Club Run, Saturday 7th April, 2019
My ride (according to Strava)
|Total Distance:||105 km/65 miles with 1,110 m of climbing|
|Riding Time:||3 hours 56 minutes|
|Group Size:||28 riders, 1 FNG|
|Weather in a word or two:||A chiller|
Another chilly, but dry Saturday, decent conditions for a club run and I was on one of those all too rare days, when everything comes easy and the pedals seem to spin of their own volition. It’s that butterfly feeling, it doesn’t hang around long and is hard to pin down, the best you can do is enjoy it while it sticks around.
The only thing that slowed my magisterial progress on the way across to the meeting point was having to wait for what seemed about 5 or 6 minutes at a level crossing.
Finally, after much delay, a creaking, clanking, small, local train, had emerged. It must have been the oldest, still working rolling-stock in the North East outside of Beamish Museum and it rattled and rumbled and crawled past and away up the tracks.
The windows were filled with lots of bored looking, glum passengers, staring blankly out of the filth encrusted panes. They looked like they’d been in their all night and probably felt they could have walked to their destination faster, if someone would just let them off. Maybe they need to buy bikes?
Finally, with one last noxious billow of greasy, black smoke, the train clanked past, the barriers hummed upwards and I set about making up for lost time.
The climb out of the valley was fast (relatively speaking and based on my own standards, of course) and I was soon homing in on the meeting point well within schedule.
I passed Captain Black heading in the opposite direction. He too had ridden in through the Tyne Valley, having stayed at his parents in Prudhoe overnight. He was off home to dump his kit and swap bikes, keen to avoid another bout of winterbikitis this time out.
Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:
We were joined by an FNG, but only after she had extricated herself from amongst the serried ranks of the Muckle CC, who were meeting up at the other end of the concourse, before starting their own ride. She’d felt a little lost amongst their regimented seriousness and for some reason found our rag-taggle and motley crew slightly more approachable.
She said she was signed up to ride a London-Paris event in the summer and just wanted a few longer rides in preparation, even though she’d already successfully completed London-Brussels the year before.
OGL rolled in and spotted the FNG’s bike.
“Ah, Genesis, I used to work for them,” he pronounced.
This was instantly followed by Taffy Steve’s flawless impersonation of OGL at his most bombastic:
“Ah, Genesis, that’s a book that’s all about ME!“
I thought we might have to call emergency services for the Colossus, who was slumped across his frame, shoulders shaking in paroxysms of silent laughter.
G-Dawg was looking slightly the worse for wear, having slipped and face-planted in a restaurant mid week, then having trouble escaping A&E as they worried he might have suffered concussion. Needless to say he didn’t take my advice and answer all the assessment questions with the same random phrase:
“How many fingers am I holding up?”
“How old are you?”
“What’s your name?”
OGL told the tale of a crash by some ex-club member he referred to as the Binman. I don’t know if this related to said person’s job, some kind of predilection he had for bin-dipping, or was perhaps a random name to throw off concussion protocols.
In the tale, the Binman crashed outside St. Mary’s Hospital and an ambulance was called. Trying to assess how compos mentis the victim was, the ambulance crew had asked him where he’d come from?
The Binman, who OGL described as “not the sharpest tool in the box,” had just pointed at the ground where he’d fallen and muttered, “There.”
Taffy Steve watched the Muckle Crew form up and ride out in close formation and, smart and uniform as their team kit was, he wondered why they’d seemingly chosen something from the urban camouflage collection, allowing them blend seamlessly into their surroundings.
Continuing with his theme of jersey critique as he positioned himself for the role of club Gok Wan, Taffy Steve then tuned his attention to inveterate Rapha wearer, Slow Drinker, approaching with a group of Grogs.
“Wow, he’s changed from his trademark all black with hot pink highlights, to all black with burnt orange highlights,” Taffy Steve announced, somewhat surprised at such a wholesale change.
Crazy Legs peered out in confusion, then lifted his yellow tinted specs off his eyes.
“Nope, that’s the usual black and pink,” he affirmed, “but don’t worry, I’ve got my happy, always bright and sunny specs on too.”
Taffy Steve took off his own specs and, I assume, orange turned to pink. “Oh yeah,” he conceded, “Not orange at all. And the weather’s not all that good either…”
Meanwhile, Sneaky Pete related how he’d been listening to the radio on the way in, when someone described the population of the world as being divided between those who see only black when they close their eyes and those who see different shapes and colours. He said he had to resist a compelling urge to close his eyes to determine which he was. (If there was a sudden surge in the rate of MVA’s at around 8:45 on Saturday morning I might be able to pinpoint why.)
I encouraged him to take the opportunity to check now, rather than waiting until we were out on the roads and riding in close formation.
G-Dawg outlined the route (a shorter one, this week he suggested) which would also be our first foray of the year down into the Tyne Valley. I dropped onto the back of the first group and away we went.
Things were going well as I rode along, chatting with Zardoz as we made our way to the top of the Tyne Valley before the long swoop down into Wylam. I then found myself alongside Zip Five, who reached for a bottle and came away empty handed. I wondered if he’d lost it somewhere along the way, bottles having a nasty habit of bouncing out on all the potholes, ruts and divots in these roads, but he decided he must have let it on the kitchen table on his way out.
We started the ascent and I tucked in to pick up speed. Toward the bottom, we found a new, smooth road, which seemed good, until we hit the blunt row of bricks they’d embedded in the surface, like ogre molars.
Perhaps these were meant as a gentle reminder to speeding traffic that it was approaching the village. Alternatively, they could have been designed and installed by someone with a pathological hatred of cyclists. What was a gentle reminder to speeding traffic was a teeth-rattling, palm-stinging, nasty little jolt to speeding cyclists and forcibly ejected my bottle.
OK, so lets amend that, bottles have a nasty habit of bouncing out on all the potholes, ruts, divots and traffic calming measures in these roads. I stopped to retrieve the bottle, re-started the descent and raced to catch up to the pack.
All back together again, we pushed on past Stocksfield, before we started to climb out the valley. I found myself riding along with Ovis as we both tried to recall if we knew the particular exit route. Fairly predictably neither of us could recall it.
We then had our usual, real-life game of Frogger, daring the traffic to cross the A69 and remarkably eliciting only a single, solitary horn toot from drivers who seem to believe we ignore them to run like headless chickens through 4-speeding lanes of traffic. Or, maybe they just don’t like us invading “their space.”
Zardoz was the most daring and made it across first, immediately starting on the long and fairly demanding, Strava 4th Cat climb, up to Newton and beyond. The rest picked our way across the dual carriageway in twos and threes and followed him up.
I caught up with Zardoz as the road kicked up on the approach to the first of the houses.
“It was worth risking my life, just to get a good head start,” he puffed.
On we climbed and then on some more, up past the Plantations and onto more travelled roads, stopping to regroup along the way. As we started towards Matfen, I joined the Garrulous Kid on the front and we pushed the pace up, sweeping through the village and out toward the Quarry.
We were on the course of the Blaydon 2 UP Time Trial now, with various pair of cyclists shooting past in the opposite direction, some looking good, some looking ragged, but everyone giving their all. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the Monkey Butler Boy and his luckless partner, so didn’t get the opportunity to shout abuse at anyone.
At the top of the Quarry we stopped to regroup and have a chat with one of the TT marshals and to appreciate the sound of a couple of solid disc back wheels sweeping through the junction.
Then we started our final run in toward the cafe. I sat on the front with Rab Dee, up and through the crossroads down the other side and up to the junction with the road leading down to the Snake Bends. I pushed through the junction and then swung over, unleashing the sprinters for a brief, glorious skirmish, won (I think) by Caracol.
Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:
The Garrulous Kid claimed to have no fear. Not rats, nor spiders, not sharks, nor dogs, not heights or wide open spaces, not even the number 13. Nothing. He’s fearless. I know, because he told us so.
“So, you wouldn’t be afraid of a rabid hyena?” I asked. (I don’t know why I picked a hyena, or why it had to be rabid).
“Nope. I’d just run away”
“What if the rabid hyena was on a Focus Cayo?” Caracol countered.
But no, not even then.
Caracol recalled diving amongst black tipped reef sharks and being understandably careful around them, but the Fearless Garrulous Kid scoffed at this, suggesting black tipped reef sharks were much too small and puny to pose any kind of threat.
We then wondered what was more dangerous, an alligator, or a crocodile, before concluding that being attacked by either was probably not conducive to a long and healthy lifestyle and you were probably wouldn’t be all that concerned with identifying the exact genus of crocodilia if you were unfortunate enough to find one chomping down hungrily on your leg.
Talk of dangerous sea-critters, led to talk of sea-based sports and how our local coastal waters don’t particularly lend themselves to such activities. Benedict recalled scuba-diving in the North Sea, sinking inches below the surface and almost immediately losing sight of his diving companions, even though they were directly in front of him.
Surprisingly though, Tynemouth has a thriving surf scene, though obviously not on par with Florida, where the Garrulous Kid apparently learned to surf. He couldn’t tell me if he was a goofy foot though. Benedict assured me that he was.
Perhaps showing growing signs of triskaidekaphobia, the Garrulous Kid informed us he’d worked out that he “only has firteen weeks and firteen club rides left” before leaving for university in August.
By my reckoning there are still 20 Saturday club run possibilities left before the end of August, but the Kid’s the (alleged) maffs genius here, so I’m happy to go along with his firteen and start cutting notches in my handlebars to countdown the days.
Chatting with Ovis about his semi-retired state, the Garrulous Kid was astounded to learn Ovis was a dentist … “I fort you were a mechanic.” Even worse, he suggested Archie Miedes believed our esteemed colleague Biden Fecht, senior lecturer and widely published expert on Renaissance literature … was a Gypsy.
I wondered what had prompted this? Had Biden Fecht tried to force lucky heather on him, or sold him a peg, or offered him a hedgehog sandwich? But then I ran out of both time and offensive racial stereotypes, so had to let it go.
Maybe it was the shorter ride, or non-participation in the sprint, but I was still feeling good on the way back. When the Colossus and Caracol surged at the end of the Mad Mile, I went with them and then enjoyed a brisk clip home. Even the drag past the golf course and final assault on the Heinous Hill proved almost enjoyable.
No doubt there’ll be a return to normal, pain and grinding to look forward to next week
YTD Totals: 2,191 km / 1,361 miles with 29,607 metres of climbing