The Wasp Factory

The Wasp Factory

Club Run, Saturday 1st September, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 111 km / 69 miles with 1,159 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 10 minute

Average Speed:                                26.6 km/h

Group size:                                        31 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   21°C

Weather in a word or two:          Perfect


 

wasp profile
Ride Profile

Saturday morning proved a good bit warmer than Thursday and Friday, when my commutes had been distinctly chilly affairs. Perhaps this was due to the insulating effect of fairly solid cloud cover that gave the early morning light a dimly suffused and milky quality and turned the river a notable flat and evil-looking slate grey. Still it was dry and, apart from a niggling, occasional bit of wind, looked like being a perfect for a ride.

I was pleased to find the bridge across the river still closed to cars, but it’s surely only a matter of time before they finally finish the longstanding repairs and I no longer get sole and unhindered use of its nice, shiny new surface. I’ve no idea what’s causing the delay, it’s been closed since May, but for once I’m happy to celebrate the inefficiency of the great British workforce.

I was first to arrive at the meeting point, just a little ahead of G-Dawg and the Colossus who I spotted approaching on my own run in.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Seeing one of our number wearing the new Holdsworth racing team jersey, OGL was unsurprised to learn it had been on special offer, revealing that he understood the team was going to fold before it had even got really started. If true, then they would join the likes of Aqua Blue and One Pro Cycling as emblems of the parlous state of British professional bike racing.

The complete and utter malfunction in marketing of Aqua Blue was also discussed as a quick, straw-poll of all those gathered revealed that only one of us realised Aqua Blue was actually a website selling cycling gear, similar to Wiggle or Chain Reaction . We variously thought it was a brand of designer water, a type of deodorant … or a make of prophylactic.

The lone person amongst us who recognised that Aqua Blue was, ahem, “the No.1 marketplace for all things pedal powered” was the Colossus and he only knew this because Aqua Blue ads constantly kept appearing on all his social media sites. In fact he said they were so intrusive, so frequent and so annoying, that he vowed never to visit the website out of principle.

Wasps were to become a recurring theme throughout the day and the little beggars provided Crazy Legs with an opportunity to expound on his interesting factoid of the week – apparently figs have to be pollinated by a wasp crawling through a hole, so small and tight that its wings are ripped off in the process. (Think of something akin to a normal sized human trying to squeeze into a medium sized Castelli jersey). The wasp becomes trapped and is then digested by enzymes in its fruit cell – one explanation for the crunchy bits in figs.

Crazy Legs said when someone first told him this, he immediately called bullshit, but a bit of research proved it was true and he challenged us to do our own research if we didn’t believe him. He also reassured us the crunchy bits in figs were just the seeds and not partially digested wasp parts.

I was surprised by the return of cycling heavyweight, Plumose Pappus and wondered when he’d be heading back to university, only to be even more surprised when he told me he’d finished his course, graduated with flying honours and was now looking to do a masters at Newcastle University. Has it really been 3 years? Have I been writing this drivel for that long? The horror…

Our leader for the week Aether outlined the route, including a late amendment which would have us using Broadway West as a route out of the city, ostensibly a measure to avoid the heavily potholed route through the Dinnington Badlands. Any other reasons for these last minute route change went unremarked and were, we felt, covered by plausible deniability.

With our numbers again bolstered by a large contingent of Grogs, we split into two groups and, seeing the balance of numbers lay with the second group, I tagged on to the back of the first one, as we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


Yet again, we made it through Broadway West without incident. Benedict drifted to the back to ride alongside me and we passed the time chatting about commuting, cycling holidays, club runs and the like.

Today seemed to be National Cyclist Abuse Day, we had a number of drivers celebrating our very presence on their roads by serenading us sweetly with their horns –  including one passing in the opposite direction at high speed, who barely had time to register his disapproval, let alone be in any way discomfited by our group.

Even the bikers wanted in on the act today though, with a particularly friendly specimen using sign language to query if we perhaps belonged to the lost tribe of Onan?

After the Monkey Butler Boy swept away to meet up with his hormonally charged Wrecking Crew, we shuffled around a bit and, once again, I dropped to the back where I was soon joined by the King of the Grogs, who’d bridged across from the second group and reported that they weren’t all that far behind.

Amongst other things, we had a brief chat about the clubs (complete lack of) succession planning for when OGL hangs up his wheels and retires, or, simply cannot summon the will to ride above the Augustus Windsock speeds that frustrate everyone else.

As we hit Whalton, he dropped back to wait for the second group, while I pushed on with the original members of the first group until we reached Dyke Neuk.

Here we paused to regroup, before choosing various shorter/longer, faster/slower options. Having been told the second group had been snapping at our heels only a few miles back, we didn’t expect a long wait, but minutes dragged past with no sign of them.

Finally the bulk of group 2 emerged, clambering up the hill to join us and we learned the King of the Grogs had hit a pothole and punctured at the bottom of the climb. We settled in for a longer than expected wait while repairs were made.


wasp factory


The delay gave the Red Max an opportunity to carefully inspect his rear tyre, revealing it was on its last legs and had previously been condemned to the turbo. It had been pressed back into service at short notice when the Monkey Butler Boy had decided to “borrow” Max’s Continental Grand Prix tyres to save his own, high-end, super-supple, Vittoria Corsa race tyres from unnecessary wear and tear.

Max then pointed to his front wheel, where the Monkey Butler Boy had also inexplicably swapped out the inner tube for one with a 60mm valve, 95% of which poked out, rudely and ridiculously from the skinny rims.

I couldn’t help thinking this was a case of biter-bit, recalling all the times throughout the winter when the Red Max had manically cackled about replacing one failing component after another with bits “borrowed “ from Mr’s Max’s bike.

“The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree,” I suggested.

Combined, the Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy could probably strip a bike down to the frame, while removing all useful components, faster than Blofeld’s  piranha pit could reduce a super-secret agent, or bumbling henchman to a loose collection of bare bones.

Apparently they could be just as lethal as well, with the Red Max stating he’d actually started  one ride before he realised the Monkey Butler Boy had decided to ride alloy instead of carbon wheels that day and “borrowed” Max’s brake blocks when he made the switch.

With the puncture finally repaired, there was a brief coalescing before everyone split and I tagged onto the group heading up the hated climb to Rothley Crossroads and points beyond. We became strung out and splintered on the grinding climb and not a little disorganised. At the crossroads, I followed Caracol and Ovis straight across the junction. while behind some decided to wait, some went left and some, who had initially followed us, turned back again.

Caracol hesitated and looked at us quizzically.  Ovis gestured we should just press on and I nodded in assent, so the three of us did just that, happy to ride as a small group. We would later learn that others had followed, but we didn’t see them and they never caught up.

Caracol led from the front, forging his way up Middleton Bank and then accelerating hard toward the café. Ovis and I contributed a couple of short turns, but I suspect we were only slowing things down and, after thrashing ourselves breathless we’d just drift back to hang off Caracol’s back wheel again, trying to recover.

Then we hit the rollers and I accelerated up and over the ramps, dragged our group up to the last corner and last climb, before I sat up. Caracol zipped past, Ovis followed a little bit later and a little more laboriously and I trailed the pair into the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

It was just about pleasant enough to sit outside in the garden, where we found ourselves constantly assailed by wasps, especially when Ovis broke the edict and had jam with his toasted teacake.

This was in direct contravention of Standing Order#414 and much to the chagrin of Carlton, who was sitting alongside him, suffering from the same over-attentive wasp activity, while looking ruefully between his own dry teacake and the one laden with gooey, sticky and sweet jam that Ovis was blithely chomping his way through.

Buster downed his cappuccino and declared it was good, much better in fact than the muddy, often tasteless big mugs of coffee we usually indulge in. This, we decided, was a classic case of quantity over quality. Not only was the cappuccino too small, effete and more costly, but crucially it didn’t come with the “free” refill. I could only quote that quantity has a quality all of its own, an aphorism I always associate with Napoleon, but has been variously attributed to Stalin, von Clauswitz and others.

After the wasp-fig bombshell from earlier this morning, Buster took up the cudgels on behalf of our vespidae friends (fiends?) He suggested that they were an essential part of the ecosystem, contributing massively toward insect pest control and that without them there’d be a massive increase in the use of pesticides.

He explained he knew so much about them because he participated in a study where members of the public were tasked with building wasp traps, collecting the contents, freezing all the little wasp corpses and them posting them off to the Royal Entomological Society for counting and identification.

This sounded like a Blue Peter appeal from some nightmarish alternate reality, with kids encouraged to make traps (out of beer bottles and baited with beer no less) and then collect dead animals. Still, probably easier and more worthwhile than collecting milk bottle tops.

We wondered why the wasps had to be frozen before posting, reasoning that they would thaw out in transit – unless, Caracol suggested, they were transported in one of those organ donor ice boxes. I could also see issues with people mistaking their collected wasp corpses for frozen mince and cooking a chilli with far more kick than intended.

Meanwhile, on an adjacent table, I could hear Crazy Legs, no doubt having already wowed his audience with facts about wasps and figs, describing how one of his neighbours had tackled a wasp nest with a Dyson…

We finally decided to retreat and leave the wasps in temporary charge of the garden, swiftly packing up to head home.

Conducting a quick headcount, G-Dawg wondered where everyone had gone. Someone pointed out the Grogs were predictably missing, having slipped away to do their own thing, while I could account for a few more who’d left early, setting out in one and two’s as they needed to get back home by a certain time.

“Oh,” I added, And Plumose Pappus was abducted by wasps. They picked him up and just flew away.”  Somewhat surprisingly, everyone seemed to accept my explanation as at least plausible, if not 100% accurate.

I’m not so sure they believed my next assertion, that the wasps were going to make him their God-Emperor and the Chief Overseer of the wasp factory, responsible for making all the new wasps to replace the ones we’d killed today.


On the return I dropped in alongside Crazy Legs and we decided the Vuelta had become the Tour of Redemption for both the French, through Bouhanni and Gallopin and for previously hapless and winless, under-performing teams like EF Education First–Drapac, AG2R La Mondiale and Dimension Data.

While reminiscing about now dissolved retailer Toys R Us, Crazy Legs recalled a girlfriend who was convinced there name was actually pronounced Toysaurus. I guess either version is still better than Aqua Blue.

We’d made it almost to the top of Berwick Hill, when I declared, “Hey, no cars this week! Naturally, scant seconds later a car barrelled around the corner and we dived to the side of the lane so it could squeeze past. Me and my big mouth.

There was only time for G-Dawg to hope that if anyone did happen to have an accident on Broadway West, they would have the decency to drag their broken body and bike into a side street before calling for help, then I was swinging away and starting to pick my way back home.

A very brief shower peppered me as I crested the top of the Heinous Hill and disappeared as quickly as it came. Then I was back, done and dusted, home and hosed, or however else you want to describe it.


YTD Totals: 5,182 km / 3,219 miles with 63,722 metres of climbing

Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

Club Run, Saturday 15th July, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  119 km / 74 miles with 516* metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 27 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.8 km/h

Group size:                                         18 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    19°C

Weather in a word or two:          Miserably damp


 

15th july
Ride Profile

* It was raining throughout the day and my Garmin really, really doesn’t like the rain. I don’t for one moment believe we only had 516 metres of climbing, but that’s what I’m going with.

The Ride:

Let’s talk about the weather, eh? Its mid-July, supposedly British Summer Time and in the Tour de France, the riders are struggling through a heatwave. Now my expectations have naturally been tempered by years of disappointment, but nonetheless, Saturday was like the nadir for summer rides – as bleak, dreary and wet as a dank, November day. Except … it was warm. As in shorts warm. As in too warm to wear a rain jacket … and too wet not to.

I’m becoming as confused as my kit choices.

The start of the day wasn’t too bad, with a very light, quite refreshing rain, drifting down on a pleasantly cooling breeze and the roads not yet wet enough to slow me into the corners. I chased cars down the Heinous Hill, just to prove I could go faster than them – and they really shouldn’t be pulling out in front of cyclists like that.

I turned along the valley floor and directly into a headwind, but I was feeling decent, it wasn’t much of an issue and I was pressing on at a fair clip. After a few miles I climbed up to the traffic lights and then swung down toward the river, spotting a familiar cyclist churning up the ramp toward me. It was the Prof, riding with beZ and Jimmy Cornfeed on their way to a time-trial somewhere in the dangerous, wildlands south of the river.

I only had time for a quick salute as I swept past in the opposite direction, although I did catch the Prof muttering something about the Heinous Hill as I darted by. (Just to be clear, for the record the slope he was tackling is but a speed bump, a mere pimple, a trifling minor irritation of little consequence, compared to the true heinousness of the Heinous Hill.)

By the time I reached the meeting point, the rain was becoming constant and heavy and I was glad to duck into the shelter of the multi-storey car park while our numbers slowly assembled.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

After a long, long absence, the Dabman reappeared for his first ride out with us since snapping his collar bone like a dry stick.

“Have you actually got written permission from your lass?” a surprised Red Max demanded to know.

“Oh, she’s away for a few days…” Dabman ruefully admitted.

It was obvious that he was out on a stealth-ride and would need to get back (preferably in one, whole piece) and restore everything to pre-ride condition, prior to Mrs. Dabman’s return. He was warned to stay away from my camera, so there’d be no photographic evidence of his ride and if anyone asks, his very appearance in this blerg is just another of my wild imaginings, with no actual foundation in the truth – or, if you like, the same as pretty much everything else I write.

Speaking of expunging rides from the data banks, Crazy Legs returned having survived the club time-trial last weekend, but couldn’t really say how it had gone as he’d blanked much of the experience. He did recall however that his, somewhat cobbled together, time-trial bike had caused a few problems – he hadn’t bothered to fit a front derailleur, reasoning he’d only need the big ring and it would just add to the weight and cost.

Things were working fine until he hit a bump in the road and the chain skipped down onto the inner ring. Faced with the choice of pressing on, or wasting time by stopping to manually lift the chain back up again, he chose the former option.

Waiting at the finish, G-Dawg reported he never knew legs could actually spin that fast and that they had been “a smerking blur” as Crazy Legs crossed the finish line with one last, all-out effort.

OGL reported that he’d been invited to take part in an episode of Come Dine with Me, but had sadly declined. I must admit my imagination completely fails when I try to imagine what that would have been like, perhaps somewhere between toe-curling embarrassment and the fascinating horror of a slow-motion car crash. He offered the opportunity around, but apparently we all still retain at least some iota of self-esteem and there were no takers.

The Monkey Butler Boy was out with us, having been abandoned by his wrecking crew of young guns (as they are all, apparently scared of getting wet). He was fascinated by the Colossus’s Time iClic pedals, but dissuaded from further investigation when the Colossus pointed out the blunt, dagger like protrusion that encased the spindle and the corresponding, identically matched bruises and indentations they’d made in his shins.

The Garrulous Kid announced he was thinking of taking Geography as one of his A-level options next year, as apparently he likes his teacher, Mrs. Naff.

Crazy Legs was about to embark on an extended dialogue about how you can tell the difference between good teachers and naff teachers, when I interrupted.

“Hold, on. Mrs. Naff. How do you spell that?”

“You know, Naff,” the Garrulous Kid replied, “N-A-T-H.”

In spite of the rain, Szell put in a rare appearance. The Garrulous Kid wondered when he would be disappearing into hibernation and Szell explained it was usually after the summer Bank Holiday. He said that, like Freda the Blue Peter tortoise, he had a big cardboard box filled with straw, that his wife had prepared by punching holes in the lid. He said he’d be putting it in a darkened cupboard and retiring to it in good order, long before the leaves started to turn.

I explained to the Garrulous Kid that this was all nonsense, you couldn’t believe a word Szell was saying and he was obviously lying. No one was going to believe he actually had a wife.


We could delay no longer and looking out at the rain falling with increasing intensity, I pulled on my rain jacket and reluctantly pushed off, clipped in and followed everyone out onto the roads.

For the first part of the ride I was entertained by the Garrulous Kid providing a running commentary on exactly where and how quickly, the rain was creeping through his clothing. He became particularly animated as he started getting a wet bum, especially as he declared the rain seemed to have soaked straight through his underpants.

“What? Wait! You’re wearing underpants?”

“Of course I’m wearing underpants.”

“Under your cycling shorts?”

“Yes. But not just any underpants, they’re from the Marks and Spencer’s Autograph range.”

The Garrulous Kid refused to accept that he was the only one among us wearing underpants under their cycling shorts – although, when questioned, the Monkey Butler Boy did later admit he had. Once. When he was about 11.

But, apparently we’re all wrong, or depraved, or masochists and wearing underpants beneath cycling shorts should be de rigueur because it’s much more comfortable, much more hygenic and … and … much warmer!

Forget about the chafing, forget about the horrendous bunching and rubbing and the irritation. Forget about Betty Swollocks and the broiling, swarming petri dish of a breeding ground underpants will create for all kinds of bacterium and fungal spores. Remember, you’re improperly dressed unless you’re wearing your tighty-whities. At all times. Preferably from M&S. (Other makes are available.)

The rain continued to fall and, as usual, the poor weather seemed to have an adverse effect on driver comprehension, as if giving them something else to consider somehow befuddles and overloads their brains.

Our first indication of this was a skip lorry that tried overtaking our bunch, going uphill and around a blind corner. It lumbered all the way across to the other side of the road and huffed noisily upwards, before having to come to an abrupt halt in front of a car parked at the kerb and leaving too little room to squeeze past.

A few miles further on and it was the turn of an Astra driver, who almost made it to the head of our “peloton,” before meeting a Mercedes travelling in the opposite direction. Both cars stopped dead, bumper to bumper, while we rolled past amazed at just how dumb and reckless some drivers actually are.

Just before we dropped down towards the Tyne, OGL, a delegation of Grogs and a few others took a shorter more direct route to the café, effectively halving our numbers.

We swept down into the river valley and picked our way through a few sleepy villages, before climbing out again via Newton. I suspect G-Dawg found the going much more amenable than the last time, when he’d been forced to tackle this route on his fixie, following one of the Prof’s characteristics “route lapses.”

The heat generated by some prolonged climbing, combined with the briefest cessation of the rain, lulled us into shedding our rain jackets, well for a couple of miles anyway.

G-Dawg now led us on a wholly new, untried route through to Matfen, travelling on roads he’d identified courtesy of the complete novelty of looking at an actual map. This he’d carefully and craftily folded into his back pocket and we would catch him occasionally consulting its arcane mysteries, while muttering strange incantations at it. You know, those map things are actually quite useful and I have a strange feeling they could perhaps catch on one day.

Stopping at the next junction, just about everyone who’d previously doffed their jackets now pulled them back on, as the rain returned with even greater intensity. We held station as another group of cyclists appeared, clambering uphill through the gloomy veil of this renewed downpour. They slowly coalesced into another local club, the Tyneside Vagabonds, or Vags, who looked almost as wet and bedraggled as we did.

“Oh, is it raining down there?” Szell asked brightly as they filed past, smiling and greeting us enthusiastically, probably just happy in the knowledge they weren’t the only raving lunatics riding a bike in such utterly miserable conditions.


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Our group splintered on the climb to the Quarry and we swung right for the shorter run to the café, not even bothering to pause and let everyone back on. With the pace picking up on the run in to the Snake Bends, the Red Max suddenly appeared on my shoulder, having completed an epic chase to catch up. This he’d accomplished in part thanks to some kamikaze cornering around wet bends that I’m glad I didn’t see.

We exchanged a few words, before he declared our pace was “far too civilised” and attacked off the front. Having also chased on, Taffy Steve followed him through and I latched onto his wheel, until I sensed the Colossus winding up to follow the attacks. I eased and let the gap grow so he could slot in behind Taffy Steve and the trio burst away to contest the sprint.

I picked up the pace again and followed in their wake, sparring with the Garrulous Kid for the minor placings, before sitting up and coasting through the bends.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

At the café, Caracol started eyeing up one of the tray bakes like a predator assessing the herd for the choicest prey and he quickly determined that one of the segments was considerably larger than the others – or in his eyes, old, infirm and separated from the herd.

He turned on the full charm, which was a bit like a dusty, old 40-watt light-bulb attached to a dodgy and backfiring generator. Still, it flickered briefly into life and he quickly made a plea for the over-sized portion. Inexplicably, it somehow worked and the serving girl carefully shuffled the pieces of cake around to fish out his marked prize.

The Monkey Butler Boy was even more delighted when she did the same for him – and he didn’t even have to ask. I was going to suggest it’s because he’s younger and better looking, but didn’t want to start a bitch fight.

The Grogs were already done, leaving as we were sitting down and we caught Mini Miss, hovering, peering out the door and waiting for everyone to assemble before making a dash out into the rain for her own bike. Or maybe she’s just in training for a triathlon transition.

The Monkey Butler Boy continues to outgrow his bikes and is looking for something new to ride. At present he’s struggling with the choice between an aero road bike, or a light-weight climbing machine. I suspect he’s leaning toward the aero-bike, but on canvassing the table wasn’t getting much support. The Colossus however came to his rescue suggesting it didn’t matter which bike was the lightest, had the best spec’ or was the most practical, what really mattered was which one looked the best.

Crazy Legs was happily reminiscing about a video of old-school Raleigh Grifters and recalled owning an iconic Raleigh Chopper. I only ever remember seeing them in orange, but Crazy Legs insisted he had “a purple Chopper” before admitting that’s “not something you tend to talk about in polite company.”

What wasn’t there to love about the Raleigh Chopper? A tiny, small wheel at the front, a big tractor tyre at the back, tall ape-hanger bars, an elongated saddle with a sissy rail, hub gears and a centrally mounted gear lever that always seemed poised to emasculate the unwary. Choppers were expensive, a pig to ride, incredibly heavy, impractical, dangerously unbalanced and unstable, but super-cool. And every kid coveted one.

Hmm, maybe the Colossus was right, insisting it only mattered which bike actually looks the best.

I could even recall one particular abortion of a Chopper variant, the Sprint, which incongruously had drop handlebars.

“Who on earth would want to ride such a thing?” I pondered.

“Well, the Prof, obviously.” Crazy Legs suggested and I had to laugh as I found myself heartily agreeing.

As if talk of childhood bikes had instigated a return to purely juvenile ways, we spent the next 10 minutes or so discussing who would win in a fight between Nacer “Boxer” Bouhanni and Marcel “Pretty Boy” Kittel. The judges finally gave the win to Bouhanni, by a majority of 6 votes to 1.


Our return home was briefly delayed behind a horse drawn cart, trundling slowly along the lanes and laden with middle-aged, horsey types. I hate to imagine where their mounts had disappeared and suspect they could have walked faster than the lumbering cart.

Safely negotiated, the rest of the ride was without incident and I was soon turning off for home. Passing the rugby ground I saw the flash of a hi-vis, green, rain jacket disappearing round the corner and I gave chase, only to be caught on the wrong side of the level crossing as a Metro clattered through and the lone cyclist got away to built a good lead.

With the way clear again, I chased up the hill past the golf course, through the junction and then up another hill past Twin Farms . He was probably younger and most certainly fitter and faster than me and it was hard work closing him down, even though he wasn’t even aware he was in a race.

Through the lights past the Fire Station, I stomped hard on the pedals and tucked in for the downhill, swept over the dual-carriageway and caught him just as the lights ahead turned red.

I issued a nonchalant, “how do?” and pressed on downhill when the lights released us again, thinking my mission was complete.

Unluckily, I’d either picked a cyclist going my way, or one with no fixed destination in mind and happy to just follow the wheels. Hoist by my own petard of vanity and refusing to ease up, I led him down the hill to the river, along the valley floor, across the bridge, up the sharp ramp where I’d saluted the Prof that morning, then down and all the way along to Blaydon.

As we exited the town, he swished past, thanked me politely for the tow and disappeared and I could finally draw breath and complete the rest of my ride at a far more sensible pace.

It turned out to be another long one, though if I’m to believe Strava (I don’t) one that was much less hilly than usual.


YTD Totals: 4,469 km / 2,777 miles with 51,679 metres of climbing

Transitions, Transmissions and Tales of the Tashkent Terror

Transitions, Transmissions and Tales of the Tashkent Terror

Club Run, Saturday 16th April, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  101 km / 63 miles with 973 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.7 km/h

Group size:                                         14 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    8°C

Weather in a word or two:          Sleet, snow, sun, showers, wind and hail

Main topics of conversation at the start:

I informed Crazy Legs that, completely out of character, OGL had actually been at the meeting point when I rolled up bang on 9.00 o’clock.

“So, finally kicked you out has she?” Crazy Legs enquired, but apparently this wasn’t the case.  OGL then began a long, rolling ramble to relate the entirety of his morning conversation with Mrs. OGL in all its infinite detail. Eyes quickly glazing over, Crazy Legs suggested there was a kind of sublime, zen-like perfection in one word answers and innocently enquired if OGL agreed.

The local, Tour of the Reservoir starts today, which I guess explains the truly shitty weather. I actually think it’s stipulated in the rule book that the race will be cancelled if it’s not at least lashing down with rain and blowing a gale, or if the temperature ever dares nudge toward double figures.

This video by Darrell Varley(complete with obligatory hailstones on the grass!) gives an idea of just how bleak the racing was this Saturday. A few of our mob were planning a trip to watch the finish of the race tomorrow, when hopefully the things will have improved (although it’s hard to see how they could get any worse.)

An FNG joined us astride a very nice, brand new, Dura Ace equipped Pinarello Dogma with deep section carbon wheels. He said he was a Sky employee and had won the bike in a competition. Nice work if you can get it.

OGL conducted a quick smuguard count, only 4 out of 14, but one of these included the Pinarello and we all agreed this was just wrong on so many levels it didn’t count. There was a definite feeling that fitting guards to a Dogma was like harnessing a thoroughbred to the plough.

In a complete revolution and startling transition the Prof had temporarily eschewed his small-wheeled velocipede for the Frankenbike. This had been freshly resurrected (yet again) in his secret lair/laboratory/workshop and transformed with a coat of light absorbing, matt black paint. The only splash of colour was provided by one single, bright red brake cable outer (he’d obviously been unable to beg, borrow, find or steal sufficient black cabling) and a large, candy pink rubber band holding his Garmin onto some kind of gimcrack mount fabricated out of who knows what.

There was naturally a great deal of surprise, if not shock by this transformation, although OGL’s suggestion that it could perhaps herald the emergence of a beautiful swan seemed a bit wide of the mark: you know the saying, if it looks like an ugly duck, waddles like an ugly duck and quacks like an ugly duck, then in all probability you know exactly what it’s going to be?

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

OGL mentioned Dan McLay’s incredible slalom-style sprint to win the Gran Prix de Denain (here) where he surfed effortlessly through gaps that didn’t seem to exist before bursting over the line with perfect timing – equal parts luck, indomitable bravery and unbelievable skill.

Crazy Legs was reminded of the photo that showed the perfect inverted V of Nacer Bouhani and Michael Matthews leaning their bikes over at incredible angle during their top speed clash amongst the barriers on Paris Nice Stage 2. How that one didn’t ended in disaster I’ll never know.


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This led to the almost inevitable reminiscing about Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, what a name, what a rider… what crashes. Crazy Legs related how his brother idolised the “Tashkent Terror” and how they’d made the trip to the 1992 Tour of Britain just to see him.  Spotted sitting dressed in full team kit in the back of a Carrera car with the doors wide open, our two intrepid fans tentatively approached and asked, “Are you Abdoujaparov?” To which all they received was a very blunt and very emphatic, “Nyet.”

This, Crazy Legs admonished OGL, was how you effectively master the one-word answer and put it to brutal and effective use to shut down any chance of further communication.

OGL trotted out a hoary old tale about someone ordering a custom built frame that he wanted to be the exact same colour as his … err… gentleman’s helmet shall we say. We argued that this would surely vary by individual, and matching with a Pantone reference swatch would be a difficult and unenviable task. I could only imagine someone going into their local B&Q store, walking up to the Paint Mixing counter, slapping their “junk” down (as I believe the youth of today call it) and suggesting they, “Match that!”

News of Phil-Gil’s pre-Amstel Gold altercation with a motorist in which he sustained a broken finger had led to suggestions he’d used a pepper spray that he carries when out on a training ride. I know motorists in our country can be unreasonable, but I’ve never felt the need to carry a concealed weapon. We did wonder about what damage you could do using a CO2 canister as a weapon of last resort.

OGL then retold the tale of a legendary local cyclist having an altercation with a driver on the Tyne Bridge, reaching through the open window to remove the keys from the ignition and casually flipping them over the side and into the river some 85 feet below, before pedalling calmly away. I like to think there is perhaps a small grain of truth in these stories, but like tribal folklore they’ve become somewhat embellished and exaggerated over the years and countless re-tellings. You can decide for yourself how much of this tale is true, or if you’re a Social Anthropologist, perhaps you’ve just found the subject for your next thesis.

OGL was also replete with all the latest scurrilous club gossip that we all seem completely ignorant of, or perhaps more accurately are luckily impermeable to. He described one of the girl’s changing personal circumstances, which didn’t seem to have made even the smallest, slightest ripple on our collective conscience. As Taffy Steve concluded the news was largely unimportant and irrelevant to us: “It’s not as if she’s bought a new set of wheels or anything.”


profile 16 april
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

Yet again cold rain was falling from grey, overcast skies as I pushed off, clipped in and rolled downhill. Is this really what they had in mind when they promised me global warming? We’re into April already and I’m still waiting for the transition to spring weather.

On the first corner bright patches of rainbow-hued diesel were blooming ominously across the wet tarmac like malevolent flowers and I slowed and inched gingerly between them, before hitting the straight and letting gravity pull me down.

Unusually the roads were quite busy with serious looking cyclists and I passed around 7 on my way to the meeting point, all of them heading in the opposite direction. This had me wondering if they knew something I didn’t, but I pressed on regardless.

Pausing only long enough to view the utter chaos caused by ever expanding roadworks where the High Street becomes the Great North Road, I indulged in a bit of alleyway rat-running in the narrow spaces between the endless lines of double-parked cars that horribly crowd all the streets in this area. It can’t be much fun to be a kid growing up here.

Arriving at the meeting point I was amazed to find OGL already there and waiting and other riders started to arrive in dribs and drabs until around 14 brave lads and lasses were grouped together ready to ride.

As an indication of how bad the weather was, the G-Dawg collective had received special dispensation to ride their winter bikes, no doubt having completed the blood sacrifice of several chickens, goats, all the family pets and perhaps even a blood relative to the Great and Ancient Bicycle Tree in order to receive its blessing. Despite the extreme conditions, G-Dawg still insisted on wearing shorts though, if only to demonstrate his utter disdain for the weather.

I was feeling somewhat below par with a low key headache that had been hanging around for a couple of days and seemed to pulse more strongly now I’d confined my head in a helmet, provoking a distinct feeling of queasiness. It was all a bit like suffering from a hangover with none of the benefits of over-indulgence the night before.

By contrast Goose was properly and professionally hungover, looking pale and tired and he would spend most of the ride hanging gamely off the back, somehow managing to drag himself around behind everyone else. It was not perhaps a hangover cure he would recommend or be in a hurry to repeat.


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I bounced around a bit as we set out, chatting to Taffy Steve, OGL and both FNG’s. One of these I’d been expecting,  he’d recently moved house and left a club my work colleague Mr. T. rides with.  Now we had the chance to lure him away from the civilising light and let him embrace his dark side.

A sudden dip and climb out of a sharp valley had me swerving around the Prof, who’d pulled up to reclaim his Garmin after, in his own words, “the mount suddenly shattered.” I uncharitably translated this to the perhaps more accurate, “my elastic band broke” and then was delighted to learn at the café that the device wasn’t held on by an actual, fit-for-purpose, regular, store-bought elastic band, but rather a strip of bright pink rubber the Prof had “constructed” from a cast off Marigold glove.

At the split I then watched a post-micturition Prof, more familiar with  just stepping over his small-wheeled velocipede, struggling with the unfamiliarity of how to climb gracefully back onto his grown-up’s bike. I suggested to Taffy Steve we might have to start carrying a mounting block just to help him out.


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OGL surprisingly had no takers for the amblers group and everyone else was soon grinding up the climb to Dyke Neuk. At the junction a few of us had to quickly abort a right-hand turn as a vintage car swooped too fast around the bend ahead. A few miles further on and two dozen more encounters with vintage jalopy’s heralded the fact that we were riding through the middle of the 8th Flying Scotsman Classic Car Endurance Rally.

Many of the vintage car drivers returned our cheery waves, some sneered at us with disdain while we giggled at their stupid helmets (no doubt they were giggling at ours too) – and I’m pretty certain a good few of them never even saw us as they thrashed along, peering myopically through their immeasurably small and restrictive windshields perched at the back of massively long, massively tall bonnets.

They did however provide an interesting photo opportunity as they passed one of our backmarkers, purely by accident the grime and muck on the camera case conspiring to give the photo a faded, old fashioned, epic feel, like some post-war Tour shot half way up a mountain. I liked it anyway.


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The Pinarello FNG was really struggling now and we had to slow and wait several times, producing a strange sort of stop-start sprint. Proof, if any were needed, that it’s not about the bike.

As we pounded up the last slope I’d managed to manoeuvre myself from last place into 4th behind G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg and a rampaging Captain Black, only to be royally mugged by Taffy Steve on the very last ramp as I faded. The bugger makes a habit of doing that to me and seems to take a huge amount of pleasure and satisfaction from it too.

As we left the café G-Dawg could be seen looking out for the Pinarello Police he was convinced were going to turn up with bolt cutters to unceremoniously snip and strip the mudguards from the Dogma, if not take the bike into protective custody for its own safety.


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I found the pain in my lungs and legs following the sprint to the café seemed to have driven away the niggling headache and enjoyed the return home, feeling quite chipper.

Descending Berwick Hill we were treated to a loud horn fusillade as an overtaking RIM gave vent to his anger at being delayed by all of 5 seconds and I couldn’t help but laugh as, to a man and in perfect unison every single one of us gave the driver our biggest, cheesiest and most cheerful wave.

Splitting from the group I found the approach to the last roundabout before the Heinous Hill uncharacteristically snarled up with traffic.  I slotted into the queue behind a car proudly displaying the bright red badge of Audax UK – the long distance cyclists’ association, and as we crept forward by increments I had the chance for a brief chat with the driver.

He thought I looked particularly vulnerable stuck in the middle of all the traffic and was looking for a way to help me across the roundabout, but as we both finally agreed, things are what they are and there wasn’t a lot either of us could do about it.

Roundabouts and traffic safely negotiated, I thought Mother Nature had saved the final insult for last, as a hail shower accompanied me all the way up the hill. The cruellest twist however was kept for Sunday which dawned, cold but bright, dry and cloudless from horizon to horizon. Maybe next week will be better?


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

Mea Culpa


Club Run, Good Friday 25th March, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   104 km/65 miles with 863 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 7 minutes

Average Speed:                                   25.3 km/h

Group size:                                           26 riders

Temperature:                                      15°C

Weather in a word or two:              Bright ‘n’ breezy

Main topic of conversation at the start:

Mea Culpa#1 the BFG corrected last week’s story regarding his wheels on fire, they weren’t the carbon on carbon model from his new uber-bike that he tried to spontaneously combust, but in fact the fabled, some might even say mythical wooden rims.

Speaking of carbon wheels, someone complimented G-Dawg on his new hoops and wondered if he’d sold his inner ring to pay for them. The proposed advert would have made interesting and somewhat paradoxical reading – for sale, one inner chain ring in pristine, immaculate condition, has done 8,000 miles, but has never been used.

There was no music in the cafes at night, but there was revolution in the air as we waited for OGL to roll up past the allotted start-time. Someone suggested just moving our meeting point to the other side of the bus stop, convinced this small act of rebellion alone would be enough for OGL’s head to explode and for him to start muttering darkly about schisms and breakaway groups in the club.

He finally deigned to roll-up at around 9.33, but if we’d dared to leave on time we’d still be hearing about it now.

I had a brief chuckle with Crazy Legs about Nacer Bouhani, winning the first two stages of the Volta a Catalunya, leading the entire race and points classification, but suddenly feeling so ill that he had to abandon as soon as the tips of the mountains pricked the horizon. He then miraculously recovered enough in time to ride Gent-Wevelgem, over 200 km of super-hard racing. So much for honouring the leader’s jersey.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Mea Culpa#2 the Prof informed me he did not cart away the fantastic booty of a lost and forlorn Sealskinz glove, as his persistence paid off and he eventually managed to track down its owner – none other than Zardoz, the unlikeliest Cinderella you could possibly imagine.

Reunited with his errant gauntlet at least saved him from riding home with one cold hand while looking like a wannabe Michael Jackson and perhaps it saved everyone else from being subjected to his angry dark-side. I’m not wholly convinced that the Prof didn’t return for the decapitated and eviscerated deer carcass as a sop to his disappointment though.

The elusive Bearded Collie spent time bemoaning the fact that Schwalbe no longer make orange tyres as his original set now appear to be disintegrating from lack of use. He’s busy looking desperately for replacements that will match his frame and save him from reverting to plain and dowdy “just black.”

He also remarked that the time since his last ride with us hadn’t mellowed OGL’s personable, accommodating, benevolent and very sunny outlook. Someone likened OGL to Pol Pot and speculated that club meetings would be over in a snap as he filled all the posts on the committee: President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary et al. Others disagreed though reasoning that OGL could start an argument in a Trappist monastery and probably has to spend huge amounts of time disagreeing with himself.

The Red Max and partner in crime the Monkey Butler Boy were under an ultimatum to clear the conservatory of bikes and bike parts as the rest of the family couldn’t get at the furniture. Aveline slyly suggested the problem wasn’t too many bikes, but too much furniture. For the sake of Max’s continued good health I hope that’s not a line of argument he chooses to pursue.

Meanwhile he’s busily entertaining himself constructing an enormous ziggurat of used and useless bottom brackets (I say useless, but he’s convinced they all still have “some life” left in them). He’s also collected enough lengths of used bike chain to bind Prometheus to the mountain, certain he’ll find a use for it all. Eventually.


 

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Ride Profile

The Waffle:

Good Friday was indeed good and looked like being the best day of the Easter weekend. Despite the chill the sky was a high blue vault, randomly studded with the odd, benevolent looking cotton wool cloud and the sun was bright if not warm.

I dropped into valley and chased down a fellow cyclist, drawing in to recognise the Castelli clad back of the benevolent stranger who had appeared to provide me with shelter from a vicious headwind in a ride under very different conditions (Vittoria’s Secret and the Cold Hand Gang, Feb 1.)

Before we split for different routes we had a brief chat and discovered that, like the Ee-Em-Cee rider I randomly encounter, he too was yet another former member and now fugitive of our club. He admired Reg and asked if I was a Barry Sheene fan (I wasn’t) as apparently he used a black, red and yellow livery on his bikes. Well, you learn something every day.


 

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The Sheene Machine vs. Reg

 

Later, hurtling downhill to race the changing lights through a junction I swept past Shouty heading in the opposite direction and apparently already recovered from her broken femur. She was looking resplendent in her new club’s kit and no doubt off to grind out some hard solo miles.

Despite the chill edge to the wind, there were plenty out wearing shorts, but I have to admit it’s still far too cold to even consider exposing these ancient joints to the elements. As usual time hanging around at the meeting place gave everything the chance to seize up slightly and then it took even longer when riding to warm up and turn with any degree of fluidity.

As a decently large group of 29 riders pushed off, clipped in and rode out, I noticed Aveline was out with us for the 3rd or 4th time and in danger of losing her FNG status. I also saw that the elusive Bearded Collie was back with us after a massively long absence of probably a year or so – the Red Max spotted him too and wryly noted that now he knew it was officially Easter.


 

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Rolling out under blue skies

 

As I drifted through the group I had a brief chat with Laurelan, who was having a bit of trouble with her bike which she’d ridden all through the winter and decided was now in rather desperate need of some TLC at the LBS. She was even attempting to barter gardening skills for cycle maintenance help among the more mechanically capable.

As we pushed out into the countryside we were treated to the years first sighting of Szell, sneaking past, head down and going in the opposite direction, obviously recently awoken from the slumber of deep hibernation and getting in secret training miles so he can put us all to the sword when he decides to next ride with the club.

At some point Laurelan’s front derailleur threw a hissy fit, decided it had done enough for the day and refused to budge. OGL called a halt and thanks to over 50 years of cycle maintenance and professional mechanical knowledge was quickly able to identify the problem and present a precise expert diagnosis; “It’s fucked.”

Now fully enlightened, Laurelan had to make the difficult choice of staying in the inner ring, which would get her up the Quarry climb, but was likely to get her dropped as the speed ramped up toward the café, or choose the big ring and grind and grovel up the climb.

She made her choice and we got going again as I found myself on the front with Captain Black. We were soon swinging right and started the run up to the Quarry, keeping the pace high all the way to the top, where an expected attack from the racing snakes strangely failed to materialise.


 

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The Hammer in hot pursuit

 

Regrouping after the climb, the suggestion seemed to be OGL was planning an extended solo route and was turning off to leave us to our own devices. I’m pretty certain I heard someone say, “Let’s go!”

So I did.

Without really thinking about it I’d accelerated away, as if channelling my inner Red Max with a stupidly long, Forlorn Hope attack, opening up a sizeable gap while those behind just looked on and wondered what the hell I was doing. I must admit to thinking pretty much the same thing myself.

Mea Culpa#3 and apologies all. Apparently my sudden rush of blood to the head (or the legs?) caused a complete disintegration of group order and much shouting from an apoplectic OGL. I say apparently, because I was too far down the road to have actually heard anything, so I’m relying on a bunch of decidedly unreliable witnesses.

I counted the frames my camera took during this madcap venture – there were 30 shots between my escaping the group and the Hammer finally catching my back wheel just as I braked for the Snake Bends. Given the camera is set to take an image every 20 seconds, then I had 10 minutes of solo riding, not daring to look back and wondering where everyone else had gone to, if I’d taken a wrong turn, or if they’d all collectively decided to just head elsewhere and leave me hanging out on my own like an idiot.


 

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The Nutter Chase

 

My solo break seemed a hell of a lot longer than 10 minutes to me, even as I was trying not to go full bore so I had a little something in reserve for when I was inevitably caught. As it was I was first to the Bends, first to the T-Junction and second on the scamper up the last hill toward the café. I’ll take that any day.

At the café we tried sitting in the garden for a while, but it was just a bit too chilly and when even the Scottish folk declared it was too cold to sit out we admitted defeat and sloped back inside.

On the way home we came across a stricken Prof and Mrs. Prof, marooned at the side of the road with a severe mechanical. Someone asked if they needed help, but the Prof suggested what they needed was more in the way of a taxi and waved us on.

Approaching Berwick Hill I was riding along 2nd wheel, chatting amiably with the Hammer when something went flying from the bike to tumble away. I slowed and swung over to the side of the road, letting everyone past as I went to retrieve what turned out to be the cap off my bottle. Although somewhat annoyed at having to stop, I realise it could have been a lot worse, I’d never have lived it down if I’d tried to use the bottle and poured the entire contents down my front.

Having found and secured the errant cap I turned around to find Big Dunc had stopped as well, suspecting I’d had a mechanical and everyone had just abandoned me. That was good as it meant I didn’t have to try and chase back on, and together we set a decent pace sweeping up a few stragglers along the way.

Splitting from the group the return was straightforward and without incident. Let’s see what effects my efforts have tomorrow, when it’s the usual Saturday Club Run with limited recovery time.


YTD Totals: 1,606 km /990 miles with 16,238 metres of climbing