Rama-Llama-Ding-Dong, or Phil-Gil-Hill

Rama-Llama-Ding-Dong, or Phil-Gil-Hill

For this week’s weather read last week’s, but add a couple of degrees here and there, and for this week’s variable temperature layering-strategy also read last week’s, only this time around the arm warmers even came off.

Given it was a Bank Holiday weekend and the sun was out I was expecting a much bigger turnout than we had, but maybe people were keeping their powder dry for Sunday and Monday, although riding Sunday was complicated by the Sloan Trophy road race at which many in the club had volunteered to help marshall.

We had a new rider join us, instantly dubbed as rich and posh by Crazy Legs when he admitted to doing a fair amount of riding on Peloton. We also tried to get two women to join our serried ranks too, but I’m not sure we were all that successful.

It all started when one of them arrived having, I guess, planned to meet her friend at our meeting place and at our meeting time, without realising that it was our meeting place and our meeting time. Slightly perturbed to find so many cyclists openly loitering there already, she separated herself from the herd by ducking under the eaves of the multi-storey car park to wait. Her friend then arrived and spent several moments trying to pick her mate out from amongst all the lycra-clad bodies and bikes, seemingly without success. To be fair, one lycra-clad and helmeted idiot looks much the same as any other.

“Caroline! Caroline!” the first one called from within the car park, although she wasn’t having much success attracting the attention of her friend.

“Caroline! Caroline!” about a dozen of us echoed, I’d like to think helpfully …

We managed to attract Caroline’s attention and direct her to her mate so the pair were finally reunited.

Aether invited them to tag along with us, which seemed sensible as we could always do with some new blood and a few more female members would be a boon too. He suggested they could always drop off the back if the pace was too high or too slow and they weren’t enjoying it.

“How fast do you normally ride, anyway?” Crazy Legs queried, just to be on the safe side.

“Around 16mph,” he was told.

“Woah, that’s way too fast for us!” OGL interjected jokingly, but actually, it sounded about ideal.

Still, they said they had other plans, but would consider joining us on some other, unspecified Saturday. We’ll see.

As we waited for Carlton to arrive and signal that it was exactly 9:15 and time to leave, two Muckle Cycling Club riders swooshed past, totally ignoring us mere mortals. From somewhere deep, deep in my subconscious a song from my misspent youth percolated its way outwards and I gave it voice:

“We are the men of the M.C.C. – M.C.C. O.B.E.” I started.

“So serious we never stop to pee,” Crazy Legs helpfully supplied and we traded lines until we had composed at least an entire verse of an accomplished little ditty. When’s Eurovision again?

Buster briefed in the route, which included a sojourn into the Tyne Valley, though sadly not one that included a stop at Bywell, so no skipping off home early and it looked like I was in it for the long haul. (And it did prove quite a long one too.)

This week the front group was well populated – maybe the weather is emboldening us, and the third group looked almost too numerous to be practical, so I joined the second group led out by Crazy Legs and off we went.

Crazy Legs and Carlton took to the front and I dropped in alongside Biden Fecht for a bit of role reversal. His summer bike was behaving impeccably and running near silently, providing him the opportunity to look askance at Reg whose bottom bracket had taken to creaking and groaning miserably whenever I eased out of the saddle. I’ve no idea why he was moaning, I was the one doing all the work.

We had a brief chat about Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but even Biden Fecht couldn’t tell me if Phil Gil had got into trouble from his mam (Madame Gilbert, obvs) for writing his name 151 times on the road surface of la côte de la Redoute, or Phil Gil Hill as it’s likely to be renamed in this blerg. Even better was the fact that, in typical brotherly fashion, Philippe blamed his younger brother, Jérôme for this act of wanton vandalism.

Captain Black and Mini Miss took over on the front as we turned west, spotting a Bambi-like, spindly-legged, baby alpaca stuttering around in a field near Callerton.

“What’s a baby llama called?” Crazy Legs queried.

“Obama-llama?” I suggested covering my ignorance.

“Rama-Llama-Ding-Dong?” Crazy Legs didn’t know either.

[The right term for a baby llama, alpaca, vicuñas, or guanacos, is a cria. Something I’m now sure to instantly forget. I also have no idea what the difference is between a llama, alpaca, vicuñas, or guanacos … and no incentive to learn.]

Anyhoo, whatever it was called, it was kinda cute (in a stupid ass way).

We turned due west and started climbing on the Stamfordham Road and then a sharp left and we were heading south down toward the river. Captain Black and Mini Miss ceded the front.

“Are there only 6 of us?” Mini Miss wondered in surprise as she dropped back, but not half as far as she was expecting to.

Crazy Legs barked with laughter, “It’s good to know you’ve been following lead-rider protocol and always checking back on the group behind.” But yes our group was small (I prefer the term select). Was it something we’d said?

We dropped down into the river valley via Wylam and pushed along towards Corbridge, pausing at the Bywell bridge to shed a few layers as the day was warming up nicely. Talk turned to the unofficial (deep fake) club kit and the very snug-fitting, very grippy shorts, which are comfortable, but definitely take a bit of getting used to.

“They are,” Crazy Legs declared, “The only shorts I can’t pull on over my socks.”

I’m not sure that’s exactly a ringing endorsement…

We dawdled a bit more, half expecting the 3rd group to catch us, but there was no sign of them as we made our way out to the bridge at Aydon to vault up and over the pesky A69.

From there it was a familiar route through to Matfen, the Quarry and on to Belsay for the cafe. There we found the 3rd group had already arrived. They’d obviously been influenced by Sneaky Pete and had sneakily cut out the drop into the Tyne Valley for a shorter ride and a bit of cafe queue-jumping.

The weather was pleasant enough for us to decamp to the garden to enjoy our coffee and cake. Crazy Legs started talking about his classic La Doyenne T-shirt celebrating the 1999 Liège-Bastogne-Liège win of Frank Vandenbroucke, although none of us could remember his name. Still, if you were listening carefully and following along you would have learned that Crazy Legs had acquired the T-shirt, quite by chance, on a random visit to a supermarket in Belgium.

An old-new-guy, or new-old-guy, or perhaps something in-between guy, obviously wasn’t listening carefully or following along and wanted to know how we’d suddenly jumped from the oldest of the Classic Monuments into a Belgian supermarket chain.

Crazy Legs patiently explained the journey, but warned the guy that if he wanted to ride with us regularly he’d have to get used to completely random and disconnected conversational gymnastics, non-sequiturs and quite unabashed topic-hopping.

And then, just like that, we were talking about disk brakes on bikes and how not all the pro’s are fully in favour of them. I acknowledge that the next new bike I buy will undoubtedly have disk brakes, but it’s not something I’m actively looking for, unlike Crazy Legs, who wants them just so he can kamikaze even faster down Alpine descents without fear of overheating his rims and blowing out a tube.

I’m not a big bloke and never travel all that fast, so I’ve always found rim brakes perfectly adequate, although I do like the wheel longevity disks would afford. Cowin’ Bovril though was determined to convert me there and then.

“If you’re at the top of the Ventoux,” he began, “Daylight is fading, it’s raining cats and dogs and you have a howling tailwind, then you’d be much better off descending on a bike with disk brakes.

“That,” the new-old-old-new-maybe-in-between-guy observed, “Is one very specific set of circumstances.”

But, yes, yes I’m convinced. If I’m ever at the top of the Ventoux, when daylight is fading, it’s raining cats and dogs, there’s a howling tailwind and I have a choice of bikes, then I’ll definitely go for one with disk brakes.

There was a puncture shortly after we left the cafe, but enough of us dropped back that I felt I could safely press on for home without waiting or assisting. I caught up to the next group on the road and took to the front with Aether as we climbed Berwick Hill. He was complaining of tired legs but stayed with me on the front all the way until everyone swung away and left me to start my solo ride home.

The creaking from my bottom bracket wasn’t getting any better on the clamber up the Heinous Hill, so I took a detour to the Brassworks at Pedalling Squares to get a service booked in and return my climbing to some semblance of quiet – well, from the bike at least. I don’t think there’s any remedy for the heavy panting, grunting and groaning noises the rider produces.


Day & Date:Club ride, Saturday 23rd April 2022
Riding Time:4 hours 23 minutes
Riding Distance:113km/70 miles with 1,141m of climbing
Average Speed:25.9km/h
Group Size:21 riders, 1 FNG
Temperature:16℃
Weather in a word or two:Same old …
Year to date:1,561km/970 miles with 16,689m of climbing


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