Mildly Tyre Sum

Mildly Tyre Sum

Club Run 26th January, 2019

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance: 100 km/62 miles & 1,006m of climbing
Riding Time: 4 hours 8 minutes
Average Speed:24.1 km/h
Group Size:30 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature: 10°C
Weather in a word or two:Disturbingly mild

Ride Profile

The weather continues to confound, swinging from a frigid -4°C on Wednesday’s early morning commute, to disturbingly mild, double-figures for the weekend.

With no ice to worry about and the morning’s starting to get lighter too, the big concern first thing Saturday was perfecting the balancing act and getting the layering just right – we were looking for the Goldilocks ideal – not too hot and not too cold.

So, a single base layer, Galibier jacket (in case the threatened rain or sleet materialised early than forecast), thin gloves with liners, no buff, no hat or headband. It was a reasonably, solid effort, a self-scoring 7, or an 8 out of 10 and I only feeling chilly the few times we were forced to stopped.

The roads were strangely quiet of fellow cyclists as I made my way across to the meeting place, but it seemed to be a day for solitary runners, who were out in force, in all sizes, shapes and styles.

There were so many, I wondered if there was an upcoming event they were all training for, or perhaps we now had a National Running Day to go along with National Hugging Day, National Pie Eating Day, National Rubik’s Cube Day, or whatever new nonsense they’ve come up with. (Apparently National Running Day does actually exist, but it’s in June.)

On the final approach to the meeting point I was caught behind a vaping driver, billowing plumes of sickly, sweet-smelling smoke out of his car window. It took me a while, but I finally recognised that he seemed to be indulging in a blackcurrant vape, possibly Ribena, or perhaps Vimto? A new one to add to Taffy Steve’s list of improbable and nauseating vape flavours.


Main Topics of Conversation at the Meeting Point:

G-Dawg pointed to the cheap, emergency, strap-on LED light on my handlebars and recounted how he’d attached one to his dog, after its purpose built LED collar failed. He said it worked as a great substitute, until the dog went plunging headlong into the river, at which point he mentally wrote it off.

He was then hugely surprised when the dog had emerged, with the light still blinking away furiously. At this point he decided that for a cheap light, he’d found something that was surprisingly sturdy, waterproof and wholly reliable … until he tried to turn it off to save the batteries for another day and found he couldn’t.

I imagined the disgruntled dog sitting at home, still blinking away like a stray satellite and unable to sleep for the disturbing bursts of light searing through its eyelids every time it tried.

Crazy Legs revealed he’d finished last weeks ride, taken off his gilet and hung it over the handlebars of his bike in the garage. It had still been there waiting for him this morning, but he’d only managed to half pull it on before its rank stink had dissuaded him and he’d been forced to consign it directly to the washing basket.

OGL commented on someone suggesting that he could wear a base layer ten times in a row between washes – or was it ten years in a row? Anyway, this is entirely possible because it was made with miraculous non-stink, Merino wool. I think it’s probably fine – but only if you can pedal fast enough to outpace your own odour …

Still, G-Dawg thought you could get at least 4 “good” wears out of a pair of Y-fronts, worn normally, back to front and then repeating the process but inside out. He was joking. (Right?) The disturbing level of detail he added, such as saving the right side out and the right way around “for best” did make me wonder …

OGL then mentioned some all-day British Cycling, regional meeting in February and wondered if anyone wanted to accompany him to represent the club, a sort of sharing of the pain. He didn’t seem to find any irony in the fact that nobody else has any kind of official status in the club (other than being a paid-up, or even non-paying member.)

In other news, he suggested that the city’s £11 million development plan for two sporting hubs could see a cycling track and possibly clubhouse, built at the Bullocksteads site near the rugby stadium. This, he offered, could be a better meeting point for club rides. This vision was enthusiastically embraced by G-Dawg who lives right on the doorstep of the proposed development. I’ve no doubt he could see his future-self rolling out of bed at 8:55 and still being the first one to arrive at the meeting point.

Taffy Steve nodded over to where Princess Fiona and Mini Miss had gathered and were chatting away.

“The red car and the blue car had a race…” he intoned, drawing attention to the fact that they were dressed almost identically, except one was wearing a red jacket and the other a blue one.

“Do you remember that Milky Way advert?” he asked, “I hated it.”

I wondered what it was provoked such hatred, could it have been the art style and direction? The patent absurdity of it’s storyboard? The jaunty, jangling soundtrack? The ear-worm effectiveness of its jingle? Perhaps it was the product itself, the rather effete, light-weight Milky Way that made him curl his lip in disdain?

“It’s the lyric’s he explained, starting to sing away, “The red car and the blue car had a race, but all Red wants to do is stuff his face, he eats everything he see’s, from trucks to prickly trees, but smart old Blue he took the Milky Way.” He paused, but not for long …

“So, what’s wrong with that? Prickly trees? Prickly trees! Pah! They obviously meant cactuses, but were too lazy to find anything that would rhyme with cactuses, cacti or whatever. Even as a kid I knew it was just a lazy cop-out. Grrr!”

It’s amazing what superficial ephemera we carry from our yoof and how much it can still trouble and annoy us …

Our route architect for the day, Crazy Legs asked if anyone was interested in the full details of his grand plan. Apparently not, so without further ado, he invited G-Dawg to lead out those who wanted a faster ride, adding that there’d be no waiting to regroup.

The first group started to coalesce around G-Dawg, with the majority of riders joining. I hung back to try and even out the numbers, but it was still a two-thirds to one-third split – apparently no one wants any kind of association with a “slow” group.

Crazy Legs did have a little rueful chuckle to himself, as the (always game) Goose bumped his steel behemoth down off the kerb and went to join the fast group.

We agreed he’d be fine, he likes a challenge and the route wasn’t too hilly.


The second group followed, but we hadn’t gone more than a couple of hundred yards before the Red Max’s front tyre gave out with a sound like a sputtering Catherine Wheel – fzzzzit-fzzzzit-fzzzzit-fzzzzit.

We all pulled to a stop and clustered around and I moved up in unison with Crazy Legs to see how we could help.

“Don’t worry,” he declared, “We’ll soon have it fixed, the Dream Team’s here!” as he referred to the time we’d fruitlessly spent half an hour struggling with Big Dunc’s unholy alliance of Continental Grand Prix tyres and Shimano rims (Trial of Tyre’s.)

We’d failed in that instance, only to later learn that Big Dunc had saved himself through the simple expedience of flipping the wheel around and inserting the inner tube into the other side. Why that made a difference, I really don’t know, but it obviously did and it might be worth trying if you’re ever stuck with seriously recalcitrant tyres.

Despite the close attention and best ministrations of the Dream Team, the tyre change went pretty smoothly and we were soon back on the road again.

I was on the front with the Ticker, (Ticker-less, now he’s on his winter bike) and we spent much of the time calling back, trying to determine what the route was – I really should have paid attention, or at least encouraged Crazy Legs to give us an actual and foolproof briefing.

Occasional incoherent shouting punctured our ride, apparently caused by a RIM in a Volvo taking exception to our right of way, but I was well insulated from any altercations as we plugged away on the front, up through High Callerton and toward Medburn.



Here, we were drawn to a halt when the Red Max’s tyre gave out again. While he cursed his shoddy and useless Continental summer tyres, that seemed shot after “a mere 5,000 miles” of extraordinary wear and tear, I double-checked the rim and carcass for offending objects – glass, thorns, shards of metal, flints, rough edges, caltrops, thumb tacks, whatever. There was nothing.

Meanwhile, the Red Max realised he’d used a Vittoria inner tube, so he had a little rant about “Italian crap” while he was on. Even as a proud Vittorian I wasn’t going to stand in front of that particular runaway express.

“Badd-bing-badda-fzzzzit,” Taffy Steve added helpfully.

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs took the flaccid, holed tube off the Red Max, ostensibly to locate where the puncture was, but really just to hold it up to his nose and inhale deeply.

“Ah, I love the smell of rubber,” he declared, evidently quite content with the world. Apparently it smelled considerably better than his gilet.

There then followed a very deep, lengthy and philosophical discussion about how inner tubes can smell so good, when the air inside them is so rank.

“Like stale kippers,” I suggested and nobody disagreed.

We got going again and pressed on to the crossroads at Heugh, where a bronchitis-suffering OGL made a bee-line for the cafe. The Red Max decided to cut his ride short too, hoping to lessen the chances for further punctures and departed to provide escort duties.

Somewhere along the way I found myself directly behind Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs as they rode along, for some reason arguing about similarities between OGL and, somewhat randomly, football manager Neil Warnock.

Things turned a shade darker when Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe and Saddam Hussein were somehow added to the equation Still, the only conclusion they could agree on was that, if Idi Amin was a club member, they were pretty sure he hadn’t paid his subs in a good long while. Bizarre.

Having been delayed by recurrent punctures, we took a slight short cut toward the Quarry and, as the road started to climb, I nudged onto the front alongside Crazy Legs.

As we pulled the group along I complained about how I seemed to have become a dirt magnet for the day, liberally spotted and besplattered with mud from head to toe. My boots had turned a deeply unpleasant shade of brown and I was peering out at the world through seriously spotted glasses.

It was bad enough to start me singing “Teenage Dirtbag” – a selection that was at least tolerated by Crazy Legs as a “not-too-bad” earworm.

“Left, or right?” Crazy Legs pondered as we dragged the group toward the top of the Quarry.

“Left,” I declared, “We haven’t been that way for a long time.” So long in fact that I’d forgotten bits of the road had actually been patched and was (in places) almost decent.

So, left we went, slowing to allow everyone to regroup after the climb. As we rolled on, Crazy Legs bent right over to point, his finger hovering scant inches from the road surface as he bellowed out a lung-shredding “POT!” – a warning that was probably heard in the Scottish Borders.

“Sometimes, I really think I need to become a little more mature,” Crazy Legs considered.

“No, don’t go changin’ – we love you just the way you are.” I assured him.

He rode on in silence for a good dozen or so pedal strokes while he digested this …

“You bastard! You utter, utter bastard!” he complained, “First you give me Wheatus and then snatch it away for … for bloody Billy Joel!”

“Oh, is that a Billy Joel song?” I enquired innocently.

He then swore me to silence as he had a huge confession to make, needed advice, but demanded the ultimate in discretion. (This blerg doesn’t count, as no one reads it.) He looked around cautiously to make sure no one could eavesdrop. The group was still reforming behind us after the climb and we had a brief exclusion zone.

“I’ve been thinking about my set-up for the mountains and … Well… I don’t think I can get what I want with Campag.”

I was deeply shocked, almost speechless, as he hurriedly and in hushed tones, talked about Shimano, or even SRAM groupset options. Oh and the sky is falling down and meanwhile, in deepest, darkest hell, the thermostat’s been nudged up just a little …

Further discrete discussions around this bombshell were abandoned as we started a slow burn for the cafe, gradually picking up the pace.

“Do you want to go for this sprint?” Crazy legs wondered.

“Nah, I’m happy to just roll through.”

We built up the speed until all the talking behind stopped and we were lined out, clipping along, bouncing and juddering across the rough road surface.

I nodded up ahead where the road rose, before starting to drop down toward the Snake Bends.

“Take it to the top and then unleash the hounds?” I suggested.

So we did, peeling off neatly to either side and ushering the rest through for the final charge.

Cowin’ Bovril was the first to try his hand, surging off the front as we drifted toward the back.

He briefly had a good gap, but was slowly reeled in. Then, just before the road started to level, Taffy Steve attacked from the back, an astute masterclass in timing.

The gap quickly yawned upon, Cowin’ Bovril was washed away and only Carlton seemed able to give chase. I nudged onto his wheel and followed, but the move proved decisive. Carlton closed, but couldn’t come to terms with a flying Taffy Steve.


Main Topics of Conversation at the Coffee Stop:

In the cafe, Carlton apologised for our slightly ramshackle and disorganised riding at the start of our grand adventure, but explained that, when you’re on the front with your nose in the wind, it’s really difficult to hear what’s being shouted up from behind.

We agreed we needed a better system and Crazy Legs’ idea of passing messages forward always seemed to stall half way up the line.

“Perhaps we need a dog whistle?” Crazy Legs pondered.

Visions of One Man and His Dog sprang to mind. Cum ba Shep, cum ba. No, don’t think that’s going to work.

Changing tack, Carlton wondered what was going on with the weather. “It’s at least three degrees warmer today,” he remarked.

“Did you say three degrees?” I queried.

We paused…

I looked at Crazy Legs, Crazy Legs looked at me and we both shook our heads. Luckily, neither of us could remember any Three Degrees songs. A narrow escape.

We reminisced about our old representative from the Hollow Lands,
De Uitheems Bloem, who we have traded in for a younger, newer model in Rainman. (It’s my understanding that Dutch riders are held in in such high regard, that UCI rules limit them to one per club. As such I can’t recall if our two ever actually rode together, but I do know we weren’t allowed to keep both.)

Crazy Legs remembered planning a winter break to Amsterdam and asking
De Uitheems Bloem for some recommendations. He later received a 5-page email, detailing a full itinerary of all the things to see and do on his trip. This was appended with a long range weather forecast for the weekend; sunrise and sunset times, temperature, wind speed and direction, chance of precipitation, air pressure, cloud cover and pollen count. It concluded that it looked like being a particularly mild weekend, “so don’t bother taking your skates.”

On returning, Crazy Legs had sought out De Uitheems Bloem, “Thanks for all the recommendations, that was brilliant. By the way, English people don’t own skates.”

“They don’t?”

We shared tales of riding in the Alps with Carlton, who seemed surprised that the Col de la Croix de Fer was Crazy Legs’ favourite climb. He couldn’t recall seeing the (admittedly modest) iron cross, perhaps because his overriding memory of the climb was being paced up it by a wild horse. This beast, rather worryingly, refused to leave the road and didn’t seem all that bothered by the gaggle of cyclists lined out behind it.

“It was obviously a draught horse,” I offered. I thought it was funny, Crazy Legs was simply dismayed. Secretly, I just think he was upset because the only wildlife we saw on the climb was a sun-blasted, completely flattened, giant toad-in-the-road. (The Circle of Death).

Talk of climbing mountains led Carlton to talk about Jimmy Mac’s 900 gram, special climbing wheelset. First, Crazy Legs thanked Carlton profusely for introducing the subject of wheels into the conversation, something he felt we hadn’t discussed for … oh, at least 3 or 4 weeks. Then things got serious as we fired off a range of questions to try and frame the fearful symmetry of Jimmy Mac’s climbing wheelset …

“What type of spokes, how many and how are they laced?” Crazy Legs demanded.

“When you say 900 grams, is that with, or without rim tape?” I pondered.

“Quick release skewers?” Crazy Legs added.

“The cassette?”

“The freehub?”

A rather overwhelmed Carlton could provide none of the answers and was now probably regretting mentioning wheels in the first place.

Now Crazy Legs wanted Jimmy Mac to ride out on his fabled wheels and then strip them down completely, so he could fully weigh them and see if their claimed mass could be independently verified.

Luckily, Carlton spotted Jimmy Mac entering the cafe at just that moment and was able to deflect Crazy Legs onto the actual wheel owner. Crazy Legs immediately got up to pursue the issue, before coming back and reporting it was a dead-end, as Jimmy Mac had trashed the wheels during his International Grand Fondo horror smash.

I thought this would deflate Crazy Legs somewhat, but it actually cheered him up. He now felt fully vindicated in his view that such wheels aren’t robust enough to stand up to the wear and tear of actually riding on them.


All good things come to an end and were soon lining up to head for home. Here I noticed the Monkey Butler Boy visibly shivering.

“Feeling the cold?” I asked him, proving yet again just how startlingly perceptive I am.

“Yes,” he replied tightly, “And it’s all his fault” he pointed at the Red Max.

“But that’s unfair, surely your dad didn’t tell you what to wear this morning?”

“No, but I inherited a stupid gene from him.”

Ha!

As we set off I found myself chatting to the Red Max as we trailed the Monkey Butler Boy. He despaired at his progeny’s lack of common sense and choice of attire, short sleeve jersey and arm warmers, shorts and knee warmers, already despoiled white socks and once pristine (now poisonous ivory) shoes. Looking at Max bundled up in a winter jacket, gloves, boots, and hat, I determined that genetics isn’t always the answer.

I also noticed that of the four teens out today, at least three of them were riding bikes without mudguards, whereas just about all the older set had at least some semblance of protection for themselves, their bikes and most importantly, their fellow riders.

I wondered if that says something about generational differences – perhaps the youngsters are more concerned with style, or maybe they’re more willing to put up with discomfort? More daring? More stoical? Harder? Less cossetted?

Then again, perhaps I’m over-thinking it and they are what they seem to be when I’m at my grumpiest – at best thoughtless, or just plain inconsiderate.

The Red Max told me he’d taken the Monkey Butler Boy along to see a professional coach, who told all the youngsters that they were training too hard and in the wrong way. He’d described the ideal training programme as a pyramid, a base of solid, core, low intensity miles, capped with fewer, high intensity efforts only once this base had been established.

The concept resonated with the Red Max:

“That was interesting wasn’t it?” he’d asked.

“Yes, it was good.”

Something to think about?”

“Nah, it obviously doesn’t apply to me.”

A “3-2-1-Go” countdown signalled an impromptu sprint up the final few metres to the crest of Berwick Hill, fiercely contested by G-Dawg and the Garrulous Kid.

What can I say, the Garrulous Kid, in the full prime of youth and with all the advantages of modern technology, astride his ultra-light, uber-Teutonic, precision engineered, carbon Focus, was up against the grizzled veteran, three times his age and hauling an all steel fixie. It seemed a very unequal contest …

And so it proved. The Garrulous Kid was chewed up, worked over and unceremoniously spat out the back. Score one for the wrinklies.

I slotted in alongside Jimmy Mac as we started down the other side of Berwick Hill, where we were passed by a lone Derwent C.C. cyclist, all elbows and a busy style.

“He’s a bit far from home. I wonder what he’s doing on the boring roads over here, when he has the choice of all those good hilly routes south of the river?” Jimmy Mac mused.

This prompted a discussion about possible rides and the challenging terrain “over there” in the south of the Tyne badlands, (or Mordor, as my clubmates will refer to it.)

We hit the climb up to Dinnington and, in just a few metres, the gap between us and the Derwent C.C. rider almost entirely evaporated.

“Ah,” I suggested, “He doesn’t like hills.”

“Which is why he’s riding over here!” we both decided in unison.

As we entered the Mad Mile, I was completely and wholly unsurprised when a sudden headwind seemed to rise up out of nowhere. I’m getting used to this now.

I sheltered behind Caracol and G-Dawg for as long as I could, then I was on my own and plugging my way home. I got back suitably tired – I might not have been running with the “fast group” but I felt I’d had a good workout nonetheless.


YTD Totals: 648 km / 403 miles with 8,825 metres of climbing.

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All Yellow, or the Certainty of Death, Taxes and Headwinds

All Yellow, or the Certainty of Death, Taxes and Headwinds

Total Distance:104km/65 miles & 1,232m of climbing
Riding Time:
4 hours 7 minutes
Average Speed:25.3 km/h
Group Size:28 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature: 9°C
Weather in a word or two:Bright, blowy, breezy

Ride Profile

I’m awake. It’s pitch black and the wind is moaning a sullen, subdued and sad lament around the rooftops and through the trees. It’s warm in the bed and cold outside. The central heating has just come on and I can here the ticking of expanding pipes. I sense the alarm on my phone is also ticking down and about to explode into light and noise. I keep hoping it doesn’t. I could happily roll over and go back to sleep.

I don’t want to get up, get dressed, force a joyless breakfast down and then cycle off into the cold and the dark. It’s January, it’s winter, the slate has been wiped clean and it’s time to start all over again. And I lack any kind of motivation.

The alarm rings, I stab the off button and slip out of bed. C’mon Sisyphus, shoulder to the boulder, here we go again …

I know I’ll be fine once I get out there, it’s just getting out there is so hard.

The routine helps. Get half dressed, feed the cats, feed myself, fill a bottle, finish dressing, fill the jersey pockets. Food, phone and money in the left, tools, keys and spares in the right. Pull the bike from the shed, strap on the lights, strap on my helmet, start the Garmin, start the Road ID app, so I can be traced in the event of complete mechanical or mental breakdown and away we go.

Don’t stop, don’t think, don’t question, don’t analyse. Just get out and get going.

I get out and get going. Sigh.

A few minutes later and I’m dropping down the Heinous Hill and still not 100% committed. I decide that if I’m the only one who turns up at the meeting place, I’ll quite happily turn around again and ride straight home. Stupid really, as there’s always, always someone who’ll turn up for the ride, no matter how foul and filthy the weather.

And so it proves. I reach the meeting point very early, but it isn’t long before others start drifting in and I’m surrounded by the usual suspects and a host of others too, hemmed in on all sides. There’s no escape now.


Main Topic of Conversation at the Meeting Point:

G-Dawg appeared, unrepentantly astride his summer bike. The devil. He’s been having sneaky rides on it all through the winter apparently, as the weather has, so far been relatively benign.

He wasn’t alone either, as there was a good smattering of lighter, plastic, “good bikes” without mudguards, lights, heavy-duty rolling stock, or other such nuisance impediments.

It’s amazing how much of a disadvantage this feels to those of us on our winter hacks – even if it is just a psychological difference. I hope there’s more to it than a psychological difference though, otherwise we’ve been foolishly squandering money on lighter, stiffer, more expensive, less robust bike kit for years.

The Garrulous Kid was on his Focus too, although he made some excuse, something about his winter bike needing a clean, or having a puncture, or a nose-bleed, or some such nonsense.

With the Colossus absent following a late-night return from a work trip, the Garrulous Kid took the opportunity to express absolute incredulity that he is a sales rep for a vaping company.

“I mean, I knew he was a sales-rep, I just didn’t realise he was a sales-rep for a vaping company!” the Garrulous Kid exclaimed with incredulity. (See, I told you. No, I’ve no idea why it was such a surprise?)

Crazy Legs informed me he has a personal letters for me and all the other Alpine or Pyrenean expeditionary’s, all the way from France.

“It’s from Yelloh campsite’s,” he explained and that was all it took, as I immediately began singing Coldplay. (I know, I know, sorry.)

Look at the stars
Look how they shine for yooo
And everything you dooo
They were all … Yell-o!

“That’s a very bad start to the day,” Crazy Legs complained.

I agreed and immediately apologised, but the damage was done.

“How many Coldplay songs can you name?” Crazy Legs challenged.

Coldplay, eh – producers of multiple award winning, global best-selling, albums across a twenty-odd year career, that has seen them rack up sales of over 100 million records worldwide. This should be easy …

“Well, there’s, err … Yellow,” I began tentatively.

“I Will Fix You,” Crazy Legs added.

“And … um … Parachutes … is there one called Parachutes?” I dredged up the title of their first album from somewhere, hoping it was also the name of a track.

We asked no less an authority than the Red Max.

“Well, there’s Yellow … ” then his well ran dry too.

“Yeah, got that one,” Crazy Legs affirmed.

“I Will Fix You,” Rab Dee chipped in.

“Yeah, got that one too, and, maybe Parachutes?” Crazy Legs summarised our paltry efforts to date.

“Oh and the Napoleon one,” Crazy Legs remembered, I think he meant Viva La Vida.

In desperation we turned to the Garrulous Kid, who fluently reeled off a whole host of song titles we can only assume were accurate, confirmed the Napoleon song was Viva La Vida and that there was indeed a track called Parachutes on the album of the same name.

“How come you know so much about Dad Rock?” Crazy Legs challenged him.

“Well, my Dad listens to them.”

Right. Obviously.

“Wasn’t there a group called Yello?” the Red Max mused. “What did they sing again?”

Oh dear, here we go again, this was turning into a cognitive assessment test for the over-50’s and we were all failing horribly.

“They had that song that went, ow-ow … chick-chicka-chicka,” I suggested, “What was that called?”

“Was it not called Ow-Ow … Chick-Chicka-Chicka?” the Red Max suggested, not unreasonably.

Luckily, we were distracted when Zardoz rolled up, for his first ride of the New Year and following an absence of a couple of months. I gave him a cheery wave across a pavement now crowded with bikes and riders.

“Are you so sad you’ve started waving at buses, now?” Crazy Legs enquired, nodding at where the number 43 was just pulling out.”

I tried to explain I’d actually been waving at a long lost member of our tribe, but he was having none of it.

“So, why aren’t you waving at that one?” he demanded to know, as the X25 followed the 43.

Realising sensible answers just weren’t going to cut it, I told him I had an innate and irrational fear of the letter X, which apparently is an actual thing and is (possibly) called xinoaphobia.

Aether outlined our route for the day, called for a split and volunteered to lead the second group. G-Dawg was tasked with heading up the front group and they started to coalesce slowly. A quick headcount had the front group undermanned by 11 to 17, so I nudged off the pavement and tagged on, forgoing any opportunity to reaffirm my allegiance to the fomenting Flat White schism.


I managed to catch up with Zardoz as we got underway and learned he’d been suffering from a heavy cold that was only just starting to ease. He would periodically break off from our conversation to forcibly shotgun (snotgun?) viscous gunk from one or other of his nostrils, providing temporary relief until the cold had him locked and loaded once again.

The Monkey Butler Boy complained about being caught in the blow-back from one of these blasts and even my suggestion that a slippery, slick coating would probably help him cut through the air with greater aerodynamic efficiency didn’t seem to placate him.

In between times, we had a chat about Tim Krabbé’s, The Rider and in particular the (surely apocryphal) tale that Jacques Anquetil used to take his water bottle out of its holder before every climb and stick it in the back pocket … to ensure his bike was as light as possible.

As we rotated riders off the front, Zardoz became more and more aware of us moving up the order, until we were sitting second wheel and due our own turn leading. On the next hill and still struggling with his cold and extended break from the bike, he slipped quietly back and out of the danger zone.



I then found myself on the front alongside the Monkey Butler Boy as we cut a deep isthmus into our route, a finger of fun™ that led us down to Twizell and then straight back out again. Just because.

As the road started to rise, I heard the unmistakable swash-swash-swash of G-Dawg power climbing past everyone else and he joined me on the front as we pushed through Whalton and then on to Meldon.

At one point we turned directly into a headwind being funnelled straight down the road between high hedges to blow directly in our faces.

“And there it is,” G-Dawg remarked.

“Isn’t there some old saying about the only certainty in life being death, taxes and headwinds?” I wondered.

“Something like that,” he agreed, although we both realised that this was actually nothing more than a gentle breeze in comparison to some of the gales we’ve endured in recent weeks.

Dropping down from Meldon, we passed and waved at a lone OGL, struggling up in the opposite direction and, by his own account, “riding like a slug in salt.”

As we started the climb up to Dyke Neuk, I dropped off the front and drifted backwards to find Zardoz, plugging gamely on, but obviously suffering.

We called a brief halt at Dyke Neuk, where a refuelling Biden Fecht devoured a banana and then carefully folded up the peel and dropped it in his pocket.

“Is that not biodegradable?” I wondered.

“Yes, but every time we stop here I’ve been chucking them over this hedge,” Biden Fecht explained, “I just don’t think the home owner’s going to be best pleased to find a mouldering pile of banana skins in his garden.”

I immediately thought of a nuclear wasteland caused by a mountain of radioactive, mouldering banana skins, all surrounded by a fully Hazmat suited-and-booted NEST team, complete with madly ticking Geiger counters.

Then I remembered the Radiation Vibe ride and the fact we’d debunked the theory that bananas were dangerously radioactive.

Chomping down on some esoteric, home-made tray-bake and scattering random pieces of date, seeds and nuts, Rab Dee was all for us being seen as propagators, bountifully spreading seeds and good will in our wake.

My imagined nuclear wasteland was then briefly replaced by a glimpse of sweeping banana plantations and swaying date palms, transforming the drab Northumberland landscape into a bright, tropical paradise…

“But of course,” Rab Dee continued, “It’s not the peel of the banana that we should leave behind, but the fruit and seeds.”

“Are you inviting me to go and take a dump in this blokes garden?” Biden Fecht wondered.

It was time to leave.

As we pushed on toward the swoop down and up through Hartburn, the Garrulous Kid relayed a message from Zardoz at the back, who said that he was struggling and would make his own way to the cafe, so we weren’t to wait.

I was then the last man as we approached Middleton Bank and I was slowly distanced on the climb. I’m using winter-bikitis as an excuse and sticking to it, regardless of its merits, or verity.

Over the top, I passed the Garrulous Kid, stopped and pulled over to the side of the road “to sort his nose out.” Or at least I think that’s what he said, when I slowed to check if he was okay.

There then followed a furious, largely futile chase, as I tried to close on the front-runners, who had already accelerated as they made their run at the cafe.

Past Bolam Lake, I held the gap at around a couple of hundred metres, but it was one against many, they would only get faster, while I tired and slowed.

Through the Milestone Woods and up onto the rollers, Biden Fecht was detached from the front group and I closed the gap with one last-gasp acceleration, dropping onto his wheel and lurking there.

I think he finally noticed me as we began the last clamber up to the cafe, when he kicked clear and I had nothing left and couldn’t follow.


Main Topics of Conversation at the Coffee Stop:

I was queuing, waiting to be served when Crazy Legs and the Red Max led in the Flat White Crew.

“Oh Yeah!” I declared immediately.

“Well done,” Crazy Legs congratulated me, instantly understanding what I was talking about and recognising I’d finally remembered that the Yello song, “Ow-Ow … Chick-Chicka-Chicka,” is actually titled “Oh Yeah.”

“And, The Race was their other big hit,” he continued. Of course, now it’s all coming back to me and chapeau to the Flat White Crew, who had obviously rallied around to answer the day’s most important and burning issue, completing their work assiduously and with aplomb.

At our table, Rainman described how (loyal Dutchman that he is) he’s already planning to inculcate a love of cycling and bike riding in his still infant daughter.

Taffy Steve reported that his own son showed no interest whatsoever in cycling, but could perhaps be described as an elite Fortnite player. He had however started leaning toward competitive swimming as a sport of choice, something Taffy Steve seems to be wrestling with. Apparently spending 4 or 5 hours crammed into uncomfortable poolside seats with other parents, watching an interminable series of races and waiting for your own progeny’s single, two-minute long event doesn’t have great appeal.

As an ex-competitive swimmer, I did suggest it was a good choice as it’s perhaps the most over-rewarded of any sport – if you simply want to collect piles of meaningless medals and trophies.

I explained that any half way decent, competitive swimmer at junior level was probably proficient in more than one stroke and the boundless opportunities this could present – butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle at 50 metres, 100 metres and 200 metres, plus various individual medley, team medley and team relays at different distances too.

That’s over 20 opportunities to win something, without even getting into the longer events. With competitions often held on a weekly basis, the opportunities are almost endless, which it’s why I’ve never been impressed with anyone claiming to have a hat-full of swimming medals.

As a reference point, I compared Michael Phelps performance with that of Chris Hoy in the 2008 Olympic Games, where they both took part in exactly 18 races. The difference? Hoy won each and every one of these races (Phelps didn’t) but the swimmer walked away with 8 gold medals, the cyclist was rewarded with just 3.

Talk turned to David Millar, with Mini Miss wondering what he was doing now and recalling how, after his talk at one of the Braveheart dinners, she found him outside smoking.

We found it odd that he was smoking, not so much because he was (at the time) an elite professional athlete, but because it seemed such a passé and mundane thing to do for someone seemingly so resolutely set on appearing cool.

“I would have though toking on a Cherry Bakewell flavoured vape pen would have been more his style,” Taffy Steve decided.

“Cherry Bakewell?” I asked, surprised and a whole new world of weird vape flavours opened up to me with a single question. Apparently, peanut butter flavour vaping is a thing, as is french toast … and bacon … and beer … and Dorito’s and … even crabs legs.

Talk of the weird things people ingest led to Taffy Steve’s graphic description of a visit to a kebab manufacturer. He was at least able to assure me that the err … wholesome looking tree trunk of slowly rotating animal product wasn’t the truncated limb of a benign pachyderm.

He had however been concerned about the health hazards of continuously chilling and re-heating kebab meat, but was assured its salt content was so great, no bacteria could possibly survive in it.

He then concluded that bacteria which, he reminded us, can survive in the ultra-high pressure, super-heated temperatures, pitch-black darkness and toxic environment alongside deep ocean thermal vents, cannot live in something we regularly choose to eat.

I don’t know what I find most disturbing, the thought that bacteria can survive in kebab meat, or the suggestion that they can’t.

Three coffees down and with civilians stacking up to claim our seats, we departed en masse to form a larger than normal group for the ride home.


I fell in alongside Crazy Legs for his patented diatribe against Canadian bacon and then to find out he’s due more tests on his pernicious lung issues. He mentioned one potential cause by name, it sounded particularly unpleasant and was seemingly loaded with lots of random X’s, but being a xinoaphobic, I blanked the name immediately.

The pace was brisk up Berwick Hill and then manic down the other side, so we scorched through Dinnington and arrived at the turn-off in short order.

As I entered the Mad Mile I immediately noted that the wind had started to pick up again and dropped resolutely onto G-Dawg’s wheel, for as much shelter as I could get before striking out solo.

Finally dragging myself to the top of the valley I looked down and across the river. In the distance the wind was shredding the clouds and harrying the remnants away downstream. Once across I’d have a full-on tailwind for the last few miles – I just had to get there.


YTD Totals: 312 km / 194 miles with 4,619 metres of climbing.

The Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio

Club Run, Saturday 8th September, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 110 km / 69 miles with 1,139 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 11 minute

Average Speed:                                  26.4 km/h

Group size:                                          28 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                      16°C

Weather in a word or two:              Passable


 

ratio
Ride Profile


I passed a small cluster of cyclists who were meeting up at the traffic lights leading down to the river, less than three miles or so into my journey. It did make me ponder why I was riding a further 7-8 miles to meet up with the usual gang of reprobates, when there were obviously perfectly pleasant, companionable cyclists and clubs much closer to home.

Still at least there are possibilities if we ever attempt a palace coup that fails…

Once again I found myself arriving at the meeting point early, despite leaving at more or less the same time and following the same route. I seem to be getting faster, but it’s probably not worth making adjustments, the switch to the winter bike will soon fettle that.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting place:

Forget about the melting polar ice caps, receding glaciers and spiralling average temperatures. Forget about the increasing incidence of extreme and violent weather, rising sea levels and the carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere. If you want incontrovertible proof that global warming is an actual, real phenomenon, then that evidence was proudly on display this Saturday morning – we’re well into September and yet the first cyclist to join me at our meeting place was Szell, someone who we’d expect to be deep into his hibernation cycle at this time of the year.

And yet, here he was, blinking in the milky autumn light and questioning whether he had made the right clothing choices to cope with the variable temperatures.

I told him that this conundrum was all too common and no one had the right answer – even the most hardened, experienced, all-weather, all-year round, veteran cyclists wasted long minutes every day pondering what clothing layers and accessories to wear and deciding what could be easily pulled on and taken off at a moment’s notice. And, I assured him, they still, invariably got it wrong.

The Garrulous Kid was back and announced he’d had a great holiday in Florida.

“Florida is horrider, than Whitley Bay,” Szell intoned.

“There’s no McEwan’s Best Scotch in the USA,” I followed up with the next line in a creaky TV ad campaign from the distant, hazy annals of our youth.

Florida? Nice Place, Shame about the Beer.

We had a laugh at the conceit behind labelling McEwan’s Best Scotch, a mass-produced, fizzy, bland and utterly un-noteworthy, generic beer as the “one you had to come back for.”

Szell seemed to remember a whole series of these ads, but the only other one that I could recall was the Russian one:

“Red Square’s dead square, we know that for a fact,

No McEwans’s Best Scotch in the Warsaw Pact

They’ve just got propaganda, not proper Geordie brew,

They asked about Marx? Well …one out of ten for you.”

I had to admit, I much preferred the much simpler, smarter Newcastle Brown Ale posters in (probably) indecipherable Geordie, the only one of which I still recall said simply:

AHCUDDOONABROON.

G-Dawg outlined the route for the day, including a raid down into the Tyne Valley and, with another good turnout of 28 riders, we split into two groups that, somewhat surprisingly, turned out to be more or less equal.

Well … ish.


I rolled onto the front of the first group alongside Caracol and we pushed out, safely traversed the deadly and treacherous Broadway West and then we were away.

I spent the first few miles chatting about the Vuelta and, in particular, Simon Yates distinct lack of media training and polish. This, I felt was a refreshing change from the corporate blandness of Sky, even if it did leave to some rather terse and uncomfortable interviews.

Caracol was fully sympathetic and wondered how any normal person would cope with being asked the same inane questions, over and over, in French, English and Spanish and maybe half a dozen other languages beside.

Interviewer: “What went wrong at the Giro.”

Simon Yates: “I don’t know what went wrong at the Giro.”

Interviewer: “Will what happened at the Giro happen here to?”

Simon Yates: “I don’t know if what happened at the Giro will happen here to.”

Etc.

G-Dawg’s route included a new wrinkle that took us up Birney Hill, a narrow country lane, seemingly frequented by only the most considerate and polite of drivers. As the third of these in quick succession pulled over to the side and stopped to let us through, the Red Max somewhat ruined my impression of the denizens of the area by nodding at all the parked-up cars and muttering cynically, “It’s a bit early for dogging, isn’t it?”

Back onto more familiar roads, we had a third incident with a biker in as many weeks. Does this mark a new departure in the conflict between motorist and cyclist? Have all bikers now been seduced by the dark side and the four-wheeled forces of oppression? Or, is it perhaps the same biker who has a very particular grudge against this club and has been stalking us for the past 3 weeks, just so he can vent?

This particular biker slowed, mid-overtake, to ride alongside Crazy Legs and loudly declare, “Mare allah bunda munts!”

“Pardon me?” Crazy Legs, enquired politely.

“Mare allah bunda munts!” the biker repeated, but just as unintelligibly as the first time.

“What?” Crazy Legs shook his head, acting perplexed.

“Mare. Allah. Bunda. Munts!” the biker shouted, trying to enunciate each word carefully through the constricting confines of his helmet.

“Eh?” Crazy Legs responded, smiling at the biker in a manner he hoped would encourage further elucidation.

By now it was obvious that the biker wasn’t trying to convey a friendly greeting, but this comedic interchange had robbed his intended invective of any sting.

Even better, having paused mid-overtake to berate us for holding up the traffic, he was now getting serious grief from the cars behind that couldn’t get past him. Perhaps it finally dawned on him just how foolish he looked, and our new biker friend gave up and roared off. Maybe he’s planning to give it another go next week?

I found myself riding alongside the Monkey Butler Boy, who’d finally determined the osymetric chain-ring he’d invested all his hard earned currency in was, to quote the Red Max’s expert opinion, “utter crap.”

He’d since bitten the bullet and reverted back to more traditional style chain ring, but was bemoaning the fact that he’d having also switched from a 36 to a 39, the ratios were all wrong and he was struggling to get used to the change. It was also a ready-made excuse if he started to struggle on the hills. (Just saying).


ratiotr


Down into the Tyne valley we went, skirting the river for a while and rolling straight through our usual re-grouping point at Bywell Bridge, determining in conversation with the Red Max that our pace probably meant the second group were well adrift and it would be an overly prolonged wait.

So, we kept going and almost immediately started the scrabble to climb back out the valley. We were soon splintered and strung up and own down the road, but stopped to regroup after threading our way across the 4-thundering lanes of A69 traffic. This was safely achieved with a lot of patience, a couple of sharp kamikaze dashes and the use of a handily placed median strip, where we could temporarily kneel in prayer and claim sanctuary.

Once across the dual carriageway, there was yet more climbing to be done before the road would level and lead us on toward Matfen. On the climb the Garrulous Kid became detached, allegedly distracted while trying to inhale a Snickers bar whole. Then the Monkey Butler Boy lost contact, still trying to come to grips with his new and completely alien gear-ratios.

The other stragglers may have had their excuses too, but if they did they were more stoical and refused to acknowledge them.

We regrouped once again and then pushed on toward Matfen and from there to the Quarry. The pace started to pick up and a handful went off the front as we made the turn for the climb.

I rounded the corner and dropped back to make sure we collected any stragglers before pushing on. As I rolled back up to speed I encountered a happy, freewheeling Crazy Legs engaged in a bit of Rick Rolling, booling along and merrily engaged in an energetic rendition of Never Gonna Give You Up…

The front runners had long disappeared when our group made it to the top of the Quarry, to the accompaniment of Mr. Astley’s finest only moment. Here we swung right and started our final run to the café.

As the road straightened, the Monkey Butler Boy was the first to attack surging off the front and opening a short-lived lead, before the inevitable response reeled him in.

Richard of Flanders and the Red Max tried next, each attacking in turn, but on the long drag up toward the crossroads their speed and advantage quickly bled away. Caracol caught and drove past them, I dropped onto his wheel and as we darted through the crossroads, he looked back and saw we’d opened up a sizeable gap.

“Looks like it’s just me and you,” he declared … and so it was, as we hammered down through the curves, swept through the junction and ground our way up the last few ramps.

As we swung onto the road down toward the Snake Bends, Caracol was questioning the wisdom of the Monkey Butler Boy’s premature attack that had lit the blue touch-paper and set everything off.

He was, I suggested, simply a hostage to genetic imperative and couldn’t help uphold the family traditions of attacking early and quite forlornly.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

At the café, the Red Max played us all expertly, suggesting it was still warm enough to sit outside and then, after we had all dutifully trooped out to the garden, taking his pick of chairs inside.

Despite the deception he wasn’t wrong, it was perfectly pleasant outside and the bothersome wasps were fewer in number and not quite as aggressive as they had been last week.

We settled down for a “3-mugger” and a classic spot of blather and bullshit …

It started when the Garrulous Kid wandered past, digging in his back pockets and dislodging an empty Snickers wrapper that spiralled slowly down to the ground.

“I do like a Snickers,” Zardoz commented, “It’s been shown to have the perfect, irresistible ratio between sugar and fat content”

“Ah, a sort of golden ratio. I thought that was the ring donut?” I countered, obviously having heard somewhere that the perfect ratio between sugar and fat was to be found in ring donuts.

“Those as well.” Zardoz affirmed, “But for your 70p, a Snickers bar will give you the highest calorific content and the perfect ratio. It’s the peanuts.”

“What? Wait, 70p! I remember when they used to be only 20p. And a lot bigger too.”

“Yeah, yeah and they used to be called a Marathon.” Zardoz was only slightly sympathetic.

“Exactly, it was named after the most recent tussle between them Persians and Greeks.”

“It’s all ancient history now, old boy.” Zardoz observed dryly.

We were joined by G-Dawg, the Colossus and Taffy Steve, having just led the second group in, and talk turned to various cycling commentators. We wondered how Sean Kelly and his indecipherable accent had ever been seen as a prime candidate to be the expert voice of Eurosport.

Although thankfully he’s grown into this role, Richard of Flanders still recalled a memorable, early radio interview with Kelly when he had to be constantly reminded that listeners couldn’t actually see him nodding away or shaking his head, no matter how vigorously he did this.

From there it was just a hop, step and jump (luckily bypassing the even more puzzling choice of Jonathan Edwards as a cycling presenter) en route to talk about how the rather odious sounding Brian Clough had publicly humiliated Peter Shilton on national TV for a standard, run-of-the-mill, goal-keeping blunder.

Speaking of inappropriate job choices, Richard of Flanders recalled Peter Shilton had then moved into management with Plymouth Argyle, or some other remote (well, to us, anyway) team, where he didn’t seem to have a clue and constantly demanded his players do push-ups as punishment for minor infractions.

This, I suggested was exactly the kind of thing our club was missing and I moved that push-ups for any kind of infraction be immediately added to the club rule book.

Ah, the club rule book. Did such a mythical creation even exist?

We imagined it as a massive tome, bound in ancient, flayed skin of indeterminate origin, covered in arcane motifs and sigils and sealed with a massive, black iron hasp and padlock.

If allowed access to its hallowed content, the yellowed parchment pages would crackle dryly as you opened it up, each section headed with massive illuminated letters and consisting solely of a series of dire instructions: “Though shalt” and “Though shalt not’s.”

G-Dawg felt the tome would be hidden within a secret chamber, the fuhrer bunker, buried deep beneath OGL’s house.

“Guarded by traps, trip-wires and a giant boulder,” Taffy Steve imagined.

“Poison darts and snakes,” I added.

“And even if you find it, you’ll still have to fight the ghost of Pat Roach for it, somewhere along the line,” Taffy Steve concluded, while Richard of Flanders looked on in bewildered incomprehension.

Talk of old football legends, brought up talk of old football stadiums, with Richard of Flanders, on safer ground now, wondering if anyone could recall going to the toilets at old Ayresome Park.

As I remember the stadium itself was like one big toilet, so my imagination failed when it came to picturing what the actual toilets within it could be like.

“Just a long, blank wall with a gutter at the bottom,” according to Richard of Flanders.

“And no drains,” G-Dawg stated.

“Apparently, you’ve never experienced Liverpool until you’ve felt the Kop warm leg welcome.” Sneaky Pete relayed and then there were numerous stories about football spectating in the good old days, terraces awash with urine, pitches showing more mud than grass and leather case balls that would dislocate your neck if you tried to head them when they got sodden and heavy.

Oh, and the ever present threat of violence.

Back talking about a slightly more civilized sport, everyone wanted to know why Szell was still riding, even though it was already September. We wondered if he’d even keep going right up until the Club Hill Climb and if he might perhaps participate?

Szell revealed he’d ridden it once before in the dim and distant past and had no desire to revisit that particular form of intense self-flagellation, a view much supported by Taffy Steve.

“You could always come along and push people off,” a well-meaning, Richard of Flanders suggested, but off course we took his suggestion the wrong way.

“Like, hide in the bushes half way up and leap out at unsuspecting riders?” the Colossus wondered, imagining a Takeshi’s Castle style contest, with a ninja-style, anti-cyclist who would suddenly appear and push each rider over as they strained upwards.

As if a hill climb isn’t already hard enough.

The Colossus suggested he was facing a near impossible task with the hill climb and couldn’t better his first ever time, just back from uni, when he was younger, fitter and most importantly, much lighter. Now, getting older and heavier, his chances of a new personal best time were receding, despite the vagaries and inconsistencies in OGL’s official time-keeping.

Someone countered that weight followed a typical bell-curve through age and there would be a point where you could expect to start getting lighter again.

“Great,” I suggested, “Another 17 years and I might be at my optimum for the hill climb.”

Of course at that age, all dry sinew and skeleton, there’s a good chance that you would simply snap attempting a hill climb.

We speculated about our assailant, potty-mouthed motorbiker and G-Dawg concluded he must surely know us as he had correctly identified that we were a bunda munts. Perhaps, he suggested, it was a disgruntled, ex-club member – although that would be casting the net ridiculously wide and would in no way help us narrow down the biker’s identity.

I then learned that Canyon were a German bike brand (I didn’t know, but can’t say I’d given it much thought) and could also be considered when the Garrulous Kid looks to replace his Focus and insists that only precision and world-renowned Teutonic engineering will suffice. So, from our count he can choose, Canyon, Focus, Rose, Cube or Stork. Not a bad line up.

Speaking of German bikes, we learned that the Garrulous Kid was on his winter bike because he “broke his tyres.” (The tyres were obviously not engineered in Germany.)

He seemed rather nonplussed when Taffy Steve suggested he could have  just swapped over the wheels.

“They’re too heavy.”

“But they’d still be better on your Focus than on your winter bike.”

“I hate my winter bike,” the Garrulous Kid declared.

“Yes,” Taffy Steve affirmed, “That’s the point.”


Off we went and I found myself riding alongside the BFG. He’s taking his newly achieved granddad status very, very seriously and has been regularly riding out with the new grand kid perched on a seat fixed to the front of his bike.

Unfortunately, all he can see when he’s riding is the back of the kid’s head, so it’s always a shock when he gets home and sees the snot-encrusted mask that the wind and speed has dragged out and dried like cement across the kids face.

Even worse, he got home one time to find the kid had somehow eviscerated his helmet, the hollow shell sitting on the back of his head, while the disengaged padding was wrapped tightly around his face.

I suggested this was probably a defence mechanism and the kid was so terrified he had pulled the helmet lining down to cover his eyes, like a condemned man before a firing squad.

The BFG was having none of this though, insisting he knew the kid had been smiling all the way around because of the flies stuck to his teeth.

A turn on the front, through Dinnington to the turn-off, was my last major effort of the day, then the main body swung left and I dropped behind Caracol and G-Dawg to surf through the Mad Mile and away.

The rain blew in as I plugged my way across the river toward home and I stopped to pull on a jacket. The poor weather seemed to have the effect of boosting the appeal of the shopping centre and the traffic was starting to back up. I had to queue patiently on the approach to the roundabout at the bottom of the Heinous Hill, slowly getting soaked ad cold.

Finally across and through the traffic lights, I spun my way up and home to end another ride, at least on a high point, if not an actual high.


YTD Totals: 5,239 km / 3,255 miles with 64,597 metres of climbing

The Untouchables

The Untouchables

Club Run, Saturday 14th July, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  109 km / 68 miles with 1,089 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 10 minutes

Average Speed:                                 26.1 km/h

Group size:                                         30 riders, 3 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    27°C

Weather in a word or two:          Hot, hot, hot


untouch
Ride Profile


Let’s skip a week shall we? The 7th July was another good club run in exceptional and hot weather, but with our Pyrenean misadventures taking up all my inane-wittering bandwidth, it kind of took a backseat.

Who knows, perhaps some day,some completion-obsessed, archivist will uncover this inchoate, hidden gem, tentatively titled “They Swarm” and it will be revealed to the world with huge fanfare* as an unfinished masterpiece to rank alongside Byron’s Don Juan, The Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg, or The Other Side of the Wind.

*I’m thinking maybe “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” played on a lone kazoo.

But for now, let’s put it to bed, US TV style…

Previously on Sur La Jante…

The hottest day we’ve had for years, but we didn’t have to worry as the Red Max had a cunning plan – all we had to do was ride harder and faster, he said and it would generate a beneficial cooling breeze…

It was a good route that picked out a section of newly surfaced road to let us ascend to the village of Ryal without having to tackle the infamous Ryal’s themselves. We didn’t realise that the road had actually been resurfaced with loose gravel, which was the perfect size, weight and composition to constantly get jammed under Taffy Steve’s fork crown, so the ascent became an irregular, stop-start sort of affair.

Not all was lost though, as Aether took the opportunity presented by all the mechanicals to successfully forage in the hedgerows for early blackberries. Luckily the Prof wasn’t with us, or we might still be there, taking advantage of all the free stuff.

Then, in the café garden a thousand and one, tiny black beetles fell in love with G-Dawg’s Molteni jersey (well the orange panels on it anyway) and descended upon him like a biblical plague. It was so bad, he ended up stripping down to his bibshorts, just for a bit of relief.

Stripping off all our tops for the ride home in show of mutual support and solidarity, was mooted, but quickly shot down, perhaps by Princess Fiona, although I couldn’t be sure who objected first.

A fully-clothed, return was then completed without incident and I made my way home having covered 113 km with 1,100 metres of climbing.

So, back to the present. Another fine, hot and sunny day was promised and didn’t disappoint. It was so hot in fact that for the first time in living memory I rode without a base layer of any kind and selected my lightest and theoretically coolest of jerseys.

The bridge at Newburn was still closed to cars, and they’ve taken the chance to resurface it. There is still a gaping hole at the north end where it was washed away though, so hopefully it’ll be a bit longer before it’s fully open again.

Despite the heat, the wind was up, keeping things cool, but also providing noticeable resistance whenever I found myself tackling it head on. Nevertheless, I made decent time across and arrived at the meeting place bang on schedule.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

The Garrulous Kid had been traumatised by having to use the Metro during the week, pressed uncomfortably cheek by jowl with the hoi poloi, amidst what he claims was a sustained and unprovoked attack by savage, M&M wielding chavs. They had apparently bombarded his train with the colourful, candy-coated confectionery so ferociously that grown men cowered in their seats and refused to leave the carriages at the station.

Taffy Steve was intrigued and posed the highly critical question we all wanted the answer to, were they hardcore gang-bangers, using peanut M&M’s, or just play-acting kids, wannabe-gangstas, restricting their attack to run-of-the-mill, plain M&M’s?

I think he was positing some kind of escalation in the seriousness of the assault depending upon the type of confectionery being used as ammunition.

This led to an exotic re-imaging of The Untouchables, with Kevin Costner’s Eliott Ness taking instructions from Sean Connery’s old-hand, Jimmy Malone:

“He pullsh a KitKat, you pull a Shnickers bar. He puts one of yoursh in the tuck shop, you put one of hish in the pic ’n’ mix aisle. That’s the Shouth Gosforth way!”

My dad-joke of the week also came from this unlikeliest of sources:

“What time did Sean Connery get to Wimbledon?”

“Tennish.”

It was so hot, the Garrulous Kid had frozen his bottle overnight, but by the time he reached the meeting point the ice seemed long gone. He picked the bottle up, peered myopically at its contents and gave it a prod with a bony finger.

“All the ice is gone,” he lamented, then, noticing a strange, opaquely white, foreign substance swirling around in the bottom of the bottle … “No, hold on there’s some left at the bottom.”

Goodness knows what he was seeing, but we pointed out that if it was ice, it would be floating – you know, icebergs never drag their feet along the seafloor.

The arrival of long-term absentee, Grover was greeted with a, “Bloody hell, is it that time of the year again?” from Crazy Legs.

“You said that last time,” Grover muttered drolly. Probably true, but it was still funny nonetheless.

It was indeed a day when many of our lesser-spotted luminaries would be tempted out, including the Antipodean Ironman, back from serious injury, the aforementioned Grover and even the Prof, given the day off from his role in a Back Street Boys tribute band, or perhaps lured out by the promise of free fruit just waiting to be picked along all the hedgerows.

Anyway, he would stay with us for, oh, I don’t know, maybe a whole, half an hour, before the collective responsibility of riding in a group began to chafe … and he buggered off without a backward glance.

Add in a smattering of FNG’s and there was about thirty of us altogether and we split into two groups before pushing out. A quick headcount saw the front group outnumbering the second, so I dropped back to the latter and away we went.


The Red Max and Taffy Steve led us from the start and we picked our way through Brunton Lane, where the good weather had encouraged the bushes and hedges into super-abundant, verdant and bucolic over-growth.

“Another couple of weeks of this and there’ll just be a cyclist-shaped hole in a wall of green,” Crazy Legs mused.

We took over on the front as we took the road up past the Cheese Farm, determined to set a perfectly reasonable pace and make it to the top of the hill without any complaints from behind.

Did we make it?

Well, what do you think?

We then stopped before taking a long loop that would see us heading south and generally slightly downhill to Twizzel, before stomping back up into a headwind. This engendered the first group split, with OGL and Grover deciding the loop was generally pointless.

Crazy Legs admitted the detour didn’t do anyone any favours, but I was happy to add a few more miles along previously uncharted roads and anyway, who could possibly resist a visit to a place called Twizzel at least once in a lifetime? Once is probably enough, though.

As we approached Dyke Neuk, I finally recognised the road and, from there it was a straightforward push through Whalton, then Hartburn and on to Middleton Bank. We stopped regularly to check everyone was ok and see if anyone needed a shorter route to the café, but everyone seemed to be holding up.

As we started to climb Middleton Bank, Andeven whirred rapidly and effortlessly away, showing us mere plodders and amateurs how it should be done. Meanwhile I got stuck twiddling too small a gear, too soon and it took me an age to get on top of it. As the ramps slowly steepened and the gears finally bit, I managed to work my way past the rest of the group and follow Crazy Legs catching onto his rear wheel as we went up and over the top.


midd


Crazy Legs looked back, determined no one else was in sight and indicated he was going to drop back to wait. I decided to press on alone, coaxed the chain onto the big ring and started to pick up the pace.

Around the first corner and into some welcome shade from the trees around Bolam Lake, Benedict stormed up behind, called out, “hop on” and went surging past. I accelerated onto his wheel and we were off.

He took a big, long turn and then I spelled him until I could no longer keep the pace high enough and he accelerated onto the front again, leading us through the dip and curves as we arced through Milestone Woods.

As we hit the bottom of the rollers, I noticed a new set of temporary traffic lights half way up the slope had just turned green. Determined not to be caught by an inopportune red light, I came around Benedict and surged upwards. Benedict said he guessed what I was trying to do, but hesitated a micro-second and just missed latching onto my wheel as I hammered up through the lights and over the first couple of crests.

As I jumped out of the saddle to keep the momentum up to tackle the third and final ramp, I looked back, expecting Benedict to be camped on my six, or thereabouts, but there was a sizeable gap between us. I decided just to press on, expecting he would catch up on final scramble up to the café, but suspect he eased once we made the main road and I rolled in imperiously and surprisingly alone.

“Did you ride the full route?” the Garrulous Kid asked, obviously slightly taken aback by the fact that there was clear air between me and everyone else from the second group. Such a disturbing lack of faith…


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A Woodland Burial site has opened just down the road from the café and OGL has apparently already been eyeing up a plot for the future, thinking it’ll be an ideal spot from which to come back to haunt us every Saturday.

Crazy Legs revealed he still has his Mum’s ashes under the sink and his Dad’s in the garage and doesn’t quite know what to do with them. I unconscionably suggested the latter might be useful if he ever has an icy drive to contend with one winter. The whole topic cued up a number of stories of people trying to dispose of ashes, only to have them blow back in their faces.

On a slightly less morbid note, initial discussions were made about travelling to take in the Tour of Britain in September, in particular stages 5 and 6. The first is an unusual Team Time Trial up Whinlatter Pass from the easier, western side (five kilometres averaging 4%), followed by the following days stage which tackles the climb twice more, but from the eastern side with averages nearer to 7%.

Taffy Steve sat down opposite me and the creaking bench tilted alarmingly and tipped me into his shoulder. I’m not sure this rickety garden furniture is going to last another season.

We applied some Archimedean physics to our problem, Taffy Steve shuffling closer to the pivot point, while I slid along toward the very end of the bench. That worked better, well, at least until one of us decided to stand up suddenly. It didn’t stop Benedict laughing at us and suggesting it was like watching two mismatched kids trying to work a see-saw.

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs expounded on his new Novichok conspiracy theory, by pointing out the two incident locations, Salisbury and Amesbury were, strangely and coincidentally, almost equidistant from the British Chemical and Bacteriological warfare laboratory at Porton Down. The Novichok poisoning was then, either a leak from the government’s own facility, or its proximity was being used by the Russians to cover up their own nefarious “wet-work.”

Taffy Steve determined we deserved a sneaky third coffee and I readily agreed – after all, it was hot and we needed to stay hydrated.

We then had a chuckle at the Colossus who was sitting at the next table alongside the Garrulous Kid and looking extremely glum and fed up with life. We wondered what could possibly be upsetting him so much …


As we made our way home I caught up with Kermit, who thought he had a new bike sorted, a like-for-like replacement offer from his insurance company, after his Focus Cayo didn’t survive its trip back from the Pyrenees. (Or, to be more accurate, its whirlwind tour around Zurich and sundry other European airports.)

He’d been offered a Giant TCR Advanced which seemed like a great deal to me – then again, I’m not the one who has to ride it.

As we started up Berwick Hill our line attenuated and then fragmented and I had great fun slicing and sliding through the wheels, as I climbed from near the back to the front, dropping in behind leaders Crazy Legs and the Colossus as we crested the top.

On the reverse slope, the pair waved us through and I hit the front with Caracol, keeping the pace high all the way through Dinnington and onto the Mad Mile. The Colossus took over again, for this final stretch, before the remains of our group swept left and I peeled off to start my solo ride home.

I could get used to this fine weather.


YTD Totals: 4,251 km / 2,641 miles with 53,264 metres of climbing

Moist Phalanges and a Finely Turned Ankle

Moist Phalanges and a Finely Turned Ankle

Club Run, Saturday 27th January, 2018  

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance                                   115 km / 72 miles with 1,068 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 54 minutes

Average Speed:                                 23.5 km/h

Group size:                                         25 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    10°C

Weather in a word or two:          Tepid


mphal
Ride Profile


Saturday was set for to be a remarkably mild, late January day and, as soon as I levelled out after rolling down the hill, I realised I’d probably got the clothing choices wrong. Again.

It was already 7°C and while I wasn’t convinced we’d eke that much more warmth out of a pale sun, that would stay largely muffled behind a thick pall of cloud, temperatures were only ever likely to rise. Meanwhile, although the clouds threatened the occasional rain shower, they never quite delivered.

Ultimately, a winter jacket, long-sleeved baselayer and thick gloves would prove too much, even though I’d discarded the headband and buff to let a little cool air circulate. Caught out once again by the eccentric vicissitudes of the Great British weather.

The rowing club looked to be gearing up for another big event as I swung past, the car parks already full and marshals bustling around organising everything. The tide was most definitely out as I crossed over the river though, wide mud banks exposed to either side and only a thin channel of murky water midstream. I guessed they wouldn’t be starting anytime soon.

Things were whirring along nicely, both my legs and bike behaving and it wasn’t long before I was pulling up at the meeting point, to see what another club run would bring.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

One of the first to arrive was the Red Max, back after a long absence, which, according to him, was spent diligently and cheerfully answering each and every whim, no matter how trivial, or spurious, of a seriously incapacitated and post-operative Mrs. Max.

Or, at least that’s the official version and what he told me to write. If pressed, I would have to note the uncertain emergence of other words and phrases in his narrative, such as harridan, nagging, living-hell, demanding and personal anguish.

Not only was the Red Max back, but he was accompanied by the Monkey Butler Boy, whose trying to step-up to some big-time races this season. Because of this, he’s decided his usual Saturday jaunts, out with the youthful ingrates of the Wrecking Crew, are too short, lackadaisical and not demanding enough. They must be a truly soft option if the alternative is riding out with a bunch of auld gits like us…

OGL announced he’s abrogated all responsibility for organising the clubs annual overseas trip as there are now too many, privately arranged and alternative, unsanctioned, unofficial and competing, “other trips.” Similarly, he’s suggesting that he’s voluntarily disconnecting from Facebook as his edicts aren’t always met with immediate, universal approval and compliance. At the same time though, he seems to be voluntarily disconnecting others from Facebook as well. I assume this is a purge to remove any dissenting voices from the posts he no longer reads, or responds to?

Strange times.

Earlier in the week, the Garrulous Kid had spotted the Colossus, encased in headphones and indulging in some syncopated strolling, interspersed with strident moonwalking, as he bopped along the High Street.

“Just how long have you had those really ancient headphones?” the Garrulous Kid demanded to know.

“Oh, about 18 hours,” the Colossus replied nonchalantly, before describing his state of the art, best in class, audiophile’s dream, brand new, Sennheiser headphones.

I expressed great surprise that, despite all his banging on about German manufacturing excellence in relation to his Focus bike (#cough# made in Taiwan #cough#)) the Garrulous Kid didn’t actually recognise quality, Teutonic design and engineering when directly confronted with it.

The Colossus was in turn, surprised anyone recognized him in civvies, although maybe he shouldn’t have been, as he then related how Crazy Legs had once ridden past when he was walking along, instantly recognised him from behind and shouted out a greeting. I suggested this was because, for Crazy Legs and us mere mortals, this was the view we most often saw, camped out on the Colossus’s rear wheel, staring fixedly at the back of his head and hanging on for dear life.

Just outside the office block behind us, a random generator spluttered and then banged into life with a long, hacking cough. It then belched loudly and disgorged an explosive, rumbling fart, accompanied by a huge cloud of noxious, greasy, black smoke.

“I think the cleaner’s just plugged her vacuum into the wrong socket.” G-Dawg surmised.

As the dangerous looking fumes threatened to engulf us, it looked like the perfect time to evacuate the area and a sizeable group of 24 of us hurriedly pushed off, clipped in and fled the scene.


I started out riding alongside self-declared scientific genius, the Garrulous Kid. (I’m really looking forward to the day he also describes himself as like, really stable too). Apparently his faith in the superiority of German engineering had been badly shaken when he realised just how utterly useless the family BMW was in the snow last week. It’s obvious now why he’s been spending so much time in the gym, it’s for when he’s called upon to lend manual assistance to his Dad’s lumbering panzerwagen, you know, when a 2.5 litre engine and 240 brake horsepower just isn’t enough.

A shuffling of the pack and I caught up with Ovis, having recently “won” the lottery for inclusion in the Fred Whitton Challenge and not quite sure about what he’s let himself in for. Still, I’m sure he’ll be fine … as long as he manages to avoid the livestock.

Approaching the Military Road and we found ourselves being stalked by an aerial drone that hovered in a field parallel our route. Perhaps it was industrial espionage on behalf of our regular café, having heard of our dastardly defection last week and wanting to keep tabs on customers wandering off to the competitors?

Perhaps GrCHQ SIGINT Division had been monitoring our social media communications and uncovered disturbing levels of insurgency amongst the clubs Saturday morning irregulars, something so disturbing that it required extreme surveillance measures?

Ah, no. It was just a couple of harmless mountain-bikers having fun with a new toy.

Or, at least they looked like harmless mountain-bikers …

Past the reservoir and we stopped to split the group, with OGL, the Red Max and a handful of others choosing a slightly shorter, somewhat less hilly way to the café, while the rest of us went via roads that G-Dawg noted we hadn’t travelled down for a good couple of months.

As we waited to reconvene and ride on, the Hammer sidled across to tell me how much he admired my “pretty and delicately exposed ankles.” Damn, I knew those Diadora winter boots needed to be longer and more concealing, and not just for added protection in extreme weather. I can’t go round enflaming the passions of my fellow cyclists with such wanton displays.

Having returned from the strange delirium of his inappropriate, homoerotic interlude, the Hammer apologised and suggested it was a simple fugue state, induced by not being out on his bike in ever such a long a time – in fact, probably not since we last ventured down these very roads.

He rightfully complained that for us more … ah, shall we say mature, members of the cycling fraternity, form is difficult to attain, impossible to sustain and slips quickly away with a moments inaction and inattention. Nevertheless, having recovered himself, the Hammer was looking forward to the recuperative effects of a hot, invigorating beverage, a modest slice of seed-cake and some sustained gentlemanly banter in the café.

On we pressed, through a series of dragging climbs where I became aware just how tired and heavy-legged I was. To cap it all, we were now hitting exposed areas where a strong headwind seemed to have sprung up and was proving troublesome.

We turned up one lane, swooped down into a valley and started the climb back out, only to notice we were approaching large red road signs and a series of traffic cone barricades.

“Hope the road’s not closed,” G-Dawg muttered as we slowly approached.

The signs did indeed warn: “Road Closed” though luckily not to the degree that would deter your average, intrepid (read: desperate not to turn back and add on more miles) scofflaw roadie.

We insouciantly swished past the Road Closed signs, slalomed freely around the traffic cones and then wondered what all the warnings where about. The road was intact, unmarred and highly passable – although apparently scheduled for some BT cable laying, sometime this millennium, or maybe next.


 

Moment


We pushed on, through small, scattered hamlets, everyone strung out and working hard, before swinging onto the road up to the Quarry Climb and, for a while at least, out of the wind. There we found OGL, all on his lonesome and working to replace a punctured tube.

We wondered what had happened to the Red Max and others who’d been accompanying OGL on the shorter run. The Monkey Butler Boy surmised (and lo! it was so) that the Red Max had attacked wholeheartedly as soon as he sensed someone having a mechanical and had long since disappeared up the road.

We lent what assistance we could to OGL, who’d fallen foul of one of Northumberlands steel-tipped, mutant thorns, which I’m reliably informed were the inspiration behind the Fairburn-Sykes Fighting knife. He was pretty much finished the repairs, so the wait wasn’t long and we were soon on the move again.

I held on up the Quarry Climb and as we pushed through onto the road to the Snake Bends. Then the Colossus went for a long-range attack. The group split in pursuit, but I quickly recognised it was futile. He was long gone, there was no chance of getting back on terms, even if I had the legs for it (I knew for a fact I didn’t). I pulled over, slowed and watched as a long stream of riders zipped past and away.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

“Is this your first ride of the year?” the Garrulous Kid enquired of Biden Fecht as we sat down in the cafe.

“No, I was out last week,” Biden Fecht confirmed.

“But, but … it was snowing and icy last week!” an incredulous Garrulous Kid exclaimed.

“Ah, thanks for telling me. I didn’t realise…”

Biden Fecht was then closely interrogated about his work as a lecturer at Aberdeen University, with the Garrulous Kid suggesting he might apply there and wondering if perhaps Biden Fecht had a spare room going free?

I’ve never seen anyone’s face drain of blood quite so quickly.

We learned that the Monkey Butler Boy’s Samsung phone occasionally syncs with the family Samsung widescreen in the lounge, where the display cuts in to show whatever he’s browsing for on the Internet, something which could lead to embarrassing consequences for a young lad with healthy appetites and an insatiable curiosity.

In fact, he’s already been caught red-handed, cruising for bike porn …

“The Taiwan Bike Show,” he reluctantly confirmed.

“Ooph, you like them exotic,” I suggested, “Slender seat stays, fully curved drop-outs?”

“Bars you can grab a big old handful of,” Rab Dee affirmed. Dangerous, salacious stuff.

Meanwhile the real scandal was with the Garrulous Kid, who was in denial about by his unrequited affections for a red-haired, Upper Sixth Former. An older woman? He seemed baffled by the Red Max’s casual mention of MILFs and PILFs, which he decided to Google on his “Apple phone.”

Having scrolled past the Public Interest Legal Foundation to something a little less salubrious and worthy, he quickly shut down his browser, turned off his phone and dropped it, as if it had just given him an electric shock. I couldn’t help but imagine his unrestricted browsing activities setting of all sorts of alarms and klaxons at home and the disapproving family committee that might be awaiting him on his return.

The Monkey Butler Boy tried to describe the definition of a Mackem he’d found in the Urban Dictionary, but became so convulsed with laughter he was too incapacitated to finish.


Out we went and I did a brief spell on the front with G-Dawg. At one point there was a loud squeal of disk brakes from behind, sounding like a discordant, slightly off-key, rendition of Jesus Christ, Superstar played by a dyspeptic and slightly drunk, brass band.

“Ah, I see Rab Dee is still with us,” G-Dawg concluded.

Up Berwick Hill and I slowly drifted back through the wheels. We charged through Dinnington and then the main group were turning off. The pace then accelerated down the Mad Mile and I was cast adrift, to plug my way home.

At the first opportunity, I stopped to unzip the jacket and take off my gloves – I was overheating and the insides of the gloves were soaked in sweat. It was borderline too cold to go without gloves, but the heavy winter ones I was using were too much. I decided chilled fingers were the better of two evils.

I soon found myself grinding uphill into a headwind for what felt like half an hour of purgatory, or at least it felt like half an hour but was probably only half this time. Trying to take my mind off my struggles, I let it wander, considering titles for this blerg.

As a nod to Postcard popsters, Josef K, one of their song titles, Forever Drone was first selected and then rejected. I then remembered my sweaty hands and the delight Thing#2 took in a phrase that she adopted, and used whenever appropriate (and quite a few times when wholly inappropriate.)

“Moist phalanges,” she would intone with over-precise diction, before collapsing into a fit of evil cackling. Even now, the phrase can still bring a wry smile to her face. So, in honour of Thing#2, I name this blerg entry Moist Phalanges. (May God bless her, and all who sail in her, etc. etc.)

My pain finally ended, the road dipped and I was soon dropping toward the river. Out on the bridge, the downstream side was now crowded with rowing club spectators. I looked and looked again, but there were no boats in sight. Obviously bad timing on my part as I suspect the action was now taking place many miles downstream.

As I started to winch my way painfully up the Heinous Hill,  a young came girl trotting down the road toward me and I slowed, not quite sure where she was heading and surprising myself that I could physically go any slower without immediately keeling over.

“Have you seen a small, black and white dog?” she asked tearfully.

“No, sorry.”

“He’s a bit like a Lurcher-cross,” she explained, rather unhelpfully.

I looked at her blankly, not quite knowing what a Lurcher-cross was meant to look like and suspecting now wasn’t the time to find out.

“Sorry, I haven’t seen any dogs.”

She ran on and I resumed my unfair battle with gravity.

As I started around the next bend in the road and small, shaggy, short-legged and rather non-descript dog burst out from a side-street ahead of me. I turned and looked back down the hill to where the girl was about to disappear out of sight. I really, really didn’t want to chase after her and have to climb the stupid hill again.

“Oi!” I shouted in my best, “get orff my land” voice. Luckily, she heard, stopped and looked back. I nodded my head toward her scampering pooch, and turned to start clawing my way upwards again, giving dog and owner a private moment for their beautiful and no doubt emotional reunion.

I’m no expert, but the damned thing didn’t look like any kind of Lurcher to me…

So the first long ride of the year under the belt, over 70 miles with 1,000 metres of climbing. That was hard. I’d like to think it’ll get easier from here on in, but I know I’m kidding myself.


Year Totals: 633 km / 393 miles with 6,227 metres of climbing

Jumping Someone Else’s Train

Jumping Someone Else’s Train

Club Run, Saturday 1st July, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 105 km / 65 miles with 960 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 1 minute

Average Speed:                                26.1 km/h

Group size:                                         28 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    22°C

Weather in a word or two:          Warm and bright


 

i july
Ride Profile


I set out first thing Saturday morning still in the dark as to whether climbing in the Alps is a help or hindrance to cycling form. I got an early indication of which way the coin would fall though, when I turned up at the meeting point some 20 minutes early and had to take a long, impromptu peregrination around Fawdon to fill in some time. I’ve nothing personally against Fawdon, but I’m sure even its most ardent resident would agree it’s not the best place in the world to kill some time on a bike.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

In honour of the Tour de France start, Crazy Legs had donned an ancient Ariostea pro-team top, a riot of zig-zagging diagonal lines in bright red and yellow – it’s perhaps offensive enough to even match my bike. I lamented the lack of truly standout, hideous jersey’s in the pro peloton today – although I find Cannondale’s green and red combination a little unsettling, it’s tame compared to the glories of the past such as Ariostea, Mapei and Teka.

In contrast, another rider was wearing a white version of the La Vie Claire jersey, which still remains a timeless classic.

Crazy Legs mentioned it was the Queen Stage for Mini Miss, currently away enjoying sun and smooth roads in Majorca, and (probably) looking forward to Sa Colabra today.

“Psycha-what?” The Prof enquired.

“Sa Colabra,” I explained, “It’s a style of folk dance, popular in the Balearic Islands.”

“No, no, it’s a spirit-based drink, infused with Mediterranean herbs.” The BFG piped up, further confusticating the issue and leaving the Prof suitably bewildered.

The Garrulous Kid wanted to know how probable it was that one of his riding colleagues had seen a raccoon while out on a bike. (Just to be clear, the Garrulous Kid’s riding colleague was out on the bike, not the masked, furry North American mammal.) I suggested what he actually might have seen was a polecat, which are ever so slightly more prevalent than raccoons in rural Northumberland.

“A polka?”

“No, pole – cat.”

“Bobcat!”

“P-O-L-E-C … oh, I give up.”

Crazy Legs wanted to know if the Garrulous Kid remembered the time he’s been afraid of his own tyres. Meanwhile, testing his brakes, the Prof found that, despite all the benefits afforded from its hand-built construction in the most advanced bike factory in the world, by the planet’s greatest race of precision engineers and bike designers, the Kid’s Focus had a loose headset.

“Bring that bike here, boy” he demanded in a voice that brooked no argument, “And fetch me an Allen key.”

“Ooh, I’ve got one of those!” the Garrulous Kid squealed, digging frantically through his saddle bag, scattering tubes, tyre levers and repair patches everywhere, but singularly failing to turn up his famed Allen key. This was a shame as I was particularly interested to see which one size he had decided to carry from all the myriad choices available.

The Prof whipped out his own multi-tool, slackened off the stem, gave the cap bolt half a dozen full turns and then tightened the stem back up again.

“That was really loose.” The Colossus of Roads observed as he gazed down benevolently from on high (well, the top of the wall where he’d perched his butt) and noted the spacers spinning as freely as a roulette wheel.

“Was it dangerous?” the Garrulous Kid wondered.

“No, but you probably felt your whole bike shudder when you were braking.” The Colossus replied.

“And now you’ll know exactly what to do when it happens again.” The Prof observed at his pedagogic best.

“Yep,” The Garrulous Kid replied dutifully, “Take it straight back to the bike shop.”

The Prof outlined the planned route for the day and had us split into two, with an ultimate destination of Bellingham for the long distance randonneurs, but with plenty of options for groups to step off at various points to tailor the ride to their preference.


I dropped into the second group and we waited a couple of minutes for the first bunch to clear, before we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.

With a build-up of cars trailing us into Ponteland, we singled out to encourage them pass, but no matter how much frantic waving Crazy Legs engaged in, the driver of the first car refused to overtake – perhaps blinded, mesmerised or simply intimidated by the aggressive and unsettling design of his Ariostea jersey.

I spent some time behind the Colossus and got my first good look at his custom-painted cassette spacers, in the same colours and sequence as the World Champion Rainbow bands. He too had made the pilgrimage to the local model shop to baffle them with enquiries about what paints worked best on Shimano cassette’s.

He told me everything had worked perfectly, except for the bright fluorescent green, which initially looked black when applied, so he’d had to switch to a white undercoat. (I include this information simply as a public service, in case you’re ever tempted to paint your own cassette spacers.)

At the first stop, I noticed slightly different micturition practices, as one of the group pulled up a shorts leg to pee – while I always pull down the waistband. Perhaps this could be a bone of contention and spark a Lilliputian vs. Blefuscan conflict of Brobdignagian proportions. Or, maybe not.

It was during this stop that Crazy Legs overheard a conversation in which one of our esteemed members claimed to have been informed he was a peerless descender by no lesser authority than “world champion (sic) Alberto Contador.”

Options were outlined and decision were made on different route choices, with the first splinter group happily turning to head up the Quarry, while the rest of us went tearing down the Ryals.

I tucked in, freewheeling all the way and quickly picked up speed, hitting the front until the Red Max and the Plank, swept past pedalling furiously. As soon as they eased I closed them down again, all the while pulling Crazy Legs along behind me as he surfed in my slipstream.

At the bottom and while everyone flashed past and on to loop around Hallington Reservoir, I turned right and pulled over to wait for Sneaky Pete, having previously agreed to take the shorter, but much hillier option up past Hallington Hall, Sol Campbells stately pile. This narrow, partly shady, tree-lined route, climbs and twists through a series of relatively sharp ramps and is one of my favourite roads, if only because we don’t use it all that often.


NOVATEK CAMERA


I was climbing well and felt good as we crested the hill and started to drop back down to the junction with the main road. This spat us out directly in front of a bunch of cyclists that I thought were the group we’d just left, but actually turned out to be our first group. As we closed on the testing drag, up Humiliation Hill, beZ and Andeven whirred past, followed a split second later by Shoeless and the rider in the old La Vie Clair jersey and I dropped in behind them.

beZ and Andeven started to pull away on the climb, so I threaded the needle between Shoeless and La Vie Claire (or perhaps from their perspective, simply barged them out of the way) and gave chase. Tagging onto the back of the front two, I camped there comfortably as they swept uphill, quickly pulling away from everyone else, before we swung east and powered toward Capheaton.

At the last, steep clamber up to road that leads to the Snake Bends, I floated up beside beZ and we rolled the rest of the way, chatting about his experiences of mixing it with the big boys during the Beaumont Trophy and where he needs to improve his bike handling skills and confidence, seemingly the only thing limiting his brilliant performances from being bloody brilliant performances.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

At the café, I joined Captain Black and Princess Fiona at one of the tables outside. She’d just returned from a cycling-motorbiking trip to the Pyrenees. First reassuring myself that she hadn’t been on a Harley, I was interested to know what it was like as Crazy Legs is eyeing up this area for our next foreign expedition.

Talk of the Pyrenees and the Tour, had me extolling the Cycling Anthology series of books and in particular Volume 5 which includes a chapter on Superbagnères by Edward Pickering. This described Stage 15 of the 1971 Tour de France, which was a balls-to-the-wall, short stage of just 19.6km straight up from Bagnères-de-Luchon to the summit. The author described the action as being like a mass start time-trial, with every man for himself. The stage was won by Jose Manuel-Fuente, but all 99 riders in the field were separated by just 10 minutes and the biggest group across line was only 4 strong.

Apart from reminding me of Fuente, a rider whose name I was particularly fond of chanting to encourage struggling riders up hills when I was a kid … Foo-entay! … Foo-entay! … I thought the idea of a super-short, chaotic and uncontrollable stage, straight up a mountain was well worth revisiting – a real mano a mano contest among the climbers and GC riders, stripping away all the team support and tactical “footsie” that usually takes place before a decisive summit finish.

Recognising the stage would be perhaps too short to make good TV, it could then be combined with the sort of downhill time-trial Sean Kelly seems to advocate. I’d watch anyway.

With the first cup of coffee consumed, Princess Fiona somehow manouvered Captain Black into attending to her refill needs, before presenting him with her dainty, little cup.

Captain Black looked quizzically at it:

“What’s that?”

“It’s because she’s a lay-dee.” I explained.

Captain Black listened carefully to the very precise specification required for Princess Fiona’s coffee refill, tugged his forelock, bowed and backed away from the table.

“Yus, m’lady.”

He then wandered into the café, determined to get it wrong so he’d never be asked again.

Princess Fiona and Captain Black decided to take the long route back via Stamfordham and started to gather their things together to leave.

“Is there anything you need him to carry for you?” I joked, but could see Princess Fiona giving the question very serious consideration, before she demurred.

As they left, I moved across to the next table, where the Colossus was handing out free advice on how to go about painting cassette spacers. Given the fact he’d bought 3 different paint colours (green, red and blue) to go with G-Dawg’s yellow to recreate the World Champion bands and used only a tiny amount of each, there was talk of establishing a set of “club paints” that could be handed to those most in need. It was decided however that these would probably go the way of the semi-mythical “club rollers” that we know exist, we just don’t know where they are and who has them.

Appreciation of the La Vie Clare jersey brought a slightly too enthusiastic, near orgasmic, “Oh, yes,” from Taffy Steve, in a voice that was an unfortunate cross between the Churchill dog, a Kenneth Williams, “ooh matron” and a Terry Thomas-style, “ring-a-ding-ding.” Not that we drew any attention to it, of course.

Talk turned to upcoming movie releases, with the majority expressing their boredom with super-hero movies, for which the best antidote was deemed to be Lego Batman.

The Garrulous Kid though wasn’t done with super-heroes.

“I’m really looking forward to Four. Will you go and see that?” he asked me.

“Well, no, I haven’t seen One, Two or Three, so there doesn’t seem much point.” I replied, struggling to keep a straight face.

“No, I mean Four:Free.”

“Huh?” I feigned incomprehension.

“You know, the one with Four, the Norse God of Funder…”

As we were leaving the Garrulous Kid announced that now he’s finished school for the summer he was free to ride at any time. He asked if there were any mid-week groups he could join up with.

“Don’t you regularly go out on a Wednesday?” I innocently asked Sneaky Pete, earning a very sneaky kick in the shin for my efforts as he shushed me. Ouch!


We set off for home and I found myself climbing Berwick Hill with Crazy Legs.

“How you doing?” he asked and I had to admit I was floating and feeling good. Bet that’s not going to last.

As I turned off for home and left the others behind, Princess Fiona sailed past in the opposite direction having completed the longer route back through Stamfordham. Then, the obligatory 5 paces behind, Captain Black followed, undoubtedly slowed-down by all the baggage he was carrying for her.

Dropping down toward the river I had one last challenge as a racing trap sped past at a full speed gallop on the road below. I swung through the junction onto the road behind and gave chase. At about 25 mph I think I was beginning to close it down, but the driver was already easing the horse back to a trot. Those things are fast.

Across the river I found myself in the middle of a massive traffic jam and took to a bit of pavement surfing and threading between the cars, which earned me at least one “dick-head” comment from a very frustrated driver. A small price to pay to avoid being stuck for half an hour or more, sucking up exhaust fumes and going nowhere fast.

After that it was a relief to break out onto quieter roads, even if they did lead straight up the Heinous Hill to home.


YTD Totals: 4,140 km / 2,572 miles with 48,613 metres of climbing

Jimmy Mac Cracks

Jimmy Mac Cracks

Club Run, Saturday 15th April, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 114 km / 71 miles with 1,106 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                        4 hours 27 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.6 km/h

Group size:                                       28 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                   14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cold but dry


 

15 April
Ride Profile


The Ride:

Well, the good news was it wasn’t raining. The bad news? It was still just as cold as it had been the day before and the wind was much stronger and more noticeable. It would be a thankless task at the head of our group today.

Stopped at some traffic lights, I did find one character displeased that it wasn’t raining – a large grey gull stood drumming its feet frantically along the grass verge like a demented toddler having a tantrum, trying to fool whatever critters that lurked in the soil that it was raining heavily and they needed to surface immediately to enjoy the shower. Sadly, I had to leave before finding out if his efforts were worthwhile.

Crossing the bridge and riding back along the other side of the river, I caught movement on the opposite bank, which my brain instantly translated into a fellow cyclist in a white helmet, keeping perfect pace with me. Then, his helmeted head suddenly came right off and seemed to fly into the air! My WTF moment passed as I realised what I’d actually been watching were two gulls flying in tight formation and it was only my febrile brain that had inexpertly filled in the blanks to translate them into a cyclist. Should have gone to Specsavers.

I managed to make it safely to the meeting point without further random hallucinations, but I was wholly unprepared for the horrors that awaited me there…


Main topics of conversation at the start:

I had a chat about graphene in tyres, World Championship cycling, yesterdays ride and the upcoming Amstel Gold Race, but to be honest the only thing I really remember were the Garrulous Kids most remarkable socks.

They were long, they were thick, they were horrible and they were baggy – pooling round his ankles like used elephant condoms. They were also much, much hairier than the legs they encased and I wondered if they weren’t meant to be worn expressly with shin pads.

They were perhaps something you might, just about, get away with on the rough and tumble of a rugby pitch, but were a quite excruciating faux pas on a bike. A strange shade of not quite-khaki and not quite grey, they were, apparently, the only clean pair of socks he could find.

As I say, they were so distracting that I can’t remember any other conversations at the start and, as an alumnus of the old-school, where cycling socks should always be white, they were terrifying to behold. I still feel I’m suffering from PTSD – or post-traumatic sock disorder and I may never recover.


Under Red Max’s direction, we split into two groups on the road, following the same route, but with a decent gap between each group. This seemed to work well and, from my perspective anyway, seemed more conducive to drivers being able to overtake us safely.

I joined the second group on the road, with G-Dawg as nominal leader and tucked myself into the back, as far from the front and the troubling headwind as I could get. G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, Ovis and Captain Black were amongst those who battled resolutely with the conditions as we pushed out into the countryside, doing sterling and much appreciated hard work.

I rolled on, sheltered amongst the wheels, alternately riding and chatting with Sneaky Pete and Buster and the only time the relaxed serenity of the ride was interrupted was when we almost caught the first group on the climb out from Matfen. Crazy Legs surmised they must have stopped to plant a flag and conduct a long-winded naming ceremony. We pulled over to let them get away again and then a mile or two further on called an impromptu pee stop to let them pad the lead some more.

Somewhere a little further down the line and Sneaky Pete sneaked away, having to cut short his ride or face immediate excommunication from the family. I found myself riding with the Garrulous Kid and explaining my strange mistrust of any pro cyclist who wore black socks.

Our route then took us down Middleton Bank for a change, a descent that was over in seconds and left me wondering what all the fuss was about when we were climbing in the other direction. Tipping down, it didn’t seem either particularly long, particularly steep or all that difficult.

OGL and then Zardoz and his daughter were the next to slip away, finding shorter and easier routes to the café, while the rest of us pressed on.

Passing through Kirkhale and looping right around Capheaton, we were soon heading east toward Belsay, with the wind finally at our backs. The run in was fast and it was frantic and we were soon splintered apart and scattered all over the road.


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On the final dash I found myself behind Jimmy Mac and Crazy Legs and sensing Son of G-Dawg on my wheel, I tried to lead him out for the sprint, pulling out, accelerating down the outside to the front of the line and going as hard as I could for as long as I could.

Pulling to the side, Son of G-Dawg then swooped past with Jimmy Mac and others in pursuit and job done, I eased back for the Snake Bends and I was overtaken by the Garrulous Kid, socks flapping and snapping like a loose spinnaker, apparently still racing and sweeping majestically wide around all the corners.

He earned himself a sharp rebuke from a motorist who didn’t appreciate random cyclists hurtling toward him on the wrong side of the road. The motorist then carried his ire over to also salute Crazy Legs with a sustained horn blast, even though he was innocently rolling round the corners behind me, in total control, firmly planted on his own side of the road and wondering what he’d done wrong.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee

With the café mobbed we found ourselves outside, and were soon packed two to a bench around one of the tables. With no room to squeeze anymore in, Captain Black took to the next table and Rab Dee, decided it would be rude and antisocial to leave him all on his lonesome and got up to join him. Crazy Legs immediately called out, indicating Rab Dee’s recently vacated space and suggesting we now had room at the table for the Captain.

Talk turned to facial hair with Crazy Legs comparing Zardoz’s luxurious whiskers with G-Dawgs more-bandito-style Zapata moustache – reminiscent he felt of one of the characters from the Good, The Bad and the Ugly. When pressed to identify which character, Crazy Legs plumped for Eli Wallach.

“Ah, so you’re saying the Ugly then?” Jimmy Mac queried innocently.

“Well, it could be worse, I could have picked Lee van Cleef.” Crazy Legs responded, “Everybody hates Lee van Cleef.”

Before the Garrulous Kid could intervene to ask who Lee van Cleef was, Crazy Legs quickly cut him off at the pass, declaring Lee van Cleef was a famous Dutch cyclist, a runner up at last years Paris-Roubaix.

For some unfathomable reason talk turned to Captain Scott and The Garrulous Kid professed ignorance of the world famous arctic explorer and dismissed our suggestions that he should know who he was with the flat statement, “Well, I’ve never met the man!”

Unfortunately, while we sat stunned and trying to process this announcement, he sensed a gap in the conversation, which he started to fill with a long litany of insane and inane pronouncements.

In this way we learned that … Batchelor Party 2 is, without doubt, the greatest comedy film, ever, bar none … Focus bikes are designed and engineered to the most exacting standards in the world, because they’re German … one of the Garrulous Kids classmates is an obese Bulgarian … the Garrulous Kid only wears Autograph underpants from M&S … he also has the wrong shaped face for a beard … his dad drives a BMW … Jimmy Mac is the double of James Cracknell … his favourite cyclist is Greg van Anorak … or was it Avenmart … or maybe Peter Sagan … or maybe Phil Gil … Son of G-Dawg is a dead ringer for some random Chinese man from the greatest comedy film, ever, bar none … the Garrulous Kid sometimes mispronounces words, but its not his fault as he was born in Norf Carolina … he’s good at science, just not very good at maffs … his parents watch the TV show Narcos, but it’s a load of rubbish … and he can pronounce Pablo Escobar properly, because he studies Spanish at school…

Whaaaat?

In the face of such a prolonged and sustained aural battering we watched as Jimmy Macs eyes slowly glazed over, his head dropped in despair and he visibly slumped, collapsing into himself like a punch-drunk boxer whose taken one too many body blows. We knew then he’d been ground down to such an extent that he had finally cracked.

He sat there quietly, avoiding eye-contact, playing with his water bottle and I wondered if he was going to try and make the Garrulous Kid forcibly ingest it to stop the flow at source, or perhaps plunge the top through his own eye to try and make the pain go away.

Luckily the Garrulous Kid spotted the Red Max at the next table and wandered away to talk at him and we had a moment of calm and blissful silence to collect ourselves for the ride home.


A fast spin back, a burst up the Mad Mile tucked behind the G-Dawg locomotive and I was cut free, turning off for home and battling the headwind on my own terms. A slight detour found me trapped in a housing estate cul-de-sac before I gave up on finding a new route home and got back on track, I was soon crossing the river, putting the wind behind me and cruising home.

I felt ok climbing the Heinous Hill and looked forward to a day of rest, watching the Amstel Gold Race before trying it all again on Monday.


YTD Totals: 2,063 km / 1,282 miles with 21,980 metres of climbing