Many a Muckle

Many a Muckle

Club Run, Saturday 3rd November, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 106 km / 66 miles with 1,212 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 30 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.6 km/h

Group size:                                        38+

Temperature:                                   14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Back to balmy

Many a muckle
Ride Profile

Or to be more precise, mony a mickle maks a muckle, but why let accuracy stand in the way of a good headline …

Our weird fortnightly weather cycle was once again bang-on, last weeks extremes of snow and ice and rain replaced by a temperate, bright and breezy day.

As I dropped off the hill, I spotted a group of 5 or 6 other riders ahead and was (naturally) compelled to give chase. My pursuit was somewhat hampered when the traffic lights intervened between us, just outside Blaydon. As I tried to regain lost momentum, another rider whipped past with a bright and breezy, “Morning!”

This was a Muckle C.C. rider, travelling at high speed and wearing shorts and a short-sleeved jersey. It was warmer than last week, but shorts and a short-sleeved jersey? Perhaps he needed to ride that fast just to keep warm?

I thought he might have been chasing to join onto the group upfront, but he blew straight past them as well. A man on a mission.

As he disappeared up the road, I caught the others as they turned down toward the bridge, sitting in the wheels, until they crossed the river and swung left, while I turned right to pick my way through to the meeting point.

Main topics of conversation at the meeting place:

G-Dawg pondered if the Garrulous Kid’s ride last week had perhaps been the shortest in club history, following his abandonment in a blizzard of sleet just as outside Dinnington.

“What was it,” he pondered, “All of about eight miles?”

The Garrulous Kid himself was better prepared today, on his winter bike with mudguards and the added protection of overshoes. He’d survive better this time out.


Princess Fiona recounted her epic Ironman Ironwoman Ironprincess experiences which, she concluded, she’d thoroughly enjoyed, despite feeling sick for 5-days afterwards. Apparently this post-event illness is a common occurrence. Throughout her recounting the Colossus looked on in disbelief and mute horror, utterly convinced he was in the presence of someone needing psychiatric help.

On his fixie again, G-Dawg’s new bell drew some attention, with Jimmy Mac finding it rather melodic and pleasing, polite and not insistent. Then he ruined all his good work by comparing it to something he expected to hear on a creaky old sitcom, although he couldn’t quite decide if it belonged on “Open All Hours” or “Are You Being Served?”

For some unbeknown reason, today was building up to be the most popular ride of the year and I kept revising the headcount as more and more rolled in. It was up to over 30 by the time Crazy Legs started outlining the route and he suggested a split start with a re-grouping just before tackling the Mur de Mitford.

He was interrupted by a big bloke on a mountain bike trying to find a way through the dozens of riders and bikes sprawled across the pavement and bellowing for us to make way.

“He needs a nice polite bell,” someone suggested.

Yes, well, I don’t think he did polite.

I counted a decent  15 or 16 heading for the front group, so hung back. In theory this was an equitable split, I just hadn’t counted on people continuing to roll-up right until the moment we left and then, more joining us en route. By the time it all shook out the second group was still about 24 strong.

I dropped in behind Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs as we set out, chatting with Sneaky Pete, who insisted there was a very thin line between being committed and needing to be committed. He thought last week’s ride, given the conditions, crossed this threshold and verged into insanity. I couldn’t really disagree, but countered that, despite everything, it had actually been thoroughly entertaining.

As we passed through Dinnington and swept down the hill, I noticed my camera wobbling somewhat precariously. Deciding the bolt might have worked a little loose, I gave it a quick tug to test it. Sure enough, it had worked loose. I was left foolishly brandishing the bolt as it came away in my hands and the camera clattered and bounced away down the road.

I swung over and back-tracked to where Caracol had stopped to pick up the camera, shoved it in a back pocket and then we gave chase, latching back onto the group in short order. Caracol had been one of the riders joining just as we left the meeting place, and had pushed our numbers on the day close to 40.

We made our way past the Cheese Farm, picking up yet another rider behind us. As we approached Bell’s Hill, he nudged forwards to have a chat and we discovered he wasn’t one of ours.

“What club’s this?” he wondered, obviously somewhat bewildered to encounter such a big pack.

I told him and he nodded up toward the middle of the group where OGL was toiling away alongside Brink.

“Ah, should have guessed … seeing him.”

As he said this, I realised that, despite the rather magnificent turnout, there was only one rider amongst us displaying a club jersey. There’s something wrong, somewhere.

“You don’t usually travel in such a large group,” he mused and was even more nonplussed when I told him we’d actually split into two and there was another motley bunch of us further up the road.

Our new back-marker proved to be another Muckle C.C. rider, although he mentioned he was also involved  in the administration of the (relatively new and hugely successful) NTR (North Tyneside Riders.)

“This is your chance,” I urged him, as we approached the bottom of Bell’s Hill, “Attack now and you’ll be able to get past.”

“But you have to do it sitting down, looking cool and barely breathing,” Caracol joked.

“I definitely can’t manage that,” our Muckle rider responded, but took our advice anyway. It was either that, or sit at the back, confined to our pace, until he could find somewhere to turn off.

He worked his way smartly up the outside on the climb and then disappeared over the top. Before we crested the rise, he was followed by yet another lone Muckle rider. They seemed to be everywhere today.

I took the opportunity of the climb to reposition myself in the middle of the pack, just before our ride was interrupted by shouts of what everyone took to be a puncture. The group pulled to a stop in a lay-by, while I turned back to see what was happening.

I met the Cow Ranger coming the other way and he told me someone had punctured, but was really struggling anyway, so had decided to pack in. We rejoined the others, who’d taken the opportunity for an impromptu pee stop and tried to work out who it was that had abandoned.

“A Spanish guy,” the Cow Ranger informed us, ” He was really struggling to keep up, so has decided to call it a day.”

“Tomás?” I enquired, “Swedish-Spanish guy, on an old steel frame?” confusedly thinking about Toledo Tom, our very own colinabo, who is so strong I couldn’t possibly envisage him struggling, even in the last throes of a dire battle with the Black Death.

“Well, Spanish guy on a steel frame, definitely,” the Cow Ranger suggested a little hesitantly.

I was still disbelieving, “Tall, thin, fast?”

“Nope, no, nah, definitely not any of them.”

OGL confirmed that Toledo Tom was in the front group and this was a different Spanish guy. Huh,  we have more than one? Hoodafunkedit.


Off we trundled again, until, just past Tranwell, OGL led an early strike off toward the café, while the rest of us pushed on for a rendezvous with our front group, who had pulled up under the main A1 bridge and were waiting patiently.

From there we dropped down into the Wansbeck valley, following the river toward Mitford and the dreaded “Mur.” Oncoming traffic had us stacked up and stopped at the bottom of the hill, so it was a particularly unhelpful standing start, especially for G-Dawg on his fixie.

The lack of run-in momentum had him grinding painfully upwards and I hustled past as fast as I could, thinking I didn’t want to be in the firing line of all the bloody cartilage, sprung steel, wiry tendons, gears and other assorted shrapnel if his cyborg knees suddenly explode under the strain.

We had decided to split the group via natural selection on the climb and I was well-positioned in the front third as we pushed over the top.

More climbing followed, as we ran up through Hag’s Wood.  I was chatting to the Garrulous Kid … well, listening to the Garrulous Kid chatting away, while he rode on my inside. Then, there was a loud, rasping, zzzt-zzzt-zzzt and he suddenly disappeared.

He’d touched wheels with the rider in front and gone head over heels into a grass bank, threading the needle between two massive tree boles with what looked like expert precision, but was simply timely serendipity.

We waited for him to identify to pull himself up and conclude no permanent damage had been done, to bike or rider. He dusted himself down and away we went again.

A little later on, I caught up with him and he happily declared, “Well, I haven’t fallen off in ages!”

We were now tackling the Trench and I was climbing alongside Captain Black, who was bemoaning the fact that he was on his winter bike and we were now competing on a level playing field.

“I hate my winter bike!” the Garrulous Kid added, and once more we patiently explained that this was the entire point of owning a winter-bike.

Out of the Trench and heading toward Angerton and a notoriously exposed road over the moors, I was in the second group and hunting around for  some big bodies to shelter behind. I’d moved smartly up to follow Captain Black and G-Dawg as we turned into a headwind and the road began to climb, when disaster struck, G-Dawg punctured and waved us all through. Despite all my machinations I found myself on the front and leading the second group on the drag up and around Bolam Lake.

As we started our run for the café, Captain Black took over and injected a bit of pace, driving us up over the rollers and down the other side. I pulled up alongside him on the final drag and he shook his head and declared himself “done in.” Fair enough, I was more than happy to give the sprint a miss today. The Garrulous Kid flailed around us and launched himself off the front and no one blinked, there was no reaction and no attempt to chase, as we rolled the rest of the way to the café behind him.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

With around 40 of us, other cyclists and the usual gathering of civilians, the café was full to bursting and late arrivals couldn’t get a seat and ended up eating and drinking where they stood.

I found a small space in the corner alongside Biden Fecht and the Garrulous Kid, pressed up close to the fire. It was hot, but at least it was a seat – a hot-seat if you like.

The Garrulous Kid has had his first offer of a place at university and was already anticipating Freshers. I wondered which part he was looking forward to the most, getting so hog-whimperingly drunk he endangers his own life, bobbing for apples in a bucket of stale urine, or having his head shaved? (Of course, dear reader, this type of initiation “hazing” never actually happens at British universities these days.)

He’s also planning which societies he can get involved him. I tried to warn him off the Rubik’s Society by claiming they were all square (sorreee!) and suggested he take up falconry instead. He looked at me as if I was mad and had just invented the ancient and noble art of hunting with birds of prey simply to trick him. I don’t know if that says more about him, or me.

OGL wandered past and deposited a old race programme for the 1952 Beaumont Trophy on the table. I eyed it warily, like a discarded perfume bottle filled with Novichok. Enticing as it was, I was determined not to go anywhere near it, as I didn’t want the responsibility of making sure this ancient and venerable piece of club history made it back to its rightful owner unsullied.

Biden Fecht did dare a quick look, before swiftly passing it on and was seemingly intrigued by some of the club names, all the Wheeler’s and Couriers, as well as the grandly named VC Electric.

Biden Fecht liked the old style, traditional “Wheelers” as a club name – some of those, such as the Whitley Bay Wheelers no longer exist, but the nearby,  Ferryhill Wheeler’s (founded in 1926) appear to be still going strong. ( I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I like Clarion as a club name and the Sunderland Clarion trace their club back even further, to the late 1800’s!)

Sadly, many of the clubs in the programme, and that I grew up with, appear to no longer be around, including VC Electric, the Cleveland Couriers, Tyne Road Club, the Northern Couriers and possibly (if their dormant webiste is anything to go by) even the venerable Tyne Velo. Sic transit gloria.

(The Garrulous Kid wanted reassurance that some of our long standing, club miffs held at least a grain of truth, but I told him we had no interest in Dutch rabbits.)

Unplanned, but perhaps for the best, we left the café a handful at a time and I joined a group spearheaded by Taffy Steve and the Cow Ranger.

They completed their stint at the front as we approached Ogle and I took over alongside Biden Fecht. As we “boolled” along we had a chat about the general desire for some kind of reform within the club and even (shock# horror#) the seemingly far-fetched notion of evolving from an autocracy (some might even say dictatorship) to a democracy.

As someone spending a lot of time shuttling between Newcastle and Aberdeen, Biden Fecht was happy to volunteer to be the clubs representative in Northern Scotia, while I suggested I could be the Warden of the Southern Marches, or all the empty, barren and dangerous lands to the south of the River Tyne, where the club is ever afraid to venture.

One thing we did both agree on, neither of us wanted to be the Keeper of the Stool.

We dragged the group through Kirkley and to the top of Berwick Hill, before Biden Fecht suggested we let someone else batter themselves into the wind. I agreed and we pulled over and waved the next pair through, only at the last minute realising one of these was Plumose Pappus.

“Oh no, we’re not going to be popular,” Biden Fecht observed and true enough, Plumose Pappus hit the front and immediately drove up the pace.

Everyone hung tough until the sharp rise into Dinnington, where Plumose Pappus dropped the hammer, putting in a searing acceleration that splintered the group apart. A small, select knot formed up front and, as the road levelled and straightened, it began to pull away.

Aether tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

Captain Black tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

Princess Fiona tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

I tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

Caracol tried to bridge across, into the headwind and failed.

At the last, Kermit managed to bridge across, but no on could go with him.

Thwarted, we settled into our own little group and pushed on anyway and I followed Caracol’s wheel until everyone else swung away and I pushed on solo, through the Mad Mile and away home.

YTD Totals: 6,416 km / 3,987 miles with 78,593 metres of climbing


Composed on the Cornish Coast

Composed on the Cornish Coast

Club Run, Saturday 12th August, 2017    

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  83 km / 52 miles with 900 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          3 hours 09 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.3 km/h

Group size:                                        33 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   20°C

Weather in a word or two:          Blustery


19 augu
Ride Profile

The Ride:

Not only composed on the Cornish Coast, but tapped into an iPad too – which I can’t say was an experience I’d care to repeat.

I managed to commute into work every day last week, which not only allowed me to try and recover some cycling fitness, but also gave our office cleaner the opportunity to wish me “good morning,” on ten separate occasions. I like this, as it affirms the complete transformation and very clear distinction between a skinny, scraggy weird bloke in odd, too tight, clothing and clippety-clop, clown shoes, to someone who, after showering and changing, might look sober, respectable and perhaps, dare I say it, almost professional.

Given that she chats away to both figures, someday soon she will twig it’s the same person, but, even with double the exposure, it wasn’t to be this week.

The increased commuting was necessary, because I’m flying off on holiday again and set to miss more club runs. Not this Saturday though, as a late afternoon flight and careful negotiations meant I could just about squeeze in a ride, if I drove to and from the meeting point to allow a decent margin of error.

Saturday morning then found me up later than usual and loading the bike into the back of the car for a quick trip across town.

Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I arrived in time for the Prof’s ride briefing to explain the route he’d set. After the usual heckling and demand for hoary old clichés – it’s not a race, you don’t have a number on your back, we are the biggest club in the world, bar none, nobody ever uses Facebook etc. – the Prof outlined the route that would take us down into the Tyne Valley. This had an option, for those wanting a longer ride, to indulge in a much too rare venture south of the river and around Blanchland. Some of my favourite rides are around this area, so on any normal weekend I would have been well up for it, but it wasn’t going to happen today.

There was then a call-out for others to post up routes and lead rides, with our current group of stalwart lieutenants and ride leaders getting a name-check, G-Dawg, Crazy Legs, the Hammer, the Red Max, Benedict, Taffy Steve, Aether and the Prof. With my attention wandering at this point, I mistook the call for additional ride volunteers with the Prof’s pedagogic prevalence’s, raised my hand and declared I was present, only to realise he wasn’t actually taking a register. Hmm, perhaps not a bad idea though.

There was only time then to learn the Garrulous Kids travails last week could be traced to a snapped gear cable, obviously a case of inferior Far East componentry letting down Teutonic engineering par excellence, before we conducted a quick split into two groups and we were off.

Unusually, especially with a strong, gusting wind to contend with, I spent long portions of the first part of the ride on the front with a succession of partners, the Garrulous Kid (nervous and jittery about his impending GCSE results) the Red Max ( full of dire tales about the “beastings” the Monkey Butler Boy now turns every ride into) and Ovis (who’d dropped a pile of weight, confessed he was feeling super-strong and had managed 3 whole Shredded Wheat for breakfast.)

The Monkey Butler Boy was using us only as a relay to get him out to where he was to meet up with the rest of his wrecking crew. He spent the last 15 minutes with our group arguing with the Red Max about the best route to take, convinced his dad was trying to send him the hilly way round. He may no longer officially ride with our club, but something’s never change …

Taking pity on my extended spell on the front, or more likely being bored sitting mid-pack, Crazy Legs moved up to the front to provide some relief along with Sneaky Pete. I dropped through the group and onto the back, as we crested the last rise before the long drop into the Tyne Valley.

We pushed along the valley floor passing a couple of clusters of other cyclists, including a group from the Sunderland Clarion (I always like the name!) if I’m not mistaken, quite a long way from home. Then we rolled around a corner and into the back of our front group.

They’d pulled up at the junction just before the Bywell Bridge, the route they were planning to use to slip across the border and into the dark lands south of the Tyne. Rather ominously though, the bridge was littered with traffic cones and road closed signs.

Luckily, the maintenance work was confined to the parapets and it was still possible for a group of hardy cyclists to sneak across. Still, we seemed to stand around for an inordinate amount of time, spilling across the road and clogging up the junction while those intent on crossing the river built up their courage.

In fact, we hung around so long that both groups of cyclists we had passed in the valley caught us up and had to swing into the opposite lane and weave dangerously around oncoming traffic to find a way through the melee. Sorry fellow cyclists, that was not our finest hour.

With the split finally made and many of us wondering if we ever see our adventurous comrades again as they filed across the river, the rest of us turned away and almost immediately began climbing our way back out of the valley.

Ahead of me G-Dawg was now riding with his attention totally fixated on what was happening under his feet, or perhaps not happening is a more accurate description. Perhaps for only the second time this year, he was attempting to coax his chain down and onto the inner ring. Seized or atrophied from lack of use, or perhaps just confused and lost, never having travelled in that direction before, his chain was having none of it. Finally, in exasperation, he pulled over to the side of the road and manually lifted the chain over.

I started climbing alongside Princess Fiona, but the cadence wasn’t quite right, so I switched up a gear, increased the pace and started to reel in Ovis and the Garrulous Kid who’d forged on ahead. G-Dawg pulled up alongside and then the BFG bridged across to us, moaning all the while at the pace, at how little shelter he was getting on our back wheels and totally ignoring my urging to attack over the top.

We all regrouped just before the thundering cataract of traffic that marked the A69, before engaging in another of our occasional games of Frogger. I can’t recall ever seeing the road quite so busy, but we finally made it across safely and pushed up the last climb to finally escape the valley.

As we closed on Matfen the Colossus of Roads nodded at the Garrulous Kid’s bike, indicating a horrendous piece of cross-chaining, as he thundered along, the chain stretched taut from inner ring to the smallest sprocket. I assured the Colossus that, unlike a normal bike, the precise and exceptional Teutonic engineering of the Garrulous Kid’s ride meant it would laugh off such abuses and, in fact, probably actively encouraged them.

“Ah,” he replied sagely, “Like his gear cable.”

Once again I found myself on the front, battling into the wind and trying to contain an utterly rampant Ovis. As we approached the Quarry, the BFG continued to complain about the pace and even started lamenting the controlling (i.e. slowing) absence of OGL.

We turned off toward the climb, following the road as it swung right and – for perhaps the first time all day – found we actually has a tailwind to help us along. Ovis forged up the Quarry Climb, while I just about hung onto his wheel and then pausing to allow everyone to regroup, he lined us out in a charge for the café.


I was sitting comfortably second wheel as the pace increased, but a low rumbling indicated a rapidly softening back tyre and I eased, sat up and waved everyone through, coasting to a halt beside the entrance to a field.

Sneaky Pete and then Carlton slowed to check on me as I set about changing the tube, but I had everything in hand and waved them on. I managed to fix the puncture with relative ease and trailed into the cafe, at least making it before the last of our group had been served.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Mini Miss revealed that no matter what address she typed into her Sat-Nav it always plotted a route to Hull. She dismissed my suggestion that a higher authority was guiding her to attend the new messiah, although it seemed obvious to me the Sat-Nav was the modern equivalent of following a star.

Trying to find something positive to say about Hull (UK City of Culture, 2017) the best we could come up with was Teekay’s recollection of a fine Victorian public convenience there, which had massive in- built fish tanks lining the walls. We of course couldn’t help wonder what happened to the fish whenever someone flushed.

Talk about brakeless fixies somehow led to a discussion about driverless cars. I have to say I’ve yet to meet the cyclist who doesn’t think the roads will be a safer place once the erratic, irrational, impatient, conceited and occasionally aggressive and inept human driver is replaced by the cold calculation and logic of a computer.

While Teekay suggested one drawback of driverless cars was that mad drunken moment when you come out of the pub and think it would be a brilliant wheeze to tell your driveless vehicle to take you to France. He imagined waking up, hours later, horribly hungover and finding you’re parked in a ferry terminal somewhere in Dover.

Mini Miss was convinced she’d seen some advertising for a plugless electronic car and we imagined every house having a massive induction charging plate that not only cut off all your mobile communications, but could play havoc with a pacemaker. It was suggested that standing on it would be an ideal way to generate a new hairstyle – well, if you want to look like Albert Einstein on one of his bad hair days.

The BFG then reminisced about Muhammad Ali’s seemingly impromptu visit to South Shields in 1977 – an event that, despite its startling unlikelihood, I confess I couldn’t recall at all. Perhaps he had a faulty Sat-Nav too?

The group decided on a longer loop back home through Stamfordham, but I was on a schedule so decided to stick to our usual routine. I had Taffy Steve for company and at the last minute the Garrulous Kid decided to come with us, while for some unknown and unrelated reason, Sneaky Pete changed his mind and decided he’d like to go with the rest after all, so sneaked smartly away to try and tag onto the back.

It was a good ride home and I was able to catch up with Taffy Steve, fresh from his return from holidaying in Canada. In between times we became acquainted with the Garrulous Kid’s execrable taste in comedy and music and a deep, underlying streak of racism which had him suggesting all French are blue-eyed, blonde-haired, beret-wearing Aryans and all oriental people, be they Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Taiwanese all look exactly the same.

To top it all, for some reason after our conversation touched on Coldplay and Chris Martin, the Garrulous Kid had lots of questions for Taffy Steve about Martin’s Welsh wife. Apparently anyone called Gwyneth couldn’t be anything else but Welsh in the Garrulous Kid’s world.

Still at least mention of Miss Paltrow sparked a quite remarkable and unexpected conversational boon about  vagina steaming – which I have to say is an unusual topic for a bike ride, even by our most eclectic and wayward standards.

YTD Totals: 5,005 km / 3,110 miles with 57,511 metres of climbing