Plague Diaries – Week#22

Plague Diaries – Week#22

Seven Nation Army

What a mizzly, horrible start to the day. The cloud was low over the hills, weeping fine drizzle in enough volume that I kicked a rooster tail of spray off my rear wheel descending the Heinous Hill and received a most unwelcome and unpleasant, early morning douche for my troubles.


I’d gone for the lightest jacket I own, reasoning I’d be able to to ditch it fairly early on in the ride, if the weather forecast was to be believed. It served its purpose and I was grateful for the extra layer of protection for what turned out to be a fairly miserable start to proceedings.

I arrived at the meeting point to find the long AWOL Taffy Steve, not fully recovered from his rotator cuff injury, but keen to start riding again. As he said, the power data didn’t lie and he now had all the strength of an anorexic, pre-pubescent at the end of a long fast. (And with none of the accompanying weight advantages either.) The Red Max and Mrs. Max have started running a well-received starters group parallel to our standard runs and Taffy Steve had been persuaded this would be the perfect re-introduction to group rides.

Various complaints about the weather in August led someone to claim that it was actually the wettest month in the North East of England, an assertion that failed to win much support. Post-ride research suggests the wettest month is actually November which has 10mm, more precipitation than August. To be fair though, with 60mm of rain on average, an amount shared with several other months, August is not that far behind. If that wasn’t depressing enough, it seems we also enjoy a rather paltry 1,445 sunshine hours per year. The inference seems to be to make the most of it.

I carefully avoided he front group this week and, when they couldn’t make their numbers add up to the magical, mystical six, it was G-Dawg who bravely stepped forward to take one for the team. I’m sure he made a better fist of it than I did last week.

I looked to be heading out in the third group when, for unknown reasons, the Big Yin pulled out and returned. Careful of another trap, I checked the composition of the second group, Crazy Legs, Aether, Ahlambra, Richard of Flanders and the Ticker. Yeah, I could probably live with that. I pushed up and joined them, filling out the full complement of six and away we went.

Just past Dinnington and pelted by a sudden shower of rain, we stopped to make some adjustments to gear, pulling on jackets arm warmers and gilets. I’d only just ditched the jacket so stood pat.

Moments later, having crested Berwick Hill and heading downhill at pace, the Ticker and Richard of Flanders pulled to a sudden stop and the rest of us whipped past wondering why we were stopping yet again.

We eventually reformed and pressed on, following Aether’s plan that took our standard run home from Belsay and reversed it. On the front with Crazy Legs, passing through Walton, we both stuck out an arm and called “left” before swinging through the turn. Ahlambra and Aether followed, the Ticker tried and found Richard of Flanders in a world of his own and intent on heading straight on. Collision narrowly averted, we amused ourselves (we’re easily amused) for the next few miles calling out directions and then pedantically repeating them several times for our daydreaming colleague.

“Left here. Richard, we’re going left.”


“Right here. Which way are we going Richard?”

“That’s right. Right.”

Riding with Crazy Legs behind the Ticker, we spent time speculating about his pale blue Rapha jersey, proudly emblazoned with Push Cartel, trying to work out if there was some sort of Columbian connection and what it was exactly that they were pushing.

Curiosity became to much for Crazy Legs, so he eventually asked and we learned that Push Cartel was probably the poshest bike shop in the whole of Ambleside (I suspect the claim is justified, as I can’t imagine there’s a lot of competition.)

In fact, it’s probably incorrect to call Push Cartel a bike shop at all. According to their own website it’s actually, “the bespoke cycle atelier of the Lake District” who, if I understand correctly, don’t have stock to sell, but a “carefully curated portfolio of class leading brands.” Yer what?

Mind you, their “curated brands” include Cinelli, Cipollini, Parlee and Look and it was obviously these shiny bling-bikes that had drawn the Ticker, like a moth to the flame, to visit the store. That I could understand, we all like a bit of bike porn, such as the Cipollini RB1K – modestly branded as “The One” and representing as fine an example of bike porn as you’re likely to find:

Still, I really couldn’t say why the Ticker felt the need to buy the Push jersey and be associated with such pretentious marketing claptrap, perhaps it was the price of entry, or maybe exit?

Mention of Cipollini prompted Crazy Legs to ponder turning up at the club time trial in one of the Lion King’s (in)famous skinsuits. I suggested it was more likely someone turned up in a Lion King onesie than a Lion KIng skinsuit and we left it there.

The Lion King in … err. .. tiger stripes?

I pushed onto the front alongside the Ticker as we dropped down “Curlicue Hill” and pushed out along the Font Valley heading toward Mitford. Here I learned our unexpected stop earlier had been caused by a pesky wasp infiltrating the Ticker’s helmet and stinging him on the napper.

Still smarting from the infernal blow, he hadn’t dared look at the damage although Richard of Flander had offered to inspect the wound.

“He probably just wanted to cut a big cross in your head and suck the venom out,” I suggested. “Anyway, if you take your helmet off and your head swells, you’ll never get it back on.”

The aforementioned Richard of Flanders then took over at the front to lead us carefully down the Mur de Mitford, but obviously not carefully enough, as he locked his wheels up on a patch of diesel at the bottom and slid sideways to the bottom of the hill, where he came to a juddering stop just before the junction.

“Which way?” he queried, having regained at least some form of composure and he started to edge toward the left. “Right, Richard, right!” Surely, I thought, we’d done this routine to death already?

We climbed to and through Mitford and up to the Gubeon, which presented us with a straight run through to the cafe rendezvous at Kirkley. With the imagined scent of cake and coffee in the wind, I worked with Crazy Legs and the Ticker, swapping turns on the front to build our pace. Our group of six quickly became five … then four … then there was just the three of us in an exhilarating, long blast to the cafe.


There we found Captain Black and Goose, who hadn’t managed to form a group and had ended up riding as a pair, which is fitting as we often project them as an old, married couple. As Captain Black dryly noted, it was also the perfect opportunity for him to ride around and be talked at for a couple of hours.

The Ticker appeared, his head still “knacking” and told us Aether had just pulled the stinger out of his scalp, which suggests he was done-in by a bee rather than a wasp. He may also have been riding around with the stinger continuously dosing him with venom just to keep the the edge on his pain.

Crazy Legs suggested what he needed was a helmet with a bug mesh, marveling how well such a feature can trap a wasp in place, in the perfect position to sting you repeatedly.

We then had one of those entertaining, surreal conversations that started with Crazy Legs listing all the things he stuffs in his jersey pockets, up to, but not excluding an elephant, if he’s to be believed. This led to a discussion about the film Hannibal Brookes, which included a scene where it was claimed elephants couldn’t walk backwards, which reminded Crazy Legs of his claim that horses can only swim in a straight line and that, if you chased them into the North Sea, they’d just have to keep going “until they hit Norway.”

The Hannibal Brookes name check brought recollections of Oliver Reed’s (too numerous to mention) drunken appearances on talk shows, which led in turn to a discussion about George Best, which ended when G-Dawg joined our table and predicted Man City were going to win the Champions League. He must have taken over duff prognostication duties in the absence of the Garrulous Kid as, mere hours after this pronouncement, Man City were duly dumped out of the competition.

With the back of our new jersey’s adorned with twin parallel white stripes, Crazy Legs had us adapt Seven Nation Army as a club anthem. A somewhat bemused Goose recognised the riff we bellowed and banged out on the table, but didn’t know what it was called, or who the artist was.

“Turn around,” Crazy Legs instructed me, then, channeling his inner Roy “Cathphrase” Walker, pointed at my back and urged Goose to “Say what you see, just say what you see”

“Err … skinny ass ugly fecker?” I supplied helpfully.

But Goose was unmoved and sure he could live perfectly happily without knowing who sang Seven Nation Army.

On departing most went left, but I turned right, planning to head through Ponteland and home, but I caught the back of our starters group and tagged along for the ride, up and down Berwick Hill and through Dinnington.

I had a brief chat with the Red Max who declared I was going to have the most leisurely and enjoyable ascent of Berwick Hill ever. And he wasn’t wrong.

Approaching Dinnington a lone cyclist buzzed past the group and I watched and waited for the inevitable. The Red Max’s homing radar whirred a little, then locked on and he kicked off a mad-ass pursuit. Anticipating the inevitable, I dropped onto his wheel and let him tow me across the gap to the lone cyclist, then, as the Red Max sat up to drop back to the group, I just kept going and started my solo ride home.

Love at First Bike

Love at First Bike

A guest blog by Tony Clay

Some people remember and like to reminisce about their first love, the smallest details recalled with pinpoint accuracy, burned and burnished in vivid, Kodachrome memory. Some people constantly hearken back to their school days, sometimes seen as the zenith of their life, the time when they were at their happiest.  For others, their powerful, memorable moments came attending the birth of their children (personally, although indelibly burned on my cerebral cortex, it was an experience I’d rather forget – I’ve never felt more useless and powerless, but that’s just me).

For others though … well, apparently, they can recall their first proper bike in glorious, intimate and scarily forensic detail.

Hmm, I remember my first proper bike. It was blue … or was it red? I know it had two wheels and a saddle and … handlebars? It did, didn’t it?

Luckily then, you don’t have to rely on my ever-fallible memory to fill a blerg post reminiscing about the dim and distant detail and provenance of my first bike, we’ve brought in an outside obsessive to do all that for us.

You may recall leaving this particular obsessive on the road to Hexham, astride a borrowed bike, but startled by the revelation of briefly riding a real racing bike.  This was an experience that lit a fire that burns to this day.

We pick up the story shortly after this transformative event.

SLJ 28.05.2020

So, I had survived my first real bike ride, our 50-mile trip to Hexham in the summer of 1974.

Aye, I was hooked. I hung onto Dick Taylor’s Raleigh Clunker™ for as long as possible, but I only managed to eke out about 3 weeks before he started getting impatient. And he was a very Big Lad!

A search for my own bike began.

The first and most obvious step was to go to our (very) Local “Bike” Shop, Tommy Braunds. Well, I say bike shop, but it just happened to sell bikes alongside toys, model kits, dolls, prams and other assorted odds and ends. We used to pass it most days on the way home from school.

There was a lovely purple and chrome 5-speed Carlton Corsa in the window, £55. But my Dad wasn’t prepared to shell out that much for something that he thought might just turn out to be a short-lived fad. [SLJ: by the magic power invested in me via Google, I can tell you that £55 then is equivalent to £576.99 today. Well, sort of, approximately.]  

Continuing my search, I found a bike that I fancied in our ‘Littlewoods Catalogue’, I can’t remember the make, but it was 10-speed, bright green and was £2 a week for 39 weeks. As my pocket money was only £2.50 a week, and most of that already earmarked for Airfix model kits and the latest singles and LP’s, it was out of my reach.

Continue searching…

Word came that a lad at our school, Dave Curry, had ‘some’ bikes that he might sell for a couple of quid. He lived not far from me, so I wandered down to his one evening and found him in his backyard, completely surrounded by frames, wheels and components. It transpired that he was probably one of the first ‘re-cyclers’ as most of his stuff had been gathered from derelict houses (we lived on the edge of a slum clearance area), skips and, in the case of my eventual frame, the local (heavily polluted) river Team.

I knew it had come out of the river because of the stinky black mud still lurking inside the bottom bracket, seat tube and fork steerer. Still, I had a frame, and it only cost me £1.50. I’m not sure of the make, possibly a Raleigh, Sun or BSA, but it was sound and had half chrome front forks. Class!

Dave dug out some additional parts from his “bike store” (a.k.a. the coal shed) and I was set. Over the next couple of weeks, I cleaned up the frame, gave it a coat of ‘rattle-can’ paint, and polished up the rusty bits. They were all chromed steel, so just needed a few hours with the wire wool and Autosol. Some parts I had to buy new including a rear mech, a Huret Svelto at a whole £2.50, the cheapest you could get, but very simple and reliable.

When complete, my bike had mismatched front and rear brakes, a saggy leather saddle and an alloy stem with steel handlebars. I found out later that this combination of steel and alloy was actually quite dangerous as the alloy stem doesn’t hold the steel bars securely and they can slip, often prompting an unscheduled trip to the dentist. Fortunately, this never happened to me.

Still, it was my bike and rode it as often I could.

Gradually, bit by bit (quite literally) I managed to improve it by finding good second -hand kit, or occasionally a new part, after I’d saved up a bit and I started swapping the old stuff out.

Fiddling about with my bike so much, often breaking it down to ball-bearing level and rebuilding it, had made me quite handy at fixing them and I could make a fair job of truing a wheel. I ended up working on most of my mate’s bikes too.

I’m not quite sure of how it came about but, one day I got a phone call from my Aunty who had gone to school with Mrs. Braund, Tommy’s wife. Tommy, the eponymous owner of my LBS, had died in his shop of a heart attack. His wife had heard I was handy with bikes and she needed a Saturday mechanic, £4 a day and 10% discount on all bike stuff, (although sadly not Airfix Models!) [SLJ: Once again, Google suggests about £41.96 in today’s money].

I had a wage! I could now start thinking about getting some real kit and started saving.

The first significant upgrade was when I bought a pair of ‘sprint wheels’, Mavic rims and Campagnolo Nuovo Tipo hubs, £35 [SLJ: that’s £367.18 today, you bloody spendthrift!]

Even though the ‘tubs’, Hutchinson Aguiras at £2.50 each, were the worst I ever, ever had, like tractor tyres and a nightmare to repair, riding on the light wheels, even with the dodgy tubs, was great.

A really key moment was when I spotted a real bargain in a local second-hand shop. I’m sure he didn’t know what he had, when I bagged a fully chromed Reynolds 531 Condor with a Campagnolo Nuovo Record groupset, Universal Brakes, Cinelli bars and stem with sprints and tubs, all for the princely sum of just £30. To put that into perspective, a brand-new Raleigh Chopper back then was about £65 [SLJ: £681.90! No wonder I could never afford one].

The seat tube on the Condor was 22 ½ inches and way too big for me, but I had a ‘pukka gen’ racing bike and did a fair amount of miles on it.

Denton’s Cycles (227/9 Westgate Road, Newcastle) [SLJ: Once, but sadly no more] was always the place to go for quality kit and we’d spend hours drooling over the unaffordable bikes and all the shiny components on display.

It was there that in February 1976 my Dad bought me a beautiful sky-blue Denton frame for my 16th Birthday, and it was the correct size too – 21 inches. Full Reynolds 531, double butted tubing with Campagnolo forged ends and fitted with a Stronglight headset for £65… SIXTY FIVE QUID just for the frame?! My Dad nearly had a bloody seizure! [SLJ: well, I’m not surprised, he could have bought a new Raleigh Chopper for that!]

1975 Denton

So, I stripped all the kit off the Condor, thoroughly cleaned, polished and lubed it all and transplanted it onto the Denton. It made a really nice bike. A very dear friend of mine, sadly no longer with us, had started racing in the early 50’s when kit was in extremely short supply after the war. He once told me, ‘Nivvor hoy owt away!’ and, over the years I’ve pretty much stuck to that maxim.

Never throwing anything away was brilliant in one way, as I’m now using some of that exact same kit from the Condor/Denton to renovate a 1976 Team Raleigh, meaning I don’t have to pay extortionate ‘Eroica’ inflated eBay prices for second-hand 70’s kit.

But on the flip side, my flat is full of box after box of components and bits and pieces that, realistically, may never get used [SLJ: Ahem … may never get used???] But there is another plus side. Last year a guy posted on a vintage bike Facebook page that he was desperate for a lock nut for a 1970’s Campagnolo Record rear hub to complete a renovation. Of course, I had one. I let him have it for the cost of postage. Where did I have to send it? Victoria, Australia!

I had no idea about structured training and just enjoyed being out on ‘me bike’. Alone or in a small group, sometimes with SLJ, I’d ride to the coast or down to the lovely city of Durham. At Durham we would sit on the banks of the River Wear, not the River Tyne, as “whistling genius” Roger Whittaker would have you believe in ‘Durham Town (The Leavin’)’.

We’d also go up into the Silver Hills that rose up from the Team Valley in Gateshead and in our young, teen imaginations we were in the Alps and Pyrenees, battling it out ‘mano a mano’ with Merckx and Gimondi up the Iseran and Tourmalet. The rides were usually a good couple of hours long and I gradually got fitter and more skilled at bike handling.

Then one weekend, near what is now ‘Beamish Open Air Museum’, we happened upon an actual bike race. It whizzed past us all bronzed limbs, rainbow coloured peloton and sparkling spokes and looked so exciting.

Now, I could really fancy having a go at that …  


This afternoon I’ve just sorted out a guy with a 1980’s Campagnolo Super Record seat pin clamp bolt, and he’s in Pennsylvania!

Bryter Layter

Bryter Layter

Club Run, Saturday 9th April, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  118 km/73 miles with 1,128 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 43 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.9 km/h

Group size:                                         20 riders no FNG’s

Temperature:                                    11°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bryter layter


Main topic of conversation at the start:

The Prof was once again sporting his rubberised canvas workman’s gloves, much to the delight of Crazy Legs who’d missed their grand unveiling last week and now wanted to know if we’d be stopping along the route to trim hedges and do a bit of impromptu gardening.

G-Dawg had been tempted to engage in a bit of one-upmanship and wear Mrs. G-Dawg’s heavy duty gardening gauntlets which he described as having cuffs that come up well past the elbows, but sense, or perhaps the limited space in his back pocket prevailed.

The Prof compounded his eccentric image by slipping off the gloves to reveal he wore but one single inner liner under them. Perhaps he alternated this left to right to make sure he always had at least one warm hand?

He then complained that this blog had ridiculed his gloves for being orange, when they were in fact fuchsia pink. I somehow feel he’s missing the point if he thinks the exact shade of the gloves was the source of our amusement.


work gloves

The Red Max revealed the Monkey Butler Boy had been allowed to go out for his first ride sans parental guidance yesterday, despite the obvious concerns of his Mum. He’d completed a ride of over 50 miles and returned safely, but as Red Max concluded, even if he’d become lost it would have been a valuable lesson. I seem to recall the Apache tribe had a similar form of child upbringing, letting them put their hands in a fire because that’s how they learn that fire hurts and is dangerous.

A very hungover OGL rolled up having been out the previous night for some celebration or other for the King of the Grogs. He was able to update us about the status of Plumose Pappus, last seen painting the café red from a deep wound in his arm. Luckily nothing was broken and no plastic surgery was required, but the elbow is now held together by over twenty stitches like a bad piece of macramé.

OGL then informed us the local council were a little irate at our misuse of the Great North Road Cyclemaze and Deathtrap™ and one angry local resident had started taking pictures of scofflaw cyclists daring to ride on the roads. I can just imagine the pitchforks being sharpened and residents Faecesbook pages starting to burn up.

I sometimes wonder if all the general public hate cyclists.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Captain Black complained about over-heating having dressed appropriately for the deluge forecast by AccuWeather that never actually arrived and he had to be enticed out a corner where he was railing loudly about how they should “re-name their bloody site “INaccuWeather.”

G-Dawg owned up to inflicting an inappropriate ear-worm on Crazy Legs, whose usual selection of punky-new wave-alternative had been subverted by a loud rendition of MOR hen-night staple, “Dancing on the Ceiling.” The inspiration for this had been G-Dawg’s retelling of encountering a commercial van emblazoned with the legend: “Lino Ritchie – Flooring Contractor” complete with the unforgettable tagline “Is it me you’re looking for…”

(Edit: Or according to one commentator possibly, “is it me your looking floor” which is even worse)

For cheesiness this ranks up there with female tiling contractor, “Bonnie Tiler” or the D.C. Poultry Farm vans that bear the tagline, “Poultry in motion.”

We pondered whether G-Dawgs heartbeat was calibrated in beats per hour, or maybe per day. He did remind us of his “funny turn” last year though, when like a bad house re-mix his heart rate had inexplicably hit 225 beats per minute and how for a brief period he was able to completely baffle medical science.

Crazy Legs had been absent last week due to a big family gathering in London from where he’d returned full of wry observations about the differences between “us” and “them down there.” He also came back flushed with multiple successes while playing Cards Against Humanity, and felt he was so good at the game he was wondering if there was a semi-pro circuit he could join.

He then mentioned an obituary for “some dead Country and Western singer” (Merle Haggard) where the writer suggested you hadn’t lived unless you’d heard him perform. It has to be said that Crazy Legs was wholly and completely unconvinced.

This led to a wide ranging discussion about music, dancing, if Harry Connick Jnr ever lived down the burden of being labelled as the new Sinatra, the relationship between Nick Hornby and Bruce Springsteen and ultimately – ever divisive little Bobby Dylan. Keel piped up to reveal he’d actually seen Bob Dylan live and when I asked if he’d seen “Good Dylan” or “Bad Dylan” cryptically replied, “Half and half.”

Ride 9th April

The Waffle:

I woke to the rain drumming its fingers impatiently on the roof, promising yet another wet and cold club run, with conditions perhaps miserable enough to match last week for sheer bleakness and discomfort.

I was then faced with the choice between the summer bike and the potentially more comfortable, but less fun winter bike, complete with mudguards. Oh well, skin is waterproof and bikes can be cleaned, it wasn’t that difficult a choice after all.

By the time I rolled out encased in waterproof jacket and overshoes the rain had eased to a fine drizzle, but the roads were awash, the spray was flying and I was grateful for all the protection I could get.

I eased gently down the hill beneath a sky banded in distinct layers of cloud, from light to dark like a giant monochrome Neapolitan. Pewter clouds overlaid a silver base, while the whole was capped by a thick, dark layer of ominous, brooding graphite that looked heavy with the potential for more serious rain. Yet, off to the west patches of blue were starting to appear with the fleeting promise of improved weather.

I made good time and arrived very early at the meeting place, circling around the block a few times until others started to show. Surprisingly the rain had stopped and the sky lightened enough to suggest we were no longer in danger of a downpour. I took a gamble and slipped off and stowed the rain jacket.

As we pushed off, clipped in and set out I dropped in alongside Moscas, discussing how it was still too cold for shorts despite the numerous showings of pale flesh and goose-pimpled legs –those around me must be more hardened, or simply lulled into believing it is actually summer just because we’ve passed some totally arbitrary calendar milestone.

Today was definitely a one where we could prove Horner’s Theorem: the direct and measureable relationship between the number of shiny, posh and clean carbon bikes out on a spring or autumn morning and the number of crap-covered farm tracks, pothole and gravel strewn roads, gates and cattle grids OGL will “accidently” include in our ride.

We deviated from one of our more normal routes, ostensibly to recce the course for a race tomorrow that a few of group were competing in, but in reality more as a punishment for those who dared risk riding without mudguards – or smuguards as I commonly refer to them in these situations – given the superior, contented looks on the faces of those who have them.

Mud was very much the order of the day, the roads were filthy and caked so deep in places that I was surprised they hadn’t been ploughed and planted. Bikes and riders were quickly pebble-dashed with a fine layer of wet grime, slimy mud and whatever effluvia had been washed out of the fields to liberally coat the tarmac such a disturbing and distasteful shade of brown.

A very hungover OGL was soon tailing off the back on a long but fairly moderate uphill grind and never seemed to regain control of the group.


While waiting for him to re-join at a junction I was able to admire Richard of Flanders new saddle, a harlequin patterned Cinelli number he liked the look of, but declared was actually bloody uncomfortable.

We then learned about his plans for future bike upgrades while Taffy Steve took him to task for not fully engaging with outrageous Italian pronunciation and exaggerated arm waving:

“Kahm-pahn-nyoh-lo Vell-oh-chay. Badda-bing, badda-boom!”

OGL disappeared for good soon afterwards, slipping quietly away to the café nursing his hangover. We split the group at Dyke Neuk, but I only saw Moscas and the Red Max heading off for a shorter, easier route,  everyone else opting for a longer, harder, faster run which soon had us grinding our way up through Longwitton.

We next hurtled downhill, over some teeth-rattling, filling-loosening speed bumps before hauling hard on the brakes and swinging left along a lane that eventually spat us out at the bottom of Middleton Bank.

An old junker car farted loudly past us and then backfired, releasing a cloud of noxious fumes. The driver redlined it, attacking the hill at maximum revs with the engine clattering and sputtering, coughing and screaming while we all laughed, jeered loudly and egged him on.

The air cleared and a kind of silence had returned before we started our own assault on the slope. As the steepest ramp bit and G-Dawg levered himself up to stomp on the pedals I slipped around him and pushed on off the front, easing as I neared the top so we could regroup. Keel and G-Dawg caught and passed me and I tucked in to follow the wheels.

A fairly large bunch now began homing in on the café and the pace started to ramp up predictably. We held together over the rollers, before the Plank launched a kamikaze attack down the outside and directly into the path of an onrushing car. He quickly switched back to the left hand lane, but his attack seemed to sputter and die out suddenly and he was washed away by a surging front group.

I wasn’t particularly engaged in the sprint as we started up the last rise, so pretty much tried to keep my pace at a steady level, hard enough to hurt somewhat, but without threatening to blow up. I passed a few and a few passed me. Some of those I’d passed managed to recuperate and pass me again, while some who’d passed me faded and were overhauled. It was all a little chaotic and confusing and I have to admit I wasn’t keeping count of who ended up where.


In the café I sat round the table with G-Dawg, Crazy Legs and Taffy Steve talking a massive volume of complete and utter garbage as the rest of our group flowed in and around us, then finished and flowed out, leaving us behind as we waved them away.

The café was almost empty when we finally decided it was time to leave, stopping only to have a chat and reassure the staff that Plumose Pappus was well and recovering and that yes, he is actually more than 14 years old.

As the four of us rolled home Crazy Legs returned to his Cards Against Humanity theme declaring with complete conviction that childishness was the key to winning and that he would easily win simply because he was the most childish amongst us.

At first I was unconvinced, but midway through his argument an immense blob on a big motorbike roared closely past, ruffling G-Dawgs hair and startling him so much he reckoned he’d see a visible heart-rate spike in his Strava data.

“Feck off, you fat fecker!” Crazy Legs screamed petulantly after the impressively loud, already distant motorbike and I held up my hand in resignation and readily admitted he was right all along … he really was the most childish amongst us.

Crazy Legs was now in a very happy place and declared that it had been a great ride. Taffy Steve concluded that this was probably in no small part to OGL’s early departure and suggested we had a whip-round to see if we could encourage him to indulge in a hangover inducing drinking session every Friday.  This sounded remarkably similar to our very cunning plan to nobble Son of G-Dawg in the café sprint and it’s all beginning to sound a bit expensive. Probably worth it though.

Crazy Legs and Taffy Steve turned off and I led G-Dawg through the Mad Mile at a (hopefully) respectable pace before swinging off to head home.

At the next T-Junction I saw a large swarm of riders approaching and signalling that they were turning left in front of where I waited. With the car inside acting like an NFL pulling guard on an end-around and effectively screening me from other road users I swung out behind it to cross the lanes, but was struck simultaneously by vicious cramp in both my left calf and right foot.

I managed to groan and grimace across to the other side and pull up haltingly at the kerb, barely registering or acknowledging that the passing cyclists were the rest of our group who’d left the café twenty minutes ahead of us.

Stretching and flexing until the pain finally faded, I began to pick my way home, although for a few miles I was conscious of a general tightening of the calf muscles and more cramps lurking in the background. In a Crazy Legs inspired moment I became hooked on an ear-worm that pulled me into a song-cycle by The Cramps, while I found myself emptying my water bottle to try and stave off further attacks.


I was well into my 3rd internalised chorus of “Goo Goo Muck” as I climbed the Heinous Hill, only to be stopped mid-song as I was flagged down by a uniformed nurse walking down the hill. I pulled to the side of the road and unclipped wondering if she needed directions, thought I’d dropped something,  or just maybe had a grievance with cyclists she felt an urgent need to express.

“’Scuse me,” she said, “I just wanted to say how much I admire you for riding up this hill!”

Somewhat taken aback and quite flustered by this unexpected praise I muttered something barely comprehensible about how much I hated the damn slope before pushing off, clipping in and resuming my upward grind, although not I’ll admit without an added spring in my legs.

Maybe not all the general public hate cyclists after all…

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

Stems, scrotums and the melancholy winking dog ride…

Club Run, 27th June, 2015

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                     104km/65 miles with 1,047 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                             4 hours 0 minutes

Group size:                                           33 including at least 4 FNG’s.

Weather in a word or two:               Almost perfect.

Main topic of conversation at the start: Every rider who normally turns up early (i.e. on time) made a point of checking their watches in stunned disbelief as they rode in to find a sizeable crowd of fellow cyclists already gathered and waiting for the off. Before 9.00! Good weather does strange things to people. The majority were even willing to risk their ultra-posh, water-soluble good bikes on what promised to be an exceedingly pleasant day.

OGL spotted an old Cinelli stem on BFG’s new/vintage bike(?) and cheerfully recounted how he had ripped open his scrotum on one during a crash at a track meet. Needless to say that’s one set of scars no one wants to see during the next “show us yours” bragging contest.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: The continuing, philosophical elucidation of the circumstances in which a dog is prone to winking, or smiling, and its propensity to do so, often believed to occur in direct correlation to its need to conduct intensive self-ablutions of a most intimate nature.

The revelation that the world can be divided into those who’ve ever listened to Pink Floyd and those ageing, but still heroic, punk-inspired brethren who feel their soul would just shrivel up and die if they thought a copy of Dark Side of the Moon had ever crossed the threshold into the purest sanctity of their homes.

Remembering laughably bad Top Gear/Dad- rock as epitomised by Toto, REO Speedwagon, Boston, Europe, Foreigner, Journey, Styx, Heart, Berlin. (Shudder).

[The ensuing, Berlin inspired Top Gun verdict was a unanimous whitewash – the Grumman F14 Tomcat: 6, Miss Kelly McGilliss: Nil]

The awkwardness of being mercilessly pwned and ending up as an ultra-embarrassing impediment to your own children, while trying to co-op their favourite online FPS’s.

Ride Profile
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

33 brave lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and set out in perfect weather, warm temperatures, high broken clouds and plenty of sunshine, only occasionally marred by a sometimes challenging breeze. Once again we carefully negotiated the labyrinthine, Heath Robinson death-traps of the new, Great North Road Cycle Way, where Taffy Steve amused himself by twanging the “Rommelspargel” candy-striped poles, to see if he could get them to bang together like some immense Newton’s Cradle.

Having successfully emerged unscathed from our very own version of Yungas Road, I thought we were in the clear when directly in front of me one of Cowin’ Bovril’s tyres detonated with a sound like a Paveway bomb exploding. Luckily I don’t wear a heart monitor as I think the resulting spike might have frazzled it for good.

“Hmm, I suspect someone may have punctured.” Another Engine stated dryly, coasting nonchalantly past.

For some reason the rest of us then felt the need to ride another quarter of a mile to the overpass before stopping to wait for Cowin’ Bovril to repair the damage and catch up. Oh well, at least we got to watch the cars pile past as we languished in their therapeutic exhaust fumes.

Out into the country and more open roads we sped, with a regular rotation of riders at the front as the wind was proving somewhat more of an impediment than expected. I caught up with The Red Max who declared he was having un jour sans. The consensus then seemed to be his Forlorn Hope effort would likely be restricted to a 3 mile instead of 5 mile sprint.

We were well into the ride proper when warning shouts of “runner” floated up from the front, closely followed by “dog”. Sure enough, as we all moved to the left of the road a girl jogged lithely past on the right. I looked up, empty road. Looked again, still empty. Finally, and trailing her by about 200 yards, her dog (I assumed it was hers, and not just crazy bad at stalking) lolloped past, almost tripping over its own tongue and panting like the soundtrack to a bad 70’s porn film.

Crazy Legs seemed surprised the dog hadn’t attacked him on sight (I think he feels he’s irresistible to all mammals,) but I countered that the dog was happy and appeared to be smiling at him. This led to a rather long and convoluted discussion of whether dogs can actually smile. Or wink. A discussion we carried on throughout the café stop, much to the bafflement and bemusement of everyone else around us.

“Here’s lookin’ at choo, Crazy Legs”

The group split, with the amblers being promised one of OGL’s magical mystery tours down farm tracks, through gates and across cattle grids, while carefully negotiating flocks of sheep, herds of cows and their assorted effluvia.

The longer ride hadn’t gone far when we were halted by another puncture, poised at the foot of Middleton Bank, and I found myself at the back as we finally got rolling again and began the climb. It was from this vantage point that I first noticed one of our FNG’s, a Dapper Dan in perfectly fitting, laurel green  Café du Cyclist jersey, simple black shorts, retro looking shoes and the most outrageous long socks. He just utterly nailed the look as if he’d been born to it, oozing class and effortless style, and even managing to carry off the socks. The bastard. To cap it all he then capered effortlessly up the climb, and I watched the gap between us slowly widening, even as I was slipping past a long stream of grunting gutter pigs dragging themselves up the outer edge of the road.

One of Dapper Dan's spiritual forebears
One of Dapper Dan’s spiritual forebears

There was a general regrouping as we hammered our way on toward the café, then Crazy Legs kicked up the pace even more and strung everyone out with a massive pull on the front. We hurtled through a road junction, whipping past the amblers who were just emerging wide-eyed and shell-shocked, but otherwise unscathed from their journey into the darkest rural-wilds.

Our group carried its speed through a left and then right switchback before hitting a couple of short, sharp ramps. The Red Max roared up the first, but then sputtered and died as the second incline bit. Having been the first to jump onto his wheel, I swooped around him with a despairing “Noooooo!” and found myself out in front much too early for either my own self-preservation or carefully cultivated wheel-sucking tendencies. (Well, he did warn me he was having a bad day).

With nowhere to hide I kept going, surging over the crest to pelt full-gas down the descent onto the final climb. As we rounded the dog-leg onto the last series of dips and rises G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg zipped away engaged in their own private battle. A bit further on and Dapper Dan whirred past, and then … nothing … no one else was challenging. I think at this point Shouty was comfortably camped on my rear wheel, but for whatever reason she took pity on an old man and stayed there as we pushed on to the café.

With the amblers still trailing someway behind we had were able to nab first place in the queue and we were on to our refills before they eventually rolled in. An incident free run for home then capped a hugely enjoyable ride.

“Well, it made me smile.”

Until next week…

YTD Totals: 3,189km/ 1,981 miles with 35,422 metres of climbing.