Dry but very chilly weather at least gave us a break from all the horrible and wet Saturdays we seem to be enduring lately and the conditions were good enough to tempt a few more riders to opt for their summer bikes. Luckily, I’m still enjoying riding the Scott, which is just as well as the Holdsworth remains attached to the smart trainer, while the 13 has been pressed into service as an ad hoc TT machine, so it’s very much a Hobson’s Choice.

There was very little traffic on the route across to the meeting point, which may be why seemingly random encounters with a trio of Fiat 500’s seemed to stand out. These, one each in red, white, and green, had me speculating that perhaps I was in the middle of a shoot for a Latin remake of the Italian Job, which would obviously be titled Il Lavoro Inglese.

Dovresti solo far saltare quelle dannate porte! … if you believe Google Translate.

Feeling uncharacteristically enthusiastic, I took the route up Hospital Lane for a change and to test the legs. Everything seemed to be working as it should, which I always find helpful.

The most notable moment at the meeting point was when the Enigma stuck entirely to the main road for his cruise past, by-passing our silent, admiring homage to his grace and style. I worried that this might signal a permanent change in routine, but Jimmy Mac suggested it was simply that he’d hit the traffic lights just right, so hadn’t taken his usual sneaky shortcut through the bus station transport interchange to avoid stopping. Jimmy Mac explained that particular stretch of road is apparently a hotly contested Strave segment, awarded to the person who can best time their run to sync perfectly with the right sequence of green lights.

The BFG put in a rare appearance on his latest steel-framed, vintage velocipede, complete with tubular tyres and the same spare that had so confused the Garrulous Kid. The Kid couldn’t understand the concept of a tube within a tube and was worried that the BFG’s spare had a tread pattern on it while his was perfectly smooth.

Andy Mapp had designed another labyrinthian route for us, including cycle paths, dual carriageway hopping and borrowed bits of other routes cobbled together in odd, unforeseen, and novel combinations and directions. He was late showing up though, so once Carlton appeared and we knew time was nearly up, so G-Dawg stepped up and did his best with the Herculean task of briefing in the route. (I think I was lost by the second major turn). Then we got organised and set out.

I rode out in the middle group of three this week, alongside Mini Miss, who was almost as confused as I was by the intended route. We were already hoping our stint on the front would coincide with a long straight bit of road without any pesky decisions about which way we should be turning.

A rotation brought Brassneck onto the front alongside Captain Black and I was forced to issue a few easy tiger’s as the novelty of a first club ride on his summer bike had him upping the pace a little too enthusiastically. Mini Miss mentioned that he’d confided that his first impression on being reunited with his good bike was that he’d shrunk a little over the winter as it felt unfamiliar and “not quite right.”

I slid up alongside him. “Is that bike the right size?” I innocently enquired, “It looks a little large to me.”

Ooph. I never suspected he knew such salty words. Still, my intervention wasn’t enough to keep the big grin off his face for long.

Once through Belsay, we started to pass competitors warming up for the GS Metro time-trial, a rather hilly affair over 26 miles. Even with their game faces on, most of the competitors waved as we passed them, including one who simply acknowledged us with a cool, minimalist two-fingered salute (no, no, not that kind!)

“Is that what you do?” Crazy Legs enquired, part of his ongoing campaign to insinuate I’m some kind of TT fanatic. This is despite the fact he’s done far, far more events than I have and only one of us has ever bought an actual time-trial bike. (Hint: it’s not me.)

“Nah,” I told him, “I’m not cool enough.”

I then demonstrated my patented new salute, banging my fist over my heart twice in quick succession, then off the front of my helmet, before pointing to the far horizon. Now that was cool and might just catch on…

Alongside Mini Miss, we got our turn on the front on the approach to Whalton, facing into our first headwind of the day, but that was ok because at least we were on a long, straight stretch of road and didn’t have to think about the route and any turns.

We then dropped down toward Mitford, ceding the front to someone who at least had an inkling of the route as we followed the River Wansbeck past the foot of the Mur de Mitford, before turning right to climb up High House Lane.

Halfway up, Cowboy’s slid alongside me to tell me I had a very shiny bike (I’m not sure if it was a compliment or not) and then asked how much further the climb was. I was surprised he didn’t recognise it from the dozens of times we’d ridden it in the opposite direction to get to the Mur, although to be fair it’s a completely different beast and much, much harder and longer going up than you’d expect from the descent. (I’ll concede that’s probably a very obvious, universal truth of cycling).

A brief flirtation with the main A1 and we reached our coffee stop for the day, within the Moorhouse Farm Shop at Stannington Station. Here, already hyper-excited to be out riding his summer bike, Brassneck grew positively giddy with his first introduction to this cafe and its seemingly vast array of sandwiches, cakes, and sweet treats, bouncing from foot to foot, with his eyes wide and constantly flicking between the long, long menu on the wall and the counter wantonly spilling over with the temptation of selected wares. For one moment I thought he was going to be paralysed by too much choice, but finally pulled himself together enough to order without embarrassing us too much.

At the table, I couldn’t find any enthusiasm for the impending coronation of Chuck 3, just mild disquiet that the whole thing was going to limit the availability of coffee stops on the club run next Saturday. Needless to say, there was going to be no swearing of allegiance but maybe quite a bit of swearing at the lack of coffee and cake options. Luckily. I’ll be away next week so hopefully can give the entire thing a miss.

We routed home via Bell’s Hill and Horton Grange, where I pushed onto the front. By the time we were passing the airport, Cowboy’s told me we’d split the group and he sat up to wait. I was feeling cheekily strong though and that doesn’t happen all that often, so I just stomped on the pedals a little harder and started my solo ride home early.

Day & Date:Club Run, Saturday 29th April 2023
Riding Time:4 hours 21 minutes
Riding Distance:104km/65 miles with 914m of climbing
Average Speed:23.9km/h
Group Size:24
Weather in a word or two:Chilly but dry.
Year to date:2,781km/1,728 miles with 28,167m of climbing


Ice Cream for Crow

Ice Cream for Crow


What just happened?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I hate these bloody lights,” Homeboy exclaimed.

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

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

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


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


Plague Diaries Week#58 – Fin de Cycle

Plague Diaries Week#58 – Fin de Cycle

Given (to my mind) the onerous task of devising a route for this week’s ride, at the coffee stop last week Crazy Legs had felt impelled to resurrect our Classic Club Café sprint for next Saturday, over the rollers and up the long drag to Belsay. He even suggested stopping at the café there for old time’s sake. I happened to mention, for some misguided reason, that I was feeling nostalgic for Middleton Bank, a climb I hadn’t suffered on for at least a year and, hey presto, he had the bones of a route. A quick double-check to ensure the café at Belsay would actually be open for business and Crazy Legs went away to fill in the rest of the ride and post it up for people to accept or ignore, depending on their inclination.

With the Holdsworth still undergoing remedial surgery and not wanting to waste another good day riding the heavy winter bike, I had a week to find and secure a replacement mount. Surprisingly, this proved considerably easier than I imagined, when Gumtree directed me to a nearly new, barely ridden velocipede in the care of a 77-year old cyclist whose knees had given out and prevented him from riding.

So, for a few hundred quid, I’m now the owner of what is (solely in my estimation, of course) Halford’s most aesthetically pleasing creation, an Intuition 13 Alpha, from a very brief time when the UK’s biggest and possibly most maligned motorist discount store was dabbling in (semi-)performance bikes. I do seem to have an penchant for picking up a manufacturers fin de cycle products (if you’ll excuse the pun.) The Intuition range is no longer manufactured, while the Holdsworth Stelvio was one of the last frames produced by that venerable company before they caved and were acquired by Planet-X. Even my winter bike, the Peugeot CR23 was part of a 2 bike range they pulled together for the briefest of ill-founded forays back into the UK market, via an exclusive deal with Evans that only seemed to have lasted 12 months.

Where the Holdsworth is the epitome of gaudy overstatement, a violent clash of glossy black, red and yellow, with the brand name unforgivably and inexplicably plastered a dozen times across its frame, the chalk-white 13 is at the opposite extreme, a model of simplistic minimalism, the most striking feature being an odd, inversed 13 “dossard” stuck on the back of the seat post. It adds nothing and I’m not sure I like it, but has survived. For now.

The bike was in mint condition, having been ridden only twice in anger and pretty much ready to roll. I switched out the stock 23mm Vittoria Zafiro’s for my favoured 25mm Rubino’s and will eventually get round to replacing the SPD’s for my usual Look Keo pedals and, maybe the wheels (although the current set seem light, roll well and are carefully colour coordinated). Still, minor details aside, there was nothing to prevent its debut and participation in the club run on Saturday.

The same can’t be said for G-Dawg, who, just a few days after this blerg noted how many middle-aged blokes seem to suffer serious injuries playing five-a-side, went out to play five-a-side and broke his leg. Apparently, according to his social media posts, that means he’ll now have to play in goal for his team next week and, possibly worse, he’ll be off the bike for an extended period of time. Yikes!

On Saturday morning, last minute tinkering with this, that and t’other, had me leaving the house half an hour behind schedule, so I had no choice but to engage in a bit of dual-carriageway surfing, cross the river at the nearest bridge and push hard all the way to the meeting point, arriving completely winded, already tired, but almost on time, with Jimmy Mac already leading out the first group of fast-men and racing snakes (the two are not mutually exclusive.)

I paused only long enough to catch OGL offering up a free, used torque wrench to anyone who had a need.

“Is this the same torque wrench you were trying to sell me for a tenner last week?” Goose enquired ruefully. Apparently it was, but that’s as much of the conversation as I caught as I formed up with Aether, who was leading out the second group and away we went. When I finally had time to look back and determine who I was riding with, alongside Aether, I found myself in the company of Spoons and 3 FNG’s.

Up past the Cheese Farm and out through Tranwell, I noticed the rape seed is starting to flower and it’s pervasive and slightly sickly aroma already hung heavy over the lanes.

We dropped down toward the River Wansbeck, by-passing the entrance to the Mur de Mitford to take the gentler climb westward out of the valley. Then it was through Dyke Neuk to the dip and rise through Hartburn.

We knew somewhere along this route we were supposed to take a secret turn onto a road that had been on our routes a few times, but no one I’ve been with has ever found. Aether had prepared for this test in advance, tracing our proposed route on Google maps, before switching to the satellite view to try and spot an obvious landmark that could guide us.

“I managed to spot a big, round thing,” he told me.

“Sounds promising.”

“I thought so too, so I zoomed in for a closer look.”


“It was a tree…”

“Oh. Right-o. So we’re looking for a tree then? Well, that certainly narrows things down.”

Still, somehow Aether managed to pick the right tree out of the hundreds of thousands that lined our route and we traversed the secret road before pushing on to Scot’s Gap. A left turn onto the still incredibly crappy road surface and we were heading straight for Middleton Bank. Off the back, heavy-legged and struggling upwards, I seriously started to question my own sanity and what it was about the climb that had inexplicably created a sense of longing to relive the experience.

Still, once over the climb, I managed to coax a little more speed out of the legs and we coalesced as a single group again and hauled ass for the café. Here at least there were patches and strips of new road surface, making a welcome change and encouraging a little more speed. I attacked over the rollers – you know, just because – and found Aether jumping at the same time. Hmm, maybe I’m becoming predictable. Then we re-grouped on the descent and started the long drag up to the café, more or less in formation and at a relatively sedate pace. On the front alongside one of the FNG’s I nudged my wheel slightly ahead of his and so, by default, won a sprint he didn’t even know we were contesting. Well, they all count in my book.

We found the Colossus already seated at the café.

“How’s your dad taking his injury?” I enquired, “Already stir crazy and unbearable?”

Unsurprisingly, the answer was yes.

“Even more to the point,” Aether wanted to know, “How’s your mum coping?”

The Colossus just shook his head in quiet resignation. Hmm, not good.

Talking about dangerous sports, one of the FNG’s told us the most violent sport he’d ever witnessed had been a game of football for the blind, played on an enclosed pitch with the players often running full tilt into each other and any inanimate objects, as they chased pell-mell after a ball with a bell inside.

“You should see the mayhem if a pet cat gets loose on the pitch, too!” Another FNG added.

Before leaving I had a chat with Crazy Legs. He’d had a superb great morning riding with OGL and ribbing him mightily every time his expensive Di2 system shipped his chain, which was apparently far too often. We arranged to meet early next week before the ride so I could finally deliver him his new jersey. This might stop his constant carping, but I seriously doubt it.

Then it was time to go and as our group left the table it seemed to signal a mass exodus and we all gathered in the car park as a small, white car pulled up. The passenger side door swung fully open and out came a shiny, metal crutch. Then another. And then a foot in a plaster cast and finally, G-Dawg slowly and awkwardly emerged. He can’t ride, but Mrs G-Dawg had agreed to drive him to the café in an attempt to stop his constant sulking.

Saluting G-Dawg had us all bunched together leading the café, so I injected a bit of pace on Berwick Hill to break us up. The fast group took the opportunity to zip past near the top and gave me a target to chase and I was able to go full pelt with absolutely no danger of ever closing the gap to them.

Yet another FNG (where are the all coming from) spelled me on the from Dinnington to just past the airport, then I was into the Mad Mile and swinging away for the solo trek home.

The new bike served perfectly, I’m sure the ride wouldn’t have been as enjoyable on the Peugeot, but the chalk-white finish may be a little difficult to maintain, so assuming the Holdsworth is restored to full functionality, the 13 might get the cossetted, Ribble-esque treatment and get to avoid the rain like a hydrophobic cat.

Ride Distance:98km/61 miles with 936m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 0 minutes
Average Speed:24.5km/h
Group Size:6 riders, 3 FNG’s
Temperature:14 ℃
Weather in a word or two:Cool
Year to date:1,179km/733 miles with 12,507m of climbing