose.” The recollections still amuse me, 20 years later.

Talk turned to G-Dawgs inclination to retire gracefully from the annual sufferfest that is our Hill Climb – before he has a heart-attack that kills him. We wondered if setting a new personal best would be adequate compensation for killing yourself – perhaps earning an epitaph somewhere along the lines of “it was/wasn’t worth it.” [Delete as applicable.]

Crazy Legs then revealed there was hope for us old ones yet, as John Glenn had been an incredible 77 when he last took a trip into space.

Meanwhile, Son of G-Dawg revealed that not only will a dirty bike left at his Pa’s miraculously clean itself, but if he left his kit there as well he would return to find it freshly laundered and neatly put away. There were some suggestions that he didn’t really need to make a pretence of helping clean his bike, he simply needed a laundry basket big enough to take both bike and kit.


The return home was suitably stress and incident-free and made in good order to cap a very enjoyable ride and we now have the target of trying a new café for the next time OGL drops the leash.


YTD Totals: 5,961 km / 3,704 miles with 59,372 metres of climbing