The Hold Steady

Club Run, Saturday 21st May, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  114 km / 71 miles with 1,056 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 9 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.4 km/h

Group size:                                         24 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    19°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and passably warm

Main topic of conversation at the start:

I’d donated a pair of arm warmers to Taffy Steve because they were far too big for my puny, spindly arms and just a tiny bit too tight to even wear on my legs. He modelled them for his ride in and wondered what kind of idiot needed a big L and R on each cuff so they would know which arm to put them on.

I held out both my arms so he could see the corresponding L and R on the cuffs of my sleeves and explained this was even worse because these weren’t individual arm warmers, but a long sleeved base layer, with a logo on the front breast, a label inside the back and a scooped neck at the front so you know exactly which way to put it on. Or maybe not.

This left us wondering if cyclists could be unintentionally set up as the sporting equivalent of the dumb blonde. It reminded Taffy Steve of awful Irish “comedian” Jimmy Cricket who featured in The Krankies Klub with The Krankies and Bobby Davro. Now there’s a Iine-up that could still make me break me out in a cold sweat.

As well as lame catchphrases, Jimmy Cricket was of course famous for wearing wellies with a big L and R incised on the front, but wait, there’s more, as he hilariously wore these on the wrong feet. I know, side-splittingly funny.

This in turn reminded me of a very old and fetid joke about C&A knickers, but let’s not go there and then lead to completely unfounded speculation that posited OGL as the Bernard Manning of the local cycling club scene.

With the weather being a bit of a lottery as to how much rain we might get and exactly when, Crazy Legs revealed he’d packed his non-waterproof waterproof. Taffy Steve was imminently disdainful of any waterproof jacket and explained he must be putting them on inside out as the outside would remain dry, while the inside quickly became sodden.

An interesting article about changing cycling club culture that the Hammer had posted on our Faecesbook page caused a little, but in my mind not enough debate. I may yet have to return to this topic, much like a dog to its own vomit.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Crazy Legs revealed someone had invented a pump integrated into a seat tube, but of course you had to dismantle half of your bike to access it. It apparently weighs in at a measly 718g and is yours for a mere $50 plus P&P.


We decided the design could be improved if it worked in situ, the piston action perhaps providing a degree of suspension to smooth out a few bumps in the road. Even better if it was always connected and the bumps inflated your tyres as you rolled along. The problem then of course would be that on the horribly rutted and potted roads around here you would very quickly inflate your tyres beyond rock hard and unrideable, right up to spectacular blow out levels.

Thoughts turned to the Giro and I suggested (wrongly as it turns out) that no one with a team in our club fantasy Giro league had selected Valverde. Crazy Legs suggested this was because no one liked the wheel-sucking, drug-cheating, play-it-safe, selfish and unrepentant-doper, not even his own Movistar team mates.

He cited an early stage in the Giro when Visconti wouldn’t leave a breakaway in order to help his supposed leader, feigning radio problems before blatantly arguing with his DS and adamantly refusing to drop back to help.

There was further speculation that Valverde was so unpopular he didn’t have any friends on Faecesbook, no connections on Linked-In and no followers on Strava.

Crazy Legs complained his team of fantasy picks had been systematically decimated, his bad luck particularly epitomised by J.C. Peraud, simultaneously riding both his first and very last Giro, given joint team-leadership responsibilities and not even surviving long enough to ride a single metre on Italian roads.

This in turn brought up discussions about the proposed Giro 2018 start in Japan and how long a rest would be needed to recover from a 14-hour transfer. As a solution we came up with the idea of twinning – one rider completing the first few overseas stages before handing over to another rider to finish things off.

We then decided it would be more fun if the riders were “twinned” by lottery and it would be interesting to see who they were paired with and their reactions when the draw was made, for example when an overall contender had to rely on say Marcel Kittel to climb the 3,778 metres up Mount Fuji.

I suggested the riders could actually pick their twins, like choosing sides for a playground kick around and how informative it would be to see who was last man selected. Crazy Legs though scolded me for being silly, as it was obvious who would be the last man picked: the ever unpopular Alejandro Valverde obviously.

He then caught Son of G-Dawg fiddling with his phone and accused him of being caught quickly and surreptitiously unfriending Valverde on Faecesbook. We waited for the phone to ring and a Spanish accented voice start to plead with Son of G-Dawg not to follow through with the unfriending –  but sadly it never happened. Perhaps Balaverde (the Green Bullet) had other things on his mind at the time?

Ride profile 21 May
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

Despite having everything set out and sorted the night before, I found myself strangely short of time and dashing around early Saturday morning trying to get ready and out the door to ensure a timely arrival at the meeting point. It wasn’t to be and leaving over 10 minutes behind my usual schedule, I considered shortening my route, but thought if I just pushed a little faster than normal I could still make it before we set off for our regular and prompt 9.00 o’clock start (i.e. at 9.20 on the nose).

I dropped quickly down the hill and turned straight into a headwind that had me even more concerned and gave a little extra impetus and no small measure of unwelcome resistance to my charge. My usual early morning ramble now had a measure of urgency that saw me crouched low over the bike and trying to keep a high cadence.

With one eye on the time display of my Garmin, I passed the 8.42-mile mark (which I knew I’d hit at exactly 8:42 a couple of weeks back when I was on schedule) and checked to find it was only 8:35. I’d somehow made up the missing 10 plus minutes, gained another 5 and was now in danger of being much too early. I dialled the intensity back to a more, steady pace I could actually hold, but not before I’d set 4 Strava PR’s with my efforts.

For the day I’d chosen the most extreme version of kit matching imaginable to go with my black, red and yellow bike with the Lion of Flanders bar end plugs, yellow and black Vitorria Corsa tyres and carefully selected black red and yellow, BMC/PowerBar water bottle. This consisted of a Planet X Flanders jersey and shorts in yellow, black and red emblazoned with the Lion of Flanders, my new, very, very shiny, very, very red and very, very plasticky Chinese shoes and yellow socks also emblazoned with a black Lion of Flanders.

Is this going too far?

The whole was topped off with a new Carnac aero helmet in black, yellow and red which, just to change things up a little, was emblazoned with the Lion of Flanders across the crown. According to one of my esteemed work colleagues this makes me look like an angry wasp, although I prefer to think the look is more akin to a benevolent, bumbling bee.

Lots of people … I was going to say complimented me, but I think just commented on my kit choice is the more accurate description. They did however all suggest I was at the very least “well co-ordinated.” There you go, I’m not the best rider in the club, nor the fastest, nor even the most stylish, but just for this one day I was the most co-ordinated and at my age you’ve got to take your victories where you can find them.

Crazy Legs suggested the whole look was ruined because my sunglasses didn’t match and I had to sheepishly admit I had some in a fetching shade of black, red and yellow on order, they just hadn’t arrived yet. Hmm, there’s a book called obsessive compulsive cycling disorder, isn’t there? I wonder if it’s catching…



The anointed time arrived and 24 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out under intermittingly bright and sunny skies and occasionally dark, overcast patchwork cloud. All the weather forecasts had predicted that we were likely to see rain at some point during the day, the only question was exactly when and with what intensity and duration.

I completed the first part of the ride alongside the Monkey Butler Boy, fresh from conquering the Wooler Wheel and growing fast. Too fast. I’ve tried to persuade the Red Max to stop feeding him, but apparently he has well-honed foraging instincts and is surprisingly feral.

At one point we were split with cars in between the gaps and stopped at a junction to regroup. It was here that we learned we’d lost Szell, who had turned for home after only a few miles with no indication of why he’d abandoned. Perhaps he was just disappointed our intended route didn’t involve an ascent of Middleton Bank.

Pretty much from the re-start I found myself on the front with Caracol where the wind became particularly noticeable and occasionally head-on and energy sapping. Nonetheless we pushed things along at a steady pace until we reached one of our traditional places to stop and split the group.


The Red Max tried to persuade the Monkey Butler Boy that the long route was actually the shortest way to the café. Armed with a keen sense of mistrust, perhaps common in many father-son relationships, but I suspect especially well-honed between this pair, the Monkey Butler Boy wasn’t buying it. Perhaps remembering the “shorter, easier route” that took in the Ryals a few week past, he needed a great deal of persuading to accompany the longer, harder, faster group and a bit of bribery as well, managing to offload his rain cape from his own back pocket onto his dad.

At one point we passed by what I can best describe as a dead duck in the middle of the road, (it was a duck and it was indeed dead) though it looked surprisingly intact. Disappointingly there was no one within our ranks to claim the carcase.

The pace increased as we approached the Quarry Climb and when Andeven spun away up the outside with Caracol in pursuit, I accelerated to follow, cresting the climb to find Crazy Legs in close attendance on my rear wheel, apparently just in case I tried a long, long break for home!


I had time for a brief chat with Aveline, who’d had her rear wheel fixed and was pleased to find it no longer sounded like a bag of loose spanners, or made her feel seasick with the constant wobbling and then the pace started to build for the run to the café.

A sudden burst off the front saw a gap opening and with a massive effort, out of the saddle with the bike skipping and bouncing, I managed to bridge as last man across as we fractured into two groups.  I hung on as riders rotated off the front, an improvised paceline that whipped the speed up even higher.

Crazy Legs rolled back from his stint at the spearhead and slotted in front of me, while Son of G-Dawg charged off the front. Moscas tried surging up the inside, but couldn’t close the gap and we slowly crept up and then parallel with him.

Crazy Legs now manoeuvred so he was riding practically down the white line to try and find the least damaged piece of road surface. It helped, but not by much, as wheels continued to bounce and everything shook viciously.

I moved to overtake him, but was straying into the opposite lane and a car, still quarter of a mile away took exception and started flashing his lights furiously. Being sensible for once and realising my overtaking speed was likely to be akin to glacial creep, I eased, slipped back and tucked in again.

The car swept past and I tried once more, hitting the front of the pack just behind the front runners in time to sit up and ease back for the Snake Bends. As usual, great fun mixed with a little danger and some pure exhilaration.

From the café Taffy Steve again found himself leading the charge home and opted to pull over and let someone else batter ahead into the wind. I was still feeling good so joined Sneaky Pete on the front, trying to contain his over-exuberance and try and limit the number of “Steady!” cries we were generating from behind.

At one point he suggested, “Steady’s all you’ll ever get from me” I would have laughed, but I was too out of breath trying to keep pace with his incessant half-wheeling. Retired folk these days eh? You just can’t control them.

I actually thought we did a damn fine job pulling everyone home to the point when half turned off and the rest were able to slingshot around us and charge down the Mad Mile.

A good ride and the rain never did manage to catch us, but it’ll have to keep me going for a week or two as I head off on holiday. How inconvenient. No doubt I’ll miss more vintage runs full of of fun and frivolity and, who knows maybe even a welcome return for Captain America. Enjoy the peace.

I’ll be back…

YTD Totals: 2,932 km / 1,821 miles with 28,170 metres of climbing


Proxy Proselytisers Batman! – The Superhero Edition

Club Run, Saturday 20th February, 2016

Taffy Steve’s Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                             99 km/64 miles with 1,033 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                      4 hours 38 minutes

Average Speed:                             23 km/h

Group size:                                     An unknown number of riders. No SLJ!

Weather in a word or two:      Well, it was nice indoors…

The return of some dread viral chest infection had me feeling fuzzy round the edges, aching in every limb and confined indoors, missing the club run and wondering if I could get away with another gaping hole in my blog publishing schedule.

I was considering writing about the conundrum of different crank lengths, although that’s far too technical for me, so perhaps something about be the relative aesthetic merits of Castelli vs. Santini gear was more in order, or something else equally as useless, earth-shattering and revelatory …

…and then, crawling bravely through the shattered wire, mud, shell holes, blood and trenches, an after-action report brought words from the front: Saturday’s Club Run seen through the eyes of Taffy Steve and complete with a metaphorical white feather for those caught malingering indoors.

With the odd (and I do mean odd) addition from Crazy Legs, Taffy Steve gamely took up my heavy and less than subtle cudgel of irreverent and sardonic commentary to beat everyone about the head and shoulders with, outlining what sounds like an absolute classic club run.

So without further ado, and only a touch of paraphrasing and one or two embellishments, take it away Taffy Steve… (corny, I know – but I’ve always wanted to say that)

“So Sur la Jante had an unauthorised absence this week, and typically it was a vintage week for nonsense.

At the arrival at the meeting place a small leather strap was found on the floor and we quickly decided that the it must have come from the steed of the BFG which is bedecked solely in cow products. (As you may have noticed from our past encounters with him, the BFG is truly devoted to vintage bicycles featuring the use of all natural materials, even though the more modern equivalents are cheaper, lighter, better engineered and far more effective. Hence he likes to ride on wooden rims that warp after a few miles, while using cork brake shoes that don’t work very well and are scientifically proven to actually speed up wheel rotation when applied to rims in the wet.)

We drifted slowly westward – pushed onward by Crazy Legs until he ran out of steam. During this journey OGL declared that he had been riding a bike “seriously” since 1959 – so not as old as Sputnik but predating the Apollo program. (I often think one of the problems is too much serious bike riding, but then I have been accused of being flippant on more than a few occasions)

He told me that a certain house had actually been there since he had been riding – apparently my reply of “Excellent” made Crazy Legs forget that we were flat out at 22 kph. (Although we all recognise he’s old, I was unaware up to this point that OGL regards himself as a modern day Methuselah – a man who has outlived entire buildings, if not civilsations).

After a couple of splits, four of us were joined by an interloper – dressed all in blue with white stars – Captain America had arrived in Stamfordham!


Tour of California - Stage 5
Captain America

We caught up with Crazy Legs and Ovis struggling with a punctured Conti 4 seasons which didn’t want to be re-homed and was hanging desperately to the rim like a Calais Jungle refugee clinging to the Eurostar.

Red Max tried to take control, but succeeded only in managing to fire an errant tyre lever off into some brambles and boldly went in after it. (Rumours that he’s still in there and waiting for some kind hearted Daniel to remove a thorn from his paw are I believe exaggerated.)

Unfortunately, Captain America showed no interest in helping with any repairs and any hopes that he was Bicycle Repair Man in disguise were cruelly dashed. He wasn’t a real superhero after all!


“Is it a stockbroker? Is it a quantity surveyor? Is it a church warden? No! It’s Bicycle Repair Man!

Reading between the lines, it would appear that somehow the collective might and manpower of the club (sadly absent any superhero assistance) finally managed to fix the flat, only for Ovis to cunningly, “it was an accident, honest” insert his flip-flop hub the wrong way round so he could do a bit of freewheelin’ with the 40 mph tailwind pushing at his back.

Setting off again Captain America revealed to Crazy Legs that he not only had an amazing outfit, but a cornering style reminiscent of Warren Barguil at his worst. Crazy Legs and Ovis managed to avoid this rather more intimate than expected encounter better than Geraint Thomas, somewhat discomfited, but none the worse for wear.

Captain America then made the fatal mistake of responding to one of the Red Max’s Forlorn Hope attacks and fatally dragged both Max and Taffy Steve to the line, learning as Taffy Steve succinctly puts it “that you shouldn’t tow the fatties,” as he was then mercilessly mugged in the sprint.

In the café recently anointed Grandpa, the Red Max proclaimed to a thoroughly stunned and silenced table that he’d gone through all the computations and worked out that terry nappies were cheaper than Pampers and the pay-back time on the initial investment was only 8 weeks.

This was taking into account the relative material, distribution, transportation and disposal costs, environmental and societal impacts, local taxation rates, power, water and detergent usage, plus the additional benefits of providing the safety pin industry with a new source of users beyond just cyclists pinning numbers to their backs.

I understand that the whole 48-page Excel workbook containing the finer details of his calculations has been submitted for consideration to the Nobel Committee.

We shouldn’t be surprised by such deep and provocative thinking, after all the Red Max is the eccentric genius who developed Horner’s Theorem which irrefutably proves a direct relationship between the number of shiny, posh and clean carbon bikes out on a spring or autumn morning and the number of crap-covered farm tracks, pothole and gravel strewn roads, gates and cattle grids OGL will “accidently” include in our route for the day.

Despite his impressive cognitive abilities however, it was revealed when it comes to devices for expressing milk, then even the Red Max has met his match – or his kryptonite, if you will.

Anyway, Taffy Steve happily concludes that Max’s Grandad switch has now been irreversibly thrown, he just needs to adopt a constantly confused demeanor and selective deafness. He’s actually half-way there with the latter, having successfully been ignoring OGL’s diktats for several years now.

Congratulations Pops, I’ll hopefully see you next week.