Wet and Dry

Wet and Dry

 

Club Run, Saturday 7th April, 2018           

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  120 km / 75 miles with 1,053 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 25 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.5 km/h

Group size:                                         18 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    12°C

Weather in a word or two:          A game of two halves


 

7 april
Ride Profile

Supposedly away with the family on a holiday spanning two Saturday’s, we’d packed up and returned a night early, lured back by home comforts and (most especially) an efficient central heating and hot water system. As an added bonus, I got to join the regular club ride, planned by G-Dawg and taking us down the Tyne Valley for a route that, for me at least, promised to be a long one and ended up just shy of 75 miles.

First thing on Saturday morning and things looked promising too – gauzy tendrils of cloud webbed the sky, but in between were patches of pure blue and as I sped along the valley floor a bright sun threw long, sharp shadows ahead of me. The forecast was for showers later, but I didn’t quite believe it. I should have known better.

Off to my right as I crossed the bridge, the river was wreathed in a light morning mist that the sun lit with a pearlescent glow. It really was a beautiful, still morning and a promising start.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Having tortured, scorched and burned his old gloves into submission, the Garrulous Kid was sporting a new pair of migraine-inducing, intensely “illuminous” gloves. I wondered how long these would remain in pristine unmarked condition before being scorched and singed beyond recognition.

He reported he’d secured some work experience in a lab, prompting Caracol to wonder if he would be doing lab work, or would himself be the subject of some intensive lab-testing. We were all relieved to find the lab itself belonged to P&G and was not some mysterious, MOD, Porton Down-style centre for chemical and biological warfare, reasoning the Garrulous Kid’s propensity to do us major harm with domestic chemicals was probably quite limited.

For some reason I found Taffy Steve and the Colossus discussing Knight Rider, which the Colossus likened to the Berlin Wall, something he was aware of, but readily admitted he didn’t know a lot about. Taffy Steve liked the analogy, especially as in his mind the two would always be inextricably linked via David Hasselhoff.

This reminded me of my civic duty and I warned everyone not to go anywhere near the re-made, re-cycled, regurgitated “Baywatch” movie – something singularly lacking in even the slightest hint of style, wit, intelligence, humour, entertainment, merit or charm. 

OGL seemed fascinated by the ulra-low cut of Taffy Steve’s cycling shoes, which he said reminded him of some Shimano SPD cycling sandals he once owned. He warned us that, should we ever resort to such aggressively unstylish footwear (perish the thought) we should be careful not to get sunburned toes, which he revealed was not only very easy to do, but extremely painful.

I was massively surprised by this revelation, as I assumed anyone who would commit such a serious fashion-faux pas as wearing cycling sandals would almost certainly have doubled down on their crimes-against-style and paired them with sturdy and sensible socks.

G-Dawg outlined the route in precise detail, even as he admitted everyone probably stopped listening as soon as he got to Brunton Lane, the first of an extensive list of familiar waypoints he recounted. He acknowledged it was going to be a longer than usual ride (see, I told you) – but guaranteed we’d be back by 1 o’clock, otherwise he ran the risk of being emasculated by an irate Mrs. G-Dawg.

With that, we were away and 18 of us pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


The first surprise of the day was the Garrulous Kid immediately took to the front with G-Dawg. I knew he was up there because G-Dawg kept turning around to talk to the riders behind him, obviously needing an occasional injection of sane conversation as an antidote to the unceasing stream of nonsensical loggorhoea being poured into his left ear.

Meanwhile I slotted in beside Mini Miss, catching up on cycling holidays, sportives, vintage mountain bikes, Bianchi’s and Princess Fiona’s Ironman (Ironwoman? Ironprincess?) preparations.

As we changed things around, I learned of Rab Dee’s traditional Big Fat Greek Easter preparations and then found myself alongside Zardoz and chatting about the Classics. He said he’d been out a couple of weeks ago with a friend and mentioned how much he’d enjoyed watching such an exciting Tour of Flanders. The friend expressed disappointment at having inexplicably missed the race and implored Zardoz not to tell him the result.

“Well, Gilbert rode fantastically well,” Zardoz hinted darkly.

“What, like last year?” his companion wondered.

“Oh, well … yes, ahem … err, exactly like last year,” Zardoz huffed, as it finally dawned on him that what he’d actually been watching was a 2017 re-run on Eurosport, in anticipation of the actual, up-coming event.

“The funny thing was,” he admitted, “I’d sat down and watched the entire race the year before too!”

I had to admit to something similar, having recently cheered Michael Kwiatkowski onto a memorable second Strade Bianche win. It was only when the programme cut to the actual live event in progress, that I realised I too had been watching a re-run.

In my defence, I hadn’t managed to catch the race the year before, so I had no sense of deja vu. I’m still a bit chagrined at my mistake though – I really like Kwiatkowski as a rider – to my mind the perfect quicksilver rapier to counter the powerful, but dull bludgeoning of the likes of Sagan – and I was happy when he seemed to win again.

A first desultory rain shower briefly peppered us as we started the long drop into the valley, before a pleasant saunter alongside a very still, placid looking river and an energetic clamber back out again. As the Colossus determined, the Tyne Valley was about as low as we could possibly go, while the top of the Quarry is typically the highest point we can reach, so today’s route was always going to be climbing-heavy.


mmmm


Stopping to regroup a few times, we finally escaped the valley and we headed more or less due north to Matfen and points beyond. I was a little distanced waiting for a car to pass before making the turn onto the Quarry road and had a bit of a scramble to chase back on in time for the climb. We then swung to the right, having determined the more direct, left-hand route is just too potholed and broken up for general use.

As usual, the pace began to quicken at this point and shook us out into a long line. Amidst the accelerations, Zardoz apparently found time to challenge G-Dawg to an intermediate sprint, but then “accidentally” spilled a glove and had to drop back to retrieve it.

G-Dawg made to pull clear as we approached the crossroads and I drifted across to cover his back wheel in case he was crazy enough to try a long range attack from this far out. (Forsooth, it’s madness, I tell you!)

I nudged ahead as we swept through the junction, calling out “clear” in a voice hopefully loud enough for even the absent Crazy Legs (at home nursing a bad back) to hear.

I pressed on, through the narrow, twisting bends and down to the next junction jockeying for the lead with Aether.

We almost came to a standstill at this junction, before accelerating hard and leading the charge up the two or three, minor, but leg-numbing, strength-sapping ramps to the next one.  Slowing just enough to see and be able to declare the way clear, we barrelled onto the road leading down to the Snake Bends. Work done, I let the fast charging sprinters through, finding a knot of 7 or 8 of us had broken well clear of the rest.

I tagged onto the back and followed this group through the final sprint, before twisting around the Snake Bends and onto the main road. Unusually, there seemed to be an impetus to keep driving the pace all the way to the café and I surfed the wheels from back to front, dropping into the car park in second place from where a quick transition put me to the front of the queue. Result!


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Once seated, Captain Black nearly decapitated a shuffling pensioner when he pushed his chair back withoout looking and then somehow conspired with Biden Fecht to unleash a tsunami of coffee across the table top.

During mop up operations, G-Dawg revealed that Zardoz had challenged him to an “intermediate sprint” before dropping his glove and stopping to retrieve it. I wondered if this was his idea of literally “throwing down the gauntlet.”  I then decided his original intent had probably been to slap G-Dawg’s face with the glove in ritual challenge and he’d fumbled this tricky manoeuvre.

The Garrulous Kid asked for advice on whether he should attempt some cycling when he went off to Florida for a family holiday. Listing Cottonmouth’s and Copperheads, Alligators and Black Bears, Southern Black Widow’s and Brown Recluse spiders, crazed gun-toting fundamentalists, drug-cartels, myopic, superannuated pensioners barely able to see over the bonnet of their road-hogging, gas-guzzling pick-ups, trigger-happy highway patrolmen, monster trucks, crack gangs, the challenge of riding on the different side of the road through killer heat and humidity, storms, tornadoes and flooding, I suggested there was really no reason whatsoever for him not to ride at every given opportunity. What could possibly go wrong?

This discussion then prompted me to wonder if, in extremis, a snake could be fashioned into a substitute for a punctured inner tube.

The Colossus suggested there was probably a state by-law forbidding people from inflating snakes, while Captain Black saw potential in the idea but suggested they wouldn’t be able to hold much more than 120 psi. He added that with alligator’s you could probably get up around 130-140 psi, before adding, “but, everyone knows Gatorskins are tougher.”

“Ba-bum!”  G-Dawg concluded drolly.

Meanwhile, G-Dawg sought OGL’s advice about removing a seat pin that had seized in his titanium mountain bike. He admitted it wasn’t really an issue as he couldn’t imagine ever having a need to adjust his saddle height, but G-Dawg being G-Dawg, I suspected it was a canker that was slowly eating up his soul.

“Ream it!”  OGL replied, somewhat lasciviously. “Ream it with a big reamer!” while, along with Slow Drinker I dissolved into a fit of schoolboy sniggering, before wondering if Stormy Daniels hadn’t used that exact same phrase in describing her remarkably tasteless dalliance with a certain orange dotard.

We then endured yet another round of guess-which-universities the Garrulous Kid should apply to. I’m not sure why, but Exeter, Plymouth and Aberdeen seemed the most popular choices, although Biden Fecht visibly blanched at the latter suggestion.

Mindful that G-Dawg was possibly quite protective of his testicles, I sought permission for coffee refills. We seemed to have the time, although the Colossus wondered if they needed to prepare the well-versed “we had a puncture” card (again) in case we didn’t make it back as scheduled. I’m just guessing, but I think neither of them have any interest in seeing any further development of puncture-less, solid tyres.

“Anyone out tomorrow?” OGL enquired and his face fell when Captain Black stuck up a mitt. “I hope you stay off the front, then.”

That, I decided, is as much a compliment and a badge of honour as any of us are ever likely to receive.


It had started to rain as we sat in the café, blathering about nothing in particular and it would continue at various intensities all the way home. At least we’d enjoyed a dry morning, but I was pretty much soaked through by the time I reached the final roundabout.

On the solo portion of my ride back, I’d been entertained watching the beads of rain that would collect on my cap peak and roll backwards and forwards a few times before dripping down, but now was distracted by the unearthly shriek of disk brakes as another cyclist pulled up alongside me.

“It was dry when I left this morning,” I complained, after exchanging greetings with the equally wet and bedraggled looking rider.

“Oh, it was raining when I started,” he replied cheerfully, before weaving undaunted through the traffic and away, while I turned for one more assault of the Heinous Hill and a pressing and very welcome appointment with a hot shower.


YTD Totals: 1,960 km / 1,218 miles with 22,390 metres of climbing

 

 

Jimmy Mac Cracks

Jimmy Mac Cracks

Club Run, Saturday 15th April, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 114 km / 71 miles with 1,106 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                        4 hours 27 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.6 km/h

Group size:                                       28 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                   14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cold but dry


 

15 April
Ride Profile

The Ride:

Well, the good news was it wasn’t raining. The bad news? It was still just as cold as it had been the day before and the wind was much stronger and more noticeable. It would be a thankless task at the head of our group today.

Stopped at some traffic lights, I did find one character displeased that it wasn’t raining – a large grey gull stood drumming its feet frantically along the grass verge like a demented toddler having a tantrum, trying to fool whatever critters that lurked in the soil that it was raining heavily and they needed to surface immediately to enjoy the shower. Sadly, I had to leave before finding out if his efforts were worthwhile.

Crossing the bridge and riding back along the other side of the river, I caught movement on the opposite bank, which my brain instantly translated into a fellow cyclist in a white helmet, keeping perfect pace with me. Then, his helmeted head suddenly came right off and seemed to fly into the air! My WTF moment passed as I realised what I’d actually been watching were two gulls flying in tight formation and it was only my febrile brain that had inexpertly filled in the blanks to translate them into a cyclist. Should have gone to Specsavers.

I managed to make it safely to the meeting point without further random hallucinations, but I was wholly unprepared for the horrors that awaited me there…


Main topics of conversation at the start:

I had a chat about graphene in tyres, World Championship cycling, yesterdays ride and the upcoming Amstel Gold Race, but to be honest the only thing I really remember were the Garrulous Kids most remarkable socks.

They were long, they were thick, they were horrible and they were baggy – pooling round his ankles like used elephant condoms. They were also much, much hairier than the legs they encased and I wondered if they weren’t meant to be worn expressly with shin pads.

They were perhaps something you might, just about, get away with on the rough and tumble of a rugby pitch, but were a quite excruciating faux pas on a bike. A strange shade of not quite-khaki and not quite grey, they were, apparently, the only clean pair of socks he could find.

As I say, they were so distracting that I can’t remember any other conversations at the start and, as an alumnus of the old-school, where cycling socks should always be white, they were terrifying to behold. I still feel I’m suffering from PTSD – or post-traumatic sock disorder and I may never recover.


Under Red Max’s direction, we split into two groups on the road, following the same route, but with a decent gap between each group. This seemed to work well and, from my perspective anyway, seemed more conducive to drivers being able to overtake us safely.

I joined the second group on the road, with G-Dawg as nominal leader and tucked myself into the back, as far from the front and the troubling headwind as I could get. G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, Ovis and Captain Black were amongst those who battled resolutely with the conditions as we pushed out into the countryside, doing sterling and much appreciated hard work.

I rolled on, sheltered amongst the wheels, alternately riding and chatting with Sneaky Pete and Buster and the only time the relaxed serenity of the ride was interrupted was when we almost caught the first group on the climb out from Matfen. Crazy Legs surmised they must have stopped to plant a flag and conduct a long-winded naming ceremony. We pulled over to let them get away again and then a mile or two further on called an impromptu pee stop to let them pad the lead some more.

Somewhere a little further down the line and Sneaky Pete sneaked away, having to cut short his ride or face immediate excommunication from the family. I found myself riding with the Garrulous Kid and explaining my strange mistrust of any pro cyclist who wore black socks.

Our route then took us down Middleton Bank for a change, a descent that was over in seconds and left me wondering what all the fuss was about when we were climbing in the other direction. Tipping down, it didn’t seem either particularly long, particularly steep or all that difficult.

OGL and then Zardoz and his daughter were the next to slip away, finding shorter and easier routes to the café, while the rest of us pressed on.

Passing through Kirkhale and looping right around Capheaton, we were soon heading east toward Belsay, with the wind finally at our backs. The run in was fast and it was frantic and we were soon splintered apart and scattered all over the road.


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On the final dash I found myself behind Jimmy Mac and Crazy Legs and sensing Son of G-Dawg on my wheel, I tried to lead him out for the sprint, pulling out, accelerating down the outside to the front of the line and going as hard as I could for as long as I could.

Pulling to the side, Son of G-Dawg then swooped past with Jimmy Mac and others in pursuit and job done, I eased back for the Snake Bends and I was overtaken by the Garrulous Kid, socks flapping and snapping like a loose spinnaker, apparently still racing and sweeping majestically wide around all the corners.

He earned himself a sharp rebuke from a motorist who didn’t appreciate random cyclists hurtling toward him on the wrong side of the road. The motorist then carried his ire over to also salute Crazy Legs with a sustained horn blast, even though he was innocently rolling round the corners behind me, in total control, firmly planted on his own side of the road and wondering what he’d done wrong.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee

With the café mobbed we found ourselves outside, and were soon packed two to a bench around one of the tables. With no room to squeeze anymore in, Captain Black took to the next table and Rab Dee, decided it would be rude and antisocial to leave him all on his lonesome and got up to join him. Crazy Legs immediately called out, indicating Rab Dee’s recently vacated space and suggesting we now had room at the table for the Captain.

Talk turned to facial hair with Crazy Legs comparing Zardoz’s luxurious whiskers with G-Dawgs more-bandito-style Zapata moustache – reminiscent he felt of one of the characters from the Good, The Bad and the Ugly. When pressed to identify which character, Crazy Legs plumped for Eli Wallach.

“Ah, so you’re saying the Ugly then?” Jimmy Mac queried innocently.

“Well, it could be worse, I could have picked Lee van Cleef.” Crazy Legs responded, “Everybody hates Lee van Cleef.”

Before the Garrulous Kid could intervene to ask who Lee van Cleef was, Crazy Legs quickly cut him off at the pass, declaring Lee van Cleef was a famous Dutch cyclist, a runner up at last years Paris-Roubaix.

For some unfathomable reason talk turned to Captain Scott and The Garrulous Kid professed ignorance of the world famous arctic explorer and dismissed our suggestions that he should know who he was with the flat statement, “Well, I’ve never met the man!”

Unfortunately, while we sat stunned and trying to process this announcement, he sensed a gap in the conversation, which he started to fill with a long litany of insane and inane pronouncements.

In this way we learned that … Batchelor Party 2 is, without doubt, the greatest comedy film, ever, bar none … Focus bikes are designed and engineered to the most exacting standards in the world, because they’re German … one of the Garrulous Kids classmates is an obese Bulgarian … the Garrulous Kid only wears Autograph underpants from M&S … he also has the wrong shaped face for a beard … his dad drives a BMW … Jimmy Mac is the double of James Cracknell … his favourite cyclist is Greg van Anorak … or was it Avenmart … or maybe Peter Sagan … or maybe Phil Gil … Son of G-Dawg is a dead ringer for some random Chinese man from the greatest comedy film, ever, bar none … the Garrulous Kid sometimes mispronounces words, but its not his fault as he was born in Norf Carolina … he’s good at science, just not very good at maffs … his parents watch the TV show Narcos, but it’s a load of rubbish … and he can pronounce Pablo Escobar properly, because he studies Spanish at school…

Whaaaat?

In the face of such a prolonged and sustained aural battering we watched as Jimmy Macs eyes slowly glazed over, his head dropped in despair and he visibly slumped, collapsing into himself like a punch-drunk boxer whose taken one too many body blows. We knew then he’d been ground down to such an extent that he had finally cracked.

He sat there quietly, avoiding eye-contact, playing with his water bottle and I wondered if he was going to try and make the Garrulous Kid forcibly ingest it to stop the flow at source, or perhaps plunge the top through his own eye to try and make the pain go away.

Luckily the Garrulous Kid spotted the Red Max at the next table and wandered away to talk at him and we had a moment of calm and blissful silence to collect ourselves for the ride home.


A fast spin back, a burst up the Mad Mile tucked behind the G-Dawg locomotive and I was cut free, turning off for home and battling the headwind on my own terms. A slight detour found me trapped in a housing estate cul-de-sac before I gave up on finding a new route home and got back on track, I was soon crossing the river, putting the wind behind me and cruising home.

I felt ok climbing the Heinous Hill and looked forward to a day of rest, watching the Amstel Gold Race before trying it all again on Monday.


YTD Totals: 2,063 km / 1,282 miles with 21,980 metres of climbing

Transitions, Transmissions and Tales of the Tashkent Terror

Transitions, Transmissions and Tales of the Tashkent Terror

Club Run, Saturday 16th April, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.7 km/h

Group size:                                         14 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    8°C

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

Main topics of conversation at the start:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


profile 16 april
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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