Rinse and Repeat

Rinse and Repeat

Club Run, Saturday 23rd November, 2019

Total Distance: 107 km/66 miles with 695 m of climbing
Riding Time: 4 hours 34 minutes
Average Speed: 23.4km/h
Group Size: 8 riders, 1 FNG
Temperature: 9℃
Weather in a word or two: It rained. Even more.

Ride Profile

Correction: as one avid reader the one avid reader pointed out in response to last weeks blerg, Brian Connolly, he of the remarkable, platinum, flowing locks and erstwhile lead singer of Sweet, died in 1997.

As such, I strongly suspect he is not touring with the band and his probably wasn’t the face I had such a visceral reaction to seeing on a recent tour poster. I think somewhere in the back of my mind I was aware of this, but the synapses failed to fire. Again.

Further investigation also suggests there are only two of the original band members left alive and there have been at least 3-different Sweet line-ups active over-time and, confusingly, often concurrently. I have no idea then, who is now touring under the Sweet moniker, or even if they have any legitimate connection to the original group, whose bombast and style so offended my parents and (occasionally) enlivened my Thursday night TV viewing.

Anyway, apologies for the relapse. It will happen again though … I can almost guarantee it.


Well, the weather made no pretence of being anything other than horrendous this week. You’ve got to admire its honesty, at least.

It was raining (hard) when I set out and it was raining (hard) when I returned. In between, it showed remarkable consistency by … raining hard, although OGL was able to remark at one point, “the rain’s eased, it’s just a downpour now.”

Crossing the river, I spotted an 8-man crew shooting the bridge and idly wondered at what point they’d have to stop rowing and bail out their craft. Other than that, the only thing of note on my journey across to the meeting point was a cyclist riding past, blithely sporting a top half clad in naught but a short-sleeved jersey!

By the time I rolled under the protective eves of the multi-storey car park, the constant deluge had just about started to penetrate the extremities – gloves and socks. It was going to be a few notches below a pleasant ride.


Main Topics of Conversation at the Meeting Point:

I bumped up the kerb and pulled to a stop beside the redoubtable G-Dawg and settled down to see which other numpties would be crazy enough to join us, numbers slowly assembling until we formed a Hateful 8. I’ve got to admit that was more than I expected.

Once again the Prof was pursuing a solo career, at odds with the rest of the Back Street Boys and chose to join us. After prolonged exposure to our innate musical talents today though, I’m not sure he’ll be back anytime soon. Relatively (flippin’) new guy, Cowboys was out, ostensibly to test the waterproofness of his new waterproof gloves. OGL, Biden Fecht, Aether and Benedict rounded out the numbers.

I confessed that on mornings like this, I would be quite happy to arrive at the meeting point to find nobody else had bothered to show. I could then turn around with good conscience and scuttle away home.

But, whenever I arrive, this bugger’s already here and waiting,” I complained, gesturing vaguely in the direction of G-Dawg.

“Have you not considered that he’s probably thinking the same thing and you turning up ruins the day for him too?” Aether suggested.

Fair point.

Peer pressure, eh? It’s a terrible, terrible thing.

When challenged, G-Dawg admitted there was no weather he didn’t think you couldn’t ride in. Wind and rain were mere minor inconveniences while, if it was snowing, that was just a great excuse for some mountain bike fun.

“Not even ice?” Benedict asked, perhaps acknowledging that we’d heard Andeven had slipped on ice at the bottom of the Ryals last week and was down and out with a broken elbow for a while.

“If it’s icy, just stick to the bus routes, they’re always gritted,” G-Dawg argued.

“Although, I’ve had a few clatters in my time,” he concluded.

We then reminisced about some of our most famous ice-capades, or “clatters,” if you will, such as the time an eerily prescient OGL had left us to take a different route. The rest of us had immediately taken a right turn and performed a synchronised clatter that a Busby Berkley-directed, Esther Williams would have been proud of, as we toppled in series, one pair after another, like falling dominoes.

Then there was the time heading through Meldon, when I didn’t realise the lane was icy at all, until G-Dawg overtook me, flat on his back, sliding headfirst, rapidly downhill and with his bike trailing several seconds behind him. I’m convinced to this day that it was the shock of his sudden appearance that brought me down, rather than the treacherous ice-sheet we were attempting to traverse.

We were assured we’d have no ice to contend with today, just the rain, which Cowboys assured us would ease. He didn’t specify when. I suspect he was thinking maybe mid-March. With no more likely to join our happy band and no sign of the weather relenting, even a bit, it was time to get on with it.

The plan was no more complicated than to make our way to Stamfordham, where we’d stop to re-assess and decide what to do from there. With that simple goal, we pushed off, clipped in and rode out and into the rain.


We hit our first major flood as we swung past the airport, which coincided with an impatient driver gunning his, or her, engine and swerving around us at high speed. The car flung up a tsunami of cold, dirty water in its wake, that was dumped directly into OGL’s lap, leaving him waving his arms around frantically, spluttering and swearing incoherently, as the car sped away.

I don’t think he appreciated it when I asked if he’d just found out exactly how waterproof his shiny new Madison rain jacket actually was. He would later complain the massive, freezing bow wave had hit him “right in the groin.” Ooph! that’ll wake you up, every time.

After a while, I pushed onto the front alongside G-Dawg. It was no better and no worse up there. There was less spray thrown up by the wheels, but less shelter from the rain and the wind was particularly stiff and chilling.

Approaching Stamfordham and another big puddle, a car pulled out to work its way past us, just as we rolled into the wide expanse of collected water. Here, at least, the driver was more considerate and didn’t rip past and drown us under a bow wave, but slowed, almost to match our pace, hanging there uncertainly as we rapidly approached a bend and a blind summit.

“It’s not really going to work if he’s only travelling at the same speed we are,” G-Dawg sighed, before easing back a bit to let the car pull ahead and then across to the right side of the road. Bloody cyclists, eh? Never satisfied.

As we reached the outskirts of the village, I suggested it was unlikely anyone was going to go for the longer route today and suspected we’d all be heading straight for the cafe.

“Still, I suppose we’d better stop and ask,” G-Dawg decided, “Just in case.”

So we did.

As predicted, OGL stated he was heading straight to the cafe and everyone seemed in accord, until …

“I wouldn’t mind pressing on for a bit,” Aether tentatively suggested.

And that was that. Peer pressure kicked in (again) and now all but OGL were up for doing the planned route, rain be damned.

Off we went then, minus 1 and buoyed along by a fine selection of appropriate songs from Biden Fecht. It’s Raining Men, Many Rivers to Cross, Singin’ in the Rain, Raining in my Heart, Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, Why Does it Always Rain on Me? Then, somewhat bizarrely, as rain themed songs seemed to … err… run dry, Here Comes the Sun.

Meanwhile, we adopted an exaggerated, heavily Heinekenised, Biden Fecht style-accent to warn of “wough-tahr” ahead … (the wough-tahr in Maa-yorkerh don’t taste like it ough-tahr.)

Biden Fecht wondered what the Geordie equivalent would be and I was happy to give him my best approximation as “watta.” (Ryhmes with hatter.)

We crossed the Military Road and skirted Whittledene Reservoir. It was eerily quiet. No cars, no fishermen, no swans, no ducks. Huh? Too wet, even for the ducks?

In fact, the only thing for miles around seemed to be a slightly mad bunch of sodden/sodding, singing cyclists, riding around, through and across various puddles, while pointing wildly to either side and calling out to each other “wough-tahr!” and “watta!”

We slogged upwards through some of the oddly named plantations, Foulhoggers and Sparrowietch, Tilehouse and Standingstone.

“C’mon you lot up front, give us a song,” Biden Fecht demanded as we traversed this rather bleak landscape. He was clearly out of suitably rain-themed numbers now, as attested by a return to the sad irony of Here Comes the Sun.

Oh well, they asked for it, so … in a similar vein, I began to bellow out a fantastically tuneless, discordant rendition of The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.

An uncomfortable silence descended on the group following this unprecedented, aural assault, until it was punctured by Benedict.

“Bloody hell, I wish I’d turned off at Stamfordham now.”

Climbing some more, we once again made a dart across the Military Road and begin to home in on Matfen.

Another convergence of impatient driver and flooded road threatened to wash us away. Rather luckily, the drivers over-reliance on his horn served as a flood warning, so at least we were prepared for the rising tide he threw up as he carved his way past us, too fast and too close.



We turned for the Quarry, right into the teeth of howling gale and I was grateful to sit at the back and find whatever meagre shelter was available, as Biden Fecht and G-Dawg tried to batter a way through the wind.

Just before the steepest ramps of the climb there was another section of badly flooded road, so wide there was no way around, so long that you couldn’t freewheel through it and so deep I could feel the water dragging at my wheels. On each downward pedal stroke, the water was well past boot, or overshoe height – no one was coming out of that without seriously wet feet.

At the top of the Quarry, the Prof and Cowboys made a break for the cafe, but, for whatever reason, hesitated at Wallridge crossroads, were caught and subsumed back into the pack.

The pace picked up until, as we turned through the junction to hit the road down to the Snake Bends, Biden Fecht jumped away, immediately opening a telling gap. As the others wound up a belated response, I watched from the back, selecting “This Train is Bound for Glory” as a soundtrack to Biden Fecht’s flight, as he easily outpaced the chasers to claim a fine, sprint victory.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

I asked Cowboys how waterproof his waterproof gloves had been. “Not very,” apparently, so he’s now looking to spend more money on perhaps what is just one version of a cycling grail.

Benedict was unsurprised, having spent a small fortune of SealSkinz gloves, that he reported simply didn’t live up to the hype. He’d even contacted the company to tell them their gloves were patently not waterproof, but they’d argued they certainly were, had the research to back this claim up and offered to send him the evidence. Obviously they were waterproof then, just not North East waterproof.

OGL remembered nylon, waterproof over-gloves that used to be available and wondered if they were still around, while various solutions such as Marigold rubber gloves, or latex surgical gloves were suggested.

I’m not convinced there is a good, fully waterproof, cycling glove out there. My own, Galibier Barrier gloves held out for about an hour before I started to feel the water seeping in, which I didn’t think was bad as they aren’t marketed as being waterproof. Their main property is that they are generally windproof and well insulated, so even when wet through, they can keep your hands relatively warm. This I think is the best you can hope for.

Like the gloves, every other item of clothing we were wearing was thoroughly sodden and water-logged and the cafe had provided the usual black bin bags for us to sit on, to protect their furniture. OGL and the Prof seemed intent on trying to dry various items on the fire, something we’d learned was generally futile, often malodorous and occasionally dangerous, with the occasional glove, or hat melting, or spontaneously combusting.

The Prof had even stripped down to his base layer, a bright orange number, emblazoned with the words SuperDry in what must have been the second most ironic statement of the day, topped only by Biden Fecht’s repeated renditions of Here Comes the Sun.

OGL reminisced about one regular cafe stop where all the cyclists used to strip off their wet gear to use a drying cupboard by the fire. Sadly, this cafe is no longer in business, which, somewhat surprisingly, suggests that a group of dirty, pallid cyclists, sitting around in their skivvies is not a major customer attraction.

G-Dawg recalled a particularly nasty mountain-bike expedition, where he and the Colossus had been forced to dismount to cross a stream on foot, as the ford was overwhelmed with floodwater. A bit further along and the Colossus had called a halt insisting there was something caught between his toes. He’d stripped off his socks and shoes to reveal that what was caught between his big toe and third toe, was actually his second toe, white, numb and unfeeling. This, as far as I’m aware is the first recorded incident of Alien Toe Syndrome.

I recounted to all that, after last week’s sodden and water-logged return, Mrs. SLJ had suggested I came in through the back door and immediately drop all my wet gear on the kitchen floor, in front of the washing machine.

I pointed out it probably wasn’t seemingly for me to parade around the house in a nekkid state.

“Don’t worry,” she assured me, “I’ll leave your dressing gown out.”

G-Dawg suggested he got even shorter shrift and Mrs. G-Dawg would be putting towels down in anticipation of his soaked return.

“I wouldn’t mind, but these are the same towels I use for the dogs when they come in all wet and muddy” he complained.

“I’ll bet the dogs aren’t allowed anywhere near them once you’ve dirtied them up,” someone quipped. G-Dawg laughed along, but a little uneasily.

I checked the weather app on my phone, which said that for the next hour there’d be a 100% chance of heavy rain in my location, but an hour later, this would fall to just a 99% chance of heavy rain.

I can’t believe we seriously discussed waiting for another hour for a 1% chance the weather might improve, but we decided the odds weren’t good and it was probably best to get going before we became too comfortable or, heaven forfend, almost semi-dry.


Back into the cold and rain, after a while the Prof and Cowboys raced away, I assume in an attempt to warm up. I stayed on the front until the turn for Ponteland where, yet again I decided to lop the corner off my sodden ride.

The bike was behaving itself, running smooth and silent and once again I found an almost Zen-like state, as I pressed for home, soaked through, but comfortably warm, legs spinning automatically and the miles of wet tarmac hissing by, as they unwound beneath my tyres.

I was enjoying myself so much, I could almost have forgiven all those club mates who’d forced me to ride, simply by being there for me.

Almost.


YTD Totals: 7,148 km / 4,442 miles with 92,512 metres of climbing

The Coalition of Chaos – A S’Winter Ride

The Coalition of Chaos – A S’Winter Ride

Club Run, Saturday 3rd June, 2017           

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  95 km / 59 miles with 378 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          3 hours 56 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.2 km/h

Group size:                                         9 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    14°C

Weather in a word or two:          S’Winter

 


10 june
Ride Profile

 

Capture
Glorious British Summer Time


The Ride:

Once again the fickle British weather continues to toy with us and swing from one extreme to another, substituting last weekend’s glorious warmth and wall to wall sunshine, with a lumpen mass of oppressive grey cloud. This was due to stay hunched over Northern England for most of Saturday, emitting a constant stream of rain that hardly ever stopped, although it did occasionally vary in intensity – from light shower to a hard, stinging deluge and all points in-between.

Assuming the forecasts were going to be at least part-right, the Peugeot had been prepped the night before and made ready for a day when even cursed and rubbing mudguards would be, not only tolerated, but considered a necessity and a small price to pay for added protection. Luckily they even behaved.

Along with a change back to winter bikes, waterproof socks and my most impermeable jacket were selected for a real field test of effectiveness. (The Santini jacket passed admirably, the Sealskinz socks were an abject failure.)

It was also one of those days when the rain was heavy enough to screw with my Garmin, so the ride profile probably isn’t very accurate. If it is, then not only did I ride off a vertical cliff after 60km, but my home finished the day over 50 metres lower than where it was when I set out in the morning, even though the climb back up the hill was no easier.

Setting out and onto the Heinous Hill, I floated downstream with the current, noticing as I bottomed out on the valley floor just how noisy wet roads make the rest of the traffic, car tyres ripping and hissing past on the water-slicked tarmac.

Across the bridge and the River Tyne was a flat, sullen and grey below, devoid of boats or any other movement. Perhaps it was too wet even for the rowers?

Working back along the other side of the river, the Cobblestone Runway was now flanked by two new sets of traffic lights and temporary road works. At the first of these I queued behind a stream of cars for a good five minutes before the drivers decided the lights weren’t working and started to drive through on red.

Not wanting to come face-to-face with any approaching traffic that had the same idea, I picked out a large, heavy goods vehicle that looked suitably intimidating, tucked in behind it for protection and used it as a lead blocker for my own end-around through the roadworks.

Climbing up, out of the valley on the other side, more temporary lights pulled me to a stop half way up the slope, but this time I had only moments to wait before I was released by the green light.

The rest of the way was plain sailing and I swept through the meeting place and ducked into the shelter on the multi-storey car park just as Crazy Legs rolled in from the other side.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

The Hammer would be leading the ride today and had proposed a route that included wheat fields aplenty to run through, for those needing to get in touch with their rebellious side. The weather though was going to be the deciding factor and a shorter, more direct route to the café looked considerably more appealing – even if it meant foregoing such total, May-esque frivolity and utterly wicked abandon.

Crazy Legs admitted to being tired after following the extraordinary events of Thursday’s election as they had unfolded across his TV screen like a slow-motion car crash. I suspect he watched with the same glee and satisfaction most of us felt, as the overweening hubris of our elected government was shattered in a completely unnecessary, wasteful election they had brought solely on themselves. Smugness, conceit and presumption put to the sword – empty slogans, a robotic, delusional, uninspiring, empty and arrogant “leader” horribly exposed and a rabidly vicious and horribly twisted, biased press largely ignored.

Sometimes, just sometimes, the great British public can surprise me in a good way.

With world attention seemingly focussed, however briefly on this small island, we did wonder what outsiders might have made of some of our more colourful candidates, such as Lord Buckethead who, on the same platform as our incumbent PM, somehow seemed warmer and more genuine and appealing.

Others included a very large, very red Elmo, Howling “Laud” Hope of the Monster Raving Loony Party and one hopeful dressed (and I don’t think even he knows why) as a giant fishfinger.

Crazy Legs in particular liked Lord Buckethead’s manifesto, built on a platform of “strong, but not very stable leadership” it included the pledge of no third runway at Heathrow: (“where we’re going we don’t need runways”) the nationalisation of Adele and a firm public commitment to build the £100bn renewal of the Trident weapons system, followed by an equally private commitment not to build it, the flawless logic being: “they’re secret submarines, no one will ever know. It’s a win win.”

Particularly appealing, Lord Buckethead promised free bikes for everyone, to help combat obesity, traffic congestion and, err … bike theft.

The ever pragmatic Taffy Steve, suggested we didn’t need to an election to negotiate Brexit, we simply had to point at the Norwegian model, say that’s what we want and how much will it cost. The only slight flaw in this argument is the presumption of some that we can somehow leave the EU and they’ll then give us for free everything we used to pay for. I don’t even think Lord Buckethead is that delusional.

European adventures were also under discussion in relation to our upcoming Alpine invasion, with the plan Crazy Legs proposed of riding the Marmotte Granfondo route possibly under threat due to the closure of one of the tunnels. He’d checked out the recommended traffic diversion, but backed out quickly when he found it involved an additional 2½ hours just to drive it!

Latest reports from Carlton and Cowin’ Bovril who are across there this weekend suggest the route is now open and we may yet be spared a circumnavigation of the entire mountain range.


It was a small group of only 9 diehards who pushed off clipped in and rode out into the rain. After some discussion we’d agreed to amend the route and head, more or less directly to the café, the only real contention being which café, with Big Dunc’s suggestion of the Costa, 800 metres away on the High Street getting serious consideration.

I took to the front with Big Dunc as we set out. We hadn’t gone far when the BFG trailing us closely drew our attention to what he thought might be two cycling ghosts up ahead. I suggested they might be the restless spirits of Coppi and Bartali, but received only an uneducated, “Huh?” in response.

As we drew closer we saw it wasn’t the ghosts of long dead, Italian cycling campionissimo’s we were tracking, but a father and son on mountain-bikes and wearing long, white rain ponchos. Hmm, bit early for trick or treat?

As an act of sheer, devil-may-care, rebellion, almost as reckless as running through a field of wheat, we decided to head straight up Brunton Lane, rather than taking the usual route past the Sage HQ.

Unfortunately, rebellion isn’t without consequence and we hadn’t gone far when our path was blocked by hundreds upon hundreds of soaking wet, T-shirt clad kids doing a “fun run” in the most atrocious conditions imaginable. It looked to me like nothing so much as the Pied Piper leading an army of wet and bedraggled rats out of Hamelin. Still, to be fair, despite the horrible weather the kids did actually look to be enjoying themselves.

We turned around and back-tracked toward the Sage HQ, to find the road here was closed as well, but the run had already passed and once the cones had been cleared, we were free to proceed.

Having lost my station at the front I drifted back to find Sneaky Pete, who was starting to wonder what kind of lunacy had tempted him out on a day like this. I tried to convince him it wasn’t so bad and once he was home in his slippers and silk smoking jacket, toasting his feet by the fire while enjoying a cigar and sturdy snifter of brandy, he’d look back fondly on the day and realise how much fun it had been. Honest.

With my socks slowly getting waterlogged and cold water squelching up between my toes on every pedal stroke, we pressed on and out into the rather grey and sodden countryside, occasionally skirting the wide puddles that crept out from the verges and into the road.


NOVATEK CAMERA


We called a pee stop and discussed route options, with the Hammer’s suggestion for a referendum and then a vote, roundly shouted down, before finding a degree of consensus. With it still being too early for a direct run to the café, G-Dawg led us on a route across the top of the Quarry climb.

Loop successfully completed, we started to close in on the café and the pace unconsciously quickened a little, while the BFG specs misted horribly. With the rain now lashing down hard and caught in the spray kicked up from the wheel in front, he started wailing that he was blind and couldn’t see.

Crazy Legs suggested he wasn’t going to be contesting any sprints today as the weather was rank, our run-in was down the horribly potted and rutted surface that led to the Snake Bends and he was conscious of a big week ahead.

This conviction lasted almost as long as the BFG’s sudden attack, as he jumped hard and out of the saddle, briefly opening up a small gap which Crazy Legs almost instantly moved to close down.

I assumed the BFG was just trying to force a Damascene conversion and hoping a bit of clear air and open road might help the scales fall from his eyes. His effort was quite short-lived and he was soon back in the fold. We then reformed and I took to the front alongside G-Dawg, bouncing and rattling down the road and the speed starting to build again.

The Hammer was the next to attack, appropriately hammering down the outside and everyone swept around me to give chase, while I just kept pounding away, not looking to add any speed and just trying to maintain what I already had.

We flashed past a junction where another large group of cyclist were waiting to turn onto the road. Luckily they’d seen us and held back, otherwise it could have become sketchy – our lot were at full bore and unlikely to be happy with anyone riding into their path.

I was too far back and it was too murky to see the outcome of the sprint, but I do know that despite all his protestations Crazy Legs was in the mix right up to the end. No surprise there then.

We regrouped at the junction and then pressed on down the narrow, horribly potholed lane that paralleled the main drag. Here the other group of cyclists caught up and pointlessly forced their way past, while we singled out and everyone had to slalom and weave precariously around the fissures, holes and divots that littered our route.

At the end of the lane they turned right along with us, just before our last hurrah, a short ramp that we traditionally take at full gas as a full-stop to our actual café sprint. Traditions have to be upheld, even though the other group seemed particularly disgruntled and nonplussed as we bustled them out of the way and burst up the outside of their line, before easing and rolling into the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In the café, with black bin bags to park our water-logged derriere’s on, we pushed a few tables into one long line and convened around it.

The Hammer finished his poached eggs on toast and then started in on a bacon sarnie, suggesting he’d been so hungry in the week he’d eaten an entire box of muesli in one sitting. Crazy Legs mimed upending a large box of cereal and pouring it directly into his mouth, before asking how the Hammer could still manage to talk without constantly coughing out a cloud of muesli dust.

Crazy Legs next suggested drinking down a pint of milk to see if it would cause the Hammer’s stomach to suddenly bulge like an instant pregnancy, or John Hurts chest just before the Alien rips its way out of his innards.

For some reason talk turned to glam-rock legends, The Sweet, as Crazy Legs tried to recall one of their songs that was always on heavy rotation at the ice hockey. I felt anything was good as long as it wasn’t “Love is Like Oxygen” – a song the Hammer would later declare “has an elegiac quality, reminiscent of running alone through a field of wheat.”

He then suggested that The Sweet were the kind of band Led Zeppelin could have been if only … (I’m beginning to wonder if I haven’t inadvertently discovered the secret identity of Lord Buckethead and now know who the person is under that … err… bucket.)

The Hammer and Big Dunc became all misty-eyed and nostalgic about prog rock and discussions about the best Pink Floyd album, while both Crazy Legs and I excused ourselves from the discussion and affirmed our Punk, Post-Punk-New Wave, Ska and Mod credentials by  declaring we’d never even consider listening to Pink Floyd and would instantly destroy any of their material that might infiltrate our households and taint our music sensibilities.

Meanwhile, as the rain continued to lash down outside and despite our dripping, soaked through gear, we all agreed we were strangely content to live in a moderate if changeable climate and pleased we didn’t have to suffer the extremes of long, baking hot summers, or deep frozen, snowbound winters.

Crazy Legs started toying with his track mitts and I told him it was too late to try and dry them out now. He gave us a fine display of jazz hands and suggested if he could ride home like that, his gloves would probably be dry before he made it back. The Hammer felt he might as well go the whole hog, black up and ride home doing a bad impersonation of Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer.

And then it was time to leave and with a quick rendition of “Toot, Toot, Tootsie (Goo’ Bye)” make our way out into the rain again, while the rest of the cafe patrons heaved a huge sigh of relief.

As we were making for the exit someone in the café seemed to suggest we were, as my water-logged ears interpreted it, as “mad as otters” – perhaps I misheard, but I have to say that given the wet weather that seemed an altogether appropriate epithet.


I had a chat with Taffy Steve as we rode back and we both agreed the ride had the feel of one of our winter epics – a small band of die-hard compadre’s, gamely battling the elements together, while spouting all sorts of complete and utter nonsense. The only difference was, this time the rain was warm!

This reminded me of the  Phineas and Ferb episode where they used a snow-cone machine to create “a unique and logic defying amalgam of winter and summer” or S’Winter. Leaving the others and heading for home,  the S’Winter song became deeply lodged in my brain and I found myself pedalling along quite happily, singing:

It’s a S’Winter S’Wonderland,

Unusual and grand,

You can freeze while you get tan,

Because it’s S’Winter.

(Apparently, some people call it W’ummer too!)


YTD Totals: 3,593 km / 2,233 miles with 38,618 metres of climbing

Mea Culpa


Club Run, Good Friday 25th March, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   104 km/65 miles with 863 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 7 minutes

Average Speed:                                   25.3 km/h

Group size:                                           26 riders

Temperature:                                      15°C

Weather in a word or two:              Bright ‘n’ breezy

Main topic of conversation at the start:

Mea Culpa#1 the BFG corrected last week’s story regarding his wheels on fire, they weren’t the carbon on carbon model from his new uber-bike that he tried to spontaneously combust, but in fact the fabled, some might even say mythical wooden rims.

Speaking of carbon wheels, someone complimented G-Dawg on his new hoops and wondered if he’d sold his inner ring to pay for them. The proposed advert would have made interesting and somewhat paradoxical reading – for sale, one inner chain ring in pristine, immaculate condition, has done 8,000 miles, but has never been used.

There was no music in the cafes at night, but there was revolution in the air as we waited for OGL to roll up past the allotted start-time. Someone suggested just moving our meeting point to the other side of the bus stop, convinced this small act of rebellion alone would be enough for OGL’s head to explode and for him to start muttering darkly about schisms and breakaway groups in the club.

He finally deigned to roll-up at around 9.33, but if we’d dared to leave on time we’d still be hearing about it now.

I had a brief chuckle with Crazy Legs about Nacer Bouhani, winning the first two stages of the Volta a Catalunya, leading the entire race and points classification, but suddenly feeling so ill that he had to abandon as soon as the tips of the mountains pricked the horizon. He then miraculously recovered enough in time to ride Gent-Wevelgem, over 200 km of super-hard racing. So much for honouring the leader’s jersey.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Mea Culpa#2 the Prof informed me he did not cart away the fantastic booty of a lost and forlorn Sealskinz glove, as his persistence paid off and he eventually managed to track down its owner – none other than Zardoz, the unlikeliest Cinderella you could possibly imagine.

Reunited with his errant gauntlet at least saved him from riding home with one cold hand while looking like a wannabe Michael Jackson and perhaps it saved everyone else from being subjected to his angry dark-side. I’m not wholly convinced that the Prof didn’t return for the decapitated and eviscerated deer carcass as a sop to his disappointment though.

The elusive Bearded Collie spent time bemoaning the fact that Schwalbe no longer make orange tyres as his original set now appear to be disintegrating from lack of use. He’s busy looking desperately for replacements that will match his frame and save him from reverting to plain and dowdy “just black.”

He also remarked that the time since his last ride with us hadn’t mellowed OGL’s personable, accommodating, benevolent and very sunny outlook. Someone likened OGL to Pol Pot and speculated that club meetings would be over in a snap as he filled all the posts on the committee: President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Secretary et al. Others disagreed though reasoning that OGL could start an argument in a Trappist monastery and probably has to spend huge amounts of time disagreeing with himself.

The Red Max and partner in crime the Monkey Butler Boy were under an ultimatum to clear the conservatory of bikes and bike parts as the rest of the family couldn’t get at the furniture. Aveline slyly suggested the problem wasn’t too many bikes, but too much furniture. For the sake of Max’s continued good health I hope that’s not a line of argument he chooses to pursue.

Meanwhile he’s busily entertaining himself constructing an enormous ziggurat of used and useless bottom brackets (I say useless, but he’s convinced they all still have “some life” left in them). He’s also collected enough lengths of used bike chain to bind Prometheus to the mountain, certain he’ll find a use for it all. Eventually.


 

ride good friday
Ride Profile


The Waffle:

Good Friday was indeed good and looked like being the best day of the Easter weekend. Despite the chill the sky was a high blue vault, randomly studded with the odd, benevolent looking cotton wool cloud and the sun was bright if not warm.

I dropped into valley and chased down a fellow cyclist, drawing in to recognise the Castelli clad back of the benevolent stranger who had appeared to provide me with shelter from a vicious headwind in a ride under very different conditions (Vittoria’s Secret and the Cold Hand Gang, Feb 1.)

Before we split for different routes we had a brief chat and discovered that, like the Ee-Em-Cee rider I randomly encounter, he too was yet another former member and now fugitive of our club. He admired Reg and asked if I was a Barry Sheene fan (I wasn’t) as apparently he used a black, red and yellow livery on his bikes. Well, you learn something every day.


 

sheene
The Sheene Machine vs. Reg


 

Later, hurtling downhill to race the changing lights through a junction I swept past Shouty heading in the opposite direction and apparently already recovered from her broken femur. She was looking resplendent in her new club’s kit and no doubt off to grind out some hard solo miles.

Despite the chill edge to the wind, there were plenty out wearing shorts, but I have to admit it’s still far too cold to even consider exposing these ancient joints to the elements. As usual time hanging around at the meeting place gave everything the chance to seize up slightly and then it took even longer when riding to warm up and turn with any degree of fluidity.

As a decently large group of 29 riders pushed off, clipped in and rode out, I noticed Aveline was out with us for the 3rd or 4th time and in danger of losing her FNG status. I also saw that the elusive Bearded Collie was back with us after a massively long absence of probably a year or so – the Red Max spotted him too and wryly noted that now he knew it was officially Easter.


 

NOVATEK CAMERA
Rolling out under blue skies


 

As I drifted through the group I had a brief chat with Laurelan, who was having a bit of trouble with her bike which she’d ridden all through the winter and decided was now in rather desperate need of some TLC at the LBS. She was even attempting to barter gardening skills for cycle maintenance help among the more mechanically capable.

As we pushed out into the countryside we were treated to the years first sighting of Szell, sneaking past, head down and going in the opposite direction, obviously recently awoken from the slumber of deep hibernation and getting in secret training miles so he can put us all to the sword when he decides to next ride with the club.

At some point Laurelan’s front derailleur threw a hissy fit, decided it had done enough for the day and refused to budge. OGL called a halt and thanks to over 50 years of cycle maintenance and professional mechanical knowledge was quickly able to identify the problem and present a precise expert diagnosis; “It’s fucked.”

Now fully enlightened, Laurelan had to make the difficult choice of staying in the inner ring, which would get her up the Quarry climb, but was likely to get her dropped as the speed ramped up toward the café, or choose the big ring and grind and grovel up the climb.

She made her choice and we got going again as I found myself on the front with Captain Black. We were soon swinging right and started the run up to the Quarry, keeping the pace high all the way to the top, where an expected attack from the racing snakes strangely failed to materialise.


 

NOVATEK CAMERA
The Hammer in hot pursuit


 

Regrouping after the climb, the suggestion seemed to be OGL was planning an extended solo route and was turning off to leave us to our own devices. I’m pretty certain I heard someone say, “Let’s go!”

So I did.

Without really thinking about it I’d accelerated away, as if channelling my inner Red Max with a stupidly long, Forlorn Hope attack, opening up a sizeable gap while those behind just looked on and wondered what the hell I was doing. I must admit to thinking pretty much the same thing myself.

Mea Culpa#3 and apologies all. Apparently my sudden rush of blood to the head (or the legs?) caused a complete disintegration of group order and much shouting from an apoplectic OGL. I say apparently, because I was too far down the road to have actually heard anything, so I’m relying on a bunch of decidedly unreliable witnesses.

I counted the frames my camera took during this madcap venture – there were 30 shots between my escaping the group and the Hammer finally catching my back wheel just as I braked for the Snake Bends. Given the camera is set to take an image every 20 seconds, then I had 10 minutes of solo riding, not daring to look back and wondering where everyone else had gone to, if I’d taken a wrong turn, or if they’d all collectively decided to just head elsewhere and leave me hanging out on my own like an idiot.


 

NOVATEK CAMERA
The Nutter Chase


 

My solo break seemed a hell of a lot longer than 10 minutes to me, even as I was trying not to go full bore so I had a little something in reserve for when I was inevitably caught. As it was I was first to the Bends, first to the T-Junction and second on the scamper up the last hill toward the café. I’ll take that any day.

At the café we tried sitting in the garden for a while, but it was just a bit too chilly and when even the Scottish folk declared it was too cold to sit out we admitted defeat and sloped back inside.

On the way home we came across a stricken Prof and Mrs. Prof, marooned at the side of the road with a severe mechanical. Someone asked if they needed help, but the Prof suggested what they needed was more in the way of a taxi and waved us on.

Approaching Berwick Hill I was riding along 2nd wheel, chatting amiably with the Hammer when something went flying from the bike to tumble away. I slowed and swung over to the side of the road, letting everyone past as I went to retrieve what turned out to be the cap off my bottle. Although somewhat annoyed at having to stop, I realise it could have been a lot worse, I’d never have lived it down if I’d tried to use the bottle and poured the entire contents down my front.

Having found and secured the errant cap I turned around to find Big Dunc had stopped as well, suspecting I’d had a mechanical and everyone had just abandoned me. That was good as it meant I didn’t have to try and chase back on, and together we set a decent pace sweeping up a few stragglers along the way.

Splitting from the group the return was straightforward and without incident. Let’s see what effects my efforts have tomorrow, when it’s the usual Saturday Club Run with limited recovery time.


YTD Totals: 1,606 km /990 miles with 16,238 metres of climbing

 

 

Bertie Bassett’s Northern Exposure


Club Run, Saturday 19th March, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   102 km/64 miles with 945 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 9 minutes

Average Speed:                                   24.7 km/h

Group size:                                           38 riders, 4 FNG’s

Temperature:                                     9°C

Weather in a word or two:             Chilly, grey and overcast

Main topic of conversation at the start:

The G-Dawg collective claimed their grandiose-sounding “bike-tree” storage solution has now been fully rotated and locked down into its summer position. Winter bikes will no longer be accessible until the autumn equinox and a blood sacrifice under a new moon.

We wondered if the whole ensemble not only rotated, but dropped securely into a secret vault (to the accompaniment of a soundtrack consisting of Thunderbirds-style pounding drums) where micro-bots and an army of minions would set to work making sure all parts were clean, well-lubricated and gleamed like new.

At one point though I caught G-Dawg’s wistful look as his eyes turned glassy, his lower lip trembled slightly and he asked of no one in particular in a small, plaintive voice, “Does anyone remember Duraglit?”

Micro-bots and minions be damned, this is the only man I know who polishes his chain to a mirror brightness and bemoans the passing of chrome on bikes because it gives him less to furiously burnish.

We envisaged him and Son of G-Dawg working with in tandem in the shade beneath their towering bike tree, with the companionable silence only being interrupted by Son of G-Dawg asking for the green toothbrush, “No, no, I need medium-hard for the chainstays.”

Taffy Steve likened it to Private Benjamin cleaning the latrines with her toothbrush and suggested Son of G-Dawg had emerged from beneath his Pa’s shadow and earned himself a new soubriquet of Private Benjamin. Will it stick?

On cursory inspection Crazy Legs’s helmet failed to pass muster, not because he’d got the angle wrong this time, simply because it was filthy with mud spatters that he claimed were off last week and a particularly muddy patch on the lane to Ogle. I don’t recall there being a muddy stretch there, but the sharp intake of breath from G-Dawg as it was mentioned suggested he did and the recollection didn’t make him at all happy.

Crazy Legs determined that all he needed to do was take off his helmet and lay it on the ground at G-Dawgs feet, the dirt would call seductively to G-Dawg, who  wouldn’t be able to resist picking the helmet up and giving it a good clean.

Before he could test this theory however, we were interrupted as an FNG rolled up and asked for mechanical assistance as he couldn’t find bottom gear. G-Dawg broke off long enough to fiddle with the barrel adjuster on his rear derailleur for a few seconds, quickly fettling the problem.

It was then rather cruelly suggested that the FNG didn’t actually want to come on our club run, but had just been riding past, spotted a random gaggle of cyclists and stopped on the off chance he could get his bike sorted quickly. Now though he had no choice but to tag along with us to save face.

Crazy Legs, still on his heavy winter bike then related how the frame had been delivered through the simple expedient of dropping it over a fence into his back yard. On unwrapping he found that the headtube had been dinged and was misshapen. He contacted the supplier only to be told to just hammer an old headset into the frame and that this should sort his problem.

Taffy Steve reflected that only in Britain would you be expected to engage in a spot of aggressive, percussive engineering to fix defective goods that the supplier couldn’t be arsed to deliver properly in the first place, or replace when things went wrong.

We could only imagine what the phone call to the suppliers help-desk sounded like from their end…

“Yes sir, no don’t worry sir, we’ll soon have that fixed. Now do you have the old headset we talked about? Yes, good.”

“And a hammer? Ok, great”

“Now then, can you sit the headset on the frame? Yes, yes, very good.”

“Ok, now hit it with the hammer. Ok, again.”

” Again. Again. And again. And again”

“Ok, I see. Can I just ask, what kind of hammer are you using sir?”

“Ah, no, actually we need a lump hammer for this type of work…”

 

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

We found a lone Sealskinz glove on the café floor and after a long and fruitless Cinderella-style search couldn’t find a princess worthy of it. Odd, I would have thought that anyone leaving the café with but a single-glove would actually realise their loss before they’d gone too far.

Unclaimed, I suspect the Prof probably snaffled it and transported it home to his secret workshop/laboratory/lair to add to his horde of random cast-offs, discarded flotsam and jetsam and sundry road-kill. Goodness knows what he’ll finally make with it, or what it will look like when it remerges into the light of day.

An old couple pushed open the café door, saw the place was mobbed with unruly cyclists and that every table was taken. They did an abrupt about-face, leaving the door to swing open behind them in a fit of pique. Taffy Steve felt it was about time the café installed an electronic door closer for moments like this, but I argued a trained monkey would be a better choice and much more entertaining.

There was then some debate about whether a dog was easier to train than a monkey, with a forceful case for our canine cousins being made because you can point and a dog will look immediately at what you’re pointing at, while a monkey will just look all around in disinterest. (I know from bitter experience that if you point for a cat it’ll just stare fixedly at your finger until you get bored, it gets bored, or it decides to attack your hand.)

Caracol then settled the argument by suggesting what we actually needed was a trained monkey that could point at the open door and then direct a dog to go and close it. Somewhere along the line someone suggested dolphins should be considered in the mix because of their high intelligence, but this was patently preposterous as everyone knows they have big problems with door handles.

Sneaky Pete sneaked up and sneaked straight into a space we’d cleared for a recently arrived Crazy Legs, who’d finally returned from his ride of splendid isolation. G-Dawg was happy to remind Pete of the time he treated us all to a wide band of exposed flesh between his too short shorts and too short leg warmers. I think this encounter has possibly scarred G-Dawg for life and he shuddered just recalling it.

Richard of Flanders commended me on my pan-European, all-embracing approach to cycling attire, adjudging my new Tørm jersey to be Spanish and following on from my German Bundisliga(?) and Belgian Lion of Flanders theming.

The Tørm jersey is a lot more sedate than my usual attire, plain black with just simple red and yellow bands across chest and sleeve, but it does nicely match my bike frame…and, err, wheels and tyres… and, err water bottle and overshoes … oh and shorts.

Never mind pan-European, Taffy Steve concluded that I just looked like a giant Liquorice Allsort and only needed a bobbly, blue Tam O’Shanter or perhaps one of those weird, bumpy Catlike Whisper helmets in UN Peacekeeping Force colours to create an uncanny resemblance to Bertie Bassett.


 

ride 19 march
Ride Profile


The Waffle:

I think I might have lit the blue touch paper by outing Zakaria Amirouch who has now garnered disparaging mentions on our Faecesbook page and prompted one or two calls to try and find a solution to his unwelcome omniscience.

Our megalomaniac interloper has joined 1,242 separate Strava Groups according to beZ – I won’t question his undoubted dedication, attention to detail and mathematic skills in computing this, but I am somewhat nonplussed that he had the time or will to sit and do it. I somehow suspect we may be returning to this topic…

Saturday and another dry if chilly day meant there was no question that it was another outing for Reg and my freewheel sang with joy as we dropped off the hill and into the valley. On arriving at the lights on the bridge I once again encountered the Ee-Em-Cee rider from a couple of weeks ago, this time off to meet his clubmates before a pre-planned long run, a 100 mile trip up to Alnmouth and back.

I had a much more modest distance in mind, finding the legs somewhat heavy after 3 commutes in the week, including one on Friday that was interspersed with a 20 minute, 9.6 kilometre stint on a Watt bike as part of our office Sports Relief effort. I swung east after crossing the river while the Ee-Em-Cee rider turned west and rode off to begin his grand adventure.


 

BB

Sur La Jante modelling the new “Liquorice Allsorts” range from Tørm


 

Yet again there was a massive turnout at the meeting place, with riders sprawled across the pavement and ready for the off. Before we could do this though even more servicing was required on the FNG’s ailing bike, with OGL stepping up to the plate this time with some assured mechanical nous.

When we finally roused ourselves to get going it was a large group of 38 riders pushing off, clipping in and heading out, including Red Max riding shotgun on the Monkey Butler Boy again and one of the more capable FNG’s returning from the previous week.

Taffy Steve later reported that this FNG had enjoyed her ride out the previous Saturday and he’d congratulated her as she never seemed to be in any trouble and had handled everything with aplomb. He later realised he’d probably and unwittingly sounded incredibly patronising and it would serve him right if he found out he’d been talking to the Scottish junior national time-trial champion or someone equally as accomplished.

I hit the front with Crazy Legs and led everyone out through the Great North Cyclemaze in a long, snaking line. Crazy Legs mentioned how chilly it was and was explaining how he’d dithered between full length and three quarters bib tights before finally resorting to asking his wife for advice.

When he said he was concerned three quarter tights were too risky I misheard and thought he’d said they were too risqué. This left me briefly wondering if Mrs. Crazy Legs was partial to a pair of well-turned ankles, or perhaps demanded even piano legs be covered to prevent immodesty.

We then had a discussion about whether a world champion cape would be a better alternative to a rainbow jersey and I felt consummate showman Peter Sagan would definitely be up for it. Crazy Legs suggested domestiques would have to carry the ends of the cape, like a wedding train, until the rider got up sufficient speed for it to stream out behind him. It all seemed doable – why isn’t the UCI acting?

This harmless nonsense kept us amused until we’d driven everyone up the climb past the Cheese Farm, where we pulled over and waved the next group through and onto the front. I tried dropping back through the pack, but there was some reluctance for anyone to drift too close to the front, so I slotted into second wheel, briefly chatting with OGL, the Monkey Butler Boy and Taffy Steve as everyone shuffled position.

Crazy Legs, who said he hated riding in big groups, eased backwards with far more success and I didn’t see him again until he turned up late at the café, apparently having ridden off on his own after deciding that either he, or his heavy winter bike weren’t up for the mass hurtle to the café.

At one point the façade cracked and we caught a glimpse of the real Zardoz behind his mask of avuncular bonhomie with a brief reprise of last week’s “angriest man in the peloton.”  This time he mock-growled at the Monkey Butler Boy, who’d apparently had the audacity to overtake him on a hill. Listening-in intently, the Red Max was convulsed by a paroxysm of evil giggles.

After we split and waved off the amblers I fell in with the BFG, back onto his ultra-modern, all carbon-on-carbon, uber-machine. He does like to change things up. He told me that earlier in the week he’d only narrowly avoided setting fire to his wheels and crashing his brand new bike after somehow mistakenly fitting non-carbon specific brake blokes. These had melted under extreme heat and apparently produced an aroma he suggested was akin to roast pork.

We swept down into the valley and up the rise to Hartburn, somehow passing the amblers group who were pulled over to the side of the road while they worked to fix yet another mechanical on the FNG’s bike. I was beginning to think maybe he’d only come out to get a free bike service.

As we turned off on a route that by-passed Middleton Bank I confessed to Taffy Steve that I was heavy-legged and happy we’d chosen the slightly shorter run in, but he just snorted in derision and said my inner demons would have kicked in and compelled me to attack Middleton Bank as soon as we hit the lower slopes, no matter how much it hurt. Hmm, maybe.

At some point we passed a decapitated and eviscerated deer corpse, flung violently to the side of the road by a car, a particularly vivid and gruesome reminder of the danger of RIM encounters. Thankfully it was too large and messy to fit in the Prof’s back pockets and he didn’t have time to stop and sling it across the front of his bike.


 

roadkill
If he’d been able to add a deer carcass AND stray glove the Prof might have been convinced all his birthdays had come at once


A few short, sharp climbs later we regrouped (well, more or less) and began the push for the café. Rab Dee led off, trying to keep a reasonable speed until Taffy Steve attacked, his acceleration snapping the knots out of our line like a string pulled suddenly taut and we were quickly lined out and racing along.

We stormed through Milestone Woods and over the rollers, down the last dip and began the climb up to the café. Rounding the last bend G-Dawg and Strummer sprinted away to contest the sprint, while I rode up the outside, passing everyone in front of me who seemed to be flagging, falling off the pace and drifting over to grind up the far side of the road.

At the last rise I sensed more than saw riders on my backwheel, eased out of the saddle and with the last few dregs of energy tried to accelerate up the final slope, hearing or perhaps just fancifully imagining, a groan of dismay from behind.

As it was the kick seemed to have dragged me well clear of everyone else and I closed and latched onto the now freewheeling G-Dawg, quietly buoyed by being able to put space between myself and the rest of the chasers.

Leaving the café Crazy Legs led a splinter group for a slightly longer ride home, taking G-Dawg with him, ostensibly so he could avoid the muddy patch that had so infuriated him last week. There was a huge amount of dithering around by those left behind and getting sick of the delay Taffy Steve gave up and kicked off for home.

I followed him and we enjoyed a companionable and unremarkable ride back, expecting to be overhauled by the rest of the group, but seeing neither hide nor hair of them. Perhaps they’d been delayed when the FNG’s bike needed one last fix?

As I turned off for my solo effort I actually felt stronger than I had when setting out and powered my way home in good time and without incident, all in time to catch the end of a very entertaining Milan-San Remo.

Another grand day out, capped by a startling conversation with Daughter#1 after we’d spent a little time laughing at Sean Kelly’s accent :

Daughter#1: “Do you think we’d make a good comedy double-act?”

SLJ: “Yes, as long as you play the straight man”

Daughter#1: “Does one of them always have to be gay?”

Sigh.


YTD Totals: 1,489 km /925 miles with 15,193 metres of climbing