R.T.F.M.

R.T.F.M.

Club Run, Saturday 10th March, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Profile

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

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


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe Taffy Steve had a point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

I think he mean’t clip-on tri-bars.

For time-trials, obviously.

(I hope.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, not for five or six weeks yet …”

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



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

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

I drifted back to check on the Ticker.

“How are the ears holding up?”

“I can’t actually feel them anymore.”

“Well, that’s good, I guess?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

We discussed his options.

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

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

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

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

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

Well, that got him going again.

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

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

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

I just had to get there.


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

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Socks and Watts

Socks and Watts

Club Run, Saturday 4th August, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 117 km / 72 miles with 1,216 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 20 minute

Average Speed:                                26.9 km/h

Group size:                                        28 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   22°C

Weather in a word or two:          Not bad.


 

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Ride Profile


It looked like being a disappointing day, with plenty of cloud cover, little wind and the temperature struggling to top out around 17°C first thing. What am I saying … at any other time I would suggest this was perfect cycling weather … if we not been utterly spoiled by weeks and weeks of clear blue skies and ever-present sun.

Nonetheless, I was feeling pretty good, so decided to thrash my way westwards, cross the river and then thrash my way east again. It probably looked really ugly, but the pace was decent and it was fun, until I had to climb out of the valley and found out just how tired my legs now were. Still, I managed to just about recover and made the meeting point in good time.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

The Monkey Butler Boy was joining us for the start of the run, before meeting up with his delinquent Wrecking Crew for some rough, adolescent bonding and mutually appreciative denigration. His latest wage packet had been spent on some (surely too-tall to be stylish) glaringly white and super-expensive aerosocks.

He complained they were ridiculously tight and uncomfortable and I wondered if their main benefit was in cutting off blood supply to the feet, so toes turn gangrenous and drop off – a marginal, if somewhat extreme, weight saving.

But no, apparently the socks were engineered to manage air flow and, ahem, “reduce the low pressure behind the leg that sucks you backwards.” (Manufacturers hyperbole, but my emphasis.)

“Each sock can save me up to 3 watts!” the Kool-Aid imbibing Monkey Butler Boy declared.

“I’ve tried to persuade him that if he wears 5 pairs he can save 30 watts,” the Red Max concluded dryly.

At this point, the Monkey Butler Boy discovered he’d been sitting in a freshly-laid patch of finest seagull guano, that he’d then smeared all over his hands and shorts.

“Just wipe it off on your socks,” someone suggested.

“Or your shoes,” I added. (They’re still obscenely white.)

The Monkey Butler Boy decided it was best to wipe the guano off with grass, so, as the Red Max looked on it dismay, he proceeded to pull out tiny little tufts of grass and rub them ineffectively over his fingers.

Kids today, eh? They don’t even know how to wipe off shit.

I blame the parents.

As our numbers grew, I looked up and spotted what at first I thought must be a miradjee. But no, when I rubbed my eyes and looked again, the mysterious figure was still there. It was, in all reality, the unfailingly cheerful Dabman, returned to us after an absence of at least a year. In fact, the last time I recalled seeing him, he was sat on a wet road, being unfailingly cheerful while carefully holding onto his snapped collarbone.

I could tell he hadn’t been out on the bike for a long, long time as he was wearing long bibtights and obviously hadn’t received the memo stating that, temporarily at least, global warming had become an established fact in the North East of England.

Or, maybe he needed the bibtights to hold in place all the armour he’s taken to wearing, just in case he suffers another unfortunate “chute.”

Crazy Legs put in a promotional broadcast for self-flagellating masochists to take part in the club 10-mile TT that he’s kindly arranged for us next week, then G-Dawg outlined the days route in microscopic detail. We split into two packs with a re-formation planned at Dyke Neuk to decide options and away we went.


I joined the, this time smaller, front group. It was still a bit chillier than I would have liked, but the temperature was starting to creep slowly upwards and I’d reluctantly persuaded myself to part with my arm warmers.

As we took the road toward the Cheese Farm, those at the back announced the second group was closing rapidly and was in danger of catching us. I could only surmise the Red Max was on the front of the second group, his seeker-head was pinging with active targets to chase down and he was in full-pursuit mode. I didn’t dare think about the number of complaints his pace was likely to be generating from those hanging on his wheel behind.

We decided we would be safe if we could reach the sanctuary of Bell’s Hill, reasoning we could then open up a bigger gap on the climb, and so it proved.


Untitled 4


A sharp left-hand turn at Dobbie’s Debacle, reminded Crazy Legs that he’s intent on naming and mapping all the places where we’ve donated skin, blood, expensive lycra and sprinklings of aluminium and carbon-fibre to enhance the road surface.

Dobbie’s Debacle is the place where I’d slid out at low speed, taking down Taffy Steve on his brand, spanking-new Titanium love-child and putting a terminal hairline fracture into the top-tube of my Focus Cayo. Well, terminal for me anyway – the Prof had taken away the frame, self-repaired it and so birthed the Frankenbike.

There’s a whole host of other landmarks that deserve commemoration too, such as Horner’s Corner, which sadly isn’t a corner (why let the facts get in the way of a good name) but the straight stretch of road where the Plank and Red Max touched wheels during a café sprint, with disastrous, but quite predictable consequences.

Crazy Legs remembered our Icecapades, beautifully choreographed, all-fall-off-in-sequence efforts to rival any Dancing on Ice number. We have both common and a posh varieties of these (based on average house prices in the locale of the accident).

Then, of course, how could we forget the time OGL inexplicably and for no apparent reason, simply fell over while riding in a straight line …

My own notable occasions might include the roundabout, where a Polish girl (who for some reason no longer rides with us) hurled herself to the ground, in what seemed to be a desperate attempt to escape from Cowin’ Bovril.

Or, perhaps the time Princess Fiona was ambushed by a sheep in a Ghillie suit (Righty-Tighty-Lefty-Loosey and the Ovine Menace).

Or, maybe the numerous places where the Dabman has perfected the fine art of, in his own words, “hitting the ground like a sack of spuds”.

But, without doubt the most memorable was on one freezing, poorly attended winter ride, when half a dozen of us turned down a lane we didn’t know was a single, smooth sheet of ice … or, at least we didn’t know until G-Dawg went sailing past everyone … on his arse … followed two seconds later by his supine bike. Somehow, Aether managed to stay upright, steer into the grass verge and stop, while the rest of us all came clattering down, one by one, like dominoes in a row. Good times!

As planned, we reached Dyke Neuk and paused there to allow the second group to join us. I then followed a smaller, break-away section for a route that would see us descending down the Trench and then dragging our way out again via, Ritton Bank, the Rothley Lakes climb and Middleton Bank.

As we worked our way along the valley floor as prelude to this series of climbs, Crazy Legs and Biden Fecht started dancing with much exaggerated, synchronised finger waggling and then Biden Fecht took to bobbing up and down in the saddle.

“Is that your Dan Martin, on the attack, or a pecking chicken impersonation?” I asked, before realising I’d just described two almost identical things. My ignorance was met with great disdain from Biden Fecht, as apparently I’d witnessed, but failed to recognize his sexy, Beyonce-style dance routine.

Rrriiiiiggghhht …

We stayed in compact group until the top of Ritton Bank, when everyone swung left before the summit, apart from Crazy Legs who pushed on for some added miles. At the next junction, we swept downhill, before starting the long slog up to Rothley Crossroads. Caracol, Andeven and Rab Dee had pinged off the front and we became split-up and strung out as we started about 4 kilometres of climbing, with one or two spicy sections of over 16%.

Ahead of me, Caracaol and Andeven pressed on at pace, while Rab Dee dropped back to check on the backmarkers. A creaking Rainman (he claimed it was his cleats, but I suspect it was his protesting knees) caught and passed me on the drag up and we started a strange little ritual, where I would claw my way slowly up to him and then he’d dig a little deeper and pull away again. Nonetheless, I was able to keep him just about within striking distance, until the road finally relented and started to tip down again.

Rainman pulled over just past the Rothley Crossroads, seemingly intent on regrouping with the rest, but I was on a charge and swept straight by. He finally abandoned all pretence of gallantry and gave chase, latching on to my wheel and recovering from his efforts, before we started to work together.

I say work together, but this was implicit, rather than a well-formulated and agreed plan. I think we were both simply going as hard as we could, for as long as we could, just to see where we would end up, or if we could actually kill each other.

I thought we were all alone on the road, well apart from the vole that darted under our wheels at one point. Just behind though, Biden Fecht was chasing furiously and behind him, Rab Dee was also trying to close us down, having first checked the backmarkers were being shepherded safely home by G-Dawg and the Colossus.

A leg-burning ascent of Middleton Bank put us on the path for the café and we started to share turns a bit more fluently, even if my stints on the front were necessarily shorter. They were enough anyway to keep the pursuers at bay. I buried myself over the rollers and took us down to the final, cruel drag up to the café, rounded the corner and I was done, cooked and flailing as Rainman pulled away at the last.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

We learned Princess Fiona had booked the wrong return flight for an upcoming trip to Geneva. Apparently, the return was booked for not just the wrong time, the wrong day and the wrong date, but the wrong month.

We tried to rationalise how easy the mistake could be. Was it the right day, but the wrong month and she’d just clicked too far on the calendar?

No.

Was it one of those scrolling menus, where you might inadvertently cause the date to roll over if you accidentally brushed the screen in the wrong way?

No.

Had the flights been changed at short notice by the operator, causing confusion and a bit of last-minute panic?

No.

“Well,” I had to conclude, “Looks like you just fucked up.”

Others confessed to their own flight fuck-ups, probably just to make her feel better. Biden Fecht won this particular contest by bizarrely suggesting he turned up at Heathrow Airport, very, very early one morning, to catch a flight from Aberdeen to London.

Post-Toady France, pre-Premiership, Richard of Flanders bemoaned the lack of sporting distraction available once he got home this afternoon. I tried to sell everyone on the Clásica San Sebastián, which looked to have a strong field, including some potential winners I highlighted, such as Egan Bernal, Mikel Landa and Pierre Latour.

I don’t know what sort of strange-voodoo hex I put on these unfortunates with my casual name-dropping, but all three of them crashed out the race with serious injuries that’ll keep them off the bike for weeks.

I’m just pleased I didn’t mention deserved winner, Julian Alaphillipe, who took the honours with a searing uphill acceleration to bridge across to Bauke Mollema, who was then easily dispatched in a final sprint. I’m struggling to understand how the classy Alaphillipe can climb with such grace, power and speed, but never seems to trouble the GC, even in week long stage races (with the exception of his 2016 Tour of California win).

The sun began to break through the cloud cover as we gathered to head home, leaving one table including G-Dawg, the Colossus and the late arriving Crazy Legs, behind to enjoy some extended blathering.  


As we started up Berwick Hill, the Red Max surged to the front, blinked in surprise and looked around somewhat bewildered.

“Agh! What am I doing up here?” he plaintively asked.

“You’ll get a nose-bleed, if you’re not careful,” I advised.

“I’ll just get me coat,” he replied and slipped back again.

According to Princess Fiona, Caracol then called out an admonition of “Steady!” before he surged away off the front while everyone else hesitated. I worked to slowly close the gap, pulling the rest along behind me, although not without causing a few fissures in the group.

We pushed over the top and regrouped as we sped down the other side and up through Dinnington. Caracol then threw me another curveball, swinging left with the rest of the group, leaving me on the front as we entered the Mad Mile, although at a more sedate pace than usual in the absence of G-Dawg and the Colossus.

I split away from the rest and made my way steadily upwards and then down again to the river. Crossing the bridge and climbing up to the traffic lights, a group of riders flashed through the junction ahead, so naturally I felt compelled to give chase.

The group split at the next roundabout, but I tracked a couple through Blaydon and caught and passed them just before Shibdon pond, only to be stopped short by some temporary traffic lights. As we waited, another, larger group of cyclists joined us and I found myself uncomfortably at the head of a large peloton. No pressure then.

The light changed and I led everyone off, through the roadworks, across the last roundabout and up to the traffic lights at the bottom of the Heinous Hill. I waited for a break in the traffic and then started the climb.

One of the riders surged past, but I didn’t respond, which was just as well as he turned off for the Pedalling Squares café, while I still had the rest of the hill to scale. I assumed the rest also followed him, drawn away by the promise of good cake and coffee, so once again I found myself alone, tacking steadily upwards and home.


YTD Totals: 4,665 km / 2,899 miles with 57,923 metres of climbing

Ryality Bites

Ryality Bites

Club Run, Saturday 30th September, 2017            

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 118 km / 73 miles with 1,120 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 36 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.6 km/h

Group size:                                        22 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and breezy


 

 

29 sep
Ride profile


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I arrived at the meeting point five minutes before 9.00, surprised to find OGL uncharacteristically early and already there, waiting. Apparently, he’d had young pro James Knox (currently of Team Wiggins, but soon to be seen in the colours of Quick Step) visit his shop the day before and had extended an open invitation for the rider to join us on the club run.

Despite turning up ultra-early, keen, bright eyed and bushy-tailed, OGL had seemingly been abandoned, cruelly jilted at the altar and his pro-VIP never showed.

There were however enough riders wearing shorts to at least give him a moments distraction and the opportunity to declare them all crazy for exposing their knees in such weather.

The Garrulous Kid was uncharacteristically quiet, seemingly pre-occupied fiddling surreptitiously with his bike in a corner. Someone finally wondered what he was actually doing and we discovered he was futilely trying to force more air into a soft rear tyre.

The trouble was his every effort and fumble seemed to deflate the tyre just a little more. Finally, Grover took pity on him, looked things over and quickly came to the conclusion he wasn’t suffering from a slightly leaky tyre, but a terminal puncture requiring a tube change. He stopped the Garrulous Kid from any further flogging of this, by now quite dead, horse and set about helping him make repairs.

The Red Max was delighted to recount how the Monkey Butler Boy had been tasked by his coaches to undertake a fitness test and provide some performance numbers. Anticipating a grand show, Max had settled into his favourite comfy chair with a nice cup of tea and ready supply of biscuits to watch the Monkey Butler Boy turning himself inside out on a turbo in order to provide the necessary evaluation data.

Max seemed to particularly enjoy the pain and suffering, while obviously providing moral support and motivation in the form of a running commentary disparaging the Monkey Butler Boy’s efforts, cycling prowess and general manhood.

The Monkey Butler Boy himself was quietly content with his test results, which suggested only 16% body fat, but freakishly fat knees. This manifested as a huge roll of loose skin he could pick up and actually fold over the joint, a bit like a stretchable seat cover or pliable knee warmers.

“Is it like the equivalent of a granny’s bingo wings?” I enquired, somewhat repelled by the thought.

“Much, much worse,” the Red Max revealed.

Crazy Legs was intrigued by the possibility of producing the Geordie version of the Zero-Fat Diet, which he proposed was appropriately titled the “Nee-Fat” Diet, guaranteed to solve the rather disturbing phenomena of the Monkey Butler Boys fat knees.

Meanwhile, I wondered if pulling down on the knee flap would have a similar effect as giving the Monkey Butler Boy a bit of a face and neck-lift. The Red Max suggested the fat could even be rolled all the way down the legs to the ankles, removing any hint of a double chin and giving the Monkey Butler Boy a sharp profile and prominent cheekbones.

The downside however, was all the excess skin would pool around the Monkey Butler Boys ankles, making it look like he was wearing a pair of sloppy, flesh-coloured wellies or, worse a pair of the Garrulous Kids baggy socks.

The Garrulous Kid himself, now had both Grover and OGL working to fix his puncture. In what may have been a miradjee, or in the light of the numerous witnesses, perhaps a mass hallucination, several people attested to seeing OGL resorting to tyre levers to reseat the tyre on the rim.

As ride leader, the Red Max outlined the planned route for the day, having us split into two groups that would then re-form at a pre-determined rendezvous. At this point those masochistic souls who wanted yet another crack at the Ryals could tackle them again, while those, of a more sound-mind, would take a slightly less challenging route to the café.

Responding to the Red Max’s route as it was posted up on Facebook, a shocked Taffy Steve declared, “Not been to the Ryals for two years and now twice in a week. You, sir, are a very naughty boy.” The Red Max however was unrepentant and insisted the Ryals were merely “an option” that only the clinically insane would want to tackle. Like a self-serving Tory MP proposing private schools to expand the options of those who can’t afford them anyway, it was according to the Red Max, all about “providing choices.”

Quarter past and with the first group already on the road and the second group stacking up to go, the Garrulous Kid was still fiddling with his bike. Crazy Legs called it as it was – the longest tyre change in club history.

Meanwhile, the Monkey Butler Boy was enjoying pointing out at all the things the Garrulous Kid had been doing wrong and especially the fact that he was resting the weight of his bike fully on its rear derailleur once he removed the wheel. Then, when the Kid tried to put the wheel back in with his cassette on the opposite side to the chainset, I actually thought the Monkey Butler Boy was going to wet himself laughing.

Accidents narrowly averted, the second group finally meandered slowly out onto the roads, leaving the Garrulous Kid to pick up and pack up his gear, before racing out to catch us up.


For the first part of the ride I dropped in beside Slow Drinker and heard all about his recent experiences completing the epic Rapha Manchester to London Challenge – setting out at dawn to ride a rather lumpy 220 miles down through the Peak District, Midlands and Chilterns. Despite the distance and difficulty, he enjoyed the event so much that he’s planning on repeating it next year. That he managed to raise a ton of money for charity too, was just the icing on the cake.

Having been berated as one of the “you must be mad riders” who’d dared to wear shorts, Crazy Legs enjoyed a delighted, schadenfreude moment when he heard OGL bitterly complaining that his hands were freezing in their track mitts. Crazy Legs waved his full-fingered gloves around and suggested that not only were his fingers toasty, but his bare legs were nice and warm too, before disparaging those “amateurs” who don’t dress appropriately for the conditions.

Crazy Legs and Taffy Steve finished their stint on the front and I moved up along with Slow Drinker to lead us down and away from Dinnington. We split the group on the ascent of Bell’s Hill, but planned to wait at the top to regroup. Here though a handful of cyclists, including a couple of recognisable club members, stood clustered around an upended and obviously ailing machine.

We asked if they needed any help, but were waved away and told everything was fully under control. We believed them and they weren’t part of our original ride, so we pressed on. We later learned our first group, passing through the same spot a minute earlier, had also offered to help and been told all was in hand and there was no need to interrupt their ride.


buster


Other people though, seemingly have an uncontrollable, compelling need to interfere, stick their nose in and prove their mechanical mastery of any situation. So, while the front part of our group rolled past and away from the scene, the second became embroiled in “Chaingate” – stopping to lend what I personally took to be totally unnecessary and unasked for assistance to fix a snapped chain.

Five us, Crazy Legs, Taffy Steve, Slow Drinker, the Garrulous Kid and me, freewheeled on, constantly looking over our shoulders and waiting for everyone else to catch up. At the next junction we concluded it wasn’t going to happen and the rest of the group had obviously stopped at the top of the hill.

Torn between pressing on and waiting, we decided on the latter. Ten to fifteen minutes later, we began to regret our decision and the Garrulous Kid was starting to get tetchy and kept urging us to leave. Still we waited.

To pass the time, Crazy Legs decided to declare a Be Nice to the Garrulous Kid Day. “What are you after?” the Garrulous Kid immediately demanded to know … and as quickly as the idea had been born, it died.

Finally, the rest of the group appeared, we waved them through and latched onto the back.

At the next junction, Pavlovian instinct took hold and we had to fight the urge to file straight across the road and instead take an ultra-rare and hugely uncharacteristic left-turn instead. Being slightly less confused than the others, I found myself back in the lead once again, this time alongside Radman, who blinked once or twice, looked round bewildered and demanded to know, “How did I end up on the front?”

I suggested we needed to fake a puncture or a slight mechanical to slip back again, but we pressed on regardless.

A long descent had us topping out at over 40 km/h, but it wasn’t until we were down that I realised it had been our old adversary and Szell’s bete noire, Middleton Bank in reverse. Characteristically, I didn’t recognise it at all and had no real idea where we were.

Crazy Legs spelled me on the front and I dropped back alongside Taffy Steve, where we tried and failed to decipher the name emblazoned on Radman’s shorts and jersey.

I know my memory is clearly fallible, but from what I can recollect it seemed to read, “Phtktpkoyuo,” or something similar.

I tried several times to try and pronounce the strange word, but gave up, deciding it had too many consonants, all crowded together like Dan Martin’s teeth.

I then wondered if it was an anagram, but couldn’t make anything resembling an English word from the weird amalgam of seemingly random letters. Taffy Steve thought it was perhaps just telling us in a strange phonetic way to eff off …

“Phtktpko yuo!”

“Yeah? Well phtktpko yuo, too!”

Meanwhile, somewhere behind me I kept catching very odd snippets of conversation, as Aether and the Garrulous Kid became embroiled in a convoluted and involved conversation about space-time curvature. You hear the oddest things on club rides.

On a straight section of road, we had an insane motorcyclist hurtling toward us, as he swerved into our lane, trying to overtake a car where there was no space to do so. He waved his hands frantically at us, demanding we get out of his way. He received very short-shrift and a few of our own patented and very emphatic hand gestures back in return.

He shot past, much too fast and far too close, before disappearing up the road trailing the bellow of a screaming, over-revved engine behind him. Arse hat.

“Phtktpko yuo!” I would have shouted, if I’d just been quick enough and had ever managed to master that complex, alien phrase.

We reached the assigned rendezvous point to find the first group waiting for us. Despite our travails and delays, the Red Max reported they hadn’t been there too long. He then reiterated our choices: “That a-way for the Ryals … and this a-way to avoid them.”

Red Max, Taffy Steve, G-Dawg, Zardoz, Sneaky Pete and the Colossus all made toward “this a-way” leaving only Crazy Legs, Aether and me to accompany an equal number of scarily eager young-uns “that a-way” for the climb. Oh no, what am I doing?

Even Carlton, the original Dormanator, couldn’t be persuaded to join us to alternatively chaperone and then be humiliated by his own kid. With a huge sense of relief, he gratefully entrusted us with proxy-parenting responsibilities, before he too slipped away with the main group.

So, off we went – Mr. Boom, the Dormanator Mk2, a.k.a. Jake the Snake and the Garrulous Kid, an average age just barely into teen years, alongside three superannuated grouches with an average age well past fifty. Sounds like the perfectly balanced group.

I trailed along at the back, keeping an eye on everyone as Crazy Legs led us up through Hallington and then down to the bottom of the Ryals. There, the Garrulous Kid attacked the climb savagely, flailing away all pointy knees and elbows, like Fabio Aru with Saint Vitus’ dance. Mr. Boom and the Dormanator gave chase, while I eased out of the saddle to climb alongside Crazy Legs as we tackled the steepest, first ramp at a more restrained pace, which was actually pretty much all I could manage.

As we started up the second ramp we had a grandstand view of the battle up ahead, with Jake the Snake topping the climb first, followed by Mr. Boom, with the Garrulous Kid trailing.

“This seems harder than last week,” Crazy Legs suggested. “Perhaps the run-in was harder?” he grasped for plausible excuses.

“Could be,” I managed to gasp, “Don’t think there’ll be any new PR’s this time.” (I had more or less the same conversation with Sneaky Pete later at the café, so have to admit to total surprise when Strava informed me I had actually set new PR’s on 3 of the 4 climb segments.)

We regrouped over the top and pushed on the Quarry, where Crazy Legs drove up the slope at top speed, swinging right as he crested the climb. As we later agreed, after the Ryals, the Quarry Climb just seems like a mere, irritating, little pimple. I chased onto his back wheel, finally managing to claw my way up alongside him, as we accelerated and set a high pace, leading the rest in the run to the café.

With such a small select group and having spent all day pushing into a headwind, we weren’t expecting any kind of sprint as we approached the Snake Bends, but the Garrulous Kid attacked anyway and we just let him go. Apparently he likes to “test himself.”

As the Garrulous Kid flitted across the main road ahead of us and ducked down the parallel lane, Crazy Legs decided, as we were running fairly late, to take the more direct route to the café and stick to the main road. He had Jake the Snake tuck in tight on his rear wheel and I dropped in behind, trying to form a protective pocket around him, as we pushed to the café and a reunion with the Ryal-deniers.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

During a discussion about passports and nationalities, Aether suggested that, given the choice he would rather carry a Scottish passport than a UK one. The Garrulous Kid insisted he was American and had an American passport as he’d been born in Sowf Carolina (or was it Norf Carolina?)

Crazy Legs surmised holding an American passport was actually about the only thing worse than a British one, should you  fall into the hands of fundamentalist terrorists.

The Garrulous Kid went to extreme lengths to convince us that there was a world of difference between Sowf Carolina and Norf Carolina and even between those from Carolina and those from Texas. “They’re all different heights and sizes and hair colours” he explained breathlessly – which is quite revelation in Garrulous Kid world, where all Italians are small of stature, have black hair and dark eyes and everyone in France and Germany is a tall, blonde-haired and blue-eyed Aryan.

He went then on to tell Mr. Boom that he would have no problems travelling on his Nigerian passport, because he seemed “such a nice bloke.” Crazy Legs thought that was a brilliant test to foil international terrorism, all we have to do is determine if someone is a nice bloke and if they’re not bar them from entering the country. What could possibly go wrong?

The conversation turned to air travel and the increased security Jake the Snake had encountered travelling through Heathrow. The Garrulous Kid then told us how he’d set the alarms off in one airport when his braces registered on the metal detector.

“Did you have to take your braces off?” Crazy Legs enquired.

“And did your pants fall down?” Zardoz deadpanned, easily stealing the quip of the day prize.

Sneaky Pete sneaked up to tell us he was sneaking away early, just before he sneaked away.  He then had to explain to Crazy Legs that he’d been missing the past couple of weeks as he’d been away on holiday in Cannes.

Crazy Legs gestured at Sneaky Pete’s rather reddened nose and wondered if he’d caught the sun too much. Pete revealed it was actually a jellyfish sting, inflicted when he swam face first through one of the critters trailing tentacles while posing with a bit of stylish freestyle.

“Oh, I would have pissed on your face if I’d been there.” Crazy Legs affirmed. I can’t think of a more warming and touching declaration of friendship, it almost brought a tear to my eye.


A slightly rushed, second cup of coffee and we began stacking up ready to head home after a longer than normal ride and Chaingate delays.

I spent the first part of the ride back chatting with the Prof, mainly in forensic detail about obscure, Belgian-TV, detective shows. Heading down Berwick Hill, we began closing on another bunch of cyclists and caught them at the foot of the sharp climb into Dinnington. As we closed I suggested to Zardoz that chaos would likely ensue.

I identified the other group as Ee-Em-Cee riders, once a splinter group from our own august club and titularly named after their penchant for leaving on rides long before everyone else is awake.

“They’re not riding very well,” Zardoz suggested.

“Well, they are the Early Morning Crew – it’s now after 1 o’clock,” I reasoned.

“I think it must be way past their bed-times, then,” Zardoz declared.

Naturally, being cyclists, they didn’t respond particularly well to being caught by another group of cyclists – and as G-Dawg moved out to go around them on the climb there was a general quickening of the pace all around.

The two groups were now racing through the village, almost in three lines and directly toward a large, blunt and immoveable double-decker bus, that had stopped to pick up passengers and was blocking the entire lane. OGL screamed there were cars coming the other way and the back of the group slowed.

At the front though, competitive juices were flowing and the two groups went almost sprinting into the narrow gap between bus and the oncoming traffic, as they quickly disappeared around it.

I approached the back of the bus and peered cautiously around its bulk. Luckily the driver of the car travelling in the opposite direction had seen the swarm of approaching cyclists and stopped.

I cautiously pulled out and led the rest around the side of the bus, waving my thanks and trying to convey a measure of contrition to the driver. He waved and gave me a wry smile, seemingly understanding exactly what had been going on and being totally relaxed about it. A rare gem amongst motorists then, a patient, forgiving and considerate driver.

I rode past and gave a quick double-take – he was sitting in a low-slung, rumbling and sleek black Audi. It’s an age of miracles, I tell you.

Luckily the EMC group took the next left turn and a degree of order was restored, although as a leftover we still maintained the same high-speed our sparring with them had injected into the ride. We barrelled past the main turn-off, where most of the group split away and burned through the Mad Mile, before I swung off, eased and started to pick my way home, solo and at a much more sustainable pace.


YTD Totals: 5,775 km / 3,588 miles with 65,619 metres of climbing