Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch

Club Run, Saturday, 16th March 2019

My ride (according to Strava):

Total Distance:87 km/54 miles with 446 m of climbing
Riding Time:3 hours 49 minutes
Average Speed:22.5km/h
Group Size:7 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature: 8℃
Weather in a word or two:Hmm, wintry?

An Oddly Surreal Ride Profile

Saturday morning kicked off as it was forecast to continue, an indeterminate, ever-changing mix of snow, sleet and rain, bitter cold and, to top it all, increasingly gusting winds. It was going to be constantly wet. It was going to be freezing cold. It was going to be utterly filthy. It was going to be bleak and miserable, brutal and uncomfortable.



It was going to be great.

Club runs in such extreme, adverse conditions tend to attract the minimum number of die-hard riders, but the maximum amount of quality banter, or much talking of complete and utter bolleaux, if you prefer.

Now, perhaps this might be banal and boring to the huge majority of the population, but the gallows-humour and collective discomfort of a small group of cyclists prepared to laugh in the face of adversity is, for me, entertainment of the highest order.

But, first I have to get there.

I dress as best as I can, my thickest base-layer, winter jacket with heavy duty waterproof on top, headband to keep my ears warm, under a cap to keep the spray out of my eyes, trusty thermolite socks, winter boots and mighty lobster mitts.

Following Red Max Edict#37, I even remember to stuff a spare pair of gloves in my back pocket, so I have a dry set to pull on after the cafe stop.

[I confess, I sadly failed to follow Red Max Edict#38, which states that you should make a great show of producing said dry gloves and conspicuously place them in plain view on the table in the cafe, before sitting down with a smug look on your face. This is the prescribed method to transmit your superior level of preparedness to all those futilely trying to dry out their wet gloves by melting them on the stove, or anticipating the horror of trying to jam fingers back into cold, clammy and sodden garments.]

I leave it as late as possible, letting the latest squall clear, before scurrying out the door. I’m 20 minutes behind my usual time for setting off, but I’ve followed bike paths and trails to the nearest bridge before and plan on doing the same again.

I surf, slide and skate down the Heinous Hill, trying to stay in the tyre tracks of the cars and avoid the long, curving moraines of icy, dark slush. The rain is bouncing off my helmet and jacket and, worse, the spray kicked up by my speed downhill has me soaked from the knees down in an instant. No matter whether my foot is at the top of a pedal stroke, or at the bottom, I can’t seem to find a way of reducing the amount of water being flung at my legs.

Down the hill and a sharp right, I roll over a small humped-back bridge and hit the bike trails and cycle paths. Unlike last time I took this route, it’s a bit lighter and I can actually see where I’m supposed to be going. I pick up the pace, bumping over tree roots that appear to have taken on the role of natural speed bumps, slicing through mud, muddy puddles and gravel and swerving around the chicanes provided by scattered park benches and random dog walkers.

I eventually reach the gate that leads across the railway tracks, dismount and make my way across. I’ve survived the icy downhill sweep, the slippery mud, gravel, tree roots and potholes of the bike trail, but now, as I walk my bike across the railway lines, I lose my footing on a super-slick timber walkway and almost go my length, clinging desperately onto the bike in support.

I manage to stay (barely) upright and remount to follow the river toward the bridge. Rowers pass downstream, fully into their strokes and travelling much faster than they usually appear when I see them, bobbing around just outside their club house.

Across the river, I decide against the dark, debris strewn underpass and cross the four lanes of the Scotswood Road on the footbridge, a sort of mini-Alpe d’Huez with half a dozen sharp hairpins. One wrong turn at the other side, followed by a bit of back-tracking and then I’m travelling familiar roads and climbing out of the valley.

Detours and a bit of off-roading all worked out well and I was the first rider to arrive at the meeting point, rolling into the gloom of the multi-storey car park to shelter and wait to see which other idiots felt like riding out…


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

… where I was met by OGL, climbing out from the warm cocoon of his car. Deciding not to ride himself, he was there to see for himself the idiots who would brave the horrible weather and, as an aside, issue numerous dire warnings about flooded roads, blizzards engulfing Stamfordham and the imminent threat of glaciers to the rural communities around Rothbury.

The Garrulous Kid was next in, thankfully wearing new, stolen, or recently rediscovered tights. (We couldn’t quite follow the exact, jumbled explanation of their provenance.)

Then the Colossus and G-Dawg arrived and for a while, that looked to be it, a fabulous, fearsome foursome.

G-Dawg was counting on the usual suspects, so expected one or two more, although he realised a still ailing Crazy Legs was unlikely to be out.

Just as we thought that was it, Taffy Steve rolled in from the coast, lit up like a Christmas tree in Vegas. Unbelievably, he told us he’d nearly been broadsided by a motorist who somehow failed to spot him, despite being adorned by more blinking warning lights than the dashboard of a 747 experiencing total systems failure. SMIDSY.

He was followed in by Aether and suddenly numbers were about what we expected.

Story Number 5, please …

“Did I ever tell you about the time we were racing on the North York Moors and had to follow behind a snow plough up one of the hills?” OGL mused.

“Yes. Last week,” G-Dawg replied flatly.

“What about …”

“Yes, that too. Last week.”

OGL then did a quick double-take, “You’re all on winter bikes with mudguards!” he exclaimed, stepping back in apparent disbelief.

“Well, yes,” I told him, “We might all be mad, but we’re not insane.”

He took one last opportunity to warn us that it was, raining, it was cold and the roads were wet out, before climbing back in his car and scuttling off to a warm gym.

We watched him leave. Looked out at the weather. You know, he was right, it was raining and the roads were wet …

Not for the first time, the Garrulous Kid declared that Facebook is shit and Instagram and Snapchat far, far superior. The Colossus argued that they were ultimately all the same and no one was better than any other. He did concede however that Snapchat is probably a better platform for OGL to use, as his drunken rants would be automatically deleted by the time he sobered up.

Someone suggested that what we probably needed was an app that began a 2 hour countdown as soon as he was detected leaving an off-licence and locked him out of all social media until the following morning.

The Prof had threatened to ride with us today, as the Back Street Boys tribute act don’t ride in the rain (perhaps it interferes with the timing of their carefully choreographed dance routines?) There was no sign of him though, so we assumed he’d wimped out too. (The white feather’s in the post.)

At an unfeasibly early 9:14 then, one full minute before official GMT (Garmin Muppet Time) we decided no one else was going to bolster our meagre numbers, the weather wasn’t going to miraculously (or even marginally improve) and it was time to get moving.


I spent the first few miles riding alongside the Colossus, following G-Dawg and trying to determine how the arc of spray off his rear wheel managed to completely by-pass his mudguard. I’m still none the wiser.

At Dinnington, we picked up the Big Yin waiting for us and concluded it was just as well we’d left a minute early, otherwise the Big Yin might have looked more like the Big Ycicle by the time we got to him.

So, we then became The Magnificent Seven, I earned a Clash earworm (no bad thing) and on we pressed.

The Big Yin was the only one whose bike wasn’t equipped with mudguards, so he took great pains to ride at the back and not shower us with whatever his wheels kicked up off the road surface. It was a noble effort to try and keep us dry, but somewhat akin to opening an umbrella when you’re up to your neck in a river.

“We’ve made it through Dinnington,” the Colossus announced, “We can turn back at any time now and not have the ignominy of completing the world’s shortest club run. Ever.” he said, looking pointedly at the Garrulous Kid.

Bolstered by this relative success, we pressed on.



We took the turn off to the Cheese Farm and hit our first flooded section, an expanse of dirty cold water stretching from verge to verge. Everyone crowded toward the highest point of the roads camber, right down the middle, but the water was bottom bracket deep nonetheless. Even worse for G-Dawg, the Garrulous Kid cut through in front and kicked up a bow wave that engulfed him and blew through his overshoes to soak his feet.

Not that I think anyone fared much better – the water was deep enough to overtop my boots and water started to leak in.

I actually enjoyed the climb of Bell’s Hill as chance to stretch the legs and the increase in pace added a little body heat to proceedings.

The ride progressed for some way in this manner, enjoying the hills when the extra effort created a bit of warmth and dreading the descents where just a few extra kph in speed exponentially and noticeably increased the wind chill.

At one point we passed the spot where G-Dawg was marshalling during the National Time Trials and Geraint Thomas almost came to grief, misjudging the corner, running wide across the verge and barely missing the fence.

As he approached the corner, G-Dawg remembered the DS in the car behind bellowing “Put the power down! power down!” when G-Dawg was thinking more along the lines of “Woah!” and “Slow Down!” Still “G” made it through (barely) and won, perhaps thanks to the risks he took at that very corner.

Citing adverse weather protocols, we petitioned the only official member of the Flat White Club, Taffy Steve, for special dispensation to call a mid-ride coffee( and thawing-out) stop. Permission granted, we then detoured from the official route and plotted a course direct to Kirkley Cycles.

As we approached the Garrulous Kid and Colossus seemed to kick up the pace on the front.

“Is there an intermediate cafe sprint?” I asked G-Dawg. Apparently not, they were just eager to find shelter, but G-Dawg wondered if we shouldn’t programme all the potential cafe stops into Strava and have a sprint for each one.

I don’t know why, but Kirkley Cycles was strangely quiet, with only one other cyclist to be seen, a kid riding around in the yard brandishing a pick axe handle as a makeshift sabre. We wondered if this was the type of implement we too should consider carrying on club runs …


Main topics of conversation at coffee stop #1:

Inside we found that Aether had turned a shocking shade of grey – probably something akin to the deathly pallor Crazy Leg sees in my face after a hill climb. He was a bit wobbly and light-headed, so at G-Dawg’s suggestion, lay out, full length across one the benches, like a corpse in the morgue.

Having felt we’d showed sufficient concern for our ailing comrade, we naturally returned to our endless blather.

Taffy Steve turned to the Colossus.

“You need a Raw flap,” he said.

He was, of course suggesting a simple and sensible extension to the Colossus’ mudguards, but we all sniggered and snorted like naughty schoolboys anyway.

We admired the selection of cycling spares and wares, concluding our other cafe stops could learn a thing or to about catering to their cycling clientele. They had at least one of almost anything you could possibly need – as well as one or two things you definitely wouldn’t.

We wondered if the miniature, but perfectly formed road-bike shaped earrings would appeal to the Colossus’ partner – perhaps as a sop after she discovered an odd charge for raw flaps on their bank statement.

He determined that, if he did buy them, he’d better have a legitimate, desirable and preferably expensive, alternative present to hand across immediately afterwards, or he’d be in big trouble.

At some point other cyclists hustled indoors, out of the cold, followed by some remarkably under-dressed gym goers, who looked someone askance at the stretched-out cadaver formally known as Aether.

And then, the stretched-out cadaver formally known as Aether sat up and slowly began to rise from his slab.

He lurched across to us and dropped heavily into a chair. Colour was slowly returning to his face and he was beginning to look less corpse-like.

“I’ll have a cup of tea,” he announced and stood up abruptly.

The next time I looked, he’d gone.

“Did he just say he was just going outside and may be some time?” I asked.

Luckily, we didn’t have to send out a search party, as our wannabe Captain Oates soon returned and then secured a cup of restorative tea.

We had a laugh at the British trait of treating any malady or ailment with a cup of tea, before deciding if more drastic action was needed. I’ve cut my arm off and the stump won’t stop bleeding. I know, I’ll have a cup of tea and then maybe go to A&E if that doesn’t help, etc.

For a reason I can’t remember, I had a conversation with Taffy Steve where we cast the Garrulous Kid as Steve McQueen’s “Cooler King” from the Great Escape. Perhaps it was something to do with his penchant for riding into fences?

We pictured him slumped on the floor in solitary, repeatedly bouncing a baseball off the floor, the wall and back again. Ba-Bump-Dap … Ba-Bump-Dap … Ba-Bump-Dap…

“You know, of course that he’d never, ever tire of doing it,” Taffy Steve concluded. Ba-Bump-Dap… “No matter how much it annoyed everyone else.”

Ba-Bump-Dap…

“Well,” the Colossus announced, We’d better get going if we’re to make it to the other cafe on time!”

So, off we shuffled, once more into the breach and all that. Although seemingly fully recovered, Aether decided a little caution was called for and set off to return home, while the rest of us pushed on.


As we rejoined the main road, the Colossus applied his brakes, barely slowed and winced at the grating noise of corrosive, grit-embedded brake blocks grinding away his rims. “All that noise and no discernible effect on your speed,” Taffy Steve noted, “Don’t you love it?”

Ah yes, I thought, as the Bard himself might once have said, on a particularly bad February club-run with the Avon Jacobean V.C. – winter braking, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

I dropped in beside Taffy Steve and confessed how, perversely, I quite enjoyed these extreme rides in miserable conditions. He mentioned he’d been listening to a podcast about the Great War when the Germans and Turks at Gallipoli began to fear the ANZACS and Tommy’s were mad, because, as conditions got worse and worse, the laughter from the enemy lines just got louder and more frequent. Perhaps what I was experiencing was (at a much more modest scale) something similar, though quite different?

We pushed along for a good while, at one point trailing a low-flying duck that was spoiled for choice and couldn’t seem to decide which newly formed body of water to try next. Finally we reached a junction and paused to discuss various options for extending the ride, before deciding to just head straight for the cafe. Who could blame us?

As we closed on Whalton, G-Dawg revealed that they were contemplating a 20 mph speed-limit through the village, something that would almost certainly kill the long established and much used time-trial route that passes through it. I felt it was ironic that traffic calming measures could have such a profoundly negative effect on cycling.

Approaching the cafe, I dropped back to ride with Taffy Steve, ritually cursing his already thrice-cursed winter bike and taking on the hills at a more refined pace. From here I was well-distanced from the sprint, but close enough to hear the strangled shouts and see the Colossus veer violently across the road and into the opposite lane. Something had gone wrong up front, but disaster had been averted and we all made it to the cafe safely.


Main topics of conversation at coffee stop #2:

The sprint had apparently been rudely disrupted when a flailing Garrulous Kid had ended up swerving violently as he kicked his own frame, causing everyone near by to take immediate and drastic avoiding action.

The Garrulous Kid insisted he was a safe rider and good in a sprint. Taffy Steve suggested this was only because everyone knew his reputation and so always allowed a 2-metre exclusion zone around him, a moving bubble of protection. For our sake, not his.

The Garrulous Kid bit into his Dime bar tray bake and then picked bits of indeterminate material out of his teeth and dropped them on his plate, prodding at them uncertainly with a bony finger.

“There’s plastic in my cake,” he declared.

“I think you’ll find they’re just bits of chilled caramel,” the Colossus offered, “It’s a Dime cake, what do you expect?”

“No, it’s plastic.” He picked up a bit and chewed it experimentally, before dropping it back onto his plate and re-asserting, “Plastic.”

“Are you sure?”

Once again the Garrulous Kid picked up the offending morsel and nibbled away.

“Yep. Plastic.”

“Stop trying to eat it then.”

Oddly though, the Garrulous Kid stopped whining about his cake and had soon devoured it, more or less in its entirety.

G-Dawg suggested if he’d wanted to complain, he couldn’t really take an empty plate, decorated with just one or two half-chewed, spit-covered
(allegedly) plastic crumbs back to the counter and demand a refund or replacement.

The Big Yin told us his son had been on TV quiz show Eggheads and as a true Geordie, received what he described as the equivalent of a gaping open net, when asked to name the Premierships top goalscorer. (For the record, I would have failed miserably).

In turn, G-Dawg recalled a tale about Alan Shearer’s dad taking him to meet local footballing legend, Hughie Gallacher’s son and then telling him, “no matter how good you are, you’ll never be as good as Hughie Gallacher”. This, I celebrated, is as good an example as you could get of the Red Max school of parental encouragement.

Speaking of sporting legends, I related my own favourite tale of the week, reading about the peerless Beryl Burton, doing a 12 hour time-trial and going like a train as she passed the bloke who was on course to set a new men’s record! According to legend she’d slowed just long enough to ask if he might like a liquorice drop, before powering away and disappearing up the road.

We tried to determine if the Garrulous Kid had any topics of conversation outside of football, school/university and a seemingly unhealthy obsession with the Monkey Butler Boy. (Is it unrequited love?)

We were told he liked boxing and he liked rugby, because his dad liked rugby and used to play fly-half and he watches the rugby with his dad – (although obviously not close enough to know a fly-half wears the number 10 shirt.)

He added that he hated badminton though, which I assume is another of his dad’s sports, although it could just have been a product of his butterfly mind flitting gently from subject to subject.

I felt the need to defend badminton, good to play, if less then gripping to watch and to my mind a much better sport than tennis. He seemed surprised I didn’t like tennis and wondered why.

Uh-oh, dangerous. I could have given him chapter and verse about it’s exclusively middle-class strictures, the huge resources of time and money the BBC pours into what is essentially a minority sport, the ridiculous, stuffed shirt, stuck-up nature of the Lawn Tennis Association, the fact that you need up to 11 officials to determine a simple game between two players, those particular fans who have no interest in any sport, even tennis, other than for two weeks of the year, when they slavishly adopt a heightened, jingoistic nationalism, the elevation of the most mediocre of British talent into world-beaters, who after modest and moderate success can have the sinecure of a job, along with a whole raft of other ex-pro’s, sucking at the corporate teat of the (publicly funded) BBC, or the distinct lack of drug-testing (cough# Operación Puerto) … (Oh ok, I’m biased, I’ll admit it.)

Instead, I simply cited the fist shake – the awful, embarrassing, gesture that seems to be the staple of every tennis player, whenever they feel the need to snarl aggressively at their opponent because they’ve managed to pat a ball back over a net. I then picked out certain Mr. Andrew Barron Murray as the worst exemplar of this all to pervasive, inelegant, over-used and inappropriate gesture. In my mind, that’s enough to condemn the entire sport? Hey, I never claimed to be rational, or balanced.

For his part, Taffy Steve wondered how the seemingly brittle and shrill Judy Murray had somehow managed to parlay her sons’ successes into a kind of C-list celebrity. Where, he wondered was Mrs. Brownlee and Mrs. Yates and weren’t they deserving of some attention too?

Normal conversation resumed and the Colossus recalled a university night out, when TV Gladiators, Jet and Wolf, were paid to turn up and bash numerous drunk students with pugil sticks for fun.

As entertaining as that sounded, G-Dawg felt it probably wasn’t quite as good as watching the YouTube video of a 72-year old Buzz Aldrin sucker punching some ridiculous conspiracy-theorist who kept taunting him about the moon landings being a lie.

Then our allotted time ran out and we wrapped up, figuratively and literally and prepared to leave.

We were a little delayed as the Big Yin flipped his frying gloves over on the stove top, trying to ensure they were crisp and well browned on both sides before he pulled them on again.


Then it was out and into the weather. It had stopped raining and the sky was nudging toward brightness, so the only water we had to worry about now were the few flooded sections of road we encountered.

By the time I was dropped at the end of the Mad Mile the sun was actually out and the temperature was starting to creep up. The rest of the day and remainder of my ride would prove quite pleasant and those lucky enough to be out for a ride Sunday would enjoy cold, but bright and dry conditions.

It’s hard to think of a greater contrast from one day to the next, still, you don’t always need good weather to have a good time.


YTD Totals: 1,693 km / 1,052 miles with 22,962 metres of climbing

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The Golden Ratio

The Golden Ratio

Club Run, Saturday 8th September, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 110 km / 69 miles with 1,139 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 11 minute

Average Speed:                                  26.4 km/h

Group size:                                          28 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                      16°C

Weather in a word or two:              Passable


 

ratio
Ride Profile


I passed a small cluster of cyclists who were meeting up at the traffic lights leading down to the river, less than three miles or so into my journey. It did make me ponder why I was riding a further 7-8 miles to meet up with the usual gang of reprobates, when there were obviously perfectly pleasant, companionable cyclists and clubs much closer to home.

Still at least there are possibilities if we ever attempt a palace coup that fails…

Once again I found myself arriving at the meeting point early, despite leaving at more or less the same time and following the same route. I seem to be getting faster, but it’s probably not worth making adjustments, the switch to the winter bike will soon fettle that.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting place:

Forget about the melting polar ice caps, receding glaciers and spiralling average temperatures. Forget about the increasing incidence of extreme and violent weather, rising sea levels and the carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere. If you want incontrovertible proof that global warming is an actual, real phenomenon, then that evidence was proudly on display this Saturday morning – we’re well into September and yet the first cyclist to join me at our meeting place was Szell, someone who we’d expect to be deep into his hibernation cycle at this time of the year.

And yet, here he was, blinking in the milky autumn light and questioning whether he had made the right clothing choices to cope with the variable temperatures.

I told him that this conundrum was all too common and no one had the right answer – even the most hardened, experienced, all-weather, all-year round, veteran cyclists wasted long minutes every day pondering what clothing layers and accessories to wear and deciding what could be easily pulled on and taken off at a moment’s notice. And, I assured him, they still, invariably got it wrong.

The Garrulous Kid was back and announced he’d had a great holiday in Florida.

“Florida is horrider, than Whitley Bay,” Szell intoned.

“There’s no McEwan’s Best Scotch in the USA,” I followed up with the next line in a creaky TV ad campaign from the distant, hazy annals of our youth.

Florida? Nice Place, Shame about the Beer.

We had a laugh at the conceit behind labelling McEwan’s Best Scotch, a mass-produced, fizzy, bland and utterly un-noteworthy, generic beer as the “one you had to come back for.”

Szell seemed to remember a whole series of these ads, but the only other one that I could recall was the Russian one:

“Red Square’s dead square, we know that for a fact,

No McEwans’s Best Scotch in the Warsaw Pact

They’ve just got propaganda, not proper Geordie brew,

They asked about Marx? Well …one out of ten for you.”

I had to admit, I much preferred the much simpler, smarter Newcastle Brown Ale posters in (probably) indecipherable Geordie, the only one of which I still recall said simply:

AHCUDDOONABROON.

G-Dawg outlined the route for the day, including a raid down into the Tyne Valley and, with another good turnout of 28 riders, we split into two groups that, somewhat surprisingly, turned out to be more or less equal.

Well … ish.


I rolled onto the front of the first group alongside Caracol and we pushed out, safely traversed the deadly and treacherous Broadway West and then we were away.

I spent the first few miles chatting about the Vuelta and, in particular, Simon Yates distinct lack of media training and polish. This, I felt was a refreshing change from the corporate blandness of Sky, even if it did leave to some rather terse and uncomfortable interviews.

Caracol was fully sympathetic and wondered how any normal person would cope with being asked the same inane questions, over and over, in French, English and Spanish and maybe half a dozen other languages beside.

Interviewer: “What went wrong at the Giro.”

Simon Yates: “I don’t know what went wrong at the Giro.”

Interviewer: “Will what happened at the Giro happen here to?”

Simon Yates: “I don’t know if what happened at the Giro will happen here to.”

Etc.

G-Dawg’s route included a new wrinkle that took us up Birney Hill, a narrow country lane, seemingly frequented by only the most considerate and polite of drivers. As the third of these in quick succession pulled over to the side and stopped to let us through, the Red Max somewhat ruined my impression of the denizens of the area by nodding at all the parked-up cars and muttering cynically, “It’s a bit early for dogging, isn’t it?”

Back onto more familiar roads, we had a third incident with a biker in as many weeks. Does this mark a new departure in the conflict between motorist and cyclist? Have all bikers now been seduced by the dark side and the four-wheeled forces of oppression? Or, is it perhaps the same biker who has a very particular grudge against this club and has been stalking us for the past 3 weeks, just so he can vent?

This particular biker slowed, mid-overtake, to ride alongside Crazy Legs and loudly declare, “Mare allah bunda munts!”

“Pardon me?” Crazy Legs, enquired politely.

“Mare allah bunda munts!” the biker repeated, but just as unintelligibly as the first time.

“What?” Crazy Legs shook his head, acting perplexed.

“Mare. Allah. Bunda. Munts!” the biker shouted, trying to enunciate each word carefully through the constricting confines of his helmet.

“Eh?” Crazy Legs responded, smiling at the biker in a manner he hoped would encourage further elucidation.

By now it was obvious that the biker wasn’t trying to convey a friendly greeting, but this comedic interchange had robbed his intended invective of any sting.

Even better, having paused mid-overtake to berate us for holding up the traffic, he was now getting serious grief from the cars behind that couldn’t get past him. Perhaps it finally dawned on him just how foolish he looked, and our new biker friend gave up and roared off. Maybe he’s planning to give it another go next week?

I found myself riding alongside the Monkey Butler Boy, who’d finally determined the osymetric chain-ring he’d invested all his hard earned currency in was, to quote the Red Max’s expert opinion, “utter crap.”

He’d since bitten the bullet and reverted back to more traditional style chain ring, but was bemoaning the fact that he’d having also switched from a 36 to a 39, the ratios were all wrong and he was struggling to get used to the change. It was also a ready-made excuse if he started to struggle on the hills. (Just saying).


ratiotr


Down into the Tyne valley we went, skirting the river for a while and rolling straight through our usual re-grouping point at Bywell Bridge, determining in conversation with the Red Max that our pace probably meant the second group were well adrift and it would be an overly prolonged wait.

So, we kept going and almost immediately started the scrabble to climb back out the valley. We were soon splintered and strung up and own down the road, but stopped to regroup after threading our way across the 4-thundering lanes of A69 traffic. This was safely achieved with a lot of patience, a couple of sharp kamikaze dashes and the use of a handily placed median strip, where we could temporarily kneel in prayer and claim sanctuary.

Once across the dual carriageway, there was yet more climbing to be done before the road would level and lead us on toward Matfen. On the climb the Garrulous Kid became detached, allegedly distracted while trying to inhale a Snickers bar whole. Then the Monkey Butler Boy lost contact, still trying to come to grips with his new and completely alien gear-ratios.

The other stragglers may have had their excuses too, but if they did they were more stoical and refused to acknowledge them.

We regrouped once again and then pushed on toward Matfen and from there to the Quarry. The pace started to pick up and a handful went off the front as we made the turn for the climb.

I rounded the corner and dropped back to make sure we collected any stragglers before pushing on. As I rolled back up to speed I encountered a happy, freewheeling Crazy Legs engaged in a bit of Rick Rolling, booling along and merrily engaged in an energetic rendition of Never Gonna Give You Up…

The front runners had long disappeared when our group made it to the top of the Quarry, to the accompaniment of Mr. Astley’s finest only moment. Here we swung right and started our final run to the café.

As the road straightened, the Monkey Butler Boy was the first to attack surging off the front and opening a short-lived lead, before the inevitable response reeled him in.

Richard of Flanders and the Red Max tried next, each attacking in turn, but on the long drag up toward the crossroads their speed and advantage quickly bled away. Caracol caught and drove past them, I dropped onto his wheel and as we darted through the crossroads, he looked back and saw we’d opened up a sizeable gap.

“Looks like it’s just me and you,” he declared … and so it was, as we hammered down through the curves, swept through the junction and ground our way up the last few ramps.

As we swung onto the road down toward the Snake Bends, Caracol was questioning the wisdom of the Monkey Butler Boy’s premature attack that had lit the blue touch-paper and set everything off.

He was, I suggested, simply a hostage to genetic imperative and couldn’t help uphold the family traditions of attacking early and quite forlornly.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

At the café, the Red Max played us all expertly, suggesting it was still warm enough to sit outside and then, after we had all dutifully trooped out to the garden, taking his pick of chairs inside.

Despite the deception he wasn’t wrong, it was perfectly pleasant outside and the bothersome wasps were fewer in number and not quite as aggressive as they had been last week.

We settled down for a “3-mugger” and a classic spot of blather and bullshit …

It started when the Garrulous Kid wandered past, digging in his back pockets and dislodging an empty Snickers wrapper that spiralled slowly down to the ground.

“I do like a Snickers,” Zardoz commented, “It’s been shown to have the perfect, irresistible ratio between sugar and fat content”

“Ah, a sort of golden ratio. I thought that was the ring donut?” I countered, obviously having heard somewhere that the perfect ratio between sugar and fat was to be found in ring donuts.

“Those as well.” Zardoz affirmed, “But for your 70p, a Snickers bar will give you the highest calorific content and the perfect ratio. It’s the peanuts.”

“What? Wait, 70p! I remember when they used to be only 20p. And a lot bigger too.”

“Yeah, yeah and they used to be called a Marathon.” Zardoz was only slightly sympathetic.

“Exactly, it was named after the most recent tussle between them Persians and Greeks.”

“It’s all ancient history now, old boy.” Zardoz observed dryly.

We were joined by G-Dawg, the Colossus and Taffy Steve, having just led the second group in, and talk turned to various cycling commentators. We wondered how Sean Kelly and his indecipherable accent had ever been seen as a prime candidate to be the expert voice of Eurosport.

Although thankfully he’s grown into this role, Richard of Flanders still recalled a memorable, early radio interview with Kelly when he had to be constantly reminded that listeners couldn’t actually see him nodding away or shaking his head, no matter how vigorously he did this.

From there it was just a hop, step and jump (luckily bypassing the even more puzzling choice of Jonathan Edwards as a cycling presenter) en route to talk about how the rather odious sounding Brian Clough had publicly humiliated Peter Shilton on national TV for a standard, run-of-the-mill, goal-keeping blunder.

Speaking of inappropriate job choices, Richard of Flanders recalled Peter Shilton had then moved into management with Plymouth Argyle, or some other remote (well, to us, anyway) team, where he didn’t seem to have a clue and constantly demanded his players do push-ups as punishment for minor infractions.

This, I suggested was exactly the kind of thing our club was missing and I moved that push-ups for any kind of infraction be immediately added to the club rule book.

Ah, the club rule book. Did such a mythical creation even exist?

We imagined it as a massive tome, bound in ancient, flayed skin of indeterminate origin, covered in arcane motifs and sigils and sealed with a massive, black iron hasp and padlock.

If allowed access to its hallowed content, the yellowed parchment pages would crackle dryly as you opened it up, each section headed with massive illuminated letters and consisting solely of a series of dire instructions: “Though shalt” and “Though shalt not’s.”

G-Dawg felt the tome would be hidden within a secret chamber, the fuhrer bunker, buried deep beneath OGL’s house.

“Guarded by traps, trip-wires and a giant boulder,” Taffy Steve imagined.

“Poison darts and snakes,” I added.

“And even if you find it, you’ll still have to fight the ghost of Pat Roach for it, somewhere along the line,” Taffy Steve concluded, while Richard of Flanders looked on in bewildered incomprehension.

Talk of old football legends, brought up talk of old football stadiums, with Richard of Flanders, on safer ground now, wondering if anyone could recall going to the toilets at old Ayresome Park.

As I remember the stadium itself was like one big toilet, so my imagination failed when it came to picturing what the actual toilets within it could be like.

“Just a long, blank wall with a gutter at the bottom,” according to Richard of Flanders.

“And no drains,” G-Dawg stated.

“Apparently, you’ve never experienced Liverpool until you’ve felt the Kop warm leg welcome.” Sneaky Pete relayed and then there were numerous stories about football spectating in the good old days, terraces awash with urine, pitches showing more mud than grass and leather case balls that would dislocate your neck if you tried to head them when they got sodden and heavy.

Oh, and the ever present threat of violence.

Back talking about a slightly more civilized sport, everyone wanted to know why Szell was still riding, even though it was already September. We wondered if he’d even keep going right up until the Club Hill Climb and if he might perhaps participate?

Szell revealed he’d ridden it once before in the dim and distant past and had no desire to revisit that particular form of intense self-flagellation, a view much supported by Taffy Steve.

“You could always come along and push people off,” a well-meaning, Richard of Flanders suggested, but off course we took his suggestion the wrong way.

“Like, hide in the bushes half way up and leap out at unsuspecting riders?” the Colossus wondered, imagining a Takeshi’s Castle style contest, with a ninja-style, anti-cyclist who would suddenly appear and push each rider over as they strained upwards.

As if a hill climb isn’t already hard enough.

The Colossus suggested he was facing a near impossible task with the hill climb and couldn’t better his first ever time, just back from uni, when he was younger, fitter and most importantly, much lighter. Now, getting older and heavier, his chances of a new personal best time were receding, despite the vagaries and inconsistencies in OGL’s official time-keeping.

Someone countered that weight followed a typical bell-curve through age and there would be a point where you could expect to start getting lighter again.

“Great,” I suggested, “Another 17 years and I might be at my optimum for the hill climb.”

Of course at that age, all dry sinew and skeleton, there’s a good chance that you would simply snap attempting a hill climb.

We speculated about our assailant, potty-mouthed motorbiker and G-Dawg concluded he must surely know us as he had correctly identified that we were a bunda munts. Perhaps, he suggested, it was a disgruntled, ex-club member – although that would be casting the net ridiculously wide and would in no way help us narrow down the biker’s identity.

I then learned that Canyon were a German bike brand (I didn’t know, but can’t say I’d given it much thought) and could also be considered when the Garrulous Kid looks to replace his Focus and insists that only precision and world-renowned Teutonic engineering will suffice. So, from our count he can choose, Canyon, Focus, Rose, Cube or Stork. Not a bad line up.

Speaking of German bikes, we learned that the Garrulous Kid was on his winter bike because he “broke his tyres.” (The tyres were obviously not engineered in Germany.)

He seemed rather nonplussed when Taffy Steve suggested he could have  just swapped over the wheels.

“They’re too heavy.”

“But they’d still be better on your Focus than on your winter bike.”

“I hate my winter bike,” the Garrulous Kid declared.

“Yes,” Taffy Steve affirmed, “That’s the point.”


Off we went and I found myself riding alongside the BFG. He’s taking his newly achieved granddad status very, very seriously and has been regularly riding out with the new grand kid perched on a seat fixed to the front of his bike.

Unfortunately, all he can see when he’s riding is the back of the kid’s head, so it’s always a shock when he gets home and sees the snot-encrusted mask that the wind and speed has dragged out and dried like cement across the kids face.

Even worse, he got home one time to find the kid had somehow eviscerated his helmet, the hollow shell sitting on the back of his head, while the disengaged padding was wrapped tightly around his face.

I suggested this was probably a defence mechanism and the kid was so terrified he had pulled the helmet lining down to cover his eyes, like a condemned man before a firing squad.

The BFG was having none of this though, insisting he knew the kid had been smiling all the way around because of the flies stuck to his teeth.

A turn on the front, through Dinnington to the turn-off, was my last major effort of the day, then the main body swung left and I dropped behind Caracol and G-Dawg to surf through the Mad Mile and away.

The rain blew in as I plugged my way across the river toward home and I stopped to pull on a jacket. The poor weather seemed to have the effect of boosting the appeal of the shopping centre and the traffic was starting to back up. I had to queue patiently on the approach to the roundabout at the bottom of the Heinous Hill, slowly getting soaked ad cold.

Finally across and through the traffic lights, I spun my way up and home to end another ride, at least on a high point, if not an actual high.


YTD Totals: 5,239 km / 3,255 miles with 64,597 metres of climbing