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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Gategate

Gategate

neClub Run, Saturday 23rd September, 2017            

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  109 km / 68 miles with 1,133 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 22 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                         21 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and breezy


 

23 sept
Ride Profile

The Ride:

Following on from the original Watergate scandal we’ve all had to endure a ton of utterly dumb, lazy, banal and wholly unoriginal journalistic misappropriations of the -gate suffix, you know, Contragate, Deflategate, Pizzagate, Squidgygate, et al, etc. etc. ad nauseam. So, ladies and gentleman, proving I can be just as dumb, lazy, banal and as frighteningly unoriginal as a paid, professional journalist – (was there ever any doubt?) – I hereby give you the scandal that is … Gategate.

Who’d have thought we’d be heading for such controversy on an innocuous Saturday morning that was warmer than last week and by all accounts would be a lot drier too. As I dropped downhill, the sky over the valley was striated like a layer cake, dark landscape, a band of clear air and a high altitude cap of cloudy grey, seemingly providing a layer of insulation to keep the temperature high.

It was warm enough to make me think the combination of long-sleeved base layer and windproof jacket was overkill – and it wasn’t long before the gloves came off, literally and metaphorically.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve organised and promoted a faster, longer “training ride” which leaves the meeting point early to avoid confusion with the regular club run. This week’s run had been planned and was being led by Benedict and I was at the meeting point early enough to see the group gradually coalesce before they set off.

“Remember”, Benedict told me, tapping the side of his nose with a long digit “You didn’t see us and we weren’t here.”

“I am Spartacus,” the Prof offered, “You can be Spartacus too,” he told the Red Max, inviting him to join the training ride revolution.

“Err, no thanks,” Red Max explained, “It doesn’t end well for Spartacus. I’ve read the book …”

“Seen the film …” I added

“And got the T-shirt,” the Prof concluded.

Then, with the pistol shot report of cleats clicking into pedals, the whirr of high-speed wheels and a mighty, “Hi-ho, Silver!” (ok, I may have made that last bit up) they were gone. Almost as if they’d never been there…

As one group leader departed, another emerged: Crazy Legs sporting one of the sleekest, most luxurious and magnificent Van Dyke beards anyone could hope to grow in just seven days, ably fulfilling last week’s directive that the ride leader needed to be be-whiskered to signal his status to the rest of the group.

After studying Crazy Legs carefully for a minute or two, the ever-astute Garrulous Kid made a shock revelation. “That’s not a real beard,” he declared, somewhat hesitantly and we all stepped back in amazement, wondering how we’d been so easily duped.

Crazy Legs coughed up and spat out a fake hairball, before outlining our route for the day, which as a novelty and in preparation for the club hill climb, would see us reverse a familiar route in order to ride up the Ryals.

He got the tacit agreement that OGL would lead a shorter ride, avoiding the Ryals altogether, something OGL seemed more than keen to do as he appeared to be suffering from an immense hangover.

The Garrulous Kid himself keeps threatening to devise, post-up and lead a ride, if only he can overcome the twin barriers of growing facial hair and over-coming his disdain for Facebook, which “is rubbish” that “nobody ever uses.”

Knowing his aversion to cornering, G-Dawg wondered what sort of route the Garrulous Kid would devise, suggesting perhaps, “25 miles, straight up the A1 and then back again.”

I felt that he favoured right turns more than left, so perhaps just a big loop heading out east, then turning north, then swinging to the west before turning south and heading back to the start. We await actual further development with interest.

At the appointed time, Crazy Legs carefully peeled-off and pocketed his beard before he ingested anymore, or it became basted in sweat and spit, blew off his face and slapped some unfortunate rider behind like a wet kipper.

By removing his beard he at least earned the approval of ex old-school pro Walter Planckaert, the boss of professional cycling team Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, who has taken the unusual step of banning beards – and not just in the men’s team.

He defended his decision in the newspaper Het Nieuwsblad by insisting the ban was in order to maintain “the elegance of cycling”. I have to admit, I’m kind of sympathetic to his views – must be an age thing.

Anyhoo, the Planckaert-approved, now clean-shaven Crazy Legs then clipped in, pushed off and led us all out. A quick wave to Richard of Flanders heading in the opposite direction to coach the Go-Ride youngsters and we were soon out and onto the open roads.


Things seemed to be going smoothly until we passed through Ponteland and took a left onto country lanes. It wasn’t long before a fusillade of censorious shouting erupted from the back of the pack, the upshot apparently being that we needed to ease up on the pace.

More over-the-top shouting, screaming and swearing followed, as apparently we were still going too fast. Hmm, someone wasn’t happy back there. One minute Ovis was commenting on what an unusually good road surface we were riding over, the next, instead of enjoying it, we were soft-pedalling, and freewheeling along while being aurally lambasted for who knows what.

Yet more totally incoherent and unnecessary shouting had Taffy Steve demanding to know “what the fuck all the shouting was about?” and could he please have a simple, understandable and legible instruction about what we were doing.

Calls from behind seemed to suggest there was a dire need to stop and not knowing what was happening, if we’d had a puncture, a mechanical or some other issue, I called for the halt. At a convenient entrance to a field, the front of the group pulled to the side of the road and tried to find out what was happening behind.

It transpired the frantic, over-the-top ear-bashing was because OGL wanted a pee stop, but now apparently we’d stopped at “the wrong fuggen’ gate” that wasn’t our “usual fuggen’ pee stop”. He rode past us and off down the lane in a fit of pique.

Those who needed to pee had a pee – at the wrong fuggen’ gate – and we then re-assembled the group and pressed on. A bit further on we passed the right fuggen’ gate that was our “usual” fuggen pee stop. Here all the die-hard traditionalists and ultra-conservatives amongst us had the opportunity to uphold the moral order and do things properly and with great dignity … despite the fact that a large white Range Rover was parked up in this field and they had an audience of perhaps less than delighted onlookers.

No matter what, Crazy Legs was determined to keep the whole group together, so he had us slow and soft-pedal until everyone was finally back on.


beardon reardon


We pushed on and I found myself in conversation with Cowin’ Bovril, missing for the past month or so because he’d been off working in France. We were chatting unconcernedly away, slowing as we approached a junction, when with a loud bang I put my front wheel through a large pothole in the road that I didn’t notice until I’d ridden through it.

We pulled around the corner and Cowin’ Bovril cast a critical eye over my tyre and suggested a pinch puncture. We stopped and I prodded the offending rubber with a thumb, just to confirm it was definitely going squishy.

The tube was repaired in short order, with OGL lending his super-strong hands and pincer like grip to rolling the tyre back onto the rim. A quick workout with my pump soon had the tyre inflated enough to get me around (as usual a rather paltry 50 psi when I checked with the track pump at home) and then we were off again.

I drifted slowly toward the back of the group just to keep an eye on any strugglers or stragglers and had a grandstand view as a car sped toward us, the driver rather deliberately ignoring Zardoz’s frantic signals for it to slow down. As the car zipped past, much too fast and much too close, Zardoz reached out and deftly twanged his wing mirror in rebuke. A mixture of shock, disbelief and outrage warred for dominance on the drivers face, as he finally slowed to try and work out what had just happened and if his precious car had been damaged. Arse hat.

The group split with OGL leading a splinter cell of on a wander, I guess just about anywhere as long as it avoided the Ryals, while the rest of us took to roads which were familiar, but we were now doing in reverse order.

We picked our way up through Hallington on the narrow, tree-shaded lane, carefully slaloming around pots and gravel and tussocks of grass, ruts and leaves and twigs, rattling down the final incline to the junction. From here we swung left, straight onto the heavy, grippy and draggy rises that presage the Ryals proper, draining any speed you want to carry onto the climb and draining your legs of any zip.

I think part of the reason the Ryals are seen as such a difficult climb is how they look as you approach, seeming to rise up like a wall and lour over you from a distance. Still, they’re relatively short, about 1.5km with an average gradient of about 5%. Get over the first and hardest ramp, where the gradient maxes out at about 19% and then there’s a short, flattish respite before you tackle the longer, but easier second ramp.

I did my best to roll up to the base of the climb, starting to pass a few flaggers, before the slope bit and I eased out of the saddle and worked my way upwards. Not surprisingly the climb is a lot easier without the 70 odd miles or so that precede them on the Cyclone route. I managed a personal best that might be difficult to better the next time I tackle the climb, which will invariably be during the next Cyclone.

We partially regrouped over the top and rolled down toward the Quarry Climb, giving the back markers a chance to re-join. I stomped up the Quarry and swung right, everyone following except the Garrulous Kid who went left, probably so he could try and beat himself in the sprint.

I slowed to wait, but a group of Jimmy Mac, Ovis and the Red Max darted away and began the race to the café, G-Dawg accelerated to reel them in and I dropped onto his wheel. The Colussus shot past us onto the front group, while G-Dawg closed the gap in a more measured fashion.

Crazy Legs caught the group as we swept through junctions and around sweeping bends, slowly building the speed. On the approach to the Snake Bends, G-Dawg, The Colossus and Jimmy Mac burned off the front, while I sparred with Ovis for the minor placings.

We regrouped for the final run to the café and arrived with perfect timing that rewarded us with no queues.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In a discussion of dogs and beaches, Taffy Steve said his vet felt they were a hazard to any good pet’s health, apparently as they’re a breeding ground for all sorts of canine nasties. The Red Max certainly knew about beach hazards and recounted how his daughter’s hybrid-pedigree was washed out to sea and appeared to be struggling. He’d flatly refused to even contemplate going in to try and rescue the pooch, but reassured her there was at least a 50-50 chance it would survive.

Luckily for him a large wave picked it up and flung it onto the sand and the dog lived to fight another day.  I think he said it was a sprocker spaniel, but I don’t really do pedigree dogs, so may be mistaken. Taffy Steve though did suggest the double-dose of loopy you get from inter-breeding between two pedigrees, probably produced the perfect dog for Red Max’s household – a highly-strung, schizoid, hyperactive and excitable animal that will chase anything that moves.

Meanwhile, G-Dawg confided the problem with taking his dogs onto the beach was they seemed to delight in crapping in the sea, making recovery and bagging operations somewhat problematic.

OGL has suggested that despite club membership growing, ride numbers are falling. This isn’t the impression I have, so I offered to count back on the numbers I’ve recorded in this blerg for the past 3 years or so and see if this was actually the case.

Taffy Steve was disgusted when Crazy Legs and I enthusiastically conjured up as much management speak as possible in an ensuing discussion about the spreadsheets and interactive charts we could adopt to present back empirical evidence, that would give a holistic and overarching picture of performance thresholds and the intrinsic peripatetic synergies of ride numbers and allow us to drill-down to a much more granular level of detail. Or something …

Discussion of Crazy Legs’ universally appreciated route for the day led to a discussion about the route through Hallington, which is used by the pros during the Beaumont Trophy. We wondered how they coped with pots and gravel and tussocks of grass, ruts and leaves and twigs, while going at full bore – especially when G-Dawg confirmed he’d marshalled at that point before and the riders were often massed and charging, six deep across the road rather than picking their way carefully and in single-file. Scary stuff.

The Garrulous Kid showed he’s beginning to morph into a twisted OGL mini-me and has started to parrot some of Our Glorious Leaders more lurid tales. This is dispiriting not only because they’re second hand, but because we’ve all heard them countless times already and from the original source. Still, perhaps this is how tribal myths and legends develop and in 10,000 years our ancestors will be regaling themselves with tales of this bright OGL demi-god, his epic odyssey around the wildlands of Albion and his fearless feats of prowess. Perhaps not, though.

The Monkey Butler Boy turned up to ride back with us having been with his club for a photoshoot. What?

He engaged in rather desultory conversation with us while he waited, occasionally stroking and caressing his saddle. Luckily we left before things could develop any further.


The ride back was swift and largely uneventful, the most interesting thing that happened was being assaulted by a boom-box, disco-car – blacked out windows, fancy alloy wheels, bulbous body-kit and fat exhaust – the full works. Too loud man, it’s shrill … piercing!

I’m on record as stating that whenever you notice one of these monstrously loud, music-pounding cars you can never recognise what song they’re actually playing. Today however was the exception, blasting loud, proud and unafraid from this car was Rod Stewart’s Baby Jane.  Now that’s what I call street cred.


YTD Totals: 5,633 km / 3,432 miles with 64,066 metres of climbing

Jumping Someone Else’s Train

Jumping Someone Else’s Train

Club Run, Saturday 1st July, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 105 km / 65 miles with 960 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 1 minute

Average Speed:                                26.1 km/h

Group size:                                         28 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    22°C

Weather in a word or two:          Warm and bright


 

i july
Ride Profile

I set out first thing Saturday morning still in the dark as to whether climbing in the Alps is a help or hindrance to cycling form. I got an early indication of which way the coin would fall though, when I turned up at the meeting point some 20 minutes early and had to take a long, impromptu peregrination around Fawdon to fill in some time. I’ve nothing personally against Fawdon, but I’m sure even its most ardent resident would agree it’s not the best place in the world to kill some time on a bike.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

In honour of the Tour de France start, Crazy Legs had donned an ancient Ariostea pro-team top, a riot of zig-zagging diagonal lines in bright red and yellow – it’s perhaps offensive enough to even match my bike. I lamented the lack of truly standout, hideous jersey’s in the pro peloton today – although I find Cannondale’s green and red combination a little unsettling, it’s tame compared to the glories of the past such as Ariostea, Mapei and Teka.

In contrast, another rider was wearing a white version of the La Vie Claire jersey, which still remains a timeless classic.

Crazy Legs mentioned it was the Queen Stage for Mini Miss, currently away enjoying sun and smooth roads in Majorca, and (probably) looking forward to Sa Colabra today.

“Psycha-what?” The Prof enquired.

“Sa Colabra,” I explained, “It’s a style of folk dance, popular in the Balearic Islands.”

“No, no, it’s a spirit-based drink, infused with Mediterranean herbs.” The BFG piped up, further confusticating the issue and leaving the Prof suitably bewildered.

The Garrulous Kid wanted to know how probable it was that one of his riding colleagues had seen a raccoon while out on a bike. (Just to be clear, the Garrulous Kid’s riding colleague was out on the bike, not the masked, furry North American mammal.) I suggested what he actually might have seen was a polecat, which are ever so slightly more prevalent than raccoons in rural Northumberland.

“A polka?”

“No, pole – cat.”

“Bobcat!”

“P-O-L-E-C … oh, I give up.”

Crazy Legs wanted to know if the Garrulous Kid remembered the time he’s been afraid of his own tyres. Meanwhile, testing his brakes, the Prof found that, despite all the benefits afforded from its hand-built construction in the most advanced bike factory in the world, by the planet’s greatest race of precision engineers and bike designers, the Kid’s Focus had a loose headset.

“Bring that bike here, boy” he demanded in a voice that brooked no argument, “And fetch me an Allen key.”

“Ooh, I’ve got one of those!” the Garrulous Kid squealed, digging frantically through his saddle bag, scattering tubes, tyre levers and repair patches everywhere, but singularly failing to turn up his famed Allen key. This was a shame as I was particularly interested to see which one size he had decided to carry from all the myriad choices available.

The Prof whipped out his own multi-tool, slackened off the stem, gave the cap bolt half a dozen full turns and then tightened the stem back up again.

“That was really loose.” The Colossus of Roads observed as he gazed down benevolently from on high (well, the top of the wall where he’d perched his butt) and noted the spacers spinning as freely as a roulette wheel.

“Was it dangerous?” the Garrulous Kid wondered.

“No, but you probably felt your whole bike shudder when you were braking.” The Colossus replied.

“And now you’ll know exactly what to do when it happens again.” The Prof observed at his pedagogic best.

“Yep,” The Garrulous Kid replied dutifully, “Take it straight back to the bike shop.”

The Prof outlined the planned route for the day and had us split into two, with an ultimate destination of Bellingham for the long distance randonneurs, but with plenty of options for groups to step off at various points to tailor the ride to their preference.


I dropped into the second group and we waited a couple of minutes for the first bunch to clear, before we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.

With a build-up of cars trailing us into Ponteland, we singled out to encourage them pass, but no matter how much frantic waving Crazy Legs engaged in, the driver of the first car refused to overtake – perhaps blinded, mesmerised or simply intimidated by the aggressive and unsettling design of his Ariostea jersey.

I spent some time behind the Colossus and got my first good look at his custom-painted cassette spacers, in the same colours and sequence as the World Champion Rainbow bands. He too had made the pilgrimage to the local model shop to baffle them with enquiries about what paints worked best on Shimano cassette’s.

He told me everything had worked perfectly, except for the bright fluorescent green, which initially looked black when applied, so he’d had to switch to a white undercoat. (I include this information simply as a public service, in case you’re ever tempted to paint your own cassette spacers.)

At the first stop, I noticed slightly different micturition practices, as one of the group pulled up a shorts leg to pee – while I always pull down the waistband. Perhaps this could be a bone of contention and spark a Lilliputian vs. Blefuscan conflict of Brobdignagian proportions. Or, maybe not.

It was during this stop that Crazy Legs overheard a conversation in which one of our esteemed members claimed to have been informed he was a peerless descender by no lesser authority than “world champion (sic) Alberto Contador.”

Options were outlined and decision were made on different route choices, with the first splinter group happily turning to head up the Quarry, while the rest of us went tearing down the Ryals.

I tucked in, freewheeling all the way and quickly picked up speed, hitting the front until the Red Max and the Plank, swept past pedalling furiously. As soon as they eased I closed them down again, all the while pulling Crazy Legs along behind me as he surfed in my slipstream.

At the bottom and while everyone flashed past and on to loop around Hallington Reservoir, I turned right and pulled over to wait for Sneaky Pete, having previously agreed to take the shorter, but much hillier option up past Hallington Hall, Sol Campbells stately pile. This narrow, partly shady, tree-lined route, climbs and twists through a series of relatively sharp ramps and is one of my favourite roads, if only because we don’t use it all that often.


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I was climbing well and felt good as we crested the hill and started to drop back down to the junction with the main road. This spat us out directly in front of a bunch of cyclists that I thought were the group we’d just left, but actually turned out to be our first group. As we closed on the testing drag, up Humiliation Hill, beZ and Andeven whirred past, followed a split second later by Shoeless and the rider in the old La Vie Clair jersey and I dropped in behind them.

beZ and Andeven started to pull away on the climb, so I threaded the needle between Shoeless and La Vie Claire (or perhaps from their perspective, simply barged them out of the way) and gave chase. Tagging onto the back of the front two, I camped there comfortably as they swept uphill, quickly pulling away from everyone else, before we swung east and powered toward Capheaton.

At the last, steep clamber up to road that leads to the Snake Bends, I floated up beside beZ and we rolled the rest of the way, chatting about his experiences of mixing it with the big boys during the Beaumont Trophy and where he needs to improve his bike handling skills and confidence, seemingly the only thing limiting his brilliant performances from being bloody brilliant performances.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

At the café, I joined Captain Black and Princess Fiona at one of the tables outside. She’d just returned from a cycling-motorbiking trip to the Pyrenees. First reassuring myself that she hadn’t been on a Harley, I was interested to know what it was like as Crazy Legs is eyeing up this area for our next foreign expedition.

Talk of the Pyrenees and the Tour, had me extolling the Cycling Anthology series of books and in particular Volume 5 which includes a chapter on Superbagnères by Edward Pickering. This described Stage 15 of the 1971 Tour de France, which was a balls-to-the-wall, short stage of just 19.6km straight up from Bagnères-de-Luchon to the summit. The author described the action as being like a mass start time-trial, with every man for himself. The stage was won by Jose Manuel-Fuente, but all 99 riders in the field were separated by just 10 minutes and the biggest group across line was only 4 strong.

Apart from reminding me of Fuente, a rider whose name I was particularly fond of chanting to encourage struggling riders up hills when I was a kid … Foo-entay! … Foo-entay! … I thought the idea of a super-short, chaotic and uncontrollable stage, straight up a mountain was well worth revisiting – a real mano a mano contest among the climbers and GC riders, stripping away all the team support and tactical “footsie” that usually takes place before a decisive summit finish.

Recognising the stage would be perhaps too short to make good TV, it could then be combined with the sort of downhill time-trial Sean Kelly seems to advocate. I’d watch anyway.

With the first cup of coffee consumed, Princess Fiona somehow manouvered Captain Black into attending to her refill needs, before presenting him with her dainty, little cup.

Captain Black looked quizzically at it:

“What’s that?”

“It’s because she’s a lay-dee.” I explained.

Captain Black listened carefully to the very precise specification required for Princess Fiona’s coffee refill, tugged his forelock, bowed and backed away from the table.

“Yus, m’lady.”

He then wandered into the café, determined to get it wrong so he’d never be asked again.

Princess Fiona and Captain Black decided to take the long route back via Stamfordham and started to gather their things together to leave.

“Is there anything you need him to carry for you?” I joked, but could see Princess Fiona giving the question very serious consideration, before she demurred.

As they left, I moved across to the next table, where the Colossus was handing out free advice on how to go about painting cassette spacers. Given the fact he’d bought 3 different paint colours (green, red and blue) to go with G-Dawg’s yellow to recreate the World Champion bands and used only a tiny amount of each, there was talk of establishing a set of “club paints” that could be handed to those most in need. It was decided however that these would probably go the way of the semi-mythical “club rollers” that we know exist, we just don’t know where they are and who has them.

Appreciation of the La Vie Clare jersey brought a slightly too enthusiastic, near orgasmic, “Oh, yes,” from Taffy Steve, in a voice that was an unfortunate cross between the Churchill dog, a Kenneth Williams, “ooh matron” and a Terry Thomas-style, “ring-a-ding-ding.” Not that we drew any attention to it, of course.

Talk turned to upcoming movie releases, with the majority expressing their boredom with super-hero movies, for which the best antidote was deemed to be Lego Batman.

The Garrulous Kid though wasn’t done with super-heroes.

“I’m really looking forward to Four. Will you go and see that?” he asked me.

“Well, no, I haven’t seen One, Two or Three, so there doesn’t seem much point.” I replied, struggling to keep a straight face.

“No, I mean Four:Free.”

“Huh?” I feigned incomprehension.

“You know, the one with Four, the Norse God of Funder…”

As we were leaving the Garrulous Kid announced that now he’s finished school for the summer he was free to ride at any time. He asked if there were any mid-week groups he could join up with.

“Don’t you regularly go out on a Wednesday?” I innocently asked Sneaky Pete, earning a very sneaky kick in the shin for my efforts as he shushed me. Ouch!


We set off for home and I found myself climbing Berwick Hill with Crazy Legs.

“How you doing?” he asked and I had to admit I was floating and feeling good. Bet that’s not going to last.

As I turned off for home and left the others behind, Princess Fiona sailed past in the opposite direction having completed the longer route back through Stamfordham. Then, the obligatory 5 paces behind, Captain Black followed, undoubtedly slowed-down by all the baggage he was carrying for her.

Dropping down toward the river I had one last challenge as a racing trap sped past at a full speed gallop on the road below. I swung through the junction onto the road behind and gave chase. At about 25 mph I think I was beginning to close it down, but the driver was already easing the horse back to a trot. Those things are fast.

Across the river I found myself in the middle of a massive traffic jam and took to a bit of pavement surfing and threading between the cars, which earned me at least one “dick-head” comment from a very frustrated driver. A small price to pay to avoid being stuck for half an hour or more, sucking up exhaust fumes and going nowhere fast.

After that it was a relief to break out onto quieter roads, even if they did lead straight up the Heinous Hill to home.


YTD Totals: 4,140 km / 2,572 miles with 48,613 metres of climbing

The Colossus of Roads

The Colossus of Roads

Club Run, Saturday 24th June, 2017         

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 111 km / 69 miles with 1,037 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                26. km/h

Group size:                                        28 riders, 3 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    21°C

Weather in a word or two:           Blustery and bright


 

24 jun
Ride Profie

Back in Blighty, after expeditions to foreign shores, I find myself behind in my club run reports. I’m sure nobody else cares, but I seem to have developed an OCD for completeness, so, in an attempt to catch up, here goes.

I’ll try to keep it short and sharp, but I do recognise that’s not really my style, so if you’ll forgive the writing logorrhoea and usual tumult of words (never use one where three will do) and are still awake out there, hang on while we try and get back on terms.

I did a couple of commutes into work on the week of my return and expected my trip to have granted me some benefit and at least a few marginal gains, but oddly I felt leaden-legged and slow. It wasn’t helped that the rear wheel of single-speed isn’t running freely, but even the second day, when I used the trusty Peugeot instead, didn’t offer any encouragement.

It was with some feeling of trepidation then that I turned up at the meeting point for the Saturday club run in very uncertain form.

The Red Max had posted up the route a couple of days before, so at least I knew what I was facing and there were no nasty, hidden surprises to ambush me along the way. I’d just have to wait and see how things went.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I had a chat with G-Dawg about the Cyclone, which had been a good ride and they had glorious weather, although he complained it had been, if anything a little too hot. After riding on the Saturday, he’d then spent a long, long day Sunday organising the marshalling for the Beaumont Trophy and Curlew Cup. He’d then followed this up with a day midweek, driving around taking down all the signs for all the events – a task which he dryly reported took longer than actually riding the Cyclone.

I wondered where Son of G-Dawg was and G-Dawg confessed he didn’t know, but suspected that he was perhaps malingering at home in order to watch the Lions vs. All Blacks First Test.

The Garrulous Kid bounded across to declare, “Next week’s my birffday. I’ll be sixteen!”

I congratulated him on making it so far and suggested he could now get married, or form a civil partnership, drink alcohol with meals, get a National Insurance number, join a trade union, buy a lottery ticket … or even join the Army.

“I would never join the Army,” The Garrulous Kid avowed, “Even though I’d be brilliant at it.”

(Look, I’m sorry – I took the bait, but you can’t blame me – I was really intrigued.)

“Why’s that, then?”

The Garrulous Kid knowingly tapped his temple with a long, bony finger, “Because I’m a tactical genius.”

A few others rolled up and enquired where Son of G-Dawg was and once again G-Dawg could only speculate about the lure of the rugby test match.

OGL owned up to a flat battery on his Di2, which meant he was stuck in one gear. He thought it was better to ‘fess up early and suffer the ridicule, rather than get found out half way round when we hit a hill and he disappeared out the back.


There weren’t enough of us to warrant splitting into groups, so off we went, following Red Max’s planned route. I immediately drifted to the back, still uncertain if my legs were going to behave and staying as sheltered as I could as the front was battered by a strong, gusting wind.

We dipped through Ponteland and out the other side and, as we made to swing down Limestone Lane, there was Son of G-Dawg, standing upright on the grass at the apex of the turn, arms folded across his chest, surveying the horizon and waiting patiently for us to arrive. Apparently, although very hungover, he hadn’t bunked off to watch the rugby, but had slept right through his alarm, missed the start and time-trialled out to this impromptu rendezvous point to first throw up and then settle down to wait for us.

The fact he could meet up with us without the almost impossible task of guessing which roads we would take, reinforced the idea that publishing the route beforehand had real benefits. He late suggested that he’d actually waited so long, that if he hadn’t known we were sure to pass through that point, he would have assumed we’d gone elsewhere and moved on to try and find us somewhere else.


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After Whittledene Reservoir we called a quick stop and Crazy Legs, still in Alpine-recovery mode, opted for the shortest route to the café. Surprisingly the Garrulous Kid decided to go with him and, at the last moment, Son of G-Dawg, tagged on, still suffering from his hangover and willing to lend moral support and a bit of aural relief to Crazy Legs. (I said aural, damn it, stop sniggering at the back)

On the rest of us went, up a serious of short, sharp climbs. The group then split apart as the road dipped on the fast run down to Matfen and I found myself between groups and trying to chase down G-Dawg and the BFG, who were themselves chasing the leaders.


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As we turned off for the Quarry those in and around the second group on the road stopped to regroup and when we restarted I poked my nose into the wind on the front for the first time.  We swung around the first corner on the approach to the climb, finding brief respite as the wind shifted behind us, but the relief was short-lived as we were soon swinging round again and riding into a headwind as we tackled the climb.

I spun to the top of the Quarry as the BFG pounded away up the outside, pipping me to the top. Once more re-grouping, we started to push on toward the cafe and the Red Max whipped us into a very ragged, impromptu paceline. Although it wasn’t the smoothest and people were pushing through a little too fast, it quickly ratcheted up the speed.

We pushed on, faster and faster, but the group was starting to thin out as riders faded and dropped away one by one. My Alpine companions, Goose and surprisingly, the always strong Captain Black disappeared out the back and I guessed this was their first ride since returning and I was a bit further ahead in terms of recovery.

By the time we hit the straight down to the Snake Bends there was only three of us left, G-Dawg, the BFG and me. The BFG hammered off the front and started to press powerfully on the pedals as he drove us onwards, while I clung onto G-Dawg’s wheel at the back, banging and jostling along as my tyres skipped and skittered on the most hated stretch of rough road surface that I know.

The BFG increased the pressure and managed to prise open a gap, as he slowly, slowly, started to pull away from G-Dawg. I hesitated, waiting to see if G-Dawg would react, then decided it wasn’t going to happen, pulled outside him and dug deep to accelerate past.

The BFG swung left, spent and easing back and as he looked behind to assess the damage he’d done, I kicked past, kept going long enough to open up clear air, then sat up and rolled through the bends.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

At the cafe, we tucked ourselves around the side of the building to try and find some shelter from a troublesome, gusting wind.

Red Max regaled me with tales of the Cyclone, which he rode with Taffy Steve in support of the Monkey Butler Boy and his crew, who had thrashed themselves to pieces trying to set a fast time.

While they did this, the older pair combined Red Max’s innate cunning with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the local back roads, to eschew the official course and always stay one step ahead of the youngsters. In this way, they were able to strategically position themselves prominently at the side of the road, conspicuously enjoying cakes, coffees, ice creams and iced cokes and giving the kids a big thumbs up each time they sweated and toiled their way past.

The Garrulous Kid wanted to know why I never used any pictures of him in the blog. I told him I didn’t want to scare people off, but I always posted all the decent photos up on our club Facebook page if he wanted to see any. This however was deemed unhelpful as, “Facebook is shit.” Oh well.

We were visited by a cheeky robin that kept hopping and flitting around us, begging for crumbs, despite being told by Crazy Legs he was out of season and should bugger off and come back at Christmas.

Captain Black dropped his cherry scone off at one of the tables and leaned over the fence to chat with us. While he was momentarily distracted, the robin sensed a golden opportunity, fluttered down onto his plate and started eyeing up the cherry scone and trying to work out just how he could cart away something ten times his own body weight. His hesitation was his undoing however, as the Captain was alerted to the “robin bastard” scone thief and quickly returned to thwart the most incredible and improbable of avian heists.

Despite it avowedly “being shit,” we discussed the benefits of posting up the route on Facebook and how it had allowed Son of G-Dawg to miss the start, but still meet up with our group. Crazy Legs said it had been a bit of a surprise seeing him standing their “like a colossus” – outlined by the sun, legs akimbo and arms folded across his chest, while declaring in a deep and godly voice, “I’m waiting for my people. Where are my people?”

“A colossus of the roads?” I suggested. And that dear reader is how Son of G-Dawg came out from under his father’s shadow and earned himself a new blerg moniker.


I remember nothing remarkable happening on the ride home, by which time I seem to have fully recovered from my post-trip hangover. Maybe next week I’ll actually feel some benefit, But I’m not counting on it.


YTD Totals: 3,993 km / 2,481 miles with 47,098 metres of climbing

Puttin’ on the Ritz…


Virgin Money Cyclone Challenge – Ride B, 20th June, 2015

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                     137km/85 miles with 1,590 metres of climbing

Cyclone Ride:                                      103km/64 miles with 1,217 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                            5 hours 19 minutes

Cyclone Time:                                       3 hours 41 minutes

Group size:                                           7 of us enjoying ourselves amidst 1,600 happy cyclists.

Weather in a word or two:               Cool. Light rain.


Ride Profile
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

The Cyclone Weekend (or to give it its full name the Virgin Money Cyclone Festival of Cycling) marks about the only time of the year when we take a break from our regular weekend club runs. Most of our riders participate in one or other of the Saturday rides, and the club organise and marshal the elite riders the following day when the women’s Curlew Cup and men’s Beaumont Trophy serve the pro teams as a warm up for next week’s National Championship.

This was my 6th Cyclone in succession; although slightly different as for the first time as I decided to ride to and from the event.

It was distinctly cool at the start where we hung around shooting the breeze and hoping everyone was going to show on time. Just as a matter of principle we managed to see and then lose around half a dozen club mates, including a few who disappeared into the darkened bowels of the rugby stadium to sign on, never to emerge.

By a minor miracle eight of us managed to stick together long enough to reach the start line as a group. I was surprised to see one of our up and coming, super-fast and immeasurably strong youngsters Bez hanging around at the start as only the 100 mile route could in any way be deemed remotely a challenge for him. He explained that he wasn’t allowed to ride the longer route as he wasn’t old enough. I assume this is either some stipulation in the event’s insurance, or a more plausible explanation is that it’s something his dad, The Prof, fabricated so he didn’t have to ride with his son and get his ass royally kicked. Again.

Bez did have the consolation of hearing one wide-eyed youngster declare that he had “the coolest bike ever seen” before we rolled over the start line and he roared off into the drizzle, presumably to complete the circuit twice over, lap everyone and prove a point.

We were then left as a compact group of G-Dawg, The Red Max and his Monkey Butler son, Sneaky Pete, Taffy Steve and Tri-Boy, another super strong, super-talented youngster.
At the first, completely innocuous corner we watched one rider in front skid out and slide helplessly across the road. He sat up immediately with seemingly nothing damaged except his pride, but it was a decent reminder we were amongst some fairly sketchy riders and road weavers, with all the reflexes and co-ordination of narcoleptic sloths on diazepam.


I'm constantly amazed by what you can find on the Internet, but who would have though "sloths on bikes" would return so many hits!
I’m constantly amazed by what you can find on the Internet, but who would have thought “sloths on bikes” would return so many hits. What’s wrong with you people?

Having started relatively late there was already a constant stream of amblers and gamblers to negotiate, of all ages, shapes and sizes and on all sorts of bikes; fantastically niche super-expensive, all singing, all dancing, all carbon stealth machines painstakingly crafted by blind Italian artisans, steel vintage road bikes, mountain bikes, city bikes, hybrid bikes, a Raleigh Chopper (a Raleigh Chopper!), tandems and everything in-between. Special mention has to go to the guy on the hand-bike, a truly impressive feat and an utterly brutal exercise to haul himself over all the hills.

The first ramps leading to the climb to the feed station at Nunnykirk saw the Monkey Butler Boy, pushing hard to try and hang onto the wheels. This was his first step up to the bigger league of the B Ride having graduated from the 33 mile ride with flying colours. Having completed the Coast-to-Coast I didn’t think the distance was going to be a problem but the pace was likely to see him blow. Sense prevailed (presumably a first for The Red Max?) and they dropped back to continue in what I assume was a slightly less frenetic manner.

It was on the climb proper up to the Nunnykirk feed-station that we saw the first of the Walking Dead, stumbling and sliding as the gradient got the better of them and clambered off to push their bike uphill. This is never a good sign as the route climbs rather unremittingly upwards from this point on. For G-Dawg this hill was also something of a personal epiphany as he remembered his bike did actually come supplied with an inner ring, and luckily it hadn’t atrophied, withered and dropped-off from lack of use. Truth be told I would have been amazed hadn’t worked as its pretty much still in newly-forged, factory fresh and pristine condition, having had little to no use.


G-Dawg demonstrating his gearing choices.
G-Dawg demonstrating his usual gearing choices.

We stopped for a while to re-fill bottles and catch up with a few familiar faces at the feed station, although Sneaky Pete took a flyer with an airy wave of his hand and a promise to “regroup” further down the road.

I quite enjoy the next section climbing up to Rothley Lakes and beyond, it’s a series of long, drags and sharp descents, but the gradient is never too challenging and if you can get the right rhythm you can pretty much sit and spin away. Feeling good I stalked G-Dawg all the way up the climbs, running just on the inside of the white line on the road as we slid past a long line of strugglers and stragglers.

We were down to two at this point, but finally caught up with Sneaky Pete ambling along and whistling nonchalantly, and we put in another good few miles as a group before I dropped off with a pressing need to irrigate the landscape. Greatly relieved and at least half a kilo lighter I set of in pursuit of the other two.

We hit the rollers before the signature climb of the Ryals, and like a raft bobbing along, lost on the ocean, every time the road reared up ahead of me I caught a tantalising glimpse G-Dawg and Sneaky Pete dropping over the next crest as I tried to close on them.

I took the opportunity add some fuel to the furnace and tried cramming down an energy bar – deviously composed of two parts cardboard to one part silica gel. This immediately sucked all the moisture out of my body and left me with a bad case of cotton wool mouth. I was still struggling to chew and swallow this miraculously expanding, jagged mass of chemically enhanced, artificial protein as I approached the climb.

The Ryals appear like a vertical wall rearing straight upward. Although they feature in Simon Warrens Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs, they look much harder than they actually are, and I suspect their fearsome reputation is built around elite races which hurtle up them multiple times to shred legs and cause the maximum amount of pain.

Despite this they will always hurt after the preceding miles of climbing have effectively softened you up and sapped your strength like a flurry of well-placed body blows. The road briefly hits around 20% before levelling and then climbing again, and while the first ramp is quite short, it’s undeniably steep.

I passed a guy with improbable orange-brown legs (##cough## fake tan) at the foot of the Ryals, and started the grind up. He passed inside me wheezing like a train with a broken boiler. As the road levelled I caught and passed Sneaky Pete and we exchanged a few perfunctory words about the dubious parentage of the climb. I then hit the second ramp and cranked it up. Out of the saddle with my front wheel skipping and snaking wildly like the death throes of a decapitated sidewinder, I zipped past Tan Legs and burst through a bunch of startled photographers carefully positioned to catch the agonising grind and toil and suffering of cyclists on the hill.

It will be interesting to see if any of them managed to catch my surprise at suddenly finding myself at the top, or the moment when the pain signals finally reached my brain and convinced it my shin bones had been swapped out for red-hot pokers.

[I so wanted to say I danced, or waltzed up the climb, and that was certainly the image in my mind. In reality it was probably more like the plodding, uncoordinated dance number of Young Frankenstein’s monster. “Burttin’ pondah Wrutzz!!!”]


Puttin' on the Ritz
Puttin’ on the Ritz

Pushing over the top I rolled it onto the big ring and clicked down until I could click no more. Hands on the drops, head down I set off in pursuit of G-Dawg, finally catching up a few miles beyond the climb. A few miles further Sneaky Pete sneaked up on us, sacrificing himself to ride on the front for a short while before finally dropping away.

On the final run in and as we skirted a roundabout alongside another bunch of riders we were almost ploughed into by a texting driver who received a full verbal and graphically suggestive broadside– how she managed to look indignant instead of sheepishly embarrassed I’ll never know. “Typical,” drawled G-Dawg laconically, “60 miles without incident, and we’re nearly killed a few mile from the finish” – before clicking up a gear and lighting the afterburners for home.

With a decent time tucked into my goody bag I set out for home, passing a fellow rider who was struggling with a modest incline, obviously heavily weighed down by his Cyclone swag. I remarked his legs looked tired but he just quipped he was on a pre-programmed warm down. I like it, and yes, I will be using it as an excuse in future.

By the time I past the slowly decaying hedgehog on Heinous Hill for the 4th time that week I knew I was almost home and hosed, and another ride ticked off.

I trust normal service may be resumed next week…


YTD Totals: 3,023km/ 1,878 miles with 33,599 metres of climbing.


Helmet-head and riding the thin line between the cycle paths and the psychopaths …


Club Run – Weekend of 13th to 14th of June, 2015

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                     112.7km/70.0 miles with 1,015 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                             4 hours 14 minutes

Group size:                                           32 cyclists at the start. 1 (returning!) FNG.

 Weather in a word or two:               Surprising.

Main topic of conversation at the start: The emerging new sport of eBay style sniping Cyclone Sportive entries to see just how close to the deadline we can get – perhaps an evil, but seemingly uncoordinated plan to give OGL conniptions that no one from the club is going to ride? Queries, (and I’m not sure if these were related), about how long it takes to wear out East European wives and whatever happened to the Tuxedo Princess. The Tuxedo Princess was a seedy nightclub entombed in the rusting bowels of a ship that even the most heartless Libyan people-smuggler would think twice about using. Much like Mos Eisley spaceport, or even my old school you would be hard-pressed to “find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

Note: I was once roundly castigated for comparing my old school to Mos Eisley spaceport, and strangely enough not by those upstanding, fictional inter-stellar denizens. I will apologise in advance therefore for any offence caused.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: Whether Sir Bradley Wiggins (OBE) will follow through on his threat promise to marshal one of the corners at the Beaumont Trophy road race next week. OGL’s continuing search for a pillion rider brave enough to serve as official timekeeper on the back of a motorbike. (If you want to apply you must provide your own helmet and chalkboard, we however should be able to find some chalk). We discussed if a pub blackboard would be an adequate substitute and possible consequences of inadvertently revealing this week’s dessert specials instead of the time back to the chasing bunch. This was followed by the horrible and shameful confession from The Red Max that he ordered the monkey-butler, slave-boy to “ease up” last week, and in the process destroyed many patient years of relentless parental programming. Finally, is helmet-head better or worse than helmet-hair?


Ride Profile
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

When does a FNG become a full blood-brother of the club cycling fraternity? We obviously haven’t been making the new guys unwelcome enough, as one brave soul actually returned two weeks in a row. Our Ex-Ex-Pat, The Last Air Bender, reappeared having fully recovered from grinding in the wind, bonking and baptising himself in lukewarm coffee. If he keeps this up he may even earn a nickname. (Oh!)

Rather worryingly he was wearing a jersey from his previous club in New Yawk, sponsored by what I assume was their LBS, the “Montclair Bikery.” Bikery? Hmm, isn’t that where our Australian cousins buy their pastries? Begad sir! When will those uppity colonists stop mangling the Queen’s English, eh what?


helmet hair
Helmet-head or helmet hair – you decide which is worse

33 brave lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and set out into the maw of the brand, spanking-new Great North Road cycle path. This is a very narrow ribbon of tarmac designed solely to protect all the other rightful and righteous road-users from us pesky cyclists. To achieve this, the roadside edge is studded with a series of hefty rubberised tank traps the like of which haven’t been seen since Hitler’s panzers threatened these shores. Deviating even slightly from a straight line and clipping one of these protruberences is likely to catapult the unfortunate cyclist over the kerb and onto the pavement, where, lying dazed and bruised, he’ll be easy prey to packs of vengeful, marauding pedestrians. As if these obstacles weren’t enough, and in keeping with the WW2 theme, every so often along the perimeter someone has thoughtfully dotted some “Rommelspargel” cheerful, candy striped poles at just the right height to catch on your handlebars.

I’m all for providing sensible segregation for cyclists where it’s not substandard, but this narrow, fenced in canyon leaving no room for manoeuvre and nowhere to go if the path is blocked feels more dangerous than the open road.

Anyhow, out onto the actual open roads we sped, the weather proving to be much kinder than the forecast had suggested, with only the slightest hint of rain, sunny interludes between high broken cloud cover and the barest breath of wind. Absolutely perfect.

Things went smoothly until we split onto one of my least favourite routes, the draggy climb up to Rothley Crossroads, where I resolutely camped behind G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg’s wheels. I grimly hung there through the white-knuckle descent and scamper along to Middleton Bank, and was still there at the top of the climb. I’ve got no idea who else was with us at that point, I couldn’t hear because of the asthmatic death-rattle in my lungs and the blood pounding in my ears – and had absolutely zero interest in looking back to find out.

After a general regrouping I stayed on Son of G-Dawg’s wheel as The Red Max’s predictable “Forlorn Hope” attack went briefly clear, pulling a few other riders along. As the road climbed along with the pace, Son of G-Dawg started picking off the back-markers one by one. I refused to budge from his wheel, making sure any late attacks would have to come around us both, and if I’d had any breath to spare I might have been tempted to cackle maniacally in glee. Then Plumose Papuss put in a searing uphill attack, Son of G-Dawg accelerated in response and I was slowly disengaged and cast adrift to fall back to Earth like the spent, burned out stage of a Saturn V rocket. Still, I was far enough ahead of most of the group to roll in 6th (but who’s counting!)


Road rage (male)
Beware RIM encounters

The post-café run for home came replete with two Random Indignant Motorist (RIM) encounters. The first barrelling toward us down a narrow country lane in an over-sized pick-up truck, hogging fully two-thirds of the road and with absolutely no intention of stopping or even slowing. Given no time to single out I bumped up hard against the FNG and luckily we both stayed upright as the truck wing mirror whistled inches past my skull. Yikes! Incident number two came when a dozy bimbo overtook me, only to pull in sharply and then turn immediately left into a shopping centre car park causing me to haul hard on the brakes. Aargh! What was the point of that? I have to say, that although these are the incidents that stick in my mind there were many more motorists who pulled over and stopped, gave us plenty of room or waved us cheerfully through. One bad apple, and all that.

Until next week…


YTD Totals: 2,827km/ 1,757 miles with 31,088 metres of climbing.