Riding the Fine Line between Foibles and Rissoles

Riding the Fine Line between Foibles and Rissoles

Club Run Saturday 5th October 2019

Total Distance: 110 km/68 miles with 1,273 m of climbing
Riding Time: 4 hours 31 minutes
Average Speed: 24.2km/h
Group Size: 20 riders, 1 FNG
Temperature: 14℃
Weather in a word or two: Cool and dry.

Saturday was a grey and cool, but generally still day. Pleasant, but not quite shorts weather (although Jimmy Mac disagreed) and while I needed the extra layer of a windproof jacket for the trip across to the meeting point, it was quickly abandoned and tucked away in a back pocket before we got underway.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

The Hammer complemented someone on a carefully colour coordinated bike and kit, before declaring, “Never trust a cyclist who doesn’t colour coordinate.

Crazy Legs was about to endorse the view when, interrupted by an involuntary thought, he reached up to pat all around his helmet. This failed to satisfy his concerns, so he unbuckled his helmet, picked it off his head and brought it down to eye-level to squint at it and confirm he’d chosen the right one, it matched his jersey and he was suitably colour-coordinated

I had missed Taffy Steve’s triumphal return last week when I was hiding from the early morning rain, but he was back, propped up by Voltarol (other pain relief gels are available), which he’s buying by the case load. He’s determined it’s the only thing making his damaged rotator cuff sufficiently bearable to ride with. Other than that there’s no real treatment beyond physiotherapy which apparently doesn’t include painting and decorating. He knows this, because he tried.

Being unable to lift his arm above waist height, I couldn’t help imagining a series of rooms with beautifully decorated, pristine walls up to an impromptu, free-hand dado-rail height, above which the paint was a clashing, contrasting colour, aged, dirty and scabrous.

Sneaky Pete was also making a return, but his was from a pleasant sojourn on the Côte d’Azur and he asserted he could very easily see himself living there. He’d even managed to fit a sneaky ride into his holiday, having hired a bike for the day.

“The guy in the bike hire shop asked if I was a racer and declared I had racers legs,” he admitted somewhat reluctantly.

“I feel a change in blerg nickname is called for,” Taffy Steve mused, “How does Racer Legs sound?”

It dawned on Sneaky Pete that he’d said something injudicious within my earshot and that, of course, I have absolutely no discretion …

So, Sneaky Pete, or Steel Rigg, or White Stripes, or Racer Legs. Hmm, he’s collecting almost as many monikers as the Garrulous Kid, a.k.a. Zoolander, a.k.a. Helen, a.k.a. Fresh Trim, a.k.a. Jar-Jar Binks etc. etc. ad nasueum.

We were interrupted by a loud noise that sounded exactly like a bus suddenly releasing it’s air brakes, which itself sounds uncannily like a bicycle tyre enduring an unexpected, catastrophic failure. We looked around to see OGL rolling to a stop, as behind him a bus pulled away from he stand.

Long seconds ticked slowly past, tension building, while we wondered which way this audible coin was going to fall, before we heard, “Oh bugger, puncture.”

OGL set about stripping out his punctured front tube and replacing it, while we turned our attention to Mini Miss’ new bike, a sleek, smart looking Liv, aerobike in a dark, purplish-blue. The only awkward thing about it would appear to be the model name, the EnviLiv?

It might be brand new, it might look fantastic, but the EnviLiv did not come with the gears properly set up, so OGL had no sooner repaired his puncture than Mini Miss was leaning on him to fettle her new bike too. There’s no rest for the wicked.

While this was going on in the background, the Hammer outlined our route for the day, which included a climb up the Ryals, for potentially the last time this year. I can honestly say it won’t be missed.

About 20 strong, we decided not to split the group, pushed off, clipped in and rode out. At the traffic lights we checked to see if we were all together and found OGL missing, still stranded where we’d been gathered. He called across that he’d actually blown out the sidewall of his tyre, was heading home for a replacement and would make his own way to the cafe.

One down already, but I’m pretty sure we were all bravely determined not to let it spoil our ride…


I pushed onto the front alongside Jimmy Mac and we led the group out, occasionally calling back to Crazy Legs for directions as, naturally, neither of us had really been paying that much attention to the route outline.

As we took the road to Prestwick, Jimmy Mac started bunny hopping the (ridiculously over-large) speed bumps, encouraged by a chortling Crazy Legs shouting “Olé!” each time he went airborne, while I winced inwardly each time he came thumping down, half expecting his wheels to suddenly disintegrate and collapse under him.



Through the village of Ponteland, Crazy Legs called up, “Listen to all the happy chatter behind.”

“This is serious,” I growled back, “they’re not supposed to be enjoying it.”

“Silence!” Crazy Legs immediately bellowed, “the Ride Leader is disappointed to think you might be having fun.”

For the next minute or so there was an awkward, guilty silence, before the noise burbled up again. Are we that inured to being so thoroughly browbeaten?

Reaching the end of Limestone Lane and after a decent stint of perhaps 15km on the front, I peeled off, swung wide and drifted to the back.

There I found the Hammer, policing the group from the rear and we had a brief chat about possible destinations for another continental invasion next year, with the northern Dolomites being an early front-runner, depending on flights and accessibility.

We also touched on group size and dynamics as well, including how (more by luck than good management) we all somehow managed to bump along, despite being a generally disparate and diverse bunch, each, as the Hammer diplomatically put it, with our own peculiar foibles.

“Yep,” I agreed, ” We all definitely have foibles.”

“And there’s a very fine line between foibles and assholes,” the Hammer remarked sagely, “But somehow it seems to work.”

When we stopped for a comfort break, Crazy Legs declared an impromptu meeting of the Flat White Club, for all those who didn’t want to tackle the Ryals.

“Two coffee stops!” Otto Rocket exclaimed, somewhat scandalised.

“No,” Crazy Legs corrected her, “One coffee stop, one Flat White club meet.”

They’re different.

Apparently.

A little further along and the Flat White Club swung off, leaving the rest of us on the road to the delightfully named, but blink and you’ll miss it, Little Bavington and firmly en route to the Ryals.

Just before the descent to the village, a harsh rumble from my rear wheel heralded an untimely puncture and I pulled to a stop. I urged everyone to keep going, but obviously wasn’t persuasive enough, so they pulled over a little further up the road and Spoons dropped back to help.

As I wrestled manfully, but spectacularly unsuccessfully to prise my tyre off the rim to replace the tube, Spoons unzipped my tool tub to pull out one of my two spares and pump.

After much swearing and skinned knuckles, I finally managed to prise and peel the reluctant tyre from the rim, where it seemed almost to have adhered in place. I think I’ve been rolling on the same tyres for almost two years now and had their replacements ready and hanging in the shed for over a year without ever feeling the need to change them.

Surprisingly the tyre slipped back onto the rim without too much effort, I semi-inflated the tube and slotted the wheel back into the frame. As I did this, Spoons helpfully rolled up the punctured tube and slotted it into my tool tub.

Re-attaching my pump I started trying to inflate the tyre, but was getting nowhere. I unscrewed and reattached the hose. Nothing. I unscrewed the hose, tested the valve, tightened and loosened it and reattached the pump. Still nothing. I swapped my pump for Spoons’ pump. Still nothing. This was frustrating and in danger of turning into the longest tyre change in club history.

I told Spoons to rejoin the group and get everyone moving again, while I tried to channel some inner calm. Alone and feeling less pressured, I stood the bike against a nearby wall, securely attached the pump hose to the valve yet again and gave it a few blows. Success, the tyre started to inflate and slowly harden beneath my prodding thumb.

One slow, painful, puny upper-body cardio-vascular work out later, I felt drained and light-headed, but able to set off in pursuit of the rest of the group. I thought that even if I didn’t manage to rejoin, I might be able to at least see them ahead of me as they scaled the Ryals.

I took the climb through Hallington and rattled down the other side, swerving around potholes, gravel moraines, muddy puddles, a scattered windfall of broken branches and tussocks of wiry grass. Thankfully, I’ve been led to believe this particular track has now been removed from the Beaumont Trophy – and not before time. I couldn’t imagine actually travelling at break-neck speed down this road in a tightly packed, bunch of grizzled pros.

I was spat out at the bottom onto the road that drags its way up toward the Ryals, which rose like a wall in front of me. It was here that I expected to see at least the tail-end of the group battling with the slope, but the road ahead was completely empty. They must really have put the hammer down once they left me.

I dragged myself up the climb (as unpleasant and uninspiring as always) and tried to pick up the pace over the top.

Swinging left onto the road up to the Quarry, I spotted a lone cyclist in front of me. It wasn’t one of our group, but gave me a hare to chase and encouraged me to push the pace up a little more.

I caught him at the top of the slope, exchanging a quick greeting as I swung past and off to the right. Another cyclist coming down the road burned past us both. Perfect timing, now I had another target to chase down and I started to wind up the speed again.

I caught and passed him on the slow drag up to the crossroads, darted across the road with him on my wheel and then worked to open up a gap. I think he’d decided we were in a race too, so he kept the pressure on through the descent and all the way up to the final junction, which was where I think I finally managed to shake him loose.

All the way I was thinking I would at least see remnants of our group, but they were strangely absent and only OGL and a few later-starters were at the cafe when I arrived.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

I was served, found a table to deposit my tray on and went to wash my hands, filthy from wrestling with tyres. I thought our group might have gone left, rather than right at the top of the quarry and then perhaps been held up by a puncture or mechanical. I settled down to read my emails and was halfway through my coffee before the others started to drift in.

Chatting with Jimmy Mac, we finally worked out that they hadn’t taken the climb through Hallington, but looped around the reservoir. Despite my best chasing, I hadn’t seen anyone on the road, because they’d been behind me all along.

The main group were followed in some minutes later by the Flat White ride, looking suitably fortified and quite relaxed. I couldn’t help thinking they’d chosen the right option.

We learned Plumose Pappus had enjoyed his holiday in Thailand, despite the fact (or maybe because) he’d been frequently mistaken for David Beckham. He’d also only narrowly avoided being arrested for loitering, having spent far too long eyeing up the frozen peas in the chilly sanctuary of a 7-Eleven freezer aisle, the only reliable haven he’d been able to find from the persistent heat and humidity.

A phone embargo was placed on the table, as Jimmy Mac had recorded that mornings England’s vs. Argentina rugby game and was desperate to avoid the score. For my part, I’m not convinced the tournament has quite got going yet, despite one or two shock results and I had no expectation of anything but a handsome England win.

Still, with a rugby international to look forward to and late arrival at the cafe, in no small part due to my tyre-fumblings, we were keen to get back on the road and formed up as the first group to head home.


At this point I discovered my rear tyre was flat again and waved the group away while I once more set about replacing the tube. I unhooked the wheel and managed to strip out the tube without any of the early difficulties. Checking the inside of the tyre I found one of natures caltrops, a vicious thorn sticking through the tread. I assume I’d just picked this up and it wasn’t a holdover from my first puncture, but I guess I’ll never know.

I pushed and pinched the thorn out, and unzipped my tool case to get at my pump and spare inner tube … to be confronted by two indistinguishable tubes, the original, punctured one from earlier this morning that Spoons had carefully and helpfully packed away for me and a new, undamaged one.

They both looked identical, pristine and untouched, but which was which. I picked one at random opened the valve and forced some air into it. It seemed to be holding, so I fitted it and wrestled the tyre back onto the rim.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find I’d picked the wrong tube and no matter how hard I worked the pump it never got beyond slightly squishy. Cursing my own stupidity, I set about replacing the tube again … and that’s where the second group to leave the cafe found me, struggling to force the last section of tyre back onto the rim, only to discover all my upper-body strength seemed to have deserted me.

Crazy Legs lent a hand and we finally manged to seat the tyre. I added enough air to get me home (later revealed to be a rather paltry 20 psi) and I was glad to get back on the bike and give my arms a rest.

I had a quick chat with the FNG on the run back, but with time pressing on, left the group early to loop around the opposite side of the airport and shave a few miles off my route home.

I made it back without further incident, but had to leave almost immediately to wander down to the Brassworks at Pedalling Squares, where Patrick had been beavering away on the Peugeot to prepare it for the coming winter.

This gave me a second opportunity to ride up the Heinous Hill in short order, just to round my day off perfectly.

It’s the club hill climb next week. I’m not likely to compete, but I will go along to shout on the kids. Before that though, I’ll be wrestling with tyres once again, it’s way past time to slap those pristine, new Vittoria Rubino’s on Reg.


YTD Totals: 6,144 km / 3,817 miles with 81,078 metres of climbing

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Farmers, pirates, they’re all the same really

Farmers, pirates, they’re all the same really

Club Run, Saturday 21st September, 2019

Total Distance: 113 km/70 miles with 1,096m of climbing
Riding Time: 4 hours 17 minutes
Average Speed: 26.3km/h
Group Size: 30 riders, 3 FNG’s
Temperature: 20℃
Weather in a word or two: Lambent

Ride Profile

Back to self-propelled methods for getting across to the meeting place, ironically I found myself 10 minutes early, compared with last week when I’d driven there and been 10 minutes late.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I found G-Dawg and Crazy Legs sitting on the wall, enjoying the warm sunshine and chatting with an FNG.

“Interesting documentary on Fleetwood Mac on BBC4,” the FNG opined, “They were all at it with each other, well all bar the drummer.”

“Drummers, eh? They are a breed apart,” I suggested.

“I’m a drummer,” the FNG replied.

“Oh.”

“Yeah, drummers, there a bit like goalies,” Crazy Legs volunteered, “Oddly different.”

“I’m a goalie, too.” the FNG asserted, “although I sometimes play left-back, because I kick a ball left-footed.”

At this point I thought it was probably polite not to express any kind of view of left-footers and maintained a diplomatic silence.

The FNG then told us he’d been doing a lot of riding in London, in a group who seemed to do nothing but ceaselessly circle Regent’s Park at break-neck speed, all on hugely expensive bikes and all kitted out with the latest Rapha gear – sort of all dressed-up with no where to go. It should make anyone who lives within a stones throw of our outstanding countryside eternally grateful – even if the roads can sometimes resemble the Somme after a particularly intense, heavy artillery stonk.

Our interlocutor then said he’d been tempted to try some Rapha kit himself and had wandered into one of their shops, boutiques, sorry, err … clubhouses to browse their wares.

The decided racing-snake fit had prompted him to ask the staff if he was in the wrong department and if they had any adult clothing, before he decided that it just wasn’t mean’t to be…

Aether had planned the route for the day, with a trip down the Ryals before the climb back through Hallington. I like this route, the weather was good, my knee had been set free of all protective bracing and all was well with the world. It promised to be a good one.


Off in the first group, I dropped in alongside Ovis as we followed Caracol and the Cow Ranger out at a decidedly brisk pace. Then, approaching the airport, the Cow Ranger managed to ship his chain (something that’s becoming a common occurrence) and as he dropped back I pushed up to replace him on the front.

“So, that planned chain drop worked well again,” Caracol noted as I replaced the Cow Ranger. I agreed it was a good trick and one I’m keen to master.

Heading toward Darras Hall, home to posh people, lumbering 4×4’s and (what passes as royalty in these parts) Premiership footballers, young and old – Ovis replaced Caracol on the front and on we went.

Someone called for a break, then, a bit further on we stopped again, potentially to reform once the second group joined us, but then we dithered and then we pressed on without them. So a fairly standard day for decisive decision making then.

By the time we’d dropped down the Quarry and reached the top of the Ryal’s, G-Dawg had worked his way to the back of the group, conscious of the speed-wobbles he’s experienced on the Ryal’s descent and giving himself room to manoeuvre, should the worst happen.

As we approached drop an older looking feller topped the crest on a sit-up-and-beg bike laden with panniers, completely unruffled by the long climb and breathing easily.

“Got to be an e-bike,” Crazy Legs observed and so it was, making a mockery of the Ryal’s fearsome reputation.

It was our turn for some fun then, tipping over the edge to let gravity have its wicked way with us … wheeee … over 60kph without even trying.

At the bottom, I joined up with Crazy Legs as we took the turn to Hallington. Other riders pressed on for a longer sweep around the reservoir, while ahead of us we saw Ovis, caught between waiting for us to catch him and chasing down Rainman.

We soft-pedalled, waiting for G-Dawg, still alive and chatting animatedly with Otto Rocket and Buster as he caught us up. He confirmed he’d had no issues, but his experiences have instilled a high degree of caution in his approach to the descent.



Our small group then set off to climb up through Hallington and onto the road above Kirkheaton, occasionally fracturing and reforming over the hills. The top road is usually a fast paced, roller-coaster ride, but today there was a stiff headwind and it was tough going.

We scrambled up Brandywell Bank and started to pile on the pace. I dropped in behind Crazy Legs as we took the drop down toward the Snake Bends as he rode down the white lines in the middle of the road to try and find the smoothest passage.

An approaching car forced us back to the left and, after it passed and Crazy Legs swung back into the middle, I accelerated down the inside and kept going as hard as I could until G-Dawg surged past me, quickly opening an unassailable lead.

Everyone else swept passed and I sat up, rolling to the junction where we regrouped, seeming to wait an interminable amount of time before finding space to dart through the heavy traffic and wend or way through to the cafe.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Everyone seems to be looking forward to next weeks World Championships in Yorkshire, especially Rainman, whose national proclivities are to the fore, as he touted the chances of a Dutch successor to Valverde, while simultaneously disparaging any Belgian contenders.

In short order he had built up the chances of Mathieu van der Poel and Dylan van Baarle, while demolishing those of Remco Evenepoel, Greg Van Avermaet and Oliver Naesen.

“Ere, ere,” Caracol pulled him up sharply, his west country burr to the fore, “You can’t possibly go around pronouncing every riders names correctly and expect us to know who you’re talking about!”

There then followed and extended, bizarre discussion about whether the West Country accent was more representative of pirates or farmers, which concluded with the Caracol’s startling conclusion: “farmers, pirates, they’re one and the same really.”

This left us confused and wondering if pirates were the cut-throat homesteaders of the high seas, or farmers were the freebooters of terra firma.

I don’t know, maybe it’s both?

An elder gent from the Vagabonds cycling club was at the cafe with his missus, who was accompanying him on an e-bike. An intrigued Otto Rocket was curious about the e-bike and was offered a chance to try it for herself.

“We don’t actually know her, she just turned up in a taxi,” Crazy Legs quipped as Otto Rocket swung her leg over the frame and disappeared out the car park. The e-biker owner laughed, only ever-so-slightly uneasily.

Otto Rocket duly returned and pronounced the e-bike brilliant. Of course, Crazy Legs had to have a go too, whirring back to the cafe to second the opinion that e-bikes were brilliant. We all agreed they were highly likely to feature in our (not too distant) riding futures.


The ride home once again featured a quickening of the pace as we powered our way up Berwick Hill, but nothing quite so savage and unrelenting as last weeks madness. Still it wasn’t long before I was following G-Dawg through the mad mile, before casting off and striking out for home.

Great weather and a great ride, I wouldn’t object to a few more days like that before the winter takes hold.


YTD Totals: 5,898 km / 3,665 miles with 77,491 metres of climbing

Knee Bother, Pet

Knee Bother, Pet

Club Run, Saturday 7th September, 2019

Total Distance: 56 km/35 miles with 581 m of climbing
Riding Time: 2 hours 22 minutes
Average Speed: 23.5km/h
Group Size:35 riders, 1 FNG
Temperature: 16℃
Weather in a word or two: Bright but chilly

Ride Profile

So, it appears my little, pre-holiday tumble did more damage than I first thought. Three weeks on and my ribs are still sore, but more concerning is my right knee, which started hurting more and more across the four days I rode into work.

I don’t know if I damaged it in the fall, in a separate incident, or if I’d hurt it by unconsciously changing my position in some way to compensate for the rib injury. By Friday I was riding with the knee heavily strapped and that was the order of the day for Saturday’s club run too.

A chilly start meant long-fingered gloves and a windproof jacket for the ride across, which passed without incident with the knee niggling, but bearable.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Jimmy Mac asked if I wouldn’t like to amend my recent tale of woe and tell everyone I’d had a crash, rather than a fall. He suggested crashes are much more macho-sounding, while falls are strictly for toddlers and the elderly. Ah well, if the cap fits … I told him it wasn’t dramatic enough to be called a crash and I was quite content being classed as one of those elderly people prone to “a fall.”

Someone queried if the Monkey Butler Boy would be joining us and we learned from the Red Max that he would be, but only after recovering from a hissy-fit, brought on because he couldn’t find his knee warmers anywhere.

The Red Max explained his progeny was particularly upset because his knee warmers weren’t exactly where he was looking for them, which, apparently was quite remote from where he’d actually put them.

OGL asked if G-Dawg had been watching the Vuelta and especially the brutal, double-digit climb of Los Machucos.

“I wonder what gears they were riding, maybe a 34-32,” he pondered.

“Bunch of pussies!” declared G-Dawg, a man who sees the inner ring as an unnecessary frippery, solely for effete, losers.

“Merckx would be spinning in his grave,” he growled, ” … err, well … if he was dead, that is.”

I wasn’t quick-witted enough to suggest that you’d never find Eddy Merckx spinning in his grave, or anywhere else for that matter. Gurning, honking and grinding a huge gear? Yes, undoubtedly, but surely never spinning.

The Monkey Butler Boy belatedly joined us, sans knee-warmers, but wearing a buff around his neck.

“Oh, could you only find the one knee-warmer then?” Jimmy Mac quipped. I guffawed, but the comment sailed over it’s intended marks head.

In other news, Sneaky Pete reported that Taffy Steve has been missing for the past few weeks because of a nasty torn rotator cuff, once and for all ending his aspirations to be an NFL-calibre starting quarterback. Hopefully he’s on the road to recovery and will be back amongst us soon.

Then we were off a massive turnout of three dozen, when even splitting into two groups didn’t seem enough.

I slotted into the front group behind Crazy Legs and Richard of Flanders and away we went.


I was chatting with the Red Max about how it was still chilly and I wished I’d kept my gloves on, but was becoming more and more distracted by a building pain in my right knee.



As we approached Dinnington, I decided I was doing my knee more harm than good and told Crazy Legs I was aborting and heading for home. The group took a left to follow the planned route, while I kept going, to swing in a wide loop around the airport and pick my way back. It was a shame because I was actually feeling in pretty decent nick.

I found my knee continued to hurt sitting down, but not when I climbed out of the saddle, while my ribs were okay sitting down, but hurt when climbing. It seemed a decent trade-off, so I took my frustrations out on a few climbs on the way back, burning away some excess energy as I attacked the slopes.

Back early, time to rest up and hopefully heal some before trying it all again.


YTD Totals: 5,567 km / 3,459 miles with 73,332 metres of climbing

Resting Bitch Face

Resting Bitch Face

Club Run, Saturday 3rd August 2019

Total Distance: 109 km/68 miles with 1,030m of climbing
Riding Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
Average Speed: 26.2km/h
Group Size:38 riders, 3 FNG’s
Temperature: 24℃
Weather in a word or two: Almost felt like summer!

Ride Profile

A misty start to the day, but there was a promise of much better weather, if only we could avoid the widely forecast thunderstorms.

I pushed away from the kerb and was quickly reaching for my brakes as a car shot past and then cut in front of me, either racing the changing traffic lights, or determined not to be held up by a cyclist descending the Heinous Hill. Once again I was struck with the idea that many drivers have no real understanding of just how fast a descending bike can go. I frequently get cars pulling out of junctions directly in-front of me on the long downhill I use on my commute. This either means a rapid application of brakes, or, if I have momentum and a clear road, a bit of over-taking that I’m sure the drivers think is completely reckless and dangerous.

Here, I just had to engage in a bit of tail-gating, stuck behind a car travelling much slower than I would have been, if I didn’t have to hang on the brakes all the way down. I would like to think the sight of a cyclist louring in their rear-view mirror had an intimidating effect, but I very much doubt my presence even registered.

Luckily the rest of my ride across town was incident free and the sky had even shaken of its milky, misty filter by the time I was climbing back out of the river valley.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point

I found club run irregular and Steven Kruisjwijk look-alike Eon waiting with G-Dawg at the meeting point. Eon suggested this was one of his rare penance rides, when he joins a club run just to ensure he exacts the full value out of his £10 annual membership fees.

“I was expecting more out today, though,” he added.

“Well, it’s early yet, let’s wait and see.”

We didn’t actually have all that long to wait, as numbers kept building until we had almost 40 riders and bikes packed like sardines on the pavement. It was going to be a big, big group.

Crazy Legs spotted a couple hanging slightly back from the fray, determined that they were first-timers and invited them into the fold. They had exotic accents, by which I guessed they weren’t from around these here parts…

“Your not Dutch are you?” I challenged, “Because I think we’ve already exceeded our quota on Dutch cyclists.”

“Yeah, it’s true,” Double Dutch Distaff added.

They seemed rather relieved to be able to claim American citizenship, while at the same time quickly disassociating themselves from the Dutch, while no doubt wondering what bunch of lunatics wouldn’t want more lovely people from the Hollow Lands to come out and ride with them.

“Where are you from anyway?” Crazy Legs wondered.

He was from Wisconsin, the girl from a state not a million miles from Wisconsin, but still a sizeable distance away from America’s Dairyland. (Which is my feeble way of saying I didn’t quite catch her reply.)

“Where’s Wisconsin then, is that in the North, on the border with Canada?”

“Hmm, not quite.”

“Is it in the East then?” Crazy Legs continued, undeterred.

“In the West? The Middle?”

“Kinda, North Central.”

“Oh!” I’m not sure we were any wiser really.

“Are you a Packers fan, though?” I wondered.

“Well, you’ve kind of have to be,” he answered, not especially enthusiastically, perhaps worried I’d think he was secretly Dutch if he claimed to be an ardent Cheesehead.

OGL arrived in time to condemn the unwashed state of the Monkey Butler Boy’s bike. It seemed only natural to progress from there to the state of the Garrulous Kid’s bike and in particular his filthy, grungy chain (well, it is about 3 months since his bike was last serviced, which was when it was last clean.)

“And black socks too!” OGL despaired, “That would have resulted in an instant disqualification in my day.”

“Well, they were actually white when he set out this morning,” G-Dawg quipped, “But with that chain, you know …”

Aether outlined the route for the day and the need to split such a big group into at least two. The first group pushed off and started to form up at the lights, but their numbers looked a little light and someone called for additional riders.

Ah, shit, is this what I really wanted to do after a week of indolence, sitting around a pool doing nothing but eating and drinking? I reluctantly bumped down the kerb and tagged onto the back of the group with a few others. I was going to regret this, I was sure.


I slotted in alongside Plumose Pappus, where we tried to determine if there was any pattern to Eon’s seemingly irregular appearances on a club run. We determined that he probably had a number of different groups he rotates through, smashing each one in turn before moving onto the next one and, sportingly, allowing them all 3 months to recover before he puts in another appearance to repeat the cycle.

We then had an involved, entertaining and engaging conversation about beach volleyball. Hold on, I know what your thinking, but this was actually a conversation about a beach volleyball rather than the sport (game?) of beach volleyball itself. Suffice to say, Plumose Pappus may soon be the proud owner of his very own, completely free, beach volleyball. Why? I hear you ask, but I’ll simply paraphrase his well-reasoned answer: Well, why not?

On the narrow lanes up toward the Cheese Farm, three approaching cars in quick succession pulled over to the side of the road and cheerfully waved us through. Perhaps it was just as well though, as we were churning along like a runaway express. Caracol and Rab Dee had kicked things off, the Garrulous Kid and the Dormanator, Jake the Snake (recently rechristened Jake the Knife by Crazy Legs) had added fuel to the fire and then Eon and Andeven increased an already brutal pace.



From 30kms into my ride to the 55km mark, across 32 different Strava segments, I netted 16 PR’s, culminating in a 20km/h burn up the Trench itself.

Prior to that, we had tackled the Mur de Mitford, pausing briefly at the top to regroup, where the Garrulous Kid was invited to lead us to the Trench.

“Take it to the Trench!” I extemporised, channelling just a teeny bit of James Brown.

The Garrulous Kid hates hills now, so refused, claiming he’d just get dropped on the climb.

“Well, just take us to the bottom of the Trench,” someone suggested. Even better, there was a bridge at Netherwitton, just before the Trench.

“Yeah! Take it to the bridge!” I was quite enjoying myself now. The Garrulous Kid just looked at me blankly with a WTF expression and steadfastly refused to lead us out.

Eon and Andeven then pushed onto the front and off we rolled.

Get up-a, git on upp-ah…

And upp-ah we went-ah … up the Trench, a tight knot of us clustered around Eon’s rear-wheel, while trailling a long, broken tail of discarded riders.

Once more, we stopped to regroup at the top, where the Monkey Butler Boy spotted a small knot of dithering sheep in the middle of the road. It looked like they’d escaped from a nearby field only to discover the grass really wasn’t any greener on the other side. The sudden appearance of wild, potentially dangerous animals gave the Monkey Butler Boy strange, flashbacks to a time when he claimed he’d passed a pack of wolves on this very road. Nobody had the faintest recollection of this, or any idea what incident he was actually referring to. Perhaps they’d been a pack of hounds, he concluded lamely … or vampire sheep, I helpfully suggested.

I took the lead alongside Biden Fecht, who had the great joy of calling out a warning of “Sheep!” as we passed the panicking, evidently non-vampiric, ovine escapees. Anyway, a simple pleasure and one that makes a refreshing change from constantly having to shout out Pots! Gravel! Car! or other, equally mundane cycling hazards.

Half way up Middleton Bank and I was done in by the relentless pace, bad gear choice and rampaging speed. Gapped over the top, I chased fruitlessly for a kilometre or two, before giving up, forming an impromptu, very small and select grupetto with the Monkey Butler Boy to cruise the rest of the way to the cafe. I did still manage a quick dig up and over the rollers – but it was just for forms sake.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

I wandered into the garden, sitting down in time to catch the end of an anecdote in which the usually mild-mannered, happy-go-lucky, Crazy Legs, admitted he’d recently snapped, losing it and going absolutely postal with a driver who’d shouted at him for not riding in a segregated bike lane.

On being told he was a stupid idiot, Crazy Legs had fully admitted the possibility, but suggested that at least he wasn’t going to keel over and die of a heart-attack anytime soon, unlike his fat, lazy, lard-arsed adversary.

Dinger listened with some sympathy, having himself fallen into the trap of hurling childish insults at a “speccy-four-eyes, bastid” driver in the heat of the moment, before admonishing himself with the simple question, “What am I, five again?”

Elsewhere, we learned that a disgruntled Big Yin had been complaining that Stage 18 of this years Tour de France saw Nairo “Stoneface” Quintana climbing up the Galibier in a time that was considerably faster than the Big Yin had managed going down.

Crazy Legs had caught an interview with Marcel Kittel in which he came across as knowledgeable, humorous, likeable and engaging person, suggesting a stint as a TV-pundit wouldn’t be a bad call if he couldn’t get his cycling career back on track.

I thought this would probably have to wait until the unforeseen time when his hair-modelling options inexplicably and improbably dried up. Crazy Legs then wondered what damage Kittel could do to the Alpecin brand, if he suddenly revealed his hair was falling out. I was all for him shaving his head bald and blaming a certain, caffeine-shampoo for the hair loss, but realised this was unlikely as it would severely curtail hair-modelling opportunities.


We found a fantastically ostentatious, bright red Ferrari in the car park as we made to leave. “That’s worth more than my home,” someone quipped.

“It’s worth more than my family,” I assured them.

G-Dawg looked at the car somewhat askance, before shaking his head in dismay. “You’d never fit a bike rack on that,” he concluded dismissively.

And away we went … Even with early departures, it was still a big, big group that set out for home. Things were fine until we took the lane up toward Berwick Hill, noticing the road was closed just past the junction. This didn’t affect us, but seemed to have forced a huge volume of traffic to share the lane with us, some caught behind with no room to pass, while we had to constantly single out, slow down and hug the hedges for the stream of cars approaching from the other end of the lane.

At one point we passed a group of cyclists heading in the opposite direction, being led by a woman who looked fully enraged. I’ve never seen such anger on a bike, although I suppose Crazy Legs may have approached such levels of incandescent fury during his altercations with his lard-arsed adversary.

I wondered aloud what her problem was, maybe the cars stacked up behind, or the the sea of cyclists filtering past? Surely it couldn’t be the weather, which had been beyond even my most optimistic expectations?

“RBF,” Caracol concluded.

“What?”

“Resting Bitch Face,” he clarified.

Not a phrase I was overly familiar with, but apparently a recognised phenomena, with its own Wikipedia page! Resting Bitch Face is defined as a facial expression that unintentionally makes a person appear angry, annoyed, irritated, or contemptuous, particularly when the individual is relaxed, resting or not expressing any particular emotion.

Hmm, perhaps he had the right of it.

Up the hill to Dinnington and one of the youngsters was struggling to hold the wheels, so I dropped in alongside him and matched my pace to his. Up ahead I could seen Carlton looking back concernedly and rightly concluded this was probably another Carlton prodigy I was escorting and he would be ripping our legs off in a (short) few years.

While the main group disappeared up the road, a few of us dialled back the speed a little for the final mile. As they all turned off I started my solo run for home. The legs were tired and heavy, but it had been a good ride and the decent weather was a real bonus.

It almost felt like summer.


YTD Totals: 4,991 km / 3,101 miles with 66,160 metres of climbing

“Moist is a State of Mind”

“Moist is a State of Mind”

Club Run, Saturday 8th June, 2019

My ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:88 km/55 miles with 422 m of climbing
Riding Time:3 hours 40 minutes
Average Speed:23.8km/h
Group Size:7 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature: 12℃
Weather in a word or two:It rained. Lots.

Ride Profile

Be thankful for what you’ve got, Willie DeVaughn once sang. Maybe he had the right of it, too…

I complained about the weather being dry, but grey, dull and chilly for the past few weeks and, in response good old Mother Nature took note and upped her game … giving us a full night and day of perpetual rainfall.

Conditions were so bad that, unlike last week, I only so one other brave/foolish (delete as applicable) rider on my trip across to the meeting point. In direct contrast though, there were maybe a dozen runners out and pounding the pavements. Maybe they’re like slugs and snails and only come out when it’s wet?


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I spotted G-Dawg and Taffy Steve in the multi-storey car park where they were sheltering from the rain and bumped up the kerb to join them. As I drew to a halt, I was immediately informed UCI Extreme Weather Protocols were in place and, as the highest ranking official of the Flat White Club present, Taffy Steve had already declared it to be a Flat White Ride.

Perfect.

Crazy Legs rolled in behind me. “Lovely weather. You know what I’m going to suggest?”

“Already decided, mate,” Taffy Steve told him. “Flat White Ride.” Although nothing more than a formality, it was good to have the decision ratified by the Flat White Club President himself.

We were joined by the Garrulous Kid, OGL and Sage One, the relative newcomer who has joined us to help her train for a London to Paris charity ride.

“How’s the training going?” I wondered.

“Hmm, well, it isn’t really, I’ve been on holiday for 3-weeks.” In fact the last time she’d been out with us was the last time we’d had such dreadful weather. Things were so bad then, she’d made her boyfriend meet her half way home and bring her some dry socks!

Despite the rain, the Garrulous Kid was wearing little else but a £5.99 Decathlon jersey.

He tried to convince us it was waterproof. “Yeah right, ” G-Dawg, declared, “It’s waterproof. Until it gets wet.”

Still, Crazy Legs commended the Garrulous Kit on his shiny, clean shoes (they were wet), while I wondered if his chain might not emerge from the ride actually cleaner than it had been going in.

Despite the rain, G-Dawg was wearing his usual dark glasses.

“Can you actually see anything through them in these conditions?” Crazy Legs wondered, before declaring, “You look like a blind man. In fact, you look like that feller from Peter’s and Lee.”

Ooph! Dangerous ground, but luckily, neither of us could remember any Peter’s and Lee songs, so we felt we dodged a bullet and avoided a very, very, unfortunate earworm.

But then, deep in the bowels of a depressing, dank, dark, multi-storey car park, G-Dawg started to mouth half-remembered words like some strange incantation and, hesitantly at first, those words joined up with a formless tune and a song began to unfold. Then with gathering force, as synapses clicked and sparked and the words came back to him in a rush, he started to royally serenade us:

I’m so alone, my love without you,
You’re part of everything I do,
When you come back, and you’re beside me,
These are the words I’ll say to you,

Then, a big intake of breath, before belting out …

Welcome home, welcome,
Come on in, and close the door …

Aagh! Now I remember that song, the kind of thing grannies and parents buy in their droves to keep it hanging around in the charts. My young life was blighted and my soul was scarred by this kind of thing. Peters and Bleedin’ Lee, Demis bleedin’ Roussos, Nana bleedin’ Mouskouri, Jennifer bleedin’ Rush and Tony bleedin’ Orlando and his bleedin’ Yellow Ribbon. Dark, dark days.

Luckily the earworm didn’t immediately take and we quickly scuttled off into the rain to put as much distance as possible between it and us.

As a (fairly) interesting aside before we go, Lennie Peters, aka Gary Hall, or Leonard George Sargent (but surprisingly never known as Lucky Lennie) was blinded in one eye in a car accident when he was five years old. He was blinded in his other eye when someone threw a brick at him when he was sixteen. Just be thankful for what you’ve got.


After a while the Garrulous Kid bolted away and disappeared up the road. I assume he’d finally realised that it was raining, quite heavily and he was heading home for a jacket. Or, perhaps he was intent on breaking his own record for the shortest club run ever. I then wondered if his mother would let him out again, or ground him in case he caught some nasty sniffles.

We briefly discussed taking a different route so he wouldn’t be able to find us when he tried to catch up. But only briefly.

Well, for just ten or fifteen minutes, anyway.

At one point I heard Taffy Steve asking Sage One how her training was going for the big ride…

And then we were at Relief Station#1, the cafe at Kirkley Cycles, where the Garrulous Kid, more sensibly attired in a rain jacket now, rejoined our small, select group.


Main topics of conversation at coffee stop#1:

I ordered an unfeasibly large scone with a mug of coffee and (as I would later learn) double-fisted my way to the table with my haul. The scone looked like it had been zapped with an incredible growth ray-gun, as it overhung the plate, piled up like a pale mole-hill. It was so big that, when I cut into it, the middle was still warm, although it had probably been out the oven for a good couple of hours. Fabulous. All that and I got change from a fiver too. I’ll come here again.

The in-house dog appeared to hoover up a few stray crumbs and stopped to give Sage One’s helmet a desultory lick in passing.

“The dog’s licking your helmet,” I informed her, but our infantile, schoolboy humour wasn’t quite as funny as when it was just the boys involved. Still, I had to try.

Speaking of the fairer sex, Crazy Legs confessed he was still traumatised after being on the Metro on Thursday night, when it was mobbed by an army of shrieking, cackling, guffawing, middle-aged wimmin’, recently disgorged from the Spice Girls concert at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light. Heavily bladdered on an excess of Prosecco and spirits, raucous and bellowing out tuneless, badly remembered Spice Girls hits, interspersed with banter that would make even Roy Chubby Brown’s ears burn, the hordes of haridans were, by all accounts, a fearsome and intimidating sight.

Crazy Legs had stuck his ear buds in and tried to look as innocuous as possible as he slunk down into his seat, before abandoning the Metro at the earliest opportunity.

Sage One had been amongst the concert-goers, reliving her own past glories, but she too had been shocked by the behaviour on display and admitted the sight of far too many, far too-tight, Union Jack mini-dresses, over-spilling with bulging, pallid and wobbling flesh was, in her professional opinion, “just minging.”

Taffy Steve thought a contingent of these drunken Geordie wimmin’ should be immediately parachuted into Portugal, where he thought they’d sort out the England football hooligans in short order.

For my own torrid tale of public transport, I recalled a late night journey from a music festival in Loch Lomond to Glasgow, on a bus with a bunch of drunken Scotsmen who were so enraptured by a football game in which Italy had trounced England, they’d spent the entire journey gleefully singing:

“Y’ Italee, Y’Italee, Yooze hae ne’er been fooked, til yae’ve been fooked by Y’Italee …”

Like Crazy Legs, I’d spent uncomfortable moments slunk down in the seat, hoping to pass unnoticed.

The Garrulous Kid followed up with his own anecdote about a school bus trip. It wasn’t particularly amusing, but after hearing this, Crazy Legs sat back in astounded amazement, then reached across the table to shake the Garrulous Kid’s hand, before thanking him profusely.

“Thank you! Thank you!”

The Garrulous Kid took the profferred hand, but looked somewhat bemused.

“Eh? What?”

“Thank you,” Crazy Legs repeated, “That’s the first time you’ve ever told a story that’s been in any way related to what we’d actually been discussing. It makes a pleasant change to know you can follow the thread, rather than hurling something completely random into the conversation, such as the toilets on the Space Station are so good because they’re made by German engineers.”

Crazy Legs then noted my skinned knuckles and wondered if I’d been in a pub brawl. I had to admit to a rookie mistake, when changing the brake blocks on my single-speed, I’d run the rear wheel up to check the brakes weren’t catching, only to find the only thing catching was the back of my hand on the spinning tyre. It had only taken off the top layer of skin and I hadn’t even noticed until I washed up afterwards, but the wounds had scabbed over quite dramatically and the injuries looked much worse than they were.

Taffy Steve suggested bladed spokes were particularly lethal if you caught your fingers in them. I agreed, having once tried to adjust a rubbing mudguard while cycling up a steep hill and receiving a fearsome crack across my knuckles for my stupidity. I’m still amazed I managed not to fall off during that particular escapade.

With time moving on and a need to fit in another cafe stop, we decided to push on again, zipped up and braced ourselves for the worst, before leaving the warm, welcoming confines of the cafe for the rain outside.


OGL left our group to head directly to our second cafe rendezvous, while the remaining six set off for a loop around the Gubeon, to get a few more miles in.

Crazy Legs tried out a few Spice Girls songs, but it really wasn’t working for him. Half way round and I started to think I was hallucinating, as I was certain I heard the Garrulous Kid qualify one of his statements with the postscript, “well, in my opinion, anyway.”

Apparently not though, as G-Dawg picked up on it too. “You should try using that ‘in my opinion’ phrase more often,” he suggested, “It makes you sound less like an opinionated dick.”

“Perhaps, even try an ‘in my humble opinion’,” I added, even as I realised you had to walk before you can run, or, just be thankful for what you’ve got.

As we closed on coffee stop#2, Sage one was struggling and Crazy Legs encouraged us to push on while he dropped off the front to escort her.



A mile down the road and seemingly oblivious to this interaction, the Garrulous Kid finally noticed our sextet had become foursome and pondered if we should wait. Taffy Steve applauded his concern for others, but did point out that they’d been adrift for 15 minutes or so and he’d only just noticed.

We pressed on, there was a slight quickening of the pace and then we were rolling into the cafe for some temporary relief from the rain.


Main topics of conversation at coffee stop#2

Crazy Legs arrived and declared he was slightly moist, but glowing.

“Moist is a state of mind,” Taffy Steve growled and left it at that. No, I don’t know what he mean’t, either.

Cultural barriers and regional misunderstandings dominated our discussion. As a teacher in Canada, OGL said he got peculiar looks by encouraging his pupils to always carry rubbers, of course meaning erasers and not prophylactics. Meanwhile, Crazy Legs reported being subject to gales of laughter in New Zealand whenever he talked about a super-computer-router, three words that all rhymed in his mind, but not in theirs.

Our Antipodean friends would (incorrectly, of course) refer to a router as a rowter. To them, a rooter is something completely different, as evidenced by Taffy Steve’s relish in declaring, “let’s go root in the ute,” in a pronounced Strine twang.

According to Crazy Legs, being loaded up with two cocktails, one in each hand, or I guess a giant scone and mug of coffee, is known as double-fisting in parts of the States. Needless to say, but double-fisting is not a skill you should admit to in a British bar.

Or then again … maybe it is?

Taffy Steve was amused by the thought that in America, there was an overwhelming number of wankers, who did’t know what a wanker was. This he thought was ironic, which just added fuel to the fire as “they don’t do irony, either.”

Crazy Legs remembered that the Garrulous Kid claims dual citizenship of the American colonies, having been born in either Norf, or Sowf Carolina (I forget which.) He asked the Garrulous Kid how he thought he would fit in, if transplanted across the Atlantic.

Seamlessly and effortlessly, according to the Garrulous Kid, although I’m not sure the Americans would truly appreciate just how honoured they would be to have such a humble and self-effacing paragon in their midst.

When we thought we’d dallied long enough so G-Dawg wouldn’t get into trouble for arriving home to early, we set out into the deluge once again.


I’m fairly certain on the ride back I heard Crazy Legs asking Sage One how the training was going …

Meanwhile, we all agreed these miserable, wet days, perversely produced some of the most enjoyable rides. Then, in short order, I was following G-Dawg through the Mad Mile and swinging away for my trip home.

On the drag up past the golf course, with the rain still tapping impatient fingers on my helmet and water dripping off the end of my nose, I was a little startled by a loud burst of chimes that I finally recognised as a distorted, amped-up version of “Greensleeves.” I seemed to be in the presence of either the regions most optimistic, or most desperate ice-cream seller.

After crossing the bridge, I stopped for pee and was just re-mounting when a one arm cyclist whirred past, the left hand sleeve of his Way of the Roses jersey, completely empty and flapping in the wind. He asked if everything was ok, I assured him it was, so he kept going.

He was evidently heading the same way and I started tracking him, but kept getting delayed, first at a level crossing and then at some traffic lights. I finally caught up with him when it was his turn to be stopped, at the lights in Blaydon.

“Lovely day for a ride,” I offered by way of a greeting.

He was remarkably chipper and cheerful and just happy to be out on his bike, whatever the weather. We swapped ride info – he’d just ridden out to Corbridge and back, a solid 40-miles plus.

I waved him away and slid past, but I was held up at the next roundabout. He timed his arrival to coincide perfectly with a gap in the traffic and sailed past me, as I pushed off from a standing start and tried to clip in again. I then trailed him up the first part of the Heinous Hill, until he took a sharp left and, with a cheery goodbye, dropped down to Pedalling Squares, the cycling cafe, for some much deserved cake and coffee. (I assume).

I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to ride with just one arm: balance issues, braking and changing gear, unable to climb out of the saddle, unable to signal to traffic and the burning question I might have had the courage to ask if we’d ridden further together – how the hell do you cope with a puncture?

Just be thankful for what you’ve got, eh?

I pushed on to the top of the hill to end a short, but enjoyable ride. Despite the weather … or, just maybe, because of it.

Right, I’m away next week for a short holiday, hopefully the weather can raise its game for when I get back … but I’m not holding my breath.


YTD Totals: 3,785 km / 2,352 miles with 47,875 metres of climbing

Walking with Dinosaurs

Walking with Dinosaurs

Club Run, Saturday 25th May, 2019

My ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:113km/70 miles with 1,032m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 21 minutes
Average Speed:25.8km/h
Group Size:34 riders, 1 FNG
Temperature: 18℃
Weather in a word or two:Decent

Ride Profile

A decent day, still chilly, but dry and largely windless. I’ll take it.

I arrive at the meeting point to find good numbers already waiting, the starting nucleus of what would grow be one of the best attended rides this year.

Ride leader for the day, Richard of Flanders was amongst those waiting, uniquely attired in our much unloved club jersey, which everyone else seems to have shunned. Our numbers also included a royal guest of honour, Mrs. Max, there perhaps to tackle the impossible and try keeping the Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy in line. (Good luck with that!)


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I queried with the Monkey Butler Boy how Mrs. Max had even managed to find a fully functional and completely intact bike, knowing that her husband and son were always circling it like voracious, starving vultures, ready to pick off the best bits, or use it as the prime source for any replacement parts they needed.

The Monkey Butler Boy admitted “they” (collectively, there was no attribution of actual guilt) had trashed her wheels, which might have been alright, but the Red Max had then singularly failed to fix them and in desperation had to take them to his local bike shop.

Stung by this apparent failure, the Red Max piped up, “Well, at least I was right in my diagnosis of the problem.”

“What was that then?” Kipper enquired dryly, “The fact that they were fucked?”

I confessed to Richard of Flanders that I’d seen his club jersey and almost ridden past, thinking I was in the wrong place. He was to have the last laugh though, as several more riders showed up sporting the tangerine and green colours, including several riders for whom a club ride is an annual rite of passage, rather than a weekly obsession.

Among these was Eon in a reworked club jersey which, as well as being a slightly improved design, was actually form fitting and had the benefit of not being constructed from acres of shapeless Crimplene.

This led to a discussion about the relative merits of the Bardiani CSF kit – the same basic tangerine and green as our club colours, but applied a little more, well, let’s say sympathetically.

“Not my favourite Italian pro-conti team, anyway” the Monkey Butler Boy sniffed, “I prefer Nipple-Vini Fantini, just for the name.”

Or, at least that’s what I think he said, while referring to the Nippo-Vini Fantine-Faizane team.

You can’t beat a plain black jersey, attested the Hammer, resplendent in his usual, long-serving, Tørm Merino wool number, a practical, pragmatic colour that, he suggested, could also flatter the fuller figure.

Eon was out for a rare club run in as a warm up for Sunday’s club 25 mile time-trial. The Monkey Butler Boy was also riding and concerned about the start, where the Red Max was official holder-up and pusher-offerer. (Is there not a proper, technical, UCI approved term for a time-trial pusher-offerer? Pusher-offerer just doesn’t sound right.)

The Monkey Butler Boy’s worry was that, as the starter and time-keeper (see, they have an official title) counted down to zero, the Red Max wouldn’t immediately release his bike and he’d end up spinning his wheels and losing valuable seconds before he was allowed to break away.

Surely though, the Red Max wouldn’t do that to his favourite (OK, only) son, would he?

Richard of Flanders outlined the route, complete with some last minute changes as several roads around the cafe had been completely closed for resurfacing. We then split into two (still large) groups and away we went.


I spent the first few miles alongside the Rainman, talking about the apparent influx of Dutch to the North East of England and pondering what might have triggered it. Although himself firmly rooted amongst us, he admitted that facing the same decision today he would probably not have moved here. It looks like our febrile Brexit discord and the rise of populist, right wing, political movements makes the UK look mean, intolerant, insular and unwelcoming. I don’t know, maybe some people think this is actually a good thing?

The Hammer had told everyone he could only manage a short spin today and would be leaving us after the first few miles. True to his word, on the slope down from Dinnington, the man in black waved his farewells and accelerated smoothly down the outside of the group and away … only to be chased by the Garrulous Kid who hared off in a disruptive, mad and utterly pointless pursuit.

At the junction, the Hammer turned right, while we waited for another group of cyclists to pass before we went left. We harboured brief hopes that the Garrulous Kid had managed to get himself enmeshed in this other group and carried away, but as we turned for the Cheese Farm, we found him waiting.

“Wanker!” G-Dawg admonished the Garrulous Kid, as he drew up alongside him and order was finally restored, “It’s supposed to be a group ride. What was the point in that?”

Sadly, I doubt the censure had any effect.

We pressed on and worked our way up to Dyke Neuk where we paused briefly. On the other side of the road the Backstreet Boys were loitering, practising Incomplete and Inconsolable. A few of our lot wandered across for a chat, while G-Dawg pondered the numerous, deeply worrying similarities emerging between the characters of OGL and the Garrulous Kid. This included a complete lack of self-awareness and not the remotest hint of modesty or humility. G-Dawg vowed that somehow, someway, he’d manage to get out here in 20 years time, even if it had to be on his mobility scooter, so he could hunt down the Garrulous Kid and see what a remarkable replica of OGL he’d morphed into.

Efforts were made to persuade the Garrulous Kid to go with the Backstreet Boys and then, failing that, with a group of ramblers who were starting to congregate in the pub car park.

“I’m not going wiff them,” the Garrulous Kid complained, “Walking wiff them would be like walking wiff … wiff dinosaurs!”

Oh well, we tried.

On we pushed once again, but the further we went, the more it became apparent that the FNG who’d joined us that morning had completely ran out of energy and was really struggling off the back. Just before Hartburn we called a halt and waited for him and his escort of Rab Dee and Eon to shepherd him up to us. We then decided to split into fast and slow groups, with Goose, G-Dawg, Aether, another relatively new Irishman, Homeboyz and me dropping back to try and nurse the FNG around.

The fast group soon disappeared up the road and, as I dropped back to chat with the FNG, it looked like the soft-pedalling slow group were in imminent danger of following suit. We really were travelling astonishingly slowly, especially when the road ticked up by even a few degrees. I was really struggling to contain my pace and match it to that of our FNG.

The rest of the slow group were waiting for us around the corner and when I caught up with G-Dawg, I told him I felt like I was in one of those competitions where cyclists perform track stands try to see who can take the most time to complete a circuit.

As we approached Scots Gap, Aether pondered if we shouldn’t take a short-cut, up Middleton Bank, rather than follow the proposed route through Wallington. This sounded good in theory, but would lead us up to where the roads might be closed and, if we couldn’t get through, we’d have to backtrack. Rather than risk it, we pressed on.

I stopped for a pee, urging the FNG to keep going and I would catch up. Re-mounting I spotted a large group of cyclists approaching, which I assumed was our second group. I rejoined our limping convoy as we pushed on to Kirkhalle and we started to climb, waiting for the group behind to catch us.

They did, about half way up the climb, riding past in a flurry of hi’s, hello’s and how you doing’s, which revealed they weren’t our second group at all, but a contingent from the Tyneside Vagabonds.

G-Dawg immediately accelerated, pulling Homeboyz with him, as he surged past the group, away up the climb, around the corner and smartly out of sight. As he would later explain, he couldn’t possibly let a group of Vags beat him up a hill.

Meanwhile, still only half way up the climb, Aether checked his Garmin and reported that the official route, as posted by Richard of Flanders, indicated we should be turning left. Along with Goose and the FNG, we tentatively swung off the road and onto a narrow farm track.

We hesitated. Was this right? Would it get us to where we were going, or would we end up miles off our intended course, or, perhaps, worst of all, be forced to retrace our steps?



With the FNG so obviously flagging, we decided it was worth the risk, Aether’s Garmin suggested there was a path through, it was heading in the right direction and it could save us a good few miles too. We reasoned that if G-Dawg and Homeboyz waited for us after their tussle with the Vags, they would soon realise we’d taken a detour and either follow, or make their own way to the cafe.

With a course of action determined, off we set, although we still occasionally queried if we were doing the right thing, especially when the track narrowed, sprouted a Mohawk haircut of springy green grass down it’s centre and the surface crumbled to loose gravel. I was just waiting for it to end in a farmyard, surrounded by fields with no way through.

Then we came to a gate (not THE gate, you understand, but still a definitive barrier across our track). This wasn’t looking promising, but we passed through and pressed on anyway. Another gate slowed our progress some more, but then we were rattling down toward a junction with a proper road and wondering just exactly where we were.

We found we’d been spat out onto the road to Capheaton. The short-cut had worked, we were within 5 or 6 miles of the cafe and well ahead of where we would otherwise have been. This was confirmed a few minutes later, when we were passed once more by the same whirring gaggle of Vagabonds. They’d obviously followed the route we had originally intended to take and our short-cut had put us ahead of them on the road. We hoped to see G-Dawg and Homeboyz trailing our rivals, but they were nowhere in sight.

We kept going and, with an excess of energy to burn, I sprinted up the short sharp incline of Brandy Well Bank and we then contested a pseudo-sprint into the Snake Bends, before picking up our FNG escort duties again, to shepherd him safely through to the cafe.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Perhaps as a consequence of our late arrival, or perhaps it was just one of those days, the cafe was mobbed and the queue doubled back though the conservatory and right down to the door. Luckily most of our crew had already been served and were already lining up coffee refills, but ahead of us were the Backstreet Boys (showing off their new kit) and a load of civilians. Luckily the Vagabonds had gone elsewhere, or they too would have beaten us in and would have been ahead of us in the queue.

One of the civilians started mock complaining about all the cyclists in the queue ahead of her, although I sensed the jocularity was a little forced and underneath she was actually quite irritated. She then introduced us to her friend by describing her most notable and defining characteristic, a deep anger at any cyclist who dared to wear black.

Apparently, any cyclist who chooses to wear black has a death wish and is solely to blame for any misfortune that befalls them. While the implication was that if she hit a cyclist dressed in black, then it was entirely their fault, the inference seemed to be that she felt she had a moral duty to actually run black clad cyclists off the road. I didn’t feel this was quite the right forum to discuss the slimming effects that black could have on the fuller figure…

We were finally served (cafe prices have gone up again) and made our way to the packed garden for a seat. I was midway through my expensive slice of cake, when the missing G-Dawg and Homeboyz belatedly appeared, having waited for us in vain. (Sorry guys, but I still think we did the right thing, or we would still be out there.)

By the time our late arriving pair had been served, everyone else was packing up to go. I had a quick chat with Alhambra, a guy who joined the club at the exact same day as I did, but who only gets out occasionally due to work and family commitments.

He’s obviously been sneaking off to the gym too as he now appears almost as broad as he is tall.

“As my daughters might say, you’re looking particularly hench,” I told him, trying out a word I had no business being around, like an aged billionaire with a trophy girlfriend.

“Yer what?”

“Hench. Sorry, yoof speak,” I explained.

We found common bafflement at some of the terms currently being bandied about by our offspring and determined we needed an interpreter.

“Pied-off,” I said, by way of another example.

“Yeah, pied-off, that’s a weird one,” he agreed. “What’s that all about?”

We caught up with Richard of Flanders and queried whether our trek down the gated road had actually been planned on the route he’d set up on Strava. Apparently it hadn’t been, but then again we decided to take everything he said with a healthy pinch of salt when he admitted his group hadn’t actually followed the planned ride … because he got lost.

On his own route?

While everyone else decamped and departed, I wandered back into the cafe for a refill, then joined G-Dawg and Homeboyz. The Garrulous Kid decided to hang back too, to lend moral support, or perhaps encouragement and entertainment on our way home.


There was no time for re-fills for either G-Dawg and Homeboyz, we were already well behind schedule when our quartet left the cafe. G-Dawg and the Garrulous Kid led us out and we hit a fairly brisk pace as we made the run for home.

After a few miles riding in the company of the Garrulous Kid yet again, I could tell G-Dawg had reached his limit by how terse his replies had become:

The Garrulous Kid: “Chunter, chunter chunter…”

G-Dawg: “Ah-hah.”

The Garrulous Kid: “Chunter, chunter chunter…”

G-Dawg: “Uh-huh.”

The Garrulous Kid: “Chunter, chunter, chunter, chunter, chunter!”

G-Dawg: “Ah-hah.”

As we took the turn past Kirkley Hall, he looked back at me. “What have I done to deserve this?” he asked plaintively.

I saluted his martyrdom, but realised even martyrs have their limits, so I pushed onto the front alongside the Garrulous Kid to afford G-Dawg’s ears some respite.

Running late and still feeling relatively fresh following our stately progression around the second part of the route, we took a fast run up … and then down Berwick Hill. G-Dawg and Homeboyz took over to drag us through Dinnington and into the Mad Mile and then I was released for a solo ride home, managing to claw back some time and arriving not too far behind my usual schedule.

Well, that was different.


YTD Totals: 3,414 km / 2,121 miles with 43,785 metres of climbing

Dry Rain

Dry Rain

Club Run, Saturday 18th May

My ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:113 km/70 miles with 520 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 21 minutes
Average Speed:25.9km/h
Group Size:20 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature: 12℃
Weather in a word or two:Soggy bottom?

Ride Profile

Scattered light showers. That’s what the forecast predicted, clearing from 11.00 clock onward, before returning later in the evening. This was an improvement on the previous day’s forecast, which basically suggested wall-to-wall rain from dawn ’til dusk. As I looked out, first thing Saturday morning, the rain indeed, seemed to have cleared, the roads were wet, but there wasn’t much surface water lying around. I’d fully-prepped the Peugeot the night before, but now it didn’t look like its full mudguards would be needed. A bit of a gamble, but if you gamble enough, sooner or later you have to win … don’t you?

On the valley floor, I tracked and then caught up with a fellow cyclist as he stopped at the traffic lights just before Blaydon. If I’d accidentally misplaced caution, he must have given it a right good kicking, before recklessly abandoning it, shocked and bleeding, by the side of the road. Yes, I was on the good bike with no mudguards, but I had on knee warmers, overshoes, a winter jacket under a waterproof, a cap and gloves. My fellow rider was wearing a white, short-sleeved BMC jersey with world championship bands, track mitts, shorts and little else.

I told him I admired his optimism, while wondering if he knew something about the weather that I’d missed.

He didn’t.

All was going well and I was beginning to think I was a mite overdressed when, within a mile of the meeting place, the rain started. It would then stay with us pretty much as a constant for the rest of the day, with only the briefest of interludes (ironically, when we were all sitting warm and dry in the cafe).


Main Topics of Conversation at the Meeting Point:

I pulled into the meeting place, which had shuffled off the pavement and over into the bottom of the dim, dank, dreary, dismal (but dry) multi-storey car park to wait and see who else thought this was the perfect weather for a club run.

Taffy Steve, having ridden in from the coast, confirmed we were facing wall-to-wall rain, with no possibility of a break in the weather. He’d had the foresight to not only prep his winter bike, but actually use it too, although I think in part this was due to having a new toy to play with. Gone, banished without hope of redemption, is the thrice-cursed winter bike and in its place is a bright and shiny and neat, Blessèd Beneficent Boardman.

OGL was heading off to watch Round 4 of The Tour Series, in Durham later in the day and offered a lift to anyone who wanted to tag along. We all agreed that a fast, city centre circuit on the tight, cobbled and steep inclines of Durham would be lethal enough, without multiplying the danger with a sprinkling rain to turn the surfaces greasy.

G-Dawg knew of one particular corner, where he felt certain everyone would congregate in anticipation of a crash-fest and thought you’d have to be there ridiculously early to grab such a good perch.

OGL wondered if our ex-clubmate, young tyro beZ would be riding for the Ribble Pro Cycling Team and, given the potential dangers of the course, actually hoped he wasn’t. I was momentarily left speechless by this uncharacteristic show of concern and empathy for another human being.

As our numbers slowly built up, The Silence appeared out of the gloom to lour over us, with no acknowledgement, or word of greeting.

Oh, hi there…

OGL suggested banishing anyone without mudguards to the back, before realising that would mean an extra long, hard day on the front for just him and Taffy Steve.

“Don’t worry, it’s dry rain,” G-Dawg assured us.

He lied.

Horribly.

There was only time for the Garrulous Kid’s highly considered and informed opinion that “Caleb Ewan is not a sprinter” and then we could delay no longer and pushed out and into the rain.


For the first part I found myself riding alongside Taffy Steve and discussing (I know not why) “the parmo” a culinary delicacy on Teesside. It was described, by no less an authority than the Guardian, as the “‘delinquent nephew of veal Parmigiana.” I can only assume they meant off-the-rails raging delinquent, wild and feral and unpleasant.

My extensive research reveals that the typical parmo, consists of flattened chicken breast, covered in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried until crisp. It’s finished off with thick layers of béchamel sauce and melted Cheddar, before the option of topping with pepperoni, bacon, more cheese, and ladles of creamy garlic sauce. Traditionally served with a bucket of chips, the typical parmo is said to contain over 2,000 calories and has been branded as “monstrous” by an anti-obesity campaigner.

While wondering about the etymology of the word “parmo” I told Taffy Steve about my youngest daughter, Thing#2 being out with friends in a restaurant and one of them reading a menu in puzzlement, before asking:

“What’s ‘man get out?'”

“Eh, what’s that? Let me see … oh, yeah, man get out. No idea.”

Luckily one of her more erudite friends turned up before they made fools of themselves asking the staff. “It’s mangetout, you blithering idiots!”

This led Taffy Steve to recall the launch of a Susan Boyle album promoted under the hashtag #Susanalbumparty. We couldn’t decide if this was the work of pure, unalloyed, evil genius or just lucky happenstance, but we both agreed neither of us were remotely interested in Su’s anal bum party.

I spent most of the day trying to ride slightly offset from the wheel in front to avoid as much spray as possible – it didn’t seem to make much difference whether the wheel ahead was covered by a mudguard or not. Water, water flying everywhere, there was no avoiding it. I was soon soaked through.

I had a chat with one of our new(ish) Irish guys, Wilf – the Irish seem to be forming as strong a cabal in the club as the Dutch at the moment. I wondered if the conditions were making him homesick.

“At least it’s warm rain,” he suggested, a nice positive spin on things. Notice how he didn’t try to convince me it was dry rain, like the dastardly G-Dawg.

I took a turn on the front alongside Biden Fecht, through Stamfordham, where we split into different groups for different routes, before pushing across the Military Road, past the reservoir and calling a brief halt for further splits. There were quite a few fishermen out today, but they looked thoroughly miserable.

On we went again, climbing up through the plantations and making our way to Matfen and from there to the Quarry. At the top of the Quarry I pushed onto the front alongside Wilf and we made a run at the cafe.



I helped drag the group up and through the crossroads, ceding the lead through the hairpins, before hitting the front again for the final drag to the road that leads down toward the Snake Bends. Once through the junction, I straightened up and tried to keep the pace high as a launchpad for anyone wanting to sprint.

Taffy Steve burned through, testing out his Blessèd Beneficent Boardman, but a rocket-fuelled Biden Fecht followed in his slipstream and was able to slingshot around the outside and romp clear.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

It was bin bags all around at the cafe, to protect the chairs from some very wet cyclists’ posteriors. Well, all round apart from the Monkey Butler Boy who confessed he hadn’t bothered asking for one.

“That’s because you’re uncouth,” I told him, “whereas I’m the opposite and totally couth.” He looked quizzically at me, but said nothing.

Speaking of uncouth, Szell sat down, grasped his scone and flexed his fingers around it, as if preparing to rip it in two.

“Ooph, you’re an animal, ” I told him, “Are you really going to tear that poor, defenceless scone apart with just your bare hands?”

He paused reflectively, remembering he was a cyclist with all the upper body strength of a wet moth. “Nah, better not, I’ll probably end up with De Quervain tendinitis.”

Outside the rain had temporarily stopped and I even noticed a group of brave cyclists taking a rare opportunity to sit out in the garden. It wouldn’t last.

The Monkey Butler Boy complained that he’d been on a college trip to Middlesborough and been charged £5 for a croissant. We would have sympathised, but what did he expect, croissants and other delicate pastries are probably seen as rather effete and exotic on Teesside, beside, who’d want a feeble, foreign bread roll with a stupid name, when you could get a mighty parmo for far less?

Taffy Steve commended the Monkey Butler Boy for his perfectly framed and composed family mugshot on Facebook, taken from their recent holiday in Italy. He said the whole group looked happy, tranquil and relaxed, but he wished he’d been there for the five minutes before the picture was taken so he could enjoy all the bickering, slapstick mayhem and disgruntlement that he was certain preceded it.

The Monkey Butler Boy admitted it had been a somewhat fraught and fractious affair, before launching off into a tirade about the angle of the sun in the shots being all wrong. Evidently, it still rankled even now.

We then got an unfettered glimpse into life in the Red Max household, learning the Monkey Butler Boy had accepted the challenge of washing the family car for £5 and then been charged £1 for the shampoo, £1.50 for the water and £2.50 for the loan of a bucket.

After that , he’d been enlisted to help out as the Red Max drilled through a thick slab of hardwood during some insane DIY project. Loosening the drill bit and letting it slide out and drop to the ground, the Red Max had picked it up by the non-business end and lobbed it nonchalantly toward the Monkey Butler Boy …

“Hold that for a minute.”

Deftly catching the drill bit, the Monkey Butler Boy had instantly felt the burn of hot metal on skin, swore loudly and instinctively hurled the offending object away from him, only to get a rebuke for disrespecting his dad’s tools.

In contrast, the Garrulous Kids confession of, “I once hit my fum with a hammer” seemed rather tame and uninteresting.


By the time we left the cafe, the rain had returned and looked like it had settled in for the long term, while the temperature seemed to keep bumping its way incrementally downwards. I decided to cut my losses and bailed from the group early, to loop around the other side of the airport and shave a few miles off my journey.

Even with this short-cut I still racked up 70 miles, most of them in a wet and pretty miserable conditions. Perversely though, it was a good ride.

I got home in time to watch Caleb Ewan handily winning Stage 8 of the Giro d’Italia, in what looked to be a sprint finish where he easily beat lots of top sprinters.

Yeah, not a sprinter.

Right.


YTD Totals: 3,244 km / 2,018 miles with 42,066 metres of climbing