Goose Cuts Loose

Goose Cuts Loose

Club Run, Saturday 23rd March 2019

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:113 km/70 miles with 1,279 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 20 minutes
Average Speed:26.0km/h
Group Size:28 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature: 11℃
Weather in a word or two:Picture perfect?

Ride Profile

With special thanks for an assist and full naming rights to Mr. Steve Britton


More schizophrenic weather to confuse and bemuse the best of us, but this time veering as wildly as the Garrulous Kid in a sprint, all the way across onto the positive side of the ledger.

It was dry and bright, if still a little chilly and with a distinct raw edge to the wind. Still, it was deemed good enough to break out the Holdsworth, despite a route plan by Richard of Flanders that was issued with the warning that one leg would be down a farmyard track and good bikes were to be used at the riders peril.

Some level of fitness seems to be slowly returning too and I was looking forward to completing a relatively long ride, in relatively benign conditions.

The journey across to the meeting point was without incident, or note and I joined the already formed nucleus of what would turn into well-attended club run.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I found Crazy Legs in the middle of discussing some of the finer functions on his turbo, “… and the blinking lights change from blue to red when your putting out more than 350 watts.”

I cocked a quizzical eyebrow at him.

“Or, at least that’s what I’ve read, anyway…”

The Garrulous Kid scorched in down the pavement, swerved violently to the right and came to a shuddering halt beside the grit bin.

“Just as well that wasn’t a turn to the left,” Taffy Steve told him, “or you’d have been in that bin headfirst.”

G-Dawg brought up the near sprint disaster from last Saturday, reciting the Garrulous Kids words back to him with a special emphasis on the last part, “Well, that’s what happens when you hit your knee off your bike, as you do?

“As you do?” he repeated with incredulity, “I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t routinely knee my bike.”

He threw it open to the floor, but nobody else seemed to think kneeing your own bike was routine and should be an expected outcome of sprinting.

G-Dawg then reported back on the Bullocksteads sports development meeting he’d attended with OGL, reporting at one point the Chair had politely asked OGL to pipe down to give other people a chance to have a say.

“Well, did he?” some innocent asked the inevitable question.

“Well, yes, for about 5 minutes, anyway.”

Apparently one of our favoured routes out of the city was closed due to building works and others were clogged with construction traffic, mud and debris. Taking this into account, Richard of Flanders went around canvassing opinion and trying to build a consensus around one or other of the alternatives. In this he proved about as successful as Theresa May negotiating an acceptable Brexit deal. He finally realised the futility of his task, threw his hands up in exasperation and simply told us which route to take. Benevolent dictatorship, I tell you, it’s the way forward.

Richard of Flanders, often referred to as ROFL in my post-ride notes, which I find amusing, not ROFL amusing, but still chucklesome (sorry I digress) then leapt up onto the wall and described the route for the day, detailing every village, every burgh, every hamlet, every ville, settlement, outpost and commune we would pass by, through, or around.

It was a very extensive list and I didn’t know that half the places he mentioned actually exist (assuming they actually do).

“Then,” he continued, finally drawing breath, “Crazy Legs will entertain us in the cafe with some jokes, before the usual route back.”

“Can you repeat that, with just the highlights?” some wag asked.

Crazy Legs glanced at his watch as Richard started up again, “By the time he’s finished it’ll almost be time to head back home,” he quipped.

“Hey! Save it for the cafe,” I told him.

We split into two groups and then, there was just time for the Garrulous Kid to eye-up Plumose Pappus speculatively.

“Have you lost weight?” he demanded.

Whatever answer Plumose Pappus gave was lost in a fusillade of cleats clipping into pedals, like pistol shots from a drive-by shooting and we were out and onto the open roads.


I slotted in alongside Ovis for the first part of the ride out, checking he was carrying his usual brick of malt loaf and chatting about this, that and t’other.

After a couple of switches on the front, we were being led by the Garrulous Kid and the even younger Jake the Snake, the Young Dormanator, off the leash as his dad, Carlton was away in the Lakes. After a stint of manful work on the front, Jake the Snake started to falter as the road began to climb, so I slipped past to relieve him at the head of affairs and found myself alongside the Garrulous Kid.

Here I learned that the Garrulous Kid now fancies himself as a bit of a fastman and apparently has developed a new sprinting style, with his whole body hunched over his front wheel and nose inches from his tyre. Hmm, I think we need to revise the exclusion zone and allow him much more than the regulatory 2 metres now.

He’s also found a new cycling hero, Super Mario, Cipo, Il Re Leone, the Lion King himself, Mario the Magnificent, Mario Cipollini.

I must admit I’m failing to see any resemblance between the brash, pompous, colourful, swashbuckling, controversial, flamboyant, smooth, super-fast, successful, always superbly turned out, stylish Italian and our young tyro, well, other than the fact that neither is perhaps as good as they think they are and they’ve both managed to collect an impressive array of nicknames.

I like to think I have a decent imagination, but when I think of the Garrulous Kid sprinting, I can’t say I’m even remotely reminded of Mario Cipollini …

Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, though?

Now, that I can see…

I was so distracted by the Garrulous Kids revelations that I failed to notice a large pothole in the road and ran both wheels straight through it. Ooph! Behind me and following in my tracks about half a dozen other riders followed suit. Oops. Sorry guys.

Luckily nothing seemed damaged and we pushed on, finally reaching the turn for the Quarry, where we pulled over to wait for the second group, before splitting into several different rides.



As we waited, I caught up with the Colossus, one of the few still on his winter bike, which surprised me as he’ll typically chance a bike change in conditions I would consider marginal. He revealed though that it was only a logistical hiccup that kept him off the good bike today.

“Anyway,” he determined, “when the clocks go back next week it’s a bit of a watershed moment. After that, the default will be good bike unless the weather turns really bad.” Seems about right.

Perhaps the lack of summer bike encouraged the Colossus to head up the Quarry for a shorter ride to the cafe, along with others including G-Dawg, Ovis, Crazy Legs and the Garrulous Kid.

The rest of us were due to go plummeting down the Ryals before climbing back up toward the cafe, using various different routes. I turned around and tagged along for the longer ride.

A few people seemed intent on attacking the Ryal’s, but I was determined not to pedal if I didn’t have to, so tucked in low and just let gravity have its wicked way with me. I took advantage of a lack of cars and unimpeded views straight down the road, swinging wide across the centre line and running down the outside of our flying mob. I always enjoy this descent, and managed to top out at about 65 kph before sitting up and freewheeling as we started to coalesce into different groups at the bottom.

I like the climb up through Hallington almost as much as the descent, but Taffy Steve hates it and wanted to take in a longer loop around the reservoir instead, so that’s what we did.

As we started to clamber upwards again, Goose and Biden Fecht romped away off the front and I drifted back toward Taffy Steve, thinking there was just the four of us on this longer route, until more and more riders appeared and joined on.

I then found myself riding alongside the Ticker. “It’ll be good to get out of the wind,” he confessed.

“When are you thinking that’ll be?” I wondered, “mid-May?”

We reached a junction and regrouped before pushing on again. The route started to climb and once more Goose pushed off the front and opened up a sizable gap.”

“He’s flying today.”

Taffy Steve felt this probably had to do with him having pushed and pulled and grunted and gurned his way around all the winter club runs on his massive touring bike, the steel-behemoth, a.k.a. the panzerkampfwagen. Now with his svelte, carbon summer bike under him he must have felt unleashed and that riding was almost embarrassingly easy.

I pushed along on the front with Plumose Pappus and we caught up with Goose on Humiliation Hill. We crested the top and took a right toward Capheaton, pausing briefly to collect our group together again.

The road across the top here is fast, rolling and good fun, so we kicked up the pace and strung everyone out. As we worked toward the summit of one long rise, Plumose Pappus suggested he was just about on the limit. Goose wasn’t though and went romping on ahead and we couldn’t close him down until we approached the crossroads at the end.

Once more we stopped to regroup and determine what everyone wanted to do. Straight across, the road followed the planned route down to a farm track, while to the right, our usual way, led down toward the Snake Bends and then on to the cafe.

I think a few braved the farm track and reported it was a good option, but, with the hint of cake and coffee in my nostrils, I was happy to take the more direct run in.

We had one last climb to break things up a little, the short but steep Brandywell Bank, so I tried to select the biggest gear I thought I could keep churning over as my momentum died a horrible death … and attacked at the bottom.

It almost went to plan, but the gear was just a shade too big and I had to dig in and grind the final few metres. Still, I made it over the crest at the head of affairs and, without pausing, or checking to see who was with me, started hammering away down toward the Snake Bends.

I clunked my chain down the cassette and powered on. My first goal was still to be leading as we topped the slight rise before, finally, the road starts to dip. It’s not noticeable enough to call a climb, it just feels like one when your already dangerously close to your max.

I made it and as the road started to drop down the other side, clunked the chain down a few more cogs and took up position in the middle of the road, riding the white lines where the surface wasn’t quite as broken up and roughened.

Goal number two was now to still be leading as we passed the final junction and the descent started to level off. I made it unchallenged and kept going, hammering toward a puddle which filled the entirety of the inside lane.

I heard a warning shout from those behind which I interpreted as car back, but I swung wide, into the opposite lane anyway and held my line until I was past the water, before carving back toward the left.

This elicited a startled yelp from Biden Fecht, who I nearly put into the hedge as he was charging unseen up my inside. He was momentarily distracted and hesitated, as Plumose Pappuss jumped away on the other side of me, with Archie Miedes glued on his wheel.

Biden Fecht tried to give chase, but his moment of hesitation proved decisive and he soon sat up. Up ahead and despite extended spells on the front, Plumose Pappuss seemed to have the measure of his challenger in the final sprint.

The Flying Goose caught us at the busy junction through the Snake Bends and then it was back on pace, all the way to the cafe.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Princess Fiona joined us at the table and expounded the virtues of an Open Water Swimming holiday, hopping from island to island, in Croatia.

This was too much for Taffy Steve, already deeply suspicious of anyone choosing to have a holiday that included physical hurt, ridiculous amounts of exercise and excess amounts of discomfort. He can’t for example get his head around our cycling sojourn’s into the Alps or Pyrenees, especially when we have somewhere nice and flat like the Netherlands practically on our doorstep. An open water swimming holiday somehow seemed especially mad.

The absent Carlton was mentioned as someone who has sometimes been known to tour the Alps by bike.

“He’s a mentalist too,” Taffy Steve concluded.

“I think they prefer the term psychiatrist these days,” I suggested.

“That’s going in the blerg, isn’t it?” Buster suggested.

(Well, I would hate to disappoint).

Talk turned to the Garrulous Kid with Taffy Steve claiming he was a riddle wrapped in a mystery, inside a Castelli jacket. As evidence, he cited last week when the Garrulous Kid was unnecessarily ripping everyone’s legs off in a small group and then, this week, totally wimping out and going for the shorter ride.

“He’s like a woman,” Taffy Steve concluded, “I don’t understand them and I don’t understand him at all.”

Next to me, Princess Fiona bristled and sprang to the defence of women everywhere.

Opposite, Zardoz mimed digging a hole, while nonchalantly whistling Bernard Cribbens’ Hole in the Ground:

“There I was, a-digging this hole
A hole in the ground, so big and sort of round it was …”

“I’m just saying, I live with four women and they’re all bat-shit crazy.” Taffy Steve lined each one up in turn and gave us chapter and verse about their individual idiosyncrasies, complaining it was bad enough they were all bat-shit crazy, but even worse, there was no consistency and they were all bat-shit crazy in different and unfathomable ways.

Zardoz was still digging. Still whistling.

“There was I, digging it deep
It was flat at at the bottom and the sides were steep.”

“I hope you don’t talk to them like that,” Princess Fiona admonished.

“Oh, I’m forever telling then they’re all fucking crazy,” Taffy Steve assured her.

He was taken to task for using the F-bomb so cavalierly, while Taffy Steve defended his word choice as adding colour, inflection and punctuation, besides which, he argued it was almost affectionate in its deployment.

“You wouldn’t talk to your daughters like that, would you?” Princess Fiona asked me.

“Well, no,” I affirmed, “but they’d probably use much worse language to me.”

“Well, if my son used such language … I’d … I’d call him out for disrespecting me.”

“Ooph!,” Taffy Steve drew back in alarm, “It’s a bit early to be deploying the D-bomb!” Like going from DEFCON 5 to DEFCON 1 with none of the stages in-between.

Thankfully a change in topic was in the offing, as Princess Fiona turned to Plumose Pappus.

“Have you lost weight?” she demanded.


As we were leaving the cafe, Zardoz started asking me if I’d lost weight. I couldn’t lie, told him it was all down to the whalebone cycling corset and left it at that.

I caught up with Plumosue Pappus, who admitted to being a little nonplussed that everyone thought he’d lost weight, when he patently hasn’t any to lose and considers himself to have the appetite of your average student, i.e. voracious and perpetually unsatisfied.

Back with his parents for his postgraduate study, he’s intent on eating double his own body weight every day and recounted being caught by his mum making two sandwiches. She thought it was sweet he’d taken time to make a packed lunch for her and he didn’t have the heart to tell her that they were actually both for him.

He also said he was younger brother was much taller, broader and heavier. In fact, suspiciously taller, broader and heavier, to such an extent that Plumose Pappus wonders if his brother is perhaps a cuckoo, or has been adopted.

I don’t like casting aspersions, but did have to query if perhaps it was Plumose Pappus who was the cuckoo…

Anyway, he concluded that the reason people thought he’d lost weight was the switch from bulky winter jackets to thinner, more form fitting summer gear. He then decided that whatever it is fashionista’s tell their acolytes to wear in order to appear slimmer, he’s going to wear the exact opposite. So, I look forward to a range of dazzling, multi-patterned cycling shorts, chunky shoes and light coloured jersey’s with multiple horizontal bands!

There was the usual split on Berwick Hill, Plumose Pappus escaped up the outside to join the front-runners, but I was content to tag along at the back.

Toward Dinnington though, we picked up Caracol who’d dropped out of the front group for a pee. Over the airport, I hit the front of the group and accelerated, pulling him clear. He then took over to pull me through the Mad Mile at pace and catapult me on my way home.

Good ride, good route, good banter, decent weather and another 70-miler tucked away. Thing’s are looking up.


YTD Totals: 1,860 km / 1,0156 miles with 25,338 metres of climbing

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Fick and Fin

Fick and Fin

Club Run, Saturday 6th October, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  115 km / 71 miles with 1,091 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 24 minute

Average Speed:                                26.2 km/h

Group size:                                         23 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    12°C

Weather in a word or two:          Coolly pleasant


 

fik and fin
Ride Profile


This week seemed to be a carbon copy of last week, with one major difference. No wind!

This meant what worked last week, should work this week too, so jersey, tights, arm warmers and a lightweight rain jacket for an extra layer of protection, just until I got across to the meeting point and the morning air lost its chill edge.

I was passed by several cars, elongated with long thin hulls strapped to their roofs, as I made my way down the valley and the rowing club was busy with vehicles parking up and rowers clambering out and about, obviously gearing up for some event or other.

It turned out to be the Tyne Long Distance Sculls, whatever that involves. I guessed they wouldn’t be starting in the near future though as, when I rolled over the bridge, I saw the tide was most assuredly out and the river reduced to just a thin ribbon of dark water between two shiny, featureless mud flats.

I was so busy avoiding aimlessly meandering rowers from the Tees Rowing club that I almost missed the fact that the cable, that had been dragged across the road at the end of the bridge, had been removed, along with its temporary barrow of tarmac. It was all smooth sailing from there on – well, for me anyway.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting place:

I arrived at the meeting place to find Jimmy Mac admiring the Garrulous Kid’s vintage Castelli jersey, a hand-me-down from a benevolent uncle, which Jimmy Mac commended as very retro.

“Yeah,” the Garrulous Kid explained, “It’s good for this weather, as it’s not fick and it’s not fin.”

Despite the need for a not fick and not fin jersey, the Garrulous Kid was still wearing shorts, along with G-Dawg who is flat-out refusing to accept that summer is actually over. At the other extreme and true to his word, the Rainman had already broken out his winter bike, a week before the traditional last hurrah for carbon, our Hill Climb event.

“Sheee-orts!” an arriving OGL exclaimed loudly, in a pitch I had previously thought only attainable by pre-pubescent castrati, caught sucking down a lungful of helium.

Taffy Steve was visibly taken aback by this shocking squeal of outrage, “Remarkable! I didn’t know you could emit that sort of noise, I only ever associated you with gruff bellowing, ranting and swearing…”

The Garrulous Kid contended he was perfectly comfortable in his shorts, even when Taffy Steve declared his legs had the appearance of corned beef. We then had to spend a good few minutes explaining that corned beef and spam were not the same thing and came from completely different animals.

(For those interested in a, “I never knew that” sort of way, the corn in corn beef refers to the salt pellets traditionally used to cure the meat and not niblets of the Green Giant variety. I never knew that!)

The Garrulous Kid then rolled up his shorts legs to, shockingly, reveal his tan-line, or I should say the very, very subtle, almost indiscernible shading between unhealthy and just plain pallid. He was right in a way though, if his lower extremities resembled corned beef, the tops did look a lot like spam.

Needing a distraction, any kind of distraction, Taffy Steve quickly diverted the Garrulous Kid by asking him why 6 was so afraid of 7.

“Huh?” the Garrulous Kid replied brightly.

“I don’t know Steve,” I asked, “Why is 6 so afraid of 7.”

“Because 7-8-9!” Taffy Steve chuckled at his obvious winner in the Dad-Joke-of-the-Week competition.

“Huh?” the Garrulous Kid replied brightly.

“Seven … ate … nine … uh, furgeddaboudit.”

The Hammer took centre stage to outline the intended route for the day, which would take us, down into the Tyne Valley and then out again. He concluded with a set of admonitions that, at first, had everyone nodding along in agreement:

“No profanity, no smoking, no expectoration.  Always be polite to fellow road users, doff your cap to lady pedestrians, signal your intent with clarity and celerity … and no half-wheeling.”

“What?” the Red Max exploded, “Nah, I’m not having that!” The last statement was a bridge too far, the straw that broke the camel’s back and an inimical impediment to the Red Max’s whole raison d’etre.

Arf.

With numbers borderline for split groups, we left en masse, once more picking our way safely along the Broadway “war zone” and out into the countryside.


 

OGL had a bit of a rant about people who only showed up once in a blue moon and dictated our route, but I just let it wash over me. He was luckily distracted by the high pace being set up front, so at least had something else to complain about. Then, as we approached the airport, his phone started ringing loudly and incessantly from his back pocket.

He ignored it.

A bit further on and it started ringing again, he decided he had to answer and dived into the layby on the roundabout, just outside the airport entrance. I caught the others up, told them what was happening and we pulled into a bus stop to wait.

The last of our riders pulled up, someone said OGL wasn’t going to follow and that we should just push on. So we did.

Along the way it was suggested that, like the classic preparation for a blind date, we should all have a pre-arranged call set-up, one that we can answer if the pace of the group is too high and we need an excuse to abandon mid-ride.

At some point I found myself just behind Crazy Legs, already planning a shorter route and, naturally, inspired to sing about it. He settled on a fine version of Fleetwood Mac’s, “Go Your Own Way” and I was able to contribute in small part, with backing vocals for the chorus.

We swung left toward the river and called a pee stop, while Crazy Legs and the Red Max took their splinter group away for a shorter ride, much to the disgust of the Monkey Butler Boy who hadn’t been invited along and now had to face the longer ride with us.

There was only time for the Garrulous Kid to half-inhale a Snickers bar and then we were off again.

For some unknown reason, I indulged in a bit of joyful scat singing with Biden Fecht as we rolled along, “Be-ba-ba-boop-bap-baddaber-ap!”

“Zoober-za-deep-za-boo-da.”

“What? That sounds like Saudi. Why are you singing in Saudi?” the Garrulous Kid demanded to know, much to the amusement of Plumose Pappus, who declared he’d never seen me at a loss for words until that moment.

Meanwhile, the Monkey Butler Boy confessed that he’d spent some time carefully aligning his bar end plugs, following my stinging criticism last week. I had to admit his bike looked much, much better for it.

We enjoyed a swooping drop into the Tyne Valley, on a new, smooth road surface that seemed to have been stripped of its old rumble strips, and I hit the front (and a bit of a pesky headwind) along with Biden Fecht, as we followed the river and then started to climb toward Corbridge.


20170625_131018A


It was a day of scattered road kill and we passed deer, squirrel, rabbit and hedgehog corpses all splayed on the tarmac, or flung carelessly down the side of the road. Apart from obviously being dead, the squirrel in particular looked in rude health, remarkably fat and glossy. I surmised it had probably died of some obesity related disease, but according to Biden Fecht I needn’t have worried too much as “it was one of those ferrin’ grey ones.”

As if keeping to a theme, our stint on the front finally brought us to a road junction marked by some tawny, speckled and formless, feathering pile of a dead bird. Glory be to dappled things, indeed.

We turned left onto the main road and then first right, up toward Aydon, where the bridge took us safely up, up – and over the teeming, car-clogged, A69.

As the road continued to climb, I dropped toward the back of the group, taking it relatively easy and testing how the legs were after my struggles last week.

We regrouped over the top and pressed on toward Matfen. A group eased off the front and I found myself in a small knot of riders following on, with others scattered behind. The Colossus surveyed our little group and declared we’d gone from a dozen and a half riders to just four in little over a mile.

Toledo Tomás, our Swedish-educated-Spanish-newcomer, riding with us while studying for a masters at Newcastle University, joined on to the back of the group. At one point he attempted to bridge across to the front group, he’s fit and fast enough to do it, but he missed a turn and had to backtrack to re-join us. The misdirection seemed to temporarily subdue him and he hung off the back and seemed content just to follow the wheels after this.

We piled up the Quarry climb, swung right and accelerated up and through Wallridge crossroads and then down. I took it up for the last drag up to the final junction, then pulled over to let the Colossus, G-Dawg and the Garrulous Kid contest the sprint. I expected Toledo to join in, but he hesitated, so I pushed past and followed the others.

Tomás unleashed a devastating sprint, much, much too late, but he latched onto the others, while I managed to re-join only once we had crossed the main road and ducked down the lane for the last 500 metres or so to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

With a large group in front, plus our shorter route followers, along with the Back Street Boys (or Back Door Bikers, as the Red Max has gleefully taken to calling them), already ensconced inside, the café was packed to heaving, leaving little choice but to retire to the garden, where we found it was surprisingly mild and comfortable.

As I wandered out, I bumped into OGL and Another Engine who’d just arrived.

“What happened to you?” I wondered.

“I had to take a call,” OGL.

“We waited.”

“No they didn’t!” Another Engine snorted.

“Well, we did a bit…”

“They went a different way.” OGL insisted.

“No they didn’t!” Another Engine snorted.

Wondering if I’d inadvertently wandered into a panto rehearsal, I left them arguing between themselves and went to find a table, not that it was difficult, the garden being otherwise empty.

Talk of the TV series “The Bodyguard” somehow turned to Theresa May and her party conference “dancing” which I admitted had severely scarred my soul. G-Dawg had quickly realised it was something you sadly couldn’t un-see, which was the single reason he hadn’t plucked his own eyeballs out in response.

(I particularly liked Josh Widdicombe’s take, that she danced like someone trying to move a fridge, with a nod of respect to Stewart Lee’s “like a mantis with an inner ear infection.”)

We decided that, not only was it mild and pleasant out in the garden, but there was an appealing absence of wasps too.

Another Engine declared that wasps got a bad press and then somewhat ruined it by admitting he’d never been stung by one. This was despite once sitting on a wasps nest in Scarborough’s Peasholm Park to watch the miniature naval battle re-enacted on the lake.

To be fair, he said he didn’t realise he was sitting on a wasps nest at the time, although he did wonder why he got such a great spot, with a grandstand view and nobody pressed in beside him.

G-Dawg, a man known to frequently crush wasps with his bare thumbs, carried grim tales of a bus being stopped and evacuated mid-route after half the passengers had panicked when a wasp flew in the window.

Never mind crushing them, Another Engine determined, in polite company you were meant to gently waft them away.

“Ah, like an errant fart?” I suggested, which led to the unfortunate revelation that both Another Engine and the Garrulous Kid suffer from sustained and impromptu flatulence following a long bike ride.

“I’ll bet that’s an excuse that’s worn thin by a Thursday evening,” G-Dawg mused.

OGL complained he’d found some bearings in a MTB bottom bracket that were so esoteric he’d had to ring the manufacturer, Giant for guidance.

Childishly, I couldn’t help but imagine how that particular phone-call might have sounded, intoning: “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, Giant headquarters, how can we help you human?”

With just one week to go until the club hill climb, Another Engine fondly recalled his last experience competing.

“Do you remember the time we were waiting to start and those two women on touring bikes with panneers rode by en route to who knows where and asked if they could join in?” he asked.

“Panneers? Are they posh panniers?” OGL demanded.

Panneers, panniers, whatever,” Another Engine continued. “The point is, these two women rode the event, without preparation and on touring bikes loaded down with full panniers.”

“That was the year I was second last,” he concluded, glumly.

There was just time to deride the increasing proliferation of “official” world boxing champions titles, determine Tyson Fury had perhaps the perfect name for a boxer and discuss how after shedding over 122 pounds in weight, from fick to fin, he’s still burdened with the skin of a 385 pound man … and it’s not a good look.


Then we were off and away. Luckily the Backstreet Boys has left earlier, so there was no intermingling of clubs and testosterone levels were capped off well below the danger level. The ride back was fast-paced, but controlled and I swung away at the end of the Mad Mile feeling in good fettle and looking forward to a ride back without having to constantly battle with a headwind.

Perfect timing saw the traffic parting like the Red Sea and I skipped straight over the roundabout on the approach to the Heinous Hill without even having to slow. For once the capricious gods of cycling had aligned everything in my favour, the lights at the bottom of the climb burned green and I was able to carry a bit of speed up the first ramps, before picking my way upwards and home again.


YTD Totals: 5,805 km / 3,607 miles with 71,525 metres of upness

The Wasp Factory

The Wasp Factory

Club Run, Saturday 1st September, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 111 km / 69 miles with 1,159 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 10 minute

Average Speed:                                26.6 km/h

Group size:                                        31 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   21°C

Weather in a word or two:          Perfect


 

wasp profile
Ride Profile


Saturday morning proved a good bit warmer than Thursday and Friday, when my commutes had been distinctly chilly affairs. Perhaps this was due to the insulating effect of fairly solid cloud cover that gave the early morning light a dimly suffused and milky quality and turned the river a notable flat and evil-looking slate grey. Still it was dry and, apart from a niggling, occasional bit of wind, looked like being a perfect for a ride.

I was pleased to find the bridge across the river still closed to cars, but it’s surely only a matter of time before they finally finish the longstanding repairs and I no longer get sole and unhindered use of its nice, shiny new surface. I’ve no idea what’s causing the delay, it’s been closed since May, but for once I’m happy to celebrate the inefficiency of the great British workforce.

I was first to arrive at the meeting point, just a little ahead of G-Dawg and the Colossus who I spotted approaching on my own run in.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Seeing one of our number wearing the new Holdsworth racing team jersey, OGL was unsurprised to learn it had been on special offer, revealing that he understood the team was going to fold before it had even got really started. If true, then they would join the likes of Aqua Blue and One Pro Cycling as emblems of the parlous state of British professional bike racing.

The complete and utter malfunction in marketing of Aqua Blue was also discussed as a quick, straw-poll of all those gathered revealed that only one of us realised Aqua Blue was actually a website selling cycling gear, similar to Wiggle or Chain Reaction . We variously thought it was a brand of designer water, a type of deodorant … or a make of prophylactic.

The lone person amongst us who recognised that Aqua Blue was, ahem, “the No.1 marketplace for all things pedal powered” was the Colossus and he only knew this because Aqua Blue ads constantly kept appearing on all his social media sites. In fact he said they were so intrusive, so frequent and so annoying, that he vowed never to visit the website out of principle.

Wasps were to become a recurring theme throughout the day and the little beggars provided Crazy Legs with an opportunity to expound on his interesting factoid of the week – apparently figs have to be pollinated by a wasp crawling through a hole, so small and tight that its wings are ripped off in the process. (Think of something akin to a normal sized human trying to squeeze into a medium sized Castelli jersey). The wasp becomes trapped and is then digested by enzymes in its fruit cell – one explanation for the crunchy bits in figs.

Crazy Legs said when someone first told him this, he immediately called bullshit, but a bit of research proved it was true and he challenged us to do our own research if we didn’t believe him. He also reassured us the crunchy bits in figs were just the seeds and not partially digested wasp parts.

I was surprised by the return of cycling heavyweight, Plumose Pappus and wondered when he’d be heading back to university, only to be even more surprised when he told me he’d finished his course, graduated with flying honours and was now looking to do a masters at Newcastle University. Has it really been 3 years? Have I been writing this drivel for that long? The horror…

Our leader for the week Aether outlined the route, including a late amendment which would have us using Broadway West as a route out of the city, ostensibly a measure to avoid the heavily potholed route through the Dinnington Badlands. Any other reasons for these last minute route change went unremarked and were, we felt, covered by plausible deniability.

With our numbers again bolstered by a large contingent of Grogs, we split into two groups and, seeing the balance of numbers lay with the second group, I tagged on to the back of the first one, as we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


Yet again, we made it through Broadway West without incident. Benedict drifted to the back to ride alongside me and we passed the time chatting about commuting, cycling holidays, club runs and the like.

Today seemed to be National Cyclist Abuse Day, we had a number of drivers celebrating our very presence on their roads by serenading us sweetly with their horns –  including one passing in the opposite direction at high speed, who barely had time to register his disapproval, let alone be in any way discomfited by our group.

Even the bikers wanted in on the act today though, with a particularly friendly specimen using sign language to query if we perhaps belonged to the lost tribe of Onan?

After the Monkey Butler Boy swept away to meet up with his hormonally charged Wrecking Crew, we shuffled around a bit and, once again, I dropped to the back where I was soon joined by the King of the Grogs, who’d bridged across from the second group and reported that they weren’t all that far behind.

Amongst other things, we had a brief chat about the clubs (complete lack of) succession planning for when OGL hangs up his wheels and retires, or, simply cannot summon the will to ride above the Augustus Windsock speeds that frustrate everyone else.

As we hit Whalton, he dropped back to wait for the second group, while I pushed on with the original members of the first group until we reached Dyke Neuk.

Here we paused to regroup, before choosing various shorter/longer, faster/slower options. Having been told the second group had been snapping at our heels only a few miles back, we didn’t expect a long wait, but minutes dragged past with no sign of them.

Finally the bulk of group 2 emerged, clambering up the hill to join us and we learned the King of the Grogs had hit a pothole and punctured at the bottom of the climb. We settled in for a longer than expected wait while repairs were made.


wasp factory


The delay gave the Red Max an opportunity to carefully inspect his rear tyre, revealing it was on its last legs and had previously been condemned to the turbo. It had been pressed back into service at short notice when the Monkey Butler Boy had decided to “borrow” Max’s Continental Grand Prix tyres to save his own, high-end, super-supple, Vittoria Corsa race tyres from unnecessary wear and tear.

Max then pointed to his front wheel, where the Monkey Butler Boy had also inexplicably swapped out the inner tube for one with a 60mm valve, 95% of which poked out, rudely and ridiculously from the skinny rims.

I couldn’t help thinking this was a case of biter-bit, recalling all the times throughout the winter when the Red Max had manically cackled about replacing one failing component after another with bits “borrowed “ from Mr’s Max’s bike.

“The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree,” I suggested.

Combined, the Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy could probably strip a bike down to the frame, while removing all useful components, faster than Blofeld’s  piranha pit could reduce a super-secret agent, or bumbling henchman to a loose collection of bare bones.

Apparently they could be just as lethal as well, with the Red Max stating he’d actually started  one ride before he realised the Monkey Butler Boy had decided to ride alloy instead of carbon wheels that day and “borrowed” Max’s brake blocks when he made the switch.

With the puncture finally repaired, there was a brief coalescing before everyone split and I tagged onto the group heading up the hated climb to Rothley Crossroads and points beyond. We became strung out and splintered on the grinding climb and not a little disorganised. At the crossroads, I followed Caracol and Ovis straight across the junction. while behind some decided to wait, some went left and some, who had initially followed us, turned back again.

Caracol hesitated and looked at us quizzically.  Ovis gestured we should just press on and I nodded in assent, so the three of us did just that, happy to ride as a small group. We would later learn that others had followed, but we didn’t see them and they never caught up.

Caracol led from the front, forging his way up Middleton Bank and then accelerating hard toward the café. Ovis and I contributed a couple of short turns, but I suspect we were only slowing things down and, after thrashing ourselves breathless we’d just drift back to hang off Caracol’s back wheel again, trying to recover.

Then we hit the rollers and I accelerated up and over the ramps, dragged our group up to the last corner and last climb, before I sat up. Caracol zipped past, Ovis followed a little bit later and a little more laboriously and I trailed the pair into the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

It was just about pleasant enough to sit outside in the garden, where we found ourselves constantly assailed by wasps, especially when Ovis broke the edict and had jam with his toasted teacake.

This was in direct contravention of Standing Order#414 and much to the chagrin of Carlton, who was sitting alongside him, suffering from the same over-attentive wasp activity, while looking ruefully between his own dry teacake and the one laden with gooey, sticky and sweet jam that Ovis was blithely chomping his way through.

Buster downed his cappuccino and declared it was good, much better in fact than the muddy, often tasteless big mugs of coffee we usually indulge in. This, we decided, was a classic case of quantity over quality. Not only was the cappuccino too small, effete and more costly, but crucially it didn’t come with the “free” refill. I could only quote that quantity has a quality all of its own, an aphorism I always associate with Napoleon, but has been variously attributed to Stalin, von Clauswitz and others.

After the wasp-fig bombshell from earlier this morning, Buster took up the cudgels on behalf of our vespidae friends (fiends?) He suggested that they were an essential part of the ecosystem, contributing massively toward insect pest control and that without them there’d be a massive increase in the use of pesticides.

He explained he knew so much about them because he participated in a study where members of the public were tasked with building wasp traps, collecting the contents, freezing all the little wasp corpses and them posting them off to the Royal Entomological Society for counting and identification.

This sounded like a Blue Peter appeal from some nightmarish alternate reality, with kids encouraged to make traps (out of beer bottles and baited with beer no less) and then collect dead animals. Still, probably easier and more worthwhile than collecting milk bottle tops.

We wondered why the wasps had to be frozen before posting, reasoning that they would thaw out in transit – unless, Caracol suggested, they were transported in one of those organ donor ice boxes. I could also see issues with people mistaking their collected wasp corpses for frozen mince and cooking a chilli with far more kick than intended.

Meanwhile, on an adjacent table, I could hear Crazy Legs, no doubt having already wowed his audience with facts about wasps and figs, describing how one of his neighbours had tackled a wasp nest with a Dyson…

We finally decided to retreat and leave the wasps in temporary charge of the garden, swiftly packing up to head home.

Conducting a quick headcount, G-Dawg wondered where everyone had gone. Someone pointed out the Grogs were predictably missing, having slipped away to do their own thing, while I could account for a few more who’d left early, setting out in one and two’s as they needed to get back home by a certain time.

“Oh,” I added, And Plumose Pappus was abducted by wasps. They picked him up and just flew away.”  Somewhat surprisingly, everyone seemed to accept my explanation as at least plausible, if not 100% accurate.

I’m not so sure they believed my next assertion, that the wasps were going to make him their God-Emperor and the Chief Overseer of the wasp factory, responsible for making all the new wasps to replace the ones we’d killed today.


On the return I dropped in alongside Crazy Legs and we decided the Vuelta had become the Tour of Redemption for both the French, through Bouhanni and Gallopin and for previously hapless and winless, under-performing teams like EF Education First–Drapac, AG2R La Mondiale and Dimension Data.

While reminiscing about now dissolved retailer Toys R Us, Crazy Legs recalled a girlfriend who was convinced there name was actually pronounced Toysaurus. I guess either version is still better than Aqua Blue.

We’d made it almost to the top of Berwick Hill, when I declared, “Hey, no cars this week! Naturally, scant seconds later a car barrelled around the corner and we dived to the side of the lane so it could squeeze past. Me and my big mouth.

There was only time for G-Dawg to hope that if anyone did happen to have an accident on Broadway West, they would have the decency to drag their broken body and bike into a side street before calling for help, then I was swinging away and starting to pick my way back home.

A very brief shower peppered me as I crested the top of the Heinous Hill and disappeared as quickly as it came. Then I was back, done and dusted, home and hosed, or however else you want to describe it.


YTD Totals: 5,182 km / 3,219 miles with 63,722 metres of climbing

Ye Shudda Seen Us Gannin’

Ye Shudda Seen Us Gannin’

Club Run, Saturday 9th June, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                       118 km / 73 miles with 1,023 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                               4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                      27.3 km/h

Group size:                              24 riders, 1 semi-FNG

Temperature:                         17°C

Weather in a word or two:    Temperate


 

YSSUG
Ride Profile – (with Friday’s commute thrown in for good measure)


Another chilly start to the day, my ride across to the meeting point was wholly unremarkable, except for miles and miles of road south of the river that were lined with yellow traffic cones. Because I’m quick off the mark, I was able to guess that there was obviously some event or other taking place.

If I’d realised it was the 9th June, I might just have made the connection and understood the significance, still, even without this hint, I somehow managed to correctly guess that all the activity was somehow related to the Blaydon Race, although I also thought (incorrectly) it was scheduled for Sunday.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Jimmy Mac was already at the meeting point, showing off a huge patch of road rash on his calf that looked like someone had blasted a muddy football off his leg. He’d been involved in a mass pile-up during the Tour Of Cambridgeshire Chrono + Gran Fondo and, considering the circumstances, escaped relatively unscathed.

The same can’t be said for his Storck bike, Zipp wheels, Assos shorts or Specialized shoes, all of which were well and truly written off, although he appeared remarkably chipper about the whole thing, I think if I’d travelled 200 odd mile and sustained losses of maybe £2-3,000 or more, I’d still be crying and cursing the cycling gods.

Still, here he was, bright and early, out on his winter bike sans mudguards and ready to lead the ride. Perhaps his general insouciance can be attributed to the fact he took out a massive new insurance policy on the Storck just the day before he left for the event?

While posting up today’s intended route of Facebook, Jimmy Mac had jokingly referenced the Velominati Rule#5, which had inadvertently triggered a (somewhat predictable) bad tempered, off-kilter, nonsensical tirade from OGL.

This was so completely inarticulate, we wondered if it was a cry for help from someone suffering a stroke while actually furiously bashing at a keyboard. We even tried to identify the precise point in his messages when the blood flow was suddenly cut off from the brain, but it could have been at any one of a dozen points.

A worried G-Dawg had immediately queried if OGL was quite ok and whether this incoherence was due to predictive text or excessive wine, while Radman concluded it was obviously predictive wine. Still, OGL had the perfect comeback, invoking the deeply mysterious, startling succinct, cutting and insightful reply of “2.”

No, I don’t know either…

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs related that he’d been tempted to buy some new socks when he saw Castelli Corsa Rosso – 6 socks for £8.00 on Wiggle. His keen brain quickly worked out that this was just £2.66 per pair of socks, an absolute bargain for such quality kit and too good a chance to miss.

On receiving just a single pair of socks with his order, he quickly checked the webpage before succumbing to an apoplectic e-mail rant. There he learned he could not only buy Corsa Rosso – 6 socks, but also Corsa Rosso –9 socks, or even Corsa Rosso 13 socks, all named for the length of the cuff and completely unrelated to how many items you get per pack.

To add insult to injury, he didn’t even get any free Haribo with his lone pair of socks.

Jimmy Mac outlined the route for the day, which included a few roads we hadn’t ventured down for quite some time and a few more we’d be travelling down rather than up, or vice-versa. Included in the middle was a, still novel, descent down Middleton Bank.

Mention of a road up through Molesden caused much head-scratching from Goose. With a deeply furrowed brow, he conveyed his confusion with a simple, “Huh?”

“Where the mad farm dog is,” someone volunteered.

“Ah!” the veil parted, “The mad farm dog.” He knew exactly where we meant now.

Jimmy Mac had us split into two groups, I dropped into the front group and away we went.


More by evolution than conscious design, the front group is starting to be characterised by a faster pace and today was no different. It’s an arrangement the consensus of regular riders seem to have been working toward for some time, but we really need to start making it more explicit – anyone suffering a jour sans, or not quite on their game is naturally going to be more comfortable in the second group.

How much faster is the first group? Well, in the first 30kms or so, on a route I’ve ridden dozens of times in the past 5 or 6 years, I netted twenty-two Strava PR’s, five 2nd fastest and two 3rd fastest times across a stretch of 37 segments.

It reached a peak on Bell’s Hill when I followed the Colossus and Ovis up at such a breathless pace, that I had to rein them in at the top after they’d blown the group apart. It was so fast, that Ovis, once again intent on fuelling his ride with an entire malt loaf, didn’t even get the opportunity to pluck it out and unwrap it, let alone eat the damn thing. He was so busy riding hard, it stood out, proudly outlined, a square, brick-sized lump in his pocket, weighing him down like a solid lead ingot.


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We started to slowly shed riders as we progressed. The Garrulous Kid was the first to go, rather inexplicably declaring he didn’t much “like the road” we were travelling on. I’m not certain what particular arrangement of tarmac, slope, gravel, pots and bordering foliage he took exception to – it looked no different to what had gone before, what was yet to come and pretty much the exact same of what could be found around every single corner, no matter which route was chosen.

Then, after hammering down Middleton Bank, the Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy took a sharp left for a shorter run to the café, while later, Benedict and Caracol (and maybe one or two others) pushed on for a longer ride.

Somewhere along the way we lost an FNG who wasn’t really an FNG, but had apparently been riding with the club off and on for the past 10 years. (I’m guessing more off than on as I didn’t recognise him).

By the time we had locked-in and started the long burn toward the café, there were just six of us left. I hit the front on the short, sharp climb of Brandywell Bank and pushed as fast as I could, as far as I could down toward the Snake Bends. As the road finally levelled and then started a long gradual dip down, everyone roared past and I dug in, gave chase and just about managed to hang on the coattails as we swept through the bends and out onto the main road to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The main conversation point at the café was best way to gauge the volumetric capacity of the human mouth. The Red Max asserted that the correct and only unit of measurement was the Twix-biscuit and his record was 12 Twix-biscuits, entirely complete, whole and undamaged.

Given Crazy Legs’ number confusion with socks, the Colossus was undertsndably keen to understand if this was 12 individual Twix fingers, or 12 standard Twix packs and therefore 24 individual biscuits – (the former), while I queried if they were fun-sized fingers or full-sized – (the latter, obviously).

Someone suggested the number of sideways inserted Mars bars might provide a better measure, while from a professional, medical perspective, Jimmy Mac recommended using a liquid, such as ale, or coffee. He then cautioned that if things went wrong the autopsy might prove challenging – explaining how the subject drowned in a mouthful of beer would be difficult enough, even before considering what implications could be drawn from a Mars bar lodged horizontally in the throat.

OGL’s absence was briefly queried and we were reminded that the last time he hadn’t turned up for a ride, he was miffed that no one had bothered to check whether he was actually all right. No one volunteered in this instance either, nor would have if any other regular failed to turn up for a particular club run. Yes, we’re a mean, selfish and self-centred lot.


And then, we were off, for a fairly fast-paced, generally uneventful ride for home.

I split from the group and made my way across the river, hitting Blaydon at just about the same time as some kind of family fun run was finishing. Luckily, this was just a prelude to the main event, the Blaydon Race, which was still an hour or two away from starting, so at least I didn’t have to share the road with 4,000 or so rabid-runners as I pushed on for home.


YTD Totals: 3,297 km / 2,049 miles with 38,651 metres of climbing

Merde! Mitford

Merde! Mitford

Club Run, Saturday 5th May, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                               121 km / 75 miles with 1,195 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                       4 hours 37 minutes

Average Speed:                               26.2 km/h

Group size:                                      28 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                  22°C

Weather in a word or two:         Glorious


 

MDM
Ride Profile


A week – a long time in politics, is seemingly an aeon in terms of British weather, which might explain how things suddenly changed from last weeks biting chill, too H-o-t (with a capital H). Hot enough indeed for G-Dawg to send out a diktat via Facebook declaring “shorts only” for the weekend. Well, obviously not just shorts, that would be unseemly, but you get the idea.

I was assured it was going to be a fantastic day, but nonetheless, it was cold early in the morning and I was happy I’d thought to pull on a pair of arm warmers. Still, the sky was a cloudless, sparkling blue and the sun was throwing sharp shadows ahead of my front wheel – it was just a matter of time before the temperature picked up. In fact the digital readout on a factory unit said 23 C. Yeah, right, a bit premature I think, but still …

It was a thoroughly pleasant amble across the river, the hedgerows and verges studded with bright blossoming tulips and daffodils and the trees laden down with pale blossom that the breeze would tug off the branches so I could occasionally progress like I was riding through a soft, warm blizzard.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

If last week everyone complained of the cold, this week everyone mentioned the heat, as we enjoyed the best spell of weather so far this year and were headed toward the warmest May Bank Holiday weekend for years.

A supremely hot Jimmy Mac arrived, fat beats of sweat already rolling down his face. First blaming his all black Castelli jersey for absorbing too much heat, he then suggested that perhaps his sunscreen was providing an unwelcome layer of insulation. “Huh,” I had to ask, “What are you using for sun cream, goose fat?”

It was so hot, that Szell took G-Dawg’s “shorts only” diktat to heart and stripped off his jersey. Ooph! Luckily, he was just intent on removing his base layer and pulled his jersey back on before too many grannies swooned, or the police arrived to cart him away for indecent exposure.

Indeed, it was so hot that Crazy Legs had coerced the much-cosseted Ribble out its cotton wool nest for the first action of the year – as good a guarantee that we were going to see no rain as money can buy.

Someone had abandoned a Mobike nearby and we circled it warily, trying to decide exactly what kind of strange, exotic beast it was and determine if it was at all dangerous. G-Dawg, quite the bravest amongst us, approached tentatively, gave it a quick prod and, when it didn’t react, picked it up and weighed it appraisingly. “It might be all right downhill,” he mused, but obviously not this particular one, which had been abandoned with only one crank and had a raw, empty spindle where the other should have been. You can break them, then.

The outbreak of shorts threw an unkindly spotlight on personal sock choice, with the obvious Goldilocks dilemma of not too long, not too short, just the right length. The Monkey Butler Boy proved to be the de facto leader of the fashion police and a sock fascist par excellence. He declared the socks sported by the Colossus were too short, but not as bad as those that the Garrulous Kid was wearing – a sort of girly, trainer-sock monstrosity that barely covered his malleolus.

Still, as G-Dawg reminded us, this was a massive upgrade on the Garrulous Kid’s previous choice, a pair of hairy, woolly, baggy, shapeless, sloppy things of an indeterminate grey-green colour that used to pool around his ankles like two detached elephant scrotums.

Ovis arrived for a last training bout before he embarks on the Fred Whitton Challenge. He was suitably provisioned a long day in the saddle, with an entire family-size malt loaf stuffed like a building brick in his jersey pocket. Enough for 16 individual servings, he would fuel his entire ride by systematically gnawing his way through this sticky mess and took a moment before we rolled out  to start the process off.

The long absent BFG tried to casually sneak up and merge in, but, like the elephant in the room, his looming presence was obvious to all. I wondered where he’d been for the past few months and he suggested he’d just been hiding in the house all this time.

Then, G-Dawg outlined the route and we split into two groups that wouldn’t see each other again until the café. I dropped into the second group, was led out by the Red Max and away we went.


As we pushed on toward the Dinnington lunar landscape, a lone cyclist, appropriately attired in a Soloist jersey, whirred past. I watched and waited, counting down. It wasn’t long and sure enough, before I’d finished ticking off the fingers of one hand, the Red Max’s targeting radar locked-on and there was a not-so-subtle increase in the pace at the front.

“It’s a club run, not a bloody race!” OGL complained, but all to no avail as Max’s seek and destroy mode was now fully engaged and the pace was ramping up. A few minutes later and if the Soloist had turned around he would have found a madly cackling Red Max encamped on his rear wheel, with the rest of us closing steadily in.

The Soloist got a call on his mobile and slowed to take it mid-ride, suddenly finding himself engulfed by riders spilling past on either side, and then he was spat out the back and we were out onto clear roads again.

I had a brief chat with the BFG, who, rather glassy-eyed and with a pronounced catch in his voice, admitted he’d actually missed us during his long absence. I didn’t know whether to be touched, or annoyed at how surprised he was by his own shock revelation. He also revealed he was wary of riding in a group in case he caused a crash. We determined that with the Prof also absent, rehearsing with his Back Street Boys tribute band, the potential for chaos within the bunch was already markedly reduced, but it wasn’t sufficient and the BFG soon turned away for a much less stressful solo ride.


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Up past the Cheese Farm and the Slow Drinker went to stretch his legs up Bell’s Hill, so I followed, to more vocal discontent from the rear ranks. We paused at the top, but no one had been dropped and no one was struggling, so we shrugged and pressed on.

Nodding at Ovis, resplendent in his customary, bright blue and yellow Rochdale Tri top, Taffy Steve decided it would be good if everyone turned up at the meeting point in the distinctive kit, which would probably cause OGL’s head to explode.

Simply by dint of its omniscience, I’ve concluded that the Rochdale Tri stuff is either virtually indestructible, or Ovis owns an awful lot of it – potentially enough to kit out the entire club …

A long, low convertible Cadillac cruised past in a flare of shiny chrome, cuing up a quick burst of Brand New Cadillac. Any ride when I get to tunelessly belt out a Clash song has to be considered a good ride in my book. Balls to ya, Big Daddy…

A bit further on and I got to substitute the warning of “pots” for “pheasant” as one of the dopey birds darted across the road. Up through Tranwell and the King of the Grogs shipped his chain so we pulled over to wait, giving Ovis the chance to renew his slavering assault on his malt loaf while we waited. Then we were off again, before a rather unremarkable ascent of the Mur de Mitford.

We stretched things out down the road to Netherwitton, before a sharp left dropped us at the bottom of the Trench. The Red Max called for a general regrouping at the top, then waved us through to tackle the climb at our own pace. Benedict and the Slow Drinker seemed to have their climbing legs on, so I followed in their wheels as we pushed upwards and onwards.

Stopping at the top, I had a quick chat with Captain Black and we agreed that as hard as the climb up the Trench was, it least it was preferable to last week’s drag up to Rothley Crossroads, or Rothley Bloody Crossroads as it momentarily seemed to have been renamed.

We were called back to the main group, where we found Ovis busy chomping down on his malt loaf brick, while Taffy Steve revealed that, because it was such a nice day, they’d decided to split, with a group detouring from the planned route for a longer ride to take in Middleton Bank … via Rothley Bloody Crossroads.

Naturally, having declared our loathing for this particular route just minutes earlier, I found myself tagging along with Captain Black, just for that slight masochistic frisson of grinding up to the Bloody Crossroads yet again.

Fuelled on pure malt loaf, Ovis set a fast pace and tugged everyone along, before regrouping at the top, where Benedict and Andeven went off in search of even more miles, while the rest of us pushed on to Scots Gap and then Middleton Bank.

At the foot of the bank, Ovis darted away. Working around a flailing Szell and standing out of the saddle, I gave chase and closed him down on the steepest ramps, before plonking down and pushing onto the front as the gradient lessened.

A partial regrouping over the top, and a small group of us pressed on for the café. With abundant malt loaf resources left to burn, Ovis kept pushing the speed up and up, with real intent, so I finally gave up matching his pace and slipped onto his rear wheel and followed. We were soon all lined-out and rattling along, behind what Carlton would later dub the Rochdale Express.

Ovis kept looking back, perhaps hoping he’d shed the leeches that hung off his back wheel like particularly stubborn and bloody-minded remora hitching a ride on a great shark, but no matter how hard he pushed he couldn’t dislodge us.

Swooping through the Milestone Woods, I attacked off the front as we hit the base of the rollers. In hindsight, this was probably a mistake, I couldn’t force a gap big enough before the road levelled and dipped down again and it put the hurt into my legs. Still I kept going, around the next corner and onto the final climb where the first pursuers, Ovis and Goose finally wrestled their way past.

I dropped into their slipstream until the very last ramp saw their momentum ebb slightly, then I ground my way around them and onto the front one final time.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A quick survey of the goods on display and both Goose and I zeroed in the lone, very last piece of Bakewell tart as being the premium source of extreme goodness and cycling-specific, calorific content. We could have fought for it, we could have engaged in a quick round or rock-paper-scissors, or, by dint of sneaking into the queue first, I could have trumped his “finders-keepers” declaration with a pre-emptive order, but being a gentleman I conceded and went for the ginger flapjack instead.

Conferring later, I gave the flapjack a 7.5 out of 10, whereas Goose declared the Bakewell tart was a solid 10. I’ll never know if he was deliberately exaggerating its appeal, but I’ll know better next time.

We found a table outside and were quickly joined by the Monkey Butler Boy, who left another group, not drawn to our scintillating company so much as fleeing the wasps that hovered around it. He seems to have an irrational fear of the little blighters, even though we discovered he’d never been stung.

Goose suggested he needed to grasp the nettle (so to speak) and get stung in order to realise it wasn’t that big an issue – or at least find out if he was prone to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. The Monkey Butler Boy … err … politely demurred.

With such glorious weather, talk turned to the potential for weekend barbecue’s, a Great British obsession, whenever there’s even the barest hint of decent weather. Apparently, my utter dislike for the process of either conjuring up, or devouring, burnt and crusty carbonised meat with a cold and raw interior, marks me out as being an effete loser and much less than a proper man.

Speaking of effete practices, the Garrulous Kid revealed he had to be home on time for his mum to take him to his exclusive, elite, city centre hair salon for an appointment with his personal stylist. He (well, she to be fair) must pay an awful lot of money for his haircut, that looks no different from what everyone else gets from their local barber. Mind you, I’m no expert and have always believed my dad’s edict that there’s only 2 weeks between a bad haircut and a good one.

The Garrulous Kid then volunteered the reason he didn’t just go to the barbers like a normal bloke, was that he didn’t like having his hair cut by machine, which is interesting as I’ve never seen an android barber and would like to give one a try. Perhaps the conversation would be a little more illuminating than the standard fare of “busy at work?” or, “off anywhere nice on holiday?” Then again, perhaps I’m just choosing the wrong barber and need to find one like the Red Max’s who’ll gladly entertain customers, young and old, with his ambitions to be a porn star.

I learned that both Captain Black and Goose are toying with the idea of new frames, having seemingly reached the conclusion after multiple years of riding that their current bikes are the wrong size. Now they just have to find a means of smuggling newly acquired bike parts past the intense scrutiny of domestic security.


As we pulled out the car park, Taffy Steve indicated to turn left, as a group of us were taking an alternate way home via Whalton, rather than routing via Ogle. As usual, I was easily led astray and found myself tagging along as we set a fairly fast pace for home. The route didn’t seem particularly longer, shorter, easier or harder, but it made a pleasant change. It was so novel in fact, that I found myself travelling down roads I’d only ever traversed in the opposite direction.

As we hit the Mad Mile, the Colossus charged away and I gave chase, tagging on as we rode up to a busy roundabout and slowed almost to a halt to let it clear. The Colossus swung left and I made to push straight over, but found myself straining to turn over a massive gear, just as a car emerged from its off-road hiding place to my right.

I gave a sustained, comedic “Eek!” and got a sudden burst of adrenaline that let me kick the pedals round with a little more power as I recovered from my near stall. Luckily, the car slowed and I was able to grind my way to safety.

The rest of my ride home passed without incident on roads that were surprisingly quiet and traffic free. Perhaps everyone had decided to stay home and enjoy the weather rather than crowding out the shops, or perhaps they were all distracted, firing up the barbies in their back gardens.

So, the Mur de Mitford, the Trench, Rothley Bloody Crossroads, Middleton Bank and the Heinous Hill all in one ride. What was that about mad dogs, Englishmen and the midday sun?


YTD Totals: 2,529 km / 1,571 miles with 29,149 metres of climbing

 

Two Shoes, New Shoes

Two Shoes, New Shoes

Club Run, Saturday 14th April, 2018        

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  115 km / 71 miles with 1,100 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.9 km/h

Group size:                                         23 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Good. Or, maybe just better


 

 

2 shoes new
Ride Profile


Blue skies, blooming daffodils and temperatures slowly creeping toward comfortable? This was enough to ensure the first daring exposure of bare legs this year, or at least the two or three pallid inches in the place between where knee warmers end and socks begin.

It even seemed pleasant enough for me to finally break out and strap on my Christmas present too, a new pair of Gaerne cycling slippers in a fetching and subtly understated shade of red. (Well, to my mind, anyway.)

Then, with jacket swapped for a lighter jersey and a pair of arm warmers, I was set and good to go.

As I dropped down the Heinous Hill I passed a gaggle (bunch? peloton? chain?) of cyclists clustered around the turn-off for the Pedalling Squares café. Either they’d arranged some sort of mass ride with a very early start, or these were bargain hunters who’d queued overnight to grab the best deals in some kind of up and coming café-bake sale. Cyclists being cyclists, and notoriously likely to queue for up to 8 hours for just a hint of discounted flapjacks and coffee, I simply couldn’t discount the latter.

There was a goodly smattering of rain jackets on display amongst the group. Fools! I cackled maniacally to myself – didn’t they know it was officially summer and there’d be no turning back now.

Caught by the lights at the end of the bridge, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet and still it was, as if the world was ever so slightly holding its breath. Birdsong was rising and falling along the hedgerows, a weasel scuttled across the road, I could occasionally hear the whine of a distant still saw and the wires overhead were buzzing gently. Such a weird pastoral-urban amalgam.

Just before the lights changed, I was joined by another rider and in a quick exchange learned she was riding up to take part in a local time-trial. It looked like being the perfect weather for the event, I wished her luck, hoped she enjoyed it and then we were crossing the river and going our separate ways.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I arrived at the meeting point to find the Garrulous Kid, the sleeves of his winter jacket rolled up past his elbows while his illuminous gloves flapped around at the ends of his spindly arms – “All the better to point out the potholes,” he claimed.

“Which isn’t really much use when you spend all your time lurking at the back,” G-Dawg countered.

To much cheering, we had our first sighting of a lesser-spotted Grover, who now rolled up for his inaugural 2018 club ride. Like hearing the first cuckoo of spring, this was a watershed moment, reassuring us all that the worst of winter has passed and better weather is finally on its way.

This led to speculation about when Szell was likely to emerge from his winter hibernation. We felt we still have a few weeks more before he drags himself from his torpor and returns with his unique machine-gun rattle of single-entendres, personal crusade against all wasp-kind and continuous bitching and kvetching about how unfit he is compared to everyone else.

“He’s a decent rider,” the Garrulous Kid argued.

“Yeah, by the time we get to September,” someone countered.

The Colossus suggested he didn’t actually like it when Szell reappeared, as it’s an early portent that our summer days are already numbered and winter’s on its way!

The Garrulous Kid declared that the Monkey Butler Boy had a new pair of cycling shoes that were not only whiter than white, but somehow whiter than the Colossus’s very white shoes.

How does that work then?

I wondered if they might not be a whiter shade of pale, but not before having a quick glance around to make sure that neither Biden Fecht, nor Crazy Legs were within earshot, just in case we set them off on a truly unfortunate prog-rock song cycle.

The Garrulous Kid asserted that, not only were the Monkey Butler Boys new shoes the whitest-white possible, but he would also reveal his secret weapon in a Canute-style, futile battle to keep them in perfect, gleaming and pristine condition.

We looked up to find the Monkey Butler Boy himself, “coming in hot” and attempting a flashy bunny hop onto the pavement, only to misjudge things horribly and crack his rear wheel off the edge of the kerb with a noise like a pistol shot.

Checking there was no visible damage, he shrugged nonchalantly and announced he was getting a new bike anyway next week, so wasn’t all that bothered. I’m not so sure the Red Max would agree as he’s set to inherit the Monkey Butler Boy’s current ride and would obviously prefer it not to have been tested to destruction.

We learned the Monkey Butler Boy’s new bike would be arriving at the depot on Tuesday and he intended to be there for the birth. The Colossus prepared him for a long and frustrating wait, similar to his own experiences staying in to wait for DHL parcels. He contends he can see the DHL warehouse from his bedroom window, but whenever he tracks an imminent delivery, he spends hours watching a blip on the computer screen circumnavigate the entirety of the North East, before it finally arrives at his front door, the very last stop on a hugely attenuated route.

It turned out that the Monkey Butler Boy was indeed sporting a new pair of “fresh sneaks” (thank you Thing#1 for the sudden injection of street-cred to this otherwise pedestrian and sadly dated blerg) in the form of very white, brand spanking new fiz’i:k shoes. As promised, the Monkey Butler Boy also revealed his secret weapon in the war to keep them that way – a packet of baby wipes shoved deep into his back pocket.

With time approaching for our grand depart, G-Dawg spent some time anxiously looking round for Richard of Flanders, our route planner and leader for the day who appeared conspicuous by his absence. Then, the throng hushed and parted like the Red Sea and Richard of Flanders bestrode the pavement in all his glory.

He leaped nimbly up onto his pulpit-come-wall and formally introduced himself to his congregation, before outlining the route for the day. Then, after some consultation with his inner voices (and G-Dawg) he declared we would verily split into two distinct bands of acolytes for our weekly pilgrimage out into the wilderness.

I joined up with the first group and we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


Things were going well until we hit the road through Dinnington, which local conspiracy theorists laughably assert was the location chosen by NASA to fake the Moon landings. This is obviously arrant nonsense, as no lunar landscape has ever looked so bleak, so desolate and quite so disturbingly … well … alien, as the road through Dinnington.

While weaving and dodging through this week’s collection of new craters, crevasse’s, fissures, potholes, cracks and divots, my whole bike started to shake with such force that my bottle decided it was safer to bail out and I ended up swinging out of line so I could back-track and retrieve it.

I waved the group through and turned around, finding Rab Dee standing protectively over my errant bottle, trying to direct the traffic away from splattering its contents across the road. I recouped and made to regroup, as we started to chase back on, rounding the corner to find everyone pulled up in front of the shops. We don’t usually stop when people jettison bits and pieces from their bikes – I almost felt honoured …

Rab Dee waved at them to start riding again and we’d drop onto the back, but no one moved. We swept by, ready to take up position on the front, but no one moved. We slowed and looked back. No one moved. We slowed some more, still nothing. We came almost to a halt, balancing in a near track-stand and looking back. No one moved. Finally, we pulled over to the side of the rode and unclipped. We looked back again. Nope, we weren’t wrong – no one moved.

Our second group passed us, along with numerous other cyclists in bunches both large and small. It seemed everyone was out enjoying the improving weather.

After chatting for a couple of minutes, we rode back to our group, where we found Caracol had hit a pot and punctured and they were busy making repairs.

“He was trying to avoid a dropped bottle,” someone told me.

“Good, as long as he didn’t hit it.”

As we waited, Taffy Steve reflected on how he often confused Castelli and Caerphilly Llanelli and we wondered if a high-end, premium cycle wear was ever destined to be manufactured in the Valleys.

We finally got underway again, just in time to have our eardrums furiously assaulted by a boy racer, whose car thrashed past with a high-pitched shriek, like ten thousand cats having their tails force-fed into a blender.

I’m at a loss to see any merit in such a tortured, piercing, discordant and unattractive racket. I can see how some people are attracted to say the highly reminiscent drone of a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine, or the powerful throb of a Harley-Davidson, but the “car engine on the very edge of disintegrating” sound is miles away from these, its sole purpose seems to be decidedly anti-social and simply to disturb and annoy.

I found myself riding with the Monkey Butler Boy, who loudly cursed every patch of mud and puddle strewn across our route. He soon ran out of baby wipes and resorted to spit and much rubbing of fingers to try and keep his shoes utterly spotless. So vigorous and frequent were his cleaning ministrations that I had to warn him he was in danger of dehydration.

At one point, faced with a road spanning puddle, he simply uncleated and raised his feet above the handlebars and out of danger. This seemed to save the shoes, but startled a girl riding past in the other direction who was unprepared for such extreme manoeuvres and must have wondered what the hell was going on.

As we approached the Ryals, the Monkey Butler Boy and Garrulous Kid struck up a Faustian pact to ride down to the bottom and then, immediately turn around and ride back up again. Zardoz declared he only had party legs today, and took the turn off to the Quarry with a few others. The rest of us went piling down the Ryals, to pass through Steel Rigg and around Hallington Reservoir, before pinning our ears back for the burn to the café.


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We kept the pace relatively sedate until turning onto the road down to the Snake Bends, where early attacks from Taffy Steve and the Big Yin were quickly snuffed out. Then G-Dawg accelerated down the outside with the Colossus firmly planted on his wheel and I followed, just for fun. As the road levelled and straightened, the Colossus accelerated away. Biden Fecht clawed his way across the gap and I latched onto him.

Biden Fecht fought to come to turns with the Colossus, but every time he started to draw level, the Colossus simply pushed a tiny bit harder. Realising this just wasn’t going to be his day, Biden Fecht hesitated almost imperceptibly. It was enough and I darted through on the inside, while Taffy Steve swept over the top.

Through the Snake Bends and onto the road and yet again we cast tradition aside, as the Big Yin rode off the front. We resisted as long as we possibly could, before finally succumbing and giving chase, just managing to hunt him down amidst a little too much traffic for comfort. We really do need to let it go …  but, we seemingly can’t.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the queue we sympathised with Biden Fecht, who concluded that the Colossus had been toying with him, sprinting just slow enough to keep you interested, while in reality he had plenty in reserve and you had no chance of actually catching him.

We determined the weather was just about good enough to sit outside in the garden and on the way out, passed the Monkey Butler Boy in stockinged feet, reverentially carrying his slightly mud-speckled shoes toward the toilets to clean them in the sink.

We’d been sitting, enjoying the peace and quiet of the garden for a while, when the Garrulous Kid suddenly appeared, having lost his previous seat in the café. This had apparently, been usurped by his companions for a late arriving OGL. I wondered if the Garrulous Kids appreciated how low his reputation had sunk, with people preferring to listen to OGL’s hoary and oft-repeated fables, rather than the Kid’s butterfly-mind, verbal pinball meanderings and stream of obtuse, unrelated pronouncements.

Now the Garrulous Kid seemed obsessed with the marks and streaks appearing on his illuminous gloves and we concluded he’d spent too long in the company of the Monkey Butler Boy. Someone suggested he could probably wipe his gloves clean on a certain new pair of very white fiz’i:k shoes.

We then wondered what would happen if gloves and shoes were accidently placed in a washing machine together, before concluding that the funniest thing would be if the shoes were inadvertently washed along with one of the Red Max’s rogue, red socks and came out a nice shade of pink.

In a startling revelation and for a reason I can no longer recall, Taffy Steve declared that if he had to be a woman, he would be Beyoncé. No one argued.

While we struggled mightily to picture Taffy Steve as Beyoncé, the next task proved to be beyond even our most creative, fanciful and fantastically fevered imaginings, when someone pondered what a gang formed by the Garrulous Kid might be like.


A pleasant ride back was punctuated by further evasive manoeuvring from the Monkey Butler Boy as he tried to keep his shoes clean, including more unclipping to lift his feet high as he sailed through puddles. The trick here was finding the Goldilocks speed – too fast and the spray kicked up by the wheels would catch his shoes anyway, too slow and he ran the risk of losing all momentum and falling off.

I had a chat with the Red Max and learned he was somehow intent on blaming me for the Monkey Butler Boy’s inappropriate sartorial choices. I’m not sure what role he thinks I played, but I strenuously denied any responsibility.

Then I was swinging away for home, intent of squeezing as much enjoyment out of the ride as possible.  I’ll miss next week’s ride for a tour of university accommodations, which typically coincides with a forecast, mini-heatwave and the best riding conditions of the year to date. Typical.


YTD Totals: 2,148 km / 1,335 miles with 24,533 metres of climbing

Wolf Phallus

Club Run, Saturday 4th November, 2017               

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  103 km / 64 miles with 932 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 09 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.7 km/h

Group size:                                         25 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    11°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cold and clear


 

4 nov
Ride Profile


The Ride:

I doubled-down on the same gear I wore last week, hoping my judgement (ok then, pure guesswork) was better this time around and I wouldn’t end up over-dressed and ultimately over-heating. It was noticeably colder and, as I swept past a factory unit with one of those helpful external LED displays, I learned it was not only 8.07am on Saturday, 4th November, but the temperature was barely touching 9°C.

A light shower worked to chill the air even further and I was beginning to regret not packing a waterproof, when it blew past as quickly as it had arrived.

Over the river and climbing out of the valley again, I found that, as hoped, the bottom part of the hill had been transformed by the addition of a new smooth and shiny surface, but now the top half had now been stripped back and ploughed into a rough stippled and studded obstacle course.

The new wheels definitely helped smooth out some of the lumps, but still the bike rattled and clunked across the corrugated surface, tapping and banging out its own distress message in frenetic Morse code. Not pleasant, but a small price to pay if next week the magic gnomes have returned to smooth it out into a plush stretch of newly-laid tarmac.

I’d gone cheapskate on the wheels, a pair of Jalco (no, I’ve never heard of them either) DRX 24’s all the way from Taiwan via Planet-X, for a massive £55. Hopefully they’ll see me through the winter, or at least do until my LBS manages to source new cartridge bearings for the 4ZA’s.

I guess the new wheels are on the heavy side and more robust than racey, but slapped on the winter bike I couldn’t say I felt any difference and probably wouldn’t if they’d been made out of pig iron. The only slight gripe I have is that they’ve got a depressingly silent freehub.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Fresh back from Spain, the Monkey Butler Boy arrived at pace, skidding and sliding to a stop just in front of me.

“Just testing my brakes,” he grinned.

“They failed,” I informed him.

He immediately reached for a multi-tool and started tinkering with bits and pieces on his bike. “That’s the problem, when you grow an inch every 2 weeks,” Jimmy Mac informed him dryly. Like most of us, he has the luxury of having his position on the bike dialled-in and set, unchanging for any number of years now.

He then wondered exactly what the Monkey Butler Boy was doing, as he started fiddling with his Garmin mount and prodded it up into a decidedly un-aero raised position.

“It’s at the wrong angle for reflections on the screen,” the Monkey Butler Boy explained.

I provided the necessary translation, “He has to be able to admire his image in it at all times.”

Speaking of bike fiddling and angles, attention was drawn to the Garrulous Kids errant saddle, which he still seemed to be having trouble with. It now had its nose prominently raised, like a bloodhound scenting the wind. It looked decidedly uncomfortable and we wondered whether he was deliberately trying to emasculate himself.

Meanwhile, the Monkey Butler Boy’s newly re-wound bar tape once again failed basic inspection. I suggested he quickly hid his bike behind the new waste bin that had mysteriously sprouted from the middle of the pavement (maybe that’s what it’s actually for?) before G-Dawg saw it and it caused him to howl in misery and consternation. Taffy Steve though had the truth of it, when he declared G-Dawg would sense something wasn’t right, even if he couldn’t see what it was, like a deep disturbance in the force…

OGL appeared in the distance, impelling the early leavers for the training ride to scuttle hurriedly away like guilty schoolboys, while naturally we watched and jeered.

G-Dawg pointed at the long line of riders trailing in OGL’s wake and surmised he must have been hammering on doors and rousting out everyone on his journey in. “You WILL ride today and you WILL come now!”

This, apparently had been so successful that he’d even netted a rather befuddled looking Szell, awoken abruptly from pre-hibernation slumber and still looking surprised that he’d somehow ended up on his first ever official winter ride. He stood blinking in the low light and gasping at the chill air, like a fish out of water.

Taking pity on him, Crazy Legs tried to reassure Szell that the world hadn’t quite been turned upside down, by holding out the security blanket of a route that included his all too familiar foe and bête noire, Middleton Bank. I’m not sure it helped.

The Garrulous Kid had acquired a new pair of Castelli bibtights, but rather bizarrely insisted on wearing them with the ankle zips undone. G-Dawg wondered why he needed “leg vents” while the Monkey Butler Boy looked on in despair and declared it appeared as if he was wearing flares.

(The Garrulous Kid would later stand outside the café, teeth chattering in the cold and tell me it was because he would overheat if he closed the zips up.)

The Monkey Butler Boy and Jimmy Mac started bonding over riding the exact same frame and the fact that, along with the forks, this was the only original part left of their twinned Specialized bikes, having swapped out all the components at one time or another.  The Monkey Butler Boy surmised his frame would soon be a bit of a collector’s item too, as it still bore an M.Steel’s sticker from our recently bankrupt, local bike shop.

An impressive turnout for a November ride, perhaps OGL really had employed a full-court press to “actively encourage” participation? A sizeable complement of 25 of us pushed off, clipped in and rode away together.


I dropped in alongside Sneaky Pete who was distracted fiddling with his Garmin that didn’t want to play ball and emitted a series of electronic chirps and cheeps like R2-D2 at his most indignant.

“Is everything all right?” I enquired, “That’s more beeps than a Gordon Ramsey documentary.”

Sneaky Pete finally re-established connection with the mother-ship and was able to turn his full attention to the task I set him, trying to determine his 10 must-have tracks for Desert Island Discs. I think we managed 3 or 4 between us, before deciding it was too difficult and he went away to think about it.


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The Rainman, Ovis and Jimmy Mac took to the front and the pace slowly began to creep upwards, until we were all strung out and the group splintered apart whenever the road tilted upwards. We stopped at the top of Bell’s Hill to regroup and then once again just before Mitford, when ride leader Crazy Legs finally admitted we needed to split into two groups, but faced walking a diplomatic razors-edge as he tried desperately to avoid labelling one group “slow” and the other “fast.”

So, we finally split, with the front group: “going further and arriving earlier” leading off, while the second group: “going not quite as far and getting there a little later” followed.

I joined up with Captain Black and we tagged onto the “going further and arriving earlier group.” Somewhat off the leash now, Rainman, Ovis and Jimmy Mac cranked the pace up even higher and it was bloody fast and bloody hard.

As we approached Dyke Neuk, Rainman ceded the front to G-Dawg and, as he drifted back, I asked him if he was done ripping my legs off, or if there was more to come.

“I’m done,” he replied, before rather ominously adding, “For now.”

I then pushed onto the front alongside Jimmy Mac and throttled back the pace even more. The sanity I imposed managed to last until we started down the dip-and-climb through Hartburn, where I eased, while a few blasted away off the front. The Garrulous Kid and Monkey Butler Boy took a left turn at the top, while the rest of us pushed on to swing out a little bit wider before approaching Middleton Bank.

(I would later find the Monkey Butler Boy sitting in the café with a dazed and bewildered look on his face, that 1,000-yard stare of shock and horror, which is usually associated with prolonged exposure to the Garrulous Kid.)

G-Dawg was now having problems with his saddle, which seemed to have worked loose. He declared it was like sitting on an office chair and would alarmingly swivel to face whichever direction he was looking. Out on his fixie though, he couldn’t stop pedalling to try and fix it without calling a halt and climbing off, so just kept going.

We hit Middleton Bank  at pace and Aether was jettisoned out the back and waved us away, while I was just about hanging on as the speed continued to build. The Rainman hit the front again and we were all lined out, over the rollers, down one final dip and then we started the long drag up to the café.

I stayed in the wheels until the final corner, when the Colossus split the group with a searing attack and then, I slowly drifted back. I thought at the last I was going to come back on terms with Ovis and Captain Black, but it wasn’t to be, as we drove all the way to the café.

Living up to its name, the “going further and arriving earlier” group found the café satisfyingly quiet ,with no queue to impede our immediate access to much needed and deserved coffee and cake.

The FNG declared this had been a two cake ride and no one argued with her.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

As we stood waiting to be served and trying to recover, Captain Black declared he was thinking of naming his winter-bike, “Treacle.”

“That’s a nice form of endearment,” I acknowledged, “Do you like it that much?”

“No,” he stated flatly, “It just makes me feel as if I’m riding through treacle.”

The Garrulous Kid excused his absence from last week’s ride as he’d been attending open days at Newcastle and Northumbria University.

“Did you miss me?” he wondered.

“No.” That was easy.

We then learned from this that he was planning to stay at home for the duration of his university studies, so his mum could do all his cooking and laundry and he’d still be able to ride with us.

Jimmy Mac pointed out that most universities have cycling clubs that he could join, citing Plumose Papuss, currently enjoying himself at Nottingham University where he regularly rides with the University cycling team. Apparently, however that would be no good to the Garrulous Kid … as he wouldn’t “know the roads.”

Even Jimmy Macs tales of building a snowman inside his student flat and other high jinks failed to impress on the Garrulous Kid that he would get more out of his university experiences if he cut the apron strings and moved away from home.

I suggested his mum wouldn’t like it when he wanted to get andato in gatta, or bring a girl back to his room, but realised I was straying toward the patently absurd and backtracked quickly.

I had a chat with the Rainman, our new favourite Dutchman, who actually regretted missing out on our hill climb which I think he views as a quaint, enjoyable British foible. He told me it was definitely preferable to the Dutch national tradition for running time trials directly into the vicious headwinds atop the polders, declaring he didn’t like fighting against a force you couldn’t see and at least with a hill climb you know what you’re up against.

For some reason The Garrulous Kid was intent on trying to impress me with his music play-list, which I found highly predictable, anodyne and utterly unremarkable. I tried to explain to him that as a teenager it was his sacred duty to find something his parents hated and not listen to the ultra-safe, corporate dad-rock of Coldplay or the stuff his mum sings along to in the car, the utterly charmless Rag and Bone Man, soapy-soppy Sam Smith, or that mopey, whey-faced dough-boy, Ed Sheeran.

He demanded to know what music I like and I tried a few names, Shearwater, AFI, Tom McRae, Josh Rouse, only to be met with dumb incomprehension. I tried again with a few what I felt were more mainstream names he might actually have heard of: Alvvays? Chvrches? The War on Drugs? Paramore?

“Who? What? Never heard of them. They must be ancient. They’re rubbish.”

I told him I was going to see Wolf Alice in a couple of weeks and thought they were decent.

“Who’s he? Never heard of him.”

“Them. It’s a group.”

“Whatever. They’re rubbish. Never heard of them.”

He leaned across to the next table and interrupted Taffy Steve, who was completely oblivious to our conversation at this point, engaged in polite discourse with Sneaky Pete and Crazy Legs.

“Hey, Steve … have you ever heard of wolf phallus?”

I never knew coffee could travel that far when snorted violently out of a mug.


The ride felt a bit shorter than usual and we’d done it a lot quicker, so it was still early as we left the café and set off again. It meant leaving G-Dawg and the Colossus behind as it was still far too early for them to appear at home and they had to use up their allotted time away in its entirety, or it might be confiscated.

The Garrulous Kid moaned that the pace was much too slow and I encouraged him to chase after the Prof, who’d predictably roared past the entire group and was bashing along on his own off the front. Sadly, I couldn’t persuade him to give chase and by the time he decided to go on his own he complained it was too late.

He saved his excess energy for an attack up Berwick Hill, presaged by a kamikaze dart up the outside and around a blind bend, as he gave chase to a group that had ridden off the front.

I waited until the road straightened, then bridged across to the Monkey Butler Boy on the hill and then we made it up to the front group on the descent. Behind me, Taffy Steve and Captain Black worked their way across on the downhill stretch too and we soon formed a compact group, battering along at high speed once again.

I was beginning to really feel the pace as we approached the turn off and while everyone else swung away, I pushed on down the Mad Mile on my own and eased.

From there I was soon clambering up the Heinous Hill, a good half an hour before I’m usually home, a testament to how hard we’d been driving the pace.


YTD Totals: 6,523 km / 4,053 miles with 74,690 metres of climbing