Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops

Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops

Early Saturday and after days of a stifling heatwave (typically anything above 20℃ in the North East of England is considered extreme) it was quite pleasant to find myself descending through the cooling, clinging mist that had settled overnight, although my arm warmers, shorts and the lenses on my specs were soon beaded with jewelled dewdrops and I had to ship the latter and store them in my helmet vents.

I had my second time trial lined up for tomorrow, so was conscious of not wasting too much energy as I fumble towards finding the best preparation. With this in mind, I bumbled happily along at a fairly relaxed pace, reaching the meeting point without the need for any round-the-houses diversions to fill in a little time.

When I arrived I was introduced to a returning rider who has officially re-joined the club after a notable absence and in the process became about the 29th member called Paul.

I also learned that last week, in his fairly new, official capacity as Membership Secretary, Crazy Legs had serenaded our latest recruit with his very own new club member welcome song. She’d not returned this week and I’m not sure anyone had altogether enjoyed the experience, so that idea has been shelved. At least for now.

I of course had missed this singing celebration because of my mechanical travails last week. Every cloud has a silver lining, eh?

Speaking of last week, Biden Fecht had no sooner condemned me to a 2-up TT and put our official entry in, when the event was cancelled due to a safety issue with roadworks on the course. Everyone who’d signed up expressed their utter dismay, none so forcefully as Captain Black, although his Cheshire Cat grin did somewhat undermine his sincerity.

OGL turned up, I think principally to show everyone the mark on his arm, which he assured us wasn’t just any old, common, or garden insect sting, nor even a spider bite, but the result of a sustained and vicious attack by what he described as “some kind of flesh-eating arachnid.”

“Have you noticed any new superpowers?” Caracol enquired innocently.

Apparently he hadn’t. Or at least that’s what I interpreted from his rather salty reply.

Now the mist had burned off it looked like being a decent enough day, but our numbers didn’t quite match-up and we only just topped 20 riders. There was enough for a split though and we managed to get 8 or 9 into the first group without too much cajoling.

I joined the second group and off we went, heading for a drop into the Tyne Valley and a traipse along the river. G-Dawg and Crazy Legs led us out to Medburn, before ceding the front and I pushed through alongside the Soup Dragon. A little confusion reigned as the group split and took two separate descents down into the Tyne valley, so I found myself waving cheerfully at a bunch of cyclists emerging from the village, until I realised it was the back half of my own group. Not that I felt stupid or anything …

Strung out from both the descent and the split, we used the valley road to try and round everyone up again.

“Shout if you’re not back on yet,” Biden Fecht called out from the front.

We heard nothing but silence, so assumed it was gruppo compatto and pressed on.

Just beyond Ovingham, we passed the Famous Cumbrian, on his own and wrestling with a tyre change. Odd that he’d been abandoned by the first group. I asked if he was ok and got an affirmative, so kept on keeping on, down the steep ramp to the riverside path, where I spotted rest of his group, seemingly loitering with intent, soft pedalling and occasionally looking back. They seemed to assume our arrival relieved them of any responsibility to wait around any longer, quickly picked up speed and disappeared up the road again.

We agreed to stop and wait for the Famous Cumbrian at the Bywell Bridge, where Mini Miss climbed a fence to search for some nettles to irrigate, while the rest of us stood around, talking bolleux and enjoying the warm sunshine.

After a good 10-minutes or so with still no sign of the Famous Cumbrian, Crazy Legs retraced our route to go look for him. A further 5 minutes or so went by and Captain Black had a call from Crazy Legs to say the Famous Cumbrian had a puncture in his tubeless set up, was struggling to now get a tube in as a stop-gap fix and we should just push on without them.

Captain Black and Biden Fecht went back to reinforce the rescue mission and to make sure no one was left to ride the rest of the route on their own, while the rest of us carried on.

Just before Corbridge we took the bridge over the A69 at Aydon and started the long climb out of the valley. Here I played the “TT tomorrow card” to blinding effect, letting the front group go, while I tackled the climb at a much more relaxed pace.

From there it was a short hop to Matfen and then up the Quarry, taking the more straightforward run to the cafe. I tried to give the group some impetus as we wound up for the traditional cafe sprint, then was able to sit up and coast home as the road dipped down and everyone blasted past for the usual fun and games.

It was out into the garden at the cafe on what was turning into another hot day – hot enough for the tables with a bit of shade to be at a premium. Talk turned to various Everesting attempts – a rather bizarre challenge that involves riding one selected climb over and over again, until you’ve ascended a total of 8,848m, or the height of Mount Everest above sea level.

I suppose it’s fair enough to attempt if you have some big hills, or ideally mountains in the area, but the flatter the terrain you choose the more laps you need to complete the challenge. G-Dawg referred to one attempt he’d heard of using the local Billsmoor climb. (I could see his lip curling with disdain even as he said it, as he positively loathes Billsmoor). At just 1.9 kilometres in length and a maximum gain of 138 metres, you’d need to ride up and down this climb 65 times just to complete the challenge. You’d also need to achieve an average speed of 34.6 kph if you wanted to beat the record (a mere 6 hours and 40 minutes, although most riders take close to 24 hours straight to complete the feat.)

This whole thing sounds like a swift path to madness (or zwift path, for those attempting vEveresting) and I can safely say I’ll not be giving it a try. But then you probably could have guessed that based on the fact that a 10-mile TT is challenge enough for me.

If Everesting seems a particularly odd activity, we decided actually climbing Everest is even more so, especially now it has become a fully commoditised and commercialised activity. It seems odd to think of having to queue for summit attempts in one of the most remote places on earth and the cost in both time and money (an estimated average $45,000) appears to be making people somewhat reckless to push the limits of safety, with deathly consequences.

We were of course, reminded that it’s also become the domain of B-list celebrities and we all felt truly sorry for the poor Sherpa tasked with hauling Brian Blessed up the mountain, with his voice booming in their ears the entire way.

Being cyclists, it wasn’t long until the seemingly ever-lachrymose and mentally fragile Victoria Pendleton got a mention, because oxygen deficiency can trigger depression, so it’s only natural that she should have been chosen to attempt to scale the world’s highest peak … I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

We left the cafe in good spirits for the ride back home and I left the group and routed through Ponteland to shave some distance off what was heading for fairly long 70+ mile run, completing the last part at a stress free, relaxed pace.

Then, an uncharacteristically early 06:15 start on Sunday found me driving out toward Cramlington for the Barnesbury CC 10-mile TT. I knew it was uncharacteristically early as the only other traffic out on the road was heading to the rugby club at the bottom of the hill for a car boot sale. I didn’t even realise these were still a thing.

The SatNav got me close enough to the race HQ before deciding to randomly send me the wrong way, but I spotted a shiny TT bike sat atop a BMW and followed this into the actual event car park.

There I found the usual cluster of expensive looking, angular bikes with shiny, solid disk wheels, and all sorts of bars and wings and things jutting out their front ends like stylised, heavily-industrialised antlers.

The owners of these machines are typically ridiculously fit and very, very fast and they take this endeavour very seriously. I haven’t quite developed that level of dedication and I’m still finding the attire slightly odd, from the knee-high aero socks to the gleaming Death Star helmets and ultra tight skinsuits (I swear I’ve seen a few of these advertised on eBay as “fetish wear.”)

These skinsuits typically come without pockets, so a lot of my fellow competitors don’t appear to carry all that much with them (unless they have it stashed internally!) That’s never going to work for me as I think I’d struggle without the reassurance of all the usual crap I carry – keys, phone, pump, tyre levers, multi-tool and wallet, along with a couple of spare tubes on the bike.

I got changed and signed on with about an hour to go before my designated 08:29 start and asking for some directions, took the bike out for a ride around the course. This has the secret-squirrel designation of M102C and is run on a flat and fast dual carriageway. It comprises a straight east bound run, then an equally straight northbound leg up to a big roundabout at the halfway point. You then sail around this in order to retrace your steps back toward the start. Simples.

I should have followed the instructions I had to find the start but saw one of the event directional signs and followed this to find myself on the northbound stretch leading up to the halfway turn. All the way around the roundabout, back over the bridge (avoiding the large, raised divot in the centre of the road) and then back the way I’d come.

The problem was one stretch of dual carriageway looks pretty much like any other and I missed the turn and found myself way off course. At 08:15 I was still looking for the right roundabout and beginning to think I was going to miss my start-time. I finally spotted one of the event marshals and he pointed me toward the finish where the time keeper was able to direct me to the start and I bustled my way there with just a couple of minutes to spare.

I arrived, slightly winded, to take my place in line behind a tall guy from Ferryhill Wheelers. Was that the ideal warm up? Hmm, maybe not.

The marshal asked for the race number of the guy in front as he checked his bike over and made sure he had the requisite lights front and back.

“Number 28,” the guy told him.

Satisfied the marshall looked at me enquiringly.

“Strangely enough, I’m number 29.”

“Well, look at that,” my fellow competitor announced, “Cyclists can actually count.”

He pinged his nail off his rear tyre two or three times, testing the pressure.

“It’s a bit late for that,” I told him and indeed it was, as he shuffled forward to the start line and clipped in.

Half a minute later he was gone and it was my turn … 5-4-3-2-1 … and off we went.

©Dub Devlin – Dub D Cycling Photography

On the flat, fast course I was quickly up to speed and soon travelling at a decent clip in excess of 20 mph. I stayed on the hoods for the first few hundred metres to negotiate the first roundabout and then, as the course proper straightened out before me I tucked in and settled down onto the aerobars.

I might, in my own mind, have been travelling at a decent clip, but my minute man caught and passed me before I’d completed two miles. Like I said there are some very, very fast riders doing this stuff.

The second caught me as I was hesitating and trying to decide whether the approaching junction was the one I needed to take at the halfway point in order to head back. He helpfully shouted instructions to stay on the right all the way around and I managed to keep him in sight and follow onto the right exit back onto the main drag.

The third, and last, caught me on the uphill ramp to the junction where we’d be turning west toward the finish line. This was the only time I recall my pace dropping below 20 mph, though I still went up it quicker than the rider who’d just passed me, as the gap visibly narrowed.

Then it was the final long straight to the finish, pushing as hard as I could for the last couple of miles.

There was a car on the final roundabout and if I’d been 10 seconds later, I may have had a marginal decision to make about whether to brake, or try and nip in front of it. Luckily, I was able to keep my momentum going and sail safely by, long before it closed.

A minute or so more effort and I crossed the line, sat up to freewheel around one more roundabout and started to roll back to the race HQ. Done.

The bars seemed alarmingly wide after riding for almost half an hour crouched over the aerobars, but I was pleased to have been able to maintain the position for most of the ride. I was 31st out of 34 riders, completing the course in 26:45 at an average speed of 22.43 mph. This was exactly 1 minute faster than my only other 10-mile TT way back in 2018, so progress of sorts, although that was on a lumpier and windier course.

So there you have it, my brief race season lasted from just the 31st July to the 14th August, covered two events and lasted a mere 1 hour 3 minutes and 44 seconds.

Still, the hook has been set and I’ll aim to try more of this next year – I’m starting from a low base so there’s plenty of room for measurable improvement. If not, then I guess I’ll still hopefully and somewhat bizarrely find this whole thing an enjoyable experience.

Back home by 09.30, I felt I’d earned myself a very lazy afternoon, so settled down to watch the European Road Race, the highlight of which was the possibly dyslexic rider from Iceland grabbing up an Ireland musette. Later that day, someone told me they’d found a cure for dyslexia, which I have to say was music to my arse…

Sorry. Sorry, sorry.

That seems like a very good place to end this now …


Day & Date:Club run Saturday 13th August 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 39 minutes
Riding Distance:118km/73 miles with 1,035m of climbing
Average Speed:25.3km/h
Group Size:22 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:16℃
Weather in a word or two:Bryter Layter (again)
Year to date:3,518km/2,185 miles with 40,746m of climbing

Clickbait

Clickbait

Missed me?

Nah, thought not. Anyway since my last load of wild, incoherent blerg ramblings I’ve packed in a family holiday, sans velo, and then last Saturday didn’t participate in the club run as I’d rather foolishly decided to enter the clubs one and only organised time-trial the following day.

Of course there’ll be those purists and naysayers who would suggest that over-indulging in pastéis de nata and vinho verde is probably not good preparation for a high-level aerobic work-out. Well, I have news for them – on the balance of the evidence, they’re probably right.

So what were we looking at here?

Our Club Open TT was to run on the M12S course starting and ending at opposite ends of the village of Stamfordham. The route is a slightly odd 12 miles, or a 20km loop (if you don’t like retard units) which is an entire 2 miles longer than the only other time-trial I’ve ever ridden and, oh, about 11½ miles more than the distance I’m actually comfortable with.

The first half looked (and proved to be) extremely lumpy, a constant, gradual rise all the way to the top of the Quarry, which was frequently interrupted by sharper, more sudden ramps and bumpy-lumps. The descent of the Quarry then gave way to a theoretically fast, flat(ish) run for home.

The morning of the ride turned out to be a rather bleak, chill and rain sodden affair, but the rain had thankfully more or less passed by the time I’d pulled the bike out of the car, got changed and rolled out along the wet roads for a warm-up and a first look at the course. If a training regime of pastéis de nata and vinho verde is not conducive to good performance, and preparation is the key to success, then I’d doubly failed. Hey ho.

I started to trace the course out of the village, past the start-point and up. And up. And up. And up some more. Of course I’ve ridden these roads many times before, but mainly in a group, usually in the other direction and never in a race situation. I’d never realised just how much climbing was involved. This looked much harder than I’d anticipated, which was rather worrying for someone who’s quite good at imagining the worst … and there were long, long sections when I’d have to thrash my way upwards out of the saddle, in order to try and maintain any semblance of speed.

To make matter worse, my front wheel had started to cheerfully emit a bright, chiming tinkle-tinkle-tinkle as it rolled round, the noise of something loose and rattling freely around in the rim, which I could only think was the snapped off end of a spoke nipple. The wheel itself was now swaying like a slightly drunk, lovelorn sidewinder, coquettishly rearing back before summoning up the courage to rush in to plant a light kiss on my left-hand brake block. It was love. Apparently. The wheel was (relatively speaking) still true and rideable as long as the spoke remained embedded in the rim, so I decided to keep going, but have no idea if it was a sensible decision.

My half-arsed recce ride got as far as a crossroads where Andeven was marshalling and I stopped for a chat, assuming that at this point the climbing on the route was more or less done. By then it was getting close to my start-time anyway, so I turned around and rolled back down to the village.

Big Dunc was our official starter and Captain Black the volunteer holder.

“Do you want me to hold the front and back, or just hold the back?” he asked as my start time drew nigh and I nudged my way up to the line.

“Yes, definitely, just hold me back,” I deliberatly misheard him, “I’ve made a big mistake, I shouldn’t be doing this.”

He refused.

The man has no heart.

The clock wound down and I was released, set free into the wild. I accelerated away and tried to find the right balance between riding fast uphill into a cross headwind and not blowing up in the first mile or so. I was struggling to keep my pace anywhere near the target 20mph pace I’d set myself and my lungs were already labouring like over-worked, very leaky and wholly ineffectual bellows. The fire in the forge was pretty feeble and this was just painful – painfully slow and yes, physically painful too.

It seemed like I was only a mile or two into the ride when my minute-man bustled past, a mixed metaphor of a bullet in black, going like a train. As he disappeared up the road, I was convinced he would mark the start of a steady procession of riders catching me and streaming by, so I was quite surprised to reach the finish without being passed by anyone else, although I suspect the rider who started two minutes back was hot on my heels, but ran out of road before he could make the catch.

Back out on the course I had taken the first turn, cheered on by the Big Yin out on marshalling duties, and ground my way slowly and painfully up to where Andeven was stationed for more, much needed encouragement. Here I learned that my assumption the road would start to flatten and even descend from this point proved laughably false and there was more interminable grinding uphill, past Crazy Legs working in his capacity as unofficial videographer and one-man cheerleader team.

“Only a couple of hundred metres to go!” he called out enthusiastically as I churned past. He later said he knew it was me as he recognised my usual sardonic expression, even underneath all the extreme gurning. (I’ve no idea what he’s on about.)

Anyway, I was momentarily spurred onwards by his words, but never did find out exactly what unfolded after “a couple of hundred metres to go” had gone? There seemed to be no noticeable change in my circumstances, I was still grinding slowly upwards and the road continued to rise ahead of me before disappearing around a long bend in the far distance.

Of course I knew exactly where I was and could probably have quite accurately guessed the exact distance to the top of the Quarry. Well, maybe if I’d been thinking straight and my brain hadn’t been suffering from mild hypoxia at this point.

Around that bend, then another, up another drag and I finally spotted the gilet jaune of the next set of marshals directing me down, down, down the Quarry climb. Relief. Surely that was the worst behind me now?

A small respite for tortured lungs, then the opportunity to drop down the cassette and settle into a (hopefully) slightly more aero form for the second half of the run.

©Dub Devlin – Dub D Cycling Photography

My next marker was Cowboys, marshalling at the bottom of the Quarry and then it was on to Matfen, a sharp left turn patrolled by Mini Miss and her invited guest. From here I was on the last leg – perhaps metaphorically as well as in reality.

It was meant to be a straight, fast run for home, typically (so I’m told) aided by a beneficial tailwind. Trouble was, the wind hadn’t received the memo and it was just more of the rather annoying and unhelpful crosswinds to contend with.

No one had warned me about the monster hill that had suddenly sprung up just outside of Matfen either, and I almost came to a grinding halt on its savage slopes. (You’ll be pleased to know I’ve since ridden back over it and it has returned to its normal, innocuous and not at all imposing speed bump proportions.)

Further along and I was finally pleased to see the Stamfordham church spire poking out amongst the tree tops ahead, and even more pleased to roll over the finish line and slump over the bike at the side of the road where G-Dawg and Captain Black were waiting.

“How did you find that?” Captain Black enquired.

“Well, the first half fucks your lungs and then the second half fucks your legs,” I suggested. What wasn’t there to like?

“Oh well, at least you’ll never have to ride another race this side of 60,” Captain Black re-assured me.

Hah!

We waited for the Hammer to finish his run and then were lured back to the Race HQ for rightous rewards of coffee and cake. Before dropping the bike back in the car I brushed my fingers over my wobbly frontwheel and the errant spoke came away in my hand. Hmm, that’ll need fixing, then.

So, how did I do? Well, I didn’t trouble the leaderboard, but that’s no surprise. I got round in a time of 36:59, which I’m told is an average speed of 19.468 mph – so well below my target of 20 mph. I finished 28th out of 31 riders but only 8 secs off the guy in front of me, so something to aim at. Also, as this was by default the clubs de facto timetrial championship, I came either 5th or last, depending on how you want to look at it. Finally, perversely, I rather enjoyed myself and signed up for a Barnesbury CC 10 mile TT in a couple of weeks too.

Help! I think I’m infected.

Big thanks to Richard Rex for organising on the event so expertly and all the marshalls and helpers from inside and outside the club for their time and effort. Much appreciated. Special thanks to Dub Devlin too, who seems to provide a superb photo record for all of these events with, as far as I can tell, no other incentive than serving the local cycling community. What a star.

My first port of call on returning was to pop down to see Patrick at the Brassworks, my LBS and have him lace up the errant spoke and true my front wheel as good as new. He even joked he’d thrown in a free nipple, prompting the only occassion I’ve ever been able to associate a bearded, flat-capped, guitar-slinging, bike mechanic with Florence Pugh …

Six days later and a more normal weekend, found me rolling out first thing Saturday morning for a regular club run in reasonably decent weather. It wasn’t until I’d swooped down the Heinous Hill and started working along the valley floor that I became aware of an awful rythmic, high-pitched creaking and clicking that I thought was coming from the front wheel. (Different bike, different front wheel)

I stopped to check that nothing was catching and everything was done up tight, gave the wheel a spin and it seemed fine. I even checked the spokes in case lightning does strike twice. I could find nothing wrong. I tried riding again. If anything the noise now seemed even worse, but I still couldn’t locate the source. A few more stops and starts and adjustments and futile bashing and I gave up. I couldn’t ride with that noise, it would drive me even further into madness, so I turned around and headed back home.

Climbing back up the Heinous Hill and stepping out of the saddle to stamp on the pedals, the noise wonderously stopped. Weight back on the saddle, back came the irritant clicking. At home again, and now concentrating on the rear of the bike, I found the seat clamp had worked loose and my seat post was imperceptibly moving and rubbing on the unextractable, seized remains of a snapped carbon post still buried deep within the frame. (Long story, don’t ask). I tightened up the seat clamp and order and tranquility was restored to my world.

Ok, time to try again. I left home and dropped down the hill for the second time, trying to remember the route for the day and calculate if it was worth trying to intercept one of our groups. Crossing the river I eschewed my usual meandering route and headed up Hospital Lane, a harder, but hopefully faster run. As I reached the top it was just approaching 09.00. I wasn’t certain I could get to the meeting point in 15 minutes, but I thought I could definitely make Dinnington by then and hopefully pick up a group or two there.

I was there just before 09:15, saved my ride to date and re-started my computer because it had lost the GPS signal somewhere along the way and I wasn’t sure it was recording anything, which is why I ended up with two ride files.

I found a park bench and settled down to wait in the warm sunshine.

Just before half past I heard the babble of a bunch of happy cyclists approaching, but this proved to be a gaggle of Tyneside Vags riders who passed with cheery greetings.

It was well beyong half past when our fairly sizeable front group finally showed and I let them pass. They were being somewhat futilely chased by Liam the Chinese rockstar, who saw me, realised I was sensibly waiting for the second group and hung a U-turn to wait with me.

The second group finally appeared and I swung onto the back of what seemed a slightly too large bunch. I realised I was adding to the imbalance, but was uncertain if we had a third group and, if so, how much longer I’d have to wait for them.

On a few of the descents I worked my way through the group, having a brief chat with James III, who is one half of a number of club teams who have entered the upcoming NTR 2-up timetrial. He claimed he was actually enjoying the training he’d been doing with partner Caracol, but may have preferred a less aeordynamic partner to shelter behind!

I then found myself riding along with a relative newcomer who turned out to be Turkish, adding another country to our League of Nations membership.

Somwhere along the way we passed group 1, sidelined with a puncture. They re-took the lead just before the dip into Hartburn and I didn’t expect to see them again, until half of them took a wrong turn and we closed as they scrambled to sort out the confusion.

As it was we were close behind them as we made the final climb to the cafe at Capheaton and, with our 3rd group having taken a shorter route to arrive ahead of everyone else and plenty of other clubs and cyclists out too, the place was mobbed.

It was standing room only out in the sun, so we went for an inside table where I heard James III had been really confused when he received confirmation of his entry into the 2-up TT and found he’d been partnered with a vet, because he thought Caracol worked in Financial Services.

Still, they seemd the most advanced in their training, having actually ridden together, while Jimmy Mac was recuperating from a minor operation so hadn’t been out with the Hammer, Crazy Legs had only curated a training run with G-Dawg in his imagination and Goose and Captain Black hadn’t even entered and now their participation was doubtful, as Goose had learned that the pub on the course would be closed.

While convalescing Jimmy Mac had been watching the Commonwealth Games and been particularly engrossed in the Crown Green Bowling, although a little concerned when one participant kept bending down to caress the mat. It wasn’t until halfway through the contest that he realised he was watching the Para Bowls and the contestants were blind.

We tried to conceive of the level of trust it would take to run full speed and blind with a guide alongside you, or even worse, take part in a triathlon swim, tethered to someone acting as your eyes, but I guess none of us had the necessary imagination. Impressive stuff.

There seemed to be less enthusiasm for tomorrow’s road races, although we felt things could be enlivened if a “Jamaican bobsleigh” style team took part. There’s precious little cycling on the other channels anyway, so I will probably tune in at some point, if only to enjoy some Chris Boardman bon mots.

We only just managed to avoid Biden Fecht inflicting a Cliff Richard, “Wired for Sound” earworm on us and evacuated the cafe before it could take hold. Amassing into two large clumps we set out and I was nearly home, feeling quite safe and smug when Biden Fecht fired a shot across my bows. “Fancy doing this 2-up TT then?”

Damn! My first reaction (and undoubtedly the right one) was just to say no, but then he looked like the kid who’d lost a “one-potato, two-potato” contest in the playground and had been forced to pick his team last, with only the gangly, weak and weedy, uncoordinated and unpopular nerds at the very bottom of the school hierarchy to choose from.

I relented and agreed, although I did stress I’d likely be more of a burden than an asset and he’d need to temper any expectations accordingly. Dear Lord, what have I done?

So, what have we learned from this whole sorry episode. Well, we now know that not only does Captain Black have no heart, but his prognositications are wildly inaccurate too, as it looks like I’ll now be competing in two more events before I turn 60.

And of course the main takeway is just to reaffirm that there really is no fool like an old fool.

Upwards and onwards.


Day & Date:Club run Saturday 6th August 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 8 minutes
Riding Distance:110km/68 miles with 1,226m of climbing
Average Speed:27.2km/h
Group Size:I’m guessing, pretty big?
Temperature:14℃
Weather in a word or two:Bright and breezy
Year to date:3,379km/2,100 miles with 39,285m of climbing


Clunking Hell

Clunking Hell

Club Run, Saturday 10th September, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  107 km/66 miles with 942 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 12 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                         26 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cool, calm, clear


The Ride:

profile-10th-sep
Ride Profile

Well, here’s a novelty – a Saturday that every forecast was insisting was going to be dry and with only a relatively mild wind to deal with after a series of forceful gusts blew themselves out overnight. Sounded great and ideal to trial a brand, spanking new bottom bracket to see if it could fend off an attack by freaky wallabies.

Despite the promise of a lack of rain, it was still sharply cold as I set off early, gathering speed as I swept down the Heinous Hill until the wind chill numbed my fingers and I began to wish I’d worn gloves. Things would warm up later, but it was a very slow and gradual process and I didn’t feel comfortable enough to shed the arm warmers until well past midday, when I was alone and already heading homeward.

Still, the main thing was the ride was smooth and most assuredly squeak free, lacking last week’s cacophony of annoying little ticks, squeals, creaks and groans. The only sounds now were the slight hiss of tyres lightly kissing the tarmac and the faint thrum of a new chain running smoothly over the gears. Ah, that’s more like it.

I made good time and was soon crossing the river, swinging back on myself and starting to climb up the other side of the valley. Here the chain announced some newfound dissatisfaction with a loud clunk as it skipped and slipped on the cassette. Suddenly pedalling became hard and then too easy and then hard again. I eased back and tried to spin up the climb without applying too much pressure, but every few revolutions brought a clunk and a scuff and a whirr and I topped out the climb with a strange staccato, stop-start rhythm.

My mechanical hiccups kept me so distracted I didn’t notice the miles slipping away and I was soon rolling up to the meeting point to find the early arrivees clustered around an FNG’s bike while I wondered how I got there so quickly. The FNG’s mechanical woes were considerably worse than mine – he’d snapped his gear cable, so had no choice but to limped off home, vowing to return and try again.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

OGL announced that due to a spate of cancellations at various events we wouldn’t be able to piggy-back on another clubs time-trial this year, so he suggested people submit their best 10-mile timetrial time to work out who the club champion would be. This had OGL and G-Dawg pondering where the world’s fastest downhill 10-course was, and whether they could get away with a bit of motor-pacing and verifying of each other’s times.

OGL then gave us the date for the clubs dreaded hill-climb, the day when grown men compete to inflict the most physical harm on their own bodies and see who can come closest to resembling a freshly interred corpse.

There was then a discussion about downhill trials, still practiced in certain parts of the country where riders will deliberately ship their chain to  see who can freewheel the furthest after rolling down a hill.

Taffy Steve was mightily attracted to not only the simplicity of this challenge, but also the two words downhill and freewheel. He also quite liked the sound of its associated intensive nutritional and dietary plan, which he translated as eating as many pies as possible in order to build body mass, then hoping that gravity would do the rest.  I think he saw the concept as the ultimate revenge on all the racing snakes with their starved-whippet physiques and disturbing ability to float uphills. Yes Plumose Pappus, I’m looking at you.

The Cow Ranger arrived on a vintage steel, Paul Hewitt bike that he’d built for his son while at university in London, only to find out it had mouldered away, largely unused. The Cow Ranger had now reclaimed it as a hack/potential winter bike and wanted to see how it would ride. There were tsk-tsk’s of disapproval from OGL at the slightly rust-spotted chain and then complete outrage when he spotted the non-standard seat pin bolt.

The Red Max was again without the Monkey Butler Boy, apparently laid low by the worst head cold ever known to man, so bad in fact that it has received special categorisation as “Boy Flu” by the World Health Organisation and declared as fifty times more debilitating than “Man Flu.” Or at least that’s what it sounded like according to how the Monkey Butler Boy (a.k.a. the Slacker and the Malingerer) was reportedly behaving.


26 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out and I slotted in, two or three back from the front of our group alongside OGL, chatting about what Machiavellian plans that Sky, Saxo Bank and Ulrika Bike Exchange (©Sean Kelly) might unleash to try and unsettle old Stone Face, as the ever entertaining Vuelta reached its climax. I must admit I didn’t fancy their chances.

I tried to soft-pedal along and keep all the embarrassing clunks and clangs to a bare minimum, chatting more than usual in a vain attempt to cover up the mechanical dissonance, or at least take my mind-off the racket. No one seemed to notice, or if they did they were nowhere near as perturbed as I was.

The route we took this week was once again and old and familiar, but with large sections completed in reverse, so the roads looked disconcertingly familiar, but not quite and all the hard uphill bits and easy downhill bits got confusingly mixed around. This prompted some discussion as to whether these were in fact different routes, or the same-old, same-old with just a fairly obvious twist.

As we completed a familiar loop around Angerton, but in a novel northwards direction I definitely found one major disadvantage as we battled away into a bit of a stiff headwind – if we been travelling in our usual direction we would actually have enjoyed a tailwind on this section – for the first time ever! That would have been a rare and unexpected luxury worth forgoing the novelty of the same-old, same-old in a slightly different way.

After a long stint Crazy Legs and the Red Max rotated off the front, allowing a capable and willing FNG and the Cow Ranger to assume point and pull us along. I found a gear that seemed a little more stable and less jittery than some of the others, but it meant I was attacking the hills a bit harder than everyone else as I tried to keep my momentum going. On one elongated ramp I passed the Cow Ranger who ceded the front to me and I dropped back to work alongside the seemingly indefatigable FNG.

Just as the youngsters started to get frisky and began jumping ahead on the climbs, there was a puncture at the back and everyone rolled to a stop. Here I found a perplexed and frustrated Red Max jabbing at random buttons on his brand new, all-singing, all-dancing Garmin as he looked at his slowly dwindling average speed in dismay, unable to work out how to toggle the computer to adjust its calculations to ignore stationary time.

“Maps!” he declared at one point, “I’ve found maps,” but still the device played the role of R2-D2 refusing to give up its secret Death Star plans and beeping and squealing indignantly beneath Max-as-C3PO’s prodding fingers.

Finally, before I suggested he tried slapping it hard and calling it an overweight glob of grease, he admitted defeat and vowed to turn to the dark side and actually read the manual. This, he obviously feels is a slight on his technical prowess and manhood that he may never recover from.

Puncture repaired and underway, OGL again suggested we split on the fly instead of stopping again. Luckily this week Happy Cat wasn’t around to follow the wrong wheels and we all seemed to find the right group. While the self-flagellation ride zipped off, everyone else actually took the same route, but the longer-harder-faster group were quickly up to speed and pulling away from the amblers.

There may have been some strange, strangled shouting from behind, but by this time it was quite faint and indistinct … so maybe not. Soon around a dozen of us had formed a compact, fast-moving swarm and the pace got kicked up another notch.

We hit Middleton Bank without appreciably slowing and a steady pace was maintained when my attempted attack was derailed by an extended bout of clunks and clangs as my chain started slipping frenziedly. I had no choice but to ease back into line, change down and just spin up the hill behind everyone as best I could.

The road levelled out and with a keen sense of self-preservation Crazy Legs urged the Red Max swap places. Once complete, Max was now on the outside with space to launch his inevitable forlorn hope attack without needing to barge through non-existent gaps. He duly delivered, but his lead never stretched beyond a couple of metres and he was closed down as we thundered through the Milestone Woods.

At the base of the first of the rollers I attacked hard and managed to keep going over the first and second ramp, before running out of steam on the third and last. I think I managed to open up a few gaps and splinter the group, but to be honest I wasn’t looking back.

I did manage to draw Crazy Legs out in pursuit and he closed me down and passed me as the road tipped downwards, somewhat scuppering his plans to save himself for the final drag and sprint up to the café.

Done for the day, I tagged onto the back of the line and then just tried to hang on and keep the gaps to a minimum as we crested the last rise and sailed across a junction to roll up to the café.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Apropos of nothing, Taffy Steve declared it was ridiculous that Rab Dee’s black-carbon, stealth BMC was known as a Time-Machine, when surely his own titanium love-child was more obviously suited to the name.

Everyone looked suitably blank, until he prompted, “You know, like a DeLorean.”

I was confused because I was thinking of blue boxes and flashing lights, like the Tardis, while Crazy Legs was imagining some baroque, H.G. Wells-type sleigh with levers, dials and spinning discs and he’d begun checking anxiously over his shoulder to ensure no subhuman troglodytes were creeping up to steal his cake.

We then had a minute or two racking our brains to try and remember what  said troglodytes were called.

“Morlocks!” Son of G-Dawg finally volunteered and we were all amazed that the youngest person at the table had been the one to remember a fleeting piece of ephemera from a creaky black and white movie released in 1960.

That was until he explained he simply remembered it from an episode of The Big Bang Theory.


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Watch out for Morlocks!


Crazy Legs joined The Doc, Michael Hutchinson in (figuratively) lamenting the demise of the Singing Cycling Club – at one point they were almost as infamous as the Singing Ringing Tree apparently.

This reminded me of a mass club run when I was out with the Barnesbury CC when I was a kid. One guy had a small transistor radio (ask your parents, children) strapped to the handlebars and tuned into a station playing songs from old musicals. I can recall 30 odd of us riding along, swinging our arms from side to side, while spontaneously bursting into song – lustily bellowing:

“There is nothing like a dame

Nothing in the world

There is nothing you can name

That is anything like a dame”

As we rode through  one of the genteel villages in Northumberland. Priceless.

We dissected our café sprint, recognising the same old patterns occurred week after week: a hopeless long range attack from Red Max and/or Taffy Steve, an idiotic attack over the rollers, the BFG, if he’s with us, running out of steam at the exact same point every time, then the G-Dawg collective battling through to the bitter end where Son of G-Dawg will just nip away to steal the honours. Well, it’s like deja vu all over again. 

Son of G-Dawg laughed at how we employed the same tactics and did  exactly the the same thing week in and week out, but somehow always expected a different outcome. By  Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity, we are all certifiable lunatics.

Talk of the BFG predictably running out of steam reminded Crazy Legs of the time they had been hammering it up Middleton Bank and he’d heard a hoarse wheezing, gurgling, gasping from behind. He’d ridden away from the strange noise, only to later learn it was the BFG who’d clawed his way up to Crazy Leg’s back wheel, desperate to borrow his asthma inhaler but, sounding like a latter day Elephant Man,  he had  utterly failed to articulate his needs in any coherent way.


The main group left while we were still enjoying a second round of coffee so we waved them off. We guessed Taffy Steve was soon itching to go though when he started buckling on his helmet while still sitting at the table.

When this failed to impel us into action, he started trotting between the table and his bike, alternatively whimpering and panting and trying to look appealing with his head cocked to one side. If he had a leash he probably would have carried it over in his mouth and dropped it on the table as a hint.

Taffy Steve then followed Crazy Legs’s suggestion that the best way to get everyone to move was to just slap your foot on a pedal and clip-in as loudly as possible. This worked, provoking an almost Pavlovian response and a scramble for bikes and helmets.

A relatively straightforward and uneventful ride back had me on the inside of Taffy Steve as we approached a major split point. An elegantly performed do-si-do then saw us swapping places and as he swung off left I accelerated onto G-Dawg’s rear wheel to cling on through the last crazy burst of the Mad Mile.

Then I was all alone with my madly clunking chain, finally working out that the worst problem was somewhere in the middle of the cassette and trying to work around it. I then planned and executed an impromptu stop at Pedalling Squares café, located at the bottom of the Heinous Hill and home of Patrick the Mechanic and the Brassworks Bicycle Company. Here I reasoned I could get a caffeine fix for me and a mechanical one for Reg.

I grabbed an excellent flat white and clambered up into the bike workshop, where I found Patrick the Mechanic deep in conversation with … err… Patrick the Cyclist.

Huh?

I did a very, very obvious double-take, looking confusedly from one identical Patrick to the other. “Yes,” Patrick the Cyclist and sometime doppelgänger reassured me, “We get that a lot.”

Honing in on the real Patrick, or the one I assumed was the real Patrick simply by dint of the mechanics apron, I explained the problem. A quick test, a bit of tinkering with the gear hanger and a minute twiddle of the barrel adjuster and he was done. I wish I had the confidence to do that, but any twiddling I do tends to just compound my issues, so I’ve learned to leave it to the experts.

Bike restored to fully-functioning condition and fortified by yet more coffee, I was soon off, caffeine fuelled and floating up the hill and home like some erstwhile Plumose Pappus.


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YTD Totals: 5,085 km / 3,159 miles with 50,264 metres of climbing