Go Long, Bullseye

Go Long, Bullseye

Club Run, Saturday 3rd June, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  116 km / 72 miles with 1,183 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 24 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.3 km/h

Group size:                                         40+ riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    23°C

Weather in a word or two:          Warm and bright


 

3 june
Ride Profile

The Ride:

A quick look out of the window, early Saturday morning showed bright blue skies and the trees utterly motionless in the still air. It looked like being a good one.

Outside it was still surprisingly chilly, but I was convinced it was going to warm up and my “just in case” arm warmers stayed firmly in my jersey pocket as I made my way to the meeting point.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Shoeless was one of the first to arrive for a very rare outing with the club. He explained it needed a precise alignment of weather, shift patterns, family commitments, lack of other “triathlony” type sporting events along with his own personal inclination and motivation for him to make a ride these days.

It was so hot that … oh, sorry, I’ve done that one haven’t I. Nevertheless, it was warm enough once again to encourage Szell in another general disrobing and the removal of unwarranted base layers. I think perhaps he’s developing an exhibitionist’s streak – he certainly seems incapable of finding a reliable weather forecast.

OGL turned up with a new seat clamp for Szell’s “fat lad’s bike” and fitted it while we waited. Now that’s service for you. Meanwhile Crazy Legs urged Szell to make a careful examination of OGL’s new, custom-painted Orbea as this is what he’s likely be inheriting in the near future.

The Orbea is supposed to be highlighted in club colours, but both shades of tangerine and green look a touch off to my untrained eye. To compound the issues, OGL was wearing a sample pair of customised shorts a new potential supplier had sent him to review. These too were meant to be in club colours, but they had been matched from nothing more than a photo on a web page and were also quite subtly, wrong. the colours yet again different from both the club jersey and the bike.

The overall effect was like a kids drawing  where they’d been forced to change pens halfway through and got bored with too precise colouring in.

Sneaky Peter sneaked up, back on his beloved, impeccably fixed and restored De Rosa. Where OGL showed us the perils of mismatching colours, the repair work on the De Rosa was so accomplished that not even G-Dawg’s hyper-critical eye (able to spot the difference between a 3mm and 2.5mm spoke at 30 paces) could find fault or discern where the cracked chainstay had been repaired.

Taffy Steve likened this to his own patch job on his favourite sunglasses, having snapped an arm off these while polishing the lenses the previous week, these too had been restored to fully functioning order by the liberal application of superglue.

He suggested there was little difference between the job done on his glasses and the De Rosa, while I suspected he’d used probably twenty times the amount of superglue for his small repair, which seemed functional and robust, but was perhaps lacking a little in artisanship.

Talk turned to football, with the Garrulous Kid announcing Germany would win the next World Cup and he was so confident he’d put money on it. If anyone wants to take him up on the offer, let me know and I’ll forward his details.

Ridiculed for suggesting Phillip Lham would be a driving force (he’s apparently retired) – Crazy Legs was unfazed and unbothered by the criticism and declared he’d be happy and content as long as Joachim Löw was still in charge of Germany, so he could once again entertain with his nose-picking, testicle-cupping, anus-fingering and hand-sniffing exploits.

This week’s route had been conceived, pre-published and would be led by Aether and with over 40 cyclists crowding the pavement, it’s never been so obvious we needed to split into at least two groups on the road. Aether outlined his plans for the ride and led the first group off.

Perhaps simply to sow a bit of confusion and discord, OGL wondered aloud who would lead the second group, but whatever point he was trying to make was lost when the Red Max instantly stepped up to the mark and volunteered.

As the first riders pulled away, Crazy Legs suggested a few of us hang back, so there were no complaints about the two groups being unbalanced or all the stronger riders disappearing up the road. He certainly needn’t have worried on the latter count as super-strong riders, Benedict and Den Haag were still behind and they set off at the head of the second group.


Three of us were delayed at the first set of lights and we were joined by a few latecomers as we started to slowly converge on the back of the second group. By the time we were negotiating Brunton Lane several groups of riders had all merged and our small group became a peloton in its own right.

One moment Szell had been riding with half a dozen others and the next he’d been surrounded by over 20 riders swooping around to form up behind him. “Bloody hell,”  he declared, “It’s just like Taras Bulba!” Cossacks Hourra! Hourra!

As we cleared the city traffic, Benedict and OGL became involved in a very intense conversation about the structure of the club runs and how best to organise them so no one felt left out, disadvantaged or held back.

This left Den Haag ploughing a lone furrow on the front of the group, so I moved up to slot in alongside him for a chat about the Giro, Dumoulin’s Dump (or defecategate as one Internet wag dubbed it) the Hammer series, time-trialling, cyclo-cross and other such things, all the while trying to keep half an ear on the increasingly animated conversation behind.

Through Dinnington and up past the Cheese Farm, OGL and Benedict kept at it, until the clamber up Bell’s Hill splintered the group apart and offered some respite for both parties. I’m still not sure anything was resolved.

I called a halt at the top of Bell’s Hill so we could regroup and also because we’d started to close in on the first group and needed to give them a bit more space.

“Is that the fast group, up ahead?” Facebook-postin’ carbon-stress-loadin’ Guiness-slurpin’ pie-chompin’ platter-spinnin’ real-ale-swilling curry-gobblin’ all-azione Thom-Thom suggested, tongue lodged firmly in his cheek and blatantly fishing with an apparently irresistable lump of bait.

“There is no fast group.” OGL snapped.

“Are you sure?” Thom-Thom asked, deliberately misunderstanding, “That looks like the fast group…”

Oh, dear. Moving swiftly on, we set off again and I had a chuckle with Taffy Steve as we first determined that if Bugs Bunny rode with the club he’d doubtless refer to the Kia Sportage as a Spore-tadjee and then compared OGL to Foghorn Leghorn.

The strangest sight of the day had to be a dog owner taking their small, very young puppy for “a walk” by dragging it on a lead behind his mountain bike. I couldn’t help thinking if he went too slow the excitable pup was going to wrap the lead around his forks, get caught under the knobbly tyres and bring him down, but if he went too fast he probably end up dragging the luckless pup behind him and wear its legs down to stubs. I’m not utterly convinced the kennel club or Canine Defence League would have approved of his training methods.


NOVATEK CAMERA


A long looping descent dropped us off at the bottom of the Mur de Mitford and up we went, with Taffy Steve messing up his gear change and storming up it in the big ring, while I messed up in the opposite direction and ended up in the granny ring and twiddling my way to the top.

Again we regrouped and pressed on with Benedict and Den Haag re-united on the front and keeping the pace decidedly brisk as we closed in on Netherwhitton. We stopped here for some respite and to split the group, with half taking the left turn to track their way up the Trench, while the rest of us pressed on to Ritton Bank, still at speed.

Ritton Bank is one of the first real tests on the Cyclone route, but today we would take a sharp left just before its rather gnarly summit. Nonetheless it was a decent leg stretcher and strung us out into a long line.

Regrouping at the top we followed a twisting rolling road just below the top of the fells, flanked by dry stone walls that were lined with thoroughly disinterested and somnolent shaggy black cows. Crazy Legs gave them a rather desultory “Moo” while, riding up behind him, I unleashed my own imitation of a bovine greeting, which was apparently so realistic he visibly flinched and looked back in panic like a sweating fat lad tripping over his own feet on the Pamplona Bull Run.

Crazy Legs was so taken with my “cow call” he had me repeat it several times and then again to a visibly unimpressed Taffy Steve, who I think only responds to sheep. Luckily there were no locals around to wonder about the strange, randomly mooing cyclist riding down their road.

A long, screaming descent down into the Font Valley saw Benedict and Den Haag open up a gap at the front and then we were onto the Category 4 Rothley Lakes climb, 3kms at an average of 3% with the sharpest ramps of almost 13% at the bottom.

Working out of the saddle, I overhauled Taffy Steve and then Crazy Legs and as the slope eased, I plonked myself down, found a good rhythm and started to work my way upwards, managing to hold the distance on the front two and opening up a gap to those behind.

Topping out the Rothley Lakes climb led to 5km of mixed climbing and descending on rolling roads and the front pair started to pull ahead. Nonetheless I pressed on in solo pursuit, indulging in a rather grand bout of chasse patate and thoroughly enjoying myself. Twists and turns on the route conspired to keep my quarry out of sight through Scots Gap, but as they took the sharp turn for Middleton Bank I saw a flash of red that was Benedict’s jersey.

As I approached the climb I could see a long stream of riders disappearing over the crest, which included the notable, shocking-pink jersey beZ was wearing that morning. I reasoned Benedict and Den Haag must have caught and joined up with our first group and found I had something else to chase now.

Up Middleton Bank, I passed a labouring Richard of Flanders, detached from the front group and pushing on alone. I tried to give him some encouragement and thought he might be able to hold onto my wheel, but I’m not even certain he tried and I was off solo once again.

With the front group winding up for the final sprint, there was no way I was going to catch them now and reasoned the gap was going to grow. Sure enough, I caught only one or two further glimpses of the pack and it wasn’t long until they were well out of sight and my ride to the café was completed in splendid isolation.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

As I parked up the bike and made my away indoors, the BFG called me across. “Where did we drop you and how far off the back must you have been?” he asked, glancing at his watch.

Ha ha, everyone’s a comedian.

I tagged onto the back of the queue inside and was soon joined by Taffy Steve, Crazy Legs and the others as they arrived in in ones and twos.

The Garrulous Kid appeared to buy a can of Coke and to tell us of another epic failure of his cornering skills. This had seen him engaging, not for the first time, in a little cyclo-cross riding, off the road and up an embankment. He said that it had looked so dangerous someone had apparently called him a stunt rider.

I naturally suggested he may have misheard the actual comment, while Taffy Steve wanted to know if they might perhaps have included the word cunning in their appreciation of his off-piste skills.

Collecting his coffee and cake, Taffy Steve carefully made his way to the table outside on jelly legs, or what he perceptively described as baby giraffe legs, the special feeling you get after a hard, intensive effort on what had proven to be a fairly demanding route.

Later, Szell would make his way to the table, wobbly and stumbling like the town drunk.

“You see,” Taffy Steve declared, “Baby giraffe legs.” Couldn’t argue there.

Enjoying our relaxation and recovery in the sun and against all accepted protocol, we sneaked two refills of coffee, which caused the Garrulous Kid to declare, “I’m not allowed coffee.” while he bounced around the table like a chipmunk on speed.

“I’m not surprised, I can’t begin to imagine you loaded on caffeine,” I offered, looking pointedly at his Coke.

“Yeah,” he giggled madly, “I’m not supposed to have Coke either.”

Amped up like a toddler overdosing on E-numbers and a blood-boiling sugar rush, the Garrulous Kid returned to a recurring complaint, the fact he doesn’t like the particular moniker I’ve bestowed on him.

As before I listened patiently and then told him he had been given numerous name suggestions he could choose from, Crap Gob, Fresh Trim, Jar-Jar Binks, Zoolander or the Garrulous Kid. In fact, I’m not sure anyone in the club can claim more potential names, which I think is quite an achievement in so short a space of time.

Receiving very little sympathy and with his attention span stretched way beyond capacity, he bounded away to another table to repeat his complaint and in the process apparently admitted to hating his middle name too.

“What’s that then?” was the obvious question.

From all accounts – and I’ve gathered these from numerous independent witnesses and reliable sources – the answer that came back most closely sounded like “Helen.”

So, one more choice to add to his options, Crap Gob, Fresh Trim, Jar-Jar Binks, Zoolander, the Garrulous Kid or … Helen.

All good things must come to an end, so three coffees’ later and with our brief sojourn in the sunny garden coming to a close, we gathered together, formed up and rode out.


Riding along beside Zardoz, he nodded his head at the Red Max’s back pack and whispered conspiratorially, “Do you think there’s actually anything in there?”

I assured him it was like Felix the Cat’s magical bag of tricks and the Red Max would reach into it whenever he was in a fix. I could only begin to speculate to its precise contents, but had seen him pull tools such as pliers, spanners and screwdrivers from the bag, complete sets of clothing, rain jackets, spare bike components, chains, assorted nuts, bolts, screws and brake blocks, food, drink, snacks, gels, sun creams, spare specs, hats, socks, gloves, bike spares and repairs, inner tubes, tyre shoes, patches, gaffer tape, zip ties, chain links – the list was almost endless.

In fact, I suggested the only time Red Max’s bag of tricks had let him down was when someone snapped their gear hanger. Red Max didn’t have one and to his everlasting shame was mortified when OGL produced one out of his back-pocket. I’m fairly confident his bag also includes a spare gear hanger now.

Descending Berwick Hill and perhaps in appreciation of last weeks splenetic, Mr. Angry the cyclist, we had Mr. Angry, the splenetic RIM, over-taking at high speed and bellowing “Ride in single file!” out of the window. We all gave him our biggest, friendliest, cheeriest waves and I’m not certain, but I think G-Dawg may have even have blown him a kiss.

Moments later and another RIM in a massive 4×4  was cutting across into our lane to overtake a slower car and came powering straight at us. Thankfully he swooped back at the last instant, just before we started hurling ourselves off the road to escape the brain-dead moron.

Still even these incidents couldn’t sour what had been a good, long and testing ride over some less travelled routes and challenging climbs. I’d gone over 72 miles by the time I made it home, grinning from ear to ear and looking forward to doing it all again next week.


YTD Totals: 3,442 km / 2,139 miles with 37,377 metres of climbing

Domestic Duties

Domestic Duties

Club Run, Saturday 18th February, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  107 km / 67 miles with 1,061 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 25 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.2 km/h

Group size:                                         22 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    13°C

Weather in a word or two:          Föhntastic!


18th-feb
Ride Profile

The Ride:

Catching the end of the BBC weather, I learned the weekend was going to see the whole of the North East of England exposed to what they were labelling the Föhn effect. That sounded serious, in a Scandinavian sort of way and they’re not a region renowned for fine weather. After last week’s dreadful conditions, it was not what I was hoping for.

In actual fact the Föhn effect is relatively benevolent as, to the best of my limited understanding, it meant that we were going to be sheltered in the lee side of a plume of tropical air that got hung up in the process of dumping a heavy, hearty rainfall all over the Pennines. This in turn would generate strong and gusty downslope winds accompanied by abrupt warming and drying over our entire region. Sorry, Manchester, but lucky us.

What this actually meant in practice was an unseasonably mild, dry but windy Saturday. .

In fact, the forecast was so mild and so dry for Saturday, that Facebook chatter started early about the rare possibility for breaking out the best, summer bikes, if only on a day release basis. It was an opportunity many decided could not be missed, but Reg was clearly unprepared for such a rude and abrupt early awakening, so I stuck to the Pug.

Down by the riverside (Catchy. Someone should use that line in a song) I found lots of fit looking young people in muddy wellies milling around. The car parks in both boat clubs were clogged with trailers piled high with white hulls, while cars spilled out onto either side of the road. It looked like being a big day of competition out on the river for our local rowing clubs and they’d struck lucky with the weather too.

It was mild enough outside for a single base-layer and light, windproof jersey and by the time I reached the meeting point, both the weather and my efforts had warmed me up enough that I was able to discard the buff, headband and inner gloves.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg were the first to arrive on their “best bikes” the latter adorned with a gleaming new chain. And not just any chain, but a gleaming, new and glistening golden chain. We suggested other bits of gold bling Son of G-Dawg could add to the bike, although there was a sharp intake of breath when he proposed, “Maybe gold shoes, too.”

You see, he just had to push it too far (although, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I’d wear gold shoes, even if it was just as ultimate mark of my style over substance approach to cycling.)

It wasn’t quite mild enough for Crazy Legs to risk the cossetted Ribble, but he’d traded in the fixie for the Bianchi. Jimmy Mac tried to interest Crazy Legs in a celeste coloured chain for the Bianchi, but the option had already been contemplated and rejected because:

a. It would mean keeping the chain even more scrupulously clean.

b. How much!!? £80 for a consumable chain seems a little excessive.

Taffy Steve had abandoned the thrice-cursed winter-bike for his titanium love-child, but cited on-going mechanical issues with the winter hack as the principle reason for the change, including jockey wheels that had assumed the same rough shape and dimensions as a shark’s teeth. Likewise, the Red Max had no choice but to go with his best bike after the terminal disintegration of his drive train last week.

Keel, also out on his best bike, had invested in some scarily, glaringly white, plush, Lizard Skins bar tape, but was uncertain how long it would keep its pristine loveliness. He suggested he might be riding the entire way with his hands clasped precariously around the front of his brake levers.

White bar tape had finally defeated even G-Dawg, who usually relishes even the most taxing bike-cleaning challenge, but had eventually recognised the futility of a battle he couldn’t hope to win. We’ll see, maybe the Lizard Skins stuff is easy to clean – it has a good reputation to go with its hefty price.

Meanwhile the Garrulous Kid was talking at Taffy Steve, explaining he would be missing a few club runs as he needed some extra weekend tuition for his Maffs A-Level.

“Maffs?” I enquired.

“Yes, Maffs.”

“Not English?”

“No, my English is really good, just Maffs.”

“Really?”

Meanwhile, Sneaky Pete had sneaked in amongst the group, presenting us with a unique photo-opportunity, as the bus shelter nearby was currently adorned with a poster for the eponymous TV Series of Sneaky Pete’s life.

Acting as both press officer and official photographer, Crazy Legs was soon lining up Sneaky Pete alongside the poster, to record the moment for posterity.

sp

He looks grumpy because he’s entirely disowned the production as (allegedly) the series takes far too many liberties with his real life story: turning the mild-mannered, retired-physics teacher, Oxford Blue and occasional mountaineering-cyclist, into a con man on the run from a vicious gangster, while transplanting the whole story from the gritty north of the UK, to a ritzy New York City. Hollywood, eh?


After a slight delay, while the Red Max swapped his cleats around – 24 or so cyclists pushed off, clipped in and rode out,  an odd mix of posh plastic bikes and battered and benighted winter-hacks.

Those on their good bikes were especially giddy, none more so that the Red Max, who swooped delightedly from the head of the line, completely around one roundabout and back onto the rear of our group – the world’s first Immelmann Turn performed by bicycle.

I was riding with the Monkey Butler Boy when we had our first RIM encounter of the day, a white-van man who took exception to us, even though he was driving in completely the opposite direction. Face twisted in malevolent outrage, he considerately took time away from the conversation he was having on his mobile, to lean heavily on his horn and gesticulate that we were all violent self-abusers. How pleasant.

Moments later a driver tried to pass us, only to find the outside lane already occupied by an approaching car, forcing him to dither disconcertedly, obviously tempted to turn back into our group.

If he was a short-sighted, impatient lunatic, I didn’t know what to make of the driver who blindly followed the overtaking manoeuvre, glued to his rear bumper and with even less idea if the road ahead was clear.

Luckily the approaching driver braked to a halt, allowing the two morons the opportunity to accelerate away and pull across in front of us. I was going to say safely in front of us, but there was wasn’t a scintilla of safety or consideration in anything this pair were doing.

Looking for less trafficked lanes, we turned right at the top of Berwick Hill and lined out for a fairly rapid descent. Half way down Sneaky Pete’s bottle bounced out and down the road and, after a short delay he finally seemed to notice and decided to turn about and retrieve it.

I found a place to pull in, stop and wait, while the rest of the group flashed past and away, just in case he needed any help chasing on. After a short delay, Sneaky Pete appeared over the brow of the hill, led by Rab Dee who’d also waited to help out. As Rab is younger, faster than fitter than me, my services weren’t really required, so I simply tagged onto the back, while he pulled us up to where our group was being trailed by a couple of cars, like a loyal domestique drafting through the caravan of team cars and service vehicles to deliver his leader back to the front.

Further on and passing Kirkley Cycles, G-Dawg pulled over as his STI lever had worked loose on his handlebars. As this was the same STI lever OGL’s shop had recently spent some time fixing, he was instantly on hand to help sort the problem, while we naturally all suggested G-Dawg should have used a more reputable mechanic.

None of the proffered multi-tools were long enough to get the job done, so OGL and G-Dawg disappeared up the lane to the cycle workshop to seek technical assistance and pro tools. Unbeknown to anyone, Zardoz also trailed after them, looking for the toilet.

While we waited, Crazy Legs’s Bianchi and my Peugeot decided to re-ignite the long dormant Franco-Italian War, with a bit of tyre-butting, like two rutting stags going head to head. Meanwhile, Jimmy Mac’s German Storck tried to maintain neutrality with an air of imperious disdain.

Thankfully easily distracted, Crazy Legs tilted his head to one side to read the name emblazoned down the side of the Storcks fork. “Stiletto, that’s a good name for a bike,” he declared.

“Just not very Germanic.” I added, before suggesting maybe Stuka or Panzerkampfwagen would have been more appropriate.

Elsewhere, the Monkey Butler Boy was extolling the virtues of Morgan Blue Cleaning Brushes, which I interpreted as booshes and Crazy Legs as Morgan Freeman. In an instant we were left wondering what Morgan Freeman Booshes were … and whether we needed any.

Luckily Taffy Steve wasn’t around to advise us that you shouldn’t really be calling bike cleaning products anything that could be confused with a stripper, or porn stars’ stage name.


NOVATEK CAMERA


Repairs safely effected, OGL and G-Dawg returned and we set off, inadvertently abandoning Zardoz in the toilet and forcing him to chase on for a good few miles. As I reiterated later, no one is knowingly left behind, but we’re just not very knowing.

Despite the beneficial, drying Föhn effect, through sheer persistence, cunning local knowledge and a degree of malevolent serendipity, OGL finally managed to lead us onto a section of road that was wet, rutted, filthy-muddy and horribly exposed – seemingly on no more than a whim to ensure all the posh bikes got clarty.

Rounding one bend on a narrow road, we forced a lane-hogging Qashqai to slow and reluctantly pull over. As we squeezed past the driver wound down her window to gesticulate angrily to the side of the road.

“There’s a parsing ployce,” she cried, “Yoos should use the parsing ployce!”

A great idea in principle, but I’m not sure how we could have crowded 2 dozen bikes and riders into the narrow strip that barely deserved to be called a lay-by, or how long that would have delayed her while we all huddled up and squeezed in tight together.

As we stopped to split the group, Son of G-Dawg bemoaned his spattered and muddy bike. An unsympathetic OGL told him smugly he needed mudguards. Smug guards?

“Got him,” Son of G-Dawg muttered, “Hook, line and sinker.”

“Yep,” I agreed, “He’s done, gaff him and pull him on-board.”

OGL then took the amblers group off to the left, while we pushed past Dyke Neuk, before splitting the group. A small selection of longer, harder, faster riders headed away for a loop around Long Whitton, while we set off for a rendezvous with Middleton Bank.

Jimmy Mac rode off the front on the approaches to the climb and everyone was strung out in a long line as we hit the lower slopes. I found myself at the bottom of the steepest ramp and some way off a rapidly coalescing front group and knew immediately it just wasn’t going to happen today, I didn’t have the legs to close them down. Still, I tried to keep the gap manageable, pulling clear of the rest with Zardoz in tow.

Over the top, I pushed on with the lone chase, now battling a fairly stiff headwind along with horrendous oxygen deprivation. It was hard, hard work, even as the distance to the front slowly dwindled. I suspect at some point they then looked back, saw me and took pity on my ineffectual thrashing, easing slightly so I was finally able to drag myself and Zardoz up to the wheels.

There we joined, G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Taffy Steve and Captain Black as they set off again, in mad pursuit of Jimmy Mac. Slowly, inexorably, the screw was turned and the pace increased as we slipped from riding in pairs, to one long, drawn out line, hammering over a series of short rises and sweeping through the bends.

I was at my limit on Captain Black’s wheel as he became slowly detached and I had nothing to give to help him bridge back across, so just hung there uselessly. He dug in to stop the gap expanding further, but couldn’t close up again.

We yowled through Milestone Woods towards the rollers and I felt there was a chance if I buried myself I might be able to pull our small group across the leaders on the climb. Carrying as much speed as I could around the final corner, I attacked from the bottom of the first ramp, managed to maintain momentum up the second and then attacked the third and final rise in a ragged, out of the saddle, leg pounding, snaking effort.

Pushing on and pedalling furiously on the descent to the final climb, I got within a few metres of Taffy Steve’s back wheel, before the slope bit, the legs went and I sat up. Zardoz swept past with a quizzical look, but I was cooked and there was nothing more I could do. He at least managed to bridge up to Taffy Steve to contest the minor placings, while I plugged along behind.

We regrouped at a temporary set of traffic lights, before rolling into the café en masse.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A quick scrutiny of £5 notes revealed that no one had the last £50,000 engraved version. Maybe next week.

Max Stöckl’s world record downhill speed of 167 kph (over 100 mph!) was rightfully appreciated, while we wondered just how good his brakes were, if there was a wall at the end of his run, maybe speed bumps, or perhaps even train lines.

This inevitably led to further discussion of Biden Fecht’s escapades sans braking, with G-Dawg revealing that now, whenever he drives past the Metro station, he always looks for the escape lane/service road that our hapless riding companion took to avoid slamming into the level crossing barriers or the train. He wondered if Biden Fecht knew the lane was there, or whether he was just got very, very lucky. I strongly suspect the latter.

Son of G-Dawg said he realised how bad the situation was when Biden Fecht took the first corner out of Stamfordham like a speedway rider, foot down and trailing a plume of smoke, bike leaning over impossibly and at a right angle to its direction of travel. G-Dawg wondered if he’s had to buy new cleats as well as brake blocks and maybe even new shoes, perhaps with a better braking surface – just in case.

There’d been a cyclo-cross race at Kirkley Cycles when we’d stopped there earlier, but none of us could quite see the attraction of wallowing through all that mud and crud and getting your bike, in the immortal words of Daughter#2, “all bogey’d up.” In fact, given the group response to the mild mud speckling we’d encountered today, I sensed no one in our group would deliberately subject their bikes to prolonged dirt grubbing.

G-Dawg said he’d once tried a cyclo-cross event on his mountain bike, but felt parts of the course were so technical he would have been better off running the whole way. We then idly speculated on the chances of an Olympic-class middle distance runner just shouldering a bike and running an entire cyclo-cross race, potentially doable if the course is technical enough and the bike you carry doesn’t actually need all those superfluous heavy bits cyclo-cross riders use, you know like a chains, pedals, group sets and … oh … err … hidden motors.

With the café busy and new arrivals stacking up and waiting for free tables, G-Dawg declared to a waiting civilian that we’d be done in five minutes, while Son of G-Dawg snorted in disdain. Apparently, G-Dawg’s “just five minutes” are notoriously elastic in a “I told you half an hour ago I’d be 5 minutes” type of way.


We left the café to find the Red Max had been divulging copious advice on how to deal with the fairer sex to a suitably scandalised Garrulous Kid, while the Monkey Butler Boy rolled his eyes in a “I’ve heard it all before” kind of way and tried to ignore his embarrassing Dad. The Garrulous Kid wanted to know whether the information was sound and sensible. I could only suggest he think of it as a modified game of Simon Says, in which he the aim is to ignore anything and everything that Simon Says.

Heading back, we were overtaken by a lone cyclist in a Ride London jersey and both Captain Black and I noted the lack of response from Red Max, who would usually fire off and hunt down any visible cyclists like a heat-seeking missile in lycra. We concluded creeping age and the responsibility of being a grandparent must have tempered his hunter-killer instincts.

As it was, we caught the lone rider the first time the road swung uphill. Then beZ and Jimmy Cornfeed hammered past and this time the seeker head engaged and locked on.  The Red Max was launched from the pack in pursuit and half a dozen others followed as all order was shattered. I guess he was just waiting for a more challenging target.

The rest of us continued at a more restrained pace, which gave Zardoz the opportunity to demonstrate the peculiar grinding, grating warble his rear wheel had developed. This sounded like some kind of baa-ing electronic sheep whose batteries were running dangerously low – a weird bleating, droning whine. He rode up to OGL, let the bike emit it’s wail of distress and asked archly, “Do you think this sounds expensive, then?”

We started to haul in our errant attackers as we climbed to the top of Berwick Hill and began the long straight descent, at one point OGL hunkering down onto the drops and ratcheting the pace up. I know not why.

In no time at all most of the group had swung off and the small remainder hit the Mad Mile. I hung onto G-Dawg’s wheel as long as I could, until his drag race for the shower with Son of G-Dawg became too heated and then I was on my own battering into a suddenly brisk and debilitating headwind.

The grind uphill into the wind and out past the golf course was a real struggle, but before too long I was able to tip over into the valley and head for the river. Skipping across the bridge, the water below was still aswarm with narrow boats, while the crew of an 8 slowly carried their upside down hull toward the water, from above looking like nothing so much as an over-sized, gleaming white centipede.

At home, I found the bike was surprisingly muddy after the ride, despite a relatively dry day. Still, a pleasant interlude before the return to true winter riding, which I suspect is just around the corner and will be with us for a few weeks yet.


YTD Totals: 949 km / 590 miles with 8,937 metres of climbing

Random Ephemera Part#1 – in celebration of the wit & wisdom of the online cycling fraternity

When Keats proposed his epitaph should be, “Here lies one whose name was writ in water” he was perhaps prescient in seeing an age where electronic media would prove to be even more transient than the printed page.

While trawling this interweb-thing I’ll often stumble across some pithy put-down, well-crafted description, or just plain-evil, barbed comment that will have me spluttering coffee across my keyboard in delight.

This is my poor attempt to extend the life of this ephemera just a gnat’s breath longer. Here are some of my favourites.

[By the way, if anyone can help I’m still searching for a review I once saw of a reassuringly expensive Rapha wallet, illustrated with a suitable grainy photo of said item spilling open to reveal credit cards, keys, an iPhone and a pristine £10 note. In the comments section some wag had pondered whether the tenner was there for emergencies in case the Raphalite had to soil his fingers replacing a slipped chain and needed something to wipe them clean on.]

A marvellously low-brow interview with Victoria Pendleton in FHM (what else would you expect from FHM?) included the line: “Some of the girls I race against are quite masculine and have very low voices and facial hair…”

To which one message board wit quipped, “That’s odd. Some of the guys I race against are quite feminine, have squeaky voices and no hair anywhere. That’s the topsy-turvy world of cycling for you.”

Then there’s this classic from the Master himself, Doc Hutch in a piece from Cycling Weekly. “In the same era, the British time triallist would lighten his bike with a Black and Decker, drilling holes in bars, stems, frames, brakes, chainsets, and all the rest. He could thus remove two per cent of the weight and 99 per cent of the structural integrity. At full race pace his machine would whistle like a recorder concerto and flex like a wet dishcloth.”


The Rapha Pro Team Cross jersey. Decide for yourself.
The Rapha Pro Team Cross jersey. Decide for yourself.

Finally, GavinT posted a simple question under a review of the Rapha Pro Team Cross Jersey: “Do they do one in men’s colours?”