The Trouble With Garibaldi’s

The Trouble With Garibaldi’s

Well, the previous Saturday didn’t go at all to plan. I managed to prise myself out of bed, despite the rain and cold and set off on the single-speed with a degree of hopeful optimism, only for my rear wheel to slowly seize, to the point where it felt I was riding with the brakes on. I’d only travelled around 10km when things became so bad I had to stand out of the saddle just to get up and over a speed bump, and at this point I quit, did a complete 360° around a convenient mini-roundabout and set off back home.

I tried working a circuitous route up the Heinous Hill, that would at least give me a fighting chance as I ground and gurned my way agonisingly upwards, but the final steep ramp proved to be my downfall and with the chain starting to slip and skip I admitted defeat and climbed off. Pah!

“Almost made it!” a cheery passer-by noted.

Pah! Again. I was definitely not amused. Still, my ride may have been cruelly curtailed, but maybe I’d just endured the hardest 20km of my life.

Sunday brought me a Covid booster. Tuesday brought me the onset of a 4-day-long headache and a general feeling of washed-out grottiness. Perhaps the two were related, but I don’t know.

Luckily, at least the weather looked like being dry on Saturday, so I could eke out another ride on the ‘good’ bike. It was just as well, as Andy Mapp had devised the route, initially with an assault up the Ryals included, although he’d later decided to reverse the final loop to go down the Ryals instead, just in case G-Dawg was thinking of using his fixie. He wasn’t, the weather was dry enough for his good bike too, but the route change remained.

It was in fact, not only dry, but agreeably and unseasonably warm for November, and half the group were wearing shorts with, for one week only, no one thinking to question their sanity. Well, no one except me. I remained well wrapped up and was happy to be so.

I was slightly late courtesy of several sets of new roadworks on the valley road and arrived to find G-Dawg explaining that he’s perhaps the only person in the club who’d prefer to climb up the Ryals rather than go down, the legacy of a speed wobble he once suffered on the descent. This mental aberration seems to still be living completely rent free in his head.

Alhambra was intrigued about how you would tackle such a fearsome descent if you were on a fixie, and whether you’d be best just lifting your feet clear of the pedals to freewheel. Crazy Legs pointed out the obvious flaw to this plan – if you couldn’t hold your legs up for the duration of the descent, the furiously rotating cranks would smash your ankles to flinders. So nobody’s going to be trying that anytime soon.

The pleasant weather had brought out a sizable contingent and we were 29 strong, sprawled across the pavement. Big numbers, but we still couldn’t scrape together a good half a dozen straight men and true for the first/faster group. With just 5 volunteers, I finally bit the bullet and sacrificed full-enjoyment for a little speed. Fully committed with no turning back, I immediately pushed out onto the front alongside Caracol, reasoning that I would do a good, long stint in the lead, get that responsibility out of the way and then just try to hang on for as long as I could.

Off we went. through Dinnington, up Berwick Hill and out to Kirkley, entertained by Caracol whose been watching I’m a Celebrity … just to see how much (richly deserved) humiliation is heaped upon the head of sackless, hapless and repugnant Hatt Mancock. On the road to Ogle we finally ceded the front and I put the second part of my plan into operation, just hanging on as best I could. Even that was going to be no easy task though, the pace rarely dropped below 30kph, and I picked up 9 new Strava PR’s in the next 10km stretch.

We hit some of the climby-grindy-hilly bits I recognised from our club time-trial course. This gave me nasty flashbacks which were only compounded when the Cow Ranger reminisced about previous versions of the event, when the circuit had to be completed twice over. Err … No thanks.

At bottom of the Quarry the Cow Ranger then left us to head for home, all part of his carefully formulated preparation for the 2022 World Triathlon Age-Group Championships in Abu Dhabi in just 2 weeks’ time.

Naturally, as soon as I heard where the championships were being held, I couldn’t rid myself of the childish thought that the people of Dubai don’t really like the Flintstones, but the people in Abu Dhabi do.

Dad humour. As awful as it is inescapable.

Heading towards the Ryals now, I was flagging and told Caracol I was going to drop off to cut up through Hallington rather than follow the planned long loop around the reservoir. Apart from quite liking this short-cut, despite its shockingly poor road surface, the detour would also shave a couple of miles off what was heading toward an uncharacteristically long winter ride, even for the uncharacteristically un-winter like conditions.

As I dropped off the front, I found Goose at the back wrestling with the near indestructible cellophane around his snack of choice, tearing at it furiously with his teeth to little effect as he drifted off the wheels.

“You picked a bad time for refueling,”

“I’m having trouble with me Garibaldi’s,” he complained plaintively.

“Ooph, I sympathised, “Nothing worse than trouble with your Garibaldi’s. You can probably get an ointment for it, though.”

I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered anyone using Garibaldi’s for mid-ride refuelling. Perhaps the reason is Goose’s later observation that they’re really quite dry and he’d actually had to persuade the rest of the group to stop to give him a chance to wolf them down without choking.

Interestingly, I’m sure everyone knows the Garibaldi biscuit was named after Giuseppe Garibaldi, a leader in the struggle for Italian unification, but I wonder how many know he made a popular visit to South Shields in 1854. This I find even more random and remarkable than Muhammad Ali’s visit to that particular North East berg in 1977. I mean, WTF?

I let the others ride off and rolled down the Ryals at a relatively sedate pace, before taking the sharp right opposite the war memorial and starting to climb upwards. I was now travelling at a much more sustainable pace, idly wondering if the others would complete their loop and catch me before I made the cafe.

They didn’t, but they weren’t all that far behind and I’d only just sat down with cake and coffee when they bustled in after me. A discussion about how many hummingbirds it took to make hummingbird cake became a little surreal even by our standards, but luckily we were distracted when OGL appeared from the back room to tell us he was off as he had to get back early.

We waved him off and he almost reached the door, before shuffling back to remind us it was G-Dawg’s birthday today, before turning around . He actually had his hand on the door knob before he came back again, this time to tell us how many motorist’s he’s caught on camera making close passes and shopped to the local constabulary. He’s particularly proud of the fact that his latest capture was a Bentley driver. He then reminded us he had to be back early, before drifting away again.

I swear he had the door actually open this time, before he deliberatley closed it and turned back to tell us he’d found a lost, limited edition, Cartier watch in the gym and if no one claimed it in a few weeks it would be his, before telling us he had to be back early and wandering off, out the door and closing it firmly behind him.

I kept watch for a few seconds, expecting anther curtain call, but apparently we were done for the day.

“Bloody hell,” Caracol noted, “I feel like I’m caught in an episode of Columbo.”

The rest of our group arrived shortly afterwards, the much too large second group causing a degree of congestion as they crowded around the counter.

“This,” Goose remarked, “Is the benefit of riding in the front group.”

Well, yeah. If you’ve got the legs.

There was then only time for me to enquire about his brand new helmet and try to understand why, out of all the colours to choose from, he’d picked one that was a rather dull (IMHO) battleship grey. Apparently, he quite likes grey and anyway he was determined not to get another red helmet because he claimed it made him look like Super Mario – the Nintendo game character obviously and not a certain Italian wife-beating sprinter. Now that’s an image I may have some difficulty losing.

We left shortly afterwards for an uneventful run home. Luckily Super Mario was feeling super strong and I just hung off his back wheel as he pulled us all along until the point where I could slide off the front and strike out for home.

I’ve got a university open day next Saturday, but I’ll be back the following week for the last right in November. I wonder if we’ll still get away with the good bikes?


Day & Date:Club Run, Saturday 12th November 2022
Riding Time:5 hours 20 minutes
Riding Distance:118km/73 miles with 1,095m of climbing
Average Speed:22.0km/h
Group Size:29 riders, 1 FNG’s
Temperature:11℃
Weather in a word or two:Unreasonably and unseasonably mild
Year to date:4,965km/3,085 miles with 54,821m of climbing

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Between the Saggy and the Soggy

Between the Saggy and the Soggy

In what I took to be another indicator of fast approaching winter, the Canada Geese that spend their summer splashing noisily around Shibdon Pond were organising for departure, their dyslexic leader forming them up in a very raggedy W-shape, before they winged away westward. I was tempted to shout that they were going the wrong way, but apparently it’s not unusual for them to winter in Ireland, so I would just have just made myself look (even more) stupid.

Still, it got me my first ear-worm of the day, complete with the salutary observation – by the way genius, you’re not walking south …

Every weather app I checked had insisted that today was going to be utterly rain-sodden and miserable, and I had prepared accordingly, pressing the single-speed Trek and its semi-decent mudguards into service – the first time I’d ridden it in maybe six months or more. The weather as I set out though was still and calm, dry and bright, and with a route that included a climb up the Trench, I was beginning to think I’d made a serious misjudgement.

We had a new girl join us at the meeting place and she at least looked the part and hopefully she wasn’t too put off when Brassneck described himself as “one of the quiet ones.” I wondered if this wasn’t a little dangerous, as after just 5 minutes in his presence I could imagine her thinking, “Shit, if he’s one of the quiet ones, I’d hate to meet one of the talkers.”

For some reason, Crazy Legs wanted to know if I recalled the theme tune to The Flashing Blade, a poorly dubbed, but classic TV series that seemed ever present during all my school summer holidays.

“You’ve got to fight for what you want, for all that you believe,” we sang the first part, but disagreed on the second and neither of us knew the next line, so that wasn’t going to keep us entertained on today’s ride.

Courtesy of Google:

You’ve got to fight for what you want,

For all that you believe,

It’s right to fight for what we want,

To live the way we please,

As long as we have done our best,

Then no one can do more,

And life and love and happiness,

Are well worth fighting for.

Eeh, they don’t make ’em like they used to…

Tubeless tyres seemed to be the topic du jour, with Mini Miss committing to her winter bike for the foreseeable, as the tubeless set-up on her summer bike needs urgent attention and she didn’t want to get that done only for the bike to sit idle for three or four months.

Crazy Legs suggested it might be amusing to fill your tyres with sealant and let the bike stand for a while until it hardened and you ended up with two flat spots on your tyres and a rather interesting bumpy ride.

There was some confusion about how to maintain tyre sealant and how often it should be topped-up, or completely replaced, with opinions ranging from every two months to every 6 months. Brassneck was following the approach of topping up his sealant every couple of months and I wondered if, sooner or later, his tyres would become solid and absolutely puncture proof.

“How do you even maintain tubeless tyres?” Crazy Legs wondered, as baffled by their mysteries as I was.

“Oh, that’s easy, ” Mini Miss told him assuredly, “The first step is to put your bike in the car, then you just drive it to a mechanic …”

With a surprisingly robust showing of 28 riders, despite the rather grim weather forecast, we once again ended up with our standard bell-curve distribution: a small, faster/front group, a crowded, much-too-large middle group and then a small collection of odd stragglers. Being something of an odd straggler myself and limited to a terminal velocity of about 22mph on the single-speed, the fit seemed a natural choice and I joined the third group.

Or at least that was the intention, but when it was our turn to go, I kicked my pedal backwards to clip in and the chain slid off the rear sprocket. Huh? I moved it back into place, but the chain sagged down like a middle-aged beer belly, as the rear derailleur the venerable Toshi San had repurposed as a chain tensioner seemed to have lost all its vim and vigour and turned decidedly flaccid.

Crazy Legs graciously offered to loan me a bike, but I decided just to see if I could still ride and how far I might get, warning the group not to be alarmed if I suddenly disappeared. Things seemed fine, as long as I didn’t pedal vigorously backwards, so I fell in with the rest and away we went. After a while I forgot about the saggy chain being a mechanical impediment and just confined my worry to how bad it looked.

I may have failed with the Flashing Blade, but I soon had Crazy Legs running through his repertoire of Sham 69 “hits” after a casual mention of corduroy led (obviously!) to that particular gem of songcraft, ‘Ersham Boys.

Brassneck complained forcefully that no one in front had pointed out the dead squirrel in the road, not because it was an impediment, but simply because it had somehow retained its perfect form and proportions, despite being spread-eagled and completely and absolutely flattened. Apparently, he’d just wanted to be forewarned so he had more time to contemplate its fate and unusual state.

I did a spell on the front from the top of Berwick Hill to Belsay, stopping halfway to allow everyone to pull on jackets as the much-heralded rain finally put in an appearance. The temperature seemed to have suddenly plunged into single figures too and it was pretty miserable and damp for the rest of the ride. Still, I was content because my choice of bike and gear had finally been vindicated.

We started to lose people, “like shelling peas” according to Crazy Legs, who imagined that ultimately, he’d be riding along pointing out potholes and interesting roadkill entirely to himself. Post-operative, still recovering Brassneck went off for a loop on his own around Belsay, OGL had slipped off the back a long, long time before that, and at some point the 33rd Paul took a detour too.

Around Bolam Lake and passing through Angerton, we ran into the back of our second group who’d been delayed when Spoons took a spill and brought down Andeven. There didn’t seem to be any real damage done, but they were still sorting themselves out, so we threaded our way past, although not before losing yet another member of our small and select group in the process, who defected to swell the second group’s ranks further still.

Now all that was left of our group was me, Crazy Legs, Captain Black and Liam the Chinese Rockstar, as we approached the dip and swoop through Hartburn, but in the reverse direction from our usual route. While this meant no adverse camber to contend with on the descent, the final ramp up was markedly steeper, and I felt I was going to struggle. I told Crazy Legs I might not make it up and pushed off the front to give myself a good run at it.

I managed to build up a good head of steam through the dip, but had to watch all the accrued speed slowly bleed away as the road started to rise again. When my computer display dropped under 22mph I started to churn the cranks around and made it past halfway before inadvertently pulling my foot out of the pedal. I unsuccessfully tried clipping in again as forward momentum died a horrible death and I ground to a halt. There was no re-starting on that slope, so I was left to walk the rest of the way. Bah!

A little further on and as we became enmeshed with the converging second group, Crazy Legs called a halt and explained the next bit was a rather pointless loop which went downhill solely to climb back up through the Trench. This he explained he’d added in because A. the Trench was his favourite climb and, perhaps more importantly, B. because it made his route on Strava resemble a giant penis. This detour was then completely optional, and several riders took up his suggestion to miss it out and head straight to the cafe at Kirkley.

The rest of us though dropped down Curlicue Bank and started to make our way to the foot of the Trench. Behind me Crazy Legs and Buster were embroiled in a discussion about learning a foreign language, with Buster currently trying to improve his Spanish. Crazy Legs had been through the same process while learning French and recommended watching foreign language films and TV with subtitles. He was then able to recommend a whole host of films and TV series that were not only royally entertaining but had helped him with the language.

“Err, yeah,” Buster agreed a little uncertainly, “Not that I’m ungrateful, but they’re probably not much good if you want to learn Spanish.” Sheesh. Some people are picky.

Up the Trench we went, with Spoons guiding us (and a following motorist) around the hazard of a decidedly unflat deer carcase flung by a car to one side of the road. We stopped to regroup at the top and then started to a push to the cafe. I got ahead on the descent from Dyke Neuk, so had plenty of slippage room for the climb up to Meldon, before pushing up again on the descent to Whalton and joining Captain Black on the front for the rest of the ride to the cafe.

That was hard work, and I was tired and well-deserving of coffee and cake.

In the cafe, Goose set about a recounting of his midweek ride with Captain Black, which had included a forced detour through the latter’s hometown of Prudhoe because the riverside route around Ovingham had been closed. Or even “Prude-hoe” as Goose insisted on calling it, much to Captain Black’s disgruntlement, “I keep telling you, it’s pronounced Prudduh!”

This detour had then taken them past the Dr Syntax pubs, the unusual names of which had piqued Goose’s interest.

“Where does the name come from?” Goose enquired.

Local lad Captain Black had no idea. And no interest.

“Well, I’m going to find out,” Goose declared, “Shall we find out?”

He brandished his phone.

“I am curious,” he declared.

“Yes, I have heard that said about you.”

Undeterred, Goose went a-Googling.

Dr Syntax, he learned was the fictional creation of William Combe in an early 1800’s poem, a rural schoolmaster who attempted to make his fortune by travelling, and then writing about his experiences of quaint and unusual places.

Okay, so maybe Captain Black had the right of it and that really wasn’t worth knowing.

Meanwhile, Captain Black’s bike troubles were explored as his winter bike had a bottom bracket that, it was alleged, pinged in a musical way, while, according to its rider, the disk brakes on his summer bike would often chime melodiously for no apparent reason. The Singing Ringing bike?

This, it seemed was an issue that needed further exploration and it was suggested he should probably take a xylophone when he took his bikes for a service so he could strike the exact right note when trying to recreate the errant sounds and help to diagnose the problem. We even wondered if bike shops might have their own Shimano, or even (hideously expensive) Campagnolo xylophones to help with diagnostic issues.

I’d remembered a spare, and blissfully dry pair of gloves for the ride home – no small comfort on days like this. Coffee and cake hadn’t quite restored me though, and it was hard work getting up Berwick Hill and even harder coming down the other side when we spent long periods either on or above the bike’s terminal velocity.

I took over on the front alongside Goose as we passed through Dinnington, when at least I could control the pace a little. Then I was peeling off for home and able to have full control on just how slowly I could dawdle back. (Hint: very, very slowly indeed).

Still, I made it around, saggy chain and all and rediscovered some of the joy and simplicity of riding without gears. I have some Look Keo pedals I’ve been meaning to put on the bike for a couple of years now. I picked them up cheap in a sale because they’re white – and seriously, who wants white pedals? If I slap them on in place of the current very worn and somewhat sloppy PlanetX pair, hopefully that’ll stop me accidently unclipping at critical moments.

Then, if I can either sort or find a replacement for the derailleur, I think I’m all set for the winter.


Day & Date:Club Run, Saturday 29th October 2022
Riding Time:5 hours 11 minutes
Riding Distance:110km/70 miles with 1,072m of climbing
Average Speed:21.2km/h
Group Size:27 riders, 1 FNG’s
Temperature:8℃
Weather in a word or two:It took a while … but eventually it was suitably grim
Year to date:4,796km/2,980 miles with 53,097m of climbing
Photo by Brian Forsyth on Pexels.com

The King of Wishful Thinking

The King of Wishful Thinking

Hello again.

It’s been a while hasn’t it, because, well … life.

And it’s certainly been a long while if you measure time in the lifespan of Tory chancellors, as the UK government keeps us on pushing to establish itself as the world’s most dysfunctional, ineffective, morally bankrupt, self-serving and increasingly desperate democracy in the world. C’mon lads, keep it up, we’re nearly there!

Oh, and now a new-PM – the man, as Marina Hyde pointed out that, as chancellor, couldn’t even convince his own wife to pay him tax. Well, it’s entertaining in a grotesque, car-crash sort of way.

Things are all change in the SLJ household too, with Thing#1 now plying her trade as a fully qualified graphic designer in a lonely garret somewhere down in Shoreditch, while Thing#2 is away embracing the more, err … social aspects of student life with a worrying degree of zeal.

Their absence is noticeable at home, it’s a lot quieter for one, towels have taken to roosting in orderly pairs on the towel rack instead of huddling together, abandoned in mouldering, puddled heaps on the floor, the fridge is free of the clutter of oddly shaped packages of indeterminate foodstuffs with cringe inducing names, such as soysages, facon and fauxmage, and our weekly consumption of toilet roll has dropped by at least two-thirds.

In cycling terms we’re heading toward winter and I’m intent on trying to eke out a few more uses of the good bike before reverting to the sturdy Pug or single-speed Trek. To this end I’ve recently invested in an Ass-Saver, or Ass-Cover as I like to call them, seeing as how they are purely selfish and only cover your own ass. Definitely not a long-term solution, but I’ve found the worst part of any rain sodden ride is the long drop off the Heinous Hill where feet and indeed, ass, bear the brunt of all the dirty, cold water kicked up by the speed of the descent.

Of course, I wasn’t expecting the thin plastic Ass Saver, something I suspect could fit easily inside an A4 envelope, to get the full on Amazon packaging-overkill treatment, and be delivered in an otherwise empty cardboard box the size of a shopping basket. It was far too big and far too indiscrete to smuggle into the house. Luckily, I could prove it wasn’t some ultra-expensive, new-fangled, completely superfluous bike gewgaw formed entirely of carbon fibres and fresh air, but only a moderately over-priced sheet of pre-formed plastic, and not the kind of thing likely to get me banished to the fiscal naughty step for a spell.

Despite precautions to protect my precious derriere, the past few weeks have been ok-ish in terms of weather, dotted with a few intermediate showers, but with no real prolonged rain and no need yet for full-on mudguards.

This Saturday was no different, a light, early shower gifted me a rainbow over the Tyne, but it was otherwise pleasantly mild, and the rain jacket was stowed as soon as the showers passed. Still, autumn is well underway, the leaves are turning and falling from the trees, as I was brutally reminded when one spiralled gracefully into my path and then slapped me across the face like a wet kipper.

The unusual sight of two rowers somewhat confusingly carrying their boat over the bridge (don’t they float?) marked my passage across the river and was otherwise the most notable event on my trip across to the meeting point.

When there, we waited as numbers slowly built to a fairly impressive 28, including Aether for his first ride out since fracturing his hip and Zardoz, who’s not been seen in these here parts since July.

Andy Mapp had devilishly devised this particular route which gave me a rather strange ride profile of three wobbly loops, stacked atop each other, as he led us down several previously uncharted roads. This included the (surprisingly) controversial Bothal Bank and some confusion about which direction we were tackling this apparently ferocious climb, or even if we would be tackling it at all, as Mini Miss was adamant she was going nowhere near it.

“The descent’s a death trap,” she argued.

“But we’ll be going up it. And at less than 5 mph,” G-Dawg countered, to no avail.

“It’s a nasty climb,” OGL confirmed, not really helping matters.

“We’re going up the other side?” G-Dawg ventured.

“Oh, well that’s even worse,” OGL replied blithely, safe in the knowledge he was going nowhere near it either.

Despite an assurance that we would be taking it slowly on the climb, almost guaranteed by that fact that G-Dawg was on his fixie and expecting to get off and walk at least part way, we couldn’t persuade Mini Miss to even consider tackling Bothal Bank and left her plotting possible detours.

In fact, the route had us venturing places so unknown, that G-Dawg was at pains to ensure that each group had a least one rider who had it programmed into a Garmin or similar, and had even armed himself with a paper map, although I wasn’t sure how effective it would be as the area around Pegswood was rather hazily sketched in and simply bore the legend: “here be dragons.”

Crazy Legs got on-the-spot Garmin route-finding lessons from the Cow Ranger and Jimmy Mac and became the de facto navigator for the third group, while we managed to place a couple of other “pathfinders” in the first/fast group and the over-sized second group.

That sorted, we had time for OGL to promote his offer of bike maintenance lessons for anyone with a desire to do their own spannering and servicing. This would feature working under-supervision on your own bike, or as G-Dawg joked, “Weeks 1 and 2 we disassemble your bike, weeks 3 and 4 we put it back together again” – with sadly no inkling of what you could ride in the meantime.

Jimmy Mac happened to glance down at his Garmin just as the time ticked over from 9:14 to 9:15 and at the exact second that Carlton arrived – a double indicator that our time was up.

There was then only time for a brief whinge from OGL about mudguards and his support for a policy of “no mudguards, no club ride” adopted by another local club.

“Yeah, but …” G-Dawg argued, not unreasonably, “They’re twats.”

Time to go.

I joined the seriously under-manned third group, pushing onto the front for the first part of the ride where at least I had some vague idea of the route, and we followed the other groups out.

We hadn’t gone far with Crazy Legs assiduously counting down the distance to all the turns, when he interrupted his pitch-perfect Sat-Nav direction to “go west” to ask,”so, who was it sang King of Wishful Thinking?”

G-Dawg, obviously a fan of late 80’s pop, was equal to the task and provided the right answer (Go West, obviously) before adding that he was more impressed by Living In A Box, the hit single from the band Living In A Box, which was taken from their album, Living In A Box. They were, he argued either supremely creative when it came to naming things, or supremely lazy, he just wasn’t quite sure which.

We stopped just outside Tranwell to discuss route options, with Sneaky Pete and Brassneck looking for a shorter ride. They sneaked away some time later to leave just half a dozen of us, then somewhere along the way we caught and forced our way past our second group, who’d been slowed when Aether’s newly repaired hip started troubling him.

This augured well for the cafe queues, so we pressed on, Crazy Legs still assiduously following the on-screen instructions and calling out the turns. I thought we’d strayed wildly off route when we reached a sign telling us we were about to enter Hebron, but luckily this turned out to be an idyllic Northumberland village and not the city in the West Bank.

We were disappointed then, when a large group of cyclists appeared at a junction and turned onto the road ahead of us. Had the second group found a sneaky short-cut?

We worked to close the gap on a climb and were relieved to find it was another club ahead of us and not the sneaky second group. We caught them and hustled past.

Soon we were descending down to the River Wansbeck and then starting the climb of the highly controversial, doom-heralded, Bothall Bank … except it wasn’t really all that long and wasn’t really all that hard. G-Dawg made it around the first hairpin before having to dismount his fixie, while I dropped into a suitably small gear and spun up without too much effort.

We regrouped at the top, with G-Dawg looking wistfully back down the climb and deciding that if he’d known just how close he was to the top, he probably could have “beasted it” and made it up without dismounting. For one moment I thought he was going to ride down and give it another go, before common-sense overcame regret. Next time maybe?

A bit of surfing down the cycle path alongside the main A1 and we reached our cafe stop for the day, the Moorhouse Farm Shop at Stannington Station – only the second time we’ve used this venue, so they aren’t sick to death of us yet.

Another club that I didn’t recognise had got there before us and Crazy Legs had a brief chat with them an learned they had come all the way from Houghton, some 11 miles due south of the River Tyne.

I have to admit I queried this, as I couldn’t understand how a small place like Houghton could support two cycling clubs and knew the Houghton CC were well-established in the area, having been around since the 1930’s.

“Just think of all the splinter clubs that have been formed off the back of our club because of various disagreements,” Crazy Legs suggested. Yeah, fair point. I get it now.

Our second group duly arrived and the small yard outside the cafe became the scene of a giant game of bike jenga, as bikes were laid atop of bikes and it all became a bit cluttered, much to the consternation of Carlton who’d just bought a brand new Norwegian, Fara bike for the winter, which was only getting its first ride out today because the weather wasn’t too bad!

Crazy Legs congratulated Andy Mapp on the novel route, although he complained he didn’t see all that much as he’d been fixated on his bike computer and had spent the entire ride intently at his stem, à la Chris Froome, although luckily he hadn’t also adopted the outragously jutting out elbows too.

There was then only time to find the one member of our group who would openly admit to wanting Bo Jo the Clown to return as Prime Minister(!) and it was time to go and leave the good burghers of Stannington Station in peace.

The wind had picked up for the ride back, but it was otherwise a pleasant undertaking. I’m not sure we’re going to get many more days like this before the weather takes a turn for the worse, so best enjoy them while we can.


Day & Date:Club Run, Saturday 22nd October 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 40 minutes
Riding Distance:112km/70 miles with 926m of climbing
Average Speed:23.9km/h
Group Size:28 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:12℃
Weather in a word or two:Sound
Year to date:4,665km/2,899 miles with 51,789m of climbing

Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

Coffee Rush

Coffee Rush

Another Saturday, another brush with early morning rain that had me stopping to pull on a rain jacket halfway across to the meeting point.

There, with a new order of unofficial club kit imminent, people were still trying to get a grip on Santini’s Italian sizing, which, while not quite as severe as Castelli’s, still lends a bit of a gamble to any order. You know when normal-sized blokes are ordering in XXL that something’s been lost in translation. To counteract this we had an intense round of “what size are you wearing?” and even some physical swapsies as people tried on various bits of kit for fit.

I took my queue from the Cow Ranger and removed my rain jacket once he’d determined the worst of the rain had passed. A few minutes later he pulled his back on, but I decided to stand pat. One of us at least would get it right. (Surprisingly it was me and we had to have an unscheduled jacket doffing stop an hour or so into the ride.)

OGL didn’t sound all that sympathetic when discussing Aether’s tumble last week, implying it was his own fault for riding with too much pressure in his tyres. He then prefaced a comment with that immortal phrase involving grandmothers and egg-sucking, which invariably means you’re going to be told something you already know, much in the same way someone saying “no offence, but …” is just about to mortally insult you.

This time we received a lecture on wheel wear, with instruction for anyone riding Shimano wheels to periodically “run their finger over their rim hole.” Well, whatever floats your boat.

For some the rain had prompted an early return to the purgatory of winter bikes, which found Richard of Flanders pitting his steel-framed, pannier rack-equipped Genesis in a weigh-off against Goose’s Raleigh Panzerkampfwagen™ touring bike. I could have told him he would lose before he managed to grunt the Raleigh a couple of inches off the ground as, not only is it replete with innumerable racks and rails and cages and fittings for bags, but its also cast entirely from pig iron.

Jimmy Mac briefed in the route which had to avoid a closed Berwick Hill. I picked out the most important bits, the climbs of the Mur de Mitford and the Trench, then missing Middleton Bank en route to a cafe stop at Capheaton. I completely ignored the bit about getting home again, but in the end, as Chester Bennington once observed, it didn’t even matter.

We’ve been having a remarkably consistent 20 or so riders each week for the past month or so, and this Saturday was no different. Two groups were called for, but this time we struggled with numbers in the first group, so after a bit of hesitation I leant myself to the cause and 8 of us formed the vanguard for the day.

I dropped onto the back alongside Not Anthony who was hoping we wouldn’t be called to the front until we found a tailwind, but things obviously don’t work like that and we were called into action soon after scaling a very slimy and slippery Mur de Mitford.

Onto the Trench and the Cow Ranger and Jimmy Mac rode off the front while the rest of us followed at a more sustainable pace. There was a fluffed gear change and a bit of a shuffle and kerfuffle behind me, but at this point I was fully invested in the climb, so just kept going without looking back.

About half way up, Biden Fecht passed me and I dropped onto his wheel and clung on. When the slope bit again and he changed up, I returned the favour, pushing past to pace the rest of the way up the climb. We regrouped at the top, where Richard of Flanders was found to be suffering an extreme case of winterbikitis – a debilitating disease that can cause all sorts of aches, pains and a feeling of weakness in the legs. It catches up with us all, sooner or later.

We pushed on, through the Hartburn dip and swoop, skirting the base of Middleton Bank toward Wallington, and then shimmied across the A696. As we started the final climb to the cafe I managed to hang onto Jimmy Mac and the Cow Ranger over the steepest, first section, before being cast adrift and breathless as the slope ground on, and they slowly pulled away.

In the cafe we found a convalescing Buster, not yet allowed out au velo following a major operation, but obviously hopelessly missing our bravura banter and brilliant bursts of bolleaux. (The only other explanation is that he’s slightly stir crazy from being confined at home for so long that even our testing and irritating company is some kind of welcome relief. But come on, no one is going to believe that.)

We did our best to keep him royally entertained, none more so than Goose, who is obviously in the market for a new casquette, so was trying everyone else’s helmet on and taking a bunch of selfies of himself trying to look serious.

Either that, or he just likes trying other peoples things on.

We brought Buster up to speed on Aether’s crash last week and OGL’s reaction that it was a self-inflicted consequence of over-inflated tyres. Unsurprised, he reminded us of the official reaction to Zardoz’s tumble, which had been dismissed as largely inconsequential because he hadn’t paid his membership fees at the time.

At some point almost our entire table stood as one and swarmed the counter for coffee re-fills, only to be sent away for overwhelming the service, returning with disgruntled, hang dog expressions. They cheered up instantly though when one of the waitresses brought a coffee jug across and we were treated to the luxury of table service. That was very civilised, I could get used to it…

I felt it was chilly coming out of the cafe, so pushed on while others seemed to dawdle. I had a decent gap by the bottom of the descent from Capheaton and was only just beginning to warm up. I was also enjoying a rare, good day where the legs were turning more or less effortlessly, so I just decided to press on and see how far I could get before I was caught.

If I’d been thinking, or even paying attention, I would have realised they were probably taking a completely different route home to avoid Berwick Hill, while I was doing my standard routing through Ponteland from Kirkley.

So, I guess everyone took a right at West Belsay, while I followed our usual Belsay-Ogle-Kirkley trail. As a consequence, I didn’t see anyone else until Not Anthony popped up briefly on my back wheel just past the airport. That was fine though, I was thoroughly enjoying myself and don’t think my speed had dipped much below 20mph at any point of the run back.

It also meant I was a little more attuned to the environment, and was able to add to Sam-Aye-Am’s discovery of the scent of watermelon around Ogle with the not so unusual smell of freshly turned earth then, somewhat more bizarrely, bourbon biscuits and then boiled rice.

Unfortunatley, I wont have the opportunity to discover other odd, olfactory occurrences next week as I’ll be depositing Thing#2 at University and then seeing how well me and Mrs. SLJ cope as empty-nesters.

With luck, I might make it out on the Sunday though and, if not, I can always defy British Cycling’s spectacularly, misguided and ill-judged advice and actually dare to ride my bike on the day of the queen’s funeral.

#Shock #Horror not all of us are all that interested in the replacement of one supremely privileged, unelected head of state with yet another.


Day & Date:Club Run, Saturday 10th September 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 28 minutes
Riding Distance:112km/70 miles with 1,087m of climbing
Average Speed:25.2km/h
Group Size:20 ish riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:14℃
Weather in a word or two:Occasionally drizzly
Year to date:3,933km/2,443 miles with 44,629m of climbing

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

The Pendulum Swings

The Pendulum Swings

As if a switch has been flipped, we’ve moved seamlessly from constant, bright blue skies to overcast and a slow fade to grey. As I dropped down the Heinous Hill it prompted me to run through my repertoire of Visage’s greatest hits – which, to be fair, didn’t take all that long. I was done by the bottom and luckily escaped without inflicting an annoying earworm on myself.

Despite the impenetrable cloud cover, it was a decent enough day, cool rather than cold and with only a gently tugging breeze to impede movement. There was rain forecast, but not until just after midday. Or so they said.

I crossed the river and followed my new, preferred route up Hospital Lane, annoyed to find my shoe sliding around sloppily and feeling dangerously close to pulling itself out of the pedal’s grasp. I didn’t remember my cleats being so loose last time out but made a mental note to increase the tension in the pedals and, that done, spent the rest of the climb concentrating on keeping my foot planted squarely and still engaged.

This small distraction aside, I made good time and was closing in on the meeting place when I stopped for a pee. Stepping away from the bike I was accompanied not by the usual clip-clop from my colourful clown shoes, but an odd clip-clop-clop. l reached down and found the cleat had worked itself loose and was sliding around, largely untethered. Like the world’s most ungainly stork I removed the shoe and balanced precariously on one leg as I tightened up the bolts. A simple fix, even in the field, but I’ve never had cleats work loose before and can’t work out why they had this time?

At the meeting place Ahlambra was intrigued by the stock wheels that came off my 13 bike and had been press ganged into service on Reg, in particular the single red spoke on each. I told him this was apparently to mark where the valve hole is, because, well, you know, they’re really, really hard to find with the naked eye. Or something.

This led to a discussion about wheel building, spoke choice and another paean from G-Dawg, lamenting how silver spokes and rims were no longer commonplace, but had at one time fuelled his descent into unspeakable Duraglit addiction.

As we talked the showers scheduled for that afternoon decided to put in a very early, surprise appearance, offering up the chance to demonstrate cyclists know enough to come in out of the rain. This was an opportunity that we did eventually take, shuffling under the eaves of the multi-storey car park and managing the task before we were completely soaked through.

Several of the group were planning a ride out midweek to see the Tour of Britain but, even though our former clubmate beZ is riding with his Ribble-Weldtite team, I’m boycotting the race this year after their unconscionable decision not to route it past my front door, or even through my immediate neighbourhood. It’s just not good enough.

Plans are afoot to travel out to watch Stage 3, which would include a trek out into Cumbria toward Alston and potentially up Hartside Pass. A mere mention of this climb was enough to have OGL wax lyrical about epic winter rides in adverse conditions – the good old days of 130 mile plus club runs.

“130 miles, eh?” G-Dawg laughed, “And this from the bloke who is adamant club runs are getting longer!”

He is.

They’re not.

Our numbers seem to be holding steady at about 20 riders, give or take, so we split into two (naturally unbalanced) groups and away we went.

I dropped into the second group with G-Dawg and maybe half a dozen others and things were progressing relatively normally, if at a rather glacial pace as we found a new, very pleasant, quiet road with a perfect surface. The only drawback was it didn’t really lead anywhere we couldn’t get to more directly. Still, if nothing else it served to pad out our mileage.

A brief halt to gather up stragglers somehow turned into an impromptu pee break, so we’d no sooner re-grouped than been split in two again and had to stop a second time to try and corral everyone. OGL was last to arrive, delayed, according to Cowin’ Bovril, because he’d begun “filming a porno” – forgetting he had a rear-facing camera on his bike that was capturing his micturition attempts in glorious technicolour.

Cowin’ Bovril suggested the wide-angle lens might at least provide a flattering image, only to be told by OGL that he wasn’t previously known as, ahem, “the ginger pendulum” for nothing.

Eeuw.

That was uncalled for.

The declaration was met with a universal rolling of eyes and a unanimous, clearly audible groan. I mean, after the last person caught in self-aggrandising braggadocio had ended up holding the nuclear football for a 4-year term, I’m not sure we should be indulging such “locker-room banter” and, err, “alpha-male boasting” anymore.

We tried to move swiftly on, only to encounter a sign bearing the dire warning that there were slow birds on the road. Eh?

Then, round a gloomy bend under some trees we slowed as we came across one of the worst sights you can see on a club run, bikes abandoned on ether side of the road, typically in response to some form of accident. In this case, it had been in our front group, where Aether’s wheels had slid out on the greasy surface and he’d brought the Soup Dragon down on top of him. They were both up on their feet again, but Aether was hobbling, while the Soup Dragon was bleeding from nose and mouth.

I had no idea if they’s ignored all the warnings and somehow slow birds were involved.

(Aether would later spend 11 hours in A&E to be told: “Yes, you have a pelvic fracture.” This, he calculated, was approximately two hours wait for each word of his assessment, proof, if we were in any doubt, that the NHS is in dire need of better financial and governmental support.

Our second group stopped briefly to see if any assistance was needed, but there were plenty of willing helpers, so we were encouraged to clear the road and keep going. And so we did, working our way out past Dyke Neuk and toward Longwhitton before the start of the long, grinding drag up to Rothley crossroads.

“Last chance to cut the route short,” G-Dawg identified, and Taffy Steve paused to weigh the options. His head, he revealed, said go, but his legs said no. In such instances I recommended that you should always listen to your legs as mine, at least are twice as smart as my head. He took the advice and he and Big Dunc hung a left toward Hartburn, leaving me, G-Dawg and Sam-Aye-Am to complete the full route, up to the crossroads, before scaling Middleton Bank and picking up the pace for a fast run to the cafe.

We’d left the cafe choice open, but the rain had turned drizzly and then stopped, the weather was warm and brightening and Bolam Lake was G-Dawgs preferred choice, I’m sure not at all influenced by his opinion that they were the purveyors of the very best in bacon sarnies. (I trust his assessment, he is clearly a connoisseur of such things.) Anyway, he was on the front as we reached the junction and seemed to decide instinctively, while I just followed the wheels.

We arrived to find Taffy Steve and Big Dunc already ensconced, the former somewhat perturbed having complimented the cafe staff on finally installing electronic payment and hearing how the card-reader wasn’t the only small, buzzing electronic device the waitress liked. All delivered with a rather knowing wink.

Eeuw 2.

(Speaking of which, and as a total aside, I heard this week that Ewan McGregor’s fighter-pilot brother goes by the call-sign of Obi Two. That’s way cooler than Maverick, or Iceman.)

Survivors from the the front group joined us and conversation turned to cyclists riding with quite ridiculous injuries, typified by Tyler Hamilton who finished 4th in the 2003 Tour despite riding most of the way with a broken collarbone. This was a follow-up to a 2nd place in 2002 Giro achieved with a broken shoulder and, on that occasion he’d apparently ground his teeth so hard through the pain that he had to have 11 of them capped or replaced after the race.

We touched on the Commonwealth Games track cycling, which featured some para-athletes on tandems and Chris Boardman commentating that crashes were not only very common but, he suggested, inevitable.

Once again the violent depredations of wheelchair, rugby, tennis and basketball were touched on, before someone mentioned blind football again and I was able to steal someone else’s line about it all being well and good chasing around pell-mell, trying to hoof a ball with a bell in it, until the neighbours cat wandered out into the arena.

We coalesced into one large group for the ride home, which was proceeding rather unremarkably, until Sam-Aye-Am insisted he could smell watermelon as we passed through Ogle. I had to admit there was a distinctive and fresh odour being carried on the breeze, but I’m fairly certain that, despite global-warming, the climate in the North East still isn’t conducive to the cultivation of watermelon. Then again, there was that odd moment earlier in the year when Newburn had the odd scent of grapefruit

G-Dawg stretched us out up Berwick Hill and I pushed onto the front alongside him as we began the descent, straight into an easterly headwind that seemed to have sprung up out of nowhere and made the usually easy downhill bit an absolute grind. It certainly didn’t make me envious of Taffy Steve’s route home, all the way out to the coast directly into that.

There was then only time for some juvenile farmer in a tractor to vigorously insist that G-Dawg was a serial self-abuser (for no discernible reason we could see) and then I was splitting off and heading for home and an appointment with the sofa in front of what’s turning out to be a rather entertaining Vuelta.

Stay on board, now.


Day & Date:Club Run, Saturday 3rd September 2022
Riding Time:5 hours 8 minutes
Riding Distance:117km/73 miles with 1,127m of climbing
Average Speed:22.7km/h
Group Size:20 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:16℃
Weather in a word or two:A fade to grey
Year to date:3,780km/2,349 miles with 43,073m of climbing

Photo by Skylar Kang on Pexels.com

Chevauchée des Alpes 3

Chevauchée des Alpes 3

Day#3 -Busy, Busy, Busy

Our trip coincided with an ITT up L’Alpe d’Huez on the Saturday and they were busy constructing the start ramp as we took our now-favoured riverside route out to Allemond. A TT up a mountain in this heat? Mad dogs and cyclists …

Tosser Toss Up

It wasn’t the only major event in the area either, as the snappily-titled Porsche Savoie Cup 2022 Les Deux Alpes was also taking place over the weekend. This was a non-timed (yeah, right) rally for Porsche enthusiasts, giving them the opportunity to sit in convoy within an over-priced, over-heated tin box and speed around breathing in the exhaust fumes of a whole load of other tin boxes, while driving too fast up some narrow and restricted mountain roads, all the while trying to see just how loud they could make their engines scream. It was a real toss-up and quite a debating point about whether the Porsche drivers were more or less annoying than the Harley Bikers rally we stumbled across last time.

I can say they were a constant and occasionally dangerous feature all the way from Allemond to the Col de la Croix de Fer. That doesn’t sound all that far but, at the speed I was travelling, it represented an agonisingly prolonged exposure to their annoying presence.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

I knew what to expect on the climb up to Rivier d’Allemont and while it didn’t seem as far or as debilitating this time around, I was more than ready for the cola and coffee that awaited at the cafe.

Behind, Crazy Legs must have looked to be struggling so much that he actually got a generous push from a passing cyclist. He was grateful for the help, but our group was divided over whether this was a good thing, or a little showy. Personally, I’d more than welcome any assistance on the climbs.

The Big Yin set off from the cafe early to get a headstart. The rest of us ambled after him and were more or less together until we crossed the river d’Olle and the serious climbing picked up again, then it was every man for himself and each at a pace they could sustain.

It was baking hot, with the steep sides of the valley seeming to contain and radiate the heat back at you. By the time I caught the Big Yin he’d dismounted and was sitting in the shade of a tree, overheated and temporarily out of it, like Huck Finn waiting for his next adventure. This duly arrived in the shape of Crazy Legs and the pair reportedly frolicked gleefully in an Alpine stream to cool down before riding the rest of the way together, leaning on each other for moral support.

Once again I found myself cursing the descent down toward the Lac de Grand Maison which, although providing some cooling respite, utterly destroyed whatever pitiful climbing rhythm I’d managed to assemble. Still, I was soon at the blockhouse with a decision to make, left to the Glandon or right to the Croix de Fer?

Flip the Coin

I went Glandon first, but the only other person there was a French guy who was just to set out without his bidon, which I was able to reunite him with. I turned around and set my sights on the Col de la Croix de Fer. It was just 3km away, but I was really starting to flag now and it was slow painful progress – despite a little bit of pacing from the forgetful Frenchman.

It took a while, but I got there, completely wiped out and ready to throw my lot in with those planning to just turn around and head back, rather than descend to find the Lacets and have to climb up the other side of either the Croix de la Fer or the Glandon. It turned out the severe temperatures had even the most gung ho amongst us deciding not to press on, and there was a general feeling that we’d done enough for the day. A new plan was hatched to ride back to Le Riviere de Allemont for lunch.

Sure Look

Re-united again and fully fortified by another two cola’s, we clustered around the summit sign, press ganging a young French cyclist into photography duties. He was more than happy to oblige if we returned the favour and spent some time trying to guess which area of Ireland we were from.

He seemed to be a bit confused to be told we were actually from India, then Mexico then the Ivory Coast, but maybe not as confused when Crazy Legs told him we were from England and the orange, white and green were just traditional club colours we’d been lumbered with inherited.

Youth and Exuberance (Not Mine, Obviously)

We started the descent, with all of us except Goose taking the short diversion to the Glandon summit for further photo opportunities. First though we had to join with all the other cyclists and exert our collective ire with two dickheads who drove their (not at all) ostentatious sportscars up from the other side of the col and parked slap bang in front of the sign. I think they’d seriously misjudged their audience and just how much interest a bunch of sweaty cyclists had in their uber-expensive penis extensions and they were quietly persuaded to move along.

Amongst the groups of cyclists were a trio of girls in matching leopard print jerseys with bright pink socks and Crazy Legs negotiated photo duties with one of them. She duly complied and then it was Crazy Legs’ turn to repay the favour and he shuffled into position. This was all the signal the girls needed to lithely clamber up and drape themselves all over the sign, flashing peace signs and devil’s horns while waggling their tongues, giggling and fully enjoying themselves.

I couldn’t help but contrast their natural, unforced exuberance with us, slightly grumpy old blokes, stood around smiling uncertainly and looking slightly discomfited by the whole photo ordeal.

Then it was off for a long bit of fast descending back the way we’d come, with its smattering of gnarly climbs thrown in just to further shred the legs. It was astonishing how quickly it was over when compared with how long going the other way had taken.

Halfway down we rendezvoused at Les Favets for a most excellent lunch and pressed our favourite waitress into performing photo duties.

This is as animated as we get …

Then it was back onto the best bit, the last super-smooth and fast downhill run we’d taken on the first day, all the back down to Allemond. Coming off the descent, where at least the air was moving and providing some cooling relief and transitioning back to normal speeds, it felt like someone had suddenly opened an oven door and we were caught in an intense blast of hot, dry air. I’m not really sure I’d realised how hot it was until this point.

We ambled slowly back to town along the riverside route, where we split, with a few of us naturally drawn into the town in search of a cold beer.

Entente Cordiale

More by luck than management, we managed to find the most unfriendly bar in Bourg d’Oisans, where the staff seemed to take great delight in finding new and creative ways of ignoring customers. We should have realised we weren’t welcome the minute the waitress castigated the Ticker for casually laying his helmet on the ground, because that might have been where she wanted to plant her foot in order to serve us our beer.

Still, once seated, no one was in any great hurry to get up and move again and so we endured, watching the passing traffic and speculating that the bar was just a money-laundering front so didn’t need to attract, please or keep customers.

If that bar was bad, then the bike shops were superb. Captain Black had determined that his braking wasn’t up to scratch and decided to call into one of the shops to have his Trek checked over. I tagged along for the ride and we ended up going to Bleach, Bike and Ski as they’d been good to Buster on his first trip.

The mechanic immediately took the bike into the workshop for a quick look and returned to tell us the brake pads were badly burned. He suggested Captain Black needed to try feathering his brakes not hauling back on the levers with all his might. In the Captain’s defence I guess the mechanic hadn’t been with us on that death slide down the Sarenne – I’m sure if he had he would have been more understanding.

As it was he set about replacing the pads straight away, with no waiting, or can you bring the bike back tomorrow. In short order, the job was done and the prices were very reasonable. So, Bleach, Bike and Ski … hugely recommended, that crappy bar on the corner? Best avoided.

Bleach, Bike and Ski

The plan for the evening had been for the Oberlanders to join the others for a meal in the restaurant at their campsite, but by the time we’d returned to the hotel a thunderstorm was brewing, the wind had picked up and the rain was lashing down. We didn’t fancy the mile or so walk out to the campsite, so cried off and the three of us wandered into town for a meal.

It struck us that the thunderstorm probably would have coincided with us arriving at the top of the Galibier if we’d embarked on our Circle of Death ride. Hmm. Done that, don’t ever want to do it again, so it looks like we dodged a bullet.

Tomorrow, our last day, was all planned out too with a trip up the Col de Ornon as the centrepiece. I was hopeful the rain had cooled things down a little and looking forward to one more amble.

Day & Date:Saturday 18th June
Time:4 hours 33 minutes
Distance:83km
Elevation:1,940metres
Average Speed:18.3 km/h
Temperature:25℃-33℃

Chevauchée des Alpes 3

Chevauchée des Alpes 3

Day#2 – Going off Grid

Breakfast of Champions

A decent night’s sleep was fortified by a sterling breakfast where our supremely attractive and very friendly waitress seemed to delight in adjusting her décolletage and pouting into the dining room mirrors solely for the edification of the hotel guests.

By 9:00 the Oberlanders were on the road in the bright sunshine and heading for our rendezvous at the foot of the Alpe. It was a pleasantly warm start on a day when the temperatures would soon climb into the very high twenties. Not quite as scorching as yesterday, but plenty hot enough for pale-skinned Northerners.

I was astonished to find we had a full house, our entire collective was up and ready to go and we were, very briefly, all together as we started to climb. The first few ramps soon took care of that and it wasn’t long before we were scattered all over the road. From this point on we wouldn’t be together again as a group until we sat down for our evening meal.

Big ring, inner ring, granny ring. I dropped down at the front, while the chain inexorably rode up the block at the back. It didn’t take long and then, that was it, I was out of gears. Most of the others stretched away as I settled down to the task of spinning upwards in my own time, knowing I had over an hour of work to do to reach the top.

Despite a full service and a brand new bottom bracket, the bike had developed an annoying creak whenever I put any power through the cranks, which would have been just one more excuse for my light-spinning approach. Or at least, it would have been if I felt I needed one. As it was, I contained the creak to the few moments when I stood out of the saddle, more to keep the blood flowing everywhere than out of any real necessity to climb faster. (The creak seems to have completely disappeared on return to the UK, which is rather confusing.)

Gianni Bugno Smells

The first few hairpins were pleasant, but the higher we climbed the more exposed the road became and the temperature was rising, probably at a faster rate than I was. Around the pair of Gianni Bugno hairpins (#6 and #7) the smell of burning brakes and clutch were unmistakable, although there was very little traffic to account for it.

Unfortunately, much of the traffic that there was, consisted of heavy, construction vehicles, as it looks like more ski accommodation is being thrown up right across the mountain. It made for some interesting overtaking manoeuvres that played out in extreme slow motion.

Steadfast was climbing at around the same pace as me, so was always in sight, but otherwise I don’t recall passing any serious cyclists and can only recall a handful passing me, it was a quiet day on the Alpe.

I was pleased to see the photographers, always camped out near the top, an indication that the end wasn’t too far off and judging by the number of (in)action shots they took of me, I think they were glad to see me too. I still couldn’t summon up a wave or a smile though.

All The Way to the Top

Up through the village, I scanned the cafe’s few occupants, hoping we’d decided to make this our official end point. No such luck, it looked like we were heading to the official Tour finish line higher up the mountain. I joined up with Steadfast going through the underpass and hoping he knew the route – I think I’ve been a different way every time.

His instincts proved right, we found the rest of the gang camped out at the display of past winners. That still wasn’t good enough for them though and they made me climb another 300 metres to the official sign, before we press-ganged a bystander into the obligatory group photo.

Dog Days

Other than Goose’s hilarious positioning and pose for the photo, the strangest sight on the day had to be the girl on a mountain-bike being towed up the climb by an indefatigable Jack Russell. We don’t know if it got a Strava PB, but the Big Yin claimed the pair had overtaken him quite easily.

As for the Big Yin, there was no sign of him. I took a can of cola (Coke to you and me, but maybe the French reserve that term for a certain white powder?) from the snack van and slumped on one of the picnic tables for a rest and to replenish liquids while we waited.

“Watch that doesn’t bite!” the Ticker warned me, pointing at a greenish-yellow insect that had landed on my knee. I flicked it away. Too late, a bright bead of blood bloomed on my skin. Guess the butterfly yesterday was just to lull me into a false sense of security.

Café Olé!

Drink consumed and with still no sign of the Big Yin, we rolled back to the cafe in the town, thinking he might have stopped there. Nope, not there either.

“Café au lait, si vous plait?” Crazy Legs asked the waitress.

“Un?” she enquired.

“Deux – trois – quatre – cinq – six – sept,” we all individually added our orders in turn and then she turned to Goose last of all. We waited … tension building … he opened his mouth …

“Huit!” he finally barked. Internally I gave a silent cheer, but then … “Gracias!”

We’re the Fuquari

By the time we’d finished our coffee and were ready to move on, there was still no sign of the Big Yin. I messaged him. He’d been through the village, past the cafe and was (supposedly) on the road to our next destination, the Col de Sarenne.

A little later we received a screenshot of a map location with a red dot in the middle of a featureless nowhere and a plaintive “where am I.” We had no idea either. It turns out that, as we headed east toward the Sarenne, the Big Yin was working his way ever northwards until he reached Lac Besson where a local confirmed that no, he wasn’t on the road to the Sarenne, or indeed anywhere near it.

Down by one, we pressed on. The road was much, much rougher, narrower and more gravel-strewn than I recall. It would have reminded me of home, except I don’t think the clartiest farm track in the outer wilds of Northumberland is quite as bad, or certainly not as consistently bad over such a long distance. Traction around the corners felt like a bit of a lottery demanding caution and I was just waiting for a puncture as we rattled and bounced over pots and fissures and cracks, but it was worth it as the scenery was utterly spectacular. Luckily the route was also quiet and we only encountered a single car and a handful of cyclists as we dropped down and then started the climb up to the col.

The climb split us up again, as everyone took it at the own pace, allowing the Hammer time to clamber up above the road and frame me in splendid isolation against an empty landscape in what he termed his epic Rapha shot.

Behind me, Crazy Legs had run out of energy and said he was climbing so slowly that a butterfly had do-si-doed its way through his spokes totally unscathed. He was delighted to finally reach the Col de Sarenne sign, doubly so when he noticed its height was given as 1,999 metres, so he could taunt the Ticker that he hadn’t managed a climb over 2,000 metres yet.

The Men Who Stare at Goats

The Ticker wandered away to check out some goats in a nearby enclosure and returned fully impressed with just how generously well-endowed they were(?) Meanwhile, in the silent, pale blue high above us, vultures and buzzards circled effortlessly around the peaks.

We didn’t take a group photo around the Col de Sarenne sign, but several shots were added to the collective pool, our favourite resembling the perfect album cover for some moody, mid-80’s synth band, (think Blancmange, or maybe China Crisis.)

Arrivée: Nominated in the category of UK best pop album, 1986

Braking Bad

Crazy Legs announced he was turning back, ostensibly because his legs were empty, but in reality just so he could enjoy the plush, super-smooth descent of the Alpe. In retrospect, we probably should have done the same. The descent off the Sarenne was awful, a steep, narrow and broken track with multiple tight switchbacks, each one swathed in an unstable delta of loose gravel and melting tarmac. There was no opportunity to let the bike run as I followed the Hammer and Ticker down, almost constantly on the brakes. By halfway I was shaking out my hands and trying to gain some relief from the pressure of pulling hard and long on the levers, while from both above and below me the descent was punctuated by continual warning shouts of “gravel!”

On one uncharacteristically long straight, the Hammer called out for space from a French rider who was grinding his way upwards, head down and on the wrong side of the road. The Hammer appeared to get a mouthful of abuse for his warning. I don’t know, maybe the road was so bad it just made everyone tetchy?

The hairpins eased toward the bottom and things became a little easier and almost enjoyable. Then thankfully we were down, although it took a while to finally regroup and recover. The next order of the day was finding somewhere for lunch, which wasn’t looking all that promising as we sped through a number of small, seemingly shuttered hamlets, before stumbling on Les Filles in Mizoën.

They managed to pull together a table for the seven of us inside and served us excellent and inexpensive quiche and salads along with copious drinks. Duly fortified, we had a fast, much more pleasant descent down to a stunning vista above the barrage at Lac Chambon, before clambering into the next valley and taking the road northwest and back to Bourg d’Oisans.

Bomb the Base

Salt-encrusted, sun-baked and empty-legged, most of us sought out a bar in the town for some liquid recovery, while Goose determined he needed more cycling and set off toward Le Riviere d’Allemont, as if drawn there by some strange, unspoken compulsion …

Sitting down in the shade with a well-deserved beer, I was astounded when Buster unzipped to reveal that even in the extreme heat he was wearing a base layer under his jersey. I expected him to claim some sort of scientific mumbo-jumbo about its benefit in wicking away sweat to maintain core temperature, but he admitted it was just so his chest hairs didn’t poke through his jersey in an unsightly manner. Has any man ever suffered more to try and look good on a bike?

Unmuzzled at La Muzzelle

With remarkable foresight, Goose had booked us into a restaurant in town for the night, La Muzzelle and managed to secure a table for all nine of us. It wasn’t positioned exactly to his liking, but he somehow managed to endear himself to the staff while re-arranging their seating in the middle of a busy dinner service.

He then stress-tested his own claim that everything he says passes through careful filters by declaring his dislike of tattoo’s in front of our heavily tattooed waitress and while completely ignorant of any indelible body art his dining companions might be sporting. He then followed up by positing that bald blokes are much more likely to have accidents where they bang their heads.

In amongst this deluge of “carefully filtered” observation and (rocket) fuelled by our waitress introducing us to the local liqueur, Génépi, we tried to come up with a plan for the next day.

We already knew the traditional Circle of Death (5 cols, 170km and 4,250 metres of climbing) was a no-go because the Galibier was closed for resurfacing prior to the Tour. This had been confirmed by the Collapsing Cyclist group from the previous night, who’d ridden it despite being told it was closed and had to force their way back down through the newly laid tarmac. For their troubles, they’d then said they’d spent hours chipping the dried bitumen from their wheels and tyres with multi-tools, not an exercise we were at all keen to indulge in.

The consensus seemed to be to follow our original plan and ride up to Riviere d’Allemont for ravitaillement, keeping both Crazy Legs and Goose happy, then take in the Glandon/Croix de Fer BOGOF. From there, depending on how people felt, we could split, with those wanting to head out further perhaps taking in Les Lacets de Montvernier before returning by more or less the same route.

Once again we had somehow cobbled together a plan, a rendezvous point and a start time. We were all set for the next day.

Day & Date:Friday 17th June
Time:3 hours 27 minutes
Distance:56km
Elevation:1,614 metres
Average Speed:16.1 km/h
Temperature:28℃

The Odd Scent of Grapefruit

The Odd Scent of Grapefruit

Cat#2 demanded to be let out of the back door first thing Saturday morning (he has a catflap, but it’s sooo much effort and besides, what else are stoopid humans good for?) and while acceding to his imperial highness, I noted just how chilly it was and pulled out a windproof jacket before setting out. It wasn’t until halfway down the Heinous Hill however that, jacket, fluttering like a moth broken on windscreen, I realised it was not only chilly, but another gusty, windy day. The temperature would rise eventually, but the wind refused to die and would just help make things a little bit harder wherever we went.

As I pushed out along the valley floor I was passed by a regular peloton of riders heading the other way. There must have been over a dozen middle-aged blokes, all dressed in matching white and green jerseys, with some kind of numbers on the front of their bikes, riding in a compact bunch with a couple of support cars trailing, laden with spares. They didn’t look lean and mean enough to be any kind of race team, so I assumed they were on some sort of sponsored ride for charidee. Then again, they were heading for Newcastle and it was the start of the weekend, so maybe this is just the latest stag-do trend?

Odd to think that I typed the above expecting the spellchecker to object to “charidee” – but apparently it’s now a recognised and accepted word!

charidee

NOUN

informal

Conspicuous charity, especially as part of a television promotion, or of an otherwise pointless exercise.

Isn’t English a wonderful, dynamic and ever-changing feast!

Crossing the bridge, nothing was moving on the river or from either boathouse, so it looked like our rowing clubs were away at some competition. The roads however were busy, with more traffic than I’ve seen in a long while, with no particular reason I could think of. Still, I arrived in plenty of time to watch our numbers slowly build until we had 33 riders clustered together and jostling for space across the pavement, the largest turnout for quite some time.

As we waited, Crazy Legs made the startling confession that he now thought Ed Sheerhan was “utterly brilliant”, having been dragged along to see his live show and undergoing some kind of startling, Damascene conversion. Luckily no one in my household is ever likely to drag me to such a show, so I can remain convinced Mr. Sheerhan remains a whiny, wey-faced poltroon with a penchant for bad 6th form poetry.

It was Crazy Legs’ turn to plan the route, which had us heading to the cafe at Capheaton, until we learned it was closed. I really don’t know what’s wrong with these people, thinking they can just waltz off on the pretext that they need a holiday. What about the well-being and mental health of the North East’s cycling contingent? Not to mention their coffee and cake addictions.

Crazy Legs tried to engineer a completely new route, but then decided we’d just use the Belsay cafe instead, so we’d ride past Capheaton, look longingly at its closed and shuttered facade, wipe away a tear and then press on another 9km or so to Belsay. It wasn’t a bad substitute to be fair and we’d need to return that way anyhow.

Crazy Legs was just reaching down to check his Garmin, to see if it was near departure time, when Carlton rolled to a stop. No need for a time-check, then, our metronome (metrognome?) had returned from holidays and was as punctual as ever.

Even better, we handily managed to get 10 or 11 volunteers into our first group and sent them on their way. I joined the second group, rolling up to join them at the traffic lights, where I found Goose confronting Not Anthony and Cowboys, declaring how discomfited he was to discover they were actually two completely different people. Apparently Crazy Legs isn’t the only one who hasn’t realised Not Anthony is not Anthony.

We had noticeable crosswinds for the first part of the ride and then, just as the lead was ceded and I pushed onto the front with Goose, we reached Mitford and turned left instead of the more usual right, finding ourselves running directly west and straight into the wind.

“Have we been duped into doing something stupid,” Goose wondered, as we ducked down low and ground our way onwards. “Ah, well,” he consoled himself, “At least that farm dog doesn’t seem to bother us anymore.”

He was right. The rather ferocious, loud and very active hound that used to go crazy whenever it spotted a passing cyclist (especially if that cyclist happened to be Crazy Legs) was still there, but it stayed slumped and supine, not even bothering to open an eye and glare at us balefully as we sailed serenely past. Like most of our group it looks like old age, complacency and can’t-be-bovveredness has caught up with our canine adversary too – or perhaps the newly acquired muzzle it’s been forced to wear has taken all the fun out of chasing cyclists?

We led the group through Molesden and toward Meldon and were just discussing whether to stop as we rolled through the junction toward Dyke Neuk. Not only were we not stopping, but we were also going the wrong way, so we turned around and chased back on, going from front to back of the group in a few seconds. That, I think, was more than a just reward for our dithering and we could now find some shelter and recovery amongst the wheels.

We jagged north toward Hartburn, then west through Middleton, before finally turning back south again for the run through Capheaton. As we started climbing up toward the cafe and our highest point of the day, James III put in a burst of previously unheralded climbing prowess and the group fractured and became strung out. The last time we’d been up here he’d been struggling right at the back, only trailed by some idiot wrestling a single-speed, so things have definitely changed for the better. I worked my way through the luxury of a gear change, increased the tempo and along with G-Dawg, Goose and the Famous Cumbrian we started to close the gap.

We caught up with James III as we rolled past the cafe.

“There’s a big, big gap,” someone remarked.

“Good,” I replied.

I think they were pausing to let everyone regroup, but I wasn’t waiting and accelerated. At some point I realised I was riding alone and just kept going. It seems such a long time since anyone’s taken a flyer off the front, so I was happy to resurrect the idea of the forlorn hope attack. Anyway, it was only … err… umh … ah … 7km from Capheaton to our traditional cafe sprint-line …

Ok, truth is I really hadn’t thought this through all that well, but what the hell. I pressed on, never looking back, but noticing all the little impediments in my way: the fractured surface on the steep ramp up to the main road that had my wheels skipping and skittering as I barged upwards out of the saddle, the false flat that became a grinding, uphill slog, the wind from the left and right and front, but seemingly never behind me, the new road surface that should have helped, but was rough and heavy and seemed to suck the speed out of my tyres. Still, I’m pretty sure my face wore a stupid-ass grin as I frantically mashed the pedals around and around.

I made it to within maybe 250-300 metres of the imaginary finish line before the Famous Cumbrian buzzed past, with G-Dawg just launching a sprint from out of his slipstream. I managed to bridge across the Famous Cumbrian’s wheel and held on for a moment, but checking back, there was no one else close, so I eased and sat up, coasting to only 3rd, but a highly satisfactory and strangely enjoyable 3rd.

At the cafe I learned more about Tesla batteries than I’ll ever need to know. I also learned that Goose was inordinately proud of the 150,000 or so (and counting) unread emails on his phone that he has no intention of ever reading, or apparently, ever deleting either. Strangely, he’s just had to buy his daughter a new 256GB iPhone because she’s completely filled her original one up with photos, so I suspect the old adage about the fruit not falling far from the tree applies. I guess they have the ultimate solution though, we’ll just keep buying devices with bigger and bigger storage, so we can keep building up all the crap we can’t be bothered to edit and cull.

Recommendations to raise the age a person can buy cigarettes from 18 to 21 and then increase the age of sale by one every year thereafter prompted G-Dawg to imagine a dystopian, near-future when feral, middle-aged blokes would hang around outside corner shops, begging older folk to buy them cigarettes.

We also had a chuckle at the absurdity of hospital smoking shelters, invariably inhabited by wizened, infirm patients suffering smoking-related illnesses, but braving the British weather while dressed in nothing but a hospital gown and slippers, with a lit cigarette in one hand and IV stand and attached drip in the other.

Alhambra felt people abused the cigarette break excuse too much at his work, so started totting up the time they were taking and subtracting it from his own working week, boldly waving goodbye to everyone as he left early Friday afternoon.

“Here, where are you going?” his manager finally confronted him after a few weeks.

“I’m going home, mate.”

“But, you can’t do that.”

“Well, I’m just taking off the time I would be allowed off if I smoked, like you lot. See you later Dave, have a nice weekend.”

Apparently, his manager hasn’t found an argument against this yet and Alhambra says he’s now started taking note of all the prayer breaks some of his colleagues are getting too, and he could soon be well on his way to a 4-day week.

Heading back, I had a 5-minute catch-up with Taffy Steve, which is more than enough time for him to have me snorting with mirth. He is proudly anti-uniform and even when he was into diving would deliberately swim against the tide (boom-tsk!) and make sure none of his gear matched, while everyone else was carefully colour co-ordinating wetsuits with flippers and masks and snorkels and weight belts and the like.

I wondered if we’s be seeing the return of his old Marmite-branded cycling jersey soon, perhaps the most emblematic embodiment of divisiveness known to man, but he revealed he’d seen a fellow cyclist of a decidedly rotund disposition wearing one, and they’d looked so much like a little pot of Marmite on wheels, that he was now a bit wary of it.

He also revealed he’s been out with the Red Max on their newly introduced Tuesday evening, relaxed rides. Apparently, the Red Max had been a bit hyper on the first few, jumping around and madly chasing after other cyclists and cars and buses, but now Taffy Steve reckoned he’d reined him in and tamed his wilder impulses, so the rides have become quite civilised.

“No!” I protested, “You’ve broken him!”

We were strung out and split up as we crested Berwick Hill and started down the other side with the wind pushing us and demanding more speed. I’d soon rattled down the cassette and ran out of gears, but knew it was a brief reprieve as we’d soon be turning and then I’d be back fighting the wind most of the way home. And so it proved.

Oddly, while passing through Newburn I noticed a fleeting but intense smell of grapefruit. I have to admit the area isn’t one I’d normally associate with sub-tropical citrus fruit, or any other fruit for that matter, so maybe it was an olfactory hallucination. Phantosmia. Who’d have guessed they have a word for that too.

Otherwise, that was a very enjoyable ride, which is good as it’ll be the last club run I do for the next couple of weeks, let’s see what strangeness awaits when I return.


Day & Date:Club run Saturday 11th June 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 24 minutes
Riding Distance:114km/71 miles with 1,114m of climbing
Average Speed:25.8km/h
Group Size:33 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:15℃ – 17℃
Weather in a word or two:Cold in that there wind
Year to date:2,492km/1,550 miles with 27,078m of climbing

Photo by Nicola Barts on Pexels.com

Leaden Legged

Leaden Legged

You probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I have no time for the utterly horrendous, archaic and anachronistic, entitled, greedy, unaccountable, elitist human beings that compose the British monarchy, but I’m not going to knock back a day or two off work to commemorate the career of someone who should have been allowed to retire many years ago.

Even better, Bank Holiday Thursday was an extremely pleasant day and a few of us ganged up for a foray into the hills south of the river, taking in a typically difficult 1,700 metres of climbing in just over 100km of riding on draggy roads. We battled our way out to the cafe at Parkhead Station on the Waskerley Way for our obligatory coffee and cake stop, a venue the Hammer suggested had been directly transplanted straight out of Royston Vasey.

Still, weirdness aside, it served its purpose and a fantastic, if tiring day seemed to be had by all involved. There wasn’t though enough time for my aged and ancient body to recover in time for Saturday’s Club Run, where I had the horrible premonition I’d be leaden-legged and suffering. I should have put money on it.

Saturday’s weather wasn’t up to the standard of Thursday’s either and it was chilly enough for me to pull on a windproof jacket “early doors” (Football Cliche-Class 101™) for my jaunt across to our meeting place.

Once again the JPF were tardy in getting their 9.00 run started and the two groups mingled quite happily, before they eventually got their act together and ventured out. A similar start-time from a similar place and the interchangeability of riders between the two groups, coupled with the hard-fought-for changes to our own club structure, prompted a discussion about whether the JPF actually serves a purpose anymore. As much as I like a good existential debate, personally, I don’t have a dog in this fight, so my opinion is irrelevant.

We had enough for 3 groups and G-Dawg encouraged, cajoled and coerced a number of us to volunteer for the first group by pointing out there were none of the usual, faster riders present, so it could be run at a fairly relaxed pace. Without the metronomic arrival of Carlton (en vacances en Espagne) to signify the exact departure time though, he was a little premature and there was still time for Jimmy Mac and young racing snake Dansah to join us before we pulled out. Hmm, what was that about a relaxed pace …

G-Dawg had planned a solid and familiar route, heading north and then west to take in the Curlicue climb and Middleton Bank, but swapping out the Mud de Mitford for a dive through Morpeth town centre instead. A few years ago this may have been a no-no, but like many small towns, trade seems to have abandoned Morpeth and it simply wasn’t all that busy in terms of either traffic or shoppers.

We climbed out of Morpeth and paused to regroup at the top, where Jimmy Mac commended Richard of Flanders on his perfectly matched orange socks and bidons. Richard suggested the next step was matching bar tape, while I suggested matching underwear. He may have laughed off this suggestion, but I could tell I’d planted a seed that might yet come to fruition.

On to Curlicue Bank and the rather vexed question of whether it’s better or worse than the Trench, which it climbs more or less parallel to. I asked Not Anthony but he didn’t have an opinion, which was fine, I didn’t have one either, so I just stuck my nose out in front to try and control the pace as we rode up. From this and this experience alone, I would have to say it’s a steadier and therefore slightly easier climb than the Trench – although I guess it all depends on how fast you go up it, so I reserve the right to change my mind at any time.

At Middleton Bank, Jimmy Mac tired of waiting for us laggards and rode off the front, while the rest of us regrouped and pushed on toward the cafe. I attacked as we hit the foot of the rollers. I had to, simply because I always do, even though it never, ever works to my advantage. This time it was a much bigger mistake than usual and I only made it halfway up the second hump before the legs simply gave up. I waved the others past to get on with it without me. I might have missed the sprint, but I did manage to sneak to the front before the cafe and park my bike in the space Crazy Legs likes to use. Just because …

We took our coffees and cake out into the garden, which was warm enough when the sun came out, but chilly when it hid itself within the broken cloud. Having discarded my arm warmers, it was simpler to pull my jacket on when the temperature dipped.

Crazy Legs cornered Jimmy Mac for a private consultation. Jimmy Mac then risked doctor-patient confidentiality to assure us Crazy Legs would be fine, once at least once the swelling died down and the weeping discharge cleared up …

I didn’t find any other republicans at the table, most just seemed largely indifferent to Her Madje’s Platinum Jubilee, although Richard of Flanders was very unimpressed with four consecutive days of “flag-shagging” as he so delicately put it.

Of course, replacing a monarchy with a constitution is no panacea, I mean look at the knots the USA has tied itself into trying to apply rules that seemed sensible 300 years ago. I mean, whoever thought it was a good idea to grant people the right to arm bears?

Richard of Flanders suggested the best electoral system was the one imposed on Germany by the Allies after WW2. I don’t know enough about it to say whether it’s the best, but I’m all for trying something different, especially if it means the state no longer has to pay out the estimated £300+ million per year needed to keep the Windsor family from extreme penury.

The cafe stop revived me enough to be able to hang in the wheels on the way back until I set off to drag myself back across the river and up the hill home. So, two hard days with a day’s recovery between exposed a few weaknesses. Not the greatest portent for what’s to come in the next couple of weeks, but it is what it is.


Day & Date:Club run Saturday 2nd June 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 26 minutes
Riding Distance:116km/72 miles with 1,120m of climbing
Average Speed:26.0km/h
Group Size:19 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:14℃ – 18℃
Weather in a word or two:Chilly start – bryter layter
Year to date:2,358km/1,465 miles with 25,701m of climbing


Ice Cream for Crow

Ice Cream for Crow

Ooph!

What just happened?

On Saturday I completed my longest ride of the year while still managing to get home half an hour before I usually would. Logic dictates then that I must have been travelling at a faster rate than normal and a quick look at Strava confirms this.

I had in fact ridden a full 3.6km/h faster than my average across the past 7 rides, despite also taking in an above average1,173 metres of climbing. I’m pretty sure my bike manufacturer (were they still in business) would be delighted to claim this is entirely due to the carefully designed aerodynamic optimisation of the 13, which I’d switched to with the Holdsworth being temporarily hors de combat.

That though would be ignoring the much more obvious explanation that, overwhelmed by civic duty, I’d let myself be drawn into the first (faster) group and been dragged along at such a pace that even bookending my ride with a 20+ mile solo pootle from home and back still gave me a stupidly fast overall time.

So, a quick ride and a (very) quick update…

The day started in the normal way, with copious amounts of nonsense. Brassneck proclaimed he’d invested in a new, untried and untested saddle, with all the inherent risks involved in using it on a long maiden voyage should it prove uncomfortable. This (of course) led to a discussion of whether there was a potential opportunity to offer a bespoke saddle breaking-in service, using a bunch of … err, larger-boned blokes shall we say, to liberally baste your new saddle in ass juices and thoroughly tenderise it with their bashing and clashing buttocks.

Throughout this discussion Mini Miss looked on with only a slight trace of disgust – well, certainly less than the previous week when she’d been informed by OGL her special task for marshalling duties would be to cover “a large exposed manhole,” without ever receiving an adequate explanation of just whose man hole he was talking about.

It was at this point that things started to go a little awry. Aether briefed in the route, basically an elongated figure of eight running north and south, with Kirkley as the nominated cafe stop of the day. We had sufficient numbers to split into three groups, but could barely muster four for the first group, so along with fellow sacrificial pawns (prawns?) Alhambra and Richard of Flanders, I bumped down the kerb and added my weight to the numbers. What was I thinking?

I spent the first half of the ride catching up with Alhambra as we negotiated a whole series of temporary traffic lights before finally managing to find some more open roads. A brief shuffling of the pack saw G-Dawg on the front alongside a relative newcomer, a triathlete and all-around big unit intent on keeping the pace up. I slotted into second wheel behind the Big-U and alongside Homeboy, where I half-jokingly mentioned my disquiet at being in the front group, the one consolation being that at least I’d found the perfect body to shelter behind. Homeboy assured me I was in the right group, reminding me we were going to the cafe at Kirkley so being among the first to arrive was imperative if you wanted to avoid the interminable queuing. It was a fair point and surely worth a bit of suffering for.

The Big-U finally burned out G-Dawg and he ceded the front on a stiff incline heading out toward the Gubeon. I took his place and stayed there until we started to climb toward Dyke Neuk where I slid back to take things at my own speed, mindful we had a hatful of hateful other climbs to go.

The first was the long drag up to Rothley crossroads, followed by Middleton Bank, both somewhat eased with patches of new tarmac (but still hateful). We regrouped at the top of each and pressed on, quickly homing in on the cafe.

Naturally, the pace at the front got whipped up and I was at the back desperately trying to close gaps as we swept through the Kirkley Hall junction, powered round the bend … and were brought to a sudden stop by more temporary traffic lights.

“I hate these bloody lights,” Homeboy exclaimed.

“I love these bloody lights,” I countered, there was now no time to open up any big gaps on the last few hundred metres to the cafe, where we did indeed enjoy much better services than the rest of our group who trailled in several minutes behind.

As usual conversation was thoroughly randomised and the typical diet of stuff and nonsense. It ranged from whether “arse bones” was an acceptable term for your ischial tuberosity, or “sitz bones” (a term I can’t use without immediately thinking of Lolcats), through to further accusations that Lance Armstrong was guilty of mechanical doping (in addition to being illegally jacked up on numerous pharmaceutical compounds, I guess.)

And then we were away again and the pace was still high until the group turned left and I swung off toward home. So, that wasn’t too bad, I suppose, I survived and the first group could be handy if you want to get home a little earlier. Next week?

Hmm…


Day & Date:Club ride, Saturday 7th May 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 19 minutes
Riding Distance:119km/74 miles with 1,173m of climbing
Average Speed:27.5km/h
Group Size:22 riders
Temperature:13℃
Weather in a word or two:Pleasant.
Year to date:1,742km/1,082 miles with 18,847m of climbing

Huh?