Anyone with a Kindle and a strong and a powerful, unfulfilled Sur La Jante addiction (and who am I to judge?) can now access the collected witterings from all of 2016 in one handy volume.
All this for a nominal fee of 99p or US $1.29, or whatever the equivalent is in your local currency and exclusively available from an Amazon site near you.
The UK version can be found here and the US version (complete with whacky/wacky UK spellings) here.
Amazon wouldn’t let me give the book away for free, so this is as low as it goes until I find a way to manipulate their marketing promotions. The exact same content is of course always available completely free on this very blog site.
Reviews of the first Sur La Jante Chronicles – Float Like a Buffalo, Sting Like a Moth:
“Genuinely funny, well at least my lines are.”Taffy Steve
“I hate that wheel-sucking scumbag.”G-Dawg
“Great. I’m pretty sure I can re-purpose this to make all sorts of different things.”The Prof
“Attack! Attack! Attack!”The Red Max
“Is. It. Safe?”Szell
“Who? Nah … Never heard of him.”OGL
Of course, for the truly masochistic, the 2015 edition, Float Like a Buffalo, Sting Like a Moth is still available. The UK version can be found here and the US version (complete with whacky/wacky UK spellings) here.
Total Distance: 89 km/55 miles with 458 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 4 hours 18 minutes
Average Speed: 20.6 km/h
Group size: 10 riders, 0 FNG’s
Weather in a word or two: Brutal
If the soundtrack to last week was Felt’s Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow, this week the needle had skipped a few tracks and we had to contend with The Day the Rain Came Down.
The previous Saturday included a small celebration for not having to use the lights on the bike on my way across to our meeting point. Today, in contrast was a reminder of just how much gloomy, wet and wild winter-weather we may still have to get through before we emerge into spring. It was wet (it was very wet), it was cold (it was very cold) and it was drab, dark and dismal enough that I turned the lights on as I set out … and didn’t turn them off again until I’d dragged myself back up the Heinous Hill and home.
I went with a series of double layers, Planet-X Mr. Krabbe lobster gloves and liners, winter jacket topped with a rain jacket, waterproof socks under Thermolite socks. It wasn’t enough.
Hoping to minimise my exposure to the rain, or at least delay the moment until became soaked through, I left a little later than usual, heading for the nearest bridge over the river, instead of my usual, quieter but longer route. Ripping down the hill, the spray flung up by my wheels was handily repelled by my winter boots, but I was quickly soaked in freezing water from ankles to knees. This was going to be a bit grim.
Still, I made good time and was soon ducking into the cold, inhospitable but dry shelter of the multi-storey car-park, wondering just who else would be mad enough to ride today.
OGL was the first to turn up, shaking his head ruefully and wondering what strange, insane compulsion drove us to ride in this kind of weather and predicting a low turnout. And so it proved, as a hard core, crazy few gathered to point and laugh at our own stupidity before setting back out into the rain.
Main conversations at the start:
As we were wearing identical lobster mitts, Crazy Legs invented a lobster mitt greeting, that progressed from a Vulcan-style “live long and prosper” to something I can only describes as … err… something akin to “tribbing” or “scissoring” maybe?
Still, moving swiftly on, OGL had repaired the right-hand shifter of G-Dawg’s “best bike” and confessed he hadn’t even bothered to test to see if the left-hand shifter was fully working.
“I wouldn’t worry,” Crazy Legs assured him, “It’s only there for decoration.”
We did then ponder what might happen if G-Dawg couldn’t actually utilise his inner ring on the two planned occasions each year when we suspected it might be needed – once to grind up the Ryals at the end of the Cyclone and once for the masochistic, torture-fest of the club hill-climb.
OGL then talked about completing a £250 service on an £350 bike. To be fair the owner had ridden it frequently, but had done no servicing or maintenance for the past 18 months. We wondered why OGL didn’t just sell him a new bike and he confessed he’d actually make more money from a £250 service than a £350 sale, such are the harsh economics of your local, much-endagered bike shop and the depressed margins to be made on new kit.
Someone had posted a video on Facebook showing a frame dipped through a thin layer of paints floated on top of water. This resulted a super-cool and much coveted paint job that looked like snakeskin.
“You’d know it was even carried right through, inside your bottom bracket, even though no one else would see it.” Son of G-Dawg enthused, clearly demonstrating that he is indeed his father’s son.
A distant figure approaching at high speed through the gloom transformed into Biden Fecht and we all waved our arms in horror and shouted “Stop! Brake!” He swept over the kerb, and carved a big arc toward us, before touching his brakes and drawing to an abrupt stop, patting his newly replaced, still shiny and obviously effective new brake blocks affectionately. Guess he made it home, after all.
OGL then went all misty-eyed as he reminisced about the “good old days” of steel rims which had shocking traction in the wet and a braking performance that was not enhanced by the fact that club riders used to regularly coat them in a protective film of Vaseline to stop rusting.
Biden Fecht’s mechanical misfortune had been redressed so he was allowed out, but the Red Max, as big a gibbering loon as anyone currently standing huddled in the car park, was conspicuously absent. We later learned he had a semi-reasonable excuse – his ambition to nurse the winter bike into spring had been cruelly curtailed last Sunday when his crank finally fell off. Still, he won’t have been too disappointed to have missed the ride as he’s now enjoying the euphoric, pre-purchase high of researching which new bike to buy.
Taffy Steve had instigated a bit of a social-media feeding frenzy, by posting up the completely innocent and highly sensible ride information from another club which listed 6 different, colour coded route options, depending on distance, average speed and ability. These ranged from a Black Ride of 50 or more miles at 17+ mph to a Ladies ride of 25 miles at 10 mph and a remarkably gentle “New to cycling” 10 miles at 5 mph.
While all this pre-planning and ride segregation was eminently sensible and well-meaning, it just brought out our very worst excesses in a flood of cynical, jaded, sardonic, disreputable and wholly unforgivable egesta extraction.
Red Max had just been happy to find there was a Red Ride, he wasn’t fussed how long or how fast it was. Our self-flagellating, racing snakes wanted a black diamond 100 mile ride at an average of 20 mph with no coffee stops allowed, just to ensure they managed to suck the last scintilla of joy and entertainment from the run.
Laurelan wanted to know whether she’d be excused from the Ladies ride if she proved she could swear like a trooper and wondered if anyone needed any socks darning, as something to keep her occupied on a ride of such genteel pace.
Now Aether added to the fun, wondering aloud if the beginners ride was slow enough to allow someone with a red flag to walk in front of all the new cyclists.
Mean-spirited cynicism finally, if only temporarily tamped down, the mad/sad (delete as appropriate) Big Ten, pushed off, clipped in and sallied forth: OGL, Crazy Legs, G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Biden Fecht, Taffy Steve, Aether, the Big Yin, Kermit and me.
We hadn’t travelled far when a mismatched pair of cyclists ripped past in the other direction, one so big and tall, his passing created a transitory rain shadow that gave us an instant of relief.
“Was that the BFG?” Crazy Legs asked.
“If it was, he didn’t notice or acknowledge us.” G-Dawg replied.
“We must have been outside his field of view.” Crazy Legs surmised
Ah, he meant that narrow cone that extends up to 3 metres and no more than 10⁰ either side of the BFG’s nose. That could explain it.
Pressing on, OGL observed that Biden Fecht’s truncated bit of plastic represented “almost a mudguard.”
“Perhaps it’s a semi-guard, or possibly even a demi-guard.” I suggested.
“A Demi Moore?” Crazy Legs wondered.
“Hmm, surely a demi-Moore would be a Dudley.”
OGL then began talking about a couple of hapless chancers who’d had a deal worth £-millions turn good and it took us an age to work out he was talking about the plot of an old episode of “Only Fools and Horses.” At about the same time, we were buzzed by an impatient boy-racer in his souped-up, red Vauxhall Corsa, complete with big bore exhaust and tawdry body kit. Taffy Steve launched into a memorable tirade about that kind of car and that kind of driver, before succinctly concluding “Only Fools and Corsa’s!” with a wry shake of the head.
Meanwhile and completely unrelated, I was trying to name a Four Tops song for Crazy Legs, but the best I could come up with was “I Can’t Give You Anything.” I was challenged to sing it and then challenged to sing it properly, failing miserably on both counts. I would need to endure my own personal Testicular Armageddon to get anywhere near some of those high notes.
(Being of white, English, punk and New Wave up-bringing and shockingly ignorant and uncultured, neither of us knew the song was actually a hit for the Stylistics, or could confidently name a Four Tops song.)
In such errant and foolish ways, we passed the time, talking complete and utter nonsense as we threaded our way around puddles and pot holes. All the while a freezing rain continued to fall down on us and the cold and damp slowly wormed it way through multiple layers to add a frisson of discomfort to the ride.
A somewhat truncated route had us heading for the Quarry Climb and on to the café, with Kermit and Biden Fecht on the front, Crazy Legs and me following second wheel.
Crazy Legs suspected as soon as we hung a sharp right up to the climb and directly into a fairly gusty headwind, the two on the front would peel away and we’d have to take over for the worst part of the ride. The stalwart front pair held course however, dragging us to the last corner before peeling off to either side, a well-executed manoeuvre, ruined only by the fact that we were already half way round the bend when they swung across the road.
We regained order and pushed on, dragging the group to the bottom of the climb proper, when it was everyman for himself. Those on fixies taking a good run at the slope, but perhaps because of the headwind, found themselves struggling on the incline. Nevertheless, everyone made it up, no one’s chain shattered and no one punctured on errant fragments of razor-sharp, tyre-shredding chain shrapnel left behind from last week.
We regrouped at the top and swung right, picking the pace up a little, until we ran into a slowly coalescing hunt and had to ease up to pass numerous horses and horse boxes. This confirmed what we’d long come to expect about who would voluntarily venture out in this kind of weather – “Only Fools and Horses.”
We carefully threaded our way through a somewhat subdued, miserable and drab looking hunt, their usual bright colours mainly hidden under waxed jackets, before swinging right to start the final run down to the café.
Son of G-Dawg kicked away with G-Dawg and Biden Fecht closely following. Taffy Steve made to give chase, but a clunk-whirr-whirr-clunk of slipping gears persuaded him we didn’t need another snapped chain and he dropped back to where the rest of were intent on cruising in at a relatively sedate pace
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
The car park was almost completely full, but the café itself was surprisingly empty and we calculated that every single person there must have arrived in an individual car. We couldn’t quite work out what was going on, as surely there was nowhere nearby where you might want to park and walk up to – especially in this weather.
Once a large group spread over a couple of pushed together tables left, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was going to be a quiet day, which may have been just as well as when I went for coffee re-fills I found the new till warbling and wailing in distress, obviously trying to contact the mother-ship and refusing to take any more orders from its Earthling operators.
In a discussion about new technology, Crazy Legs said his new smart-TV could be voice activated, something so impractical and redundant could see no earthly use for it. OGL seemed quite intrigued by the idea though and queried if you could just instruct it to “find porn.”
Crazy Legs admitted he hadn’t tried that particular feature, but couldn’t see why not, while I had a vision of a masked-OGL riding round the streets shouting “find porn” at smart-TV’s through open windows, before riding away cackling like a madman.
Son of G-Dawg reported that the Amazon Echo’s voice-activated ordering had run into trouble when a news report repeated how a small child had inadvertently bought an expensive doll’s house and hundreds of cookies. Apparently picking up on the commands from the TV broadcast, hundreds of consumers in San Diego then found their units responding in a like manner and ordering them doll’s houses and cookies.
Crazy Legs brought up the proposed Amazon Airship – a massive, floating warehouse in the sky, which would be serviced by aerial drone-delivery. I suggested they didn’t need the drones, just a good bomb sight – delivery via gravity! We them envisaged someone like Red Max ordering the Monkey Butler Boy to go out into the garden to catch a delivery that Amazon were about to drop-off … and failing to mention it was a new washing machine.
In another encounter with technology, G-Dawg recounted being asked to park someone’s car that had a new-fangled, remote, keyless system that he’d never used before. He parked up, locked the car and walked away, then began second guessing the system and walking back to the car to check if it was still locked. Just as well he checked, the door opened straight away to his touch…
This reminded me of the time the venerable Toshi San arranged to meet up for a bike ride at the local town hall. Waking to find a good covering of snow on the ground he set out anyway, but found no one waiting at the meeting point. Thinking someone might be sheltering around the other side of the building, he rode around just to check.
He arrived back at the start having failed to find anyone, but then noticed a new set of tyre tracks in the snow that hadn’t been there before. Reasoning someone else had arrived and decided to ride around and look for the others, he set off in pursuit, didn’t see anyone, but got back to the start to find someone else had joined the first rider and there were now two sets of tracks in the snow…
Meanwhile Crazy Legs confessed to loving his flip, folding car key which he said made him feel like D’Artagnan
“But, D’Artagnan didn’t have a flick knife, or even a flick épée.” I protested.
“The Scicilian version did.” Taffy Steve reassured me.
We tried, but failed miserably to decipher the colour coding of hunt blazers – do they denote different ranks and if so how could you tell who was in charge if everyone was hiding their colours under a wax jacket.
OGL suggested he was distantly acquainted with the Barbour family and one lived quite nearby. Crazy Legs was largely disinterested, judging the Barbour jacket as a naff, fashion faux-pas, but suggested if OGL knew Monsieur Gore-Tex, he’d like an introduction so he could shake the man’s hand.
G-Dawg declared this was the kind of day when he would be stepping into his shower while wearing his jacket and overshoes, the most effective way of getting them clean. I mentioned I’d tried this trick with my rain jacket a couple of weeks ago and all was going well till the rear pockets filled up with water and it pulled me to the floor where I was left floundering on my back like an upside down turtle. Son of G-Dawg was highly amused by the ignominious thought of me drowning in my own shower and my body being found there while, somewhat bizarrely wearing a rain coat.
And then, we were done and suffering the absolute distress of having to pull on cold, wet gloves, hats, scarves and helmets and stepping out of the womb-like safety of the café for the ride home. The horror! The horror!
Back out and the weather seemed, if anything to be getting worse. The frozen rain was pelting down harder, stinging any and all exposed flesh and the temperature seemed to have dipped further while we were sheltering indoors.
On the first hill I took to the front with Son of G-Dawg in a futile effort to try and warm up and we pressed on. As the awful conditions showed no sign of relenting, I finally swapped places with Son of G-Dawg so I could ride on the outside, intending to leave the group early and turn right through Ponteland. This way I could swing over the top of the airport to cut a big corner off my ride home.
By now though, the weather was so unrelentingly unpleasant, that the entire group decided that this slightly more direct route was the better option. In this way I had company for longer than normal, before I turned off for my trip home.
2 days on, my gloves are sitting on the radiator still damp. I hope they recover in time for the weekend.
YTD Totals: 799 km / 496 miles with 8,356 metres of climbing