Carbon Fever

Carbon Fever

Club Run, Saturday 24th March, 2018     

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  112 km / 70 miles with 1,126 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 25 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                         24 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    13°C

Weather in a word or two:          Perfect

Club Run, Saturday 24th March, 2018     


 

24 march carbon

Ride Profile 


Cabin fever is an idiomatic term for the extreme irritability and restlessness that takes place when a person is stuck in confined quarters for an extended period.

Carbon fever, on the other hand, is an idiomatic term for the extreme irritability and restlessness that takes place when a person is confined to riding their winter bike for an extended period.

The only known cure for the latter is to break out your best bike and try to burn off the fever by doing something slightly spontaneous, unplanned and out of character…

The giant swinging pendulum that seems to invent the British weather on a whim, promised us a weekend composed of a few, fine and completely still Spring days, as if trying to make up for the horror of last week’s snow, hail and gales.

That was enough for me to hint at the possibility of a “carbon weekend” as soon as Richard of Flanders posted up the route for the run on Saturday. ‘Bout bloody time, too.Still, I drew the line at G-Dawgs suggestion of shorts. Unlike him, I actually have nerve endings in my legs.

So, Friday night saw me lifting Reg from his cotton-wool cocoon to prep for the next day, still, after all this time, startled at the difference in weight between modest-carbon Holdsworth and workhorse-aluminium Peugeot.

A smattering of rain showers early Saturday failed to dissuade me from my choice and I carried the bike down the front steps, swung a leg over the frame, pushed off, clipped in … and immediately found myself riding with a big, stupid grin plastered across my face.

Everything about the bike seems crisper, cleaner, smoother and more comfortable. My foot appeared to be drawn magnetically to the pedal and the cleat engaged with a sharp, positive click. I barely touch the brakes and they immediately bite and slow me and the chain rolls smoothly and noiselessly up and down the cassette as I change gear.

I was instantly in a good mood that nothing was going to shake, not the close pass at high speed while arrowing down the Heinous Hill, not being caught at every single traffic light along my route and not even the raucous gaggle of Canada Geese that lined the road around Shibdon Pond and honked derisively as I rode past.

It was as smooth and enjoyable ride across to the meeting point as I can recall.

Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

True to his word, G-Dawg was in shorts and his new, super-bling, Sidi slippers that he’d received for a significant birthday, but only managed to wear once in since last November.

The shoes were in a startling shade of what the Garrulous Kid might describe as illuminous yellow.  Even better, G-Dawg had somehow managed to find a pair of socks that were the exact same shade, showing that the time between receiving the shoes and actually wearing them hadn’t been totally wasted.

Talk of Nibali’s imperious Milan-San Remo win, led to discussion about the Yates-twins, with OGL reporting that 58kg-when-soaking-wet (including the towel) Simon Yates-twin felt he needed to lose a few kilos for the Giro!

Prompted perhaps by something in Cycling Weekly, we wondered if in fact there was only one Yates–twin and, depending on how he was feeling, he preferred being called Simon Yates-twin, or Adam Yates-twin. We decided it would be even better if the Yates-twins were in reality identical quads, so you could change rider as easily as changing your bottle. The advantages are so obvious I wouldn’t be surprised to hear Sky have a cloning programme in development.

Analysis of the Monkey Butler Boy’s bike reached a consensus that his slammed handlebars left a dangerously prominent and potentially emasculating stack above his stem.

Little Benny Franklin once opined that three things are inevitable in life: the weather, death, and taxes. I would like to add to this the certainty that, whenever handlebars and stems are mentioned in polite conversation, OGL will resurrect the hoary old tale of ripping his scrotum open when crashing at a track meet.

He did nothing to disprove my thesis now, “Did I ever tell you about the time I ripped my scrotum open, crashing at a track meet?” he asked, to everyone’s great surprise.

Yes,” Crazy Legs replied flatly, but very, very distinctly.

OGL paused, blinked once slowly and then nevertheless launched into recounting the gory details of how he once ripped his scrotum open when crashing at a track meet.

To wake us from the resulting stupor, our New Glorious Leader, Richard of Flanders, leapt athletically onto the wall to demand our attention while he outlined the route for the day in precise detail.

His “lend me your ears” speech provided a nice counterpoint to the “et tu, Brute?” moment he almost faced a few weeks ago, when we decided he was a despot in-the-making and considered pre-emptive coup d’etat, cutting the head off the snake, before it grew fully into its power.

Sadly, whatever gravitas he hoped to bring to proceedings was somewhat lost by the cheeky, tantalising flashes of pink flesh that would be occasionally peep through the ripped up knees of his tights.

Fatally, he then concluded a thorough, comprehensive briefing of route details with a call for “any questions?”

Slowly, hesitatingly, G-Dawg raised a mitt … “Err … did you have to pay extra for the ripped knees, or did you borrow those tights from a fashion-conscious teenage girl?”

9.15 and we formed up and started to roll out.

At this point OGL began muttering darkly about how the club was “disintegrating” around him, based largely I think, on the absence of any of the Grogs from our ranks today and a modest turn out of only two dozen! Apparently, OGL suggests the Grogs no longer want to ride with us because we go too fast at the start and they’re having difficulty free-loading at the back.*

[*My interpretation, not his – in 5 years riding with the club I’ve only ever seen a Grog on the front and leading a club run on one, single occasion and I’m pretty certain that was a mistake.]

I find it odd that OGL tolerates this inner-group, let alone measures the health of our club based on their participation. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that they have their own jersey, Facebook page, meeting points, hierarchy, rides, events, overseas trips, social gatherings et al.

Before knowing better, I wrote about them as “a dark and secretive cabal within the club … that has its own, special club jersey, which can only be won through a dark ritual involving the sacrifice of small, furry animals and communing with the drunken ghost of Henri Desgrange.”

I continued, “They often silently and mysteriously slip away from the club run to do their own thing, only to reappear sitting relaxed and unruffled in the café, long before anyone else gets there. They communicate through a series of arcane hand signals and a high-pitched chirruping that can drive dogs insane, but is generally inaudible to human ears.”

Now, I realise my first impressions were largely correct, although I haven’t yet solved the biggest mystery, why they want to remain part of the club at all?

Still, even OGL’s ranting and railing and a-bitching and kvetching and complaining, wasn’t going to derail me from my good mood today.

Onward!

We ride.


Things were going well and I’d just dropped in alongside Buster for a quick catch-up, when he declared, “Shit! puncture.”

We rolled to a stop in someone’s driveway while repairs were effected, spirits high and happily chattering amongst ourselves. I’ve no idea if the house owner ever noticed they had a gaggle of twenty plus, lycra clad lunatics clustered in their drive. Perhaps they hid hoping we’d get bored and move on soon enough?

Which, to be fair we did, pushing along without further incident to Stamfordham, where the Garrulous Kid rode off on his own, to continue his utterly bizarre fixation and thoroughly unhealthy obsession with the Ryals.

From there, the rest of us pushed onwards across the Military Road, past the reservoir, before stopping to split the group. To the delight of Crazy Legs, Richard of Flanders took up a position of easy authority, at the focal point of our group, with all of his seeming-acolytes arrayed before him.

From here, he explained the options for different routes and groups and we split, with a few taking the slightly shorter, slightly less bumpy, slightly more direct route to the café.

The rest of us pressed on, up through the Stelling climb, up Newton Hall and Kip Hill, before turning left and then first right, onto a narrow farm track that would take us around the plantations.

A slight mix up when the leaders zigged instead of zagged and I found myself leading, with everyone happy to hang back to see if I could find a safe route through the numerous puddles without disappearing into an enormous pothole.


REC004 (3)


The track spat us out, back onto the main road just outside Matfen and I was joined on the front by G-Dawg as we rolled toward the Quarry at a steady 17-18 mph.

The bright day had brought out dozens of small groups of cyclists who whizzed past with a wave and a shout.

“It’s busy out here,” I remarked at one point, “Yet, we didn’t see anyone else last week.”

“Yeah,” G-Dawg seem to consider the conundrum seriously, “I can’t imagine why?”

We led everyone up the Quarry climb, before the group swung right and I dropped back through the ranks, while the pace started to tick upwards.

As the road levelled and straightened, the Big Yin attacked from the back and opened up a sizeable lead. The Red Max and Taffy Steve followed, powering across the gap, but it was too early and I assured Biden Fecht we’d catch them easily as the road started to climb toward the crossroads. Sure enough, the move was soon reeled back in and the pace wound up even more.

[The Red Max would later complain that the problem with his attack wasn’t that it was too early and from too far out, but in fact much, much too late and too close to home!]

Now, as we hurtled toward the crossroads, Rab Dee cruised up the outside of our group and I latched onto his wheel and followed. As I slid past G-Dawg, I declared things had turned “feisty” … and then the carbon fever bit. I catapulted myself off Rab Dee’s wheel and attacked off the front as we started to grind up the slope, quickly finding myself in clear air.

Approaching the crossroads at speed, I slowed as little as I dared, head on a swivel, frantically scanning for traffic, left and right. I hoped I’d read things right and the road really was clear in both directions, as I darted across and tried to pick up the pace again.

A good handful of seconds later, I heard the shouts of “clear!” behind me and guessed I had a reasonably decent gap. I knew I wasn’t going to be contesting the sprint, but I thought I could probably discomfort, or perhaps even eliminate some of the heavy-weight “puncheurs.”

I drove on, suppressing an urge to cackle like the Red Max in full flight, while the road dipped down again. I slowed to take the corners at a sensible pace, not wanting to wipe out in front of everyone.

As the road straightened and dropped toward the next junction a shadow suddenly appeared under my bottom bracket and I knew I’d been caught. I slid to the left, Crazy Legs powered past and I dropped onto his wheel, guessing everyone else was strung out in close attendance behind.

We slowed for the next junction and then tried to pick up the pace again, swinging left, with just two more climbs to go before the junction for the run down to the Snake Bends.

These are not real climbs, not a Cipressa, or a Kemmelberg, nor a Mur de Huy, just a gentle stiffening of the gradient, probably nothing over a 5% for a couple of hundred metres, but the effect when you’re already red-lining and in oxygen debt can be just as devastating.

Halfway up the first slope Crazy Legs seemed to lose momentum, so I rounded him and attacked again, managing to make it half way up the final rise before I was overtaken. I dropped into place at the back of the first group through the junction, latching onto the Monkey Butler Boy’s wheel and thoroughly satisfied with my efforts.

As we accelerated again, I found the Monkey Butler Boy didn’t have the legs, the gears, or the inclination to give chase and, as the front group pulled away, I hesitated a bit too long before accelerating past.  As we hammered down toward the Snake Bends, Zardoz eased up alongside – puffed out his cheeks exaggeratedly and then slipped away again.

Through the bends, across the junction and I cruised down the road to the café more or less alone, but quite happy. What a blast.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The weather was good enough for us to decamp to the café garden to enjoy some surprisingly warm sunshine. The Monkey Butler Boy fiddled with his phone and declared, “It’s 5°!”

“The only thing that’s 5° is this table top,” Caracol corrected him, while deftly pocketing some small change that threatened to roll off the angled surface. Caracol had the right of it – the temperature was well into double figures and it was very pleasant.

Crazy Legs took me to task for not calling out that the crossroad were clear as I attacked through them, forcing the chasers to slow and look, rather than chase me down at full bore. Unrepentant, I argued no one was there to shout for me, I was clear at the time and I needed any advantage I could possibly eke out.

G-Dawg seemed to accept my argument and even suggested I should have called out an imaginary “car left!” to slow the pursuit further. Clever. Sneaky, but clever.

It was around this time that we realised we seemed to have lost Richard of Flanders somewhere out on the road and Buster set off to back-track  to see if he’d run into trouble somewhere.

We tried to remember when we’d last seen our NGL. The Red Max recalled a kamikaze-style overtaking of Richard on one of the sharp corners on our run in, and our logical reaction was to wonder if the Red Max had put him in a ditch, or eased him through a hedge, but there was no evidence to support this.

The Garrulous Kid then bounced past, heading off early because he had an appointment in the “hair studio” for a fresh trim and besides, he had to get home to prepare for a “crihical finkin’” test.

Holding the National Timetrial Championship on local roads raised the possibility of actually seeing Chris Froome riding in the UK, for perhaps only the fifth or sixth time in his entire career. Crazy Legs is ready with his salbutamol inhaler, just in case.

“It’s odd,” Zardoz observed, “I read all 200 plus pages of his book, The Climb. There’s a lot of detail in there, but he never once mentions asthma.”

“Is it not Sir Chris Froome, now anyway?” the Monkey Butler Boy interjected.

No, we assured him, he’s not been knighted.

“So, how come it’s Sir Bradley Wiggins and yet he’s only ever won the one poxy Tour de France?” an affronted Monkey Butler Boy demanded to know.

While the Red Max smacked his head in disbelief, someone gently reminded the Monkey Butler Boy of the numerous Olympic and World medals that clutter up the sideboard in the Wiggins family household. I could have pointed out that knighting anyone for sporting achievements and before they’ve officially retired, seems a rather fatuous thing to do, but that’s an argument for another day.

Talk moved on to gold chains and led us to wonder if an actual chain made of gold was feasible. (We suspect not). I briefly tuned out and returned to the conversation to hear talk of someone’s fully-blinged up bike, “complete with shifters on the downtube.”

“Shifters on the Downtube?” I pondered, “That’s a great name for a band.”

It was quickly co-opted as a line into a re-worked “Shaking All Over” but sadly (or perhaps, thankfully) a suitable second line completely eluded us.

Then I remembered something, “Hey, did we ever find out what happened to Richard?”

Crazy Legs excused our lack of concern, claiming we were cyclists so understandably, very easily distracted by coffee and cake. Buster reported that he had seen no sign of Richard when he back-tracked, then someone else recalled he had house-pests staying, so may have gone home without calling in the café. Once again though we became distracted by the call for coffee refills and we never did determine what had happened to our erstwhile leader.


Back out onto the road, we were accompanied by a spirited rendition of Perfect Day from the newly formed, Crazy Legs and Biden Fecht: Cycling Barbershop Duet©. They would have been a trio, but the Garrulous Kid declined their invitation to join, claiming barbershop’s are  much too common for his more-refined and somewhat effete tastes.

Musical accompaniment aside, things were progressing well until we hit the small, sleepy hamlet of Ogle, when Buster punctured again. Out of spares, he invited us to continue, while he found the hole in his tube and patched it up. Taffy Steve and a few others that needed to get back pressed on, but the rest of us were happy to wait by the side of the road in the sunshine, chatting away idly, while helpfully critiquing the ongoing repair operation.

The Monkey Butler Boy dug into his back pocket and offered up a spare tube.

“Is that a Giant tube?” Buster asked accusingly.

I thought we were going to have some sort of political standoff, with Buster refusing the tube, revealing himself as a die-hard opponent of the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer on ethical, or perhaps even aesthetic grounds.

“Err …yeah,” The Monkey Butler Boy responded uncertainly.

“Ah, great, I’ve got some of them at home. I’ll bring you a replacement next week.”

Confrontation avoided, they got on with swapping out the tubes. Meanwhile the rest of us started to speculatively eye-up the cottage we had stopped outside. It looked empty and up for sale and we pondered how good it would be to live there during the winter, smugly dropping off the club run on the way back from the café and waving the rest of the group into the cold and freezing rain to slog the rest of the way back.

Still feeling relatively sprightly, I felt I was able to provide G-Dawg and the Colossus a better than usual lead-out into the Mad Mile, before they launched their attacks to see who could win the race for home and first use of the shower.

I was then swinging off and away to complete my own ride back. Already happy, the icing on the cake was finding my descent down to the river had been completely re-surfaced and was smooth and slick and fast.

Now if they could only sort out the other 69 miles of my route …

Over the bridge, I was caught by an Ee-Em-Cee rider and we had a quick chat before he charged away. We both agreed that it had indeed been a perfect day.


YTD Totals: 1,707 km / 1,061 miles with 19,908 metres of climbing

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True Grit

True Grit

Total Distance:                                     89 km / 55 miles with 934 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                            4 hours 5 minutes

Average Speed:                                   21.7 km/h

Group size:                                           13 riders, 2 MTB’s

Temperature:                                      3°C

Weather in a word or two:               C-c-c-c-cold


 

true grit
Ride Profile

Another week, and the North East still seems to be in the icy grip of a nano-femto-yocto Ice Age. Still, I’d kept riding through through the freezing conditions, managing three commutes by bike without any issues. That was until the Friday morning, when I rolled onto the bridge into the University, hit an extended patch of slick ice and came crashing down, right behind an ambling building contractor. He got a shock, jumped, but somehow stayed upright, while I got a brand new hole in my shin and the Pug seemed to take most of the impact on the saddle, which ended up badly deformed with a rail bent inwards.

As Campus Services are usually good at keeping the pathways ice free, I can only assume the bridge had been gritted, but this had been washed away in the rain overnight and then re-frozen. I picked myself up and carefully walked the rest of the way, using the Peugeot as an impromptu Zimmer frame and weaving around lots of unsteady pedestrians, slipping and sliding down the slope toward me and having real trouble with a lack of traction.

Another commuter on a mountain bike came whipping past and I waved for him to slow and warned him he was heading toward dangerous ice. I didn’t hear a bang and crash behind me, so assume he was better at staying upright than me, or dismounted to join the rest of the teetering walkers.

It wasn’t until I was cleaning the bike after the club run that I discovered I also snapped my rear mudguard clean in two, although hopefully my gaffer tape, bodge-job will hold, at least for a while.

Saturday morning promised more of the same, and found me picking my way slowly down the Heinous Hill, steering wide of the icy runnel down the side of the road and hoping the evil glistening of the tarmac was just because the road surface was wet.

The red-glowing LED letters of my digital checkpoint told me it was 8:19 and 0°C as I passed, and I did wonder if it was actually colder than that, but the display couldn’t handle negative temperatures. At one point in our ride Aether reported it was -2°C, so maybe that is the case.

I was right in the bottom of the valley now, down where all the cold air had sunk and ice crept out across the road from either verge. Luckily there was little traffic about and I was able to pick my way carefully down the relatively clear, narrow meridian in the centre of the road.

I arrived at the southern end of the Newburn Bridge just as the traffic lights turned red and, having had one bad experience on an icy bridge already this week and not wanting to hang around getting colder, I dismounted and took to the white and glittering footpath to walk across.

As I passed over the river a coxless-four slid out on the black water under the span, with a rhythmic clack-clack-creak, clack-clack-creak of oars. I never appreciated just how loud those boats are, they always look to be gliding silently and effortlessly along.

On the north side of the river I then got delayed before a long set of roadworks where more resurfacing was going on and got the impression the workmen thought I was slightly mad, but I was on more travelled routes now and the dangers of hidden ice seemed significantly reduced.

Traffic was unusually heavy, perhaps swollen with a mad rush of Christmas shoppers and I had trouble switching into the right hand lane before a busy roundabout. As a result, I had to circumscribe a wide orbit around the outside, but luckily found myself shielded from behind by Mr. Patient, who seemed to instinctively understand where I was trying to go and positioned his car between me and the rest of the traffic.

Onto the side streets, and the final, icy looking roundabout was taken slowly and as upright as possible as I emerged just ahead of G-Dawg and coasted carefully through to the meeting point.


Main Topics of Conversation at the Meeting Point

G-Dawg’s meticulous route-planning input continued, this time advising Aether on the roads that would be officially gritted according to secret, local government insiders and intensive, cyber warfare-style, web-trawling. He really does have too much time on his hands these days.

None of his assurances were quite good enough for OGL though, whose sleeper contacts in the Outer Hebrides had reported danger and unpassable roads everywhere. He had allegedly spent the entire morning fielding dire warnings from “cyclists all over Newcastle” that the roads were lethal and nigh on impassable. And yet … despite declaring we were all doomed, (doomed! I tell ye!) here he was, at the meeting point on time and ready to ride.

With Taffy Steve’s thrice cursed winter-bike still quarantined and locked in either the workshop, or the doghouse (the story varies depending on his mood), he’d arranged a less frenetic ride with Crazy Legs on mountain bikes. This would give him another week to replace his broken freehub, afford Crazy Legs a more civilised re-introduction back into club runs as part of his rehabilitation from a truly nasty chest infection, and it meant they had a little better grip and were slightly more comfortable with the conditions.

This sounded good to G-Dawg, who suggested if any of the lanes looked dodgy we could send the mountain bikes down ahead of everyone else to scout for danger, and avoid the route if they failed to return.

There was some talk of the still missing Prof, who seems to have taken up with a bunch calling themselves the Backstreet Boys, or something similar. I’m not quite sure how working as a tribute act for a dodgy 90’s boy band fits in with his cycling, but apparently (with enough make-up and props, and in the right light) the Prof is a dead ringer for Howie D. and has all the dance moves down pat and everything.

There was only time then for OGL to declare that the “slithering reptile” comment a certain Mrs. Wiggins issued in connection to a four time Tour de France winner had been made in a private, closed group and was not intended for public consumption. To me it’s just another sign of the insidious and dangerous nature of social media, which has so rapidly become a horrendous cess-pit of hate and bile and ignorance. My simple, much too often ignored, golden rules – think before you write, re-read before you post and never, ever post anything you wouldn’t say to someone face-to-face.

(There’s also a newly-minted, club rule that recently surfaced on Facebook and I think is worth adopting: you really should stop posting before reaching the bottom of your first bottle of Merlot.)


Off we trundled then a brave, a foolish, or a bravely-foolish 13, including our two mountain-bikers tucked into the back. They’d later report rolling along with us was pretty straightforward, until we hit an incline and then it became bloody hard work.

I spent the first part of the ride tucked in alongside the Big Yin, who was perhaps the only one relishing the freezing conditions as he had new “extreme conditions” socks and overshoes and wanted a good and proper test for them . We decided that  if he counted his toes when he got home and they were all intact, the test had been successful.

The roads weren’t brilliant, but they were comfortably passable with just a little diligence and care, you never actually felt you were teetering on the edge of disaster and there were no incidents.


rer


We rolled past Tranwell Airfield and pulled to a stop before the junction. At this point we discovered our errant mountain bikers had disappeared and someone wondered where along the way we’d lost them. Half-jokingly, I suggested they’d probably turned off at Kirkley Cycles, lured by cake and fresh coffee in the café.

I should have put money on it…

Most of the group showed true grit, and took a right at the junction for a longer loop around, while I tucked in behind OGL and Sneaky Pete as they headed directly for the café, reasoning I’d tempted fate enough for one week.


Main Topics of Conversation at the Coffee Stop:

Our own extreme weather conditions led to Sneaky Pete discussing English explorer-eccentric Ranulph Fiennes, or to give him his full, glorious title, Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, 3rd Baronet, OBE. Apparently made irritable by frostbite he decided to cut off the dead ends of his fingers because they kept getting in the way.

“I tried tentatively to cut through the smallest finger with a new pair of secateurs, but it hurt. So I purchased a set of fretsaw blades at the village shop, put the little finger in my Black & Decker vice and gently sawed through the dead skin and bone just above the live skin line. The moment I felt pain or spotted blood, I moved the saw further into the dead zone. I also turned the finger around several times to cut it from different sides, like sawing a log. This worked well and the little finger’s end knuckle finally dropped off after some two hours of work. Over that week I removed the other three longer fingers, one each day, and finally the thumb, which took two days.” Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know: The Autobiography of Ranulph Fiennes.

Oh my, and we thought Johnny Hoogerland was the epitome of tough!

We were soon joined at the café by our indomitable, errant mountain bikers who, as predicted, had indeed been unable to resist the siren-call allure of the café at Kirkley Cycles.  Taffy Steve had thoroughly enjoyed his mountain bike sojourn, and declared he hadn’t had so much fun since the Cyclone he’d completed with the Red Max. This had ostensibly been in support of the Monkey Butler Boy and his wrecking crew, who had thrashed themselves to pieces trying to set a fast time.

While they did this, the older pair combined Red Max’s innate cunning, with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the local back roads, to skip around the official course and always stay one step ahead of the youngsters. In this way, they were able to strategically position themselves prominently at the side of the road, conspicuously enjoying cakes, coffees, ice creams and iced cokes, and giving the kids a big thumbs-up each time they sweated and toiled their way past.

With the rest of our group all safely back following their extended loop, talk turned once again to slithey toves and slithering reptiles. The consensus seemed to be that Mr. Froome was bang to rights and looking at a lengthy ban. Interestingly, and apparently in the face of scientific evidence, there wasn’t a single cyclist there who didn’t think a puff of Salbutomol wouldn’t help them breathe deeper and ride faster.

Brandishing his own Ventolin inhaler and offering a pay-as-you-puff scheme, Crazy Legs tried to describe the horrible, scary and debilitating effects of an asthma attack (I haven’t suffered from asthma for about 10 years now, but still recall it’s like trying to breathe through lungs stuffed full of wet cotton wool.)

Talk turned to the odd practice of “scarfing” –  Michael Hutchence, Steven Milligan et al, with Crazy Legs seemingly disappointed he’d never experienced any of the supposed stimulating effects of autoerotic asphyxiation – even when suffering a severe asthma attack dressed in nothing but stockings and suspenders, with an orange stuffed in his mouth.


A bunch of us took a slightly longer ride home through Whalton, where I had a chance to catch up with G-Dawg as we pushed along on the front. We agreed Crazy Legs and Taffy Steve may have hit upon a viable alternative to the club ride when conditions were a bit sketchy – a relaxed peregrination around the region’s best loved cycling cafés by mountain bike, although I couldn’t help adding they’d probably earned more java kudos than Strava kudos.

Crazy Legs declared he was going  through Ponteland rather than Berwick Hill, hoping to finish the ride at his own pace, but we decided this was probably the safer route all around, so we made him ride with us a little further. Over the River Pont, I then swung away west and started my solo ride home.

Down into the bottom of the Tyne Valley again, I found the mornings roadworks had been completed and slalomed through the traffic cones to ride on the freshly laid, still steaming new tarmac. Luckily my tyres didn’t melt like a road tyre on a turbo, but sadly I also felt no warming benefits from the fresh, just cooling blacktop.

Still, I was now close to home and a very welcome hot shower. It wasn’t the longest of rides, but it got me out, was still enjoyable and, most importantly, everyone got home safely.


YTD Totals: 7,264 km / 4,514 miles with 83,674 metres of climbing

The Big Let Down

The Big Let Down

Club Run, Saturday 3rd December, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  96 km/60 miles with1,030 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 6 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.3 km/h

Group size:                                         20 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    7°C

Weather in a word or two:          Officially, as good as it gets


ride-3-dec
Ride Profile

Saturday morning proved rather damp and gloomy, a low, wet mist shrouding an already wan light and setting everything to dripping noisily in the still air. With visibility seriously curtailed, I made sure that I had front and rear lights switched on and blinking away and pulled a high-viz gilet over my winter jacket – more for some added conspicuousness than to combat the cold.

I was rolling down the Heinous Hill when the front wheel started to rumble noisily on the rough surface and the steering became loose and rubbery – a front wheel puncture and the poorest of starts to the day. I quickly, but carefully pulled off into the sanctuary of the (rather overgrown) escape lane to effect repairs, well-removed from the cars picking their way downhill in the gloom.

You seldom seen new roads with escape lanes these days, I guess they’re a bit of a holdover from a by-gone era, when car brakes were notoriously unreliable and always likely to fail if over-worked, which I guess added a frisson of excitement and danger to navigating any steep hills.

Mrs. SLJ will often tell the story of her and her sisters sitting petrified in the back of the car while her Dad wrestled with the wheel, having lost the brakes on one steep hill, slaloming crazily down to the bottom before somehow managing to bring the vehicle to a juddering halt. They’d then had to drive back up the hill to pick up her mother, who they found sitting nonchalantly on the kerb, having abandoned the car, husband and kids by hurling herself bodily from the vehicle at the very first sign of trouble. One minute she’d been sitting upfront in the car, the next and her seat was empty and the door was flapping in the wind.

Anyway, I was quite pleased with the slickness of my tyre repair and was soon rolling again, somewhat surprised to find the mist no worse on the valley floor than it had been up top. I now realised I’d managed to knock my Garmin display onto a screen showing altitude gain and no amount of half-arsed prodding with the menu buttons through my thick and unfeeling gloves seemed able to find the “normal” screen settings again.

With my watch well buried under base layer, tight sleeves and glove cuff, I realised that short of stopping again, I had no real idea what time it actually was. Given the conditions, I couldn’t even do that old Native American trick of counting finger widths between the horizon and the sun in order to gauge the passing of time. Not that I would have a clue how to do that anyway.

Determined not to stop, but recognising I was probably running late, I took the shorter, faster route to a different bridge. This is a route I tend to avoid whenever possible because it involves filtering onto a short stretch of dual carriageway, where drivers seem go too fast and are prone to late lane-switching as the road narrows and splits. Still, I reasoned that given the poor visibility in the mist today, the traffic would no doubt be slowing right down.

It’s times like these when I’m still surprised by my own naivety…

Oh well, I survived, without too much puckering and bracing for an impact from behind that never came and I was soon across the river, climbing out of the valley and heading for the meeting point, where I arrived pretty much bang on time and just behind the Garrulous Kid.


Main conversations at the meeting point:

G-Dawg firmly declared that this was officially the best weather we could hope for given the time of year – mild enough for there to be no danger of ice, with not a breath of wind and zero chance of rain. Nonetheless, OGL had been in touch with is contact in the Outer Hebrides and warned that severe weather was just around the corner, so we had to be ever vigilant.

Taffy Steve was somewhat perturbed by the number of cars he’d passed, travelling through the gloom without their lights on and Sneaky Pete wondered why it was invariably the silver, grey or otherwise mist-coloured and perfectly camouflaged vehicles that seemed to feel lights were an unnecessary adornment.

Son of G-Dawg told us a passing one darkened car on a black, black night and thinking that the driver must be completely oblivious to the fact that his headlights weren’t on, only to realise that the cabin of the car was a well of stygian black and there was no way the driver could possibly be unaware his lights weren’t working, or actually see any of his instruments on his utterly dark and powerless dashboard.

As first reported in Winter is coming,  the dispute about our “unsanctioned” club-confined hill climb rumbles on with the CTT. Taffy Steve has even got involved to review their rules and letter of complaint, applying a degree of cogent logic, impartiality, rational thinking and good, all-round common sense. Unfortunately, when it comes to the sport of cycling, I’m not sure that cogent logic, impartiality, rational thinking and good, all-round common sense are qualities that are valued by its governing bodies and I suspect this matter is set to run for a while yet.

With the Prof a no-show, I speculated (incorrectly, it transpires) he might have been at the University Snow Ball last night and feeling a little worse for wear from a night full of fun, frivolity and all-round excess. We then spent a good five minutes trying to determine what the Prof’s favourite tipple could possibly be, finally deciding on some rare, exotic, addictive and hallucinogenic, Dutch moonshine distilled from pickled herring brains, that can only be crafted on the banks of the Zuider Zee during a neap tide. Well, either that or lemonade with the merest splash of Malibu, served in a highball glass with a tasselled swizzle-stick.

Despite his absence, the Prof’s family was at least represented with the unforeseen appearance of beZ, who has actually left us for a rival club, ostensibly because they will give him more race support (although I suspect it might just be that they have a classier jersey).

A slightly chagrined OGL then enquired why beZ wasn’t out training with his new team mates. “Because they’re all too lazy,” we were informed. Hah.

Speaking of lazy, I had a discussion with Taffy Steve about whether the Garrulous Kid shouldn’t be the Loquacious Kid, while the Garrulous Kid looked on, seemingly oblivious to our conversation. I conceded Taffy Steve might well have a point, but explained once a name has been writ, it was to all intents and purposes inviolate, which is a short-hand way of admitting I’m much too lazy to track down and change all the references.

Captain Black arrived astride a very smart, new (new?) winter bike, a Specialized Allez in a glorious shade of orange. From this I naturally concluded that orange was indeed the new black.

Meanwhile, the Red Max was back in the saddle after his accident, having just about recovered enough to ride. I enquired about his injuries and he confided he was still somewhat sore and declared that today he would be taking it easy. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. Good one!


At the appointed hour then, 20 or so lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out for parts unknown.

I dropped in beside Sneaky Pete for an erudite discussion about Christmas holidays, over-crowded cities and good and bad TV quiz shows. I revealed one of our club members, Famous Sean’s had made it all the way to the final of the Pointless quiz show, where he lost after (by a very odd and unfathomable coincidence) choosing the topic of Famous Sean’s for his last set of questions.

No doubt Famous Sean’s had picked the category hoping for questions about Sean Yates, Sean Kelly or even Sean Edie, but was ambushed by a set of questions about Sean Penn, Sean Astin and Sean Bean (Seen Been? Shaun Born?) What self-respecting cyclist would confess to knowing anything about second-rate character actors?

Rumours had been circulating all week on Facebook that the route down from the Village of the Damned, a.k.a. Dinnington, one of the most dreadful, broken, rutted, pitted, scarred, scabby and pot-holed sections of road we get to regularly traverse, had been completely re-surfaced.

Sneaky Pete added fuel to the rumours, suggesting that when he’d been out midweek, getting in some sneaky miles, the road had indeed been closed for repairs.

Dare we hope, could it be true?

We swept down from the village onto the super-smooth and silent, gleaming, polished blacktop of freshly laid tarmac, the tyres seeming to sigh as they lightly kissed the surface in delight. The whole group burst into a spontaneous cheer that dissolved into much laughter and loud chatter. We’re simple folk at heart, I guess and easily pleased.

This, one of the most hated stretches of road always contrasted harshly with the next, smooth and fast section, that is known by its Strava segment simply as: “Terrific Tarmac” Now the Terrific Tarmac didn’t feel quite so terrific anymore and will no doubt have to be downgraded and renamed.

I also expect the Strava KoM up to Dinnington is now going to come under renewed assault, as it’s much less likely you’ll rattle your fillings loose as you bounce and skitter up the climb, just fighting to keep your tyres in contact with the road and maintain momentum. I suspect that though times might fall, it will be much less of a challenge and become a sanitised little blip rather than a fierce and testing clamber.


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Things were progressing smoothly as we made our way up to Dyke Neuk, where Sneaky Pete sneaked off with OGL and a few others to form the amblers group. Andeven bravely went off with beZ and Jimmy Cornfeed for an even longer, harder and faster, self-flagellation ride, while the rest of us set course for Angerton, via the swoop down and climb up to Hartburn.

I was lingering near the back as we took the descent and as the road began to rise up the other side yet again felt the unwelcome rumble of rough tarmac through a swiftly deflating front tyre. Puncture#2.

I rolled carefully to the side of the road as Taffy Steve and Bydand Fecht were just about to disappear around the corner and adopting my best, stoical Captain Oates, “I’m just going outside and may be some time” demeanour, decided not to call them back.

I replaced the tube (again) and finally, somewhat belatedly started a lone pursuit, with the hope of hitting the café at least before everyone else finished up and set off for home. I was obviously well-removed from any sprinting for the café, but sadly so too was Taffy Steve, who’d noticed my absence, wondered what was going on and hung back as long as he felt reasonable to see if I was going to re-appear. Oops. Next time I’d better announce my intentions to drift slowly off the back in search of my own personal elephant’s graveyard.

I reached the café in time to see Sneaky Pete sneaking off home and apparently before a search party was formed and despatched to look for me.


Conversation at coffee stop:

I found an over-heated Taffy Steve still queuing and waiting to be served and despite the fact the staff knew exactly what he wanted before he placed his order, it didn’t seem to speed up the process. I guess they’re still struggling with the new till, although it’s lost its “Please bear with us, this till is crap” sign.

If he was struggling to remain cool on a winters day like this, I wondered how he was going to cope with global warming. More to the point, I remembered he lived on the coast and suggested the melting of the Polar ice-packs would leave his home several feet under the North Sea, not good, even if the mean water temperature was transformed from utterly freezing and unbearable to almost, but not quite tolerable.

He said he was on high enough ground not to worry too much and always wanted a sea front property, but suggested there were others who would suffer more. We determined that not even the storied and mighty Dutch gutters might be enough to save them in the event of a catastrophic rise in ocean levels.

In a brief discussion of puncture etiquette, we tried to determine what would be worst-case scenario:

#1. Calling up the front that you had a mechanical, only for the rest of the group to studiously pretend they hadn’t heard and keep on riding …

or

#2. Calling out that you had a problem, having everyone turn and acknowledge the fact … and then keep on riding regardless.

Captain Black proudly showed off his designer knitwear hat that bore a label from that well-known Italian brand, “Bastard.” I’m not sure the name is going to catch on in this country. Alternatively, his wife could have made the hat especially for him and decided to personalise it with a tag bearing his pet name.

Although everyone else approved, the Red Max declared there was “too much yellow” in the Captain’s new bike. I suggested he needed to change the lens in his specs from yellow to blue, so the bike would appear an acceptable shade of red to him, but had to point out the drawback was his own bike would then look purple.


I set off for home along Garrulous Kid, in the market for a new bike and not even rejecting Peugeot’s in his quest for a new machine, now that he knows they actually make bikes. I can’t help but feel I’ve done my bit for promulgating the mythology of classic and vintage velocipedes and can now retire happily.

I skipped up to the front to spell Taffy Steve and lead with Caracol up one side of Berwick Hill and then down the other. The reverse route up to Dinnington proved as good as the descent and brought a little spring to Caracol’s legs, who couldn’t resist accelerating away as he gloried in the smooth placidity of its shiny new surface. I let him pull me through the Mad Mile and then I swooped away, off the roundabout and heading for home.

I almost made it to the river when Puncture#3 struck and then managed no more than half a mile before I was stopped by Puncture#4. This one came so fast, I think I could safely blame a rushed and botched change, or a faulty tube, but now I was on my fourth and final spare and wondering whether I’d end up walking the rest of the way home.

Thankfully, I made it back without further incident and now have to decide if the tyre is too worn to be serviceable, or if I was just struck by unaccountable bad luck. I’ve ordered a couple of replacement tyres, just in case and will strip down the front wheel and see if there’s anything lurking in the carcase that I missed during my roadside probing for probable cause.

On the final clamber up the Heinous Hill I’d noticed that my Garmin was still resolutely showing altitude gain rather than distance and speed of travel. I guess this just shows how much attention I actually pay to my bike computer and numbers while I’m riding – no one is ever going to mistake me for a data-fixated Chris Froome type character, so I’ve probably just blown any chance of ever being signed by Team Sky.

I really just carry the Garmin to record where I’ve been and how far, once the ride is complete. Apparently though, I’m not even very good at this according to Strava, who recently emailed to tell me my current distance total for the year is 6,857 kilometres, not the 6,536 kilometres I would have attributed in this blog. I’ve really absolutely no idea where that additional 321 kilometres (almost 200 miles!) came from, or how I managed to misplace it. Maybe it just shows the fallibility of man vs. machine.

So anyway, back to Saturday and all in all, despite reasonable conditions, quite a frustrating ride and one that’s seriously depleted my stocks of spare inner tubes. Still, I bet I’m not feeling quite as deflated as the Prof, who missed out on a veritable bonanza of spent tubes he could have dragged back to his secret lair for resurrection.

Surely next week can’t be as bad? Can it?


(Adjusted) YTD Totals: 6,536 km / 4,061 miles with 71,538 metres of climbing

Winter is coming

Winter is coming

Club Run, Saturday 15th October, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  101 km/63 miles with 754 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 17 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.6 km/h

Group size:                                         16 riders

Temperature:                                    13°C

Weather in a word or two:          Filthy to fair


 

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Ride Profile

 


The Ride:

With the glorious weather of last week’s hill climb proving unsurprisingly transitory, a week of constant forecast checking kept coming back with grim consitency: the morning to early afternoon of Saturday would apparently be dominated by rain, with the only questionable element being its severity – which roughly translates to the near imperceptible difference between “rain showers” and “heavy rain showers.”

I was quite encouraged by waking Saturday morning to the absence of rain drumming noisily on the roof and windows, only to find this was because the cloud-base was so low that the water was simply leaching out and didn’t have to fall very far or very hard. A thoroughly grey and dismal start to the day then, with only a vaguely brighter bit of sky to perhaps-maybe indicate where a well-shrouded sun was still trying to drag itself clear of the horizon.

I dressed for the worst: full-length tights, long-sleeved, water-resistant jersey with a rain jacket over the top, overshoes and long fingered gloves. A spare pair of gloves went in my back pocket and I stuck a cap under my helmet in the hope the peak could help keep a little of the spray out of my eyes. I even tried a wrapping a layer of cling film between socks and shoes before pulling on my overshoes. It may have helped a little and my feet were never cold, but still socks and shoes came home sodden.

The first few hundred yards out on the roads confirmed my suspicions – it was cold, it was very, very wet and it was going to be a little unpleasant. As my front tyre cut a hissing bow wave down the Heinous Hill, the rain tapped probing, impatient fingers on my back and helmet in a “Little Pig, Little Pig, let me in” sort of way.

Climbing out the valley on the other side of the river though proved that it wasn’t quite cold enough and I was caught in one of those damned if you do/damned if you don’t conundrums – take the rain jacket off and get soaked from the outside-in, or keep it on and get soaked from the inside out. You pays your money…

I noticed the first signs of autumn, the leaves on the trees losing colour in increasing numbers and beginning to fall and collect in drifts and slippery wet clumps along the sides of the road. Winter is coming. Slowly, but inexorably winter is coming.

Our meeting point had naturally migrated to the bowels of the nearby car park, where it was dark and dank, but critically sheltered from the still constant rainfall.  There the usual all-weather idiots slowly congregated and added a few new faces to our ranks with the Monkey Butler Boy, Jimmy Cornfeed, Carlton and Mellstock Quire all joining us in defying the elements.


Main topics of discussion at the start

OGL was the bearer of bad news concerning the untimely death and funeral arrangements for long-standing club member and all-round good guy, Russ Snowdon. A track champion of some repute, Russ was an integral member of the coaching team at the National Velodrome in Manchester. Always willing to help out, I remember him growling good humouredly at me at the start of one of our hill climbs – something along the lines of, “If I can hold up Sir Chris Hoy for his starts, I can handle you.”

The solemn news couldn’t quite repress the very, very naughty Taffy Steve, who leaned across and enquired sotto voce, “Is it too early to ask what size frame he rode?” Ooph!

With the weather set to improve later in the day, we discussed options for a ride-in-reverse  – heading straight to the café and then taking a big loop back. As if taking it seriously, we even discussed what time the café actually opened, as it wouldn’t do to high-tail it there and then have to hang around for half an hour banging on the door to be let in and out of the rain. In the end, the inherent conservatism of your average club cyclist won out and we set off for a very normal, if very wet club run.

Carlton arrived well-wrapped against the weather and with the rear of his bike studded with more flashing red lights than the control panel in the Chernobyl nuclear reactor before it was vaporised. One in particular we had to ask him to turn off for fear it would burn-out retinas, or induce violent epileptic fits. He proudly declared (and we all believed him) that this particular light was visible from 3km away.


There was just time for OGL to curse the godless amongst us – those without mudguards, not those who had adopted blasphemous, sacrilegious ways (although there’s probably a fair degree of overlap) – before we were forsaking the sanctuary of our car park, pushing off, clipping in and riding out into the downpour.

As we stopped at the first set of lights I tried to sort out the rain cover on the Red Max’s back pack that the Monkey Butler Boy had pulled around without actually fitting. I explained to Max that he looked like he was pulling a drogue parachute behind him, but he seemed unconcerned and suggested it was just the excuse he needed so he could convince himself he wasn’t being held back by lack of talent or fitness.

Running past the airport a jet thundered low overhead, but looking up into the drizzle, there was nothing visible in the dank and murky sky. I was just pleased we’d made Carlton turn his super-bright rear light off, or the thing might have mistaken us for the runway and tried landing.

As we made our way up the Bell’s Hill climb we had to swerve around two dozen or so car tyres spilling out from where they’d been oddly dumped into a layby. Around the corner, a bit further on and we were picking our way through another dozen or so tyres that had been strewn across the road in a makeshift barricade. Perhaps we were caught in the middle of some Northumbrian farmers’ feud? We cycled on anyway, safe in the knowledge that the Prof had clearly marked the location and would probably return to claim the tyres for his secret workshop/laboratory/lair.


 

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I dropped into line beside Son of G-Dawg, who was one of the few amongst who hadn’t made the switch to a winter bike, his excuse being it didn’t seem right for the last outing of his carbon flying machine to be the brutal and unenjoyable hill climb.

I’m not certain how enjoyable today’s ride was going to be though and to add to the less than ideal weather, the roads were proving particularly filthy. As we rode through another wet, claggy, filthy-dirty, muddy patch that bespattered everyone and their bikes in a deeply unappealing coating of filth, I suggested the final sprint for home between G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg would be particularly fiercely contested today. At stake for the winner would be first use of the shower, while the loser would be left with two filthy bikes to clean.

Just in case, Son of G-Dawg was planning to plead that he had important things to attend to, although he wasn’t prepared to reveal this could be neatly summarised as eating pizza and having a nap. As a last resort I suggested he could just leave the bike in its filthy state until the OCD demons started whispering in G-Dawgs ear. We both knew he wouldn’t be able to relax properly while a dirty bike befouled his home.

At a hastily called pee stop, OGL declared that we were all outcasts and renegades, as apparently the club had been sanctioned by the CTT – the governing body for cycling time-trials, after someone informed them we were holding an illegal hill climb last week! It all seemed like officious stuff and nonsense to me, considering it was a club-confined event. Crazy Legs though was particularly delighted with the renegade badge and the thought that he now had an official excuse not to ride in anymore time-trials.

We stopped again to split the ride, but OGL looked to be the only one heading straight to the café, so we persuaded him just to tag along with the rest of us. With the rain slowly easing, I took the opportunity to swap soaked gloves for dry ones and we pressed on.

We were pretty much still altogether as a group as we swung around Bolam Lake and the pace picked up a little in anticipation of the final drive to the café. I sat on the back behind Taffy Steve and the Red Max as we dived through Milestone Wood and over the rollers and stayed there as a small group broke away off the front to contest the sprint.

The group upfront splintered and we were soon closing on the jettisoned Crazy Legs as we approached the last ramp. Sensing another mugging was about to occur I dropped in behind Taffy Steve as he attacked to close down Crazy Legs, who in turn responded and picked up his pace again.

I went diving down the inside to pass Taffy Steve, but our acceleration had brought us up to the Prof who’d also been shelled out by the lead group and was weaving all over the road. He drifted to his right until he realised an immoveable Taffy Steve was already occupying the space there, barrelling along with sharp elbows bristling, so he did the sensible thing, chickened out and swept back across the road into my line.

I shouted and touched the brakes to buy some room to manoeuvre around the Prof, but all momentum was lost and there was no way back. Curses! Foiled again.


Main topics of discussion at the coffee stop:

They’d had a new till fitted in the café and the staff were grappling to come to terms with its intricacies. Service that’s normally slow now became glacial and very confused. Still, at least we were welcome and not made to feel responsible for their own short-comings.

The Prof took the German “towel-on-sun-lounger thing” to the extreme, scattering various bits of sodden kit and clothing around the café to claim numerous tables and chairs. I was pretty certain he’d need at least 5 minutes’ head start to gather everything back together before we set off for home.

Meanwhile OGL was in hysterics laughing at all our dirty, mud-splattered faces and suggested Jacques Anquetil would be turning in his grave. Anquetil was a classy, multiple Tour de France winner, who allegedly never went anywhere without a comb in his back pocket.

I naturally suggested like all successful cyclists that he was of a slightly odd disposition – hugely superstitious to the point of being terrified to leave his room when a mystic predicted his death on a particular day. He also seduced and married the wife of his dedicated personal doctor and then had a child with her step-daughter, lived with both women for a dozen years, then livened things up further by having a child with his stepson’s ex-wife!

Carlton was somewhat taken aback by my casting of all successful cyclists as flakes and oddballs and protested that, “Surely that nice Mr. Froome is a decent chap?” He then contended that the other “seemingly nice fellow who left Team Sky for BMC” was quite obviously another decent chap too. He couldn’t be dissuaded even when Taffy Steve countered, “Yeah, but he’s Tasmanian.”

We were just getting settled when the Red Max’s phone notified him of an incoming text with two loud parps like a clown’s horn. I wondered aloud if it was Charlie Cairoli asking for his shoes back, while it prompted some discussion about the killer clown craze. The best story alleged that one creepy perpetrator had been bottled by his victim and I could detect absolutely no sympathy for him around the table.

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs spotted son of G-Dawg playing with his mobile phone. “Is that a Samsung?” he enquired, drawing back nervously and raising his hands to protect his face. I made to warm my hands on the device, then Crazy Legs tried blowing gently to see if he could coax a flame from it. We speculated that perhaps Ray Mears needed to carry a Samsung in case he had to start a fire in the Outback without any kindling.

Crazy Legs suggested Mrs. Crazy Legs was so paranoid about his phone spontaneously bursting into flame, she was constantly asking him what make it was.

“Is your phone a …

“It’s a MOTOROLA!”


With it still being early and the weather clearing to reveal the best part of the day, a group of us decided to take a long loop home through Stamfordham.

The return run was largely uneventful, though we did spot a small domestic cat stalking down the road in the middle of nowhere, had a grey squirrel skitter across our path and the the dubious pleasure of a driver leaning on his horn in admonishment, even though he was travelling in the opposite direction on the other side of a wide road. I’ve no idea what that was all about.

On a fast downhill everyone swung off  on a sharp left, while I continued on, cutting a big corner of my route home. Pretty soon I was climbing the damn hill again, somewhat happier that my clothes had transitioned from wringing wet to just sodden. Another couple of hours and I might even have been merely damp by the time I’d crawled home.


YTD Totals: 5,672 km / 3,524 miles with 55,384 metres of climbing

Freak Wallaby

Freak Wallaby

Club Run, Saturday 27th August, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  102 km/63 miles with 700 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                        4 hours 4 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.0 km/h

Group size:                                       20 riders, 3 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   16°C

Weather in a word or two:           A game of two halves


The Ride:

3 september
Ride Profile

By heck, isn’t the Vuelta entertaining this year, in a way the Tour singularly failed to be. Not that I’m one of those people who would say the Tour was boring. Predictable? Yeah… maybe, in that the final result was widely known half way in, but boring? Then again I’m a person who sees a certain savage grandeur in the way Team Sky ratchet up the pressure on climbs until the rest of the field get gradually worked loose and slowly whittled down. Or “strangled” as the critics would unkindly insist.

Anyway, at least old Stone Face has actually decided to fight for the Vuelta, he’s climbing fantastically well and the Ungainly One is just about hanging on by his fingernails. We could yet see someone giving the Sky behemoth a right kicking*.

One minor gripe though – is it just me, or has Sean Kelly decided that Simon Yates rides for Ulrika Bike Exchange?

[*After Sunday’s stage it looks like only a catastrophe will derail Stone Face as the Sky behemoth and the Ungainly One were well and truly outfought and outthought in a classic Contador ambush that Quintana profited from. El Pistolero might not have the legs anymore, but there’s no one to match him tactically – he’s what my old boss would call a “wiry old fox”]

Meanwhile, somewhere in the North of England, Saturday’s weather was promising heavy rain showers on just about every forecast I checked – the only real question was just when they were going to hit, although mid-ride at 11.00 seemed to be the general consensus.

The promise of perhaps-maybe half a ride in dry conditions was enough to tip the balance in favour of Reg, despite the newly serviced and primed Peugeot, complete with mudguards, sitting there looking hopeful. Not yet, mon ami, but your time will come.

Of course I may have made the wrong decision as the slight grating noise of a couple of weeks ago seems to have returned. As I levelled out along the valley floor and the noise of traffic fell away I heard a strange, chirping from the drive-train which was grumbling away and seemed to be calling out to me: freak, freak, freak – wallaby … pause … freak, freak, freak – wallaby.

The noise disappeared when I freewheeled, or quietened to a whisper when I jumped out of the saddle, but always came back annoyingly, freak, freak, freak – wallaby. I pressed on, knowing the problem wasn’t going to get any better, but hoping it wasn’t going to get worse and plotting how I could get the bike to Patrick at Brassworks Bicycle Company to let him try and figure out what the problem is.

As I made my way across to the meeting point I passed a group of half a dozen riders, all decked out for extreme weather in rain jackets, tights and overshoes. In just a jersey and shorts, they made me feel rather under-dressed and perhaps wildly unprepared for what was to come. Did they know something I didn’t?

At the meeting point though, I was re-assured to find very few of us had our winter bikes out and even fewer were wearing much beyond shorts and jerseys – if we were going to get soaked – we’d be doing it all together.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Rab D arrived astride his old winter hack, with the BMC Time Machine left safely at home, not because he worried about riding it in the rain, but because he felt if things turned really mucky he’d have to disassemble half the bike just to clean it properly.

If he was waiting for ideal atmospheric conditions to ride his new toy, we determined there was probably only 3 days a year when he could safely use it – and we’d had 2 of those already.

Crazy Legs turned up with tales of the Bank Holiday club run last Monday, which he described as the worst ride. Ever. I had been tempted to ride too, but had missed out and in the process perhaps dodged a bullet.

The day had started auspiciously enough with a plan to ride to the coast, but the group had somehow ended up travelling along the Spine Road, one of the most heavily trafficked routes in the County, on a Bank Holiday, in decent weather and with the Tall Ships departure from Blyth enticing an inordinate amount of cars onto the road.

Unable to find a misplaced, mis-remembered crossing point and desperate to escape the deadly rush of traffic, Crazy Legs had utilised Google Earth to identify an old track they could use to by-pass the road and led them down it.

The track however narrowed, turned boggy and then marooned them in the middle of wildly, overgrown and nettle-riddled field as it completely disappeared. At this point there was some discussion about whether they should turn back and face death by road traffic accident, or press on and face drowning in quicksand. Crazy Legs though was convinced nothing could be worse than riding down a dual carriageway in that traffic.

At one point, he said he was riding through the wilderness so carefully and so precariously that horseflies were feasting on his legs, but he didn’t dare let go of the handlebars to swat at them.

Finally shouldering their bikes, the group fought and clambered their way out onto a farm track, muddied, bloodied, bitten, stung, lost, tired and utterly miserable – emerging like a defeated army from the jungle and right under the nose of a local famer, who must have seen nothing quite like it in all his days, but didn’t bat an eyelid and completely ignored them!

They’d then found themselves traversing back along the Spine Road battling the terrifying, Tall Ships and Bank Holiday swollen traffic. Crazy Legs rode the entire way home behind Plumose Pappus to try and shelter him a little, convinced the youngster was going to be sucked under the wheels as he fluttered like a moth caught on a windscreen every time a lorry thundered past.

Red Max showed up without the Monkey Butler Boy, the allure of riding his new bike apparently having worn off, allowing him to once again reconnect with his teenage genes and demand to be left in bed.

Max had warned him there would be dire consequences and sure enough, as he left the Monkey Butler Boy was being presented with a list of domestic chores to complete since he wasn’t out riding. Now that’s the kind of motivation that can make an Olympic champion.

Mini Miss was out on her brand new Focus, having had her old bike completely replaced by the company after it had developed a crack along the top tube. She said she’d received a particularly terse and uncommunicative text from her daughter the previous night that simply read, “I’m not coming home.” We were assuming this was just a one off arrangement and not a long term declaration of intent.

Even Mini Miss however had to admit that Red Max trumped her, when he described a similar text from his daughter, “Dad, I’m moving out and I’m pregnant.”  Kids, eh?


I dropped into place, 3rd in line alongside Son of G-Dawg as we pushed off, clipped in and rode out, chuckling as the Red Max proved he’d chase down just about anything, swerving across the road in vain pursuit of a crow while shouting Ca-Caw, Ca-Caw and receiving a remarkably similar squawk of complaint in return.

We did wonder what might have happened if the bird had been so panicked it had flown off into his front wheel and it reminded us of the time we were ambushed by a pheasant that had clattered into flight from the roadside, right under the nose of our lead rider as we lined it out downhill for the café sprint. That had been a close enough call for us to treat our avian friends with a degree of caution.


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Red Max and Crazy Legs rotated off the front as we crested the hill past the Cheese Farm and Taffy Steve and Ovis took up the pace as we rattled and bumped along a series of badly cracked and cratered rode surfaces that are becoming pretty much the norm in these parts.

Further on and I rolled through onto the front with Son of G-Dawg, starting to pick our own route as we came to junctions with no instruction from further back and guessing we were making the right choices when there were no barking complaints from behind. It was a bit like playing Russian Roulette with a route map, or reading one of those adventure game-books. I hoped we didn’t take a wrong turn and end up in a den full of rabid trolls and kobolds.

At one junction we went left simply because they’d been trimming hedges on the right and we had visions of mass punctures. Yes, it’s autumn already so they’re starting to strew the clippings from thorn bushes across the road to deter cyclists.

Caught in a slightly too large gear with an immediate climb after the turn, I rose out of the saddle and stamped hard on the pedals and we flew upwards dragging everyone out in a long line behind.

Bursting round a sharp right hand turn at the top of the climb, our sudden appearance surprised a BMW approaching at too high a speed and already starting to swing wide across the road. Luckily the driver had time to brake and correct their line and the group behind managed to squeeze past.

A bit further on and travelling down a narrow country lane, Son of G-Dawg called out, “Car up!” and accelerated sharply so I could tuck in behind him. Even singled out and hugging the gutter, the bright red Toyota Yaris passed frighteningly close and frighteningly fast – and behind us the almost inevitable happened.

I’m still not quite sure if the car actually clipped Mini Miss, or came so close she took desperate and evasive action, but she ended up tangling wheels with Buster and coming down, while he bailed out for the safety of a roadside ditch.

I was astounded that the driver even stopped, but apparently this was just so she could tell us that we shouldn’t be riding on the road, while we, being the nicest, most polite cycling club known to man tried to reason with her in a rational manner. Perhaps this was the time when some incoherent swearing and outright anger might actually have served us better and made more of an impression.  Then again, maybe not.

As it was, satisfied she hadn’t quite managed to seriously injure anyone, completely unrepentant, utterly convinced she’d done nothing wrong and wasn’t in any way responsible, the driver climbed back into her car, slammed the door and roared away to endanger other weird people who mistakenly feel they have the right to use the roads, leaving us to assess the damage.

Mini Miss has somehow snapped the end completely off her brake lever and Buster was particularly chagrined to find his rear mudguard had been smashed to pieces, just after he’d finally managed to get it to stop rubbing. Luckily all the damage seemed to be to bikes rather than people, although on the ride back Buster complained his hip was causing some discomfort.

We regrouped slowly before pressing on and since we were close to a usual split point decided we wouldn’t stop again, but drop into different groups on the fly. Unfortunately, not everyone got the message and as the amblers split off for the café, Happy Cat missed the turn and uncharacteristically found herself tagging along with the faster, longer, harder group.


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She’d also taken the weather forecasts to heart and was wearing a baggy and billowing waterproof jacket that not only acted like a drogue parachute, but slowly began to boil her as the pace increased and she fought to hang on.

We finally called a halt to split the group again, carefully steering Happy Cat away from the longer, harder, faster self-flagellation ride, but Taffy Steve failed to convince another struggler who was lured away by the siren song of the racing snakes, perhaps never to be seen again.

Happy Cat managed to ditch the jacket, stuffing it roughly into two of the pockets of her jersey and then it was just a case of hanging on as we wound our way back to the café.

I suggested that now she’d ridden and survived with the longer, harder, faster group she’d struggle to ever go back to the amblers. She was still smiling, but I don’t think I convinced her.

Down through Milestone Woods and over the rollers, I ran up the outside of the group and was sitting perched on the shoulder of the lead man as we dropped down and then began the long drag up to the café. A quick glance behind showed me Son of G-Dawg and G-Dawg stacked on my wheel, so I buried myself in an impromptu lead out until they swept around me and I could sit up.

A few others passed me as well, but faded as the slope ground on and I managed to claw back and overhaul them. Then just as I approached the white finish line, Taffy Steve charged up on my outside, screaming incoherently and threw his bike over the line in a fair imitation of Chris Hoy, stealing the sprint by a tyre’s tread.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A deeply traumatised Crazy Legs couldn’t let it go and circulated photos of their epic trek into the Northumberland Badlands during the Bank Holiday Club Run from Hell, including one shot of OGL leading his bike while he tip-toed gingerly along a very narrow, very muddy trail perched precariously above a marshy and incredibly boggy rivulet.

Another photo showed cyclists adrift in an overgrown field that had deliberately been left fallow … for a decade or three perhaps, while the most damning was left until last – a picture of the much cosseted Ribble, befouled, begrimed and mud-spattered to such a degree that the brakes would no longer function because of the build-up of mud, grit and crap caught up in them.

The conversation turned to the Planet X outlet where Crazy Legs suggested he’d been lucky to escape without treating himself to a new TT bike on a recent visit. I happened to mention the Vittoria Anniversary, limited edition shoes they were currently selling, RRP £220, but reduced to £34 and made from very glossy, very shiny “gold medal microfibre.”

Sadly, they didn’t have my size, nevertheless I think I managed to horrify everyone by suggesting that I would even consider wearing bright gold shoes and they all agreed it was a step too far and I would need to dominate every sprint to be able to carry something like that off.


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Check out these bad boys

The conversation then turned to Reg, my Holdsworth frame which had also come to me via Planet-X. Being a somewhat, err, distinctive design in an eye-bleeding combination of vile red, poisonous black and acid yellow, with the group wondering if I’d been instantly attracted to it.

I had to confess to loathing the frame on first sight, but it had been an absolute bargain and I thought it would serve as a stopgap until I got something better. Then I’d slowly grown to appreciate it’s somewhat esoteric and divisive looks – to such an extent that it now influences what I wear.

Taffy Steve suggested it was somewhat akin to going to the puppy pound for a pedigree dog and being chosen by the ugliest, rattiest, scrattiest, flea- ridden pug in the entire place, that wouldn’t let you leave without it.


Tour des Flandres 2010
We might be the ugliest, rattiest, scrattiest, flea-ridden combo going, but in my minds-eye at least we (almost) look this cool!

Crazy Legs had been out with G-Dawg the night before, sampling the wares at a local brewery, where the pair of them wrestled myopically with a long, poorly printed beer menu in bad light. Crazy Legs had resorted to his Nooz reading glasses, slipping them out of his wallet and slapping them on long enough to determine that Beer#1 was a lager and #2 was a bitter.

Of course G-Dawg was utterly delighted by the slightly unusual style of the Nooz specs and had ripped the piss mercilessly out of Crazy Legs for the rest of the night, until leaning conspiratorially across and quietly asking – “What do you call them specs and where can I get some?”

Taffy Steve was questioned about the NTR Club Runs which take place every Tuesday and Thursday evening, involving upwards of 80 riders at a time and all impeccably organised into different groups and abilities via Facebook. In the realms of club run organisation they are multi-spectral and satellite earth-imaging compared to our water dousing with bent willow twigs.

I was interested to learn if they continued the rides throughout the year, even when the nights became dark and cold and Taffy Steve reminded us he’d first started riding with them just before Christmas last year. We decided he was perhaps unique in British Cycling as the only person to ever join a club in the middle of December.


I left Crazy Legs and the G-Dawg collective camped out in the café declaring it was too early to leave and if they went home now they’d be expected back at the same time every week, but everyone else was pressing to see if they could beat the rain home, so I joined the general exodus.

It wasn’t to be, however and the much-forecast rain finally arrived as we grouped up before setting off, delaying slightly while everyone dug out their rain jackets. Once started the rain didn’t ease and everything and everyone were soon soaked through, but at least it wasn’t cold and the rain had had the good grace to hold off until after we exited the café.

The Prof introduced me to one of the FNG’s who also lives south of the river, so as I exited the Mad Mile I had company for a change as we worked our way down to the bridge.

Crossing the river, he then turned right, while I swung left and I was soon alone again with just my thoughts, the rain drumming on my helmet and back and that insistent, persistent murmur of protest from the bike under me; freak, freak, freak – wallaby…


YTD Totals: 4,938 km / 3,068 miles with 48,766 metres of climbing

Crosswind Chaos

Crosswind Chaos

Club Run, Saturday 16th July, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   113 km/70 miles with 1,001 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                                   26.2 km/h

Group size:                                           27 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                      22°C

Weather in a word or two:              Bright ‘n’ blowy


Ride Profile

Ride Profile

The Ride:

For some peculiar reason I was awake and up 25 minutes before my alarm sounded. Perhaps it was the anticipation brought about by the bright blue vault of sky, promising a seemingly ultra-rare break with recent tradition – a Saturday free of rain.

Despite being up early I was actually late leaving the house as I bumbled about aimlessly. My usual timing checkpoint is at 8.42 mile into the ride, which I typically pass at around 8:42. Today however it was pushing 8:48 when I passed this mark, perhaps a consequence of the strong blustery wind that was already proving troublesome, with stretches of debilitating headwind interspersed with occasional sneaky crosswind-ambushes that kept blowing me off line.

I picked the pace up a little and all the traffic lights were kind, so I made the meeting point only a couple of minutes later than usual.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

A couple of riders started bonding, cooing and billing over their perfectly matched, exquisitely expensive and identical Storck Scenaro’s, even going as far as lining them up side by side to compare length and girth. “Great, just what we need,” Taffy Steve proclaimed, “A couple of Storckers!”

The Red Max had eschewed his favourite colours to pair a green, orange and white jersey with red and black shorts in an all-out, kaleidoscopic assault on unprotected retinas. Taffy Steve suggested if he tried wearing that sort of thing in Italy he would be run off the streets.

He then turned his critical attention to a contradictory Crazy Legs who was wearing a smart Bianchi celeste jersey … but riding his pampered and cossetted Ribble. The Bianchi itself had been confined to the garage for this week – the sure sign that ancient soothsayers and weather-watchers everywhere eagerly awaited, so they could declare with the utmost conviction that there was absolutely, positively zero chance of any rain today.

Taffy Steve then had one of those: “You say Bian-shee, I say Bian-kee” moments, before decrying the idiosyncrasies of modern languages and wondering why they didn’t just name themselves Biankee to save us all confusion.

“That’s rich, coming from someone who hails from a place where Llandudno, Pontypridd or even Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch are deemed acceptable names.” The Red Max countered.

(And yes, of course I had to Google Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch)

Taffy Steve argued that, just like Polish(?) at least Welsh was completely logical and consistent in its formation and application of letters – even if it did result in unpronounceable names – unlike English with its “kneed” and “need” and “knead” or words like “set” and “run” with hundreds upon hundreds of different meanings.


Around 27 lads and lasses were clustered around at the meeting point enjoying the promise of a day in the sun and more importantly staying dry as well. At exactly 9:15 Garmin time, Crazy legs and Taffy Steve decreed it was time to go and started to very deliberately clip in.

This was the cue for OGL to confront Crazy Legs and insist he didn’t immediately jump onto the front and ramp the pace up above 15 mph. This admonishment seemed to set a fire burning in Red Max, who was so keen to get on the front he raked his pedal through my spokes as he spun around, before enthusiastically bounding off to head the peloton. Luckily there was no damage done, but it was perhaps a precursor to the rest of the ride.

After the first roundabout a rider I didn’t recognise drifted to the side of the road and stopped. Apparently there’d been a clash with another rider and he had snapped a spoke. One guy dropped back to see what the problem was, while the rest of us chased on to let everyone know what was happening behind.

We turned off the main road, slowed and started again, then slowed and stopped. And started again and then stopped and then there was a lot of shouting and angry gesticulating between the Red Max and OGL, the perfect accompaniment to our staccato, stop-start dance.


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We finally determined that the loss of a spoke had been terminal and the rider had turned for home, so we pushed on and tried to regain some sort of order.

A few miles further on and G-Dawg was swooping over to the other side of the road to stop and check his wheel after another inadvertent clash of riders. This had seen his spokes completely chop the end off the Monkey Butler Boy’s quick release skewer, an aero-spoke sheering effortlessly through the hard plastic nut at the opposite end to the lever.  Somewhat amazingly there was no damage to G-Dawgs wheel and more importantly and somewhat miraculously, neither rider had come to grief.

A brief stop to quickly check everything and everyone was actually okay and off we went again. I was drifting near the back, riding along with Crazy Legs as we admired the light whistling noise Moscas’s carbon rims made every time he applied the brakes.

Another stop to regroup gave Mad Max and OGL an unedifying chance to exhume and resume their earlier fiery exchange, which seemed to be about stopping and starting and hand signals and (somewhat ironically) clear communication.


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As we reached the split point, OGL then rode off on his own without waiting to form an amblers group, perhaps in a fit of pique, or perhaps just wanting to enjoy some splendid isolation and the good weather.

An impromptu amblers group did finally get itself formed up and rolled away, while the longer, harder, faster group started to make their way toward the Quarry Climb and the final dash for the café.

The route was lumpy, the pace was high and the wind was still providing a little extra encumbrance. I found myself slowly drifting back through the group on the climbs with strangely hollow legs and no great desire to push too hard.

I started the approach to the Quarry Climb at the back and soon found myself having to circumnavigate the not inconsiderable impediment of a flailing and failing BFG, who had seemingly reached his limit. As someone later mentioned at the café he only seems to have two modes of operation, full-on or flaccid, and he was definitely in the latter mode now.

Crazy Legs had dropped back to escort the ailing leviathan, who was emitting weird warbling distress signals, like a mournful whale song and was slumping in the saddle as if he’d been holed below the waterline.

Crazy Legs declared they had now formed the “gruppetto” and we should just press on without them, but a gap had opened up to the front group and was quickly growing.


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Someone volunteered to relieve Crazy Legs of his pilot fish role and he eagerly skipped across to the leading group, bridging the gap with ease. I didn’t have the heart or the legs to follow, so just settled into my own rhythm with Taffy Steve, Captain Black tagging along behind and suffering through his own man-flu induced hell.

The main group reached the top of the Quarry climb as I hit the bottom and they turned left to loop around and start the long run down to the café with the wind at their backs. I slowed as I reached the top, checked Taffy Steve saw where I was going and swung right instead of left.

The right hand route to the cafe seems to be harder, with more climbing and more stop-start junctions, but it’s undoubtedly shorter and quicker and the road surface is much better.

The two of us worked together to keep the pace going through a series of leg-sapping rises, junctions and sharp corners. Nevertheless, I was surprised when we were spat out onto the front groups route, to find we were not only ahead of them, but they were nowhere in sight.

Taffy Steve led us through the Snake Bends and then tried to give me a lead out for the last burst to the café, but when he pulled over I could barely find the speed to get past him. We still managed to roll into the café well before the rest arrived, a fabulous piece of queue-gazumping.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

The welcome change of commentary team on the ITV4 Tour de France coverage has finally rid us of the tired, tiresome and increasingly error-prone Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen and seemed to meet with universal approval.

The only real drawback now is the frequency of the ad breaks, exacerbated by the same ads being shown over and over on a limited and very heavy rotation.

Particularly irksome were the trashy Škoda ads bookending each break, especially one that shows a guy riding past a mountain backdrop – his helmet strap is twisted and it really offends me. (Apologies in advance if you hadn’t noticed this and the ad now becomes even more annoying.)

As Taffy Steve pronounced, “Bloody hell, Škoda – I’ve already bought the car, can’t I be excused the ads?”

Crazy Legs admired G-Dawgs new, fluffy yellow mitts and suggested that as he looked back to fully catch and appreciate the subtle whistling of brake pads engaging with Moscas’s carbon wheels, he liked to imagine the mitts were two small chicks, chirping loudly and dancing happily across the top of G-Dawg’s handlebars.

Someone suggested yellow gloves were more suited to my worst foppish excesses. Son of G-Dawg meanwhile decided that the best way of ensuring ensure each rider was fully-coordinated was to swap clothes around at the start of a ride, so we could match kit to bike. Anyone left looking … well like the Red Max today, would then be sent home in disgrace, or made to ride on their own.

Talk of Tour de France crashes led to enquiries about how our own injured phenom, zeB was recovering following his attempt to trace a racing-line through a tree – apparently with the sole intent of seeing just how easy it would be to destroy a scapula.

It was suggested he’d had to wait several hours for an ambulance and Andeven (who knows about this sort of thing) suggested it was the consequence of over-stretched emergency services being abused by people using up valuable resources when they only have a headache, a spelk in their finger or are just too lazy to get off their fat asses and make their own way to an accident and emergency centre.

Taffy Steve’s simple and elegant solution was to give all the idiotic malingerers and time-wasters Chinese burns and then send them to wait for a couple of hours in the entirely fictional Chinese Burns Department. Works for me.

There was of course lots of discussion about a certain ungainly Mr. Froome and the rather unedifying happenings on Mont Ventoux.

We agreed that the only suitable accompaniment for Froome, pedalling furiously on an undersized Mavic bike would be the March of the Clowns. Meanwhile someone wondered why the neutral service bikes weren’t fitted with mountain bike dropper seatposts, so you could have some control of sizing on the fly.

This brought up the potential of a small rider clipping in and then inadvertently hitting the button to release the hydraulic seatpost, only to give himself a hefty kick up the backside and be flipped over the handlebars. Well, it all adds to the spectacle.

The Monkey Butler Boy swung past and showed us how he’d managed to get into that ridiculous descending tuck a la Chris Froome, crouched precariously over the top tube and how he’d subsequently become stuck with his ass caught under his saddle and really had a struggle to free himself.  So – an ever so slightly more aerodynamic and maybe faster, but a stupidly uncomfortable descending style, that looks utterly ridiculous and is frighteningly unsafe. Hmm, think I’ll pass.

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs suggested he actually felt sorry for Ritchie Porte … Well, there had to be one, I guess.


The trip back passed without incident, but I swung off the Mad Mile for my solo ride home directly into a headwind that dogged me all the way down to the river. Here and for the last 3 or 4 miles I now had a tailwind and it pushed me along at a decent pace to the foot of Heinous Hill for one last, big climb.

I arrived home to find I’d actually caught the sun and had tan-lines that didn’t disappear under the liberal application of soap and water. Now that’s more like it, British summer-time.


YTD Totals: 4,127 km / 2,564 miles with 40,732 metres of climbing

A Fat Lads Bike?

A Fat Lads Bike?

Club Run, Saturday 11th June, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  116 km / 72 miles with 1,097 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 57 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.4 km/h

Group size:                                         26 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cool, grey and damp. Again.

Main topic of conversation at the start:

I arrived at the meeting point to find Crazy Legs sitting on wall with a furrowed brow, 1,000-yard stare and slightly pensive air, seemingly lost in esoteric thought and obviously wrestling with one of life’s great and challenging conundrums. When pressed he admitted to be contemplating the life of hermit crabs and in particular their “house chain” – far worse than even the most protracted suburban one – as they queued up in size order, hoping and waiting for the biggest to find a new home before they all quickly swapped shells while keeping a wary eye out for opportune predators.

Meanwhile his much beloved and cossetted Ribble sat leaning nonchalantly against the wall, seemingly unconcerned that it was likely to encounter atmospheric precipitation for the first time in its life. Sources suggest Crazy Legs is coveting a brand new Bianchi, but cannot justify it if his “good” bike remains in pristine, good as new condition, so he’s now decided to ride it come what may.

The Prof rolled up on the Frankenbike, sporting bright orange gloves and a matching water bottle, which he instantly started to moan about because, although it met his most specific criteria for product selection – i.e. it was free, the walls were incredibly thin and femmer.

Crazy Legs wondered if it was one of those biodegradable ones, then answered his own musings by declaring it probably wasn’t and anyway he’d been using a biodegradable bottle for 5 years now and it was still going strong. We suggested this was very daring as the longer he used it the more likely it was to suddenly disintegrate and flood his bottom bracket with Ribena. Maybe that’s what he’s secretly hoping for so he can declare the Ribble a right-off and buy a new bike?

There was then a very strange (even by our standards) conversation about whether all-out thermonuclear war would speed up the biodegradation process, or whether AG2R bottles would still litter the post-apocalyptic wasteland, a lasting testament to the fact that pale blue and brown just don’t mix. Ever erudite, the Prof capped this morbid thought by stating that everything in existence was biodegradable – if you just waited long enough.

Sneaky Pete arrived sans Taffy Steve, even though they’d started to ride in from the coast together. Apparently he’d hung around the meeting point just long enough to not feel guilty before sneaking off, but was now a bit concerned by his companion’s non-appearance. He was just whipping out his phone to make a quick call when Taffy Steve rolled up, hale and hearty, but having been  delayed by what the Eurosport commentators like to refer to as a natural break.

Szell was next to appear and, although I didn’t notice at the time, he’d traded in his old Trek for a new bike, the exact double of Taffy Steve’s titanium love-child. With a disarming (or perhaps highly calculated) lack of empathy he would later explain in a loud voice to all and sundry that he’d looked at Taffy Steve’s mount and decided that titanium was the material of choice “for a fat lads’ bike.” Ouch.

This was upsetting to Taffy Steve on a number of fronts, but mainly because Szell’s old Trek had been purchased second-hand from OGL and OGL had complained long, hard and very bitterly every time Szell dared adjust his “perfect” set-up, or considered replacing any of its parts. Taffy Steve had been in the process of organising a collection where everyone contributed to buying new parts for the Trek, just so he could watch OGL’s head explode in apoplexy, but he’d now missed the opportunity.


 

At_Home_With_Evel_Knievel
Eddy Merckx as King Ted, the Belgian Elvis, shortly before his hour record attempt, Mexico City 1972

 


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Even though I was before him in the queue and it’s usually a very strict “we only serve one person at a time” type procedure, the waitress insisted on getting both my and Taffy Steve’s orders at the same time. Pretty much dismissing me and fluttering her eyelashes at him, she paused only long enough to confirm she had correctly remembered his regular order:

“So that’ll be a mug of coffee?”

“Yes, please.”

“And toasted teacake.”

“Yes”

“And one of those tray bakes?”

“Yes, please.”

“A glass of water?”

“Yes please.”

“And do you want ice in that?”

“Well, if it’s not too much bother, yes please.”

Bloody hell! When they started giggling about how he could have told her the price before she rang it into the till I began to feel like an awkward and uncomfortable interloper and for just an instant I thought I’d been completely overlooked and might even get away without paying. No such luck.

At the table we sat with Pierre Rolland look-alike Spry and we had a chat about his latest blog entry – a real labour of love where he’s tried to rank and quantify how exciting each Grand Tour has been using a considered, exhaustive (and no doubt exhausting) series of objective and measurable factors. It’s more interesting than I’ve made it sound and well worth a read.

Taffy Steve disappeared for coffee refills, taking Andeven’s cappuccino mug with him. You’re not supposed to get free refills on the posh coffee, which is why the mugs are a completely different shape and style, but sure enough he returned with all the mugs brimming having had to endure only a slight and playful admonishment. I simply can’t imagine how much eyelash fluttering went on to secure that concession.

This led to the assertion that the coffee available to cyclists at Box Hill was “even more expensive than the Blacksmith’s in Belsay” and didn’t even come in proper mugs, but cheap and nasty plastic cups. I don’t even think they’re biodegradable.


 

ride profile jun 11
Ride Profile

 

The Waffle:

Saturday morning and the weather was almost an exact reprise of last week, cold, grey and decidedly damp around the fringes, chilly enough early on to again need the rain jacket for my trip to the meeting point.

Making my way out to the river crossing I was joined by a fellow cyclist from the Sunderland Clarion, who was even more out of his way than I was. We had a brief chat and he complimented me on the obvious effort that had gone into my co-ordinated look (there’s that word again) before admitting that it probably appealed to him because he was “a bit OCD anyway!”

I was at the meeting point with plenty of time to spare and was eventually joined by 26 lads and lasses, including a couple of FNG’s who’d actually been sticking around for a couple of weeks, but hadn’t quite lost FNG status yet.

Quarter past nine came and went with no indication that we were going to be starting anytime soon. Crazy Legs was just about to suggest we rolled out, when OGL started to move from where he was holding court and we all prepared for the off. We were to be disappointed however, he was just switching position so he could have a chat with Mad Colin and as their conversation grew in intensity it looked like we weren’t going anywhere soon.

After a round of polite coughing and watch-tapping failed to have any effect, Crazy Legs and G-Dawg started clipping in and out very noisily and ostentatiously. The fusillade of cleats on pedals sounded like a drive-by shooting in Compton and OGL finally took the hint and we were off.

I dropped towards the back of the group where I found Big Dunc and we had a chat about the Dauphine and Chris Froome’s attack to win Stage 5 to Vaujany. We agreed it was hugely impressive, but unfortunately he still looks far too ungainly and awkward on a bike, all sharply jutting limbs and staccato movements, like a preying mantis trying to charge through treacle.


 

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It’s almost as funnily-embarrassing as watching pure climbers sprint, as evidenced by Ilnur Zakarin’s recent relegation during the Tour de Romandie and so perfectly highlighted by Bardet and Pinot’s wobbly fight for the line on Stage 6 of the Dauphine.

I think OGL has started to take note of low-key grumblings about riding the same routes week in and week out as, for a bit of a change we soon found ourselves swooping down into the Tyne Valley, although the long, looping descent was rather spoiled by too many cars travelling much too slowly and getting in our way.


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As we levelled out along the valley floor, Sneaky Pete was already starting to worry about the climb out the other side again and wondered if there was a way this could be magically avoided. I suggested a cable-car solely for cyclists, or perhaps a funicular railway which would not only meet the needs of weak-legged local cyclists, but could be a tourist attraction in its own right.

We were enjoying the quiet ride along the banks of the Tyne, the water off to our left looking glassy and eerily placid and expected this to continue along the closed river road we’d taken a few weeks back when G-Dawg was leading. OGL had other ideas however and we were soon climbing out of the valley again to reach the imposing barrier of the A69 – four busy lanes of thundering, high speed traffic we had to find some way across. Oh great, real-life Frogger.

Our ill-considered route led us onto a footpath that petered out after a few metres, forcing everyone down a steep kerb to pick our way along the narrowest of hard shoulders where we were barely separated from the traffic that whistled past, oblivious to our presence and dangerously close.

A couple of hundred metres further on we were able to find a crossing point and finally in ones and twos, we were able to dash across the road in the short gaps between the hurtling lumps of steel.


 

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We resumed climbing up the other side, finally escaping the valley and reaching recognisable, more travelled roads. We split the group at this point, with the faster, longer, harder group climbing up the village of Ryal via the back roads and avoiding the infamous Ryals climb we’re all looking forward to tackling on the Cyclone next week.

At the crossroads in the village we regrouped and waited for Mad Colin to appear after apparently puncturing on the ascent. Taffy Steve took this opportunity to force more air into his own rear tyre which was becoming noticeably squishy, hoping that this was only because the valve had been partially open and not the consequence of a slow puncture.

We set off again and dropped down the hill, swung a sharp left and began the approach to the Quarry Climb. Positioning himself for a heroic, climbing action-shot, Taffy Steve noticed my on-board camera was pointing downward at an odd angle. As the quickly appointed Key Grip of SLJ Film and Photography Productions LLC, he gave me directions as I tried fiddling with the camera, only to find the mount had worked itself loose and it was sliding about on the saddle rails.

Taffy Steve rode alongside to lend a hand with a bit of camera jiggling of his own, even as the pace increased, the road started to rise and we closed rapidly on the Quarry Climb. We had everything lined up as good as it was going to be as we hit the steepest ramp and I stood on the pedals and began to accelerate upwards, only to hear the tell-tale tinkling noise of one of the bolts on the camera mount finally working free to bounce off my frame and down to the road.

I was hoping everything would hold together long enough to crest the rise, but it wasn’t to be and upward progress was aborted as the camera jettisoned itself and clattered away. I reached the top and rolled back down to retrieve it, stuffing it unceremoniously into a back pocket before climbing back up the hill.


 

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NOVATEK CAMERA: “Ouch that hurt – oh well, at least I landed on my back. Hold on … who is this weird looking feller? No, no don’t pick me up …no! Aargh, not the back pocket, no…”

The others had pressed on, but Taffy Steve was waiting and we tried to re-join the main group who were in full flight, the smell of cake and coffee spurring their efforts on. We gave futile chase for a while, until Taffy Steve sat up, his tyre once again losing air and his rear wheel starting to rumble sur la jante.

We pulled over and after much searching finally located a tiny puncture in the tyre carcase where the air was slowly bubbling through. We were both convinced the hole was just a few inches past the valve and as Taffy Steve stripped out the inner tube  we started looking for the damage on the inner surface of the tyre to check there wasn’t a thorn or some other piece of nastiness still lurking there mischievously.


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Try as we might we couldn’t locate the hole, despite working backwards and forwards either side of the valve. In a fit of desperation Taffy Steve inflated the tube again and began a painstaking search across its entire surface area. Nothing.

I was beginning to think we were both going mad when he forced yet more air into the tube and finally was able to hear the tell-tale whisper of escaping air and locate the infinitesimally small nick in the rubber – almost exactly opposite the valve and as far away from the area we’d been concentrating our searches on as you could possibly get. Idiots.

Taffy Steve made certain the tyre was clean and clear and swapped the tube out. A few blows from his mighty frame pump and we were back underway and heading for much deserved coffee and cake.

We were pretty much the last to arrive and fittingly the last to leave, long behind everyone else – although we did pick up Sneaky Pete for the return leg home.

For some reason the trip back was punctuated by a discussion about Evel Knieval, the American stunt motor-cyclist, infamous for multiple crashes, broken bones and threatening to jump the Grand Canyon in a steam-powered rocket. He was quite a big deal when I was growing up and garnered a lot of attention with his fancy-dan white leather cat-suit, like a poor man’s Elvis.

It didn’t take a massive leap of imagination to wonder if Eddy Merckx and cycling in general hadn’t missed a publicity trick – with his dark quiff and sideburns, King Ted would have made a suitably convincing “Belgian Elvis”. I can easily picture him in a white leather cat-suit bedecked with rhinestones and a long flowing cravat streaming out over his shoulder as he pedalled along singing Hound Dog. Uh-huh, thank-you-very-much.

There was only time for me to giggle childishly when Taffy Steve asked Sneaky Pete if he wanted to be taken up the dirt alley (he politely declined) and we were onto and then through the Mad Mile and I was spinning off to make my own way home. Another decent ride in the bag and just long enough to have my yearly total ticking over to 2,000 miles.


YTD Totals: 3,219 km / 2,000 miles with 31,142 metres of climbing