Plague Diaries Week#64 – Blood on the Tracks

Plague Diaries Week#64 – Blood on the Tracks

Another warm, dry sunny Saturday beckoned and things were going well as I made my way across to the meeting point, until I got caught behind a bus at traffic lights on a steep hill and was forced to stop and unclip. An uphill standing start is always slightly tricky and this was no exception.

As the bus chugged, lurched and then lumbered forward, I pushed off with my left leg, forced the right hand pedal forcibly downward and, using the slight momentum gained, tried to clip in with my left foot before the bike toppled over. My foot skated across the top of the pedal, failing to engage and slipped off, with the pedal scoring a ragged line up and then down my calf as it spun. That stung. I stopped. Tried again and this time managed to get going, passing through the lights and heading downhill.

As I freewheeled away I looked down to inspect the damage. The edge of the pedal had scored a deep line through my calf leaving a strange looking A-shaped wound in my leg. Even as I watched fat beads of bright blood were forming and dropping behind me and I imagined them bursting like star shells as they hit the tarmac below my wheels.

I figured that if I somehow died of exsanguination even the technical wizardry and combined brain-power of the CSI teams in Miami, New York and L.A. would struggle to identify the cause of the injury, a Look Keo Classic 3 pedal, which apparently comes with its very own razor sharp edges which need filing smooth.

Luckily I didn’t die, the blood flow dried quickly into an unsightly, crusty scab and I made the meeting point without further mishap.

There I had a chat with Caracol, before he disappeared with the other mob, the oppressed, and he predicted there’d be a bumper crowd out today as the weather was so pleasant. He speculated even Szell might be coaxed out of hibernation and the next, obvious question was if Middleton Bank was part of our planned route.

No sooner had Caracol departed with the JPF, than Szell did indeed make an appearance and we had a brief chat about sartorial style and cycling kit, although he claimed that as a drummer he was allowed a certain latitude. I knew scientists had discovered the motor areas of drummers brains are organised more efficiently, but this was the first I’d heard of them getting a pass in terms of dress sense. Still, the contempt for bassists in their “collar, tie and V-necked knitwear” seemed very real. Perhaps band members are an even stranger sub-group than club cyclists?

Is that possible?

Naturally, Szell’s presence implied we would be traversing his personal bête noire, Middleton Bank sometime today and we questioned route planner Aether to discover that this was indeed the case.

“Bring it on!” Szell declared, undeterred, declaring he knew it would be on the route and that’s why he’d turned up today of all days.

Our new girl turned up on a new bike and instantly deflated some of Szell’s bravado. She was already too fast and fit by his reckoning and any thoughts she’d bought a super-heavy clunker and would actually be slower, quickly evaporated when she declared how pleased she was with her new bike and how easy it was to ride.

We decided we didn’t need to travel strictly in groups of 6 anymore (which is probably just as well based on the last few weeks) and after the usual hesitation, persuasion, and evasion we did manage to get the first group out and on the road. I joined up with Captain Black, Crazy Legs, Zardoz, an FNG, Andeven, Not Anthony, and Wallis as we got underway.

On the front with Crazy Legs through Dinnington, he amended the “all the gear, no idea” idiom to “all the gear, half an idea” to apply to a couple of bicyclists ahead of us and, as we caught and passed them, he cheerfully invited them to tag onto the back of our group for a tow.

Half way up a hill we passed a council workman using a strimmer to cut back the road verge and I instantly ended up with The Lion Sleeps Tonight as an unfortunate ear-worm for the rest of the day. Well, it was an obvious connection to my addled senses anyway.

In a world turned upside down, Zardoz did another turn on the front! What is going on? Having completed his stint on the front, dropped past me to the very back of the group as we approached Dyke Neuk. We’d lost the “all the gear” group on the first hill, but somewhere along the way had picked up another passenger who Zardoz recognised and they were chatting happily away.

Then as we pushed our way through Scots Gap, Zardoz appeared alongside me that his usual mischievous glint in his eye.

“Do you know which café we’re going to today?” he asked.

I didn’t, but, “Well, I know we’re taking in Middleton Bank, so I would assume the café at Belsay.”

“Ah, good,” he replied, “It’s just so I can plan my attack!”

Through Scots Gap and on to Cambo, as we started the long descent towards Wallington I dropped behind, intent on not pedalling if I didn’t have to, while the others raced on ahead. Over the vicious rumble strips, we took a sharp left and as I joined onto the back of the group, we pushed on at a fair clip toward the bottom of Middleton Bank.

We were spread across the full width of the open road and I was just behind and on the left of Zardoz as he took a drink and bent low to push his bottle back into the cage at the same time as he ran his front wheel through a rather shallow and innocuous looking pothole. For the briefest of moments he was impossibly balanced, bent low, head and shoulder pushed under his top tube, then gravity took over and he slammed down, going under his wheels as the bike flipped and arced overhead.

Fuck! That was a bad one.

I dropped my bike onto the verge and went running back to find a badly scuffed up Zardoz, shaken and in obvious pain, the back of his jersey ripped to shreds and blood pooling from a deep gash on his right arm. We slowly got him sat up, but it was obvious serious damage had been done and he wasn’t riding any further.

As some of the more medically qualified checked him out, Crazy Legs put his natural volubility to good use firing off a whole series of questions to try and determine if Zardoz had suffered any form of concussion. Luckily, the mind was willing, even if the body was weak.

I checked on the bike, which, apart from a shipped chain looked wholly undamaged, cushioned largely by its owners body as they both hit the deck.

Assured Zardoz was badly damaged, but largely intact, we tried calling for an ambulance, only to find that in the deep folds of land in the Wansbeck Valley there was no phone signal. Andeven determined he would climb out of the valley to get a phone signal and instead of relying on a stressed NHS service, he would lean on his good wife to provide transport to the hospital for bike and fallen rider.

As we waited, we were joined by other club members as our following groups caught up and we were passed by a whole host of other cyclists, with each and everyone stopping to enquire if they could help, one even donating an emergency space blanket to the cause. Sadly, this concern was not mirrored by others, with one White Van Man evidently furious at having to drop his speed below that of the national speed limit. He bustled past us, swearing and gesticulating furiously. Sadly he didn’t stop to discuss his issues any further.

After a long pause, Zardoz slowly levered himself to his feet, but looked pale and unsteady and we finally persuaded him to wander down the road a little, to where a neatly trimmed grass verge bordered the high walls of some no doubt posh residence. This seemed a more comfortable place to sit and wait and he he lowered his battered body down onto the grass, sitting back to back with Aether providing support.

We’d done everything we could, so got the rest of the club moving again. I hung back with Aether, Captain Black and Crazy Legs to wait for the arrival of Andeven and the cavalry.

As we sat and stood quietly around a car pulled up at an entrance cut into the high wall and a woman clambered out to open the gate, pausing to flash us the evil-stink eye on the way. She opened the gate and returned.

“That’s private property, you know,” she declared icily, in an unfriendly, how dare-you and get-orf-my-land kind of way.

Oh shit, one of them.

What did she think we were doing, having a picnic? We explained that there’d been an accident and the person trespassing on her land was seriously injured and not really capable of moving far. She huffed and disappeared, returning a minute or so later to begrudgingly enquire if we needed to call for an ambulance. We told her it was all in hand and she left with the admonishment that we picked up any litter behind us. Ah, the milk of human kindness.

Sadly, I didn’t think there was much we could do about the bloodstains on her carefully manicured grass. Still, I’m sure it’ll wash out.

We passed the time with a sweepstake to guess the time Andeven’s wife might arrive and a contest to guess what car she would be in. Sadly I was well wide of the mark with my suggestion of a Bentley, but Captain Black was spot on guessing both make, model and even the exact colour of our rescue transport.

We loaded Zardoz in the car and his bike in the back for transport to the nearest Emergency Department and thanked Andeven’s wife for giving up her Saturday morning to help a bunch of raggedy-ass cyclists. Zardoz gave us the royal wave as he was carted off, news filtering back that evening that he was fine and enjoying the pain meds, but had a broken collar, cracked rib and multiple cuts and contusions.

The rest of us regathered and made our belated way to the café , with Crazy Legs guessing there wouldn’t be much of an appetite for the café sprint today. Still, at least we dodged the queues.

We heard that it was OGL who had condemned the new girl’s old bike, in Captain Black’s words, “Apparently he said the only thing worth saving was the saddle and even that probably wasn’t worth saving.” This we decided was his modus operandi, he never seemed to just fix the specific problem you took the bike in for in the first place, but would assess every single component. I don’t know if that’s good or bad practice?

Once we were seated, Not Anthony returned Aether’s pump that he’d borrowed out on the road to combat a slowly deflating tyre and then ridden away with. He then returned to borrow it again before we left. I could have told him he was only delaying the inevitable and his best option was have done with it and replace the tube. But he didn’t ask.

Suggesting he needed to borrow Aether’s pump and was riding without the means to fix a simple puncture gains him automatic entry into our Hall of Shame. Crazy Legs remembered how one of our former club members, Arnold, had broken his pump one week, which seemed timely as it was close to his birthday, so he’d asked his missus for a new one. The following Saturday he punctured again and had to beg the lend of a pump because his actual birthday wasn’t until the Sunday, so he wasn’t allowed his present before then. Not that we ever brought this up again, you understand.

I wondered if Crazy Legs had lent him the molto piccolo on that occasion, a fantastically crafted pump, so small it could slip comfortably into a watch pocket, but also so ineffectual it took over a 1,000 strokes to just to make a tyre rideable.

Crazy Legs then speculated that if pumps made a noise then the molto piccolo would probably sound like Warren Barguil throwing a strop after ingesting helium, or a noise that would be pitched so high it would only be audible to dogs. Perhaps they are one and the same thing?

I thought if pumps made a noise it should be like a swanee whistle, but this was too simplistic for Crazy Legs, who wondered if the pumps used by Colombians shouldn’t sound like Inca pan pipes and a Yorkshiremen’s should sound like a brass band.

Moving from the ridiculous to the even more ridiculous, past British tour winners became a topic for discussion, with Chris Froome engendering a collective, No Shit Sherlock moment with his assertion earlier in the week that he wasn’t going to win the 2021 Tour de France. There was also a healthy dose of opprobrium heaped on both Bradley Wiggins’s appearance and his less than insightful… err… insight on the Eurosport pundits couch. If we had any Sir Brad fans in attendance they were keeping a very, very low profile.

It was good to see G-Dawg put in an appearance in the café and even better to learn he’d ridden there, a mere 6 weeks after breaking his leg. Apparently the doctor had given him the all clear to ride again on Friday, so he’d promptly gone home, got on his bike and gone out. This was his second ride in two days. I expect he’ll keep riding every day now until he makes up for all the time he’s lost.

With G-Dawg in tow we set off for home, passing Not Anthony in one of the lanes alongside some other cyclist he’d corralled into lending him a pump and working to finally replace his leaky tube.

I had a chat with G-Dawg, comfortable with the pace, although he said standing on the pedals to climb still caused a bit of discomfort. His biggest issue was the imbalance in strength between his two legs now, the damaged one having been idle for so long, while the undamaged one had been doing the work of two and so had actually gotten stronger.

“Ah well,” I told him cheerfully, “It’ll be good if you ever need to ride around in a circle.”

We parted at the end of the Mad Mile. “See you next week,” G-Dawg waved cheerily.

So, one back as another goes in for rehab and convalescence. Upwards and onwards.

Riding Distance:107km/66 miles with 972m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 11 minutes
Average Speed:25.3 km/h
Group Size:8 with 1 FNG
Temperature:10 ℃
Weather in a word or two:Fine
Year to Date:2,024km/1,258 miles with 22,142m of climbing
Photo by cottonbro on

Proxy Proselytisers Batman! – The Superhero Edition

Club Run, Saturday 20th February, 2016

Taffy Steve’s Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                             99 km/64 miles with 1,033 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                      4 hours 38 minutes

Average Speed:                             23 km/h

Group size:                                     An unknown number of riders. No SLJ!

Weather in a word or two:      Well, it was nice indoors…

The return of some dread viral chest infection had me feeling fuzzy round the edges, aching in every limb and confined indoors, missing the club run and wondering if I could get away with another gaping hole in my blog publishing schedule.

I was considering writing about the conundrum of different crank lengths, although that’s far too technical for me, so perhaps something about be the relative aesthetic merits of Castelli vs. Santini gear was more in order, or something else equally as useless, earth-shattering and revelatory …

…and then, crawling bravely through the shattered wire, mud, shell holes, blood and trenches, an after-action report brought words from the front: Saturday’s Club Run seen through the eyes of Taffy Steve and complete with a metaphorical white feather for those caught malingering indoors.

With the odd (and I do mean odd) addition from Crazy Legs, Taffy Steve gamely took up my heavy and less than subtle cudgel of irreverent and sardonic commentary to beat everyone about the head and shoulders with, outlining what sounds like an absolute classic club run.

So without further ado, and only a touch of paraphrasing and one or two embellishments, take it away Taffy Steve… (corny, I know – but I’ve always wanted to say that)

“So Sur la Jante had an unauthorised absence this week, and typically it was a vintage week for nonsense.

At the arrival at the meeting place a small leather strap was found on the floor and we quickly decided that the it must have come from the steed of the BFG which is bedecked solely in cow products. (As you may have noticed from our past encounters with him, the BFG is truly devoted to vintage bicycles featuring the use of all natural materials, even though the more modern equivalents are cheaper, lighter, better engineered and far more effective. Hence he likes to ride on wooden rims that warp after a few miles, while using cork brake shoes that don’t work very well and are scientifically proven to actually speed up wheel rotation when applied to rims in the wet.)

We drifted slowly westward – pushed onward by Crazy Legs until he ran out of steam. During this journey OGL declared that he had been riding a bike “seriously” since 1959 – so not as old as Sputnik but predating the Apollo program. (I often think one of the problems is too much serious bike riding, but then I have been accused of being flippant on more than a few occasions)

He told me that a certain house had actually been there since he had been riding – apparently my reply of “Excellent” made Crazy Legs forget that we were flat out at 22 kph. (Although we all recognise he’s old, I was unaware up to this point that OGL regards himself as a modern day Methuselah – a man who has outlived entire buildings, if not civilsations).

After a couple of splits, four of us were joined by an interloper – dressed all in blue with white stars – Captain America had arrived in Stamfordham!


Tour of California - Stage 5
Captain America

We caught up with Crazy Legs and Ovis struggling with a punctured Conti 4 seasons which didn’t want to be re-homed and was hanging desperately to the rim like a Calais Jungle refugee clinging to the Eurostar.

Red Max tried to take control, but succeeded only in managing to fire an errant tyre lever off into some brambles and boldly went in after it. (Rumours that he’s still in there and waiting for some kind hearted Daniel to remove a thorn from his paw are I believe exaggerated.)

Unfortunately, Captain America showed no interest in helping with any repairs and any hopes that he was Bicycle Repair Man in disguise were cruelly dashed. He wasn’t a real superhero after all!


“Is it a stockbroker? Is it a quantity surveyor? Is it a church warden? No! It’s Bicycle Repair Man!

Reading between the lines, it would appear that somehow the collective might and manpower of the club (sadly absent any superhero assistance) finally managed to fix the flat, only for Ovis to cunningly, “it was an accident, honest” insert his flip-flop hub the wrong way round so he could do a bit of freewheelin’ with the 40 mph tailwind pushing at his back.

Setting off again Captain America revealed to Crazy Legs that he not only had an amazing outfit, but a cornering style reminiscent of Warren Barguil at his worst. Crazy Legs and Ovis managed to avoid this rather more intimate than expected encounter better than Geraint Thomas, somewhat discomfited, but none the worse for wear.

Captain America then made the fatal mistake of responding to one of the Red Max’s Forlorn Hope attacks and fatally dragged both Max and Taffy Steve to the line, learning as Taffy Steve succinctly puts it “that you shouldn’t tow the fatties,” as he was then mercilessly mugged in the sprint.

In the café recently anointed Grandpa, the Red Max proclaimed to a thoroughly stunned and silenced table that he’d gone through all the computations and worked out that terry nappies were cheaper than Pampers and the pay-back time on the initial investment was only 8 weeks.

This was taking into account the relative material, distribution, transportation and disposal costs, environmental and societal impacts, local taxation rates, power, water and detergent usage, plus the additional benefits of providing the safety pin industry with a new source of users beyond just cyclists pinning numbers to their backs.

I understand that the whole 48-page Excel workbook containing the finer details of his calculations has been submitted for consideration to the Nobel Committee.

We shouldn’t be surprised by such deep and provocative thinking, after all the Red Max is the eccentric genius who developed Horner’s Theorem which irrefutably proves a direct relationship between the number of shiny, posh and clean carbon bikes out on a spring or autumn morning and the number of crap-covered farm tracks, pothole and gravel strewn roads, gates and cattle grids OGL will “accidently” include in our route for the day.

Despite his impressive cognitive abilities however, it was revealed when it comes to devices for expressing milk, then even the Red Max has met his match – or his kryptonite, if you will.

Anyway, Taffy Steve happily concludes that Max’s Grandad switch has now been irreversibly thrown, he just needs to adopt a constantly confused demeanor and selective deafness. He’s actually half-way there with the latter, having successfully been ignoring OGL’s diktats for several years now.

Congratulations Pops, I’ll hopefully see you next week.