Nipple Knockers and Mods vs. Rockers

Nipple Knockers and Mods vs. Rockers

Club Run, Saturday 25th August, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  107 km / 67 miles with 1,038 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 3 minute

Average Speed:                                26.5 km/h

Group size:                                         33 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Chilly


Ride Profile

A chilly start to the day and as I dropped downhill, gradually picking up speed I was glad of the arm warmers and long fingered gloves I’d dug out of deep storage.

First to arrive at the meeting point, I clambered up to sit on the wall, enjoying the deceptive warmth in the shelter of the Transport Interchange’s (i.e. Bus Station) micro-climate.

Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Szell was the first of my riding companions to arrive climbing stiffly off his bike and complaining of a stiff back which he felt was an occupational hazard common to all dentists.

Odd, as he’s not a dentist …

Oh, ok, I lied, he is really.

We had a discussion about holidays and I admitted the only thing remotely akin to cycling I’d managed in the past week was piloting a pedalo (badly) through a flotilla of yachts, speedboats and ferries.

In complete agreement with Mrs. Sur la Jante, Szell firmly declared that family vacations were not for cycling and he was always bemused when talk about a forthcoming holiday was interrupted by the inevitable “are you taking your bike?” query.

I told him I was largely detached in holiday destination selection and trip planning anyway, so I typically had a poor grasp of any cycling opportunities that could be on offer – my only tasks are to book the time off work and act as porter for numerous suitcases full of clothes, which invariably returned home in the same clean, unworn and uncreased state they left in.

Szell proved quite envious of my approach, seemingly in contrast to his own, where he does all the choosing, booking, preparations and arrangements, solely to provide his missus with a surfeit of ammunition to complain, berate, castigate and criticise all of his choices for the entire duration of their holiday.

The Red Max rolled up and added his own unique spin on the conversation – he has a whole three-weeks lined up in Spain (with bikes!) but he doesn’t go until the temperature is manageable and still has a seven long, long weeks to wait.

Everyone had responded to the chilly start to the day with a varied selection of gloves, arm warmers, legwarmers, jackets and gilet’s. Crazy Legs had taken things one step further, with winter boots, tights and gloves, a long-sleeved jacket, a gilet and a buff pulled up to his sunglasses to cover the lower half of his face. He looked like the Invisible Man, or at least a set of clothes the Invisible Man would be proud to be seen in. All apparently an attempt to, once and for all, rid himself of his lingering chest infection.

Spoons had bravely volunteered to plan and lead the ride and began outlining the route, reading from a carefully prepared crib sheet on his phone “Up Broadway West and …”

He was immediately and rudely interrupted by the return of the Lone Dissenting Voice. “Nah, nah,  not Broadway,” it snarled, “It’s bloody lethal. Lethal! I’m not going up Broadway!”

Odd. I’ve been on countless rides where the Lone Dissenting Voice has led us merrily up Broadway West. Still, it’s a free country and everyone’s entitled to change their mind, I guess.

Spoons managed to complete the route outline without further interruption and a bumper mass of 33 riders (minus 1 exception) agreed to split, intending to rendezvous and regroup at the top of the Quarry.

I joined a disappointingly small, eight man front group and off we went, navigating up Broadway West, with great caution, huge amounts of trepidation and much muttering, “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti …”

Having negotiated the road, surprisingly without incident or grievous harm, I fell into conversation with the Monkey Butler Boy. He said he was only going to accompany us for a short while, en route to meeting up with his callow Wrecking Crew, then they were off to tackle the Gibbet, a famous local climb just outside Elsdon.

Although marked by an actual, reconstructed gibbet, the gallows marking the spot – where local ne’er-do-well and murderer William Winter was hanged in 1792 – there’s nothing particularly murderous about the climb and I was surprised by the Monkey Butler Boy’s claim he’d never ridden it before.

(The Red Max would later suggest that, “once again” the Monkey Butler Boy was talking complete and utter nonsense and had in fact tackled the climb on numerous occasions.)

The Monkey Butler Boy swept away and I dropped in alongside Richard of Flanders, as Caracol and Rab Dee set a furious pace on the front. Spoons and Benedict took over from them and then, as we approached Fenwick and turned both uphill and into the wind, it was suddenly our turn on the front.

Perfect timing. Thanks guys.

As I pushed on alongside Richard of Flanders, I was describing my latest work, improving ailing University courses and supporting the development of new ones. This, I explained had given me some hard-earned knowledge (but little understanding) of an eclectic range of subjects, such as Mechatronic Engineering, Cryptocurrencies,  Merkle Trees and Animal Energetics.

Richard suggested things had changed rapidly since his days working in the Potteries, when every other client was a Nipple Knocker. Now he felt this much-storied profession was dying out, overtaken by sadly prosaic job titles such as Search Engine Optimisation Engineer.

He started to expound on the historical, philosophical, economic, social and nationalistic characteristics that might explain why the French seemed particularly interested in Robotics courses, before stopping mid-sentence to laugh at himself, “Listen to me, talking shite.”

He then declared that there was no greater pleasure than “talking shite on a bike” which we’ve found has particular synergies with talking shite in the pub, or talking shite over coffee and cake.

“This,” I explained, “Is the quintessential essence of club cycling. Talking shite on a bike is what keeps us coming back week, after week, after week.”

We then both commented on how odd it was to be approaching the Quarry climb relatively fresh and early, rather than toward the end of the ride, after much leg-shredding and as a prelude to a mass café gallop.


Then we were grunting and groaning up the ramps as we took the group up to the top. Here we settled in to wait for the rest, but after long minutes, with no one in sight, we started to imagine the worst and concluded that the second group had probably been decimated while trying to negotiate the acute, but well-hidden perils of Broadway West.

Rab Dee reckoned they’d all been picked off, one by one, in a macabre game of devil-take-the-hindmost, while Caracol imagined a series a floral, roadside shrines spaced at intervals along the route, each marking the final resting place of a fallen comrade, before culminating in a grandiose tomb for the Lone Dissenting Voice, bearing a simple, but pithy epitaph: “See, I told you it was lethal.”

We filled in some time discussing new bikes. Rab Dee has one he was using for the first time today, while Caracol had a new winter bike and had sentenced his old one to life on the turbo. This had him pondering the value of Zwift as a potential training aid.

I told him to ask Crazy Legs, who had used something similar and reported riding the Oslo World Championship course, in splendid isolation from the comfort of his own garage, but also, simultaneously in collective-cyberspace with a bunch of virtual strangers.

He’d ended up laughing at himself for futilely flicking out an elbow to try and get one of them to come through and do a turn on the front, before realising he was still in his garage, there was no one behind him to come through and no matter how professional his elbow waggling looked, no one could actually see it.

An amused Caracol wondered if he had also taken the time to point out any old oil spills or stray nails that might have been lurking on the garage floor.

After a long, long wait, we determined our second group had in fact encountered problems along the way, or had simply decided to take to different roads, so we pressed on without them.

We then took a circuitous route through Capheaton and up to Wallington. Richard of Flanders, Keel and Zardoz headed straight through to Middleton Bank from there, while the rest of us climbed up to Scots Gap before looping back to the hill.

When we got there, a frisky Caracol blasted away, with Rab Dee in hot pursuit, while the rest of us were left to follow as best we could.

Alongside Benedict, I caught up with a waiting Rab Dee as we crossed the top of the hill and, as the road levelled, we found ourselves with Caracol a distant speck in front and Spoons a similar distance behind. Our choices were simple, to wait, to chase, or to stay where we were, hanging somewhere between the two.

After a fairly lengthy consideration, we decided to chase (sorry, Spoons) and set off in pursuit of Caracol. With Rab Dee pushing on the front, we slowly reeled in our front runner, while I sat at the back, just about hanging on.

We were all together for the sweep around Bolam Lake and the swoop through Milestone Woods. Then we hit the rollers and I attacked up the first slope … because … well, because I always do. This gave Caracol and Rab Dee a springboard to slingshot around me as my legs inevitably failed on the last slope and while I chased hard, I had no chance of narrowing the gap on the final climb to the café.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The Red Max reported that the Lone Dissenting Voice had indeed rejected the planned route and led a splinter group away from the perils of Broadway West – the splinter group consisting of exactly one, single, solitary rider.

I can neither deny, nor confirm rumours that the Lone Dissenting Voice still found something to argue about, even as he rode off in his own company.

Crazy Legs then said a new guy had shown up just as the second group were pulling out and asked to join on. He had apparently “seen people riding in a group before” which Crazy Legs took as a tacit admission that he hadn’t actually done it himself.

The new guy, let’s call him Joe (simply because I understand that’s his actual name) seemed to be doing fine, until he showed a remarkable affinity for spelunking and drawn in by the lure of a deep, unfathomable pothole, planted his wheel in it, smashing down and fracturing his collarbone.

Emergency services and concerned-partner calls were made and Crazy Legs, Carlton and a delegation hung back to look after our fallen rider until the ambulance arrived, while the rest of the group pressed on. At some point the LDV had sailed past and away, I’m not sure what words were emitted at this point, but I do know his contributions were not well received.

Further mishap then befell the group, when Crazy Legs suffered a stupidly close punishment pass from a motorcyclist, tangled handlebars with Carlton and came down. Luckily his much cossetted Ribble managed to escape without harm, while Crazy Legs collected a few bruises and scratches, a hole in his leggings (which he thought added street cred) and a stinger from landing heavily on his side.

(For the sake of clarity, it’s worth pointing out that neither of these incidents occurred anywhere near Broadway West, although our mindless transgression of its sacred boundaries may have accrued the bad karma that contributed to them.)

I told the Red Max that Crazy Legs has form when it came to tangling with motorcyclists, remembering his game of chicken with the Harley Hogs when descending the Galibier at speed. We wondered (purely theoretically, of course) what the consequences of a more physical confrontation might have been had the motor cyclist bothered to stop to survey the damage he’d caused.

Crazy Legs was quite sanguine about his chances, suggesting cyclists were lighter and more nimble, so he could easily sway out of the way of jumbo haymakers and quickly jab back. He also felt if he could somehow bring the biker down, it would be game over – like a tortoise on its back, or an unhorsed knight in armour, there be no getting back up.

The Red Max appeared to support these fantastical delusions, insisting many cyclists and bikers shared a mid-life crisis engendered by the onset of inherent lardiness, but we channelled ours into physical activity that would directly address the issue, while they channelled theirs into a more sedentary activity that would simply exacerbate it.

Giving the cyclist vs. biker (or mods vs. rockers, if you will) fight-scenario far greater consideration than was justified, Crazy Legs concluded that his slippery cleats would put him at a disadvantage and determined it would be better to fight in his stockinged feet. This, he assured us, would be OK, as he would appeal to the sporting nature of his adversary and politely request that he too remove any footwear, in the interests of fairness.

Quite how he was going to land his punches through the letter box sized visor of a full face helmet I never did get a satisfactory answer to, luckily someone decided it was time to leave.

I joined a small group for the ride back, progressing at a sensible, sustained pace which was ideal for my tired legs that appeared to be suffering a holiday hangover.  A larger group had coalesced in front of us, but no one had any inclination to chase them down and the gap simply expanded until we could no longer see them on the road.

As we set our own, comfortable pace back, I dropped in beside Sneaky Pete for a quick chat and learned that the heatwave is officially over, as he revealed he’d taken to wearing long trousers instead of shorts for the first time in 3 months.

Oh well, it’s been a good run…

YTD Totals: 5,014 km / 2,814 miles with 61,645 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

Untitled 1
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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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