Jammy Dodger

Jammy Dodger

Club Run, Saturday 20th July, 2019


Total Distance: 115 km/71 miles with 1,097 m of climbing
Riding Time: 4 hours 27 minutes
Average Speed: 25.9 km/h
Group Size: 33 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature: 23℃
Weather in a word or two: Sticky and showery

Ride Profile

A quick hit before I disappear for a well-deserved (well, in my opinion) holiday on the Costa Blanca…

Saturday was sticky, hot and humid, even under granite coloured skies that promised to live up to the forecast of frequent heavy showers. The air was strangely still and breathless, mirroring the river which was dull, flat and as still as a millpond as I rolled over the bridge.

Last night I’d resorted to some creative bike wrangling to ensure Reg was ready, fully restored and, most importantly back home. I’d ridden into work on the single-speed as usual, but returned via the Brassworks bike workshop at Pedalling Squares, at the bottom of the Heinous Hill. There, I swapped bikes, picking up and paying for the work on the Holdsworth, before riding it home.

I’d then pulled on a pair of trainers, packed my cycling shoes in a rucksack and ran back down the hill to retrieve the single-speed. This was enough to reinforce my long-held belief that biathlon’s and triathlons are the creation of the devil.

Still, it was worth it, the Holdsworth was running true and smooth and as good as new. There’s something reassuring in finding a bike mechanic who’s a perfectionist. Now the potential for rain was about the only thing likely to ruin a good ride.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

The sadomasochistic Buster had volunteered for his maiden role of ride leader, devising a route that was replete with just about all of our signature climbs in one neat package; Bell’s Hill, the Mur de Mitford, the Trench, Rothley Crossroads, Berwick Hill and Middleton Bank. I definitely needed any advantage a good bike could bestow.

The Garrulous Kid was just hoping to get to the cafe as fast as possible, so he could retrieve his sun specs, which he’d managed to leave behind the week before. G-Dawg told me they made the Garrulous Kid look like a bad Roy Orbison impersonator and he had visions of some old feller finding them, slapping them on his head and then walking blindly into all the tables and chairs as he tried to locate the exit.

I reassured the Garrulous Kid that I was certain they’d still be there as, from G-Dawg’s description, it didn’t sound like anyone else would actually want them. He then wondered if his water bottle would still be there too, as that was something else he’d forgotten.

I’m trying to see if we can develop an unofficial club jersey that more than two or three people are happy to wear, so had a chat with a few people about this, including Princess Fiona … which was when I realised I hadn’t considered a female option as (apparently) they’re built a bit different. I think this is going to be one of those projects that sounds easy, but the deeper you dig, the more issues you unearth.

A bunch of our riders had submitted themselves to a British Cycling ride leader course last Sunday, to allow them to officially take groups of youngsters out onto the open roads and introduce them to the mystical, mythical, ever-enduring club ride.

The course was an astonishing 8 hours long and preceded by a 3 hour computer test on general road safety and regulations – a hell of a commitment, that still didn’t get us to where we want to be. Apparently, ride leaders also require an up to date, First Aid certificate too – an additional course and between £15-£25 per person and then it’s only valid for 3-years.

Once we have all this in place, we would still only be allowed 8 junior riders for every fully qualified and certified ride leader and to cap it all, British Cycling charged the club £1,000 to run the course, plus the cost of the venue hire.

From talking to the group, many of the principles, guidelines and requirements they learned sounded rather Byzantine and restrictive and, well, a bit of a ball ache to be fair. I’m in no position to judge if the course teaches the best and safest way to lead a group of youngsters onto our undoubtedly dangerous roads, but the cost and time commitments alone seem to actively discourage clubs from doing this. I’m not sure how well this chimes with the mission statement of British Cycling to grow cyclesport?

With such a large group, we split into two and I dropped into the second group. Talk of enacting course leader principles were quickly shelved and we pressed on in our usual ramshackle manner.


I found myself riding alongside Sneaky Pete as we got underway chatting about Canadian singer-songwriters, the TV adaption of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and the right balance between practical colours for a cycling jersey and rider visibility.

I climbed the Mur de Mitford at a fairly relaxed pace and found myself alongside Taffy Steve as we pressed on.

“Ah, the Pigdon Prowler, ” I announced, referring to the Strava segment we now found ourselves traversing. “I wonder where that name came from?”

Taffy Steve agreed it was bizarre, but admitted to being far more interested in the etymology behind a different Strava segment: “Jonny’s Polish Shagfest” – having spend months trying to identify if we had any Jonny’s in the club he could interrogate to try and understand the origin of the Central European Shagfest and what relation it had to cycling.



Next on our list of came the Trench which again we seemed to run at a reasonable pace, before pausing to regroup. Just as we were determining shorter and longer options, our first group clambered up to join us, having been delayed when Caracol inexplicably tried to mate his rampant bike with Rainman’s. The only issue from this most unholy of unions had been a smashed derailleur, which had forced Rainman to abandon and call for the voiture balai to get him safely home.

Crazy Legs urged the front group to keep going at their usual, brisk pace, while the rest of us would trail along behind in our own time. Several defectors though took the opportunity to drop back into the second group, notably Goose and the Big Yin. Good for them, bad for everyone else as it prompted me to unleash my finest nasal, Dylanesque wail; “What’s the point of changing … horses in midstream.”

Having somehow survived my intemperate wailing, we pressed on toward Rothley crossroads, taking the much maligned and hated traditional route, rather than the equally, or even more maligned and hated novel approach that Taffy Steve had recently inflicted on us.

As the gradient bit and the speed dropped, I pushed onto the front alongside Goose to help pace us up and over the cross-roads. We repeated the exercise on Middleton Bank and then started building up the speed for our long run toward the cafe.

Into the final few mile and I attacked on the rollers, just to surprise everyone, figuring they certainly wouldn’t be expecting the move. I then dragged a quite remarkably unstartled, unmoved and unflustered group, who were firmly lodged on my back wheel, up and around the final corner, before swinging aside for the sprinters to burn past.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Although earlier arrivals had all chose to sit inside the cafe, it was so hot and sticky we decide to sit outside in the garden. Zardoz had heard rumblings about a new, alternative jersey.

“Oh, can I have one with my name on it?” he wondered.

We can all have your name on it,” I assured him.

“Oh, no, I wouldn’t know who I was then,” he deadpanned.

I heard from G-Dawg and Crazy Legs that The Silence had been one of those attending the Ride leaders programme, where, by all accounts he’d remained characteristically tight-lipped and taciturn throughout. I’m not wholly convinced keeping mum is great attribute for a ride leader.

We also learned that he has a near fatal attraction for edging toward the kerb, particularly alarming for anyone caught on his inside. He’d make a deadly sprinter in a bunch finish.


Our brief sojourn in the garden was otherwise uneventful and we left in two or three disparate groups to make our way home. By great good fortune we saw no actual rain, but would periodically encounter soaking wet roads, suggesting we’d only just missed being caught in a fearsome shower or two.

This good fortune held all the way home, completing an unexpectedly dry club run and it wasn’t until I parked up the bike and stepped into the house that the heavens opened up and the rain came stottin’ down.

For once, good timing.


YTD Totals: 4,825 km / 2,998 miles with 64,345 metres of climbing

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Proper Paggered

Proper Paggered

Club Run, Saturday 2nd March, 2019

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:109 km/68 miles with 1,205 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 12 minutes
Average Speed:25.9km/h
Group Size:23 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature:14℃
Weather in a word or two:The calm before?

Ride Profile

The freakishly mild weather has added a new and unwelcome dimension to my personal prevarications, I now not only have to wrestle with critical clothing choices, but even the most basic, fundamental issue of which bike to ride.

I can’t remember ever riding the summer bike in February, but I did last week and once the genie is out of the bottle, it becomes much harder to entice it back in again. Friday night then saw me prepping both the Holdsworth and Peugeot for potential deployment on Saturday, depending on what the morning brought.

10 minutes before leaving I still hadn’t settled on a bike, which was bad news as I didn’t know which shoes to pull on. The ground looked dry and the sky was clear, but it may have rained elsewhere along our route and the forecast highlighted the potential for infrequent light showers.

Aagh! The Master of Prevarication strikes again.

Eenie-meenie-miny-mo?

No, come on, you’re a grown man, make a decision and live with the consequences. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen, Reg might get a bid muddy and wet, but he’s not some effete, cossetted Ribble. Beside, if you’re going to flaunt Flandrian colours, you should expect to enjoy a bit of mud and rain occasionally. So two weeks in a row I get an early Easter present and the chance to ride “the good bike.”

While it still seems too early for good bikes, perhaps it really is that time of year already. Alternatively, maybe the flowers too are confused by the freakishly mild weather. Whatever the reason, the verges are already studded with bright yellow, purple and white crocuses and, here and there, a few premature daffodils have raised their frilly periscopes to check out the conditions.

I swooped down toward the river just as the barriers of the level crossing raised their arms in salute, catching and passing a fellow cyclist who somehow seemed offended by my cheery good morning as I slipped past.

He accelerated to sit huffing and puffing away on my rear wheel all the way to the bridge. I stopped as the lights turned red, but he simply accelerated down the span. Each to his own, but I couldn’t help feeling it was more luck than good judgement that he didn’t meet an impatient driver coming the other way, though.

From there it was all plain sailing and it wasn’t long before I was rolling up to the meeting point.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Taffy Steve immediately took me to task for not describing in minute detail the magical epiphany that accompanies the change from winter bike to summer bike – even if I had to repeat everything I said the year before … and the year before that (and potentially even the year before that.)

Even though he knows it’s coming, like me he’s still amazed by the difference in feel and heft when he swaps his thrice-cursed winter bike of pig iron (pig aluminium?) for the lightweight titanium love-child. Such an important stage in the natural, evolution of the cyclists year, he argues, requires the ritual description of the clouds parting, pillars of golden light blazing down and the angelic singing of the heavenly hosts.

Almost as good as swapping winter bike for summer version, the Garrulous Kid has finally had his Focus Cayo serviced and new cassette, chain, bottom bracket, cables and brake blocks fitted. He insisted everyone admire his newly restored bike and, to be fair, given his past record we might as well imprint it on our memories now, because it won’t look this good until after its next service.

G-Dawg wondered why he hadn’t gone for a black chain with red highlights, like Jimmy Mac’s, but why pay for it, in a week or two his chain will be suitably black, once it had the chance to build up that sticky, oily, coating of protective black grunge again.

By way of contrast, the similarly aged Monkey Butler Boy and Archie Miedes spent the first 5 minutes cleaning and polishing off the mud and crud that had accumulated on their bikes just on their way across to the meeting point.

Szell was out (for the first time this year?) prompting Crazy Legs to enquire if the chrysalis had broken and then checking to ensure that Middleton Bank was definitely planned on our itinerary, with instructions to put it in if it wasn’t there already.

Jimmy Mac outlined the route for the day and had us split into two groups, somehow conspiring to get G-Dawg to take the second group so he could have fun at the front.


As this first group rode out, I tagged onto the back and was joined by Benedict. After the first couple of miles he declared it was a much more civilised and relaxing way to start the ride, rather than giving them a head-start and then hammering away, trying to catch up as we’d done last week.

The boys were feisty today though and we set off at such an infernal pace, I’m not sure we’d have managed bridge across if we had delayed. I netted 14 Strava PR’s in the first 30km alone, as Jimmy Mac, Kermit, Andeven, Rainman and others conspired to propel the group along at breakneck speed.



At one point, as we started to lose riders out the back on a climb, I told Jimmy Mac I didn’t think the pace was sustainable … but we sustained it anyway. In this way the first handful of miles passed under our wheels in a blur, without pause or let-up and no lack of pain.

Just past Mitford, the Garrulous Kid engineered a solo break and, as we started to close in on our traditional stop point at Dyke Neuk, Biden Fecht decided to close him down and piled more speed on top of speed. All this over a road that most definitely resides amongst my least favourites

Still, the catch was made and then we hammered up to the Dyke Neuk Inn to stop, catch our breath and patch our splintered group back together. There we settled in to wait for our second group to join us – given our pace, I suspected it would take much longer than usual.

We were disappointed to find the banana plantations we were secretly cultivating in the area had failed to take root. Still, there’s time yet.

As we waited, we were entertained by the Monkey Butler Boy describing being chased by “the Bizzies.”

“The Bizzies?” we wondered.

“Bizzies?”

The obvious question wasn’t why the Monkey Butler Boy and his associates might find themselves attracting the interest of the boys in blue, but when and how Wallsend had been transported from Tyneside to Merseyside?

The first false alarm in our wait was the appearance of a group of cyclists, who turned out to be an NTR splinter cell. They reported no sign of our second group, despite travelling up the same roads we expected them to use on their approach.

The second false-alarm was the appearance of Big Dunc, who we thought might be the vanguard of the second group, until he admitted he’d left them for a sneaky short-cut.

Finally the second group arrived and I learned I’d missed a round of Leo Sayer ear-worms that Crazy Legs, the Ticker and Taffy Steve had inflicted on each other – You Make me Feel Like Dancing, One Man Band and The Show Must Go On.

Crazy Legs had only managed to banish this insane indignity by recalling the Breakaway song – apparently not the Art Garfunkel/Gallagher and Lyle number, but the advertising jingle for Breakaway Biscuits.

I couldn’t remember that particular ad and my Sutherland’s Spread recollection (Sutherland’s, Sutherland’s scrumptious Sutherland’s, spread on sumptuous Sutherland’s spread …) fell on deaf ears, so I pulled the pin on a “When I Need You” labelled, Leo Sayer grenade, rolled it into the middle of the group and rode off.

Away we went again, almost instinctively falling into the original two groups, causing Crazy Legs to bark with laughter and wonder why the first group had even bothered to wait. Can’t say he didn’t have a point, although we did manage to steal G-Dawg away from the second group.

Around the next corner though, we ran into a surprisingly strong headwind and Carlton, on the front of the second group, put in a huge effort dragging everyone across the gap so they could find a bit of shelter.

We stayed together through the swoop and clamber through Hartburn, before some took a left, while the rest pushed on to Scots Gap and coalesced into two distinct groups.

Archie Miedes then hit the front and seemed intent on shredding the legs of all us old blokes, driving us on towards Scots Gap. “It’s been this mad all morning,” I managed to gasp at G-Dawg as we ripped along.

Archie Miedes ceded the front as we pushed through Scot’s Gap, but as we took the wide, right turn toward Middleton Bank, the speed obviously wasn’t fast enough for his liking, so he pushed onto the front and ramped up the pace again.

Everyone seemed to be going at full gas on the descent to the climb and I tucked in and hunkered down, trying to surf the slipstreams and freewheel enough to recover a little. As we approached the climb itself, I couldn’t help thinking that this was going to hurt and I’d struggle to hang on. Then Archie Miedes pulled up lame … or with a puncture anyway … and suddenly the pace and urgency evaporated.

With enough people back-tracking to help out the puncture victim, I decided to push on to the top of the hill at a more leisurely pace, thinking I’d get it over with before stopping to regroup.

I picked up Biden Fecht on the way and he decided it was a reasonable plan, kicking away up the hill while I took it at a much more considered and relaxed pootle.

Rainman obviously had the same idea and passed me on the way up.
“That’s the most pleasant ride I’ve ever had up here,” I declared as I joined the pair now waiting at the entrance to the farm at the top of the hill.

Without the blood-pounding, tunnel-vision and screaming legs of a full on assault of the slope, it was quite a gentle, easy ascent and a completely different experience.

“I could actually hear birds singing all the way up,” Biden Fecht revealed cheerfully.

“And I didn’t even know there was a farm here,” Rainman added.

As we waited, chatting, Kermit clambered past, intent on pushing straight onto the cafe. With repairs well in hand at the bottom of the hill and nothing we could add to proceedings, we decided to follow and joined him.

We pushed on with a slightly ragged through-and-off, building up our speed until once again my legs were screaming, my lungs burning and I was just about hanging on. I was, in the Ticker’s profound words, proper paggered as we hit the bottom of the Rollers …

… so I attacked.

Tradition. It’s not to be taken lightly, so I felt I had no choice in the matter.

I almost had a gap, but couldn’t sustain it over the third and fourth humps, succeeding only in distancing Kermit, battling bravely, but severely handicapped riding his winter bike.

Rainman shot past and away and I tagged onto Biden Fecht’s wheel as he set off in pursuit, hanging there until the final climb, when he put in a big dig to bring back Rainman. It fell just short of its target, but left me trailing.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee shop:

Once again we determined that we could probably get away with sitting outside, proof if ever it’s needed that you can’t accurately judge ambient temperature following a mile long uphill sprint.

It was a bit chilly, but after some prevarication we stuck it out. Following our example we were joined by most of the later arrivals until we had two bench tables filled on either side. It was a comradely, misery loves company type of collective suffering and I’m not convinced there was any benefit from shared body heat.

Crazy Legs arrived sat down and then shot up again with cramp in his foot. He kicked off a boot and clambered onto the bench, bouncing on his toes to try and ease the pain. As he towered over me I was waiting for a “O Captain, my Captain” moment, but he wasn’t in the mood for channelling Walt Whitman and all I got was a minuscule, cramp-inspired whimper instead of a mighty, barbaric yawp.

The last group to arrive escorted Archie Miedes home and we learned his tyres belonged amongst the ranks of those that seem almost impossibly hard to remove and replace.

We also learned that Archie Miedes had earned himself an everlasting place in the Hall of Shame, reserved for those who go out for a ride without the means and wherewithal to repair a simple puncture. It’s not a good place to be, but he’s in there with some surprisingly illustrious and esteemed company.

To prove his new found maturity, the Garrulous Kid proudly announced he, at least, was now carrying both a spare tube and tyre levers. No pump though, or CO2 canister, so I’m not exactly sure if that actually makes him more, or less foolhardy.

Crazy Legs recalled the day one of our former riders, Arnold, became inducted into the Hall of Shame. He’d punctured the week before and broken his pump, which was fortuitous timing as it was coming up to his birthday and he was struggling to think of anything he wanted as a present.

The following Saturday he punctured again and, shamefacedly had to admit he didn’t have the means and wherewithal to repair a simple puncture, flagging down Crazy Legs to ask for a pump to borrow.

“I thought you were getting a new pump for your birthday?” a perplexed Crazy Legs had asked.

“I am. My wife’s already bought it, but I’m not allowed to use it because my actual birthday’s not until tomorrow,” Arnold had ruefully replied.

This reminded me of (surely an urban myth) the story of a new season-ticket holder at Newcastle, who’d been surprised the seat beside him remained empty, game, after game, after game. With a reportedly long waiting list for tickets he’d enquired if perhaps the seat was available to purchase only to be told it definitely had an owner.

When said owner finally turned up, he’d informed his new neighbour not to enquire why he’d missed so many games, but finally relented to reveal he’d his wife had bought the season ticket for a Christmas present …

Just about everything we discussed then paled into insignificance by the highlight of the day, or maybe month, or perhaps even the year. This was the rather startling declaration from the Garrulous Kid – and I quote him exactly here so there’s no misunderstanding –

“I share a bath with my sister.”

Yes, well, hmmm. Moving swiftly on …


After such a blockbuster revelation, everyone was ready to go, with some riders turning left from the cafe for a slightly longer return ride. I took the usual right, keen to get home and catch the start of the Classics and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Proper bike racing has finally started again.

I dropped in alongside Jimmy Mac as we turned off the main road onto the lanes.

My Garmin has just told me it’s battery is low,” he started, “and suggested I switch it to Power-Saving Mode. So I did and it just turned itself off completely!”

Well, we had to admit, that was the ultimate power-saving mode and his Garmin would probably retain its limited charge for days now, if not weeks.

“Let’s keep it together up the climb,” OGL called as we approached the bottom of Berwick Hill. As if on cue, G-Dawg and the Garrulous Kid immediately surged off the front and chased each other up the hill.

I accelerated to track them, pulling those with the legs left to follow upwards. As I caught up with a grinning G-Dawg on the reverse slope, he predicted a Facebook rant about group riding etiquette sometime that night.

He wasn’t to be disappointed.

We pushed on into the Mad Mile side by side, both commenting on the sudden, stiff headwind that appeared to have been lying in wait until just that very moment. So, it’s back to that is it? Great.

Let’s see what next week brings.


YTD Totals: 1,353 km / 841 miles with 18,447 metres of climbing

Mildly Tyre Sum

Mildly Tyre Sum

Club Run 26th January, 2019

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance: 100 km/62 miles & 1,006m of climbing
Riding Time: 4 hours 8 minutes
Average Speed:24.1 km/h
Group Size:30 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature: 10°C
Weather in a word or two:Disturbingly mild

Ride Profile

The weather continues to confound, swinging from a frigid -4°C on Wednesday’s early morning commute, to disturbingly mild, double-figures for the weekend.

With no ice to worry about and the morning’s starting to get lighter too, the big concern first thing Saturday was perfecting the balancing act and getting the layering just right – we were looking for the Goldilocks ideal – not too hot and not too cold.

So, a single base layer, Galibier jacket (in case the threatened rain or sleet materialised early than forecast), thin gloves with liners, no buff, no hat or headband. It was a reasonably, solid effort, a self-scoring 7, or an 8 out of 10 and I only feeling chilly the few times we were forced to stopped.

The roads were strangely quiet of fellow cyclists as I made my way across to the meeting place, but it seemed to be a day for solitary runners, who were out in force, in all sizes, shapes and styles.

There were so many, I wondered if there was an upcoming event they were all training for, or perhaps we now had a National Running Day to go along with National Hugging Day, National Pie Eating Day, National Rubik’s Cube Day, or whatever new nonsense they’ve come up with. (Apparently National Running Day does actually exist, but it’s in June.)

On the final approach to the meeting point I was caught behind a vaping driver, billowing plumes of sickly, sweet-smelling smoke out of his car window. It took me a while, but I finally recognised that he seemed to be indulging in a blackcurrant vape, possibly Ribena, or perhaps Vimto? A new one to add to Taffy Steve’s list of improbable and nauseating vape flavours.


Main Topics of Conversation at the Meeting Point:

G-Dawg pointed to the cheap, emergency, strap-on LED light on my handlebars and recounted how he’d attached one to his dog, after its purpose built LED collar failed. He said it worked as a great substitute, until the dog went plunging headlong into the river, at which point he mentally wrote it off.

He was then hugely surprised when the dog had emerged, with the light still blinking away furiously. At this point he decided that for a cheap light, he’d found something that was surprisingly sturdy, waterproof and wholly reliable … until he tried to turn it off to save the batteries for another day and found he couldn’t.

I imagined the disgruntled dog sitting at home, still blinking away like a stray satellite and unable to sleep for the disturbing bursts of light searing through its eyelids every time it tried.

Crazy Legs revealed he’d finished last weeks ride, taken off his gilet and hung it over the handlebars of his bike in the garage. It had still been there waiting for him this morning, but he’d only managed to half pull it on before its rank stink had dissuaded him and he’d been forced to consign it directly to the washing basket.

OGL commented on someone suggesting that he could wear a base layer ten times in a row between washes – or was it ten years in a row? Anyway, this is entirely possible because it was made with miraculous non-stink, Merino wool. I think it’s probably fine – but only if you can pedal fast enough to outpace your own odour …

Still, G-Dawg thought you could get at least 4 “good” wears out of a pair of Y-fronts, worn normally, back to front and then repeating the process but inside out. He was joking. (Right?) The disturbing level of detail he added, such as saving the right side out and the right way around “for best” did make me wonder …

OGL then mentioned some all-day British Cycling, regional meeting in February and wondered if anyone wanted to accompany him to represent the club, a sort of sharing of the pain. He didn’t seem to find any irony in the fact that nobody else has any kind of official status in the club (other than being a paid-up, or even non-paying member.)

In other news, he suggested that the city’s £11 million development plan for two sporting hubs could see a cycling track and possibly clubhouse, built at the Bullocksteads site near the rugby stadium. This, he offered, could be a better meeting point for club rides. This vision was enthusiastically embraced by G-Dawg who lives right on the doorstep of the proposed development. I’ve no doubt he could see his future-self rolling out of bed at 8:55 and still being the first one to arrive at the meeting point.

Taffy Steve nodded over to where Princess Fiona and Mini Miss had gathered and were chatting away.

“The red car and the blue car had a race…” he intoned, drawing attention to the fact that they were dressed almost identically, except one was wearing a red jacket and the other a blue one.

“Do you remember that Milky Way advert?” he asked, “I hated it.”

I wondered what it was provoked such hatred, could it have been the art style and direction? The patent absurdity of it’s storyboard? The jaunty, jangling soundtrack? The ear-worm effectiveness of its jingle? Perhaps it was the product itself, the rather effete, light-weight Milky Way that made him curl his lip in disdain?

“It’s the lyric’s he explained, starting to sing away, “The red car and the blue car had a race, but all Red wants to do is stuff his face, he eats everything he see’s, from trucks to prickly trees, but smart old Blue he took the Milky Way.” He paused, but not for long …

“So, what’s wrong with that? Prickly trees? Prickly trees! Pah! They obviously meant cactuses, but were too lazy to find anything that would rhyme with cactuses, cacti or whatever. Even as a kid I knew it was just a lazy cop-out. Grrr!”

It’s amazing what superficial ephemera we carry from our yoof and how much it can still trouble and annoy us …

Our route architect for the day, Crazy Legs asked if anyone was interested in the full details of his grand plan. Apparently not, so without further ado, he invited G-Dawg to lead out those who wanted a faster ride, adding that there’d be no waiting to regroup.

The first group started to coalesce around G-Dawg, with the majority of riders joining. I hung back to try and even out the numbers, but it was still a two-thirds to one-third split – apparently no one wants any kind of association with a “slow” group.

Crazy Legs did have a little rueful chuckle to himself, as the (always game) Goose bumped his steel behemoth down off the kerb and went to join the fast group.

We agreed he’d be fine, he likes a challenge and the route wasn’t too hilly.


The second group followed, but we hadn’t gone more than a couple of hundred yards before the Red Max’s front tyre gave out with a sound like a sputtering Catherine Wheel – fzzzzit-fzzzzit-fzzzzit-fzzzzit.

We all pulled to a stop and clustered around and I moved up in unison with Crazy Legs to see how we could help.

“Don’t worry,” he declared, “We’ll soon have it fixed, the Dream Team’s here!” as he referred to the time we’d fruitlessly spent half an hour struggling with Big Dunc’s unholy alliance of Continental Grand Prix tyres and Shimano rims (Trial of Tyre’s.)

We’d failed in that instance, only to later learn that Big Dunc had saved himself through the simple expedience of flipping the wheel around and inserting the inner tube into the other side. Why that made a difference, I really don’t know, but it obviously did and it might be worth trying if you’re ever stuck with seriously recalcitrant tyres.

Despite the close attention and best ministrations of the Dream Team, the tyre change went pretty smoothly and we were soon back on the road again.

I was on the front with the Ticker, (Ticker-less, now he’s on his winter bike) and we spent much of the time calling back, trying to determine what the route was – I really should have paid attention, or at least encouraged Crazy Legs to give us an actual and foolproof briefing.

Occasional incoherent shouting punctured our ride, apparently caused by a RIM in a Volvo taking exception to our right of way, but I was well insulated from any altercations as we plugged away on the front, up through High Callerton and toward Medburn.



Here, we were drawn to a halt when the Red Max’s tyre gave out again. While he cursed his shoddy and useless Continental summer tyres, that seemed shot after “a mere 5,000 miles” of extraordinary wear and tear, I double-checked the rim and carcass for offending objects – glass, thorns, shards of metal, flints, rough edges, caltrops, thumb tacks, whatever. There was nothing.

Meanwhile, the Red Max realised he’d used a Vittoria inner tube, so he had a little rant about “Italian crap” while he was on. Even as a proud Vittorian I wasn’t going to stand in front of that particular runaway express.

“Badd-bing-badda-fzzzzit,” Taffy Steve added helpfully.

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs took the flaccid, holed tube off the Red Max, ostensibly to locate where the puncture was, but really just to hold it up to his nose and inhale deeply.

“Ah, I love the smell of rubber,” he declared, evidently quite content with the world. Apparently it smelled considerably better than his gilet.

There then followed a very deep, lengthy and philosophical discussion about how inner tubes can smell so good, when the air inside them is so rank.

“Like stale kippers,” I suggested and nobody disagreed.

We got going again and pressed on to the crossroads at Heugh, where a bronchitis-suffering OGL made a bee-line for the cafe. The Red Max decided to cut his ride short too, hoping to lessen the chances for further punctures and departed to provide escort duties.

Somewhere along the way I found myself directly behind Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs as they rode along, for some reason arguing about similarities between OGL and, somewhat randomly, football manager Neil Warnock.

Things turned a shade darker when Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe and Saddam Hussein were somehow added to the equation Still, the only conclusion they could agree on was that, if Idi Amin was a club member, they were pretty sure he hadn’t paid his subs in a good long while. Bizarre.

Having been delayed by recurrent punctures, we took a slight short cut toward the Quarry and, as the road started to climb, I nudged onto the front alongside Crazy Legs.

As we pulled the group along I complained about how I seemed to have become a dirt magnet for the day, liberally spotted and besplattered with mud from head to toe. My boots had turned a deeply unpleasant shade of brown and I was peering out at the world through seriously spotted glasses.

It was bad enough to start me singing “Teenage Dirtbag” – a selection that was at least tolerated by Crazy Legs as a “not-too-bad” earworm.

“Left, or right?” Crazy Legs pondered as we dragged the group toward the top of the Quarry.

“Left,” I declared, “We haven’t been that way for a long time.” So long in fact that I’d forgotten bits of the road had actually been patched and was (in places) almost decent.

So, left we went, slowing to allow everyone to regroup after the climb. As we rolled on, Crazy Legs bent right over to point, his finger hovering scant inches from the road surface as he bellowed out a lung-shredding “POT!” – a warning that was probably heard in the Scottish Borders.

“Sometimes, I really think I need to become a little more mature,” Crazy Legs considered.

“No, don’t go changin’ – we love you just the way you are.” I assured him.

He rode on in silence for a good dozen or so pedal strokes while he digested this …

“You bastard! You utter, utter bastard!” he complained, “First you give me Wheatus and then snatch it away for … for bloody Billy Joel!”

“Oh, is that a Billy Joel song?” I enquired innocently.

He then swore me to silence as he had a huge confession to make, needed advice, but demanded the ultimate in discretion. (This blerg doesn’t count, as no one reads it.) He looked around cautiously to make sure no one could eavesdrop. The group was still reforming behind us after the climb and we had a brief exclusion zone.

“I’ve been thinking about my set-up for the mountains and … Well… I don’t think I can get what I want with Campag.”

I was deeply shocked, almost speechless, as he hurriedly and in hushed tones, talked about Shimano, or even SRAM groupset options. Oh and the sky is falling down and meanwhile, in deepest, darkest hell, the thermostat’s been nudged up just a little …

Further discrete discussions around this bombshell were abandoned as we started a slow burn for the cafe, gradually picking up the pace.

“Do you want to go for this sprint?” Crazy legs wondered.

“Nah, I’m happy to just roll through.”

We built up the speed until all the talking behind stopped and we were lined out, clipping along, bouncing and juddering across the rough road surface.

I nodded up ahead where the road rose, before starting to drop down toward the Snake Bends.

“Take it to the top and then unleash the hounds?” I suggested.

So we did, peeling off neatly to either side and ushering the rest through for the final charge.

Cowin’ Bovril was the first to try his hand, surging off the front as we drifted toward the back.

He briefly had a good gap, but was slowly reeled in. Then, just before the road started to level, Taffy Steve attacked from the back, an astute masterclass in timing.

The gap quickly yawned upon, Cowin’ Bovril was washed away and only Carlton seemed able to give chase. I nudged onto his wheel and followed, but the move proved decisive. Carlton closed, but couldn’t come to terms with a flying Taffy Steve.


Main Topics of Conversation at the Coffee Stop:

In the cafe, Carlton apologised for our slightly ramshackle and disorganised riding at the start of our grand adventure, but explained that, when you’re on the front with your nose in the wind, it’s really difficult to hear what’s being shouted up from behind.

We agreed we needed a better system and Crazy Legs’ idea of passing messages forward always seemed to stall half way up the line.

“Perhaps we need a dog whistle?” Crazy Legs pondered.

Visions of One Man and His Dog sprang to mind. Cum ba Shep, cum ba. No, don’t think that’s going to work.

Changing tack, Carlton wondered what was going on with the weather. “It’s at least three degrees warmer today,” he remarked.

“Did you say three degrees?” I queried.

We paused…

I looked at Crazy Legs, Crazy Legs looked at me and we both shook our heads. Luckily, neither of us could remember any Three Degrees songs. A narrow escape.

We reminisced about our old representative from the Hollow Lands,
De Uitheems Bloem, who we have traded in for a younger, newer model in Rainman. (It’s my understanding that Dutch riders are held in in such high regard, that UCI rules limit them to one per club. As such I can’t recall if our two ever actually rode together, but I do know we weren’t allowed to keep both.)

Crazy Legs remembered planning a winter break to Amsterdam and asking
De Uitheems Bloem for some recommendations. He later received a 5-page email, detailing a full itinerary of all the things to see and do on his trip. This was appended with a long range weather forecast for the weekend; sunrise and sunset times, temperature, wind speed and direction, chance of precipitation, air pressure, cloud cover and pollen count. It concluded that it looked like being a particularly mild weekend, “so don’t bother taking your skates.”

On returning, Crazy Legs had sought out De Uitheems Bloem, “Thanks for all the recommendations, that was brilliant. By the way, English people don’t own skates.”

“They don’t?”

We shared tales of riding in the Alps with Carlton, who seemed surprised that the Col de la Croix de Fer was Crazy Legs’ favourite climb. He couldn’t recall seeing the (admittedly modest) iron cross, perhaps because his overriding memory of the climb was being paced up it by a wild horse. This beast, rather worryingly, refused to leave the road and didn’t seem all that bothered by the gaggle of cyclists lined out behind it.

“It was obviously a draught horse,” I offered. I thought it was funny, Crazy Legs was simply dismayed. Secretly, I just think he was upset because the only wildlife we saw on the climb was a sun-blasted, completely flattened, giant toad-in-the-road. (The Circle of Death).

Talk of climbing mountains led Carlton to talk about Jimmy Mac’s 900 gram, special climbing wheelset. First, Crazy Legs thanked Carlton profusely for introducing the subject of wheels into the conversation, something he felt we hadn’t discussed for … oh, at least 3 or 4 weeks. Then things got serious as we fired off a range of questions to try and frame the fearful symmetry of Jimmy Mac’s climbing wheelset …

“What type of spokes, how many and how are they laced?” Crazy Legs demanded.

“When you say 900 grams, is that with, or without rim tape?” I pondered.

“Quick release skewers?” Crazy Legs added.

“The cassette?”

“The freehub?”

A rather overwhelmed Carlton could provide none of the answers and was now probably regretting mentioning wheels in the first place.

Now Crazy Legs wanted Jimmy Mac to ride out on his fabled wheels and then strip them down completely, so he could fully weigh them and see if their claimed mass could be independently verified.

Luckily, Carlton spotted Jimmy Mac entering the cafe at just that moment and was able to deflect Crazy Legs onto the actual wheel owner. Crazy Legs immediately got up to pursue the issue, before coming back and reporting it was a dead-end, as Jimmy Mac had trashed the wheels during his International Grand Fondo horror smash.

I thought this would deflate Crazy Legs somewhat, but it actually cheered him up. He now felt fully vindicated in his view that such wheels aren’t robust enough to stand up to the wear and tear of actually riding on them.


All good things come to an end and were soon lining up to head for home. Here I noticed the Monkey Butler Boy visibly shivering.

“Feeling the cold?” I asked him, proving yet again just how startlingly perceptive I am.

“Yes,” he replied tightly, “And it’s all his fault” he pointed at the Red Max.

“But that’s unfair, surely your dad didn’t tell you what to wear this morning?”

“No, but I inherited a stupid gene from him.”

Ha!

As we set off I found myself chatting to the Red Max as we trailed the Monkey Butler Boy. He despaired at his progeny’s lack of common sense and choice of attire, short sleeve jersey and arm warmers, shorts and knee warmers, already despoiled white socks and once pristine (now poisonous ivory) shoes. Looking at Max bundled up in a winter jacket, gloves, boots, and hat, I determined that genetics isn’t always the answer.

I also noticed that of the four teens out today, at least three of them were riding bikes without mudguards, whereas just about all the older set had at least some semblance of protection for themselves, their bikes and most importantly, their fellow riders.

I wondered if that says something about generational differences – perhaps the youngsters are more concerned with style, or maybe they’re more willing to put up with discomfort? More daring? More stoical? Harder? Less cossetted?

Then again, perhaps I’m over-thinking it and they are what they seem to be when I’m at my grumpiest – at best thoughtless, or just plain inconsiderate.

The Red Max told me he’d taken the Monkey Butler Boy along to see a professional coach, who told all the youngsters that they were training too hard and in the wrong way. He’d described the ideal training programme as a pyramid, a base of solid, core, low intensity miles, capped with fewer, high intensity efforts only once this base had been established.

The concept resonated with the Red Max:

“That was interesting wasn’t it?” he’d asked.

“Yes, it was good.”

Something to think about?”

“Nah, it obviously doesn’t apply to me.”

A “3-2-1-Go” countdown signalled an impromptu sprint up the final few metres to the crest of Berwick Hill, fiercely contested by G-Dawg and the Garrulous Kid.

What can I say, the Garrulous Kid, in the full prime of youth and with all the advantages of modern technology, astride his ultra-light, uber-Teutonic, precision engineered, carbon Focus, was up against the grizzled veteran, three times his age and hauling an all steel fixie. It seemed a very unequal contest …

And so it proved. The Garrulous Kid was chewed up, worked over and unceremoniously spat out the back. Score one for the wrinklies.

I slotted in alongside Jimmy Mac as we started down the other side of Berwick Hill, where we were passed by a lone Derwent C.C. cyclist, all elbows and a busy style.

“He’s a bit far from home. I wonder what he’s doing on the boring roads over here, when he has the choice of all those good hilly routes south of the river?” Jimmy Mac mused.

This prompted a discussion about possible rides and the challenging terrain “over there” in the south of the Tyne badlands, (or Mordor, as my clubmates will refer to it.)

We hit the climb up to Dinnington and, in just a few metres, the gap between us and the Derwent C.C. rider almost entirely evaporated.

“Ah,” I suggested, “He doesn’t like hills.”

“Which is why he’s riding over here!” we both decided in unison.

As we entered the Mad Mile, I was completely and wholly unsurprised when a sudden headwind seemed to rise up out of nowhere. I’m getting used to this now.

I sheltered behind Caracol and G-Dawg for as long as I could, then I was on my own and plugging my way home. I got back suitably tired – I might not have been running with the “fast group” but I felt I’d had a good workout nonetheless.


YTD Totals: 648 km / 403 miles with 8,825 metres of climbing.