So, a fortnight ago I set off for the usual club ride, dropped down the hill and was pushing along the valley when the Frankenbike developed a very annoying tic in the form of a very annoying tick.
… tick followed tock followed tick followed tock followed tick on every pedal stroke. It looked like I’d chewed through another bottom bracket and the sound was incessant and annoying enough to destroy any hopes I had for a pleasant ride. I made it to the river before stopping to wiggle and kick and prod and probe, all seemingly to no avail and faced with the aural equivalent of Chinese water torture I turned for home.
The following week it wasn’t so much this that kept me off the bike …
the local streets on Friday evening, but this …
Another little dance with the Covid devil and 5 days self-isolating.
So last Saturday saw me heading out for a club run after two weeks enforced absence. With the Trek still waiting for the arrival of a new bottom bracket I chose to risk the summer bike, hoping there’d be little rain, the roads would be largely dry, and I’d be forgiven for riding without mudguards. Bad choice number#1?
It was a wet start, but the showers had passed by the time I made the meeting point and was able to ship and stow the rain jacket. In fact, the weather was, well, according to Brassneck anyway, good enough for shorts and a bit of early season leg exposure. My aged, brittle and fragile knee joints begged to differ, and I felt my views on the weather were somewhat vindicated when the Enigma cruised past wearing (much to our surprise) some kind of lightweight jacket instead of the usual cotton T-shirt.
Brassneck also revealed that as well as serving ideally for small frame repairs and protection, he’d found a veterinary use for the miracle that is gaffer tape, which he reckoned was ideal for strapping up canine tails when they were wagged so hard, they broke against pieces of common household furniture!
Our idle banter was interrupted by the high-volume automated voice issuing from a portacabin that had appeared in the multi-storey car park as a precursor to some work being done there. The portacabin had for some reason determined that the poor workman simply trying to open its door was, for whatever reason, persona non grata, intent on assaulting its integrity and was issuing all sorts of dire warnings about CCTV and emergency calls to the local constabulary.
Smart bombs, smart phones, smart watches, smart cars, smart TV’s, I can kind of understand, but smart portacabin’s? That’s surely a step too far?
Crazy Legs briefed in the route, we split the 18 or so gathered into two groups, delayed until 16 minutes past just in case Carlton was uncharacteristically late (he was, but by more than the minutes grace we allowed him), and away we went. I bumped down the kerb and fell into line alongside Ovis as we headed out.
We passed out through Ponteland and up past the cafe at Kirkley, somehow all managing to resist turning in for an impromptu coffee break, even when Biden Fecht cheekily called for a left turn. Somewhere along the drag up to the Gubeon we rotated onto the front of the group and I led with Ovis until we passed through Whalton and started to climb out of the village when I dropped back.
Just before Bolam a pee stop was called for and Goose demanded to know if we were all ready for a Malt Loaf appearance. Huh? We wondered if this was some half-arsed tribute to Meat Loaf that Goose had been working on and whether he was preparing us for the aural assault of the chorus of Bat out of Hell. I never did get to the bottom of what he was referring to, and if he was carrying some cakey, malt loaf treats in his back pocket they remained well hidden.
Someone mentioned the seriously asthmatic Meat Loaf had belonged to the fervid anti-vaxer and anti-masker brigade and had contracted and died of Covid. Being the deplorable human being I am, I couldn’t help but bark with laughter at someone who’d rather die than, in his own words “be controlled” by … err … politics? His choice I guess, but its my choice if I think that’s incredibly dumb.
I had a chat with Biden Fecht about that afternoon’s Milano-San Remo, my deeply insightful and invariably misinformed contributions being that I thought Wout van Aert was stronger than he looked at Tirreno-Adriatico and had a good chance, Mathieu van der Poel was way off form and had no hope in hell and that I didn’t understand why Pogačar was such a firm favourite. I reasoned there weren’t any climbs long enough or hard enough for him to make a difference and, while his sprint is great amongst other climbers, I wasn’t convinced he could beat the specialists and rouleurs in a flat finish.
I also couldn’t see any way that everyone’s favourite Irishman, Filipp O’Ganna would be in the mix at the pointy end of the race, just to prove how well I understand pro cycling …
The climb up to the cafe at Capheaton was taken with enough pace to make me think I’d earned my cake – a glistening, slab of moist, good looking, gluten-free Orange and Almond. Bad choice number#2?
Goose followed my lead and was able to confirm my initial impressions that it wasn’t a “good bake” and tasted rather unpleasantly rtificial – perhaps a little too heavy-handed on the orange essence?
It would however provide us with certain savage amusement later, as we watched the disgusted expressions that periodically wandered across the face of Zardoz every time he took a bite, as he too found the Orange and Almond cake didn’t taste anywhere near as good as it looked.
With no obvious connection to the conversation that preceded it, someone declared that Steven Spielberg regretted making Jaws because it had given sharks a bad reputation. And here was me thinking it was because of some deep, primordial instinct stirred up by their flat dead eyes, rows of sharp teeth and reputation for killing people.
As we were packing up to leave I noticed Captain Black’s voice had become very prominent above the general chatter in the room. Goose suggested this was quite a new phenomena and something he’d noticed recently too.
“I think he’s going a bid deaf,” he offered by way of explanation.
“I think he’s just spent far too much time in your company,” I suggested as an alternative theory.
“Eh? What?” Captain Black might have added. But didn’t.
Back on the bike and on the run down to West Belsay, James III took a flyer off the front and Biden Fecht followed, quickly opening up a big gap. Behind, Ovis finally set off in pursuit and I dropped as unobtrusively as I could onto his wheel and held station, letting him drag me up to Biden Fecht while I got a free ride. I enjoyed the moment he looked back and saw me lurking there, but I’m not sure Ovis appreciated it.
We reformed as a quartet through the junction and pushed on to Belsay, where Biden Fecht suggested amending our usual run home by routing back through Whalton and the Gubeon. I didn’t need the extra miles, so swung off and headed toward Ogle for a solo run.
I managed to stay out in front alone all the way until the descent of Berwick Hill, when Goose bridged up from a group behind and we rode the rest of the way together, before I went off to plough my lonely furrow back home.
So, just your average common or garden club run, but it was good to be back.
|Day & Date:||Club Run, Saturday 18th March 2023|
|Riding Time:||4 hours 30 minutes|
|Riding Distance:||110km/68 miles with 977m of climbing|
|Group Size:||20 ish – accounting for the late arrivals|
|Weather in a word or two:||Yeah. OK.|
|Year to date:||1,668km/1,036 miles with 16,107m of climbing|