Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops

Pearly-Dewdrops’ Drops

Early Saturday and after days of a stifling heatwave (typically anything above 20℃ in the North East of England is considered extreme) it was quite pleasant to find myself descending through the cooling, clinging mist that had settled overnight, although my arm warmers, shorts and the lenses on my specs were soon beaded with jewelled dewdrops and I had to ship the latter and store them in my helmet vents.

I had my second time trial lined up for tomorrow, so was conscious of not wasting too much energy as I fumble towards finding the best preparation. With this in mind, I bumbled happily along at a fairly relaxed pace, reaching the meeting point without the need for any round-the-houses diversions to fill in a little time.

When I arrived I was introduced to a returning rider who has officially re-joined the club after a notable absence and in the process became about the 29th member called Paul.

I also learned that last week, in his fairly new, official capacity as Membership Secretary, Crazy Legs had serenaded our latest recruit with his very own new club member welcome song. She’d not returned this week and I’m not sure anyone had altogether enjoyed the experience, so that idea has been shelved. At least for now.

I of course had missed this singing celebration because of my mechanical travails last week. Every cloud has a silver lining, eh?

Speaking of last week, Biden Fecht had no sooner condemned me to a 2-up TT and put our official entry in, when the event was cancelled due to a safety issue with roadworks on the course. Everyone who’d signed up expressed their utter dismay, none so forcefully as Captain Black, although his Cheshire Cat grin did somewhat undermine his sincerity.

OGL turned up, I think principally to show everyone the mark on his arm, which he assured us wasn’t just any old, common, or garden insect sting, nor even a spider bite, but the result of a sustained and vicious attack by what he described as “some kind of flesh-eating arachnid.”

“Have you noticed any new superpowers?” Caracol enquired innocently.

Apparently he hadn’t. Or at least that’s what I interpreted from his rather salty reply.

Now the mist had burned off it looked like being a decent enough day, but our numbers didn’t quite match-up and we only just topped 20 riders. There was enough for a split though and we managed to get 8 or 9 into the first group without too much cajoling.

I joined the second group and off we went, heading for a drop into the Tyne Valley and a traipse along the river. G-Dawg and Crazy Legs led us out to Medburn, before ceding the front and I pushed through alongside the Soup Dragon. A little confusion reigned as the group split and took two separate descents down into the Tyne valley, so I found myself waving cheerfully at a bunch of cyclists emerging from the village, until I realised it was the back half of my own group. Not that I felt stupid or anything …

Strung out from both the descent and the split, we used the valley road to try and round everyone up again.

“Shout if you’re not back on yet,” Biden Fecht called out from the front.

We heard nothing but silence, so assumed it was gruppo compatto and pressed on.

Just beyond Ovingham, we passed the Famous Cumbrian, on his own and wrestling with a tyre change. Odd that he’d been abandoned by the first group. I asked if he was ok and got an affirmative, so kept on keeping on, down the steep ramp to the riverside path, where I spotted rest of his group, seemingly loitering with intent, soft pedalling and occasionally looking back. They seemed to assume our arrival relieved them of any responsibility to wait around any longer, quickly picked up speed and disappeared up the road again.

We agreed to stop and wait for the Famous Cumbrian at the Bywell Bridge, where Mini Miss climbed a fence to search for some nettles to irrigate, while the rest of us stood around, talking bolleux and enjoying the warm sunshine.

After a good 10-minutes or so with still no sign of the Famous Cumbrian, Crazy Legs retraced our route to go look for him. A further 5 minutes or so went by and Captain Black had a call from Crazy Legs to say the Famous Cumbrian had a puncture in his tubeless set up, was struggling to now get a tube in as a stop-gap fix and we should just push on without them.

Captain Black and Biden Fecht went back to reinforce the rescue mission and to make sure no one was left to ride the rest of the route on their own, while the rest of us carried on.

Just before Corbridge we took the bridge over the A69 at Aydon and started the long climb out of the valley. Here I played the “TT tomorrow card” to blinding effect, letting the front group go, while I tackled the climb at a much more relaxed pace.

From there it was a short hop to Matfen and then up the Quarry, taking the more straightforward run to the cafe. I tried to give the group some impetus as we wound up for the traditional cafe sprint, then was able to sit up and coast home as the road dipped down and everyone blasted past for the usual fun and games.

It was out into the garden at the cafe on what was turning into another hot day – hot enough for the tables with a bit of shade to be at a premium. Talk turned to various Everesting attempts – a rather bizarre challenge that involves riding one selected climb over and over again, until you’ve ascended a total of 8,848m, or the height of Mount Everest above sea level.

I suppose it’s fair enough to attempt if you have some big hills, or ideally mountains in the area, but the flatter the terrain you choose the more laps you need to complete the challenge. G-Dawg referred to one attempt he’d heard of using the local Billsmoor climb. (I could see his lip curling with disdain even as he said it, as he positively loathes Billsmoor). At just 1.9 kilometres in length and a maximum gain of 138 metres, you’d need to ride up and down this climb 65 times just to complete the challenge. You’d also need to achieve an average speed of 34.6 kph if you wanted to beat the record (a mere 6 hours and 40 minutes, although most riders take close to 24 hours straight to complete the feat.)

This whole thing sounds like a swift path to madness (or zwift path, for those attempting vEveresting) and I can safely say I’ll not be giving it a try. But then you probably could have guessed that based on the fact that a 10-mile TT is challenge enough for me.

If Everesting seems a particularly odd activity, we decided actually climbing Everest is even more so, especially now it has become a fully commoditised and commercialised activity. It seems odd to think of having to queue for summit attempts in one of the most remote places on earth and the cost in both time and money (an estimated average $45,000) appears to be making people somewhat reckless to push the limits of safety, with deathly consequences.

We were of course, reminded that it’s also become the domain of B-list celebrities and we all felt truly sorry for the poor Sherpa tasked with hauling Brian Blessed up the mountain, with his voice booming in their ears the entire way.

Being cyclists, it wasn’t long until the seemingly ever-lachrymose and mentally fragile Victoria Pendleton got a mention, because oxygen deficiency can trigger depression, so it’s only natural that she should have been chosen to attempt to scale the world’s highest peak … I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

We left the cafe in good spirits for the ride back home and I left the group and routed through Ponteland to shave some distance off what was heading for fairly long 70+ mile run, completing the last part at a stress free, relaxed pace.

Then, an uncharacteristically early 06:15 start on Sunday found me driving out toward Cramlington for the Barnesbury CC 10-mile TT. I knew it was uncharacteristically early as the only other traffic out on the road was heading to the rugby club at the bottom of the hill for a car boot sale. I didn’t even realise these were still a thing.

The SatNav got me close enough to the race HQ before deciding to randomly send me the wrong way, but I spotted a shiny TT bike sat atop a BMW and followed this into the actual event car park.

There I found the usual cluster of expensive looking, angular bikes with shiny, solid disk wheels, and all sorts of bars and wings and things jutting out their front ends like stylised, heavily-industrialised antlers.

The owners of these machines are typically ridiculously fit and very, very fast and they take this endeavour very seriously. I haven’t quite developed that level of dedication and I’m still finding the attire slightly odd, from the knee-high aero socks to the gleaming Death Star helmets and ultra tight skinsuits (I swear I’ve seen a few of these advertised on eBay as “fetish wear.”)

These skinsuits typically come without pockets, so a lot of my fellow competitors don’t appear to carry all that much with them (unless they have it stashed internally!) That’s never going to work for me as I think I’d struggle without the reassurance of all the usual crap I carry – keys, phone, pump, tyre levers, multi-tool and wallet, along with a couple of spare tubes on the bike.

I got changed and signed on with about an hour to go before my designated 08:29 start and asking for some directions, took the bike out for a ride around the course. This has the secret-squirrel designation of M102C and is run on a flat and fast dual carriageway. It comprises a straight east bound run, then an equally straight northbound leg up to a big roundabout at the halfway point. You then sail around this in order to retrace your steps back toward the start. Simples.

I should have followed the instructions I had to find the start but saw one of the event directional signs and followed this to find myself on the northbound stretch leading up to the halfway turn. All the way around the roundabout, back over the bridge (avoiding the large, raised divot in the centre of the road) and then back the way I’d come.

The problem was one stretch of dual carriageway looks pretty much like any other and I missed the turn and found myself way off course. At 08:15 I was still looking for the right roundabout and beginning to think I was going to miss my start-time. I finally spotted one of the event marshals and he pointed me toward the finish where the time keeper was able to direct me to the start and I bustled my way there with just a couple of minutes to spare.

I arrived, slightly winded, to take my place in line behind a tall guy from Ferryhill Wheelers. Was that the ideal warm up? Hmm, maybe not.

The marshal asked for the race number of the guy in front as he checked his bike over and made sure he had the requisite lights front and back.

“Number 28,” the guy told him.

Satisfied the marshall looked at me enquiringly.

“Strangely enough, I’m number 29.”

“Well, look at that,” my fellow competitor announced, “Cyclists can actually count.”

He pinged his nail off his rear tyre two or three times, testing the pressure.

“It’s a bit late for that,” I told him and indeed it was, as he shuffled forward to the start line and clipped in.

Half a minute later he was gone and it was my turn … 5-4-3-2-1 … and off we went.

©Dub Devlin – Dub D Cycling Photography

On the flat, fast course I was quickly up to speed and soon travelling at a decent clip in excess of 20 mph. I stayed on the hoods for the first few hundred metres to negotiate the first roundabout and then, as the course proper straightened out before me I tucked in and settled down onto the aerobars.

I might, in my own mind, have been travelling at a decent clip, but my minute man caught and passed me before I’d completed two miles. Like I said there are some very, very fast riders doing this stuff.

The second caught me as I was hesitating and trying to decide whether the approaching junction was the one I needed to take at the halfway point in order to head back. He helpfully shouted instructions to stay on the right all the way around and I managed to keep him in sight and follow onto the right exit back onto the main drag.

The third, and last, caught me on the uphill ramp to the junction where we’d be turning west toward the finish line. This was the only time I recall my pace dropping below 20 mph, though I still went up it quicker than the rider who’d just passed me, as the gap visibly narrowed.

Then it was the final long straight to the finish, pushing as hard as I could for the last couple of miles.

There was a car on the final roundabout and if I’d been 10 seconds later, I may have had a marginal decision to make about whether to brake, or try and nip in front of it. Luckily, I was able to keep my momentum going and sail safely by, long before it closed.

A minute or so more effort and I crossed the line, sat up to freewheel around one more roundabout and started to roll back to the race HQ. Done.

The bars seemed alarmingly wide after riding for almost half an hour crouched over the aerobars, but I was pleased to have been able to maintain the position for most of the ride. I was 31st out of 34 riders, completing the course in 26:45 at an average speed of 22.43 mph. This was exactly 1 minute faster than my only other 10-mile TT way back in 2018, so progress of sorts, although that was on a lumpier and windier course.

So there you have it, my brief race season lasted from just the 31st July to the 14th August, covered two events and lasted a mere 1 hour 3 minutes and 44 seconds.

Still, the hook has been set and I’ll aim to try more of this next year – I’m starting from a low base so there’s plenty of room for measurable improvement. If not, then I guess I’ll still hopefully and somewhat bizarrely find this whole thing an enjoyable experience.

Back home by 09.30, I felt I’d earned myself a very lazy afternoon, so settled down to watch the European Road Race, the highlight of which was the possibly dyslexic rider from Iceland grabbing up an Ireland musette. Later that day, someone told me they’d found a cure for dyslexia, which I have to say was music to my arse…

Sorry. Sorry, sorry.

That seems like a very good place to end this now …


Day & Date:Club run Saturday 13th August 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 39 minutes
Riding Distance:118km/73 miles with 1,035m of climbing
Average Speed:25.3km/h
Group Size:22 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:16℃
Weather in a word or two:Bryter Layter (again)
Year to date:3,518km/2,185 miles with 40,746m of climbing

The Big Let Down

The Big Let Down

Club Run, Saturday 3rd December, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 6 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.3 km/h

Group size:                                         20 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    7°C

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


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Ride Profile


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Main conversations at the meeting point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Dare we hope, could it be true?

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

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

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


NOVATEK CAMERA


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

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

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

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

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


Conversation at coffee stop:

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

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

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

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

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

or

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Winter is coming

Winter is coming

Club Run, Saturday 15th October, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 17 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.6 km/h

Group size:                                         16 riders

Temperature:                                    13°C

Weather in a word or two:          Filthy to fair


 

ride-profile-18th-oct
Ride Profile

 


The Ride:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Main topics of discussion at the start

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Main topics of discussion at the coffee stop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is your phone a …

“It’s a MOTOROLA!”


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

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

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


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