Dov’è il gabinetto?

Dov’è il gabinetto?

Club Run, 14th April 2019

My ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:110 km/69 miles with 996 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 22 minutes
Average Speed:25.2km/h
Group Size:29 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature: 10℃
Weather in a word or two:Expectedly cold?

Ride Profile

The forecast promised it would be cold, but the forecast also promised it would be bright and sunny with barely a cloud in the sky. Sadly, the forecast only got one of those things right … and from my perspective it was the wrong one.

Having commuting into work all week though, I knew what to expect. It would be a bitterly chill start, but would warm up later, so I planned accordingly, with bits and pieces I could discard as the temperature slowly increased toward the highs of, well … tolerable.

So gloves and glove liners, buff, headband, windproof jacket and Belgian booties on top of a thermal base layer and winter jacket. What I didn’t account for was my new helmet, which I’d been forced to buy to replace my vintage Uvex lid, after the rear cradle snapped. (To be honest, after 5 years of wear, I don’t think it owed me anything).

The new, helmet has a big vent in the crown which directs a super-chilled blast of cold air across the top of your head – great for the summer, but effective enough to have me considering a rethink of winter headwear.

My ride across was somewhat spoiled by new roadworks and traffic lights seemingly springing up all over. The worst were located halfway up my climb out of the valley, causing a somewhat awkward hill-start. Nonetheless, my timing was good and I manged to fit in a much needed pee-stop (the cold seemed intent on tap dancing over my old man’s bladder) and still arrive at the meeting point in good time.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Naturally, despite the extreme cold, the Garrulous Kid was wearing shorts and equally as naturally OGL declared he was quite mad. To be fair, his legs were an unhealthy shade of blue. Meanwhile, all around riders were huddled with their arms crossed protectively over their chests trying not to shiver and, in one or two instances, actually succeeding.

“It’s brassic,” the Ticker declared, a Geordie turn of phrase to describe extreme cold, rather than an expression of Cockney penury.

This drew him to the attention of the Garrulous Kid who turned round, looked at him and blurted out, “What’s that old thing?”

Quickly realising a potential faux pass, he quickly added, “the bike, I mean the bike!”

Indeed the Ticker was on a vintage steel Colnago, his good bike lying in pieces as he wrestles with replacing the bottom bracket and gives it a general spruce up.

With the Garrulous Kid heading seemingly heading north of the border to university and showing no great aptitude for cooking, we wondered just how much fast-food he would consume and whether he might return looking like Jabba the Hut.

We suspect he may fall under the thrall of that great Scottish culinary tradition Deep Fried … oh just about anything. OGL suggested the infamous Deep-Fried Mars bars had started out as a joke that then became reality, while the Colossus recalled one place when he was at university that offered to deep fry anything for £2, just as long as it fit in the fryer. 12″ pizza’s, creme eggs, doner kebab’s with all the trimmings, literally anything. I could audibly hear my arteries calcifying just at the thought.

Aether stepped up to deliver the route briefing, we split into two, agreed a rendezvous and away we went.


I dropped off the kerb and joined the front group as we formed up before the traffic lights released. Out on the roads, G-Dawg led alongside someone who bore a striking resemblance to Zardoz, but obviously couldn’t be Zardoz, as he’s fatally allergic to riding on the front. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. Could it actually be Zardoz?

I checked the figure over for a nose-bleed caused by the rarefied air of being too far forward in the bunch. There didn’t seem to be any.

What about signs that Zardoz had been abducted by aliens and replaced with an exact replica? Hmm, I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for, but there were no obvious signs.

I couldn’t take the suspense any longer.”Who the hell’s that on the front?” I asked the Garrulous Kid in a voice loud enough to carry.

In reply, I got a deft, two-fingered salute from the mysterious figure. Well, well, well, it most definitely was Zardoz after all.

At the end of the lane the two of us nipped out in a small gap between the traffic, while everyone else was held up. I then found myself leading alongside Zardoz, as we soft-pedalled up the hill, allowing everyone to regroup behind.

On we pressed, discussing the incredible run of form displayed by Max Schachmann in the Tour of the Basque Country, his teammate and one of my favourite riders, perennial underdog Emu Buchmann, running up mountains, the potential for extreme chafing inherent in triathlons, whether youthful exercise bestows big capillaries in later life and the key, very important differences between an autopsy and a biopsy. The latter was of particular interest to Zardoz, who ruefully concluded, an autopsy is of no use to you whatsoever.

Swinging left onto Limestone Lane, we passed a caravan that had been parked up on the corner and I found myself barking with laughter as the Garrulous Kid wondered aloud if Biden Fecht (in his new guise as the Gypsy King) was about to emerge from its darkened interior and join us.



We made it to the end of Limestone Lane before Zardoz was persuaded to cede the front “and give everyone a rest.” We dropped to the back of the pack where we entertained ourselves giggling and complaining loudly at the sudden drop in pace and poor leadership of our substitutes on the front.

At one point, I found myself alongside the Garrulous Kid and learned that, as well as believing he’s now the clubs preeminent sprinter, he also thinks he’ll be a fantastic time-triallist. Well, he will be, once he “sorts out “some handlebar thingies.” Hopefully he won’t take advice from Crazy Legs, go to his LBS and demand strap-ons.

The Garrulous Kid then served notice that he’s serious and intent on entering the club 10 mile ITT this year, where he declared he would “easily” complete the course at an average speed of 28 mph.

Should he be as good as he thinks he is, that will be enough for him to post a time of 21 minutes, 25 seconds, which would comfortably eclipse last years winning time … by an entire two minutes and six seconds.

As well as suggesting I thought he was totally and completely delusional, I told the Garrulous Kid I’d actually be surprised if he managed to beat his contemporary and arch-rival (or perhaps the subject of his unrequited love?) the Monkey Butler Boy. Well, I guess we’ll see.

We cut across the Military Road, skirting Whittle Dene Reservoir where, once again, the banks were devoid of their usual contingent of anglers. That may be just as well, as the surface of the water was dotted with a bevy of swans, including a fair number in their ugly-duckling phase, with grey fluffy feathers still prominent amongst otherwise pristine and sleek white plumage.

We hauled ass up the hill to a small cluster of stone-built houses and a building site where a few more were under construction and we stopped to wait for the second group, before the split into longer and shorter rides.

Still blaming the cold, I wheeled slowly down the lane looking for a place to pee.

Again.

Leaning the bike against the hedge, I wandered through a gate, only to be met by a burly builder coming the other way. I was just about to retrace my steps when he called out,

“There’s a porta-potty up there, if you need a netty.”

I did, so I followed his instruction. How civilised, facilities good enough to even suit the Garrulous Kid, who never seems to be able to find anyplace in nature quite refined enough for his micturational tributes.

As I returned, mightily relived, I passed by Andeven. “Did that bloke just ask if you wanted a … a netty?” he asked.

I confirmed he had indeed.

“What’s that all about?”

I explained a netty is just the name for a toilet in the Geordie vernacular, although I must admit I haven’t heard it used in maybe 30 or more years. I do recall a school trip to southern Italy when the only phrase that seemed to stick amongst a dozen or so a teacher tired to force-feed us was, “dov’è il gabinetto?” – where is the toilet?

Or, as I perhaps mis-remember it, “dov’è il gabinetti?” – which perhaps hinted (wrongly, it would seem) at the etymology of the Geordie netty.

We didn’t have much longer to wait for our second group and we briefly coalesced, before splitting for different rides, longer and shorter, or faster and slower.

Once again, the longer route took us climbing up through the plantations, before we started the push toward Matfen. G-Dawg and Captain Black were on the front by the time we turned off for the Quarry and were immediately slapped in the face by a strong and bitterly cold headwind, that had seemingly sprung up out of nowhere.

It was a good time to hide in the wheels as the front pair battled manfully with both the incline and this sudden wind, dragging us to the top of the climb. Off we set for the cafe and, as usual the pace started to ramp up.

We’d been pulled into a single line as we hit the horrid drag up to the crossroads and started burning through riders at a high rate as they pushed through and then, just as quickly faltered and slipped back. I took a pull on the front and led up and over the crossroads, dropped behind Buster on the twisting descent, then took over again as we took a sharp left and drove up to the final junction.

Those contesting the sprint whistled past, but there was no clean break this week, so I tagged onto the back as seven or eight of us, in a tight, compact knot, hustled down toward the bends. Even if I’d wanted to attack (and I didn’t and probably couldn’t) I was boxed in and there was nowhere to go, so I eased and let the gap grow before sweeping through the Snake Bends and on to the cafe.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Kermit mentioned entering a race on Zwift and being surprised by the sudden, massive injection of balls-to-the-wall pace as soon as the virtual gun went off, or the virtual flag dropped, or however else they virtually start these virtual things. From my (admittedly limited) experience of actual racing, I have to say this sounds remarkably realistic.

I mentioned the dark rumours that Zwift were alleged to be sniffing around pro races and wanted to hold a “virtual prologue” for one of them. I was horrified by the suggestion, but Rab-Dee thought it could be interesting, although he admitted they might need to add some rider jeopardy and randomness to make it more televisual.

He was also worried that the upcoming Paris-Roubaix wasn’t difficult enough and was willing to apply the same techniques to this. Top of the list were spring-loaded cobbles, optional paths that riders have to choose, only one of which didn’t end in a punji pit and giant balls that would periodically bounce across the track, taking out the odd unlucky rider.

Kermit mentioned he was away next week to tackle the MOD Rocker, a sportive over the Army ranges around Otterburn. He thought he’d probably ride solo this year to avoid people barrelling precipitously through the feed-stations for a faster time, or deliberately hanging back at the start to be last through the timing gate, just so when you finish in a bunch they can claim to have ridden faster than you. Bad sportive etiquette and proof some people take things far too seriously.


On the way back I caught up with Taffy Steve, who is in the throes of replacing his thrice cursed winter bike with a Blessèd Beneficent Boardman (All praise Saint Chris!) He explained his sudden impetus for the change came when, freewheeling downhill alongside the Garrulous Kid, he could only watch in utter horror as the Garrulous Kid slipped slowly away from him.

As he declared, no other rider works quite so hard, so diligently and make so many sacrifices in order to maintain optimum descending weight in an attempt to maximise gravitational pull. He’s hoping a change in bike, to something that will offer less rolling resistance and run a little freer, will help him regain descending preeminence.

We had a chat about new hats too, having himself invested in a new helmet with MIPS. I complained about the vent in the top of my helmet that was freezing my scalp and the magnetic catch on the straps that I still hadn’t quite mastered. This in itself was enough to put Taffy Steve off the helmet as he declared all magnetism was witchcraft, totally unfathomable and inexplicable.

Starting from near the back as we hit Berwick Hill and the front group accelerated away, I found myself riding alongside G-Dawg as we tried to close them down.

“This could get hard,” muttered a prescient G-Dawg , just as we rounded a corner and found ourselves battering into a brutal headwind.

We dug in and ground our way over the top and then I set out downhill to try and I close the gap on the front group. Once again, I couldn’t quite bridge the last few metres and this time, there was no Monkey Butler Boy on a TT-bike to tow me across, but a flying Taffy Steve served just as well. He blew past, I latched onto his wheel and that was that. Job done.

Predictably last weeks “good” legs didn’t deign to hang around too long and I was starting to tire as we swung around the airport. As we entered the Mad Mile, I let the front group slip away and started to pick my way home solo, especially looking forward to the last leg with its predicted full on headwind.

Before that though, there was one more call of nature to attend to. I’m still blaming the cold and don’t quite feel ready to challenge either the Prof or the Plank in the smallest, leakiest bladder competition. Well, not quite yet anyway.


YTD Totals: 2,368 km / 1,471 miles with 31,797 metres of climbing

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Goofy Foot

Goofy Foot

Club Run, Saturday 7th April, 2019

My ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:105 km/65 miles with 1,110 m of climbing
Riding Time:3 hours 56 minutes
Average Speed:26.6km/h
Group Size:28 riders, 1 FNG
Temperature: 10℃
Weather in a word or two:A chiller

Ride Profile

Another chilly, but dry Saturday, decent conditions for a club run and I was on one of those all too rare days, when everything comes easy and the pedals seem to spin of their own volition. It’s that butterfly feeling, it doesn’t hang around long and is hard to pin down, the best you can do is enjoy it while it sticks around.

The only thing that slowed my magisterial progress on the way across to the meeting point was having to wait for what seemed about 5 or 6 minutes at a level crossing.

Finally, after much delay, a creaking, clanking, small, local train, had emerged. It must have been the oldest, still working rolling-stock in the North East outside of Beamish Museum and it rattled and rumbled and crawled past and away up the tracks.

The windows were filled with lots of bored looking, glum passengers, staring blankly out of the filth encrusted panes. They looked like they’d been in their all night and probably felt they could have walked to their destination faster, if someone would just let them off. Maybe they need to buy bikes?

Finally, with one last noxious billow of greasy, black smoke, the train clanked past, the barriers hummed upwards and I set about making up for lost time.

The climb out of the valley was fast (relatively speaking and based on my own standards, of course) and I was soon homing in on the meeting point well within schedule.

I passed Captain Black heading in the opposite direction. He too had ridden in through the Tyne Valley, having stayed at his parents in Prudhoe overnight. He was off home to dump his kit and swap bikes, keen to avoid another bout of winterbikitis this time out.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

We were joined by an FNG, but only after she had extricated herself from amongst the serried ranks of the Muckle CC, who were meeting up at the other end of the concourse, before starting their own ride. She’d felt a little lost amongst their regimented seriousness and for some reason found our rag-taggle and motley crew slightly more approachable.

She said she was signed up to ride a London-Paris event in the summer and just wanted a few longer rides in preparation, even though she’d already successfully completed London-Brussels the year before.

OGL rolled in and spotted the FNG’s bike.

“Ah, Genesis, I used to work for them,” he pronounced.

This was instantly followed by Taffy Steve’s flawless impersonation of OGL at his most bombastic:

“Ah, Genesis, that’s a book that’s all about ME!

I thought we might have to call emergency services for the Colossus, who was slumped across his frame, shoulders shaking in paroxysms of silent laughter.

G-Dawg was looking slightly the worse for wear, having slipped and face-planted in a restaurant mid week, then having trouble escaping A&E as they worried he might have suffered concussion. Needless to say he didn’t take my advice and answer all the assessment questions with the same random phrase:

“How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Africa”

“How old are you?”

“Africa”

“What’s your name?”

“Africa.” etc.

OGL told the tale of a crash by some ex-club member he referred to as the Binman. I don’t know if this related to said person’s job, some kind of predilection he had for bin-dipping, or was perhaps a random name to throw off concussion protocols.

In the tale, the Binman crashed outside St. Mary’s Hospital and an ambulance was called. Trying to assess how compos mentis the victim was, the ambulance crew had asked him where he’d come from?

The Binman, who OGL described as “not the sharpest tool in the box,” had just pointed at the ground where he’d fallen and muttered, “There.”

Taffy Steve watched the Muckle Crew form up and ride out in close formation and, smart and uniform as their team kit was, he wondered why they’d seemingly chosen something from the urban camouflage collection, allowing them blend seamlessly into their surroundings.

Continuing with his theme of jersey critique as he positioned himself for the role of club Gok Wan, Taffy Steve then tuned his attention to inveterate Rapha wearer, Slow Drinker, approaching with a group of Grogs.

“Wow, he’s changed from his trademark all black with hot pink highlights, to all black with burnt orange highlights,” Taffy Steve announced, somewhat surprised at such a wholesale change.

Crazy Legs peered out in confusion, then lifted his yellow tinted specs off his eyes.

“Nope, that’s the usual black and pink,” he affirmed, “but don’t worry, I’ve got my happy, always bright and sunny specs on too.”

Taffy Steve took off his own specs and, I assume, orange turned to pink. “Oh yeah,” he conceded, “Not orange at all. And the weather’s not all that good either…”

Meanwhile, Sneaky Pete related how he’d been listening to the radio on the way in, when someone described the population of the world as being divided between those who see only black when they close their eyes and those who see different shapes and colours. He said he had to resist a compelling urge to close his eyes to determine which he was. (If there was a sudden surge in the rate of MVA’s at around 8:45 on Saturday morning I might be able to pinpoint why.)

I encouraged him to take the opportunity to check now, rather than waiting until we were out on the roads and riding in close formation.

G-Dawg outlined the route (a shorter one, this week he suggested) which would also be our first foray of the year down into the Tyne Valley. I dropped onto the back of the first group and away we went.


Things were going well as I rode along, chatting with Zardoz as we made our way to the top of the Tyne Valley before the long swoop down into Wylam. I then found myself alongside Zip Five, who reached for a bottle and came away empty handed. I wondered if he’d lost it somewhere along the way, bottles having a nasty habit of bouncing out on all the potholes, ruts and divots in these roads, but he decided he must have let it on the kitchen table on his way out.

We started the ascent and I tucked in to pick up speed. Toward the bottom, we found a new, smooth road, which seemed good, until we hit the blunt row of bricks they’d embedded in the surface, like ogre molars.

Perhaps these were meant as a gentle reminder to speeding traffic that it was approaching the village. Alternatively, they could have been designed and installed by someone with a pathological hatred of cyclists. What was a gentle reminder to speeding traffic was a teeth-rattling, palm-stinging, nasty little jolt to speeding cyclists and forcibly ejected my bottle.

OK, so lets amend that, bottles have a nasty habit of bouncing out on all the potholes, ruts, divots and traffic calming measures in these roads. I stopped to retrieve the bottle, re-started the descent and raced to catch up to the pack.



All back together again, we pushed on past Stocksfield, before we started to climb out the valley. I found myself riding along with Ovis as we both tried to recall if we knew the particular exit route. Fairly predictably neither of us could recall it.

We then had our usual, real-life game of Frogger, daring the traffic to cross the A69 and remarkably eliciting only a single, solitary horn toot from drivers who seem to believe we ignore them to run like headless chickens through 4-speeding lanes of traffic. Or, maybe they just don’t like us invading “their space.”

Zardoz was the most daring and made it across first, immediately starting on the long and fairly demanding, Strava 4th Cat climb, up to Newton and beyond. The rest picked our way across the dual carriageway in twos and threes and followed him up.

I caught up with Zardoz as the road kicked up on the approach to the first of the houses.

“It was worth risking my life, just to get a good head start,” he puffed.

On we climbed and then on some more, up past the Plantations and onto more travelled roads, stopping to regroup along the way. As we started towards Matfen, I joined the Garrulous Kid on the front and we pushed the pace up, sweeping through the village and out toward the Quarry.

We were on the course of the Blaydon 2 UP Time Trial now, with various pair of cyclists shooting past in the opposite direction, some looking good, some looking ragged, but everyone giving their all. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the Monkey Butler Boy and his luckless partner, so didn’t get the opportunity to shout abuse at anyone.

At the top of the Quarry we stopped to regroup and have a chat with one of the TT marshals and to appreciate the sound of a couple of solid disc back wheels sweeping through the junction.

Then we started our final run in toward the cafe. I sat on the front with Rab Dee, up and through the crossroads down the other side and up to the junction with the road leading down to the Snake Bends. I pushed through the junction and then swung over, unleashing the sprinters for a brief, glorious skirmish, won (I think) by Caracol.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The Garrulous Kid claimed to have no fear. Not rats, nor spiders, not sharks, nor dogs, not heights or wide open spaces, not even the number 13. Nothing. He’s fearless. I know, because he told us so.

“So, you wouldn’t be afraid of a rabid hyena?” I asked. (I don’t know why I picked a hyena, or why it had to be rabid).

“Nope. I’d just run away”

“What if the rabid hyena was on a Focus Cayo?” Caracol countered.

But no, not even then.

Caracol recalled diving amongst black tipped reef sharks and being understandably careful around them, but the Fearless Garrulous Kid scoffed at this, suggesting black tipped reef sharks were much too small and puny to pose any kind of threat.

We then wondered what was more dangerous, an alligator, or a crocodile, before concluding that being attacked by either was probably not conducive to a long and healthy lifestyle and you were probably wouldn’t be all that concerned with identifying the exact genus of crocodilia if you were unfortunate enough to find one chomping down hungrily on your leg.

Talk of dangerous sea-critters, led to talk of sea-based sports and how our local coastal waters don’t particularly lend themselves to such activities. Benedict recalled scuba-diving in the North Sea, sinking inches below the surface and almost immediately losing sight of his diving companions, even though they were directly in front of him.

Surprisingly though, Tynemouth has a thriving surf scene, though obviously not on par with Florida, where the Garrulous Kid apparently learned to surf. He couldn’t tell me if he was a goofy foot though. Benedict assured me that he was.

Perhaps showing growing signs of triskaidekaphobia, the Garrulous Kid informed us he’d worked out that he “only has firteen weeks and firteen club rides left” before leaving for university in August.

By my reckoning there are still 20 Saturday club run possibilities left before the end of August, but the Kid’s the (alleged) maffs genius here, so I’m happy to go along with his firteen and start cutting notches in my handlebars to countdown the days.

Chatting with Ovis about his semi-retired state, the Garrulous Kid was astounded to learn Ovis was a dentist … “I fort you were a mechanic.” Even worse, he suggested Archie Miedes believed our esteemed colleague Biden Fecht, senior lecturer and widely published expert on Renaissance literature … was a Gypsy.

I wondered what had prompted this? Had Biden Fecht tried to force lucky heather on him, or sold him a peg, or offered him a hedgehog sandwich? But then I ran out of both time and offensive racial stereotypes, so had to let it go.


Maybe it was the shorter ride, or non-participation in the sprint, but I was still feeling good on the way back. When the Colossus and Caracol surged at the end of the Mad Mile, I went with them and then enjoyed a brisk clip home. Even the drag past the golf course and final assault on the Heinous Hill proved almost enjoyable.

No doubt there’ll be a return to normal, pain and grinding to look forward to next week


YTD Totals: 2,191 km / 1,361 miles with 29,607 metres of climbing

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch

Club Run, Saturday, 16th March 2019

My ride (according to Strava):

Total Distance:87 km/54 miles with 446 m of climbing
Riding Time:3 hours 49 minutes
Average Speed:22.5km/h
Group Size:7 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature: 8℃
Weather in a word or two:Hmm, wintry?

An Oddly Surreal Ride Profile

Saturday morning kicked off as it was forecast to continue, an indeterminate, ever-changing mix of snow, sleet and rain, bitter cold and, to top it all, increasingly gusting winds. It was going to be constantly wet. It was going to be freezing cold. It was going to be utterly filthy. It was going to be bleak and miserable, brutal and uncomfortable.



It was going to be great.

Club runs in such extreme, adverse conditions tend to attract the minimum number of die-hard riders, but the maximum amount of quality banter, or much talking of complete and utter bolleaux, if you prefer.

Now, perhaps this might be banal and boring to the huge majority of the population, but the gallows-humour and collective discomfort of a small group of cyclists prepared to laugh in the face of adversity is, for me, entertainment of the highest order.

But, first I have to get there.

I dress as best as I can, my thickest base-layer, winter jacket with heavy duty waterproof on top, headband to keep my ears warm, under a cap to keep the spray out of my eyes, trusty thermolite socks, winter boots and mighty lobster mitts.

Following Red Max Edict#37, I even remember to stuff a spare pair of gloves in my back pocket, so I have a dry set to pull on after the cafe stop.

[I confess, I sadly failed to follow Red Max Edict#38, which states that you should make a great show of producing said dry gloves and conspicuously place them in plain view on the table in the cafe, before sitting down with a smug look on your face. This is the prescribed method to transmit your superior level of preparedness to all those futilely trying to dry out their wet gloves by melting them on the stove, or anticipating the horror of trying to jam fingers back into cold, clammy and sodden garments.]

I leave it as late as possible, letting the latest squall clear, before scurrying out the door. I’m 20 minutes behind my usual time for setting off, but I’ve followed bike paths and trails to the nearest bridge before and plan on doing the same again.

I surf, slide and skate down the Heinous Hill, trying to stay in the tyre tracks of the cars and avoid the long, curving moraines of icy, dark slush. The rain is bouncing off my helmet and jacket and, worse, the spray kicked up by my speed downhill has me soaked from the knees down in an instant. No matter whether my foot is at the top of a pedal stroke, or at the bottom, I can’t seem to find a way of reducing the amount of water being flung at my legs.

Down the hill and a sharp right, I roll over a small humped-back bridge and hit the bike trails and cycle paths. Unlike last time I took this route, it’s a bit lighter and I can actually see where I’m supposed to be going. I pick up the pace, bumping over tree roots that appear to have taken on the role of natural speed bumps, slicing through mud, muddy puddles and gravel and swerving around the chicanes provided by scattered park benches and random dog walkers.

I eventually reach the gate that leads across the railway tracks, dismount and make my way across. I’ve survived the icy downhill sweep, the slippery mud, gravel, tree roots and potholes of the bike trail, but now, as I walk my bike across the railway lines, I lose my footing on a super-slick timber walkway and almost go my length, clinging desperately onto the bike in support.

I manage to stay (barely) upright and remount to follow the river toward the bridge. Rowers pass downstream, fully into their strokes and travelling much faster than they usually appear when I see them, bobbing around just outside their club house.

Across the river, I decide against the dark, debris strewn underpass and cross the four lanes of the Scotswood Road on the footbridge, a sort of mini-Alpe d’Huez with half a dozen sharp hairpins. One wrong turn at the other side, followed by a bit of back-tracking and then I’m travelling familiar roads and climbing out of the valley.

Detours and a bit of off-roading all worked out well and I was the first rider to arrive at the meeting point, rolling into the gloom of the multi-storey car park to shelter and wait to see which other idiots felt like riding out…


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

… where I was met by OGL, climbing out from the warm cocoon of his car. Deciding not to ride himself, he was there to see for himself the idiots who would brave the horrible weather and, as an aside, issue numerous dire warnings about flooded roads, blizzards engulfing Stamfordham and the imminent threat of glaciers to the rural communities around Rothbury.

The Garrulous Kid was next in, thankfully wearing new, stolen, or recently rediscovered tights. (We couldn’t quite follow the exact, jumbled explanation of their provenance.)

Then the Colossus and G-Dawg arrived and for a while, that looked to be it, a fabulous, fearsome foursome.

G-Dawg was counting on the usual suspects, so expected one or two more, although he realised a still ailing Crazy Legs was unlikely to be out.

Just as we thought that was it, Taffy Steve rolled in from the coast, lit up like a Christmas tree in Vegas. Unbelievably, he told us he’d nearly been broadsided by a motorist who somehow failed to spot him, despite being adorned by more blinking warning lights than the dashboard of a 747 experiencing total systems failure. SMIDSY.

He was followed in by Aether and suddenly numbers were about what we expected.

Story Number 5, please …

“Did I ever tell you about the time we were racing on the North York Moors and had to follow behind a snow plough up one of the hills?” OGL mused.

“Yes. Last week,” G-Dawg replied flatly.

“What about …”

“Yes, that too. Last week.”

OGL then did a quick double-take, “You’re all on winter bikes with mudguards!” he exclaimed, stepping back in apparent disbelief.

“Well, yes,” I told him, “We might all be mad, but we’re not insane.”

He took one last opportunity to warn us that it was, raining, it was cold and the roads were wet out, before climbing back in his car and scuttling off to a warm gym.

We watched him leave. Looked out at the weather. You know, he was right, it was raining and the roads were wet …

Not for the first time, the Garrulous Kid declared that Facebook is shit and Instagram and Snapchat far, far superior. The Colossus argued that they were ultimately all the same and no one was better than any other. He did concede however that Snapchat is probably a better platform for OGL to use, as his drunken rants would be automatically deleted by the time he sobered up.

Someone suggested that what we probably needed was an app that began a 2 hour countdown as soon as he was detected leaving an off-licence and locked him out of all social media until the following morning.

The Prof had threatened to ride with us today, as the Back Street Boys tribute act don’t ride in the rain (perhaps it interferes with the timing of their carefully choreographed dance routines?) There was no sign of him though, so we assumed he’d wimped out too. (The white feather’s in the post.)

At an unfeasibly early 9:14 then, one full minute before official GMT (Garmin Muppet Time) we decided no one else was going to bolster our meagre numbers, the weather wasn’t going to miraculously (or even marginally improve) and it was time to get moving.


I spent the first few miles riding alongside the Colossus, following G-Dawg and trying to determine how the arc of spray off his rear wheel managed to completely by-pass his mudguard. I’m still none the wiser.

At Dinnington, we picked up the Big Yin waiting for us and concluded it was just as well we’d left a minute early, otherwise the Big Yin might have looked more like the Big Ycicle by the time we got to him.

So, we then became The Magnificent Seven, I earned a Clash earworm (no bad thing) and on we pressed.

The Big Yin was the only one whose bike wasn’t equipped with mudguards, so he took great pains to ride at the back and not shower us with whatever his wheels kicked up off the road surface. It was a noble effort to try and keep us dry, but somewhat akin to opening an umbrella when you’re up to your neck in a river.

“We’ve made it through Dinnington,” the Colossus announced, “We can turn back at any time now and not have the ignominy of completing the world’s shortest club run. Ever.” he said, looking pointedly at the Garrulous Kid.

Bolstered by this relative success, we pressed on.



We took the turn off to the Cheese Farm and hit our first flooded section, an expanse of dirty cold water stretching from verge to verge. Everyone crowded toward the highest point of the roads camber, right down the middle, but the water was bottom bracket deep nonetheless. Even worse for G-Dawg, the Garrulous Kid cut through in front and kicked up a bow wave that engulfed him and blew through his overshoes to soak his feet.

Not that I think anyone fared much better – the water was deep enough to overtop my boots and water started to leak in.

I actually enjoyed the climb of Bell’s Hill as chance to stretch the legs and the increase in pace added a little body heat to proceedings.

The ride progressed for some way in this manner, enjoying the hills when the extra effort created a bit of warmth and dreading the descents where just a few extra kph in speed exponentially and noticeably increased the wind chill.

At one point we passed the spot where G-Dawg was marshalling during the National Time Trials and Geraint Thomas almost came to grief, misjudging the corner, running wide across the verge and barely missing the fence.

As he approached the corner, G-Dawg remembered the DS in the car behind bellowing “Put the power down! power down!” when G-Dawg was thinking more along the lines of “Woah!” and “Slow Down!” Still “G” made it through (barely) and won, perhaps thanks to the risks he took at that very corner.

Citing adverse weather protocols, we petitioned the only official member of the Flat White Club, Taffy Steve, for special dispensation to call a mid-ride coffee( and thawing-out) stop. Permission granted, we then detoured from the official route and plotted a course direct to Kirkley Cycles.

As we approached the Garrulous Kid and Colossus seemed to kick up the pace on the front.

“Is there an intermediate cafe sprint?” I asked G-Dawg. Apparently not, they were just eager to find shelter, but G-Dawg wondered if we shouldn’t programme all the potential cafe stops into Strava and have a sprint for each one.

I don’t know why, but Kirkley Cycles was strangely quiet, with only one other cyclist to be seen, a kid riding around in the yard brandishing a pick axe handle as a makeshift sabre. We wondered if this was the type of implement we too should consider carrying on club runs …


Main topics of conversation at coffee stop #1:

Inside we found that Aether had turned a shocking shade of grey – probably something akin to the deathly pallor Crazy Leg sees in my face after a hill climb. He was a bit wobbly and light-headed, so at G-Dawg’s suggestion, lay out, full length across one the benches, like a corpse in the morgue.

Having felt we’d showed sufficient concern for our ailing comrade, we naturally returned to our endless blather.

Taffy Steve turned to the Colossus.

“You need a Raw flap,” he said.

He was, of course suggesting a simple and sensible extension to the Colossus’ mudguards, but we all sniggered and snorted like naughty schoolboys anyway.

We admired the selection of cycling spares and wares, concluding our other cafe stops could learn a thing or to about catering to their cycling clientele. They had at least one of almost anything you could possibly need – as well as one or two things you definitely wouldn’t.

We wondered if the miniature, but perfectly formed road-bike shaped earrings would appeal to the Colossus’ partner – perhaps as a sop after she discovered an odd charge for raw flaps on their bank statement.

He determined that, if he did buy them, he’d better have a legitimate, desirable and preferably expensive, alternative present to hand across immediately afterwards, or he’d be in big trouble.

At some point other cyclists hustled indoors, out of the cold, followed by some remarkably under-dressed gym goers, who looked someone askance at the stretched-out cadaver formally known as Aether.

And then, the stretched-out cadaver formally known as Aether sat up and slowly began to rise from his slab.

He lurched across to us and dropped heavily into a chair. Colour was slowly returning to his face and he was beginning to look less corpse-like.

“I’ll have a cup of tea,” he announced and stood up abruptly.

The next time I looked, he’d gone.

“Did he just say he was just going outside and may be some time?” I asked.

Luckily, we didn’t have to send out a search party, as our wannabe Captain Oates soon returned and then secured a cup of restorative tea.

We had a laugh at the British trait of treating any malady or ailment with a cup of tea, before deciding if more drastic action was needed. I’ve cut my arm off and the stump won’t stop bleeding. I know, I’ll have a cup of tea and then maybe go to A&E if that doesn’t help, etc.

For a reason I can’t remember, I had a conversation with Taffy Steve where we cast the Garrulous Kid as Steve McQueen’s “Cooler King” from the Great Escape. Perhaps it was something to do with his penchant for riding into fences?

We pictured him slumped on the floor in solitary, repeatedly bouncing a baseball off the floor, the wall and back again. Ba-Bump-Dap … Ba-Bump-Dap … Ba-Bump-Dap…

“You know, of course that he’d never, ever tire of doing it,” Taffy Steve concluded. Ba-Bump-Dap… “No matter how much it annoyed everyone else.”

Ba-Bump-Dap…

“Well,” the Colossus announced, We’d better get going if we’re to make it to the other cafe on time!”

So, off we shuffled, once more into the breach and all that. Although seemingly fully recovered, Aether decided a little caution was called for and set off to return home, while the rest of us pushed on.


As we rejoined the main road, the Colossus applied his brakes, barely slowed and winced at the grating noise of corrosive, grit-embedded brake blocks grinding away his rims. “All that noise and no discernible effect on your speed,” Taffy Steve noted, “Don’t you love it?”

Ah yes, I thought, as the Bard himself might once have said, on a particularly bad February club-run with the Avon Jacobean V.C. – winter braking, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

I dropped in beside Taffy Steve and confessed how, perversely, I quite enjoyed these extreme rides in miserable conditions. He mentioned he’d been listening to a podcast about the Great War when the Germans and Turks at Gallipoli began to fear the ANZACS and Tommy’s were mad, because, as conditions got worse and worse, the laughter from the enemy lines just got louder and more frequent. Perhaps what I was experiencing was (at a much more modest scale) something similar, though quite different?

We pushed along for a good while, at one point trailing a low-flying duck that was spoiled for choice and couldn’t seem to decide which newly formed body of water to try next. Finally we reached a junction and paused to discuss various options for extending the ride, before deciding to just head straight for the cafe. Who could blame us?

As we closed on Whalton, G-Dawg revealed that they were contemplating a 20 mph speed-limit through the village, something that would almost certainly kill the long established and much used time-trial route that passes through it. I felt it was ironic that traffic calming measures could have such a profoundly negative effect on cycling.

Approaching the cafe, I dropped back to ride with Taffy Steve, ritually cursing his already thrice-cursed winter bike and taking on the hills at a more refined pace. From here I was well-distanced from the sprint, but close enough to hear the strangled shouts and see the Colossus veer violently across the road and into the opposite lane. Something had gone wrong up front, but disaster had been averted and we all made it to the cafe safely.


Main topics of conversation at coffee stop #2:

The sprint had apparently been rudely disrupted when a flailing Garrulous Kid had ended up swerving violently as he kicked his own frame, causing everyone near by to take immediate and drastic avoiding action.

The Garrulous Kid insisted he was a safe rider and good in a sprint. Taffy Steve suggested this was only because everyone knew his reputation and so always allowed a 2-metre exclusion zone around him, a moving bubble of protection. For our sake, not his.

The Garrulous Kid bit into his Dime bar tray bake and then picked bits of indeterminate material out of his teeth and dropped them on his plate, prodding at them uncertainly with a bony finger.

“There’s plastic in my cake,” he declared.

“I think you’ll find they’re just bits of chilled caramel,” the Colossus offered, “It’s a Dime cake, what do you expect?”

“No, it’s plastic.” He picked up a bit and chewed it experimentally, before dropping it back onto his plate and re-asserting, “Plastic.”

“Are you sure?”

Once again the Garrulous Kid picked up the offending morsel and nibbled away.

“Yep. Plastic.”

“Stop trying to eat it then.”

Oddly though, the Garrulous Kid stopped whining about his cake and had soon devoured it, more or less in its entirety.

G-Dawg suggested if he’d wanted to complain, he couldn’t really take an empty plate, decorated with just one or two half-chewed, spit-covered
(allegedly) plastic crumbs back to the counter and demand a refund or replacement.

The Big Yin told us his son had been on TV quiz show Eggheads and as a true Geordie, received what he described as the equivalent of a gaping open net, when asked to name the Premierships top goalscorer. (For the record, I would have failed miserably).

In turn, G-Dawg recalled a tale about Alan Shearer’s dad taking him to meet local footballing legend, Hughie Gallacher’s son and then telling him, “no matter how good you are, you’ll never be as good as Hughie Gallacher”. This, I celebrated, is as good an example as you could get of the Red Max school of parental encouragement.

Speaking of sporting legends, I related my own favourite tale of the week, reading about the peerless Beryl Burton, doing a 12 hour time-trial and going like a train as she passed the bloke who was on course to set a new men’s record! According to legend she’d slowed just long enough to ask if he might like a liquorice drop, before powering away and disappearing up the road.

We tried to determine if the Garrulous Kid had any topics of conversation outside of football, school/university and a seemingly unhealthy obsession with the Monkey Butler Boy. (Is it unrequited love?)

We were told he liked boxing and he liked rugby, because his dad liked rugby and used to play fly-half and he watches the rugby with his dad – (although obviously not close enough to know a fly-half wears the number 10 shirt.)

He added that he hated badminton though, which I assume is another of his dad’s sports, although it could just have been a product of his butterfly mind flitting gently from subject to subject.

I felt the need to defend badminton, good to play, if less then gripping to watch and to my mind a much better sport than tennis. He seemed surprised I didn’t like tennis and wondered why.

Uh-oh, dangerous. I could have given him chapter and verse about it’s exclusively middle-class strictures, the huge resources of time and money the BBC pours into what is essentially a minority sport, the ridiculous, stuffed shirt, stuck-up nature of the Lawn Tennis Association, the fact that you need up to 11 officials to determine a simple game between two players, those particular fans who have no interest in any sport, even tennis, other than for two weeks of the year, when they slavishly adopt a heightened, jingoistic nationalism, the elevation of the most mediocre of British talent into world-beaters, who after modest and moderate success can have the sinecure of a job, along with a whole raft of other ex-pro’s, sucking at the corporate teat of the (publicly funded) BBC, or the distinct lack of drug-testing (cough# Operación Puerto) … (Oh ok, I’m biased, I’ll admit it.)

Instead, I simply cited the fist shake – the awful, embarrassing, gesture that seems to be the staple of every tennis player, whenever they feel the need to snarl aggressively at their opponent because they’ve managed to pat a ball back over a net. I then picked out certain Mr. Andrew Barron Murray as the worst exemplar of this all to pervasive, inelegant, over-used and inappropriate gesture. In my mind, that’s enough to condemn the entire sport? Hey, I never claimed to be rational, or balanced.

For his part, Taffy Steve wondered how the seemingly brittle and shrill Judy Murray had somehow managed to parlay her sons’ successes into a kind of C-list celebrity. Where, he wondered was Mrs. Brownlee and Mrs. Yates and weren’t they deserving of some attention too?

Normal conversation resumed and the Colossus recalled a university night out, when TV Gladiators, Jet and Wolf, were paid to turn up and bash numerous drunk students with pugil sticks for fun.

As entertaining as that sounded, G-Dawg felt it probably wasn’t quite as good as watching the YouTube video of a 72-year old Buzz Aldrin sucker punching some ridiculous conspiracy-theorist who kept taunting him about the moon landings being a lie.

Then our allotted time ran out and we wrapped up, figuratively and literally and prepared to leave.

We were a little delayed as the Big Yin flipped his frying gloves over on the stove top, trying to ensure they were crisp and well browned on both sides before he pulled them on again.


Then it was out and into the weather. It had stopped raining and the sky was nudging toward brightness, so the only water we had to worry about now were the few flooded sections of road we encountered.

By the time I was dropped at the end of the Mad Mile the sun was actually out and the temperature was starting to creep up. The rest of the day and remainder of my ride would prove quite pleasant and those lucky enough to be out for a ride Sunday would enjoy cold, but bright and dry conditions.

It’s hard to think of a greater contrast from one day to the next, still, you don’t always need good weather to have a good time.


YTD Totals: 1,693 km / 1,052 miles with 22,962 metres of climbing

R.T.F.M.

R.T.F.M.

Club Run, Saturday 10th March, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:87 km/54 miles with 446 m of climbing
Riding Time:3 hours 49 minutes
Average Speed:22.5km/h
Group Size:7 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature: 8℃
Weather in a word or two:Hmm, wintry?

Ride Profile

It lashed down on Friday night and I awoke to find the rain still drumming impatient fingers on the roof and windows. It was going to be one of those days, but, at least it had one positive – it made the consternation of prevarication much less of an issue. Today, as soon as I peered blearily out of the rain streaked window, I knew exactly which bike I’d be riding.

I had a completely unmemorable, uneventful ride across to the meeting point. Later, when our group suddenly found itself battering into a ferocious headwind, G-Dawg was prompted to ask what the ride across had been like and I couldn’t even recall the weather being memorably good or bad. It just was.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Jimmy Mac ‘fessed up to unfairly denigrating his Garmin, after switching it to “Super Power Saver” mode last week and then complaining that, rather than doing anything fancy, it had simply shut itself down. Hours after our ride it started beeping indignantly at him and he discovered it hadn’t actually turned itself off, had recorded his entire ride, was still working tirelessly away, only now was finally running out of power.

“Everyone knows Super Power Saver mode just turns off the user display,” Taffy Steve interjected, “Or, at least they would if they ever bothered to read the fucken’ manual.”

“Typical bloody surgeon, it’s just as well you’ve got nurses to keep you on the straight and narrow,” he continued.

“To be fair,” your average human-heart doesn’t usually come with an instruction manual,” I argued, leaping to the defence of our poor, beleaguered clean-cut, super-smart, highly practical, ultra-dexterous, unflappably cool, always in control, Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon …

Then I remembered this was the same clean-cut, super-smart, highly practical, ultra-dexterous, unflappably cool, always in control, Consultant Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon who didn’t realise you had to actually screw the end of a pump hose onto the valve before attempting to inflate your tyre (Radiation Vibe) …

Maybe Taffy Steve had a point.

G-Dawg and the Garrulous Kid seemed quite pleased with their OGL-baiting on Berwick Hill last week, with G-Dawg earning Nostradamus-for-the-day honours for not only predicting the ensuing explosion on Facebook, but getting the timing spot-on.

“It was that last drop of red wine that was the trigger, it made him do it,” the Red Max suggested, “He was managing to hold it together, until the wine ran out.”

At that point OGL appeared, immediately and somewhat predictably, but this time entirely justifiably proclaiming, “Shorts! Madness!” as he spotted the Garrulous Kid’s bare legs. Trust me, this really, really wasn’t a day for shorts and it wasn’t even close. In fact the Garrulous Kid looked generally under-dressed and would spend all day looking cold and miserable, with legs like two raw slabs of corned beef.

His excuse was he’d ripped his pants. I don’t know in which of his numerous tumbles this occurred, but I can’t recall them being so badly tattered that they wouldn’t provide at least some cover from the elements.

OGL then roundly condemned and cast out all the heretics for their godless bikes. Wait!, sorry, no, for their guard-less bikes – only a few of us had switched back to winter steeds. It had, for example, proved an almost impossible task for Taffy Steve, who simply couldn’t face a return to the thrice-cursed winter-bike, even if it meant his titanium love-child had to suffer as a consequence.

The worst offender by far though, was the Monkey Butler Boy, who would be taking the club ride entirely on his TT bike. The frame had recently been acquired from Crazy Legs and he’d only just build it up, so naturally had to ride it, no matter how inappropriate it was for any club run, even without taking the weather into consideration.

I watched in amusement as Jimmy Mac’s Garrulous-Kid-filters got clogged and then, suddenly gave way under the constant, unending aural assault from the be-shorted one. Slowly, slowly, his head sank in abject surrender, until he was banging it off his crossbar to try and make the pain recede.

Luckily, G-Dawg interrupted with our route briefing for the day and we were soon pushing out onto the roads for some temporary relief.


I dropped in alongside the Ticker as we set out, ticker-less today as he’d gone for the winter-bike option with the near silent freewheel. We agreed that finding someone with mudguards to follow was going to be a bit of an uncomfortable lottery.

We also agreed it was much colder than the temperature suggested and he was, or at least his ears were, ruing his choice of a cotton casquette instead of a thermal cap.

It was incredibly busy at the end of Brunton Lane and we were splintered into several groups as we escaped the junction in one’s and two’s. We reformed and I found myself next to Crazy Legs as we passed through Dinnington.

He was pleased to have rid himself of his TT-bike, which he described as being as comfortable as sitting astride the narrow edge of a piece of 2 x 4 and with all the cornering characteristics of a three-legged, bull elephant on ice-skates.

He was, he declared “much happier with a strap-on.”

I think he mean’t clip-on tri-bars.

For time-trials, obviously.

(I hope.)

A bit further on and I caught up with the Red Max for the full tale about how the Monkey Butler Boy ended up riding a TT bike on a club run. I learned that, despite knowing his good, summer bike was undergoing a full service, the Monkey Butler Boy had apparently stripped his winter bike of parts in order to build up the time-trial bike, like a voracious vulture picking a carcass clean. As a result, the TT-bike was the only one he currently had in a ride-able condition.

“He even stripped out the headset bearings of his old bike,” the Red Max told me, caught somewhere between condemning the asinine stupidity of the act and admiring its resourcefulness.

“Even worse though,” he continued, “he’s in big, big trouble with the Mothership. Those are her good wheels that he’s taken.”

“Well, it’s not as if she’s going to need them in this weather. Will she even know?”

“Oh yes,” the Red Max replied with an evil grin, “I made sure to tell her.”

“Anyway, at least his bike’s ready for his first time-trial. When is it, by the way?”

“Oh, not for five or six weeks yet …”

A bit later on and I found myself on the front with Jimmy Mac, just as we rolled past Den Hague, who had followed our route in reverse in order to meet up with us somewhere along the way.



Jimmy Mac invited him onto the front, he politely declined and then we turned a corner and ran slap-bang into a ferocious headwind and it became a hard grind. I’d done about 5 mile or so on the front, when Taffy Steve took pity on a tired old man and took over for me as we approached the village of Stamfordham.

The group started to split into various rides at this point and I followed the main group.

I drifted back to check on the Ticker.

“How are the ears holding up?”

“I can’t actually feel them anymore.”

“Well, that’s good, I guess?”

“I guess. But the only reason I know they’re still attached is that my glasses haven’t fallen off my face yet.”

We pushed on and as we approached Whittle Dene reservoir, I was laying bets with the Ticker about how many hardy fishermen we would find camped out on its banks in defiance of the overcast skies, howling wind and bone-chilling cold.

We were both wrong. There weren’t any. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. The weather really must have been terrible.

“Bloody hell, there’s white horses on the water,” the Ticker announced. Sure enough, the surface of our usually placid inland reservoir was wrinkled with foam-capped waves chasing each other to the shore.

A traditional stop just past the reservoir found others taking a foreshortened route to the cafe, the Colossus and Garrulous Kid amongst their number. The latter was probably driven there by intense cold, while I think the former was sent on ahead to secure a seat by the fire and ensure the ham and egg pie that sustains G-Dawg was ready and waiting for him when he arrived.

Our route became increasingly bumpy as we made our way up through the plantations, through Matfen and out to the Quarry. At some point Aether found himself on the front and in the wind for maybe the third or fourth time that day. By the the time we made the Quarry turn his legs were gone and he was trailing off the back.

We regrouped at the top, but it was going to be a fast run to the cafe and we’d be scattered again soon enough. I managed to hang with the front group up to the final junction before the Snake Bends, but was jettisoned at that point and so have no idea what happened in the all-important sprint.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

I found myself behind Caracol in the cafe queue, as he carefully weighed up the cakes with an appraising, keen eye. He wasn’t trying to decide which one (or two) cakes he was going to have, he’d already made his choice, now he was trying to ascertain which individual slice was the biggest.

His choices made, he placed his order along with the precise grid co-ordinates to let his server identify and corral his chosen slice. Aether wondered if anyone ever specified the smallest slice, Caracol just looked at him blankly, completely failing to entertain the thought that such insanity could exist in the world.

The three of us found a seat in the conservatory and settled in to enjoy our chosen goodies. Aether sliced into a cherry scone and prised out the sole half a cherry from the middle. There was actual cherry in the scone, so the name was technically accurate, but I can’t help thinking Aether felt short-changed.

I was questioned about not having the camera with me today and admitted the case was still bolted to my other bike and I would be relying on stock images from my club run archive this week.

I assured them I would have absolutely no problem finding a suitably bleak, windswept, wet and wintry image. They make up about three quarters of all the pictures.

Caracol suggested that cycling ranked in the top 10 of sports people like to watch, but conversely, was also in the top 10 of sports people couldn’t watch because they were boring and inexplicable.

I felt one of the issues was that riders are largely anonymous behind dark glasses and helmets, so it was hard to know who you were watching at times, something the sport never seems to have addressed successfully.

We did determine certain riders were instantly recognisable by their style or characteristics. Very tall, or very small riders seem to have a serious advantage, think Ilnur Zakarin and Nairo Quintana, while Aether suggested he could spot the flat-backed Wiggins from a mile away, or Contador bouncing on his pedals as he attacked uphill.

“Froome,” Caracol suggested and I anticipated a line about the ungainly lack of style, head down, jutting elbows, massive clown- feet whirring away …

“He’s the one running up the side of the road looking for a bike.”

Now I think about it, there are quite a few you can pick out from a crowd (or bunch) – Dan Martin’s pecking chicken for example, or Steven Kruijswick’s coat-hanger shoulders, Fabio Aru’s mad, mad flailing and Pierre “Roger” Latour’s manful wrestling with his bike. Still, they’re quite few and far between. Perhaps it’s time for dossard’s with names on?

The wind had had a seriously affected our ride speed so much that we’d arrived at the cafe late and were soon having to pack up and go, or face getting back late. I gulped down the remains of my coffee re-fill and headed out to face the weather again.


“I’ve really, really had enough of this now,” Jimmy Mac announced plaintively, as a particularly fierce gust of wind threatened to lift the bike out of his hands. “I just want it to end.”

We discussed his options.

It didn’t take long, there weren’t all that many.

He could either M.T.F.U. and get on with it, or retreat back into the warm, safe sanctuary of the cafe and phone home for the family “voiture-balai”.

But, I emphasised, without a serious, genuine medical emergency, or an unfixable mechanical issue, such wimping out was guaranteed to earn him an unwanted reputation and possibly a new derogatory nickname too.

At that point I thought he was going to try kicking the spokes out of his front wheel to fake an unfixable mechanical issue, but he finally resigned himself to his fate, swung a leg over the bike, and got ready to ride.

Sitting there, head down and obviously not happy, I could only think of one way to raise his spirits and motivate him. “I know, ” I announced, “I’ll get the Garrulous Kid to ride alongside you, that’ll cheer you up.”

Well, that got him going again.

Approaching Kirkley Hall and still running late, I decided it wasn’t worth delaying my solo battle with the wind and left the group to cut off a corner and loop up over the airport.

It was as bad as I expected, especially the grind up past the golf course, where I ticked over 65 miles on what would turn out to be the first 70 miler of the year. Then I crested the top of the hill.

Down in the valley the clouds had been torn to shreds and were being harried, hustled and bustled rapidly downstream. Once I got across the river, I’d have the wind at my back for a welcome fast run to the bottom of the Heinous Hill.

I just had to get there.


YTD Totals: 1,512 km / 939 miles with 20,404 metres of climbing

Proper Paggered

Proper Paggered

Club Run, Saturday 2nd March, 2019

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:109 km/68 miles with 1,205 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 12 minutes
Average Speed:25.9km/h
Group Size:23 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature:14℃
Weather in a word or two:The calm before?

Ride Profile

The freakishly mild weather has added a new and unwelcome dimension to my personal prevarications, I now not only have to wrestle with critical clothing choices, but even the most basic, fundamental issue of which bike to ride.

I can’t remember ever riding the summer bike in February, but I did last week and once the genie is out of the bottle, it becomes much harder to entice it back in again. Friday night then saw me prepping both the Holdsworth and Peugeot for potential deployment on Saturday, depending on what the morning brought.

10 minutes before leaving I still hadn’t settled on a bike, which was bad news as I didn’t know which shoes to pull on. The ground looked dry and the sky was clear, but it may have rained elsewhere along our route and the forecast highlighted the potential for infrequent light showers.

Aagh! The Master of Prevarication strikes again.

Eenie-meenie-miny-mo?

No, come on, you’re a grown man, make a decision and live with the consequences. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen, Reg might get a bid muddy and wet, but he’s not some effete, cossetted Ribble. Beside, if you’re going to flaunt Flandrian colours, you should expect to enjoy a bit of mud and rain occasionally. So two weeks in a row I get an early Easter present and the chance to ride “the good bike.”

While it still seems too early for good bikes, perhaps it really is that time of year already. Alternatively, maybe the flowers too are confused by the freakishly mild weather. Whatever the reason, the verges are already studded with bright yellow, purple and white crocuses and, here and there, a few premature daffodils have raised their frilly periscopes to check out the conditions.

I swooped down toward the river just as the barriers of the level crossing raised their arms in salute, catching and passing a fellow cyclist who somehow seemed offended by my cheery good morning as I slipped past.

He accelerated to sit huffing and puffing away on my rear wheel all the way to the bridge. I stopped as the lights turned red, but he simply accelerated down the span. Each to his own, but I couldn’t help feeling it was more luck than good judgement that he didn’t meet an impatient driver coming the other way, though.

From there it was all plain sailing and it wasn’t long before I was rolling up to the meeting point.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Taffy Steve immediately took me to task for not describing in minute detail the magical epiphany that accompanies the change from winter bike to summer bike – even if I had to repeat everything I said the year before … and the year before that (and potentially even the year before that.)

Even though he knows it’s coming, like me he’s still amazed by the difference in feel and heft when he swaps his thrice-cursed winter bike of pig iron (pig aluminium?) for the lightweight titanium love-child. Such an important stage in the natural, evolution of the cyclists year, he argues, requires the ritual description of the clouds parting, pillars of golden light blazing down and the angelic singing of the heavenly hosts.

Almost as good as swapping winter bike for summer version, the Garrulous Kid has finally had his Focus Cayo serviced and new cassette, chain, bottom bracket, cables and brake blocks fitted. He insisted everyone admire his newly restored bike and, to be fair, given his past record we might as well imprint it on our memories now, because it won’t look this good until after its next service.

G-Dawg wondered why he hadn’t gone for a black chain with red highlights, like Jimmy Mac’s, but why pay for it, in a week or two his chain will be suitably black, once it had the chance to build up that sticky, oily, coating of protective black grunge again.

By way of contrast, the similarly aged Monkey Butler Boy and Archie Miedes spent the first 5 minutes cleaning and polishing off the mud and crud that had accumulated on their bikes just on their way across to the meeting point.

Szell was out (for the first time this year?) prompting Crazy Legs to enquire if the chrysalis had broken and then checking to ensure that Middleton Bank was definitely planned on our itinerary, with instructions to put it in if it wasn’t there already.

Jimmy Mac outlined the route for the day and had us split into two groups, somehow conspiring to get G-Dawg to take the second group so he could have fun at the front.


As this first group rode out, I tagged onto the back and was joined by Benedict. After the first couple of miles he declared it was a much more civilised and relaxing way to start the ride, rather than giving them a head-start and then hammering away, trying to catch up as we’d done last week.

The boys were feisty today though and we set off at such an infernal pace, I’m not sure we’d have managed bridge across if we had delayed. I netted 14 Strava PR’s in the first 30km alone, as Jimmy Mac, Kermit, Andeven, Rainman and others conspired to propel the group along at breakneck speed.



At one point, as we started to lose riders out the back on a climb, I told Jimmy Mac I didn’t think the pace was sustainable … but we sustained it anyway. In this way the first handful of miles passed under our wheels in a blur, without pause or let-up and no lack of pain.

Just past Mitford, the Garrulous Kid engineered a solo break and, as we started to close in on our traditional stop point at Dyke Neuk, Biden Fecht decided to close him down and piled more speed on top of speed. All this over a road that most definitely resides amongst my least favourites

Still, the catch was made and then we hammered up to the Dyke Neuk Inn to stop, catch our breath and patch our splintered group back together. There we settled in to wait for our second group to join us – given our pace, I suspected it would take much longer than usual.

We were disappointed to find the banana plantations we were secretly cultivating in the area had failed to take root. Still, there’s time yet.

As we waited, we were entertained by the Monkey Butler Boy describing being chased by “the Bizzies.”

“The Bizzies?” we wondered.

“Bizzies?”

The obvious question wasn’t why the Monkey Butler Boy and his associates might find themselves attracting the interest of the boys in blue, but when and how Wallsend had been transported from Tyneside to Merseyside?

The first false alarm in our wait was the appearance of a group of cyclists, who turned out to be an NTR splinter cell. They reported no sign of our second group, despite travelling up the same roads we expected them to use on their approach.

The second false-alarm was the appearance of Big Dunc, who we thought might be the vanguard of the second group, until he admitted he’d left them for a sneaky short-cut.

Finally the second group arrived and I learned I’d missed a round of Leo Sayer ear-worms that Crazy Legs, the Ticker and Taffy Steve had inflicted on each other – You Make me Feel Like Dancing, One Man Band and The Show Must Go On.

Crazy Legs had only managed to banish this insane indignity by recalling the Breakaway song – apparently not the Art Garfunkel/Gallagher and Lyle number, but the advertising jingle for Breakaway Biscuits.

I couldn’t remember that particular ad and my Sutherland’s Spread recollection (Sutherland’s, Sutherland’s scrumptious Sutherland’s, spread on sumptuous Sutherland’s spread …) fell on deaf ears, so I pulled the pin on a “When I Need You” labelled, Leo Sayer grenade, rolled it into the middle of the group and rode off.

Away we went again, almost instinctively falling into the original two groups, causing Crazy Legs to bark with laughter and wonder why the first group had even bothered to wait. Can’t say he didn’t have a point, although we did manage to steal G-Dawg away from the second group.

Around the next corner though, we ran into a surprisingly strong headwind and Carlton, on the front of the second group, put in a huge effort dragging everyone across the gap so they could find a bit of shelter.

We stayed together through the swoop and clamber through Hartburn, before some took a left, while the rest pushed on to Scots Gap and coalesced into two distinct groups.

Archie Miedes then hit the front and seemed intent on shredding the legs of all us old blokes, driving us on towards Scots Gap. “It’s been this mad all morning,” I managed to gasp at G-Dawg as we ripped along.

Archie Miedes ceded the front as we pushed through Scot’s Gap, but as we took the wide, right turn toward Middleton Bank, the speed obviously wasn’t fast enough for his liking, so he pushed onto the front and ramped up the pace again.

Everyone seemed to be going at full gas on the descent to the climb and I tucked in and hunkered down, trying to surf the slipstreams and freewheel enough to recover a little. As we approached the climb itself, I couldn’t help thinking that this was going to hurt and I’d struggle to hang on. Then Archie Miedes pulled up lame … or with a puncture anyway … and suddenly the pace and urgency evaporated.

With enough people back-tracking to help out the puncture victim, I decided to push on to the top of the hill at a more leisurely pace, thinking I’d get it over with before stopping to regroup.

I picked up Biden Fecht on the way and he decided it was a reasonable plan, kicking away up the hill while I took it at a much more considered and relaxed pootle.

Rainman obviously had the same idea and passed me on the way up.
“That’s the most pleasant ride I’ve ever had up here,” I declared as I joined the pair now waiting at the entrance to the farm at the top of the hill.

Without the blood-pounding, tunnel-vision and screaming legs of a full on assault of the slope, it was quite a gentle, easy ascent and a completely different experience.

“I could actually hear birds singing all the way up,” Biden Fecht revealed cheerfully.

“And I didn’t even know there was a farm here,” Rainman added.

As we waited, chatting, Kermit clambered past, intent on pushing straight onto the cafe. With repairs well in hand at the bottom of the hill and nothing we could add to proceedings, we decided to follow and joined him.

We pushed on with a slightly ragged through-and-off, building up our speed until once again my legs were screaming, my lungs burning and I was just about hanging on. I was, in the Ticker’s profound words, proper paggered as we hit the bottom of the Rollers …

… so I attacked.

Tradition. It’s not to be taken lightly, so I felt I had no choice in the matter.

I almost had a gap, but couldn’t sustain it over the third and fourth humps, succeeding only in distancing Kermit, battling bravely, but severely handicapped riding his winter bike.

Rainman shot past and away and I tagged onto Biden Fecht’s wheel as he set off in pursuit, hanging there until the final climb, when he put in a big dig to bring back Rainman. It fell just short of its target, but left me trailing.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee shop:

Once again we determined that we could probably get away with sitting outside, proof if ever it’s needed that you can’t accurately judge ambient temperature following a mile long uphill sprint.

It was a bit chilly, but after some prevarication we stuck it out. Following our example we were joined by most of the later arrivals until we had two bench tables filled on either side. It was a comradely, misery loves company type of collective suffering and I’m not convinced there was any benefit from shared body heat.

Crazy Legs arrived sat down and then shot up again with cramp in his foot. He kicked off a boot and clambered onto the bench, bouncing on his toes to try and ease the pain. As he towered over me I was waiting for a “O Captain, my Captain” moment, but he wasn’t in the mood for channelling Walt Whitman and all I got was a minuscule, cramp-inspired whimper instead of a mighty, barbaric yawp.

The last group to arrive escorted Archie Miedes home and we learned his tyres belonged amongst the ranks of those that seem almost impossibly hard to remove and replace.

We also learned that Archie Miedes had earned himself an everlasting place in the Hall of Shame, reserved for those who go out for a ride without the means and wherewithal to repair a simple puncture. It’s not a good place to be, but he’s in there with some surprisingly illustrious and esteemed company.

To prove his new found maturity, the Garrulous Kid proudly announced he, at least, was now carrying both a spare tube and tyre levers. No pump though, or CO2 canister, so I’m not exactly sure if that actually makes him more, or less foolhardy.

Crazy Legs recalled the day one of our former riders, Arnold, became inducted into the Hall of Shame. He’d punctured the week before and broken his pump, which was fortuitous timing as it was coming up to his birthday and he was struggling to think of anything he wanted as a present.

The following Saturday he punctured again and, shamefacedly had to admit he didn’t have the means and wherewithal to repair a simple puncture, flagging down Crazy Legs to ask for a pump to borrow.

“I thought you were getting a new pump for your birthday?” a perplexed Crazy Legs had asked.

“I am. My wife’s already bought it, but I’m not allowed to use it because my actual birthday’s not until tomorrow,” Arnold had ruefully replied.

This reminded me of (surely an urban myth) the story of a new season-ticket holder at Newcastle, who’d been surprised the seat beside him remained empty, game, after game, after game. With a reportedly long waiting list for tickets he’d enquired if perhaps the seat was available to purchase only to be told it definitely had an owner.

When said owner finally turned up, he’d informed his new neighbour not to enquire why he’d missed so many games, but finally relented to reveal he’d his wife had bought the season ticket for a Christmas present …

Just about everything we discussed then paled into insignificance by the highlight of the day, or maybe month, or perhaps even the year. This was the rather startling declaration from the Garrulous Kid – and I quote him exactly here so there’s no misunderstanding –

“I share a bath with my sister.”

Yes, well, hmmm. Moving swiftly on …


After such a blockbuster revelation, everyone was ready to go, with some riders turning left from the cafe for a slightly longer return ride. I took the usual right, keen to get home and catch the start of the Classics and the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Proper bike racing has finally started again.

I dropped in alongside Jimmy Mac as we turned off the main road onto the lanes.

My Garmin has just told me it’s battery is low,” he started, “and suggested I switch it to Power-Saving Mode. So I did and it just turned itself off completely!”

Well, we had to admit, that was the ultimate power-saving mode and his Garmin would probably retain its limited charge for days now, if not weeks.

“Let’s keep it together up the climb,” OGL called as we approached the bottom of Berwick Hill. As if on cue, G-Dawg and the Garrulous Kid immediately surged off the front and chased each other up the hill.

I accelerated to track them, pulling those with the legs left to follow upwards. As I caught up with a grinning G-Dawg on the reverse slope, he predicted a Facebook rant about group riding etiquette sometime that night.

He wasn’t to be disappointed.

We pushed on into the Mad Mile side by side, both commenting on the sudden, stiff headwind that appeared to have been lying in wait until just that very moment. So, it’s back to that is it? Great.

Let’s see what next week brings.


YTD Totals: 1,353 km / 841 miles with 18,447 metres of climbing

How Deep is Your Mud?

How Deep is Your Mud?

Club Run, Saturday 23rd February 2019

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:104km/65 miles with 1,057m climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 0 minutes
Average Speed:25.9 km/h
Group Size:28 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature: 13°C
Weather in a word or two:Cool

Ride Profile

As we approached the weekend, it was Aether’s turn to post up our route for Saturday’s club run, with the weather forecast looked like holding mild and dry for the second weekend in a row.

“I smell carbon,” Jimmy Mac’s message flashed back almost immediately.

And so he could.

And, ye verily, so it was to be…

I suspected there would be few winter bikes out and I was more than happy to join in with the masses, lifting the Holdsworth out of its cotton-wool wrappings, polishing up it’s bright, garish and shiny surfaces and topping up the tyres

Time to join the fun.

Saturday wasn’t quite as warm as I expected. Having sweltered on my commute from work on Friday in a long sleeved journey, bibtights and a base layer, I’d gone for a short-sleeved jersey, arm warmers and legwarmers and found its disappointingly chilly first thing.

It was cold enough for me to pull on a windproof jacket for the jaunt across to the meeting point and I really noticed the difference in swapping winter boots for ruby red slippers – I could have done with some Belgian Booties as, for the first time all winter my toes were cold.

Still, the ride across was a pleasure and I enjoyed the different kind of feel even a modest, carbon-framed bike gives. I won’t describe it in detail, I did that last year and, rather embarrassingly, found I’d written pretty much the exact same thing the year before that. But, if you don’t regularly ride a winter bike, you may never appreciate this change – it’s a life-affirming moment and a bit like getting a new bike every year.

Anyway, suffice to say that both bike and rider appeared at the meeting point in good time and in good order and one of them was wearing a stupid, seemingly permanent grin.


Main Topics of Conversation at the Meeting Point:

Having been absent a couple of weeks with an ingrown toenail, the Monkey Butler Boy was back with us. I sidled up to him, put my cleat over the toe of his shoe and pressed down.

“What ya deeing, man?” he wondered and then, when he realised exactly what I was doing, “Ha-ha, wrong foot.”

I might have been forgiven, but my apparently dirty cleat left a barely discernible impression on his newly restored, gleaming white shoe.

This sent the Monkey Butler Boy scurrying to his tool tub, from which he extracted a dubbin-impregnated cloth and proceeded to polish his shoes to clean of my offending marks.

While the Monkey Butler Boy was distracted, one of his mini-me’s turned up and started jabbering away at him enthusiastically. I listened intently to the discourse, but all I heard was a strange chittering interspersed with a series of high-pitched squeaks and chirrups, like a dolphin on helium.

“I didn’t understand a word of that,” I admitted resignedly to Crazy Legs.

“No, neither did I, but it does seem to have attracted the attention of all the dogs in a 50 metre radius,” he replied.

Meanwhile, the Monkey Butler Boy seemed to have no issue understanding and conversing with the youngster, while I looked on, still befuddled. I felt like I was watching a younger version of Father Ted’s Monkey Priest.

Aether briefed in the route, we split into two and G-Dawg led the first group out.

I counted them off as they bumped down the kerb one by one. For once we seemed to have the split just about right.

“In the second group, on your good bike?” Crazy Legs enquired, somewhat surprised.

He was right, this was a wasted opportunity, a few moments more prevarication and then it was my turn to bump down the kerb, accelerate smartly toward our front group … and haul on the anchors as the traffic lights changed to red and they slipped away.

The rest of the second group caught me up, while I stood waiting for the lights to change.

“Well, that must be the first time someone’s actually been dropped in the bus station,” Taffy Steve announced drolly.


The light finally changed to green and Benedict shot away, seemingly intent on catching the first group too. I dived onto his wheel and we began our mad pursuit, even though I had a horrible vision of being caught in limbo, between group 1 and 2.

As we hit the Broadway, I nudged onto the front. Andeven’s blinking rear light finally materialised in front of us, at least we now had sight of our quarry and could see we were visibly closing. Encouraged, we pressed harder and as the front group started to slow for more traffic lights, Benedict surged across the gap and towed me onto the back.

Well, that’s an interesting way to start a group ride, but at least it warmed me up a little. I hung at the back trying to recover from the effort as we pushed on and out into the countryside.

I took the opportunity of the first real climb to move forward in the group and found myself riding along beside Goose, whose ever fulminating brain was working out how he could fit a gyroscope inside his wheel hub. The idea was this would somehow be charged up while riding and come into play whenever you stopped, keeping the bike upright without all the faffing of trying to do a track-stand, or the ultimate embarrassment of failing to do a track stand and toppling slowly over.

We passed a pair of cyclists as Rab Dee and the Colossus finally swung off the front after a sterling first stint and I thought nothing more of it as our front pair drifted past me and latched onto the back.



A few more changes at the front and a few more miles under or wheels, then Goose was calling a halt for a mechanical, after a strange metallic rattling started to emanate from the rear of his bike. We stopped and he found that, unlike normal bikes, his touring, steel behemoth had two spare spokes in a little holder on his chainstay. One of these spokes had worked loose and it was this that was causing the rattle.

Rather than trying to fit the spoke back into its holder, or throw it away in a hedge, Goose decided to stick the errant spoke in his back pocket, seemingly unfazed by our concern that, should he come off, he could end up skewered on his own spoke – possibly the cycling equivalent to being hoist by your own petard.

We pressed on through Fenwick and Matfen and I found myself riding beside the Colossus, who pointed out to two cyclists up ahead. Apparently when he dropped off the front with Rab Dee, they’d inadvertently rejoined behind this pair, trapping them within or group and forcing them to travel wherever we wanted to go and at whatever speed we chose to set. They’d only managed to break free when we stopped for Goose’s mechanical, but now we were closing them down on a climb and there was a real danger they’d be swept up and carried away again.

Luckily we turned off toward the village of Ryal and they escaped to fight another day. We climbed up to the village and called a halt to regroup and let everyone berate the Garrulous Kid for having such a filthy bike. It was such a comprehensive beasting that we were still there 10 minutes later when the second group arrived for an unscheduled club reformation.

With no one tempted to head down and then back up the Ryals, we all set a course for the Quarry. At the top the plan was to swing left and then follow an additional loop toward Capheaton, where there was the opportunity to return to the main road, or follow a gated track toward the cafe.

The first deviation came at the top of the Quarry, when the Garrulous Kid announced he was going right, instead of left. He suggested his decision was forced by a badly creaking bottom-bracket, but to be honest, despite exemplary Teutonic engineering of the very highest order, his bike’s been making those kind of distressed, whimpering noises since early October.

What then would explain his strange and sudden defection, before he’d even had a chance to renew his sprinting battle with the Colossus?

It was at this point I noticed Goose still had his errant, naked spoke poking baldly up out of his jersey pocket and recalled Plumose Pappus’s suggestion last week, that we all gang up and dispatch the Garrulous Kid by impaling him on spokes. Had the Garrulous Kid seen Goose’s spoke and thought the plot was in motion? Had he taken both fright and flight so as not to end up being Kerplunked and abandoned at the side of the road?

“Et tu, Goose?” might he have asked, bleeding from more spoke holes than you’d find in a heavy duty touring rim.

We may never know.

At the top of our little extended loop everyone decided that the combination of good summer bikes and a gated farm track probably wasn’t a great idea, so we stuck to the road that would lead us back to the Snake Bends and the cafe.

I pushed on at the front and had started up Brandywell Bank, when I heard the distinctive swash, swash, swash behind me, as someone on carbon wheels came powering up the short, but horribly steep climb in a massive gear.

“Swash, swash, swash,” I said in response.

“Guess who?” G-Dawg asked.

Oh, hold on, let me think …

Still on the front I tried to provide a fast lead out for the sprint, hammering away over the drop toward the Snake Bends and managing to hold a reasonable, if modest pace until someone finally attacked and I could ease back.

I dropped back through the second group, before managing to recover slightly to lead home the also-rans.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

After threatening last week, the promise was fulfilled this time and we escaped a crowded cafe to find seats outside in the garden. In February? It was cool, but not unpleasant.

Aether reported that he’d tried to join the motley ranks of angry (but warm handed) rockhoppers and invested in some Planet X lobster mitts. In fact, he told us, he now had two pairs as he didn’t know which size to get, the Large or Extra Large. The trouble was both were too small.

“Yeah, they are in fact identical,” the Colossus assured him, “the only difference is what size label they stick on them.”

Caracol had his own fair share of glove buying issues, having measured his hands following the instructions on one web site and found that lengthwise he was recommended to buy Extra Large, but the recommended width fitting was Small.

Talk turned to my crash last week and how it takes a particular kind of idiot to ride into a kerb, even when the kerb suddenly erupts with no reason out of a road surface. No excuses, guilty as charged, M’lud.

We once again had a discussion about the apparent lack of logic behind many cycling routes and how they seem to be designed by people who’ve never actually ridden a bike. Luckily Caracol was on hand to provide the necessary technical insight.

“You do know how to tell the difference between a cycle path and a cycle lane, don’t you?” he asked.

We didn’t.

“A cycle lane’s where you park your car, a cycle path’s where you walk the dog.”

Seems about right.

At some point in our sojourn dans l’herbe, Buster rolled up, being a complete slacker and having enjoyed a very relaxed morning in bed, before finally stirring to ride directly to the cafe. Given the minimal effort in getting there I’m not sure he deserved the giant sized portion of cake he was devouring.

He mentioned that just as I was falling off, not far from Pigdon last week (That? Again?) a 63 year old cyclist was found after being subjected to a nasty hit and run in the same area, with the police now appealing for witnesses.

Buster informed us the victim was an ex-racer, good friend and protege of OGL who’d apparently once ridden under the moniker of the Flying Pitman. Being a smart arse, I had to ask if this was before, or after his numerous appearances on Top of the Pops as part of an a capella group of dodgy looking miscreants. I think I actually managed to inflict an ear worm on G-Dawg, which was a bit of a surprise as I didn’t think he sang.

[I understand the cyclist is now out of critical condition and recovering, but suffered a major head injury and cannot remember anything about the incident.]

The Garrulous Kid wandered up and tried to persuade us he was fully house-trained, completely domesticated and would be perfectly capable of looking after himself once he cut mummy’s apron-strings. Seeking some substance to this claim, someone asked him how he would go about doing the ironing,

“Well, first I’d boil the kettle …”

“Eh? What for?”

“To fill the iron.”

“!!!”

“Would you turn on the toaster before doing some laundry?” the Colossus wondered.

I’m not sure he’s quite as prepared as he thinks he is.

A few were starting to pack up to leave and the Garrulous Kid made to go with them.

“When you get onto the lane to Ogle, call back and let us know how muddy it is,” G-Dawg asked him, thinking about protecting his bike from further abuse.

“Yep, let us know how deep is your mud?” I added.

“Eh?” the Garrulous Kid replied smartly.

“How deep is your mud?”

“What? I don’t understand.”

He was a lost cause, I only wish Crazy Legs had been present, I would have had him singing Bee-Gees songs all the way home.

It was still too early for G-Dawg and the Colossus to head back but I had no objections to getting home a little earlier, so saddled up and left with what turned out to be our second group on the road.


I fell in alongside the Red Max, trailing the Monkey Butler Boy, who’d been one of a handful who’d opted for shorts on the day. The Red Max revealed this had been no simple decision, as the Monkey Butler Boy had to first apply fake tan to his legs so they didn’t look too pale. Or, to be more precise, at least to the bits of leg between the top of his socks and where his shorts ended. Fake tan lines! Who’d have guessed there’d ever be such a thing …

He then drew my attention to the Monkey Butler Boy’s chainrings, where he’d filled the gap between the arms with strips of electricians tape as, apparently, this is more “aero”.

Slightly flummoxed by this, I could only suggest that at least he’d made a fairly neat job of it.

“I’m not sure about that,” the Rex Max retorted.

“Well, I only mean’t in comparison to the last time he changed his bar tape,” I qualified, remembering how the Monkey Butler Boy had once turned up with handlebars resembling a snake caught midway through shedding its own skin.

The pace accelerated up Berwick Hill, then, after the climb to Dinnington, I pushed onto the front alongside the Cow Ranger. Rounding a corner, a small knot of cyclists came into view.

“Target acquired!” the Red Max intoned, “Engage.”

As one we quickened our pace and began to chase. Having been sat on the front most of the way back, the Cow Ranger excused himself from the front and drifted back. Almost immediately he was replaced by Biden Fecht and we kicked the speed up another notch.

Up past the airport and the distance to the front group was shrinking noticeably now. The Monkey Butler Boy hammered into the gap and we all followed, catching and blowing straight past what turned out to be a bunch of our early-leavers from the cafe.

That set me up for a blast through the Mad Mile and a decent pace all the way home, for the first time in weeks unhampered by any headwinds and free to enjoy both bike and weather.



YTD Totals: 1,187 km / 738 miles with 16,353 metres of climbing.

Blow Monkeys

Blow Monkeys

Club Run, Saturday 9th February, 2019

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:87 km / 54 miles with 1,515m climbing
Riding Time:3 hours 58 minutes
Average Speed:21.8 km/h
Group Size:10
Temperature: 10°C
Weather in a word or two:

Ride Profile

Here we go then, surfing on the ragged coattails of Storm Erik, with the promise of high winds, gusts of up to 60mph and frequent rain. Tally ho!

The conditions have already caused the Hammer and Aether to peek cautiously out from behind their bedroom curtains and declare it’s a “Too Wild to Ride” kind of day. Unfortunate, as the Hammer had planned the route and volunteered to lead.

Still, as I’m buffeted and bashed on the drop off the Heinous Hill, I’m certain that someone with at least half a clue and a workable plan will turn up – in fact I already have a fairly good idea of which of the Usual Suspects will be out and ready to laugh (quite literally) in the face of Storm Erik.

Having been snowbound last week, I feel I particularly need the ride, despite the less than ideal conditions and a streaming cold. I wasn’t feeling too bad, but one nostril was painfully plugged and felt tighter than the sphincter on a deep-diving platypus. Meanwhile, the other was the gift that kept giving and streamed like a cataract.

I took the closer river crossing over a prolonged battle with the elements and soon started to climb out of the valley. I was gently impelled upwards by the wind at my back and made decent time.

This wind must have been blowing in just the right direction and with just the right force to set all the lampposts along Silver Lonnen to a rhythmic, but raucous metallic clanging. I’ve never heard anything quite like it (well, outside the industrial percussion Tom Waits used on Swordfishtrombones) and wondered how the residents had managed to sleep through this startled, constant alarm call.

I had the wind at my back again for the final run-in, slightly downhill on a straight and fast road, where I could freewheel and still watch my speed slowly build: 26 … 27 … 28 … 29 mph.

As I turned on the final approach to the bus station sorry, Transport Interchange Centre, the wind gave me one final shove, like the brakeman on a bobsled team. I whipped around the corner, bumped over the kerb and had to brake sharply before hitting the wall. I’d arrived a whole 10 minutes early.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Buoyed by the invincibility of youth, the Garrulous Kid was out, having survived the previous week when everyone had switched to a mountainbike in the snow, but he’d stuck resolutely to his road bike. I didn’t know whether to commend his bravery or condemn his madness.

It wasn’t long before the Usual Suspects started to show, G-Dawg and the Colossus, Taffy Steve, Crazy Legs, Goose and Caracol.

We were joined by Archie Miades, one of the Monkey Butler Boy’s mini-me’s, who seems to quite enjoy riding with the auld codgers and probably lowered our average age by at least 5 years.

OGL drove up while we were chatting about possible routes, apparently on his way to the gym, having also determined it was Too Wild to Ride. “There are trees down everywhere,” he declared ominously.

Taffy Steve, having already ridden an hour in from the coast, immediately suggested these dire warnings were pure hyperbole and could be safely filed away with other assorted and periodic scare-mongering, such as “glaciers are starting to form in Rothbury” and the Broadway is a car vs. cyclist war zone and utterly deadly.

Still, at least OGL’s arrival entertained Crazy Legs who was delighted by the baggy, bright red, track suit bottoms he was wearing. If the branding is to be believed, these were official team issue to Canadian canoeists for the 2012 Olympic Games.

They were in fact, so red, that I’m not sure that even the admirably eccentric Prof would have allowed them into his wardrobe, despite his penchant for sporting his famous “Nantucket Red” trews on the occasions when he wants to look “preppy” and/or edgy.

Unsightly as they were, at least OGL’s pants gave Crazy Legs one of the trickier trivia questions of the day,

“Name a famous Canadian Olympian …”

“Well, that’s easy …”

Other than Ben Johnston?

“Oh … err … hmm.”

(We couldn’t – well, other than Ben Johnston, although perhaps boxer Lennox Lewis may have won me the point as I had an inkling he’d competed for Canada before being adopted as a “true-Brit”).

We all turned to watch the halting approach of infrequent, irregular, Double Dec, perhaps the tallest rider in the club and ideal for sheltering behind on a windy day.

“We should ask him to carry a door,” G-Dawg suggested, not unreasonably, I thought.

“Then we could all ride behind him in a V-shaped formation, like geese,” the Colossus reasoned, envisaging a spearhead, with Double Dec and his door on the front of a gradually broadening formation, culminating in 8 riders abreast at the back.

We failed to suppress a small, involuntarily cheer as Double Dec drew to a halt in front of us.

“I know what you’re all thinking,” he declared flatly, “Put the big feller on the front and hide behind him all day.”

We all immediately denied we would ever, ever consider such an unfair imposition. I mean, as if …


Off we went, ten brave souls led out by G-Dawg and the Garrulous Kid. Things weren’t too bad as long as there was a bit of shelter – houses, hedges, or trees, but when we hit the wide-open stretch of road past the Sage HQ we found out just how strong the wind was.

Looking for a slightly easier route, Crazy Legs detached and tried the cycle path. His manoeuvre left me slightly adrift from the group and it took a hell of an effort just to close the gap, head-down and toiling away into the wind.

Meanwhile, on the front, G-Dawg was grinding his massive fixed gear with ponderous slowness, forced out of the saddle and contorting his entire body to keep the wheels turning. I was convinced today was going to be the day when we finally broke him.

Double Dec had already been distanced. If he was a good windbreak to ride behind, it was also true that he represented a massive surface area for the wind to buffet and probably generated more drag than the rest of us combined. He would struggle for the rest of the day.

A still lung-shot Crazy Legs had dropped off the back and was also determined to ride at his own pace, but every time we stopped to wait for Double Dec, Crazy Legs would invariably appear first.

At one such stop, I managed to tell him that I’d been working through our postgraduate course database when a colleague noticed a course with no name.

“What’s that, you say?” I had asked, “A course with no name?”

I left the conversation dangling as we pressed on, but was fairly confident the trap had been masterfully baited and was about to be sprung …



The ride continued in this stop-start way, Crazy Legs would drift off the back content in his own company and travelling at his own pace. Then we’d hit a climb, Double Dec would be jettisoned and, when we pulled over to wait for him, Crazy Legs would invariably appear before our errant windbreak.

At one point G-Dawg and the Colossus dropped back to provide escort duties for Double Dec, as we hit a particularly wild, windy and horribly exposed bit of road and progress slowed to a crawl.

At the crossroads below Meldon, Taffy Steve indicated he was turning left and heading straight on to the cafe, while the rest were heading up through Dyke Neuk, then on to the wind-blasted moorland around Angerton.

I indicated I was going with Taffy Steve, while Caracol hemmed and hawed, between the longer and shorter routes. In his mind he was already at home
curled up on the sofa and ready for an all-day wallow in the rugby.

“Wearing a onesie and wrapped in a slanket,” the Colossus imagined.

“Both feet in a Big Slipper,” I added.

“Sipping a Cup-A-Soup,” the Colossus concluded.

Oddly Caracol didn’t argue, other than to suggest he’d probably still be in his cycling kit, so the onesie was a bit of an exaggeration.

Naturally Crazy Legs arrived before Double Dec.

“I’m please you’re here,” he said to me, “Otherwise I would have asked someone to pass a message forward.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. You’re a complete and utter bastard!” he announced.

From this I understood I had successfully inflicted an irritating earworm on Crazy Legs and he’d been assailed by the America’s (the group, not the country) finest musical opus, as he’d toiled along – alone and behind, where there ain’t no one for to give you no pain. La-la-la – lalalala – la-la-la – la-la …

While the rest pushed on for Dyke Neuk, I went with Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs , collecting Double Dec and climbing the always surprisingly sharp, hill to Meldon on a more direct heading to the cafe.

Even slight rises were enough to cast out Double Dec now and I spent much of the time looking back and judging how big a gap he needed to make up as we slowed to wait.

As we reached the bottom of the drop down to Bolam Lake, I looked back again and found the road completely empty. I hung back while Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs pushed on and was just about to start climbing back up the hill, when Double Dec finally reappeared.

I checked how he was doing and made sure he didn’t have any mechanical issues. All was fine, but he was struggling in the wind and had decided to head straight home, foregoing the pleasure of coffee and cake for the opportunity to travel at his own pace.

I left him and caught up with Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs. We pressed on with a token increase in pace as we closed on the cafe. Crazy Legs accelerated into the rollers and I tracked him across the first three crests, before poking my nose into the wind and leading our splinter group up to the cafe.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

We hadn’t been sat there long, when the rest of our group were blown in. The Garrulous Kid was heard loudly declaring he weighed more than 80 kilos now, as a result of all of his work in the gym. The Colossus queried if this was remotely possible.

“You have to take into account his giant head, which is filled with material that’s much denser than normal,” I argued.

“Perhaps that explains why he keeps falling over?” Crazy Legs pondered. “I wonder where his centre of balance is?”

Crazy Legs then spent a few moments trying to identify his own centre of balance, before boldly declaring that Henley-in-Arden is the centre of balance for the whole of the British Isles:

“If you put a giant pin through Henley-in-Arden and give the country a quick spin, it will more freely rotate around this point than any other,” he asserted with such conviction that I didn’t dare doubt him.

We discussed some well worn cycling tropes, such as the relationship between drivers and cyclists and the tensions created by awful, often dangerous cycle lanes we, fairly unanimously spurn, to the ire of our motorised brethren.

Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs then compared notes on gesticulating angrily to motorists while wearing lobster-claw mitts. They concluded that the gloves were impressively warm, but their major drawback was they severely restricted the range of your digital eloquence and emasculated the vehemence of your gestures.

In fact, their rather cute, comical design made you look like an agitated rock-hopper penguin having a temper tantrum, while waving them at motorists was akin to threatening someone with a cheery glove puppet.

Talk turned to cult sporting heroes, especially those who had a brilliant career, prematurely cut short by injury. But perhaps it’s better to burn out, than to fade away, as a smart Canadian feller once proclaimed. My, my, hey, hey. (He wasn’t, to the best of my knowledge an Olympian).

As we were thinking about heading home, the Garrulous Kid sidled up to accidentally let slip he’d beaten the Colossus in the cafe sprint. We weren’t there and with no corroborating witnesses, we naturally treated such claims as utterly spurious, fake news.

Then the Garrulous Kid queried where Double Dec was.

“Probably around about Ogle, by now” G-Dawg suggested dryly, glancing at his watch and name-checking the next village a couple of hundred yards down the road.

I explained that Double Dec had been struggling, so hadn’t stopped at the cafe and ridden straight for home. The Garrulous Kid was disappointed, as talking to him was “really interesting.” According to the Garrulous Kid, our missing comrade has at least two claims to fame, having once placed last in a Very Tall Man competition and (allegedly) possessing an uncountable harem of wives. 


I hung at the back, well out of the wind all the way home, before letting Caracol, G-Dawg and the Colossus slip away on the last section of the Mad Mile.

I was then on my own, up the long drag past the golf course, with a cross headwind, strong enough to both impede forward progress and occasionally slap me sideways, so I lurched across the road.

Head down, I didn’t see much of anything as I toiled away, occasionally looking up just to get my bearings and avoid ploughing into any parked cars. I must admit I was always pleasantly surprised by the progress I was making each time I raise my eyes from the road ahead.

In this way I made it to the foot of the Heinous Hill and then, with one last effort, home.


YTD Totals: 840 km / 522 miles with 11,720 metres of climbing.