Time. I just can’t seem to scrape together enough of this elusive, precious resource these days.
— or maybe, I’m just lazy.
Either way, it took me an excruciating 3-weeks to write-up and post about my misadventures in the Alps and all the while weekends kept ticking past. I now realise I’m in danger of losing this blerg’s raison d’etre, the celebration of the venerable club run, with all it’s attendant lurid colour, madness, madcap characters, incessant chatter and mayhem.
I was hoping to report that normal service would now be resumed, but events have conspired against me. More of that later, but first a brief recap of what I’ve missed and what you’ve been spared …
Club Run, Saturday 22nd June : Got a Short, Little, Span of AttentionDistance : 109km Elevation Gain: 1,133 m Riding Time: 4 hours 2 minutes
My first ride back from the Alps, not quite recovered and riding with very heavy legs. The Monkey Butler Boy wore a new pair of shorts complete with a sheer, translucent back panel, which is undoubtedly marketed as being more aero. The Red Max branded them as vaguely obscene and off-putting and insisted the Monkey Butler Boy ride behind him at all times. I wondered if, given this animal-like, ritual display, a change of name to Baboon Butler Boy wasn’t in order.
The Red Max complained the Monkey Butler Boy had stolen his trademark use of selected red highlights, although, to be fair the Red Max has never taken it to the extreme of exposing a big, pimply, scarlet baboon-ass in his quest for colour co-ordination.
At the cafe, talk turned to the upcoming Team Time Trial which Captain Black has somehow found himself press-ganged into riding. Throughout the discussion he kept looking at me with pleading eyes and silently mouthing “Help” and “Save Me” across the table. Sadly, I felt powerless to intervene.
As well as the physical pain and torment of actually riding the event, he may also have to suffer the indignity and mental anguish of donning our most unloved of club jersey’s. Astonishingly, the Cow Ranger declared wearing the club jersey should make you feel ten feet tall and unbeatable.
So, apparently not like a giant box of orange and lime Tic Tacs, then?
Club Run, Saturday 29th June : Topsy TurvyDistance : 122km Elevation Gain: 1,140 m Riding Time: 4 hours 37 minutes
A genius route, planned by Taffy Steve that turned our entire world upside down and shattered all kinds of preconceived notions. He had us riding up to Rothley Crossroads the wrong way, using the route we usually take to get away from the hated junction. It’s hated because we usually get there via a long, leaden drag, on lumpen, heavy roads, not quite steep enough to be called proper climbing, but not flat enough to power up sitting in the saddle.
Guess what? The alternative route is even worse…
Amidst much wailing, moaning and gnashing of teeth, I heard several riders vow they would never, ever, ever complain about our more typical route up to Rothley Crossroads again.
The ride was noteworthy as, perhaps the first time, we’d had a full complement of all four of our current refugees from the Netherlands out at the same time. As Taffy Steve quipped, we had numbers enough to form our own Dutch corner.
At the cafe, budding biological scientist the Garrulous Kid insulted our European compatriots by insisting the metric system was “crap.” He declared what we really needed was a decimal system that was easy to use, adaptable, internationally recognised, universally accepted and simple to pick up and apply. (Yes, I know he just described the metric system, but remember this is in Garrulous Kid World, which is dangerously unhitched from reality.)
Club Run, Saturday 29th June : Great British Bicycle Rides with Philomena Crank Distance : 122km Elevation Gain: 1,140 m Riding Time: 4 hours 37 minutes
My second annual Anti-Cyclone Ride, which has grown from a base of just two participants, Taffy Steve and The Red Max three years ago, to the 2019 edition which reached almost standard club run numbers. Twenty-two of us set out for a route that would occasionally intersect with the Cyclone Sportive, most importantly at a number of feed-stations where copious amounts of cake and coffee could be purchased.
For me, the most notable moment of the day was when my left hand crank slowly unwound from it’s spindle and came off, still attached to my shoe by its cleat. The Goose helped me fit it back on using the pinch bolts, but the crank cap appeared damaged. Still, I managed to make it the rest of the way around our route and right to the bottom of the Heinous Hill, before I felt my foot tracing that weird lemniscate pattern as the crank unwound again.
Bad luck, but reasonable timing, as it happened right outside Pedalling Squares cycling cafe. I was able to call in to their bike workshop, the Brassworks, where Patrick patched me up enough to get the rest of the way up the hill and home.
Later in the week the bike would travel back down to the Brassworks for a proper fix and, as a special treat, top to bottom service. I’ve no idea what was to blame for the unfortunate mechanical, perhaps the bike was damaged in transit after all?
And that’s me pretty much caught up and back on schedule. With Reg still convalescing, I was looking forward to a rare summer club run aboard the Peugeot, my winter bike.
I prepped the bike the night before and things were going well as I crossed the river and started backtracking down the valley. That was when my bottom bracket started to creak and complain.
By the time I started climbing out the other side, the creaking had turned into a full on chorus of complaints, as if a nest full of ever-hungry fledglings had taken up residence in my bottom bracket and were demanding to be fed.
A bit of tinkering gave temporary relief, but it wasn’t long before the hungry birds returned with a vengeance. I reluctantly pulled the pin and aborted the ride, turning back. Even if the bottom bracket had held up mechanically, I couldn’t ride with that cacophony as an accompaniment.
Home by 9.30, too late to join the club, but too early to call it a day, I pulled out my bike of last resort, the single-speed I use for commuting. I bravely and foolishly decided to head due-south, for a few loops around the Silver Hills, where I used to ride as a kid. You’d think I’d know better by now.
My ride profile shows the change, my clearly defined ride of two halves, as I went from relatively benign to brutally bumpy. This included a couple of 4th Category climbs with 25% gradients and lots of ragged, wet and gravel-strewn surfaces. Single-speed vs. Silver Hills is definitely an unequal contest, but I got a decent work-out and, to be honest, I quite enjoyed myself in an odd, masochistic and not-to-be-soon-repeated sort of way.
YTD Totals: 4,651 km / 2,890 miles with 62,397 metres of climbing
Total Distance: 99 km/61 miles with 1,064 metres of climbing
Ride Time: 3 hours 55 minutes
Average Speed: 25.2 km/h
Group size: 21 riders, 1 FNG
Weather in a word or two: Chilly with showers
The on-board camera failed today, reporting Error Code: 2754/86#3, which checking in the on-line manual appears to translate as “extreme user idiocy”. So, no pretty pictures, just the usual flood of err… coruscating and witty effulgence?
Late August already and this is beginning to feel more like monsoon season rather than the Indian Summer that’s been widely predicted. All the forecasts for Saturday were predicting a relatively dry start, giving way to heavy and prolonged, lashing rain showers at about 11.00 – or at just about the time when we hit the furthest point from home on our outward trajectory. It looked impossible to avoid a drenching, the only question was just how bad it was going to be.
I might have considered breaking the Peugeot out of storage, but it’s enjoying an extended holiday in the LBS for a full service in preparation for winter. The only other choice with mudguards was the single-speed hack the venerable Toshi San built for me, which sees intermittent use as a commuter when I get tired of the ratbag MTB.
I say intermittent because we’ve only just managed to get it up and running again after some initial teething problems. First the chain kept slipping as the standard tensioner failed to do its job properly.
Toshi San did some deep thunking and bike-tinkering par excellence and replaced the chain tensioner with a converted rear mech. This cleverly utilises a length of brake cable to provide the tension to keep the mech properly aligned and the chain taut, but don’t ask me for the technical details – it’s all techno mumbo-jumbo and dark arts as far as I’m concerned.
With the chain sorted, further downtime became necessary when I snapped a crank off while trying to climb the Heinous Hill. I suspect this had more to do with stresses through the crank arm caused by slightly too loose fitting, rather than a manufacturing flaw in Campagnolo cranks – not even in the darkest recesses of my own fevered imaginings did I suspect it was due to the immense strength and power I was putting down on the climb.
I’m not sure the single-speed was the right answer for a high-speed club run and I’d already used it three times on commutes throughout the week, so it looked like a day for Reg and sitting on black bin bags in the café.
It was a strange ride across to the meeting point as I felt largely disassociated, lost in thought while, paradoxically not really thinking about anything at all. I also started to feel strange aches as if my saddle had suddenly become ultra-uncomfortable, which is odd because I’ve probably spent more time on it than any other and it’s always been reliably comfortable. Maybe it was just a reaction of a week away, or swapping from one bike to another?
First at the meeting point, I was soon joined by Crazy Legs, unexpectedly out on the much cossetted Ribble. Perhaps this was a divine sign that the weather wasn’t going to be too bad after all.
Main topic of conversation at the start:
Jason Kenny’s travails with false starts in the Keirin were the main topic du jour – with everyone convinced he was going to be disqualified, but impressed with him endlessly circling the track, arms folded, looking cool and blithely unconcerned while debate and uncertainty raged all around him.
To have survived this, a second and even more blatant false start and further delays, before toying with the rest of the field and then destroying them with contemptuous ease had to be one of the highlights of the Olympic track cycling.
OGL said that he’d done some work with the British Track Team and suggested they were inflating tyres to 240 psi, with mechanics approaching very cautiously with the air hoses and treating the tyres like unexploded bombs.
He also mentioned they were using Dordoigne tubs, which I remember from my youth, along with some very poor jokes about how they gave a very bumpy ride, going “du-doing, du-doing, du-doing” as you rode along. Simpler times.
Crazy Legs jabbed a thumb into Caracol’s front tyre and winced at its all-round flabbiness and flaccidity. “It’s for improved grip in the wet!” Caracol argued.
A quick conversation with the Prof helped us to determine that the wind was either blowing from the North West or perhaps the South East, illustrated with exaggerated arm movements that looked like he was trying to land a fully-laden bomber on a pitching aircraft carrier-deck. We thanked him for his erudite wisdom, very, very useful.
At precisely 9:15 Garmin time, there was a general movement toward bikes and someone intoned, “Gentlemen, start your motors.” With numbers somewhat reduced by the poor forecast, 21 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and set out and I dropped toward the back and slotted into line.
By the time we reached the first major junction the rain had started in earnest and everyone took the opportunity to pull on rain jackets. A fairly uneventful, if wet first hour passed by until our progress was punctuated by a puncture.
While we waited, the Monkey Butler Boy started insisting his saddle was too low and he wanted it raised. The Red Max was having none of it, but it took OGL’s intervention to settle the debate. With the Monkey Butler Boy perched on his bike, OGL quickly determined that, if anything his saddle was already a smidge high (smidge: a technical expression, generally used to cover the range between 1.5mm to 2.5mm.)
The Monkey Butler Boy seemed to accept this decision with good grace, prompting us to wonder why children treat their parents as foolhardy lack-wits. The Red Max said he was used to this, having two daughters who would never listen to him once they turned 5. I suggested he’d had a good run, as my two daughters have never listened to me.
OGL confided one son in his late thirties had finally, belatedly, conceded, “You know Dad, you were right all along.” The Red Max was confident he would never have to admit this to his Dad, simply because he had to all intents and purposes simply turned into his Dad.
Somewhere around this time the rain eased and stopped and I had the opportunity to take off the rain jacket, but reasoned the rain would be returning fairly shortly so didn’t bother. Ok, everyone makes mistakes.
Repairs were quickly effected, but no sooner had we pushed off to resume our ride than Caracol was pulling over with his own puncture, discovered before he’d even managed to clip in properly. Surprisingly, this turned out to be his rear tyre, not his super-soft front one.
This time I lent a hand as we swapped out the tube while discussing tyre choice and Mad Colin’s assertion that a torque wrench was the best and most useful bit of kit he’d ever bought. Repairs made, Taffy Steve lent his mighty frame pump to the task of forcing air into the tyre, and I estimated Caracol’s most strenuous efforts probably managed to get the pressure up to a massive 50 psi.
Re-starting again we had maybe a half hour of trouble free riding before Aether pulled up with another puncture and a small group of us circled back to help him. It was here that the Prof began to illustrate his uncanny levels of prescience, declaring that the car we heard approaching would be a 5 cylinder, Volvo S40 in sapphire blue, while it was still hidden around the bend. Impressive…
… and ruined only by the fact that the car was a small, non-descript and very beige Renault hatchback.
As another cycling club whistled past in the opposite direction with a series of hearty “How do’s!” he then pondered why they all felt the need to sport matching, hipster beards. I could only shake my head in wonder as I hadn’t seen a single beard amongst them.
Repairs made we pressed on again. Quickly rounding a corner, we passed a large open lay-by which would have been the ideal spot for the club to wait for us while we repaired the puncture. It was empty however, so I assumed they’d had enough of punctures for the day and decided not to stop.
Immediately after I rode past a large, stone-built house to find the rest of the club pulled up and pressed tightly together, waiting on the narrowest, muddiest and steepest verge you could possibly imagine. Cyclists, eh?
It was determined we’d wasted enough time with punctures and everyone seemed keen to head straight to the café without splitting the group, so we set course for the Quarry Climb.
A quick scamper up the climb, a dive down to the next junction and a large front group started to assemble and accelerate for a mass hurtle toward the café. The Red Max appeared on my inside and we did a quick swap so he could launch his trademark kamikaze attack down the middle of the road.
Everything got strung out and a small gap opened to the wheel in front, I didn’t feel any pressure to jump to close it immediately so only slowly started to accelerate. I then felt Mad Colin’s giant mitt on my back and he gently eased me across, closing the gap in an eye-blink with his turbo-assisted aid and a minimum of effort.
A few more tried to jump off the front, without creating any real gaps as we swarmed down the road in a compact, buzzing and rattling thrum.
Somehow I found Captain Black’s wheel and since he’d begun tearing it up on the café sprints recently, decided it was as good a place as any. I still felt comfortably within my limits and think I had a couple of gears left as we started passing other riders on the final run down to the Snake Bends, where I rolled up within the first half dozen or so riders.
And the most valuable lesson from this madcap escapade – sprinting in a rain jacket totally defeats its primary purpose of keeping you dry.
Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop
Crazy legs noted wryly that now we were all sitting indoors, the weather was miserable and cold and there was zero chance of us being assailed by wasps … not a single person had bought anything accompanied by that ultimate wasp lure – jam.
This was in direct contrast to the past couple of weeks where we seemed to be having jam with everything, even the ham and egg pie, before sitting outside and deliberately taunting the pesky critters, who had revelled in and grown over-excited by our largesse.
Crazy Legs revealed that last week the little boogers had been so bad that the Monkey Butler Boy had been ostracised from all the tables for having a too sticky, too sweet cake. Pressed into service as a makeshift, sacrificial wasp decoy, he apparently played the role with remarkable aplomb, until they actually started to notice him. At this point he squealed like a prepubescent schoolgirl, hurled his plate into an agitated mass of the wee beasties and ran away. Allegedly.
Son of G-Dawg commented on the sprint where he felt everyone had played a part taking a few turns on the front, he’d apparently missed me lurking among the wheels and fearful of ever sticking my nose in the wind.
This brought back fond recollections of the one time we had somehow managed to force the clubs worst inveterate wheelsucker (yes, even worse than me) onto the front to lead the sprint out. Known simply as the wheelsucker, he wasn’t allowed to drop back, even as the speed slowed to a snail’s pace and we ended up almost doing track stands to keep him in place, while I’m sure he must have wondered why everyone behind was giggling so much.
An oblivious Prof was fascinated to learn we had a codename for a particular rider and wondered if we had others. “Well, Crash-Kill,” I addressed him directly, “Just one or two.”
Caracol then made the cardinal mistake of asking which brand of tyres he should look for if he wanted to replace his current worn set. Amongst cyclists this is almost as dangerous as playing pass-the-parcel with a live hand-grenade or, even worse initiating the hoary old Campagnolo-Shimano-SRAM debate.
Of course he asked three different people and got three completely different answers. Crazy Legs suggested Continental Grand Prix’s, Son of G-Dawg said Schwalbe Ultremo’s, while as a loyal Vittorian I naturally stuck up for the Corsa Evo’s.
Captain Black was questioned about a recent holiday in Spain when he’d managed to get some sneaky miles and much climbing in. Crazy Leg’s was surprised to learn the Captain wasn’t on Strava, so of course declared it never happened. As the Captain made to protest Crazy Leg’s looked straight through him. “Who said that?” He asked me, “Did you hear something?”
We had been slightly distracted in the café by the appearance of an older, rather rotund gentleman cyclist wearing the tightest, skimpiest, briefest pair of cycling shorts known to man, something so tasteless in fact it would put a mid-80’s footballer to shame.
Crazy Leg’s was so perturbed by the sight he’d given the feller an extra 2 metres of space in the queue, while I wondered if he’d worn his garish and jarring fuschia, navy blue and moss green Lampre-Merida jersey to try and distract from the disconcerting display, err… “downstairs.”
I now came out of the café to find G-Dawg, Red Max and a few others cavorting around with their shorts legs rolled right up to their crotches, exposing huge expanses of lily-white thigh above their tan-lines in bizarre tribute to the strange feller. Thankfully good taste prevailed and shorts lengths were restored before we rode out, or anyone thought to whip out a phone and preserve the disturbing images for posterity.
Never mind sock length – what the hell’s the UCI doing about shorts length?
The good order on the way home was disturbed when a TT’er went huffing past, in an aero-tuck and with a serious game-face on. This predictably flipped the switch to send the Red Max into loopy Labrador mode and he immediately gave chase and everyone got pulled along.
As I shot out of the Mad Mile and turned for home, my drive-train started to grind a little, hopefully just a consequence of the rain and accumulated grit and crud. And then to make matters worse, someone granted the puncture fairy visitation rights. I felt the front tyre go sloppy as the rim started to rumble on the tarmac and had to stop for a quick tube change.
So, a bit of a stop-start, frustrating day and a somewhat foreshortened ride, but at least it wasn’t as wet as predicted.
YTD Totals: 4,603 km / 2,860 miles with 45,572 metres of climbing