Riders on the Storm

Riders on the Storm

Club Run & Hill Climb, Saturday 13th October, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  105 km / 65 miles with 536 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 28 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.4 km/h

Group size:                                        8 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    17°C

Weather in a word or two:          Delugional New word alert! 


 

Hill Climn
Ride Profile -(with obligatory Garmin in the rain brain fart)

Friday through to Saturday and Storm Callum was having its wicked way with the British Isles, causing mass disruption, extensive flooding and even loss of life. For the North East of England it meant rain and lots of it, incessant, unrelenting, unremitting and seemingly immovable.

Oddly though, the temperatures remained relatively mild, which gave life to this rather alarming forecast from the BBC, suggesting not only persistent, heavy rain across the entire day, but also the real risk of thunderstorms…


hill climb weather


The forecast appeared just minutes before I set out to begin my journey across to the meeting point for the club run … and not just any old club run, either, but our annual festival of self-flagellation, the Hill Climb.

This is traditionally a last hurrah for carbon summer bikes, before bad weather, rain, wind, ice, mud, frost and salted roads force a swap to something heavier, more sturdy, more easily replaceable and (unless you’re a complete madman and misanthrope) preferably with mudguards.

The horrendous weather then was at direct odds with the aim of selecting the lightest bike possible to hurl uphill in a very unequal battle with gravity. As I opened the backdoor and looked at the rain teeming down, up popped a Messenger feed from Jimmy Mac: “I have never been as confused over which bike to take out….”

I had no such worries, having decided a few weeks ago I wouldn’t do the hill climb this year, feeling a distinct lack of anything approaching “form” that had me toiling on even the most innocuous rides. I’d spent last Sunday engaged in a changing of the guard, putting away Reg and the single-speed and breaking the winter bike out of storage and prepping it for just this kind of day. 13.5 kilos of slab-sided, cold aluminium and steel, the Pug (Peugeot) shrugs at the rain and positively hates good weather.

It was gloomy enough for me to switch on some lights before hissing down the hill and starting to pick my way across to the meeting point. Having swapped bikes around, I’d only remembered at the last moment my pump was still in the tool tub in the Holdsworth’s bottle-cage and I’d grabbed a spare as I ran out the door.

Now approaching the river and 3 or 4 mile into my ride, I realised I’d also forgotten any tyre levers. I weighed up the option of turning around, but I wouldn’t have time to do that and still get to the meeting point on time. I decided to risk it, working through everything I was carrying and determining that, in extremis, I could probably use my house keys as impromptu tyre levers in the event of a puncture.

Luckily this theory was never actually put to the test.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

What a sad, sorry and small, wet and bedraggled group I found, huddling out of the downpour in the bowels of the multi-storey car park and chatting with OGL, who was about to drive up to the start of the hill climb to get things set up.

A (less than) magnificent 7 included our official start team of Crazy Legs and G-Dawg, those of us too cowardly, or too sensible to ride the hill and just three actual competitors, the Garrulous Kid, the Colossus and Jimmy Mac.

We determined that with so few contestants, we could just call the results now and didn’t need to actually venture out into the rain. We even had a contestant in each category, so not only would everyone “podium” for the overall, but they’d also be a guaranteed category winner. Final placings could be determined with a quick game of rock-paper-scissors, and then we could all ride to a warm, dry café and be done with the whole, horrible exercise until next year. Perfect.

Then Buster rolled up, intent on competing too … and he ruined it for everyone.

News had filtered back that triathlon-virgin, Princess Fiona, had successfully completed the Barcelona Ironman Ironwoman Ironprincess event, a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile ride and then a full 26 mile marathon. A fantastic achievement, although not wholly unexpected and all done in a highly respectable time of just over 12 hours. It’s good that she’ll have a target time to beat next time!

We hung around as long as possible, before submitting to the inevitable and making a move to head out into the all-enveloping deluge.

“Don’t worry, it’s eased to just a downpour now,” OGL reassured us cheerily, before climbing into the warm, dry cab of his car and driving off.

Ugh. Oh well, here we go then …


It was bad out on the roads, even protected by a rain jacket, on top of a windproof jacket, over a long-sleeved baselayer and arm warmers, complete with leg warmers and winter boots, gloves and full length mudguards front and rear.

Our would-be competitors, to a man shivered in shorts and were soaked by rain and road spray in equal measure, the only consolation they had was that at least it wasn’t all that cold, otherwise it would have been a truly miserable ride out.

Wracked by indecision, Jimmy Mac had finally resorted to a round of eenie-meenie-miney-mo, before choosing not to ride his all-singing, all-dancing, all-carbon, uber-stealth machine, but an older, slightly less-posh Specialized, complete with clip-on mudguards.

Riding behind him, it didn’t take me long to realise that while the mudguards were doing an admirable job of keeping his posterior dry, they were somehow focussing a concentrated and fierce jet of dirty water directly into my face.

While this was going on, confusingly and inexplicably, the Garrulous Kid’s mudguard-less bike was somehow producing no cast-off spray whatsoever. Odd.

Meanwhile, Buster seemed in two minds about actually riding the event, especially after I told him I would be sitting this one out, so he didn’t have the safety net of at least one person he could comfortably beat. (He did finally do it and managed a cracking time to boot.)

I swapped bike preparation tales with Taffy Steve, vehement hill-climb denier and unapologetically sat astride his ponderous, thrice-cursed winter bike, as good as an excuse as any for not even looking at Prospect Hill, let alone trying to race up it.

Despite carefully cleaning and stowing the winter bike last spring, he reported one of the brake calipers had refused to release and needed emergency remedial work. For my own part, the rear mech on the Peugeot had seized and had needed some coaxing back to life.

We finally arrived at the hill climb course to find our numbers bolstered by a whole host of kids from our Go-Ride section, bright, cheerful and chatty and seemingly looking forward to their ordeal.

In all 23 brave, brave souls would hurl themselves up the hill, including the four condemned we’d escorted to their fate, Ion, who’d ridden up on his own and Kermit, who’d sensibly travelled there by car.

The competitors signed on and I helped Buster pin his number onto his back. There was no escape now. He then realised he couldn’t get his chain onto the big sprocket and enlisted OGL’s help, at the expense of having his wheel bearings roundly and roughly condemned. It’s the price you have to pay.

Ion was wearing strange, waterproof, baggy, knee-length shorts that he insisted were the next big thing. Hmm, I’m not so sure. He wondered aloud if there were any “gamers” present who might steal his title.

I thought he was asking for tips, and gave him my sage advice – “don’t bother”- before suggesting the only gamer was him, having signed up to another club to support his racing ambitions. He now has dual-club membership, much to the (very obvious) and (completely irrational) disgust of OGL.

With final preparations underway and the first rider already off and tackling the climb, I started to ride up the hill to seek out a good vantage point. I found myself following the second rider off, one of the young, Go-Ride girls, and I saw first-hand that this hill was a real and imposing test for some of the youngsters, as she struggled mightily just to keep the pedals turning over on the first and steepest ramps.

About a third of the way up, I stopped at a junction and joined an Irish Dad waiting to support his son’s ride, thinking I could do a bit of traffic control as well as cheer on the riders winching themselves up the slope.

It was great watching some of the young kids tackling the climb, all different shapes, ages, sizes and abilities, some on mountain bikes, some with a parental outrider as escort, some struggling mightily, but refusing to give in and others zipping up, apparently without a care in the world.

One or two were so unaffected by their efforts they had the breath to thank me for cheering them on!


IMG_0392
The future is bright…

Ion went storming up, followed by his only serious contender, junior European triathlon championship winner, Dan-Di who I felt looked more ragged and not as fast. So it was to prove, with Ion pipping Dan-Di to the win, but by only a handful of seconds, proving that appearances can be deceptive.

Irish Dad cheered his son through and set off walking to the top of the hill to meet him at the finish, while I took up the role of impromptu event photographer, achieving several impressive and impromptu close-ups of my own thumb.

As I watched one of the tiny girls struggle slowly upwards, weaving from side to side and with her dad as an outrider, a car approached from behind me, aiming to head down the hill, straight into the riders hauling their way up.

I waved the car to a stop and was relieved when they seemed patient, good-natured and happy to wait, hanging well back from the junction. The girl and dad passed, but Jimmy Mac was in sight and chasing hard after her. I held the car a few more moments to let him past, then waved it on with a big thumbs up. A patient, considerate and amicable driver? What’s the world coming to?

We were into a straight run of seniors now, the Colossus guffawing as I gave him my best Zardoz impersonation, complete with inspirational lying: “You’re catching them!” and “Come on, only one more corner!”

Next up was Buster, complaining loudly that his legs were already shot and his entire ride was a disaster. (They weren’t. It wasn’t).

Kermit whipped through, game-face on and concentrating hard and then it was our last man, the Garrulous Kid, who went past grinning beatifically, as if he was actually enjoying the moment and had entered a transcendent state of grace!

As the last rider disappeared around the bend, I picked my way to the bottom of the hill to find our starting team, G-Dawg and Crazy Legs, chilled through and visibly shivering. Taffy Steve took Crazy Legs off to find a café and pour hot drinks into him, while I waited for the others to coalesce, so we could hand back various bits of “deadweight” they’d jettisoned into our care.

Buster arrived looking like he’d aged 10 years in 10 minutes, perhaps a lesser version of what Crazy Legs sees in my face after the hill climb, when he’s wont to compare me to a wasted, grey-faced, shambling zombie, or John Major – whichever of them you find the most disturbing. (It’s close, but for me John Major just about shades it.)

We then followed G-Dawg to the chosen café – this year thankfully without the extended guided (de)tour around the entire outer suburbs of Corbridge.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

A new café means a new choice of cakes and my eye was immediately drawn to a massive slab of Lemon Meringue pie – which turned out to be so big that Crazy Legs felt the need to take a photo of it, giving me flashbacks to almost every family meal out, where my daughters seem compelled to photograph each and every dish that’s put in front of them and woe betide anyone who takes a mouthful before the perfect picture has been composed. I’m simply too old to understand any of this malarkey and, you know what … I don’t care.

The lemon meringue pie was good, but I realised, when I was about halfway through, it was much, much too big for a single person to manage. I finished it anyway and I somehow tucked the last morsel away without initiating a Mr. Creosote moment – sheesh, and those fellers thought the hill climb was hard!

(I chuckled, but was largely unsurprised to later find that the Strava segment leading up to the café was titled Lemon Meringue Pie, Please, in tribute to this monstrosity.)

Talk turned to the clubs Annual Christmas Dinner and awards ceremony, with Crazy Legs happy to point out that since Ion won both our time-trial and hill climb events, OGL would have to acknowledge the “turncoats” achievements through ferociously clenched teeth. I proposed we added to OGL’s chagrin by going for the full sweep of awards and nominating Ion for the most improved rider award too.

Crazy Legs then related a train journey he’d recently made where he’d been royally entertained by a random encounter with a really, really weird fellow traveller. (Trust me, if a regular member of a cycling club describes someone else as really weird, then that person’s weirdness must be truly off the charts.)

Apparently, this particular fellow traveller didn’t get off to a good start when she declared she was a whale aficionado, but challenged to name her favourite, could only come up with an Orca. This, clever fellow that he is, Crazy Legs knew wasn’t actually a whale at all, just a very big, very angry dolphin on steroids.

She then revealed her pièce de résistance though, an odd affection and perverse interest in container ships, which she’d travel far and wide to look at. And just container ships mind you, not all ships, nor merchant ships in general. Not tankers, nor freighters, or ferries, not reefers, or ro-ro’s … just container ships. Apparently, it had something to do with how the containers all align when fully loaded.

Isn’t the world a many splendoured thing?


We left the café to find the rain was actually starting to ease and off we went. “Just around the next corner,” Jimmy Mac started the mantra a few miles in, soaked through and looking forward to finally finishing the ride and getting in a hot shower.

“Just around the next corner,” Jimmy Mac repeated yet again and he was partially rewarded when G-Dawg finally acknowledged, “Just one more hill to go.” Well, for some anyway. Everyone slowed to take a sharp left, but my path led straight on and as the road dropped away downhill before starting to climb again, I waved everyone else off and kicked on.

The rain had stopped and the hedgerows seemed alive with chattering birds celebrating, or maybe just idly commentating on the astonishing amounts of rain that had fallen in the past 6 hours.

The rain had stopped, but a troubling wind had sprung up in its place and I watched as a crow hung in the air, beating its wings slowly and ponderously, going precisely nowhere, before giving up, dipping a wing and sliding away to one side.

Oh well, it wasn’t like I was in a rush to avoid any bad weather …


YTD Totals: 5,956 km / 3,701 miles with 71,525 metres of climbing

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Ye Shudda Seen Us Gannin’

Ye Shudda Seen Us Gannin’

Club Run, Saturday 9th June, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                       118 km / 73 miles with 1,023 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                               4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                      27.3 km/h

Group size:                              24 riders, 1 semi-FNG

Temperature:                         17°C

Weather in a word or two:    Temperate


 

YSSUG
Ride Profile – (with Friday’s commute thrown in for good measure)

Another chilly start to the day, my ride across to the meeting point was wholly unremarkable, except for miles and miles of road south of the river that were lined with yellow traffic cones. Because I’m quick off the mark, I was able to guess that there was obviously some event or other taking place.

If I’d realised it was the 9th June, I might just have made the connection and understood the significance, still, even without this hint, I somehow managed to correctly guess that all the activity was somehow related to the Blaydon Race, although I also thought (incorrectly) it was scheduled for Sunday.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Jimmy Mac was already at the meeting point, showing off a huge patch of road rash on his calf that looked like someone had blasted a muddy football off his leg. He’d been involved in a mass pile-up during the Tour Of Cambridgeshire Chrono + Gran Fondo and, considering the circumstances, escaped relatively unscathed.

The same can’t be said for his Storck bike, Zipp wheels, Assos shorts or Specialized shoes, all of which were well and truly written off, although he appeared remarkably chipper about the whole thing, I think if I’d travelled 200 odd mile and sustained losses of maybe £2-3,000 or more, I’d still be crying and cursing the cycling gods.

Still, here he was, bright and early, out on his winter bike sans mudguards and ready to lead the ride. Perhaps his general insouciance can be attributed to the fact he took out a massive new insurance policy on the Storck just the day before he left for the event?

While posting up today’s intended route of Facebook, Jimmy Mac had jokingly referenced the Velominati Rule#5, which had inadvertently triggered a (somewhat predictable) bad tempered, off-kilter, nonsensical tirade from OGL.

This was so completely inarticulate, we wondered if it was a cry for help from someone suffering a stroke while actually furiously bashing at a keyboard. We even tried to identify the precise point in his messages when the blood flow was suddenly cut off from the brain, but it could have been at any one of a dozen points.

A worried G-Dawg had immediately queried if OGL was quite ok and whether this incoherence was due to predictive text or excessive wine, while Radman concluded it was obviously predictive wine. Still, OGL had the perfect comeback, invoking the deeply mysterious, startling succinct, cutting and insightful reply of “2.”

No, I don’t know either…

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs related that he’d been tempted to buy some new socks when he saw Castelli Corsa Rosso – 6 socks for £8.00 on Wiggle. His keen brain quickly worked out that this was just £2.66 per pair of socks, an absolute bargain for such quality kit and too good a chance to miss.

On receiving just a single pair of socks with his order, he quickly checked the webpage before succumbing to an apoplectic e-mail rant. There he learned he could not only buy Corsa Rosso – 6 socks, but also Corsa Rosso –9 socks, or even Corsa Rosso 13 socks, all named for the length of the cuff and completely unrelated to how many items you get per pack.

To add insult to injury, he didn’t even get any free Haribo with his lone pair of socks.

Jimmy Mac outlined the route for the day, which included a few roads we hadn’t ventured down for quite some time and a few more we’d be travelling down rather than up, or vice-versa. Included in the middle was a, still novel, descent down Middleton Bank.

Mention of a road up through Molesden caused much head-scratching from Goose. With a deeply furrowed brow, he conveyed his confusion with a simple, “Huh?”

“Where the mad farm dog is,” someone volunteered.

“Ah!” the veil parted, “The mad farm dog.” He knew exactly where we meant now.

Jimmy Mac had us split into two groups, I dropped into the front group and away we went.


More by evolution than conscious design, the front group is starting to be characterised by a faster pace and today was no different. It’s an arrangement the consensus of regular riders seem to have been working toward for some time, but we really need to start making it more explicit – anyone suffering a jour sans, or not quite on their game is naturally going to be more comfortable in the second group.

How much faster is the first group? Well, in the first 30kms or so, on a route I’ve ridden dozens of times in the past 5 or 6 years, I netted twenty-two Strava PR’s, five 2nd fastest and two 3rd fastest times across a stretch of 37 segments.

It reached a peak on Bell’s Hill when I followed the Colossus and Ovis up at such a breathless pace, that I had to rein them in at the top after they’d blown the group apart. It was so fast, that Ovis, once again intent on fuelling his ride with an entire malt loaf, didn’t even get the opportunity to pluck it out and unwrap it, let alone eat the damn thing. He was so busy riding hard, it stood out, proudly outlined, a square, brick-sized lump in his pocket, weighing him down like a solid lead ingot.


20170216_122709A


We started to slowly shed riders as we progressed. The Garrulous Kid was the first to go, rather inexplicably declaring he didn’t much “like the road” we were travelling on. I’m not certain what particular arrangement of tarmac, slope, gravel, pots and bordering foliage he took exception to – it looked no different to what had gone before, what was yet to come and pretty much the exact same of what could be found around every single corner, no matter which route was chosen.

Then, after hammering down Middleton Bank, the Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy took a sharp left for a shorter run to the café, while later, Benedict and Caracol (and maybe one or two others) pushed on for a longer ride.

Somewhere along the way we lost an FNG who wasn’t really an FNG, but had apparently been riding with the club off and on for the past 10 years. (I’m guessing more off than on as I didn’t recognise him).

By the time we had locked-in and started the long burn toward the café, there were just six of us left. I hit the front on the short, sharp climb of Brandywell Bank and pushed as fast as I could, as far as I could down toward the Snake Bends. As the road finally levelled and then started a long gradual dip down, everyone roared past and I dug in, gave chase and just about managed to hang on the coattails as we swept through the bends and out onto the main road to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The main conversation point at the café was best way to gauge the volumetric capacity of the human mouth. The Red Max asserted that the correct and only unit of measurement was the Twix-biscuit and his record was 12 Twix-biscuits, entirely complete, whole and undamaged.

Given Crazy Legs’ number confusion with socks, the Colossus was undertsndably keen to understand if this was 12 individual Twix fingers, or 12 standard Twix packs and therefore 24 individual biscuits – (the former), while I queried if they were fun-sized fingers or full-sized – (the latter, obviously).

Someone suggested the number of sideways inserted Mars bars might provide a better measure, while from a professional, medical perspective, Jimmy Mac recommended using a liquid, such as ale, or coffee. He then cautioned that if things went wrong the autopsy might prove challenging – explaining how the subject drowned in a mouthful of beer would be difficult enough, even before considering what implications could be drawn from a Mars bar lodged horizontally in the throat.

OGL’s absence was briefly queried and we were reminded that the last time he hadn’t turned up for a ride, he was miffed that no one had bothered to check whether he was actually all right. No one volunteered in this instance either, nor would have if any other regular failed to turn up for a particular club run. Yes, we’re a mean, selfish and self-centred lot.


And then, we were off, for a fairly fast-paced, generally uneventful ride for home.

I split from the group and made my way across the river, hitting Blaydon at just about the same time as some kind of family fun run was finishing. Luckily, this was just a prelude to the main event, the Blaydon Race, which was still an hour or two away from starting, so at least I didn’t have to share the road with 4,000 or so rabid-runners as I pushed on for home.


YTD Totals: 3,297 km / 2,049 miles with 38,651 metres of climbing

Beast from the East 1, Sur la Jante 0

Beast from the East 1, Sur la Jante 0

It’s fair to say that, for once the “Beast from the East” actually lived up the hype and was extremely disruptive, with freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall from the Tuesday night, right through to Sunday evening.

[NB: just because doom-laden prophecies about dire weather from the Daily Heil, Daily Suppressed and their ilk were actually correct for once, doesn’t lend them any credibility, or excuse the 1,001 prior occasions when they’ve tried to whip up utter hysteria and shameful scaremongering on any number of topics. These publications remain utter trash.]

The resolute, club stalwarts still turned up for the Saturday club run, with everyone taking to mountain-bikes and going on an off-road for a grand adventure, though sadly without me. I figured a 25 mile or so schlep, by mountain bike, on dodgy roads, just to get me to the meeting point and back again, was probably a little too ambitious. So I stayed home and got some alternative exercise digging Mrs. SLJ’s car out of its snowdrift.

(My own car still remains entombed in its chilling cocoon of snow and ice and it’s being left to thaw out naturally. I’m in no rush.)

G-Dawg described the Saturday club run as the most fun he’s had on a bike in ages and I can understand why – I still managed my usual Wednesday-Thursday-Friday commute en vélo through the worst of the weather and, rather perversely, thoroughly enjoyed myself.


IMG_0279


Some lessons learned and random observations:

The road conditions seemed to improve with every ride, so first thing Wednesday morning saw the worst conditions (and most fun) but by Friday evening my journey had became a fairly standard, if cold commute, with only one or two sketchy, skatey stretches.

I wore an old pair of overshoes on top of my winter boots, expecting to be passed by lots of cars dumping ice-cold slush onto my feet. As it was on Wednesday morning I was travelling at least as fast as most of the sparse traffic on the roads and only recall two cars actually overtaking me. My feet never felt cold enough to benefit from the additional layer and the snow wasn’t wet enough to “slush me up” – so I’m still not sure how effective my extreme measures would have been.

The conditions on Wednesday encouraged me not to clip in, so I could quickly dab my feet down in an emergency. The Wellgo flat pedals on my mountain bike, with an SPD clip on one side proved very handy for this.

When I did decide I could risk clipping in, I then found either the pedals or my shoes encased in solid blocks of ice and it proved impossible.

Although perhaps safer, I remembered how much I HATE riding and not being clipped-in. By the time I was heading home on Wednesday I was only unclipping when I hit one or two difficult stretches.

I should have worn a cap. I arrived at work on Wednesday morning with a solid block of ice wedged firmly between my helmet and specs … and a ferociously chilled forehead. Likewise, I had icy-cornrows in my hair caused by the accumulation of snow in my helmet vents.

The few people who actually made it into work were amazed I cycled in and opinion was split between those who thought I was certifiably mad and those who thought I was some kind of dare-devil. In reality, apart from it being hugely enjoyable, I actually felt safer than I would have been in a car, more in control, more aware of my surroundings and with more options if I wanted to bale and walk. I think travelling by car would have been much more difficult and uncertain.

I was especially happy I could get off and take to the pavement on the bank leading down to the Swing Bridge, when I encountered a massive articulated lorry that blew through a red light on the wrong side of the road. (I suppose that technically speaking, because he was on the wrong side of the road, the light wasn’t actually against him.)

Cycling on pristine, white and unblemished snow is fine. Cycling on heavily churned up, grey, dirty and heavily trafficked snow is fine. Somewhere between the two, when the snow varies between slick, heavy and compacted and just a little cut up, is like riding through sand. It takes a bit of concentration, involves a lot of sliding, wheel spinning and fishtailing and is hard work. I soon came to especially dislike this faintly beige snow.

I altered my route to follow some more trafficked, treated bus routes and tried a few alternative roads. Doing this, I occasionally encountered unanticipated traffic speed bumps.

Unanticipated traffic speed bumps hiding under deep snow can take you by surprise and come as a bit of a shock!

When people abandon their cars in the snow, they do so in the dumbest of places; on a blind corner of a long downhill, at the entrance to a busy junction, facing the wrong way on a one-way street and occasionally, slap bang in the middle of the road.

I don’t know what the cycle track over the Millennium Bridge is surfaced with and I expected the worst, but it was always snow and ice free and grippy. I found myself sharing it with more than the usual number of walkers who’d abandoned the slippery, snowbound pedestrian side.

Anyway, enough rambling … so long the Beast from the East, it was fun while it lasted and you had the good grace not to hang around too long. Hopefully things will have returned back to normal in time for next Saturday’s club run. We’ll see.


YTD Totals: 1,195 km / 743 miles with 13,977 metres of climbing

Wolf Phallus

Club Run, Saturday 4th November, 2017               

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  103 km / 64 miles with 932 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 09 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.7 km/h

Group size:                                         25 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    11°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cold and clear


 

4 nov
Ride Profile

The Ride:

I doubled-down on the same gear I wore last week, hoping my judgement (ok then, pure guesswork) was better this time around and I wouldn’t end up over-dressed and ultimately over-heating. It was noticeably colder and, as I swept past a factory unit with one of those helpful external LED displays, I learned it was not only 8.07am on Saturday, 4th November, but the temperature was barely touching 9°C.

A light shower worked to chill the air even further and I was beginning to regret not packing a waterproof, when it blew past as quickly as it had arrived.

Over the river and climbing out of the valley again, I found that, as hoped, the bottom part of the hill had been transformed by the addition of a new smooth and shiny surface, but now the top half had now been stripped back and ploughed into a rough stippled and studded obstacle course.

The new wheels definitely helped smooth out some of the lumps, but still the bike rattled and clunked across the corrugated surface, tapping and banging out its own distress message in frenetic Morse code. Not pleasant, but a small price to pay if next week the magic gnomes have returned to smooth it out into a plush stretch of newly-laid tarmac.

I’d gone cheapskate on the wheels, a pair of Jalco (no, I’ve never heard of them either) DRX 24’s all the way from Taiwan via Planet-X, for a massive £55. Hopefully they’ll see me through the winter, or at least do until my LBS manages to source new cartridge bearings for the 4ZA’s.

I guess the new wheels are on the heavy side and more robust than racey, but slapped on the winter bike I couldn’t say I felt any difference and probably wouldn’t if they’d been made out of pig iron. The only slight gripe I have is that they’ve got a depressingly silent freehub.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Fresh back from Spain, the Monkey Butler Boy arrived at pace, skidding and sliding to a stop just in front of me.

“Just testing my brakes,” he grinned.

“They failed,” I informed him.

He immediately reached for a multi-tool and started tinkering with bits and pieces on his bike. “That’s the problem, when you grow an inch every 2 weeks,” Jimmy Mac informed him dryly. Like most of us, he has the luxury of having his position on the bike dialled-in and set, unchanging for any number of years now.

He then wondered exactly what the Monkey Butler Boy was doing, as he started fiddling with his Garmin mount and prodded it up into a decidedly un-aero raised position.

“It’s at the wrong angle for reflections on the screen,” the Monkey Butler Boy explained.

I provided the necessary translation, “He has to be able to admire his image in it at all times.”

Speaking of bike fiddling and angles, attention was drawn to the Garrulous Kids errant saddle, which he still seemed to be having trouble with. It now had its nose prominently raised, like a bloodhound scenting the wind. It looked decidedly uncomfortable and we wondered whether he was deliberately trying to emasculate himself.

Meanwhile, the Monkey Butler Boy’s newly re-wound bar tape once again failed basic inspection. I suggested he quickly hid his bike behind the new waste bin that had mysteriously sprouted from the middle of the pavement (maybe that’s what it’s actually for?) before G-Dawg saw it and it caused him to howl in misery and consternation. Taffy Steve though had the truth of it, when he declared G-Dawg would sense something wasn’t right, even if he couldn’t see what it was, like a deep disturbance in the force…

OGL appeared in the distance, impelling the early leavers for the training ride to scuttle hurriedly away like guilty schoolboys, while naturally we watched and jeered.

G-Dawg pointed at the long line of riders trailing in OGL’s wake and surmised he must have been hammering on doors and rousting out everyone on his journey in. “You WILL ride today and you WILL come now!”

This, apparently had been so successful that he’d even netted a rather befuddled looking Szell, awoken abruptly from pre-hibernation slumber and still looking surprised that he’d somehow ended up on his first ever official winter ride. He stood blinking in the low light and gasping at the chill air, like a fish out of water.

Taking pity on him, Crazy Legs tried to reassure Szell that the world hadn’t quite been turned upside down, by holding out the security blanket of a route that included his all too familiar foe and bête noire, Middleton Bank. I’m not sure it helped.

The Garrulous Kid had acquired a new pair of Castelli bibtights, but rather bizarrely insisted on wearing them with the ankle zips undone. G-Dawg wondered why he needed “leg vents” while the Monkey Butler Boy looked on in despair and declared it appeared as if he was wearing flares.

(The Garrulous Kid would later stand outside the café, teeth chattering in the cold and tell me it was because he would overheat if he closed the zips up.)

The Monkey Butler Boy and Jimmy Mac started bonding over riding the exact same frame and the fact that, along with the forks, this was the only original part left of their twinned Specialized bikes, having swapped out all the components at one time or another.  The Monkey Butler Boy surmised his frame would soon be a bit of a collector’s item too, as it still bore an M.Steel’s sticker from our recently bankrupt, local bike shop.

An impressive turnout for a November ride, perhaps OGL really had employed a full-court press to “actively encourage” participation? A sizeable complement of 25 of us pushed off, clipped in and rode away together.


I dropped in alongside Sneaky Pete who was distracted fiddling with his Garmin that didn’t want to play ball and emitted a series of electronic chirps and cheeps like R2-D2 at his most indignant.

“Is everything all right?” I enquired, “That’s more beeps than a Gordon Ramsey documentary.”

Sneaky Pete finally re-established connection with the mother-ship and was able to turn his full attention to the task I set him, trying to determine his 10 must-have tracks for Desert Island Discs. I think we managed 3 or 4 between us, before deciding it was too difficult and he went away to think about it.


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The Rainman, Ovis and Jimmy Mac took to the front and the pace slowly began to creep upwards, until we were all strung out and the group splintered apart whenever the road tilted upwards. We stopped at the top of Bell’s Hill to regroup and then once again just before Mitford, when ride leader Crazy Legs finally admitted we needed to split into two groups, but faced walking a diplomatic razors-edge as he tried desperately to avoid labelling one group “slow” and the other “fast.”

So, we finally split, with the front group: “going further and arriving earlier” leading off, while the second group: “going not quite as far and getting there a little later” followed.

I joined up with Captain Black and we tagged onto the “going further and arriving earlier group.” Somewhat off the leash now, Rainman, Ovis and Jimmy Mac cranked the pace up even higher and it was bloody fast and bloody hard.

As we approached Dyke Neuk, Rainman ceded the front to G-Dawg and, as he drifted back, I asked him if he was done ripping my legs off, or if there was more to come.

“I’m done,” he replied, before rather ominously adding, “For now.”

I then pushed onto the front alongside Jimmy Mac and throttled back the pace even more. The sanity I imposed managed to last until we started down the dip-and-climb through Hartburn, where I eased, while a few blasted away off the front. The Garrulous Kid and Monkey Butler Boy took a left turn at the top, while the rest of us pushed on to swing out a little bit wider before approaching Middleton Bank.

(I would later find the Monkey Butler Boy sitting in the café with a dazed and bewildered look on his face, that 1,000-yard stare of shock and horror, which is usually associated with prolonged exposure to the Garrulous Kid.)

G-Dawg was now having problems with his saddle, which seemed to have worked loose. He declared it was like sitting on an office chair and would alarmingly swivel to face whichever direction he was looking. Out on his fixie though, he couldn’t stop pedalling to try and fix it without calling a halt and climbing off, so just kept going.

We hit Middleton Bank  at pace and Aether was jettisoned out the back and waved us away, while I was just about hanging on as the speed continued to build. The Rainman hit the front again and we were all lined out, over the rollers, down one final dip and then we started the long drag up to the café.

I stayed in the wheels until the final corner, when the Colossus split the group with a searing attack and then, I slowly drifted back. I thought at the last I was going to come back on terms with Ovis and Captain Black, but it wasn’t to be, as we drove all the way to the café.

Living up to its name, the “going further and arriving earlier” group found the café satisfyingly quiet ,with no queue to impede our immediate access to much needed and deserved coffee and cake.

The FNG declared this had been a two cake ride and no one argued with her.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

As we stood waiting to be served and trying to recover, Captain Black declared he was thinking of naming his winter-bike, “Treacle.”

“That’s a nice form of endearment,” I acknowledged, “Do you like it that much?”

“No,” he stated flatly, “It just makes me feel as if I’m riding through treacle.”

The Garrulous Kid excused his absence from last week’s ride as he’d been attending open days at Newcastle and Northumbria University.

“Did you miss me?” he wondered.

“No.” That was easy.

We then learned from this that he was planning to stay at home for the duration of his university studies, so his mum could do all his cooking and laundry and he’d still be able to ride with us.

Jimmy Mac pointed out that most universities have cycling clubs that he could join, citing Plumose Papuss, currently enjoying himself at Nottingham University where he regularly rides with the University cycling team. Apparently, however that would be no good to the Garrulous Kid … as he wouldn’t “know the roads.”

Even Jimmy Macs tales of building a snowman inside his student flat and other high jinks failed to impress on the Garrulous Kid that he would get more out of his university experiences if he cut the apron strings and moved away from home.

I suggested his mum wouldn’t like it when he wanted to get andato in gatta, or bring a girl back to his room, but realised I was straying toward the patently absurd and backtracked quickly.

I had a chat with the Rainman, our new favourite Dutchman, who actually regretted missing out on our hill climb which I think he views as a quaint, enjoyable British foible. He told me it was definitely preferable to the Dutch national tradition for running time trials directly into the vicious headwinds atop the polders, declaring he didn’t like fighting against a force you couldn’t see and at least with a hill climb you know what you’re up against.

For some reason The Garrulous Kid was intent on trying to impress me with his music play-list, which I found highly predictable, anodyne and utterly unremarkable. I tried to explain to him that as a teenager it was his sacred duty to find something his parents hated and not listen to the ultra-safe, corporate dad-rock of Coldplay or the stuff his mum sings along to in the car, the utterly charmless Rag and Bone Man, soapy-soppy Sam Smith, or that mopey, whey-faced dough-boy, Ed Sheeran.

He demanded to know what music I like and I tried a few names, Shearwater, AFI, Tom McRae, Josh Rouse, only to be met with dumb incomprehension. I tried again with a few what I felt were more mainstream names he might actually have heard of: Alvvays? Chvrches? The War on Drugs? Paramore?

“Who? What? Never heard of them. They must be ancient. They’re rubbish.”

I told him I was going to see Wolf Alice in a couple of weeks and thought they were decent.

“Who’s he? Never heard of him.”

“Them. It’s a group.”

“Whatever. They’re rubbish. Never heard of them.”

He leaned across to the next table and interrupted Taffy Steve, who was completely oblivious to our conversation at this point, engaged in polite discourse with Sneaky Pete and Crazy Legs.

“Hey, Steve … have you ever heard of wolf phallus?”

I never knew coffee could travel that far when snorted violently out of a mug.


The ride felt a bit shorter than usual and we’d done it a lot quicker, so it was still early as we left the café and set off again. It meant leaving G-Dawg and the Colossus behind as it was still far too early for them to appear at home and they had to use up their allotted time away in its entirety, or it might be confiscated.

The Garrulous Kid moaned that the pace was much too slow and I encouraged him to chase after the Prof, who’d predictably roared past the entire group and was bashing along on his own off the front. Sadly, I couldn’t persuade him to give chase and by the time he decided to go on his own he complained it was too late.

He saved his excess energy for an attack up Berwick Hill, presaged by a kamikaze dart up the outside and around a blind bend, as he gave chase to a group that had ridden off the front.

I waited until the road straightened, then bridged across to the Monkey Butler Boy on the hill and then we made it up to the front group on the descent. Behind me, Taffy Steve and Captain Black worked their way across on the downhill stretch too and we soon formed a compact group, battering along at high speed once again.

I was beginning to really feel the pace as we approached the turn off and while everyone else swung away, I pushed on down the Mad Mile on my own and eased.

From there I was soon clambering up the Heinous Hill, a good half an hour before I’m usually home, a testament to how hard we’d been driving the pace.


YTD Totals: 6,523 km / 4,053 miles with 74,690 metres of climbing

Wall to Wall Sunshine

Wall to Wall Sunshine

Club Run, Saturday 8th April, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  88 km / 55 miles with 910 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          3 hours 37 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.2 km/h

Group size:                                         Mainly me, myself and I

Temperature:                                    16°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright but chill


 

8 april
Ride Profile

The Ride:

Late Friday evening and the directive came down from on high (well, G-Dawg actually, but pretty much the same thing) – in the face of the “wall-to-wall sunshine” forecast for Saturday, the call was for best bikes, shorts and track mitts only. With Aether posting up another pre-planned route for those who wanted to travel just that little bit faster and occasionally find a new road or novel vista, everything sounded promising. What could possibly go wrong?


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Wall-to-Wall Sunshine

As forecast, Saturday morning was a bright, bright day, the sky cloudless, but not quite the deep blue of true summer. Instead it was a rather pale, cold imposter that looked far more benign than it actually was and the wind had a raw, Arctic edge that drove the temperature south and easily razored through my thin layers.

As I tipped down the hill, I could actually feel the chilling rush of cold air whistling through the vents on my shoes and helmet and, where arm warmers petered out just under my sleeves, I became acutely aware of two bands of uncomfortable sensation that were either freezing, or burning. I honestly couldn’t tell which.

Along the valley floor and the bright sun cast a long shadow out, directly in front of me, seeming to urge me on and lead the way. I increased the pace in an attempt to warm up, while I looked forward backtracking along the opposite side of the river and putting both my shadow and the rather niggling and  speed-sapping, cold wind behind me.

I hadn’t gone more than 3 miles when, like a persistent and intrusive busybody, my front wheel had some bad news: Psst….Psst …Psst. Every time the wheel rolled around it would demand attention.

Puncture alert. I stopped. The hissing stopped. Perhaps the strangest puncture I’d ever had, but I knew it wasn’t going to go away, so climbed off, set the rest of the air in the tyre out on parole, and started to change the tube.

The valve on the replacement tube was desperate to malfunction, but considerately didn’t let me know this until after I’d seated the tyre back on the wheel and then to compound my troubles, my pump decided it would be fun to disintegrate in my hands.

There was no alternative but to turn for home, occasionally walking, occasionally riding on a barely inflated tyre that rumbled and rattled and shook, while all the while the spent inner tubes I’d hastily jammed into my back pockets threatened to spill out like the necrotic intestines of a gut-shot zombie.

At the bottom of the Heinous Hill I found climbing was actually the easiest part of riding, sitting back on the saddle and taking most of my weight off the front wheel. I took a more direct route than usual, straight up through the housing estate, which involved a little unaccustomed kerb hopping and pavement surfing.

I would later find I’d not only discovered a somewhat hidden Strava segment, but recorded the 6th fastest ascent of all time, all the while riding suitably sur la jante. Not that I’m bragging about my athletic prowess, it only looked like a dozen or so people had ever been foolish enough to attempt the route.

Back home then, I changed both my front tube and tyre, replaced my pump, stocked up on more spare inner tubes from my cache and swapped long fingered gloves for track mitts. Off I set again, only two hours behind schedule, but calculating if I could make it to the café by 11.30, I could hopefully meet up with the gang there.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

I have no idea, but I’m pretty sure it was the same scintillating, erudite and illuminating chatter as usual. It certainly would have seemed that way in comparison to my own creative assemblage of swear words while I battled with pumps, punctures and providence.


Back on the road, I was feeling quite sprightly, or maybe I was just taking my frustrations out on the pedals. Turning down toward the river I chased and passed a lone cyclist from the Blaydon club and in doing so bettered the time I’d achieved only last week hanging onto the back of the SSVCC train.

Across the bridge and with no pressing need to be anywhere soon, I found an alternate route out of the valley, up what Strava has classified as a 4th category climb, the rather quiet and unexpectedly pleasant ascent of Hospital Lane.

Dropping down through Callerton, I was then pretty much climbing most of the way, through Stamfordham, Fenwick and, Matfen, where I saluted a splinter group of grogs off our main run, as they swished past – headed for the same destination, but in the opposite direction!


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I was tempted to drop down the Ryals and climb back out toward Hallington, since its been an age since I’ve ridden that route, but it was already quarter past eleven and I was running out of time. Instead, I topped out my ride over the Quarry Climb and, as tradition demands and even though I was riding solo, I then started to drive on the café.

Churning a big gear as fast as I could, I was bounced and jolted over the horrible, lumpy surface, darting past a lone female in an ultra-smart, woollen Italian national champion’s jersey, before sitting up and coasting through the Snake Bends.

I dived across the A696 and along the lane that spat me out just behind Sneaky Pete, running as the rear-guard to our main group as they completed the last drag up to the café. Near perfect timing.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The “wall-to-wall” sunshine had enticed out many familiar faces, including Szell, who had returned intact from cryogenic stasis and the Bearded Collie, out for his one annual club ride somewhat earlier in the year than usual. He admitted that in part he’d been drawn out because he sensed slight undercurrents of change and rebellion bubbling under at the club and wanted to see what was happening for himself.

Following last weeks blog, the Garrulous Kid wanted to know who Dick van Dyke was. I asked him if he’d ever seen Mary Poppins and, even though I shouldn’t have been, I was taken aback by the fact he had no idea about the film, its characters, or what it was about. No idea. None. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Oh, dear.

I explained it was a World War 2 action-movie in which the Nazi’s planned to build an aircraft carrier from a giant ice-berg and use it as a base to fly off jets in order to attack London, with Mary Poppins being parachuted in to sabotage the operation.

“A bit like James Bond?” he asked.

“Yes, exactly, but with a female protagonist.”

“Wasn’t Marilyn Monroe in Mary Poppins?” he next asked.

There’s only so far I can roll my eyes.

Sneaky Pete suggested the Garrulous Kid needed to download the lyrics to the Billy Joel song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and Google each name for a crash course in modern culture, but I don’t think he was getting through.

I later learned that Crazy Legs had mischievously muddied the waters still further, by suggesting that Dick van Dyke was actually a Belgian pro cyclist, a hard man and a rouleur of some note, who’d been tremendously successful in the Spring Classics in the late 70’s.

In my absence the club had adopted a song dedicated to the Garrulous Kid, Chas ‘n’ Dave’s “Rabbit” – although I was somewhat disturbed to find Captain Black knew all the words … yap-yap rabbit-yap yap-yap rabbit-rabbit bunny jabber rabbit-yap rabbit-rabbit bunny rabbit jabber jabber rabbit rabbit yap-yap rabbit rabbit bunny bunny yap jabber rabbit.

There then followed a revelation that the Garrulous Kid seemed incapable of taking a left turn, dropping the speed back, losing the wheel in front and then carving massive arcs around the bend as the bike somehow conspired to remain perfectly upright while he hung over the frame.

“Like Derek Zoolander,” Taffy Steve chuckled with undisguised glee, “he’s not an ambi-turner!”

I thought the Garrulous Kids reputation had reached a nadir, but events were to prove we’d only just scratched the surface and I’d seriously underestimated his predilection for shooting himself in the foot. I don’t think he’s quite come to grips with the sage advice of one of my favourite quotes – it’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.

Setting out for coffee refills, I missed the fact that Sneaky Pete was sneaking a last sip of his cup, swung my leg over the bench, smashed my knee into his elbow and his cup into his teeth. Youch. Sorry bro’. Took me awhile to remember where that bruise on my knee came from when I got home.

The next table then queried if Son of G-Dawg hadn’t earned the right to have his own blog name and how much longer he’d have to live under his pa’s mighty shadow. A difficult question and one that needs some consideration.

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs revealed he’d released the much-cossetted Ribble from its preservative, hyperbaric chamber in preparation for today’s ride, only to find that every link in the chain had seized solid. If he’d managed to remove the chain intact, he felt it would still describe a perfect, rounded rhomboid shape as he lifted it out.

Now he was faced with either sitting down to work each individual link free, or simply abandoning the chain on G-Dawg’s doorstep like a foundling baby, in the hope the whispering demons in G-Dawg’s head would compel him to take it in and provide succour.


We left the cafe in several small groups and I tagged onto the back of the last group alongside Captain Black. We’d no sooner turned off the main road and onto the quieter lanes, when we found one of the other groups pulled up with a mechanical. The Garrulous Kid had punctured.

What unfolded next was perhaps the longest, most exhausting and most frustrating puncture stop in the history of our club – and that’s saying something.

The Garrulous Kid stood there looking confused and completely nonplussed.

“What do I do?” he asked and we quickly learned he’d never repaired a puncture before and didn’t even seem to have the faintest idea of how to set about it.

Under instruction, he started unpacking his supplies. Out came the tyre levers. Out came a spare tube. Out came patches.

“Where’s your pump?”

“I don’t have a pump.”

Aargh!

With no OGL around to sneer about the purist and “proper” way of doing things, Crazy Legs took the simple route of telling him to turn his bike upside to get the wheel out. The Garrulous Kid dithered, worried about damaging his saddle or brake hoods or who knows what, but finally after much urging, finally upended the bike on the grass verge.

He pulled the quick release lever and spun it half a dozen times, before grasping that you actually have to hold the other side as well to loosen it off. With Crazy Legs help and instruction, the wheel was finally wrangled out of the frame.

The Garrulous Kid then started to poke ineffectually at the tyre with the tyre levers, until a clearly frustrated Crazy Legs took over, stripped out the old tube and started to insert the new one

We were then subjected to a full-on bout of explosive logorrhoea in the form of a running, never ending commentary of nonsensical questions and useless pronouncements.

We learned his bike wheels were precisely engineered by the nice German people at Focus Bikes, specifically to ensure the Garrulous Kids safety, even though I pointed out the wheels are Fulcrum’s and more Italian than German in origin and, as Taffy Steve commented, probably built in Taiwan along with the frame itself.

The inner tube was far too big for the tyre and wouldn’t fit!

Naturally it wasn’t, and did.

Had we lost the little silver dinger? We needed the little silver dinger!

The inner tube wasn’t a Focus(?) inner tube, but a Specialized one, would it still work?

With the new tube in place the wheel looked much bigger than it should!

We then had to wait while the rear wheel was minutely compared to the (oh, look, identical) front wheel.

Taffy Steve had to help replace the wheel back in the bike and then unclipped and handed over his might frame pump. A minute or so of ineffectual, desultory pumping and a clearly frustrated Taffy Steve took up the task, over-riding the indignant squeals of the Garrulous Kid who was convinced his tyre was going to catastrophically rupture if any more air was forced into its still squishy carcase.

It took a while, much longer than it should have and I’m not sure the Garrulous Kid learned what to do next time and yet no cyclist is immune from punctures.

So, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and compadres, for the sake of my sanity and strained patience, if you know someone who rides, please make sure they follow these very simple rules:

  1. Buy a fucking pump!
  1. Carry said fucking pump at all times along with the means to fix a simple puncture: tyre levers and at least one spare tube.
  1. None of this is of any use if you don’t have a clue how to use them. In a world of Google and YouTube ignorance is inexcusable.
  1. If you’ve never replaced an inner tube before, practice in the warmth and comfort of your own home – far better here than on a windy, rain-swept road in the middle of nowhere with darkness fast encroaching.
  1. Relying on the goodwill of your fellow cyclists in 99 times out of 100 will work, but will wear thin if you make no effort to help yourself and then, what happens that one time when you’re riding on your own, or you’re dropped off the back and there’s no one to lend a hand?
  1. Remember, even the most expensive bike isn’t very fast, or very comfortable without any air in its tyres (that’s something my own travails that morning had reinforced.)

Rant over. ‘Scuse my French.

We were finally back underway and soon pounding our way up Berwick Hill and dropping down the other side. Riding alongside Son of G-Dawg we noticed several of the more prominent potholes had been crudely patched and others had been bracketed with yellow paint, suggesting they were next on the list.

We agreed that even the paint was a massive improvement, at least making the hazards easier to spot, although Son of G-Dawg was disappointed his own personal bête noire, a deep, steep-sided, triangular shaped divot just before the main junction appeared to have (so far) escaped attention.

I hung onto the wheels through the Mad Mile before slipping off and away for home. By the time I was scaling the Heinous Hill for the second time that day I felt suitably tired and heavy-legged, despite a much shorter than usual run.

On reflection and despite my morning frustrations, I’d quite enjoyed my solo ride. It doesn’t quite compete with the entertaining banter and easy camaraderie of a club run, but as a substitute when there’s no group ride organised its still a damn fine alternative.

I actually think its something I need to do more of – especially as my favourite routes are all in the darkly veiled, dangerous and uncivilised badlands south of the river, a place where all my club mates seemingly fearful to tread!


YTD Totals: 1,825 km / 1,134 miles with 19,516 metres of climbing