Me Gansy’s aal Clarty

Me Gansy’s aal Clarty

Club Run, Saturday 22nd October, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  102 km/63 miles with 754 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.6 km/h

Group size:                                         26 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    12°C

Weather in a word or two:          Damp


 

ride-profile-22nd-oct
Ride Profile

The Ride:

While last week’s weather watch always showed a picture that was unremittingly bleak and rain-swept, this Saturday’s forecast was for grey, cloudy and overcast skies, but revealed not the slightest hint of a shower. It was disappointing then to wake to the sound of rain ticking heavily on the windows. Hmm, that wasn’t in the plans.

Luckily, by the time I’d dressed, had breakfast and assembled all the usual crap I cart around with me, the rain was easing and by the time I reached the meeting point it had all but cleared away. Maybe a soaking like last weekend wasn’t on the cards after all?


Main topics of discussion at the start

The limping BFG was firmly ensconced at the meeting point when I arrived, astride what he described as his Frankenbike, made from lots of spare and cast-off parts he’d found “just lying around.” Ooph! His idea of a Frankenbike is substantially better appointed than my best bike and far, far too good for a winter “hack.” I did however question his oddly squared off, Prologo Nago saddle which had “nack” stencilled on the rails and I hoped this wouldn’t prove prophetic.

OGL was even more demanding, wanting to know what make of chain he had fitted and railing about mixing Campagnolo, SRAM and Shimano components. Sacrilegious, apparently, although he did admit it does usually work.

The attention-seeking, BFG then tried to insist he was actually a camera-shy, retiring sort of individual and as supporting evidence cited the fact that he’d only stuck a camera on his bike once. He’d then managed to spear his head on an errant branch and crashed horribly, captured for all the world to see in full technicolour glory.

This, he suggested, was all the proof needed to confirm his shy and reclusive nature, as he blamed the crash on being pressured into performing for the camera, it had felt unnatural, he’d tensed up and then it all went horribly wrong. A very sound and compelling argument I feel. Especially if made by someone who doesn’t have a record of errant riding and occasional accidents …

Meanwhile, after all the time, effort and money Rab Dee invested into his BMC Time Machine, it had proved far too refined for the hurly-burly of club runs and the ravaged and parlous state of the local roads. He’d cut his losses, stripped and sold the frame and taken on-board (with far less aggravation and delay in getting it roadworthy) a Cannondale Evo instead.

Following on from last week’s discussions about G-Dawg’s OCD tendencies and how he would be unable to exist in the same house as a dirty and neglected bike, Taffy Steve hatched a cunning plan to utilise him as some kind of cycling-focussed, surrogate Rumpelstiltskin, if you can imagine such a thing. This scheme involved finding a bike in a poor state of repair, smuggling it into G-Dawg’s house and returning the next morning, when it would undoubtedly be magically restored to its full pristine glory.

It seemed a workable plan, after all this is a man who buffs his chain to a mirror shine, managed to retain spotless white bar tape for over a year of hard riding, gets nostalgic about the smell of Duraglit and bemoans the trend towards black spokes that “you can’t really polish” (although I’m sure he still tries.)

I suspected this wasn’t a good week to trial the scheme however, as both G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg were still on their “best” summer bikes and I suspect they would have their work cut out cleaning those after today’s ride.

Zeb arrived on what was truly a Frankenbike, in a fugly shade of flat,  paint-primer in battleship grey. True to his upbringing and in the spirit of cobbled-together, gimcrack solutions loved by the Prof, he’d substituted a missing stay on an antique set of aluminium mudguards, with one taken from a set of plastic Race Blades. I can’t decide if this type of innovation is clever or parsimonious – perhaps though he’s taking his newly acquired persona of poor, penniless student just a little too far?

Meanwhile, seemingly just to rub his nose in it, his sparring partner for the day, Jimmy Cornfeed was luxuriating in the double-protection provided by both full length mudguards and an ass-saver. I know we had really bad weather last week, but this still seemed like overkill.


Taffy Steve declared that the “time sponsored by Garmin” was ripe for our departure and in the absence of Crazy Legs invited me to lead out with him. We wove our way through the aimlessly milling crowd of cyclists to the kerb, pushed off, clipped in and were off for another frolicking and fun-filled ride.

After a bit of slow pedalling and waiting to regroup, we finally formed up and beZ and Jimmy Cornfeed took up the front and led us through the suburbs and out onto the open roads. Riding behind beZ I couldn’t help noticing that his jerry-rigged mudguard was swaying extravagantly from side-to-side like a drunken, snake-charmed cobra, while his saddle-bag did a particularly deft impersonation of a sagely nodding dog. Between the two objects moving in odd, contradictory patterns I began to feel a rising sense of motion sickness, so I was immeasurably pleased when the pair relinquished the front as we turned off for the Cheese Farm.

At the head of the group and rolling around a corner beside Taffy Steve, we startled a young deer that was obviously picking its way across the road and had almost made it to the other side. It panicked and spun around to backtrack, the hooves skittering and sliding across the slimy tarmac as it sought to find a purchase. It reached the edge of the road, found some traction and sprang away through the hedge. Gone in an instant. With a flash of white scut.

As we started to pull the group up Bell’s Hill we were closing in on one of the Prof’s preferred peeing-places and predictably the call came up that his infinitesimally small and weak bladder had already started nagging him and we should stop.

At the junction on the crest of the climb though, two toffs* stood astride horses, calling urgently down to me, “I say, cycling-chappies, which way are you going?”

I indicated we’d be swinging to the left and they began to back their rather skittish mounts up the opposite lane and away from our route. One of the horses was still panicked by the bikes and spun in a full 360 with a clatter of hooves as the rider fought to regain control. This was all the encouragement we needed to petition for a postponement to the Prof’s preferred pee-stop until we were presented a place less perilous and populated.

(*I always assume horsey people out in the countryside are toffs, which I know is possibly probably a horribly clichéd stereotype on my part. Guilty as charged M’Lud.)

Around the corner and well out of sight of our excitable equine friends, we finally pulled over for the Prof’s postponed pee.  Someone queried why we hadn’t stopped in our usual place and a straight-faced Taffy Steve declared that we didn’t want to give the horse’s a sense of inadequacy when the Prof unleashed his, err… prodigiously proportioned pointer.

With the perfect timing of a natural-born comedian, beZ then swung past and announced he’d be calling in to the Prof’s later that day as he needed to “borrow the hose” – the cue for an eruption of much schoolboy sniggering and snorting.


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During this enforced stop one of the Monkey Butler Boy’s contemporaries, the Garrulous Kid looked at my frame and declared, “I never knew Peugeot made bikes.”

For a moment I was utterly and completely speechless – or gobsmacked in footballer parlance. I can sorta-maybe-kind-of get that kids today may never have heard of Holdsworth, they were in the grand scheme of things a largely domestic, perhaps arguably provincial team on distinctly British bikes. But Peugeot? A behemoth amongst elite professional teams, steeped in the heritage of our sport and home to some of the greatest riders of the past?

Peugeot were recently calculated to be the most successful cycling team of all time by the website cycleranking.com and their roll-call of riders included Charly Gaul, a young King Ted, Bernard Thévenet, Tom Simpson, Robert Millar, Steven Roche, Sean Yates and Phil Anderson among others.

Even if they don’t relate the name to actual bikes, surely everyone knows the iconic white jersey with the black, chequerboard band of the Peugeot team? Does cycling for some people really start with Bradley Wiggins or Lance Armstrong? What a thoroughly depressing thought.

Relieved of duties on the front, Taffy Steve and I drifted back through the pack where we found Richard of Flanders, another rider who’d eschewed his winter-bike for one last blast on his high-priced carbon velocipede. Unfortunately, the lack of guards on his best-bike had given him an unsightly smear of dripping, congealed sludge between his buttocks and I suggested he looked like he’d “done a LeMond” and queried if he was all right.

If possible the roads seemed even more filthy than they’d been last week, which in itself was “a three bucket day” in terms of bike cleaning and no one seemed to have escaped the mud spatters and general road grime. As we rode through a long stretch of mud-caked track our wheels picked up and casually flung a cold shower of filthy water up and over everyone and I heard a plaintive cry of, “Me gansys aal clarty!” from OGL – or in rough translation from the idiomatic Geordie: “What-o chaps, my jersey is becoming somewhat mud-speckled.”

We split just before the clamber up to Dyke Neuk then worked our way through Angerton. With the group splintered and scattered on the final climb past Bolam Lake, Zardoz eased himself slowly to up to the front and waited a heartbeat. I could almost imagine him cackling loudly and rubbing his hands with glee as he then put the hammer down and we were strung out and hurtling toward the café. Again.

I was surfing the wheels, staying just back off the front group when we hurtled down into Milestone Woods, only to encounter a horse and rider blithely trotting along the verge. Brakes were forcefully applied and our momentum bled quickly away as we negotiated this unexpected impediment. Then safely around it, we hit the rollers with no time to build the speed back up and a few struggling trying to turn too big a gear.

I chased after the lead bunch, pulling the FNG with me as we rode down and passed a few of this groups cast-offs, including Zardoz who I caught just before the road tipped over for the winding descent to the last uphill scramble.

Around the last bend, the FNG sailed past on my outside with the distinctive, ticking thrum of slight chain rub, but his timing was poor and I caught and passed him on the final ramps as he faded and I closed, but couldn’t quite catch Goose ahead of me.

Bundling into the café we were again forced to haul on the brakes, not by a horse this time, but by the new till system that the staff were still struggling with. This time though they’d placed a big sign on the counter warning that service could be slow, while they tried to work out which buttons to press and paused occasionally to curse out the management who’d imposed the new system on them.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop

The Garrulous Kid arrived with a huge slice of cake he declared was Victoria Sponge, but sadly still no Spear & Jackson miniature cake spade to eat it with.

In between bites, he mentioned his school was awash with pupils who’d been saddled with truly preposterous names. None of the examples he gave were particularly startling or outlandish in the greater scheme of things, but we did wonder why parents burdened their kids with names that pegged them to a specific era, tied them to some ropey, cheesy, feckless celebrity or trashy TV show and so cruelly betrayed their worst chavvy, trailer-trash tendencies.

Taffy Steve declared his simple rule of thumb – to be applied equally to both girl and pet names – if it sounds like you’re calling for a stripper, then you might need a re-think – so no more Roxy, Bambi, Cheyenne, Crystal, Jewel, Kyla, Britney, Lacey, Lexi or Destiny.

His particular ire was drawn to “unusual” or “exotic” (i.e. dumbed down, awkward and simply bad) spellings of well-known names, a disdain he seemed to share with Mrs. Taffy Steve who he applauded for one epic put-down of a new pupil:

“But Miss, my name’s Chelsea. Spelt with a Y”

“Yes, well I can’t be accountable for your parents’ illiteracy.”

The Natty Gnat declared we needed to take control of this and called for government intervention. We all agreed that there should be a list of sanctioned names and approved spellings that everyone had to conform to when registering births. Failure to do so should result in a slap around the head, the admonishment not to be so bloody stupid and instructions to go away and try again.

We say: no more stupid celebrity names – no more Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches, Apple, Sage Moonblood or Reignbeu, no more Buddy Bear, no more Crux, no more Rumor.

We say: no more calling kids after places – no more London, Tokyo, India, Dallas, Manhattan, Chardonnay or Scunthorpe.

We say: no more dumbed down spellings – no more Chelsy or Raychul or Britni or Kortny.

You know we used to joke about giving kids stupid names – I always thought Debbie Dobbie or Robbie Dobbie would be a great idea … but it was only a joke.

I also used to work with a Maltese bloke call Bob Cardona, who said he wanted to call his son Barclay … but it was only a joke.

Or a boy at school called Nigel Long who wanted to call his son Ob … but it was only a joke.

So Kanye West, what flash of comedic brilliance encouraged you to call your kid North. Is it still funny? Will he be laughing in 10 years’ time? He has to carry that name for the rest of his life.

And Rob Morrow – I loved Northern Exposure, but then you had to go and call your daughter Tu. Tu Morrow. Ha-frickin’-ha.

(A special mention must go to a bloke that both Crazy Legs and Mrs. Sur La Jante knew through work – yes indeed, step forward Mr. Robert Sherunkel, or Bob as he was more commonly known. I don’t think he works with them anymore, perhaps he finally snapped and has been locked up for parricide.)

Other countries have taken a stand against this in-bred stupidity and I applaud them: in Italy, a jury prevented a couple from calling their kid Friday as they thought the name would expose him to mockery, while in Norway a woman was for jailed for two days for naming her child Bridge. Now that’s a result.

So come on, no more Zhaden, no more Zyler or Skyler, no more Jakasta or Chayse or Chelsie or Cortnee or Kade. Please, think of the kids.

[By the way, Government research suggests pupils’ names are linked to differing success rates in exams, while a study found that psychiatric patients with more unusual names tended to be more disturbed.]

We had a brief discussion about unsavoury places to ride your bike – the kind of places you pray you don’t puncture or get stopped at the lights. Taffy Steve reflected that the number of big bore exhausts on annoyingly noisy, badly-driven small cars was a good warning indicator – the higher the number, the less you should be looking to linger. The proportion of gardens decorated by trampolines was another ready-reckoner, although he felt you could probably discount those with safety netting.

Talking about all the less than salubrious places we’d been, the Natty Gnat trumped us by claiming to have once lived in Middlesbrough and survived to tell the tale.

I wondered if anyone remotely famous had ever come from Middlesbrough, other than Paul Daniels of course and Taffy Steve was going to suggest Ridley Scott, before correcting himself when he remembered the film director was actually from South Shields.

With names being the topic du jour I suggested that perhaps nothing was quite so strange as a Belgium bicycle manufacturer naming themselves after a film director born on Tyneside and with no known affiliations or connections to cycling. Apparently Ridley CEO, Jochim Aerts named his bike company after film director Ridley Scott because it sounded right and added an international tone.

This led the Garrulous Kid to declare that at least Belgium had a great football team, a statement which brought a Cheshire Cat smile a mile wide to the face of our exiled Welshman, Taffy Steve.


Astonishingly and for perhaps the first time ever our route through the lanes past Kirkley Mill was completely empty of cars and we didn’t have anyone driving aggressively toward us, flashing their lights or leaning on their horns. G-Dawg suggested all the rat-running routes on the Sat-Navs must be turned off for the day.

We were leading as we began to pace the group up Berwick Hill, managing to keep the pace steady even as the gradient rose. “Any minute now.” G-Dawg suggested and began to countdown.

“5-4-3-2-1”

“Easy!” the shout came up from OGL, bang on cue.

“Ah, timing” I suggested, “The secret of good comedy.”

Well, with the Red Max away on holiday, someone had to step up and be shouted at.

This proved to be the last bit of excitement for the day and the ride home was smooth and uneventful.


YTD Totals: 5,774 km / 3,588 miles with 56,883 metres of climbing

Freak Wallaby

Freak Wallaby

Club Run, Saturday 27th August, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  102 km/63 miles with 700 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                        4 hours 4 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.0 km/h

Group size:                                       20 riders, 3 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   16°C

Weather in a word or two:           A game of two halves


The Ride:

3 september
Ride Profile

By heck, isn’t the Vuelta entertaining this year, in a way the Tour singularly failed to be. Not that I’m one of those people who would say the Tour was boring. Predictable? Yeah… maybe, in that the final result was widely known half way in, but boring? Then again I’m a person who sees a certain savage grandeur in the way Team Sky ratchet up the pressure on climbs until the rest of the field get gradually worked loose and slowly whittled down. Or “strangled” as the critics would unkindly insist.

Anyway, at least old Stone Face has actually decided to fight for the Vuelta, he’s climbing fantastically well and the Ungainly One is just about hanging on by his fingernails. We could yet see someone giving the Sky behemoth a right kicking*.

One minor gripe though – is it just me, or has Sean Kelly decided that Simon Yates rides for Ulrika Bike Exchange?

[*After Sunday’s stage it looks like only a catastrophe will derail Stone Face as the Sky behemoth and the Ungainly One were well and truly outfought and outthought in a classic Contador ambush that Quintana profited from. El Pistolero might not have the legs anymore, but there’s no one to match him tactically – he’s what my old boss would call a “wiry old fox”]

Meanwhile, somewhere in the North of England, Saturday’s weather was promising heavy rain showers on just about every forecast I checked – the only real question was just when they were going to hit, although mid-ride at 11.00 seemed to be the general consensus.

The promise of perhaps-maybe half a ride in dry conditions was enough to tip the balance in favour of Reg, despite the newly serviced and primed Peugeot, complete with mudguards, sitting there looking hopeful. Not yet, mon ami, but your time will come.

Of course I may have made the wrong decision as the slight grating noise of a couple of weeks ago seems to have returned. As I levelled out along the valley floor and the noise of traffic fell away I heard a strange, chirping from the drive-train which was grumbling away and seemed to be calling out to me: freak, freak, freak – wallaby … pause … freak, freak, freak – wallaby.

The noise disappeared when I freewheeled, or quietened to a whisper when I jumped out of the saddle, but always came back annoyingly, freak, freak, freak – wallaby. I pressed on, knowing the problem wasn’t going to get any better, but hoping it wasn’t going to get worse and plotting how I could get the bike to Patrick at Brassworks Bicycle Company to let him try and figure out what the problem is.

As I made my way across to the meeting point I passed a group of half a dozen riders, all decked out for extreme weather in rain jackets, tights and overshoes. In just a jersey and shorts, they made me feel rather under-dressed and perhaps wildly unprepared for what was to come. Did they know something I didn’t?

At the meeting point though, I was re-assured to find very few of us had our winter bikes out and even fewer were wearing much beyond shorts and jerseys – if we were going to get soaked – we’d be doing it all together.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Rab D arrived astride his old winter hack, with the BMC Time Machine left safely at home, not because he worried about riding it in the rain, but because he felt if things turned really mucky he’d have to disassemble half the bike just to clean it properly.

If he was waiting for ideal atmospheric conditions to ride his new toy, we determined there was probably only 3 days a year when he could safely use it – and we’d had 2 of those already.

Crazy Legs turned up with tales of the Bank Holiday club run last Monday, which he described as the worst ride. Ever. I had been tempted to ride too, but had missed out and in the process perhaps dodged a bullet.

The day had started auspiciously enough with a plan to ride to the coast, but the group had somehow ended up travelling along the Spine Road, one of the most heavily trafficked routes in the County, on a Bank Holiday, in decent weather and with the Tall Ships departure from Blyth enticing an inordinate amount of cars onto the road.

Unable to find a misplaced, mis-remembered crossing point and desperate to escape the deadly rush of traffic, Crazy Legs had utilised Google Earth to identify an old track they could use to by-pass the road and led them down it.

The track however narrowed, turned boggy and then marooned them in the middle of wildly, overgrown and nettle-riddled field as it completely disappeared. At this point there was some discussion about whether they should turn back and face death by road traffic accident, or press on and face drowning in quicksand. Crazy Legs though was convinced nothing could be worse than riding down a dual carriageway in that traffic.

At one point, he said he was riding through the wilderness so carefully and so precariously that horseflies were feasting on his legs, but he didn’t dare let go of the handlebars to swat at them.

Finally shouldering their bikes, the group fought and clambered their way out onto a farm track, muddied, bloodied, bitten, stung, lost, tired and utterly miserable – emerging like a defeated army from the jungle and right under the nose of a local famer, who must have seen nothing quite like it in all his days, but didn’t bat an eyelid and completely ignored them!

They’d then found themselves traversing back along the Spine Road battling the terrifying, Tall Ships and Bank Holiday swollen traffic. Crazy Legs rode the entire way home behind Plumose Pappus to try and shelter him a little, convinced the youngster was going to be sucked under the wheels as he fluttered like a moth caught on a windscreen every time a lorry thundered past.

Red Max showed up without the Monkey Butler Boy, the allure of riding his new bike apparently having worn off, allowing him to once again reconnect with his teenage genes and demand to be left in bed.

Max had warned him there would be dire consequences and sure enough, as he left the Monkey Butler Boy was being presented with a list of domestic chores to complete since he wasn’t out riding. Now that’s the kind of motivation that can make an Olympic champion.

Mini Miss was out on her brand new Focus, having had her old bike completely replaced by the company after it had developed a crack along the top tube. She said she’d received a particularly terse and uncommunicative text from her daughter the previous night that simply read, “I’m not coming home.” We were assuming this was just a one off arrangement and not a long term declaration of intent.

Even Mini Miss however had to admit that Red Max trumped her, when he described a similar text from his daughter, “Dad, I’m moving out and I’m pregnant.”  Kids, eh?


I dropped into place, 3rd in line alongside Son of G-Dawg as we pushed off, clipped in and rode out, chuckling as the Red Max proved he’d chase down just about anything, swerving across the road in vain pursuit of a crow while shouting Ca-Caw, Ca-Caw and receiving a remarkably similar squawk of complaint in return.

We did wonder what might have happened if the bird had been so panicked it had flown off into his front wheel and it reminded us of the time we were ambushed by a pheasant that had clattered into flight from the roadside, right under the nose of our lead rider as we lined it out downhill for the café sprint. That had been a close enough call for us to treat our avian friends with a degree of caution.


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Red Max and Crazy Legs rotated off the front as we crested the hill past the Cheese Farm and Taffy Steve and Ovis took up the pace as we rattled and bumped along a series of badly cracked and cratered rode surfaces that are becoming pretty much the norm in these parts.

Further on and I rolled through onto the front with Son of G-Dawg, starting to pick our own route as we came to junctions with no instruction from further back and guessing we were making the right choices when there were no barking complaints from behind. It was a bit like playing Russian Roulette with a route map, or reading one of those adventure game-books. I hoped we didn’t take a wrong turn and end up in a den full of rabid trolls and kobolds.

At one junction we went left simply because they’d been trimming hedges on the right and we had visions of mass punctures. Yes, it’s autumn already so they’re starting to strew the clippings from thorn bushes across the road to deter cyclists.

Caught in a slightly too large gear with an immediate climb after the turn, I rose out of the saddle and stamped hard on the pedals and we flew upwards dragging everyone out in a long line behind.

Bursting round a sharp right hand turn at the top of the climb, our sudden appearance surprised a BMW approaching at too high a speed and already starting to swing wide across the road. Luckily the driver had time to brake and correct their line and the group behind managed to squeeze past.

A bit further on and travelling down a narrow country lane, Son of G-Dawg called out, “Car up!” and accelerated sharply so I could tuck in behind him. Even singled out and hugging the gutter, the bright red Toyota Yaris passed frighteningly close and frighteningly fast – and behind us the almost inevitable happened.

I’m still not quite sure if the car actually clipped Mini Miss, or came so close she took desperate and evasive action, but she ended up tangling wheels with Buster and coming down, while he bailed out for the safety of a roadside ditch.

I was astounded that the driver even stopped, but apparently this was just so she could tell us that we shouldn’t be riding on the road, while we, being the nicest, most polite cycling club known to man tried to reason with her in a rational manner. Perhaps this was the time when some incoherent swearing and outright anger might actually have served us better and made more of an impression.  Then again, maybe not.

As it was, satisfied she hadn’t quite managed to seriously injure anyone, completely unrepentant, utterly convinced she’d done nothing wrong and wasn’t in any way responsible, the driver climbed back into her car, slammed the door and roared away to endanger other weird people who mistakenly feel they have the right to use the roads, leaving us to assess the damage.

Mini Miss has somehow snapped the end completely off her brake lever and Buster was particularly chagrined to find his rear mudguard had been smashed to pieces, just after he’d finally managed to get it to stop rubbing. Luckily all the damage seemed to be to bikes rather than people, although on the ride back Buster complained his hip was causing some discomfort.

We regrouped slowly before pressing on and since we were close to a usual split point decided we wouldn’t stop again, but drop into different groups on the fly. Unfortunately, not everyone got the message and as the amblers split off for the café, Happy Cat missed the turn and uncharacteristically found herself tagging along with the faster, longer, harder group.


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She’d also taken the weather forecasts to heart and was wearing a baggy and billowing waterproof jacket that not only acted like a drogue parachute, but slowly began to boil her as the pace increased and she fought to hang on.

We finally called a halt to split the group again, carefully steering Happy Cat away from the longer, harder, faster self-flagellation ride, but Taffy Steve failed to convince another struggler who was lured away by the siren song of the racing snakes, perhaps never to be seen again.

Happy Cat managed to ditch the jacket, stuffing it roughly into two of the pockets of her jersey and then it was just a case of hanging on as we wound our way back to the café.

I suggested that now she’d ridden and survived with the longer, harder, faster group she’d struggle to ever go back to the amblers. She was still smiling, but I don’t think I convinced her.

Down through Milestone Woods and over the rollers, I ran up the outside of the group and was sitting perched on the shoulder of the lead man as we dropped down and then began the long drag up to the café. A quick glance behind showed me Son of G-Dawg and G-Dawg stacked on my wheel, so I buried myself in an impromptu lead out until they swept around me and I could sit up.

A few others passed me as well, but faded as the slope ground on and I managed to claw back and overhaul them. Then just as I approached the white finish line, Taffy Steve charged up on my outside, screaming incoherently and threw his bike over the line in a fair imitation of Chris Hoy, stealing the sprint by a tyre’s tread.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A deeply traumatised Crazy Legs couldn’t let it go and circulated photos of their epic trek into the Northumberland Badlands during the Bank Holiday Club Run from Hell, including one shot of OGL leading his bike while he tip-toed gingerly along a very narrow, very muddy trail perched precariously above a marshy and incredibly boggy rivulet.

Another photo showed cyclists adrift in an overgrown field that had deliberately been left fallow … for a decade or three perhaps, while the most damning was left until last – a picture of the much cosseted Ribble, befouled, begrimed and mud-spattered to such a degree that the brakes would no longer function because of the build-up of mud, grit and crap caught up in them.

The conversation turned to the Planet X outlet where Crazy Legs suggested he’d been lucky to escape without treating himself to a new TT bike on a recent visit. I happened to mention the Vittoria Anniversary, limited edition shoes they were currently selling, RRP £220, but reduced to £34 and made from very glossy, very shiny “gold medal microfibre.”

Sadly, they didn’t have my size, nevertheless I think I managed to horrify everyone by suggesting that I would even consider wearing bright gold shoes and they all agreed it was a step too far and I would need to dominate every sprint to be able to carry something like that off.


SHVIUNQ30_P2
Check out these bad boys

The conversation then turned to Reg, my Holdsworth frame which had also come to me via Planet-X. Being a somewhat, err, distinctive design in an eye-bleeding combination of vile red, poisonous black and acid yellow, with the group wondering if I’d been instantly attracted to it.

I had to confess to loathing the frame on first sight, but it had been an absolute bargain and I thought it would serve as a stopgap until I got something better. Then I’d slowly grown to appreciate it’s somewhat esoteric and divisive looks – to such an extent that it now influences what I wear.

Taffy Steve suggested it was somewhat akin to going to the puppy pound for a pedigree dog and being chosen by the ugliest, rattiest, scrattiest, flea- ridden pug in the entire place, that wouldn’t let you leave without it.


Tour des Flandres 2010
We might be the ugliest, rattiest, scrattiest, flea-ridden combo going, but in my minds-eye at least we (almost) look this cool!

Crazy Legs had been out with G-Dawg the night before, sampling the wares at a local brewery, where the pair of them wrestled myopically with a long, poorly printed beer menu in bad light. Crazy Legs had resorted to his Nooz reading glasses, slipping them out of his wallet and slapping them on long enough to determine that Beer#1 was a lager and #2 was a bitter.

Of course G-Dawg was utterly delighted by the slightly unusual style of the Nooz specs and had ripped the piss mercilessly out of Crazy Legs for the rest of the night, until leaning conspiratorially across and quietly asking – “What do you call them specs and where can I get some?”

Taffy Steve was questioned about the NTR Club Runs which take place every Tuesday and Thursday evening, involving upwards of 80 riders at a time and all impeccably organised into different groups and abilities via Facebook. In the realms of club run organisation they are multi-spectral and satellite earth-imaging compared to our water dousing with bent willow twigs.

I was interested to learn if they continued the rides throughout the year, even when the nights became dark and cold and Taffy Steve reminded us he’d first started riding with them just before Christmas last year. We decided he was perhaps unique in British Cycling as the only person to ever join a club in the middle of December.


I left Crazy Legs and the G-Dawg collective camped out in the café declaring it was too early to leave and if they went home now they’d be expected back at the same time every week, but everyone else was pressing to see if they could beat the rain home, so I joined the general exodus.

It wasn’t to be, however and the much-forecast rain finally arrived as we grouped up before setting off, delaying slightly while everyone dug out their rain jackets. Once started the rain didn’t ease and everything and everyone were soon soaked through, but at least it wasn’t cold and the rain had had the good grace to hold off until after we exited the café.

The Prof introduced me to one of the FNG’s who also lives south of the river, so as I exited the Mad Mile I had company for a change as we worked our way down to the bridge.

Crossing the river, he then turned right, while I swung left and I was soon alone again with just my thoughts, the rain drumming on my helmet and back and that insistent, persistent murmur of protest from the bike under me; freak, freak, freak – wallaby…


YTD Totals: 4,938 km / 3,068 miles with 48,766 metres of climbing

The Hills Are Alive

The Hills Are Alive

Club Run, Saturday 8th August, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   110 km/68 miles with 1,043 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 14 minutes

Average Speed:                                   25.8 km/h

Group size:                                           32 riders, No FNG’s

Temperature:                                      23°C

Weather in a word or two:              Bright and breezy


The Ride:

Ride Profile 6 August
Ride Profile

 

Well, I’m off on holiday tomorrow, so this could be quick and dirty – let’s see where it goes…

Saturday was again bright and breezy and looked like another great day for a ride, so I was up in good time and raring to go, but delayed when Cat#2 decided to violently reject his breakfast all over the office floor. Leaving 10 minutes late as a consequence of cat-yark cleaning-up duties, I had the choice of shortening my route in, or just pedalling a little bit harder.

I chose the latter, perhaps unwisely, as I wasn’t feeling super-fit: a lingering but very mild cold (even by man-flu standards) had plagued me all week with a sore throat and seemed to have brought on a visitation from the snot fairy overnight.


Snot Fairy
An Unwelcome Visitation from the Snot Fairy

The happy circumstances of kids’ holidays, fine weather and Mrs. SLJ working from home had also allowed me to commute into work by bike on four consecutive days. I’ve taken to riding the last third of the Heinous Hill climb sur la plaque (although I realise that’s a rather relative term on a mountain bike) and three or four cogs down the cassette to try and build some leg power. Four iterations in a week had left me suitably leaden-legged.

Even worse when I hit the valley floor, the “benign and gentle summer breezes” promised for the day in a series of overly optimistic forecasts, turned out to be a rather stiff headwind. I pressed on with the plan to use my normal route nonetheless, figuring I’d be able to make up some of the lost time once I crossed the river and picked up a tailwind, or failing that on the climb out of the valley.

For such a promising day the roads were surprisingly cyclist free, but there was an increased volume of cars to contend with, perhaps a consequence of the on-going repairs to stop the A1 Tyne crossing slowly crumbling and I found myself queuing behind a long line of traffic to cross the Newburn Bridge, just managing to skip through the lights as they were changing.

Once across the river I picked up the pace and managed a couple Strava PR’s and four 2nd fastest times clambering up the other side of the valley. When I hit my usual checkpoint: 8.42 miles into the ride, the time was only 8.40, I was 2 minutes ahead of schedule and I could relax and enjoy the rest of the ride to the meeting point.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

Rab Dee’s new bike saga has finally reached a satisfactory conclusion and he was out astride his new, super-smart BMC Time Machine, having actually delayed his holidays in order to be able to ride his first club run on it. His only minor gripe was that OGL had charged him more than he expected for help assembly help. We suggested this was just the storage costs for keeping the bike securely in the shop for such an over-extended period of time. It also seems like a small price to pay for the horrible ball-ache involved in routing the internal cabling through the frame and making sure everything worked “just so” – you know, a hap’p’orth of tar and all that.

Crazy Legs politely asked permission and then did the standard, UCI approved weight-test, hefting the bike off the ground on extended fingers. He put it down, slightly perplexed and pursed his lips and shook his head a little. Ah! He fished both full water-bottles out of their cages and set them carefully on the pavement, then picked up the bike again, this time nodding approvingly.

New bikes seemed to be the order of the day and the Monkey Butler Boy was there on his new steed, wearing what the BFG described as a “carbon-fibre cushion smile” courtesy of the saddle he’d donated to the project. I expressed surprise at finding the Monkey Butler Boy and Red Max at the meeting so early and put this down to the simple enthusiasm of the new bike.

Apparently it was even worse than I suspected though, as Max related how the Monkey Butler Boy had been awake dressed and down to the Post Office at 6.30 that morning to pick up a parcel containing his new carbon fibre pedals and then pestered his dad to fix them on immediately – all this from someone that Max says he usually has to pry out of bed with a crowbar.

The Red Max then confirmed the Monkey Butler Boy had blown his entire life-savings on his new bike and now only had only one single penny left to his name. Crazy Legs surmised that weight-saving on bikes must cost about a £1 for every gram lost, perhaps £2 a gram once you get below a certain threshold.

The consensus among the club seems to be that Lizzie Armitstead should not be riding in the Olympics and should accept the sanction imposed for missing three drugs-tests, even though many gave her the benefit of the doubt and suspected she probably wasn’t cheating, but just a bit dopey. Crazy Legs made the valid point of asking what sort of reaction we’d had to Christine Ohuruogu following her series of missed tests. Fair point.

Spry, who has an unrequited love affair with Miss Armitstead (unrequited only because they haven’t yet met, of course) remained silent, but I suspect he wasn’t actually paying attention as he’s lately been much too busy devising ever more labyrinthine plots whereby Philip Deignan would meet a gruesome end in an unfortunate accident with an out-of-control agricultural threshing machine.


The good weather had enticed a large bunch out for the run, so at 9.15 Crazy Legs led a procession of over 30 lads and lasses as we pushed off, clipped in and rode out. I joined him on the front as we spent the first couple of mile at a very gentle pace ensuring everyone negotiated the lights, traffic and roundabouts in good order and we were “all on” as we picked our way out into the countryside and began to pick up speed.


 

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As we started up Berwick Hill, Crazy Legs song of choice for the day was “Annie, I’m Not Your Daddy” and I wondered aloud about where Kid Creole is now, and if he was living under a witness protection programme after turning state’s evidence. Naturally and as intended, the requisite ear-worm was planted and Crazy Legs started singing “Stool Pigeon” while I added some appropriate “Ha-cha-cha-cha’s!”

Crazy Legs determined that our recent duets – “Rawhide”, “Jimmy, Jimmy” and now “Stool Pigeon” actually helped on the climbs and made them go a little quicker and easier. We decided we needed a song for every hill and he wondered what songs the professional might adopt.

I felt it was obvious Andy Shleck would choose some cheesy Euro-hit and suggested “Barbie Girl” or anything else by Aqua. Crazy Legs disagreed, saying that you couldn’t possibly be expected to complete a long climb Alpe d’Huez or the Hautacam singing “Barbie Girl” over and over, well not without suffering serious psychological repercussions. Hmm, well if the cap fits…


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We found the hills were not only alive with the sound of … well I daren’t suggest music, but singing at least … but we were intermittingly riding through clouds of black flies that had been enticed out by the weather and were proving difficult  to both avoid and ingest. Crazy Legs gagged on one particularly meaty example, coughed and spat it out where it ricocheted of the road and pinged solidly off someone’s frame.

We then had a discussion about the collective noun for flies. I suggested swarm would be acceptable, Crazy Legs though thought that given the bullet-like, armour-plated nature of the kamikaze insect that had just dive-bombed his larynx, then perhaps “bolus” would be more appropriate.

Tired of breaking through each new bolus of flies, we ceded the front to Caracol and Moose Bumps and dropped in behind their wheels. Speeding up to the turn-off to Mitford we always take, all was quiet behind as Crazy Legs began a deliberate countdown, “Three … Two… One…Now!”

“Left, left, turn left!” OGL bellowed, but too late – we were well past the junction and there was no turning back. Oh well, that’s one way of finding some slightly less-travelled routes.


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Tracing our way back onto the right roads, it wasn’t long before we were climbing up to Dyke Neuk and waving goodbye to G-Dawg who had to zip off home early to look after the family dogs. A few miles further on we stopped to split the group and at this point both the BFG and me were found floundering and wondering what to do in the absence of G-Dawg who we always follow. The BFG admitted to feeling quite bereft now we’d lost our spiritual, if not de facto leader.


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While the faster-harder-longer, self-flagellation group set off for a faster-harder-longer, self-flagellation ride, Crazy Legs took charge of the rest and suggested a Hartburn to Middleton Bank route, even getting Szell’s approval for his nemesis climb, as he growled, “Bring it on!” with a just the smallest hint of trembling behind his misplaced bravado.

As we dropped down to the bridge at Hartburn and kicked up the other side I saw the BFG get his gearing all wrong to send his legs spinning in a wild, ineffective blur and I was laughing so hard I could barely climb up the hill after him and dropped to the back of the group trying to recover. I was still there as we began the climb up Middleton Bank, but was happy to take it at my own pace even as a small group broke clear ahead and rode away, reasoning that we always regroup over the top for the race to the café.


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Today however was one of those rare days where there would be no re-grouping and I found myself cresting the hill to see the front group disappearing into the distance. I set off in pursuit, eventually catching Carlton and the BFG, but our chase was disorganised and I couldn’t see us catching the leaders, so I eased back, determined to at least win the sprint for the minor placings. I dropped onto the BFG’s wheel as we started the last climb to the café and just waited until his tank inevitably clicked over onto empty and the strength fled his legs. Simple.

“Is that it?” I asked, easing past him.

“Exact same bloody place as last week.” He moaned as I rode away from him.

Well, there’s certainly a virtue in consistency.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Yet more new bikes were noticed at the café, this time belonging to a couple of riders who’d both had Litespeed titanium “bikes for life” that had suffered cracks and frame failures and both concluded their “Lifetime Warranty” was actually worthless.

They now both have shiny new plastic/carbon bikes to look after. This caused Szell no little discomfort, having just recently invested in a top of the line Van Nicholas titanium or “fat lad’s bike” as he described it. OGL assured him that Van Nicholas don’t have the same seemingly desperate reputation that Litespeed seems to be garnering … but then again he is a Van Nicholas dealer.

For some reason the conversation turned to dead pop stars with Crazy Legs lamenting the loss of Prince, who Szell declared he’d hated. When asked why, Szell seemed to suggest it was just pure jealousy as Prince was richer, better-looking, more successful, a better singer, more talented, “Hell,” he concluded, “Prince could probably climb Middleton Bank better.”

This naturally led to us considering what kind of cyclist Prince would be – obviously a grimpeur and Crazy Legs wondering what his climbing song would be and nominating “Starfish and Coffee” a song he’d spent quite some time trying to make sense of, before realising it was quite nonsensical.

So the cycling world missed out on a potential King of the Mountains contender, but as Crazy Legs surmised, you really wouldn’t want to watch a climber who would punctuate every pedal stroke with a “Whoo!” or “Ee-ee!”


As we were gathering everything up to leave the café, Taffy Steve appeared, having snapped his chain on the ride in from the coast that morning and being delayed by a diversion to a bike shop for repairs. He was just sitting down to a well-deserved coffee and cake combo as we were leaving and waved us off.

As we started down Berwick Hill someone was just saying how unusually civilized and orderly the run back had been, when a yellow blur flashed past, Taffy Steve going full-bore having chased us from the café in an epic pursuit and intent on finishing his solo ride in style. All hell then broke loose as a chase began, amidst much futile OGL shouting.

Things seemed to calm briefly for the steep ramp into Dinnington, before disintegrating again and we were soon scattered all over the road in small groups and single riders. I worked my way forwards jumping from wheel to wheel until I hit the roundabout to turn for home and eased, determined to enjoy the sunshine and the ride back alone at a more relaxed pace.

There was still time for the unusual sight of the day, a wedding procession that almost rivalled the 3 massive tractors of a few weeks ago, as I passed an entire wedding party aboard two ribbon-adorned, big red double-decker buses, before I was dropping down toward the river.

Again traffic was queued up and it was busier than I’d ever seen it on the approach to the bridge. This was nothing, however compared to the south side where the line of waiting cars must have been half a mile long, as I guess some sort of diversion was in effect. As I rode past all the frustrated impatient drivers, sweltering in their hot cars, I couldn’t help but feel glad that I was out in the open, moving freely and actually able to enjoy the weather.


YTD Totals: 4,603 km / 2,860 miles with 45,572 metres of climbing

The Butterfly Effect

Club Run, Saturday 30th July, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   107 km/ 67 miles with 984 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                                   24.9 km/h

Group size:                                           28 riders, No FNG’s

Temperature:                                      21°C

Weather in a word or two:              Cool, bright


30 july
Ride Profile

The Ride:

Another dry and relatively bright Saturday with no hint of rain and I’m beginning to feel rather spoiled. I could definitely get used to this. The stifling humidity of the past couple of weeks had given way to a cooler and much fresher feeling and it was chilly enough early on for me to pull on a pair of arm warmers for my ride across town.

I found a fairly stiff tailwind pushing me along the valley floor, which soon turned into a headwind as I looped back on the opposite side of the river. Nevertheless, a week away and free from commutes had me fairly fresh-legged and at the meeting point long before anyone else arrived.

The micro-climate of the Transport Interchange Centre suntrap allowed me to shed the arm warmers and it was very pleasant lounging in the sun while 28 lads and lasses assembled before riding out.


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Main topic of conversation at the start:

Rab Dee appeared, once again without his new BMC Time Machine which still resides in OGL’s workshop for continued tinkering with the internal cable routing. Perhaps only now are we slowly beginning to understand that the unlikely, overstated moniker isn’t a reflection of how fast the completed bike will be, but simply a consequence of how much time it eats away trying to get it into that completed state.

Relief is apparently at hand however, as OGL has conceived of a cunning plan involving superglue. I’m sure he knows what he’s doing but I wouldn’t be comfortable mixing expensive carbon frames, bottom brackets, internally routed cables and superglue.

G- Dawg and Son of G-Dawg fondly reminisced about their own familial bonding over the integrated carbon handlebar and stem set Son of G-Dawg received as a Christmas present. This took them most of Boxing Day to fit and the remainder of the day to take apart and re-assemble once they worked out where the critical spare component they had left at the end should have slotted in at the beginning. Next year, apparently Son of G-Dawg should expect nothing more technical than a bottle cage and bottle.

The BFG wrestled with something inside his jersey and finally, triumphantly revealed a saddle. A spare saddle? Apparently not, this was a gift for the Monkey Butler Boy, who wants a new bike and is perhaps contemplating building it piece by piece from other people’s cast-offs, something he’ll have to keep well hidden from the Prof, who believes he has the right of first refusal on all cast-off components or randomly encountered roadside detritus.

The BFG reflected that the saddle, nothing more than an unforgiving blade of pure carbon-fibre was “actually quite comfortable” but its sharp edges were wearing holes in his shorts. Now the Monkey Butler Boy has the chance to wear holes in his shorts instead.


I dropped to the back of the group as we set off, slotting in alongside Cowin’ Bovril as we threaded our way out of the city and into the countryside, variously discussing daughters and drinking, both electric and eclectic cars and thunderstorms and flash flooding in Cumbria.


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A loud clatter announced that my camera had shaken loose yet again from its mount under my saddle and was bouncing and cartwheeling back down the road. I stopped to retrieve it and found this time I was exonerated of all blame for shoddy fixing as the bracket had simply sheared completely away from the case. I can only guess that this was perhaps a consequence of the accumulated stresses from the horrible road surfaces we ride over, or perhaps it’s just an indictment of shoddy Chinese manufacturing and my own cheapskate buying patterns.

Back on the group we turned off for the Cheese Farm, only to be halted when Grover punctured and we stopped for repairs. He deftly swapped out his tube, slotted his chain back onto his chainring and then stood back to contemplate his be-grimed and oily paws and super-pristine, dazzlingly white bar tape in dismay. Oh. There’s a good reason for sticking to black bar tape.


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A long descent followed by a sharp, momentum-robbing right hand turn spat us out at the base of the Mur de Mitford, a real shock to the system for anyone who’d never scaled its hoary ramps before – and anyone getting their gearing hopelessly wrong.

I tried standing on the pedals and sweeping up the outside, but the road surface was damp and greasy and  my rear wheel was constantly slipping. “Softly, softly catchy monkey,” OGL called and I followed his advice, dropping back into the saddle and spinning upwards in a more restrained way, moving up from the back to the middle of the pack.

We regrouped again at the top, where another puncture was discovered, although this time the rider insisted he was turning off soon and so urged us to keep going.

We split the group further down the road and I went with the amblers as we tackled the Coldlaw Woods climb, avoiding the slightly harder and longer route up the Trench.

Nevertheless, the climb was still long enough and hard enough to split the group and I joined a small selection off the front with G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, the BFG and Cushty. We waited and regrouped at the top, but the next series of short sharp climbs as we started looping back toward the café splintered the group again and the same five of us rode clear.

I had a chat with Cushty who was wondering when the best time to attack would be. I advised him that with  just 20 metres left before the café would be a good time and warned that Son of G-Dawg had rather unfairly decided not to turn up hungover and was assuredly feeling more frisky than last week.

I took the lead as we swung down and around Bolam Lake, pushing the pace as hard as I could through Milestone Woods and over the rollers. As we swooped down and started the drag back up toward the café, Cushty put in his attack and for one, brief, glorious moment he had some daylight. Then the BFG with G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg in tow started to grind their way back to him.


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I tagged onto the back of the line as we swept upwards, incurring the wrath of a following car, who generously decided to treat us to an unwarranted blast of his horn. Son of G-Dawg coolly and phlegmatically pointed out to the RIM that he had the whole right hand lane available in all its empty entirety if he wanted to overtake us. As the car sped off Son of G-Dawg jumped, quickly burned off the BFG and then opened a big gap on G-Dawg.

With the BFG transitioning quickly and smoothly from “full-on” to “empty” in one brief nanosecond, I swept around him and gave chase, without ever threatening to close the gap on the front two.

I rolled into the café alongside the BFG who felt the need to retch dramatically from the effort and bemoan the decades long bout of pleurisy that seems to be inhibiting his natural potential.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the raddled confusion from sprint-induced oxygen-deprivation, the BFG’s eyes were playing tricks on him as he imagined one of the waitresses was dressed in some sort of fetish wear, French-maid outfit. He managed to shake himself out of his erotic reveries before it had unforeseen, yet highly visible consequences, reflecting that tight Lycra clothing could occasionally be a dangerous impediment to acceptable social mores.

I reassured him that a cycling helmet would not only make a suitable codpiece, but an eminently impressive one too. Word up.


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Word Up!

The BFG then received a disparaging, “I thought we were riding as a group” remark from the belatedly arriving OGL. We were riding as a group, just a little bit ahead and a little bit faster than the group that he was part of.

Retreating quickly to the garden, we were joined by G-Dawg who managed to spill enough coffee on his tray to turn the collected sugar cubes he was reserving for his refill into a slowly dissolving morass which he dumped onto the table to act as a “wasp assault course.”

Szell reported that earlier OGL had been stung by a wasp – not for the first time this year (although he claims the first incident was no mere wasp, but an exotic, mutant, killer hornet). We pondered what the attraction might be.

Someone then wondered if a thin smear of jam on his handlebars might enhance his attractiveness and net him even more attentive followers, perhaps encouraging him to trail a cloud of flying insects in a style reminiscent of Pig Pen from the Peanuts cartoons. I uncharitably concluded that he’d then never have to complain about being left to ride alone.

The BFG mentioned that his Local Bike Shop (LBS) had managed to destroy one of his wheels while truing the spokes. I surmised that tweaking your nipples was never a good thing, encouraging Szell to recount a tale about his own extreme version of jogger’s nipple suffered during a “fun run” where the abrasion of his vest caused bleeding “like stigmata.” By the time he’d somehow turned the conversation around to include the phrase “light frotting” I’d luckily managed to tune out.

Meanwhile, Richard of Flanders recounted a brief but seemingly serious interaction (can you have any other?) with old Stone-Face himself, Nairo Quintana and a routinely standard blow off by Cav when requesting a photo op (“Sorry mate, not at the moment”) at the recent Toady France.

He then went on to claim that the number of new cyclists was exactly equal to the number of people who’ve recently given up golf, implying a direct relationship between men in the midst of a mid-life crisis switching from a sport where they wear ridiculous clothing and spend far too much money on ultra-expensive equipment with the false promise that it will make them better, to one where they wear ridiculous clothing and spend far too much money on ultra-expensive equipment with the false promise that it will make them better.

While we were talking we saw our first butterfly of the summer, circling among the shiny plastic bikes, before happily alighting on G-Dawg’s chain, proof it ever it was needed that his was the cleanest of them all.

Someone said if it had landed on Szell’s it would probably still be stuck there, while he fantasised about plucking it up and pressing it into his calf so he could have a butterfly shape to complement the sharply defined and impressively delineated dirty chain-ring tattoo freshly applied to his leg this morning.

At the table opposite we watched jealously as the Monkey Butler Boy was press-ganged into service, handed a tray and sent off to secure coffee refills. I think it should be the ambition of every cycling group to have its own designated Monkey Butler Boy.

Having admirably discharged his coffee refill duties, he next swung his leg over a bike and disappeared around the corner, leaving me to surmise that the café had run out of milk and he was off on an errand to the local shops to buy some more. Sadly, he was back much too quickly for this to be the case and had apparently been trying out his dad’s bike. Just for size, honest.

Crazy Legs looked worryingly up at the blue sky and very high, very benign, fluffy white clouds and declared, “You know, I think it might rain.” He quickly scrambled onto his much cossetted-Ribble and was away before I could even say, “Eh?”

I suspect he was only joking and had to be back at a certain time to discharge family commitments, but then again maybe his finely tuned senses detected an infinitesimal increase in atmospheric moisture and a similarly small, but nonetheless threatening increment in the potential for a few random spots of light precipitation.


The return home was punctuated by Red Max trying to convince the Monkey Butler Boy that if he wanted to improve he needed to eat porridge even if he hated porridge, by employing the simple, perhaps flawed, but indisputably strong argument that all cyclists hate porridge!

I swept through the Mad Mile and pushed on for home, catching a favourable tailwind once I’d crossed the river to ease my way back. Good weather, a decent ride, but ever so slightly too short, too slow and too flat to be truly belter. Still, there’s always next week.


YTD Totals: 4,419 km / 2,745 miles with 43,596 metres of climbing

Audi-ophobia and an Ab-Fab Ride

Audi-ophobia and an Ab-Fab Ride

Club Run, Saturday 23rd July, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   114 km/71 miles with 1,075 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 23 minutes

Average Speed:                                   26.0 km/h

Group size:                                           22 riders, No FNG’s

Temperature:                                      23°C

Weather in a word or two:              Overcast, humid


Ride Profile 23 july
Ride Profile

The Ride:

Overnight rain had washed some of the mugginess out of the air and it was appreciably cooler compared to the stifling and oppressive stuffiness we’d endured in the past few days.

It didn’t look like it would be long before things warmed up though, with the sky capped by an insulating layer of thick, grey cloud and the wind light enough to leave the grass unstirred.

One consequence of the morning freshness following a week of warm humidity was that all the gardens, hedgerows and fields were growing with lush, unchecked abandon and the air was thick with a noticeable scent of blossom and pollen – which I found appealing, but is probably hell for anyone with allergies.

A few minor incidents with motorists kept me distracted on the run in and got me thinking about certain makes of car and my expectations of their drivers.

The first happened shortly after I’d left home and was dropping over the brow of the Heinous Hill, letting gravity pull me down and picking up speed rapidly. Around half way down I became aware of a car surging up on my right and moving to overtake – despite the fact I was already travelling at 38 mph, there was a traffic island slap bang in the middle of the road and we were fast approaching a sharp, blind bend.

I glanced behind to see a low-slung, black car hovering menacingly on my shoulder, so swung further out into the lane to dispel any notion that this was a suitable or safe place to try and overtake a solitary cyclist. Luckily sense prevailed, the car pulled back and I managed to open up a fairly sizeable gap as I skimmed down to the foot of the hill.

Turning left at the bottom I set out along the valley floor and it wasn’t long before the black car went blatting past at a quite ridiculous speed. I wasn’t even remotely surprised to register that it was an Audi TT, although they did catch me out by not remonstrating more forcefully about the 20 second delay I’d caused them.

Crossing the river and then doubling-back on myself, I then swooped around one bend to find a double-decker bus pulling out in front of me, so slowed to allow him space. Once again I sensed a car travelling too fast and too close, surge up close behind me before braking sharply and falling back.

This time it was blue Audi saloon, with a hugely pressing need to be somewhere else in a hurry and the righteous entitlement to all of the road. Oh, plus that unique capabilities that only a big German car can bestow, the capacity to see around corners and completely through large opaque objects, coupled with a magic shield of invulnerability.

Then, clambering up the other side of the valley, I was swinging left at a junction when a car followed me around, sweeping by much too close. This turned out to be a red Audi estate, driven (badly) by a man steering only with his left hand, because his right was much too hot and sticky, so he felt the need to dangle it out of his open window.

Now, I’m not suggesting that every Audi driver is a brainless RIM, or psychotic, self-entitled and dangerous arse-hat, but it does strike me that in my experience, these types of car have a higher chance of being piloted by just this type of driver. Vorsprung durch entrüsten, if you will.

It’s interesting, because a few years ago I would have classed BMW drivers as the ones to be wary around – perhaps our economic woes have caused them all to downshift? I also get the feeling that every cyclist has different experiences and their own personal bête noire when it comes to motor vehicles. Perhaps we need a national survey to identify the worst offenders – but for the time being, in lieu of more definitive evidence I’ll stick to my Audi-ophobia.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

I arrived to find Rab Dee discussing the latest progress (or perhaps lack of progress would be more accurate) on his new bike-build project, which seems to be struggling through a long, drawn-out and slightly troublesome gestation.

In fact, such are some of the complexities of his new BMC Time Machine that he has had to hand it over to OGL for help with some of the ultra-technical bits.

When I queried what the delay was, he reported that OGL is, “Waiting for a bit.”

My brain rattled and shook and clunked while I tried to process this, and when it failed I had to ask for clarification: “When you say he’s waiting for a bit, do you mean he’s waiting for a while … or that he’s waiting for a part?”

For some reason I had this rather churlish and totally unjustified suspicion that OGL might be punishing Rab for giving him such a thankless task, so had decided to agonisingly prolong the wait before he could ride his new toy. But no, apparently he is actually awaiting the arrival of a necessary component.

Crazy Legs arrived suffering a self-inflicted ear-worm as a consequence of spending Friday night at an amateur production of West Side Story, so we were treated to a fine rendition of “Gee, Officer Krupke.”

Golly Moses, natcherly we’re punks?

This was, somewhat startlingly a lot more highbrow than his usual endless repository of slightly off-kilter, occasionally tacky, pre-Millennial pop songs.

G-Dawg revealed his deepest, darkest shame – his close encounter with the Monkey Butler Boy last week had resulted in a slightly damaged spoke that he’d felt honour-bound to replace. The only problem was he couldn’t find any 3mm spokes and had to substitute in a 2mm one, which deeply offended his sense of order and tidiness.

He pointed out the exact spoke with an accusatory finger, it’s precise location seared into his memory by sheer mortification. We looked and looked. And then we looked some more, but none of us could actually see which one was the offending spoke, or notice even the slightest variation among any of the spokes in the immediate area.


At the meeting point I was somewhat surprised that only around 22 lads and lasses had gathered before we set out, given the weather I was expecting a much bigger turn out.

Son of G-Dawg joined the party late after, well partying late, enshrouded in a fugue of alcoholic fumes. It was good to see our plan of keeping him hopelessly hungover on Saturday mornings is working so well. Even better when you realise it’s all self-inflicted and we haven’t yet had to have a whip-round to secure him vast quantities of debilitating alcohol.


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The first indication that OGL had something different in mind was when we swung left at the first roundabout. Although quite unusual, this was not unheard of … but this was just the precursor, the appetiser, the hor d’oeuvres for a distinctly different club run.

I slotted in beside the Cow Ranger who informed me he was out for a gentle recovery ride ahead of a block of intense training for some upcoming triathlons. As we passed in front of the airport an all too familiar tinkling noise informed me that I’d jettisoned something else off the bike and I pulled over to let everyone else pass and see what I’d lost now.

Backtracking, I eventually found the bolt that held my camera to its mount had somehow worked loose and fallen away, but luckily the camera had remained in place. I tightened everything up again and gave chase.


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Now what’s dropped off?

There was no sign of our fast-travelling pack at the first junction, where I was faced with a 50/50 choice – left and up the hill or straight on and through the village. I guessed straight on and swept over the roundabout, trying to peer around the cars ahead and catch even the slightest glimpse of a brightly coloured peloton to let me know I was on the right road, but they were nowhere in sight.

Further delayed by traffic lights, I crossed the bridge in Ponteland and took our usual route heading straight over the next roundabout. Just as I exited, the Cow Ranger popped up with a very welcome “they went that-a-way” – pointing in the completely opposite direction, a direction in fact that I don’t recall us ever taking before and one I would never have guessed at without his timely intervention.

I did a quick U-turn, caught up with the Cow Ranger and we combined to give chase. Not only had I made him hang back and provide directions, I was now about to utterly ruin his gentle recovery ride as we started a madcap pursuit that lasted perhaps 3 or 4 miles.

Other than the moment when a car pulled abruptly out of a drive in front of us, our speed never dropped below 20 mph as we hammered along rolling roads, hoping to make the catch before the inevitable junction or split that left us with an insoluble choice, or before my legs burned down to ash and crumbled away.


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We finally tagged onto the back two or three cars that were trailing our mob like a convoy of team service vehicles. Sadly, there were no sticky bottles to be had and drafting through the cars didn’t seem like the wisest thing to do, so we waited until they overtook our group and then we were finally able to latch onto the wheels.

I thanked the Cow Ranger for his directions and inestimable help chasing back-on, in-between gasping for breath and trying to recover. “Yes, it’s surprising how fast we actually travel when we seem to be just pootling along in a group,” he replied laconically.

We had caught on just in time as OGL’s intended route unfolded and proved to be quite novel, encompassing many roads untraveled and some semi-familiar ones we took in the opposite direction to our normal rides. These felt eerily recognisable, but subtly different and I soon had to admit I was completely lost.

We called a pee-stop, but in the absence of the Prof and the Plank and the continuing saga of their duelling bladders, there were no takers.

The group split and the faster, longer, harder mob did a big loop around Middleton Bank, substituting one big climb for several smaller ones that proved possibly even more leg-sapping.


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We regrouped after crossing one major road, where we waited for Son of G-Dawg to determine if he was going down the marginal gains route of reducing weight by losing his stomach contents. Hangover induced nausea (barely) contained we pressed on, slowly closing on the café and ratcheting the speed up accordingly.

As we clattered down toward the Snake Bends I found myself comfortably tucked into the wheels as Son of G-Dawg defied his hangover to sprint off the front and away. I swung out and started to move past a few riders. I wasn’t attacking as such, but the momentum I’d gained surfing the wheels had me travelling faster than everyone else I was slipstreaming. Unsurprisingly this brought a reaction, everyone kicked and I slotted neatly back in to place and rode the wheels to the café without really needing to exert myself.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Captain Black suffered a senior moment when ordering an additional glass of iced-water to go with his coffee and scone. He looked at the numbers on the till display in some confusion and saw them blinking £5.80 at him –considerably more than the £4.20 he expected to spend.

“How much is the water?”  He asked in a strangled voice.

“It’s free.”

“But, but, how much are you charging for the coffee and scone now?” He asked, pointing accusingly at the LCD numbers still blinking furiously on the till and starting to get a little exasperated.

“£2.40 for the coffee, £1.80 for the scone.”

“Huh?” He responded, now gesturing vaguely at the till display in confusion.

“You gave me a £10 note…” the waitress patiently prompted, waiting for the penny to drop.

You could hear the cogs whirring and catch the faint smell of burning as Captain Black ran through a series of not too exacting mental calculations: £2.40 for coffee plus £1.80 for the scone plus £0.00 for the water, that makes, oh let me see … £4.20! And I gave her £10.00, so £10.00 minus £4.20 …

“Oh!”

Outside in the garden we tried to calculate just how much money the café made from our patronage, with OGL airily suggesting a figure in excess of £50,000 a year. My own version of whirring cogs and faint burning suggested less than £20,000 is probably a more accurate, but still not inconsiderable sum – perhaps adequate compensation for our unceasing chatter, occasional smothering of the fireplace in kit that smells as bad as a wet dog and the odd random waterlogged seat cushion.

And of course we’re not the only group of cyclists that regularly visit the café.

(Assumes an average of 25 cyclists per visit on every Saturday and Sunday throughout the year – it may be higher in summer, but will definitely be less in winter –spending £7.50 per head. Or 25 cyclist’s x 2 days’ x 52 weeks’ x £7.50 spend = £19,500).

Someone suggested a loyalty card, but Crazy Legs dismissed the idea as he could foresee it involving the collection of at least 50 stamps. So then – one single free cup a year or perhaps even less frequently? Nah.

Thoughts then turned to how we could ever trust a figure like the proven liar and epitome of boorish, public-schoolboy buffoonery, Boris Johnson with the post of Foreign Secretary and expect him to forge relations with the rest of the world given his unerring propensity to casually insult other people and insert his size 11 shoes into his always uselessly-flapping maw.

Discussion turned to our American cousins’ desperate Hobson’s Choice – Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton and how the world appeared to be sleep-walking toward disaster. Crazy Legs however was quick to remind us that we all thought the world was going to end when Ronald Reagan was elected and somehow we managed to survive, so perhaps there’s hope yet.


The ride home found Crazy Legs pondering if the recently announced Undertones 4oth Anniversary Tour would feature Feargal Sharkey (sadly not) – which in turn led to an impromptu “Jimmy, Jimmy” duet as we climbed Berwick Hill.

Perhaps spurred on by the ragged rhythms of our punkish nostalgia, or more possibly in an attempt to deprive us of the oxygen required to keep singing, the pace picked up until OGL was complaining that he’d “raced up here at a slower speed” than we were churning out. Not that he ever, ever, in a billion-gazillion years, ever exaggerates.


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Crazy Legs declared it another great ride and who am I to disagree, as we split for home and I cruised through the Mad Mile and away. I passed one of those stick-thin, hard-as-teak, old cyclists cruising along on a vintage steel bike and exchanged the obligatory, UCI approved universal greeting: “How do?”

Spotting my Viner jersey, he started to quiz me about its provenance, obviously mistaking me for one of those Johnny-come-lately, young whipper-snappers who doesn’t appreciate the heritage of great cycling brands and needs forcibly re-educating, like the youngster who saw my Holdsworth Stelvio and asked what kind of name that was for a bike. I think I managed to convince him I wasn’t just an effete poseur and thankfully he let me go without further admonishment.

For the second time in the past fortnight I was passed climbing the Heinous Hill by someone on an e-bike (see: Electraglide in Beige – although this time it was more a case of  Electraglide in Hi-Viz.)

I told the old feller atop it that now I knew I was doing something wrong and he suggested I might be looking at my own future. Not yet though and not today. Today I couldn’t see any of the four horsemen astride the e-bike and I wasn’t on my ratbag mountain bike either, or carrying a heavy backpack.

So, despite having 70 miles in the legs already, I dug in and increased the tempo. Then, trying to keep a perfectly expressionless face and breathe easily, I caught up to, passed and dropped the damn e-bike. Ouch, it hurt, but I got there.


YTD Totals: 4,293 km / 2,668 miles with 42,402 metres of climbing