Kinky Chain

Kinky Chain

Well, I guess we had to pay for the fine, fine weather last week. And we did. The altitudinous uplands of Whickham received more than a smattering of snow on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as winter bit back with a vengeance. Luckily the snow had all cleared by Saturday morning, though the temperature was still hovering around zero as I set out and the north side of the river was completely hidden behind an opaque veil of freezing fog.

Crazy Legs had devised a route taking in ascents of the Mur de Mitford and the Trench and with the ground likely to be wet and slick, especially for the former, it was time to dust down the Pug and lean on having a selection of gears to aid my crawl upwards with my weight plonked firmly over the back wheel.

The almost universal adoption of shorts last week had been temporarily abandoned and everyone was more or less wrapped up from head to toe, with the exception of G-Dawg who, striving to retain his Geordie-ness, had compromised with three-quarter length tights. It was cold, but the consensus was it wasn’t cold enough for lobster mitts – which I suspect for those in the know, may be a better and more accurate indication of the temperature without the need to resort to purely scientific measures.

Before the group assembled we had a brief chat with an FNG on a smart, white Orbea bike he’d recently bought, having given up waiting on Ribble who’d quoted no new bike availability until late September at the earliest!

Speaking of Ribble, one of the first to arrive was the Cow Ranger astride his Ribble, which once would have been recognised as a twin to Crazy Legs’ much cosseted and pampered velocipede, but had been press-ganged into service as a winter bike and was starting to show signs of neglect. Unfortunately, the RSPCR (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Ribble’s) has yet to be formed, so Crazy Legs had no outlet for his evident distress other than to keen loudly while covering up his eyes.

Sliding to a halt, the Cow Ranger lept off his bike and started fiddling with the rear mech, furiously spinning the cable stop barrel this way and that.

“Uh-oh! Adjusting your gears moments before a club ride never turns out well,” Crazy Legs remarked with incredible prescience.

“I just need a couple of gears to get me through the ride,” the Cow Ranger muttered.

“Well, you already have that, you can choose the big ring or the inner ring,” I suggested. Apparently unhelpfully.

The Cow Ranger jumped back onto his bike and took a test spin through the car park trailing a long litany of clanks and clunks, clangs and naughty swear words behind him. Skidding to a halt in front of us, he attacked the rear mech again.

“Can you remember what you did last time?” Crazy Legs asked out of curiosity.

“I think it was about 7 full turns clockwise then 6 anti-clockwise,” I volunteered. Again apparently unhelpfully – even though I swear it was a fairly accurate assessment.

Another test spin. Another test failure. The Cow Ranger stopped again, running a critical eye over his drive-train and muttering something about a “kinky chain” before admitting he was using an oddball and mongrel mix of Shimano and Campagnolo components that quite obviously really, really didn’t like each other.

Ever the Campagnolo champion (Campagnolo Campione, or maybe even Campagnolo Campionissimo?) Crazy Legs channelled his inner Joe Dolce and gave voice to the Italian components.

“Hey goombah! You gotta no respect? Whatta you think you do? You ‘spect me to work wit dees?” (Or something along these lines…)

Still, help was on the horizon as OGL appeared and predictably couldn’t resist his natural urge to become embroiled in any and all mechanical issues. Even his accumulated years of mechanical bike tinkering however didn’t seem to do the trick. The Cow Ranger took one last tour of the car park before riding off into the sunsetrise and home.

Well, that was entertaining.

Crazy Legs briefed in our route for the day, we split into two groups and the first bunch disappeared up the road.

“Let’s get rrrrready toooooo … err … trundle!” Taffy Steve announced in his best Wrestlemania voice and then we were away too.

I found myself riding along with Brassneck, who reported an ominous conversation with his daughter and Mrs. Brassneck, who’d both separately informed him that, life insurance being what it is, he was worth considerably more to them dead than alive. This had understandably seen a little bit of paranoia creeping into the unguarded recesses of his mind. He was beginning to wonder if all the encouragement he was getting to ride his bike wasn’t because it gave him pleasure, but simply because it was the most dangerous activity he indulged in (unless vinyl poisoning is a thing?)

It occurred to us that a club cyclist was probably the easiest of targets for an assassination attempt – our route and timings were published well beforehand and, let’s face it, no one would think twice about yet another road traffic accident where a cyclist is killed by a careless motorist who, even if caught red-handed, is unlikely to face much more than a cursory slap on the wrist.

His paranoia started to infect me too and I wondered if I shouldn’t find someone else to ride alongside in case I became collateral damage.

Other than this, things were going smoothly and we pushed onto the front as we turned up toward the Cheese Farm. We made it to Tranwell Woods before the bolt holding Brassneck’s front mudguard in place mysteriously worked loose and dropped out and he found himself riding with the constant tsk-tsk of tyre rubbing on guard.

We discussed if this was intentional sabotage, how far he was willing to ride with the constant irritating accompaniment of tyre rub and whether it was better to ride to destruction or stop and embroil everyone in more mechanical shenanigans. We eventually decided to stop and secure the mudguard in place with a cable tie. OGL would later realise we could have used a bolt from a bottle cage as a replacement – a good idea and handy tip should you ever find yourself in a similar situation, but with just our temporary fix to go on Brassneck turned for home.

“This all might be part of the plot against me,” he confided as he turned to go.

“Yes,” I agreed, “You’re vulnerable, alone and separated from the herd now. Good luck.”

He nodded once, stoically and was gone …

Crazy Legs determined we were well behind schedule having actively trundled our way up to this point and then spent so much time trying to get Brassneck up and running again, so decided we’d skip the Mur de Mitford and Trench to claw back some time. Maybe I hadn’t needed to ride the Peugeot after all – although we still had a reasonably sharp climb out of Mitford and then up Middleton Bank to contend with. Anyway, at least I’d given TripleD-El the opportunity to suggest I should turn my tricolour bar end plugs through 90° to celebrate my Dutch colleagues rather than the Pug’s French heritage. It seemed a reasonable request, but not one I was willing to attempt while riding along.

Down through Hartburn, it was the turn of Sneaky Pete’s mudguard to work loose, but luckily his had clip-in mounts and he was able to pop them back in and we got going again.

TripleD-El dropped her chain on the approach to Middleton Bank and our group got seriously split on the climb. I followed Zardoz over the crest and we joined up with Crazy Legs, Liam and the FNG as we decided not to wait but push on to the cafe. I followed in the wheels until the final hill and then tried to keep the pace high as I hit the front, but it didn’t seem all that effective and everyone zipped past to contest the sprint. If I’m not mistaken, Zardoz then snatched a hard-fought victory to commemorate his text-book lessons in canny riding, following the wheels and assiduously avoiding being in the wind on the front.

We were back to interminable queuing and glacial service at the cafe, but despite the congestion we caused, I was told we’d apparently been missed! (Or, for the cynical amongst you, our reckless spending on cakes and coffee had been missed.)

At the table, Crazy Legs was enthusing about the discovery of Shackleton’s ship, eerily preserved in almost perfect condition 3,000 metres down in the depths of the Weddell Sea after being caught and crushed in the pack ice. He also recommended the book about the expedition, South which describes the extreme cold and relentless hardships endured by the survivors – suffice to say that if any had been riding today, they’d almost certainly have turned up wearing shorts.

He could not, on the other hand, recommend the Geraint Thomas book, The World of Cycling According to G, which is apparently unbefitting of its subject, extremely bland and boring, with its most startling revelation being that (apparently) it tends to rain a lot in Wales. I’m not sure how you can make such a seemingly engaging person so grey and dull, so that’s certainly an achievement, if in no way commendable.

Speaking of grey, we learned that Goose is still toying with the idea of a new paint job for his beloved Boardman and thinks primer grey would be the ideal colour choice. Given his earlier plans to re-brand it as a Volvo that somehow seems fitting, if a little underwhelming.

The return ride proved uneventful and, despite a gathering of dark clouds, completed without getting rained on. That’ll do nicely and hopefully next week things will be a little bit warmer.


Day & Date:Club ride, Saturday 2nd April 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 16 minutes
Riding Distance:99km/66 miles with 964m of climbing
Average Speed:23.3km/h
Group Size:22 riders, 1 FNG
Temperature:1℃
Weather in a word or two:Cor blimey missus
Year to date:1.035km/643 miles with 10,808m of climbing

Photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash

Tales of the Unexpected

Tales of the Unexpected

Here we go again, one more Saturday, one more opportunity to bash the pedals around ceaslessly and see how tired I can make myself.

By the time I was threading my way around multiple lanes of parked cars, crews and the mob of blindly ambling spectators starting to assemble either side of the bridge, I realised there might just be some boatie-mcboatface, regatta-type-rowing-thingie imminent.

A little post-ride delving revealed I’d been in the midst of a British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) 4s and 8s competition that would run across both Saturday and Sunday. Perhaps, if I’d been more in tune with the sport, I could have lent some support to either my alma mater (if such a concept exists in the UK) and former employer, Northumbria University, or my current employer Newcastle University. As you might expect there’s a certain amount of rivalry and a bit of needle between the two, including some relatively amusing banter…

“Give me a C!”

“C-C”

“Give me a D!”

“D-D”

“Give me an E!”

“E-E”

“What have you got?”

“A place at Northumbria!”

At the meeting point, the relatively pleasant, dry, and refreshingly less windy weather had encouraged clubmates out in larger numbers than in recent weeks and, for some reason, around two dozen of us gathered in a loose circle with a wide-open space left in the, like a giant, nightmare and garishly coloured, fairy ring.

“Plenty room for some street-dance,” Crazy Legs encouraged me to “bust some moves” from where he sat, regally perched atop the wall. He was disappointed by my refusal to breakdance, but not yet discouraged.

“Tap dance, then?”

“Err … No.”

We decided “clogging” was probably more appropriate for someone teetering around in cleated cycling shoes.

“Clog dance, then?”

“No! Let it lie.”

I then learned, Brassneck has a significant birthday galloping toward him next week and has now reached that age where he’s due some extra special treatment and attention from the NHS – his very own, complimentary colonoscopy. The lucky, lucky chap.

OGL arrived and pushed his way into the centre of the circle.

“He’s going for it, he’s going to breakdance,” Crazy Legs announced sotto voce.

And then, wholly unnecessarily …

“He’s going to twerk!”

Aagh! There’s an image that’s going to take weeks to scrub from my imagination.

What actually happened was actually more remarkable than a lycra-clad septuagenarian twerking on a pavement in a suburb of Newcastle on a cold February morning, which actually isn’t as rare as you might think.

“I’ve booked a venue for a club EGM in 2 weeks’ time,” OGL announced. Mic drop. There was no further explanation.

There was though, a long, silent pause.

I looked at Crazy Legs.

Crazy Legs looked at me.

I shrugged. Bewildered.

He blinked slowly.

“I’m actually lost for words,” he declared.

Well, I guess there is a first time for everything.

“Don’t worry,” I reassured him, “It won’t last.”

And it didn’t. Aether stepped in to brief in the route for the ride and we grumbled and demurred and cajoled and extorted our way into three (more or less) equal groups, with the only rule of thumb that TripleD-El and TripleD-Be had to be separated. Then, off we went, each no doubt pondering why, after more than two decades of autocratic and anarchic rule, we were suddenly attempting to behave like a rational, normal and competently run cycling club.

I found myself in the third group, riding with Big Dunc and Sneaky Pete, (temporarily, perhaps) over an unpredictable bout of sciatica. We were bolstered by Aether, TripleD-El, Carlton, Teri TK, and Becker, our newly joined, trainee ironman, ironwoman, irongirl, ironwhatever. The route took in all the usual touch points, Kirkley Mill, Ogle, Belsay, Ingoe, Matfen, Stamfordham, but with the novelty of being in reverse order, so we’d actually be riding down the Quarry climb for a little bit of variety.

It was a ride where we kept passing stray members from the other groups, all stopped at the side of the road. Ion was the first of these, fixing a puncture just past Dinnington, while the entire rest of our first group waited around a bend in the road. I was quite impressed with how long it took for them to actually pass us again. We almost made it to Belsay before the catch was made.

Still, I thought things were going ok, until we reached Ryall village and took a left turn down toward Great Whittington. I know the route up this road, but can’t remember ever having ridden down it, or if I have it was with the benefit of gears. This is my excuse for not realising there was an unexpected and very nasty little hump midway. This is only 200 or 300 metres long, but has grades topping 20% and it managed to bring me to a gurning, grovelling and grinding crawl.

Oh well, at least it gave Carlton and Sneaky Pete the opportunity to question my sanity for not riding a “proper bike” and wonder about my masochistic intent.

En route to Stamfordham, we then passed Cowboys, alone and standing by the side of the road, fiddling with his phone and perhaps having to call for motor assistance. He waved us on as he was either ok, or he’d had a terminal mechanical and there was nothing we could do to help.

Just beyond a short dash up and off the somewhat dangerous A696, and not far from our cafe of choice for the day at Kirkley, we passed Ovis, also alone by the side of the road, having managed to slip everyone else to repair a puncture in splendid isolation and without a critical audience. (Note to self: I must ask him how he managed this impressive feat.)

It was near here, on an especially narrow lane, that we encountered a little grey-haired old lady, peering myopically over the steering wheel as she piloted a wallowing, silver BMW-7 Series right down the middle of the road.

She finally spotted the approaching bunch of cyclists but was obviously such a deep and unsettling shock that her brain seemed to freeze, while she continued to roll uncertainly straight toward us. I was just about to bail out into a ditch, when the car came to a dead halt, slap bang in the middle of the road, pretty much blocking the entire lane. Silly me, I shouldn’t have expected her to actually sully her tyres by pulling onto the grass verge to let us pass, that would have been disastrous.

Slowing almost to a standstill, I saw there was just barely enough room to carefully squeeze by down the right-hand side of the car, so that’s what we had to do, while she sat there, apparently paralysed. Hopefully, she could lip-read, but even if not, she probably managed to more or less divine just what I thought about her driving.

Free of this temporary roadblock and fast approaching the cafe, Big Dunc kicked up the speed and lined us out. I hung with the pace until it hit terminal single-speed velocity at around 36-37 kph, then it was just a case of trying to manage the gap and keep the front runners in sight as we closed rapidly on our (always richly deserved) cake and coffee.

So, back to Kirkley after a long, long absence and back to the interminable queuing. As we waited, Carlton and I reminisced about the good old days when we actually used to complain about the slow service at Belsay. Kirkley makes that operation look like a super-slick McDonald’s by comparison and after half an hour of fruitless delay, Carlton was all for boycotting the place for good.

As we waited a guy pulled up on a very smart-looking, Orbea e-bike. The bike he said had managed to keep him cycling well beyond the time when age and infirmity would have kept him grounded, but it hadn’t really solved his major difficulties getting on and off it – something he had to endure with far less grace than I’m sure he would have liked. Along with Big Dunc I saw an e-bike of my own in the not too distant future and I already have plans to spearhead the “Electric” division of the club.

Strangely, despite an almost pathological hatred of Kirkley, OGL keeps finding excuses for turning up and today was no exception. This visit was seemingly prompted by a need to tell everyone about forthcoming road closures near the route we’d taken today, while the council undertake some “culvert works.”

I declared my full support for this initiative, feeling fairly safe in my assertion that, “culvert’s are a protected species, aren’t they?”

“What did he have to say?” TripleD-El asked as he moved on to repeat what he’d just told us to the next group, “Whenever I see him, I can’t help just tuning out,” she confessed.

I assured her it was nothing important and then we were distracted by Aether and Becker finally rolling in. They’d been so long that we were almost at the front of the queue and were starting to get a bit anxious. Apparently, when the cafe madness had kicked off, Becker had ridden hard through a pothole and snake-bit both front and rear tyres, hence the protracted delay, with Aether the only one around to play the good Samaritan and help out. That was naughty of us and belated apologies are in order.

Finally served and sitting at the table, I asked TripleD-El what she was doing in the evening, two weeks on Monday. She looked at me quizzically.

“The club EGM?” I prompted.

“What? When was this announced?”

“Just this morning, I … oh, yeah, you tuned out?” I guessed.

She then wondered whether she could legitimately contribute to any discussion on the future direction of the club as she and TripleD-Be only have a few months left in the UK before returning to the Netherlands. Great news for them, sad for the rest of us. They’ll be missed.

My ride with the group ended a few hundred metres out of the cafe, when they all turned right, while I pressed on up through Ponteland already considering how many rowing fans I was going to have to avoid on the bridge as I made my way home.


Day & Date:Club ride, Saturday 26th February 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 41 minutes
Riding Distance:107km/66 miles with 976m of climbing
Average Speed:22.0km/h
Group Size:22 riders, 0 FNG’s
Temperature:11℃
Weather in a word or two:You know, it was all right
Year to date:586km/364 miles with 6,070m of climbing


Plague Diaries Week#61 – Sixes and Sevens

Plague Diaries Week#61 – Sixes and Sevens

A better day all round, cool but never cold and while mostly grey, the clouds had the good manners to hold back any actual rain. It would do, it was a far cry from last weeks meteorological thrashing and dry enough even for a white bike too, a decision which was vindicated when Crazy Legs arrived on the much cossetted Ribble.

It was also a day for the animals to show off their strange local, migratory patterns, a grey squirrel being the first to wander idly across my path, followed by cat, a hare and a weasel. Not all at the same time, I hasten to add, like some kind of grim prey-predator processional, but interspersed throughout the ride. All were welcome sights, but the same can’t be said for the stupid, suicidal pheasants, who’d obviously got bored waiting for cars on some of the quieter lanes in Northumberland and so seemed intent on committing seppuku by bicycle instead. That’ll get your adrenaline flowing every time.

Maybe I’m getting a bit faster, as yet again I was the earliest arrival at the meeting point and, indeed in time to catch the insurrectionists of the JPF gather before embarking on a cross-river pilgrimage to Slaley. The exotic spoils on the far side of the Tyne were even enough to tempt a few of our regulars to follow too, with Jimmy Mac, the Ticker and Biden Fecht hitching their wagons to the southbound train.

They disappeared up the road in one large, swarming group, but without Plumose Pappus and the Cow Ranger, who arrived moments later having just missed the caboose. We encouraged them to give chase, thinking it would be an easy task for them to catch up (I wouldn’t even have tired), They umhed and they aahed briefly, before deciding to give it a go and then the chase was on.

Our numbers were growing and starting to spread across the pavement when Crazy Legs glanced up, saw an inbound OGL and (purely coincidentally, I hasten to add) determined we had enough people to get a first group out and away. We bumped down the kerb and were off, our group of six morphing into seven when Buster joined, declaring he had to be home early, wasn’t doing the full ride and therefore he didn’t really count against our numbers. Okay, 6½ then. I pushed onto the front with Crazy Legs and we led out the rest, Buster, Aether, the Big Yin, James III and a recurring FNG.

The first thing we passed of note was Plumose Pappus and the Cow Ranger, pulled to the side of the rode and working furiously to repair a puncture that had seriously derailed their spirited pursuit within only a couple of hundred metres of its start. Even they were going to struggle to catch up with that southbound train now.

I learned that Crazy Legs had abandoned his holiday plans last week because one of the family came down with a bad case of kennel cough, and so he’d been out suffering in the rain with everyone else last Saturday. He concluded it was one of the worst experiences he’d had on a bike. (Still, I’m sure G-Dawg would agree, probably better than not going out at all, though.) Crazy Legs was also at pains to absolve himself of any wrongdoing with regard to the unfortunate Bumping Uglies incident with Aether a few weeks ago, swearing blind it wasn’t his brain fart that caused their moment of unexpected intimacy.

At the top of Bell’s Hill we paused for Buster and James III who needed an impromptu pee stop , evoking memories of the Prof and his unfeasibly small bladder. Crazy Legs then managed to embroil us in his travails with anomic aphasia by demanding to know if could think of any famous Dave’s from Cumbria. We all drew a blank, my suggestion that Melvyn Bragg’s middle name may have been David getting short shrift. In reality, we actually found it difficult to name any famous Cumbrian’s at all, and even Google could only suggest a less than stellar cast (ymmv, of course) consisting of Stan Laurel, Beatrix Potter, Ken Russell and William Wordsworth. Oh, and Postman Pat.

Crazy Legs then explained that he’d been calling the recurring FNG “Steve from Teesside” only to discover he’s actually called Dave and from Cumbria. Crazy Legs now felt he needed a handy mnemonic to help remember the right name, hence the odd request. I explained to the others that he did have form in this area, having confessed to asking Caracol multiple times what his name was until, on about the dozenth occasion, he was told it was “still Nick.” He then told us how Eric became “Not Anthony” after a bad case of mistaken identity. Crazy Legs then went on to suggest that the latter mistake was fully under control now, thanks to his uncle having lived the past 3-years with an adopted raven that just happened to be called Eric.

The Big Yin looked on, mouth agape, bewildered. “Am I still asleep? Am I dreaming this?” he asked no one in particular, “It’s so surreal, it must be a dream.”

Off we went again, still searching for famous Cumbrian’s called Dave and threading our way through multiple fields of violently-bright, painfully-yellow, flowering rape-seed that made me grateful I was wearing polarized lenses. I wonder what Wordsworth would have made of it, I mean this was someone who seemed totally overwhelmed by just a few paltry daffodils after all.

Up the slippery slope of the Mur du Mitford, we then took the route that Buster had proposed for his Altered Carbon ride, replete with the new stretches of silky smooth tarmac that had him so aroused. Strangely, at this point he abandoned us to head for home, driven, I suspect by a simple desire not to bespoil another pair of shorts.

At the last minute the Big Yin decided to “go with” and they both zigged while the rest of us zagged, then, just like that our group was down to just 5. The new tarmac down to Netherwhitton was undoubtedly lush, but there was a hell a lot of climbing to get to it and I was beginning to feel heavy-legged even before we had to scale the Trench.

Crazy Legs patiently explained to Dave-Steve, the FNG that there was a junction at the top of the Trench, the first left hand turn, where we’d all stop to regroup before following the road through to Dyke Neuk. With that, we began to climb, passing a bloke toiling upwards on a time-trial bike with an audibly rubbing brake. “As if this hill isn’t hard enough already,” I told him while he glowered at me for having the temerity to ride without any additional handicaps.

Nearing the top Dave-Steve put in a dig and gained one or two metres on Crazy Legs … and then just kept going, riding straight past the turn we needed to take. Crazy Legs and James III bellowed after him to stop (I didn’t have the breath to join in) but all to no avail and we watched Dave-Steve sail on, blissfully unaware, round the corner and disappear from sight, without once looking back.

We waited a good 5 minutes or so to see if he’d re-appear, while I queried if the Scottish border was closed, otherwise their was a danger he might just keep going. Dave-Steve had truly disappeared though, with no hint of a return and our 5 became 4. Off we went in our reduced numbers, passing through Ogle to take the seldom travelled route through Shilvington – still a novelty to me and adding a little extra distance to our ride To be honest though, I was already approaching 50 miles for the day, so didn’t feel it was strictly necessary, especially as we laboured up what Crazy Legs insisted was a false flat, but which looked (and felt) disconcertingly like a hill to me.

Still, it wasn’t long before we were turning into the café at Kirkley, utterly astonished by our good fortune to find … dan-dan-dah … no queue! We only just made it though as our other groups started to pile in shortly afterwards, having decided the Shilvington loop was a novelty they were happy to take a pass on.

I grabbed a bench and was joined by a bunch from one of the other groups, Captain Black, TripleD-El, Princess Fiona Mini Miss, Cowboys and Zardoz, the latter two causing a stir of slapstick confusion around the rightful ownership of a cheese scone. Cowboy’s fact of possession gave him nine-tenths of an advantage (ably reinforced by the fact that he’d already ingested half of the disputed baked good before its provenance became contentious).

Luckily all was resolved happily when a second scone finally appeared, but the incident seemed to have revealed a slight flaw in the café’s delivery system, with Zardoz confessing to once having picked up his freshly brewed cappuccino and downing half of it before he realised he was drinking someone else’s hot chocolate.

Chatting with TripleD-El, we learned that she hadn’t been able to return to the moederland since the start of the year, but was hoping to get back in the next couple of months. She was immeasurably happier with the news that Tom Dumoulin had announced a return to racing, as she felt he was the Netherland’s only legitimate shot at a medal in the men’s Olympic road cycling (unlike the women’s events, where they’ll probably fill all 3 medal places.) I confessed I didn’t care who won, as long as it wasn’t Greg Van Avermaet, so I could finally see the back of the tacky, tawdry gold helmet that has long overstayed its welcome. (It’s not that I have anything against Greg personally, I felt much the same way about Sammy Sánchez’s gold-themed Orbea and that I didn’t even have to suffer for 6 interminable years.)

TripleD-El went on to say how much she liked our new “not club” orange gilets. “Of course you do,” Zardoz chuckled, “Your Dutch, you’re predisposed to like anything orange.”

Talk turned to the possibility of larger ride groups, once lockdown rules are relaxed next week, when up to 30 are allowed to meet outdoors. While British Cycling had recommended a limit of 15 per ride during lockdown, we’d tried to keep more or less to 6 per group. Now, while no one could se a return to mass roll-out’s of 30 plus, the flexibility of being able to form into 6’s, or 8’s or 10’s will provide a little more welcome flexibility. Zardoz’s eyes lit up at the prospect of larger groups, as even the master of stealth has been finding it a little bit harder to avoid turns on the front in the smaller groups.

As if to put the theory to test, a large group of us left the café en masse to ride home together, with Zardoz safely tucked in, out of the wind amongst the wheels at the back. It looked like we were breaking the Rule of Six early, but we were (probably) still within the confines of British Cycling’s 15 man maximum. I don’t know if it was the novelty of seeing so many cyclists together after so long a time, or maybe some form of subtle intimidation by numbers, but unusually the cars along the narrow lane to the top of Berwick Hill all seemed happy to pull over so we could slide past.

As we started the climb pushed onto the front alongside Crazy Legs and lifted the pace a little. We were hoping for a rest on the subsequent downhill, but found ourselves riding into a strong headwind and had to keep pushing hard to maintain the speed, relinquishing the front as soon as we turned off toward Dinnington.

Mini Miss and Princess Fiona took over and kept the pace high, even increasing it and slapping on their game faces as they pulled everyone up to and past a lone female cyclists.

Past the airport, into the Mad Mile, the sun started to make itself felt and I was looking forward to a pleasant ride back across the river. Passing over the bridge I was surprised to find Plumose Pappus and the Cow Ranger approaching from the other direction. Not only had they lost the other group, it seems like they’d managed to lose themselves too.


Ride Distance:112km/70 miles with 1,140m of climbing
Riding Time:3 hours 57 minutes
Average Speed:23.1km/h
Group Size:7,5,4,14
Temperature:4℃
Weather in a word or two:Comfortable
Year to date:1,519km/944 miles with 16,095m of climbing
Photo by Kostiantyn Stupak on Pexels.com

Wooler-Wooler-Huh, Tell Me More, Tell Me More…

Wooler-Wooler-Huh, Tell Me More, Tell Me More…

The Wooler Wheel Classic, Saturday 7th October, 2017  

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  104 km / 65 miles with 1,451 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 10 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.9 km/h

Group size:                                         4 riders and 521 others

Temperature:                                    15°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and breezy


wooler
The Route

wwheel
Ride Profile


The Ride:

A Saturday morning with a difference found me up before the sun, wolfing down a quick breakfast and heading out into the still-dark for an hour long drive into north Northumberland to start the Wooler Wheel Classic sportive.

This was to be my third participation in the event, which this time around was confined to a 100km ride, rather than the early season Borderlands ride of over 170km or 107 miles. The Wooler Wheel events are usually low-key affairs, characterised by good routes and incredibly helpful, friendly and supremely well organised marshals. Combine this with what promised to be bright and dry, if chilly weather and the fantastic scenery of the Cheviots and it had all the promise of a great day out.

All of this, before I even mention the piece de resistance, the real kicker that makes the event almost unmissable – never mind the free T-shirt, but every rider is rewarded with a hot drink and lavish helping of pie and peas on completion. Pure, unalloyed genius.

A Gang of Four planned to meet up to tackle the ride together, Crazy Legs, Ovis, Richard of Flanders and me. As a consequence, the first order of the day was likely to prove the most onerous, locating my ride partners and getting everyone organised to set off at the same time.

As luck would have it, I joined up with a long stream of bike-carrying traffic on the way to the ride headquarters and was fairly certain I’d spotted a celeste Bianchi and a blue Orbea on a car upfront – Crazy Legs and Richard of Flanders travelling up together?

Instinct was correct and directed into a field to park, I found myself pulling up only one car removed from two-thirds of my group. Good start.

We went to sign on, trudging through the livestock pens of the cattle market, where numerous carbon steeds waited placidly to be auctioned for their riders to set them free. Crazy Legs looked around the bleak, basic shed, concrete ramps and gated pens. “It’s depressing, isn’t it?”

I agreed, it was far too easy to see them using it as a set from Sophie’s Choice or Schindler’s List (or Ark for the bibliophiles amongst us.)

We all signed on, collected our bikes, attached the event numbers and made our way toward the start, eagerly scanning the crowd for the distinctive blue and yellow of Ovis’s Rochdale Tri top as we went.


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A quick stop at the port-a-potties and then we stationed Richard of Flanders outside the main hall, Crazy Legs ducked inside to search for Ovis, while I rode around toward the start gate to see if he was loitering there. Our searches proved fruitless, so Crazy Legs dialled up Ovis on his mobile and we learned he was currently deeply engaged … in the crapper.

“Ah,” Richard of Flanders said, “I thought I heard someone thrashing around in the stall next to mine.”

We all turned our attention to the long line of port-a-potties and watched and waited, as each one disgorged at least one relieved cyclist, all apart from the one slap bang in the middle. Finally, the door swung open and a fellow that looked like Ovis staggered out into the fresh air, breathed deeply, saw our welcome committee and ambled across.

He was difficult to miss in a new, very bright high-viz waterproof, but it wasn’t the electric blue and acid yellow kit we were expecting. Much to Crazy Legs’ relief, he did unzip his jacket to reveal the stalwart Rochdale Tri kit lurking safely beneath.

Bikes were recovered and we made our way through the pens toward the start gate. I swung my leg over the bike, put my left foot on the pedal and pushed off. My foot slipped instantly off the pedal, I stumbled, the crank whirred around and cracked me in the right shin. Ouch.

I tried again. Same result and then again. I now had a large dint and corresponding bruise in my shin. It still smarts and I’ve been wearing one sock at half mast all week now.

Taking note of the slippery state of my cleats, a hangover of the damp grass, mud and assorted animal effluvia, I concentrated hard and very carefully tried again. With a satisfyingly loud click, pedal embraced cleat and we were off, riding through the timing gate to a cacophony of beeps like a short-circuiting answerphone.

Richard of Flanders kicked the conversation off in style, by suggesting that for the Christmas Jumper ride this year we should all wear smoking jackets, or smirking jackets if we are to continue to pay homage to Ashingternean speak in this blog blerg.

Crazy Legs however is nothing if not bang-up-to-date and countered that the more modern, discerning smoker would demand we wear vaping jackets, not smoking jackets. I’ve no idea what a vaping jacket looks like, but it sounds intriguing.

The first hill bit and Richard of Flanders, naturally in full Belgian team kit, slipped slowly off the back to tackle its incline at his own pace. The rest of us waited to regroup at the top, where Crazy Legs waved through other cyclists, declaring we were “waiting for our classics rider” – not all that happy on the hills, but essential later on in the ride for when the echelons formed in the crosswinds.

Indeed, the wind was to be our constant, nagging and awkward companion for much of the ride, although we were anticipating the last few kilometres at least to gift us with a tailwind – the only issue was getting to this point. Luckily Ovis was on a 3-Shredded Wheat day, or in his own understated words, “going quite well at the moment.”

On we went and I started counting the roadkill, but soon ran out of fingers and toes. I wonder what the death toll is for small furry critters on the roads of Northumberland? At one point, passing the seemingly unmarked, unsullied corpse of a grey squirrel, we debated the relative appeal of a Dead Squirrel Club and whether it would sound more interesting than Chris Boardman’s Secret Squirrel Club.

Another, “ah, poor furry animal” quickly turned to a “yeach” moment as a potential, fluffy squirrel-corpse turned out to be a rather large and fearsome dead rat. Then the highlight of the day as Crazy Legs spotted a dead frog, although it wasn’t quite up to the standards of the splattered, flattened and sun-blasted toad we’d seen on the road up the Col du Glandon.

Richard of Flanders kept himself distracted and us entertained with a series of Viz jokes and recollections and suggested we’d know when he was struggling as the constant flow of verbiage would slowly dry up.

As he started singing “Howay the Lads” in a non-regulation Geordie accent, Crazy Legs mused on what a strange group he found himself riding with – a Lancastrian, a Yorkshireman and someone who lives so far south of the river he’s practically a Mackem…

Another hill and climbing past a group of girls, one of them looked across at Crazy Legs and squealed, “Eee! That’s my bike.” For one moment I thought there was going to be a bit of a tussle over the provenance of a certain celeste Bianchi, but it soon became apparent she merely meant she had the same make and model and an unseemly catfight was avoided. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and we pressed on – I’m not sure it was a fight we could have won.

Yet another hill and a marshal guided us down a left turn and told us not to miss the lady with the jelly babies. Sure enough a couple of hundred yards further on and we found the lady with the jelly babies, holding out a large bowl that she proffered to each passing cyclist.

Like a pro in a feedzone, Crazy Legs swept passed, extended a long arm and grabbed up a few treats without stopping. I pulled up long enough to grab an ample fistful and thanked the Jelly Baby Lady for providing “the best part of the ride” – even though I knew it was a lie – jelly babies are good but pie is better.

I set off in pursuit of my comrades, somewhat hindered as I chewed my way through mouthfuls of jellied sweetness that made breathing just a little bit awkward.

Another turn and up onto Branxton Moor and we were climbing up past Flodden Field, the scene of a bloody skirmish in 1513 when a band of belligerent Scots accused an Englishman of stealing one of their classic Italian velocipedes … or some other, equally as heinous transgression.

Ovis suggested a contingent of archers had travelled all the way up from Rochdale for the bash, but confessed he didn’t know how they’d got there. I naturally suggested the Trans-Pennine Express, which was all that was necessary to set Crazy Legs away on a Kraftwerk inspired song cycle.

Luckily I heard him singing “we are the robots” just before he became engaged in some exaggerated, robotic-style arm-waving, otherwise I would have been swerving across the road trying to avoid some imaginary potholes I thought he was trying to point out in a really eccentric style.

More climbing, just for a change and we stopped at a road junction to regroup once again. Here a couple of riders from the Berwick Wheelers swept past, giving Ovis a long appraising look. Crazy Legs suggesting they were just checking out his Rochdale Tri jersey which bore a remarkable resemblance to their own livery.

Back together again, we caught and passed the two Berwick Wheelers, who sat on for a while, before deciding we were going too slow. One of them pulled out, overtook us and suddenly realised just how strong the headwind was, as his pace immediately dropped down to match ours. We naturally had no intention of looking a gift horse in the mouth and piled onto the shelter of his back wheel, happy to have someone to share the workload with.

The other Berwick Wheeler then joined his compadre on the front for a long stint, before ceding the front to Crazy Legs and Ovis again, as we continued in a long arc that would draw us back toward Wooler.

The cohesiveness of our impromptu group was ruptured on the next climb and then lost for good as I punctured on the descent. An audible Phztt…Phztt…Phztt announced a rapidly deflating front tyre, while sounding like a cartoon bomb rolling over and over on its fuse. We stopped and pulled over to make repairs.

Underway again, a long descent deposited us onto the Milfield Plain, where scores of ominous black carrion crows circled us cawing loudly and watching eagerly for any faltering cyclist to provide a quick meal. The seemed to particularly gather around Richard of Flanders, who’d gone ominously silent and was looking perhaps the most likely to give them what they were waiting for.

We were starting to close rapidly on the finish now though and Ovis was happy to announce only two more climbs. I could only remember one of these, where our route took us up onto a narrow track the curved past a farm, a short sharp and very brutal ramp that formed a real, late sting in the tail of the route.

I remembered the climb from the 107 mile Borderlands run as it had almost brought me to a grinding halt. This time the approach seemed different as we swung left onto the climb, whereas I’m sure we approached from the other direction on the longer route.

While the approach was different, the severity of the climb was the same and I chased my chain up the cassette and hauled myself out of the saddle to follow Ovis. The pitted road surface was invisible under a thick blanket of mud, which at least evened out some of the bumps. Luckily it was bone-dry, or traction would have been a real issue.

Nevertheless, the slope claimed its sacrificial victims, one being the rider just in front of us who came grinding to a halt with cramp in both legs and lamenting the fact that this hill always seems to defeat him. As we eased over the first of two ramps another rider approached from behind muttering to himself and swearing like a trooper with Tourette’s – “rugga-fumba-rumba-bashta-gronk!”

“Does it help?” I enquired.

“Yes, I think so,” he politely replied.

He then swung round the corner to the bottom of the next rise and with a full-blooded roar of “Baaastard!” attacked the slope full on. As he winched his way around the corner and out of sight, his voice trailed faintly back down to us, “It definitely helps …”

Ovis was right and there was one more hill of note, but it wasn’t as bad as anything that had gone before and we were now pushing on and eager to finish. A few more miles saw us all through the “Welcome to Wooler” sign and then we were swinging right into the Cattle Market and back over the timing gate to finish.

T-shirt collected (and almost instantly snaffled by Daughter#1 when I got home) and more importantly with “pie vouchers” clasped in sweaty hands, we made our way to the event canteen for our much anticipated reward.

The steak pie was great, the paper plates and pliable plastic forks not so good – perhaps we’ll carry our own cutlery next time? Crazy Legs even went with the healthy option and had mushy peas with his (one of his five a day) and everyone seemed to agree the meal really hit the spot.

There was then just time for a Gang of Four, group picture and we were packing up to head home. As ever the event remains one of my favourites and I’ve no doubt we’ll be back next year for one, or both of the Wooler Wheel rides.

Oh, did I mention the pie?


YTD Totals: 5,888 km / 3,658 miles with 67,189 metres of climbing

 

 

Go Long, Bullseye

Go Long, Bullseye

Club Run, Saturday 3rd June, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  116 km / 72 miles with 1,183 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 24 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.3 km/h

Group size:                                         40+ riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    23°C

Weather in a word or two:          Warm and bright


 

3 june
Ride Profile


The Ride:

A quick look out of the window, early Saturday morning showed bright blue skies and the trees utterly motionless in the still air. It looked like being a good one.

Outside it was still surprisingly chilly, but I was convinced it was going to warm up and my “just in case” arm warmers stayed firmly in my jersey pocket as I made my way to the meeting point.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Shoeless was one of the first to arrive for a very rare outing with the club. He explained it needed a precise alignment of weather, shift patterns, family commitments, lack of other “triathlony” type sporting events along with his own personal inclination and motivation for him to make a ride these days.

It was so hot that … oh, sorry, I’ve done that one haven’t I. Nevertheless, it was warm enough once again to encourage Szell in another general disrobing and the removal of unwarranted base layers. I think perhaps he’s developing an exhibitionist’s streak – he certainly seems incapable of finding a reliable weather forecast.

OGL turned up with a new seat clamp for Szell’s “fat lad’s bike” and fitted it while we waited. Now that’s service for you. Meanwhile Crazy Legs urged Szell to make a careful examination of OGL’s new, custom-painted Orbea as this is what he’s likely be inheriting in the near future.

The Orbea is supposed to be highlighted in club colours, but both shades of tangerine and green look a touch off to my untrained eye. To compound the issues, OGL was wearing a sample pair of customised shorts a new potential supplier had sent him to review. These too were meant to be in club colours, but they had been matched from nothing more than a photo on a web page and were also quite subtly, wrong. the colours yet again different from both the club jersey and the bike.

The overall effect was like a kids drawing  where they’d been forced to change pens halfway through and got bored with too precise colouring in.

Sneaky Peter sneaked up, back on his beloved, impeccably fixed and restored De Rosa. Where OGL showed us the perils of mismatching colours, the repair work on the De Rosa was so accomplished that not even G-Dawg’s hyper-critical eye (able to spot the difference between a 3mm and 2.5mm spoke at 30 paces) could find fault or discern where the cracked chainstay had been repaired.

Taffy Steve likened this to his own patch job on his favourite sunglasses, having snapped an arm off these while polishing the lenses the previous week, these too had been restored to fully functioning order by the liberal application of superglue.

He suggested there was little difference between the job done on his glasses and the De Rosa, while I suspected he’d used probably twenty times the amount of superglue for his small repair, which seemed functional and robust, but was perhaps lacking a little in artisanship.

Talk turned to football, with the Garrulous Kid announcing Germany would win the next World Cup and he was so confident he’d put money on it. If anyone wants to take him up on the offer, let me know and I’ll forward his details.

Ridiculed for suggesting Phillip Lham would be a driving force (he’s apparently retired) – Crazy Legs was unfazed and unbothered by the criticism and declared he’d be happy and content as long as Joachim Löw was still in charge of Germany, so he could once again entertain with his nose-picking, testicle-cupping, anus-fingering and hand-sniffing exploits.

This week’s route had been conceived, pre-published and would be led by Aether and with over 40 cyclists crowding the pavement, it’s never been so obvious we needed to split into at least two groups on the road. Aether outlined his plans for the ride and led the first group off.

Perhaps simply to sow a bit of confusion and discord, OGL wondered aloud who would lead the second group, but whatever point he was trying to make was lost when the Red Max instantly stepped up to the mark and volunteered.

As the first riders pulled away, Crazy Legs suggested a few of us hang back, so there were no complaints about the two groups being unbalanced or all the stronger riders disappearing up the road. He certainly needn’t have worried on the latter count as super-strong riders, Benedict and Den Haag were still behind and they set off at the head of the second group.


Three of us were delayed at the first set of lights and we were joined by a few latecomers as we started to slowly converge on the back of the second group. By the time we were negotiating Brunton Lane several groups of riders had all merged and our small group became a peloton in its own right.

One moment Szell had been riding with half a dozen others and the next he’d been surrounded by over 20 riders swooping around to form up behind him. “Bloody hell,”  he declared, “It’s just like Taras Bulba!” Cossacks Hourra! Hourra!

As we cleared the city traffic, Benedict and OGL became involved in a very intense conversation about the structure of the club runs and how best to organise them so no one felt left out, disadvantaged or held back.

This left Den Haag ploughing a lone furrow on the front of the group, so I moved up to slot in alongside him for a chat about the Giro, Dumoulin’s Dump (or defecategate as one Internet wag dubbed it) the Hammer series, time-trialling, cyclo-cross and other such things, all the while trying to keep half an ear on the increasingly animated conversation behind.

Through Dinnington and up past the Cheese Farm, OGL and Benedict kept at it, until the clamber up Bell’s Hill splintered the group apart and offered some respite for both parties. I’m still not sure anything was resolved.

I called a halt at the top of Bell’s Hill so we could regroup and also because we’d started to close in on the first group and needed to give them a bit more space.

“Is that the fast group, up ahead?” Facebook-postin’ carbon-stress-loadin’ Guiness-slurpin’ pie-chompin’ platter-spinnin’ real-ale-swilling curry-gobblin’ all-azione Thom-Thom suggested, tongue lodged firmly in his cheek and blatantly fishing with an apparently irresistable lump of bait.

“There is no fast group.” OGL snapped.

“Are you sure?” Thom-Thom asked, deliberately misunderstanding, “That looks like the fast group…”

Oh, dear. Moving swiftly on, we set off again and I had a chuckle with Taffy Steve as we first determined that if Bugs Bunny rode with the club he’d doubtless refer to the Kia Sportage as a Spore-tadjee and then compared OGL to Foghorn Leghorn.

The strangest sight of the day had to be a dog owner taking their small, very young puppy for “a walk” by dragging it on a lead behind his mountain bike. I couldn’t help thinking if he went too slow the excitable pup was going to wrap the lead around his forks, get caught under the knobbly tyres and bring him down, but if he went too fast he probably end up dragging the luckless pup behind him and wear its legs down to stubs. I’m not utterly convinced the kennel club or Canine Defence League would have approved of his training methods.


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A long looping descent dropped us off at the bottom of the Mur de Mitford and up we went, with Taffy Steve messing up his gear change and storming up it in the big ring, while I messed up in the opposite direction and ended up in the granny ring and twiddling my way to the top.

Again we regrouped and pressed on with Benedict and Den Haag re-united on the front and keeping the pace decidedly brisk as we closed in on Netherwhitton. We stopped here for some respite and to split the group, with half taking the left turn to track their way up the Trench, while the rest of us pressed on to Ritton Bank, still at speed.

Ritton Bank is one of the first real tests on the Cyclone route, but today we would take a sharp left just before its rather gnarly summit. Nonetheless it was a decent leg stretcher and strung us out into a long line.

Regrouping at the top we followed a twisting rolling road just below the top of the fells, flanked by dry stone walls that were lined with thoroughly disinterested and somnolent shaggy black cows. Crazy Legs gave them a rather desultory “Moo” while, riding up behind him, I unleashed my own imitation of a bovine greeting, which was apparently so realistic he visibly flinched and looked back in panic like a sweating fat lad tripping over his own feet on the Pamplona Bull Run.

Crazy Legs was so taken with my “cow call” he had me repeat it several times and then again to a visibly unimpressed Taffy Steve, who I think only responds to sheep. Luckily there were no locals around to wonder about the strange, randomly mooing cyclist riding down their road.

A long, screaming descent down into the Font Valley saw Benedict and Den Haag open up a gap at the front and then we were onto the Category 4 Rothley Lakes climb, 3kms at an average of 3% with the sharpest ramps of almost 13% at the bottom.

Working out of the saddle, I overhauled Taffy Steve and then Crazy Legs and as the slope eased, I plonked myself down, found a good rhythm and started to work my way upwards, managing to hold the distance on the front two and opening up a gap to those behind.

Topping out the Rothley Lakes climb led to 5km of mixed climbing and descending on rolling roads and the front pair started to pull ahead. Nonetheless I pressed on in solo pursuit, indulging in a rather grand bout of chasse patate and thoroughly enjoying myself. Twists and turns on the route conspired to keep my quarry out of sight through Scots Gap, but as they took the sharp turn for Middleton Bank I saw a flash of red that was Benedict’s jersey.

As I approached the climb I could see a long stream of riders disappearing over the crest, which included the notable, shocking-pink jersey beZ was wearing that morning. I reasoned Benedict and Den Haag must have caught and joined up with our first group and found I had something else to chase now.

Up Middleton Bank, I passed a labouring Richard of Flanders, detached from the front group and pushing on alone. I tried to give him some encouragement and thought he might be able to hold onto my wheel, but I’m not even certain he tried and I was off solo once again.

With the front group winding up for the final sprint, there was no way I was going to catch them now and reasoned the gap was going to grow. Sure enough, I caught only one or two further glimpses of the pack and it wasn’t long until they were well out of sight and my ride to the café was completed in splendid isolation.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

As I parked up the bike and made my away indoors, the BFG called me across. “Where did we drop you and how far off the back must you have been?” he asked, glancing at his watch.

Ha ha, everyone’s a comedian.

I tagged onto the back of the queue inside and was soon joined by Taffy Steve, Crazy Legs and the others as they arrived in in ones and twos.

The Garrulous Kid appeared to buy a can of Coke and to tell us of another epic failure of his cornering skills. This had seen him engaging, not for the first time, in a little cyclo-cross riding, off the road and up an embankment. He said that it had looked so dangerous someone had apparently called him a stunt rider.

I naturally suggested he may have misheard the actual comment, while Taffy Steve wanted to know if they might perhaps have included the word cunning in their appreciation of his off-piste skills.

Collecting his coffee and cake, Taffy Steve carefully made his way to the table outside on jelly legs, or what he perceptively described as baby giraffe legs, the special feeling you get after a hard, intensive effort on what had proven to be a fairly demanding route.

Later, Szell would make his way to the table, wobbly and stumbling like the town drunk.

“You see,” Taffy Steve declared, “Baby giraffe legs.” Couldn’t argue there.

Enjoying our relaxation and recovery in the sun and against all accepted protocol, we sneaked two refills of coffee, which caused the Garrulous Kid to declare, “I’m not allowed coffee.” while he bounced around the table like a chipmunk on speed.

“I’m not surprised, I can’t begin to imagine you loaded on caffeine,” I offered, looking pointedly at his Coke.

“Yeah,” he giggled madly, “I’m not supposed to have Coke either.”

Amped up like a toddler overdosing on E-numbers and a blood-boiling sugar rush, the Garrulous Kid returned to a recurring complaint, the fact he doesn’t like the particular moniker I’ve bestowed on him.

As before I listened patiently and then told him he had been given numerous name suggestions he could choose from, Crap Gob, Fresh Trim, Jar-Jar Binks, Zoolander or the Garrulous Kid. In fact, I’m not sure anyone in the club can claim more potential names, which I think is quite an achievement in so short a space of time.

Receiving very little sympathy and with his attention span stretched way beyond capacity, he bounded away to another table to repeat his complaint and in the process apparently admitted to hating his middle name too.

“What’s that then?” was the obvious question.

From all accounts – and I’ve gathered these from numerous independent witnesses and reliable sources – the answer that came back most closely sounded like “Helen.”

So, one more choice to add to his options, Crap Gob, Fresh Trim, Jar-Jar Binks, Zoolander, the Garrulous Kid or … Helen.

All good things must come to an end, so three coffees’ later and with our brief sojourn in the sunny garden coming to a close, we gathered together, formed up and rode out.


Riding along beside Zardoz, he nodded his head at the Red Max’s back pack and whispered conspiratorially, “Do you think there’s actually anything in there?”

I assured him it was like Felix the Cat’s magical bag of tricks and the Red Max would reach into it whenever he was in a fix. I could only begin to speculate to its precise contents, but had seen him pull tools such as pliers, spanners and screwdrivers from the bag, complete sets of clothing, rain jackets, spare bike components, chains, assorted nuts, bolts, screws and brake blocks, food, drink, snacks, gels, sun creams, spare specs, hats, socks, gloves, bike spares and repairs, inner tubes, tyre shoes, patches, gaffer tape, zip ties, chain links – the list was almost endless.

In fact, I suggested the only time Red Max’s bag of tricks had let him down was when someone snapped their gear hanger. Red Max didn’t have one and to his everlasting shame was mortified when OGL produced one out of his back-pocket. I’m fairly confident his bag also includes a spare gear hanger now.

Descending Berwick Hill and perhaps in appreciation of last weeks splenetic, Mr. Angry the cyclist, we had Mr. Angry, the splenetic RIM, over-taking at high speed and bellowing “Ride in single file!” out of the window. We all gave him our biggest, friendliest, cheeriest waves and I’m not certain, but I think G-Dawg may have even have blown him a kiss.

Moments later and another RIM in a massive 4×4  was cutting across into our lane to overtake a slower car and came powering straight at us. Thankfully he swooped back at the last instant, just before we started hurling ourselves off the road to escape the brain-dead moron.

Still even these incidents couldn’t sour what had been a good, long and testing ride over some less travelled routes and challenging climbs. I’d gone over 72 miles by the time I made it home, grinning from ear to ear and looking forward to doing it all again next week.


YTD Totals: 3,442 km / 2,139 miles with 37,377 metres of climbing

The Driller

The Driller

Club Run, Good Friday 14th April, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                66 km / 41 miles with 314 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         2 hours 21 minutes

Average Speed:                                27.9 km/h

Group size:                                        19 no FNG’s

Temperature:                                   12°C

Weather in a word or two:          Miserable


 

14 April
Ride Profile


The Ride:

With family commitments restricting cycling time, I negotiated a compromise, loaded the bike into the car and drove to the meeting point. This meant I could ride on day 1 of 4 possible club runs without being AWOL too long and make it home without being branded completely unreasonable and anti-social.

Day-release clutched tightly in hand, I joined 19 other hardy souls for an otherwise pleasant ride through a horrible and chilling, constant drizzle.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Szell continued his return from hibernation with another surprise appearance, but suggested he was out only because he’d seen OGL yesterday and been rather forcibly coerced into riding. Crazy Legs’ deductive reasoning, combined knowledge of OGL’s new bike with the fact that Szell had been the patsy of choice to buy OGL’s hand-me-downs on the past 2 or 3 occasions … and concluded we might be overhearing a bit of a hard sell and some haggling and horse-trading going on at the back of the group today.

While we waited for Our Glorious Leader to put in an appearance we amused ourselves remembering the period when he seemed to fall off with both startling regularity and for no apparent reason. Crazy Legs’s favourite moment was when OGL brought down another rider of, shall we say, generous proportions, who thumped down heavily right on top of him. Ooph!

OGL finally appeared (2 minutes past the deadline, not that anyone was counting). Apparently, he’s trying to take steps to reclaim the club forum from the hackers and is also intent on clearing up the whole club membership debacle. Small steps.


Off we set, out into the miserable sifting, drifting rain and eager for some work to try and warm up I took to the front with Crazy Legs for the first 15km or so. Dropping back, we slotted in behind Szell, who I found now had a small mirror attached to the end of his handlebars, alongside his watch, bike computer and heart rate monitor. I’m surprised he’s got anywhere left to put his hands.

I wondered if the the mirror was focussed solely on his own visage so he could strike heroic poses as he rode along, while Crazy Legs enquired if it also took selfies.

Szell said that he liked to periodically check in the mirror to see if there were other riders behind him and confessed every time he did this and saw he wasn’t last, he counted it as a small moral victory.

The weather continued to be cold, damp and miserable as we carefully negotiated our way around a series of horses and riders. I noticed one of them, a young girl, seemed to be wearing Kevlar body armour or a stab-vest. Perhaps ride-by shootings are becoming a problem out here in the Northumberland Badlands?

We also seemed to be beset at every turn by small, yapping dogs that would get hugely excited by our passage and would strain at the leash, yelping and snarling to try and get at us, until we whirred past and away.

So frequent and so universal was this reaction that I began to suspect one of our number was carrying sausages for a mid-ride snack. I checked back pockets, but the only strange thing I saw was Captain Black’s neatly folded rain jacket – and that was only strange because he seemed to have forgotten about it while he rode along getting slowly soaked to the skin.

We had a relatively sedate ride out to Stamfordham, where OGL and Szell split early for the café, perhaps deeply engrossed in a haggling over second-hand bike prices.  The Red Max took to the front and ramped the speed up from around 16mph to 19mph. Once happy with the pace he ceded the front to the Monkey Butler Boy and Jimmy Cornfeed and we pressed on for a loop around the Quarry.


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Top of the Quarry in the miserable conditions


Cresting the Quarry climb, I swung wide and slowed, checking everyone was back on before we started to wind it up for the café. With Mrs. Crazy Legs being away for the weekend, Crazy Legs was intending to ride every day out of the four, so professed to wanting a “fairly steady ride” to save himself for the next few days. As the pace ramped up on the run through to the café though, he was soon caught up in the moment and bouncing and jostling along with everyone else.

We hit the long, final straight down to the Snake Bends at high speed and I was quite happy to ease, sit up and spare myself the pounding over the horrible pitted and rough surface.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Captain Black revealed he was looking at some remedial dental work involving root canal that was likely to set him back over £600. Somewhat astonished at the cost, the Red Max offered a do-it-yourself option for just a crate of beer and suggested he had all the kit necessary for major endodontic interventions.

On further questioning this turned out to be: a 2mm diamond tipped drill bit, an 800w Black and Decker Percussion Hammer Drill, a couple of spare Co-codamol for pain management and – most importantly – two serviceable bike stands – one to clamp around the head to immobilise it, the other to hold the jaw open. Surprisingly the Captain didn’t seem all that interested in this unique money-saving idea.

We were interrupted by Max’s phone emitting that strange, honking ringtone that he uses – a sound I always associate with the horn on a clown car and always (and I do mean always) use as a cue to tell him it means that the Ringling Brothers are on the phone wanting their massive clown shoes back.

The Monkey Butler Boy explained that being a technophobe when it came to mobile phones and not knowing how to find and download things, this ringtone was the closest Max could get to the horn sound made by the Tour de France support cars; “le son du dindon” (according to the venerable Toshi-san).

He then went on to explain that whenever someone Facetimes Max, they end up getting a horrible, close up view inside his ear – hair, earwax and all as he hasn’t quite come to terms with how to answer video calls.

Crazy Legs gleefully brought our attention to the bull shark, found washed up in the middle of road in Queensland following Cyclone Debbie – proof, as he saw it, that one of his favourite movies, “Sharknado” is firmly rooted in fact and could actually happen at any time. Keep watching the skies!


As we filed out of the café, Captain Black shook out his jacket and slipped it on and, as if on cue, the rain magically stopped. Now all we had to do was persuade him to keep the jacket on all the way home and we’d get back without getting rained on again.

As we pressed on the distress from the Red Max’s and the Monkey Butler Boys’ chains became audibly discernible as the last vestiges of the dry lube they’d applied had now been fully washed away.

Perhaps this distress had actually started much earlier in the ride, but at a frequency only audible to dogs. This would explain the wild reactions from the yapping and yelping pooches we’d passed and, with luck and the liberal application of chain oil, tomorrow’s ride would prove far more peaceable.

With no solo ride home, I stayed with the group as the miles ticked quickly away and was soon at the car and heading home with plenty of time to spare.


YTD Totals: 1,949 km / 1,211 miles with 20,874 metres of climbing