Hard Way Home

Hard Way Home

Club Run, Saturday 28th July, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  114 km / 71 miles with 1,237 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 20 minute

Average Speed:                                26.3 km/h

Group size:                                         19 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    21°C

Weather in a word or two:          Hot and cold


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Ride Profile (with Garmin rain adjustments!)

Some blog posts flow easily and just seem to write themselves. I don’t quite understand how or why, but this was one of them and consequently way ahead of schedule, even by my incredibly lax standards.

The run across to the meeting point this week was wholly uneventful and unsurpassingly dull, both physically and metaphorically. It was all carried out under grey and cloudy skies and the ever-present threat of a shower.

I did notice the wind picking up as I slipped back down the other side of the river and began to clamber up and out of the valley, but for the time being it was more a cooling help, than a hindrance.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

At the meeting point, the Garrulous Kid proclaimed complete mental and physical exhaustion, having been away all week at some kind of school camp in the darkest wilds of Pickering, North Yorkshire. Here he had been thoroughly dissolute and debauched, staying up until after 10pm almost every night – and even drinking a beer.

He said it had been a terrible ordeal, buried in a deep, dark, valley where a thready and intermittent, phone signal could only occasionally be found and even then you had to venture out beyond the chicken coop. As a consequence, he’d felt strangely dislocated, cut off from the real world and removed from all important news.

I wondered what he felt he had particularly missed out on, the spreading canker of unconscionable, Trump venality? The tangled, Gordian knot of the infinite-seeming Brexit negotiations? The growing humanitarian crisis in Yemen? Perhaps, the delicately balanced and fraught elections in Zimbabwe?

Nope, his actual concern seemed to be that Demi Lovato had apparently OD’d and he’d not known about it for 2 whole days …

He then began telling us something about Chris Hemsworth.

“Who?” I enquired, looking at G-Dawg for help, but he seemed equally as unenlightened.

“The actor who played for,” the Garrulous Kid offered.

“The actor who played for what?”

“No, no, the actor who played For. Tee-Haitch-Oh-Arr, as in For: Ragnarok,”the Garrulous Kid persisted.

“Oh. Sorry, no idea…”

(I was going to complain about his use of “haitch” instead of “aitch” but practical experience slapped me hard in the face and I realised it would be a hiding to nothing.)

Apparently, the people who ran the school camp had given the Garrulous Kid a brand new nickname, to go along with the 13 or so bestowed upon him by this here, humble blerg and his cycling companions.

Rather worryingly, he didn’t like this new one, either…

Crazy Legs has found watching the ITV coverage of the Toady France a bit of an ordeal, principally because of the constant, ire-inducing, Watchfinders sponsorship: corporate strapline (hah!) “There’s always someone stupid enough to squander a princely sum so they can have a big, ugly, garish and gaudy lump of bling strapped to their wrist, even when it’s not new.”

His complaint was not only with the ad showing someone changing a front wheel while committing the cardinal sin of laying the bike upside down, but why someone who could obviously afford a super-nice bike, along with a  big, ugly, garish and gaudy lump of bling strapped to their wrist, should have to ride so painfully slowly.

Perhaps the watch is so heavy it weighs them down, or maybe it’s so expensive they daren’t ride any faster in case they fall off and smash it to smithereens? Or, perhaps they ride slowly so people can see the watch and admire their exquisite, understated style and exemplary taste?

Finishing his mini-rant, our planner and ride leader for the day, Crazy Legs, outlined the route and decided that, with a relatively compact 19 riders, we would roll out as one.

Somewhere along the way we’d be picking up the Colossus, but Richard of Flanders declared he was only out for the first hour, so numbers seemed manageable.


Apparently though, we were still a major and inconvenient impediment to rightful and righteous road-users and, while skirting the airport, we had to suffer a punishment pass from an arse-hat in a horn-blaring, black Range-Rover, sweeping by inches from my elbow as he overtook us around a blind bend. Dick.

One of our guys was wearing shoe covers and revealed he’d checked the BBC hour-by-hour forecast and, for each hour for the rest of the day, there was a 40-60% chance of rain. By his reckoning this was as good as a guarantee that, sooner or later, we were in for a right soaking.

Still suffering from a long-term, persistent chest-infection, Crazy Legs sounded like a consumptive raddled with tuberculosis, hacking away before spectacularly ejecting a bolus of vivid green mucous that would hit the road with a wet splat, like a fully-loaded pizza dropped face down from a great height.

After we’d swapped out the Colossus for Richard of Flanders, Crazy Legs set about organising an autobus for any riders not at 100%, finding the pace too high, or wanting a shorter, more relaxed run to the café. After a bit of horse-trading and negotiation, this groupetto formed at the back of our group and then they eased to allow smooth separation.

With reduced numbers, we pushed on, until force of habit had us swinging right at Matfen for our usual run to the Quarry. We were called back by G-Dawg, as this wasn’t today’s official route and everyone bar the Garrulous Kid turned around to get back to the plan. The Garrulous Kid wandered away for one of his solo romps that always make G-Dawg wonder why he bothers riding with us in the first place. The rest of us re-grouped and pressed on.

Pushing on the front alongside G-Dawg, we took the newly re-laid, back road up the village of Ryal. It seems to have lost most of the loose chippings from its surface, not that it mattered anyway, as Taffy Steve and his unique combination of frame geometry and sticky tyres were absent today and our passage was wholly without incident.

From the village we regathered, before pitching down the Ryals, hitting speeds over 65kph. Planning ahead, G-Dawg had swapped out his deep section carbon rims especially for this descent as, on at least two, previous occasions he’s battled terrifying speed wobbles, tearing down this road.

At the bottom, we swung first right for the sharp clamber up through Hallington and one of my favourite sections of road. As we reached the junction at the other end, we were peppered with a stinging, sudden shower and rain jackets were quickly pulled out and deployed.


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At this point, we lost two more, as Rab Dee set off for home and Andeven went for a longer ride.

Ten minutes later and hot from yet more climbing, the sun broke out and jackets were quickly discarded again. We reportedly had it much better than our other group, as although separated by just a few odd miles, they were caught in a sustained hailstorm, while we only got a bit damp around the edges.

Swinging right just before Capheaton, we followed the dogleg route to the short, steep and painful Brandywell Bank climb, which spat us out onto the road down to the Snake Bends.

The speed ratcheted up and we were dragged from two abreast into one single file, riding hell-for-leather down the white lines in the middle of the road to try and avoid all the pots and cracks in the tarmac, which seem to be multiplying on a weekly basis.

I hung grimly onto the back of this compact, ultra-fast group, as Caracol, Rainman and the Colossus tried to outdo each other in a flat out sprint. Then we were sitting up and easing through the bends and onto the main road.

G-Dawg, hit the front and drove the pace up a notch and then I followed, before ceding to Caracol and then, G-Dawg again, as we closed rapidly on café and a much deserved break for coffee and cake.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

It was black bin bags all round, to sit on at the café as we were rather water-logged and, as I mentioned to the Colossus, each a couple of pounds heavier than when we set out.

G-Dawg revealed that, despite changing his wheels, he still had a heart-stopping speed wobble on the descent of the Ryals, so his deep-section, carbon rims weren’t the cause.

He’s now at a loss to explain the reason and not sure how to fix it, other than changing a few things and constantly hurling himself downhill to see if it makes a difference. As this would involve deliberately trying to induce a speed wobble, I can understand his reticence to investigate further.

The Colossus showed us video from up the coast of the impressive thunderstorms that had washed over us during the night. G-Dawg reported these had been so intense, the pre-season game between Sunderland and Middlesbrough – (I almost made the mistake of calling it a “friendly”) – had been abandoned, for fear of lightning strikes.

“Sunderland can’t really afford to lose any players,” G-Dawg concluded.

“Sunderland can’t really afford to lose any fans, either,” I suggested and G-Dawg wearily agreed.

Talk turned to more edifying sporting spectacles, in particular the Toady France, where I found unlikely sources of sympathy for two of the pelotons more maligned riders. Carlton suggested he was close to tears, when he realised Chris “Puff Daddy” Froome wasn’t going to win for a fifth time, while the Rainman was rooting for “Old Stoneface” Quintana, well, if a certain big Dutchman wasn’t going to take the title.

Caracol seemed most impressed with Primoz Roglic, but was worried that, sooner or later, he was going to do that ski-jump landing celebration on the podium, one foot forward, arms flung wide, and smack both podium girls in the face at once.

Personally, I don’t think anyone is ever going to top Sondre Hols Enger’s podium dance as a celebration…   

… and, no matter how dangerous Roglic’s manouver, anything has to be an improvement on Nibali  wiggling his fingers on top of his helmet in an extremely cheesy approximation of a shark fin.

Someone mentioned the women’s team kit with flesh coloured panels that made them look as if they were half-naked. The Rainman thought there was a new male variant, based apparently on a lime coloured mankini … and I sensed possibilities for a new club jersey…

Everyone had their own version of the worst jersey ever, Castorama dungarees got a mention, along with Carrera fake-denim, though somewhat surprisingly no one mentioned the brown shorts of AG2R.

Carlton disliked the super-bright, super-colourful Mapei kit, but conversely this was one of G-Dawg’s favourites and a serious contender for his next jersey purchase. 

As we were tidying up as a prelude to leaving, the Garrulous Kid swung by and informed us he’d met up with the Crazy Leg’s grupetto just before the café, but had ridden right past them. We expressed some disapproval that he hadn’t lent his efforts to helping them out, but he insisted Crazy Legs himself had told him to ride on.

The Colossus nodded in understanding, then proceeded to give what we felt was probably a highly accurate re-enactment of what Crazy Legs had actually said, while shooing the Garrulous Kid up the road.

“Oh, go away … No, further … Further … Further still. Look, keep riding until you can’t hear my voice…”

We continued gathering our things, plonking wet helmets onto heads and squeezing fingers into sodden gloves. Quite unpleasant.

I started collecting the black bags to hand in. “Hey, “ the Colossus called, “You know you could almost use those to put rubbish in, as well.”

Good shout, I should probably mention that to the staff next time…


Outside and for the first time in about six or seven weeks, it actually felt cold, we were shivering and impatient to get away to warm up. We now found the wind had strengthened considerably and it was a real struggle on the front. It wasn’t all bad though, having blown up from the south and torn the clouds apart, so at least we had some bright and warm patches too.

Crazy Legs and Caracol drove us up and over Berwick Hill, before G-Dawg and Andeven took over, battling head on into the wind as we worked our way around the perimeter of the airport. Crowds lined either side of the road, perhaps drawn there, I thought, to witness the edifying, unequal battle of man against the elements.

But no, they were actually there for some plane spotting, as the airport was being used as a staging post for the Sunderland Airshow.

I was painfully reminded of this by the sustained, ear-shattering shriek of military jet engines, which someone said belonged to the Red Arrows, screaming down the nearby runway to take off in formation. I’ve no reason to doubt them, but I looked all around the sky and totally failed to spot any of the tell-tale, bright red, BAE Hawk’s, or anything else for that matter.

With G-Dawg visibly flagging in his unequal battle with the wind, Crazy Legs and Caracol took over on the front again and drove us down to the Mad Mile. There, I hung on the wheels until the last minute, before swinging away at the roundabout and turning right past the rugby ground.

I was soon battling solo with the wind and then, a few turns later, trying to climb uphill with it blasting full force into my face. Finally, cresting the valley and dropping down toward the river, I found even here I had to pedal to keep my momentum up and it was hard work.

Out onto the bridge and all the signs and barriers were blown flat, laid low by the gusting wind. I clung to the guardrail to let a MTB’er ease past. He could take the expediency of just riding over all the mesh fence panels, fallen road signs and plastic barriers, trusting to his fat, tractor tyres to negotiate the obstacles safely, while I hung back to give myself space to pick my way carefully through all the windblown debris.

“Bit blowy!” he confirmed, riding smartly past. I wasn’t about to disagree.

There was just one final obstacle to overcome, a clamber up the Heinous Hill into the unrelenting headwind. Not the best way to end a ride, but we made it, finally.


YTD Totals: 4,530 km / 2,814 miles with 56,420 metres of climbing

Wellie Tops and Collie Wobbles

Wellie Tops and Collie Wobbles

Club Run, Saturday 23rd April, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  113 km / 70 miles with 1,063 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 24 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.6 km/h

Group size:                                         34 riders, 3 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    13°C

Weather in a word or two:          Beautifully bright, bitterly cold

Main topic of conversation at the start:

With a degree of mild, but surely misplaced approbation, OGL called out several riders he’d spotted out riding mid-week, as if they’d been caught doing something they shouldn’t have and were standing accused of getting in “unauthorised” secret miles.

The Prof once again rolled up on the Frankenbike, eliciting gasps of disbelief from those who hadn’t seen his progression from small-wheeled velocipede to a grown up bike last week. He gave me a special hug, ostensibly because I was well dressed and co-ordinated (Bertie Bassett rides again) -although I suspect the real reason was that Crazy Legs was late arriving and I was simply the nearest target for his latent, but still patently simmering homo-eroticism.

Crazy Legs did finally turn up and commended the group for a fine showing of club jerseys. A sotto voce commentary from Son of G-Dawg suggested that the 6 on show were about 75% of the total number who would wear the club jersey with any kind of regularity. I’m not sure whether or not he was double-counting G-Dawg who was actually wearing two – an official club gilet over a Grogs unofficial one.

OGL then took several of youngsters and no few elder statesmen to task for wearing shorts, declaring it was still much too cold for exposed knee joints. Many suggested they had packed away winter clothing for the year in boxes, in under bed stores, the loft or in old steamer trunks and it was too much hassle to revert now. It was also suggested that not everyone had the luxury of living in OGL manse, where entire rooms, if not complete wings are devoted to his vast collection of readily accessible and seasonally themed bicycling apparel.

OGL mentioned Shane Sutton’s dismissal of Jess Varnish (and I think I’m only paraphrasing slightly here) as having a fat ass and needing to go away and produce babies. G-Dawg was unimpressed, but reasoned you shouldn’t expect much else if you’re foolish enough to promote an Australian to a position of power and authority.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

At the counter I happened to hear an FNG asking the girls whether he should be getting a mug or a cup of coffee and had to intervene for the sake of decency. We are men, we drink from manly mugs.

As he’d defected from another club and embraced his dark side I was curious to find out how we compared us to his previous band of brothers. As expected his former club took the novel approach of splitting into many different rides according to ability and publishing all the routes well before the day.

This had the advantage of allowing people to plan things in advance, but at the obvious expense of surprise and novelty, or as Andeven explained, the joy of looking up to find you’re suddenly in Rothbury, 40 miles from home and expected back for an important family engagement in the next half an hour.

I asked the Pinarello riding FNG, Dogmatix what bike he had before, interested to know just how much of an upgrade the uber-bike was and how it actually compared to a more affordable option. He said he’d ridden a Carrera previously. Well, that was a conversational dead-end then.

Dogmatix then revealed that when he’d stopped to tighten his seat post last week someone had pointed out a washer on the ground that he’d reasoned wasn’t from his bike, but had picked up and slipped into his pocket just in case.

This morning he’d found that it was an essential part for holding together his multi-tool. He’s now gone from being the proud owner of a convenient, quality multi-tool to having two bits of steel case and a loose collection of jangling allen keys and screwdriver bits in his pockets.


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Ride Profile

The Waffle:

A dry day, bright and sunny – if bitterly cold and infinitely preferable to the past few Saturdays dreich and bleak showing (they rhyme by the way, if you’re wondering how to pronounce dreich :))

A rare confluence of decent weather, work load and family commitments had allowed me to commute into work 4 times during the week.  These journeys had warned that the mornings were still very chilly, but there was at least a possibility that things would warm up enough to be pleasant later.

My commutes had been good rides, other than a strong headwind all the way home on Monday and the fact that on Thursday morning I’d wrapped my bike lock around my frame, but completely missed the bike rack.

Luckily Campus Security spotted my dunderheaded idiocy and slapped on one of their own locks to secure the bike. I’d then been somewhat taken aback to hear the ratbag mountain bike described as “expensive” when I went to get the lock removed. Then again, maybe it just looks good in comparison to some of the bikes our students use.

There was a big group of us at the meeting point on Saturday, including a few faces I’d not seen for months including Famous Sean’s an irregular will-o-the-wisp who occasionally graces us with his presence. This was perhaps the first indication that the long months of cycling hibernation is at last coming to an end, although one swallow doesn’t make a decent drink as the parched sailor said. As a counterbalance there were a few noticeable absences amongst the regulars, with The Red Max away on holiday and Taffy Steve strangely and silently AWOL.


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As we started out I found myself riding alongside the Prof who enquired if I’d ever had any issues with the Frankenbike’s bottom bracket. The loud and disturbing creaking from “down there” persuaded me not to hang around in case it ultimately disintegrated and a quick rotation brought me up alongside Richard of Flanders.

He was celebrating as he’d inadvertently found and secured a rare Strava KOM while riding a tatty hybrid to school to pick up the kids. This gave me the idea of hauling my bike over next doors front gate and riding up their drive to see if I can secure an unassailable Strava KOM of my own. I think it could even earn me a Charly Gaul-like nickname, how about “L’Ange de Allées” or “The Angel of the Driveways.”

Yet another rotation found me alongside Son of G-Dawg and I complimented him on a perfectly aero bike, deep section carbon wheels, and skin-tight jersey, but had to ask what had gone wrong with the sloppy, baggy socks that negated all his marginal aero-gains and resembled saggy welly tops that had been set to flutter in the wind like twin drogue parachutes.


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Apparently he’d forgotten to do the weekly laundry and scratting around in the back of his drawers to try and find anything suitable to wear, the socks were the best he could come up with. He admitted he’d also tried in extremis to dry his jersey by hanging it in the back of the car on the drive over, but it was still unpleasantly damp around the edges. He was obviously hoping it didn’t rain otherwise he’d start foaming and secreting a trail of soap suds behind him.

Not to be outdone, one of the youngsters in front was wearing hideous, putrid green socks decorated with big bloodshot eyeballs that seemed to be staring right at me. I guess the good old days when the only socks you could wear would be white and you’d be pulled from the start line of a race for any wardrobe transgressions are sadly no more.

I overheard Crazy Legs discussing Captain Scarlet and suggesting he drove an SPV or “Special Patrol Vehicle” and had to jump in to correct him – as we all know Captain Scarlet actually drove a Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle (c’mon kids, keep up). I think this exchange just convinced Richard of Flanders that all cyclists are at heart deeply weird nerds.


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At one point OGL drifted aimlessly back through the group, seemingly just to disrupt everyone. A few minutes later he was sprinting back up to the front, going round a blind corner on the wrong side of the road. Son of G-Dawg called out that there was a fast approaching car, but OGL blithely waved off the warning before swooping inside. Son of G-Dawg growled that he didn’t care if OGL tried to ride over the onrushing car – but he was worried by the sudden swoop back across the road that had everyone scrabbling for brakes.

With the club organised Sloan Trophy set for Sunday, OGL was intent on reconnoitring the route as a final check that everything was in good shape for the next day’s racing. This led us down the Quarry Climb, where a whimpering, vacillating BFG was so eager to escape the longer, harder, faster group that he felt compelled to dive recklessly away in pursuit of the amblers, brushing incredibly close to G-Dawg, if not in fact physically jostling him as he passed.

This would have been the perfect opportunity for Crazy Legs to prove his maturity by shouting, “Feck off you big feck” or something equally as erudite and witty, but sadly he’d already turned off for the café with a bad case of un jour sans.

Ahead, at the junction we saw the amblers turning left while our longer, harder, faster group went right. I joined G-Dawg on the front pushing into a vicious headwind as we ground our way toward the top of the Ryals – this was perhaps going to be the only day when riding down them was almost as hard as climbing up.

Just before the top Mad Colin called a halt as, for the second time in as many outings, Dogmatix found his seatpost slipping. Bloody cheap Pinarello’s. We waited, but people began to get impatient and started to slip away in ones and twos to stream down the descent.

I held back a little longer, then as things seemed sorted pushed over the brow and began to accelerate downward. I moved onto the drops and tucked in, quickly building up speed as gravity sucked us down and hitting a max of 67.7kmph according to my Garmin, despite the headwind.


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Halfway down I saw G-Dawg wrestling manfully with his bike, his whole body rigid and shaking and his wheels oscillating savagely as he tried to ship speed and remain in control. I couldn’t tell if his deep-section wheels had caught a sudden crosswind or he’d developed an uncontrollable speed wobble – either way I gave him as much room as possible, sweeping right across the roadway to slide past.

Somehow an ashen G-Dawg managed to complete the descent, but couldn’t be persuaded to climb back up and try again. We regrouped as we swung right onto a narrow farm track and started to climb up again, where we caught and merged with the riders who’d slipped off the front. More climbing and then a bit more followed, before the road finally levelled and we pushed on at high speed for the run in to the café.


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I was sitting behind Laurelan as the pace increased and saw she was slowly starting to detach from the riders in front. I cut inside and clung onto G-Dawgs rear wheel as he and Moscas wound the pace up further. With the road starting to dip down a small group managed to open up a gap and we pulled slowly away.

Son of G-Dawg jumped, but I was at terminal velocity and couldn’t have come around G-Dawg to chase if I’d wanted to. Moscas then slowly faded and dropped away and just when it looked like Son of G-Dawg’s break was decisive, Captain Black thundered past to challenge and they raced each other down and into the Snake Bends.

Crossing the main road, we dropped into single file to slalom around the potholes that made the lane look like a recently bombed lunar surface. There was then just the chance for one last burst up the sharp rise to the junction and we were done and rolling through to the café.


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On the way home I dropped in beside Captain Black for a chat and to try to discover the secret of his hugely rampaging form; was it drugs, clean living, motor doping, or perhaps three Shredded Wheat for breakfast?

He said it was nothing exotic, just hard work in the gym and, as his temporary gym membership is due to run out soon, he suggested he’ll soon be returning to join me amongst the ranks of the also-rans. Damn, I was hoping for an easy to follow short-cut to good form, but there’s no chance in hell you’ll get me into a gym.

I completed my trip home in good time and without incident to find anniversary greetings from WordPress in my email. I was somewhat surprised to learn I’ve been plugging away at this blog thing for a full year. Tempus fugit?

So, I guess now’s a good time to thank anyone who’s managed to stumble upon this benighted backwater of the Internet, has put up with my verbose, inane ramblings, actually “liked” the odd post or two, added erudite comments, or even bravely signed up as a follower.

One year, 64 posts, 4,711 hits, 1,943 visitors and counting. It’s all quite humbling. Thank you.


YTD Totals: 2,250 km / 1,398 miles with 21,081 metres of climbing

Transitions, Transmissions and Tales of the Tashkent Terror

Transitions, Transmissions and Tales of the Tashkent Terror

Club Run, Saturday 16th April, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  101 km / 63 miles with 973 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.7 km/h

Group size:                                         14 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    8°C

Weather in a word or two:          Sleet, snow, sun, showers, wind and hail

Main topics of conversation at the start:

I informed Crazy Legs that, completely out of character, OGL had actually been at the meeting point when I rolled up bang on 9.00 o’clock.

“So, finally kicked you out has she?” Crazy Legs enquired, but apparently this wasn’t the case.  OGL then began a long, rolling ramble to relate the entirety of his morning conversation with Mrs. OGL in all its infinite detail. Eyes quickly glazing over, Crazy Legs suggested there was a kind of sublime, zen-like perfection in one word answers and innocently enquired if OGL agreed.

The local, Tour of the Reservoir starts today, which I guess explains the truly shitty weather. I actually think it’s stipulated in the rule book that the race will be cancelled if it’s not at least lashing down with rain and blowing a gale, or if the temperature ever dares nudge toward double figures.

This video by Darrell Varley(complete with obligatory hailstones on the grass!) gives an idea of just how bleak the racing was this Saturday. A few of our mob were planning a trip to watch the finish of the race tomorrow, when hopefully the things will have improved (although it’s hard to see how they could get any worse.)

An FNG joined us astride a very nice, brand new, Dura Ace equipped Pinarello Dogma with deep section carbon wheels. He said he was a Sky employee and had won the bike in a competition. Nice work if you can get it.

OGL conducted a quick smuguard count, only 4 out of 14, but one of these included the Pinarello and we all agreed this was just wrong on so many levels it didn’t count. There was a definite feeling that fitting guards to a Dogma was like harnessing a thoroughbred to the plough.

In a complete revolution and startling transition the Prof had temporarily eschewed his small-wheeled velocipede for the Frankenbike. This had been freshly resurrected (yet again) in his secret lair/laboratory/workshop and transformed with a coat of light absorbing, matt black paint. The only splash of colour was provided by one single, bright red brake cable outer (he’d obviously been unable to beg, borrow, find or steal sufficient black cabling) and a large, candy pink rubber band holding his Garmin onto some kind of gimcrack mount fabricated out of who knows what.

There was naturally a great deal of surprise, if not shock by this transformation, although OGL’s suggestion that it could perhaps herald the emergence of a beautiful swan seemed a bit wide of the mark: you know the saying, if it looks like an ugly duck, waddles like an ugly duck and quacks like an ugly duck, then in all probability you know exactly what it’s going to be?

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

OGL mentioned Dan McLay’s incredible slalom-style sprint to win the Gran Prix de Denain (here) where he surfed effortlessly through gaps that didn’t seem to exist before bursting over the line with perfect timing – equal parts luck, indomitable bravery and unbelievable skill.

Crazy Legs was reminded of the photo that showed the perfect inverted V of Nacer Bouhani and Michael Matthews leaning their bikes over at incredible angle during their top speed clash amongst the barriers on Paris Nice Stage 2. How that one didn’t ended in disaster I’ll never know.


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This led to the almost inevitable reminiscing about Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, what a name, what a rider… what crashes. Crazy Legs related how his brother idolised the “Tashkent Terror” and how they’d made the trip to the 1992 Tour of Britain just to see him.  Spotted sitting dressed in full team kit in the back of a Carrera car with the doors wide open, our two intrepid fans tentatively approached and asked, “Are you Abdoujaparov?” To which all they received was a very blunt and very emphatic, “Nyet.”

This, Crazy Legs admonished OGL, was how you effectively master the one-word answer and put it to brutal and effective use to shut down any chance of further communication.

OGL trotted out a hoary old tale about someone ordering a custom built frame that he wanted to be the exact same colour as his … err… gentleman’s helmet shall we say. We argued that this would surely vary by individual, and matching with a Pantone reference swatch would be a difficult and unenviable task. I could only imagine someone going into their local B&Q store, walking up to the Paint Mixing counter, slapping their “junk” down (as I believe the youth of today call it) and suggesting they, “Match that!”

News of Phil-Gil’s pre-Amstel Gold altercation with a motorist in which he sustained a broken finger had led to suggestions he’d used a pepper spray that he carries when out on a training ride. I know motorists in our country can be unreasonable, but I’ve never felt the need to carry a concealed weapon. We did wonder about what damage you could do using a CO2 canister as a weapon of last resort.

OGL then retold the tale of a legendary local cyclist having an altercation with a driver on the Tyne Bridge, reaching through the open window to remove the keys from the ignition and casually flipping them over the side and into the river some 85 feet below, before pedalling calmly away. I like to think there is perhaps a small grain of truth in these stories, but like tribal folklore they’ve become somewhat embellished and exaggerated over the years and countless re-tellings. You can decide for yourself how much of this tale is true, or if you’re a Social Anthropologist, perhaps you’ve just found the subject for your next thesis.

OGL was also replete with all the latest scurrilous club gossip that we all seem completely ignorant of, or perhaps more accurately are luckily impermeable to. He described one of the girl’s changing personal circumstances, which didn’t seem to have made even the smallest, slightest ripple on our collective conscience. As Taffy Steve concluded the news was largely unimportant and irrelevant to us: “It’s not as if she’s bought a new set of wheels or anything.”


profile 16 april
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

Yet again cold rain was falling from grey, overcast skies as I pushed off, clipped in and rolled downhill. Is this really what they had in mind when they promised me global warming? We’re into April already and I’m still waiting for the transition to spring weather.

On the first corner bright patches of rainbow-hued diesel were blooming ominously across the wet tarmac like malevolent flowers and I slowed and inched gingerly between them, before hitting the straight and letting gravity pull me down.

Unusually the roads were quite busy with serious looking cyclists and I passed around 7 on my way to the meeting point, all of them heading in the opposite direction. This had me wondering if they knew something I didn’t, but I pressed on regardless.

Pausing only long enough to view the utter chaos caused by ever expanding roadworks where the High Street becomes the Great North Road, I indulged in a bit of alleyway rat-running in the narrow spaces between the endless lines of double-parked cars that horribly crowd all the streets in this area. It can’t be much fun to be a kid growing up here.

Arriving at the meeting point I was amazed to find OGL already there and waiting and other riders started to arrive in dribs and drabs until around 14 brave lads and lasses were grouped together ready to ride.

As an indication of how bad the weather was, the G-Dawg collective had received special dispensation to ride their winter bikes, no doubt having completed the blood sacrifice of several chickens, goats, all the family pets and perhaps even a blood relative to the Great and Ancient Bicycle Tree in order to receive its blessing. Despite the extreme conditions, G-Dawg still insisted on wearing shorts though, if only to demonstrate his utter disdain for the weather.

I was feeling somewhat below par with a low key headache that had been hanging around for a couple of days and seemed to pulse more strongly now I’d confined my head in a helmet, provoking a distinct feeling of queasiness. It was all a bit like suffering from a hangover with none of the benefits of over-indulgence the night before.

By contrast Goose was properly and professionally hungover, looking pale and tired and he would spend most of the ride hanging gamely off the back, somehow managing to drag himself around behind everyone else. It was not perhaps a hangover cure he would recommend or be in a hurry to repeat.


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I bounced around a bit as we set out, chatting to Taffy Steve, OGL and both FNG’s. One of these I’d been expecting,  he’d recently moved house and left a club my work colleague Mr. T. rides with.  Now we had the chance to lure him away from the civilising light and let him embrace his dark side.

A sudden dip and climb out of a sharp valley had me swerving around the Prof, who’d pulled up to reclaim his Garmin after, in his own words, “the mount suddenly shattered.” I uncharitably translated this to the perhaps more accurate, “my elastic band broke” and then was delighted to learn at the café that the device wasn’t held on by an actual, fit-for-purpose, regular, store-bought elastic band, but rather a strip of bright pink rubber the Prof had “constructed” from a cast off Marigold glove.

At the split I then watched a post-micturition Prof, more familiar with  just stepping over his small-wheeled velocipede, struggling with the unfamiliarity of how to climb gracefully back onto his grown-up’s bike. I suggested to Taffy Steve we might have to start carrying a mounting block just to help him out.


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OGL surprisingly had no takers for the amblers group and everyone else was soon grinding up the climb to Dyke Neuk. At the junction a few of us had to quickly abort a right-hand turn as a vintage car swooped too fast around the bend ahead. A few miles further on and two dozen more encounters with vintage jalopy’s heralded the fact that we were riding through the middle of the 8th Flying Scotsman Classic Car Endurance Rally.

Many of the vintage car drivers returned our cheery waves, some sneered at us with disdain while we giggled at their stupid helmets (no doubt they were giggling at ours too) – and I’m pretty certain a good few of them never even saw us as they thrashed along, peering myopically through their immeasurably small and restrictive windshields perched at the back of massively long, massively tall bonnets.

They did however provide an interesting photo opportunity as they passed one of our backmarkers, purely by accident the grime and muck on the camera case conspiring to give the photo a faded, old fashioned, epic feel, like some post-war Tour shot half way up a mountain. I liked it anyway.


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The Pinarello FNG was really struggling now and we had to slow and wait several times, producing a strange sort of stop-start sprint. Proof, if any were needed, that it’s not about the bike.

As we pounded up the last slope I’d managed to manoeuvre myself from last place into 4th behind G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg and a rampaging Captain Black, only to be royally mugged by Taffy Steve on the very last ramp as I faded. The bugger makes a habit of doing that to me and seems to take a huge amount of pleasure and satisfaction from it too.

As we left the café G-Dawg could be seen looking out for the Pinarello Police he was convinced were going to turn up with bolt cutters to unceremoniously snip and strip the mudguards from the Dogma, if not take the bike into protective custody for its own safety.


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I found the pain in my lungs and legs following the sprint to the café seemed to have driven away the niggling headache and enjoyed the return home, feeling quite chipper.

Descending Berwick Hill we were treated to a loud horn fusillade as an overtaking RIM gave vent to his anger at being delayed by all of 5 seconds and I couldn’t help but laugh as, to a man and in perfect unison every single one of us gave the driver our biggest, cheesiest and most cheerful wave.

Splitting from the group I found the approach to the last roundabout before the Heinous Hill uncharacteristically snarled up with traffic.  I slotted into the queue behind a car proudly displaying the bright red badge of Audax UK – the long distance cyclists’ association, and as we crept forward by increments I had the chance for a brief chat with the driver.

He thought I looked particularly vulnerable stuck in the middle of all the traffic and was looking for a way to help me across the roundabout, but as we both finally agreed, things are what they are and there wasn’t a lot either of us could do about it.

Roundabouts and traffic safely negotiated, I thought Mother Nature had saved the final insult for last, as a hail shower accompanied me all the way up the hill. The cruellest twist however was kept for Sunday which dawned, cold but bright, dry and cloudless from horizon to horizon. Maybe next week will be better?


YTD Totals: 2,055 km / 1,277 miles with 19,089 metres of climbing