Entropy

Entropy

Club Run, Saturday 1st December, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:92 km/57 miles with 605 metres of climbing
Ride Time:3 hours 47 minutes
Average Speed:24.4 kph
Group Size:24
Temperature:6°C
Weather in a word or two:Unremittingly bleak

Ride Profile

The amber tinted lenses of my Agu cycling specs can usually make even the bleakest of days appear bright and sunny, but they must have developed a fault and stopped working on Saturday. The sky was sombre-hued and oppressively dark, piled with heavy clouds, while at ground level, a dull, chilly mist hung low, wet and stifling. Still, I thought happily, dank, damp and dreary as it is, at least it’s not actually raining…

Front and back lights on and blinking away furiously in the murk, I dropped off the hill and began to make my way to the meeting point.

I found both sides of the bridge swarming with cars, trailers, boats and over 100 crews, all congregating for the Rutherford Head of the River Race, which promised a pretty full day of competition out on the water.

The Tyne Rowing Club would later describe this event as being held in “excellent conditions” although they did qualify this with the admission that they just meant it was excellent for rowing – i.e. calm and windless. They did acknowledge that crews, launch drivers, marshals and umpires suffered mightily in the freezing cold rain.

This freezing cold rain featured in our ride too, starting almost the moment we left the meeting point and continuing, without pause, for the entire duration of our ride and beyond. Another bleak and brutal day – to be endured as much as it was enjoyed.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I noticed G-Dawg had relocated his big brass bell to the side of his stem.  This, he explained, was not only more discrete, but stopped him sounding like a struck gong whenever he rode through a pothole. Besides, I suggested, he could always ring it with his knee, like the cycling equivalent of a one man band. G-Dawg then fondly reminisced about utterly destroying the down-tube shifter on his old mountain bike, when he kneed it into oblivion during a particularly vigorous, out of the saddle climbing exercise. 

We were hoping that Goose would turn up with the new 1,500 lumen front light he’s been boasting about, but it wasn’t to be. Sensibly he’d decided that his already weighty, steel behemoth of a grand touring bike, burdened under multiple pannier racks, was handicap enough, without adding the additional weight of his new portable searchlight and separate battery pack.

He did suggest the new lamp was good for picking out bombers on a moonless night, communicating with fishing boats far offshore, or just turning midnight into midday. I wondered if it would also be useful for lamping rabbits and badgers, a use Goose hadn’t previously considered, but now began to seriously think about. Perhaps it could even have brightened the gloom of this particular morning …

But then again, probably not. 

Goose sought out OGL for advice about swapping out the cantilever brakes on his steel behemoth for something more effective. The price of this advice was, of course, the standard, ritual condemnation of his bike, this time with the added spice of an assertion that Goose’s rear wheel was, in highly technical terms, fucked. The rim apparently badly worn and the tyre bulging.

“She’s gonna blow,” I think was the exact phrase used, something I never thought I’d hear outside of Hollywood’s hoariest movie cliche’s. (According to the Short List, it belongs in the top 20 most over-used lines in Hollywood blockbusters, having appeared, with scant variation, in 53 different movies.)

Shockingly, it was Garmin Muppet Time +2, before a seriously tardy Aether called for attention and began to address the gathered riders, “Hello, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Richard … and this is the route for the day.”

The plan was to include an ascent of the Quarry climb, before a general re-grouping, with longer route options around Capheaton and Hallington. 

Crazy Legs outlined the Third Way, a more refined, relaxed and genteel, Flat White Ride, that would once again make use of the excellent cafe facilities at Matfen. I flashed him a quick thumbs up – it seemed like a grand plan.

Although shorn of the actual and original Monkey Butler Boy this week, his Wrecking Crew of Monkey Butler Boy Mini-Me’s all congregated at the start, aiming to set out with us, like a fighter escort for a group of heavy bombers. After brief exposure to their chatter, I’ve decided the most appropriate collective noun for a group of Monkey Butler Boys is a squabble.

Ignoring the squabble, who would we know, abandon us after just a few miles, there were 24 of us and we decided to split into two groups. Numbers looked suspiciously low in the front group as they started to form up, so I bumped down off the pavement and joined up, hoping to even things out a little.


With Jimmy Mac, Kermit, the Cow Ranger and Rainman driving things along on the front, we started fast and just kept going.

The pace was so high that when Caracol dropped back to pull on a waterproof jacket in the face of rapidly intensifying rain, he had a real chase just to catch back on.

Then, once they reached Bingo Fuel, the squabble made off like the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. I thought at one point they had managed to abduct the Garrulous Kid in his ruby red jacket. Somehow though he managed to extricate himself from their evil clutches and slowly dropped back and into our group again.



I hung at the back, catching-up with Kermit, before dropping in alongside a relative FNG, Baby Doc, for much of the ride.

With his help I charted the ingress of cold water as it breached my defences, first the waterproof gloves, then the waterproof boots and finally the forearms of my waterproof jacket. I made use of his medical expertise to check out known cures for trench foot, reasoning it could be knowledge I might need before the end of the ride. 

We also discussed why certain drivers, particularly those who struggle to wear a cap the right way round, pay good money to make their cars sound broken. We reached no conclusions.

As we hammered through Matfen, I was tempted to peel off into the cafe and await the appearance of Crazy Legs and the rest of the Flat White Crew, but the opportunity went past long before cryogenically sluggish limbs could respond to my frantic brain signals.

Caracol shipped his chain on the climb, so we had a brief pause to regroup, before the pace was pushed up again, as we drove toward the Quarry seemingly anxious just to get the ride over with.

I was in tight and up close to Rainman, as we made the run to the bottom of the Quarry Climb. Too close, as a matter of fact. He jumped out of the saddle and there was that dreaded micro-pause as he suddenly stopped pedalling and his bike seemed to lurch back at me.

With a loud “bzzzzt” my front tyre butted his rear wheel and was flicked to the right. I twitched it back, through a more prolonged “bzzzzt, zzzzt”  as I  brushed his tyre again, but this time going in the opposite direction. Then he was pulling clear, I steadied the bike, breathed a sigh of relief and, still resolutely upright, on we went.

The top of the Quarry climb was the designated point for everyone to coalesce before splitting into fast and slow, short and long rides. Most of us though had seen quite enough of the foul weather and decided to cut the ride short and head straight for the cafe.

G-Dawg said he would hold back to meet up with the others, while Caracol, Ovis and a few other brave and hardy souls decided to complete the full ride.   

I was left alone with lots of big, powerful and fast units. Oh and Kermit. Jimmy Mac, Rainman, the Cow Ranger and Baby Doc began driving the pace up and up as we closed on the cafe.

I hung on with a bit of late braking and tight cornering, even hitting the front on the grind up to Wallridge Crossroads in a show of ill-conceived bravado. I was helped in my task by members of the local hunt, ambling their mounts up and down the road and causing the racing peloton to briefly slow and give the sometimes skittish horses a wide berth.

As the final sprint wound up I was on Kermit’s wheel until he decided he’d had enough, eased and dropped away. By the time I’d rounded him the gap had blown wide open and there was no closing it, so I rolled into the cafe on my own.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Talking about my touch of wheels, the Cow Ranger declared that, “it caused a ripple through the entire peloton.”

“Well, it caused a ripple through my entire colon, too,” I offered.

Riders kept pitching up to drop new, wet articles on top of the pile of discarded hats, gloves, caps and buffs already laid in a steaming pile on top of the stove. Rainman played Mother, deftly flipping gloves and hats like the world’s best short-order cook, ensuring they were evenly toasted on both sides and encouraging their wet dog smell to pervade the entire cafe.

Kermit, with access to the stove blocked by our “Frying Dutchman”™ took to drying his hat on over his teapot, which wore it like a bad, cycling tea cosy – perhaps something Rapha would make and sell for a small ransom.

His cap was soon steaming briskly and I wondered how he was going to explain away a scalded scalp when he arrived at A&E, having clapped it onto his head without letting it cool slightly.

Then, of course, because I was surrounded by a bunch of medical types, they started to regale us with all the odd insertions they’d recovered from their patients body cavities and all the convoluted excuses used to explain them, such as one unfortunate trying to justify to the Cow Ranger how they accidentally ended up with a toilet brush firmly wedged up their rectum – bristle end first.

Jimmy Mac recalled one particularly delicate operation to remove a broken Coke bottle from an anal passage, after which the medical team were challenged by the supervising surgeon to explain why the patient had used a Coke bottle. 

After a few minutes of rejecting all their wild and inaccurate medical  and anatomical speculation, it was revealed that the correct answer was, “because he couldn’t get 7-Up.” This, I think just goes to show that even the most elevated and refined amongst us aren’t immune to the allure of bad Dad jokes. 

Across the next table a fellow cyclist was brought a plate of steaming poached eggs on toast and a suddenly interested Kermit wondered if he’d be allowed to drop his cap over them, to help dry it out a little more.

I then pulled my buff back on and Kermit told me it made me look like Eton-and Oxford educated, Tory Euroseptic (sic) and Bullingdon Club Grand Poobah, the privileged, bigoted, supremely condescending and quite abhorrent, Jacob Rees Mogg. Kermit, you complete and utter bastard. I. Hate. You.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Mac wondered why everyone seemed so keen to set their gloves to smouldering on the wet stove. “I think cold and wet is much more preferable to warm and wet,” he declared.

I wondered if this was a general life choice, or only extended to water-logged articles of cycle clothing. He defended his position by referring to the phenomena of boiling water freezing much quicker than cold water, arguing you’d be chilled quicker in warm wet gloves, than in just wet gloves.

Often referred to as the “Mpemba Effect” – Jimmy Mac explained that the most likely explanation for this was “entropy.” I was in no position to argue and took him at his word. (Trying to read up about it later, I would be defeated by the sentence, “hydrogen bonds are weaker than covalent bonds but stronger than the van der Waals forces that geckos use to climb walls” – so let’s just leave it there and go for entropy as an adequate enough explanation, ok?)

“See,” Jimmy Mac declared, “I think we’ve genuinely raised the level of cycling club talk to a whole new, stratospheric, super-enlightened height.”

A few breaths later and we were back discussing the value of waterproof socks and neoprene overshoes. I looked across at Jimmy Mac and mimed a plane nose-diving into the ground. Well, he’d tried.


At the cafe early, we set off for home early, in the same small group, again ramping the pace up for the first few miles, just to try and warm up. At the Kirkley junction, I swung away for route through Ponteland and past the airport, making a bee-line for home and not even considering my usual short-cut which grants me quieter roads, in return for a bit more climbing.

As I dropped down toward the river, the valley floor was shrouded in low, wet and clinging cloud – ideal conditions for the dozens of crews scattered across the Tyne? Maybe not.

The same, thick, wet fog served to decapitate part of the Heinous Hill, but I sadly knew it was an optical illusion and the road still dragged all the way up to the top. Despite carrying perhaps an extra 4 or 5lbs in excess water in my sodden clothing, I managed the climb reasonably well, spurred on by thoughts of a hot shower, although dreading the pain it would bring as the blood flooded back into my frozen extremities.

Before disappearing to scream like a girl in the shower, I discarded  a pile of  water-logged outer kit on the tiles in front of the washing machine. It looked as if someone had caught the Wicked Witch of the West in our kitchen, poured a bucket of cold, dirty water over her head and watched her dissolve until there was nothing left but a puddling heap of sad and sodden, dirty clothes on the floor.

So, not the most pleasant of rides, still it had its moments and was suitably entertaining despite everything. Hopefully things will be better when we give it another go, next week.


YTD Totals: 6,936 km / 4,310 miles with 84,684 metres of climbing

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Half Man Half Mudlark

Half Man Half Mudlark

Club Run, Saturday 24th November, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:96km/60 miles with 981 metres of climbing
Ride Time:4 hours 2 minutes
Average Speed:24.3 kph
Group Size:24, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:8°C
Weather in a word:Chill

Ride Profile

I missed last week due to a lingering chest infection, but felt I’d just about recovered enough to get back in the saddle, albeit running at around three-quarters optimum efficiency and accompanied by a hacking cough.

Saturday morning turned out to be murky, misty and foggy, first thing and I was pleased to be well-bundled up in my thickest base layer, winter jacket, rain jacket, thermal socks, buff, headband, gloves  and glove-liners, as I dropped down the hill, buffeted by a chill wind.

Turning along the valley, I tracked, but couldn’t catch, a fellow rider, marked by the wan, ghostly glow of bare legs, as much as by the tell-tale flicker of red lights on his bike and helmet. Once again I am humbled by how inured some North East riders seem to be to the biting cold. Perhaps I’m just a wimp.

I was on-time to be held-up at the level crossing by the 8:15 Blaydon to Hexham train, otherwise it was a standard and uneventful ride across to the meeting place.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Taffy Steve told me I’d missed another massive turnout of near on 40 riders last week. Speculation about whether this was due to OGL’s pre-announced absence remain just that, purely speculative, but that’s 2 bumper winter rides in the pace of a month and quite unusual behaviour. Perhaps this is a cyclists response to climate change?

Part of the high turnout seemed to revolve around the Monkey Butler Boy’s Wrecking Crew, who had congregated to ride with us part way, before scuttling away to do their own thing.  The Red Max mentioned Taffy Steve had been bewildered by this troupe of Monkey Butler Boy clones (have I spelt that right? – I’m sure there’s mean’t to be a ‘w’ in there somewhere) – who all shared a certain, raw-boned hungry look, in their all matching, carefully coordinated kit. I suspect William Golding might have found them an endless source of inspiration.

I couldn’t help recalling the moment I first encountered this particular subgenus in the café garden, as they swarmed around a bike, pointing and jabbering excitedly at this, that or the other, before moving on to the next bike to repeat the process and then the next and then the next…

The Garrulous Kid wanted to now why ever-present G-Dawg wasn’t present. “It’s not 9 o’clock yet,” Crazy Legs replied laconically.

“But, it’s nearly 9 o’clock,” the Garrulous Kid answered.

“Yes, but it isn’t 9 o’clock.”

“So, what time’s it now?” Crazy Legs asked after a short while.

“It’s just turned 9 o’clock, official Garmin Muppet Time,” someone replied, glancing down at their Garmin.

“See!” Crazy Legs nodded to where G-Dawg was pulling up, on cue and bang on time, his internal navigation, vectoring protocols and automated targeting systems, whirring and clicking away with mechanised efficiency.  

We were all hugely impressed by the Red Max’s lights, especially the one on the front of his bike, a common or garden, Pifco torch,  mummified in swathes of  gaffer tape that strapped it directly to the underside of his stem. This, the Red Max explained was purely for the Wednesday night chain-gangs, which is the only bit of riding he does in the dark, so he didn’t see the need for actual bike lights with a proper mounting.

The Red Max broke of our conversation to clamber up onto the wall and outline the route. “Hello,” he began, “For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Richard and this is the route for the day …”

He then apologised for selecting a rather standard, regular, run-of-the-mill ride, without even any variation in the direction we were running the different segments.

“That’s fine, ” I told him, “If we run another route widdershins, we’ll just end up summoning the devil.”

Two groups were agreed, with a more or less equal split of the numbers and off we went.


I rolled out in the second group, not looking for anything too fast and frenetic and hoping to get through the ride without inducing a mammoth coughing bout.

I fell in alongside Crazy Legs as we rolled out, principally tasked with helping him decipher the lyrics to a Half Man Half Biscuit song that was rattling around in his brain.



It was undeniably chilly out on the roads and I could feel my toes slowly turning numb. As we followed the Red Max out and up Limehouse Lane, I plaintively asked if there was a café nearby. I was only half-joking, but let’s just say the opportunity for the inaugural Winter 2018 Flat White ride didn’t fall entirely on barren soil.  

Crazy Legs suggested a early coffee intervention at Matfen, so we did our stint on the front and pulled the group through to Stamfordham, before turning off the planned route for a shortcut to caffeine succour.

Sneaky Pete joined us and for a moment our desperate trio were united in a co-ordinated bout of coughing, so we sounded like the TB wing of the club, or desperate refugees at the Mexican-US border breathing in a very minor form of tear gas. (Very safe.)

For a time I pushed on at the front alongside Sneaky Pete, with Crazy Legs running along behind and between us, declaring rather contentedly, “It’s nice back here.” 

A few turns along wet and muddy roads though and he became suspiciously solicitous, asking how I was feeling and suggesting I needed a spell off the front. I let him through and he immediately explained he was ok riding behind me, but for some reason Sneaky Pete’s (almost identical) mudguard was spraying him with road crud, so one side of his body was pristine, clean and dry, the other splattered and speckled with mud.

Leading from the front, Crazy Legs guided us unerringly to the hidden jewel of Matfen village store, complete with its own café  and one of those huffing, spluttering, gurgling, steaming, barrista-wrangling, coffee machines, where we went for flat whites all around.

Damn fine coffee.


Main Topics of Conversation – Coffee Stop#1

We decided the the Flat White Club needed a President to promote its life-affirming, ride enhancing, cold alleviating properties and duly proposed, seconded and elected Taffy Steve to the role … in his absence.

We then worked out an impressive number of Flat White ride options, which included potential coffee interludes at Kirkley Cycles, Matfen, the Gubeon, Belsay, Capheaton and Bolam Lake.

Sneaky Pete impressed me with his adoption and familiarity with the Apple Pay digital wallet, something Crazy Legs had recommended to him. I was overwhelmed by his all round tech savvy  and acuity and felt there was hope for us Luddite’s yet …

Then he went and spoiled by becoming the only person in living history to lament the demise of (the dreadful!) Freeserve internet and email service.


Suitably warmed through and refreshed, we left the café  just as our front group charged through the village and swung away up the hill. We were almost, almost, perfectly placed just to drop onto the back, but they were travelling just a little too fast and we would have needed to have left the
café  about 30 seconds earlier to tag on without a supreme effort.

Not to worry, we saddled up and followed as they made their way to the Quarry, at which point they picked the pace up and we wouldn’t see them again until we made the café .

The three of us pushed on anyway, and arrived just behind the front group to join the back of a ridiculously long queue that stretched w-a-a-a-y back.


Main Topics of Conversation – Coffee Stop#2

“Bloody hell! I thought you had a full head of hair under that helmet,” Crazy Legs couldn’t help exclaiming, as we tagged onto the back of the queue, just behind the Ticker, sans helmet. Smooth.

Meanwhile Sneaky Pete carefully assessed the length of the queue, carefully assessed the  likely delay and issues he’d cause by being devoted technocrat,
right on the cutting-edge of digital payment systems and wielding Apple Pay with confidence and impunity. He then, wisely decided he’d rather head for home than challenge the antiquated, antediluvian staff and their convoluted and tortuous till system. So, he sneaked away. 


Oh mi corazón! For reasons unknown, Crazy Legs started singing the Clash song, Spanish Bombs, before declaring the ride had done him a world of good and helped him clear his chest. “I’ve howked up a right load of crap,” he declared happily.

I commended him, not so much on the therapeutic  benefits of the ride, but on his use of a good Geordie word I haven’t heard for years. Howk – a wonderfully onomatopoeic word, suggesting something that’s physically clawed out and expelled violently – most often used in the context of brutal and fierce expectoration.

We finally got served and seated, although not without a few problems with Crazy Legs’ own digital wallet, which needed several attempts to work and proved Sneaky Pete, as well as being an early-adopter, was both prescient and perspicacious.

These travails with digital payments also sadly revealed that we were in a wi-fi black spot, so Crazy Legs couldn’t share the video of creepy, distasteful and oleaginous MP, Michael Gove slipping  and falling on his arse in Downing Street.

It seemed I then only had time to briefly rib the Garrulous Kid for asking what was happening next Fursday, before we were collecting our kit and heading out again.


A decent pace was set for the run home and I found myself on the front as the majority peeled-off left. I accelerated and pushed straight on, into the Mad Mile, expecting at any minute to be passed by a flying G-Dawg and Colossus, racing to be first home and into the shower. But, somehow, I reached my turn-off still leading the group and swung away for home.

Hmm, perhaps the 10-mile less than normal I’d covered on the day, the relatively modest pace, or lack of full-blooded cafe sprint, made all the difference and meant I was fresher than usual and able to hold off any challenges from those behind?

Or, more likely, G-Dawg and the Colossus had already negotiated first use of the shower via a complex, rock-paper-scissors style-challenge and were just cruising home now on autopilot. We’ll never know.

Like my run in, my return was delayed at the level crossing, this time by a train running the opposite way, from Hexham to Blaydon. Still, I was in no hurry, the weather was fine, I felt pretty decent and, like Crazy Legs, I think the run out had actually helped with the chest infection.

That means next week it’s back to the full distance, full-blooded cafe sprint and being ritually expelled, or even howked,  from the back of the group at the end of the Mad Mile.

Unless, of course, someone suggests a Flat White Ride…

Anyone?


YTD Totals: 6,787 km / 4,217 miles with 83,107 metres of climbing

Many a Muckle

Many a Muckle

Club Run, Saturday 3rd November, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 106 km / 66 miles with 1,212 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 30 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.6 km/h

Group size:                                        38+

Temperature:                                   14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Back to balmy


Many a muckle
Ride Profile


Or to be more precise, mony a mickle maks a muckle, but why let accuracy stand in the way of a good headline …

Our weird fortnightly weather cycle was once again bang-on, last weeks extremes of snow and ice and rain replaced by a temperate, bright and breezy day.

As I dropped off the hill, I spotted a group of 5 or 6 other riders ahead and was (naturally) compelled to give chase. My pursuit was somewhat hampered when the traffic lights intervened between us, just outside Blaydon. As I tried to regain lost momentum, another rider whipped past with a bright and breezy, “Morning!”

This was a Muckle C.C. rider, travelling at high speed and wearing shorts and a short-sleeved jersey. It was warmer than last week, but shorts and a short-sleeved jersey? Perhaps he needed to ride that fast just to keep warm?

I thought he might have been chasing to join onto the group upfront, but he blew straight past them as well. A man on a mission.

As he disappeared up the road, I caught the others as they turned down toward the bridge, sitting in the wheels, until they crossed the river and swung left, while I turned right to pick my way through to the meeting point.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting place:

G-Dawg pondered if the Garrulous Kid’s ride last week had perhaps been the shortest in club history, following his abandonment in a blizzard of sleet just as outside Dinnington.

“What was it,” he pondered, “All of about eight miles?”

The Garrulous Kid himself was better prepared today, on his winter bike with mudguards and the added protection of overshoes. He’d survive better this time out.

Just.

Princess Fiona recounted her epic Ironman Ironwoman Ironprincess experiences which, she concluded, she’d thoroughly enjoyed, despite feeling sick for 5-days afterwards. Apparently this post-event illness is a common occurrence. Throughout her recounting the Colossus looked on in disbelief and mute horror, utterly convinced he was in the presence of someone needing psychiatric help.

On his fixie again, G-Dawg’s new bell drew some attention, with Jimmy Mac finding it rather melodic and pleasing, polite and not insistent. Then he ruined all his good work by comparing it to something he expected to hear on a creaky old sitcom, although he couldn’t quite decide if it belonged on “Open All Hours” or “Are You Being Served?”

For some unbeknown reason, today was building up to be the most popular ride of the year and I kept revising the headcount as more and more rolled in. It was up to over 30 by the time Crazy Legs started outlining the route and he suggested a split start with a re-grouping just before tackling the Mur de Mitford.

He was interrupted by a big bloke on a mountain bike trying to find a way through the dozens of riders and bikes sprawled across the pavement and bellowing for us to make way.

“He needs a nice polite bell,” someone suggested.

Yes, well, I don’t think he did polite.

I counted a decent  15 or 16 heading for the front group, so hung back. In theory this was an equitable split, I just hadn’t counted on people continuing to roll-up right until the moment we left and then, more joining us en route. By the time it all shook out the second group was still about 24 strong.


I dropped in behind Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs as we set out, chatting with Sneaky Pete, who insisted there was a very thin line between being committed and needing to be committed. He thought last week’s ride, given the conditions, crossed this threshold and verged into insanity. I couldn’t really disagree, but countered that, despite everything, it had actually been thoroughly entertaining.

As we passed through Dinnington and swept down the hill, I noticed my camera wobbling somewhat precariously. Deciding the bolt might have worked a little loose, I gave it a quick tug to test it. Sure enough, it had worked loose. I was left foolishly brandishing the bolt as it came away in my hands and the camera clattered and bounced away down the road.

I swung over and back-tracked to where Caracol had stopped to pick up the camera, shoved it in a back pocket and then we gave chase, latching back onto the group in short order. Caracol had been one of the riders joining just as we left the meeting place, and had pushed our numbers on the day close to 40.

We made our way past the Cheese Farm, picking up yet another rider behind us. As we approached Bell’s Hill, he nudged forwards to have a chat and we discovered he wasn’t one of ours.

“What club’s this?” he wondered, obviously somewhat bewildered to encounter such a big pack.

I told him and he nodded up toward the middle of the group where OGL was toiling away alongside Brink.

“Ah, should have guessed … seeing him.”

As he said this, I realised that, despite the rather magnificent turnout, there was only one rider amongst us displaying a club jersey. There’s something wrong, somewhere.

“You don’t usually travel in such a large group,” he mused and was even more nonplussed when I told him we’d actually split into two and there was another motley bunch of us further up the road.

Our new back-marker proved to be another Muckle C.C. rider, although he mentioned he was also involved  in the administration of the (relatively new and hugely successful) NTR (North Tyneside Riders.)

“This is your chance,” I urged him, as we approached the bottom of Bell’s Hill, “Attack now and you’ll be able to get past.”

“But you have to do it sitting down, looking cool and barely breathing,” Caracol joked.

“I definitely can’t manage that,” our Muckle rider responded, but took our advice anyway. It was either that, or sit at the back, confined to our pace, until he could find somewhere to turn off.

He worked his way smartly up the outside on the climb and then disappeared over the top. Before we crested the rise, he was followed by yet another lone Muckle rider. They seemed to be everywhere today.

I took the opportunity of the climb to reposition myself in the middle of the pack, just before our ride was interrupted by shouts of what everyone took to be a puncture. The group pulled to a stop in a lay-by, while I turned back to see what was happening.

I met the Cow Ranger coming the other way and he told me someone had punctured, but was really struggling anyway, so had decided to pack in. We rejoined the others, who’d taken the opportunity for an impromptu pee stop and tried to work out who it was that had abandoned.

“A Spanish guy,” the Cow Ranger informed us, ” He was really struggling to keep up, so has decided to call it a day.”

“Tomás?” I enquired, “Swedish-Spanish guy, on an old steel frame?” confusedly thinking about Toledo Tom, our very own colinabo, who is so strong I couldn’t possibly envisage him struggling, even in the last throes of a dire battle with the Black Death.

“Well, Spanish guy on a steel frame, definitely,” the Cow Ranger suggested a little hesitantly.

I was still disbelieving, “Tall, thin, fast?”

“Nope, no, nah, definitely not any of them.”

OGL confirmed that Toledo Tom was in the front group and this was a different Spanish guy. Huh,  we have more than one? Hoodafunkedit.


mamuck


Off we trundled again, until, just past Tranwell, OGL led an early strike off toward the café, while the rest of us pushed on for a rendezvous with our front group, who had pulled up under the main A1 bridge and were waiting patiently.

From there we dropped down into the Wansbeck valley, following the river toward Mitford and the dreaded “Mur.” Oncoming traffic had us stacked up and stopped at the bottom of the hill, so it was a particularly unhelpful standing start, especially for G-Dawg on his fixie.

The lack of run-in momentum had him grinding painfully upwards and I hustled past as fast as I could, thinking I didn’t want to be in the firing line of all the bloody cartilage, sprung steel, wiry tendons, gears and other assorted shrapnel if his cyborg knees suddenly explode under the strain.

We had decided to split the group via natural selection on the climb and I was well-positioned in the front third as we pushed over the top.

More climbing followed, as we ran up through Hag’s Wood.  I was chatting to the Garrulous Kid … well, listening to the Garrulous Kid chatting away, while he rode on my inside. Then, there was a loud, rasping, zzzt-zzzt-zzzt and he suddenly disappeared.

He’d touched wheels with the rider in front and gone head over heels into a grass bank, threading the needle between two massive tree boles with what looked like expert precision, but was simply timely serendipity.

We waited for him to identify to pull himself up and conclude no permanent damage had been done, to bike or rider. He dusted himself down and away we went again.

A little later on, I caught up with him and he happily declared, “Well, I haven’t fallen off in ages!”

We were now tackling the Trench and I was climbing alongside Captain Black, who was bemoaning the fact that he was on his winter bike and we were now competing on a level playing field.

“I hate my winter bike!” the Garrulous Kid added, and once more we patiently explained that this was the entire point of owning a winter-bike.

Out of the Trench and heading toward Angerton and a notoriously exposed road over the moors, I was in the second group and hunting around for  some big bodies to shelter behind. I’d moved smartly up to follow Captain Black and G-Dawg as we turned into a headwind and the road began to climb, when disaster struck, G-Dawg punctured and waved us all through. Despite all my machinations I found myself on the front and leading the second group on the drag up and around Bolam Lake.

As we started our run for the café, Captain Black took over and injected a bit of pace, driving us up over the rollers and down the other side. I pulled up alongside him on the final drag and he shook his head and declared himself “done in.” Fair enough, I was more than happy to give the sprint a miss today. The Garrulous Kid flailed around us and launched himself off the front and no one blinked, there was no reaction and no attempt to chase, as we rolled the rest of the way to the café behind him.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

With around 40 of us, other cyclists and the usual gathering of civilians, the café was full to bursting and late arrivals couldn’t get a seat and ended up eating and drinking where they stood.

I found a small space in the corner alongside Biden Fecht and the Garrulous Kid, pressed up close to the fire. It was hot, but at least it was a seat – a hot-seat if you like.

The Garrulous Kid has had his first offer of a place at university and was already anticipating Freshers. I wondered which part he was looking forward to the most, getting so hog-whimperingly drunk he endangers his own life, bobbing for apples in a bucket of stale urine, or having his head shaved? (Of course, dear reader, this type of initiation “hazing” never actually happens at British universities these days.)

He’s also planning which societies he can get involved him. I tried to warn him off the Rubik’s Society by claiming they were all square (sorreee!) and suggested he take up falconry instead. He looked at me as if I was mad and had just invented the ancient and noble art of hunting with birds of prey simply to trick him. I don’t know if that says more about him, or me.

OGL wandered past and deposited a old race programme for the 1952 Beaumont Trophy on the table. I eyed it warily, like a discarded perfume bottle filled with Novichok. Enticing as it was, I was determined not to go anywhere near it, as I didn’t want the responsibility of making sure this ancient and venerable piece of club history made it back to its rightful owner unsullied.

Biden Fecht did dare a quick look, before swiftly passing it on and was seemingly intrigued by some of the club names, all the Wheeler’s and Couriers, as well as the grandly named VC Electric.

Biden Fecht liked the old style, traditional “Wheelers” as a club name – some of those, such as the Whitley Bay Wheelers no longer exist, but the nearby,  Ferryhill Wheeler’s (founded in 1926) appear to be still going strong. ( I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I like Clarion as a club name and the Sunderland Clarion trace their club back even further, to the late 1800’s!)

Sadly, many of the clubs in the programme, and that I grew up with, appear to no longer be around, including VC Electric, the Cleveland Couriers, Tyne Road Club, the Northern Couriers and possibly (if their dormant webiste is anything to go by) even the venerable Tyne Velo. Sic transit gloria.

(The Garrulous Kid wanted reassurance that some of our long standing, club miffs held at least a grain of truth, but I told him we had no interest in Dutch rabbits.)


Unplanned, but perhaps for the best, we left the café a handful at a time and I joined a group spearheaded by Taffy Steve and the Cow Ranger.

They completed their stint at the front as we approached Ogle and I took over alongside Biden Fecht. As we “boolled” along we had a chat about the general desire for some kind of reform within the club and even (shock# horror#) the seemingly far-fetched notion of evolving from an autocracy (some might even say dictatorship) to a democracy.

As someone spending a lot of time shuttling between Newcastle and Aberdeen, Biden Fecht was happy to volunteer to be the clubs representative in Northern Scotia, while I suggested I could be the Warden of the Southern Marches, or all the empty, barren and dangerous lands to the south of the River Tyne, where the club is ever afraid to venture.

One thing we did both agree on, neither of us wanted to be the Keeper of the Stool.

We dragged the group through Kirkley and to the top of Berwick Hill, before Biden Fecht suggested we let someone else batter themselves into the wind. I agreed and we pulled over and waved the next pair through, only at the last minute realising one of these was Plumose Pappus.

“Oh no, we’re not going to be popular,” Biden Fecht observed and true enough, Plumose Pappus hit the front and immediately drove up the pace.

Everyone hung tough until the sharp rise into Dinnington, where Plumose Pappus dropped the hammer, putting in a searing acceleration that splintered the group apart. A small, select knot formed up front and, as the road levelled and straightened, it began to pull away.

Aether tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

Captain Black tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

Princess Fiona tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

I tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

Caracol tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

At the last, Kermit managed to bridge across, but no on could go with him.

Thwarted, we settled into our own little group and pushed on anyway and I followed Caracol’s wheel until everyone else swung away and I pushed on solo, through the Mad Mile and away home.


YTD Totals: 6,416 km / 3,987 miles with 78,593 metres of climbing

Fantastic Day

Fantastic Day

Club Run, Saturday 20th October, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  111 km / 69 miles with 1,116 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 22 minute

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                         27 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    17°C

Weather in a word or two:          Fantastic


 

fantastic
Ride Profile


What a gorgeous and glorious day.

As I rolled down the valley, the sun crept into clear space beneath a band of dark, low cloud and threw a ridiculously long, sharp shadow ahead of me, cartoonish, spindly legs whirring under a peanut body topped with a spiky pinhead.

The concentrated, liquid light tangled itself in all the fading, autumnal leaves on the trees, setting them aflame in a lambent, amber glow that looked like a photo someone had applied far too much contrast to.

It sho was purdy, though.

One of the more noticeable attributes of the Pug is its near silent running, the freewheel is mute, the chain makes a hushed, barely audible whisper and when the brakes and rims combine they are completely and oddly soundless. This combined with an eerie lack of traffic, let me pick out the buzzing of the power lines, a rustle of a small bird, or mammals in the hedgerow, the slap of water against the bridge piles as I crossed the river and the rhythmic, shouted commands of the stroke, as a 4-man boat shot the arches and slid smoothly out into open water.

My ride in was equally as smooth, calm and tranquil and I arrived a few minutes before my usual time, to find Crazy Legs uncharacteristically there before me and, even more unexpectedly, chatting with Szell. Szell is normally well into hibernation mode by now, but this year is seriously challenging to still be riding with us in November.


Main topics of conversation at the start

“I’ve been here fifteen minutes already,” Crazy Legs explained cheerfully, before revealing his enthusiasm was in no way related the arrival of house guests, which may, or may not, have given him the urge to vacate the house for a while.

G-Dawg rolled in with the Colossus and there was some discussion about the intended route, which Aether had posted-up, but Crazy Legs insisted had suddenly changed mid-week, while he was looking at it online. Aether arrived and was equally as adamant that the route was the same one he’d originally devised and he hadn’t tinkered with it at all.

“Woah,” I contributed, “I think we’ve been hacked by the Russians.” Imagining some sophisticated, Fancy Bears, cyber-espionage group from the GRU interfering with our group rides for their own nefarious purposes. I’m sure, if pressed OGL would blame the Chinese.

G-Dawg, Crazy Legs and Aether talked through the proposed route and all its various permutations, finally agreeing on one definitive version. Everyone seemed to be in accord, which was good, but I’m still no closer to knowing if, unlikely as it may sound, our group rides are an on-going, potential target for cyber-terrorists.

“Anyway,” Aether wondered, “Is orange the new club colour?” nodding at G-Dawg, Szell, the Colossus and Crazy Legs, who were all bedecked in various shades of orange.

There was then a quite unseemly spat, when Szell declared the particular shade of orange that Crazy Legs was wearing was  “girly.” This escalated into a surprisingly sophisticated, mature and philosophical discourse, punctuated by the trading of clever epithets and witty, barbs. Such as:  “you stink!” … “no, your mum stinks!” …etc.

Ignoring the squabbling children, G-Dawg informed us OGL probably wouldn’t be joining us for the ride as he’d been receiving treatment for a dodgy hip. Otherwise the good weather had enticed a sizeable mob of 27 guys and gals out for the day and we decided to split into two groups with a merge point agreed further along the route.

So, we split the group into two … or, to be more accurate, tried to split into two, but the front group was dwarfed by those holding back to ride in the second group. I pushed across to even up the numbers and one or two others were coerced into joining us.

At the lights G-Dawg did a quick headcount, we had 11, leaving 16 behind, it would have to do. “Just watch,” G-Dawg mused, “OGL will turn up late and everyone in the second group will suddenly stampede to join the first.”


Luckily it wasn’t to be and I pushed out alongside the Colossus and away we went, averaging a reasonable 17-18mph for the first 10 miles or so, before ceding the front to Captain Black and Richard of Flanders.

A little further on, we found ourselves being trailed by a massive, six-wheeled piece of heavy-duty farm equipment. Stopped by some temporary lights, we shuffled off to the side of the road to let this behemoth through ahead of us. It was too big to argue with.

The traffic lights reminded the Colossus of a game he used to play while travelling with his dad – “Would I Have Died?” – a vehicular take on Russian-roulette, where you imagine ignoring a red stop light and see if you would make it through to the other side without being obliterated by on-coming traffic.

The lights changed, the behemoth squeezed past and we followed. There was no traffic approaching from the other direction – this time we wouldn’t have died. So, that’s “Would I Have Died?” – I think you’ll agree it’s a fun game for all the family, but obviously not to be undertaken in real life (unless you’re Dutch or have Dutch leanings) – after all, you’ll only lose once.

We made it to the designated lay-by and pulled in to wait for the second group to catch up, chatting about tomorrows highly popular Muckle Open Hill Climb, where they had a field of over 100 riders and a range of creative prizes, including awards for the fastest time on a fixie, or MTB, biggest improvement from last year, a lantern rouge and spot prizes for 36th, 69th and 90th.

We felt deliberately being last would be a difficult challenge, but targeting a spot prize almost impossible – although that didn’t stop us pondering Byzantine plots to try and achieve it.

The second group rolled in and we briefly coalesced, before those wanting a shorter ride to the café were swinging away again.


titled 1


The rest pressed on, heading towards the reservoir and points beyond. I joined G-Dawg, Aether and Crazy Leg, darting across the Military Road ahead of everyone else and while we waited for the others to catch up, talk turned back to the planned route.

G-Dawg was disappointed Aether hadn’t “gone pro” and taped the route outline to his handlebars this time.

Reaching into his back pocket in a “Ta-Da!” moment though, Aether pulled out and brandished a sheet of paper, shaking it vigorously in the wind, like Chamberlain declaring peace in our time.

“I have a print-out of the route here.”

“Careful!” Crazy Legs advised, “If you lose that we could be lost for days!”

On we went, up through the back roads toward the village of Ryal, G-Dawg noted that the previously prolific loose chippings seemed to have been swept from the new road surface, perhaps by the rain, perhaps through the collective passage of Taffy Steve, catching them between his tyres and fork crown. We hoped that now he would finally be able to make it through without getting more stones jammed in his frame. As an added bonus, I hear he’s now also the proud owner of a fabulous new gravel path in his garden.

We were closing in on the Quarry Climb when Sneaky Pete ran his wheel through a pot and punctured, rolling to a stop. Crazy Legs waved the rest of the group on, while I dropped back with him to help out.

Sneaky Pete soon had the tube replaced and together we started wrestling the tyre back onto the rim. As we struggled with the last section, Crazy Legs leaned in to help, his thumb barely grazing the sidewall as the tyre popped suddenly into place.

“Your welcome,” he said distractedly, while gazing in awe at his newly revealed, super-powerful, “golden thumb”.

We tag-teamed the pump-work and soon had the tyre inflated to an acceptable pressure – well, for cyclists with severely challenged upper-body strength – potentially a massive, herculean and awe-inspiring 30 psi or so. It would (have to) do. Off we went again, now somewhat inexplicably singing “My Sharona” and then following up with “My Angel is a Centrefold.”

As we turned up toward the Quarry, Crazy Legs began relating a conversation with a younger work colleague, who had said two lines that Crazy Legs immediately recognised as a direct quote from the Talking Heads song, “Road to Nowhere.”

“Ah! A Talking Heads fan?” Crazy Legs had enquired.

“Eh? What?” the work colleague was just confused.

“Talking Heads? Road to Nowhere? You know David Byrne?”

“Nah, mate, haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about…”

Apparently this hadn’t been a clever quote, referencing a subversive, 80’s alternative rock group, but actual, real-life management speak, much to Crazy Legs’ disdain. Now though, he was struggling to remember what the offending lines were.

“I’m just guessing, but I bet it wasn’t ‘and you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack,’” I suggested.

“No, it wasn’t that,” Crazy Legs confirmed and immediately started singing, “And you may find yourself, living in a shotgun shack, and you may find yourself in another part of the world, and you may find yourself, behind the wheel of a large automobile …”

He paused a second …

“Hey! That’s not the Road to Nowhere.”

“Yeah, like I said, I bet it wasn’t ‘and you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack.’

And, to be fair, I was right.”

Much like our all-hands-to-the-pump, tyre-inflation approach, we tag-teamed the run-in too, taking turns to drive us onwards and were at the café in short-order, where, true gent that he is, Sneaky Pete insisted on paying for our coffee and cakes as a (wholly unnecessary, but thoughtful) thank you for our assistance in helping with his puncture.

Crazy Legs is already planning to carry a pocketful of tacks to drop in front of Sneaky Pete on the run into the café next week.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop

Orders secured, we ventured out into the garden to finds the rest of the mob enjoying what could potentially be our last outside café stop of 2018.

Here we found Szell and I learned that he’s actually a restorative dentist and not, as I thought, an ex-Nazi intent of finding out “if it’s safe.” He then started on a mini-tirade, seemingly intent on insulting everyone at the table by association and the rest of the world by direct implication. Merchant bankers, teachers, Talking Heads, Lloyd Cole, the NHS, cosmetic surgery, dental veneers, C-list celebrities, reality television shows … it went on.

The rant seemed to be heading towards an all encompassing, scintillating climax, but I was heading toward coffee refills …

“Between inhuman looking lip implants and ridiculously artificial dental veneers, we’re on the cusp of …” Szell pontificated, but sadly (or, maybe gladly?) I didn’t manage to catch what exactly it was that we were on the cusp of. At that point in time, additional caffeine intake seemed much more important than learning the horrendous fate of civilised society.

Crazy Legs had removed his helmet to reveal a bad case of fungal cap – his Bianchi casquette, spotted and dotted with patches of mould. This, he determined was either a result of storing the cap in his garage, or perhaps, he suggested the proof that as we get older, we start to exude fungus …

This was the cap Crazy Legs had bought after I’d harangued him to replace his previous, wonky-brimmed effort, by suggesting it made him look like the village idiot. Naturally then, the demise of his current, fungal cap was all my fault.

“Anyway, I don’t know who made you the arbiter of taste,” he concluded. To be fair, neither did I.

Loud and persistent barking drew our attention to the distant hills and eventually a pack of hounds were to be seen tearing across an open field and presaging the arrival of the local hunt. There was obviously no fox, but the Colossus did suggest the leading hound was an odd russet colour and seemingly had a distinctly bushy tail…

The hounds were soon followed by the local horse-faced toffs on their very, very big, very, very expensive, horse-faced horses. We were just happy they didn’t seem to be heading our way

Meanwhile, Aether set his own, metaphorical, fox running amongst the hounds, when he politely enquired of a late arriving OGL, if now was perhaps a timely opportunity for the club to break with long-established tradition and fully-embrace the 18th century and the glorious emancipation of mankind … by holding an AGM for club members. Radical, audacious, revolutionary, I know and, much like the hunt, just as likely to see the fur flying.


We set out for home, somehow split into different groups and I joined one that had become intermingled with the Back Street Boys. When the inevitable attack went on Berwick Hill, I let it go and found myself trailing Captain Black, content to ride at my own pace.

He glanced back, “Ah, you’re obviously suffering from winter-bikitis,” he remarked. I explained that I hadn’t even thought about it and just picked out the Pug from habit, missing a glorious opportunity for one last Holdsworth, carbon-hurrah and being perhaps the only one out on a winter bike.

“Tsk, tsk,” he chided, “Schoolboy error.” True enough. He then decided to show me what I was missing, accelerating smoothly away, while I clung (more or less) to his rear wheel, unable to take a turn on the front even if I’d wanted to. (I didn’t).

With the help of Captain Black’s motor-pacing, we began to close on a small knot of our riders who’d become detached from the Back Street Boys’ train. He dragged me across the gap and, when the majority swung away left, I was able to latch onto Spoons as we entered the Mad Mile.

With the Peugeot in full stealth-mode and giving its best impersonation of silent running, I’m not even sure he knew I was there and engaged in blatant wheel-sucking, until I popped out, waved him off and swung the opposite way around the roundabout for my solo ride home.

The rest of the ride back was as smooth and serene as the outbound trip. I was tired and in no hurry, so I got to enjoy the perfect weather – might as well make the most of it, it isn’t going to last.


YTD Totals: 6,124 km / 3,805 miles with 74,898 metres of climbing

Riders on the Storm

Riders on the Storm

Club Run & Hill Climb, Saturday 13th October, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  105 km / 65 miles with 536 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 28 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.4 km/h

Group size:                                        8 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    17°C

Weather in a word or two:          Delugional New word alert! 


 

Hill Climn
Ride Profile -(with obligatory Garmin in the rain brain fart)


Friday through to Saturday and Storm Callum was having its wicked way with the British Isles, causing mass disruption, extensive flooding and even loss of life. For the North East of England it meant rain and lots of it, incessant, unrelenting, unremitting and seemingly immovable.

Oddly though, the temperatures remained relatively mild, which gave life to this rather alarming forecast from the BBC, suggesting not only persistent, heavy rain across the entire day, but also the real risk of thunderstorms…


hill climb weather


The forecast appeared just minutes before I set out to begin my journey across to the meeting point for the club run … and not just any old club run, either, but our annual festival of self-flagellation, the Hill Climb.

This is traditionally a last hurrah for carbon summer bikes, before bad weather, rain, wind, ice, mud, frost and salted roads force a swap to something heavier, more sturdy, more easily replaceable and (unless you’re a complete madman and misanthrope) preferably with mudguards.

The horrendous weather then was at direct odds with the aim of selecting the lightest bike possible to hurl uphill in a very unequal battle with gravity. As I opened the backdoor and looked at the rain teeming down, up popped a Messenger feed from Jimmy Mac: “I have never been as confused over which bike to take out….”

I had no such worries, having decided a few weeks ago I wouldn’t do the hill climb this year, feeling a distinct lack of anything approaching “form” that had me toiling on even the most innocuous rides. I’d spent last Sunday engaged in a changing of the guard, putting away Reg and the single-speed and breaking the winter bike out of storage and prepping it for just this kind of day. 13.5 kilos of slab-sided, cold aluminium and steel, the Pug (Peugeot) shrugs at the rain and positively hates good weather.

It was gloomy enough for me to switch on some lights before hissing down the hill and starting to pick my way across to the meeting point. Having swapped bikes around, I’d only remembered at the last moment my pump was still in the tool tub in the Holdsworth’s bottle-cage and I’d grabbed a spare as I ran out the door.

Now approaching the river and 3 or 4 mile into my ride, I realised I’d also forgotten any tyre levers. I weighed up the option of turning around, but I wouldn’t have time to do that and still get to the meeting point on time. I decided to risk it, working through everything I was carrying and determining that, in extremis, I could probably use my house keys as impromptu tyre levers in the event of a puncture.

Luckily this theory was never actually put to the test.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

What a sad, sorry and small, wet and bedraggled group I found, huddling out of the downpour in the bowels of the multi-storey car park and chatting with OGL, who was about to drive up to the start of the hill climb to get things set up.

A (less than) magnificent 7 included our official start team of Crazy Legs and G-Dawg, those of us too cowardly, or too sensible to ride the hill and just three actual competitors, the Garrulous Kid, the Colossus and Jimmy Mac.

We determined that with so few contestants, we could just call the results now and didn’t need to actually venture out into the rain. We even had a contestant in each category, so not only would everyone “podium” for the overall, but they’d also be a guaranteed category winner. Final placings could be determined with a quick game of rock-paper-scissors, and then we could all ride to a warm, dry café and be done with the whole, horrible exercise until next year. Perfect.

Then Buster rolled up, intent on competing too … and he ruined it for everyone.

News had filtered back that triathlon-virgin, Princess Fiona, had successfully completed the Barcelona Ironman Ironwoman Ironprincess event, a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile ride and then a full 26 mile marathon. A fantastic achievement, although not wholly unexpected and all done in a highly respectable time of just over 12 hours. It’s good that she’ll have a target time to beat next time!

We hung around as long as possible, before submitting to the inevitable and making a move to head out into the all-enveloping deluge.

“Don’t worry, it’s eased to just a downpour now,” OGL reassured us cheerily, before climbing into the warm, dry cab of his car and driving off.

Ugh. Oh well, here we go then …


It was bad out on the roads, even protected by a rain jacket, on top of a windproof jacket, over a long-sleeved baselayer and arm warmers, complete with leg warmers and winter boots, gloves and full length mudguards front and rear.

Our would-be competitors, to a man shivered in shorts and were soaked by rain and road spray in equal measure, the only consolation they had was that at least it wasn’t all that cold, otherwise it would have been a truly miserable ride out.

Wracked by indecision, Jimmy Mac had finally resorted to a round of eenie-meenie-miney-mo, before choosing not to ride his all-singing, all-dancing, all-carbon, uber-stealth machine, but an older, slightly less-posh Specialized, complete with clip-on mudguards.

Riding behind him, it didn’t take me long to realise that while the mudguards were doing an admirable job of keeping his posterior dry, they were somehow focussing a concentrated and fierce jet of dirty water directly into my face.

While this was going on, confusingly and inexplicably, the Garrulous Kid’s mudguard-less bike was somehow producing no cast-off spray whatsoever. Odd.

Meanwhile, Buster seemed in two minds about actually riding the event, especially after I told him I would be sitting this one out, so he didn’t have the safety net of at least one person he could comfortably beat. (He did finally do it and managed a cracking time to boot.)

I swapped bike preparation tales with Taffy Steve, vehement hill-climb denier and unapologetically sat astride his ponderous, thrice-cursed winter bike, as good as an excuse as any for not even looking at Prospect Hill, let alone trying to race up it.

Despite carefully cleaning and stowing the winter bike last spring, he reported one of the brake calipers had refused to release and needed emergency remedial work. For my own part, the rear mech on the Peugeot had seized and had needed some coaxing back to life.

We finally arrived at the hill climb course to find our numbers bolstered by a whole host of kids from our Go-Ride section, bright, cheerful and chatty and seemingly looking forward to their ordeal.

In all 23 brave, brave souls would hurl themselves up the hill, including the four condemned we’d escorted to their fate, Ion, who’d ridden up on his own and Kermit, who’d sensibly travelled there by car.

The competitors signed on and I helped Buster pin his number onto his back. There was no escape now. He then realised he couldn’t get his chain onto the big sprocket and enlisted OGL’s help, at the expense of having his wheel bearings roundly and roughly condemned. It’s the price you have to pay.

Ion was wearing strange, waterproof, baggy, knee-length shorts that he insisted were the next big thing. Hmm, I’m not so sure. He wondered aloud if there were any “gamers” present who might steal his title.

I thought he was asking for tips, and gave him my sage advice – “don’t bother”- before suggesting the only gamer was him, having signed up to another club to support his racing ambitions. He now has dual-club membership, much to the (very obvious) and (completely irrational) disgust of OGL.

With final preparations underway and the first rider already off and tackling the climb, I started to ride up the hill to seek out a good vantage point. I found myself following the second rider off, one of the young, Go-Ride girls, and I saw first-hand that this hill was a real and imposing test for some of the youngsters, as she struggled mightily just to keep the pedals turning over on the first and steepest ramps.

About a third of the way up, I stopped at a junction and joined an Irish Dad waiting to support his son’s ride, thinking I could do a bit of traffic control as well as cheer on the riders winching themselves up the slope.

It was great watching some of the young kids tackling the climb, all different shapes, ages, sizes and abilities, some on mountain bikes, some with a parental outrider as escort, some struggling mightily, but refusing to give in and others zipping up, apparently without a care in the world.

One or two were so unaffected by their efforts they had the breath to thank me for cheering them on!


IMG_0392
The future is bright…


Ion went storming up, followed by his only serious contender, junior European triathlon championship winner, Dan-Di who I felt looked more ragged and not as fast. So it was to prove, with Ion pipping Dan-Di to the win, but by only a handful of seconds, proving that appearances can be deceptive.

Irish Dad cheered his son through and set off walking to the top of the hill to meet him at the finish, while I took up the role of impromptu event photographer, achieving several impressive and impromptu close-ups of my own thumb.

As I watched one of the tiny girls struggle slowly upwards, weaving from side to side and with her dad as an outrider, a car approached from behind me, aiming to head down the hill, straight into the riders hauling their way up.

I waved the car to a stop and was relieved when they seemed patient, good-natured and happy to wait, hanging well back from the junction. The girl and dad passed, but Jimmy Mac was in sight and chasing hard after her. I held the car a few more moments to let him past, then waved it on with a big thumbs up. A patient, considerate and amicable driver? What’s the world coming to?

We were into a straight run of seniors now, the Colossus guffawing as I gave him my best Zardoz impersonation, complete with inspirational lying: “You’re catching them!” and “Come on, only one more corner!”

Next up was Buster, complaining loudly that his legs were already shot and his entire ride was a disaster. (They weren’t. It wasn’t).

Kermit whipped through, game-face on and concentrating hard and then it was our last man, the Garrulous Kid, who went past grinning beatifically, as if he was actually enjoying the moment and had entered a transcendent state of grace!

As the last rider disappeared around the bend, I picked my way to the bottom of the hill to find our starting team, G-Dawg and Crazy Legs, chilled through and visibly shivering. Taffy Steve took Crazy Legs off to find a café and pour hot drinks into him, while I waited for the others to coalesce, so we could hand back various bits of “deadweight” they’d jettisoned into our care.

Buster arrived looking like he’d aged 10 years in 10 minutes, perhaps a lesser version of what Crazy Legs sees in my face after the hill climb, when he’s wont to compare me to a wasted, grey-faced, shambling zombie, or John Major – whichever of them you find the most disturbing. (It’s close, but for me John Major just about shades it.)

We then followed G-Dawg to the chosen café – this year thankfully without the extended guided (de)tour around the entire outer suburbs of Corbridge.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A new café means a new choice of cakes and my eye was immediately drawn to a massive slab of Lemon Meringue pie – which turned out to be so big that Crazy Legs felt the need to take a photo of it, giving me flashbacks to almost every family meal out, where my daughters seem compelled to photograph each and every dish that’s put in front of them and woe betide anyone who takes a mouthful before the perfect picture has been composed. I’m simply too old to understand any of this malarkey and, you know what … I don’t care.

The lemon meringue pie was good, but I realised, when I was about halfway through, it was much, much too big for a single person to manage. I finished it anyway and I somehow tucked the last morsel away without initiating a Mr. Creosote moment – sheesh, and those fellers thought the hill climb was hard!

(I chuckled, but was largely unsurprised to later find that the Strava segment leading up to the café was titled Lemon Meringue Pie, Please, in tribute to this monstrosity.)

Talk turned to the clubs Annual Christmas Dinner and awards ceremony, with Crazy Legs happy to point out that since Ion won both our time-trial and hill climb events, OGL would have to acknowledge the “turncoats” achievements through ferociously clenched teeth. I proposed we added to OGL’s chagrin by going for the full sweep of awards and nominating Ion for the most improved rider award too.

Crazy Legs then related a train journey he’d recently made where he’d been royally entertained by a random encounter with a really, really weird fellow traveller. (Trust me, if a regular member of a cycling club describes someone else as really weird, then that person’s weirdness must be truly off the charts.)

Apparently, this particular fellow traveller didn’t get off to a good start when she declared she was a whale aficionado, but challenged to name her favourite, could only come up with an Orca. This, clever fellow that he is, Crazy Legs knew wasn’t actually a whale at all, just a very big, very angry dolphin on steroids.

She then revealed her pièce de résistance though, an odd affection and perverse interest in container ships, which she’d travel far and wide to look at. And just container ships mind you, not all ships, nor merchant ships in general. Not tankers, nor freighters, or ferries, not reefers, or ro-ro’s … just container ships. Apparently, it had something to do with how the containers all align when fully loaded.

Isn’t the world a many splendoured thing?


We left the café to find the rain was actually starting to ease and off we went. “Just around the next corner,” Jimmy Mac started the mantra a few miles in, soaked through and looking forward to finally finishing the ride and getting in a hot shower.

“Just around the next corner,” Jimmy Mac repeated yet again and he was partially rewarded when G-Dawg finally acknowledged, “Just one more hill to go.” Well, for some anyway. Everyone slowed to take a sharp left, but my path led straight on and as the road dropped away downhill before starting to climb again, I waved everyone else off and kicked on.

The rain had stopped and the hedgerows seemed alive with chattering birds celebrating, or maybe just idly commentating on the astonishing amounts of rain that had fallen in the past 6 hours.

The rain had stopped, but a troubling wind had sprung up in its place and I watched as a crow hung in the air, beating its wings slowly and ponderously, going precisely nowhere, before giving up, dipping a wing and sliding away to one side.

Oh well, it wasn’t like I was in a rush to avoid any bad weather …


YTD Totals: 5,956 km / 3,701 miles with 71,525 metres of climbing

Fick and Fin

Fick and Fin

Club Run, Saturday 6th October, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  115 km / 71 miles with 1,091 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 24 minute

Average Speed:                                26.2 km/h

Group size:                                         23 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    12°C

Weather in a word or two:          Coolly pleasant


 

fik and fin
Ride Profile


This week seemed to be a carbon copy of last week, with one major difference. No wind!

This meant what worked last week, should work this week too, so jersey, tights, arm warmers and a lightweight rain jacket for an extra layer of protection, just until I got across to the meeting point and the morning air lost its chill edge.

I was passed by several cars, elongated with long thin hulls strapped to their roofs, as I made my way down the valley and the rowing club was busy with vehicles parking up and rowers clambering out and about, obviously gearing up for some event or other.

It turned out to be the Tyne Long Distance Sculls, whatever that involves. I guessed they wouldn’t be starting in the near future though as, when I rolled over the bridge, I saw the tide was most assuredly out and the river reduced to just a thin ribbon of dark water between two shiny, featureless mud flats.

I was so busy avoiding aimlessly meandering rowers from the Tees Rowing club that I almost missed the fact that the cable, that had been dragged across the road at the end of the bridge, had been removed, along with its temporary barrow of tarmac. It was all smooth sailing from there on – well, for me anyway.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting place:

I arrived at the meeting place to find Jimmy Mac admiring the Garrulous Kid’s vintage Castelli jersey, a hand-me-down from a benevolent uncle, which Jimmy Mac commended as very retro.

“Yeah,” the Garrulous Kid explained, “It’s good for this weather, as it’s not fick and it’s not fin.”

Despite the need for a not fick and not fin jersey, the Garrulous Kid was still wearing shorts, along with G-Dawg who is flat-out refusing to accept that summer is actually over. At the other extreme and true to his word, the Rainman had already broken out his winter bike, a week before the traditional last hurrah for carbon, our Hill Climb event.

“Sheee-orts!” an arriving OGL exclaimed loudly, in a pitch I had previously thought only attainable by pre-pubescent castrati, caught sucking down a lungful of helium.

Taffy Steve was visibly taken aback by this shocking squeal of outrage, “Remarkable! I didn’t know you could emit that sort of noise, I only ever associated you with gruff bellowing, ranting and swearing…”

The Garrulous Kid contended he was perfectly comfortable in his shorts, even when Taffy Steve declared his legs had the appearance of corned beef. We then had to spend a good few minutes explaining that corned beef and spam were not the same thing and came from completely different animals.

(For those interested in a, “I never knew that” sort of way, the corn in corn beef refers to the salt pellets traditionally used to cure the meat and not niblets of the Green Giant variety. I never knew that!)

The Garrulous Kid then rolled up his shorts legs to, shockingly, reveal his tan-line, or I should say the very, very subtle, almost indiscernible shading between unhealthy and just plain pallid. He was right in a way though, if his lower extremities resembled corned beef, the tops did look a lot like spam.

Needing a distraction, any kind of distraction, Taffy Steve quickly diverted the Garrulous Kid by asking him why 6 was so afraid of 7.

“Huh?” the Garrulous Kid replied brightly.

“I don’t know Steve,” I asked, “Why is 6 so afraid of 7.”

“Because 7-8-9!” Taffy Steve chuckled at his obvious winner in the Dad-Joke-of-the-Week competition.

“Huh?” the Garrulous Kid replied brightly.

“Seven … ate … nine … uh, furgeddaboudit.”

The Hammer took centre stage to outline the intended route for the day, which would take us, down into the Tyne Valley and then out again. He concluded with a set of admonitions that, at first, had everyone nodding along in agreement:

“No profanity, no smoking, no expectoration.  Always be polite to fellow road users, doff your cap to lady pedestrians, signal your intent with clarity and celerity … and no half-wheeling.”

“What?” the Red Max exploded, “Nah, I’m not having that!” The last statement was a bridge too far, the straw that broke the camel’s back and an inimical impediment to the Red Max’s whole raison d’etre.

Arf.

With numbers borderline for split groups, we left en masse, once more picking our way safely along the Broadway “war zone” and out into the countryside.


 

OGL had a bit of a rant about people who only showed up once in a blue moon and dictated our route, but I just let it wash over me. He was luckily distracted by the high pace being set up front, so at least had something else to complain about. Then, as we approached the airport, his phone started ringing loudly and incessantly from his back pocket.

He ignored it.

A bit further on and it started ringing again, he decided he had to answer and dived into the layby on the roundabout, just outside the airport entrance. I caught the others up, told them what was happening and we pulled into a bus stop to wait.

The last of our riders pulled up, someone said OGL wasn’t going to follow and that we should just push on. So we did.

Along the way it was suggested that, like the classic preparation for a blind date, we should all have a pre-arranged call set-up, one that we can answer if the pace of the group is too high and we need an excuse to abandon mid-ride.

At some point I found myself just behind Crazy Legs, already planning a shorter route and, naturally, inspired to sing about it. He settled on a fine version of Fleetwood Mac’s, “Go Your Own Way” and I was able to contribute in small part, with backing vocals for the chorus.

We swung left toward the river and called a pee stop, while Crazy Legs and the Red Max took their splinter group away for a shorter ride, much to the disgust of the Monkey Butler Boy who hadn’t been invited along and now had to face the longer ride with us.

There was only time for the Garrulous Kid to half-inhale a Snickers bar and then we were off again.

For some unknown reason, I indulged in a bit of joyful scat singing with Biden Fecht as we rolled along, “Be-ba-ba-boop-bap-baddaber-ap!”

“Zoober-za-deep-za-boo-da.”

“What? That sounds like Saudi. Why are you singing in Saudi?” the Garrulous Kid demanded to know, much to the amusement of Plumose Pappus, who declared he’d never seen me at a loss for words until that moment.

Meanwhile, the Monkey Butler Boy confessed that he’d spent some time carefully aligning his bar end plugs, following my stinging criticism last week. I had to admit his bike looked much, much better for it.

We enjoyed a swooping drop into the Tyne Valley, on a new, smooth road surface that seemed to have been stripped of its old rumble strips, and I hit the front (and a bit of a pesky headwind) along with Biden Fecht, as we followed the river and then started to climb toward Corbridge.


20170625_131018A


It was a day of scattered road kill and we passed deer, squirrel, rabbit and hedgehog corpses all splayed on the tarmac, or flung carelessly down the side of the road. Apart from obviously being dead, the squirrel in particular looked in rude health, remarkably fat and glossy. I surmised it had probably died of some obesity related disease, but according to Biden Fecht I needn’t have worried too much as “it was one of those ferrin’ grey ones.”

As if keeping to a theme, our stint on the front finally brought us to a road junction marked by some tawny, speckled and formless, feathering pile of a dead bird. Glory be to dappled things, indeed.

We turned left onto the main road and then first right, up toward Aydon, where the bridge took us safely up, up – and over the teeming, car-clogged, A69.

As the road continued to climb, I dropped toward the back of the group, taking it relatively easy and testing how the legs were after my struggles last week.

We regrouped over the top and pressed on toward Matfen. A group eased off the front and I found myself in a small knot of riders following on, with others scattered behind. The Colossus surveyed our little group and declared we’d gone from a dozen and a half riders to just four in little over a mile.

Toledo Tomás, our Swedish-educated-Spanish-newcomer, riding with us while studying for a masters at Newcastle University, joined on to the back of the group. At one point he attempted to bridge across to the front group, he’s fit and fast enough to do it, but he missed a turn and had to backtrack to re-join us. The misdirection seemed to temporarily subdue him and he hung off the back and seemed content just to follow the wheels after this.

We piled up the Quarry climb, swung right and accelerated up and through Wallridge crossroads and then down. I took it up for the last drag up to the final junction, then pulled over to let the Colossus, G-Dawg and the Garrulous Kid contest the sprint. I expected Toledo to join in, but he hesitated, so I pushed past and followed the others.

Tomás unleashed a devastating sprint, much, much too late, but he latched onto the others, while I managed to re-join only once we had crossed the main road and ducked down the lane for the last 500 metres or so to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

With a large group in front, plus our shorter route followers, along with the Back Street Boys (or Back Door Bikers, as the Red Max has gleefully taken to calling them), already ensconced inside, the café was packed to heaving, leaving little choice but to retire to the garden, where we found it was surprisingly mild and comfortable.

As I wandered out, I bumped into OGL and Another Engine who’d just arrived.

“What happened to you?” I wondered.

“I had to take a call,” OGL.

“We waited.”

“No they didn’t!” Another Engine snorted.

“Well, we did a bit…”

“They went a different way.” OGL insisted.

“No they didn’t!” Another Engine snorted.

Wondering if I’d inadvertently wandered into a panto rehearsal, I left them arguing between themselves and went to find a table, not that it was difficult, the garden being otherwise empty.

Talk of the TV series “The Bodyguard” somehow turned to Theresa May and her party conference “dancing” which I admitted had severely scarred my soul. G-Dawg had quickly realised it was something you sadly couldn’t un-see, which was the single reason he hadn’t plucked his own eyeballs out in response.

(I particularly liked Josh Widdicombe’s take, that she danced like someone trying to move a fridge, with a nod of respect to Stewart Lee’s “like a mantis with an inner ear infection.”)

We decided that, not only was it mild and pleasant out in the garden, but there was an appealing absence of wasps too.

Another Engine declared that wasps got a bad press and then somewhat ruined it by admitting he’d never been stung by one. This was despite once sitting on a wasps nest in Scarborough’s Peasholm Park to watch the miniature naval battle re-enacted on the lake.

To be fair, he said he didn’t realise he was sitting on a wasps nest at the time, although he did wonder why he got such a great spot, with a grandstand view and nobody pressed in beside him.

G-Dawg, a man known to frequently crush wasps with his bare thumbs, carried grim tales of a bus being stopped and evacuated mid-route after half the passengers had panicked when a wasp flew in the window.

Never mind crushing them, Another Engine determined, in polite company you were meant to gently waft them away.

“Ah, like an errant fart?” I suggested, which led to the unfortunate revelation that both Another Engine and the Garrulous Kid suffer from sustained and impromptu flatulence following a long bike ride.

“I’ll bet that’s an excuse that’s worn thin by a Thursday evening,” G-Dawg mused.

OGL complained he’d found some bearings in a MTB bottom bracket that were so esoteric he’d had to ring the manufacturer, Giant for guidance.

Childishly, I couldn’t help but imagine how that particular phone-call might have sounded, intoning: “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, Giant headquarters, how can we help you human?”

With just one week to go until the club hill climb, Another Engine fondly recalled his last experience competing.

“Do you remember the time we were waiting to start and those two women on touring bikes with panneers rode by en route to who knows where and asked if they could join in?” he asked.

“Panneers? Are they posh panniers?” OGL demanded.

Panneers, panniers, whatever,” Another Engine continued. “The point is, these two women rode the event, without preparation and on touring bikes loaded down with full panniers.”

“That was the year I was second last,” he concluded, glumly.

There was just time to deride the increasing proliferation of “official” world boxing champions titles, determine Tyson Fury had perhaps the perfect name for a boxer and discuss how after shedding over 122 pounds in weight, from fick to fin, he’s still burdened with the skin of a 385 pound man … and it’s not a good look.


Then we were off and away. Luckily the Backstreet Boys has left earlier, so there was no intermingling of clubs and testosterone levels were capped off well below the danger level. The ride back was fast-paced, but controlled and I swung away at the end of the Mad Mile feeling in good fettle and looking forward to a ride back without having to constantly battle with a headwind.

Perfect timing saw the traffic parting like the Red Sea and I skipped straight over the roundabout on the approach to the Heinous Hill without even having to slow. For once the capricious gods of cycling had aligned everything in my favour, the lights at the bottom of the climb burned green and I was able to carry a bit of speed up the first ramps, before picking my way upwards and home again.


YTD Totals: 5,805 km / 3,607 miles with 71,525 metres of upness

Nipple Knockers and Mods vs. Rockers

Nipple Knockers and Mods vs. Rockers

Club Run, Saturday 25th August, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  107 km / 67 miles with 1,038 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 3 minute

Average Speed:                                26.5 km/h

Group size:                                         33 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Chilly


 

nipknock
Ride Profile


A chilly start to the day and as I dropped downhill, gradually picking up speed I was glad of the arm warmers and long fingered gloves I’d dug out of deep storage.

First to arrive at the meeting point, I clambered up to sit on the wall, enjoying the deceptive warmth in the shelter of the Transport Interchange’s (i.e. Bus Station) micro-climate.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Szell was the first of my riding companions to arrive climbing stiffly off his bike and complaining of a stiff back which he felt was an occupational hazard common to all dentists.

Odd, as he’s not a dentist …

Oh, ok, I lied, he is really.

We had a discussion about holidays and I admitted the only thing remotely akin to cycling I’d managed in the past week was piloting a pedalo (badly) through a flotilla of yachts, speedboats and ferries.

In complete agreement with Mrs. Sur la Jante, Szell firmly declared that family vacations were not for cycling and he was always bemused when talk about a forthcoming holiday was interrupted by the inevitable “are you taking your bike?” query.

I told him I was largely detached in holiday destination selection and trip planning anyway, so I typically had a poor grasp of any cycling opportunities that could be on offer – my only tasks are to book the time off work and act as porter for numerous suitcases full of clothes, which invariably returned home in the same clean, unworn and uncreased state they left in.

Szell proved quite envious of my approach, seemingly in contrast to his own, where he does all the choosing, booking, preparations and arrangements, solely to provide his missus with a surfeit of ammunition to complain, berate, castigate and criticise all of his choices for the entire duration of their holiday.

The Red Max rolled up and added his own unique spin on the conversation – he has a whole three-weeks lined up in Spain (with bikes!) but he doesn’t go until the temperature is manageable and still has a seven long, long weeks to wait.

Everyone had responded to the chilly start to the day with a varied selection of gloves, arm warmers, legwarmers, jackets and gilet’s. Crazy Legs had taken things one step further, with winter boots, tights and gloves, a long-sleeved jacket, a gilet and a buff pulled up to his sunglasses to cover the lower half of his face. He looked like the Invisible Man, or at least a set of clothes the Invisible Man would be proud to be seen in. All apparently an attempt to, once and for all, rid himself of his lingering chest infection.

Spoons had bravely volunteered to plan and lead the ride and began outlining the route, reading from a carefully prepared crib sheet on his phone “Up Broadway West and …”

He was immediately and rudely interrupted by the return of the Lone Dissenting Voice. “Nah, nah,  not Broadway,” it snarled, “It’s bloody lethal. Lethal! I’m not going up Broadway!”

Odd. I’ve been on countless rides where the Lone Dissenting Voice has led us merrily up Broadway West. Still, it’s a free country and everyone’s entitled to change their mind, I guess.

Spoons managed to complete the route outline without further interruption and a bumper mass of 33 riders (minus 1 exception) agreed to split, intending to rendezvous and regroup at the top of the Quarry.


I joined a disappointingly small, eight man front group and off we went, navigating up Broadway West, with great caution, huge amounts of trepidation and much muttering, “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti …”

Having negotiated the road, surprisingly without incident or grievous harm, I fell into conversation with the Monkey Butler Boy. He said he was only going to accompany us for a short while, en route to meeting up with his callow Wrecking Crew, then they were off to tackle the Gibbet, a famous local climb just outside Elsdon.

Although marked by an actual, reconstructed gibbet, the gallows marking the spot – where local ne’er-do-well and murderer William Winter was hanged in 1792 – there’s nothing particularly murderous about the climb and I was surprised by the Monkey Butler Boy’s claim he’d never ridden it before.

(The Red Max would later suggest that, “once again” the Monkey Butler Boy was talking complete and utter nonsense and had in fact tackled the climb on numerous occasions.)

The Monkey Butler Boy swept away and I dropped in alongside Richard of Flanders, as Caracol and Rab Dee set a furious pace on the front. Spoons and Benedict took over from them and then, as we approached Fenwick and turned both uphill and into the wind, it was suddenly our turn on the front.

Perfect timing. Thanks guys.

As I pushed on alongside Richard of Flanders, I was describing my latest work, improving ailing University courses and supporting the development of new ones. This, I explained had given me some hard-earned knowledge (but little understanding) of an eclectic range of subjects, such as Mechatronic Engineering, Cryptocurrencies,  Merkle Trees and Animal Energetics.

Richard suggested things had changed rapidly since his days working in the Potteries, when every other client was a Nipple Knocker. Now he felt this much-storied profession was dying out, overtaken by sadly prosaic job titles such as Search Engine Optimisation Engineer.

He started to expound on the historical, philosophical, economic, social and nationalistic characteristics that might explain why the French seemed particularly interested in Robotics courses, before stopping mid-sentence to laugh at himself, “Listen to me, talking shite.”

He then declared that there was no greater pleasure than “talking shite on a bike” which we’ve found has particular synergies with talking shite in the pub, or talking shite over coffee and cake.

“This,” I explained, “Is the quintessential essence of club cycling. Talking shite on a bike is what keeps us coming back week, after week, after week.”

We then both commented on how odd it was to be approaching the Quarry climb relatively fresh and early, rather than toward the end of the ride, after much leg-shredding and as a prelude to a mass café gallop.


nknock


Then we were grunting and groaning up the ramps as we took the group up to the top. Here we settled in to wait for the rest, but after long minutes, with no one in sight, we started to imagine the worst and concluded that the second group had probably been decimated while trying to negotiate the acute, but well-hidden perils of Broadway West.

Rab Dee reckoned they’d all been picked off, one by one, in a macabre game of devil-take-the-hindmost, while Caracol imagined a series a floral, roadside shrines spaced at intervals along the route, each marking the final resting place of a fallen comrade, before culminating in a grandiose tomb for the Lone Dissenting Voice, bearing a simple, but pithy epitaph: “See, I told you it was lethal.”

We filled in some time discussing new bikes. Rab Dee has one he was using for the first time today, while Caracol had a new winter bike and had sentenced his old one to life on the turbo. This had him pondering the value of Zwift as a potential training aid.

I told him to ask Crazy Legs, who had used something similar and reported riding the Oslo World Championship course, in splendid isolation from the comfort of his own garage, but also, simultaneously in collective-cyberspace with a bunch of virtual strangers.

He’d ended up laughing at himself for futilely flicking out an elbow to try and get one of them to come through and do a turn on the front, before realising he was still in his garage, there was no one behind him to come through and no matter how professional his elbow waggling looked, no one could actually see it.

An amused Caracol wondered if he had also taken the time to point out any old oil spills or stray nails that might have been lurking on the garage floor.

After a long, long wait, we determined our second group had in fact encountered problems along the way, or had simply decided to take to different roads, so we pressed on without them.

We then took a circuitous route through Capheaton and up to Wallington. Richard of Flanders, Keel and Zardoz headed straight through to Middleton Bank from there, while the rest of us climbed up to Scots Gap before looping back to the hill.

When we got there, a frisky Caracol blasted away, with Rab Dee in hot pursuit, while the rest of us were left to follow as best we could.

Alongside Benedict, I caught up with a waiting Rab Dee as we crossed the top of the hill and, as the road levelled, we found ourselves with Caracol a distant speck in front and Spoons a similar distance behind. Our choices were simple, to wait, to chase, or to stay where we were, hanging somewhere between the two.

After a fairly lengthy consideration, we decided to chase (sorry, Spoons) and set off in pursuit of Caracol. With Rab Dee pushing on the front, we slowly reeled in our front runner, while I sat at the back, just about hanging on.

We were all together for the sweep around Bolam Lake and the swoop through Milestone Woods. Then we hit the rollers and I attacked up the first slope … because … well, because I always do. This gave Caracol and Rab Dee a springboard to slingshot around me as my legs inevitably failed on the last slope and while I chased hard, I had no chance of narrowing the gap on the final climb to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The Red Max reported that the Lone Dissenting Voice had indeed rejected the planned route and led a splinter group away from the perils of Broadway West – the splinter group consisting of exactly one, single, solitary rider.

I can neither deny, nor confirm rumours that the Lone Dissenting Voice still found something to argue about, even as he rode off in his own company.

Crazy Legs then said a new guy had shown up just as the second group were pulling out and asked to join on. He had apparently “seen people riding in a group before” which Crazy Legs took as a tacit admission that he hadn’t actually done it himself.

The new guy, let’s call him Joe (simply because I understand that’s his actual name) seemed to be doing fine, until he showed a remarkable affinity for spelunking and drawn in by the lure of a deep, unfathomable pothole, planted his wheel in it, smashing down and fracturing his collarbone.

Emergency services and concerned-partner calls were made and Crazy Legs, Carlton and a delegation hung back to look after our fallen rider until the ambulance arrived, while the rest of the group pressed on. At some point the LDV had sailed past and away, I’m not sure what words were emitted at this point, but I do know his contributions were not well received.

Further mishap then befell the group, when Crazy Legs suffered a stupidly close punishment pass from a motorcyclist, tangled handlebars with Carlton and came down. Luckily his much cossetted Ribble managed to escape without harm, while Crazy Legs collected a few bruises and scratches, a hole in his leggings (which he thought added street cred) and a stinger from landing heavily on his side.

(For the sake of clarity, it’s worth pointing out that neither of these incidents occurred anywhere near Broadway West, although our mindless transgression of its sacred boundaries may have accrued the bad karma that contributed to them.)

I told the Red Max that Crazy Legs has form when it came to tangling with motorcyclists, remembering his game of chicken with the Harley Hogs when descending the Galibier at speed. We wondered (purely theoretically, of course) what the consequences of a more physical confrontation might have been had the motor cyclist bothered to stop to survey the damage he’d caused.

Crazy Legs was quite sanguine about his chances, suggesting cyclists were lighter and more nimble, so he could easily sway out of the way of jumbo haymakers and quickly jab back. He also felt if he could somehow bring the biker down, it would be game over – like a tortoise on its back, or an unhorsed knight in armour, there be no getting back up.

The Red Max appeared to support these fantastical delusions, insisting many cyclists and bikers shared a mid-life crisis engendered by the onset of inherent lardiness, but we channelled ours into physical activity that would directly address the issue, while they channelled theirs into a more sedentary activity that would simply exacerbate it.

Giving the cyclist vs. biker (or mods vs. rockers, if you will) fight-scenario far greater consideration than was justified, Crazy Legs concluded that his slippery cleats would put him at a disadvantage and determined it would be better to fight in his stockinged feet. This, he assured us, would be OK, as he would appeal to the sporting nature of his adversary and politely request that he too remove any footwear, in the interests of fairness.

Quite how he was going to land his punches through the letter box sized visor of a full face helmet I never did get a satisfactory answer to, luckily someone decided it was time to leave.


I joined a small group for the ride back, progressing at a sensible, sustained pace which was ideal for my tired legs that appeared to be suffering a holiday hangover.  A larger group had coalesced in front of us, but no one had any inclination to chase them down and the gap simply expanded until we could no longer see them on the road.

As we set our own, comfortable pace back, I dropped in beside Sneaky Pete for a quick chat and learned that the heatwave is officially over, as he revealed he’d taken to wearing long trousers instead of shorts for the first time in 3 months.

Oh well, it’s been a good run…


YTD Totals: 5,014 km / 2,814 miles with 61,645 metres of climbing