Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey and the Ovine Menace

Righty Tighty, Lefty Loosey and the Ovine Menace

Club Run, Saturday 9th July, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   100 km/62 miles with 914 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           3 hours 54 minutes

Average Speed:                                   25.5 km/h

Group size:                                           26 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                      20°C

Weather in a word or two:              Overcast, humid

 Main topic of conversation at the start:

Arriving bedecked in vintage CSC team kit, I caused Taffy Steve to enquire if I’d been wasting yet more money on cycling frippery and finery. For once I could plead not guilty as the kit had just been recently excavated from the depths of the Old Lycra mountain.  I explained it wasn’t new, but very, very old, to which he replied, “Ah! Very old. I should have guessed that, coming from you!” Ouch. I think that might have been payback for last week’s suggestion that he resembled a hulking, grumpy, shockingly profane and disturbingly hirsute Tinkerbell.

The kit was actually a gift from the team to the Pacific Vice President of CSC, who had no interest in cycling, so gave it to his brother, who had no interest in cycling, so he gave it to me. It always makes me smile when I pick it up because it’s clearly marked as being an XL size.

After a much too long absence, Grover emerged to a round of incredulous looks, double-takes and even one or two exploratory prods to see if he was indeed a corporeal entity.

“Is it a miradjee?” Taffy Steve enquired in his best Bugs Bunny/Mel Blanc voice.

“Don’t be an ultra-maroon.” I retorted, before we started arguing, while the FNG’s looked on genuinely perplexed and bewildered:

“It’s duck season!”

“No, it’s rabbit season!”

“Duck season.”

“Rabbit season”

Oh well, it made us chuckle.

Meanwhile Crazy Legs rolled up sur la Bianchi, a sure sign that the much-cosseted Ribble has somehow re-gained its protected status and is being held back because there is a chance (no matter how slim) that we might encounter some precipitation on the ride.

Crazy Legs confided that he was actually hoping for rain as his shoes were still “too clean and too white” and he hated them. This was an argument I’d only ever encountered once before, from a deeply fashion-conscious, overly-sensitive, pre-teen daughter when I’d asked her why she wouldn’t wear the very new, very expensive Converse Hi-Tops she insisted we buy her.

Taffy Steve pondered whether Bianchi had ever tried to copyright their signature “celeste” blue-green colour, pretty much like Cadbury had tried with the colour purple and Lindt had apparently attempted with rabbits.

Rabbits? Whatever next, trying to copyright the letter “e?” Wh*r* would that l*av* us?”

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Crazy Legs had to travel all the way from Newcastle to Worcester for his new job, a long and arduous journey, but necessary because the client said they only had one other operating base in the UK he could work from.

“Oh, where’s that then?” Crazy Legs politely enquired on finally arriving in Worcester.

“Cobalt.”

“Err … as in Cobalt Park?”

“Yes.”

Cobalt Park … North Shields?”

“Yeah, wherever that is…”

Oh, dear.

With the execrable, Euro 2016 football somnambulating toward some sort of long-overdue denouement, the only noteworthy revelation seems to be the scrotum stroking, bum crack teasing, finger sniffing antics of German Coach Joachim Löw. Yeugh! It thoroughly delighted Crazy Legs, though.

I was thinking you wouldn’t find a cyclist doing anything like that, when someone mentioned Contador having to change shoes on the fly following his crash and bravely holding his sweaty insoles in his teeth as he plummeted downhill. Yeugh#2! Was this the knock-out blow that finally put paid to El Pistolero’s Tour de France challenge?

For some reason I lost the thread of the conversation and when I returned the group were discussing a female rider who used to train with us, had incredible leg-strength, but couldn’t actually ride in a straight line. She was attributed with prodigious thighs and what I politely suggested we could perhaps describe as “child bearing calves.” Crazy Legs reflected that the enormous thighs might actually be an impediment to childbirth and I couldn’t help think of some imaginary poor baby being extruded between massive quad muscles, like a lump of Play-Doh. Yeugh#3.


 

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Ride Profile

The Waffle:

Awaking from too little sleep and feeling quite fuzzy around the edges, Saturday morning found me running on vodka vapours following a too-late Friday night out with work colleagues. This was definitely going to be a kill or cure experience.

I was only moving at half-speed, or perhaps I’m being overly-generous and quarter-speed would be more accurate. I left the house slightly late, taking my occasional alternate route and trading quiet roads for a 5-mile short-cut, managing to arrive with plenty of time to spare.

I was greeted at the meeting point by one FNG enquiring if he was in the right place and I explained he was, but he was at least 15 minutes too early and while our official start-time is listed as 9.00 there’d be no movement until at least 9.15.  He just seemed relieved someone else had turned up as he confided he’d actually been hanging around since 8.45.

Picking up a couple more FNG’s, a fairly large group of 26 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out, many threading the needle between two rumbling double-decker buses that suddenly decided to try and blockade our exit with a bit of unnecessary bumper-kissing.


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The weather seems to have settled into an all too familiar pattern, grey and overcast, with a feeling that rain could sweep in at any moment – the wind strong enough to be noticeable when not sheltered by fellow cyclists.

We’d just escaped into more rural areas when Son of G-Dawg punctured and we all huddled into a small lay-by while repairs were effected. One of the FNG’s took the opportunity to ask around for a hex key so he could adjust the release tension on his pedals.

“You should be tightening them, not loosening them.” The Prof, err, proffered.

“I don’t think so,” the FNG countered, “At the moment it’s easier and quicker to actually take my shoe off when I need to stop!”

He then crouched down by his bike, muttering the strange mantra, “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” as he worked to loosen his pedal binding. The Prof looked on rather befuddled, wondering in his little scientific, engineers-heart what was wrong with plain-old clockwise and anti-clockwise.

Seemingly shaken by this radical, free-form way of thinking, he repeated the mantra aloud to himself, “righty-tighty, lefty-loosey” paused and then asked in a rather plaintive voice, “So what’s okie-dokie then?”

“Ah,” someone explained “That’s when you’ve done righty-tighty or lefty-loosey just enough.”

As we waited, OGL said that he’d had a clear out and had a load of useless and worn old tools he was going to throw away if anyone wanted them, while looking rather pointedly at the Prof as he made the announcement. Somewhat surprisingly the Prof wasn’t interested, explaining he already had a cache of useless and worn out tools (not that that has ever stopped him picking up other people’s junk before.)

He wasn’t even tempted when OGL offered up a set of files so useless and worn “they couldn’t file paper.”

I suggested there really wasn’t much call to file paper and the Prof quipped, “Especially these days with e-mail.” Ba-boom.

After we’d all finished groaning, Taffy Steve shook his head as he admonished us, “Bring together a bunch of dad’s and sure enough, all you’ll get are dad jokes.”

Someone pointed out that, never mind dads, there were grandads amongst us, but all chatter was silenced when Shoeless revealed he knew a 45-year-old great-grandmother.

Thankfully, Son of G-Dawg had finished his repairs and we were able to mount up and push on again.


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I drifted to the back in the company of Taffy Steve discussing university congregations and the strange (in my mind, unforgiveable) fashion for wearing tan brogues with blue suits.

We dropped onto some narrow, rural lanes. I heard the shout of “car up!” and spotted a Porsche Cayenne – distant, but seemingly hurtling toward us. Surprisingly, it then pulled to the side of the road and stopped to allow us to safely pick our way past.

A little further on and a shiny black Mercedes did the same and then a massive BMW 4×4. I swear on the ride home I even saw an Audi driver pull to the side of the road, stop and wave us through, although Carlton assures me this was actually a Toyota. History and personal experience does tend to suggest he was right and I was mistaken.

Of course not all drivers were quite so accommodating and at one junction we found ourselves being charged by a monstrous black pick-up truck, in a manner that was purposefully meant to be intimidating. Arse hat.

Even greater peril was still yet to strike and I rounded one sharp bend to find everyone stopped and stationary around a supine Princess Fiona, who’d come off and was lying amongst the roadside nettles.

From what I can gather she’d been surprised by the sudden appearance of a panicked sheep on the road, braked too sharply and lost her back wheel. At least I think that’s what happened, but there was no sign of the offending ninja-sheep.

Princess Fiona was slowly helped back to her feet, a bit bloodied, bruised and scraped, but seemingly intact. Meanwhile Shoeless undertook some percussive maintenance on her twisted saddle and slapped her chain back into place.

Suddenly I saw the sheep for the first time, now charging fearlessly down the road between the slalom course of skinny cyclists and plastic bikes. So, not a miradjee then.

Our bleating, woolly friend had obviously wriggled through a hedge and overgrown ditch to escape, collecting a fair bit of greenery along the way.  This was entangled, wound and woven throughout its fleece like some organic, ovine ghillie suit. By using this improvised camouflage, it had been able to lie in wait to ambush unsuspecting cyclists, leaping out with a mighty Boo!

Or maybe Baa!

Now it had either overcome its innate fear of cyclists, or something even more terrifying was driving it back through us.

The ground shook as a low rumble became a thunderous roar, and the sheep’s new nemesis appeared; a massive, shiny-yellow, Caterpillar tractor bedecked with white ribbon and driven by a wedding party in pale grey morning suits and pink cravats. I couldn’t see far enough into the cab to confirm it, but suspect there was a plethora of tan brogues on display too.

We all shuffled to the very margins of the road to allow the behemoth to squeeze past, filling most of the lane and bending back branches on either side, while its occupants smiling benignly down on us from their lofty perch.

We then had to push even further back to allow a second and then a third identical tractor to rumble past. Landed gentry wedding, Northumberland-style.

At our split only OGL and Grover left us for the shortest route to the café. Meanwhile the rest waited before embarking on a longer, harder, faster route. And waited. And waited.


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Finally, Crazy Legs demanded some action and called, “Ride ‘em out!” prompting the two of us to belt out a ragged, off-kilter, off-key, call-and-response rendition of Rawhide –unhindered by the fact neither one of us actually know the words. Or should be allowed to sing in public.

We dragged our way up to Dyke Neuk and swung off to head even further North, splitting the group and waving off the even longer, faster, harder group before we started to loop back.

Our group now included Shoeless, Son of G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, Taffy Steve a couple of others and tagging on the back Red Max, the Monkey Butler boy and Szell, as we set course for Szell’s nemesis, Middleton Bank.

I rolled to the front as we approached the hill and started up, climbing out of the saddle and accelerating as we hit the steepest ramp. Sitting down again, I tried to keep the pace at a reasonable level as I sensed someone climbing up on my inside.

I did a quick double-take, but my eyes weren’t lying – it was Taffy Steve, pulling everyone else up the climb with him as if he’d suddenly found some climbing legs. Well, he has been seen lurking around a darkened crossroad bargaining with a shady character.

We drove over the top and sat up to wait for everyone to regroup and because Crazy Legs was feeling particularly benevolent to Szell that day, I do mean everyone. All reformed and back together, Taffy Steve gave me the old UCI timekeeper countdown on his right hand, waved me down an imaginary start-ramp and we started to build up speed.

The pair of us did around 5km on the front trying to drive the pace ever higher, until we rattled down through Milestone Woods and Shoeless, Son of G-Dawg, Crazy Legs and Szell burned off the front. Being overtaken by Szell was unthinkable, so as he died on the first slope I drove us past him, up and over the rollers. Onto the final drag I sat up and watched Taffy Steve nip around me while I did a basking shark impersonation and tried to find a little more air for my screeching lungs.

On the return home we were stopped at some temporary traffic lights, when a small kid on a fat-tyred, nondescript, MTB swooped out of a junction and pulled up in the middle of the bunch. As the light turned amber, he sprinted away, through us and the roadworks in an attack so audacious he earned a massive cheer and huge encouragement.

We caught him faltering on the sharp climb up to Dinnington, where Taffy Steve planted a huge hand on his back and drove him, rocket-propelled up the slope and over the top. He might never climb that hill faster in his entire life – and I’ve never seen a grin so wide.

A good run, the perfect hangover antidote and we finally managed a summer ride without getting soaked. Upwards and onwards.


YTD Totals: 3,975 km / 2,470 miles with 39,203 metres of climbing

The Mighty Boosh

Club Run, Saturday 26th June, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  108 km / 67 miles with 730(?) metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 15 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.5 km/h

Group size:                                         31 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    17°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright, sunny then … Boosh!

Main topic of conversation at the start:

The club had suggested a moratorium on Brexit discussions on Faecesbook last week, even going so far as to suggest that perennial old chestnut, the Campagnolo vs. Shimano debate would be preferable.

The agreement didn’t last more than a minute, but there was no arguing as we couldn’t find anyone who was actually for the Brexit, so it was just a bunch of disappointed folk standing round wondering morosely about what sort of sad-sack, small-minded, parochial little country we actually live in.

There was naturally lots of recycling of Cyclone stories – the horror of Bilsmoor, the microclimate enjoyed by the club post-event picnic on the grass, Sneaky Pete finding Guiness was a thoroughly acceptable substitute for coffee and Crazy Legs wondering how Sneaky Pete became Sneaky Pete. I couldn’t honestly remember. G-Dawg also admitted that all his efforts fitting and trialling bottle and cage almost came to nought as he forgot he was carrying a drink until he’d completed three quarters of the ride.

I queried why the Prof was wearing thick, full-fingered orangey-pink gloves and he suggested they were to match his Friesian cow patterned jersey. Everyone looked suitably perplexed until he placed the backs of his hands on his stomach, wiggling his fingers in the air and declaring in a too loud voice, “They’re the udders!” Deeply unsettling.

With 9:15 fast-approaching and the continuing absence of OGL, Taffy Steve was starting to look forward to a “Lexit” but at the last moment our leader arrived and slipped into the mass of cyclists waiting for the off.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

The Red Max relayed how he’d been happily cycling along in the sunshine and then, “Boosh!” the rain came smashing down almost instantly soaking everyone. I asked if it had been a “Mighty Boosh” and he confirmed it had indeed.

One unexpected consequence of the rain was that it had soaked through Szell’s faux-leather track mitts, the dye had leaked out and his hands were a stained a deep, indelible shade of blue. Richard of Flanders quipped that he looked like he’d taken part in a Post Office raid that had gone horribly wrong, while I’m sure I wasn’t the only one hoping that it was Szell’s long sleeve jersey and not his gloves causing the staining, so he’d look like Papa Smurf when he took it off.

Crazy Legs recounted his experiences with a Poundland puncture repair kit, which he’d opened to find all the assorted patches, chalk and adhesive you would expect, despite the bargain price and quite unexpectedly, the crowning glory – two professional looking, fit for purpose steel tyre levers.

Come the time to use the kit he’d zipped off the tyre with great ease, made his repairs, checked everything was airtight, reinserted the tube and used the levers to deftly flip the last part of the tyre back onto the rim, being hugely careful not to pinch the inner tube in the process.

He then set to with is molto piccolo, Blackburn Airstick to re-inflate the tyre, but found even his most strenuous efforts were having no effect.

Somewhat bemused he removed the tyre to find the ends of the levers had splintered like a mini-fragmentation grenades and the resulting shards of shrapnel rattling around in the rim had shredded his tube. He then described the Zen-like calm that descended as his experiences simply confirmed his expectations that nothing good could ever come of buying a puncture repair kit from Poundland.

OGL stopped by the table to canvas opinion on the best date to hold the club time-trial, eliciting much discussion about the fine art of time-trialling with Taffy Steve convinced anything that involved spending a small fortune on outlandish, very specialised and odd-looking kit, all for the pleasure of hurting yourself for an extended period of time was anathema to him. Though not all agreed with his assessment, we did all concur that, even by the standards of odd common to all club cyclists in general, time triallists were a special breed apart.


25 June Profile
Ride Profile – I think the rain got to my Garmin as I only recorded 700 metres of climbing and my house ended up 50 metres lower than where it was in the morning

The Oddly and Unashamedly Political Waffle:

From the bedroom window, looking out the day looked beautifully bright, with welcoming blue skies studded with the odd white cloud racing high overhead. Nice enough in fact to have me scrambling around for the sun cream to add to my last minute preparations.

By the time I got out of the house the cloud layer had built up, the wind was surprisingly chill and I was ruing the decision not to wear arm-warmers. There were still prolonged patches of sunlight however and it was pleasant riding through these. A bit less cloud and it would have been a perfect day.

I swooped down the hill, along the valley and across the river, before looping back and starting to climb up the other side. As I made my way up the first major climb of the day I watched a couple on mountain bikes descending toward me on the footpath.

They reached a pedestrian crossing and despite the road being very, very long, very, very straight and completely devoid of any traffic in any direction, they pressed the button to change the lights. I dutifully stopped mid-climb and unclipped at the red light and leant on the bars to watch them cross in front of me, ride up onto the pavement on the other side and then continue their descent on the opposite footpath.

All this was completed with no apology for unnecessarily forcing me to stop and start again on a hill, or even the slightest acknowledgement of my presence. I managed the awkward hill start with as much grace as possible, checking again that the road was clear of other users. It was – the only other moving things out there were on the bleeding pavement.

There, I thought goes the perfect metaphor for the Brexit voting majority; completely lacking foresight, ignorant of everything going on around them, selfishly self-centered, intent only on looking after their own and deeply and irrationally afraid of their environment. I somehow resisted the urge to shout after them to, “Get the feck ON the road!” Childish perhaps, but it might have made me feel better.

The biggest irony of this whole Brexit thing though is now we’re being told we have the chance to make Britain great again, with seemingly no understanding that the “great” in Great Britain actually refers to these islands in their entirety, you know England, Scotland and Wales, together, combined, in partnership. It’s great as in greater Britain, not great as in brilliant Britain and rather than making Britain great again, I think we’re in real danger of diminishing it.

I often think it would be a whole lot better if Britain was simply called Britain and there was no mention of the Great. Get rid of it, expunge it from history and all records, perhaps then there’d be less people with this over-inflated, pompous and superior belief that we’re somehow better than everyone else, that everyone’s clamouring to come and live here, that trading with us is a privilege, or that we’re a hugely powerful and influential player on the world stage. Get over yourself, Britain.

Despite unnecessary hold ups, I made the meeting point in good time and watched as our numbers grew and the ranks of skinny people on plastic bikes spread slowly across the pavement. Bolstered by returning students and tempted out by the seemingly good weather, 31 lads and lasses finally pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


 

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I started off the day alongside Szell, naturally bemoaning the Brexit and wondering if Leave voters actually exist – I still haven’t met one. He told me it was because I was too safe and cosseted in some middle-class cocoon and I couldn’t honestly disagree. He then had a good rant about work-related and pointless customer satisfaction surveys. I told him I was a market researcher and my professional body wouldn’t allow me to participate in surveys. Not strictly true, but it did get a rise out of him.

As we dropped down Berwick Hill most talk was arrested by the appearance of a dark funnel cloud, a tight spiral of wind-whipped cloud, needing only to touch the ground to become an inchoate tornado.

“Toto,” Szell quipped dryly, “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

I then couldn’t contain my curiosity any longer and was forced to ask Szell why he had a Garmin attached to his stem and what looked like two watches strapped to the handlebars on either side. Apparently one watch was for telling the time, the other for his heart rate monitor and the Garmin is just to record the ride. Hmm, so all the functions the Garmin can handily do all on its own. Can you say “belt and braces?”

I then had a chat with Aveline who told me she’d seen the perfect bike for me on the Planet X website in the requisite red, black and yellow livery favoured by odd co-ordination completionists and even adorned with quite subtle (well, for Planet X anyway) Lion of Flanders badges too.

We discovered a mutual appreciation of Planet X, although we both bemoaned the name that I’d previously denounced as a creaky, sci-fi B-movie title (see Planet X vs. Rapha – The Throwdown) while she suggested it reminded her of a really dodgy nightclub!


 

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Somewhere, in the wilds of Northumberland we passed a formidably hirsute, shambling and possibly homeless figure, miles away from civilisation and really in the middle of nowhere. He looked burdened down with half his possessions in a wheel-barrow and the other half spilling out of what appeared to be a makeshift rucksack made from the internal steel liner of a municipal bin with bungee cord straps.

This improvised backpack was adorned with a large picture of a smiling Margaret Thatcher with the accusatory legend, “Thatchers Legacy” scrawled across the top. In his own blood. Okay, I made that last bit up, it but it wouldn’t have surprised me if he had used blood instead of ink.

I had no idea where this odd feller had come from, or where he was possibly going to with nothing for miles around and it was an incongruous sight finding him in the middle of nowhere, being passed by a stream of grinning idiots on expensive plastic bikes. We wondered if he was on a crusade, or maybe a march to London to confront the dragon in her own den?


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We also wondered if he knew that the wicked witch was actually dead and if we’d told him would he have danced a jig of joy, or perhaps been devastated by the sudden loss of his entire raison d’etre.

Looking back, I can’t help thinking of him as being like one of those Japanese snipers who emerges, wild-eyed and bewildered from some jungle hell to finally surrender, only to find the war has been over for quarter of a century. And we lost.

A pee stop was called which surprisingly found the Prof uncertain of his need to wee and having to force himself to go just to maintain his reputation as having the smallest, weakest bladder in the club. His status is under direct threat from young-gun, the Plank who, if the past few weeks are any indication, has greater urinary needs than a coach load of Saga tourists.

The Plank has also developed a strange ritual of riding off the front to find a quiet peeing place, where he’s invariably still “producing” as the rest of us sail past, treating us all to unrestricted viewing of his micturition management. I’ve never understood why he does this instead of dropping quietly off the back and then simply chasing back on – he’s fit and fast enough for this not to be an issue.


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With proper peeing provisions promptly performed there was no need to stop for the group split and this was achieved on the fly. The faster, harder, longer group split again on the climb up to Dyke Neuk and then once again a little later as the even faster, harder, longer group pressed on while others of us took a sharp left.

I was now in a small group with Taffy Steve, Crazy Legs, G-Dawg and relative newcomer Mellstock, rolling along quite merrily until the rain started and then slowly increased in intensity until it was a heavy and persistent downpour. We were soon soaked through, not only with what was falling directly from the sky, but the sheets of water that were washing across the road and being sprayed up in huge arcs by our hissing wheels.


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We climbed Middleton Bank against the tide and pretty much en bloc and set sail for the café.

At one point Crazy Legs and G-Dawg not so subtly manoeuvred me to the front and I heard them giggling and a whispering like errant schoolboys at the back of a classroom:

“Every 20 seconds?”

“Yes”

“Ok”

I was then rewarded on returning home to find my camera had captured them both grinning like idiots and giving me the finger, or flipping the bird if you prefer. No single picture has elicited more “likes” on the clubs Faecesbook page, I’m just surprised it took them so long. What next, a bit of impromptu mooning? Although I guess that’s a bit much to ask while wearing bibshorts and riding a bike toward the camera, so I think we’re safe.

I tried to increase the pace as the rain increases in intensity, lining us out as we charged toward the twin lures of coffee and cake, with Crazy Legs camped on my rear wheel, near blinded by the spray and fixated solely on the only thing he could make out, the yellow tyre flashing round in front of him, trusting me to guide him along without hitting a pothole or grate.

Taffy Steve made a break and I let the gap grow until we hit the rollers then swept up and around him, rattling down the final descent and starting the last uphill drag to the café. Here G-Dawg jumped away with Crazy Legs in pursuit to contest the sprint, while I just tried to maintain my speed.


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A brief respite in the café and we were soon out in the rain again and heading back. Here a few of us dropped off the main group to ride with the FNG who was starting to struggle a little, but she kept plugging away and said she’d enjoyed the ride, despite the weather. They were soon turning off and I entered the Mad Mile on my own and began to pick my way homeward.

It was during this ride that I realised the great, hidden and unpublicised consequence of the Brexit – cars no longer have to give way to cyclists at roundabouts, even if the cyclist is already on the roundabout and the car is only just approaching.  

I came down a hill toward one roundabout and stopped to allow three or four cars to pass. I saw the way was clear and rode out  to take the right hand exit, passing in front of an approaching car that had seen me and stopped. It was at this point that another car came bolting up on its inside, undertaking at high speed to try and race across without having to slow. I think they saw me at the last second and had to brake hard, while I flinched away reflexively.

I expect drivers to do the occasional stupid or thoughtless thing and can just about live with that. I don’t however expect a prolonged fusillade on the horn and extended mouthing off when I’m not the one in the wrong and I’ve clearly done nothing to elicit it.

I’m guessing it’s just coincidence, but this is the second similar incident I had last week – it’s as if motorists have suddenly forgotten both the rules of the road and common courtesy and decency. I wouldn’t care, but I wasn’t even wearing a Belgian or German kit, or anything that looked even vaguely European.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror on the way to the shower and couldn’t help but admire the razor sharp tan-lines between my socks and shorts. I didn’t realise I’d caught enough of the sun for it to have such effect.

Of course I hadn’t and the liberal use of soap and hot water soon washed away the fine patina of grime and road grit to restore my legs to their usual pallid appearance. Hopefully next week I’ll get a proper chance to top up the tan, but I’m not counting on it.


YTD Totals: 3,645 km / 2,265 miles with 35,834 metres of climbing

Pulling a Whitey

Pulling a Whitey

Club Run, Saturday 4th June, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  117 km / 73 miles with 1,109 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 40 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.1 km/h

Group size:                                         24 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    17°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cool grey

Main topic of conversation at the start:

The Red Max arrived early so he could sit on the wall and admire his new Ultegra groupset from afar. He disclosed how he’d taken advantage of Mrs. Max travelling back from Edinburgh on Friday night to fit the groupset in the comfort of his own living room, although I don’t know how far to believe his assertion that he did the work while wearing nothing but his cycling helmet and baggy Y-fronts, with all the windows open and bellowing along to music played at maximum volume.

He managed to finish the work and tidy up before his better half arrived home and somehow was able to convince her that the errant cable-outer clippings must have fallen off the sofa and the odd stray spacer must have been something the cats dragged in.

OGL declared he needed a volunteer with a van to help pick up and distribute the 6,000 bananas and 6,000 energy gels needed for the Cyclone events later this month. Since no one could quite visualise what 6,000 bananas would actually look like, whether they would even fit into a van and how much physical labour was involved, there was a distinct shortage of volunteers.

Meanwhile Cushty confessed he wouldn’t be riding the Cyclone this year as he was due to start a night-shift on the day of the ride and bemoaned not having some kind of goal to work toward. Rab Dee suggested there was always the club hill climb, although this seemed a long time off. He was then left wondering why we always ran these events when the weather started to turn cold and we followed a bizarre ritual of riding hard for an hour to get there well warmed up, only to then have to hang around for half an hour slowly freezing and stiffening up before hurling yourself bodily into the event.

I asked G-Dawg if he’d entered the Cyclone yet, but both he and Son of G-Dawg were indulging in their traditional, eBay sniping – waiting until the very last minute before entering. I couldn’t quite determine if this was an attempt to make OGL’s head explode, or to crash the server with an unprecedented late surge in demand. Well, I say server, but I’ve got an inkling it’s just OGL’s ancient 386 PC sitting churning away in some darkened corner of his living room, occasionally emitting random beeps and bursts of flatulent steam and static.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Someone suggested that the café sprints had the same ultimate effect as one of our hill climb events and gave participants the look of “pulling a whitey” – apparently drug slang for the moment just before you faint away, when all the blood rushes from your face and leaves you looking distinctly pale and ill. It sounds horribly appropriate.

Sneaky Pete sneaked onto our table and was pleased to report he’d found the original “Sneaky Pete” mentioned in a book that postulated that 1971 was the greatest year ever (no hyperbole there, then) for rock music. That’s not my assertion though, so don’t shoot the messenger. Apparently an accomplished and much sought after pedal steel session musician, Sneaky Pete Kleinow got a mention in the book for being a member of The Flying Burrito Brothers alongside Gram Parsons.

I suggested the new Cyclone C Ride – a new 90-mile route that encompasses both the Ryals and Winter’s Gibbet climbs – was originally Sneaky Pete’s idea, so should be renamed the Sneaky Pete Memorial Ride in honour of its progenitor.

Sneaky Pete was having none of this, even though I pointed out how cool it would be to participate in your own memorial ride – sort of like attending your own funeral and hearing what people actually thought of you … although perhaps that’s not such a good idea after all. Taffy Steve suggested it would be worthwhile just for the chance to declaim, Mark Twain-style: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated!”

A discussion about the astonishing qualities of modern sports fabrics led to talk of how good merino wool is, if for nothing else than reducing human ponginess. Taffy Steve wistfully suggested its odour inhibiting properties would have been useful when inter-railing with a 6’4” friend whose armpit just happened to be level with his nose. Not pleasant when crammed sardine like into hot, crowded and noisy Central European trains for days on end.

For some reason this led to a talk about New Zealand, which morphed into a discussion about tea tree oil and whether it came from the same plant as tea, the stuff we drink. I’ve checked. It doesn’t.

Taffy Steve had a grand vision of the great tea plantations of Yorkshire rising up towards Barnsley on terraced hillsides above the sweeping paddy fields along the River Dearne, home to Yorkshire Tea and as a by-product, barrel upon barrel of tea tree oil which is good for nothing, but has been sold on the premise that it can cure anything from fungal nail infections to rampant stagflation in third world countries. I have to be honest and admit his grip on both reality and geography at this point was bordering on tenuous at best.

We discussed how my recent holiday was punctuated by odd shopping sprees with both daughter#1 and daughter#2 buying odd and very random mugs. We now have a cupboard in the kitchen devoted entirely to this motley collection of eclectic drinking vessels all made of different materials and in all shapes, sizes and colours. Taffy Steve recognised the “odds and sods” cupboard from his own experiences, having one at home jammed full of mismatched Tupperware: pots and boxes, jars and bottles of random coloured plastic without lids and all sorts of lids without boxes, all tidily poised to avalanche onto the floor as soon as you so much as touch the cupboard door.


 

ride profile 4 june
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

Saturday dawned grey and murky, low cloud smothering the top of the hill in a fug of mist and fine water droplets, the perfect insulation against any potential warmth that could perhaps be coaxed out of a well-shrouded and reluctant sun. The drop down the hill was so chilly I was almost convinced to turn back and add more layers, but I gambled my rain jacket would suffice until the mist burned off and things warmed up.

Having spent a week of complete and total indolence and the daily indulgence in cake, rich food and too much wine, I was packing an additional 2-3lbs of dead-weight and wondering how much my inactivity would cost me, although I was slightly re-assured by making decent time on the run to the meeting point.

24 lads and lasses collected at the start, including two or three FNG’s – a decent total as we had a fairly large contingent off doing the Haydon Hundred Sportive. After the usual round of gossip and nonsense and one or two “official” club announcements, we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


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The very odd feller who likes to ride without a saddle was out with us again, reprising his appearance from last October (From Pillow to Post and Riding with Marley’s Ghost) although this time he’d upped his game by swapping pit boots and flatties for cycling shoes and clipless pedals.

I’m all for individuality and doing things a little differently and I admire the strength of character and huge fitness requirements needed to pull off riding for hours on end without a saddle. It was obvious from watching him however that bike handling suffers as a consequence, in particular cornering, which was more like circumscribing a very wide and very loose icosagon around the apex of a bend –so wide in fact that it resembled orbiting more than cornering, with any hint of speed tending to invite a huge amount of dangerous straying into the opposite lane. Don’t believe me? Just try cornering at high speed without using your saddle and see how stable you feel and how quickly you can change direction in an emergency.

I’m always wary of anyone pulling stupid and unnecessary stunts when riding in a bunch – track stands, wheelies, donning or doffing clothing et al. Hell, I even get twitchy when someone jumps out of the saddle to climb a hill, as far too many unnecessarily stop mid-pedal while they transition and there’s a real danger of running into their back wheel. I was, naturally then very leery of our “bareback” companion and intent on keeping a safe distance.

Today was the day for far ranging discussions about life, the universe and everything. As we set off I spent time chatting with Carlton about house moves, the school run, Seal Sucker bike carriers, GoPro cameras and how you quickly lose all sense of masculine superiority when you’re regularly being whupped by the girls in the club.

He also relayed information gleaned from the BFG, who had attributed beetroot juice as the secret to his super-human strength. That was slightly reassuring as I’d previously thought “The Kurgan” carried around a litre of his own blood in a bottle. Or somebody else’s. I have to confess I don’t know which of those options I find the most disturbing.

After this I had a chat with the Red Max to find out how the upgrade from 105 to Ultegra was working out (fabulous) and how the Stranglers had ended up being named the greatest punk band of all time (preposterous).

Next up was Guido and the talk turned to surfing in Portugal and walking in the Lake District. Perhaps not as dissimilar as you might think. He seemed shockingly (and blissfully) unaware of my blog writing heroics. Sheesh.

He was followed by Taffy Steve with … Warning : Politics Alert – feel free to skip to the next paragraph… us both lamenting that the Brexit vote was too close to call and the League of Little Englander, auld farts could actually win and wrest power away from genuinely the best we can hope for – some faceless grey Euro-bureaucrat who might just be working on the principle of achieving the greatest good for the greatest number. I wouldn’t care, but they seem intent on then handing it over to some self-serving, publicly educated, corrupt, old establishment, uber-privileged, onanistic, disingenuous, career politician. Wake up folks – the EU didn’t steal our right to rule ourselves, we never had it in the first place.

And breathe – we’re back…

At this point we’d reached our usual stopping point, the place where we’d split the ride into amblers and a faster, harder longer group, but we sailed quietly past. You could feel the tension growing as we then slipped past the secondary, much less used split point – without even acknowledging it in passing.


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Crazy Legs was now getting concerned by OGL’s casual flouting of his own rigid and conservative traditions and began to gesture that his head was in danger of exploding. We’ve not had this much excitement and controversy since G-Dawg changed his bartape from white to black.

The third opportunity to stop and split the group also came and went, provoking a growing feeling that perhaps OGL had succumbed to senility and we might just keep on riding until, one by one we dropped away from exhaustion.

Finally, much, much longer into the ride than usual a halt was called at a junction and plans made to split the group into two rides. G-Dawg, Crazy Legs and Sneaky Pete briefly conferred, worked out and quickly agreed a route for the longer, harder, faster group which we’d all bought into by the time OGL kindly interjected, telling us we should ride the exact route we’d already agreed.

At this point the Monkey Butler Boy plaintively asked his dad if he was carrying any food and looked crestfallen when he learned there was nothing edible to be had. We suggested he needed to use his helmet like a begging bowl and go round the group pleading for food, although it was recommended he did a quick tap-dance in his cleats to try and drum up a little interest and pity first.

His face broke into a beatific smile as one of the new girls offered up some Jelly Babies, but the smile quickly turned to an extreme moue of absolute distaste and disapproval as the Red Max announced they’d be going on the longer ride. I must remind him never to play poker.

We set off again and I found myself riding alongside Aveline and admiring the fresh chain ring tattoo she’d acquired on her calf that morning, a true cycling badge of honour. I suggested she had it inked in permanently and she thought a matching one on her bicep would work well, although I wasn’t sure what contortions she’d have to go through to acquire the template naturally.


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At this point our conversation was interrupted by my bottle top bouncing off and rolling back down the road – the second time that’s happened to me this year. Is my upper body really so puny I can’t screw a cap on a bottle tightly enough for it not to work loose?

I stopped and waved everyone past, then waited for a car to follow before retrieving the errant cap and starting a long solo chase to re-join the group, on the drops, head down and pushing hard while the rather annoying theme tune from the kids’ TV programme, “The Adventures of Bottle Top Bill (and His Best Friend Corky)” looped endlessly through my brain.

I was slowly gaining on the group when they reached a junction and sat up to wait, allowing me to tag onto the back as we pushed on once again.


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I was still loitering in the rear ranks as we hit Middleton Bank and watched Andeven glide effortlessly up and away. I hung with the group and by some minor miracle found I’d somehow stumbled upon the perfect gear and cadence. I didn’t even realise we’d hit the steepest part of the climb until people started jumping out the saddle to grind away, while I was able to remain seated and spin smoothly up the outside to lead everyone over the top.

We regrouped and pressed on and as we dipped through Milestone Wood I hit the front, pushing hard and driving over the first of the rollers. My speed slowly diminished across the second ramp and I was done by the third, when I pulled over and let everyone loose to hammer down the dip and contest the sprint up the final slopes to the café.


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The weather was good enough for us to decamp into the garden, although I had to pause to pick my cake off the ground and then the ground off my cake, after it had launched itself out of my improvised helmet cake-caddy. Damn slippery those aero helmets.

Waiting in the garden we found, long estranged (and presumed MIA) Grover waiting for us, back from who knows where and managing to hugely offend Crazy Legs by flaunting a Pink Floyd jersey. We were also bestowed with a rare visit from Dave “Le Taxi” who’d missed us by mere minutes at the rendezvous point and had spent all morning vainly trying to chase us down.

Crazy Legs suggested a longer route home so half a dozen of us split from the main group, looping back westwards while they went east. I dropped in alongside Aveline at the front of the group for most of the ride back, learning about her daily commute and the potential terror of cows.

Cars and RIMs be damned, her route to and from work passes through the highly urbanised cows on the Town Moor and she swears they hunt in packs, can smell fear and are completely unafraid of cyclists.

I left the group as they turned off a long descent, managing to swap the long painful drag past the golf course for a couple of shorter, sharper climbs as I worked my way up to re-join my usual route home. Luckily there were no belligerent bovines to deal with, although I did have to take evasive action around two feckless youths who stepped obliviously into the road unaware I was silently bearing down on them.

Idiots avoided I was soon skipping across the river and up the hill to home, glad to be back into the swing of things and not feeling I’d suffered too much from a week of inactivity.


YTD Totals: 3,049 km / 1,894 miles with 29,279 metres of climbing

All Maps Welcome

All Maps Welcome

Club Run, Saturday 14th May, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  114 km / 71 miles with 1,1194 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 29 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                         23 riders, 3 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    15°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and breezy and chilly to cool

Main topic of conversation at the start:

I found G-Dawg and Son of G-Dawg, very early arrivals, sitting on the wall and basking in the warm sun as I rolled up to the meeting place. “So where are you taking us today?” I asked, half-jokingly. “Well…” G-Dawg replied, reaching into his back pocket and flourishing a map, “I was thinking…”

A Map! A Plan! An idea of where we’d be going before setting off! This was a novel and banner day for the club. And this wasn’t just any old map randomly torn from a 1:500,000 metre scale atlas of Western Europe, this was a full colour OS map, carefully annotated with precise distances, the alternative routes carefully picked in different highlighter pens and graded according to severity and road surface, the whole precisely folded to fit neatly into a back pocket.

G-Dawg even suggested he should have brought 40 copies of the map and route profile, all carefully laminated to hand to everyone. We gathered round to review and agree the proposed route including some new, uncharted roads marked only with the vague warning “Here be dragons” and a fair amount of climbing with both the Mur De Mitford and Middleton Bank included in the mix.


 

Ascending-Descending
M.C.Escher: Ascending and Descending

Taffy Steve did a quick check for deep-section wheels and just to be sure confirmed we wouldn’t be going down the Ryals. Nevertheless, he suggested it was windy enough to keep away from these riders on any downhill sections, although he concluded anything would be safer than riding behind Plumose Pappus on windy descents, reasoning he was “so light he flutters like a moth caught on a windscreen.”

Richard of Flanders arrived and was immediately faced with the consternation of choice, feeling that he’d overdressed for the day and was likely to overheat. He took himself off into a darkened corner to divest himself of one or two layers, or basically as much as he could stuff into his back pocket. I suggested he could just have left his clothes in the grit bin to pick up on his return, reasoning that the Prof was away riding the Wooler Wheel and so they would likely be safe from opportune bin-dippers.

There was only time left then for Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs to make sure their Garmins were perfectly synchronised and neither was reading from a rogue Russian satellite and we were off.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

One of the guys recalled flying into Southampton Airport and noticed how you could tell from the air how affluent the area was by counting all the tennis courts and swimming pools attached to the houses.

Someone wondered what a similar aerial view flying into Newcastle would reveal? Satellite dishes someone suggested, but trampolines according to Taffy Steve, who’d seen an aerial photo provided by the Police of one suburb while investigating an accident. He said everyone had been amazed by the number of trampolines, with seemingly one in every other garden, only differentiated by the more up-market ones’ sporting safety nets.

So there you have it, a handy gauge for reckoning the disposable income of an area from the air is the ratio of swimming pools and tennis courts to trampolines and satellite dishes.

Having flogged himself to death riding on the front into the wind and attacking every hill like an overly excited Labrador puppy, we tried to convince Richard of Flanders to indulge a little more in the fine art of wheel sucking, but apparently to no avail. He’s obviously still much too young and idealistic and hasn’t come to recognise the immutable truth behind the maestro, Il Campionissimo Fausto Coppi’s grand edict; “Age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.”

As we indulged ourselves in the café, the Cow Ranger appeared on a new TT bike he was fine tuning for a triathlon up on the coast of Northumberland tomorrow. Someone was curious about his Kask TT helmet, which he’d managed to find at a bargain price of under £200 after spending days scouring the far corners of the internet for the very best deal.

Unfortunately, his comprehension of Dutch small print wasn’t quite as good as his nose for a bargain and he only found on delivery that the helmet was priced so competitively because it came without a visor. He has since bought the visor, is happy with the helmet and though an extra £40 lighter in the pocket, he has perhaps learned a valuable lesson.

The BFG went to look over the Cow Rangers new TT bike, promising not to touch, but to be honest I was more concerned by the trail of drool he was leaving in his wake.

A couple of the guys discussed the impending Greggs sponsored, Children’s Cancer Run, perhaps the only healthy activity where you are rewarded with a less than nutritious cheese pastie. Sounds good to me and beats an energy gel any day.


 

14 may ride
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

There was, finally the first stirrings of spring in the air as the verges, roundabouts and public areas were awash with bright, flowering daffodils and tulips and with trees nodding heavily under masses of pink and white blossom. Even the broken glass strewn across one corner of the road looked less than menacing, seeming to wink benignly in the bright sunlight, like a handful of carelessly discarded diamond chips. I prudently picked my way carefully through it anyway.

Despite the signs of spring, it was still bitterly cold at 8.00am as I swung down Heinous Hill to start to wend my way to the meeting point and I was beginning to wish I’d worn warmer gloves. It wasn’t quite cold enough for my thumbs to become frozen and blissfully numb, so they just ached in discomfort.

Loud squawking at one point alerted me to a cat sitting primly amidst a flower bed where, for some unknown reason, it was being roundly berated and screeched at by two very indignant crows. The cat was ignoring them with studied indifference that I found particularly admirable.

At the meeting point we agreed our route and around 24 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out, including several FNG’s who would perhaps have preferred an easier introduction to a club run.


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Out into the countryside and signs of spring continued to show, the trees were a soft, vibrant green and the base of one wood of silver birch was threaded with a haze of bluebells. The only discordant note was the seemingly ever more common fields of rape seed, jarring in their too bright colour and filling the air with a somehow alien and over-powering perfume.

The first challenge of the day was the Mur de Mitford, and I found myself climbing well and skipping from the back to near the front of the group as the gradient began to bite and the chatter was replaced with much manly (and occasionally womanly) grunting. Half way up Taffy Steve started deliberately positioning himself on my wheel for an all action photo, but I’m not sure he got the result his consideration deserved.

Over the top we ventured out into the unknown, taking a new route none of us had ever ridden before, although we all agreed if OGL had been present he’d no doubt have claimed a fantastic intimacy with its every rise, pothole and divot. And climb. There were lots of these, in fact so many and with no corresponding descents that at one point we questioned if we were actually caught on an infinite Penrose Stair made real, or trapped within an M.C. Escher lithograph.


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Finally, after what seemed an impossibly long time we were at last able to confirm the maxim that what goes up, must come down, with a long, gradual drop down to the River Font. We travelled along the valley floor for a while, before crossing the river and scaling the other side, although thankfully avoiding The Trench and taking a longer but less brutal climb up.

I found myself riding next to Goose and discussing heartrate monitors, which we’d both tried and both rejected as superfluous. I did however tell him how much fun I had when The Red Max helped me set my Garmin up and unwittingly synced it to his own heartrate monitor. Until that point I never knew tachycardia was actually a lifestyle choice.

At some point Aveline’s rear wheel started to unravel, an occurrence eerily similar to the mechanical travails the Prof had suffered the previous week, although she was entirely blameless not having hand-assembled her own wheels from cast-off parts, recycled components and odd bits of flotsam and jetsom.

Regrouping after the sharp climb up to Hartburn, Sneaky Pete volunteered to guide the FNG’s on a shorter route to the café, avoiding Middleton Bank. Aveline decided she was uncertain how long her wheel was going to survive, so opted to tag along on the shorter ride, but Szell somewhat surprisingly decided to stick with us and tackle his own personal bete noir of a climb. He’s game if nothing else.


 

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Unfortunately, the accumulation of all the previous climbing took its toll and Szell was shelled out long before we even started the run up Middleton Bank proper. I hung back long enough for him to appear on the horizon and convince me he hadn’t had a mechanical, then followed everyone else up the hill.

The climb felt strangely unreal and far too easy. When I got to the steepest ramp I stood out of the saddle from force of habit rather than any need and accelerated to start and pass some of the others on my inside. I cleared the steep part, clicked down a couple of gears and pushed on. I was closing on the front group, but running out of hill as I cleared the top in what Strava reckoned was a new PR for the climb. This was however to be one of those times when we decided not to regroup after the hill and I was now facing a long, lonely chase across on my own.


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For the first time that day I began to notice the headwind as I pushed hard and slowly began to close the gap on the front group. I passed a detached Laurelan and slowed briefly, but she sensibly didn’t want any part of my futile chase and didn’t take my wheel, so I pushed on.

It was one puny chaser against a headwind and half a dozen others at full tilt and it was a very, very unequal contest. I was making no impression whatsoever and every time they whipped out of sight around a corner I could sense the gap growing a little more. As I hammered down through Milestone Woods I caught up our amblers group and gave up, easing back to exchange a few pleasantries with Sneaky Pete.


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Then as we hit the rolling ramps I accelerated and tried to carry my speed across them, almost managing until the final rise caught me pushing too big a gear and grinding a little too much for comfort. As I tipped over and began the descent to the final drag to the café I sensed someone latching onto my back wheel and turned to find I’d picked up the company of Taffy Steve, who suggested he should have guessed a consummate wheel sucker would know immediately when someone was sucking their own wheel. Yep.

We pounded up the last slope to the cafe, discussing whether we might have bridged across to the front group if we’d pooled our efforts. I’m not sure we would have made it, but there’s no doubt it would have been closer.

Suitably refreshed, a small group of us set out for the return home, leaving a few notables still loitering in the café, but aware Richard of Flanders had an impending family deadline. I hit the front with Taffy Steve and we pushed on for the first few miles, before he recognised we were the two with the longest trips back but were the ones battering manfully into the headwind.

He decided we’d shouldered our fair share of the workload and at the next hill we eased across to let the others through. Unfortunately, the Cow Ranger took this as an invitation to smash it and accelerated away in full TT mode with the BFG jumping off in crazy, mad pursuit.


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I could only shake my head in disbelief as Richard of Flanders and Goose got drawn into the madness and began pounding away after the others and I didn’t even try to follow, settling back to find a more sustainable pace, but left once again pushing into the wind.

On Berwick Hill we caught Richard of Flanders and Goose and managed to pick up another rider on a TT bike returning from a long solo ride up to Rothbury. She worked with us to set a decent pace and we clipped off the last few miles easily.

On the last sharp hill up to Dinnington Richard of Flanders started to flag from his earlier efforts and dropped off the back. Hopefully he wasn’t too late getting home, so might be allowed out to play next week.

As first the TT’er and then Goose and Taffy Steve turned off I entered the Mad Mile alone for my ride home, reflecting that it’s all a lot easier when you ride in a group.


YTD Totals: 2,759 km / 1,714 miles with 26,349 metres of climbing

The Driller Killer

The Driller Killer

Club Run, Saturday 7th May, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  121 km / 75 miles with 1,1094 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 42 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.6 km/h

Group size:                                         32 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Overcast, dry

 Main topics of conversation at the start:

Crazy Legs arrived astride his much beloved and cosseted Ribble – a sign more reassuring than even a pinky-promise from 100 of the world’s leading climatologists and weather forecasters that there was absolutely zero chance of any precipitation on our ride today. (He would however be caught getting off and carrying his bike gingerly around the few puddles that still lingered in the shadier parts of the lanes.)

He’d just returned from a brief sojourn on the south coast of Spain, declaring the trip absolutely fabulous and the cycling fantastic, but claimed the big, big mountain climbs (3,000 metres plus) in the Sierra Nevada had utterly destroyed him. He said it was an awful, dreadful, hateful, horrible, anguishing and humbling experience … and he couldn’t wait to go back.

He then turned his ire on the public poll to name the new, £200 million British Antarctic Survey ship where the people’s choice, “Boaty MacBoatface” handily won the online vote with over 124,000 supporters.

In this instance however the “voice of the people” had been inexplicably ignored and the ship has been named after Sir David Attenborough. In protest Crazy Legs declared his beloved and cosseted Ribble would now be known as Bikey MacBikeface. No doubt he’ll be lending his support to the petition which has just started to persuade David Attenborough to change his name to Boaty MacBoatface in recompense.

Taffy Steve was pleased to note that for the first time in weeks the “hard core of utter idiots” who’d ridden right the way through the winter with him, G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, The Red Max and me were re-united. If possible his grin spread even wider when he was reminded OGL was away on the club training camp in Majorca and we’d once again be off the leash.

G-Dawg had just formulated and gained consensus for a proposed route on some less travelled roads when Szell appeared, shaking off his winter torpor for a first club run of 2016. This is quite early for him actually, it’s still May and he’s only missed a quarter of the year.

His sudden and unexpected appearance gave us pause as ideally we needed a route that included Middleton Bank so we could practice our Szell Game – drop him on the climb, re-group over the top, then wait and wait and wait until he’d just … nearly … almost … made it back and then accelerate smartly away. Small? Petty? Childish? Yes, yes, yes, but great fun nonetheless.

As it was we decided to stick to the original plan which would take us in a big, clockwise loop around the Ryals to climb up past the radio mast at Beukley Farm before some demon descending down the A68, a sharp right turn and then more climbing to get us back up to a road that would eventually lead to the café.

Hopefully G-Dawg wouldn’t need his inner ring, although I’ve been led to understand it’s no longer in pristine, like-new condition after last week when, contrary to my earlier understanding, it was actually used in anger for the first time.

I’m only comfortable writing this as I have sworn affidavits from two independent witnesses who saw G-Dawg climbing on the inner ring last week, although I have yet to confirm rumours that he paid someone else to actually make the shift for him so his hands could remain unsullied.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

We had pushed two tables together and it seemed to attract cyclists like a magnet pulls in iron filings as we attempted to see just how many chairs we could squeeze around it. We were soon sitting pressed together almost two deep, the table surface all but invisible under a mound of cups and cakes and plates and trays and cutlery and helmets.

Crazy Legs, channelling the inner maturity and sophisticated wit that makes him a (self-proclaimed) Cards Against Humanity demon, nodded across at another group in the far corner where Goose, Captain Black and a one or two others were spread out and luxuriating in a wide empty table and acres of space and explained their relative isolation by declaring, “That’s the stinky table.”

The noise of our incessant chattering, punctuated by giggling and guffaws drew the ire of other café patrons, in particular an elderly couple sitting adjacent, the woman wearing the kind of expression usually reserved for someone being forced to wash down mouthfuls of sauerkraut with long draughts of apple cider vinegar. I had to resist the urge to lean across and tell her it could be worse, she could be sitting next to the stinky table.

And then we actually managed to make it worse after all as one of the girls kicked a tray she’d leaned up and out of the way. It slid down the wall with a prolonged, rattling, rumbling scrape and then cracked down onto the floor with a noise like a pistol shot. Oops.

I now suggested “Duchess Suck-Lemon” actually needed to suck on a lemon to improve her disposition and help her face un-pucker just by the tiniest of margins. Sadly, my observation prompted a rambling discourse from Crazy Legs about all the lemon groves he’d recently ridden through on his Spanish venture, where apparently all the lemons looked so perfect that he began to think they were artificial.


 

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On stopping near one plantation he’d found a lemon on the ground and had opened it up just to check it was natural, only to start wondering if maybe the fallen lemon was a plant to convince gullible tourists that all the others were real. I can only attribute this level of paranoia to to the high altitude, oxygen deprivation and the sensory overload from exposure to warm sunshine following a winter of unmitigated bleakness in northern England.

He then foolishly told me he’d started watching fantastic Scandi-TV thriller, The Bridge and received both barrels of my enthusiastic acclaim for all the odd European TV shows that tend to appear without any great fanfare on BBC4 or E4 – The Killing, Borgen, Spiral, The Returned, Deutschland 83, The Cordon, Blue Eyes et al.

At one point I caught up with the Prof who’d dropped off the back of the group when his rear wheel started to disastrously unravel. We thought we’d seen the last of him and he would be calling for a taxi home, but his running repairs had been successful and he’d made it to the café.

He started to give me a long and very convoluted description of exactly what had gone wrong, something about axles and cones, bearings, cassettes, freewheels and quick release skewers, retaining nuts, tolerances and not having tightened everything up sufficiently. “Ah,” I suggested simply trying to cut through the all technical obfuscation, “You bodged it.”

Crazy Legs and G-Dawg had been out riding with the Wednesday Crazy Gang and they had revealed Szell used to ride with them back in the day and his nickname then was “The Driller.” Perfect.


 

Ride 7 may
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

Saturday turned out to be somewhat disappointingly cold after what had been a very pleasant week, with decent weather and prolonged sunshine. Still, while the sky was a monotonous and uniform shade of dingy grey and there was no chance of even a sliver of direct sunlight, it was dry and relatively calm. Good enough.

I found it still chilly enough for light, long-fingered gloves, but my legs did get their first airing of the year and I was able to show off my new, very, very shiny, very, very plasticky and very, very red Chinese shoes.

En route to the meeting point I was stopped at a level crossing to let a train rumble slowly past, but caught the lights on the bridge just right to skip across on the tail of the rest of the traffic. Swings and roundabouts – or lights and crossings?

A brief stop to irrigate some foliage found me rolling up to the meeting point with G-Dawg and Son, where we eventually numbered just over 30 lads and lasses, including a healthy contingent of our kids who always take to the roads on the first Saturday of every month.

We agreed to G-Dawg’s hastily improvised but unerringly good route, pushed off, clipped in and rode out. I found myself alongside Szell who told me he hadn’t been out for an age as he was currently playing in two covers bands and was finding it difficult to find any free time between (and I quote) “the music, the hoes and the blow.” I assume he was being ironic, but you just never know.


 

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He was keen to know where we were going to and whether a slower group was likely to form, already planning for a quick escape. He then knowingly asked if we would be taking in his own personal bete noire, Middleton Bank –  just so we could enjoy his suffering, suggesting he possessed a degree of self-awareness that I would never have attributed him with.

As we passed through one sleepy little village, Szell proclaimed how much he liked Genghis Khan’s quote about the greatest happiness being, “to scatter your enemy and drive him before you. To see his cities reduced to ashes. To see those who love him shrouded and in tears. And to gather to your bosom his wives and daughters.”


 

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“You don’t mess with Genghis Kahn!” he opined, loud enough for Crazy Legs to overhear and bark with delight, before commenting that you can find the strangest conversations buried in the heart of the bunch.

Szell drifted backwards after a few hills and I found myself riding along beside Taffy Steve, until we all had to single out and navigate around a large, very wide and very yellow bus. The driver stopped to let us through and called out something like, “Whey aye! gann on man, canny lad, a’ll keep yez al warkin!”


 

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Whey aye! gann on man, canny lad, a’ll keep yez al warkin!” – or something like that anyway

“Nice of him to stop, but I haven’t got a clue what he was saying.” Taffy Steve said as we regrouped and pressed on, chatting about the irrepressible Mario Cipollini and his ever so slightly inflated ego.

We started to climb on a road that wound up into the hills and turned into a somewhat rough, single lane farm track, becoming strung out in a long line as we crept slowly up toward a summit dominated by a massive radio tower. The surface was in a poor state and there was lots of pointing and an increasing number of hazard call-outs:

“Pots”

“Pots!”

“Gravel”

“Mud”

“Shite”

“Pots!”

Sneaky Pete suggested the Belgians might have the cobbled classics, the Italians Strada Bianca, but we were the only ones to get Strada Merda!

We then passed a pothole so deep that G-Dawg suggested that if you fell in you would have to ride around the bottom, like a wall of death to build up enough speed to attain an escape velocity and get out the other side.

We were soon crawling past the radio mast and up to the junction with the A68 before stopping to regroup. We now had a fantastic, long and fast drop off the top, then a sharp right turn and more climbing to replace the altitude we’d just thrown away so carelessly.


 

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Yet more climbing led us to a new junction where we again regrouped with some of the youngsters and Szell hurting and well off the back. It was here that we heard about the Prof’s wheel disintegrating, but the word came up not to wait and just press on.

The Red Max said he would take the youngsters off on a shorter route to the café while everyone else continued. Szell, perhaps sensing an end to his needless suffering decided to tag along too and then Sneaky Pete sneaked away with the group as well. What the sadistic Max had failed to mention however was his chosen, shorter route actually included an ascent of the rather fearsome Ryals. Oh dear.


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We continued with yet more climbing until we finally reached roads I began to recognise and the pace started to creep up. Soon there was a split and a compact bunch of us were driving toward the café at high speed, buzzing like a swarm of angry bees on the rampage.

As the road levelled and straightened, Son of G-Dawg surged around everyone and opened up a clear gap. I rounded G-Dawg and pulled everyone along for a while, then Captain Black powered through and carried everyone past me in turn, so I slotted back into the end of the line. Son of G-Dawg had sat up by now, job done as Captain Black swept past and into the Snake Bends.


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We flew over the junction and set out straight up the main road, my least favoured option, keeping the pace incredibly high. Once more I latched onto G-Dawgs rear wheel and let him drag me to the café.

I’m beginning to think G-Dawg’s rear wheel as my ultimate safety blanket, but he must be sick seeing me there every time he turns round – like having an unwelcome stalker always two steps behind you everywhere you go. I must ween myself off this and find some other target for my now very well perfected wheel-sucking chicanery.

On the way home I had time to chat with Captain Black and we laid tentative plans to tackle the new, 90 mile Cyclone route. Sneaky Pete and Taffy Steve had also suggested it was their favoured option, so we should be able to pull a small group together for it.

We also had a chat about the Giro and the surprise performance of ex-Ski jumper Primož Roglič. We wondered how he descended and whether we’d see him stand up on the pedals and lean forward with his hands clasped behind his back. I seem to remember some tale of Bernard Hinault experimenting with a bizarre Superman descending pose, but this could be even more spectacular.

I also had words with Carlton who noticed how relatively calm and ordered the ride had been, even without the strident exclamations of the absent OGL and we had a brief chat about whether the club needed to start thinking about succession planning for when the old feller finally hangs up his cleats.

As regular readers may know, OGL is our de facto Road Captain, Club President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Chairman, Secretary, Event Organiser, Social and Welfare Officer, Patron, Club Committee, Route Finder, Web Controller, Archivist, Photographer, Social Media Gatekeeper, Weatherman, Chief Recruiter and Club Ambassador, so it’s not a case of simply nominating the next man up.

As the group split and I entered the Mad Mile I passed Szell, sitting in the middle of the group and still plugging gamely away having survived a rather torrid first run of the year. I waved him off with a cheery “Next week?” and then pressed on for home.

A long, lumpy ride, but a great run and the weather is finally starting to turn good. Things are looking up.


YTD Totals: 2,567 km / 1,595 miles with 24,253 metres of climbing

Bryter Layter

Bryter Layter

Club Run, Saturday 9th April, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  118 km/73 miles with 1,128 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 43 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.9 km/h

Group size:                                         20 riders no FNG’s

Temperature:                                    11°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bryter layter

 

Main topic of conversation at the start:

The Prof was once again sporting his rubberised canvas workman’s gloves, much to the delight of Crazy Legs who’d missed their grand unveiling last week and now wanted to know if we’d be stopping along the route to trim hedges and do a bit of impromptu gardening.

G-Dawg had been tempted to engage in a bit of one-upmanship and wear Mrs. G-Dawg’s heavy duty gardening gauntlets which he described as having cuffs that come up well past the elbows, but sense, or perhaps the limited space in his back pocket prevailed.

The Prof compounded his eccentric image by slipping off the gloves to reveal he wore but one single inner liner under them. Perhaps he alternated this left to right to make sure he always had at least one warm hand?

He then complained that this blog had ridiculed his gloves for being orange, when they were in fact fuchsia pink. I somehow feel he’s missing the point if he thinks the exact shade of the gloves was the source of our amusement.

Nevertheless…


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The Red Max revealed the Monkey Butler Boy had been allowed to go out for his first ride sans parental guidance yesterday, despite the obvious concerns of his Mum. He’d completed a ride of over 50 miles and returned safely, but as Red Max concluded, even if he’d become lost it would have been a valuable lesson. I seem to recall the Apache tribe had a similar form of child upbringing, letting them put their hands in a fire because that’s how they learn that fire hurts and is dangerous.

A very hungover OGL rolled up having been out the previous night for some celebration or other for the King of the Grogs. He was able to update us about the status of Plumose Pappus, last seen painting the café red from a deep wound in his arm. Luckily nothing was broken and no plastic surgery was required, but the elbow is now held together by over twenty stitches like a bad piece of macramé.

OGL then informed us the local council were a little irate at our misuse of the Great North Road Cyclemaze and Deathtrap™ and one angry local resident had started taking pictures of scofflaw cyclists daring to ride on the roads. I can just imagine the pitchforks being sharpened and residents Faecesbook pages starting to burn up.

I sometimes wonder if all the general public hate cyclists.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Captain Black complained about over-heating having dressed appropriately for the deluge forecast by AccuWeather that never actually arrived and he had to be enticed out a corner where he was railing loudly about how they should “re-name their bloody site “INaccuWeather.”

G-Dawg owned up to inflicting an inappropriate ear-worm on Crazy Legs, whose usual selection of punky-new wave-alternative had been subverted by a loud rendition of MOR hen-night staple, “Dancing on the Ceiling.” The inspiration for this had been G-Dawg’s retelling of encountering a commercial van emblazoned with the legend: “Lino Ritchie – Flooring Contractor” complete with the unforgettable tagline “Is it me you’re looking for…”

(Edit: Or according to one commentator possibly, “is it me your looking floor” which is even worse)

For cheesiness this ranks up there with female tiling contractor, “Bonnie Tiler” or the D.C. Poultry Farm vans that bear the tagline, “Poultry in motion.”

We pondered whether G-Dawgs heartbeat was calibrated in beats per hour, or maybe per day. He did remind us of his “funny turn” last year though, when like a bad house re-mix his heart rate had inexplicably hit 225 beats per minute and how for a brief period he was able to completely baffle medical science.

Crazy Legs had been absent last week due to a big family gathering in London from where he’d returned full of wry observations about the differences between “us” and “them down there.” He also came back flushed with multiple successes while playing Cards Against Humanity, and felt he was so good at the game he was wondering if there was a semi-pro circuit he could join.

He then mentioned an obituary for “some dead Country and Western singer” (Merle Haggard) where the writer suggested you hadn’t lived unless you’d heard him perform. It has to be said that Crazy Legs was wholly and completely unconvinced.

This led to a wide ranging discussion about music, dancing, if Harry Connick Jnr ever lived down the burden of being labelled as the new Sinatra, the relationship between Nick Hornby and Bruce Springsteen and ultimately – ever divisive little Bobby Dylan. Keel piped up to reveal he’d actually seen Bob Dylan live and when I asked if he’d seen “Good Dylan” or “Bad Dylan” cryptically replied, “Half and half.”


Ride 9th April


The Waffle:

I woke to the rain drumming its fingers impatiently on the roof, promising yet another wet and cold club run, with conditions perhaps miserable enough to match last week for sheer bleakness and discomfort.

I was then faced with the choice between the summer bike and the potentially more comfortable, but less fun winter bike, complete with mudguards. Oh well, skin is waterproof and bikes can be cleaned, it wasn’t that difficult a choice after all.

By the time I rolled out encased in waterproof jacket and overshoes the rain had eased to a fine drizzle, but the roads were awash, the spray was flying and I was grateful for all the protection I could get.

I eased gently down the hill beneath a sky banded in distinct layers of cloud, from light to dark like a giant monochrome Neapolitan. Pewter clouds overlaid a silver base, while the whole was capped by a thick, dark layer of ominous, brooding graphite that looked heavy with the potential for more serious rain. Yet, off to the west patches of blue were starting to appear with the fleeting promise of improved weather.

I made good time and arrived very early at the meeting place, circling around the block a few times until others started to show. Surprisingly the rain had stopped and the sky lightened enough to suggest we were no longer in danger of a downpour. I took a gamble and slipped off and stowed the rain jacket.

As we pushed off, clipped in and set out I dropped in alongside Moscas, discussing how it was still too cold for shorts despite the numerous showings of pale flesh and goose-pimpled legs –those around me must be more hardened, or simply lulled into believing it is actually summer just because we’ve passed some totally arbitrary calendar milestone.

Today was definitely a one where we could prove Horner’s Theorem: the direct and measureable relationship between the number of shiny, posh and clean carbon bikes out on a spring or autumn morning and the number of crap-covered farm tracks, pothole and gravel strewn roads, gates and cattle grids OGL will “accidently” include in our ride.

We deviated from one of our more normal routes, ostensibly to recce the course for a race tomorrow that a few of group were competing in, but in reality more as a punishment for those who dared risk riding without mudguards – or smuguards as I commonly refer to them in these situations – given the superior, contented looks on the faces of those who have them.

Mud was very much the order of the day, the roads were filthy and caked so deep in places that I was surprised they hadn’t been ploughed and planted. Bikes and riders were quickly pebble-dashed with a fine layer of wet grime, slimy mud and whatever effluvia had been washed out of the fields to liberally coat the tarmac such a disturbing and distasteful shade of brown.

A very hungover OGL was soon tailing off the back on a long but fairly moderate uphill grind and never seemed to regain control of the group.


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While waiting for him to re-join at a junction I was able to admire Richard of Flanders new saddle, a harlequin patterned Cinelli number he liked the look of, but declared was actually bloody uncomfortable.

We then learned about his plans for future bike upgrades while Taffy Steve took him to task for not fully engaging with outrageous Italian pronunciation and exaggerated arm waving:

“Kahm-pahn-nyoh-lo Vell-oh-chay. Badda-bing, badda-boom!”

OGL disappeared for good soon afterwards, slipping quietly away to the café nursing his hangover. We split the group at Dyke Neuk, but I only saw Moscas and the Red Max heading off for a shorter, easier route,  everyone else opting for a longer, harder, faster run which soon had us grinding our way up through Longwitton.

We next hurtled downhill, over some teeth-rattling, filling-loosening speed bumps before hauling hard on the brakes and swinging left along a lane that eventually spat us out at the bottom of Middleton Bank.

An old junker car farted loudly past us and then backfired, releasing a cloud of noxious fumes. The driver redlined it, attacking the hill at maximum revs with the engine clattering and sputtering, coughing and screaming while we all laughed, jeered loudly and egged him on.

The air cleared and a kind of silence had returned before we started our own assault on the slope. As the steepest ramp bit and G-Dawg levered himself up to stomp on the pedals I slipped around him and pushed on off the front, easing as I neared the top so we could regroup. Keel and G-Dawg caught and passed me and I tucked in to follow the wheels.

A fairly large bunch now began homing in on the café and the pace started to ramp up predictably. We held together over the rollers, before the Plank launched a kamikaze attack down the outside and directly into the path of an onrushing car. He quickly switched back to the left hand lane, but his attack seemed to sputter and die out suddenly and he was washed away by a surging front group.

I wasn’t particularly engaged in the sprint as we started up the last rise, so pretty much tried to keep my pace at a steady level, hard enough to hurt somewhat, but without threatening to blow up. I passed a few and a few passed me. Some of those I’d passed managed to recuperate and pass me again, while some who’d passed me faded and were overhauled. It was all a little chaotic and confusing and I have to admit I wasn’t keeping count of who ended up where.


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In the café I sat round the table with G-Dawg, Crazy Legs and Taffy Steve talking a massive volume of complete and utter garbage as the rest of our group flowed in and around us, then finished and flowed out, leaving us behind as we waved them away.

The café was almost empty when we finally decided it was time to leave, stopping only to have a chat and reassure the staff that Plumose Pappus was well and recovering and that yes, he is actually more than 14 years old.

As the four of us rolled home Crazy Legs returned to his Cards Against Humanity theme declaring with complete conviction that childishness was the key to winning and that he would easily win simply because he was the most childish amongst us.

At first I was unconvinced, but midway through his argument an immense blob on a big motorbike roared closely past, ruffling G-Dawgs hair and startling him so much he reckoned he’d see a visible heart-rate spike in his Strava data.

“Feck off, you fat fecker!” Crazy Legs screamed petulantly after the impressively loud, already distant motorbike and I held up my hand in resignation and readily admitted he was right all along … he really was the most childish amongst us.

Crazy Legs was now in a very happy place and declared that it had been a great ride. Taffy Steve concluded that this was probably in no small part to OGL’s early departure and suggested we had a whip-round to see if we could encourage him to indulge in a hangover inducing drinking session every Friday.  This sounded remarkably similar to our very cunning plan to nobble Son of G-Dawg in the café sprint and it’s all beginning to sound a bit expensive. Probably worth it though.

Crazy Legs and Taffy Steve turned off and I led G-Dawg through the Mad Mile at a (hopefully) respectable pace before swinging off to head home.

At the next T-Junction I saw a large swarm of riders approaching and signalling that they were turning left in front of where I waited. With the car inside acting like an NFL pulling guard on an end-around and effectively screening me from other road users I swung out behind it to cross the lanes, but was struck simultaneously by vicious cramp in both my left calf and right foot.

I managed to groan and grimace across to the other side and pull up haltingly at the kerb, barely registering or acknowledging that the passing cyclists were the rest of our group who’d left the café twenty minutes ahead of us.

Stretching and flexing until the pain finally faded, I began to pick my way home, although for a few miles I was conscious of a general tightening of the calf muscles and more cramps lurking in the background. In a Crazy Legs inspired moment I became hooked on an ear-worm that pulled me into a song-cycle by The Cramps, while I found myself emptying my water bottle to try and stave off further attacks.


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I was well into my 3rd internalised chorus of “Goo Goo Muck” as I climbed the Heinous Hill, only to be stopped mid-song as I was flagged down by a uniformed nurse walking down the hill. I pulled to the side of the road and unclipped wondering if she needed directions, thought I’d dropped something,  or just maybe had a grievance with cyclists she felt an urgent need to express.

“’Scuse me,” she said, “I just wanted to say how much I admire you for riding up this hill!”

Somewhat taken aback and quite flustered by this unexpected praise I muttered something barely comprehensible about how much I hated the damn slope before pushing off, clipping in and resuming my upward grind, although not I’ll admit without an added spring in my legs.

Maybe not all the general public hate cyclists after all…


YTD Totals: 2,055 km / 1,277 miles with 19,089 metres of climbing

Monumental Impediments


Club Run, Saturday 12th March, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   112 km/70 miles with 1,000 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 17 minutes

Average Speed:                                   26.0 km/h

Group size:                                           33 riders, 5 FNG’s

Temperature:                                      13°C

Weather in a word or two:              Splendid


 

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Main topic of conversation at the start:

I arrived at the meeting point to find a glowering BFG being warily circled by a couple of FNG’s who were keeping their distance and not daring to approach until I arrived to show them he was actually quite harmless.

Just to be contrary the BFG has resorted to type and was once again out on something venerable and vintage and made of steel. He’d even thought about adding a fake nut to the top of his stem just to see if he could inspire OGL to once again tell us the tale of how he ripped his scrotum open on one during a track meet. It’s a tale that never grows old in the telling…

Crazy Legs’s 39 days must have been up as he appeared sporting his new, faithfully and painstakingly reproduced Oakley Jawbreakers. Very smart. Attracted by the spectacle(s) the Prof then emerged through a milling crowd of cyclists to give him a hug – seemingly one of many that would take place throughout the day.

The Prof then stopped by to acknowledge how much he looks forward to his mentions in this humble blog. He is of course one of the more frequently featured characters, though trailing a somewhat distant second to his tiny, leaky bladder.

OGL arrived and dipped his head to fully reveal his new helmet, emblazoned with the club name across the top. What next, custom mudguards in club colours? Where will it end?

He then proceeded to have a bizarre conversation with one of the FNG’s when she stepped forward to introduce herself:

“You phoned me last Wednesday?”

“Err, no I e-mailed you last week”

“But you texted me yesterday?”

“Err, no I emailed last week”

“So was it you who messaged me on Facebook?”

“Err, no …”

Oh well, she passed the first test – showing patience and empathy for the infirm and senile.

One of the other FNG’s was having trouble with his bike, which was laid supine as he did something indescribable to the seat post. For one dread moment I thought we were going to be accompanied all the way around by someone else insisting that you don’t need a saddle, but thankfully he finally had it sorted.

His girlfriend cheerfully informed us they’d ridden across the Alps together, but that was two years ago and they hadn’t done a lot since. I assured her we wouldn’t be tackling any Alps today, but had a bad feeling this wasn’t going to end well.

The boyfriend had a decent enough bike and seemed to know his way around an Allen key, but rather oddly was wearing white football shorts over his bibshorts and had his helmet on at a rather odd, rakish angle. Maybe it’s incipient OCD or something, but I have to admit the latter is something I just can’t abide – I often have to adjust Crazy Legs’s helmet at the café so it sits just right before I’ll let him be seen out in public with us.

We were doing that usual cyclist trick of spilling aimlessly across the entire pavement, engrossed in waves of endless, nonsensical banter and completely oblivious to the fact that bikes and bodies had formed a rather formidable and impenetrable maze.

One old biddy was having trouble threading her way amongst us with her wheeled shopping bag until Richard of Flanders emitted an ear-drum shattering bellow that shocked us into silence and had us parting like the Red Sea.

Unfortunately, his aural assault caused the old biddy to almost leap out of her skin with fright and when she clutched at her chest and wavered I thought she was going to have a heart attack and topple head first into the shopping trolley. Luckily she recovered and casting fearful looks at us all scuttled away as quickly as she could manage.

Crazy Legs was left to ponder if the shock had been fatal whether we would have sprayed her shopping trolley white and chained it to a nearby lamppost like one of those Ghost Bikes left as a memorial to killed and injured cyclists.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Taffy Steve was out on his titanium love-child and declared the thrice-cursed winter bike had been put into deep storage for the rest of the year, having first removed the pedals in case they seized up. He then suggested he hadn’t loosened the seat clamp because he didn’t really care if the seat tube seized in the frame, reasoning that he’d stopped growing, so couldn’t foresee a need to alter his riding position.

G-Dawg wondered if a seized seat tube meant you could totally remove the clamp and save few crucial micrograms, then remembered a recent run where a malfunctioning clamp saw a saddle slowly sink lower and lower until the rider was pedalling with his knees around his ears. Not a good idea then.

Thoughts turned to the round-ball game as notable local events were somewhat dominated by the conviction of Adam Johnson and the appointment of Rafael Benitez. No one quite knew which one had drawn the worst sentence.

Someone even suggested that Mr. Johnson was likely to be the happier of the two as he would now be referred to as Adam Johnson the paedophile rather than Adam Johnson the Sunderland player. Ouch.

Everyone was baffled by Rafa citing being close to his family as a reason for venturing back to “Northern England” and surprisingly it wasn’t the fact that we actually consider Liverpool be in the South that caused the confusion. What was troubling was that Rafael Benitez, well-travelled, urbane and international football manager at the likes of Madrid, Tenerife, Valencia, Naples and Milan, chose to leave his family in Liverpool. We wondered if he’d consider Wallsend or possibly Byker as a suitable place for future re-location.

Thoughts turned to much more engaging and worthwhile sporting endeavours with the Classics just around the corner and both Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico in full swing. Thinking of the latter, Shoeless demanded to know what the “big, fuck-off pointy pitchfork thing” was all about.

Spry, something of an expert on esoteric cycling trophies as highlighted by a page of his blog (The Weird and Wonderful World of Cycling Trophies funnily enough) patiently explained that it was representative of Neptune’s trident as the Tirreno-Adriatico was a race run between the two seas. We then speculated on how the race could be improved if the leading rider was made to carry the trident along with them.

It was a short step from there to imagining a handicap system where riders were obliged to carry the trophies of their previous conquests, something that would be particularly debilitating for Fabian Cancellara and we imagined him bent almost double and shuffling awkwardly to the Paris-Roubaix sign-on, burdened down with the three huge cobble-stones stuffed in his back pockets.


 

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The Weird and Wonderful World of Cycling Trophies

 

Next up on our agenda for searing insight and erudite comment was Paris-Nice and the chances of Geraint Thomas taking an historic first win, always recognising of course his penchant for falling off his bike at the most inopportune time. Someone mentioned he’d crashed once already, apparently while trying to dislodge a stone caught between his saddle and frame. Fanciful I know, but it was a short step from there to imagining a smug and smiling Fabian Cancellara riding behind him and winking at the camera, happy to have used his astonishing sleight of hand to palm one of his cobblestones off on an unwitting dupe.

The Prof stopped by our table on his way to the toilet, pausing long enough for a quick hug with Crazy Legs. Taffy Steve suggested their homo-erotic displays were becoming a bit much and suggested they might want to think about getting a room. He then ventured to suggest a bit of prostate milking might actually help with the Prof’s constant urge to wee.

At this point OGL approached, snapping on a pair of latex surgical gloves and we all recoiled in horror at what we thought was about to unfold. Much to our relief he neatly side-stepped our table and began to work fixing a puncture on Laurelan’s bike.

Needless to say the Prof claimed the discarded inner tube to add to his growing treasure trove of cast-off bits and pieces and road-kill. OGL recounted visiting the Prof’s secret laboratory/workshop/lair and finding rows and rows of used inner tubes all bizarrely hanging out to dry on the washing line.


 

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Ride Profile

 

The Waffle:

So, who the fuck is Zakaria Amirouch?

Actually that’s a bit of a rhetorical question, I know that Zakaria Amairouch is a cyclist in Tetouan, Morocco. I guess what I really want to know is why does he feel the need to post his rides on our club Strava group? As far as I know Zakaria Amarouch has no connection with the club, has never been to the North East, doesn’t ride the same routes as the rest of us and doesn’t choose to interact with us in any way shape or form, either through Strava or any other channel.

So what exactly does he get out of it? Are we meant to be impressed by his mileage totals, huge rides, stupid photos, KoM’s or his single-minded, some would say borderline psychotic dedication to hunt down and join every single Strava group that exists? Do me a favour Zakaria and fuck off.

Sorry, rant over.

So the much anticipated day arrived, Spring is upon us and the promise of fine dry weather has riders across the region rubbing their hands with unfettered glee as they stow away winter bikes and carefully awaken carbon beasts from deep slumber.

As I gently lift Reg out from his nest between my single-speed and rat-bag mountain bike I can only marvel at how light it is. Don’t get me wrong this is no super-lightweight, fully carbon-outfitted, uber-machine with all the most exotic components. Nor is it anywhere close to troubling the UCI and their preposterous 6.8kg weight limit, but at bang on 9 kilos fully loaded it’s considerably and very noticeably lighter than the Peugeot.

I’d checked the bike over the night before, inflated the tyres with a new, super-slick BBB track pump, and fitted a mount for my knock-off GoPro onto the saddle rails. I was good to go and eager to start.

I’d forgotten how much fun it is to ride on a twitchy, responsive carbon blade and as I dropped down to the valley floor I found I was clipping along two miles an hour faster than usual, stretched out by the different geometry and grinning like an idiot. I don’t think the bike is actually worth an extra 2 miles an hour, I was simply riding on a wave of pure exuberance and joie d’ vivre.

Even the lights on the bridge were in my favour and I skipped over the river without stopping and began spinning up the other side of the valley, looking forward to a good ride out. I wasn’t alone at the meeting place, finding just about everyone had abandoned mudguards and heavy winter bikes in favour of their “Saturday best”.

G-Dawg even turned up wearing shorts, resolutely declaring it was Spring and there was no turning back now.

The relatively mild and dry conditions had undoubtedly been a big draw and around 33 riders and a smattering of FNG’s pushed off, clipped in and rode out. At this point the BFG rolled past me and declared he thought he’d seen everything, but this was the first time we’d had a bike with a kickstand out on the club run.


 

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Riding Out

 

I fell in with the Prof who informed me the Frankenbike, my old crashed and trashed Focus that he had repaired and restored to life in his secret laboratory/lair/workshop, was being honourably retired from service now that he’d found a frame that was a better fit for Mrs. Prof.

He then revealed his dirtiest, darkest secret, admitting he would consider buying a bike with normal sized wheels if he could only find one that increased in value rather than depreciated. Despite my uncertainty he seemed convinced such bikes exist, although even if they do I’m not sure that appreciating value would be one of my major (or even very, very minor) considerations when buying a new bike.

Somewhere around this point I hit a pot and with a loud clatter my pretend GoPro launched from under my saddle and bounced alarmingly across the road. The FNG in football shorts retrieved it for me and handed it across. A quick check seemed to suggest that it was as shockproof as claimed, but the retaining bolt that kept it fixed to the bracket had worked loose and disappeared.  There was no quick way of fixing the camera back in position, so I tucked it away into a back pocket and pressed on. It’s a shame, because I was quite impressed with some of the backward facing shots I had managed to gather in the short time it was working.


 

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An extreme close up of the road surface – the last image my camera recorded

 

I then began what would become the first of many chases to catch back onto our group. Having accomplished this, I found myself slotting in right at the back, where Pierre Rolland look-alike, Spry (not facially, but I can see a definite similarity in style and form on the bike), was cruising along with his dad, Andeven.

As we hit the bottom of Berwick Hill, the FNG accompanying the one in football shorts began to slide swiftly backwards and I watched as a gap between the front and back of our group yawned quickly open.

Andeven skipped around her and gave chase, while I waited a little longer. When it became obvious that even if she made it back up to our group she’d never complete the ride, I pulled out and started my own chase back.


 

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Until it self-destructed I was quite happy with what the camera managed to capture

 

As I closed over the top of the hill I passed a faltering Arnold who said he was doing ok and then found Laurelan who was somewhat detached from our group and drifting backwards. She said she was ok too, but was worried about Arnold who, despite his assertions wasn’t ok and wasn’t feeling all that good.

I noticed OGL dropping back off the front group to see what was happening, so relayed across to him to let him know the FNG’s were well adrift and Arnold was suffering. He went back to investigate further and lend assistance while I gave chase again.

Catching up with the group, I found myself riding alongside Zardoz who was fighting to stave off the incipient onset of serious man flu and reported that someone had broken into his shed and nicked his winter bike. Both perhaps valid reasons for Crazy Legs to declare that Zardoz was the angriest man riding that day, especially after an altercation with a RIM who refused to slow down as he drove toward us down a narrow country lane

This encounter had Zardoz’s moustaches brisling like a face-off between angry tomcats and had him swearing through them with an admirable degree of fluidity and imagination. Gone was the mask of twinkle-eyed, avuncular, bon homie he usually adopts – here was the real cold-hearted cycling assassin revealed in all his dark majesty.


 

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At some point OGL hauled ass past me, breathing hard, but able to gasp out that there’d been no sight of the FNG’s when he went back to look for them and that they must have abandoned the ride. At the rather inevitable pee stop I found that both Laurelan and Arnold had managed to re-join however and did indeed seem ok.

After this short break I found myself riding with Crazy Legs, who like Zardoz was also suffering from incipient man-flu and blaming his infection on sitting next to a 6’4” Irish Elvis impersonator during a business meeting. From my understanding the Elvis impersonator was an all-round good bloke who had been skilled enough at his craft to get a paying gig in Las Vegas. I never did work out what an IT firm needed an Elvis impersonator for though.

As we started up a steep hill behind the BFG, there was an audible hiss of escaping air and Crazy Legs called out, “Puncture!” The BFG dutifully relayed the call up the line, then turned to ask who’d punctured. I could see Crazy Legs giving himself a mental face-palm as he pointed to the BFG’s rear tyre and replied with a sparse, “You have…”

We all gathered together at the top of the hill to wait for repairs to be made. OGL decided that we should split the group and that depending on which group the BFG wanted to ride with the others could press on while the rest waited.

Crazy Legs trailed down the hill to ask the question and then dragged himself back up to inform us the BFG had said he would decide when he re-joined!

Finally underway again, we began travelling down a road where all the potholes had been marked with big yellow brackets spay-painted around them. I assume this means that they’re eventually going to repair the road, but even if they don’t the paint did a great job of showing us which bits to avoid.

The Red Max went off on what, even by his own crazed standards, was an impressively long and very ambitious lone break. At one point Spry said he was thinking of bridging across so the pair could work together, then realised we were bearing down on Middleton Bank and Red Max would soon be engulfed in an unequal duel with gravity and unlikely to be in position to offer much assistance.

Despite the daunting obstacle of the climb to come, Carlton and Cowin’ Bovril seemed determined to bring Max to heel sooner rather than later and whipped up the pace of the pursuit.

We turned right at a junction that dumped us directly onto the bottom of the climb, which was good as there was no time to even think about finding the right gear and less chance of making a mess of things like I did the week before.

Andeven attacked from the very bottom of the climb and quickly pulled away, while I slotted in behind Shoeless as the slope began to bite. As we hit the steepest section I levered myself out of the saddle and swung across the white line, accelerating upwards. Bit by bit I overhauled Shoeless and started to creep past G-Dawg. There was a shout of “car!” from someone at the back and I looked behind to find I’d opened up a big enough gap to slot into, so I swung back across the road and out of danger.

It was now just a case of keeping going, as I slumped back in the saddle, hugging the left hand gutter so there was plenty of room for anyone to pass me. I had no idea what was going on behind, or where the others were and couldn’t hear a thing beyond my rasping, panting breath.  I was gasping like an asthmatic chain-smoker with emphysema being forced to run wind sprints up a mountain and it would took another 2 or 3 miles before my breathing returned to normal.

I was however slowly closing on Andeven and might have caught his back wheel if the slope had continued another 200 metres or so. It’s also just as likely I would have collapsed in a jelly-legged heap if the slope had continued another 200 metres or so, as it was the road levelled and Andeven pulled away again.

At this point I just kept going, recognising I was breaking club protocol by not waiting to regroup at the top of the climb, but reasoning that I was so winded and slow that everyone would overhaul me eventually. Then Shoeless cruised past, I jumped onto his wheel and all thoughts of regrouping were conveniently forgotten as he accelerated away – when confronted by my misdeeds age, enfeeblement and senility have been my excuse in the past and I was sure they would serve me again now.

We picked up Andeven and from what I recall G-Dawg, Plank and Captain Black made it across as we drove for home in front of what I gather was a rather frenzied chase behind. Everyone in the front group swept past me on the final climb, but after blowing last week’s assault on Middleton Bank I was just pleased not to have messed up again and as an added bonus managed to net a new Strava PR for my efforts.

It was pleasant enough for us to encamp in the café garden, with everyone (well, maybe all apart from Zardoz) in high spirits, on top form and full of the usual unfettered, unrelenting torrent of irreverent banter to keep us royally entertained.

A pleasant return leg, mainly spent chatting with Zardoz (he didn’t really seem all that angry) and a good solo run for home capped the best ride of the year.

So far.


YTD Totals: 1,326 km /824 miles with 13,346 metres of climbing

Black Mirror


 

Club Run, Saturday 5th March, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   102 km/63 miles with 997 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 17 minutes

Average Speed:                                   23.7 km/h

Group size:                                           32 riders, no FNG’s

Temperature:                                     7°C

Weather in a word or two:             Bright to bruising

Main topic of conversation at the start:

Crazy Legs was still counting down the incomprehensibly precise 39 days until the arrival of his new, fake Oakley jawbone specs from the Far East and wondering what sort of subtle Chinglish branding might adorn them.

We speculated that 39 days was the amount of time to gather enough orders to make it worthwhile breaking into the factory at night for a quick production run, sort of the cycling equivalent of the shoemaking elves in Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

It was a small leap of logic to then wonder if these were the same magic elves who mysteriously clean and pimp Son of G-Dawgs bike whenever he leaves it in his Pa’s garage overnight.

Ovis appeared in one of the thoroughly indestructible jerseys from his old Triathlon club which appeared to have cannibalistically part-consumed another jersey, leaving only the tell-tale sign of a faint branding transfer where there should have been none. Appropriately for Ovis, it’s all a bit “Silence of the Lambs”, with the Buffalo Bill jersey first skinning and then wearing its conquests like a second skin.

It now seems certain that at least one of his seemingly endless stock of identical jerseys has mutated, perhaps as a result of the successful stress-testing undertaken on the kit to give it that bright, acid yellow colour that appears nowhere in the natural world, as well as to check it will survive through an all-out thermonuclear war.

The mutated, uber- jersey is now quite obviously sentient and intent on growing stronger by absorbing all the other jerseys and garments in Ovis’s collection through forcible osmosis – a strange, Darwinian survival-of-the-fittest struggle for lycra supremacy.

A discussion about solid rubber tyres had OGL reminiscing misty-eyed about pram tyres which were apparently delivered as one long coil of rubber that had to be cut to size to fit the wheel diameter and then secured in place with a stripped wire core that was twisted into a cork-screw gimlet, before the whole thing was folded over itself. I didn’t quite understand the baffling intricacies, but I was certainly convinced they were a complete and utter bastard to fit. Think I’ll stick with clinchers.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Ovis stood in the queue with a face almost unrecognisable behind patchwork spatters of mud and dirt and grime, pointed at my similarly begrimed face and laughed out loud. We were all and without exception utterly filthy. I deployed my buff for official use #43 and managed to wipe at least some of the excess crud away, but I still needed the coffee to wash the grit out from between my teeth.

G-Dawg had been in a gym where a static bike complete with monitor had let him simulate an Alpine climb. His verdict was that it wasn’t particularly impressive, but better than staring at the wall. I queried whether there weren’t more rewarding, err, distractions in the gym, but we all agreed that we were beyond the age when we could safely lift our eyes up from the floor in such environments.

This led to general discussion about how uncomfortable and careful we feel we have to be around children these days. Taffy Steve talked about a recent social experiment when observers set a lost-looking child to wander around a shopping centre just to see how people interacted with them.

After being studiously ignored for an uncomfortable amount of time, a Scout Master was finally brave enough to cautiously approach the child to find out if they needed help, moving carefully from downwind while maintaining eye-contact and a safe exclusion zone of at least 3 metres. What’s the world coming to, eh?

Another Engine then back-tracked on a story about “his paperboy” to explain his paperboy isn’t actually his paperboy because:

  1. He doesn’t deliver their paper and
  2. They don’t actually have a paper-delivered

Anyway, the actual kernel of this story is that the paper-boy who operates in Another Engine’s street rides a bike with a chain so rusty that it’s ginger and furry and squeaks like a demented polecat with its paw caught in a snare.

In the old days Another Engine would have combined his benevolent, avuncular nature, keen understanding of cycling mechanics and easy access to machine oil to provide a lubricating salve to the offending chain, before affectionately patting the lad on the head and sending him off, probably with a spare ha’penny so he could buy his own oil for next time.

Now Another Engine says he sees the lad and just crosses the road, realising that any offer of help is likely to be dangerously misconstrued. We were of course determined to find a way to make innocent assistance sound as damning as possible, with suggested euphemistic approaches such as, “Does your chain need a good lubing?” or, “Step into the hallway and I’ll give you a bit of oily relief.” Things were admittedly juvenile and shockingly low brow, but thankfully Szell, the master of the single-entendre wasn’t around to drag the conversation even lower than we’d managed to achieve all by ourselves.

Taffy Steve was left to once again ponder the vagaries of Italian sizing and wonder aloud where their rugby team managed to find clothing to fit a proper props body. Aether speculated that Evans Cycles and Evans “plus size” shops were in fact one and the same and they had tricked us all into thinking UK cycling kit was the norm when in fact it was all over-sized.


 

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Ride Profile

The Waffle:

The day started in the worst possible way, a sudden chilling downpour that had the roads instantly awash with surface water. My Garmin seemed to be struggling mightily with the atmospheric conditions and I had to reboot it 2 or 3 times before it could even find a satellite. Meanwhile the rain and road spray quickly soaked through my overshoes to my shoes and socks and tights and gloves became unpleasantly damp and chilled.

At the bridge a local rowing club were completing shuttle runs in the pouring rain, chanting en masse about closing with the enemy and killing them with their bare hands, driven along like rookie marines under the tutelage of a beasting, sadistic drill sergeant. Odd.

While stopped at the lights I exchanged pleasantries with an Eee-Emm-Cee rider (I believe they started out as an offshoot of our club) utilising the traditional and UCI approved cycling lexicon and subject guide:

“How do?”

”Going far?”

“Do you think the rain’ll ever stop?”

As I started to retrace my route on the opposite side of the river one half of the sky was smothered in an angry towering mass of ominously thick, dirty grey cloud while ahead a swollen sun had just about pulled itself over the horizon into startling clear sky and burned down with shattering brilliance, the light bouncing savagely back off wet tarmac that burned like a black mirror.

I began to worry that drivers approaching from behind would be blinded and unable to see me and kept as far left as I could, almost riding in the gutter and flicking on my rear light, even though I suspected it would be far too feeble to provide any counter against the suns vicious glare.

At one point the road was reflecting the sun so brilliantly that I had trouble looking forward and if the car in the outside lane hadn’t come to a sudden halt I would have sailed straight through a junction, completely oblivious to the red light that was demanding I stop.

Turning to climb up the other side of the valley and putting the sun behind me brought some welcome relief, even with the front wheel ripping through the stream that poured down the inside of the road. The rain finally started to ease just as I made it to the meeting point, intact but uncomfortably damp around the edges.

With it being the first Saturday in the month the kids were out to accompany us some of the way, and there was a good turnout of over 30 riders including the Red Max’s son, the Monkey Butler Boy set to ride the entire route with us.

With the rain easing I slipped off and stowed the waterproof, before we pushed off, clipped in and sailed out.

I dropped into line near the back and alongside Mini Miss, chatting as we pushed along. At one point we swung by Red Max and he paused from shouting abuse encouragement at the Monkey Butler Boy long enough to confirm he’d recovered from the desperate ride he inadvisably completed in the throes of his illness, despite being flushed out the back of the bunch like a blue ice meteorite from a 747. Mini Miss said she’d been concerned and continuously checking on Strava until he’d posted up his ride to prove he’d made finally made it home.

At a quick, Prof encouraged pee stop we learned from OGL that peeing au naturel had inspired the first weed-killers. He then went on to correct the unforgiveable gaping hole in my education with a discourse on Scottish and Newcastle brewing and the genesis of Newcastle Brown Ale.


 

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Clambering, climbing, swooping and regrouping

 


Taking the open road, as distinct from last weeks closed road, we clambered and climbed and swooped and regrouped until the time came to split away from the amblers for a slightly harder, faster and longer run to the café. The Red Max left with the slightly more sedate group, understandably taking the Monkey Butler Boy with him, along with a distinctly under the weather Son of G-Dawg

As our group approached Middleton Bank I was castigated for freewheeling past all the fixies, but they had the last laugh as I hit the bottom slopes at high speed and in completely the wrong gear. I found my legs spinning as fast as theirs had on the descent, but there was no resistance.

Figuring it was too late to go hunting for another gear and being inherently lazy I let everyone sweep past and freewheeled until the slope finally began to bite and I could actually gain some traction, only then was I able to set off in pursuit of everyone else.


 

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Going over the top

 

It seems to have been an age since we last tackled Middleton Bank, so it was good to know it’s still hateful and the gradient remains awkward enough to confuse me so I rarely feel I’m in the right gear.

Everyone regrouped over the top and we set off for the café, gradually winding the speed up. This was it, this was fun bit – a dozen or so of us in a tight bunch, hurtling around corners at break-neck speed, shoulder to shoulder and inches from the wheel in front as the pace ramped up along with a booming heart rate.

Legs burning, a face-full of grit and cold spray, leaning hard into the corners and scrambling up the hills as we jockeyed for position and raced along finely poised between exhilaration and catastrophic disaster. It hurt, but I found myself grinning like an idiot.

As the front of our arrow-head hit the final slopes on the drag up to the café it shed riders like bits of sabot being stripped from an armour piercing shell. I clung to Crazy Legs’s wheel as long as I could before sitting-up and drifting back as Taffy Steve swept past with Laurelan in hot pursuit. Great fun.


 

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The lipsmackin’heartpoundin’lungscreamin’leg shreddin’death defyin’madcoursin’unforgivin’nosurrendrin’cafe sprint in full flow

 

On the return the Mad Mile proved not quite as breakneck with Son of G-Dawg obviously suffering and I surfed along on the back, getting a mighty slingshot around the roundabout as I split for home. I found myself briefly in the company of the Cow Ranger who wanted to put in a few extra miles and as I left him and turned uphill the hail started pelting down, ticking off my helmet and seemingly intent on filling up the vents.

The hailstorm accompanied me almost all the way home, rattling and pinging off car roofs while bouncing and drumming off the road. It wasn’t particularly unpleasant as I was well wrapped up and it was falling more or less vertically so couldn’t find any exposed skin to sting. I soon found myself happily swinging up onto Heinous Hill to cap another good run.


YTD Totals: 1,155 km /718 miles with 11,547 metres of climbing

The pipes, the pipes were calling …

Club Run, 11th July, 2015

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                     113km/70 miles with 1,045 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                             4 hours 19 minutes

Group size:                                           29 riders at the start. 1 FNG.

Weather in a word or two:             Good.

Main topic of conversation at the start: The BFG was out on his wooden rims again and gave us a brief description of his intensive wheel care regime which includes liberal applications of linseed oil using the fresh fleece of a newly slaughtered lamb, an act that can only be conducted after dancing naked around the shed counter-clockwise three times when Mars is in the ascendant. Lovely though they look, I can’t help thinking there’s a reason wooden rims haven’t really caught on.

BFG insisted the linseed oil burns off under braking, producing a lovely aromatic scent. Hmm, well I suppose it could explain the strange odour that wafts around in his wake.

OGL turned up in fabulously baggy shorts on a Mountain Bike that (according to him) wasn’t actually a Mountain Bike. We disowned him anyway, just out of principle. Apparently he was off to some club function so wouldn’t be joining us on the ride. Oh yes, we were off the leash…

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop: Apparently orange socks are now the de rigueur match with our club jerseys and have helped our racers gain something of an, ahem, “bad ass” reputation. As a dyed in the wool traditionalist and all-round curmudgeon I’m of course horrified that anyone would even consider wearing anything other than white socks, so yet another trend is (thankfully in this case) almost certain to pass me by.

The Prof, who had proudly managed to control in his insistent urinary urges for once, related how he felt ostracised from the club for having the audacity to turn up wearing white shoes, but unless he was talking about a period pre-1980 when white shoes were a rarity and the sign of a spiv, I think he must have simply misunderstood. Maybe it had more to do with his bike? Or him?

There then followed a seemingly endless litany of all the recent racing crashes, with consequences both painful and eye-wateringly expensive. The conclusion from this seemed to be if you’re going to race don’t use your best bike!


Ride Profile
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

With a complete free rein we agreed to head off and tackle a somewhat longer, hillier ride across a route we hadn’t travelled for well over a year, enjoying the most of our temporary freedom and some surprisingly good weather. I shouldn’t be surprised, it is July after all, but I couldn’t help feeling profoundly lucky.

Route decided and under the joint leadership of Crazy Legs and G-Dawg we pushed off, clipped in and set out. Most of us even managed to avoid getting lured into the Great North Road Cyclemaze, which continues to mutate and become ever more dangerous and baffling to the unwary with each passing week.

The pace was good, the weather better and the ride very convivial as we pushed out into the countryside, whirring along in a surprisingly ordered bunch.

As we dropped down into the Wansbeck valley I was riding along chatting with Crazy Legs when our ears were assaulted by the unmistakable sound of bagpipes droning lustily from a house in the middle of nowhere. (Mind you, if you are going to play the bagpipes it probably makes sense to first find a house in the middle of nowhere.)

Once we were assured the Scottish Nationalist Party hadn’t resurrected the Border Reivers and had managed to calm the nationalistic proclivities and dancing hearts of our adopted Scottish brethren, we were able to push on. They’d caused enough excitement for the day anyway, simply by having one of their number unveil possibly the whitest legs that have ever existed this side of an over-worked albino wool fuller with vitiligo.


No, I don't understand it either.
No, I don’t understand it either.

The next, very abrupt right-hand turn robbed us of all momentum and dumped us at the bottom of what is colourfully (if rather fancifully) described on Strava as the Mur de Mitford, a short, brutal climb, that begins immediately after the turn and will always catch out the unwary. Remembering my own travails with the hill which include rounding the corner in the big ring and having to grind up in agonisingly slow-motion with my knees threatening to explode in a welter of blood and gristle, as well as one time pulling my cleats clean out of the pedals and collapsing in a whimpering heap at the side of the road, I dropped onto the inner ring in anticipation.


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The first law of cartoon physics: gravity doesn’t work until you look down.

As soon as we hit the climb the surprised, the less prepared and the usual gravity-hating pluggers began to lose momentum and wallow across the road in disorder. Crazy Legs darted up the outside and as I tried to follow I was pressed into the gutter by the wobblers and my rear wheel began to slip furiously on the dead leaves, collected gravel and other detritus there. Remembering the first law of cartoon physics (gravity doesn’t work until you look down) I refused to acknowledge there was a problem, and after what seemed an agonisingly drawn out moment of teetering on the brink, the tyre finally bit and I was catapulted unsteadily out of the pack to chase Crazy Legs and G-Dawg over the crest.

A long drive into the wind was followed by more climbing as we dragged ourselves through the Trench and then up and along to Rothley Crossroads. As the road tipped down on the run up to Middleton Bank I started to drift towards the back of the group to pace myself up the steeper bottom ramps of the climb. Clearing these I clicked down and started picking up the pace, passing other riders as the incline eased, I built momentum as I closed on G-Dawg toward the top.

A small group reformed after the climb and started the long chase to try and reel in a few flyers. I sat on the front and pulled until the inevitable Forlorn Hope attack from the Red Max whistled past and the pursuit strung everyone out.

I used the rolling climb out from Milestone Wood to close the gap and pull level with the leaders as the Red Max faded, but in a rare show of strength Bandana was up there, obviously feeling frisky and sensibly not giving up any wheels for me to slot in. For a while I rode along hanging out and exposed to the wind before easing up and drifting back to drop in behind Goose as we rounded the corner onto the last series of climbs to the café.

With Cowin’ Bovril dying horribly ahead of us I let Goose pull me around him, and then shamelessly mugged him on the last rise in time to see the distant final sprint with Crazy Legs claiming a rare victory over G-Dawg.

Tired, dripping with sweat and strangely euphoric we bundled breathlessly into the café en masse. Captain Black was then accosted by a grey-haired shrew who complained that we were far too happy, too loud, much too healthy and had rudely interrupted her exquisitely civilised little tea party. Seriously? What a miserable old harridan. Needless to say the Captain just shrugged and didn’t feel any great need to pass the message on, or do anything to dampen our high spirits. It’s probably just as well as we’d only have got louder.


Boisterous horseplay in the cafe.
Boisterous horseplay at the cafe.

Somehow we ended up with greater numbers coming back from the café than had set out, and as the front group forced the pace and split the group apart I hung back for a more restrained ride until my turn-off, when I struck out alone for home.

Until next week…


YTD Totals: 3,518km/ 2,186 miles with 39,024 metres of climbing.