Tinselitis and Other Chaffin’ Nonsense

Tinselitis and Other Chaffin’ Nonsense
Total Distance:100km/62 miles with 1,025 metres climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 11 minutes
Average Speed:23.9km/h
Group Size:26
Temperature: 8°C
Weather in a word or two:Mild

Ride Profile

Heavy rain overnight had cleared, but left the road soaked and my tyres made a sibilant hiss and seemed to be shushing me all the way down the hill … shhh!

It was chillier than I’d expected, the digital sign on the factory unit flashing just 6°C, a grey, drab, dreary, dark start. Still, we were only one day removed from shortest day of the year and the rain wasn’t forecast to return. It would do.

And then, once across the river and turning back on myself, I was rewarded by a glorious sunrise. Well, not so much the sun rising, it was more as if the earth had cracked and was leaking molten light from its core, painting the underbelly of the clouds in a roseate glow and setting the horizon to flame. It was worth the price of admission alone.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

We had a good turnout for the ride and a varied assortment of Christmas jumpers, T-shirts, lights, tinsel and dangling baubles, but G-Dawg and the Colossus stole the show. G-Dawg in bright red ladies leggings (he assured me they were bought specially and not stolen from his wife’s wardrobe) topped with a very busy top, all Santa hats, Christmas trees and ribbon-wrapped gifts.

And then the Colossus… well, the Colossus wore a formal Christmas suit – blazer and trousers, heavily patterned in striped candy canes, stars and Christmas stockings, a garish, riotous, technicolour nightmare, that I found vaguely threatening. In fact, his outfit lacked only a jaunty bowler hat to resemble a psychedelic tolchoking malchick from a fever dream Clockwork Orange.

The Monkey Butler Boy had his entire bike frame swathed and swaddled in ropes of thick golden tinsel. Given his usual obsessions, the obvious question then was, is that actually aero? Would the individual strands of tinsel smooth turbulent airflow and make it more laminar? Were boffins from Team Sky watching, measuring and gauging, with an eye to next years Tour de France and more marginal gains?

G-Dawg was worried the tinsel could get caught in the Monkey Butler Boys cassette and suddenly lock his freewheel, while I thought it might unravel and trail behind him, like a meteor’s tail on an earth bound Haleys comet.

Just before 9.15 Garmin Muppet Time, G-Dawg stepped up to address the gathered throng, “Hello, for those of you who don’t know, this is Richard,” Richard of Flanders uncertainly raised an arm, “and this is the route for the day …”


We split into two, with a general coalescing agreed at Hallington, once we were out of the ‘burbs. I dropped onto the back of the first group and away we went, the Cow Ranger on the front and driving us at a brisk pace from the off.

I slotted in beside the Red Max, currently languishing in the dog house as he’d miscalculated his holidays at work and now has to be in on Christmas Eve. Even worse, being responsible for all the work planning, he’d previously decided there would be no early finish for those unfortunates pulling the last shift, not reckoning on actually being one of them himself.

Riding behind the Monkey Butler Boy, I had to continuously swipe loose bits tinsel out of my face, as he shed a golden trail in his wake. It prompted me to enquire after the health of Red Max’s Christmas tree and I learned that not only had the Monkey Butler Boy denuded it of all the tinsel, but one of their cats had perfected the fine art of hooking baubles off with a single claw and disdainfully flinging them across the room.



With the Cow Ranger driving us onward and with the occasional manoeuvre to avoid the blizzards of stray tinsel being shed ahead of me, we were soon at the rendezvous point and pulled over to wait for the second group.

The Monkey Butler Boy dropped his bike into a ditch and started taking pictures on his phone.

“I’m gonna ‘gram them,” he declared.

“Huh?” I asked brightly.

“Gram them,” he repeated.

I still had no idea what he was saying.

“Eh?”

“Put them on Instagram,” he explained, rolling his eyes at the old dotard.

“Oh. Ah. Right. Instagram”

Richard of Flanders complimented the Peugeot on it’s subtle French branding, tricolour bar end plugs that match the even more subtle tricolour etched into the top tube. I’d bought these from the same place as the Lion of Flanders plugs for the Holdsworth, VeloHeaven a not too expensive bit of bike bling, that I thought added a nice touch. Of course I didn’t admit to
Googling the French flag to confirm that I’d put them in the wrong way round at first.

The Monkey Butler Boy looked down at his once gleaming, white shoes in disdain. “No matter how many baby wipes you use, you just can’t keep them pristine and white,” he moaned. The shoes were indeed looking somewhat yellowed and poisonous now. I realised he wasn’t wearing overshoes and then that he was wearing mitts not gloves.

“Aren’t your hands cold?” I wondered.

“Freezing. But they were fine when I set off from Wallsend this morning.” Ah right, that’ll be the famous Wallsend microclimate then, warmed by the benign currents of the Jet Stream and North Atlantic Drift, a balmy, semi-tropical enclave in the heart of frigid Tyneside.

We seemed to wait an age for the other group to join us (they’d had a puncture) and talk turned to Christmas preparations. The Garrulous Kid was complaining about the expense of presents for his girlfriend and then, admitted he didn’t like Christmas Day at all, chiefly because his uncle always brought his bulldog around (let’s just call the dog Onan for now) and it always had vigorous sexual congress with the Garrulous Kid’s pillow.

“Let me guess,” the Red Max piped up, ” And you don’t realise until you wake up with the pillowcase stuck to your face?”

“Hmm, that explains your strange doggy odour,” I volunteered, “I thought it was just your Pedigree Chum body spray.”

The Red Max then wondered if blaming the dog for random, seminal emissions in a teenagers bedroom wasn’t a bit unfair on our canine friends and he imagined an on-going conversation between the Garrulous Kid and his mother …

“Ugh! What’s this?”

“Oh Mum! Onan’s been at it again.”

“But your uncle hasn’t been round with the dog for three months now…”

With the Monkey Butler Boy continuing to shed tinsel, I remarked that at least German Fighter Command wouldn’t know our numbers, or the destination of our raid.

“Huh?” the Monkey Butler Boy asked brightly.

“Window.” I told him.

“Eh?”

He still had no idea what I was saying.

“Window,” I repeated,”Düppel, radar countermeasures” rolling my eyes at the ignorance of youth.

“He’ll always be chaff in the wind to me,” the Red Max added as a postscript.

Luckily, we were saved from further discourse when the second group finally rolled past, we tagged on the back and were off again.

At one point above us a small kestrel appeared, fluttering wings and split-second pauses keeping it fixed in place, hanging directly over the road. “Drone!” the Big Yin announced wryly. Well, I chuckled, but then I hadn’t been delayed at Gatwick for 16 hours.

We picked our way through to Mitford, descending into the Wansbeck Valley to the accompaniment of a droning, honking wail from a set of vigorously asphyxiated bag-pipes. We then passed the lone piper, obviously banished out into the chill, dank garden to practice his dark arts, well out of the earshot of the rest of his family.

The discordant wailing brought a small tear to Aether’s eye and he emitted a little, subdued “Och aye the noo!” Everyone else seemed to quicken their pace to put a bit of distance between us and the unnatural noise as quickly as possible.

We did a loop around Mitford and then, as a novel, new twist, found ourselves cautiously descending the Mur de Mitford for the first time. All went well and then we were back to climbing. I managed to reserve a stint on the front until after the hated drag up to Dyke Neuk this time.

The various assaults on our senses continued as we passed the Dyke Neuk inn, this time it was to be smell not hearing that suffered, the air heavy with the rather unpleasant odour of over-cooked Brussell sprouts.

On the front alongside me, Richard of Flanders slowed the pace down and we kept the group together down through the dip and rise around Hartburn and the turn for Angerton, where we called a pee stop.

The group became attenuated on the climb up to Bolam Lake, as Spry rode off the front. A few hundred metres later and Ovis and Andeven followed. I waited to see if anyone was going to take up the chase and when they didn’t, I swung wide and accelerated away.

I thought a few others might follow my lead and we could work together to bridge across to the front. I had no takers though and I ended up hanging off the front on a bit of a chasse patates. Still, whatever gap I’d opened up most have been fairly sizeable as I hung out there through the Milestone Woods, up and over the rollers and round the corner of the last bend on the final climb, before I was caught and dropped.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

I took perhaps a last chance for another seasonal stollen scone, working on the assumption they’ll not be around much longer and I should enjoy them while I can. I ordered, while pondering why the Garrulous Kid’s helmet appeared to have Special Liz written on one side.

At our table, Buster had decided wool jumpers, no matter how jaunty they looked, were no substitute for technical sportswear, complaining he’d been overheating during the ride, but chilled at the same time as his Santa jumper wasn’t even remotely windproof. Usually this would have been the cue for OGL to tell us all about the good old day, riding in thick, wool jerseys and shorts with a real chamois insert, but he was absent and missed a golden opportunity for more lore building.

Buster said he’s considering joining Crazy Legs’ annual expedition to the mountains of France next year, finances permitting. He took the opportunity to question Captain Black and me about the trip. He was particularly keen to understand the niceties of our typical itinerary, which was usually a Thursday depart, travelling on BA to France via a Heathrow transfer, 3 days riding and a return trip on the Monday by the same route.

He then did that quick phone-tapping thing that youngsters do. “Hmm, Queasy Jet fly direct to Geneva, but only twice a week, Sunday’s and Friday’s.” He paused to consider.

“That means we could fly out on a Sunday, have 4 days riding and fly back on a Friday. That would still be cheaper and easier than the BA flights, especially if we hired bikes across there and didn’t have to pay baggage fees. Then of course, hiring the cars would be a lot cheaper and simpler too.”

“Woah, woah, woah, hold on youngster, ” I complained, “You can’t just come in and tip the current order upside down based on logic, common sense and a bucketful of sound economic and logistical benefits!”

We all admired the Red Max’s new gloves, bright red of course and newly purchased from Planet X. They even had a fold away cover so you could convert them to mitts for a bit of added protection.

He admitted he’d actually bought them as a Christmas present for the Monkey Butler Boy, but took a liking to them when they arrived, so had decided to keep them. Once again Taffy Steve was left in awe and deeply humbled by the Red Max’s innate parenting skills – a sort of a modern day Spartan agoge based on the principles that if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger.

It was time then for us to all line up for the semi-traditional, group photo outside, with Carlton stepping up to the plate as our resident Ansel Adams.

“Will you post it up somewhere?” Princess Fiona enquired.

There then followed one of those awkward and tentative, new-tech conversations us older folk have when discussing something that’s (rudely) second nature to the youngsters, with lots of uncertain talk about airdrops, cloud postings, instant messaging and the like.

I was tempted to step in and suggest that Carlton simply ‘gram the pictures, but didn’t rate my chances of explaining how to do it if someone called my bluff.


Photo opportunities fulfilled for another year, we were then off, splitting into two groups, the Red Max leading a handful off on a slightly longer, alternative route home. I stuck to the traditional return run, facing strict instruction to be back on time to greet scheduled holiday visitors.


Paul Dorman©

I spent the ride back chatting with Buster about the parlous state of the guitar industry and the value for money vs. quality conundrum of Planet X. Once again I found myself recommending their mighty lobster mitts for the most extreme conditions.

Before long I was following the Colossus and G-Dawg through the Mad Mile, chuckling at all the people pointing out the strange man in the strange suit. Then I was off on my own, riding unusually quiet roads, even those around the local shopping centre. It might have been a quiet Christmas for the nation’s High Street businesses, but I’m not complaining


YTD Totals: 7,261 km / 4,512 miles with 88,830 metres of climbing.

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Two Up, Two Down


 

Club Run, Saturday 26th March, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   114 km/71 miles with 1,060 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 35 minutes

Average Speed:                                   24.8 km/h

Group size:                                           29 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                      13°C

Weather in a word or two:              Chilly and overcast

Main topic of conversation at the start:

According to his Faecesbook post, OGL undertook an epic ride of over 85 miles on Good Friday, two thirds of which he claims to have completed all on his lonesome.  The BFG won the impromptu sweepstake by correctly anticipating OGL would mention his own “epicness” within the first 2 minutes of arriving at the meeting point. We were not disappointed.

Then, unwittingly and unlooked for and with no prompting at all from his audience, OGL once again launched into the gruesome tale of scrotum-meets-stem-during-track-meet, replete with an all too vivid description of the catastrophic ripping and rupturing that ensued and the stitching needed to make him whole again.

Attire, a fully-paid up member of the Cult of the Racing Snakes listened to this bloody tale impassively, then reached into his jersey pocket, wrestled out an entire Lyle’s Family Sized Golden Syrup Cake Bar (typical number of servings per pack = 9) and proceeded to devour it almost whole, gnawing through and around the different layers of packaging to get to the sticky goodness within.


 

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Not the most portable of snacks, but the equivalent of a dozen energy gels


 

Seeing such a massive cake bar being cavalierly brandished and then demolished, the Red Max felt it put Taffy Steve’s choice of puny cereal bars to mortal shame and he pressed Taffy Steve to reveal just how inadequate and insecure this made him feel.

The BFG had a cunning plan to not only ride every one of the four club runs over the Easter weekend, but complete each one on a different bike. With this in mind he rolled up astride the carbon on carbon uber-bike and immediately began praying to the weather gods for a dry day on Sunday so he could venture out on his wooden wheels.

The Prof informed us he’d manage to wrestle Mrs. Prof’s gear hanger back into some semblance of functionality and she’d been able to limp noisily home from her mechanical yesterday, albeit with the rear derailleur threatening to hurl itself bodily into the back wheel and playing a clattering tune on the spokes, as carefree as a schoolboy running a stick along park railings.

The Monkey Butler Boy complained about the pink stem cap that had appeared overnight on his bike following the Red Max’s latest round of refits and improvements. Max suggested it was there to remind the Monkey Butler Boy of how girly he is every time he looks down and said that he’d even considered having “You’re a big girl” engraved across the top.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

The Lance Armstrong film, The Program came under critical review and received the massive ringing endorsement, “Yeah …  it’s all right”

I criticised Ben Foster for having to take drugs in order to be able to act like someone who took drugs, reminding Taffy Steve of Laurence Olivier’s fabulous response on seeing Dustin Hoffman’s “method” acting technique of not sleeping and making a mess of himself to get into character while shooting Marathon Man:  “Dear boy, it’s called acting.”

[The venerable Toshi-san remembers Olivier’s retort as “Try acting, dear boy. It’s easier.” Which may be inaccurate, but is even better.]

Spry felt the actor who played Michele Ferrari really let the film down with an awful and unbelievable cod-European accent, only to discover the actor, Guillaume Canet was actually French, so plausible Italian shouldn’t have been that much of a stretch.

Someone wondered why Jan Ullrich didn’t feature and I think we all had in mind candidates to play the hapless, rotund German who never seemed to get to grips with the temptations of the off-season.


 

ride 26 march
Ride Profile


 

The Waffle:

So, here we go then, day two of the Easter holidays and the second day in a row that I’m allowed out for a club run. I guess I was just born lucky. Or maybe the family are happier in my absence and I’m just unwanted in my own home.

The perfect, blue skies of Friday had gone however, leaving a grey, windy and even chillier clump of weather to be negotiated, with a burst of heavy rain being forecast to make an unwelcome appearance around midday.

The camera slung under the saddle appears to be producing one or two decent shots in amongst a mountain of dross and discards, so would be put into action again. One or two of the riders captured have even adopted the photos for their personal Faecesbook profiles, maybe there’s no higher compliment.

This got me wondering if I might get embroiled in an argument over royalties and image rights like David Slater and his monkey selfie. All it really needs is for someone to champion and care for the rights of cyclists the same way they do for hugely vicious, vermin-raddled, wild monkeys – c’mon, surely MAMILS are more lovable and worthy than crested macaque’s? Anyone? No? Oh, well…

Arriving at the meeting place there were a handful of survivors from Friday and a whole new batch of fresh riders eager to stretch their legs and dish out a little pain. Once again then a fairly sizeable group of just under 30 of us pushed off, clipped in and set out.


 

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Things were going well until we stopped at a T-junction and I watched in disbelief as the BFG fell like some majestic giant redwood, slowly and silently toppling to crash into the ground while still clipped firmly into his uber-bike. I’m still not sure whether he was attempting a smart-arse track stand, was having cleat problems or simply forgot what he was doing – either way the results were unintentionally comic.

He shamefacedly picked himself up, scrubbed ruefully at the scratches on his no-longer pristine brake hoods and tried to nonchalantly side foot the debris back into the crater his impact had created in the road surface. Maybe now people won’t be so intent on pulling stupid-ass stunts – wheelies, track stands and other shit while riding in a group.

We recovered and pushed on, Crazy Legs and Goose hitting the front for an epic and marathon effort into a strengthening and debilitating headwind. Chapeau guys.

At the split Crazy Legs went off to recuperate a little with the amblers, but Goose stuck with the longer, harder, faster group of around a dozen or so, finding the going quite hard after all his sterling work on the front.


 

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I felt good and led on the first couple of hills, but the legs tired quickly and began to feel heavy and full of hurt.  Although we took a completely different route getting there, we were soon once again heading for the Quarry climb and then the slow burn to the café.

I managed to stay with the lead riders to the top of the Quarry, but was distanced for a while shortly afterwards trying to recover. We then all regrouped on a downhill section and the pace began to build.

Pierre Rolland look-alike Spry put in a perfectly timed attack on the next short rise and splintered the group. The rider whose wheel I was on lost contact and by the time I’d gone around him the gap was too great to shut down.

I was on the drops and working harder than I had on my solo break the day before, but the gap at refused to close and then ever so slowly yawned open. I pushed on regardless, bouncing and rattling over the uneven road surface and limped into the café some way behind the leaders and appropriately sur la jante.


 

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Inside we found Plumose Pappus home from university for the holidays and intent on turning all the paper napkins in the café a bright shade of red. He was managing all of this from a deep gash in his elbow where a large crescent of flesh seemed to have been crudely hacked out and according to the BFG he looked even paler than I did after the hill climb.

From what I can gather from the muddled conversation around me, Plumose had fallen whilst trying to take a jacket off mid-ride. If true, maybe now people won’t be so intent on pulling stupid-ass stunts – wheelies, track stands – oh, sorry – you’ve heard that already…

The Red Max once described Plumose Pappus as the only man with legs the same diameter as his seatpost and Taffy Steve had calculated he was exactly twice the young feller’s weight. The worry now is that with a sizeable chunk out of his arm he’s going to weigh even less and be even more difficult to hold back on the climbs. It’s a radical form of weight loss and perhaps one that should be kept from Sir David Brailsford and his dogged and unwavering pursuit of marginal gains.

Plumose Pappus was bundled into his mum’s ambulance/voiture balai, no doubt destined for the local A&E and an intense bout of wound cleaning and stitching up. When he recovers he’ll have a great opportunity to swap hoary old injury stories with OGL and perhaps one day, if he’s brave enough, they can even compare scars.

Meanwhile, back in the café I was successfully inviting my fellow cyclists to sit like a human shield between me and the fire which was roaring and throwing out heat with the intensity of a Krupp blast furnace.

Ever the pragmatist, Taffy Steve took the much more effective step of simply negotiated with the café matron to have the fire turned down, or for them to at least not bother throwing another sacrificial cyclist onto the blaze. Mission accomplished the stop at least became bearable.

On the return home we hit roadworks and were stopped at some traffic lights. OGL spotted a car pulling into and lurking in parking space on the wrong side of the road and rightly guessed he was going to jump around us when the lights changed.

Suitably warned we were able to avoid getting unnecessarily caught up under his wheels and impeding his entitled progress. The danger wasn’t over though, as a truly moronic RIM in a white Transit van tried to shoot the gap between the lights and cyclists forcing us to dive out of the way again. We watched in complete and utter astonishment as he then drove 20 yards past the lights and turned off the road and onto a driveway. What a complete and utter arse hat.

The legs were heavy and hurting, but I managed to hang in the group until the first split when the remnants entered the Mad Mile and started to accelerate away for one last blast. I let them go happy with my own pace and preparing myself to turn off and into the headwind for the trek home.

Things weren’t too bad until I started to drop down to the river, finding the wind was so strong I had to pedal downhill to maintain momentum. As I crossed over the bridge the first drops of a light rain began to sift down, but I was on the climb of the Heinous Hill before it began to fall with any real intent and safely indoors before the heavens truly opened.

Two hard rides in two days, both enjoyable, but I really do need to rest and recover now. I’ve also discovered that doing two club runs in succession is a challenge, but not nearly as difficult as two blog entries.

I’m quite looking forward to the resumption of normal service next week.

YTD Totals: 1,720 km /1,069 miles with 16,238 metres of climbing