The Wasp Factory

The Wasp Factory

Club Run, Saturday 1st September, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 111 km / 69 miles with 1,159 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 10 minute

Average Speed:                                26.6 km/h

Group size:                                        31 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   21°C

Weather in a word or two:          Perfect


 

wasp profile
Ride Profile

Saturday morning proved a good bit warmer than Thursday and Friday, when my commutes had been distinctly chilly affairs. Perhaps this was due to the insulating effect of fairly solid cloud cover that gave the early morning light a dimly suffused and milky quality and turned the river a notable flat and evil-looking slate grey. Still it was dry and, apart from a niggling, occasional bit of wind, looked like being a perfect for a ride.

I was pleased to find the bridge across the river still closed to cars, but it’s surely only a matter of time before they finally finish the longstanding repairs and I no longer get sole and unhindered use of its nice, shiny new surface. I’ve no idea what’s causing the delay, it’s been closed since May, but for once I’m happy to celebrate the inefficiency of the great British workforce.

I was first to arrive at the meeting point, just a little ahead of G-Dawg and the Colossus who I spotted approaching on my own run in.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Seeing one of our number wearing the new Holdsworth racing team jersey, OGL was unsurprised to learn it had been on special offer, revealing that he understood the team was going to fold before it had even got really started. If true, then they would join the likes of Aqua Blue and One Pro Cycling as emblems of the parlous state of British professional bike racing.

The complete and utter malfunction in marketing of Aqua Blue was also discussed as a quick, straw-poll of all those gathered revealed that only one of us realised Aqua Blue was actually a website selling cycling gear, similar to Wiggle or Chain Reaction . We variously thought it was a brand of designer water, a type of deodorant … or a make of prophylactic.

The lone person amongst us who recognised that Aqua Blue was, ahem, “the No.1 marketplace for all things pedal powered” was the Colossus and he only knew this because Aqua Blue ads constantly kept appearing on all his social media sites. In fact he said they were so intrusive, so frequent and so annoying, that he vowed never to visit the website out of principle.

Wasps were to become a recurring theme throughout the day and the little beggars provided Crazy Legs with an opportunity to expound on his interesting factoid of the week – apparently figs have to be pollinated by a wasp crawling through a hole, so small and tight that its wings are ripped off in the process. (Think of something akin to a normal sized human trying to squeeze into a medium sized Castelli jersey). The wasp becomes trapped and is then digested by enzymes in its fruit cell – one explanation for the crunchy bits in figs.

Crazy Legs said when someone first told him this, he immediately called bullshit, but a bit of research proved it was true and he challenged us to do our own research if we didn’t believe him. He also reassured us the crunchy bits in figs were just the seeds and not partially digested wasp parts.

I was surprised by the return of cycling heavyweight, Plumose Pappus and wondered when he’d be heading back to university, only to be even more surprised when he told me he’d finished his course, graduated with flying honours and was now looking to do a masters at Newcastle University. Has it really been 3 years? Have I been writing this drivel for that long? The horror…

Our leader for the week Aether outlined the route, including a late amendment which would have us using Broadway West as a route out of the city, ostensibly a measure to avoid the heavily potholed route through the Dinnington Badlands. Any other reasons for these last minute route change went unremarked and were, we felt, covered by plausible deniability.

With our numbers again bolstered by a large contingent of Grogs, we split into two groups and, seeing the balance of numbers lay with the second group, I tagged on to the back of the first one, as we pushed off, clipped in and rode out.


Yet again, we made it through Broadway West without incident. Benedict drifted to the back to ride alongside me and we passed the time chatting about commuting, cycling holidays, club runs and the like.

Today seemed to be National Cyclist Abuse Day, we had a number of drivers celebrating our very presence on their roads by serenading us sweetly with their horns –  including one passing in the opposite direction at high speed, who barely had time to register his disapproval, let alone be in any way discomfited by our group.

Even the bikers wanted in on the act today though, with a particularly friendly specimen using sign language to query if we perhaps belonged to the lost tribe of Onan?

After the Monkey Butler Boy swept away to meet up with his hormonally charged Wrecking Crew, we shuffled around a bit and, once again, I dropped to the back where I was soon joined by the King of the Grogs, who’d bridged across from the second group and reported that they weren’t all that far behind.

Amongst other things, we had a brief chat about the clubs (complete lack of) succession planning for when OGL hangs up his wheels and retires, or, simply cannot summon the will to ride above the Augustus Windsock speeds that frustrate everyone else.

As we hit Whalton, he dropped back to wait for the second group, while I pushed on with the original members of the first group until we reached Dyke Neuk.

Here we paused to regroup, before choosing various shorter/longer, faster/slower options. Having been told the second group had been snapping at our heels only a few miles back, we didn’t expect a long wait, but minutes dragged past with no sign of them.

Finally the bulk of group 2 emerged, clambering up the hill to join us and we learned the King of the Grogs had hit a pothole and punctured at the bottom of the climb. We settled in for a longer than expected wait while repairs were made.


wasp factory


The delay gave the Red Max an opportunity to carefully inspect his rear tyre, revealing it was on its last legs and had previously been condemned to the turbo. It had been pressed back into service at short notice when the Monkey Butler Boy had decided to “borrow” Max’s Continental Grand Prix tyres to save his own, high-end, super-supple, Vittoria Corsa race tyres from unnecessary wear and tear.

Max then pointed to his front wheel, where the Monkey Butler Boy had also inexplicably swapped out the inner tube for one with a 60mm valve, 95% of which poked out, rudely and ridiculously from the skinny rims.

I couldn’t help thinking this was a case of biter-bit, recalling all the times throughout the winter when the Red Max had manically cackled about replacing one failing component after another with bits “borrowed “ from Mr’s Max’s bike.

“The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree,” I suggested.

Combined, the Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy could probably strip a bike down to the frame, while removing all useful components, faster than Blofeld’s  piranha pit could reduce a super-secret agent, or bumbling henchman to a loose collection of bare bones.

Apparently they could be just as lethal as well, with the Red Max stating he’d actually started  one ride before he realised the Monkey Butler Boy had decided to ride alloy instead of carbon wheels that day and “borrowed” Max’s brake blocks when he made the switch.

With the puncture finally repaired, there was a brief coalescing before everyone split and I tagged onto the group heading up the hated climb to Rothley Crossroads and points beyond. We became strung out and splintered on the grinding climb and not a little disorganised. At the crossroads, I followed Caracol and Ovis straight across the junction. while behind some decided to wait, some went left and some, who had initially followed us, turned back again.

Caracol hesitated and looked at us quizzically.  Ovis gestured we should just press on and I nodded in assent, so the three of us did just that, happy to ride as a small group. We would later learn that others had followed, but we didn’t see them and they never caught up.

Caracol led from the front, forging his way up Middleton Bank and then accelerating hard toward the café. Ovis and I contributed a couple of short turns, but I suspect we were only slowing things down and, after thrashing ourselves breathless we’d just drift back to hang off Caracol’s back wheel again, trying to recover.

Then we hit the rollers and I accelerated up and over the ramps, dragged our group up to the last corner and last climb, before I sat up. Caracol zipped past, Ovis followed a little bit later and a little more laboriously and I trailed the pair into the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

It was just about pleasant enough to sit outside in the garden, where we found ourselves constantly assailed by wasps, especially when Ovis broke the edict and had jam with his toasted teacake.

This was in direct contravention of Standing Order#414 and much to the chagrin of Carlton, who was sitting alongside him, suffering from the same over-attentive wasp activity, while looking ruefully between his own dry teacake and the one laden with gooey, sticky and sweet jam that Ovis was blithely chomping his way through.

Buster downed his cappuccino and declared it was good, much better in fact than the muddy, often tasteless big mugs of coffee we usually indulge in. This, we decided, was a classic case of quantity over quality. Not only was the cappuccino too small, effete and more costly, but crucially it didn’t come with the “free” refill. I could only quote that quantity has a quality all of its own, an aphorism I always associate with Napoleon, but has been variously attributed to Stalin, von Clauswitz and others.

After the wasp-fig bombshell from earlier this morning, Buster took up the cudgels on behalf of our vespidae friends (fiends?) He suggested that they were an essential part of the ecosystem, contributing massively toward insect pest control and that without them there’d be a massive increase in the use of pesticides.

He explained he knew so much about them because he participated in a study where members of the public were tasked with building wasp traps, collecting the contents, freezing all the little wasp corpses and them posting them off to the Royal Entomological Society for counting and identification.

This sounded like a Blue Peter appeal from some nightmarish alternate reality, with kids encouraged to make traps (out of beer bottles and baited with beer no less) and then collect dead animals. Still, probably easier and more worthwhile than collecting milk bottle tops.

We wondered why the wasps had to be frozen before posting, reasoning that they would thaw out in transit – unless, Caracol suggested, they were transported in one of those organ donor ice boxes. I could also see issues with people mistaking their collected wasp corpses for frozen mince and cooking a chilli with far more kick than intended.

Meanwhile, on an adjacent table, I could hear Crazy Legs, no doubt having already wowed his audience with facts about wasps and figs, describing how one of his neighbours had tackled a wasp nest with a Dyson…

We finally decided to retreat and leave the wasps in temporary charge of the garden, swiftly packing up to head home.

Conducting a quick headcount, G-Dawg wondered where everyone had gone. Someone pointed out the Grogs were predictably missing, having slipped away to do their own thing, while I could account for a few more who’d left early, setting out in one and two’s as they needed to get back home by a certain time.

“Oh,” I added, And Plumose Pappus was abducted by wasps. They picked him up and just flew away.”  Somewhat surprisingly, everyone seemed to accept my explanation as at least plausible, if not 100% accurate.

I’m not so sure they believed my next assertion, that the wasps were going to make him their God-Emperor and the Chief Overseer of the wasp factory, responsible for making all the new wasps to replace the ones we’d killed today.


On the return I dropped in alongside Crazy Legs and we decided the Vuelta had become the Tour of Redemption for both the French, through Bouhanni and Gallopin and for previously hapless and winless, under-performing teams like EF Education First–Drapac, AG2R La Mondiale and Dimension Data.

While reminiscing about now dissolved retailer Toys R Us, Crazy Legs recalled a girlfriend who was convinced there name was actually pronounced Toysaurus. I guess either version is still better than Aqua Blue.

We’d made it almost to the top of Berwick Hill, when I declared, “Hey, no cars this week! Naturally, scant seconds later a car barrelled around the corner and we dived to the side of the lane so it could squeeze past. Me and my big mouth.

There was only time for G-Dawg to hope that if anyone did happen to have an accident on Broadway West, they would have the decency to drag their broken body and bike into a side street before calling for help, then I was swinging away and starting to pick my way back home.

A very brief shower peppered me as I crested the top of the Heinous Hill and disappeared as quickly as it came. Then I was back, done and dusted, home and hosed, or however else you want to describe it.


YTD Totals: 5,182 km / 3,219 miles with 63,722 metres of climbing

Ye Shudda Seen Us Gannin’

Ye Shudda Seen Us Gannin’

Club Run, Saturday 9th June, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                       118 km / 73 miles with 1,023 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                               4 hours 18 minutes

Average Speed:                      27.3 km/h

Group size:                              24 riders, 1 semi-FNG

Temperature:                         17°C

Weather in a word or two:    Temperate


 

YSSUG
Ride Profile – (with Friday’s commute thrown in for good measure)

Another chilly start to the day, my ride across to the meeting point was wholly unremarkable, except for miles and miles of road south of the river that were lined with yellow traffic cones. Because I’m quick off the mark, I was able to guess that there was obviously some event or other taking place.

If I’d realised it was the 9th June, I might just have made the connection and understood the significance, still, even without this hint, I somehow managed to correctly guess that all the activity was somehow related to the Blaydon Race, although I also thought (incorrectly) it was scheduled for Sunday.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Jimmy Mac was already at the meeting point, showing off a huge patch of road rash on his calf that looked like someone had blasted a muddy football off his leg. He’d been involved in a mass pile-up during the Tour Of Cambridgeshire Chrono + Gran Fondo and, considering the circumstances, escaped relatively unscathed.

The same can’t be said for his Storck bike, Zipp wheels, Assos shorts or Specialized shoes, all of which were well and truly written off, although he appeared remarkably chipper about the whole thing, I think if I’d travelled 200 odd mile and sustained losses of maybe £2-3,000 or more, I’d still be crying and cursing the cycling gods.

Still, here he was, bright and early, out on his winter bike sans mudguards and ready to lead the ride. Perhaps his general insouciance can be attributed to the fact he took out a massive new insurance policy on the Storck just the day before he left for the event?

While posting up today’s intended route of Facebook, Jimmy Mac had jokingly referenced the Velominati Rule#5, which had inadvertently triggered a (somewhat predictable) bad tempered, off-kilter, nonsensical tirade from OGL.

This was so completely inarticulate, we wondered if it was a cry for help from someone suffering a stroke while actually furiously bashing at a keyboard. We even tried to identify the precise point in his messages when the blood flow was suddenly cut off from the brain, but it could have been at any one of a dozen points.

A worried G-Dawg had immediately queried if OGL was quite ok and whether this incoherence was due to predictive text or excessive wine, while Radman concluded it was obviously predictive wine. Still, OGL had the perfect comeback, invoking the deeply mysterious, startling succinct, cutting and insightful reply of “2.”

No, I don’t know either…

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs related that he’d been tempted to buy some new socks when he saw Castelli Corsa Rosso – 6 socks for £8.00 on Wiggle. His keen brain quickly worked out that this was just £2.66 per pair of socks, an absolute bargain for such quality kit and too good a chance to miss.

On receiving just a single pair of socks with his order, he quickly checked the webpage before succumbing to an apoplectic e-mail rant. There he learned he could not only buy Corsa Rosso – 6 socks, but also Corsa Rosso –9 socks, or even Corsa Rosso 13 socks, all named for the length of the cuff and completely unrelated to how many items you get per pack.

To add insult to injury, he didn’t even get any free Haribo with his lone pair of socks.

Jimmy Mac outlined the route for the day, which included a few roads we hadn’t ventured down for quite some time and a few more we’d be travelling down rather than up, or vice-versa. Included in the middle was a, still novel, descent down Middleton Bank.

Mention of a road up through Molesden caused much head-scratching from Goose. With a deeply furrowed brow, he conveyed his confusion with a simple, “Huh?”

“Where the mad farm dog is,” someone volunteered.

“Ah!” the veil parted, “The mad farm dog.” He knew exactly where we meant now.

Jimmy Mac had us split into two groups, I dropped into the front group and away we went.


More by evolution than conscious design, the front group is starting to be characterised by a faster pace and today was no different. It’s an arrangement the consensus of regular riders seem to have been working toward for some time, but we really need to start making it more explicit – anyone suffering a jour sans, or not quite on their game is naturally going to be more comfortable in the second group.

How much faster is the first group? Well, in the first 30kms or so, on a route I’ve ridden dozens of times in the past 5 or 6 years, I netted twenty-two Strava PR’s, five 2nd fastest and two 3rd fastest times across a stretch of 37 segments.

It reached a peak on Bell’s Hill when I followed the Colossus and Ovis up at such a breathless pace, that I had to rein them in at the top after they’d blown the group apart. It was so fast, that Ovis, once again intent on fuelling his ride with an entire malt loaf, didn’t even get the opportunity to pluck it out and unwrap it, let alone eat the damn thing. He was so busy riding hard, it stood out, proudly outlined, a square, brick-sized lump in his pocket, weighing him down like a solid lead ingot.


20170216_122709A


We started to slowly shed riders as we progressed. The Garrulous Kid was the first to go, rather inexplicably declaring he didn’t much “like the road” we were travelling on. I’m not certain what particular arrangement of tarmac, slope, gravel, pots and bordering foliage he took exception to – it looked no different to what had gone before, what was yet to come and pretty much the exact same of what could be found around every single corner, no matter which route was chosen.

Then, after hammering down Middleton Bank, the Red Max and Monkey Butler Boy took a sharp left for a shorter run to the café, while later, Benedict and Caracol (and maybe one or two others) pushed on for a longer ride.

Somewhere along the way we lost an FNG who wasn’t really an FNG, but had apparently been riding with the club off and on for the past 10 years. (I’m guessing more off than on as I didn’t recognise him).

By the time we had locked-in and started the long burn toward the café, there were just six of us left. I hit the front on the short, sharp climb of Brandywell Bank and pushed as fast as I could, as far as I could down toward the Snake Bends. As the road finally levelled and then started a long gradual dip down, everyone roared past and I dug in, gave chase and just about managed to hang on the coattails as we swept through the bends and out onto the main road to the café.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

The main conversation point at the café was best way to gauge the volumetric capacity of the human mouth. The Red Max asserted that the correct and only unit of measurement was the Twix-biscuit and his record was 12 Twix-biscuits, entirely complete, whole and undamaged.

Given Crazy Legs’ number confusion with socks, the Colossus was undertsndably keen to understand if this was 12 individual Twix fingers, or 12 standard Twix packs and therefore 24 individual biscuits – (the former), while I queried if they were fun-sized fingers or full-sized – (the latter, obviously).

Someone suggested the number of sideways inserted Mars bars might provide a better measure, while from a professional, medical perspective, Jimmy Mac recommended using a liquid, such as ale, or coffee. He then cautioned that if things went wrong the autopsy might prove challenging – explaining how the subject drowned in a mouthful of beer would be difficult enough, even before considering what implications could be drawn from a Mars bar lodged horizontally in the throat.

OGL’s absence was briefly queried and we were reminded that the last time he hadn’t turned up for a ride, he was miffed that no one had bothered to check whether he was actually all right. No one volunteered in this instance either, nor would have if any other regular failed to turn up for a particular club run. Yes, we’re a mean, selfish and self-centred lot.


And then, we were off, for a fairly fast-paced, generally uneventful ride for home.

I split from the group and made my way across the river, hitting Blaydon at just about the same time as some kind of family fun run was finishing. Luckily, this was just a prelude to the main event, the Blaydon Race, which was still an hour or two away from starting, so at least I didn’t have to share the road with 4,000 or so rabid-runners as I pushed on for home.


YTD Totals: 3,297 km / 2,049 miles with 38,651 metres of climbing