Gategate

Gategate

Club Run, Saturday 23rd September, 2017            

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  109 km / 68 miles with 1,133 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 22 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.4 km/h

Group size:                                         21 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and breezy


23 sept
Ride Profile

The Ride:

Following on from the original Watergate scandal we’ve all had to endure a ton of utterly dumb, lazy, banal and wholly unoriginal journalistic misappropriations of the -gate suffix, you know, Contragate, Deflategate, Pizzagate, Squidgygate, et al, etc. etc. ad nauseam. So, ladies and gentleman, proving I can be just as dumb, lazy, banal and as frighteningly unoriginal as a paid, professional journalist – (was there ever any doubt?) – I hereby give you the scandal that is … Gategate.

Who’d have thought we’d be heading for such controversy on an innocuous Saturday morning that was warmer than last week and by all accounts would be a lot drier too. As I dropped downhill, the sky over the valley was striated like a layer cake, dark landscape, a band of clear air and a high altitude cap of cloudy grey, seemingly providing a layer of insulation to keep the temperature high.

It was warm enough to make me think the combination of long-sleeved base layer and windproof jacket was overkill – and it wasn’t long before the gloves came off, literally and metaphorically.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve organised and promoted a faster, longer “training ride” which leaves the meeting point early to avoid confusion with the regular club run. This week’s run had been planned and was being led by Benedict and I was at the meeting point early enough to see the group gradually coalesce before they set off.

“Remember”, Benedict told me, tapping the side of his nose with a long digit “You didn’t see us and we weren’t here.”

“I am Spartacus,” the Prof offered, “You can be Spartacus too,” he told the Red Max, inviting him to join the training ride revolution.

“Err, no thanks,” Red Max explained, “It doesn’t end well for Spartacus. I’ve read the book …”

“Seen the film …” I added

“And got the T-shirt,” the Prof concluded.

Then, with the pistol shot report of cleats clicking into pedals, the whirr of high-speed wheels and a mighty, “Hi-ho, Silver!” (ok, I may have made that last bit up) they were gone. Almost as if they’d never been there…

As one group leader departed, another emerged: Crazy Legs sporting one of the sleekest, most luxurious and magnificent Van Dyke beards anyone could hope to grow in just seven days, ably fulfilling last week’s directive that the ride leader needed to be be-whiskered to signal his status to the rest of the group.

After studying Crazy Legs carefully for a minute or two, the ever-astute Garrulous Kid made a shock revelation. “That’s not a real beard,” he declared, somewhat hesitantly and we all stepped back in amazement, wondering how we’d been so easily duped.

Crazy Legs coughed up and spat out a fake hairball, before outlining our route for the day, which as a novelty and in preparation for the club hill climb, would see us reverse a familiar route in order to ride up the Ryals.

He got the tacit agreement that OGL would lead a shorter ride, avoiding the Ryals altogether, something OGL seemed more than keen to do as he appeared to be suffering from an immense hangover.

The Garrulous Kid himself keeps threatening to devise, post-up and lead a ride, if only he can overcome the twin barriers of growing facial hair and over-coming his disdain for Facebook, which “is rubbish” that “nobody ever uses.”

Knowing his aversion to cornering, G-Dawg wondered what sort of route the Garrulous Kid would devise, suggesting perhaps, “25 miles, straight up the A1 and then back again.”

I felt that he favoured right turns more than left, so perhaps just a big loop heading out east, then turning north, then swinging to the west before turning south and heading back to the start. We await actual further development with interest.

At the appointed time, Crazy Legs carefully peeled-off and pocketed his beard before he ingested anymore, or it became basted in sweat and spit, blew off his face and slapped some unfortunate rider behind like a wet kipper.

By removing his beard he at least earned the approval of ex old-school pro Walter Planckaert, the boss of professional cycling team Sport Vlaanderen-Baloise, who has taken the unusual step of banning beards – and not just in the men’s team.

He defended his decision in the newspaper Het Nieuwsblad by insisting the ban was in order to maintain “the elegance of cycling”. I have to admit, I’m kind of sympathetic to his views – must be an age thing.

Anyhoo, the Planckaert-approved, now clean-shaven Crazy Legs then clipped in, pushed off and led us all out. A quick wave to Richard of Flanders heading in the opposite direction to coach the Go-Ride youngsters and we were soon out and onto the open roads.


Things seemed to be going smoothly until we passed through Ponteland and took a left onto country lanes. It wasn’t long before a fusillade of censorious shouting erupted from the back of the pack, the upshot apparently being that we needed to ease up on the pace.

More over-the-top shouting, screaming and swearing followed, as apparently we were still going too fast. Hmm, someone wasn’t happy back there. One minute Ovis was commenting on what an unusually good road surface we were riding over, the next, instead of enjoying it, we were soft-pedalling, and freewheeling along while being aurally lambasted for who knows what.

Yet more totally incoherent and unnecessary shouting had Taffy Steve demanding to know “what the fuck all the shouting was about?” and could he please have a simple, understandable and legible instruction about what we were doing.

Calls from behind seemed to suggest there was a dire need to stop and not knowing what was happening, if we’d had a puncture, a mechanical or some other issue, I called for the halt. At a convenient entrance to a field, the front of the group pulled to the side of the road and tried to find out what was happening behind.

It transpired the frantic, over-the-top ear-bashing was because OGL wanted a pee stop, but now apparently we’d stopped at “the wrong fuggen’ gate” that wasn’t our “usual fuggen’ pee stop”. He rode past us and off down the lane in a fit of pique.

Those who needed to pee had a pee – at the wrong fuggen’ gate – and we then re-assembled the group and pressed on. A bit further on we passed the right fuggen’ gate that was our “usual” fuggen pee stop. Here all the die-hard traditionalists and ultra-conservatives amongst us had the opportunity to uphold the moral order and do things properly and with great dignity … despite the fact that a large white Range Rover was parked up in this field and they had an audience of perhaps less than delighted onlookers.

No matter what, Crazy Legs was determined to keep the whole group together, so he had us slow and soft-pedal until everyone was finally back on.


beardon reardon


We pushed on and I found myself in conversation with Cowin’ Bovril, missing for the past month or so because he’d been off working in France. We were chatting unconcernedly away, slowing as we approached a junction, when with a loud bang I put my front wheel through a large pothole in the road that I didn’t notice until I’d ridden through it.

We pulled around the corner and Cowin’ Bovril cast a critical eye over my tyre and suggested a pinch puncture. We stopped and I prodded the offending rubber with a thumb, just to confirm it was definitely going squishy.

The tube was repaired in short order, with OGL lending his super-strong hands and pincer like grip to rolling the tyre back onto the rim. A quick workout with my pump soon had the tyre inflated enough to get me around (as usual a rather paltry 50 psi when I checked with the track pump at home) and then we were off again.

I drifted slowly toward the back of the group just to keep an eye on any strugglers or stragglers and had a grandstand view as a car sped toward us, the driver rather deliberately ignoring Zardoz’s frantic signals for it to slow down. As the car zipped past, much too fast and much too close, Zardoz reached out and deftly twanged his wing mirror in rebuke. A mixture of shock, disbelief and outrage warred for dominance on the drivers face, as he finally slowed to try and work out what had just happened and if his precious car had been damaged. Arse hat.

The group split with OGL leading a splinter cell of on a wander, I guess just about anywhere as long as it avoided the Ryals, while the rest of us took to roads which were familiar, but we were now doing in reverse order.

We picked our way up through Hallington on the narrow, tree-shaded lane, carefully slaloming around pots and gravel and tussocks of grass, ruts and leaves and twigs, rattling down the final incline to the junction. From here we swung left, straight onto the heavy, grippy and draggy rises that presage the Ryals proper, draining any speed you want to carry onto the climb and draining your legs of any zip.

I think part of the reason the Ryals are seen as such a difficult climb is how they look as you approach, seeming to rise up like a wall and lour over you from a distance. Still, they’re relatively short, about 1.5km with an average gradient of about 5%. Get over the first and hardest ramp, where the gradient maxes out at about 19% and then there’s a short, flattish respite before you tackle the longer, but easier second ramp.

I did my best to roll up to the base of the climb, starting to pass a few flaggers, before the slope bit and I eased out of the saddle and worked my way upwards. Not surprisingly the climb is a lot easier without the 70 odd miles or so that precede them on the Cyclone route. I managed a personal best that might be difficult to better the next time I tackle the climb, which will invariably be during the next Cyclone.

We partially regrouped over the top and rolled down toward the Quarry Climb, giving the back markers a chance to re-join. I stomped up the Quarry and swung right, everyone following except the Garrulous Kid who went left, probably so he could try and beat himself in the sprint.

I slowed to wait, but a group of Jimmy Mac, Ovis and the Red Max darted away and began the race to the café, G-Dawg accelerated to reel them in and I dropped onto his wheel. The Colussus shot past us onto the front group, while G-Dawg closed the gap in a more measured fashion.

Crazy Legs caught the group as we swept through junctions and around sweeping bends, slowly building the speed. On the approach to the Snake Bends, G-Dawg, The Colossus and Jimmy Mac burned off the front, while I sparred with Ovis for the minor placings.

We regrouped for the final run to the café and arrived with perfect timing that rewarded us with no queues.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

In a discussion of dogs and beaches, Taffy Steve said his vet felt they were a hazard to any good pet’s health, apparently as they’re a breeding ground for all sorts of canine nasties. The Red Max certainly knew about beach hazards and recounted how his daughter’s hybrid-pedigree was washed out to sea and appeared to be struggling. He’d flatly refused to even contemplate going in to try and rescue the pooch, but reassured her there was at least a 50-50 chance it would survive.

Luckily for him a large wave picked it up and flung it onto the sand and the dog lived to fight another day.  I think he said it was a sprocker spaniel, but I don’t really do pedigree dogs, so may be mistaken. Taffy Steve though did suggest the double-dose of loopy you get from inter-breeding between two pedigrees, probably produced the perfect dog for Red Max’s household – a highly-strung, schizoid, hyperactive and excitable animal that will chase anything that moves.

Meanwhile, G-Dawg confided the problem with taking his dogs onto the beach was they seemed to delight in crapping in the sea, making recovery and bagging operations somewhat problematic.

OGL has suggested that despite club membership growing, ride numbers are falling. This isn’t the impression I have, so I offered to count back on the numbers I’ve recorded in this blerg for the past 3 years or so and see if this was actually the case.

Taffy Steve was disgusted when Crazy Legs and I enthusiastically conjured up as much management speak as possible in an ensuing discussion about the spreadsheets and interactive charts we could adopt to present back empirical evidence, that would give a holistic and overarching picture of performance thresholds and the intrinsic peripatetic synergies of ride numbers and allow us to drill-down to a much more granular level of detail. Or something …

Discussion of Crazy Legs’ universally appreciated route for the day led to a discussion about the route through Hallington, which is used by the pros during the Beaumont Trophy. We wondered how they coped with pots and gravel and tussocks of grass, ruts and leaves and twigs, while going at full bore – especially when G-Dawg confirmed he’d marshalled at that point before and the riders were often massed and charging, six deep across the road rather than picking their way carefully and in single-file. Scary stuff.

The Garrulous Kid showed he’s beginning to morph into a twisted OGL mini-me and has started to parrot some of Our Glorious Leaders more lurid tales. This is dispiriting not only because they’re second hand, but because we’ve all heard them countless times already and from the original source. Still, perhaps this is how tribal myths and legends develop and in 10,000 years our ancestors will be regaling themselves with tales of this bright OGL demi-god, his epic odyssey around the wildlands of Albion and his fearless feats of prowess. Perhaps not, though.

The Monkey Butler Boy turned up to ride back with us having been with his club for a photoshoot. What?

He engaged in rather desultory conversation with us while he waited, occasionally stroking and caressing his saddle. Luckily we left before things could develop any further.


The ride back was swift and largely uneventful, the most interesting thing that happened was being assaulted by a boom-box, disco-car – blacked out windows, fancy alloy wheels, bulbous body-kit and fat exhaust – the full works. Too loud man, it’s shrill … piercing!

I’m on record as stating that whenever you notice one of these monstrously loud, music-pounding cars you can never recognise what song they’re actually playing. Today however was the exception, blasting loud, proud and unafraid from this car was Rod Stewart’s Baby Jane.  Now that’s what I call street cred.


YTD Totals: 5,633 km / 3,432 miles with 64,066 metres of climbing

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The Colossus of Roads

The Colossus of Roads

Club Run, Saturday 24th June, 2017         

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 111 km / 69 miles with 1,037 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 16 minutes

Average Speed:                                26. km/h

Group size:                                        28 riders, 3 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    21°C

Weather in a word or two:           Blustery and bright


 

24 jun
Ride Profie

Back in Blighty, after expeditions to foreign shores, I find myself behind in my club run reports. I’m sure nobody else cares, but I seem to have developed an OCD for completeness, so, in an attempt to catch up, here goes.

I’ll try to keep it short and sharp, but I do recognise that’s not really my style, so if you’ll forgive the writing logorrhoea and usual tumult of words (never use one where three will do) and are still awake out there, hang on while we try and get back on terms.

I did a couple of commutes into work on the week of my return and expected my trip to have granted me some benefit and at least a few marginal gains, but oddly I felt leaden-legged and slow. It wasn’t helped that the rear wheel of single-speed isn’t running freely, but even the second day, when I used the trusty Peugeot instead, didn’t offer any encouragement.

It was with some feeling of trepidation then that I turned up at the meeting point for the Saturday club run in very uncertain form.

The Red Max had posted up the route a couple of days before, so at least I knew what I was facing and there were no nasty, hidden surprises to ambush me along the way. I’d just have to wait and see how things went.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

I had a chat with G-Dawg about the Cyclone, which had been a good ride and they had glorious weather, although he complained it had been, if anything a little too hot. After riding on the Saturday, he’d then spent a long, long day Sunday organising the marshalling for the Beaumont Trophy and Curlew Cup. He’d then followed this up with a day midweek, driving around taking down all the signs for all the events – a task which he dryly reported took longer than actually riding the Cyclone.

I wondered where Son of G-Dawg was and G-Dawg confessed he didn’t know, but suspected that he was perhaps malingering at home in order to watch the Lions vs. All Blacks First Test.

The Garrulous Kid bounded across to declare, “Next week’s my birffday. I’ll be sixteen!”

I congratulated him on making it so far and suggested he could now get married, or form a civil partnership, drink alcohol with meals, get a National Insurance number, join a trade union, buy a lottery ticket … or even join the Army.

“I would never join the Army,” The Garrulous Kid avowed, “Even though I’d be brilliant at it.”

(Look, I’m sorry – I took the bait, but you can’t blame me – I was really intrigued.)

“Why’s that, then?”

The Garrulous Kid knowingly tapped his temple with a long, bony finger, “Because I’m a tactical genius.”

A few others rolled up and enquired where Son of G-Dawg was and once again G-Dawg could only speculate about the lure of the rugby test match.

OGL owned up to a flat battery on his Di2, which meant he was stuck in one gear. He thought it was better to ‘fess up early and suffer the ridicule, rather than get found out half way round when we hit a hill and he disappeared out the back.


There weren’t enough of us to warrant splitting into groups, so off we went, following Red Max’s planned route. I immediately drifted to the back, still uncertain if my legs were going to behave and staying as sheltered as I could as the front was battered by a strong, gusting wind.

We dipped through Ponteland and out the other side and, as we made to swing down Limestone Lane, there was Son of G-Dawg, standing upright on the grass at the apex of the turn, arms folded across his chest, surveying the horizon and waiting patiently for us to arrive. Apparently, although very hungover, he hadn’t bunked off to watch the rugby, but had slept right through his alarm, missed the start and time-trialled out to this impromptu rendezvous point to first throw up and then settle down to wait for us.

The fact he could meet up with us without the almost impossible task of guessing which roads we would take, reinforced the idea that publishing the route beforehand had real benefits. He late suggested that he’d actually waited so long, that if he hadn’t known we were sure to pass through that point, he would have assumed we’d gone elsewhere and moved on to try and find us somewhere else.


NOVATEK CAMERA


After Whittledene Reservoir we called a quick stop and Crazy Legs, still in Alpine-recovery mode, opted for the shortest route to the café. Surprisingly the Garrulous Kid decided to go with him and, at the last moment, Son of G-Dawg, tagged on, still suffering from his hangover and willing to lend moral support and a bit of aural relief to Crazy Legs. (I said aural, damn it, stop sniggering at the back)

On the rest of us went, up a serious of short, sharp climbs. The group then split apart as the road dipped on the fast run down to Matfen and I found myself between groups and trying to chase down G-Dawg and the BFG, who were themselves chasing the leaders.


NOVATEK CAMERA


As we turned off for the Quarry those in and around the second group on the road stopped to regroup and when we restarted I poked my nose into the wind on the front for the first time.  We swung around the first corner on the approach to the climb, finding brief respite as the wind shifted behind us, but the relief was short-lived as we were soon swinging round again and riding into a headwind as we tackled the climb.

I spun to the top of the Quarry as the BFG pounded away up the outside, pipping me to the top. Once more re-grouping, we started to push on toward the cafe and the Red Max whipped us into a very ragged, impromptu paceline. Although it wasn’t the smoothest and people were pushing through a little too fast, it quickly ratcheted up the speed.

We pushed on, faster and faster, but the group was starting to thin out as riders faded and dropped away one by one. My Alpine companions, Goose and surprisingly, the always strong Captain Black disappeared out the back and I guessed this was their first ride since returning and I was a bit further ahead in terms of recovery.

By the time we hit the straight down to the Snake Bends there was only three of us left, G-Dawg, the BFG and me. The BFG hammered off the front and started to press powerfully on the pedals as he drove us onwards, while I clung onto G-Dawg’s wheel at the back, banging and jostling along as my tyres skipped and skittered on the most hated stretch of rough road surface that I know.

The BFG increased the pressure and managed to prise open a gap, as he slowly, slowly, started to pull away from G-Dawg. I hesitated, waiting to see if G-Dawg would react, then decided it wasn’t going to happen, pulled outside him and dug deep to accelerate past.

The BFG swung left, spent and easing back and as he looked behind to assess the damage he’d done, I kicked past, kept going long enough to open up clear air, then sat up and rolled through the bends.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

At the cafe, we tucked ourselves around the side of the building to try and find some shelter from a troublesome, gusting wind.

Red Max regaled me with tales of the Cyclone, which he rode with Taffy Steve in support of the Monkey Butler Boy and his crew, who had thrashed themselves to pieces trying to set a fast time.

While they did this, the older pair combined Red Max’s innate cunning with his encyclopaedic knowledge of the local back roads, to eschew the official course and always stay one step ahead of the youngsters. In this way, they were able to strategically position themselves prominently at the side of the road, conspicuously enjoying cakes, coffees, ice creams and iced cokes and giving the kids a big thumbs up each time they sweated and toiled their way past.

The Garrulous Kid wanted to know why I never used any pictures of him in the blog. I told him I didn’t want to scare people off, but I always posted all the decent photos up on our club Facebook page if he wanted to see any. This however was deemed unhelpful as, “Facebook is shit.” Oh well.

We were visited by a cheeky robin that kept hopping and flitting around us, begging for crumbs, despite being told by Crazy Legs he was out of season and should bugger off and come back at Christmas.

Captain Black dropped his cherry scone off at one of the tables and leaned over the fence to chat with us. While he was momentarily distracted, the robin sensed a golden opportunity, fluttered down onto his plate and started eyeing up the cherry scone and trying to work out just how he could cart away something ten times his own body weight. His hesitation was his undoing however, as the Captain was alerted to the “robin bastard” scone thief and quickly returned to thwart the most incredible and improbable of avian heists.

Despite it avowedly “being shit,” we discussed the benefits of posting up the route on Facebook and how it had allowed Son of G-Dawg to miss the start, but still meet up with our group. Crazy Legs said it had been a bit of a surprise seeing him standing their “like a colossus” – outlined by the sun, legs akimbo and arms folded across his chest, while declaring in a deep and godly voice, “I’m waiting for my people. Where are my people?”

“A colossus of the roads?” I suggested. And that dear reader is how Son of G-Dawg came out from under his father’s shadow and earned himself a new blerg moniker.


I remember nothing remarkable happening on the ride home, by which time I seem to have fully recovered from my post-trip hangover. Maybe next week I’ll actually feel some benefit, But I’m not counting on it.


YTD Totals: 3,993 km / 2,481 miles with 47,098 metres of climbing

Greasing the Rim

Greasing the Rim

Club Run, Saturday 11th February, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  89 km/55 miles with 458 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                                20.6 km/h

Group size:                                         10 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    5°C

Weather in a word or two:          Brutal


ride-11-feb
Ride profile

The Ride:

If the soundtrack to last week was Felt’s Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow, this week the needle had skipped a few tracks and we had to contend with The Day the Rain Came Down.

The previous Saturday included a small celebration for not having to use the lights on the bike on my way across to our meeting point. Today, in contrast was a reminder of just how much gloomy, wet and wild winter-weather we may still have to get through before we emerge into spring. It was wet (it was very wet), it was cold (it was very cold) and it was drab, dark and dismal enough that I turned the lights on as I set out … and didn’t turn them off again until I’d dragged myself back up the Heinous Hill and home.

I went with a series of double layers, Planet-X Mr. Krabbe lobster gloves and liners, winter jacket topped with a rain jacket, waterproof socks under Thermolite socks. It wasn’t enough.

Hoping to minimise my exposure to the rain, or at least delay the moment until became soaked through, I left a little later than usual, heading for the nearest bridge over the river, instead of my usual, quieter but longer route. Ripping down the hill, the spray flung up by my wheels was handily repelled by my winter boots, but I was quickly soaked in freezing water from ankles to knees. This was going to be a bit grim.

Still, I made good time and was soon ducking into the cold, inhospitable but dry shelter of the multi-storey car-park, wondering just who else would be mad enough to ride today.

OGL was the first to turn up, shaking his head ruefully and wondering what strange, insane compulsion drove us to ride in this kind of weather and predicting a low turnout. And so it proved, as a hard core, crazy few gathered to point and laugh at our own stupidity before setting back out into the rain.


Main conversations at the start:

As we were wearing identical lobster mitts, Crazy Legs invented a lobster mitt greeting, that progressed from a Vulcan-style “live long and prosper” to something I can only describes as … err… something akin to “tribbing” or “scissoring” maybe?

Still, moving swiftly on, OGL had repaired the right-hand shifter of G-Dawg’s “best bike” and confessed he hadn’t even bothered to test to see if the left-hand shifter was fully working.

“I wouldn’t worry,” Crazy Legs assured him, “It’s only there for decoration.”

We did then ponder what might happen if G-Dawg couldn’t actually utilise his inner ring on the two planned occasions each year when we suspected it might be needed – once to grind up the Ryals at the end of the Cyclone and once for the masochistic, torture-fest of the club hill-climb.

OGL then talked about completing a £250 service on an £350 bike. To be fair the owner had ridden it frequently, but had done no servicing or maintenance for the past 18 months. We wondered why OGL didn’t just sell him a new bike and he confessed he’d actually make more money from a £250 service than a £350 sale, such are the harsh economics of your local, much-endagered bike shop and the depressed margins to be made on new kit.

Someone had posted a video on Facebook showing a frame dipped through a thin layer of paints floated on top of water. This resulted a super-cool and much coveted paint job that looked like snakeskin.

“You’d know it was even carried right through, inside your bottom bracket, even though no one else would see it.” Son of G-Dawg enthused, clearly demonstrating that he is indeed his father’s son.

A distant figure approaching at high speed through the gloom transformed into Biden Fecht and we all waved our arms in horror and shouted “Stop! Brake!”  He swept over the kerb, and carved a big arc toward us, before touching his brakes and drawing to an abrupt stop, patting his newly replaced, still shiny and obviously effective new brake blocks affectionately. Guess he made it home, after all.

OGL then went all misty-eyed as he reminisced about the “good old days” of steel rims which had shocking traction in the wet and a braking performance that was not enhanced by the fact that club riders used to regularly coat them in a protective film of Vaseline to stop rusting.

Biden Fecht’s mechanical misfortune had been redressed so he was allowed out, but the Red Max, as big a gibbering loon as anyone currently standing huddled in the car park, was conspicuously absent. We later learned he had a semi-reasonable excuse – his ambition to nurse the winter bike into spring had been cruelly curtailed last Sunday when his crank finally fell off. Still, he won’t have been too disappointed to have missed the ride as he’s now enjoying the euphoric, pre-purchase high of researching which new bike to buy.

Taffy Steve had instigated a bit of a social-media feeding frenzy, by posting up the completely innocent and highly sensible ride information from another club which listed 6 different, colour coded route options, depending on distance, average speed and ability. These ranged from a Black Ride of 50 or more miles at 17+ mph to a Ladies ride of 25 miles at 10 mph and a remarkably gentle “New to cycling” 10 miles at 5 mph.

While all this pre-planning and ride segregation was eminently sensible and well-meaning, it just brought out our very worst excesses in a flood of cynical, jaded, sardonic, disreputable and wholly unforgivable egesta extraction.

Red Max had just been happy to find there was a Red Ride, he wasn’t fussed how long or how fast it was.  Our self-flagellating, racing snakes wanted a black diamond 100 mile ride at an average of 20 mph with no coffee stops allowed, just to ensure they managed to suck the last scintilla of joy and entertainment from the run.

Laurelan wanted to know whether she’d be excused from the Ladies ride if she proved she could swear like a trooper and wondered if anyone needed any socks darning, as something to keep her occupied on a ride of such genteel pace.

Now Aether added to the fun, wondering aloud if the beginners ride was slow enough to allow someone with a red flag to walk in front of all the new cyclists.


Mean-spirited cynicism finally, if only temporarily tamped down, the mad/sad (delete as appropriate) Big Ten, pushed off, clipped in and sallied forth: OGL, Crazy Legs, G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg, Biden Fecht, Taffy Steve, Aether, the Big Yin, Kermit and me.

We hadn’t travelled far when a mismatched pair of cyclists ripped past in the other direction, one so big and tall, his passing created a transitory rain shadow that gave us an instant of relief.

“Was that the BFG?” Crazy Legs asked.

“If it was, he didn’t notice or acknowledge us.” G-Dawg replied.

“We must have been outside his field of view.” Crazy Legs surmised

Ah, he meant that narrow cone that extends up to 3 metres and no more than 10⁰ either side of the BFG’s nose. That could explain it.

Pressing on, OGL observed that Biden Fecht’s truncated bit of plastic represented “almost a mudguard.”

“Perhaps it’s a semi-guard, or possibly even a demi-guard.” I suggested.

“A Demi Moore?” Crazy Legs wondered.

“Hmm, surely a demi-Moore would be a Dudley.”

OGL then began talking about a couple of hapless chancers who’d had a deal worth £-millions turn good and it took us an age to work out he was talking about the plot of an old episode of “Only Fools and Horses.” At about the same time, we were buzzed by an impatient boy-racer in his souped-up, red Vauxhall Corsa, complete with big bore exhaust and tawdry body kit. Taffy Steve launched into a memorable tirade about that kind of car and that kind of driver, before succinctly concluding “Only Fools and Corsa’s!” with a wry shake of the head.

Meanwhile and completely unrelated, I was trying to name a Four Tops song for Crazy Legs, but the best I could come up with was “I Can’t Give You Anything.” I was challenged to sing it and then challenged to sing it properly, failing miserably on both counts. I would need to endure my own personal Testicular Armageddon to get anywhere near some of those high notes.

(Being of white, English, punk and New Wave up-bringing and shockingly ignorant and uncultured, neither of us knew the song was actually a hit for the Stylistics, or could confidently name a Four Tops song.)

In such errant and foolish ways, we passed the time, talking complete and utter nonsense as we threaded our way around puddles and pot holes. All the while a freezing rain continued to fall down on us and the cold and damp slowly wormed it way through multiple layers to add a frisson of discomfort to the ride.

A somewhat truncated route had us heading for the Quarry Climb and on to the café, with Kermit and Biden Fecht on the front, Crazy Legs and me following second wheel.

Crazy Legs suspected as soon as we hung a sharp right up to the climb and directly into a fairly gusty headwind, the two on the front would peel away and we’d have to take over for the worst part of the ride. The stalwart front pair held course however, dragging us to the last corner before peeling off to either side, a well-executed manoeuvre, ruined only by the fact that we were already half way round the bend when they swung across the road.


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We regained order and pushed on, dragging the group to the bottom of the climb proper, when it was everyman for himself. Those on fixies taking a good run at the slope, but perhaps because of the headwind, found themselves struggling on the incline. Nevertheless, everyone made it up, no one’s chain shattered and no one punctured on errant fragments of razor-sharp, tyre-shredding chain shrapnel left behind from last week.

We regrouped at the top and swung right, picking the pace up a little, until we ran into a slowly coalescing hunt and had to ease up to pass numerous horses and horse boxes. This confirmed what we’d long come to expect about who would voluntarily venture out in this kind of weather – “Only Fools and Horses.”

We carefully threaded our way through a somewhat subdued, miserable and drab looking hunt, their usual bright colours mainly hidden under waxed jackets, before swinging right to start the final run down to the café.

Son of G-Dawg kicked away with G-Dawg and Biden Fecht closely following. Taffy Steve made to give chase, but a clunk-whirr-whirr-clunk of slipping gears persuaded him we didn’t need another snapped chain and he dropped back to where the rest of were intent on cruising in at a relatively sedate pace


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The car park was almost completely full, but the café itself was surprisingly empty and we calculated that every single person there must have arrived in an individual car. We couldn’t quite work out what was going on, as surely there was nowhere nearby where you might want to park and walk up to – especially in this weather.

Once a large group spread over a couple of pushed together tables left, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was going to be a quiet day, which may have been just as well as when I went for coffee re-fills I found the new till warbling and wailing in distress, obviously trying to contact the mother-ship and refusing to take any more orders from its Earthling operators.

In a discussion about new technology, Crazy Legs said his new smart-TV could be voice activated, something so impractical and redundant could see no earthly use for it. OGL seemed quite intrigued by the idea though and queried if you could just instruct it to “find porn.”

Crazy Legs admitted he hadn’t tried that particular feature, but couldn’t see why not, while I had a vision of a masked-OGL riding round the streets shouting “find porn” at smart-TV’s through open windows, before riding away cackling like a madman.

Son of G-Dawg reported that the Amazon Echo’s voice-activated ordering had run into trouble when a news report repeated how a small child had inadvertently bought an expensive doll’s house and hundreds of cookies. Apparently picking up on the commands from the TV broadcast, hundreds of consumers in San Diego then found their units responding in a like manner and ordering them doll’s houses and cookies.

Crazy Legs brought up the proposed Amazon Airship – a massive, floating warehouse in the sky, which would be serviced by aerial drone-delivery. I suggested they didn’t need the drones, just a good bomb sight – delivery via gravity! We them envisaged someone like Red Max ordering the Monkey Butler Boy to go out into the garden to catch a delivery that Amazon were about to drop-off … and failing to mention it was a new washing machine.

In another encounter with technology, G-Dawg recounted being asked to park someone’s car that had a new-fangled, remote, keyless system that he’d never used before. He parked up, locked the car and walked away, then began second guessing the system and walking back to the car to check if it was still locked. Just as well he checked, the door opened straight away to his touch…

This reminded me of the time the venerable Toshi San arranged to meet up for a bike ride at the local town hall. Waking to find a good covering of snow on the ground he set out anyway, but found no one waiting at the meeting point. Thinking someone might be sheltering around the other side of the building, he rode around just to check.

He arrived back at the start having failed to find anyone, but then noticed a new set of tyre tracks in the snow that hadn’t been there before. Reasoning someone else had arrived and decided to ride around and look for the others, he set off in pursuit, didn’t see anyone, but got back to the start to find someone else had joined the first rider and there were now two sets of tracks in the snow…

Meanwhile Crazy Legs confessed to loving his flip, folding car key which he said made him feel like D’Artagnan

“But, D’Artagnan didn’t have a flick knife, or even a flick épée.” I protested.

“The Scicilian version did.” Taffy Steve reassured me.

We tried, but failed miserably to decipher the colour coding of hunt blazers – do they denote different ranks and if so how could you tell who was in charge if everyone was hiding their colours under a wax jacket.

OGL suggested he was distantly acquainted with the Barbour family and one lived quite nearby. Crazy Legs was largely disinterested, judging the Barbour jacket as a naff, fashion faux-pas, but suggested if OGL knew Monsieur Gore-Tex, he’d like an introduction so he could shake the man’s hand.

G-Dawg declared this was the kind of day when he would be stepping into his shower while wearing his jacket and overshoes, the most effective way of getting them clean. I mentioned I’d tried this trick with my rain jacket a couple of weeks ago and all was going well till the rear pockets filled up with water and it pulled me to the floor where I was left floundering on my back like an upside down turtle. Son of G-Dawg was highly amused by the ignominious thought of me drowning in my own shower and my body being found there while, somewhat bizarrely wearing a rain coat.


And then, we were done and suffering the absolute distress of having to pull on cold, wet gloves, hats, scarves and helmets and stepping out of the womb-like safety of the café for the ride home. The horror! The horror!

Back out and the weather seemed, if anything to be getting worse. The frozen rain was pelting down harder, stinging any and all exposed flesh and the temperature seemed to have dipped further while we were sheltering indoors.

On the first hill I took to the front with Son of G-Dawg in a futile effort to try and warm up and we pressed on. As the awful conditions showed no sign of relenting, I finally swapped places with Son of G-Dawg so I could ride on the outside, intending to leave the group early and turn right through Ponteland. This way I could swing over the top of the airport to cut a big corner off my ride home.

By now though, the weather was so unrelentingly unpleasant, that the entire group decided that this slightly more direct route was the better option. In this way I had company for longer than normal, before I turned off for my trip home.

2 days on, my gloves are sitting on the radiator still damp. I hope they recover in time for the weekend.


YTD Totals: 799 km / 496 miles with 8,356 metres of climbing

The Mighty Boosh

Club Run, Saturday 26th June, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  108 km / 67 miles with 730(?) metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 15 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.5 km/h

Group size:                                         31 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    17°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright, sunny then … Boosh!

Main topic of conversation at the start:

The club had suggested a moratorium on Brexit discussions on Faecesbook last week, even going so far as to suggest that perennial old chestnut, the Campagnolo vs. Shimano debate would be preferable.

The agreement didn’t last more than a minute, but there was no arguing as we couldn’t find anyone who was actually for the Brexit, so it was just a bunch of disappointed folk standing round wondering morosely about what sort of sad-sack, small-minded, parochial little country we actually live in.

There was naturally lots of recycling of Cyclone stories – the horror of Bilsmoor, the microclimate enjoyed by the club post-event picnic on the grass, Sneaky Pete finding Guiness was a thoroughly acceptable substitute for coffee and Crazy Legs wondering how Sneaky Pete became Sneaky Pete. I couldn’t honestly remember. G-Dawg also admitted that all his efforts fitting and trialling bottle and cage almost came to nought as he forgot he was carrying a drink until he’d completed three quarters of the ride.

I queried why the Prof was wearing thick, full-fingered orangey-pink gloves and he suggested they were to match his Friesian cow patterned jersey. Everyone looked suitably perplexed until he placed the backs of his hands on his stomach, wiggling his fingers in the air and declaring in a too loud voice, “They’re the udders!” Deeply unsettling.

With 9:15 fast-approaching and the continuing absence of OGL, Taffy Steve was starting to look forward to a “Lexit” but at the last moment our leader arrived and slipped into the mass of cyclists waiting for the off.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

The Red Max relayed how he’d been happily cycling along in the sunshine and then, “Boosh!” the rain came smashing down almost instantly soaking everyone. I asked if it had been a “Mighty Boosh” and he confirmed it had indeed.

One unexpected consequence of the rain was that it had soaked through Szell’s faux-leather track mitts, the dye had leaked out and his hands were a stained a deep, indelible shade of blue. Richard of Flanders quipped that he looked like he’d taken part in a Post Office raid that had gone horribly wrong, while I’m sure I wasn’t the only one hoping that it was Szell’s long sleeve jersey and not his gloves causing the staining, so he’d look like Papa Smurf when he took it off.

Crazy Legs recounted his experiences with a Poundland puncture repair kit, which he’d opened to find all the assorted patches, chalk and adhesive you would expect, despite the bargain price and quite unexpectedly, the crowning glory – two professional looking, fit for purpose steel tyre levers.

Come the time to use the kit he’d zipped off the tyre with great ease, made his repairs, checked everything was airtight, reinserted the tube and used the levers to deftly flip the last part of the tyre back onto the rim, being hugely careful not to pinch the inner tube in the process.

He then set to with is molto piccolo, Blackburn Airstick to re-inflate the tyre, but found even his most strenuous efforts were having no effect.

Somewhat bemused he removed the tyre to find the ends of the levers had splintered like a mini-fragmentation grenades and the resulting shards of shrapnel rattling around in the rim had shredded his tube. He then described the Zen-like calm that descended as his experiences simply confirmed his expectations that nothing good could ever come of buying a puncture repair kit from Poundland.

OGL stopped by the table to canvas opinion on the best date to hold the club time-trial, eliciting much discussion about the fine art of time-trialling with Taffy Steve convinced anything that involved spending a small fortune on outlandish, very specialised and odd-looking kit, all for the pleasure of hurting yourself for an extended period of time was anathema to him. Though not all agreed with his assessment, we did all concur that, even by the standards of odd common to all club cyclists in general, time triallists were a special breed apart.


25 June Profile
Ride Profile – I think the rain got to my Garmin as I only recorded 700 metres of climbing and my house ended up 50 metres lower than where it was in the morning

The Oddly and Unashamedly Political Waffle:

From the bedroom window, looking out the day looked beautifully bright, with welcoming blue skies studded with the odd white cloud racing high overhead. Nice enough in fact to have me scrambling around for the sun cream to add to my last minute preparations.

By the time I got out of the house the cloud layer had built up, the wind was surprisingly chill and I was ruing the decision not to wear arm-warmers. There were still prolonged patches of sunlight however and it was pleasant riding through these. A bit less cloud and it would have been a perfect day.

I swooped down the hill, along the valley and across the river, before looping back and starting to climb up the other side. As I made my way up the first major climb of the day I watched a couple on mountain bikes descending toward me on the footpath.

They reached a pedestrian crossing and despite the road being very, very long, very, very straight and completely devoid of any traffic in any direction, they pressed the button to change the lights. I dutifully stopped mid-climb and unclipped at the red light and leant on the bars to watch them cross in front of me, ride up onto the pavement on the other side and then continue their descent on the opposite footpath.

All this was completed with no apology for unnecessarily forcing me to stop and start again on a hill, or even the slightest acknowledgement of my presence. I managed the awkward hill start with as much grace as possible, checking again that the road was clear of other users. It was – the only other moving things out there were on the bleeding pavement.

There, I thought goes the perfect metaphor for the Brexit voting majority; completely lacking foresight, ignorant of everything going on around them, selfishly self-centered, intent only on looking after their own and deeply and irrationally afraid of their environment. I somehow resisted the urge to shout after them to, “Get the feck ON the road!” Childish perhaps, but it might have made me feel better.

The biggest irony of this whole Brexit thing though is now we’re being told we have the chance to make Britain great again, with seemingly no understanding that the “great” in Great Britain actually refers to these islands in their entirety, you know England, Scotland and Wales, together, combined, in partnership. It’s great as in greater Britain, not great as in brilliant Britain and rather than making Britain great again, I think we’re in real danger of diminishing it.

I often think it would be a whole lot better if Britain was simply called Britain and there was no mention of the Great. Get rid of it, expunge it from history and all records, perhaps then there’d be less people with this over-inflated, pompous and superior belief that we’re somehow better than everyone else, that everyone’s clamouring to come and live here, that trading with us is a privilege, or that we’re a hugely powerful and influential player on the world stage. Get over yourself, Britain.

Despite unnecessary hold ups, I made the meeting point in good time and watched as our numbers grew and the ranks of skinny people on plastic bikes spread slowly across the pavement. Bolstered by returning students and tempted out by the seemingly good weather, 31 lads and lasses finally pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


 

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I started off the day alongside Szell, naturally bemoaning the Brexit and wondering if Leave voters actually exist – I still haven’t met one. He told me it was because I was too safe and cosseted in some middle-class cocoon and I couldn’t honestly disagree. He then had a good rant about work-related and pointless customer satisfaction surveys. I told him I was a market researcher and my professional body wouldn’t allow me to participate in surveys. Not strictly true, but it did get a rise out of him.

As we dropped down Berwick Hill most talk was arrested by the appearance of a dark funnel cloud, a tight spiral of wind-whipped cloud, needing only to touch the ground to become an inchoate tornado.

“Toto,” Szell quipped dryly, “I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

I then couldn’t contain my curiosity any longer and was forced to ask Szell why he had a Garmin attached to his stem and what looked like two watches strapped to the handlebars on either side. Apparently one watch was for telling the time, the other for his heart rate monitor and the Garmin is just to record the ride. Hmm, so all the functions the Garmin can handily do all on its own. Can you say “belt and braces?”

I then had a chat with Aveline who told me she’d seen the perfect bike for me on the Planet X website in the requisite red, black and yellow livery favoured by odd co-ordination completionists and even adorned with quite subtle (well, for Planet X anyway) Lion of Flanders badges too.

We discovered a mutual appreciation of Planet X, although we both bemoaned the name that I’d previously denounced as a creaky, sci-fi B-movie title (see Planet X vs. Rapha – The Throwdown) while she suggested it reminded her of a really dodgy nightclub!


 

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Somewhere, in the wilds of Northumberland we passed a formidably hirsute, shambling and possibly homeless figure, miles away from civilisation and really in the middle of nowhere. He looked burdened down with half his possessions in a wheel-barrow and the other half spilling out of what appeared to be a makeshift rucksack made from the internal steel liner of a municipal bin with bungee cord straps.

This improvised backpack was adorned with a large picture of a smiling Margaret Thatcher with the accusatory legend, “Thatchers Legacy” scrawled across the top. In his own blood. Okay, I made that last bit up, it but it wouldn’t have surprised me if he had used blood instead of ink.

I had no idea where this odd feller had come from, or where he was possibly going to with nothing for miles around and it was an incongruous sight finding him in the middle of nowhere, being passed by a stream of grinning idiots on expensive plastic bikes. We wondered if he was on a crusade, or maybe a march to London to confront the dragon in her own den?


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We also wondered if he knew that the wicked witch was actually dead and if we’d told him would he have danced a jig of joy, or perhaps been devastated by the sudden loss of his entire raison d’etre.

Looking back, I can’t help thinking of him as being like one of those Japanese snipers who emerges, wild-eyed and bewildered from some jungle hell to finally surrender, only to find the war has been over for quarter of a century. And we lost.

A pee stop was called which surprisingly found the Prof uncertain of his need to wee and having to force himself to go just to maintain his reputation as having the smallest, weakest bladder in the club. His status is under direct threat from young-gun, the Plank who, if the past few weeks are any indication, has greater urinary needs than a coach load of Saga tourists.

The Plank has also developed a strange ritual of riding off the front to find a quiet peeing place, where he’s invariably still “producing” as the rest of us sail past, treating us all to unrestricted viewing of his micturition management. I’ve never understood why he does this instead of dropping quietly off the back and then simply chasing back on – he’s fit and fast enough for this not to be an issue.


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With proper peeing provisions promptly performed there was no need to stop for the group split and this was achieved on the fly. The faster, harder, longer group split again on the climb up to Dyke Neuk and then once again a little later as the even faster, harder, longer group pressed on while others of us took a sharp left.

I was now in a small group with Taffy Steve, Crazy Legs, G-Dawg and relative newcomer Mellstock, rolling along quite merrily until the rain started and then slowly increased in intensity until it was a heavy and persistent downpour. We were soon soaked through, not only with what was falling directly from the sky, but the sheets of water that were washing across the road and being sprayed up in huge arcs by our hissing wheels.


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We climbed Middleton Bank against the tide and pretty much en bloc and set sail for the café.

At one point Crazy Legs and G-Dawg not so subtly manoeuvred me to the front and I heard them giggling and a whispering like errant schoolboys at the back of a classroom:

“Every 20 seconds?”

“Yes”

“Ok”

I was then rewarded on returning home to find my camera had captured them both grinning like idiots and giving me the finger, or flipping the bird if you prefer. No single picture has elicited more “likes” on the clubs Faecesbook page, I’m just surprised it took them so long. What next, a bit of impromptu mooning? Although I guess that’s a bit much to ask while wearing bibshorts and riding a bike toward the camera, so I think we’re safe.

I tried to increase the pace as the rain increases in intensity, lining us out as we charged toward the twin lures of coffee and cake, with Crazy Legs camped on my rear wheel, near blinded by the spray and fixated solely on the only thing he could make out, the yellow tyre flashing round in front of him, trusting me to guide him along without hitting a pothole or grate.

Taffy Steve made a break and I let the gap grow until we hit the rollers then swept up and around him, rattling down the final descent and starting the last uphill drag to the café. Here G-Dawg jumped away with Crazy Legs in pursuit to contest the sprint, while I just tried to maintain my speed.


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A brief respite in the café and we were soon out in the rain again and heading back. Here a few of us dropped off the main group to ride with the FNG who was starting to struggle a little, but she kept plugging away and said she’d enjoyed the ride, despite the weather. They were soon turning off and I entered the Mad Mile on my own and began to pick my way homeward.

It was during this ride that I realised the great, hidden and unpublicised consequence of the Brexit – cars no longer have to give way to cyclists at roundabouts, even if the cyclist is already on the roundabout and the car is only just approaching.  

I came down a hill toward one roundabout and stopped to allow three or four cars to pass. I saw the way was clear and rode out  to take the right hand exit, passing in front of an approaching car that had seen me and stopped. It was at this point that another car came bolting up on its inside, undertaking at high speed to try and race across without having to slow. I think they saw me at the last second and had to brake hard, while I flinched away reflexively.

I expect drivers to do the occasional stupid or thoughtless thing and can just about live with that. I don’t however expect a prolonged fusillade on the horn and extended mouthing off when I’m not the one in the wrong and I’ve clearly done nothing to elicit it.

I’m guessing it’s just coincidence, but this is the second similar incident I had last week – it’s as if motorists have suddenly forgotten both the rules of the road and common courtesy and decency. I wouldn’t care, but I wasn’t even wearing a Belgian or German kit, or anything that looked even vaguely European.

I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror on the way to the shower and couldn’t help but admire the razor sharp tan-lines between my socks and shorts. I didn’t realise I’d caught enough of the sun for it to have such effect.

Of course I hadn’t and the liberal use of soap and hot water soon washed away the fine patina of grime and road grit to restore my legs to their usual pallid appearance. Hopefully next week I’ll get a proper chance to top up the tan, but I’m not counting on it.


YTD Totals: 3,645 km / 2,265 miles with 35,834 metres of climbing

The Inaugural Sneaky Pete Memorial Ride

The Inaugural Sneaky Pete Memorial Ride

Cyclone Sportive: Ride C, Saturday 18th June, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  179 km / 111 miles with 2,477 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          7 hours 59 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.9 km/h

Cyclone Distance:                            90 miles

Cyclone Time:                                   6 hours 7 minutes

Group size:                                         10 riders and 5,200 others

Temperature:                                    15°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cool, grey and dry.


Cyclone C Route
The 90 Mile Cyclone C Ride

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Ride Profile

The Waffle:

So for the 10th year running the Cyclone Festival of Cycling has rolled around again and for this anniversary edition it features a brand new, 90-mile “challenge ride” encompassing a handful of well-known local climbs including the Gibbet and the Ryals. Having participated in the event for the past 6 years this seemed like the ideal time to step up from my usual 64-mile route and try something new – what could possibly go wrong?

I had everything planned, laid out and prepared the night before. I’d pre-selected my kit based on the expected weather forecast, filled a bottle with drink and collected a small hoard of energy bars and gels to fuel the ride. The bike was thoroughly checked, fully lubed, waxed and polished, with the tyres inflated to optimum pressures. It had even spent the night cosseted indoors in the spare room, ready for a quick and effortless departure in the morning.

The timing chip was fixed to my helmet and the event number firmly secured to my handlebars in a suitable, appropriate, visual and aesthetically pleasing manner. I wouldn’t usually mention such a small thing but, from the evidence of other riders it seems that attaching the number in the right way and in the right place is a bit of a dark art and slightly more challenging than rocket science. People reported seeing them on seat-stays and seat posts, under saddles, hanging from the top tubes like sleeping bats and sticking up from handlebars like some kind of improvised motorcycle windshield.

G-Dawg had his number tightly wrapped around his head tube, but he claimed this was simply to negate aerodynamic drag. He’d also scrupulously prepared for the event by making sure his inner ring was actually in proper working order and by fitting a single bottle cage to the seat tube. As a measure of just how intensive and careful his preparations had been he’d actually test-ridden last week’s club run with the bottle cage on, although without a corresponding bottle. For this ride he would actually be going “the full Monty” and carrying a bottle too, which I can only assume had some form of G-Dawg liquid refreshment inside – kryptonite, concentrated bat blood, red diesel or something similar.


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The weather Saturday morning wasn’t good, but would do, unremittingly grey and surprisingly chilly, though thankfully the wind was fairly light. I tipped down the hill to start my nine-hour round trip and began making my way to the start point, Kingston Park, the exposed and windswept home of the Newcastle Falcons rugby team.

I picked up another rider just after crossing the river and had a brief chat about our respective planned rides. Hearing I was off to  ride the Cyclone, he asked if I was turning left somewhere up ahead and I answered with a vague yes, without giving his question too much thought.

What he’d actually meant was would I be turning immediate next left. He did. I didn’t and as he pushed across my line I bounced off him and went down. Hard. Or, in the immortal words of Dabman, “I came down like a sack of spuds.” (Where are you Dabman? I miss your unfailing cheerfulness in the face of catastrophic injury and broken bones.)

I took the brunt of the impact on all the sticky-out bits down the right side – shoulder, elbow, hand, hip, knee and ankle. Ooph! The elbow and knuckles of my pinkie showed the most damage with dramatic splotches of blood, but the hip was the sorest. Luckily though the bike seemed totally unscathed other than a little scuffing of the bar tape. A lucky escape.


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My fellow cyclist helped me up, retrieved my bottle and apologised, even though it wasn’t his fault. We parted, as he finally got to turn left unimpeded and I pressed on vowing to pay more attention to what people were asking me when riding alongside. Everything was a bit sore, but I guessed since I’d be constantly riding, there’d be absolutely no chance of anything stiffening up for the next few hours or so.

We had a fairly reasonable (and by our standards remarkably organised) group meet at the start, where we also picked up Szell, the Red Max, the Monkey Butler Boy and one of the Monkey Butler Boy’s contemporaries, who seemed to be wearing a hijab under his Kask helmet. They were all off to do the 65 mile ride, but would tag along with us until the routes split.

There were then around a dozen or so of us lined up for the 90-mile ride including G-Dawg, Sneaky Pete, Captain Black, Cushty, Mini Miss, Big Dunc, Guido and Caracol.

We pushed off to start our great adventure and I immediately found myself leading out with Sneaky Pete, who was a bit worried to be on the front so early. I suggested we only had to do a couple of miles in the lead to earn  wheel-sucking rights for the rest of the ride, but I don’t think he was too convinced and he soon slipped back to be replaced by the Red Max.


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Max suggested the entire event was a sore trial to him as the roads were packed with other cyclists, or “chase bait” that would in normal circumstances trip his proximity sensor and like a loopy Labrador chasing cars, see the engagement of an all-out-pursuit mode.  Paternal responsibilities and a growing maturity may perhaps have tempered once rabid inclinations, but even as I write this I can hear and exact facsimile of his voice in my head and it’s saying “Never!”

He needn’t have worried too much though, as the Monkey Butler Boy was intent on proving that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, bounding onwards in an explosion of youthful enthusiasm with his hajib wearing side-kick and ruthlessly hunting down anything that moved on the road ahead.

Keeping an eye on the errant weavers we were forced to over-take every few metres, Max noted how they seemed to ride like fish, flexing his hand left and right, in a perfect imitation of a trout trying to swim upstream. I’d already had a too-close, dumb encounter with another experienced cyclist though – so wasn’t really in a position to take the moral high ground.

As we passed through the first feed-station I was chatting to Szell and knew he was doing the 65-mile ride. I told him that Red Max and the kids were likely to stop, thinking he might appreciate a bit of company on his route, but this seemed only to upset him.

“What are you implying?” he demanded to know, spluttering in what I took to be mock outrage, although I couldn’t be too certain and would learn a little later how just thin-skinned and easily offended some male cyclists can be. I grinned and rode on.


 

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The first serious climb, up Ritton Bank presaged a filling-rattling crossing of the ford at Forestburn Gate. I’d been warned of how bad the surface was by Sneaky Pete and scrubbed off enough speed to negotiate the passage safely.   A couple of of unsuspecting riders in front of me weren’t so lucky – one pulled up with a pinch puncture, while the other stood ruefully spinning his front wheel and trying to decide how much damage he’d unwittingly inflicted on his shiny carbon clincher.

We were now out onto the moors and struggling to find any section of road that was horizontal. We re-grouped and then splintered again and a small bunch of us pushed on while the others waited for a back marker.

The constant rising and falling finally led us to the Bilsmoor Climb, 2kms at a 7% average gradient, maxing out at 15% , every metre of it loathed and very roundly cursed by G-Dawg for its relentlessness. I actually enjoyed the climb, finding a decent rhythm from the start and spinning up with G-Dawg in tow, as we rode in pursuit of Caracol and Captain Black who’d forged on ahead.

Half way up the climb we found Another Engine chugging steadily upwards and we exchanged a few words wherein he claimed the C-Ride was his idea. I don’t know if Sneaky Pete was aware of this and now I’m wondering if we shouldn’t be naming this the Another Engine Memorial Ride. Not that any of it matters of course, as OGL is always going to claim it was his idea all along.

There was then an exhilarating and fast drop into Elsdon where I hit my maximum speed for the day – a heady 43 mph. A quick stop at the feed-station to replenish supplies and we started the Gibbet climb which would lead to the route’s highest elevation at 258 metres.

This is a 3.3km climb at an average of 5% but with an initial ramp of almost 20%. It features in the first 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs book where, somewhat surprisingly the steepest section is only listed as 10%. Either the book, or my Strava is plain wrong. Either way, it’s hard.

I started from the back and gradually hauled myself up to G-Dawg and Captain Black as we crested the climb. Stopping only to note that the eponymous gibbet has now been restored to its rightful place, Captain Black engaged his turbo and lined us out as he smashed it down a rolling but incessantly downward pointing road toward Wallington, while G-Dawg and I clung to his rear wheel.


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More climbing followed as we crested a series of rolling roads, drawing inexorably toward the final challenge of the Ryals looming some way ahead. At some point a weasel chased a young rabbit across the road in front of us, fully intent on its prey and not even seeming to notice or care about the whirring wheels it had to dart around in pursuit of its dinner. Then G-Dawg was emptying his bottle to lighten the load and I knew the final climb was coming.

I had a quick word with Captain Black and dropped off the back of the group, content on taking the climb at my own pace and needing to engage in my own version of weight reduction behind a nearby hedge. Relieved and somewhat lightened I pressed onwards and just like everyone else, seem to slow almost to a standstill as we crept toward where the first ramp of the Ryals was louring over us.

The Ryal’s are 1.7km long at an average gradient of 6% topping out at 15% on the first ramp and featured in Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs. With 80 plus miles in the legs and plenty of climbing already completed, this was just a case of getting to the top, while trying to pick my way around the wobblers, weaver and walkers. It wasn’t smooth and it wasn’t elegant, but it got me up and I was soon pressing on toward the last feed station at Stamfordham.

Just as I entered the village I recognised the blur of Ovis riding past in his ever-present blue and yellow kit and he slowed for a brief chat. He’d apparently being doing the 100-mile route for the umpteenth time, but had somehow become lost. Now he didn’t know if he’d ridden a longer or shorter way around and at that stage was probably past caring and just happy to be back on track. As one cruel commentator jibed, he was perhaps unique in being the only person who could possibly get lost while following hundreds of other cyclists along a route with big black directional arrows at every junction.

I was reunited with Caracol, G-Dawg and Captain Black at the Stamfordham feed station and set out to ride the rest of the way with them, when my plans were curtailed by my mobile ringing and vibrating incessantly in my back pocket. I stopped to take the call and found myself on my own again, but being somewhat leg weary I wasn’t too disappointed as I entered the last 10 miles at my own pace.


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I was making good progress when I found myself blocked behind a quartet of riders from another local club, two massively powerful-looking big blokes towing along two female companions and in the process taking up most of the road. The trouble was that they couldn’t climb and at every rise the pace dropped away horribly.

I had a chat with one of the girls and she asked if I wanted to be past, even relaying the fact that people were queuing up behind them forward, but failing to elicit any movement from the front pair. I told her I was happy just to sit in a while and asked if she’d enjoyed the ride. She said she hadn’t really and I wondered if it was perhaps because of the company she was keeping…

At the next small hill, I skipped up the outside and smartly away before dropping down the other side, freewheeling and easing toward the sharp left hand turn that I knew was coming up. At this point the quartet powered past me in madcap pursuit, before braking sharply and sweeping dangerously wide around the bend. Another hill and I was able to slide past them again, only to find the two blokes had seemingly taken this as an affront to their manhood and were so intent on getting ahead of me that they’d abandoned their companions and seemingly all sense of self-preservation too.

I let them pass and stalked them for a while as we entered the last few mile. They then pulled a truly stupid stunt, forcing their way down the outside of a queue of traffic stopped by a red light at some roadworks, before cutting into the line and making an instant enemy of every driver there – a truly sterling job of fostering driver-cyclist relations and mutual respect. I eased back at that point and let them get well clear, entering a state of almost zen-like inner calm as I made the last turn, heard the electronic chirrup of the timing gate and crossed the line to a smattering of applause and “Well done’s!”

Re-emerging from picking up my goody back I found the sun had finally broken through and I was going to have the best part of the day to ride home in. Oh well, better late than never. I quite enjoyed my extended day in the saddle despite everything, but have to admit I’m really looking forward to getting back to a “normal” club run next week.


YTD Totals: 3,460 km / 2,150 miles with 34,137 metres of climbing

A Fat Lads Bike?

A Fat Lads Bike?

Club Run, Saturday 11th June, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  116 km / 72 miles with 1,097 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 57 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.4 km/h

Group size:                                         26 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cool, grey and damp. Again.

Main topic of conversation at the start:

I arrived at the meeting point to find Crazy Legs sitting on wall with a furrowed brow, 1,000-yard stare and slightly pensive air, seemingly lost in esoteric thought and obviously wrestling with one of life’s great and challenging conundrums. When pressed he admitted to be contemplating the life of hermit crabs and in particular their “house chain” – far worse than even the most protracted suburban one – as they queued up in size order, hoping and waiting for the biggest to find a new home before they all quickly swapped shells while keeping a wary eye out for opportune predators.

Meanwhile his much beloved and cossetted Ribble sat leaning nonchalantly against the wall, seemingly unconcerned that it was likely to encounter atmospheric precipitation for the first time in its life. Sources suggest Crazy Legs is coveting a brand new Bianchi, but cannot justify it if his “good” bike remains in pristine, good as new condition, so he’s now decided to ride it come what may.

The Prof rolled up on the Frankenbike, sporting bright orange gloves and a matching water bottle, which he instantly started to moan about because, although it met his most specific criteria for product selection – i.e. it was free, the walls were incredibly thin and femmer.

Crazy Legs wondered if it was one of those biodegradable ones, then answered his own musings by declaring it probably wasn’t and anyway he’d been using a biodegradable bottle for 5 years now and it was still going strong. We suggested this was very daring as the longer he used it the more likely it was to suddenly disintegrate and flood his bottom bracket with Ribena. Maybe that’s what he’s secretly hoping for so he can declare the Ribble a right-off and buy a new bike?

There was then a very strange (even by our standards) conversation about whether all-out thermonuclear war would speed up the biodegradation process, or whether AG2R bottles would still litter the post-apocalyptic wasteland, a lasting testament to the fact that pale blue and brown just don’t mix. Ever erudite, the Prof capped this morbid thought by stating that everything in existence was biodegradable – if you just waited long enough.

Sneaky Pete arrived sans Taffy Steve, even though they’d started to ride in from the coast together. Apparently he’d hung around the meeting point just long enough to not feel guilty before sneaking off, but was now a bit concerned by his companion’s non-appearance. He was just whipping out his phone to make a quick call when Taffy Steve rolled up, hale and hearty, but having been  delayed by what the Eurosport commentators like to refer to as a natural break.

Szell was next to appear and, although I didn’t notice at the time, he’d traded in his old Trek for a new bike, the exact double of Taffy Steve’s titanium love-child. With a disarming (or perhaps highly calculated) lack of empathy he would later explain in a loud voice to all and sundry that he’d looked at Taffy Steve’s mount and decided that titanium was the material of choice “for a fat lads’ bike.” Ouch.

This was upsetting to Taffy Steve on a number of fronts, but mainly because Szell’s old Trek had been purchased second-hand from OGL and OGL had complained long, hard and very bitterly every time Szell dared adjust his “perfect” set-up, or considered replacing any of its parts. Taffy Steve had been in the process of organising a collection where everyone contributed to buying new parts for the Trek, just so he could watch OGL’s head explode in apoplexy, but he’d now missed the opportunity.


 

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Eddy Merckx as King Ted, the Belgian Elvis, shortly before his hour record attempt, Mexico City 1972

 


Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Even though I was before him in the queue and it’s usually a very strict “we only serve one person at a time” type procedure, the waitress insisted on getting both my and Taffy Steve’s orders at the same time. Pretty much dismissing me and fluttering her eyelashes at him, she paused only long enough to confirm she had correctly remembered his regular order:

“So that’ll be a mug of coffee?”

“Yes, please.”

“And toasted teacake.”

“Yes”

“And one of those tray bakes?”

“Yes, please.”

“A glass of water?”

“Yes please.”

“And do you want ice in that?”

“Well, if it’s not too much bother, yes please.”

Bloody hell! When they started giggling about how he could have told her the price before she rang it into the till I began to feel like an awkward and uncomfortable interloper and for just an instant I thought I’d been completely overlooked and might even get away without paying. No such luck.

At the table we sat with Pierre Rolland look-alike Spry and we had a chat about his latest blog entry – a real labour of love where he’s tried to rank and quantify how exciting each Grand Tour has been using a considered, exhaustive (and no doubt exhausting) series of objective and measurable factors. It’s more interesting than I’ve made it sound and well worth a read.

Taffy Steve disappeared for coffee refills, taking Andeven’s cappuccino mug with him. You’re not supposed to get free refills on the posh coffee, which is why the mugs are a completely different shape and style, but sure enough he returned with all the mugs brimming having had to endure only a slight and playful admonishment. I simply can’t imagine how much eyelash fluttering went on to secure that concession.

This led to the assertion that the coffee available to cyclists at Box Hill was “even more expensive than the Blacksmith’s in Belsay” and didn’t even come in proper mugs, but cheap and nasty plastic cups. I don’t even think they’re biodegradable.


 

ride profile jun 11
Ride Profile

 

The Waffle:

Saturday morning and the weather was almost an exact reprise of last week, cold, grey and decidedly damp around the fringes, chilly enough early on to again need the rain jacket for my trip to the meeting point.

Making my way out to the river crossing I was joined by a fellow cyclist from the Sunderland Clarion, who was even more out of his way than I was. We had a brief chat and he complimented me on the obvious effort that had gone into my co-ordinated look (there’s that word again) before admitting that it probably appealed to him because he was “a bit OCD anyway!”

I was at the meeting point with plenty of time to spare and was eventually joined by 26 lads and lasses, including a couple of FNG’s who’d actually been sticking around for a couple of weeks, but hadn’t quite lost FNG status yet.

Quarter past nine came and went with no indication that we were going to be starting anytime soon. Crazy Legs was just about to suggest we rolled out, when OGL started to move from where he was holding court and we all prepared for the off. We were to be disappointed however, he was just switching position so he could have a chat with Mad Colin and as their conversation grew in intensity it looked like we weren’t going anywhere soon.

After a round of polite coughing and watch-tapping failed to have any effect, Crazy Legs and G-Dawg started clipping in and out very noisily and ostentatiously. The fusillade of cleats on pedals sounded like a drive-by shooting in Compton and OGL finally took the hint and we were off.

I dropped towards the back of the group where I found Big Dunc and we had a chat about the Dauphine and Chris Froome’s attack to win Stage 5 to Vaujany. We agreed it was hugely impressive, but unfortunately he still looks far too ungainly and awkward on a bike, all sharply jutting limbs and staccato movements, like a preying mantis trying to charge through treacle.


 

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It’s almost as funnily-embarrassing as watching pure climbers sprint, as evidenced by Ilnur Zakarin’s recent relegation during the Tour de Romandie and so perfectly highlighted by Bardet and Pinot’s wobbly fight for the line on Stage 6 of the Dauphine.

I think OGL has started to take note of low-key grumblings about riding the same routes week in and week out as, for a bit of a change we soon found ourselves swooping down into the Tyne Valley, although the long, looping descent was rather spoiled by too many cars travelling much too slowly and getting in our way.


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As we levelled out along the valley floor, Sneaky Pete was already starting to worry about the climb out the other side again and wondered if there was a way this could be magically avoided. I suggested a cable-car solely for cyclists, or perhaps a funicular railway which would not only meet the needs of weak-legged local cyclists, but could be a tourist attraction in its own right.

We were enjoying the quiet ride along the banks of the Tyne, the water off to our left looking glassy and eerily placid and expected this to continue along the closed river road we’d taken a few weeks back when G-Dawg was leading. OGL had other ideas however and we were soon climbing out of the valley again to reach the imposing barrier of the A69 – four busy lanes of thundering, high speed traffic we had to find some way across. Oh great, real-life Frogger.

Our ill-considered route led us onto a footpath that petered out after a few metres, forcing everyone down a steep kerb to pick our way along the narrowest of hard shoulders where we were barely separated from the traffic that whistled past, oblivious to our presence and dangerously close.

A couple of hundred metres further on we were able to find a crossing point and finally in ones and twos, we were able to dash across the road in the short gaps between the hurtling lumps of steel.


 

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We resumed climbing up the other side, finally escaping the valley and reaching recognisable, more travelled roads. We split the group at this point, with the faster, longer, harder group climbing up the village of Ryal via the back roads and avoiding the infamous Ryals climb we’re all looking forward to tackling on the Cyclone next week.

At the crossroads in the village we regrouped and waited for Mad Colin to appear after apparently puncturing on the ascent. Taffy Steve took this opportunity to force more air into his own rear tyre which was becoming noticeably squishy, hoping that this was only because the valve had been partially open and not the consequence of a slow puncture.

We set off again and dropped down the hill, swung a sharp left and began the approach to the Quarry Climb. Positioning himself for a heroic, climbing action-shot, Taffy Steve noticed my on-board camera was pointing downward at an odd angle. As the quickly appointed Key Grip of SLJ Film and Photography Productions LLC, he gave me directions as I tried fiddling with the camera, only to find the mount had worked itself loose and it was sliding about on the saddle rails.

Taffy Steve rode alongside to lend a hand with a bit of camera jiggling of his own, even as the pace increased, the road started to rise and we closed rapidly on the Quarry Climb. We had everything lined up as good as it was going to be as we hit the steepest ramp and I stood on the pedals and began to accelerate upwards, only to hear the tell-tale tinkling noise of one of the bolts on the camera mount finally working free to bounce off my frame and down to the road.

I was hoping everything would hold together long enough to crest the rise, but it wasn’t to be and upward progress was aborted as the camera jettisoned itself and clattered away. I reached the top and rolled back down to retrieve it, stuffing it unceremoniously into a back pocket before climbing back up the hill.


 

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NOVATEK CAMERA: “Ouch that hurt – oh well, at least I landed on my back. Hold on … who is this weird looking feller? No, no don’t pick me up …no! Aargh, not the back pocket, no…”

The others had pressed on, but Taffy Steve was waiting and we tried to re-join the main group who were in full flight, the smell of cake and coffee spurring their efforts on. We gave futile chase for a while, until Taffy Steve sat up, his tyre once again losing air and his rear wheel starting to rumble sur la jante.

We pulled over and after much searching finally located a tiny puncture in the tyre carcase where the air was slowly bubbling through. We were both convinced the hole was just a few inches past the valve and as Taffy Steve stripped out the inner tube  we started looking for the damage on the inner surface of the tyre to check there wasn’t a thorn or some other piece of nastiness still lurking there mischievously.


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Try as we might we couldn’t locate the hole, despite working backwards and forwards either side of the valve. In a fit of desperation Taffy Steve inflated the tube again and began a painstaking search across its entire surface area. Nothing.

I was beginning to think we were both going mad when he forced yet more air into the tube and finally was able to hear the tell-tale whisper of escaping air and locate the infinitesimally small nick in the rubber – almost exactly opposite the valve and as far away from the area we’d been concentrating our searches on as you could possibly get. Idiots.

Taffy Steve made certain the tyre was clean and clear and swapped the tube out. A few blows from his mighty frame pump and we were back underway and heading for much deserved coffee and cake.

We were pretty much the last to arrive and fittingly the last to leave, long behind everyone else – although we did pick up Sneaky Pete for the return leg home.

For some reason the trip back was punctuated by a discussion about Evel Knieval, the American stunt motor-cyclist, infamous for multiple crashes, broken bones and threatening to jump the Grand Canyon in a steam-powered rocket. He was quite a big deal when I was growing up and garnered a lot of attention with his fancy-dan white leather cat-suit, like a poor man’s Elvis.

It didn’t take a massive leap of imagination to wonder if Eddy Merckx and cycling in general hadn’t missed a publicity trick – with his dark quiff and sideburns, King Ted would have made a suitably convincing “Belgian Elvis”. I can easily picture him in a white leather cat-suit bedecked with rhinestones and a long flowing cravat streaming out over his shoulder as he pedalled along singing Hound Dog. Uh-huh, thank-you-very-much.

There was only time for me to giggle childishly when Taffy Steve asked Sneaky Pete if he wanted to be taken up the dirt alley (he politely declined) and we were onto and then through the Mad Mile and I was spinning off to make my own way home. Another decent ride in the bag and just long enough to have my yearly total ticking over to 2,000 miles.


YTD Totals: 3,219 km / 2,000 miles with 31,142 metres of climbing

Pulling a Whitey

Pulling a Whitey

Club Run, Saturday 4th June, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  117 km / 73 miles with 1,109 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 40 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.1 km/h

Group size:                                         24 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    17°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cool grey

Main topic of conversation at the start:

The Red Max arrived early so he could sit on the wall and admire his new Ultegra groupset from afar. He disclosed how he’d taken advantage of Mrs. Max travelling back from Edinburgh on Friday night to fit the groupset in the comfort of his own living room, although I don’t know how far to believe his assertion that he did the work while wearing nothing but his cycling helmet and baggy Y-fronts, with all the windows open and bellowing along to music played at maximum volume.

He managed to finish the work and tidy up before his better half arrived home and somehow was able to convince her that the errant cable-outer clippings must have fallen off the sofa and the odd stray spacer must have been something the cats dragged in.

OGL declared he needed a volunteer with a van to help pick up and distribute the 6,000 bananas and 6,000 energy gels needed for the Cyclone events later this month. Since no one could quite visualise what 6,000 bananas would actually look like, whether they would even fit into a van and how much physical labour was involved, there was a distinct shortage of volunteers.

Meanwhile Cushty confessed he wouldn’t be riding the Cyclone this year as he was due to start a night-shift on the day of the ride and bemoaned not having some kind of goal to work toward. Rab Dee suggested there was always the club hill climb, although this seemed a long time off. He was then left wondering why we always ran these events when the weather started to turn cold and we followed a bizarre ritual of riding hard for an hour to get there well warmed up, only to then have to hang around for half an hour slowly freezing and stiffening up before hurling yourself bodily into the event.

I asked G-Dawg if he’d entered the Cyclone yet, but both he and Son of G-Dawg were indulging in their traditional, eBay sniping – waiting until the very last minute before entering. I couldn’t quite determine if this was an attempt to make OGL’s head explode, or to crash the server with an unprecedented late surge in demand. Well, I say server, but I’ve got an inkling it’s just OGL’s ancient 386 PC sitting churning away in some darkened corner of his living room, occasionally emitting random beeps and bursts of flatulent steam and static.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Someone suggested that the café sprints had the same ultimate effect as one of our hill climb events and gave participants the look of “pulling a whitey” – apparently drug slang for the moment just before you faint away, when all the blood rushes from your face and leaves you looking distinctly pale and ill. It sounds horribly appropriate.

Sneaky Pete sneaked onto our table and was pleased to report he’d found the original “Sneaky Pete” mentioned in a book that postulated that 1971 was the greatest year ever (no hyperbole there, then) for rock music. That’s not my assertion though, so don’t shoot the messenger. Apparently an accomplished and much sought after pedal steel session musician, Sneaky Pete Kleinow got a mention in the book for being a member of The Flying Burrito Brothers alongside Gram Parsons.

I suggested the new Cyclone C Ride – a new 90-mile route that encompasses both the Ryals and Winter’s Gibbet climbs – was originally Sneaky Pete’s idea, so should be renamed the Sneaky Pete Memorial Ride in honour of its progenitor.

Sneaky Pete was having none of this, even though I pointed out how cool it would be to participate in your own memorial ride – sort of like attending your own funeral and hearing what people actually thought of you … although perhaps that’s not such a good idea after all. Taffy Steve suggested it would be worthwhile just for the chance to declaim, Mark Twain-style: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated!”

A discussion about the astonishing qualities of modern sports fabrics led to talk of how good merino wool is, if for nothing else than reducing human ponginess. Taffy Steve wistfully suggested its odour inhibiting properties would have been useful when inter-railing with a 6’4” friend whose armpit just happened to be level with his nose. Not pleasant when crammed sardine like into hot, crowded and noisy Central European trains for days on end.

For some reason this led to a talk about New Zealand, which morphed into a discussion about tea tree oil and whether it came from the same plant as tea, the stuff we drink. I’ve checked. It doesn’t.

Taffy Steve had a grand vision of the great tea plantations of Yorkshire rising up towards Barnsley on terraced hillsides above the sweeping paddy fields along the River Dearne, home to Yorkshire Tea and as a by-product, barrel upon barrel of tea tree oil which is good for nothing, but has been sold on the premise that it can cure anything from fungal nail infections to rampant stagflation in third world countries. I have to be honest and admit his grip on both reality and geography at this point was bordering on tenuous at best.

We discussed how my recent holiday was punctuated by odd shopping sprees with both daughter#1 and daughter#2 buying odd and very random mugs. We now have a cupboard in the kitchen devoted entirely to this motley collection of eclectic drinking vessels all made of different materials and in all shapes, sizes and colours. Taffy Steve recognised the “odds and sods” cupboard from his own experiences, having one at home jammed full of mismatched Tupperware: pots and boxes, jars and bottles of random coloured plastic without lids and all sorts of lids without boxes, all tidily poised to avalanche onto the floor as soon as you so much as touch the cupboard door.


 

ride profile 4 june
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

Saturday dawned grey and murky, low cloud smothering the top of the hill in a fug of mist and fine water droplets, the perfect insulation against any potential warmth that could perhaps be coaxed out of a well-shrouded and reluctant sun. The drop down the hill was so chilly I was almost convinced to turn back and add more layers, but I gambled my rain jacket would suffice until the mist burned off and things warmed up.

Having spent a week of complete and total indolence and the daily indulgence in cake, rich food and too much wine, I was packing an additional 2-3lbs of dead-weight and wondering how much my inactivity would cost me, although I was slightly re-assured by making decent time on the run to the meeting point.

24 lads and lasses collected at the start, including two or three FNG’s – a decent total as we had a fairly large contingent off doing the Haydon Hundred Sportive. After the usual round of gossip and nonsense and one or two “official” club announcements, we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


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The very odd feller who likes to ride without a saddle was out with us again, reprising his appearance from last October (From Pillow to Post and Riding with Marley’s Ghost) although this time he’d upped his game by swapping pit boots and flatties for cycling shoes and clipless pedals.

I’m all for individuality and doing things a little differently and I admire the strength of character and huge fitness requirements needed to pull off riding for hours on end without a saddle. It was obvious from watching him however that bike handling suffers as a consequence, in particular cornering, which was more like circumscribing a very wide and very loose icosagon around the apex of a bend –so wide in fact that it resembled orbiting more than cornering, with any hint of speed tending to invite a huge amount of dangerous straying into the opposite lane. Don’t believe me? Just try cornering at high speed without using your saddle and see how stable you feel and how quickly you can change direction in an emergency.

I’m always wary of anyone pulling stupid and unnecessary stunts when riding in a bunch – track stands, wheelies, donning or doffing clothing et al. Hell, I even get twitchy when someone jumps out of the saddle to climb a hill, as far too many unnecessarily stop mid-pedal while they transition and there’s a real danger of running into their back wheel. I was, naturally then very leery of our “bareback” companion and intent on keeping a safe distance.

Today was the day for far ranging discussions about life, the universe and everything. As we set off I spent time chatting with Carlton about house moves, the school run, Seal Sucker bike carriers, GoPro cameras and how you quickly lose all sense of masculine superiority when you’re regularly being whupped by the girls in the club.

He also relayed information gleaned from the BFG, who had attributed beetroot juice as the secret to his super-human strength. That was slightly reassuring as I’d previously thought “The Kurgan” carried around a litre of his own blood in a bottle. Or somebody else’s. I have to confess I don’t know which of those options I find the most disturbing.

After this I had a chat with the Red Max to find out how the upgrade from 105 to Ultegra was working out (fabulous) and how the Stranglers had ended up being named the greatest punk band of all time (preposterous).

Next up was Guido and the talk turned to surfing in Portugal and walking in the Lake District. Perhaps not as dissimilar as you might think. He seemed shockingly (and blissfully) unaware of my blog writing heroics. Sheesh.

He was followed by Taffy Steve with … Warning : Politics Alert – feel free to skip to the next paragraph… us both lamenting that the Brexit vote was too close to call and the League of Little Englander, auld farts could actually win and wrest power away from genuinely the best we can hope for – some faceless grey Euro-bureaucrat who might just be working on the principle of achieving the greatest good for the greatest number. I wouldn’t care, but they seem intent on then handing it over to some self-serving, publicly educated, corrupt, old establishment, uber-privileged, onanistic, disingenuous, career politician. Wake up folks – the EU didn’t steal our right to rule ourselves, we never had it in the first place.

And breathe – we’re back…

At this point we’d reached our usual stopping point, the place where we’d split the ride into amblers and a faster, harder longer group, but we sailed quietly past. You could feel the tension growing as we then slipped past the secondary, much less used split point – without even acknowledging it in passing.


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Crazy Legs was now getting concerned by OGL’s casual flouting of his own rigid and conservative traditions and began to gesture that his head was in danger of exploding. We’ve not had this much excitement and controversy since G-Dawg changed his bartape from white to black.

The third opportunity to stop and split the group also came and went, provoking a growing feeling that perhaps OGL had succumbed to senility and we might just keep on riding until, one by one we dropped away from exhaustion.

Finally, much, much longer into the ride than usual a halt was called at a junction and plans made to split the group into two rides. G-Dawg, Crazy Legs and Sneaky Pete briefly conferred, worked out and quickly agreed a route for the longer, harder, faster group which we’d all bought into by the time OGL kindly interjected, telling us we should ride the exact route we’d already agreed.

At this point the Monkey Butler Boy plaintively asked his dad if he was carrying any food and looked crestfallen when he learned there was nothing edible to be had. We suggested he needed to use his helmet like a begging bowl and go round the group pleading for food, although it was recommended he did a quick tap-dance in his cleats to try and drum up a little interest and pity first.

His face broke into a beatific smile as one of the new girls offered up some Jelly Babies, but the smile quickly turned to an extreme moue of absolute distaste and disapproval as the Red Max announced they’d be going on the longer ride. I must remind him never to play poker.

We set off again and I found myself riding alongside Aveline and admiring the fresh chain ring tattoo she’d acquired on her calf that morning, a true cycling badge of honour. I suggested she had it inked in permanently and she thought a matching one on her bicep would work well, although I wasn’t sure what contortions she’d have to go through to acquire the template naturally.


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At this point our conversation was interrupted by my bottle top bouncing off and rolling back down the road – the second time that’s happened to me this year. Is my upper body really so puny I can’t screw a cap on a bottle tightly enough for it not to work loose?

I stopped and waved everyone past, then waited for a car to follow before retrieving the errant cap and starting a long solo chase to re-join the group, on the drops, head down and pushing hard while the rather annoying theme tune from the kids’ TV programme, “The Adventures of Bottle Top Bill (and His Best Friend Corky)” looped endlessly through my brain.

I was slowly gaining on the group when they reached a junction and sat up to wait, allowing me to tag onto the back as we pushed on once again.


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I was still loitering in the rear ranks as we hit Middleton Bank and watched Andeven glide effortlessly up and away. I hung with the group and by some minor miracle found I’d somehow stumbled upon the perfect gear and cadence. I didn’t even realise we’d hit the steepest part of the climb until people started jumping out the saddle to grind away, while I was able to remain seated and spin smoothly up the outside to lead everyone over the top.

We regrouped and pressed on and as we dipped through Milestone Wood I hit the front, pushing hard and driving over the first of the rollers. My speed slowly diminished across the second ramp and I was done by the third, when I pulled over and let everyone loose to hammer down the dip and contest the sprint up the final slopes to the café.


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The weather was good enough for us to decamp into the garden, although I had to pause to pick my cake off the ground and then the ground off my cake, after it had launched itself out of my improvised helmet cake-caddy. Damn slippery those aero helmets.

Waiting in the garden we found, long estranged (and presumed MIA) Grover waiting for us, back from who knows where and managing to hugely offend Crazy Legs by flaunting a Pink Floyd jersey. We were also bestowed with a rare visit from Dave “Le Taxi” who’d missed us by mere minutes at the rendezvous point and had spent all morning vainly trying to chase us down.

Crazy Legs suggested a longer route home so half a dozen of us split from the main group, looping back westwards while they went east. I dropped in alongside Aveline at the front of the group for most of the ride back, learning about her daily commute and the potential terror of cows.

Cars and RIMs be damned, her route to and from work passes through the highly urbanised cows on the Town Moor and she swears they hunt in packs, can smell fear and are completely unafraid of cyclists.

I left the group as they turned off a long descent, managing to swap the long painful drag past the golf course for a couple of shorter, sharper climbs as I worked my way up to re-join my usual route home. Luckily there were no belligerent bovines to deal with, although I did have to take evasive action around two feckless youths who stepped obliviously into the road unaware I was silently bearing down on them.

Idiots avoided I was soon skipping across the river and up the hill to home, glad to be back into the swing of things and not feeling I’d suffered too much from a week of inactivity.


YTD Totals: 3,049 km / 1,894 miles with 29,279 metres of climbing