Many a Muckle

Many a Muckle

Club Run, Saturday 3rd November, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 106 km / 66 miles with 1,212 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 30 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.6 km/h

Group size:                                        38+

Temperature:                                   14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Back to balmy


Many a muckle
Ride Profile

Or to be more precise, mony a mickle maks a muckle, but why let accuracy stand in the way of a good headline …

Our weird fortnightly weather cycle was once again bang-on, last weeks extremes of snow and ice and rain replaced by a temperate, bright and breezy day.

As I dropped off the hill, I spotted a group of 5 or 6 other riders ahead and was (naturally) compelled to give chase. My pursuit was somewhat hampered when the traffic lights intervened between us, just outside Blaydon. As I tried to regain lost momentum, another rider whipped past with a bright and breezy, “Morning!”

This was a Muckle C.C. rider, travelling at high speed and wearing shorts and a short-sleeved jersey. It was warmer than last week, but shorts and a short-sleeved jersey? Perhaps he needed to ride that fast just to keep warm?

I thought he might have been chasing to join onto the group upfront, but he blew straight past them as well. A man on a mission.

As he disappeared up the road, I caught the others as they turned down toward the bridge, sitting in the wheels, until they crossed the river and swung left, while I turned right to pick my way through to the meeting point.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting place:

G-Dawg pondered if the Garrulous Kid’s ride last week had perhaps been the shortest in club history, following his abandonment in a blizzard of sleet just as outside Dinnington.

“What was it,” he pondered, “All of about eight miles?”

The Garrulous Kid himself was better prepared today, on his winter bike with mudguards and the added protection of overshoes. He’d survive better this time out.

Just.

Princess Fiona recounted her epic Ironman Ironwoman Ironprincess experiences which, she concluded, she’d thoroughly enjoyed, despite feeling sick for 5-days afterwards. Apparently this post-event illness is a common occurrence. Throughout her recounting the Colossus looked on in disbelief and mute horror, utterly convinced he was in the presence of someone needing psychiatric help.

On his fixie again, G-Dawg’s new bell drew some attention, with Jimmy Mac finding it rather melodic and pleasing, polite and not insistent. Then he ruined all his good work by comparing it to something he expected to hear on a creaky old sitcom, although he couldn’t quite decide if it belonged on “Open All Hours” or “Are You Being Served?”

For some unbeknown reason, today was building up to be the most popular ride of the year and I kept revising the headcount as more and more rolled in. It was up to over 30 by the time Crazy Legs started outlining the route and he suggested a split start with a re-grouping just before tackling the Mur de Mitford.

He was interrupted by a big bloke on a mountain bike trying to find a way through the dozens of riders and bikes sprawled across the pavement and bellowing for us to make way.

“He needs a nice polite bell,” someone suggested.

Yes, well, I don’t think he did polite.

I counted a decent  15 or 16 heading for the front group, so hung back. In theory this was an equitable split, I just hadn’t counted on people continuing to roll-up right until the moment we left and then, more joining us en route. By the time it all shook out the second group was still about 24 strong.


I dropped in behind Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs as we set out, chatting with Sneaky Pete, who insisted there was a very thin line between being committed and needing to be committed. He thought last week’s ride, given the conditions, crossed this threshold and verged into insanity. I couldn’t really disagree, but countered that, despite everything, it had actually been thoroughly entertaining.

As we passed through Dinnington and swept down the hill, I noticed my camera wobbling somewhat precariously. Deciding the bolt might have worked a little loose, I gave it a quick tug to test it. Sure enough, it had worked loose. I was left foolishly brandishing the bolt as it came away in my hands and the camera clattered and bounced away down the road.

I swung over and back-tracked to where Caracol had stopped to pick up the camera, shoved it in a back pocket and then we gave chase, latching back onto the group in short order. Caracol had been one of the riders joining just as we left the meeting place, and had pushed our numbers on the day close to 40.

We made our way past the Cheese Farm, picking up yet another rider behind us. As we approached Bell’s Hill, he nudged forwards to have a chat and we discovered he wasn’t one of ours.

“What club’s this?” he wondered, obviously somewhat bewildered to encounter such a big pack.

I told him and he nodded up toward the middle of the group where OGL was toiling away alongside Brink.

“Ah, should have guessed … seeing him.”

As he said this, I realised that, despite the rather magnificent turnout, there was only one rider amongst us displaying a club jersey. There’s something wrong, somewhere.

“You don’t usually travel in such a large group,” he mused and was even more nonplussed when I told him we’d actually split into two and there was another motley bunch of us further up the road.

Our new back-marker proved to be another Muckle C.C. rider, although he mentioned he was also involved  in the administration of the (relatively new and hugely successful) NTR (North Tyneside Riders.)

“This is your chance,” I urged him, as we approached the bottom of Bell’s Hill, “Attack now and you’ll be able to get past.”

“But you have to do it sitting down, looking cool and barely breathing,” Caracol joked.

“I definitely can’t manage that,” our Muckle rider responded, but took our advice anyway. It was either that, or sit at the back, confined to our pace, until he could find somewhere to turn off.

He worked his way smartly up the outside on the climb and then disappeared over the top. Before we crested the rise, he was followed by yet another lone Muckle rider. They seemed to be everywhere today.

I took the opportunity of the climb to reposition myself in the middle of the pack, just before our ride was interrupted by shouts of what everyone took to be a puncture. The group pulled to a stop in a lay-by, while I turned back to see what was happening.

I met the Cow Ranger coming the other way and he told me someone had punctured, but was really struggling anyway, so had decided to pack in. We rejoined the others, who’d taken the opportunity for an impromptu pee stop and tried to work out who it was that had abandoned.

“A Spanish guy,” the Cow Ranger informed us, ” He was really struggling to keep up, so has decided to call it a day.”

“Tomás?” I enquired, “Swedish-Spanish guy, on an old steel frame?” confusedly thinking about Toledo Tom, our very own colinabo, who is so strong I couldn’t possibly envisage him struggling, even in the last throes of a dire battle with the Black Death.

“Well, Spanish guy on a steel frame, definitely,” the Cow Ranger suggested a little hesitantly.

I was still disbelieving, “Tall, thin, fast?”

“Nope, no, nah, definitely not any of them.”

OGL confirmed that Toledo Tom was in the front group and this was a different Spanish guy. Huh,  we have more than one? Hoodafunkedit.


mamuck


Off we trundled again, until, just past Tranwell, OGL led an early strike off toward the café, while the rest of us pushed on for a rendezvous with our front group, who had pulled up under the main A1 bridge and were waiting patiently.

From there we dropped down into the Wansbeck valley, following the river toward Mitford and the dreaded “Mur.” Oncoming traffic had us stacked up and stopped at the bottom of the hill, so it was a particularly unhelpful standing start, especially for G-Dawg on his fixie.

The lack of run-in momentum had him grinding painfully upwards and I hustled past as fast as I could, thinking I didn’t want to be in the firing line of all the bloody cartilage, sprung steel, wiry tendons, gears and other assorted shrapnel if his cyborg knees suddenly explode under the strain.

We had decided to split the group via natural selection on the climb and I was well-positioned in the front third as we pushed over the top.

More climbing followed, as we ran up through Hag’s Wood.  I was chatting to the Garrulous Kid … well, listening to the Garrulous Kid chatting away, while he rode on my inside. Then, there was a loud, rasping, zzzt-zzzt-zzzt and he suddenly disappeared.

He’d touched wheels with the rider in front and gone head over heels into a grass bank, threading the needle between two massive tree boles with what looked like expert precision, but was simply timely serendipity.

We waited for him to identify to pull himself up and conclude no permanent damage had been done, to bike or rider. He dusted himself down and away we went again.

A little later on, I caught up with him and he happily declared, “Well, I haven’t fallen off in ages!”

We were now tackling the Trench and I was climbing alongside Captain Black, who was bemoaning the fact that he was on his winter bike and we were now competing on a level playing field.

“I hate my winter bike!” the Garrulous Kid added, and once more we patiently explained that this was the entire point of owning a winter-bike.

Out of the Trench and heading toward Angerton and a notoriously exposed road over the moors, I was in the second group and hunting around for  some big bodies to shelter behind. I’d moved smartly up to follow Captain Black and G-Dawg as we turned into a headwind and the road began to climb, when disaster struck, G-Dawg punctured and waved us all through. Despite all my machinations I found myself on the front and leading the second group on the drag up and around Bolam Lake.

As we started our run for the café, Captain Black took over and injected a bit of pace, driving us up over the rollers and down the other side. I pulled up alongside him on the final drag and he shook his head and declared himself “done in.” Fair enough, I was more than happy to give the sprint a miss today. The Garrulous Kid flailed around us and launched himself off the front and no one blinked, there was no reaction and no attempt to chase, as we rolled the rest of the way to the café behind him.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

With around 40 of us, other cyclists and the usual gathering of civilians, the café was full to bursting and late arrivals couldn’t get a seat and ended up eating and drinking where they stood.

I found a small space in the corner alongside Biden Fecht and the Garrulous Kid, pressed up close to the fire. It was hot, but at least it was a seat – a hot-seat if you like.

The Garrulous Kid has had his first offer of a place at university and was already anticipating Freshers. I wondered which part he was looking forward to the most, getting so hog-whimperingly drunk he endangers his own life, bobbing for apples in a bucket of stale urine, or having his head shaved? (Of course, dear reader, this type of initiation “hazing” never actually happens at British universities these days.)

He’s also planning which societies he can get involved him. I tried to warn him off the Rubik’s Society by claiming they were all square (sorreee!) and suggested he take up falconry instead. He looked at me as if I was mad and had just invented the ancient and noble art of hunting with birds of prey simply to trick him. I don’t know if that says more about him, or me.

OGL wandered past and deposited a old race programme for the 1952 Beaumont Trophy on the table. I eyed it warily, like a discarded perfume bottle filled with Novichok. Enticing as it was, I was determined not to go anywhere near it, as I didn’t want the responsibility of making sure this ancient and venerable piece of club history made it back to its rightful owner unsullied.

Biden Fecht did dare a quick look, before swiftly passing it on and was seemingly intrigued by some of the club names, all the Wheeler’s and Couriers, as well as the grandly named VC Electric.

Biden Fecht liked the old style, traditional “Wheelers” as a club name – some of those, such as the Whitley Bay Wheelers no longer exist, but the nearby,  Ferryhill Wheeler’s (founded in 1926) appear to be still going strong. ( I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I like Clarion as a club name and the Sunderland Clarion trace their club back even further, to the late 1800’s!)

Sadly, many of the clubs in the programme, and that I grew up with, appear to no longer be around, including VC Electric, the Cleveland Couriers, Tyne Road Club, the Northern Couriers and possibly (if their dormant webiste is anything to go by) even the venerable Tyne Velo. Sic transit gloria.

(The Garrulous Kid wanted reassurance that some of our long standing, club miffs held at least a grain of truth, but I told him we had no interest in Dutch rabbits.)


Unplanned, but perhaps for the best, we left the café a handful at a time and I joined a group spearheaded by Taffy Steve and the Cow Ranger.

They completed their stint at the front as we approached Ogle and I took over alongside Biden Fecht. As we “boolled” along we had a chat about the general desire for some kind of reform within the club and even (shock# horror#) the seemingly far-fetched notion of evolving from an autocracy (some might even say dictatorship) to a democracy.

As someone spending a lot of time shuttling between Newcastle and Aberdeen, Biden Fecht was happy to volunteer to be the clubs representative in Northern Scotia, while I suggested I could be the Warden of the Southern Marches, or all the empty, barren and dangerous lands to the south of the River Tyne, where the club is ever afraid to venture.

One thing we did both agree on, neither of us wanted to be the Keeper of the Stool.

We dragged the group through Kirkley and to the top of Berwick Hill, before Biden Fecht suggested we let someone else batter themselves into the wind. I agreed and we pulled over and waved the next pair through, only at the last minute realising one of these was Plumose Pappus.

“Oh no, we’re not going to be popular,” Biden Fecht observed and true enough, Plumose Pappus hit the front and immediately drove up the pace.

Everyone hung tough until the sharp rise into Dinnington, where Plumose Pappus dropped the hammer, putting in a searing acceleration that splintered the group apart. A small, select knot formed up front and, as the road levelled and straightened, it began to pull away.

Aether tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

Captain Black tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

Princess Fiona tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

I tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

Caracol tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

At the last, Kermit managed to bridge across, but no on could go with him.

Thwarted, we settled into our own little group and pushed on anyway and I followed Caracol’s wheel until everyone else swung away and I pushed on solo, through the Mad Mile and away home.


YTD Totals: 6,416 km / 3,987 miles with 78,593 metres of climbing

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Brutal

Brutal

Club Run, Saturday 27h October, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  90 km / 56 miles with 967 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          3 hours 48 minute

Average Speed:                                23.6 km/h

Group size:                                         8-9-8-7-6-5

Temperature:                                    6°C

Weather in a word or two:          Brutal then balmy


brutal
Ride Profile

Honestly, I just think the weather’s playing mind-games with me now. The morning last week dawned bright gorgeous, warm and dry, as if to make up for the Saturday before when it rained incessantly for most of the day. This week, it was back to freezing cold, wet and utterly miserable.

In fact as I sat down to breakfast and looked out of the window the icy rain changed suddenly to fat flakes of pelting snow that even started to lie, despite the garden being thoroughly sodden.

To cap it all, I was late leaving, in part because I was hoping for a break in the weather, or at least an easing of the conditions. The other reason was a last minute panic, as I decided to swap all the carefully considered, wet-weather gear, for cold and wet-weather gear.

As a consequence, I didn’t get going until after 8.20, a time when I’m more normally approaching the bridge, 3 or so miles upriver. This I recognised as time I would really struggle to make-up, so I needed a Plan-B.

The alternative crossing, a closer, but busier bridge, could be reached fairly quickly and directly, but via a fairly unpalatable and somewhat risky ride down a dual-carriageway, typically full of speeding cars and dotted with massive multi-lane roundabouts. That didn’t seem a sensible option on a day when visibility was likely to be restricted by both the dark and dismal weather and the massive waves of spray the cars were going to be kicking up.

I was however fairly confident I could use local bike tracks and woodland trails to work my way around to the bridge on safer, less travelled routes, as long as I didn’t mind a little off-road adventure. This then became Plan-B.

Lights on and blinking away furiously, front and back, I dropped down the Heinous Hill. Shorts and leg warmers already soaked with icy rain and spray by the time I hit the bottom. This was not going to be pleasant. A sharp right, past the old cricket ground and I found a bike trail, heading, more or less, in the right direction.

My front light was designed more so people could see me, than for lighting my path, so I had to trust to blind luck that the trail was mostly clear, as I picked my way through the shadowed and gloomy woods.

A carpet of yellowed, fallen leaves helped provide a bit of contrast and highlighted the way ahead, but they were also wet and slippery and occasionally hid the menace of a low ridge thrown up across the track by a wandering tree root. I didn’t dare go too fast, but at least I felt I was making progress.

I crossed the River Derwent on a narrow, single-track bridge, apparently waking a huge, statuesque heron, standing stilt-egged in the middle of the stream. It raised its head to glare at me through one beady yellow eye, but otherwise remained completely unperturbed by my passage.

Out of the woods, the trail ran alongside the river, as it meandered its way toward the Tyne. Things seemed to be going to plan, until the trail stopped at a closed metal gate. I dismounted and peered over. The trail continued on the other side, but only after crossing the railway lines. I slipped through the gate, picked the bike up, peered into the gloom for approaching trains (it was far too wet and cold to press my ear to the rail, Tonto style) and scuttled across.

I was on gravel and tarmac now, the road winding past a boating club, where a bloke stood out in the freezing rain in just shorts and a T-shirt, drawing desperately on an E-cigarette and emitting impressively huge clouds of vapour. Perhaps vaping provide some inner warmth along with a lungful of noxious chemicals? Maybe I should try it.

Finally, the trail deposited me at the foot of the bridge and I used the pavement to cross. Now all I had to do was navigate 6 lanes of traffic and a busy roundabout. I spotted a subway entrance and dived down. My lights were feeble in the enfolding darkness and I had no idea what I was riding through, but I made it out the other side amidst much rustling, crackling and several disturbing, sharp snaps of something giving way beneath my tyres.

One more subway, a skid up and over a grassy bank and I was onto familiar roads and climbing out the other side of the valley, back on time, unscathed and remarkably puncture free.

The rain started to ease a little as I approached the meeting point, but I was probably already as wet as I was going to get and devilishly cold.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Huddled in the gloom of the multi-storey car-park I found a very select few; OGL, G-Dawg, the Garrulous Kid and Rollocks. Crazy Legs and Buster were the next to arrive and then finally Taffy Steve appeared in a burst of retina blasting, epilepsy-inducing commuter lights. This was to be it then, with the solitary addition of the Colossus, who was running late and would intercept us somewhere along the route.

G-Dawg had a new addition to his fixie – a brass bell clamped securely to his handlebars, perhaps in case he’s ever possessed by the ghost of  Charlie Allinston  and finds himself engaged in some wanton and furious driving. He explain that he’d been given an Edinburgh Cycles gift certificate and the bell was the only thing he could find that he wanted … in the entire shop! 

“It’s cold.” The Garrulous Kid complained.

“But, it’s warming up,” G-Dawg countered

“Yeah, the temperatures up from 2° to 3°,” I agreed.

“See,” G-Dawg argued, “We’ve had a 50% rise already.”

I tsked at the Garrulous Kid, still on his best bike and missing even rudimentary mudguards.

“Don’t need them,” he argued, pointing to the solid infill of his seat stays above the brake bridge, “I’ve got this.”

“Well, it might just about keep the top of your seat tube dry,” unsurprisingly, G-Dawg didn’t seem at all convinced.

OGL was busy investigating the bike lockers that have recently appeared in the car park, testing the doors and trying to peer inside to see if they were in use. This prompted G-Dawg to wonder if he shouldn’t use a locker, reasoning they were big enough to keep at least two bikes in. Then he could just stroll up on a Saturday morning, assess the weather and decide which bike best suited the conditions.

With departure time fast approaching, Crazy Legs made the first call for a “flat white” ride – an additional coffee stop at Kirkley Cycles. We decided to play it by ear, see what the day brought us and adapt accordingly. With that we pushed off into the lashing, freezing rain and rode out.

First up a rendezvous with the Colossus at the end of Brunton Lane.


G-Dawg and Taffy Steve hit the front and off we went, out of the sanctuary of the car park, where it was just as brutally cold, wet and unpleasant as I’d imagined. Blood rapidly fled from all extremities and there were numerous bad attempts at “jazz hands” and other uncoordinated flapping in a futile attempt to restore circulation.

“Today,” OGL declared, “Will be a day when a post-ride, hot shower will cause grown men to whimper.”

Thankfully, we didn’t have long to wait at the end of the lane for the Colossus to join us and, for a brief moment we were 9 strong. Then, just outside the Dinnington Badlands, chilled to the core and soaked to the skin, the mudguardless Garrulous Kid abandoned.

Rather abruptly.

Instead of slowing and waving people past, he simply swerved aside, banged up over the kerb and came to  juddering halt on the pavement. From there he watched us ride away before turning around and high-tailing it home.

“And then there were 8,” the Colossus intoned.

Onward we plugged, reaching the junction with Berwick Hill, where we all swept left, except Buster who swung right, steering a course directly for his warm house. Ostensibly his ride was curtailed by a bad knee and had absolutely nothing to do with the atrocious weather and savage cold. Honest.

“And then there were 7,” the Colossus corrected his running count.

Up Berwick Hill we went, battered by pelting sleet and buffeted by an icy wind, before turning right at the top and snaking down the lane toward Kirkley Hall. At this point the majority decided we needed to get out of the rain and warm up a little and we quickly determined that Crazy Legs’ suggestion of stopping at the café at Kirkley Cycles had suddenly become utterly irresistible.

At the next junction, for whatever reason, OGL was determined to go his own way, heading by the most direct route to our usual café stop.

“And then there were 6,” the Colossus stated.

“Eh? What?” G-Dawg wanted to know, looking around. Head down, battering away on the front of the group, he’d been completely unaware of our steadily dwindling numbers.

We had to explain where and how we’d lost various riders.

“Ok,” he concluded, “but keep talking back there, just so I know I’m not alone.”

Rollocks was only planning on riding for an hour or so more, so he too pressed on, while the rest of us turned for the café.

And then there were 5.

As we rolled up the Colossus admitted he’d never been inside before and Taffy Steve assured him it was a good place, a true cycling café, with good coffee, excellent prices and some great memorabilia, including his favourite, a poster of Idi Amin in full La Vie Claire cycling kit!

Or at least that’s what my frozen ears thought he was saying.


Main topics of conversation at coffee stop#1

As a measure of just how cold it was and how chilled we’d become, for the first time that I can ever recall, even the Colossus wanted a coffee rather than a cold drink. I stripped off my rain jacket, sat down and clutched my mug in a death grip, trying to stop shivering long enough to actually take a sip without dribbling the contents down my front.

Across from us, two of the denizens of the fitness studio next to the café, were enjoying a post-workout coffee and chatting to a couple of hikers. Crazy Legs was intrigued by the odd contrast of two svelte, toned and barely dressed gym-goers, chatting comfortably with a big bloke in a fully zipped up parka, wearing thick gloves, boots and a woolly hat under the hood of his coat which was pulled up and fastened tight.

The resident dog wandered past and stopped to lick at the moisture on G-Dawgs specs, which he placed on the floor inside his helmet. It wandered off, before coming back to run a rasping tongue up and down Taffy Steve’s shin, before deciding to lick the inside of his helmet bowl.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a dog lick my helmet before,” he disclosed in a too loud voice, just as there was a general lull in the conversation, prompting us to fall about giggling like a bunch of naughty schoolboys.

Looking all around at all the cycling clothes, spare components and memorabilia, I demanded to know where the poster of Idi Amin in cycling kit was and I was horribly disappointed to find I had misheard and that it wasn’t a poster of Idi Amin, but one Bernard Hinault. Pah!

“Mind, those gloves look nice.” Crazy Legs nodded at a display of sturdy, weatherproof gloves.

“And dry,” he added.

“You could buy them and put them on,” G-Dawg suggested, like a kid getting a new pair of shoes that you want to wear straight out of the shop.”

Crazy Legs didn’t need to though, as following Red Max Winter Protocol#1, he had a spare, dry pair in his back pocket and not just any pair of gloves, but some mighty Planet X lobster mitts. He stood, plonked his helmet on, zipped up his jacket and pulled on his dry gloves, before turning to our café companions.

“I have to say that’s a brilliant contrast between people who look freezing and those that look hot,” he told them.

“Well, thanks, we do look hot, don’t we?” one of the gym-goers demanded.

For the briefest of moments Crazy Legs stood there, trying to think up a witty come-back that wouldn’t sound either totally lecherous, or horribly ungallant. His brain failed and he quickly turned, scuttling for the door and beating a hasty retreat.

We followed him out, but at a more leisurely place.  


The rain had cleared while we were inside, but typically started up again, as soon as we turned back onto the main road. Luckily though it was a fairly brief downpour and soon eased and disappeared. There was even some semblance of sun and the rolling nature of the road had us working hard and thankfully, at last starting to warm up.


brut


Even winter boots had failed to protect us from the lashing rain and spray and feet were soaked through. Always happy to find a positive though, Crazy Legs declared it was worth running the risk of trench foot to be able to pare back his well-basted toenails without resorting to an angle grinder.

We reached the Gubeon and turned toward our second café stop of the day in close formation, two up front, two at the back with our fifth man sat comfortably in the middle – our 5-blank domino formation as Crazy Legs dubbed it.

We stretched our legs a little in getting to the café, with a general increase in pace, although no one was interested in it turning into a full-blooded sprint. We arrived just as OGL was pulling out and heading for home.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop#2

Inside the café we found Big Dunc and couple of other brave riding companions. They’d started out a bit later than us, hoping, but failing to miss the worst of the weather. He described with horror the difficulties of stopping for a pee, spending long moments hunting for his shrinking, “vestigial” appendage in the bitter cold, then even longer trying to force water-logged gloves back onto to freezing wet hands.

For my part, I told him our ride out was like Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, just without the Cossacks, who’d decided it was too cold to be out. It had been a deeply unpleasant, brutally attritional journey, with a trail of comrades lost along the way.  

G-Dawg slapped his gloves on the café stove to try and dry them out. They sizzled like fish fillets in a frying pan.

Relating a football anecdote, Crazy Legs couldn’t remember a player’s name and had to describe him as the big, black forward who played for England and used to regularly fall over for no apparent reason.

From this scant description everyone immediately and unerringly identified the luckless Emile Hesky.

From there we learned of a Match of the Day where presenter Gary Lineker was joined by panellists Alan Shearer and Ian Wright and introduced the show as featuring “two of England’s most accomplished strikers … and Ian Wright.”

The Colossus and Taffy Steve recommended finding Ian Wright’s appearance on Top Gear, when he admitted to stupidly trashing his own Ferrari and having to stop himself instinctively running away, when he realised he was the cars legitimate owner.


By the time we were ready to head out again, the weather was dry, bright and significantly warmer. We decided to resurrect G-Dawgs original plan for a longer ride back, even if the first part would have us battling directly into a headwind. G-Dawg and the Colossus were more than up for the task anyway and spearheaded our return with an impressively long and uncomplaining stint toiling away on the front.

The headwind nevertheless took its toll and Taffy Steve started struggling on the hills, where his thrice cursed winter-bike became his five-fold cursed winter bike. Every time he dropped off, one or other of us would announce, “There’s a gap” and we’d ease a little until he caught back on.

After a while, Crazy Legs decided it would be better to substitute the “gap” call with a quick round of “Oops upside your head” – although his suggestion for us all to get down on the ground and pretend to row a boat were sensibly dismissed.

We then found that G-Dawgs bell would automatically ping like a sonar whenever he ran his wheel through a pot, providing us with some useful early warning signals and a chance to avoid the worst depredations of the road surface.

This also served to distract Crazy Legs, who naturally progressed from The Gap Band to Anita Ward and “You can ring my bell.”

We dropped down past the Cheese Farm and picked up our usual route home, through Dinnington. From there it was into into the Mad Mile and soon I was swinging away for my trip home and immediately pulling to a stop.

I stripped off my too hot rain jacket and winter gloves, substituting them for some thinner, drier ones. The cap that had kept the worst of the spray off my specs I kept on though, as now it was useful to block the glare from a very bright, very low sun. Then, a bit more comfortable, I pressed on for home in what was to prove to be the best riding conditions of the entire day.


YTD Totals: 6,254 km / 3,805 miles with 76,583 metres of climbing

Fantastic Day

Fantastic Day

Club Run, Saturday 20th October, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  111 km / 69 miles with 1,116 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 22 minute

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                         27 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    17°C

Weather in a word or two:          Fantastic


 

fantastic
Ride Profile

What a gorgeous and glorious day.

As I rolled down the valley, the sun crept into clear space beneath a band of dark, low cloud and threw a ridiculously long, sharp shadow ahead of me, cartoonish, spindly legs whirring under a peanut body topped with a spiky pinhead.

The concentrated, liquid light tangled itself in all the fading, autumnal leaves on the trees, setting them aflame in a lambent, amber glow that looked like a photo someone had applied far too much contrast to.

It sho was purdy, though.

One of the more noticeable attributes of the Pug is its near silent running, the freewheel is mute, the chain makes a hushed, barely audible whisper and when the brakes and rims combine they are completely and oddly soundless. This combined with an eerie lack of traffic, let me pick out the buzzing of the power lines, a rustle of a small bird, or mammals in the hedgerow, the slap of water against the bridge piles as I crossed the river and the rhythmic, shouted commands of the stroke, as a 4-man boat shot the arches and slid smoothly out into open water.

My ride in was equally as smooth, calm and tranquil and I arrived a few minutes before my usual time, to find Crazy Legs uncharacteristically there before me and, even more unexpectedly, chatting with Szell. Szell is normally well into hibernation mode by now, but this year is seriously challenging to still be riding with us in November.


Main topics of conversation at the start

“I’ve been here fifteen minutes already,” Crazy Legs explained cheerfully, before revealing his enthusiasm was in no way related the arrival of house guests, which may, or may not, have given him the urge to vacate the house for a while.

G-Dawg rolled in with the Colossus and there was some discussion about the intended route, which Aether had posted-up, but Crazy Legs insisted had suddenly changed mid-week, while he was looking at it online. Aether arrived and was equally as adamant that the route was the same one he’d originally devised and he hadn’t tinkered with it at all.

“Woah,” I contributed, “I think we’ve been hacked by the Russians.” Imagining some sophisticated, Fancy Bears, cyber-espionage group from the GRU interfering with our group rides for their own nefarious purposes. I’m sure, if pressed OGL would blame the Chinese.

G-Dawg, Crazy Legs and Aether talked through the proposed route and all its various permutations, finally agreeing on one definitive version. Everyone seemed to be in accord, which was good, but I’m still no closer to knowing if, unlikely as it may sound, our group rides are an on-going, potential target for cyber-terrorists.

“Anyway,” Aether wondered, “Is orange the new club colour?” nodding at G-Dawg, Szell, the Colossus and Crazy Legs, who were all bedecked in various shades of orange.

There was then a quite unseemly spat, when Szell declared the particular shade of orange that Crazy Legs was wearing was  “girly.” This escalated into a surprisingly sophisticated, mature and philosophical discourse, punctuated by the trading of clever epithets and witty, barbs. Such as:  “you stink!” … “no, your mum stinks!” …etc.

Ignoring the squabbling children, G-Dawg informed us OGL probably wouldn’t be joining us for the ride as he’d been receiving treatment for a dodgy hip. Otherwise the good weather had enticed a sizeable mob of 27 guys and gals out for the day and we decided to split into two groups with a merge point agreed further along the route.

So, we split the group into two … or, to be more accurate, tried to split into two, but the front group was dwarfed by those holding back to ride in the second group. I pushed across to even up the numbers and one or two others were coerced into joining us.

At the lights G-Dawg did a quick headcount, we had 11, leaving 16 behind, it would have to do. “Just watch,” G-Dawg mused, “OGL will turn up late and everyone in the second group will suddenly stampede to join the first.”


Luckily it wasn’t to be and I pushed out alongside the Colossus and away we went, averaging a reasonable 17-18mph for the first 10 miles or so, before ceding the front to Captain Black and Richard of Flanders.

A little further on, we found ourselves being trailed by a massive, six-wheeled piece of heavy-duty farm equipment. Stopped by some temporary lights, we shuffled off to the side of the road to let this behemoth through ahead of us. It was too big to argue with.

The traffic lights reminded the Colossus of a game he used to play while travelling with his dad – “Would I Have Died?” – a vehicular take on Russian-roulette, where you imagine ignoring a red stop light and see if you would make it through to the other side without being obliterated by on-coming traffic.

The lights changed, the behemoth squeezed past and we followed. There was no traffic approaching from the other direction – this time we wouldn’t have died. So, that’s “Would I Have Died?” – I think you’ll agree it’s a fun game for all the family, but obviously not to be undertaken in real life (unless you’re Dutch or have Dutch leanings) – after all, you’ll only lose once.

We made it to the designated lay-by and pulled in to wait for the second group to catch up, chatting about tomorrows highly popular Muckle Open Hill Climb, where they had a field of over 100 riders and a range of creative prizes, including awards for the fastest time on a fixie, or MTB, biggest improvement from last year, a lantern rouge and spot prizes for 36th, 69th and 90th.

We felt deliberately being last would be a difficult challenge, but targeting a spot prize almost impossible – although that didn’t stop us pondering Byzantine plots to try and achieve it.

The second group rolled in and we briefly coalesced, before those wanting a shorter ride to the café were swinging away again.


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The rest pressed on, heading towards the reservoir and points beyond. I joined G-Dawg, Aether and Crazy Leg, darting across the Military Road ahead of everyone else and while we waited for the others to catch up, talk turned back to the planned route.

G-Dawg was disappointed Aether hadn’t “gone pro” and taped the route outline to his handlebars this time.

Reaching into his back pocket in a “Ta-Da!” moment though, Aether pulled out and brandished a sheet of paper, shaking it vigorously in the wind, like Chamberlain declaring peace in our time.

“I have a print-out of the route here.”

“Careful!” Crazy Legs advised, “If you lose that we could be lost for days!”

On we went, up through the back roads toward the village of Ryal, G-Dawg noted that the previously prolific loose chippings seemed to have been swept from the new road surface, perhaps by the rain, perhaps through the collective passage of Taffy Steve, catching them between his tyres and fork crown. We hoped that now he would finally be able to make it through without getting more stones jammed in his frame. As an added bonus, I hear he’s now also the proud owner of a fabulous new gravel path in his garden.

We were closing in on the Quarry Climb when Sneaky Pete ran his wheel through a pot and punctured, rolling to a stop. Crazy Legs waved the rest of the group on, while I dropped back with him to help out.

Sneaky Pete soon had the tube replaced and together we started wrestling the tyre back onto the rim. As we struggled with the last section, Crazy Legs leaned in to help, his thumb barely grazing the sidewall as the tyre popped suddenly into place.

“Your welcome,” he said distractedly, while gazing in awe at his newly revealed, super-powerful, “golden thumb”.

We tag-teamed the pump-work and soon had the tyre inflated to an acceptable pressure – well, for cyclists with severely challenged upper-body strength – potentially a massive, herculean and awe-inspiring 30 psi or so. It would (have to) do. Off we went again, now somewhat inexplicably singing “My Sharona” and then following up with “My Angel is a Centrefold.”

As we turned up toward the Quarry, Crazy Legs began relating a conversation with a younger work colleague, who had said two lines that Crazy Legs immediately recognised as a direct quote from the Talking Heads song, “Road to Nowhere.”

“Ah! A Talking Heads fan?” Crazy Legs had enquired.

“Eh? What?” the work colleague was just confused.

“Talking Heads? Road to Nowhere? You know David Byrne?”

“Nah, mate, haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about…”

Apparently this hadn’t been a clever quote, referencing a subversive, 80’s alternative rock group, but actual, real-life management speak, much to Crazy Legs’ disdain. Now though, he was struggling to remember what the offending lines were.

“I’m just guessing, but I bet it wasn’t ‘and you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack,’” I suggested.

“No, it wasn’t that,” Crazy Legs confirmed and immediately started singing, “And you may find yourself, living in a shotgun shack, and you may find yourself in another part of the world, and you may find yourself, behind the wheel of a large automobile …”

He paused a second …

“Hey! That’s not the Road to Nowhere.”

“Yeah, like I said, I bet it wasn’t ‘and you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack.’

And, to be fair, I was right.”

Much like our all-hands-to-the-pump, tyre-inflation approach, we tag-teamed the run-in too, taking turns to drive us onwards and were at the café in short-order, where, true gent that he is, Sneaky Pete insisted on paying for our coffee and cakes as a (wholly unnecessary, but thoughtful) thank you for our assistance in helping with his puncture.

Crazy Legs is already planning to carry a pocketful of tacks to drop in front of Sneaky Pete on the run into the café next week.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop

Orders secured, we ventured out into the garden to finds the rest of the mob enjoying what could potentially be our last outside café stop of 2018.

Here we found Szell and I learned that he’s actually a restorative dentist and not, as I thought, an ex-Nazi intent of finding out “if it’s safe.” He then started on a mini-tirade, seemingly intent on insulting everyone at the table by association and the rest of the world by direct implication. Merchant bankers, teachers, Talking Heads, Lloyd Cole, the NHS, cosmetic surgery, dental veneers, C-list celebrities, reality television shows … it went on.

The rant seemed to be heading towards an all encompassing, scintillating climax, but I was heading toward coffee refills …

“Between inhuman looking lip implants and ridiculously artificial dental veneers, we’re on the cusp of …” Szell pontificated, but sadly (or, maybe gladly?) I didn’t manage to catch what exactly it was that we were on the cusp of. At that point in time, additional caffeine intake seemed much more important than learning the horrendous fate of civilised society.

Crazy Legs had removed his helmet to reveal a bad case of fungal cap – his Bianchi casquette, spotted and dotted with patches of mould. This, he determined was either a result of storing the cap in his garage, or perhaps, he suggested the proof that as we get older, we start to exude fungus …

This was the cap Crazy Legs had bought after I’d harangued him to replace his previous, wonky-brimmed effort, by suggesting it made him look like the village idiot. Naturally then, the demise of his current, fungal cap was all my fault.

“Anyway, I don’t know who made you the arbiter of taste,” he concluded. To be fair, neither did I.

Loud and persistent barking drew our attention to the distant hills and eventually a pack of hounds were to be seen tearing across an open field and presaging the arrival of the local hunt. There was obviously no fox, but the Colossus did suggest the leading hound was an odd russet colour and seemingly had a distinctly bushy tail…

The hounds were soon followed by the local horse-faced toffs on their very, very big, very, very expensive, horse-faced horses. We were just happy they didn’t seem to be heading our way

Meanwhile, Aether set his own, metaphorical, fox running amongst the hounds, when he politely enquired of a late arriving OGL, if now was perhaps a timely opportunity for the club to break with long-established tradition and fully-embrace the 18th century and the glorious emancipation of mankind … by holding an AGM for club members. Radical, audacious, revolutionary, I know and, much like the hunt, just as likely to see the fur flying.


We set out for home, somehow split into different groups and I joined one that had become intermingled with the Back Street Boys. When the inevitable attack went on Berwick Hill, I let it go and found myself trailing Captain Black, content to ride at my own pace.

He glanced back, “Ah, you’re obviously suffering from winter-bikitis,” he remarked. I explained that I hadn’t even thought about it and just picked out the Pug from habit, missing a glorious opportunity for one last Holdsworth, carbon-hurrah and being perhaps the only one out on a winter bike.

“Tsk, tsk,” he chided, “Schoolboy error.” True enough. He then decided to show me what I was missing, accelerating smoothly away, while I clung (more or less) to his rear wheel, unable to take a turn on the front even if I’d wanted to. (I didn’t).

With the help of Captain Black’s motor-pacing, we began to close on a small knot of our riders who’d become detached from the Back Street Boys’ train. He dragged me across the gap and, when the majority swung away left, I was able to latch onto Spoons as we entered the Mad Mile.

With the Peugeot in full stealth-mode and giving its best impersonation of silent running, I’m not even sure he knew I was there and engaged in blatant wheel-sucking, until I popped out, waved him off and swung the opposite way around the roundabout for my solo ride home.

The rest of the ride back was as smooth and serene as the outbound trip. I was tired and in no hurry, so I got to enjoy the perfect weather – might as well make the most of it, it isn’t going to last.


YTD Totals: 6,124 km / 3,805 miles with 74,898 metres of climbing

Riders on the Storm

Riders on the Storm

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

My Ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 28 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.4 km/h

Group size:                                        8 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    17°C

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


 

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

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

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


hill climb weather


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

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

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

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

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

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

Luckily this theory was never actually put to the test.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ugh. Oh well, here we go then …


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


IMG_0392
The future is bright…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isn’t the world a many splendoured thing?


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

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

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

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

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


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

Fick and Fin

Fick and Fin

Club Run, Saturday 6th October, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 24 minute

Average Speed:                                26.2 km/h

Group size:                                         23 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    12°C

Weather in a word or two:          Coolly pleasant


 

fik and fin
Ride Profile

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

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

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

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

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


Main topics of conversation at the meeting place:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Huh?” the Garrulous Kid replied brightly.

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

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

“Huh?” the Garrulous Kid replied brightly.

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

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

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

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

Arf.

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


 

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

He ignored it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Zoober-za-deep-za-boo-da.”

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

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

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


20170625_131018A


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

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

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

“What happened to you?” I wondered.

“I had to take a call,” OGL.

“We waited.”

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

“Well, we did a bit…”

“They went a different way.” OGL insisted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Idiot Wind

Idiot Wind

Club Run, Saturday 29th September, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 33 minute

Average Speed:                                24.9 km/h

Group size:                                         26 riders, 1 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Happy winds-day


 

idiot wind
Ride Profile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

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

“Are you tapering?” someone enquired

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


iddiott


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Bastards.

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

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

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


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

Descent into Madness

Descent into Madness

Club Run, Saturday 15th September, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 14 minute

Average Speed:                                26.3 km/h

Group size:                                        24 riders, 1 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Changing


 

decsent
Ride Profile

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

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

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


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not for us,” I assured him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


descent


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

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

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


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

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

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

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

“Mushrooms?”

“Tomatoes?”

“Beans?”

“Fried bread?” I suggested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

It was brutal.

It was madness.

It was magnificent.

And oddly compelling.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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