A Stopped Clock

A Stopped Clock

Club Run Saturday 21st April 2019

My ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:117 km/73 miles with 1,077 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 28 minutes
Average Speed:26.3km/h
Group Size:31 riders, 2 FNG’s
Temperature: 23℃
Weather in a word or two:Glorious

Ride Profile

The weather was set to be perfect, bright, warm and dry, the sky without cloud and the land without wind. Still, it wasn’t quite there yet when I first set out, with the air still chilly, so I hid under arm warmers and full finger gloves, all pulled over a necessary layer of sun-cream.

I had a very pleasant and totally relaxed ride across to the meeting point and arrived in good time to join G-Dawg admiring the obscene graffiti on the wall, before it was obscured by a flash mob of milling cyclists.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

In the space of just seven days we found a startling contrast between last weeks wickedly cold start and this weeks balmy, sunny conditions. Everyone seemed to have dressed accordingly, well, other than Zip Five in tights, arm warmers over a long sleeved base-layer and overshoes and the Garrulous Kid, who was basically wearing the exact same kit he’s worn for the past 6-weeks… only this time it was appropriate to the conditions.

“You’re like a stopped clock,” Jimmy Mac informed him, “Just very occasionally you are, by default going to get it right.”

The Garrulous Kid is proving to be to football punditry what Theresa May is to international diplomacy and delicate negotiation. After his disastrous guarantee that Germany was going to sweep all before them and dominate the World Cup, his prediction that Man City were “nailed on” for a remarkable quadruple is starting too look ever so slightly suspect.

OGL rolled up, took a chemist’s prescription bag out of his back pocket and started emptying out the various contents, bottles, tubes and boxes of pills, to secrete about his person.

“What’s with the Jiffy bag?” some wag asked, while I started singing, “EPO, EPO, EPO” to the tune of “Here we go, Here we go, Here we go” – a variation
of the fiendish complex, difficult to master, classic football-chant, devised by the veritable Toshi San to serenade David Millar on his return to racing on British Roads.

OGL had the Team Sky deflection tactics down pat though, immediately switching the conversation to boxer Jarrell Miller’s failed drug-test, where he’d secured the grand slam of being popped for EPO, HGH and GW1516 (whatever that is) all at the same time. Still, Miller has wholeheartedly apologised, held his hand up and admitted he’s made a mistake … so, no harm done eh?

OGL then advised that roadworks meant traffic was backing up through Ponteland, so recommended we changed our route into the village. With that agreed, we picked a rendezvous point, split into two groups and away we went.


Things started out well, the pace was high, the sun was shining and the company amenable. I was just rolling up the outside of the group, picking up too much speed on a downhill section and too lazy to brake, when ahead of me, Spry’s bike jettisoned his tool tub. Stuffed with spare inner tubes and various Allen keys, it bounced once end-over-end and then rolled under my front wheel. I hit it and there was a resounding crack. My front wheel twitched violently and then straightened and I rolled on checking for damage.

My bike seemed fully intact and there was no puncture to deal with, but the impact had shattered the lid of Spry’s tool tub. I apologised for the damage I’d done as I passed him, back-tracking to pick up his discarded essentials.



We pressed on through Stamfordham and then up the hill to the lay-by, used for the start and finish of numerous cycling events. We pulled over here to wait for our rendezvous with the second group.

They duly arrived and we hung around for too long just chatting aimlessly and enjoying the sunshine, until OGL got tetchy and, pausing only to rebuke Plumose Pappus for having a grungy, rusting rear cassette, nagged us all into action again. Various splits and routes were agreed and we finally started up again.

Heading up toward Capheaton, Mini Miss picked up a puncture and it was back to standing around, shooting the breeze and waiting. I had a chat with Captain Black about the missing BFG (presumed to be still alive, but probably living under a(nother) false name, somewhere in the UK). We reminisced about the time he’d taken his bike into Boots to find the exact colour of nail varnish to match his chipped frame and ended up with a bevvy of beauticians and shop assistants helping him out. (Rimmel’s Pinking Out Loud and Max Factor’s Broody Blood Bouquet were the recommended choices. Although grateful for all the help, I’m led to believe the BFG felt the need to push back when it was suggested his cuticles needed urgent attention and a full manicure wouldn’t go amiss.)

Repairs made and on we went, following the route of last years National Road Race and cutting across the hills, through Hallington, to the bottom of the Ryals. Once again we marvelled that people actually race at full tilt down this narrow, twisting, pot holed, gravel-strewn and over-grown farm track.

I caught up with Richard of Flanders and we both agreed it was too nice a day to ruin it with an assault on the Ryals, but that’s exactly where we were heading.

I was drifting toward the back of the group when we made the turn and hadn’t gone far, when Jake the Snake, the Dormanator, pulled up with a puncture.

Our calls went either unheard, or unheeded by those in front and they pressed on leaving six of us to help sort out the puncture and then make the run for the cafe. I joined Aether in helping Jake the Snake replace his tube, while an overheating Zip Five tried to shed some layers and Rab Dee, in a move that was pure Jacques Anquetil, drained his water bottles, declaring he didn’t want to carry any extra weight up the climb. The Ticker then admitted he was a Ryals virgin and this would be his very first introduction to their nasty, brutish ways.

Underway again and rolling toward the climb, I passed the Ticker, whistling a little too nonchalantly and I commended him on his show of bravado.

Then we hit the first ramp and started to go up. I followed Rab Dee and Benedict closely up the first ramp, but didn’t feel I was in a comfortable gear and I was spinning a bit too wildly. As the road dipped down before climbing again, they changed up and kicked on, opening up a gap while I freewheeled, trying to recover and find a comfortable gear for the second ramp.

Then the slope bit again and I gave chase, slowly closing the gap, but running out of hill before I made it all the way across. We rolled down to the turn for the Quarry, where we stopped to regroup. After several minutes, with no sign of the Ticker, I started to backtrack, hoping to pick him up.

I’d almost made it back to Ryal village when he finally appeared, having suffered what he hilariously described as a “chain wedgie” – shipping his chain and getting it jammed between chainring and bottom bracket, or cassette and free hub … or maybe both at the same time.

“That’s what you get when you’re desperately looking for the secret 12th sprocket on an 11-speed cassette,” I told him.

After the Ryals, we made short work of the Quarry and started to pick up speed for the cafe. Once again I found myself on the front for the drag up and through the crossroads. It’s becoming a very bad habit.

I stayed on the front up to the final junction, when Rab Dee took over and kicked away. Closing fast on the Snake Bends, I pushed in front of him again, he took the briefest of micro-pauses, just enough to collect his breath, before he surged away.

I couldn’t follow, but we seemed to have left everyone else trailing in our wake, so I sat up and coasted through the bends.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The day was nice enough to retire to the garden and there I joined the already firmly ensconced Goose, Captain Black and Mini Miss, the latter enjoying he wanton displays of bike porn, most especially someone’s pure white Storck. This was close to being her dream bike, although she admitted it would be a difficult decision between a Storck and a more traditional, celeste Bianchi.

We recalled Goose, perhaps the least brand aware amongst us, being accosted by the one-time distributor of Storck bikes in the UK, who gave him the full-court press in trying to persuade him to drop £3 grand or more on a new bike, without really being able to justify the price tag, or read his audience with any degree of accuracy or empathy.

In discussions with Captain Black, I did the Ryals a disservice by suggesting they didn’t get much above 7-8%. The VeloViewer site characterises the “official” climb as being 1.5 km long, with an average gradient of 4% and a maximum of 16.8%.

Whatever the actual statistics, I think my point is still valid, it’s not an epic, enjoyable, or particularly memorable climb and I never feel any great sense of achievement topping it. I can imagine it does become brutal if you race up it, full gas 3 or 4 times in a race (such as next weeks Beaumont, or the Nationals Road Race) though.

We then played a kind of cycling Top Trumps, with Captain Black selecting the Tourmalet as the hardest climb he’s done, while, along with Goose, I went for the Galibier.

At the next table, the Monkey Butler was getting grief for his white, aero socks, but I refused to join in and condemn him, when the Garrulous Kid had two hairy, shapeless, baggy and grungy socks of no discernible colour, pooled around his ankles like two used and discarded elephant condoms.

Then, in a concession to the heat and inadequate pre-planning of layers, the Monkey Butler Boy re-appeared wearing just a gilet on his top half, arms bare to the shoulder. Socks be dammed, I immediately told him he looked like a wannabe triathlete and he couldn’t ride with us. Standards must be maintained.

As a parting shot, as we were packing up to go, I turned to Mini Miss, “What’s it going to be then, a Bianchi, or a Storck?”

“Well,” she mused, “I think Bianchi …”

She paused a heartbeat, before adding, “But I wouldn’t mind meeting a man with a Storck.”

Oh dear, that didn’t sound right. Time to leave.


Having been delayed by a couple of punctures, we were running late, so I peeled off to pick my way over the airport and shave a little distance and time off my journey home.

A couple of others came with me, at least as far as Ponteland, so I at least got another opportunity to apologise to Spry for destroying his tool tub.

Through Ponteland, I passed the long tail of traffic OGL had warned about that morning, as it backed up through the roadworks. Uncharitable as it seems, I have to admit passing the long, long line of drivers, cooped up and sweltering in their cars, made me smile and it buoyed me all the way home.


YTD Totals: 2,582 km / 1,604 miles with 34,470 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.


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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

Ghost in the Szell

Ghost in the Szell

Club Run, Saturday 9th August, 2017      

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  122 km / 76 miles with 1,142 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 47 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.5 km/h

Group size:                                        24 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Tom Verlaine (Warm and Cool)


 

9 sept
Ride Profile


The Ride:

A dry looking Saturday, but grey and dull with light rain showers forecast, but not until around midday. I’d managed to survive a semi-debauched work leaving do involving “jalee-peeno” chilli peppers and “crotch mints” on Friday night (I couldn’t tell you, even if I knew…) and was looking forward to blowing the fuzz away with a bracing gentleman’s excursion by velocipede.

The dodgy knee was well-strapped up in an attempt to try and keep everything in place and I’d dug out some knee warmers to disguise the shocking pink bandage. I even remembered my long-fingered gloves, so was well wrapped up and warm dropping down the hill to start my ride.

The leaden, uniform cloud cover was fractured by only a single band of pale, glittering blue-sky, far away across the other side of the valley. It was exactly where I was heading and seemed like a good omen.

We were set for one of G-Dawg’s carefully prepared, somewhat alternative rides and he’d obviously been scouring ordnance survey maps, ancient parish records, local archives and the latest military-grade, topographical satellite imagery to find us a route somewhat less-travelled. The ride had been posted up on Facebook and looked like being not only novel, but slightly longer than usual. It was going to be a good one.

It seemed to be a day for fellow cyclists to be out on the roads in force – perhaps the forecast for rain later in the day had encouraged them to leave home early, or maybe they too needed to work off the previous night’s excesses.

I passed one group clustered just outside Pedalling Squares cycle café and hoped they didn’t need an espresso to kick-start their ride – the place was still an hour away from opening. I waved past another couple heading east and a third group tracked me along the valley floor for a while, but either turned off, or got caught behind some lights, so never caught up for a chat.

After last week’s flotilla of single sculls, there was only a solitary eight out on the river, leading me to idly speculate that rowing isn’t really as popular as it seems. Perhaps this eight was manned by the exact same rowers as last week’s sculls and they just changed boats occasionally to spice things up. If next week they’re back to 8-singles, or possibly 4-doubles, I think I might be onto something.

The knee got its first test as I climbed out the other side of the valley, but the strapping seemed to be doing its work, it wasn’t exactly 100% but I could live with a few small twinges. Interestingly it seemed less sore when climbing standing up and out of the saddle.

The first test passed, I was soon homing in on the meeting point, arriving in good time and in good order.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting place:

G-Dawg had bedecked himself in the brightest, most luminous, acid-orange socks I’d ever seen, perhaps so he was especially prominent as ride leader and to ensure no one got lost –  the cycling equivalent of Rudolph’s red-nose? Taffy Steve later remarked he thought G-Dawg had installed a special two-tone gold chain with orange highlights, until he realised he was just seeing the glow of the glaringly orange socks reflected in the chains highly burnished plates.

The Garrulous Kid declared OGL had promised to show him the “secret way.” Yes, well … ahem … hmmm … moving swiftly on.

Crazy Legs was wearing a jersey I donated to him as it was too long in the body for me and I felt it was the perfect complement to his much cossetted Ribble. The colours were not only the exact shade of red, black and white to match the Ribble’s frame, but featured in almost identical proportions too. So, naturally he’d decided to wear it while riding his celeste Bianchi …

(He did actually explain that he fully intended to ride the much cossetted Ribble today, but it had refused, point-blank to leave the warm, dry sanctuary of its hyperbaric chamber, asserting there was just the faintest trace of moisture in the air and a more than 2.5% chance of rain.)

Jimmy Mac returned from participating in the UCI Gran Fondo event, where he’d lined up in Albi with 2,939 other riders from 56 different nations, including at least one Dutchman, our own de Uitheems Bloem. The latter has now left this royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden, demi-paradise, in order to return to his homeland of polders and dykes. Veel success, Thomas, we’ll miss you.

Jimmy Mac had survived the Gran Fondo which, in his estimation had not only been blisteringly fast, but blisteringly hot too. Once again and much like the Etape du Tour, the event organisation seemed to have thoroughly let the riders down though and he reported the en route feed stations had run out of water long before he got to them.

G-Dawg outlined the route, OGL emphasised there was only one cut-off point for anyone wanting a shorter ride and we split more or less (we’re learning) into two equal groups with Crazy Legs leading the first and G-Dawg the second.

We pushed off, clipped in and rode out…


On the road with the first group, I started chatting with Taffy Steve and was taken to task for not acknowledging his most invaluable contributions in the engine room of last week’s gimp express, as we tried unsuccessfully to rein in the rampaging Zardoz and the only slightly-less rampaging Big Dunc.

Suitably chastened, talk turned to the “classic” bloke-films that Taffy Steve is ensuring his son has an encyclopaedic and deep, empathic understanding of, before the boy is cast, adrift and defenceless, into a world full of rom-cons, chick-flicks, historical dramas, much-too earnest bio-pics, classical literature screen-adaptations and other such horrors.

Point Break, the original 1960’s Batman and the Matrix films had already been covered off, while we discussed the relative merits of Die Hard, Predator and the Lethal Weapon series, with a special nod to Clint Eastwood, a few spaghetti-westerns and of course Where Eagles Dare.

Never mind the implausibility, the occasionally ropey special effects, the scripts full of anachronisms and “more holes than a horse trader’s mule” – just sit back and enjoy the visceral excitement. How good must it be to discover these films for the first time?

Once Crazy Legs had rotated off the front we had a remarkably rare sighting of a couple of Grogs leading us and their efforts dragged us to the top of the valley before the plunge down into Wylam.

It was here that OGL would lead off a splinter group for those seeking a slightly shorter ride, seemingly taking most of the Grogs with him along with the Garrulous Kid, who continues to take the easy option and might need to be renamed the Wimpy Kid.

It was also at this point that OGL’s “secret route” was revealed … apparently a different, safer way we could take down into the Tyne Valley. The only trouble was it was only accessible if we travelled a mile or two in the wrong direction down the Military Road.

I must admit I don’t quite understand his concern – the descent into Wylam is fast, but the road’s wide, the bends are all gently sweeping and the traffic relatively light. We usually get strung out going down, but soon regroup at the bottom for the ride along the river side.

Anyway, as Crazy Legs reasoned, it would still be far better to deal with the descent, even if it was gnarly, rather than spend any more time than absolutely necessary dicing with the reckless, impatient, and frequently speeding drivers on the Military Road “race-track.”

So, down we went and I tucked up and dropped in behind Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs, letting gravity do the work as we hit over 40 mph. As always, great fun.

Along the valley floor and a black cat darted across the road in front of us, the bell on its collar jingling lightly, but clearly loud enough for Crazy Legs to suggest it was nearly as good as cow bells on an Alpine climb. Once safely on the pavement the cat stopped to eye us up suspiciously, making sure we kept right on going.

At the Bywell Bridge, now fully open to anyone brave enough to venture into the dark and brooding lands south of the river, we stopped to merge with the following group led by G-Dawg. All together we then swung away to the right and starting the long climb back out of the valley.

I topped the hill before the A69 dual carriageway just off the front group and with perfect timing, as a gap miraculously appeared in the rushing traffic. I picked my way across to the other side without stopping and pulled up to ensure everyone was across before continuing to climb upwards.


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We were now traversing the side of the hill, travelling slightly eastwards, rather than heading straight up and as the road continued to climb I started working my way through the back markers. Szell, Sneaky Pete, Aether and Brink in particular didn’t seem to be enjoying the uphill segments and I slipped past them as the road continued upwards.

We stopped to regroup and pressed on through more climbing – and then hit the rinse and repeat button, more climbing and more regrouping. Somewhere along the way I lost track of Szell and was convinced he was tailed-off and riding behind the group.

I communicated my concern to Rab Dee, our backmarker, sweeper-up and self-appointed guardian of waifs and strays and we spent an age soft-pedalling and peering backwards, hoping to see a struggling Szell finally haul himself into view. There was nothing.

We stopped and waited, finally surmising Szell may have taken a different route, before reluctantly pushing on again. At the junction Aether and Radman had waited for us, but the rest of the group had kept going.

We then had a mile or so chasing into the wind, before catching up to the rest of the group who were waiting at the next junction and insisted Szell was in a group up ahead! They still had trouble convincing me he wasn’t lost, alone and palely loitering, though.

At this point it became apparent we’d now lost Rab Dee too and Aether back-tracked to find he was having problems with his front shifter. Rab finally re-joined, but only long enough to let us know he was stuck in the inner ring and cutting short his ride to head homeward.

We now took one of G-Dawg’s “paths less-travelled” – turning off the main roads onto a rutted and pitted farm track that narrowed to the point where I was becoming concerned it was going to peter out altogether and abandon us in the middle of a field.

There were a few pots to avoid, lumps to slalom round and gravel to surf through, but we kept going and G-Dawg’s plan didn’t fail us.

Petang-phwee!

With a noise like a Winchester ricochet in a cheesy Western, a wheel ahead spat up a small boulder which flew with unerring accuracy to rap Taffy Steve across the knuckles.

“Ouch!” he exclaimed, before quickly realising he had to translate his hurt into the local Geordie vernacular, or nobody would have a clue about what had happened…

“Ai-ya, that knaacks!” he quickly corrected himself.

Finally, we emerged from the wilderness onto more civilised roads, with everyone seeming to instantly recognise where they were. Well, everyone except me.

“This is part of the route the Cyclone takes,” Taffy Steve informed me.

“Maybe, but at this stage, after the Ryals, I’m usually reduced to an exhausted wreck with tunnel-vision and can only ride with my head bowed down. I don’t recognise anything.”

“How long have you lived in Newcastle?” Taffy Steve asked in disbelief.

“I don’t live in Newcastle,” I protested.

“Hmm, must just be because you work there that you’ve developed that thin veneer of civility.”

Thanks!

“Kee-argh!” Zardoz announced, at the sound of a motor-vehicle approaching from behind.

His exaggerated Scouse bleat still sounded like my cat retching up a fur-ball.

I tried to copy this most extraordinary noise, but succeeded only in sounding like a mildly startled crow. Embarrassingly, it was as pitiful as Ed Miliband’s death metal scream as he tried to imitate Napalm Death frontman, Barney Greenway.


ed
The Guardian.com – Ed-Miliband learns how to scream like a death-metal singer


“You need lessons,” Zardoz declared phlegmatically.

He wasn’t wrong.

Radman and Crazy Legs took to the front for the last push through Stamfordham and I finally recognised where we were.  They swung us left and up the hill, as we started a last push on to the café.

Above us massive wind-turbines whirred freely and we quickly came to understand just why they’d been placed where they were, as out of nowhere, the stretch of road suddenly became a perfect, natural wind-tunnel, funnelling a vicious headwind straight into our faces.

Radman and Crazy Legs drove us through this gale and onto the junction leading down to the Snake Bends where, as suddenly as the wind had sprang up, it died away again.

There was no full-blooded sprint, just a general quickening of the pace and I was able to stay comfortably in line despite discovering I’d been riding on the inner ring.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

I was somewhat relieved to discover Szell comfortably ensconced in the café when we arrived, supping his tea and devouring a warm scone. I guess he was in the group up the road after all, but I’m still confused as to when and where (and how?) he passed me on the climb.

We sat outside into the garden after being served, where the owner-proprietor of Azione bikes passed by and stopped for a brief chat. Azione must be the only people producing custom-made, bespoke carbon bikes in Newcastle (Azione.cc).

A couple of our crew are “Azionista’s” – one is very, very enthusiastic about the project, the other a little more circumspect. Very nice designs, but a bit too rich for my blood – which I guess is just another way of admitting I’m a cheapskate – or, as tight as a wallaby’s sphincter, as some of my more erudite friends might suggest.

I think Jimmy Mac got the full sales pitch, but refreshingly, unlike a similar encounter with the MD of the Storck UK, at least the Azione guy wasn’t trying to spin us a tale about his frames being anything other than high-end and unashamedly expensive, premium bikes.

The Garrulous Kid unwisely started guessing peoples ages, straddling the line between fawning sycophantism and uncomfortable, derogatory and disparaging disrespect. Luckily Taffy Steve cut him short before he really insulted someone.

Radman stated how much he’d enjoyed the ride and how it made a change from the shorter route he usually takes with the Grogs and we all agreed it had been a great one today. He wasn’t a fan of the coffee at the café though and we couldn’t persuade him to have a second cup, even after Crazy Legs had press-ganged the Garrulous Kid into collecting our refills – more for a moments respite than any laziness on our part.

Radman revealed the Grogs always met up early for a pre-ride espresso, which sounds very civilised and means they can time their arrival for after any OGL proselytizing – so not only civilised, but sensible too.

In the car park as we were leaving, I was approached by a couple enquiring which club we were from. Despite wondering if they were going to report us to the Police for unknown misdemeanours, I answered truthfully – the garish club jerseys were well represented anyway and they’re all emblazoned with the club name, so there wasn’t much wriggle-room.

Apparently though, the couple were cyclists from Lincoln (Lincoln Wheelers, I think) who were just returning from a walking event in Peebles and were admiring all the bikes. They seemed rather jealous that we had such a glorious day for a ride, while they still had a couple of hours drive ahead of them.


As we set off for home I dropped in behind Sneaky Pete and heard all about his potential 15 minutes of fame, as he’d been filmed for the new BBC One series, How to Stay Young, due to air on Wednesday, 13th September at 21.00.

Answering the call for retired gentlemen of a certain vintage, Sneaky Pete had to endure a battery of tests at the hands of no less than the fearsome Angela Ripon, before our mountain climbing and cycling superhero was declared an uber-healthy pensioner, with less than 6% body-fat and the physique of a 35-year-old Adonis.

We’ve yet to see if Sneaky Pete’s segment survives the cut, or is expunged for making the rest of us feel old, unworthy and inadequate.

Sneaky Pete, however is apparently not everyone’s flavour of the month. While I was away on holiday he’d found his picture appearing unsolicited on a social-media site, where he was accused, in terms that would make a sailor blush, of being a reckless cyclist who casually and disdainfully flouts the rules of the road.

Apparently Sneaky Pete and colleagues had been out on the usual Saturday club run and had somehow – and he has genuinely no idea how, or why – incurred the wrath of the driver of a black Mercedes. This woman had photographed him on her mobile and posted up the picture along with the derogatory remarks and had, apparently without the slightest hint of self-awareness or irony, accused him of breaking the law.

Just to be absolutely clear: The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No 4) Regulations 2003, prohibits a person from driving a motor vehicle on a road if the driver is using a held-hand mobile telephone or a hand-held device. Regulation 110 (6)(c) provides a non-exhaustive list of “interactive communication functions” which are subject to this restriction, including: sending or receiving oral or written messages, sending or receiving facsimile documents, sending or receiving still or moving images, and providing access to the internet.

Contrary to what many drivers seem to think, the law still applies even if you’re stopped, or queuing in traffic – as the RAC conclude, “if your engine is running, your phone should be nowhere near your hands or eye line.”

Still, it’s good to know so many drivers have such a vested interest in ensuring people strictly adhere to the rules of the road …

It wasn’t long before I was swinging off and heading for home, enduring the lightest and briefest of rain showers that did nothing to dampen the mood or ruin the day. The knee held up quite well and only really hurt a couple of miles from home, when I needed to sprint through a small gap in the traffic at a busy roundabout.

Hopefully all on the road to recovery then.


YTD Totals: 5,409 km / 3,360 miles with 61,650 metres of climbing

Crosswind Chaos

Crosswind Chaos

Club Run, Saturday 16th July, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                   113 km/70 miles with 1,001 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                           4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                                   26.2 km/h

Group size:                                           27 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                      22°C

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


Ride Profile

Ride Profile

The Ride:

For some peculiar reason I was awake and up 25 minutes before my alarm sounded. Perhaps it was the anticipation brought about by the bright blue vault of sky, promising a seemingly ultra-rare break with recent tradition – a Saturday free of rain.

Despite being up early I was actually late leaving the house as I bumbled about aimlessly. My usual timing checkpoint is at 8.42 mile into the ride, which I typically pass at around 8:42. Today however it was pushing 8:48 when I passed this mark, perhaps a consequence of the strong blustery wind that was already proving troublesome, with stretches of debilitating headwind interspersed with occasional sneaky crosswind-ambushes that kept blowing me off line.

I picked the pace up a little and all the traffic lights were kind, so I made the meeting point only a couple of minutes later than usual.


Main topic of conversation at the start:

A couple of riders started bonding, cooing and billing over their perfectly matched, exquisitely expensive and identical Storck Scenaro’s, even going as far as lining them up side by side to compare length and girth. “Great, just what we need,” Taffy Steve proclaimed, “A couple of Storckers!”

The Red Max had eschewed his favourite colours to pair a green, orange and white jersey with red and black shorts in an all-out, kaleidoscopic assault on unprotected retinas. Taffy Steve suggested if he tried wearing that sort of thing in Italy he would be run off the streets.

He then turned his critical attention to a contradictory Crazy Legs who was wearing a smart Bianchi celeste jersey … but riding his pampered and cossetted Ribble. The Bianchi itself had been confined to the garage for this week – the sure sign that ancient soothsayers and weather-watchers everywhere eagerly awaited, so they could declare with the utmost conviction that there was absolutely, positively zero chance of any rain today.

Taffy Steve then had one of those: “You say Bian-shee, I say Bian-kee” moments, before decrying the idiosyncrasies of modern languages and wondering why they didn’t just name themselves Biankee to save us all confusion.

“That’s rich, coming from someone who hails from a place where Llandudno, Pontypridd or even Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch are deemed acceptable names.” The Red Max countered.

(And yes, of course I had to Google Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch)

Taffy Steve argued that, just like Polish(?) at least Welsh was completely logical and consistent in its formation and application of letters – even if it did result in unpronounceable names – unlike English with its “kneed” and “need” and “knead” or words like “set” and “run” with hundreds upon hundreds of different meanings.


Around 27 lads and lasses were clustered around at the meeting point enjoying the promise of a day in the sun and more importantly staying dry as well. At exactly 9:15 Garmin time, Crazy legs and Taffy Steve decreed it was time to go and started to very deliberately clip in.

This was the cue for OGL to confront Crazy Legs and insist he didn’t immediately jump onto the front and ramp the pace up above 15 mph. This admonishment seemed to set a fire burning in Red Max, who was so keen to get on the front he raked his pedal through my spokes as he spun around, before enthusiastically bounding off to head the peloton. Luckily there was no damage done, but it was perhaps a precursor to the rest of the ride.

After the first roundabout a rider I didn’t recognise drifted to the side of the road and stopped. Apparently there’d been a clash with another rider and he had snapped a spoke. One guy dropped back to see what the problem was, while the rest of us chased on to let everyone know what was happening behind.

We turned off the main road, slowed and started again, then slowed and stopped. And started again and then stopped and then there was a lot of shouting and angry gesticulating between the Red Max and OGL, the perfect accompaniment to our staccato, stop-start dance.


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We finally determined that the loss of a spoke had been terminal and the rider had turned for home, so we pushed on and tried to regain some sort of order.

A few miles further on and G-Dawg was swooping over to the other side of the road to stop and check his wheel after another inadvertent clash of riders. This had seen his spokes completely chop the end off the Monkey Butler Boy’s quick release skewer, an aero-spoke sheering effortlessly through the hard plastic nut at the opposite end to the lever.  Somewhat amazingly there was no damage to G-Dawgs wheel and more importantly and somewhat miraculously, neither rider had come to grief.

A brief stop to quickly check everything and everyone was actually okay and off we went again. I was drifting near the back, riding along with Crazy Legs as we admired the light whistling noise Moscas’s carbon rims made every time he applied the brakes.

Another stop to regroup gave Mad Max and OGL an unedifying chance to exhume and resume their earlier fiery exchange, which seemed to be about stopping and starting and hand signals and (somewhat ironically) clear communication.


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As we reached the split point, OGL then rode off on his own without waiting to form an amblers group, perhaps in a fit of pique, or perhaps just wanting to enjoy some splendid isolation and the good weather.

An impromptu amblers group did finally get itself formed up and rolled away, while the longer, harder, faster group started to make their way toward the Quarry Climb and the final dash for the café.

The route was lumpy, the pace was high and the wind was still providing a little extra encumbrance. I found myself slowly drifting back through the group on the climbs with strangely hollow legs and no great desire to push too hard.

I started the approach to the Quarry Climb at the back and soon found myself having to circumnavigate the not inconsiderable impediment of a flailing and failing BFG, who had seemingly reached his limit. As someone later mentioned at the café he only seems to have two modes of operation, full-on or flaccid, and he was definitely in the latter mode now.

Crazy Legs had dropped back to escort the ailing leviathan, who was emitting weird warbling distress signals, like a mournful whale song and was slumping in the saddle as if he’d been holed below the waterline.

Crazy Legs declared they had now formed the “gruppetto” and we should just press on without them, but a gap had opened up to the front group and was quickly growing.


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Someone volunteered to relieve Crazy Legs of his pilot fish role and he eagerly skipped across to the leading group, bridging the gap with ease. I didn’t have the heart or the legs to follow, so just settled into my own rhythm with Taffy Steve, Captain Black tagging along behind and suffering through his own man-flu induced hell.

The main group reached the top of the Quarry climb as I hit the bottom and they turned left to loop around and start the long run down to the café with the wind at their backs. I slowed as I reached the top, checked Taffy Steve saw where I was going and swung right instead of left.

The right hand route to the cafe seems to be harder, with more climbing and more stop-start junctions, but it’s undoubtedly shorter and quicker and the road surface is much better.

The two of us worked together to keep the pace going through a series of leg-sapping rises, junctions and sharp corners. Nevertheless, I was surprised when we were spat out onto the front groups route, to find we were not only ahead of them, but they were nowhere in sight.

Taffy Steve led us through the Snake Bends and then tried to give me a lead out for the last burst to the café, but when he pulled over I could barely find the speed to get past him. We still managed to roll into the café well before the rest arrived, a fabulous piece of queue-gazumping.


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

The welcome change of commentary team on the ITV4 Tour de France coverage has finally rid us of the tired, tiresome and increasingly error-prone Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen and seemed to meet with universal approval.

The only real drawback now is the frequency of the ad breaks, exacerbated by the same ads being shown over and over on a limited and very heavy rotation.

Particularly irksome were the trashy Škoda ads bookending each break, especially one that shows a guy riding past a mountain backdrop – his helmet strap is twisted and it really offends me. (Apologies in advance if you hadn’t noticed this and the ad now becomes even more annoying.)

As Taffy Steve pronounced, “Bloody hell, Škoda – I’ve already bought the car, can’t I be excused the ads?”

Crazy Legs admired G-Dawgs new, fluffy yellow mitts and suggested that as he looked back to fully catch and appreciate the subtle whistling of brake pads engaging with Moscas’s carbon wheels, he liked to imagine the mitts were two small chicks, chirping loudly and dancing happily across the top of G-Dawg’s handlebars.

Someone suggested yellow gloves were more suited to my worst foppish excesses. Son of G-Dawg meanwhile decided that the best way of ensuring ensure each rider was fully-coordinated was to swap clothes around at the start of a ride, so we could match kit to bike. Anyone left looking … well like the Red Max today, would then be sent home in disgrace, or made to ride on their own.

Talk of Tour de France crashes led to enquiries about how our own injured phenom, zeB was recovering following his attempt to trace a racing-line through a tree – apparently with the sole intent of seeing just how easy it would be to destroy a scapula.

It was suggested he’d had to wait several hours for an ambulance and Andeven (who knows about this sort of thing) suggested it was the consequence of over-stretched emergency services being abused by people using up valuable resources when they only have a headache, a spelk in their finger or are just too lazy to get off their fat asses and make their own way to an accident and emergency centre.

Taffy Steve’s simple and elegant solution was to give all the idiotic malingerers and time-wasters Chinese burns and then send them to wait for a couple of hours in the entirely fictional Chinese Burns Department. Works for me.

There was of course lots of discussion about a certain ungainly Mr. Froome and the rather unedifying happenings on Mont Ventoux.

We agreed that the only suitable accompaniment for Froome, pedalling furiously on an undersized Mavic bike would be the March of the Clowns. Meanwhile someone wondered why the neutral service bikes weren’t fitted with mountain bike dropper seatposts, so you could have some control of sizing on the fly.

This brought up the potential of a small rider clipping in and then inadvertently hitting the button to release the hydraulic seatpost, only to give himself a hefty kick up the backside and be flipped over the handlebars. Well, it all adds to the spectacle.

The Monkey Butler Boy swung past and showed us how he’d managed to get into that ridiculous descending tuck a la Chris Froome, crouched precariously over the top tube and how he’d subsequently become stuck with his ass caught under his saddle and really had a struggle to free himself.  So – an ever so slightly more aerodynamic and maybe faster, but a stupidly uncomfortable descending style, that looks utterly ridiculous and is frighteningly unsafe. Hmm, think I’ll pass.

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs suggested he actually felt sorry for Ritchie Porte … Well, there had to be one, I guess.


The trip back passed without incident, but I swung off the Mad Mile for my solo ride home directly into a headwind that dogged me all the way down to the river. Here and for the last 3 or 4 miles I now had a tailwind and it pushed me along at a decent pace to the foot of Heinous Hill for one last, big climb.

I arrived home to find I’d actually caught the sun and had tan-lines that didn’t disappear under the liberal application of soap and water. Now that’s more like it, British summer-time.


YTD Totals: 4,127 km / 2,564 miles with 40,732 metres of climbing