The seasons might be a man-made abstract, but this Saturday definitely felt like we’d crossed some sharp divide and, as British Summer Time officially came to an end and we nudged into Autumn, the weather underscored the transition. It felt like an overnight change and all of a sudden it was cold.
It was cold enough for my breath to visibly manifest itself as I first stepped out. Cold enough for the “deep” version of the unofficial “club” long-sleeved jersey. Cold enough for thermal socks, gloves, tights and overshoes. Cold enough for me to start out with a windproof jacker bundled on top of everything else. It wasn’t of course, cold enough to persuade G-Dawg that the time for shorts wearing is now past. He reckons he’s got another 3 or 4 weeks at least before that happens.
Then again, he’s mad.
It was also one of those days when it could rain at any given moment and I reckoned we’d be lucky to make it home without a little moistening around the edges.
Heading out on the valley floor, I was greeted by another cyclist as he overtook me and I caught up with him at the traffic lights in Blaydon. We both remarked just how noticeably cold it had suddenly become, but he at least suggested we wouldn’t see any rain until 11.00. At this point in time I’m giving the weather prognostication of random strangers as much credibility as the BBC Weather App, so I was quite buoyed by his forecast.
I rolled up to the meeting place apparently accompanied by a gust of strong-smelling weed which had Rainman sniffing at the air like a bloodhound on the scent. (At the risk of racial stereo-typing, he is Dutch, so perhaps more highly attuned to such things).
I was at pains to point out I was definitely not the source of the rather distinctive aroma, as I’m not quite au fait with the UCI’s stance on recreational drug use and didn’t want run the risk of being banned from club runs. We eventually tracked our phantom toker down to a young goth splayed across the bench in one of the bus shelters.
A spliff for breakfast, we decided was the height of decadence.
With everyone remarking on just how cold it had suddenly turned, we speculated on what OGL would be wearing this time, having throughout the past 3-weeks of remarkably mild weather resorted to more and more protective layers. G-Dawg suggested he’d probably go for a sleeping bag with holes cut out the bottom for his feet to poke through, while I thought yet more layers on top of layers until he could give a passingly good impression of the Michelin Man. I won. Temperatures are still relatively benign though, so who knows, maybe the sleeping bag will be a feature of rides to come.
Random inconsequential trivia interlude: the Michelin Man has an actual name and is called Bibendum, apparently taken from a line in one of Horace’s poems, “nunc est bibendum,” or “now is the time to drink.”
Crazy Legs pointed out the new kid, who he suggested was at bad as cornering as vintage Garrulous Kid. He was surprised to see him back for another round, as they’d guided and coaxed and talked him through every tricky corner on last weeks route, until, lulled into a false sense of security, they’d left him to his own devices and he’d somehow managed to hit the deck on one of the last and most innocuous of turns close to home.
I suggested he needed to learn the Garrulous Kid’s technique of unclipping and dabbing a foot down, like some madly cornering speedway rider. Or, maybe not.
This had us reminiscing about the Garrulous Kid’s penchant for mixing the mundane and highly questionable with the extraordinary and jaw-droppingly astounding, such as cornering so badly he ran off the road, yet somehow mange to retain traction along a wet, slippery embankment, slalom and weave his way around trees, fence-posts, walls, flower beds and gravel filled potholes, before blithely re-joining the back of the group as if nothing untoward had just happened.
In particular, Crazy Legs recalled one of his “complete and utter bastard” moments when he’d run a finger across the Garrulous Kid’s tyres and with an exaggerated “whoosh” flung his arm wide, before declaring how incredibly slippery they were. The poor Garrulous Kid had then spent the entire ride completely fixated on his front wheel, waiting for it to suddenly slide out from under him and he took every corner in painfully slow, carefully considered increments.
For today’s endeavours, G-Dawg had planned a route that took us within striking distance of all three of our regular cafe’s and cake stops and had left himself with the unenviable dilemma of choosing which one to select. He threw it open to the group.
“Why not all three,” Crazy Legs suggested, obviously thinking of getting in some early training before the reintroduction of the Flat White™ club rides. [Coming to a road near you, just as seen as the weather turns grim. Other café stop plans are available.]
In the end Capheaton got the nod, because we hadn’t been for a while and, well … free refills. I didn’t vote as I had strict orders to be home for 1.00 so would be skipping the coffee and cake. Sacrilege I know, but needs must …
With that settled we tried to split into two, but there was a reluctance to join the first group. When Brassneck was forcibly press-ganged into their ranks despite a raging hangover, I bumped off the kerb and joined up too. Misery loves company.
We finally managed a rather uneven split and away we went. I dropped in alongside Cowboy’s for a catch up, as Rainman and Jimmy Mac led us out at a pace brisk enough to finally get the blood flowing and feed a bit of warmth back into cold limbs.
Climbing out of Whalton, the legs were feeling pretty good for a rare change and I stomped on the pedals hard and joined Rainman for a while, a couple of metres off the front, with the others trailing slightly behind.
We had a chat about gravel tracks in the Netherlands and the postponed Paris-Roubaix, which promised bad weather, thrills and spills in abundance and this time really did live up to the hype, including Lizzie Diegnan’s epic and historic win in the first ever women’s version.
We simply couldn’t pick a potential winner for the men’s race and Mathieu van der Poel was probably the only one of the top 5 placed riders we name-checked, before Rainman concluded that about the only benefit of the pandemic was that we now only had to wait 7 months for the next edition of the Hell of the North.
We took a route through Angerton and out past the spring water company, Marlish Water, a road I’d only ever been down once before on one of my solo, lockdown peregrinations earlier in the year. Or was it last year? It’s all starting to blur together now.
The route then took us to the bottom of Middleton Bank, the group turned right, while I decided it was time to take my leave and kept going. I crested the hill and found I now had a delightful headwind to contend with all the way home and no wheels to shelter behind. Still, I was sure I’d left plenty of time to get home before the scheduled deadline so as not incur the wrath of she who must be obeyed.
To go with the nasty headwind, I caught a brief smattering of rain at 12.00, which was an hour later than this mornings passing cyclist forecast, but maybe he was working on Central European Time?
My ride home was on time and uneventful, other than suffering a too close pass by a certain Mr. Parker, (or maybe that should be Mr. P44rk4) in his wallowing, over-sized, battleship-grey, (B-52 style) B.U.F.F. Chelsea tractor with its personalised P44RK4 plate. I can only assume the W44NK4 plate wasn’t available at the time he bought it.
And that’s probably me done with club runs for the rest of October. Next Saturday I’m working the University Open Day and the following weekends are lined up for visits to other universities in Sheffield, Nottingham and Manchester, as Thing#2 decides what she wants to study next and where.
By the time I return it’ll be cursed winter-bike time and cold enough to have me speculatively eyeing up the sleeping bag and wondering how big a hole I need to cut in it to poke my feet through.
|Day & Date:||Saturday 2nd October, 2021|
|Riding Time:||101km/63 miles with 913m of climbing|
|Riding Distance:||4 hours 15 minutes|
|Group Size:||30 riders 2 FNG’s|
|Weather in a word or two:||Distinctly autumnal|
|Year to Date:||3,785km/2,352 miles with 39,544m of climbing|