Proxy Dick

Proxy Dick

The club run this week was planned by Richard of Flanders and included some serious hills. By the end I’d managed to clock up over 100 kilometres, with more than 1,200 metres of climbing thrown in for good measure – an acid test of just how suitable a single-speed bike is as the weapon of choice for an auld git on a club run.

The day was dismally overcast, grey and dark throughout, with strong enough gusts for the wind to be a noticeable impediment and a brief interlude of rain thrown in for good measure. This arrived an hour or two earlier than forecast, much to the disappointment of those who hoped they would be home and hosed beforehand. Personally, I was resigned to getting wet, sometime, somewhere out on the roads and was a bit more sanguine about accepting the inevitable.

At the meeting point, I found Crazy Legs extolling the virtues of BBC’s new Brian Cox series, ‘Forces of Nature.’ That’s Brian Edward Cox CBE, the astrophysicist and one-time keyboard player with D:Ream (or N:Ightmare as my mate always referred to them), not Brian Denis Cox CBE, the Scottish actor, best remembered (in my household anyway) for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecktor (sic) in the film Manhunter. Anyway, the series had left Crazy Legs feeling rather wistful and apparently he was not looking forward to the sun dying and the collapse of the universe in just a few trillion years time. Somewhat more bizarrely, someone suggested that Mr. Cox should probably have stuck to his burgeoning pop career. Astounded, I looked at Crazy Legs, Crazy Legs looked at me and we both gave a synchronised shake of the head, before declaring, in flat unison, an emphatic and final, “Eh … no!”

This week, Brassneck and Captain Black were shorts wearers, but Alhambra had gone for full-length tights. We then had a long discussion about the difference in temperature between last week and this week (none) and why shorts were suitable then, but not now. Alhambra put up a sturdy defence of his choices before talk turned to the FNG and his unfortunate rendezvous with the ground.

“Was I out last week?” a bewildered Alhambra then enquired, despite having spent 5 minutes discussing his riding attire moments before.

“Bloody hell,” I complained, “It’s like talking to my mother.”

Jimmy Mac then received a round of applause from Crazy Legs for arriving astride a shiny purple-red Specialized Allez complete with carefully colour-coordinated gloves. This is his Ultegra-equipped winter bike, recently given a new, lustrous special, custom paint-job, which in itself he confessed had set him back a special, custom price of over £450. Looking this good obviously comes with a hefty price tag, in this instance the paint job alone cost more than twice as much as the value of my entire bike.

Speaking of which, you haven’t officially met, so let me introduce you to my single-speed Frankenbike, with its mismatched wheels, cranks, odd-combination of cassette conversion kit and rear derailleur as a chain tensioner and 34 x14 gearing (the Hill!) The is based around an old, aluminium Trek Alpha 100 series frame, secured off eBay in (maybe?) 2009-2010 for a princely sum of £30, which in today’s money is … well, about £30.

Originally liveried in white and blue colours, perhaps to suggest an association with the pro team of a certain Texan gentleman of rather stained reputation, I quite liked the look, but unfortunately, the paintwork was in poor condition and had somehow been completely scraped off one of the chainstays. The first task then was to strip the frame and have it bead-blasted and powder coated in an off-street, (very) industrial manufactory in the badlands out toward the coast. Given a panoply of colours to choose from, I decided on plain, bright white – shockingly inappropriate for a winter bike, but hey, foresight was never my strong point.

The frame was then transported to the venerable Toshi San who built it into a fully working velocipede, using a mix of the few original components that had survived, stock from his extensive stores of parts both old and new, and a few bits and bobs I had to buy in: wheels, STI levers and the like.

This was the bike that eased my transition from sofa-surfer back to road cyclist (via a brief flirtation with mountain-biking) and I completed my first Cyclone Challenge astride – a rather daunting 100km’s for a rather shockingly chubby-faced returnee to the sport.

When n+1 fever inevitably took hold and I bought a new Focus Cayo, the Trek was relegated to winter steed and then eventually usurped from this role with the arrival of the more sturdy Peugeot.

From there it sat and mouldered for a few years until the mountain bike I was using and abusing to commute on finally crapped out. Not wanting to spend good money on a mountain bike that gave me no great pleasure, I opted to have the Trek converted to a single-speed as a cheap commuter option, working on the assumption (correct until now – touchwood) that nobody in their right mind would be interested in stealing such a battered and fugly looking thing when it was chained up outside the office.

So the Trek went back to Toshi San for the refit and the ingenious repurposing of a rear derailleur as chain tensioner, after the more usual off-the-shelf kind proved too weedy to keep the chain on the sprocket. That was four or five years ago and I’ve been using it regularly ever since, although not until very recently on a club run.

Anyway, enough ancient history. We received news that Richard of Flanders was required at home to nurse a sick child, so Crazy Legs stepped up to the mark to brief in the route and act as substitute ride leader: “a proxy Richard,” as he declared, which sounds a bit like some kind of Shakespearean insult: “Though art nought but a throstle-minded proxy-richard!”

Crazy Legs managed to get a faster first group organised and led out by Caracol, but it was imbalanced, with only half a dozen or so riders. Brassneck claimed/feined a wounded knee, Goose had switched to his pig-iron touring-panzerkampfwagen, the Iron Horse for the winter and I wasn’t even remotely tempted to try keeping up on a single-speed. To cap it all, Captain Black had gone out with this group the week before and was still scarred and bitter from the experience, so he too gave it a hard pass.

That left about 20 of us to form 2 groups. Simple maths, you would have thought, but we can always find ways to make things more complex. A much too-large second group started to form with over a dozen riders. I was going to hang back with the third group to try and balance things out a little, but then Crazy Legs declared the inaugural Winter ’21 ride of The Most Fraternal Brotherhood of the Order of the Flat White Club (fraternitas plana album imbibit), with at least two stops planned to offer up libation to the immortal pantheon of the Caffea Rubiaceae. As an uncommitted, part-time-only believer, I was excommunicated forthwith and cast out into the second group. I joined the back of this slightly too-large 14-strong cadre and off we went.

We made it to Stamfordham, passing a lone-riding OGL along the way, toiling as he ploughed a lonely furrow, declaring club runs were now too fast and went much too far these days. (Personally, I’m not aware of any such changes – in 2015 I was regularly riding 110 to 120 kilometres each Saturday that’s what we did this week.)

At Stamfordham we stopped briefly and I noticed Zardoz was prominent in the group, having forgotten his helmet and supplemented his usual Augustus Windsock, walrus moustache with a full, fluffy white beard. He looked like our very own, lean and mean version of Santa Claus.

“Please, can I have an Action Man for Christmas?” I asked politely. Well, it was worth a try. I honestly didn’t realise that Santa knew how to swear quite so fluently.

I took to the front with Brassneck as we exited the village and we both reflected that our timing was especially poor today as we were still there, toiling into the wind on the upward grind all the way to the crest of the Ryals. It was a largely freewheeling descent for me, but I was still up toward the front as we approached the turn we’d take up to Hallington. This is the spot where we usually regroup before starting the climb, but with no gears to help, I wanted a clean run at the slopes, so I just kept going and left the others to catch up. We made it through to the other side and then took in the last bit of serious climbing, Strava’s aptly titled Humiliation Hill, before I finally felt we could afford to stop and reform.

Our run across the top of the fell to Capheaton was interrupted by the 4×4 (surprise!) of a hunt follower, stopped in the middle of the narrow lane (obviously) so they could idly chat with the other hunt followers who had parked a long line of similarly outsized vehicles along the verge. The driver didn’t in any way acknowledge our presence and made no attempt to move, so we were forced to slow, single out and thread ourselves carefully through the ridiculously narrow crevice between the cars. Perhaps if we’d managed to fall and scratch the paintwork of their beloved automobile during our passage we would have received something other than the look of icy disdain that greeted our approach. Maybe we should try that next time?

This obstacle safely negotiated, we were soon at the cafe at Capheaton, with its warm welcome, most splendid cakes and free refills! (Apparently, the utterly terrifying sight of G-Dawg’s ‘pet lip’ last week has forced the cafe at Belsay to reconsider and reinstate free coffee refills!) Good work that man, who’d have thought petulant pouting could be quite so effective.

The Capheaton cake selection was so good that Brassneck was tempted by a second slice to go with his refill and James III even offered to go halfsies with him, if he felt a full serving was too excessive. Somehow he managed to resist, even as I followed him to the counter chanting a “cake, cake, cake” mantra.

We caught up with the Prof in the cafe, discussing our ex-clubmate beZ’s run out with the Ribble Weldtite team during the Nationals. The Prof then started asking unanswerable questions about maximum watts and FTP’s and that was it for me. I’d no idea and no great desire to learn either.

Leaving the cafe, Brassneck umh-ed and aah-ed about putting his jacket on as the cloud lowered and hinted at the rain to come. He eventually decided not to bother, which was as big a mistake as his timing when we took us onto the front. Naturally, a few miles down the road we were all stopping to pull on rain jackets as the downpour arrived and everything became damp and squishy.

By the time I was off on my own, the rain had stopped and the sky had finally brightened a little, so the last part of the ride was moderately pleasant. Although the legs felt heavy as early as the drag up past Westerhop Golf Club, I had a decent enough run back and a passable clamber up the hill and home.


Day & Date:Saturday 6th November 2021
Riding Time:114km/71 miles with 1,257m of climbing
Riding Distance:4 hours 43 minutes
Average Speed:24.1km/h
Group Size:24 riders
Temperature:12℃
Weather in a word or two:You know, it could have been a lot worse
Year to Date:4,276km/2,656 miles with 45,526m of climbing


Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com

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