“Moist is a State of Mind”

“Moist is a State of Mind”

Club Run, Saturday 8th June, 2019

My ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Profile

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

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

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


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

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

Perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Well, for just ten or fifteen minutes, anyway.

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

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


Main topics of conversation at coffee stop#1:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Thank you! Thank you!”

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

“Eh? What?”

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



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

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


Main topics of conversation at coffee stop#2

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

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

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

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

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

Or then again … maybe it is?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Advertisements

Nevermore

Nevermore

Club Run, Saturday 1st June, 2019

My ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:114 km/71 miles with 1,223 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 20 minutes
Average Speed:26.4km/h
Group Size:35 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature: 17℃
Weather in a word or two:Cool and cloudy

Ride Profile

The weather was about the same as last week, grey overcast, relatively chilly, but dry. An arm warmer kind of day. I hoped somewhere along the line I would be tempted to get rid of them, but it never happened.

I tracked and caught a fellow rider on my way to cross the river, resplendent in a bright red jersey with a big Isle of Man triskelion blazoned across the back.

“Are you lost?” I enquired when I caught up and passed him.

He looked at me blankly.

“You’re a long way from home,” I explained.

“Aah, the jersey. Hah, no,” his answer was delivered in pure Geordie, convincing me I was talking to a native and not some poor lost Manxman who needed directions.

The river was high, wide, flat, grey and fairly featureless, with not a boat in sight. Looked like the rowing clubs were off competing for the day and the crossing was quiet.

I clambered out the valley on the other side of the river and pushed through to the meeting point to join the slowly assembling crowd of chancer’s, wastrel’s and ne’er-do-well’s. (Or in other words, all the usual suspects.)


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I pulled up, clambered off and found a perch on the wall alongside the Monkey Butler Boy. He was smugly pleased with his brand new Kask helmet, bought to replace the one he’d used as an emergency brake during a recent crash. I was then in prime place when his acolyte, the Money Priest, rolled in and approached.

There was no excited jabbering this week, just a silent, rather uncomfortable and over-long pause as the Monkey Priest stood face to face with the Monkey Butler Boy, faces scant inches apart, as they stared deeply and lovingly into each other’s eyes.

I didn’t want to break this beautiful moment, this rare meeting of minds and young hearts, but this was quite uncomfortable and I found myself coughing apologetically…

I was just about to suggest they “get a room,” when the Monkey Priest broke the spell.

“New sunglasses then?”

“Oh, aye.”

“Let’s have a look …”

There was then a discussion about their new club jersey. Apparently, the Monkey Priest was wearing one and the Monkey Butler Boy wasn’t. I’m pleased they told me this, otherwise I would never have known.

They both agreed the new jersey was much, much better than the old one. I did a double-take.

And then another.

And again, slower and more considered.

Nope, they both looked absolutely identical to me. I had to ask.

“What’s different?”

“What’s different?” the Monkey Butler Boy shook his head in despair at my distinct lack of acuity.

He pointed to one out of half a dozen sponsor names encapsulated in half inch squares that ran in a line across his chest.

“Le Col have replaced this sponsor,” he said, and then, as if this alone wasn’t a momentous, earth-shattering change in its own right, he pointed to another tiny sponsor name on his sleeve. “And they’ve changed too…”

Ah, so the kind of blatantly obvious difference you would expect in a fiendishly difficult “spot the difference” picture quiz. Now I get it.

While the Monkey Priest’s near identical jersey was “clearly superior,” his shorts were an entirely different matter. He too seems to have conspired to crash recently and had ripped a hole in the front of his shorts. (The front?)

He had a cunning plan though, they would be meeting up with their coach a little later and he’d be bringing a new pair of shorts for the Monkey Priest to change into.

“On the fly?” the Hammer asked.

“Well, I bet Alberto Contador could do that,” I reasoned, having once watched him change shoes mid-race, without stopping, or even slowing.

We then wondered if the coach would just hold the shorts up for the Monkey Priest to snatch as he rode past, “like a musette in the feed-zone” the Hammer suggested.

Sadly, the actual plan was much more prosaic, but probably a lot safer. The Monkey Priest had earmarked some bushes he could retire to in order to protect his modesty while performing his costume change.

Crazy Legs rolled up on his much cossetted Ribble, which we all took to be a sign from the gods that we would have no rain on the ride. He said he’d read two forecasts, one promising a dry day with sunny intervals, the other overcast with intermittent showers. He’d only dared to share the first of these with his recalcitrant Ribble.

Just like last week, we were graced with a load of old hands and intermittent irregulars, including what I think might have been a first outing of the year for Grover and Famous Sean’s. Our numbers slowly built up to top 30 again.

There was an enlightened discussion about cable rub, but no one could answer how brake cables managed to move, seemingly of their own volition, to so deftly avoid the protective patch you’ve carefully applied to the frame, even though it’s exactly where the paint was first abraded.

I was messing about with my camera, so missed the front group leaving, but was more than happy to tag onto the always slightly less frenetic second group, as we clipped in, pushed off and rode out.


I dropped in alongside Sneaky Pete, just behind Crazy Legs and Ovis, as they led us out of the ‘burbs and into the countryside. I took over on the front with Sneaky Pete for the push through Ponteland and down to Limestone Lane, before swinging over for Taffy Steve and Carlton to pull through. All seemed to be going smoothly and everyone seemed content.

The front pair then ceded to OGL and whoever’s ear he was intent on bending at the time and we started to push up a slight incline. Almost immediately Grover was struggling and became detached. Crazy Legs drifted back to check on him and reported that Grover was more than happy to ride in his own company and at his own pace and didn’t want to hold anyone up.

Crazy Legs admired the, quiet dignity, stoicism and the self-awareness necessary to realise when your own lack of ability or fitness was an impediment to the rest of the group. Rather uncharitably, I suggested Grover was like an old bull-elephant, quietly slipping away from the rest of the herd to seek out the elephant’s graveyard.

We pressed on, until another change in the front saw Radman and Mini Miss taking over. Almost immediately OGL was blustering and growling about the pace. “I’m breathing out me arse, here!” was, I believe, the precise aphorism deployed – a term I’ve never quite understood, I mean, I get the general sentiment, but … eh? … what?

(Taffy Steve would later, rather naughtily, contend that OGL spends so much time talking out his arse, that breathing out of it should be second nature by now. Ouch.)

The grumbling continued.

“But you’re the only one whose been dropping people,” Crazy Legs innocently informed OGL, while I rode behind them, snorting with suppressed laughter.

We reached the top of the Quarry (yes, I know, the top!) and paused to regroup. OGL claimed infirmity from a bad chest infection and made straight for the cafe, while the rest of us dropped down (yes, I know, down!) the Quarry Climb.

We passed another club grinding up the Quarry and looking miserable, as we harnessed gravity to its full effect and zipped down past them. I know which direction is the easiest.

At the junction at the bottom of the Quarry we paused again, while Crazy Legs outlined route options.

“Left is the shorter ride, which is shorter and right is … err, a longer ride that’s … err … longer,” Crazy Legs concluded lamely, before adding, “Oh and right goes down the Ryals.”

“Which way are you going? I don’t want to be left on my own,” Mini Miss asked me.

“Rye-urhls!” I groaned in my best guttural, Neanderthal-zombie-meets-Frankenstein-monster voice.

“Rye-urhls!”

“Rye-urhls! ”

Double-Dutch Distaff eyed me warily, no doubt wondering what had set the lunatic off and what kind of gibberish he was bellowing. It didn’t put her off though. The Red Max lead a contingent left for a shorter loop to the cafe, while the rest of us swung right for a gleeful swoop down the Ryals.

Reaching the crest, I kicked onto the front, tucked in and plunged, four minutes of unbridled fun as I recorded my fastest time yet for the descent, hitting over 74 kph, or 20 meters per second, on the double-dip down. (That’s 46 mph if you want it in retard units.) Crazy Legs, Double Dutch and Taffy Steve followed in close attendance and we seemed to open up a gap on the rest of the group.

As we slowed to reassemble at the bottom, Crazy Legs suggested we were in danger of being early at the cafe, so we could amend the route and put more miles in by looping around the reservoir, rather than taking the scramble up through Hallington. This got the immediate support of Taffy Steve, who likes this loop almost as much as he detests climbing through Hallington, so our course was set.



I pushed out onto the front alongside Ovis as we swung in a wide arc around the (always hidden from view) reservoir and up to where we would have emerged if we’d taken the planned route. Around the corner, I drove us up a segment known on Strava as Humiliation Hill (I know not why). This had everyone stretched out into a long line and we paused at the next junction to re-assemble.

As our last riders pulled through I looked back down the road and saw the flashing of florescent green cycling socks.

“Is that one of us?” I asked Taffy Steve.

“Nope, we’re all here.”

I hung back a little just to make sure, confirmed I didn’t know the lone rider and then hustled to catch up with the rest.

The unknown, rider in the florescent green socks passed us as we dawdled along, then Big Dunc put in a Big Dig. Everyone responded and we all bustled past Green Socks, until Big Duncs attack was foiled by temporary traffic lights and we all slowed and stopped.

Green Socks took the opportunity to nip in front of us as the lights changed. Crazy Legs caught him and sat on his wheel for a while, before dropping back, while I accelerated to take his place and started winding up the pace.

I passed Green Socks as the road began to climb and pushed on with Ovis, increasing the pace as we raced toward the end of the road, reaching the junction and then stopping to let everyone regroup. Green Socks passed us while we waited and disappeared down the road, probably glad to see the back of us.

We regrouped again and started the final push to the cafe, with Crazy Legs and Double Dutch on the front. As we approached the short, steep, Brandy Well Bank, Crazy Legs started to explain that, in about 3-4 kilometres, it would all kick-off toward a final sprint before the cafe. In normal circumstances he would have been dead right, but I didn’t fancy my chances in a straight-up sprint, so decided not to hang around and attacked.

I accelerated toward the climb and tried to keep my legs spinning as the gradient bit. It wasn’t like last week though, when I’d done hardly any work before hitting the same climb, I had tired legs and momentum dropped quickly, until I had to haul myself out of the saddle to keep going.

I paused at the top, part hesitation, wondering if the attack was premature, part from the needing to drag some air into tortured lungs and let the pain in my legs subside. Then I pushed on …

I was just starting to flag, when Ovis nudged past and I dropped onto his wheel. Now, slowly, but surely we started to reel in the lone rider in the florescent green socks and Ovis pulled us around him. Yet again. He must have been sick of the sight of us.

As the road started to drag upwards, I bustled back onto the front, trying to find a good line across the battered and lumpy road surface. Down toward the Snake Bends, we passed a lone Grover, seemingly still happy in his own company and I briefly stopped the frenetic pedalling to greet him in passing.

The road levelled out and I pushed on, until Ovis roared past me with an astonishing burst of speed. I had no response. Seconds later a hard-charging Crazy Legs and Mini Miss zipped past, but they were too late and Ovis was long gone, while Taffy Steve caught me just before the Bends.

As ever, great fun.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Carlton wondered if anyone had been watching the Chernobyl TV-series, which one of my work colleagues, Big Dave, described as unremittingly bleak. He reported that in the first 5 minutes alone, some bloke fed his cat, then hung himself and it the just got darker from that point on. (I guess it could have been worse and he could have left the cat to starve.)

I prefer my end-of-the-world, Armagideon Time to have a dash more humour, so was more interested in the recently released, TV adaptation of the Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett book, Good Omens.

“Are you a Terry Pratchett fan, then?” Crazy Legs enquired.

“No, not really, but I like Neil Gaiman. Then again,” I added, “I do have to acknowledge the particular genius of inventing a character called Quoth the Raven. That’s very clever.”

Crazy Legs looked at me blankly, “Eh? What?”

“Quoth. The Raven.”

“Nah, don’t get it?”

Everyone else around the table looked suitably blank too.

“You know, from the Edgar Allan Poe poem, The Raven.”

Nope, nothing…

“Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.'”

Across from me, Famous Sean’s suddenly giggled.

“See, he gets it …

But no, he didn’t, it was more a nervous laugh, the kind you might emit if you were embarrassed on someone else’s behalf.

“Oh, I give up, you’re all a bunch of bleedin’ Philistines.”

“You’re on a table full of scientists, mathematicians and engineers,” Crazy Legs consoled me, “What do you expect?”

Pah!

I left to get some coffee refills and to see if I could find some more erudite cycling companions. The first bit was relatively easy, the second though … well, the jury’s still out.

Still, at least it gave me an opportunity to briefly ear-wig on an delightful conversation between two old biddies in the queue, carried out almost entirely in question form.

“Do you know Annie?” the first pondered.

“Ooh, Canny Annie?”

“Hmm?”

“Paula’s friend?”

“Taller Paula?”

“No, no, smaller Paula.”

I would like to have hung around to hear more, but was conscious of Philistine cyclists requiring further injections of caffeine.

When I returned Double Dutch Dude who’d been in the first group, was dragging Double Dutch Distaff away, to get some more miles in. Meanwhile, conversation had returned to less culturally divisive subjects … or maybe not … as Taffy Steve expressed his love for Gogglebox, a TV programme about people watching TV programmes. We wondered where it would end – was there, for example, an opportunity for a TV programme about people who watched TV programmes in which people watched TV programmes?

G-Dawg briefly joined us, having sneaked out from the cafe for a bit of peace and to try and quell a strange, incessant clamouring in his ears. Sadly though, the strange incessant clamouring followed him out.

I noticed he seemed to be a riot of colours today; green shoes, yellow socks, blue shorts and a red jersey. Still, I’m sure last week’s civilian, who complained about cyclists dressed all in black, would have found some other reason to disparage him.

Famous Sean, being one of those weird triathlete-types, started undertaking a series of stretches in preparation for us leaving. He’d left the fat velcro straps of his triathlon shoes unfastened and they flopped over to lie flat on the grass, making him look like Big Bird, all skinny legs and big feet.

Crazy Legs had to ask if the velcro actually worked on grass and if that was why Famous Sean’s could touch his toes without toppling over.


We lined up and rode out, for what would prove to be a remarkably unremarkable trip back, the only thing of note I recall was being subjected to a short, sharp shower half way up the Heinous Hill,

Our first June club run complete then and still we wait for some good better weather. Come on, make it happen…


YTD Totals: 3,604 km / 2,240 miles with 46,106 metres of climbing

Walking with Dinosaurs

Walking with Dinosaurs

Club Run, Saturday 25th May, 2019

My ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Profile

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

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

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


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Sadly, I doubt the censure had any effect.

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

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

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

Oh well, we tried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yer what?”

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

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

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

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

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

On his own route?

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


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

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

The Garrulous Kid: “Chunter, chunter chunter…”

G-Dawg: “Ah-hah.”

The Garrulous Kid: “Chunter, chunter chunter…”

G-Dawg: “Uh-huh.”

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

G-Dawg: “Ah-hah.”

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

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

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

Well, that was different.


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

Dry Rain

Dry Rain

Club Run, Saturday 18th May

My ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Profile

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

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

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

He didn’t.

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


Main Topics of Conversation at the Meeting Point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, hi there…

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

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

He lied.

Horribly.

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


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

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

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

“What’s ‘man get out?'”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hold that for a minute.”

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

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


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

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

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

Yeah, not a sprinter.

Right.


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

Retard Units

Retard Units

Club Run, Saturday 12th May 2019

My ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:106 km/66 miles with 1,123 m of climbing
Riding Time:3 hours 59 minutes
Average Speed:26.6 km/h
Group Size:28 riders, 2 FNG’s
Temperature: 14℃
Weather in a word or two:Groundhog day

Ride Profile

Groundhog Day?

No surprises certainly, as yet again we are treated to an unseasonably chill, generally dull and cloudy day, with an increasing threat of rain showers the longer we stay out.

Still, there was no delay, drama or diversion on the first leg of my journey and I found myself rolling into the meeting point in good time and in good order.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I found G-Dawg alone once more, without the Colossus, who seems to have fallen out of love with his road bike following one too many altercations with psychotic drivers. Or, as G-Dawg phlegmatically determined, “He’s gone and done a Kittel.” Now the Colossus was heading out for peaceful, quiet and, most importantly, car-free trails on his mountainbike instead.

Not only was one part of our well-established dynamic duo missing, but one part of our latest dynamic duo was missing too, with Distaff Double Dutch away in Canada, so Double Dutch Dude was out on his own.

Speaking of dynamic duo’s, Crazy Legs had dared to venture out on his much-cossetted Ribble, defying both tradition and the auguries that suggested that, sooner or later, we were bound to encounter some rain today. This was a real sign of increasing desperation and frustration, with Crazy Legs acknowledging he’d never made it into May before without having at least one opportunity to ride his best bike.

Sneaky Pete had been listening to an interview with poet, Simon Armitage, (I can’t say I’m familiar with any of his work, but any who would describe Tom McRae as “one of our greatest living songwriters” can’t be all that bad). Apparently, part of the remuneration Armitage will receive for being the new poet laureate is a “butt of Canary wine” which, as an aside, apparently translates to 720 bottles of sherry.

Sneaky Pete wondered what would be adequate remuneration for our in-house, club blergger in general, Sur La Jante.

“A beaker of battery acid?” I suggested. It seemed appropriate.

Benedict briefed in the route which included the Mur de Mitford and then a slightly less-travelled route to the Trench, avoiding Pigdon. Numbers were bolstered by an unexpected group of Ee-Em-Cee riders; ex-club members, or those who had second-claim membership status with us, so we split into two, and away we went.


I started the day on the front with the Garrulous Kid, chatting about the sad loss to the peloton of Marcel Kittel (and, far more importantly, the sad loss to the peloton of Marcel Kittel’s hair) the Giro and the various sprinters who were likely to dominate the next week or so. The race is so loaded with mountains in the third week, I can’t help thinking not many of these gentlemen will make it all the way to the finish in Verona.

We held the front for the first 15km or so, passing apparent, occasional club member, The Silence (he blanked us) as we rode the Cheese Farm and up Bell’s Hill, before peeling away and inviting the next pair through. I dropped back through the group and was still there sometime later, as we scrambled up the Mur de Mitford. I was then in pole position to watch as a very animated Goose, deeply engaged in conversation, led us straight past the turn we were supposed to take to loop around Pigdon. (Not that I would have realised, if G-Dawg hadn’t pointed it out.)

Oh well, we weren’t going to be using that particular wrinkle to our route today.

Someone called a rest break and we pulled into the junction that led up to Curlicue Hill. Once again the Garrulous Kid was disappointed with the toilet facilities, even when Caracol invited him to step into the field of head-high, painfully yellow, almost buzzing, rapeseed. I encouraged him to adopt a Theresa May persona and go skipping through the fields with gay abandon. He wasn’t interested.

Off we went again, working our way to the bottom of the Trench which we seemed to ascend effortlessly, en masse and as one compact group. We took the dip and swoop through Hartburn and then the turn to Angerton, avoiding Middleton Bank.



Around Bolam Lake the pace picked up, increasing all the way until we hit Milestone Woods, where there seemed to be a slight lull and a bit of hesitation – relatively speaking of course, we were still thundering along at over 25 mph. I was on the outside, surfing a few wheels back from the front, there was space to pass and we were approaching the foot of the rollers. It looked like an open door … how could I possibly resist kicking at it?

I accelerated down the outside and off the front as the first slope bit. I’ve no idea if I had a gap, provoked a response, or caused anyone to be shelled out the back, I just kept going, over the second and third bump without looking back. Unfortunately, there was no tractor waiting to pace me this week, as I tipped down the other side and pushed on.

As the road started to climb again, a tight knot of riders burned past, followed by a long tail in one’s and two’s, as I slipped form first to last place, trying to recover. As the road kicked around the bend and onto the final drag, I managed to accelerate and then it was just a case of seeing how many back-markers I could catch and pass before I ran out of road.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Somewhat surprisingly, it was just about warm enough to tempt us to sit out in the garden. We just had to get there. This proved a breeze for G-Dawg and me, but we were followed out by the Garrulous Kid, who seemed to be really struggling to walk and balance a tray at the same time. Luckily, he didn’t have any gum to chew.

He emerged from the doorway and took his first, tiny, tentative baby step toward us, tray in a white-knuckled, double-handed death grip as he tried, largely unsuccessfully, not to spill coffee over everything. G-Dawg looked down at his plate, speared a chunk of his ham and egg pie on his fork and started chewing thoughtfully. He looked up again …

The Garrulous kid was creeping toward us with all the speed of an approaching Ice Age.

“Have you actually moved?” G-Dawg asked, before returning for another bite of pie.

“Actually, is he not going backwards?” he asked when once again he checked on the Garrulous Kid’s progress.

Finally, after a tortuous, extended period of tottering, stiff-legged steps, that made him resemble a stilt-walker who’d crapped their pants, the Garrulous Kid made it to the table and plonked down a tray awash with coffee.

In direct contrast and moments later Goose swept through the cafe door, tray balanced expertly on the splayed fingertips of one extended hand as he sashayed nimbly around a group of departing cyclists, stepped around a pile of abandoned bikes and strode quickly and purposefully to the table. There, he spun the tray fully through 180 degrees and deposited it, with a flourish on the table.

I commended him on his very stylish, professional busboy technique.

“Yeah, but I spilled coffee everywhere…”

Despite having promised to set the world to rights, deride the current running of the club and speak out as a representative for all the poor, oppressed yoofs, the Garrulous Kid had remained meekly silent and quiescent during a recent club meeting.

We determined that he was either an “all mouth and trousers,” blustering, braggart, or an agent provocateur, working directly for OGL and tasked with sowing discord, while encouraging dissidents to implicate themselves.

“Hold up,” Caracol challenged, “Are you wearing a wire?”

This, we decided was probably why the Garrulous Kid was so particular in finding a pee place where he couldn’t be overlooked and his duplicitous double-dealing discovered. And here I was thinking it was just because of some hideous deformity he was trying to hide.

We learned that the morning’s influx of Ee-Em-Cee riders was prompted by large portions of their club being away on holiday/training camp in Majorca, leaving only a smattering of riders behind. These had been either too few, or otherwise disinclined to form their own club run, so we had been a welcome refuge.

Goose was interested in how far and how fast their typical club runs were (it goes without saying that they were obviously much longer, faster and much, much harder than ours). One of them gave Goose typical distances and average speeds in miles per hour.

“Retard units!” Double Dutch Dude spat vehemently.

What? Who? Whoa!

“These, what is it … Imperial measurements you call them?” he continued, “We always refer to them as retard units.

He then started to ask a number of very awkward questions – how many ounces are there in a pound? How many pounds in a stone? How many inches in a foot? Feet in a yard? Yards in a mile? How many pints in a quart? How many quarts in a gallon?*

(Unfortunately, he didn’t ask how many bottles of sherry there were in a butt, I knew that one.)

We knew some, we guessed others, we argued over a few more. It was enough to prove his point. Imperial measurements are now wholly devoid of ryhme, reason, or logic, they are arcane, unguessable and unusable.

[* 16, 14, 12, 3, 1760, 2, 4 and 72, respectively. I think]

“Every child in Holland knows there’s 100 centimetres in a metre and 1,000 grams in a kilogram,” The implication was clear: Imperial = retarded. QED.

The Monkey Butler Boy distracted us, talking about a hand-built set of carbon wheels made by the Walker Brothers.

“The Walker Brothers?” I queried, immediately thinking to myself that the sun ain’t gonna shine anymore and regretting that Crazy Legs was absent, otherwise we might have had a little sing-along.

“Yeah, the Walker Brothers,” the Monkey Butler Boy replied, completely oblivious to what I was hinting at, or why I found the name so amusing.

“He doesn’t get the reference,” G-Dawg let me down gently. Oh well, I don’t know why I was surprised, after all this was the same Monkey Butler Boy who excused his ignorance of Oscar Wilde (“never heard of the feller”) by reminding me he was “only young, so wasn’t around in the 1980’s.”

There was some gentle ribbing of the Monkey Butler Boy for wearing Velotoze time-trial socks on a club run. Apparently, they can save him up to 3 seconds on a 10-mile time trial, but take him 15 minutes of sweating and straining effort to pull on.

Or off.

Per foot.

Life’s too short.

Then, there was just time for the Garrulous Kid to badly fail the most basic, Bike Knowledge 101, (being unable to identify where his jockey wheels were located) and we were packing up to go.


I was chatting with Goose as we approached the bottom of Berwick Hill, when the Monkey Butler Boy surged off the front. I immediately dropped onto his wheel and was sitting there trying to look calm and composed when he looked around to see how big a gap he’d opened up. He swung away and I took over the pace-making on the front, dragging everyone up and over the crest.

The rain had obviously swept through here moments before and the road ahead was soaking wet and still sheeted in water. In seconds my socks were soaked and had gone from pristine white, to grimy grey.

“Ha! bet you wish you had Velotoze on now,” the Monkey Butler Boy crowed.

“Still,” he continued, “It could be a lot worse, at least we’re on the front.”

He was right, we were safely out of the spray being kicked up by everyone’s wheels, we just had to stay there. We did, by keeping the pace high enough to discourage anyone else from coming through, as we drove to the bottom of the hill, up through Dinnington, past the airport and finally down into the Mad Mile.

It could also have been worse if we’d been in the second group on the road, who said they took a real battering from rain and hail as they passed through Ogle. This was a rain storm we were happy to have missed. I’ve yet to find out if Crazy Legs’ much cossetted Ribble will ever forgive him for this ultimate of betrayals.

At the end of the Mad Mile, I swung off and away for home, with the sun occasionally breaking through and the roads starting to dry out. My clothes followed suit, so I was bone dry by the time I hauled ass up the Heinous Hill, though my socks remained a grainy, grungy, grimy grey and may have to be abandoned. Do you think I need Velotoze?


YTD Totals: 3,075 km / 1,911 miles with 40,367 metres of climbing

Bad Timing

Bad Timing

Club Run, Saturday 27th April 2019

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:107 km/67 miles with 1,140 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 3 minutes
Average Speed:26.5 km/h
Group Size:28 riders, 2 FNG’s
Temperature: 12℃
Weather in a word or two:Showery

Ride Profile

It was a bit showery as I set out and the forecast suggested more of the same throughout the day, so back to winter jacket and overshoes and, for the ride across at least, the extra protection of my Galibier rain jacket with the off-centre zip. Even if it wasn’t strictly needed to keep me warm and dry, it would at least give Crazy Legs a laugh.

I once again got caught at the level crossing for long minutes, until the slowest train in existence squealed past, belching a trail of filthy black smoke. Bad timing. It’s such a rare delay, but that’s the second time this year already. Still, at least it gave me a Dylanesque ear-worm for the rest of my ride across.

There’s slow, slow train coming up around the bend…

I think I must still have been channelling the slow train as I rolled in to the meeting point in an apparently desultory fashion, bleeding off speed and letting momentum dwindle, as I bumped up and over the kerb and finally coasted to a stop.

“That,” Crazy Legs opined, “Was the most unenthusiastic arrival I’ve ever seen.”


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

If my arrival was subdued, the Garrulous Kids, in direct contrast, was full of exuberance, swooping down the pavement at high speed, before swerving around us and skidding to a stop. He started visibly bouncing up and down, and immediately began to jabber away breathlessly .

“Whoa! Easy, easy! Down boy, down … down,” G-Dawg instructed, leaning on all his hard-earned skills and experience controlling a hyper-active pair of loopy Labradors. It seemed to work.

We were introduced to an FNG, who we then introduced to Szell, who had shaken off his torpid slumbers to return to us from an extended period of deep, deep hibernation.

Crazy Legs suggested that even if the new guy struggled, he would probably find himself in safe, steady company with Szell.

“What you’re saying is, I’m the slowest of the slow?” Szell offered in mock indignation.

“I was trying to compliment you!” Crazy Legs protested.

“Well, I’m not used to being complimented in this group, so naturally it didn’t register.”

Ride leader for the day, G-Dawg, outlined the route, which included another descent into the Tyne Valley, this time via a new, “hidden” road that many of us probably hadn’t used before. I was hoping this wouldn’t turn out like the Brigadoon mystery road Crazy Legs had included a few weeks back (Leeful Weapon). Perhaps this time we’d actually be able to find the turn off?Especially as G-Dawg promised it would bypass the ogre-molar speed-bumps on the Wylam road, that had so forcefully ejected my bottle from its cage on our last passage across them.

There was enough of us gathered to warrant splitting into two groups, but our numbers included a healthy contingent of Grogs, whose inevitable departure for their own, highly-secretive ride, was likely to leave the second group light on numbers. With this in mind we agreed a rendezvous point and general regrouping before the drop down to the river.

OGL meanwhile insisted on reconnoitring the route of the Sloan Trophy, before tomorrows race. “To see if anyone’s moved a junction?” I wondered aloud. Head of Marshals for the event, G-Dawg was planning on driving the route the following morning anyway, so didn’t think it was all that necessary, but it gave us an option for a slower, shorter ride.

I bumped off the kerb and joined the front group, the lights turned green and we were released into the flow of traffic.


I spent the first half of the ride alongside the FNG, a mountain-biker who’d found he quite enjoyed road-riding too. He seemed fairly comfortable with the pace and the novelty of riding in close formation.

We swung away past the airport and it wasn’t long before we found what looked like a narrow, farm track and started to head up it. This apparently was the mystery road. We’d found it. We pulled over and settled in to let the second group catch up, being entertained while we waited by a mad March April hare, belting from one side of the adjacent field to the other.

The second group weren’t all that far behind and we heard them coming long before they hove into sight, a growing buzz of laughter and chatter. They split at the junction and the smaller part rode up to join us.

As the two groups coalesced, Carlton was disappointed to find Szell had chosen to ride the shorter route with OGL. Carlton was doing that thing all cyclists do, assessing the group, noting who was strong and, much more importantly, tagging those who you think might be slower than you. The worst and most deflating experience is when you realise you are the weakest link and it’s going to be a long, hard day. I think in Szell’s absence, Carlton felt he’d lost an important safety blanket.

We pushed on climbing up the track toward the crest, where we were caught behind 3 short, plump horses with 3 short, plump riders, a sort of rolling, roly-poly, road block. The ladies found a place to pull over and cheerfully waved us through. Bad timing …

Suddenly, as we started down, the narrow lane became over crowded, two cars travelling in opposite directions, squeezed into the hedgerows to try and inch past each other, while ahead of them a stream of traffic was building up at the junction from the main road, waiting for the track to clear. Behind us, the horse riders resumed their stately progress as the plug in the bottle, while in between, a long ribbon of freewheeling cyclists, pulled into single-file and tried to thread their way through the chaos.

“It’s complete anarchy,” the Colossus announced gleefully. Who’d have thought a few bikes and riders could cause such confusion.

We finally extricated ourselves and dropped down into the Tyne Valley. True to his word, G-Dawg had found a route that avoided the ogre-molars and it was smooth sailing.



Just before we took the riverside path we stopped for a pee break. The Garrulous Kid declared both he and his bike were perfectly and fully coordinated in shades of black, grey and white, before pulling back his sleeve to ostentatiously wave a sleek, black smartwatch in everyone’s face.

“Even my watch matches,” he proclaimed happily.

“So, a new watch then?” G-Dawg enquired casually. How on earth did he guess?

The Garrulous Kid then wandered happily away into a field to commune with nature and irrigate the landscape, before managing to return with a wad of indeterminate, green-grey crap wrapped around one shoe. It definitely wasn’t colour co-ordinated. As we watched, half in horror, half in amusement, he tried prising it off with a twig and succeeded only in flicking it all over his bike.

“You know, I often think think a club run could never provide enough material to sustain a weekly blerg, but I’m constantly being proved wrong.” Taffy Steve observed dryly.

On we went, starting the long climb out of the valley, where I found myself riding alongside Crazy Legs, who seems to be on the road to recovery. The A69 proved wildly busy and we had to hustle and bustle across in ones and twos. Mini Miss and Princess Fiona, scuttling close behind me, earned the ire of one particular arse-hat RIM who lean’t on his horn overlong and probably unnecessarily. I found myself visually asking him to complete a very short countdown with me, from two to one.

We decided to split into faster and slower groups for the run in to the cafe, with Crazy Legs encouraging the FNG to at least try the faster group, knowing he had the safety net of the second group to drop back too if things proved too hard. After a bit of prevarication, I nudged through the crowd and dropped onto Goose’s backwheel as he started to follow the leaders too.

Ahead of us Den Haag, Caracol, Benedict, Andeven and the Garrulous Kid had a sizeable gap and formed a tight knot as they pushed on without pausing, or looking back. For some reason, I thought the climb was going to be much longer and harder than it was and we’d have plenty of time to bridge across before the road levelled.

I was wrong though and we didn’t. Much sooner than anticipated the lead group crossed the crest of the slope and accelerated away. I gave chase alongside Goose, passing the slowing FNG who dropped back to be re-absorbed into the second group.

Uh-oh, I’d just lost the only potential safety blanket I had and now I was that weakest link. Or, at least I would be if we ever made it across to the others – that wasn’t a given as they weren’t hanging round.

I traded long pulls on the front with Goose, as we took turns spearheading a mad chase that was just one long, hard grind across exposed, rolling and heavy roads. 5 kilometres later, just as the front group slowed slightly to swing off the Military Road, we finally caught up.

I thought I would have a chance to rest and recover in the wheels, but the pressure immediately went on again and a gap started to open between the front three and the rest. I pushed through and worked hard to close the move down, but that was me more or less done and from that point I was just waiting for the inevitable coup de grâce.

I managed to hang on as we swept through and climbed out of Matfen, but then the group started to splinter apart under pressure from the front. Caracol and Den Haag rode away, towing the Garrulous Kid behind them, Goose and Benedict formed a chase pair that I vainly tried to follow, while Andeven dropped off the back, probably to give himself a challenge before reeling everyone back in on the hills.

I plugged away on my own, trying to keep Goose and Benedict in sight, but it was a losing battle. I managed to close the gap whenever the road ramped up, but then it almost immediately stretched out again when it levelled. I was tired and running on fumes now, still working hard, but conscious of losing any shape or form, with my shoulders starting to roll more than Bauke Mollema on an Alpine climb.

Andeven zipped past on the Quarry climb and then he too became only a fleeting figure, to be occasionally glimpsed as a prelude to disappearing completely.

By dint of being completely alone, I once more found myself leading the drive up to the crossroads in my group of one, so at least I kept that streak going. Then I was onto the last leg, skating through the Snake Bends and happy to find the main-road traffic free for my final push to the cafe.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

I joined a table with Goose and the Garrulous Kid, where we were later joined by Buster and the FNG. University accommodation became a topic du jour, with horror stories of harvesting mushrooms in bathrooms, or waking to find your sheets latticed with silvery slug trails.

As well as the standard agglomeration of empty bottles, Goose recalled the kitchen in his university flat was frequently characterised by a towering, unstable, ziggurat of dirty bowls, plates, cups and mugs, as nothing was ever washed until there was absolutely no alternative.

Meanwhile, Buster remembered settling into his halls, adding the piece de resistance, his beloved Jim Morrison poster to the wall and, job done, relaxing to read the NME guide to student living, where point #1 was never trust anyone with a Jim Morrison poster.

(My own mantra, which I hold to be true to this very day, is never trust anyone in baggy jeans.)

With the Garrulous Kid once more flashing his smartwatch, Goose mentioned how a recent study had found many were horribly inaccurate. Researchers had tested 118 devices using a treadmill to simulate running a marathon and relying on the trackers to measure out the requisite 26.2 miles.

It found that the least reliable was the Garmin Vivosmart 4, which had the poor researcher running 37 miles before it finally declared he’d completed his marathon distance. The Samsung Gear S2 wasn’t a whole lot better (36 miles) while the Xiaomi Amazfit Bip demanded 32 miles out of its tester.

Based on these test results, my fitness tracker of choice would be the Huawei Watch 2 Sport, The best, if you will of all bad timings. This demanded its tester run only 18.9 miles before declaring they had successfully completed a marathon distance – and in record time too!


A busy road on leaving the cafe saw me nipping out between our front group and another approaching bunch of cyclists. As we turned off the main road and all the groups appeared to coalesce behind me, I found myself riding alongside the Colossus.

“Looks like we may have some interlopers ….” I observed, conscious that a group had now closed on my back wheel and knowing the next bunch on the road had been another club.

I briefly tuned in to the babble of conversation behind me, “… although, that one sounds almost exactly like Crazy Legs.” I glanced back. It was indeed the man himself and not some long lost twin or strangely twisted impersonator.

I never saw the other group of cyclists again and have still no idea if they took a different road, stopped so we could regroup, or if we just barged them unceremoniously out of the way.

As we cut through Ogle the Garrulous Kid could no longer contain his rampant enthusiasm and flailed away off the front, to cries from Taffy Steve of “Ride Forrest, Ride!”

I seemed to have recovered from being the whipping boy of the fast group so pushed onto the front alongside Caracol as we started climbing Berwick Hill, picking up and subsuming the Garrulous Kid into our numbers as we sped over the top and started down the other side. We were still on the front through Dinnington, as we powered towards some temporary traffic lights, just as they started to change.

“Stop!” I said .

“Go!” Caracol called at the same instant.

He slowed.

I accelerated.

I slowed.

He accelerated.

Ah, fuck it! Go … go…

We ducked through the lights, pulling G-Dawg and Crazy Legs with us, but stranding everyone else on the other side.

“That,” Crazy Legs sarcastically complimented me, “Was the most decisive bit of ride leadership I’ve seen in a long time.”

What can I say. It was just bad timing.

“They’ll be waiting there a long while,” G-Dawg affirmed, “And they’ll never catch back on.”

“Well, look on the bright side, Crazy Legs told him,” At least you won’t have to race to have first use of the shower today.”


YTD Totals: 2,746 km / 1,706 miles with 36,410 metres of climbing

A Stopped Clock

A Stopped Clock

Club Run Saturday 21st April 2019

My ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:117 km/73 miles with 1,077 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 28 minutes
Average Speed:26.3km/h
Group Size:31 riders, 2 FNG’s
Temperature: 23℃
Weather in a word or two:Glorious

Ride Profile

The weather was set to be perfect, bright, warm and dry, the sky without cloud and the land without wind. Still, it wasn’t quite there yet when I first set out, with the air still chilly, so I hid under arm warmers and full finger gloves, all pulled over a necessary layer of sun-cream.

I had a very pleasant and totally relaxed ride across to the meeting point and arrived in good time to join G-Dawg admiring the obscene graffiti on the wall, before it was obscured by a flash mob of milling cyclists.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

In the space of just seven days we found a startling contrast between last weeks wickedly cold start and this weeks balmy, sunny conditions. Everyone seemed to have dressed accordingly, well, other than Zip Five in tights, arm warmers over a long sleeved base-layer and overshoes and the Garrulous Kid, who was basically wearing the exact same kit he’s worn for the past 6-weeks… only this time it was appropriate to the conditions.

“You’re like a stopped clock,” Jimmy Mac informed him, “Just very occasionally you are, by default going to get it right.”

The Garrulous Kid is proving to be to football punditry what Theresa May is to international diplomacy and delicate negotiation. After his disastrous guarantee that Germany was going to sweep all before them and dominate the World Cup, his prediction that Man City were “nailed on” for a remarkable quadruple is starting too look ever so slightly suspect.

OGL rolled up, took a chemist’s prescription bag out of his back pocket and started emptying out the various contents, bottles, tubes and boxes of pills, to secrete about his person.

“What’s with the Jiffy bag?” some wag asked, while I started singing, “EPO, EPO, EPO” to the tune of “Here we go, Here we go, Here we go” – a variation
of the fiendish complex, difficult to master, classic football-chant, devised by the veritable Toshi San to serenade David Millar on his return to racing on British Roads.

OGL had the Team Sky deflection tactics down pat though, immediately switching the conversation to boxer Jarrell Miller’s failed drug-test, where he’d secured the grand slam of being popped for EPO, HGH and GW1516 (whatever that is) all at the same time. Still, Miller has wholeheartedly apologised, held his hand up and admitted he’s made a mistake … so, no harm done eh?

OGL then advised that roadworks meant traffic was backing up through Ponteland, so recommended we changed our route into the village. With that agreed, we picked a rendezvous point, split into two groups and away we went.


Things started out well, the pace was high, the sun was shining and the company amenable. I was just rolling up the outside of the group, picking up too much speed on a downhill section and too lazy to brake, when ahead of me, Spry’s bike jettisoned his tool tub. Stuffed with spare inner tubes and various Allen keys, it bounced once end-over-end and then rolled under my front wheel. I hit it and there was a resounding crack. My front wheel twitched violently and then straightened and I rolled on checking for damage.

My bike seemed fully intact and there was no puncture to deal with, but the impact had shattered the lid of Spry’s tool tub. I apologised for the damage I’d done as I passed him, back-tracking to pick up his discarded essentials.



We pressed on through Stamfordham and then up the hill to the lay-by, used for the start and finish of numerous cycling events. We pulled over here to wait for our rendezvous with the second group.

They duly arrived and we hung around for too long just chatting aimlessly and enjoying the sunshine, until OGL got tetchy and, pausing only to rebuke Plumose Pappus for having a grungy, rusting rear cassette, nagged us all into action again. Various splits and routes were agreed and we finally started up again.

Heading up toward Capheaton, Mini Miss picked up a puncture and it was back to standing around, shooting the breeze and waiting. I had a chat with Captain Black about the missing BFG (presumed to be still alive, but probably living under a(nother) false name, somewhere in the UK). We reminisced about the time he’d taken his bike into Boots to find the exact colour of nail varnish to match his chipped frame and ended up with a bevvy of beauticians and shop assistants helping him out. (Rimmel’s Pinking Out Loud and Max Factor’s Broody Blood Bouquet were the recommended choices. Although grateful for all the help, I’m led to believe the BFG felt the need to push back when it was suggested his cuticles needed urgent attention and a full manicure wouldn’t go amiss.)

Repairs made and on we went, following the route of last years National Road Race and cutting across the hills, through Hallington, to the bottom of the Ryals. Once again we marvelled that people actually race at full tilt down this narrow, twisting, pot holed, gravel-strewn and over-grown farm track.

I caught up with Richard of Flanders and we both agreed it was too nice a day to ruin it with an assault on the Ryals, but that’s exactly where we were heading.

I was drifting toward the back of the group when we made the turn and hadn’t gone far, when Jake the Snake, the Dormanator, pulled up with a puncture.

Our calls went either unheard, or unheeded by those in front and they pressed on leaving six of us to help sort out the puncture and then make the run for the cafe. I joined Aether in helping Jake the Snake replace his tube, while an overheating Zip Five tried to shed some layers and Rab Dee, in a move that was pure Jacques Anquetil, drained his water bottles, declaring he didn’t want to carry any extra weight up the climb. The Ticker then admitted he was a Ryals virgin and this would be his very first introduction to their nasty, brutish ways.

Underway again and rolling toward the climb, I passed the Ticker, whistling a little too nonchalantly and I commended him on his show of bravado.

Then we hit the first ramp and started to go up. I followed Rab Dee and Benedict closely up the first ramp, but didn’t feel I was in a comfortable gear and I was spinning a bit too wildly. As the road dipped down before climbing again, they changed up and kicked on, opening up a gap while I freewheeled, trying to recover and find a comfortable gear for the second ramp.

Then the slope bit again and I gave chase, slowly closing the gap, but running out of hill before I made it all the way across. We rolled down to the turn for the Quarry, where we stopped to regroup. After several minutes, with no sign of the Ticker, I started to backtrack, hoping to pick him up.

I’d almost made it back to Ryal village when he finally appeared, having suffered what he hilariously described as a “chain wedgie” – shipping his chain and getting it jammed between chainring and bottom bracket, or cassette and free hub … or maybe both at the same time.

“That’s what you get when you’re desperately looking for the secret 12th sprocket on an 11-speed cassette,” I told him.

After the Ryals, we made short work of the Quarry and started to pick up speed for the cafe. Once again I found myself on the front for the drag up and through the crossroads. It’s becoming a very bad habit.

I stayed on the front up to the final junction, when Rab Dee took over and kicked away. Closing fast on the Snake Bends, I pushed in front of him again, he took the briefest of micro-pauses, just enough to collect his breath, before he surged away.

I couldn’t follow, but we seemed to have left everyone else trailing in our wake, so I sat up and coasted through the bends.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The day was nice enough to retire to the garden and there I joined the already firmly ensconced Goose, Captain Black and Mini Miss, the latter enjoying he wanton displays of bike porn, most especially someone’s pure white Storck. This was close to being her dream bike, although she admitted it would be a difficult decision between a Storck and a more traditional, celeste Bianchi.

We recalled Goose, perhaps the least brand aware amongst us, being accosted by the one-time distributor of Storck bikes in the UK, who gave him the full-court press in trying to persuade him to drop £3 grand or more on a new bike, without really being able to justify the price tag, or read his audience with any degree of accuracy or empathy.

In discussions with Captain Black, I did the Ryals a disservice by suggesting they didn’t get much above 7-8%. The VeloViewer site characterises the “official” climb as being 1.5 km long, with an average gradient of 4% and a maximum of 16.8%.

Whatever the actual statistics, I think my point is still valid, it’s not an epic, enjoyable, or particularly memorable climb and I never feel any great sense of achievement topping it. I can imagine it does become brutal if you race up it, full gas 3 or 4 times in a race (such as next weeks Beaumont, or the Nationals Road Race) though.

We then played a kind of cycling Top Trumps, with Captain Black selecting the Tourmalet as the hardest climb he’s done, while, along with Goose, I went for the Galibier.

At the next table, the Monkey Butler was getting grief for his white, aero socks, but I refused to join in and condemn him, when the Garrulous Kid had two hairy, shapeless, baggy and grungy socks of no discernible colour, pooled around his ankles like two used and discarded elephant condoms.

Then, in a concession to the heat and inadequate pre-planning of layers, the Monkey Butler Boy re-appeared wearing just a gilet on his top half, arms bare to the shoulder. Socks be dammed, I immediately told him he looked like a wannabe triathlete and he couldn’t ride with us. Standards must be maintained.

As a parting shot, as we were packing up to go, I turned to Mini Miss, “What’s it going to be then, a Bianchi, or a Storck?”

“Well,” she mused, “I think Bianchi …”

She paused a heartbeat, before adding, “But I wouldn’t mind meeting a man with a Storck.”

Oh dear, that didn’t sound right. Time to leave.


Having been delayed by a couple of punctures, we were running late, so I peeled off to pick my way over the airport and shave a little distance and time off my journey home.

A couple of others came with me, at least as far as Ponteland, so I at least got another opportunity to apologise to Spry for destroying his tool tub.

Through Ponteland, I passed the long tail of traffic OGL had warned about that morning, as it backed up through the roadworks. Uncharitable as it seems, I have to admit passing the long, long line of drivers, cooped up and sweltering in their cars, made me smile and it buoyed me all the way home.


YTD Totals: 2,582 km / 1,604 miles with 34,470 metres of climbing