The Trouble With Garibaldi’s

The Trouble With Garibaldi’s

Well, the previous Saturday didn’t go at all to plan. I managed to prise myself out of bed, despite the rain and cold and set off on the single-speed with a degree of hopeful optimism, only for my rear wheel to slowly seize, to the point where it felt I was riding with the brakes on. I’d only travelled around 10km when things became so bad I had to stand out of the saddle just to get up and over a speed bump, and at this point I quit, did a complete 360° around a convenient mini-roundabout and set off back home.

I tried working a circuitous route up the Heinous Hill, that would at least give me a fighting chance as I ground and gurned my way agonisingly upwards, but the final steep ramp proved to be my downfall and with the chain starting to slip and skip I admitted defeat and climbed off. Pah!

“Almost made it!” a cheery passer-by noted.

Pah! Again. I was definitely not amused. Still, my ride may have been cruelly curtailed, but maybe I’d just endured the hardest 20km of my life.

Sunday brought me a Covid booster. Tuesday brought me the onset of a 4-day-long headache and a general feeling of washed-out grottiness. Perhaps the two were related, but I don’t know.

Luckily, at least the weather looked like being dry on Saturday, so I could eke out another ride on the ‘good’ bike. It was just as well, as Andy Mapp had devised the route, initially with an assault up the Ryals included, although he’d later decided to reverse the final loop to go down the Ryals instead, just in case G-Dawg was thinking of using his fixie. He wasn’t, the weather was dry enough for his good bike too, but the route change remained.

It was in fact, not only dry, but agreeably and unseasonably warm for November, and half the group were wearing shorts with, for one week only, no one thinking to question their sanity. Well, no one except me. I remained well wrapped up and was happy to be so.

I was slightly late courtesy of several sets of new roadworks on the valley road and arrived to find G-Dawg explaining that he’s perhaps the only person in the club who’d prefer to climb up the Ryals rather than go down, the legacy of a speed wobble he once suffered on the descent. This mental aberration seems to still be living completely rent free in his head.

Alhambra was intrigued about how you would tackle such a fearsome descent if you were on a fixie, and whether you’d be best just lifting your feet clear of the pedals to freewheel. Crazy Legs pointed out the obvious flaw to this plan – if you couldn’t hold your legs up for the duration of the descent, the furiously rotating cranks would smash your ankles to flinders. So nobody’s going to be trying that anytime soon.

The pleasant weather had brought out a sizable contingent and we were 29 strong, sprawled across the pavement. Big numbers, but we still couldn’t scrape together a good half a dozen straight men and true for the first/faster group. With just 5 volunteers, I finally bit the bullet and sacrificed full-enjoyment for a little speed. Fully committed with no turning back, I immediately pushed out onto the front alongside Caracol, reasoning that I would do a good, long stint in the lead, get that responsibility out of the way and then just try to hang on for as long as I could.

Off we went. through Dinnington, up Berwick Hill and out to Kirkley, entertained by Caracol whose been watching I’m a Celebrity … just to see how much (richly deserved) humiliation is heaped upon the head of sackless, hapless and repugnant Hatt Mancock. On the road to Ogle we finally ceded the front and I put the second part of my plan into operation, just hanging on as best I could. Even that was going to be no easy task though, the pace rarely dropped below 30kph, and I picked up 9 new Strava PR’s in the next 10km stretch.

We hit some of the climby-grindy-hilly bits I recognised from our club time-trial course. This gave me nasty flashbacks which were only compounded when the Cow Ranger reminisced about previous versions of the event, when the circuit had to be completed twice over. Err … No thanks.

At bottom of the Quarry the Cow Ranger then left us to head for home, all part of his carefully formulated preparation for the 2022 World Triathlon Age-Group Championships in Abu Dhabi in just 2 weeks’ time.

Naturally, as soon as I heard where the championships were being held, I couldn’t rid myself of the childish thought that the people of Dubai don’t really like the Flintstones, but the people in Abu Dhabi do.

Dad humour. As awful as it is inescapable.

Heading towards the Ryals now, I was flagging and told Caracol I was going to drop off to cut up through Hallington rather than follow the planned long loop around the reservoir. Apart from quite liking this short-cut, despite its shockingly poor road surface, the detour would also shave a couple of miles off what was heading toward an uncharacteristically long winter ride, even for the uncharacteristically un-winter like conditions.

As I dropped off the front, I found Goose at the back wrestling with the near indestructible cellophane around his snack of choice, tearing at it furiously with his teeth to little effect as he drifted off the wheels.

“You picked a bad time for refueling,”

“I’m having trouble with me Garibaldi’s,” he complained plaintively.

“Ooph, I sympathised, “Nothing worse than trouble with your Garibaldi’s. You can probably get an ointment for it, though.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered anyone using Garibaldi’s for mid-ride refuelling. Perhaps the reason is Goose’s later observation that they’re really quite dry and he’d actually had to persuade the rest of the group to stop to give him a chance to wolf them down without choking.

Interestingly, I’m sure everyone knows the Garibaldi biscuit was named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, a leader in the struggle for Italian unification, but I wonder how many know he made a popular visit to South Shields in 1854. This I find even more random and remarkable than Muhammad Ali’s visit to that particular North East berg in 1977. I mean, WTF?

I let the others ride off and rolled down the Ryals at a relatively sedate pace, before taking the sharp right opposite the war memorial and starting to climb upwards. I was now travelling at a much more sustainable pace, idly wondering if the others would complete their loop and catch me before I made the cafe.

They didn’t, but they weren’t all that far behind and I’d only just sat down with cake and coffee when they bustled in after me. A discussion about how many hummingbirds it took to make hummingbird cake became a little surreal even by our standards, but luckily we were distracted when OGL appeared from the back room to tell us he was off as he had to get back early.

We waved him off and he almost reached the door, before shuffling back to remind us it was G-Dawg’s birthday today, before turning around . He actually had his hand on the door knob before he came back again, this time to tell us how many motorist’s he’s caught on camera making close passes and shopped to the local constabulary. He’s particularly proud of the fact that his latest capture was a Bentley driver. He then reminded us he had to be back early, before drifting away again.

I swear he had the door actually open this time, before he deliberatley closed it and turned back to tell us he’d found a lost, limited edition, Cartier watch in the gym and if no one claimed it in a few weeks it would be his, before telling us he had to be back early and wandering off, out the door and closing it firmly behind him.

I kept watch for a few seconds, expecting anther curtain call, but apparently we were done for the day.

“Bloody hell,” Caracol noted, “I feel like I’m caught in an episode of Columbo.”

The rest of our group arrived shortly afterwards, the much too large second group causing a degree of congestion as they crowded around the counter.

“This,” Goose remarked, “Is the benefit of riding in the front group.”

Well, yeah. If you’ve got the legs.

There was then only time for me to enquire about his brand new helmet and try to understand why, out of all the colours to choose from, he’d picked one that was a rather dull (IMHO) battleship grey. Apparently, he quite likes grey and anyway he was determined not to get another red helmet because he claimed it made him look like Super Mario – the Nintendo game character obviously and not a certain Italian wife-beating sprinter. Now that’s an image I may have some difficulty losing.

We left shortly afterwards for an uneventful run home. Luckily Super Mario was feeling super strong and I just hung off his back wheel as he pulled us all along until the point where I could slide off the front and strike out for home.

I’ve got a university open day next Saturday, but I’ll be back the following week for the last right in November. I wonder if we’ll still get away with the good bikes?


Day & Date:Club Run, Saturday 12th November 2022
Riding Time:5 hours 20 minutes
Riding Distance:118km/73 miles with 1,095m of climbing
Average Speed:22.0km/h
Group Size:29 riders, 1 FNG’s
Temperature:11℃
Weather in a word or two:Unreasonably and unseasonably mild
Year to date:4,965km/3,085 miles with 54,821m of climbing

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Between the Saggy and the Soggy

Between the Saggy and the Soggy

In what I took to be another indicator of fast approaching winter, the Canada Geese that spend their summer splashing noisily around Shibdon Pond were organising for departure, their dyslexic leader forming them up in a very raggedy W-shape, before they winged away westward. I was tempted to shout that they were going the wrong way, but apparently it’s not unusual for them to winter in Ireland, so I would just have just made myself look (even more) stupid.

Still, it got me my first ear-worm of the day, complete with the salutary observation – by the way genius, you’re not walking south …

Every weather app I checked had insisted that today was going to be utterly rain-sodden and miserable, and I had prepared accordingly, pressing the single-speed Trek and its semi-decent mudguards into service – the first time I’d ridden it in maybe six months or more. The weather as I set out though was still and calm, dry and bright, and with a route that included a climb up the Trench, I was beginning to think I’d made a serious misjudgement.

We had a new girl join us at the meeting place and she at least looked the part and hopefully she wasn’t too put off when Brassneck described himself as “one of the quiet ones.” I wondered if this wasn’t a little dangerous, as after just 5 minutes in his presence I could imagine her thinking, “Shit, if he’s one of the quiet ones, I’d hate to meet one of the talkers.”

For some reason, Crazy Legs wanted to know if I recalled the theme tune to The Flashing Blade, a poorly dubbed, but classic TV series that seemed ever present during all my school summer holidays.

“You’ve got to fight for what you want, for all that you believe,” we sang the first part, but disagreed on the second and neither of us knew the next line, so that wasn’t going to keep us entertained on today’s ride.

Courtesy of Google:

You’ve got to fight for what you want,

For all that you believe,

It’s right to fight for what we want,

To live the way we please,

As long as we have done our best,

Then no one can do more,

And life and love and happiness,

Are well worth fighting for.

Eeh, they don’t make ’em like they used to…

Tubeless tyres seemed to be the topic du jour, with Mini Miss committing to her winter bike for the foreseeable, as the tubeless set-up on her summer bike needs urgent attention and she didn’t want to get that done only for the bike to sit idle for three or four months.

Crazy Legs suggested it might be amusing to fill your tyres with sealant and let the bike stand for a while until it hardened and you ended up with two flat spots on your tyres and a rather interesting bumpy ride.

There was some confusion about how to maintain tyre sealant and how often it should be topped-up, or completely replaced, with opinions ranging from every two months to every 6 months. Brassneck was following the approach of topping up his sealant every couple of months and I wondered if, sooner or later, his tyres would become solid and absolutely puncture proof.

“How do you even maintain tubeless tyres?” Crazy Legs wondered, as baffled by their mysteries as I was.

“Oh, that’s easy, ” Mini Miss told him assuredly, “The first step is to put your bike in the car, then you just drive it to a mechanic …”

With a surprisingly robust showing of 28 riders, despite the rather grim weather forecast, we once again ended up with our standard bell-curve distribution: a small, faster/front group, a crowded, much-too-large middle group and then a small collection of odd stragglers. Being something of an odd straggler myself and limited to a terminal velocity of about 22mph on the single-speed, the fit seemed a natural choice and I joined the third group.

Or at least that was the intention, but when it was our turn to go, I kicked my pedal backwards to clip in and the chain slid off the rear sprocket. Huh? I moved it back into place, but the chain sagged down like a middle-aged beer belly, as the rear derailleur the venerable Toshi San had repurposed as a chain tensioner seemed to have lost all its vim and vigour and turned decidedly flaccid.

Crazy Legs graciously offered to loan me a bike, but I decided just to see if I could still ride and how far I might get, warning the group not to be alarmed if I suddenly disappeared. Things seemed fine, as long as I didn’t pedal vigorously backwards, so I fell in with the rest and away we went. After a while I forgot about the saggy chain being a mechanical impediment and just confined my worry to how bad it looked.

I may have failed with the Flashing Blade, but I soon had Crazy Legs running through his repertoire of Sham 69 “hits” after a casual mention of corduroy led (obviously!) to that particular gem of songcraft, ‘Ersham Boys.

Brassneck complained forcefully that no one in front had pointed out the dead squirrel in the road, not because it was an impediment, but simply because it had somehow retained its perfect form and proportions, despite being spread-eagled and completely and absolutely flattened. Apparently, he’d just wanted to be forewarned so he had more time to contemplate its fate and unusual state.

I did a spell on the front from the top of Berwick Hill to Belsay, stopping halfway to allow everyone to pull on jackets as the much-heralded rain finally put in an appearance. The temperature seemed to have suddenly plunged into single figures too and it was pretty miserable and damp for the rest of the ride. Still, I was content because my choice of bike and gear had finally been vindicated.

We started to lose people, “like shelling peas” according to Crazy Legs, who imagined that ultimately, he’d be riding along pointing out potholes and interesting roadkill entirely to himself. Post-operative, still recovering Brassneck went off for a loop on his own around Belsay, OGL had slipped off the back a long, long time before that, and at some point the 33rd Paul took a detour too.

Around Bolam Lake and passing through Angerton, we ran into the back of our second group who’d been delayed when Spoons took a spill and brought down Andeven. There didn’t seem to be any real damage done, but they were still sorting themselves out, so we threaded our way past, although not before losing yet another member of our small and select group in the process, who defected to swell the second group’s ranks further still.

Now all that was left of our group was me, Crazy Legs, Captain Black and Liam the Chinese Rockstar, as we approached the dip and swoop through Hartburn, but in the reverse direction from our usual route. While this meant no adverse camber to contend with on the descent, the final ramp up was markedly steeper, and I felt I was going to struggle. I told Crazy Legs I might not make it up and pushed off the front to give myself a good run at it.

I managed to build up a good head of steam through the dip, but had to watch all the accrued speed slowly bleed away as the road started to rise again. When my computer display dropped under 22mph I started to churn the cranks around and made it past halfway before inadvertently pulling my foot out of the pedal. I unsuccessfully tried clipping in again as forward momentum died a horrible death and I ground to a halt. There was no re-starting on that slope, so I was left to walk the rest of the way. Bah!

A little further on and as we became enmeshed with the converging second group, Crazy Legs called a halt and explained the next bit was a rather pointless loop which went downhill solely to climb back up through the Trench. This he explained he’d added in because A. the Trench was his favourite climb and, perhaps more importantly, B. because it made his route on Strava resemble a giant penis. This detour was then completely optional, and several riders took up his suggestion to miss it out and head straight to the cafe at Kirkley.

The rest of us though dropped down Curlicue Bank and started to make our way to the foot of the Trench. Behind me Crazy Legs and Buster were embroiled in a discussion about learning a foreign language, with Buster currently trying to improve his Spanish. Crazy Legs had been through the same process while learning French and recommended watching foreign language films and TV with subtitles. He was then able to recommend a whole host of films and TV series that were not only royally entertaining but had helped him with the language.

“Err, yeah,” Buster agreed a little uncertainly, “Not that I’m ungrateful, but they’re probably not much good if you want to learn Spanish.” Sheesh. Some people are picky.

Up the Trench we went, with Spoons guiding us (and a following motorist) around the hazard of a decidedly unflat deer carcase flung by a car to one side of the road. We stopped to regroup at the top and then started to a push to the cafe. I got ahead on the descent from Dyke Neuk, so had plenty of slippage room for the climb up to Meldon, before pushing up again on the descent to Whalton and joining Captain Black on the front for the rest of the ride to the cafe.

That was hard work, and I was tired and well-deserving of coffee and cake.

In the cafe, Goose set about a recounting of his midweek ride with Captain Black, which had included a forced detour through the latter’s hometown of Prudhoe because the riverside route around Ovingham had been closed. Or even “Prude-hoe” as Goose insisted on calling it, much to Captain Black’s disgruntlement, “I keep telling you, it’s pronounced Prudduh!”

This detour had then taken them past the Dr Syntax pubs, the unusual names of which had piqued Goose’s interest.

“Where does the name come from?” Goose enquired.

Local lad Captain Black had no idea. And no interest.

“Well, I’m going to find out,” Goose declared, “Shall we find out?”

He brandished his phone.

“I am curious,” he declared.

“Yes, I have heard that said about you.”

Undeterred, Goose went a-Googling.

Dr Syntax, he learned was the fictional creation of William Combe in an early 1800’s poem, a rural schoolmaster who attempted to make his fortune by travelling, and then writing about his experiences of quaint and unusual places.

Okay, so maybe Captain Black had the right of it and that really wasn’t worth knowing.

Meanwhile, Captain Black’s bike troubles were explored as his winter bike had a bottom bracket that, it was alleged, pinged in a musical way, while, according to its rider, the disk brakes on his summer bike would often chime melodiously for no apparent reason. The Singing Ringing bike?

This, it seemed was an issue that needed further exploration and it was suggested he should probably take a xylophone when he took his bikes for a service so he could strike the exact right note when trying to recreate the errant sounds and help to diagnose the problem. We even wondered if bike shops might have their own Shimano, or even (hideously expensive) Campagnolo xylophones to help with diagnostic issues.

I’d remembered a spare, and blissfully dry pair of gloves for the ride home – no small comfort on days like this. Coffee and cake hadn’t quite restored me though, and it was hard work getting up Berwick Hill and even harder coming down the other side when we spent long periods either on or above the bike’s terminal velocity.

I took over on the front alongside Goose as we passed through Dinnington, when at least I could control the pace a little. Then I was peeling off for home and able to have full control on just how slowly I could dawdle back. (Hint: very, very slowly indeed).

Still, I made it around, saggy chain and all and rediscovered some of the joy and simplicity of riding without gears. I have some Look Keo pedals I’ve been meaning to put on the bike for a couple of years now. I picked them up cheap in a sale because they’re white – and seriously, who wants white pedals? If I slap them on in place of the current very worn and somewhat sloppy PlanetX pair, hopefully that’ll stop me accidently unclipping at critical moments.

Then, if I can either sort or find a replacement for the derailleur, I think I’m all set for the winter.


Day & Date:Club Run, Saturday 29th October 2022
Riding Time:5 hours 11 minutes
Riding Distance:110km/70 miles with 1,072m of climbing
Average Speed:21.2km/h
Group Size:27 riders, 1 FNG’s
Temperature:8℃
Weather in a word or two:It took a while … but eventually it was suitably grim
Year to date:4,796km/2,980 miles with 53,097m of climbing
Photo by Brian Forsyth on Pexels.com

The Pendulum Swings

The Pendulum Swings

As if a switch has been flipped, we’ve moved seamlessly from constant, bright blue skies to overcast and a slow fade to grey. As I dropped down the Heinous Hill it prompted me to run through my repertoire of Visage’s greatest hits – which, to be fair, didn’t take all that long. I was done by the bottom and luckily escaped without inflicting an annoying earworm on myself.

Despite the impenetrable cloud cover, it was a decent enough day, cool rather than cold and with only a gently tugging breeze to impede movement. There was rain forecast, but not until just after midday. Or so they said.

I crossed the river and followed my new, preferred route up Hospital Lane, annoyed to find my shoe sliding around sloppily and feeling dangerously close to pulling itself out of the pedal’s grasp. I didn’t remember my cleats being so loose last time out but made a mental note to increase the tension in the pedals and, that done, spent the rest of the climb concentrating on keeping my foot planted squarely and still engaged.

This small distraction aside, I made good time and was closing in on the meeting place when I stopped for a pee. Stepping away from the bike I was accompanied not by the usual clip-clop from my colourful clown shoes, but an odd clip-clop-clop. l reached down and found the cleat had worked itself loose and was sliding around, largely untethered. Like the world’s most ungainly stork I removed the shoe and balanced precariously on one leg as I tightened up the bolts. A simple fix, even in the field, but I’ve never had cleats work loose before and can’t work out why they had this time?

At the meeting place Ahlambra was intrigued by the stock wheels that came off my 13 bike and had been press ganged into service on Reg, in particular the single red spoke on each. I told him this was apparently to mark where the valve hole is, because, well, you know, they’re really, really hard to find with the naked eye. Or something.

This led to a discussion about wheel building, spoke choice and another paean from G-Dawg, lamenting how silver spokes and rims were no longer commonplace, but had at one time fuelled his descent into unspeakable Duraglit addiction.

As we talked the showers scheduled for that afternoon decided to put in a very early, surprise appearance, offering up the chance to demonstrate cyclists know enough to come in out of the rain. This was an opportunity that we did eventually take, shuffling under the eaves of the multi-storey car park and managing the task before we were completely soaked through.

Several of the group were planning a ride out midweek to see the Tour of Britain but, even though our former clubmate beZ is riding with his Ribble-Weldtite team, I’m boycotting the race this year after their unconscionable decision not to route it past my front door, or even through my immediate neighbourhood. It’s just not good enough.

Plans are afoot to travel out to watch Stage 3, which would include a trek out into Cumbria toward Alston and potentially up Hartside Pass. A mere mention of this climb was enough to have OGL wax lyrical about epic winter rides in adverse conditions – the good old days of 130 mile plus club runs.

“130 miles, eh?” G-Dawg laughed, “And this from the bloke who is adamant club runs are getting longer!”

He is.

They’re not.

Our numbers seem to be holding steady at about 20 riders, give or take, so we split into two (naturally unbalanced) groups and away we went.

I dropped into the second group with G-Dawg and maybe half a dozen others and things were progressing relatively normally, if at a rather glacial pace as we found a new, very pleasant, quiet road with a perfect surface. The only drawback was it didn’t really lead anywhere we couldn’t get to more directly. Still, if nothing else it served to pad out our mileage.

A brief halt to gather up stragglers somehow turned into an impromptu pee break, so we’d no sooner re-grouped than been split in two again and had to stop a second time to try and corral everyone. OGL was last to arrive, delayed, according to Cowin’ Bovril, because he’d begun “filming a porno” – forgetting he had a rear-facing camera on his bike that was capturing his micturition attempts in glorious technicolour.

Cowin’ Bovril suggested the wide-angle lens might at least provide a flattering image, only to be told by OGL that he wasn’t previously known as, ahem, “the ginger pendulum” for nothing.

Eeuw.

That was uncalled for.

The declaration was met with a universal rolling of eyes and a unanimous, clearly audible groan. I mean, after the last person caught in self-aggrandising braggadocio had ended up holding the nuclear football for a 4-year term, I’m not sure we should be indulging such “locker-room banter” and, err, “alpha-male boasting” anymore.

We tried to move swiftly on, only to encounter a sign bearing the dire warning that there were slow birds on the road. Eh?

Then, round a gloomy bend under some trees we slowed as we came across one of the worst sights you can see on a club run, bikes abandoned on ether side of the road, typically in response to some form of accident. In this case, it had been in our front group, where Aether’s wheels had slid out on the greasy surface and he’d brought the Soup Dragon down on top of him. They were both up on their feet again, but Aether was hobbling, while the Soup Dragon was bleeding from nose and mouth.

I had no idea if they’s ignored all the warnings and somehow slow birds were involved.

(Aether would later spend 11 hours in A&E to be told: “Yes, you have a pelvic fracture.” This, he calculated, was approximately two hours wait for each word of his assessment, proof, if we were in any doubt, that the NHS is in dire need of better financial and governmental support.

Our second group stopped briefly to see if any assistance was needed, but there were plenty of willing helpers, so we were encouraged to clear the road and keep going. And so we did, working our way out past Dyke Neuk and toward Longwhitton before the start of the long, grinding drag up to Rothley crossroads.

“Last chance to cut the route short,” G-Dawg identified, and Taffy Steve paused to weigh the options. His head, he revealed, said go, but his legs said no. In such instances I recommended that you should always listen to your legs as mine, at least are twice as smart as my head. He took the advice and he and Big Dunc hung a left toward Hartburn, leaving me, G-Dawg and Sam-Aye-Am to complete the full route, up to the crossroads, before scaling Middleton Bank and picking up the pace for a fast run to the cafe.

We’d left the cafe choice open, but the rain had turned drizzly and then stopped, the weather was warm and brightening and Bolam Lake was G-Dawgs preferred choice, I’m sure not at all influenced by his opinion that they were the purveyors of the very best in bacon sarnies. (I trust his assessment, he is clearly a connoisseur of such things.) Anyway, he was on the front as we reached the junction and seemed to decide instinctively, while I just followed the wheels.

We arrived to find Taffy Steve and Big Dunc already ensconced, the former somewhat perturbed having complimented the cafe staff on finally installing electronic payment and hearing how the card-reader wasn’t the only small, buzzing electronic device the waitress liked. All delivered with a rather knowing wink.

Eeuw 2.

(Speaking of which, and as a total aside, I heard this week that Ewan McGregor’s fighter-pilot brother goes by the call-sign of Obi Two. That’s way cooler than Maverick, or Iceman.)

Survivors from the the front group joined us and conversation turned to cyclists riding with quite ridiculous injuries, typified by Tyler Hamilton who finished 4th in the 2003 Tour despite riding most of the way with a broken collarbone. This was a follow-up to a 2nd place in 2002 Giro achieved with a broken shoulder and, on that occasion he’d apparently ground his teeth so hard through the pain that he had to have 11 of them capped or replaced after the race.

We touched on the Commonwealth Games track cycling, which featured some para-athletes on tandems and Chris Boardman commentating that crashes were not only very common but, he suggested, inevitable.

Once again the violent depredations of wheelchair, rugby, tennis and basketball were touched on, before someone mentioned blind football again and I was able to steal someone else’s line about it all being well and good chasing around pell-mell, trying to hoof a ball with a bell in it, until the neighbours cat wandered out into the arena.

We coalesced into one large group for the ride home, which was proceeding rather unremarkably, until Sam-Aye-Am insisted he could smell watermelon as we passed through Ogle. I had to admit there was a distinctive and fresh odour being carried on the breeze, but I’m fairly certain that, despite global-warming, the climate in the North East still isn’t conducive to the cultivation of watermelon. Then again, there was that odd moment earlier in the year when Newburn had the odd scent of grapefruit

G-Dawg stretched us out up Berwick Hill and I pushed onto the front alongside him as we began the descent, straight into an easterly headwind that seemed to have sprung up out of nowhere and made the usually easy downhill bit an absolute grind. It certainly didn’t make me envious of Taffy Steve’s route home, all the way out to the coast directly into that.

There was then only time for some juvenile farmer in a tractor to vigorously insist that G-Dawg was a serial self-abuser (for no discernible reason we could see) and then I was splitting off and heading for home and an appointment with the sofa in front of what’s turning out to be a rather entertaining Vuelta.

Stay on board, now.


Day & Date:Club Run, Saturday 3rd September 2022
Riding Time:5 hours 8 minutes
Riding Distance:117km/73 miles with 1,127m of climbing
Average Speed:22.7km/h
Group Size:20 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:16℃
Weather in a word or two:A fade to grey
Year to date:3,780km/2,349 miles with 43,073m of climbing

Photo by Skylar Kang on Pexels.com

The Odd Scent of Grapefruit

The Odd Scent of Grapefruit

Cat#2 demanded to be let out of the back door first thing Saturday morning (he has a catflap, but it’s sooo much effort and besides, what else are stoopid humans good for?) and while acceding to his imperial highness, I noted just how chilly it was and pulled out a windproof jacket before setting out. It wasn’t until halfway down the Heinous Hill however that, jacket, fluttering like a moth broken on windscreen, I realised it was not only chilly, but another gusty, windy day. The temperature would rise eventually, but the wind refused to die and would just help make things a little bit harder wherever we went.

As I pushed out along the valley floor I was passed by a regular peloton of riders heading the other way. There must have been over a dozen middle-aged blokes, all dressed in matching white and green jerseys, with some kind of numbers on the front of their bikes, riding in a compact bunch with a couple of support cars trailing, laden with spares. They didn’t look lean and mean enough to be any kind of race team, so I assumed they were on some sort of sponsored ride for charidee. Then again, they were heading for Newcastle and it was the start of the weekend, so maybe this is just the latest stag-do trend?

Odd to think that I typed the above expecting the spellchecker to object to “charidee” – but apparently it’s now a recognised and accepted word!

charidee

NOUN

informal

Conspicuous charity, especially as part of a television promotion, or of an otherwise pointless exercise.

Isn’t English a wonderful, dynamic and ever-changing feast!

Crossing the bridge, nothing was moving on the river or from either boathouse, so it looked like our rowing clubs were away at some competition. The roads however were busy, with more traffic than I’ve seen in a long while, with no particular reason I could think of. Still, I arrived in plenty of time to watch our numbers slowly build until we had 33 riders clustered together and jostling for space across the pavement, the largest turnout for quite some time.

As we waited, Crazy Legs made the startling confession that he now thought Ed Sheerhan was “utterly brilliant”, having been dragged along to see his live show and undergoing some kind of startling, Damascene conversion. Luckily no one in my household is ever likely to drag me to such a show, so I can remain convinced Mr. Sheerhan remains a whiny, wey-faced poltroon with a penchant for bad 6th form poetry.

It was Crazy Legs’ turn to plan the route, which had us heading to the cafe at Capheaton, until we learned it was closed. I really don’t know what’s wrong with these people, thinking they can just waltz off on the pretext that they need a holiday. What about the well-being and mental health of the North East’s cycling contingent? Not to mention their coffee and cake addictions.

Crazy Legs tried to engineer a completely new route, but then decided we’d just use the Belsay cafe instead, so we’d ride past Capheaton, look longingly at its closed and shuttered facade, wipe away a tear and then press on another 9km or so to Belsay. It wasn’t a bad substitute to be fair and we’d need to return that way anyhow.

Crazy Legs was just reaching down to check his Garmin, to see if it was near departure time, when Carlton rolled to a stop. No need for a time-check, then, our metronome (metrognome?) had returned from holidays and was as punctual as ever.

Even better, we handily managed to get 10 or 11 volunteers into our first group and sent them on their way. I joined the second group, rolling up to join them at the traffic lights, where I found Goose confronting Not Anthony and Cowboys, declaring how discomfited he was to discover they were actually two completely different people. Apparently Crazy Legs isn’t the only one who hasn’t realised Not Anthony is not Anthony.

We had noticeable crosswinds for the first part of the ride and then, just as the lead was ceded and I pushed onto the front with Goose, we reached Mitford and turned left instead of the more usual right, finding ourselves running directly west and straight into the wind.

“Have we been duped into doing something stupid,” Goose wondered, as we ducked down low and ground our way onwards. “Ah, well,” he consoled himself, “At least that farm dog doesn’t seem to bother us anymore.”

He was right. The rather ferocious, loud and very active hound that used to go crazy whenever it spotted a passing cyclist (especially if that cyclist happened to be Crazy Legs) was still there, but it stayed slumped and supine, not even bothering to open an eye and glare at us balefully as we sailed serenely past. Like most of our group it looks like old age, complacency and can’t-be-bovveredness has caught up with our canine adversary too – or perhaps the newly acquired muzzle it’s been forced to wear has taken all the fun out of chasing cyclists?

We led the group through Molesden and toward Meldon and were just discussing whether to stop as we rolled through the junction toward Dyke Neuk. Not only were we not stopping, but we were also going the wrong way, so we turned around and chased back on, going from front to back of the group in a few seconds. That, I think, was more than a just reward for our dithering and we could now find some shelter and recovery amongst the wheels.

We jagged north toward Hartburn, then west through Middleton, before finally turning back south again for the run through Capheaton. As we started climbing up toward the cafe and our highest point of the day, James III put in a burst of previously unheralded climbing prowess and the group fractured and became strung out. The last time we’d been up here he’d been struggling right at the back, only trailed by some idiot wrestling a single-speed, so things have definitely changed for the better. I worked my way through the luxury of a gear change, increased the tempo and along with G-Dawg, Goose and the Famous Cumbrian we started to close the gap.

We caught up with James III as we rolled past the cafe.

“There’s a big, big gap,” someone remarked.

“Good,” I replied.

I think they were pausing to let everyone regroup, but I wasn’t waiting and accelerated. At some point I realised I was riding alone and just kept going. It seems such a long time since anyone’s taken a flyer off the front, so I was happy to resurrect the idea of the forlorn hope attack. Anyway, it was only … err… umh … ah … 7km from Capheaton to our traditional cafe sprint-line …

Ok, truth is I really hadn’t thought this through all that well, but what the hell. I pressed on, never looking back, but noticing all the little impediments in my way: the fractured surface on the steep ramp up to the main road that had my wheels skipping and skittering as I barged upwards out of the saddle, the false flat that became a grinding, uphill slog, the wind from the left and right and front, but seemingly never behind me, the new road surface that should have helped, but was rough and heavy and seemed to suck the speed out of my tyres. Still, I’m pretty sure my face wore a stupid-ass grin as I frantically mashed the pedals around and around.

I made it to within maybe 250-300 metres of the imaginary finish line before the Famous Cumbrian buzzed past, with G-Dawg just launching a sprint from out of his slipstream. I managed to bridge across the Famous Cumbrian’s wheel and held on for a moment, but checking back, there was no one else close, so I eased and sat up, coasting to only 3rd, but a highly satisfactory and strangely enjoyable 3rd.

At the cafe I learned more about Tesla batteries than I’ll ever need to know. I also learned that Goose was inordinately proud of the 150,000 or so (and counting) unread emails on his phone that he has no intention of ever reading, or apparently, ever deleting either. Strangely, he’s just had to buy his daughter a new 256GB iPhone because she’s completely filled her original one up with photos, so I suspect the old adage about the fruit not falling far from the tree applies. I guess they have the ultimate solution though, we’ll just keep buying devices with bigger and bigger storage, so we can keep building up all the crap we can’t be bothered to edit and cull.

Recommendations to raise the age a person can buy cigarettes from 18 to 21 and then increase the age of sale by one every year thereafter prompted G-Dawg to imagine a dystopian, near-future when feral, middle-aged blokes would hang around outside corner shops, begging older folk to buy them cigarettes.

We also had a chuckle at the absurdity of hospital smoking shelters, invariably inhabited by wizened, infirm patients suffering smoking-related illnesses, but braving the British weather while dressed in nothing but a hospital gown and slippers, with a lit cigarette in one hand and IV stand and attached drip in the other.

Alhambra felt people abused the cigarette break excuse too much at his work, so started totting up the time they were taking and subtracting it from his own working week, boldly waving goodbye to everyone as he left early Friday afternoon.

“Here, where are you going?” his manager finally confronted him after a few weeks.

“I’m going home, mate.”

“But, you can’t do that.”

“Well, I’m just taking off the time I would be allowed off if I smoked, like you lot. See you later Dave, have a nice weekend.”

Apparently, his manager hasn’t found an argument against this yet and Alhambra says he’s now started taking note of all the prayer breaks some of his colleagues are getting too, and he could soon be well on his way to a 4-day week.

Heading back, I had a 5-minute catch-up with Taffy Steve, which is more than enough time for him to have me snorting with mirth. He is proudly anti-uniform and even when he was into diving would deliberately swim against the tide (boom-tsk!) and make sure none of his gear matched, while everyone else was carefully colour co-ordinating wetsuits with flippers and masks and snorkels and weight belts and the like.

I wondered if we’s be seeing the return of his old Marmite-branded cycling jersey soon, perhaps the most emblematic embodiment of divisiveness known to man, but he revealed he’d seen a fellow cyclist of a decidedly rotund disposition wearing one, and they’d looked so much like a little pot of Marmite on wheels, that he was now a bit wary of it.

He also revealed he’s been out with the Red Max on their newly introduced Tuesday evening, relaxed rides. Apparently, the Red Max had been a bit hyper on the first few, jumping around and madly chasing after other cyclists and cars and buses, but now Taffy Steve reckoned he’d reined him in and tamed his wilder impulses, so the rides have become quite civilised.

“No!” I protested, “You’ve broken him!”

We were strung out and split up as we crested Berwick Hill and started down the other side with the wind pushing us and demanding more speed. I’d soon rattled down the cassette and ran out of gears, but knew it was a brief reprieve as we’d soon be turning and then I’d be back fighting the wind most of the way home. And so it proved.

Oddly, while passing through Newburn I noticed a fleeting but intense smell of grapefruit. I have to admit the area isn’t one I’d normally associate with sub-tropical citrus fruit, or any other fruit for that matter, so maybe it was an olfactory hallucination. Phantosmia. Who’d have guessed they have a word for that too.

Otherwise, that was a very enjoyable ride, which is good as it’ll be the last club run I do for the next couple of weeks, let’s see what strangeness awaits when I return.


Day & Date:Club run Saturday 11th June 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 24 minutes
Riding Distance:114km/71 miles with 1,114m of climbing
Average Speed:25.8km/h
Group Size:33 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:15℃ – 17℃
Weather in a word or two:Cold in that there wind
Year to date:2,492km/1,550 miles with 27,078m of climbing

Photo by Nicola Barts on Pexels.com

Fly Blown

Fly Blown

Oops! … I did it again.

I didn’t learn the lesson last week, so was enticed into the front group again this week, for an even faster run, (although, to be fair this route involved less vertical gain.)

Saturday also saw a further continuation of fairly decent and notably dry weather, with occasional periods of real warmth and bright sunshine, although we were handicapped by what the BBC weather app euphemistically insisted was a gentle breeze, but we found for the most part to be a seriously stiff headwind.

I wondered if the wind was causing a problem out on the river, with an 8-man rowing boat seemingly stuck motionless, and becalmed, athwart the river upstream of the bridge, while a whole host of other boats were racing away from it downstream as if fleeing a sinking ship.

I climbed out of the valley (in the big ring without really realising) and arrived at the meeting point slightly early and slightly surprised to find so many already there. This soon resolved into the Judean People’s Front assembly before one of their rides. They kidnapped Crazy Legs and away they went. (He was later released without any ransom demands, the group seemingly having quickly tired of his schtick.)

I joined up with a slightly under-the-weather Brassneck, who’d been over-indulging in the corporate hostility stakes for 5-days in a row, with clients visiting from South America. It’s fair to say he exuded an earthy-hoppy, beer-induced aroma after a full working week of wassailing and imbibing and was looking forward to a very gentle recovery ride.

The Hammer was our nominated route architect using a tried and tested run taking in Whittledene reservoir. He was also the originator of perhaps the most controversial question of the day … can I clean bike cassettes in the dishwasher? It may have been an absurd, obscure question … except I had form, having tried and achieving decent results cleaning an old groupset in this way, although I’m sure Mr. Zanussi and (especially) Mrs. SLJ would disapprove.

“You can also,” I added, “Cook salmon fillets in the dishwasher, though obviously sans detergent and not at the same time as you’re cleaning bike components.” Just to be clear, this isn’t something I’ve actually tried myself. So far anyway.

We didn’t need to check the time, just as soon as Carlton rode up we knew it was time to go (although, on this occasion, Carlton was a whole 20 seconds early.) Jimmy Mac, G-Dawg and Caracol formed the core of the first/faster group, but, as happened last week, no one else seemed all that keen to join them.

This again?

Really?

#Sigh.

I added my number to their ranks along with a very reluctant Brassneck, who mumbled something about kill-or-cure and then immediately announced he knew was going to regret this. Famous Cumbrians joined us and Captain Black tagged onto the back. I rolled up to the front alongside Caracol and told him it was entirely his fault that no one wanted to ride in the first group, then the lights changed and the less than Magnificent Seven got underway.

It was immediately apparent that we would be battling a headwind most of the morning and in between this and the pace we set, it was a fairly breathless start. Still, I was able to grunt occasionally and even contribute the odd snippet of conversation, as Caracol relayed his ongoing fascination with the “Wagatha Christie” trial.

He was finding this wholly absurd epic of feuding footballers’ wives and girlfriends (or WAG’s in tabloid parlance) hugely diverting and very entertaining light relief amongst all the doom, gloom and suffering in the rest of the news. He’d also happily concluded that, whatever the outcome of the trial, no sentient being was likely to suffer (or be even mildly discomfited) by its outcome.

He was particularly pleased by Marina Hyde writing that, when discussing critical evidence on a mobile phone “accidentally” and very conveniently dropped into the North Sea, and having admitted to the judge that she didn’t know who Davey Jones was, or why indeed he even had a locker, Rebekah Vardy had a “horrendous-whitey moment” when she thought some bloke called Davey Jones may have recovered and cached her mobile.

I was delighted to find that other, much more interesting and amusing group of wags, the Internet wits and commentators were fully across this story which, (much, much better than the Wagatha Christie monicker) was commonly referred to as either Wagnarock, The Scouse Trap, Bleak Scouse or The Tale That Dogs the WAGS. Splendid stuff.

We led the group through Dinnington, up Berwick Hill and out to Ponteland. ” I don’t think the wind’s all that bad, you know,” I heard Brassneck say just as we swung away to let him take over on the front, where his strangled groans and spluttering protestations were ample proof that he may have slightly underestimated what we’d been battering against.

Caracol dropped back to chat with Captain Black, while I slotted in between the two riders in the second rank for the ultimate shelter. Just before Stamfordham, we were down to six as Captain Black made a sharp exit stage left.

“What’s up? Is he OK?” I needn’t have worried, he’d had the early departure planned all along as he had a rendezvous with a small dimpled ball he wished to thrash.

“Bastard could have done a turn at the front before he buggered off though!” I concluded.

We pressed on through Stamfordham and out to the reservoir, dogged by large, shiny black and very annoying flies that seemed to be swarming everywhere. This was definitely a day for riding with your gob shut.

“Flies hurt when you collide with them at 50kph,” Jimmy Mac observed, as they pinged off my specs and helmet with annoying regularity

We stopped at our usual point just beyond the reservoirs where, in between wafting flies away, or flicking them off bike and body, I reiterated my displeasure with Captain Black, hiding at the back and then buggering off early.

“Not that you’re going to make a big thing of it at all?” Brassneck prompted

“Me? No, no. Not at all. Probably won’t mention it.”

We discussed whether it would be possible to hand out punishment for such aberrant behaviour, perhaps a double turn on the front next week, or even, as Brassneck suggested, making the culprit wear a special jersey of shame, emblazoned with “Wheelsucker”.

None of the other groups had appeared by the time the swarming flies persuaded us to move on again…

I did another turn on the front through Matfen and up toward the Quarry, where we saw an impressive fly-past by the Tyneside Vagabonds, 20 to 30 riders en bloc, the majority resplendent in their new(ish) blue kit.

We scaled the Quarry and the pace picked up, only to drop off again as we were cruelly robbed of all momentum, slowing for the blind junction at Wallridge crossroads. Caracol lobbied G-Dawg to use his newly-awarded executive powers to see if we could alter the club constitution and get a marshall permanently stationed at the crossroads. Compelling as his case was, I didn’t think it had much chance of succeeding.

We took the drag up to West Belsay and joined the junction of the road down to the Snake Bends. We were travelling pretty fast, but not as fast as Cowin’ Bovril, who appeared out of nowhere and shot past us all. He’d been riding the Red Max’s coattails down the long descent from Kirkheaton and had received the perfect sling shot lead-out to burst past our group – although the Red Max was thoroughly disappointed that he’d only hit 49 mph on the descent, just missing out acheiving the half-century.

Crossing the A696, we ducked down bomb-alley, threading our way through the potholes and then the speed kicked up again as the roads straightened and we charged toward the cafe stop at Kirkley. The Red Max and Cowin’ Bovril were jettisoned and the pace built and built. Through Ogle, past Kirkley Hall, we swung right, accelerating hard out of the bends, driving round the last corner …

And came to a grinding halt at the temporary traffic lights.

Again.

Last week they’d been a bit of a saviour, this week they were just an annoyance, still we were soon at the cafe and it was quiet and there were no queues. Perfect.

The Kirkley bacon sarnies were declared the best in class, even though Brassneck was mightily suspicious of how they turned up so quickly and suggested they may be in some way pre-cooked. Such a distinction didn’t seem to matter one jot to our bacon sarnie connoisseurs.

Jimmy Mac suggested they were nearly, but not quite as good as the terrific bacon pakoras an Asian caterer had served up for breakfast at a recent medical conference he and his colleagues had attended. I naturally wondered if this was one of his Cardiology Department’s healthy hearts initiatives and if it was a wholly appropriate use of health service funds, let alone heart-friendly cuisine.

“Order 31!” – we were interrupted from our musings by the bellowing of the service staff.

“Order 31!” Louder and shriller.

“Order 31! Louder still, more shrill, “Bacon sandwich on white!”

“Oh!” a bloke sitting right next to the server shot his hand up, “That’s me … Sorry, I thought my ticket said number 13!”

We tried to work out how you could possibly mistake 31 for 13 and failed. God knows what he would have made of the upside-down 13’s on my bike.

“If he’s waiting for 13 to be called, he’s in for a long, long wait,” G-Dawg concluded.

Other riders arrived in dribs and drabs, but there were no large groups and it looked like most had taken the opportunity to stop at Belsay much to the disappointment of Brassneck, who thought he’d earned the right to enjoy them all queuing for an age.

Jimmy Mac paused thoughtfully halfway through devouring the massive slab of Mint Aero traybake he’d personally selected.

“Which way are we thinking of heading back?” he wondered.

“Just the usual, Berwick Hill,” G-Dawg confirmed.

“Ah, good. Don’t want to be eating the rest of this if we’re going up Saltwick Hill.”

He must have been feeling pretty chipper, despite the mighty traybake weighing him down, as he applied pressure on the front with Caracol and split the group on Berwick Hill. By the time we were heading to Dinnington there was only me and Brassneck clinging to the wheels and trying to follow in what was a very unequal contest. We did manage to hold on until just past the airport though before a gap slowly opened and we were still held a decent pace up to the junction where Brassneck turned off and I pushed on for home.


Day & Date:Club run Saturday 14th May 2002
Riding Time:4 hours 6 minutes
Riding Distance:114km/71 miles with 997m of climbing
Average Speed:27.8km/h
Group Size:21 riders
Temperature:11℃ – 18℃
Weather in a word or two:Same again. I’m not complaining.
Year to date:1,876km/1,165 miles with 20,172m of climbing

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

Positives and Negatives

Positives and Negatives

I managed to catch a vicious throat infection which kept me off the bike last weekend just as the weather turned momentarily glorious. While COVID infections continue to rise at an alarming rate, repeated testing seemed to show I had managed to catch something entirely unrelated. I don’t know whether to think of this as good or bad? Probably neither.

At least wallowing under the pretence of illness gave me an excuse to watch last Saturday’s La Classicissima, Milan-San Remo in its entirety. It felt like time well spent – all 293 kilometres spread over 6 hours and 30 minutes. By the way, that’s riding at an astonishing, eye-popping 44km/hour average speed. Ooph!

In other news, we held and survived a club EGM, largely thanks to the support of a couple of representatives from British Cycling who (just about) managed to keep things on the rails. The membership voted for a new club secretary, chairman, and treasurer, and just for the novelty of it, decided these roles would not all be embodied in one single individual. (I know, radical isn’t it?)

The members also voted overwhelmingly to adopt the standard British Cycling constitution, to attempt to impose some structure on things and secure the future legacy of the club. Our new board members have taken the draft constitution away to work up and amend before it’s presented back to us for a final vote. It seems like progress to me.

Outside, the sun is up and still shining in a perfectly blue and cloudless sky, the temperature is creeping towards the warm setting, crocuses are beginning to lift their brightly coloured heads out from the soil and I’ve prepped the plastic bikes in anticipation of being able to use one of them tomorrow.

Change.

All of a sudden things are starting to feel a little bit different.


Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Depleted

Depleted

Back to a more normal start time this week and I wasn’t long into the ride when I realised the forecast for a dry day had surprise, surprise, got it wrong. I persevered for a while, hoping I was only experiencing a transitory shower, but as things started to get a bit damp around the edges, finally admitted defeat and stopped to pull my rain jacket on.

The weather did eventually dry out and improve, but the jacket never left my back from that point onward.

It was a day for meeting under the gloomy shelter at the bottom of the multi-storey car park, where I was early enough to see off the contingent from the Judean People’s Front, planning a ride into the hills south of the river. I was invited along, but explained I’d only just escaped that place and I didn’t think their route was all that suited to an old feller on a single-speed. (Apparently, there are degrees of madness and I’d like to offer this refusal as proof that I’m not completely and irredeemably deranged.)

Anyway, G-Dawg had planned the route, which I was really looking forward to. It was refreshingly shorter than usual and aimed at an early cafe stop at Bywell with the novelty of then descending into the Tyne Valley and having to clamber out again while carrying the full ballast of freshly ingested cake and coffee. I couldn’t decide if this was cruel or inspired, but I was planning to cross the river at Wylam anyway and looking forward to a much shorter, if equally lumpy ride home.

It was G-Dawg’s route, but unfortunately, he was ruled out of participating with a positive COVID test, so Crazy Legs stepped into the breach while making sure everyone was aware this would count as one of his allotted turns to lead. With the rain continuing to fall and the numbers building to the point where we’d need to make use of the outdoor seating area at Bywell, he considered changing the route, but we decided to risk it, something hindsight would suggest was the right choice.

If the weather was guesswork, what did seem certain to us all was the massive upsurge we were seeing in COVID infections, although if we’re not testing, I guess it’s like the ride you forgot to record on Strava (i.e. it didn’t happen). Besides, Bo-Jo the Clown has said everything is fine and, since he’s proven to be completely and utterly trustworthy, we should have no worries. Eh? (It’s about time someone invented a font specifically for sarcasm …)

[You know it’s bad when even that mouthpiece and apologist for the government the Daily Mail Hiel is reporting 91,345 new cases diagnosed between March 15th and 16th up by one-third, while hospital admissions are up by 29% on the previous week and 153 people sadly died – a rise of a quarter on the week before.]

Crazy Legs set the first group up and running around Jimmy Mac, with the usual cajoling and wheedling and negotiation to press-gang enough numbers into what is typically a faster traveling group. He then led the second group up to the traffic lights where we waited to be released onto the open roads. Just before the lights changed though, he declared he was going to lead from the back and pulled out of the line, inviting the startled rider behind to push forward and onto the front to take his place.

Usually, this wouldn’t be a problem, but the startled rider was Zardoz (who my first ever boss would undoubtedly have termed a wiry old fox) who is preternaturally skilled at managing to never ride anywhere near the front when there was shelter to be had amongst the wheels. Now he was left exposed, in more ways than one.

He looked back at me slightly shocked and ashen-faced and I had to ask if he was feeling light-headed or vertiginous, while I quickly checked for blood trickling out of his nose or ears. No, he was good to go. The lights changed and our reluctant vanguard led us out.

I found myself alongside Biden Fecht, his rattler subdued for the time being. Apparently, I hadn’t been the only one to remark on the strange noises emanating from his machine last week and one rider had complained all the clanking and clunking had started to bring on their OCD. He’d since checked every nut and bolt and attachment and fitting but had singularly failed to find anything loose or the source of the incessant noise. For now though, the bike was being supremely well-behaved.

“For now,” Biden Fecht emphasised.

We discussed our imminent club EGM and the dread horror of it providing a platform for another excruciatingly, buttock-numbing re-telling on the club’s storied history – as if people could be made to care about it through simple repetition. “Perhaps we should record it, it might make a good podcast?” Biden Fecht suggested.

Hmm, I’m actually looking for a replacement podcast following disappointing news about the imminent dissolution of the Church of Wittertainment, aka Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review, but I’m just not sure the history of a provincial cycling club would make a suitable long-term replacement.

Biden Fecht isn’t a fan of Mr Kermode’s film reviews, but I think he’s missing the point, as these are just a vehicle for decent, companionable old gits to talk complete and utter tosh about everything and nothing, much like a typical one of our club runs. So, whether it’s dodgy Tenpole Tudor impersonations, Swedish advice about taking your cow out onto the ice, stinky-pants-wee, or how big a runway Thunderbird 1 would need – the Church will be sorely missed.

At the junction just before Brunton Lane, progress stalled to let a car pass and then Zardoz fluffed his gear change. With his chain failing to instantly engage, he sat up and swung over.

“Ah, very clever,” I had to applaud as he drifted backward.

“No! no!” he blustered and caught red-handed he manipulated the chain back on and then bluffed his way back onto the front with faux enthusiasm

Turning out of Brunton Lane we then began to track a couple of riders ahead of us and Zardoz pushed up the pace a little until we caught them just before the airport.

“We’re just going to sit on for a little while, thanks,” Zardoz called up to them cheerfully and settled onto a rear wheel, pleased as punch to be out of the wind.

Then, half a mile or so up the road, as we approached Dinnington, “We’re going left here,” he called out hopefully. Sadly, his new best friends didn’t seem at all interested in his implied invite, or providing us with further shelter and kept going as we turned off.

I put him out of his misery and took over on the front from Prestwick through to Darras Hall. With my stint in the wind done, I then dropped back and it wasn’t long then until we passed Stamfordham and made our way out to Whittle Dene Reservoir, which OGL informed us was built by Italian prisoners of war. I wasn’t able to find any more information about this, but while the reservoirs were actually completed in 1848, there was a POW camp in nearby Haltwhistle, so it’s a possibility they did additional work

Past the reservoir, OGL left us, complaining he was “breathing out me arse,” that quaint if nonsensical expression I believe was first popularised by Her Majesty the Queen, Elizabeth II. (Although I understand her actual phrase was “breathing out of one’s arse.”)

We then took in a long descent down to the four streaming lines of traffic that formed the A69, where, done with leading from the back, Crazy Legs suddenly appeared at the head of things. He then nipped across the road before everyone else to ensure he won any cafe sprint, but more importantly, secured first place in the queue for cake and coffee.

We all took turns filtering across and for once didn’t receive the typical fanfare of car horns for daring to venture into the motorists domain. Maybe they were asleep at the wheel today?

With the weather having cleared away to bright sunshine, it was still cold, but luckily dry enough for us to take up our usual seats outside the cafe.

James III slumped down and vigorously pulled off a glove, which twanged across the table and rattled Crazy Legs’ coffee cup, although luckily not a drop was spilled.

“Looks like you’re being challenged to a duel?” someone suggested.

“How does that work then?” Crazy Legs demanded, “He’s careless, spills my drink and then he feels insulted.” He wasn’t buying it.

Talk turned to the venue for our imminent EGM and how many of the old guard that we’d never met OGL might be able to coerce out to support him on the night. Not Anthony confirmed that the venue chosen, perhaps deliberately, had wheelchair access, while we envisaged hospital beds complete with drips and monitors being wheeled into the room by attendant nursing staff.

“Maybe a couple of urns strategically placed here and there with proxy votes too,” Captain Black suggested. I wouldn’t be surprised.

Mini Miss complained that we needed to see some progress as the continual formation of all the splinter groups such as the JPF, in her words, depleted us, the perfect cue for Biden Fecht to start channeling his inner Keyshia Cole, break into song and start warbling “you deplete me.”

It was interesting to hear Mini Miss and Crazy Legs had completely different perspectives of a club social get-together where they’d been entertained to an impromptu performance by the fledgling Geordie troubadour (not two words I ever thought I’d write together) Sam Fender. “Canny chanter, but he looks sad,” I interjected which is about where my Sam Fender knowledge starts and ends.

Crazy Legs wondered how I was heading home and if I’d be using the Wylam Waggonway. I hadn’t thought of that, but it seemed a good shout, especially as it would get me to the bridge at Newburn without the series of stiff climbs I faced if I crossed the river at Wylam.

Then we were ready to leave and everyone started fumbling for hats and gloves and sunglasses, or as Biden Fecht would tunefully have it the “doing the Oakley-cokie.” Perhaps not the best note to finish on.

We swooped down the rest of the hill to the valley floor and turned eastwards, heading downstream. Here unfortunately, Biden Fecht’s bike decided to accompany his singing, with the dreaded, but forewarned return of its tuneless death rattle.

It was here too that I found, in direct contrast to last week’s cafe stop, this one seemed to have gifted me with an unexpected burst of speed. Perhaps these shorter rides are better for me? On the first climb I pounded on the pedals and surged upwards almost riding over Biden Fecht. Surprised, I tamped it down a bit, but decided it probably wasn’t worth avoiding the hills out of Wylam after all.

There was still time for us to draw the irritation of a 4×4 driver who decided we’d held up his passage by more than thirty seconds, let us appreciate his fantastic horn playing and then tried to overtake in the face of an on-coming car. I suggested, solely through the power of mime, that he was most probably an onanist of the first order. His road rage seemed to overcome any actual sense that he may once have possessed and he even slowed during his ridiculously risky overtake, his window slid down … and then … and then … nothing. Perhaps he realised we weren’t worth it, or it may have struck him that he was heavily outnumbered and accelerated away, cruelly depriving us of his wit and wisdom.

“Cock-womble!” Brasneck concluded, shaking his head in disgust. I couldn’t argue.

I stormed up the hill into Wylam and then swung right as everyone kept going for their climb north out of the river valley. Rolling over the bridge, I was just gathering myself for the first of the steep ramps ahead when Crazy Legs popped up on my right-hand shoulder.

“I don’t know where I am,” he confessed, eyes starting to dart around a little nervously now he’d crossed the river to the dark side. “I thought you were taking the cycleway to Newburn?”

“I changed my mind.” I told him the route we were on got a little hilly, but reassured him it would take him to Newburn too. I then offered to turnaround and ride back with him down the Wagon Way, but he told me just to press on, while he retraced his steps. He later found his pedals had seized and had a death grip on his feet, so had to ride home without clipping in to avoid any embarrassing mishaps. Ooph!

I had much more luck and fun, finding I really was flying after all, collecting 8 Starva PR’s on all the ramps out of the valley and getting home a good hour early and much fresher than I would normally. I really enjoyed that.

Well, it seems only appropriate that I should close with tinkety-tonk, down with the Nazi’s, dictators and autocrats in all forms, and up with the BHF’s and down-trodden masses. Upwards and onwards, perhaps a new dawn awaits, but who can say?


Day & Date:Club ride, Saturday 12th March 2022
Riding Time:3 hours 20 minutes
Riding Distance:76km/47 miles with 793m of climbing
Average Speed:22.9km/h
Group Size:25 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:9℃
Weather in a word or two:Amiable
Year to date:789km/490 miles with 8,208m of climbing


Holding Pattern

Holding Pattern

An early start was on the cards this week as I did a bit of (unofficial) club kit delivery prior to the ride. This saw me leaving the house 30 minutes ahead of my normal departure to give myself a little wiggle room, only to find I was delivering the kit (to a slightly disheveled, only recently woken, but hopefully still grateful) recipient, a full 45 minutes ahead of schedule. How did that happen?

With time to fill, I took an aimless ramble through Newcastle’s most northerly suburbs but found nothing of note or interest. I was still early at the meeting point, catching up with the Judean People’s Front before their departure, their large numbers suggesting we too would likely have a major turnout on such a fine day. It was chilly but bright and dry with very little wind. Great conditions for a ride.

The uncharacteristic announcement of an imminent EGM continues to be the major topic of conversation within the club. This has not been helped by its governing authority refusing to disclose any sort of agenda, or any details about the purpose or proposed outcomes from the meeting. In fact, the only diktat that has been issued from on high is that people intending to turn up should carefully study the club history as outlined on its website beforehand.

TripleD-Be joked that in all likelihood this meant there would be loyalty test at the start of the night and only those who could demonstrate a forensic knowledge of the club’s history would be allowed in. We laughed, but then again …

In a club that has arbitrarily banned bona fide members from its Facebook page for no apparent reason, it didn’t surprise me that there appear to be a number of paid-up club members who have categorically not been invited to attend the EGM too. So, intrigue piled on top of interest on top of incredulity. Light blue touchpaper and retire to a safe distance …

Back to more immediate matters and Richard of Flanders had planned and would lead our ride today. The route carved out a big oblong out almost directly due north, before turning west, then south to the cafe at Capheaton, before heading for home. With enough numbers for three groups, we formed up and a very enthusiastic Richard of Flander chivvied our first set out and onto the roads at least 5 minutes before our usual departure time.

We tied to hold back the last group at least until bang on 9:15 as there are always those who time their arrival down to the last second, who knows, perhaps in an attempt to avoid one of OGL’s patented diatribes. AS the minutes ticked down I stood with Captain Black, peering up the road trying to identify an approaching rider that Captain Black was convinced was Carlton.

“Nah,” I told him,”It’s too early. It’s only 9:13. He’s never here until at least 9:14.”

Yep, I was right. It wasn’t Carlton. But two minutes later, just as we were kicking round the pedals to clip in and push off, up he rolled. Perfect timing as usual.

Out on the road, I had a brief catch-up with Biden Fecht, newly returned to us after a bout of illness and making his presence known with a bike that rattled and rang like a toolbox dropped down a stairwell. He had however somehow managed to sort his banshee brakes out, so at least they no longer shrieked and warbled like a scalded cat, so he now had the percussion track just about right, but had lost the over-arching tune.

I did a stint on the front with Captain Black, which was conveniently curtailed when we turned left just before Mitford to avoid a closed road, that apparently wasn’t closed and was where we were meant to be going. Just like that, I found myself right at the back, but it was a turn of events I was more than happy to live with.

By the time we’d completed the westerly leg of our run and had turned south, I was starting to struggle and run out of energy. The climb to the cafe at Capheaton was a proper grind, but at least succour and rest awaited me.

Some discussion took place at the time and venue for the mysterious EGM, with G-Dawg confirming it’s a week on Monday evening and at a local church. I wondered if this would prove useful if anyone needed to claim sanctuary on the night.

Carlton then put the most positive spin possible on the situation, saying the very fact a meeting had been called suggested there was some purpose behind it, otherwise, why bother calling it at all when we could have just have carried on, business as (ab)normal. Now that’s a fantastically positive outlook, but maybe one suited to prove the adage that to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.

We left en masse and tried to get organised into a couple of groups, so I hung back a little. Then, when we were finally underway I found my legs were completely empty and I was struggling to hold the wheels, even on a downhill section.

The gap quickly grew to be unbridgeable and I last saw the group at the top of the steep rise up onto the Belsay road. Oh well, time to start my solo ride back a little earlier than intended. It wasn’t fast and it certainly wasn’t pretty, but it was a nice day and a pleasant ride, so I was quite content to just amble and bumble my way home.

It gave me the opportunity to try out some new routes too, taking to the cycle paths along the Tyne, which is good for a few photo opps if nothing else. Things were going well until I tried the back lane up past Pedalling Squares. I guess I shouldn’t have tried to pick my way across the road-spanning, water-filled gorge that confronted me there, but I was tired and my brain wasn’t really functioning too well. I committed my front wheel to the stygian depths and thought I’d made it, until I hit the lip of this murky chasm and the tyre started hissing and spluttering like the fuse of a cartoon bomb.

Ugh. Bad timing. Still, I made it home in time to watch Tadej Pogačar simply ride away from everyone else en route to winning Strade Bianche. An impressive display … but I just don’t know.


Day & Date:Club ride, Saturday 5th March 2022
Riding Time:5 hours 22 minutes
Riding Distance:106km/66 miles with 1,055m of climbing
Average Speed:19.7km/h
Group Size:25 riders, 1 FNG
Temperature:9℃
Weather in a word or two:Amiable
Year to date:713km/443 miles with 7,415m of climbing



Immaculate Construction

Immaculate Construction

Following last week’s travails, I was aiming to complete the entirety of the next club ride, or at least make it as far as the all-important café stop, so the plan was to press the Peugout into service yet again. This was only reinforced by G-Dawg’s route which included both the Mur de Mitford (a mere 350 metres of sharp ascending, but topping out at 18% in parts and a bad, often slimy surface) and the long drag up the Trench.

A selection of gears for this assault on my body seemed appropriate, so I’d dutifully fixed the rear wheel puncture I’d limped home on of last week in anticipation of press-ganging the Pug into use once again.

I’d checked the bike out midweek and then on Friday evening made sure the tyre pressures were good in prep for use the next day. I shouldn’t have bothered. When I pulled the bike out the next morning the rear tyre had conspired to expire overnight and was flat and empty.

With no time to swap out the tube, I swapped bikes instead (and shoes, bad planning and different pedal systems!) and there we were, back on the single-speed despite the best of intentions. Was I ready for this? Nah, definitely not.

Saturday proved to be yet another windy day too, for about the fifth weekend in a row, but at least the widely forecast rain never materialised. This meant that there was a good chance the Mur de Mitford was perhaps semi-dry, or at least not awash with surface water and I might have a fighting chance of hauling my sorry carcass up it.

I had a blissfully uneventful ride across to the meeting point, arriving far too early and taking a tour around some local roads to fill in the time. It was here that I discovered the road past Fawdon Metro was closed for repair work, so turned around and backtracked.

Passing G-Dawg heading the other way, I tried telling him the road ahead was closed, but he just took my shouts and wild gesticulations as an overly enthusiastic greeting and sailed imperially onwards. Not that it mattered anyway, he just bluffed or blagged his way straight through the roadworks.

Even with the back-tracking and obligatory pee-stop I made it to the meeting point in good time, where a group of 16 or so gradually coalesced. This included Not Anthony who reported that last week he’d had to bail at high speed as an alternative to being blown into a roundabout. This apparently was the result of Brassneck cajoling their group into taking advantage of a ferocious tail-wind to try and capture a Strava segment PB for Mini Miss and then finding the helpful tail-wind suddenly became a deadly cross-wind.

Not Anthony reported that closely following young speedster Dingbat had gone over his handlebars in the ensuing kerfuffle, but both apparently survived with only minor cosmetic injuries to bikes and bodies.

“More importantly though,” I had to ask, “Did you get the PR?”

Luckily, I was told their sacrifices had indeed paid off.

Wonder of wonders, OGL reported that he’s been in contact with several local venues as he looks to arrange somewhere suitable for the club EGM demanded by British Cycling. I’ll just leave that one out there …

Even more wonderous and unlikely, Ovis put in a very rare appearance. So rare in fact that Crazy Legs wished him a happy new year and shook his hand and then repeated the gesture for the year before too.

Ovis had turned out in his habitual and seemingly indestructible Rochdale Tri kit – “Just so people still recognise me!” and brought along his usual abundance of malt loaf and self-effacement. “Oh, I’ve not been out much on the bike and I’m not very fit at all. I’ve just been doing little bits and pieces on the turbo. Hope I can keep up.”

Ovis would join the third group with me and of course, he was never off the front for more than a few minutes, relentlessly spearheading our efforts and driving the group on through strong headwinds, uphill and down dale.

Not fit, my arse! to borrow a turn of phrase from Jim Royle.

With his pace-setting, it wasn’t long before we were closing in on the Mur de Mitford and my main challenge for the day. While everyone else fussed over gear selection, I just rolled around the sharp left-hand turn, eased out of the saddle and got at it. It wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t fast, but I just about managed, not putting too much force down through the pedals to keep the tyres gripping all the way up.

In the group ahead, G-Dawg wasn’t quite so lucky. He found he couldn’t push the much, much bigger gear on his fixie without standing up, but whenever he eased out of the saddle his rear wheel just skipped and spun uselessly across the greasy road surface. He ended up having to dismount and run up the hill cyclo-cross style. At least I was spared that indignity.

As we approached the long climb up the Trench, Ovis was (obviously) on the front, driving us on alongside Crazy Legs who suddenly started guffawing loudly. He then turned to me and nodded at Ovis.

“He says he’s not very fit and wants us to wait for him at the top!” he explained disbelievingly.

Naturally, Ovis led us up the Trench where we stopped to regroup before pushing on again, down the dip, dive and rise through Hartburn and on toward Angerton. This was the most exposed section of our route and, collectively, we could only recall one solitary occasion in over 10-years when anyone cycling this road has had the benefit of a tailwind.

Surprises apparently don’t come in three’s and with Ovis showing up for a club run and OGL (perhaps) preparing for a club EGM we’d evidently exhausted our quota of unlikely events for the day. It was the expected headwind. It was indeed as brutal as we thought it would be and by the time we’d climbed up to Bolam Lake I was starting to feel heavy-legged and tired.

Still, I thought, at least I can sacrifice myself to provide a good springboard for the café sprint, so I took to the front and started to wind up the pace. I pulled the group along until, halfway up the rollers I was done, swung over, sat up and watched the others zip away for the final climb and to contest sprint honours.

I thought I’d done a decent job of getting the group moving, until Crazy Legs informed me in the café that I’d been going much too slowly, he’d wanted to jump past much earlier but recognised I still wasn’t 100% fit so had indulged me a little.

Ooph! Talk about kicking a bloke when he’s down.

While enjoying some well-earned cake and coffee, Crazy Legs was keen to promote the world-renowned, architectural marvel and stunning tourist attraction that is the perspex tunnel linking the car park and Sainsbury’s supermarket in Bude, Cornwall. So great is its appeal that it has its own Trip Advisor page to extol its virtues as a “stunningly crafted marvel,” “truly life-changing” and an “awe inspiring and enthralling experience.”

As Dave M. from Prestwick gushed, “I have walked through the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi – the towering domes, the gold-inlaid marble, the carpet that took 1000 weavers 100 years to complete, the thousand-tonne chandeliers – but nowhere does bus-shelter Perspex quite like Bude.”

With 946 excellent ratings out on 1,076 reviews, this sounds like a must-see, but of course, there are always people who don’t appreciate art and incredible human achievements, with Linden-S from High Wycombe “baffled at how an empty plastic tunnel running beside a supermarket can possibly be considered an attraction,” while John M of Woking simply declared it a “waste of time.” Philistines!

Crazy Legs then pressed us all to enter an “Ogle road lottery” and predict what conditions we would face when we took the lane through to the hamlet. Captain Black went for “very bad” I went for “bad” Crazy Legs “mingin'” G-Dawg, “fine” – while Sy6, undoubtedly a glass half full kind of guy, suggested the road would be “perfect” – miraculously restored to a pristine condition.

G-Dawg won that one, and we enjoyed a surprisingly mud-free and relatively dry passage. I was fading rapidly as we topped Berwick Hill, but managed to hold on through Dinnington and past the airport, before dropping off the back. Then it was just a long, slow slog home.

Better.


Day & Date:Club ride, 12th February 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 53 minutes
Riding Distance:105km/65 miles with 1,211m of climbing
Average Speed:21.4km/h
Group Size:16
Temperature:9℃
Weather in a word or two:Windy
Year to date:347km/216 miles with 3,777m of climbing


Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep

Chirpy, Chirpy, Cheep, Cheep

Where will we go
When di quarantine ting done and everybody touch road?

I always like to start with a little Koffee. Just a bit disappointed no one ambushed me with cake.

So that’s my quarantine ting done and hopefully my last bout of COVID for a while. Call me old-fashioned, but I decided to go with the traditional self-isolation at home, rather than the new government-approved methodology of attending boozy parties with all and sundry.

Thankfully it wasn’t a particularly bad illness, but combined with a lack of exercise (2 weeks off the bike!) I appear to have been left with the lung capacity of an asthmatic canary. On the first day of official release, I went for a run (well, actually more of a graceless lumber) and it was so s-l-o-w and I felt like I was trying to breathe through airways filled with treacle.

Two days later, I tried again and it was only marginally easier and faster. So I approached the club run with a degree of trepidation and armed with the Peugeot and its smattering of gears for when things inevitably turned ugly.

And it was actually a club run. British Cycling have temporarily lifted our club’s suspension, although not without serious consequences. The first of these was that our junior, Go-Ride section broke away to form a separate, autonomous club with immediate effect. This was the only way they could run their sessions and retain their affiliation under the British Cycling Go-Ride banner and all the attendant benefits and safeguards it provides.

Although a serious income generating entity in its own right (and what self-respecting club wouldn’t want to have a popular and thriving junior section?) I doubt the club hierarchy are all that bothered by this loss. There always seemed to be a disconnect between the Go-Ride section and the rest of us and, as far as I can tell, their sole purpose was to serve as a symbolic stick that could be used to beat the senior riders with whenever we questioned … well, anything.

I do have to admit though, I’m going to miss the delicious sense of schadenfreude that occurred whenever OGL proudly anointed one of these youngsters as “the future of the club,” only to find a couple of weeks later that they’d jumped ship to find a more rational, active and forward-thinking group to train and ride with.

As for where this leaves the rest of us, well there’s still been no official communication from the club, but from what I can piece together, talking to people and reading between the lines, the long-term reinstatement of our British Cycling affiliation appears dependent on us adopting a series of simple and reasonable directives in a timely fashion, namely:

  1. Hold an EGM and elect at least two other members to official/governing positions in the club.
  2. Forward an up-to-date set of club accounts to British Cycling.
  3. Adopt a club constitution to ensure good governance going forward.

I’ve no idea why any of this should prove difficult or contentious … oh, hold on … of course I have.

Anyway, back to the ride. Where will we go?

Buster had planned and would lead this week’s group, although he was wavering a little in the morning after reading forecasts for very high winds.

I didn’t think the wind was going to be that much of an issue and I was pleasantly surprised to find it was almost full light as I set off, crossing a flat and placid river where the rowers were out in force enjoying the smooth water. As I approached the climb out the other side of the valley I looked back to check the way was clear and moved out into the middle lane to take the 2nd exit off the roundabout. As I stopped at the lights a heavy wagon rolled up inside me stopped with an explosive hiss of air brakes and the engine rumbled then clanked to a stop. In the near silence, I heard the window whisk down as the driver leaned out to address me. I was wondering what I’d done to incur his ire, but he just wanted to have a chat about changes to the Highway Code!

Surprisingly, he seemed generally supportive of the changes, but concerned about the priority given cyclists riding up the inside and going straight ahead when he was trying to turn left at a junction. That’s actually not much of an issue for me as, except in extreme circumstances, I’d rather sit in the middle of the lane within a line of traffic than risk riding up the inside and having someone drive across my front. I get that this isn’t everyone’s modus operandi, but each to their own.

Up over the first hill and halfway across the next roundabout I was watching the two lanes of approaching traffic, trying to make eye contact with the drivers and reassure myself they’d seen me. The car in the outside lane eased to a stop, but the one on the outside? I slowed instinctively, the car reached the junction and braked sharply, just over the white line. I’ve no way of knowing if he’d not seen me until the last minute or always drove so frantically. I expect he wasn’t at all happy that I was now moving at a snail’s pace though and he had to wait an age until I’d passed.

At the third roundabout, things seemed much more under control. I’d eyeballed the two lanes of traffic I was just about to cross and both cars had slowed and were stopping when the car on the inside suddenly shot forward. I swerved violently into the inside lane, which was thankfully empty and somehow managed to avoid being mown down by an accelerating chunky, grey metallic Nissan Cashcow. I swung my arms about and swore loudly, but despite my blinking lights fore and aft and eye-bleedingly bright hi-viz gilet, I’m not convinced the driver ever noticed me, or realised how close I’d been to being smeared under their wheels.

That’s more than enough excitement for one day and proof, I suspect that no amount of new rules in the Highway Code are going to be proof against driver inattention. Gawd, I hate roundabouts.

To make matters worse, I think the mudguards on my bike had tensed up in anticipation of a collision and now I was riding accompanied by an ever-varying, never-ending cacophony of chirps, cheeps, chirrups and chuffs.

Luckily I made it to the meeting point without further incident and rolled up to join G-Dawg a new guy and a new gal. She was busy unwinding the metres and metres of electrician’s tape that she’d used to cocoon her pump with and hold it on her frame, explaining her boyfriend had stolen the actual mount to use on a separate ride he’d disappeared on. I took pity on her and fished mine out of my back pocket

G-Dawg explained she was one of those swimmer/runners who’d signed up for an Iron Man on the spur of the moment and needed to practice the bikling part. He also told me she’d survived last weeks club run in extreme conditions – despite being blown off her feet and into a ditch while she’d been standing at the side of the road.

I then got the full update on just how wild things had been last week and how lucky I’d been to miss out. The highlights (lowlights?) had been the wind on the road past the Sage building, where G-Dawg reckoned he’d almost been doing a track stand, out of the saddle, straining every sinew and gurning ridiculously as he tried to make even the slightest progress against a ferocious headwind.

Things had been so bad that Brassneck, Spoons and a few others had apparently only made it as far as Brunton Lane before abandoning after just 1km, cruelly snatching the record for the shortest club run in history out of the Garrulous Kid’s hands (at least he’d made it as far as Dinnington).

Not great conditions for a club run, but perhaps ideal for the Tegenwindfietsen, a Dutch cycle race that I remember Rainman telling me about and which sounds as insane as wanting to do an Iron Man. The Tegenwindfietsen is a time-trial ran on city bikes along the tops of the Dutch sea dykes and is only allowed to take place when a gale-force headwind can be guaranteed (7 or higher on the Beaufort Scale!)

Coincidently, it was apparently windy enough for the 7th edition of the Tegenwindfietsen to take place this weekend and it even earned a write-up in The Comic.

It proved mot quite windy enough to deter Buster in the final analysis. Just as G-Dawg was beginning to suspect he’d be a no-show, he rolled up, having taken the time to consult a far more reliable source than the BBC Weather app before venturing out, namely a 30ft conifer in his back garden, which he declared wasn’t moving enough to cause any real worries.

He briefed in the route, we split into two surprisingly equal-sized groups (entirely accidentally I suspect, by the law of averages it had to happen sooner or later) and away we went.

I dropped onto the front of the second group alongside G-Dawg and we’d barely turned off the main road before we got the call to stop. Behind us, whatever remedial work the new girl had attempted with my pump clearly hadn’t worked and half the group were clustered around her upended bike, needing to change the tyre. I wondered if she might use this mechanical as a handy excuse to snatch the brand new shortest club run record and abandon at this point, but apparently, neither punctures nor being blown into a ditch are enough to deter our newest rider.

The repairs did take forever though, and I was beginning to think those in attendance had allowed her to unravel the metres and metres of tape needed to get at her pump.

Finally, we got going again. The wind may not have been strong enough to trouble Buster’s conifer, or quite as bad as last week, but it was still a serious impediment to forward momentum. I hung on through Dinnington and Callerton, until the climb just before the turn to Darras where I ceded the front to Carlton and dropped back to try and find a bit more shelter.

By the time we reached Stamfordham I was conscious of approaching my limits. G-Dawg suggested a shorter route for those who wanted it, which sparked a confusing debate about whether the shorter route was longer, or the longer route was shorter. I determined that, regardless of their comparative lengths, either one was probably too much for me and so, while the rest split and pushed on, I turned to head back and battle the elements solo.

Bizarrely, 5 miles from home my mudguards finally decided they’d annoyed me enough for one day and all the chirps, cheeps, chirrups and chuffs suddenly and magically disappeared. I started the long slow crawl up the Heinous Hill then to just the accompaniment of my own torturous breathing, battling the slope, leaden legs, incipient cramping, a swirling, gusting wind that pushed me dangerously close to the kerb too many times to remember and a rapidly softening back tyre that I was determined to ride all the way home, no matter what.

Brutal. But, I survived. Hopefully next week the conditions (my own and the weather) might make things a little bit easier.

Please.


Day & Date:Club ride, 4th February 2022
Riding Time:70km/43 miles with 792m of climbing
Riding Distance:3 hours 26 minutes
Average Speed:23.6km/h
Group Size:16 riders, 2 FNG’s
Temperature:8℃
Weather in a word or two:Blustery
Year to date:241km/150 miles with 2,566m of climbing