I missed the previous week’s ride as the club had arranged and paid for an emergency first-aid course – a mandatory, British Cycling requirement for those who are, or would like to be ride leaders. I have no ambition in that direction, but when family affairs kept Richard of Flanders from attending, I volunteered to be parachuted in as a less than adequate substitute.
The course was run by First Aid North East, and our host for the day was the very knowledgeable, amiable and engaging Steve Wright. No, not that one. And, sadly not that one either, or I could have been entertained with witty aphorisms such as “eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines,” or, “half the people you know are below average,” all delivered with characteristic, deadpan lethargy. (C.mon, what blerg couldn’t be improved with a couple of Steven Wright quotes?)
Anyway, everyone agreed it was an extremely valuable experience, with a ton of practical advice that might just save someone’s life someday, somewhere down the road – although we all hoped we were never called to put it into practice. This seems the kind of thing that everyone should have some knowledge of, so it seems sensible that plans are underway to include First Aid in the national curriculum. Now I just have the challenge of trying to retain all I learned from leaking out of my notoriously porous brain pan.
I’m still having issues with the chain slipping on my single-speed monstrosity, my latest theory being that it may be due to the fact that after 5 years or so, the teeth on the rear sprocket are now sharp enough to be considered a lethal weapon. So, the bad news is that I need a replacement, but the good news is the local ninjutsu club are interested in buying the old one to use as some kind of home-made shuriken.
Even better, when I ordered the replacement I received a new entrant in the most ludicrous packaging contest. Somehow, European online retailer Bikester have managed to beat Amazon’s effort of sending me an ass-saver in A3 sized box, by posting out a solitary 11-tooth sprocket in a over-sized, otherwise empty carton. Great job guys.
Saturday promised to be chill and damp with occasional showers, so most “good bikes” are definitely packed away for the winter now, and, with the single-speed still hors de combat, it was time to press the Pug into service once more.
I found my first task was negotiating all the traffic around the rowing club that was having a competition to see who could park the most haphazardly on either side of the road. It looked like they were gearing up for another major rowing event, which simple internet sleuthing identified as the Rutherford Head races. It doesn’t seem like a year since the last one, but maybe I’m just exposing my general ignorance of rowing. Whatever the race, they’d be facing some testing conditions, as demonstrated by the first chill bursts of rain that swept over as I crossed the bridge.
It wasn’t the day for hanging around or off-track perambulations, so I made straight for the meeting point arriving first and performing an awkward little dance on the pavement to try and stay warm while I waited for the others to arrive.
I knew it was cold because G-Dawg arrived with his legs completely covered – an event so remarkable that even if I hadn’t noticed, at least three different people went out of their way to remark on it.
Accompanying the first batch to arrive was Crazy Legs, in civvies, with Reggie the dog in tow, or, more accurately, Reggie the dog with Crazy Legs in tow.
Crazy Legs explained he was on dog-sitting duties for the first part of the morning, but the Flat White Collective would ride, just starting later, and he came along to suggest a couple of rendezvous points for anyone who wanted to meet up with them en route.
Meanwhile, Reggie had finally noticed the rubbish bin on the pavement and became suddenly spooked by it silent, unmoving presence and he started straining at the leash and furiously barking at it for no known reason.
“That’s almost as weird as the way cats react to cucumbers,” I observed.
“Eh? What’s this about cats and cucumbers?” Mini Miss looked at me as if I’d finally gone completely and irrecoverably mad.
Hmm, hard to explain.
“Just Google it,” I suggested.
This weeks route had been devised by Richard of Flanders and took us down the Ryals before climbing up through Hallington. Because I’d cut short my last club run, it would be more or less re-tracing the exact same route I’d taken last time out. Oh well, them’s the breaks.
Once more we proved ourselves incapable of setting up three equal-sized groups, so a small vanguard led out a bloated middle-group, while I dropped into the undermanned last group alongside Buster and four or five others, and away we went.
We indulged in our usual round of completely irrelevant blather covering daughters at universities, kids football matches, mudguards, bad music venues and the ubiquitous naffness of Christmas songs. I pondered whether anyone, at any time had ever produced a Christmas album that was even remotely listenable. Brassneck suggested Low’s Christmas album (cunningly titled Christmas), but even as a fan it wasn’t something I’d willing choose to listen to.
Bah humbug! The Grinch rides again.
We hit the front just after Limestone Lane and began calculating the climbs ahead and whether we should descend the Ryal’s and climb back through Hallington, or detour up the Quarry for an easier time of things. We certainly weren’t pushing the pace, but we kept getting tanatlising glimpses of the second group ahead of us and we were definitely closing.
“Pots!” Brassneck called out, as we hit a particularly bad stretch of lane.
“Mud!” I added.
“Grav-ill!” came back the response
I let him have the last word. This time.
Then, a little later.
“Oh, sorry, I thought we were playing word association.”
“Word association football. Foot-ball-pen-knife-fork-spoon-bill?” I explained hopefully.
For the second time that day someone looked at me as if I’d completely lost the plot.
“It doesn’t matter.”
We caught and passed the second group, pulled at the junction for the Quarry and pondering who among them would take which route. We were committed to the Ryals now though and for us there was no turning back.
As we led the group toward the crest I overheard from the conversation behind that, should there be another ice age, the UK would be one of the first in line for the deep freeze and an extinction event. I mentioned this to Brassneck, who suggested it was a bit too deep and philosophical for a Saturday morning bike ride and recommended we just continued talking our usual “buggery bollocks.” I naturally didn’t disagree -one does have standards, after all.
Then, down we went in a chilling blast of cold air, but it didn’t matter as we’ were soon turning hard right. The climbing began and suddenly everyone was over heating. Somewhere on the road up through Hallington, Brassneck developed a serious case of climber’s Tourette’s, when all rational thought left his brain and all he could do was unleash a stream of obscenities at hills, slopes, gradients and Sir Isaac Newton for ever “inventing gravity”.
On the steepest ramp this finally petered out into a singular. grunted, “U-huh!” which bore a passing resemblance to something Elvis might once have invoked in a moment of extreme distress, or perhaps passionate sexual release. (Well, the Bensham Elvis, maybe.)
Cold, wet, filthy-dirty and tired, all the ramps we’d dismissed as inconsequential between us and the cafe suddenly transformed themselves into major hills and fearsome obstacles between us and our righteous reward of cake and coffee at Capheaton. Nevertheless, when Not Anthony passed us in a final, uphill sprint to the cafe, Brassneck somehow levered himself out of the saddle to give chase, catch and pass him in a contest that seemed to play out in super-slow motion, while I just looked on, chuckling at the glorious insanity of it all.
The cafe’s exotic sounding Spanish orange and almond cake proved a temptation too far for some, but I stuck to the almond and cherry cake which I was told was undoubtedly English and not made to any special kind of recipe at all. Still, it was good, while the Spanish cake met mixed reviews.
Brassneck, who had been toying with his conscience after an indulgent purchase of some rather outrageously priced Peter Blake prints to cheer himself up, defended his impulsiveness by suggesting they were likely to gain in value with time, even though he would never sell them. He then decided he didn’t need to guiltily smuggle them into the house like some over-priced carbon bike parts, he could just wrap them up and leave them under the Christmas tree, as if he could possibly get away with claiming they were from some super-indulgent Secret Santa. I wished him luck with that one.
Meanwhile, Carlton complained that despite the Peugeot’s full-length, permanently fixed mudguards, he’d been subjected to a constant spray of dirty water from my rear wheel. I’d noticed something similar when riding behind Liam the Chinese rockstar and his gaurds, so didn’t doubt him. Looks like I’ll be visiting rawmudflap.uk in the near future to see about improving the coverage and efficacy of my rear mudguard. (Yes, I know extensions hand-carved from old Domestos bottles look much cooler, but I like easy and convenient solutions.) I wonder what ridiculous packaging Raw might employ to ship me a single rear mudflap?
We ran into the local hunt on leaving the cafe, or more accurately, one of the followers of the local hunt nearly ran into me, attempting to drive a 4×4 ATV with his eyes firmly fixed over the hedge and into the adjacent fields. I could hear the hounds baying off to the left, but I couldn’t see anything either. I hate to think of the carnage that might ensue if hunt pack and club run ever find themselves occupying the same stretch of road. As it is, the hunt followers are dangerous enough, driving erratically, stopping unpredictably and clogging up all the lanes where they park to try and get a glimpse of what’s going on.
I don’t quite get the appeal of following a hunt in this way. I guess, it’s a bit like watching a cycle race, you wait around by the side of the road for an hour or so and then everything rushes past in a couple of seconds. The difference is at a bike race at least you know the route in advance and you’re guaranteed the riders will pass you at some stage.
I was on course for another 70-mile ride, which is probably a little too far on a winter bike, so I took the route home through Ponteland to save some time and a few miles, arriving home tired, wet and dirty, but having enjoyed myself immensely.
As I write this though, the temperatures outside are somewhere in the region of feckin’ freezing, with plenty of ice around, so I’m not sure I’ll get out on the roads tomorrow. The upside is that at least I won’t face the dilemma of trying to decide how many layers to wear to try and combat the cold. Let’s hope milder weather isn’t too far away.
|Day & Date:||Club Run, Saturday 12th November 2022|
|Riding Time:||4 hours 54 minutes|
|Riding Distance:||110km/70 miles with 1,026m of climbing|
|Group Size:||23 riders, 0 FNG’s, 1 guest|
|Weather in a word or two:||You know, not too bad.|
|Year to date:||5,120km/3,180 miles with 56,353m of climbing|