The Number of the Beast

Club Run, Saturday 17th March, 2018     

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  107 km / 66.6 miles with 1,522 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 59 minutes

Average Speed:                                21.3 km/h

Group size:                                         10 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    3°C

Weather in a word or two:          Raw

 


 

snowprofile
Ride Profile

… or, the Beast from the East 2 – 0 Sur La Jante

It was back, the Beast from the East 2, the Return, or the mini-Beast as some reports dubbed it. This mean’t a Saturday ride in raw, primal weather, snow flurries, hailstorms, a brittle, frigid cold and strong, gusting winds edged with a raw and savage wind-chill.

Surprisingly though, it proved generally dry and ice-free, despite a precursor storm that passed through the night and seemed to drop a month’s rain on our heads in a couple of hours.

I (over)dressed for the conditions – thermal base layer, long sleeve jersey, softshell jacket with a rain jacket on top. It was enough. I was generally comfortable throughout the day and tended more towards overheating than feeling chilled, despite the stark conditions.

At the bottom of the hill, I found the Tyne Valley acting like a massive wind tunnel and turning put the wind at my back pushing me forcibly along. That was great, until I crossed the river and had to back-track down the opposite bank, taking it full on in the face as I battered along, reduced to a painful crawl.

Trying to climb out the other side of the valley I discovered my front mech had frozen solid and I had to stop and apply some less than subtle coercion to drop down onto the inner ring.

Once accomplished, I made reasonable time through intermittent hail and snow showers and was soon pulling to a stop at the meeting point, where a gaggle of half a dozen other beleaguered idiots were already huddled together, and quickly shuffled around to admit me to the shelter of the inner circle.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

My first reaction on pulling up was to berate everyone for being out on bikes on a day like this. I admitted that I’d half hoped to find the meeting place empty so I had an excuse to turn around and head straight back home.

I was particularly impressed that Taffy Steve had made it in, all the way from the coast, but predicted he’d have a real bitch-fight to get home, straight into the teeth of our Siberian-born winter gales.

He felt he couldn’t possibly miss what promised to be a “properly epic” ride … or at least he assured himself that’s how it would appear – once he was safely back home, smoking jacket on, feet up, cradling a snifter of recuperative brandy – warm, dry and able to look fondly back on the day.

Richard of Flanders was dressed for the conditions in a Mavic, quilted winter jacket in their signature bright yellow.  Someone thought it looked like a drysuit, but after careful consideration we decided it was more like a HazMat suit.

Taffy Steve felt this was just playing up to Richard’s Smoggie heritage and that such apparel was always au courant on Teesside. He suggested that if Richard of Flander had returned to his hometown in this yellow HazMat suit, it would be seen as extraordinarily unremarkable and no one would bat an eyelid.

Speaking of HazMat suits, everyone agreed that as soon as they saw the teams deployed in Salisbury to investigate the Skripol/Novichok poisoning, a common flashback hadn’t been to Outbreak, Contagion, 28 Days Later, or any other horror/disaster movie, but an almost universal recall of Monsters Inc.

Meanwhile, taking in Jimmy Macs, high, wide, handsome, no doubt expensive and darkly impenetrable Oakley shades, Taffy Steve wondered if we really did face a danger of snow blindness today. 

Fiddling with his rear wheel, mudguard, tyre, or whatever, Richard of Flanders wanted to borrow a spanner. I usually carry a small adjustable spanner to use on my mudguards, but they’d been behaving recently so I had left it at home. G-Dawg fished out the mighty spanner he uses for his fixie wheel nuts, but this was, not surprisingly, too big (although I’m still not sure exactly what it was needed for).

Richard then unfolded and disassembled a chunky, bike multi-tool, looking in vain for a simple spanner amongst its perplexing array of different and exotic options. He pulled up a slender cylinder, with a hexagonal-shaped bore.

“Does anyone know what this is for?” he demanded, looking somewhat perplexed.

“Is it no’ used to remove staines from horses hooves?” I wondered, channelling Billy Conolly describing a Swiss Army Knife.

“Maybe some kind of spoke spanner?” the Colossus opined and he probably had the right of it.

“It could also double as a radiator key, though” I added, somewhat unhelpfully.

Taffy Steve declared it was Garmin Muppet Time, cutting through the Garrulous Kid’s whine that his gloves were “too fin” – (I don’t know if they were made from sharkskin, or dolphin, but whatever material they were made from, I can attest that it’s not inflammable).

Heeding the siren-call, we broke our huddle, pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


Despite the weather, Biden Fecht was in mighty fine fettle and intent on cementing his position as group troubadour in the absence of Crazy Legs. Throughout the day he would keep us entertained with an eclectic selection of songs, starting with the Skids, “Into the Valley” as we dropped down into the latest snow storm.

This progressed through ABC’s “Poison Arrow” – bizarrely directed at a fellow riders ailing bottom-bracket and culminated in the Spinners “Working My way Back to You” complete with attendant dance routine.

My sole contribution was Cabaret Voltaire’s “This is Entertainment. This is Fun.” Was it? I’m not so sure.


March TWO


After Taffy Steve, the next to go was OGL, fingers so frozen he said he was struggling to grip the bars and decided discretion was the better part of valour, turning off early.

The Garrulous Kid also talked about leaving at this point, but was persuaded to come with the rest of us, I think mainly when we pointed out the café wouldn’t be open for another half an hour or so, and hanging around outside in the cold would actually be worse than riding.

He and the Slow Drinker both did a fine job miming Peruvian Pan pipe players, blowing hard across their fingers, but failing to produce a tune of any note.

We dropped down Middleton Bank in a flurry of wind-driven snow and found ourselves closing in a large, dark, shadowed mass on the road ahead.

“What the hell’s that?” the Garrulous Kid wondered.

“A tank,” I declared assuredly.

It turns out it was a tractor, cunningly loaded with hay bales with one isolated and sticking up in the middle of the pile to resemble a turret. Given the conditions, it was a deception good enough to fool long-range reconnaissance, or they myopic frailties of an ageing cyclist.

At one point we became engulfed in a snowstorm so bad that I suggested we load the Garrulous Kid up with everyone’s Garmins, send  him off into the wilds like Captain Oates and then we could all retire early to the café, leaving him to bolster our Strava numbers when he returned. The Colossus gave this serious consideration, before deciding the Garrulous Kid couldn’t be trusted to maintain an acceptable average speed, otherwise it would have been a sound idea.


March ONE


If last week my Garmin robbed me of climbing metres, this week I think it was adding them back in – or perhaps I really did manage over 1,500 on the day. That and the weather might explain why I was so utterly exhausted. On the final loop around Capheaton, I did a short stint on the front and burned up whatever scant reserves of energy I still had left. I was done.

On the last sharp incline before the road down to the Snake Bends, I was unceremoniously blown out the back and left to find my own plodding way to the cafe. Even worse, once I turned I found myself heading directly into a ferocious headwind and it became a real grind – it was so strong that at times it forced me out of the saddle, just to try and keep some momentum. It was horrid.

At the junction I turned right to head straight down the main road. Meanwhile the front group had darted down Bomb Alley, where (unsurprisingly) a pot and a pinch puncture held them up. Somehow, someway, against all the odds, I actually made it to the cafe ahead of them.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Inside we found a slowly thawing OGL, who entertained us with tales of his latest bike maintenance job, for a man who’d assembled his own bike and managed to put the handlebars on upside down and the brake levers back to front, inside out and the wrong way round.

After sorting everything out, OGL had sent the hapless punter off with a flea in his ear about getting paid professionals to assemble the next bike he bought.

“I bet he found it unrideable, once you’d put everything back the right way round,” I suggested.

“He probably got on and crashed straight into a wall,” Biden Fecht added.

I can’t help thinking either of these pay-offs would have been a much better ending to the story, but it wasn’t to be.

We then descended into word madness when the Garrulous Kid asked Biden Fecht to sum up the morning ride in just one word. Biden Fecht proffered “barmy” – or, at least that’s what I think he had in mind – he couldn’t possibly have meant balmy, could he?

The Garrulous Kid then wondered if the green in Biden Fechts winter jacket was “illuminous.” Biden Fecht demanded to know if the Garrulous Kid was a secret member of the Illuminati, but the Kid didn’t even flinch as the comment wooshed past over his head.

(Interestingly, I typed out illuminous and the MS Word spell-checker didn’t respond with the dreaded wiggly red line. Huh? Were we wrong and the Garrulous Kid correct? I naturally Googled “illuminous” and the Urban Dictionary proffered: “Luminous colours which are particularly bright and garish, resulting in mild nausea for the observer” – which I thought was quite clever. My favourite though was a smart-arse response on Quora:

Q. What’s the difference between illuminous and luminous?

A. Luminous is a word, which means filled with light, shining. Illuminous is not a word.

Apparently though illuminous was once a word, but was declared obsolete by 1913. I’ll call that one a score draw, but it beats me how a word can become obsolete? Fall out of use yes, but you can’t uninvent things, can you? Hold up, is uninvent even a word?

[Hang on … I’ll be back once this pull of madness recedes.]

Our chatter was then cut short as one of the waitresses dashed over and plucked the Garrulous Kids smouldering gloves off the stove. Smoking, red hot and stinking like a singed dog, the gloves were sharply deposited in front of their owner, just as fin as they were previously, but now scorched and brittle too.

I declared the weather was forecast to be even worse tomorrow and learned that Biden Fecht was scheduled to travel up to Aberdeen through the worst of it. I wondered if he’d leave us with a final song to remember him by and tried to test him by asking for one about the fine Scottish city that was his destination.

Rising to the challenge, he dug out the “Aberdeen Blues” – raw, plangent, primitive Delta Blues from Booker White. While applauding, I challenged the choice, suggesting it wasn’t really about the Granite City at all, “but Aberdeen, Kansas or Kentucky or some such.” (I was close, it’s Aberdeen, Mississippi).

Aberdeen is my home,

But the mens don’t want me around,

Aberdeen is my home,

But the mens don’t want me around,

They know I’ll take these women,

An take them outta town…

Booker White – Aberdeen Mississippi Blues


Out we went, into the wind, the snow, the hail and the cold and off we set. I hung in there, struggling and still tired, hoping the speed didn’t increase too much.

We surfed through a road spanning puddle of icy water.

“Water, water, everywhere,” Biden Fecht intoned.

“Nor any drop to drink.” I concluded, as we engaged in a strange call-and-response rendition of Coleridge’s most famous poem.

“Great big, dirty puddle!” G-Dawg warned.

“Huh, I don’t remember that line,” Biden Fecht exclaimed.

“It was probably one of the discarded stanzas, you’ll have to wait for the Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner – Redux for that one.” I told him.

That was pretty much my last interaction with the group. As they turned left into the headwind, I swung right for a shorter route back home, through Ponteland and looping across the top of the airport, happy to drop back to my own, plodding pace.

At one point the cloud fractured to reveal a deep blue sky overhead, even as the snow came swirling down around me in big fat flakes. I was riding in my own snow globe!

Passing the airport, the overbearing stink of jet fuel made breathing almost unbearable. It seemed appropriate as I was running on fumes anyway. I tried to think of quicker, easier routes home, but drew a blank, so just pressed on.

The grind up past the golf course was helpfully impelled by a kind tailwind, but once down and across the river I was battling head-on into the Arctic gusts and taking a beating from the hail being flung directly in my face. At this point by I decided the river valley wasn’t acting as a wind tunnel, but a giant blunderbuss, loaded with hail like grapeshot – and I was right in the line of fire.

I don’t think I’ve ever crawled up the Heinous Hill quite so slowly, most of it out of the saddle to try and keep the legs turning at a reasonable pace. A ride so hard – even my hair was tired.


YTD Totals: 1,535 km / 954 miles with 17,825 metres of climbing

Can’t Bring Me Down

Can’t Bring Me Down

Club Run, Saturday 11th March, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  103 km / 64 miles with 986 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 12 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.5 km/h

Group size:                                         28 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    12°C

Weather in a word or two:          Pleasantly cool with late showers


ride profile 11 March
Ride Profile

The Ride:

An extended period of warmer, dry weather saw a shuffling of the hierarchy in the Sur La Jante stable … or to be more accurate and less prosaic … the dingy, old bike shed. As a result, the ratbag mountain bike was relegated to the very darkest recesses, where it will sit and moulder until I can work up some enthusiasm for spending time and money on its sorry old carcase, or until the return of winter weather sees it dragged once more, limping and disabled into reluctant use.

To be honest it needs some real TLC as its slowly disintegrating round me. It’s already lost 70% of its functionality now, with only 8 of the original 27 gears in working order. The headset rattles like a bag of drop-forged spanners, while the 1½ functioning brakes have been possessed by a shrill and malevolent banshee. This evil spirit emits occasional and erratic blood-curdling screeches, like a rabid, feral cat being slowly dipped in boiling water.

Tucked in beside the MTB, the Pug got a good clean, wax and oil, before being prescribed bed-rest and set on reserve for emergency purposes only. Hopefully I won’t have to think about it again until at least October, when I have plans to upgrade most of the groupset from an awkward blend of Tiagra and Sora, to a more refined Shimano 105.

Out from its hiding place, the single-speed Trek has been shod with a new set of (Vittoria, naturally) tyres and last week it once again became the commuting bike of choice. And … from the other side of the shed … from its specially reserved space of splendid isolation, rising like lions after slumber, the Holdsworth has once again been unchained and unleashed.

The decision has been made and will not be retracted, best bikes are being broken out up and down the country and there is to be no turning back. Even the threat of rain showers later on Saturday wasn’t going to change anything.

Friday night saw me then, prepping my old friend Reg for Saturday’s ride, his first outing of the year. I’ve some new tyres (with added graphene!) to slap on at some point, but to be honest last years Corsa’s still looked to have plenty of life left in them, so that particular change can wait a while.

Saturday morning saw me dropping down the Heinous Hill faster and more assured than I had at any other time this year, revelling in pure speed, how the bike felt solidly planted and the turbo-charged tick-tick-ticking of the freewheel. I’d forgotten just how much fun this cycling lark could be.

Everything just seemed tighter and more refined, the brakes bit immediately and effectively, while gear changes were crisp and flowed smoothly. The transition was relatively smooth too, as I only once found myself reaching for a non-existent thumb-shifter.

Pushing out onto along the valley floor, the verges were scattered with the bright orange,yellow, purple and white studs of budding young tulips. It certainly feels like spring is just around the corner and it was beginning to look that way too.

A brief halt at the traffic lights on the bridge gave me the chance to watch the rowing club warming up with a serious of half-hearted shuttle-runs. There were at least 40 of them, several crews were already out on the water and there’s yet another club on the far bank. When did rowing get so popular?

Back underway, I found myself once again negotiating a serious of roadworks and temporary traffic lights, but seeming to catch my urgent need to maintain forward motion, this time I seemed to hit every one at just the right time and blew through them without delay, arriving at our meeting point in good time and in good order.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

As I pulled up in a bright blaze of vile red, poisonous black and bilious yellow, G-Dawg solemnly informed us that OGL had already issued a doom-laden proclamation. Apparently we  would be engulfed by rain of biblical proportions should we dare to spurn the will of the weather gods and try riding anything but winter bikes today.

We all naturally assumed the worst and that Horner’s Theorem™ would apply anyway. This rule irrefutably proves a direct 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” try to include in our route.

Jimmy Mac looked to be the only one still out on his winter bike – apparently, his good wheels had been mysteriously detained in OGL’s workshop where they’d only gone for a quick service and tune up. I suspected this was just a ruse to ensure OGL wasn’t the only one out on his winter bike. Of course he announced they were now ready to pick up, but … oops … not in time for today’s ride.

We had an FNG in the shape of a new arrival to the North East, recently transplanted from his native Devon and looking for a good club to join. I’m not sure how he wound up with us…

An ex-racer, he would later find a kindred spirit in beZ and the pair would eventually leave us tootling, old guys and gals, to go try and rip each other’s legs off. In the meantime, he took the time to introduce himself to everyone, complete with a firm, manly handshake. A good first impression, though I’ll be hugely impressed if he can attach more than a handful of names to an array of too similar, anonymous looking, helmet encased, sunglasses wearing bike jockey’s.

Grover wheeled up for his first ride of the year, much like the budding tulips, a truly profound indication that spring is just around the corner. Recovering from our mild surprise and rubbing our eyes to make sure it wasn’t just a miradjee, someone wondered if Szell might be next up, although it was quickly agreed we’d have to wait another month or two before the emergence of this particularly exotic butterfly from its winter chrysalis.

There was a long and involved discussion about Jess Varnish and the state of our national cycling federation, apparently beleaguered amidst a sea of troubles. An expectedly myopic OGL wouldn’t have a word said against British Cycling, while Taffy Steve reasoned that if you employed a straight-talking, foul-mouthed, Australian bully for a coach, you should know exactly what you’re going to get. Meanwhile, Tom-Tom suggested bullying and sexism had no place within any professional institution, least of all the highly public, elite end of sport.

I didn’t have anything sensible to add to the discussion, but felt compelled to mention Jess Varnish was an obvious talent and she had a real good finish on her.

“Yes, satin semi-gloss.” Taffy Steve agreed, while the Prof just looked on befuddled and wondered what the hell we could possibly be talking about.

Our 9:15 Garmin Time start was somewhat delayed by OGL collecting club membership fees, which prompted the Prof to ponder what actually happened to the princely payments our president procured.

“You might as well take a big stick and go and stir up a hornets nest.” G-Dawg suggested in the shocked silence that followed the question.


A bumper pack of 28 lads and lasses were soon pushing off, clipping in and riding out in two long snaking lines.

I spent time sitting toward the back of the pack with Sneaky Pete as we rolled out, Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs shouldering the burden of the work on the front as we clambered out into the countryside via Berwick Hill.

Rotations off the front and a brief stop for a mechanical and then for the Prof to pee, saw the order change and I spent some time chatting with Grover (who was definitely not enjoying his first ride since November) and then the BFG.

At some point OGL led us out briefly out onto the A696, two lanes of screaming death metal, notorious for speeding and dodgy over-taking manouvres. We all got stacked up at a junction waiting to cross against the fast moving, high volume traffic heading north on what is, after all a major route up to Scotland. We stood there far too long, all crowded together and feeling vulnerable to anything travelling south with too much pace or not enough attention, before managing to effect an exit.

“Great,” Taffy Steve quipped, “Looks like Punishment Ride Number 8.”

That’s what you get for riding your best bike without permission, but the weather had been so fine for the past week that we failed to find any dodgy, dirty roads. Still, you can’t say we/he didn’t try.

At one point, I caught up with Keel, who is enduring life in a call-centre while he waits for his chosen industry to pick itself out of a slump to get his career back on track. He’s still plumbing the depths to try and find the lowest base level of human benevolence, empathy, compassion and understanding. This week’s candidate for Caller of the Year had excused their ignorance and rudeness by suggesting, “I can’t help it that I’m upper class and you’re working class.”


NOVATEK CAMERA


Next up was Cowin’ Bovril who revealed he’s planning a trip to the Alps with Carlton in June. Funny he should say that …

The road finally spat us out at the bottom of Middleton Bank, with Crazy Legs turning left, away from the climb for a slightly longer run to the café, simply because it’s a direction he’d never taken before. Just as he swung away, Sneaky Pete sneaked off after him, while I hesitated, before deciding not to follow.

Hitting the steepest ramps of the climb, I then found myself at the back and boxed in as the BFG drove a small group off the front. In giving chase, Tom-Tom opened up a small gap which I nipped through and I dropped onto his wheel as he passed a struggling Taffy Steve, caught in an unequal fight with both the slope and a rubbing tyre.

As the road straightened, I swung past Tom-Tom and dragged him across the gap to the front runners. Over the top, there was to be no regrouping after the climb this week,  both the BFG and Keel working hard to push the pace up on the front as we closed on the café. I drifted to the back of the group and followed the wheels as we swooped down through Milestone Woods and up the first and steepest of the rollers.

Here the BFG popped, swung over and was swept away. Half-way up the final climb, Keel also blew, G-Dawg, Jimmy Mac and Biden Fecht romped away to contest the sprint, while I tusselled wheel to wheel with the Prof for the minor places.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

G-Dawg and Crazy Legs have organised an off-road , mountain bike excursion around Kielder next Saturday. Sounds like fun, but I suspect any kind of route more challenging than a riverside path is likely to shake my mountain bike to destruction. Besides this, it’s much too soon after re-discovering the joy of riding the Holdsworth again, so I had to pass.

Completely independent of Carlton and Cowin’ Bovril, Crazy Legs has also arranged a trip to France,  where he’ll re-enact Hannibal’s epic journey across the Alps. Captain Black, Goose and me have all volunteered for the role of the elephants, reasoning we probably climb like enormous, lumpen pachyderms anyway.

We fly to Geneva on the weekend of the Cyclone, with the idea of driving to France and setting up a base camp within striking distance of Alpe d’Huez, the Galibier, Col de la Bonette, Col d’Izoard and all those other legendary climbs that cyclists can usually only dream of. That should keep us well occupied for 3 or 4 days.

We represent then … drum roll please … “The 4 Riders of the Alps Bucket-List”  – although my carefully pre-prepared blerg title, has been somewhat ruined as Crazy Legs’ brother-in-law, or aunties, uncles, nephew’s son, or some such distant relative  will also join us.

The BFG too, might venture out, if the timings coincide with his human phases of the moon and even the elusive, semi-legendary recluse, Hammer has threatened to join us, although I understand he’ll be flying out by private jet and will probably take up residence on his super-yacht in Monaco for the duration.

While there’s no contest in a choice between the Alps and the Cyclone, the trip does mean I’ll miss the annual slug fest around Northumberland for the first time since 2010.   This not only breaks a 6 year tradition, but means there’s a sportive-sized hole in my annual schedule, which the talk at Saturday suggested could be filled by a return to the Wooler Wheel. There seems to be a lot of club interest in the ride, which I haven’t done for a couple of years, so it’s definitely-maybe a possibility.

Captain Black also helpfully reminded me of the post-ride grub the organisers provide, which is, I have to admit a real incentive and could yet sway my decision.

Crazy Legs wandered up in his role of Hannibal to discuss trip arrangements, picked up Princess Fiona’s Oakley’s by mistake and made to wander away. Called to account, he did have the excuse that her prize, expensive Oakley’s were identical in absolutely every way to his knock-off, uber-cheap Fauxley’s. He placed both pairs side by side to prove his point, but luckily didn’t shuffle them around and ask us to pick out the genuine article.

The Prof exulted in his original Ray Ban X-Rays, which he felt were old enough to be seen as not only a true classic, but apparently wholly original and positively vintage.

“And you’ve only ever had to replace the lenses 13 times and the frames 6 times.” Captain Black quipped.

With OGL dithering over another coffee, most of us were done and dusted and so we split the group and left.


On the way back I was chatting to Taffy Steve about local sports “heroes” – inevitably ours are cerebrally-challenged ex-footballers of dubious abilities, who manage to get continuous media work despite relying on the most mundane prognostications, unedifying insight and some truly banal cliché’s.

I told him how one famous son of Tyneside had rang the University demanding a place for his daughter and, on being told her qualifications simply weren’t good enough, had actually resorted to the cheesy old, “Do you not know who I am?”

(Of course, I always enjoyed the (probably) apocryphal story of the outraged airline passenger who used the same, “Do you have any idea who I am?” line, only for the ticket agent to fire up the public address and loudly announce, “We have a passenger here who can’t remember who he is. If anyone can help him, please come to gate 17.”)

I also had a laugh at Chris Waddle who it seems has singularly failed to master the word “penalty.”

“That’s a stone-wall pelanty!” he’ll shout excitedly down the radio, while I shake my head and sigh. No Chris, it’s not.

“That is good though,” Taffy Steve mused, “He can’t pronounce penalties and he can’t take them either.” Ooph!

As we made our way down Berwick Hill, the driver of a large white panel van we’d obviously delayed on his massively important journey for the briefest of nano-seconds, decided we didn’t have any right to be on the road. To make his point he decided it would be a good idea to overtake, pull sharply in front of us and then execute an exemplary emergency stop, in the hope that we would all pile into the back of his van and die in a horrible, mangled heap.

Sadly for him, our brakes and reflexes were more than adequate to cope with this utterly ridiculous and dangerous stunt and we all stopped admirably and without incident, albeit there was a fair bit of shouting.

Taffy Steve pulled up alongside the open window of the still rocking van to calmly inform the moronic driver that he’d been a very naughty man indeed and suggested we had 20 witnesses to a very clear case of dangerous driving, before riding nonchalantly away. These pronouncements seemed to leave the loon gibbering, spluttering and chittering incoherently in outraged apoplexy, while we all filed past and continued our ride. Complete and utter arse hat.

Exiting the Mad Mile, I latched onto the BFG’s wheel as his new lair lies a little way along my route home and so I enjoyed a bit of company for the first quarter of a mile or so. Then I was off, riding solo and still thoroughly enjoying myself.

Crossing the river, I was approaching a supermarket entrance, and noticed a car with Probationary driver plates waiting to pull out onto the road, piloted by a young, female. Feeling sure she’d noticed the vulnerable cyclist, or at least the line of cars stacked closely on my rear wheel, I gave it no further thought, until she pulled out directly in front of me.

I had no choice but to swerve into the opposite lane, which was thankfully empty, while wildly gesticulating with a universal “WTF” waving of my arms, which she studiously ignored. I passed down the left-hand side of the car as she slowed to turn immediately right, banging on the side-panel to try and get her attention and at least have her acknowledge I existed. Eyes fixed very firmly straight-ahead, there wasn’t even a flicker that she’d done something irrefutably stupid and wrong, before she turned the wheel and drove blithely away.

Y’gads, they’re everywhere! But, despite it all, malicious, ignorant or simply inattentive, asinine drivers failed to puncture my good mood. I can’t wait for next weekend and the chance to do it all again.


YTD Totals: 1,228 km / 763 miles with 13,060 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.


 

profile 5 march
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.


 

group
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