Karma Comedian

Karma Comedian

Club Run, Saturday 17th February, 2018                

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  106 km / 66 miles with 1,155 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 26 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.3 km/h

Group size:                                         21 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    9°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and brittle


17 feb Kc
Ride Profile

Here we go again, but this time the weather looks better – not quite the fine and dry spell that had instigated much mid-week chatter about breaking out summer bikes at the weekend, but a long way from the cold, wet and miserable last couple of Saturdays.

I even left home as prepared for changing conditions as possible, with a stowable gilet and spare pair of lightweight gloves in case things warmed up. Of course deciding what to wear, what to take and what to leave, provided its own paralysis-through-analysis dilemma. I was late setting out and found myself pushing the pace a little more than I would have liked to make up time.

Down and across the river, there was another event taking shape at one of the rowing clubs, but it apparently scheduled for a later start. The traffic cones and marshals were out to direct the parking, but the competitors had only just started to arrive. As I pushed on, every other vehicle that passed seemed to be a van towing a trailer laden with long white hulls.

Despite all the traffic lights being with me, I missed my usual space-time confluence by quite some distance. This is the part of the ride when my mileage matches the time and my comfort zone is around 8:42 by which time I should have completed 8.42 miles.

Today, by my admittedly eccentric measure, time and space weren’t in alignment until 8:46 – I was still running behind. I kicked it onto the big ring and pushed down all the usual freewheeling descents, diving through the corners instead of sweeping around them and kicking on as much as possible.

8:59 and I was swinging around the final corner. Made it, and nicely warmed up too.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

The Rainman nodded at G-Dawg, still on his fixie and declared that all the talk of summer bikes had been just that. Talk. Or, as he put it, “Pure bravado.”

Unfortunately, unexpected heavy rain overnight had given everything a good soaking and dampened any enthusiasm for good bikes. It was just as well, the roads were still awash and thick with mud and muck and clarts. The Pug at the end of the ride looked like it had been pebble-dashed under a muck-spreader and a multi-bucket, bike-cleaning was definitely due.

Still, the weather was promising enough to persuade Crazy Legs to (at least temporarily) lock up his fixie and venture out on the spring-autumn Bianchi, while the Monkey Butler Boy even dared to expose an inch or two of glaringly white, bare calf to the elements.

Crazy Legs asked if anyone knew how the Prof’s rehearsals were progressing for his Back Street Boys tribute act. A minute later and the Garrulous Kid posed the exact same question. Crazy Legs determined from this that the Garrulous Kid was essentially a simplex device – a communications system that can only operate in a single direction and, in the Garrulous Kids case, this was evidently set to output only. Thus, Simplex became yet another name among many that the Garrulous Kid has now collected.

We tried to remember just one, single Back Street Boys song. Crazy Legs vaguely thought they may once have been associated with an eBay campaign, but other than that … nothing. A band whose name is more famous than their output? It doesn’t bode well for the Prof and his troupe of performing cyclists.

Our gathering coalesced into a decent turn out of twenty riders and, at 9:15 precisely, we pushed off, clipped in and rode out to follow a route planned by the Hammer.


I spent some time catching up and chatting with the Rainman and then G-Dawg as we rolled away, sitting near the front of the group as we worked our way out into the countryside.

From this kind of position, I had a chance to muse on the established patterns and ebb and flows of the group ride, which are often entirely predictable. The same few people rolling through off the front, the same workshy laggards hanging around in the middle, the same trailers who like to hang at the back and keep an eye out for everyone else.

(This, depending on the rider in question, can either be to ensure everyone is ok, or because they warily view their fellow riders as an unpredictable liability and want to ensure the best chance of staying upright when the inevitable incident happens.)

This predictability of the rides is especially true when pressure on the front, often combined with a slightly more testing climb, strings out and fractures the group and triggers a seemingly inescapable barrage of shouts and curses.

On some climbs, such as when we’re heading out up Berwick Hill, this is only a very rare occurrence. On others, it’s almost guaranteed. If the route takes us past the Cheese Farm, I know the shouting will start no later than half way up Bell’s Hill. We always, always and without exception, wait and regroup over the top. Nevertheless, the shouting always, always and without exception, follows the front of the group up. Annoying and unnecessary, but maybe someone finds it cathartic?

Today’s route took us through Ponteland, avoiding any major climbs and keeping the group tight and compact. We turned onto Limestone Lane, an interesting contrast with patches of time-ravaged, potholed, pitted and rutted road surface, finally giving way to a welcome, but too short, stretch of pristine, smooth tarmac.

Somewhere along here we were passed by a flying Den Haag in club colours, who promptly turned around and joined us for the rest of the ride.

Stamfordham and Matfen came and passed under our wheels and we were soon at the Quarry turn, where we split the group. The majority opted for a direct route to the café, while the rest pushed on for a fun hurtle down the Ryals, before picking our way back up with the climb through Hallington.

A short dragging climb brought us to the crest of the Ryals, where the whole of the countryside seemed to open up before us, just before the road tipped over. I tucked in and surrendered to the pull of gravity, freewheeling all the way and gradually building up speed.


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The Cow Ranger kicked past, pedalling furiously and I dropped into his wake and trailed him down, pushing the speed over 50km/h, before sitting up and coasting through to the bottom.

A sharp right and almost immediately we began climbing to recover the altitude we’d so vicariously squandered. There was about half a dozen of us in the front group, with Aether bringing up the rear and we stopped to collect him, before swinging onto the main road and heading back east.

Topping the aptly named Humiliation Hill, we then had 10kms of fast, rolling road that tended slightly downhill, all the way to the café. While Crazy Legs and Captain Black dropped back to ride with Aether, Den Haag and the Rainman ramped up the pace. I dropped in behind G-Dawg and the Collossus and hung on, giving my best Mowgli fighting Sher Kahn impersonation, desperately clinging to the tigers tail in a heads down, lung-bursting, super-fast thrash toward the café.

I was distanced on the short, but violent climb up Brandy Well Bank, but fought my way back on, just as we hit the last downhill stretch toward the Snake Bends. I could only watch from a distance as Den Haag then attacked and briefly pulled away, sneakily trying to slipstream a car that pulled out of a side road ahead. The Rainman closed him down with the Colossus planted on his wheel, then attacked over the top and the pair went clear, before the Colossus unleashed an irrepressible burst down the outside.

I eased past G-Dawg as his legs reached terminal velocity on his fixie and followed them through the bends and out onto the main road.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

G-Dawg and the Colossus checked and re-checked the time as we rolled up to the café – hoping they’d got it spot on and were neither too early or too late for their traditional ham and egg pie.

They did in fact get the timing spot on, but were a little disconcerted when their food arrived with the wholly unnecessary embellishment and unwanted distraction of a side salad. In cyclist eating parlance, this must be the ultimate expression of gilding a lily. G-Dawg put a brave face on it and suggested a bit of foliage would put some colour in his cheeks. I assume he didn’t mean the slightly off green-tinge afforded by the light reflecting off the assorted leaves artfully clumped on his plate.

The Colossus explained he thought eating salad was a waste of time and effort, and he followed the very simple life rule of not eating anything that doesn’t have a face. I wondered if this was why he liked it when the face of Hitler appeared in a naan bread, or, much less remarkable given their general similarities, someone found a potato in the shape of Donald Trumps head.

The Rainman topped the litany of random look-alike images with the revelation that Jesus had once appeared in a dogs arse He wanted to show us, but couldn’t decide what term to type into Google.

“Jesus in a dogs arse?” I suggested and to no great surprise that seemed to do the trick.

Talk turned to ultra-long club rides after the Rainman posted a route he’d taken from Berwick to Newcastle. He explained this wasn’t as extreme as it sounded, as he’d taken the train up there.

“I was suffering and it was a real grind between Alnwick and Morpeth,” he concluded.

“Yeah, and that was just on the train going up,” I added helpfully.

We all agreed that a north-south ride coastal ride might seem like a good idea, but for the one big problem with any route – sooner or later, they all had to pass through Blyth…

The Garrulous Kid swung past to tell us he’d ridden down the Ryals, then turned around to ride straight back up them again. Why? I think this is something that’s becoming an odd obsession. Is he Sisyphus on a bike? He then said he reached the top … and promptly fell over for no apparent reason. Perhaps he simply forgot how to pedal or balance, which isn’t perhaps as unlikely as it first sounds.

Almost as an aside, before disappearing to join the queue at the counter, he then said that Taffy Steve had passed him going down the Ryals as he was climbing back up. I was a bit surprised as I could distinctly remember Taffy Steve turning off for the Quarry with the shorter-ride.

We checked the café. No Taffy Steve. We asked around. No Taffy Steve. Finally, I eyed up the tall, skinny, gangling figure of the Garrulous Kid speculatively, and concluded he definitely hadn’t murdered and eaten Taffy Steve in any kind of macabre, cannibalistic ritual. Hmm, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a Gore-Tex jacket.

Before we sent out the search parties, the eagle-eyed Sneaky Pete spotted Taffy Steve pulling up outside the café. I later learned he had indeed turned off for the Quarry Climb, but took a look at some of the company he was being asked to sit with in the café and decided the climb to Hallington would be the less painful option. He’d then simply swung around and had been chasing us solo ever since.


As we left the café we spotted Zardoz, just turning in for some well-deserved cake and coffee.

“I’ll catch you!” he quipped, blithely “Don’t wait…” Comedy gold.

The ride back was largely without incident until we started down Berwick Hill. The wind had picked up and set the red flags on the ranges snapping. It carried the pop of automatic gunfire to us, even as it pushed at our backs, urging the pace upwards.

Then, the sound of gunfire was eclipsed by the resounding, flat retort of an exploding tyre from somewhere behind. That was one hell of a puncture.

The road here was fast and busy and there was nowhere for a large group to stop safely. We had to ride on for a couple of hundred metres before we found an entryway way where we could pull over and try to determine what had just happened.

Apparently, OGL’s tyre had been rubbing on his mudguard and the friction had heated up the inner tube, which had exploded, ripping a long gash through the tyre carcase. This Crazy Legs declared was clear evidence of poor bike maintenance and divine karma, retribution for all the times OGL had mercilessly slagged off and berated other riders for failing to keep their winter bikes in pristine, working order.

We despatched the Monkey Butler Boy back up the hill to determine if OGL needed any help and whether we should wait, or press on. The Monkey Butler Boy returned to inform us that the gash in the tyre was as long as his hand, but Aether and a couple of others were stopped with OGL, they had everything they needed, repairs were underway and we should just press on.

Off we trundled and soon after, I was swinging off for home, once more battling the hills and headwinds alone. Still the sun was out, it was relatively warm, I was pleasantly tired instead of ground down and I was thoroughly enjoying the ride. I don’t want to tempt fate, but things are looking up.


YTD Totals: 1,007 km / 533 miles with 11,280 metres of climbing

Wave Rider

Wave Rider

Club Run, Saturday 4th March, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  101 km / 63 miles with 1,015 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 21 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.2 km/h

Group size:                                         18 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    10°C

Weather in a word or two:          Wet and dry


ride-profile-4-march

Ride Profile


The Ride:

The weather forecast on Friday night was predicting heavy rain throughout Saturday, which was due to last at least until late in the afternoon. Someone must have given the weather systems the bums rush though, as I awoke to find all the rain had seemingly swept right over us during the night.

Consequently, things were looking much, much better than expected, first thing Saturday morning. The problem was though that the rain due to fall in the eight or so hours of daylight had been compressed into a tiny window of a just a few pre-dawn hours. While the sky remained flat, grey and dull and we would escape all but the briefest of showers, the concentrated rainfall seemed to have swollen every watercourse, universally overwhelmed drainage and left the ground thoroughly sodden and saturated.

Our day then was to be punctuated by several notable, unpredictably placed encounters with huge lakes and lagoons of standing water that barred our course from verge to verge and left us no choice but to ford our way carefully through them, slowly, in single-file while hoping their murky, watery depths hid no potholes.

My ride across to the meeting place had proven unremarkable, except for a cluster of un-manned roadworks and temporary traffic lights that seemed to have sprung up out of nowhere. There were enough of these to delay me by a good five minutes, while every red light gave me yet another opportunity to wonder just where the accompanying workmen were.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Queries about my debilitating malady last week led to discussions about the best way to slack off work, with the main conundrum being how you could periodically simulate some kind of activity and tap a computer key to stop a screen-saver kicking in and the network connection timing out. Someone suggested perhaps one of those dippy, drinking bird novelties, poised carefully over your keyboard might work …

A group from the club have signed up for the Tour of Ayrshire Gran Fondo in April, a qualifying event for the UCI Gran Fondo World Championships. Sadly, their hopes of competing as a team have been dashed by the realisation that while they have managed one entrant in each of the age categories, they actually only have one entrant in each of the age categories – so, about as useful as a Venn diagram where none of the quadrants overlap then.

Jimmy Mac suggested the Prof was old enough to be his dad and wondered just how tired he got filling in insurance forms online. In fact, he wondered if, by the time the Prof had managed to scroll all the way down to his birth year, whether he would be suffering from some form of devastating repetitive strain injury to his aged, mouse-working fingers and would perhaps have even forgotten what he was scrolling down to find in the first place.

Spiralling out from this conversation, we learned that G-Dawg had just managed to squeeze his creation date into the 1950’s – something I was amazed to discover as I was unaware cybernetic engineering had been quite so advanced, even late into that decade. “You’re the same age as Sputnik.” Taffy Steve gleefully informed him.

beZ arrived on a newly acquired old Trek that he’d adopted as his winter bike and took some grief from OGL who suggested the stack height above the stem was a potential hazard to his testicles. “Story number#6, please.” I muttered sotto voce to G-Dawg, expecting OGL to dial up the hoary old tale of how he ripped his scrotum open on a stem bolt when he crashed at a track meet. Surprisingly though, memory synapses failed to fire correctly and we were spared the full horror of hearing this particularly gruesome tale. Again.

Meanwhile, Taffy Steve tried to decide if beZ’s Trek was the same model as Szell had been riding, before he upgraded to his “fat lad’s bike.” He tried turning his back on beZ and occasionally glancing briefly over his shoulder, reasoning that this was how he most often saw Szell’s bike, something he said he hadn’t really had a chance to study before, because you got such a pain in the neck from constantly looking back at it!

“Is it time yet?” Crazy Legs enquired enthusiastically

“It’s only 9:14, official Garmin Time.” I assured him.

“But, you could at least start making a move toward your bike.” Taffy Steve encouraged.

“Gentlemen, start your motors.” G-Dawg intoned and as we prepped for the off, we tried to work out the purpose of that mad scramble to the cars at the start of Le Mans, as it obviously had no bearing on the outcome of the race.

We decided its sole purpose was to create the maximum amount of danger, mayhem and confusion possible and perhaps it’s something that Formula 1 should adopt to spice things up a bit. Along with Son of G-Dawg, I wanted to take this further and have all the pit lane berths unassigned, so cars had to turn into the first space available and the crews had to leg it down the pit lane carrying all their kit and spares. Perhaps we could actually make Formula 1 interesting and exciting again.

No?

Thought not.


With the late addition of a rapidly vectoring in Ovis, 18 of us pushed off, clipped in and rode out for our advanced lessons in water dowsing.

All was progressing smoothly, until we turned off for the Cheese Farm, rounded a corner and were confronted by a mighty puddle, a road spanning lake, an inland lagoon. This mere of muddy brown waters, of indeterminate length and depth  – stretched up around the next corner and out of sight.


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There’s a road here somewhere…

We picked our way slowly and carefully through this unforeseen obstacle, slowly and in single file, watching as the water began to lap up over bottom brackets and wheel hubs, hoping it would rise no further and we’d avoid any unforeseen potholes or hidden debris luring in the murky depths.


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There it is!

Behind there was loud chorus of disgusted groans as cold water quickly washed through overshoes, shoes and socks, while those of us up ahead, smug and still dry in our winter boots enjoyed just a little bit of schadenfreude. Taffy Steve decided that while he might be riding a thrice-cursed winter bike he could at least enjoy his thrice-praised GoreTex boots and their stout protection from cold wet feet.

At the same time, we also decided that in tribute to many of our rides traversing the outer reaches of Northumberland, we should re-name this blog a blerg, in favour of a local idiom, particularly hoard around Eshington (aka Ashington):

Alert of ferk there know a beut a bared derg that jumped up at a deft kerb, making him furl into a hurl where he boast his fierce. (Rough translation: “A great number of people are aware of a story regarding a misbehaving pet canine that jumped up at a silly young boy scout, causing him to stumble into a cavity and injure his countenance.”)

For more of this delightful nonsense, try here.

Clear of the flooding, we were painfully, slowly and very, very cautiously overtaken by large silver 4 x 4, even as we singled-out and waved it through with the road ahead completely clear and empty. As it passed, someone mentioned how unusual it was to find cars on this stretch of road and wondered where they might be heading.

We caught up with the car perched in the middle of the road and halfway across the next junction, where its occupants, two woolly haired, perplexed looking grannies, took time off from myopically turning their map book this way and that to favour us with a sheepish grin. We didn’t know where they were going and I guess they didn’t either.

If anything, the roads appeared to be even more scarred, pot-holed and woe-begotten than we were used to, eliciting a strange, Tourette’s style conversation between OGL and his riding companion: “I use Ultegra wheels … Pots! … during winter, they’ve got … Pots! … cup and cone bearings in … Pots! … the hubs, so you can … Pots! … service them easily.”

A clamber up a hill and then sudden slowing suggested the front of our group had encountered yet another obstacle on the road ahead. This time it wasn’t a flood, but an enormous swan, that slowly unfurled itself, shook out its majestic wings to their full extent and clambered slowly upwards into the air. For several seconds it hung impressively above us, white and bright and magnificent against the grey sky, before tipping over to wheel away from the road.

We pressed on, sometimes slaloming around puddles and occasionally, when there was no way to avoid them, slowing to pick our way carefully through the middle. Several of the unbooted riders started unclipping, lifting their feet off the pedals and out of the water while they freewheeled across, saving their feet from another dousing. Luckily, everyone made it through safely and carrying enough momentum to reach dry road at the other side.

As we started the climb up to Dyke Neuk, the Big Yin punctured and with nowhere for us to stop safely nearby, he dropped off the back while we pushed on over the crest of the hill before pulling to the side of the road to wait. From this vantage point, we had a grandstand view of the next road-spanning puddle and could watch the way various drivers tackled it. A hot hatch blatted past at ridiculously high speed and we jeered as brake lights flared and he slowed to a mincing crawl to pick his way carefully through the water.

Then a large Transit van serving as a taxi ripped through at high speed, flinging a massive bow wave over the hedgerows and for a brief instant leaving a thin isthmus of dry road through the middle of the puddle, before the water came surging back in again.

Crazy Legs felt that if you got the timing right, you could have followed the taxi through the puddle, “like Mose’s parting the Red Sea” and kept yourself perfectly dry. Luckily, he didn’t try to attempt this, but was intrigued enough to ride down to have a closer look at this latest flood while we waited.

OGL decided he was getting too cold hanging around and set off for the café with a few amblers. The Big Yin finally re-joined and Crazy Legs skipped ahead to line up some action shots of the remaining stalwarts fording the latest flood.


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Wheee!

We then took a route through Hartburn and toward Angerton, reasoning this would be the most likely flood- free run in we could find.  As we pushed past Bolam, Taffy Steve made up for the Red Max’s absence with an attack of the front. Jimmy Mac responded and all hell broke loose. I hung on as long as I could, wheezing like a pair of punctured bellows, before dropping down to a more sustainable pace and grinding up the last climb to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Taffy Steve resumed his campaign to get Marmite on the café menu, something he feels is indispensable to his enjoyment of toasted teacake. I think he’s ploughing a lone furrow, but you have to give him kudos for persistence.

Removing his helmet and cap the Prof revealed a precisely drawn line circumscribing his forehead, the gleaming pale skin above the line contrasting sharply with the grey and begrimed features below it. I suggested it looked like he’d had a lobotomy, but he was able to assure me this wasn’t the case, otherwise he’d be a much nicer person!

He recalled an ex-military acquaintance with terrible depression and anger issues, who’d pressed the muzzle of his service revolver to his head and blown a hole right through his skull. Waking up afterwards (with what I rather cavalierly suggested must have been “the mother of all hangovers”) the guy had not only survived, but had undergone a complete personality makeover and became kind, generous, patient and considerate overnight. If only we could guarantee the results, I’d willingly buy the bullets and load the gun.

This in turn led to a brief discussion about trepanning, replete with gory tales of people drilling holes in their own heads, both intentionally and accidentally. I can’t help but think the whine of a Black and Decker biting into my skull, replete with the smell of burning bone would probably be enough to dissuade me from such practices. Still, you can’t say we don’t have wide ranging and, well … different conversations when we’re out on these rides.

I don’t know what set if off, but Crazy Legs then embarked on a rant against all things Charlie Brown and Peanuts and he conducted a quick straw poll around the table to find that no one actually liked this turgid, sentimental tosh (IMHO). Crazy Legs then revealed a disturbing, overwhelming desire to rip Linus’s security blanket out of his pathetic, puny hands and set fire to it. Taffy Steve reasoned that if Charlie Brown was a Geordie (Chaz Broon, if you like) he’d probably smash Lucy’s teeth down her throat the first time she pulled that stupid trick with the football and he most certainly wouldn’t fall for it twice.

This led to recollections of another horror inflicted on British kids by our American cousins: Sherry Lewis and Lambchop. Utterly, totally, dreadful and unforgivable – especially at a time when you only had the choice of two TV channels.

Taffy Steve then revealed the deep emotional scarring he suffered when the family switched from a black and white TV to a colour one and he discovered for the first time that Bagpuss was actually pink!

In a discussion about American vs. British humour Crazy Legs revealed how much he’s enjoying “Parks and Recreation,” while I had to admit I was perhaps the only person who failed to see the comic genius of Ricky Gervais and “The Office.”

This reminds me of my reaction to “The Rider” the book by Tim Krabbe, which as a cyclist I think I’m supposed to like, but found hugely disappointing, disjointed, superficial and all a bit, well … meh. Maybe it’s because the book couldn’t possibly live up to the expectation generated by all the glowing and fulsome praise heaped on it. Then again, maybe the Emperor isn’t actually wearing any clothes…


At the café we were reunited with Princess Fiona, Mini-Miss, Brink, Kipper and a few others who had set out late to doubly-ensure they missed any lingering rain. They had apparently tried the road up to the Cheese Farm too, but being eminently more sensible had turned back at the first flooded section and found an alternative, drier route. They would now bolster our numbers for the return journey.

This return leg passed without incident and we found the roads largely dry and free from flooding, even in the one or two trouble spots where we were expecting the worst. It looked like the excess water was finally starting to drain away and Sunday looked like being a perfect riding day.

As I turned off for the solo part of my ride home, I even noticed the sky had brightened enough to throw a shadow down alongside me for some unexpected company.

The river, which had been high, full and racing as I crossed in the morning had now withdrawn to the middle of its course and acquired two wide shorelines of gleaming black mud, like giant basking seals. The traffic on the other side was relatively light and I was soon hauling ass up the Heinous Hill, suitably leg weary, but altogether content. That was fun, floods and all, but perhaps my enthusiasm is directly proportional to just how waterproof my winter boots are proving to be.


YTD Totals: 1,086 km / 674 miles with 11,447 metres of climbing

Greasing the Rim

Greasing the Rim

Club Run, Saturday 11th February, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  89 km/55 miles with 458 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                                20.6 km/h

Group size:                                         10 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    5°C

Weather in a word or two:          Brutal


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Ride profile

The Ride:

If the soundtrack to last week was Felt’s Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow, this week the needle had skipped a few tracks and we had to contend with The Day the Rain Came Down.

The previous Saturday included a small celebration for not having to use the lights on the bike on my way across to our meeting point. Today, in contrast was a reminder of just how much gloomy, wet and wild winter-weather we may still have to get through before we emerge into spring. It was wet (it was very wet), it was cold (it was very cold) and it was drab, dark and dismal enough that I turned the lights on as I set out … and didn’t turn them off again until I’d dragged myself back up the Heinous Hill and home.

I went with a series of double layers, Planet-X Mr. Krabbe lobster gloves and liners, winter jacket topped with a rain jacket, waterproof socks under Thermolite socks. It wasn’t enough.

Hoping to minimise my exposure to the rain, or at least delay the moment until became soaked through, I left a little later than usual, heading for the nearest bridge over the river, instead of my usual, quieter but longer route. Ripping down the hill, the spray flung up by my wheels was handily repelled by my winter boots, but I was quickly soaked in freezing water from ankles to knees. This was going to be a bit grim.

Still, I made good time and was soon ducking into the cold, inhospitable but dry shelter of the multi-storey car-park, wondering just who else would be mad enough to ride today.

OGL was the first to turn up, shaking his head ruefully and wondering what strange, insane compulsion drove us to ride in this kind of weather and predicting a low turnout. And so it proved, as a hard core, crazy few gathered to point and laugh at our own stupidity before setting back out into the rain.


Main conversations at the start:

As we were wearing identical lobster mitts, Crazy Legs invented a lobster mitt greeting, that progressed from a Vulcan-style “live long and prosper” to something I can only describes as … err… something akin to “tribbing” or “scissoring” maybe?

Still, moving swiftly on, OGL had repaired the right-hand shifter of G-Dawg’s “best bike” and confessed he hadn’t even bothered to test to see if the left-hand shifter was fully working.

“I wouldn’t worry,” Crazy Legs assured him, “It’s only there for decoration.”

We did then ponder what might happen if G-Dawg couldn’t actually utilise his inner ring on the two planned occasions each year when we suspected it might be needed – once to grind up the Ryals at the end of the Cyclone and once for the masochistic, torture-fest of the club hill-climb.

OGL then talked about completing a £250 service on an £350 bike. To be fair the owner had ridden it frequently, but had done no servicing or maintenance for the past 18 months. We wondered why OGL didn’t just sell him a new bike and he confessed he’d actually make more money from a £250 service than a £350 sale, such are the harsh economics of your local, much-endagered bike shop and the depressed margins to be made on new kit.

Someone had posted a video on Facebook showing a frame dipped through a thin layer of paints floated on top of water. This resulted a super-cool and much coveted paint job that looked like snakeskin.

“You’d know it was even carried right through, inside your bottom bracket, even though no one else would see it.” Son of G-Dawg enthused, clearly demonstrating that he is indeed his father’s son.

A distant figure approaching at high speed through the gloom transformed into Biden Fecht and we all waved our arms in horror and shouted “Stop! Brake!”  He swept over the kerb, and carved a big arc toward us, before touching his brakes and drawing to an abrupt stop, patting his newly replaced, still shiny and obviously effective new brake blocks affectionately. Guess he made it home, after all.

OGL then went all misty-eyed as he reminisced about the “good old days” of steel rims which had shocking traction in the wet and a braking performance that was not enhanced by the fact that club riders used to regularly coat them in a protective film of Vaseline to stop rusting.

Biden Fecht’s mechanical misfortune had been redressed so he was allowed out, but the Red Max, as big a gibbering loon as anyone currently standing huddled in the car park, was conspicuously absent. We later learned he had a semi-reasonable excuse – his ambition to nurse the winter bike into spring had been cruelly curtailed last Sunday when his crank finally fell off. Still, he won’t have been too disappointed to have missed the ride as he’s now enjoying the euphoric, pre-purchase high of researching which new bike to buy.

Taffy Steve had instigated a bit of a social-media feeding frenzy, by posting up the completely innocent and highly sensible ride information from another club which listed 6 different, colour coded route options, depending on distance, average speed and ability. These ranged from a Black Ride of 50 or more miles at 17+ mph to a Ladies ride of 25 miles at 10 mph and a remarkably gentle “New to cycling” 10 miles at 5 mph.

While all this pre-planning and ride segregation was eminently sensible and well-meaning, it just brought out our very worst excesses in a flood of cynical, jaded, sardonic, disreputable and wholly unforgivable egesta extraction.

Red Max had just been happy to find there was a Red Ride, he wasn’t fussed how long or how fast it was.  Our self-flagellating, racing snakes wanted a black diamond 100 mile ride at an average of 20 mph with no coffee stops allowed, just to ensure they managed to suck the last scintilla of joy and entertainment from the run.

Laurelan wanted to know whether she’d be excused from the Ladies ride if she proved she could swear like a trooper and wondered if anyone needed any socks darning, as something to keep her occupied on a ride of such genteel pace.

Now Aether added to the fun, wondering aloud if the beginners ride was slow enough to allow someone with a red flag to walk in front of all the new cyclists.


Mean-spirited cynicism finally, if only temporarily tamped down, the mad/sad (delete as appropriate) Big Ten, pushed off, clipped in and sallied forth: OGL, Crazy Legs, G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Biden Fecht, Taffy Steve, Aether, the Big Yin, Kermit and me.

We hadn’t travelled far when a mismatched pair of cyclists ripped past in the other direction, one so big and tall, his passing created a transitory rain shadow that gave us an instant of relief.

“Was that the BFG?” Crazy Legs asked.

“If it was, he didn’t notice or acknowledge us.” G-Dawg replied.

“We must have been outside his field of view.” Crazy Legs surmised

Ah, he meant that narrow cone that extends up to 3 metres and no more than 10⁰ either side of the BFG’s nose. That could explain it.

Pressing on, OGL observed that Biden Fecht’s truncated bit of plastic represented “almost a mudguard.”

“Perhaps it’s a semi-guard, or possibly even a demi-guard.” I suggested.

“A Demi Moore?” Crazy Legs wondered.

“Hmm, surely a demi-Moore would be a Dudley.”

OGL then began talking about a couple of hapless chancers who’d had a deal worth £-millions turn good and it took us an age to work out he was talking about the plot of an old episode of “Only Fools and Horses.” At about the same time, we were buzzed by an impatient boy-racer in his souped-up, red Vauxhall Corsa, complete with big bore exhaust and tawdry body kit. Taffy Steve launched into a memorable tirade about that kind of car and that kind of driver, before succinctly concluding “Only Fools and Corsa’s!” with a wry shake of the head.

Meanwhile and completely unrelated, I was trying to name a Four Tops song for Crazy Legs, but the best I could come up with was “I Can’t Give You Anything.” I was challenged to sing it and then challenged to sing it properly, failing miserably on both counts. I would need to endure my own personal Testicular Armageddon to get anywhere near some of those high notes.

(Being of white, English, punk and New Wave up-bringing and shockingly ignorant and uncultured, neither of us knew the song was actually a hit for the Stylistics, or could confidently name a Four Tops song.)

In such errant and foolish ways, we passed the time, talking complete and utter nonsense as we threaded our way around puddles and pot holes. All the while a freezing rain continued to fall down on us and the cold and damp slowly wormed it way through multiple layers to add a frisson of discomfort to the ride.

A somewhat truncated route had us heading for the Quarry Climb and on to the café, with Kermit and Biden Fecht on the front, Crazy Legs and me following second wheel.

Crazy Legs suspected as soon as we hung a sharp right up to the climb and directly into a fairly gusty headwind, the two on the front would peel away and we’d have to take over for the worst part of the ride. The stalwart front pair held course however, dragging us to the last corner before peeling off to either side, a well-executed manoeuvre, ruined only by the fact that we were already half way round the bend when they swung across the road.


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We regained order and pushed on, dragging the group to the bottom of the climb proper, when it was everyman for himself. Those on fixies taking a good run at the slope, but perhaps because of the headwind, found themselves struggling on the incline. Nevertheless, everyone made it up, no one’s chain shattered and no one punctured on errant fragments of razor-sharp, tyre-shredding chain shrapnel left behind from last week.

We regrouped at the top and swung right, picking the pace up a little, until we ran into a slowly coalescing hunt and had to ease up to pass numerous horses and horse boxes. This confirmed what we’d long come to expect about who would voluntarily venture out in this kind of weather – “Only Fools and Horses.”

We carefully threaded our way through a somewhat subdued, miserable and drab looking hunt, their usual bright colours mainly hidden under waxed jackets, before swinging right to start the final run down to the café.

Son of G-Dawg kicked away with G-Dawg and Biden Fecht closely following. Taffy Steve made to give chase, but a clunk-whirr-whirr-clunk of slipping gears persuaded him we didn’t need another snapped chain and he dropped back to where the rest of were intent on cruising in at a relatively sedate pace


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The car park was almost completely full, but the café itself was surprisingly empty and we calculated that every single person there must have arrived in an individual car. We couldn’t quite work out what was going on, as surely there was nowhere nearby where you might want to park and walk up to – especially in this weather.

Once a large group spread over a couple of pushed together tables left, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was going to be a quiet day, which may have been just as well as when I went for coffee re-fills I found the new till warbling and wailing in distress, obviously trying to contact the mother-ship and refusing to take any more orders from its Earthling operators.

In a discussion about new technology, Crazy Legs said his new smart-TV could be voice activated, something so impractical and redundant could see no earthly use for it. OGL seemed quite intrigued by the idea though and queried if you could just instruct it to “find porn.”

Crazy Legs admitted he hadn’t tried that particular feature, but couldn’t see why not, while I had a vision of a masked-OGL riding round the streets shouting “find porn” at smart-TV’s through open windows, before riding away cackling like a madman.

Son of G-Dawg reported that the Amazon Echo’s voice-activated ordering had run into trouble when a news report repeated how a small child had inadvertently bought an expensive doll’s house and hundreds of cookies. Apparently picking up on the commands from the TV broadcast, hundreds of consumers in San Diego then found their units responding in a like manner and ordering them doll’s houses and cookies.

Crazy Legs brought up the proposed Amazon Airship – a massive, floating warehouse in the sky, which would be serviced by aerial drone-delivery. I suggested they didn’t need the drones, just a good bomb sight – delivery via gravity! We them envisaged someone like Red Max ordering the Monkey Butler Boy to go out into the garden to catch a delivery that Amazon were about to drop-off … and failing to mention it was a new washing machine.

In another encounter with technology, G-Dawg recounted being asked to park someone’s car that had a new-fangled, remote, keyless system that he’d never used before. He parked up, locked the car and walked away, then began second guessing the system and walking back to the car to check if it was still locked. Just as well he checked, the door opened straight away to his touch…

This reminded me of the time the venerable Toshi San arranged to meet up for a bike ride at the local town hall. Waking to find a good covering of snow on the ground he set out anyway, but found no one waiting at the meeting point. Thinking someone might be sheltering around the other side of the building, he rode around just to check.

He arrived back at the start having failed to find anyone, but then noticed a new set of tyre tracks in the snow that hadn’t been there before. Reasoning someone else had arrived and decided to ride around and look for the others, he set off in pursuit, didn’t see anyone, but got back to the start to find someone else had joined the first rider and there were now two sets of tracks in the snow…

Meanwhile Crazy Legs confessed to loving his flip, folding car key which he said made him feel like D’Artagnan

“But, D’Artagnan didn’t have a flick knife, or even a flick épée.” I protested.

“The Scicilian version did.” Taffy Steve reassured me.

We tried, but failed miserably to decipher the colour coding of hunt blazers – do they denote different ranks and if so how could you tell who was in charge if everyone was hiding their colours under a wax jacket.

OGL suggested he was distantly acquainted with the Barbour family and one lived quite nearby. Crazy Legs was largely disinterested, judging the Barbour jacket as a naff, fashion faux-pas, but suggested if OGL knew Monsieur Gore-Tex, he’d like an introduction so he could shake the man’s hand.

G-Dawg declared this was the kind of day when he would be stepping into his shower while wearing his jacket and overshoes, the most effective way of getting them clean. I mentioned I’d tried this trick with my rain jacket a couple of weeks ago and all was going well till the rear pockets filled up with water and it pulled me to the floor where I was left floundering on my back like an upside down turtle. Son of G-Dawg was highly amused by the ignominious thought of me drowning in my own shower and my body being found there while, somewhat bizarrely wearing a rain coat.


And then, we were done and suffering the absolute distress of having to pull on cold, wet gloves, hats, scarves and helmets and stepping out of the womb-like safety of the café for the ride home. The horror! The horror!

Back out and the weather seemed, if anything to be getting worse. The frozen rain was pelting down harder, stinging any and all exposed flesh and the temperature seemed to have dipped further while we were sheltering indoors.

On the first hill I took to the front with Son of G-Dawg in a futile effort to try and warm up and we pressed on. As the awful conditions showed no sign of relenting, I finally swapped places with Son of G-Dawg so I could ride on the outside, intending to leave the group early and turn right through Ponteland. This way I could swing over the top of the airport to cut a big corner off my ride home.

By now though, the weather was so unrelentingly unpleasant, that the entire group decided that this slightly more direct route was the better option. In this way I had company for longer than normal, before I turned off for my trip home.

2 days on, my gloves are sitting on the radiator still damp. I hope they recover in time for the weekend.


YTD Totals: 799 km / 496 miles with 8,356 metres of climbing