Farcical – The Movie

Farcical – The Movie

Club Run, Saturday 5th May, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                 113 km / 70 miles with 1,077 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                         4 hours 21 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.0 km/h

Group size:                                        21 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                   18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Chilly


farcicl
Ride Profile

Farcical … or Far Cycle – A Very British Farce*

(A script in development and purely speculative fiction)

*Farcenoun – a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterisation and ludicrously improbable situations.


Cast:

The Subject: Sur La Jante

The Lone Dissenting Voice: Captain Kamikaze

The Fly: A fly

Jolly Man: A random passing civilian

Captain Kamikaze: The Lone Dissenting Voice

The Gang: Various riders from the largest cycling club in the region. (Allegedly.)


A black screen.

The silence is broken by the slow beeping of an electronic alarm and an image slowly coalesces of a flailing arm that bashes wildly at a bedside table, 2-3-4 times, until it finally manages to hit the off-button and silence the horribly intrusive noise.

The camera pulls back and, accompanied by much moaning, groaning and muttering, The Subject slowly peels back the covers and stumbles out of bed. Blinking in the still dim light, The Subject runs a hand through ridiculously unkempt, dishevelled hair that’s standing straight up at attention. He rubs at gritty eyes and yawns loudly.

Cut.


In a narrow kitchen, The Subject prepares an uninspiring but hopefully fortifying breakfast of porridge and a muddy espresso, while trying to ignore the two hungry felines giving him the evil eye and demanding he drop everything to placate them with a sacrificial offering of food.

Finally, their evil cat gazes start to shrivel his soul and The Subject succumbs to the pressure, opening a pouch of some foul smelling cat food at arm’s length and trying not to gag as he disgorges the contents into two bowls that he quickly lays at the feet of his masters.

Cut.


The Subject is now wrestling with a fantastical costume that could (perhaps justifiably) be characterised as being a couple of sizes too small for comfort. A t-shirt, with more holes than substance, goes under a pair of long, form fitting shorts with bizarre straps that go over the shoulders. It looks like the kind of lederhosen a cheesy, 60’s TV-superhero might have worn. Alpenhorn Man, anyone?

The subject pulls on a pair of socks that he hopes are neither too long, nor too short. They are unashamedly bright and white.

Strange black, sausage-skin type tubes are then stretched up and over spindly, pipe-cleaner arms, like opera gloves without any fingers, before another, possibly even tighter, t-shirt is pulled over The Subjects head and inched and tugged and twisted down and around his torso.

This latest t-shirt has 3 odd pockets sewn into the back and The Subject starts loading these up. In the left hand pocket goes a wallet, a phone and some kind of cereal bar. In the middle pocket goes a small camera and a bundled-up, incredibly creased, bright orange jacket is stuffed on top of this. In the right hand pocket goes a small bike pump, two plastic tyre levers and a compact multi-tool.

Once completed, The Subject decides he needs to visit the toilet. Out of the left hand pocket, he retrieves a wallet, a phone and some kind of cereal bar and sets them aside. Out of the right hand pocket, he pulls a small bike pump, two plastic tyre levers and a compact multi-tool and sets them aside. He decides the camera in the middle pocket is probably safe, plugged in place by the orange jacket.

He inches, tugs and twists the top t-shirt up and pulls it over his head and is already slipping the strange lederhosen straps down, off his shoulders as he opens the toilet door.

Flashback: an earlier time and an earlier natural urge, The Subject is dressed in a similar manner as he enters the toilet, but the rear pockets are still bulging with “stuff”. He grasps the collar of his top at the back and tugs and twists and pulls it over his head. As it starts to slide down his arms, his mobile phone flies out of his left hand pocket and describes a slow, lazy arc through the air, a trajectory so perfect that Tom Daly would have spontaneously cheered … Plop! Straight down the toilet bowl without touching the sides.

Cut.


The Subject emerges from the toilet and goes through the ritual of wrestling on his top t-shirt and loading up the individual pockets once again. In the left hand pocket goes a wallet, a phone and some kind of cereal bar. In the right hand pocket goes a small bike pump, two plastic tyre levers and a compact multi-tool…

He sighs.

He goes outside, still in his stockinged feet and pulls a bike from the shed. It’s an alarming, eye-watering riot of vile red, poisonous black and bilious yellow. The bike is loaded up with a tool tub, water bottle and computer and our subject returns inside.

“It’s a bit chilly out there,” he tells one of the cats. The cat stares back with mute indifference.

“I know you care really,” he suggests unconvincingly.

The cat yawns and wanders off.

The Subject pulls a pair of ruby red slippers from a cupboard, drags them on and twists a clicking dial on each, until the cheese-wires that serve as laces tighten enough to cut off blood supply to his toes. He backs them off a little. He fishes the orange jacket from his back pocket and slips this on for good measure, adding an extra layer of insulation. Good to go.

Cut.


The Scene: A little while later at a grandly named Transport Interchange Centre, that actually resembles a very ordinary, run-of-the-mill bus station. A low wall at the back of a wide pavement separates the bus concourse from a multi-storey car park. Seated on this wall waiting, is the tall, gangly figure of the Garrulous Kid dressed all in black.

G-Dawg and the Colossus roll up on their bikes. The latter is wearing a Le Col jersey in a bright shade of orange, while the former sports a Molteni retro jersey that, through time, evolved from an unloved navy blue and brown to orange and black. G-Dawg’s is the more modern, much more tasteful orange and black version.

Trailing behind, our Subject arrives and pulls up alongside the pair.

“Huh, you’re all in orange?” (There’s really no fooling the Garrulous Kid, or his keen observational skills.)

“It’s Orange Day, didn’t you get the message?” G-Dawg asks.

“Yes, orange is the new black,” The Subject attests.

Even the Garrulous Kid doesn’t fall for this one though, especially as other riders start turning up and there’s no further incidence of orange.

The Subject determines things have probably warmed up just about enough, so ships and stows the orange jacket.

Slowly, more cyclists arrive and form up around the group, until the pavement is all but blocked by skinny blokes with plastic bikes.

“I thought there would have been more out today,” G-Dawg surmises, even as the headcount tops 20.

The Subject reminds him there’s a few up doing the Wooler Wheel and one or two facing the brutal Fred Whitton Challenge tomorrow too.

The Subject then falls into conversation with the newly arrived Big Friendly Giant.

The Subject: “So you survived last week and now you’re back for more?”

BFG: “Yeah, and I might make it all the way around, this time. But I’ll not be stopping at the café …”

The Subject steps back, aghast.

The Subject: [tremulously] “What … no cake?”

BFG: “I have to be back to do some gardening. Feed and tend the lawns and all that.”

The Subject: “Ah, is this the new obsession?”

BFG: [unashamedly] “Yes!”

The Subject: “So, it’s replaced your earlier obsession for building bikes from rare, exotic and wholly unsuitable materials?”

BFG: “Yes. The trouble is though, Nature is always changing and evolving and nothing ever stays perfect for very long.”

The Subject: “Very true, that’s life – things are always changing.”

BFG: “Yeah, but it can actually become a bit of an issue for someone with acute OCD and a need for perfection …”

Cut.


The Scene: Out on the road. The weather is bright, but cold and a group of 20+ riders are travelling 2 abreast down rough country roads in a very rural landscape.

Untitled 2

Above all the general chatter and good humour, a disassociated voice can be heard complaining long and bitterly about the speed the group is travelling. Everyone else seems happy and comfortable, talking away, enjoying the ride and not breathing too heavily – even Szell, just recently awoken from winter hibernation seems at ease.

“It’s not a bloody race,” the Lone Dissenting Voice proclaims.

“If you want to race, put a number on your back,” the Lone Dissenting Voice continues.

“Is this the bloody toady France or something?” the Lone Dissenting Voice queries, to everyone and no one. Well, to be fair, actually no one – they’ve all stopped listening.

Slow fade …


The Scene: The group has stopped at a junction with a choice of turning right for a shorter route to the café , or left for a longer harder route. G-Dawg is busy outlining the different options that everyone can take.

Lone Dissenting Voice: “Well, I’m going this way, the speed today has been just bloody farcical. Farcical!”

The Lone Dissenting Voice takes the right hand turn in protest – a protest somewhat spoiled by the fact that it’s the route the Lone Dissenting Voice always takes…no matter what.

Lone Dissenting Voice: [a final parting shot] “If you want to race, put a bloody number on your back.”

“That’s it, we’re all wearing numbers next week,” someone announces.

Cut.


The Scene: Out on the road, the groups numbers are somewhat diminished, all the climbing is done and they’re riding at a high speed, pulling everyone out into a single long line.

Someone attacks off the front. The Subject follows a wheel through as another rider moves to respond.

The attacker is brought back.

The Subject attacks.

The Subject is caught.

The road rises a little.

The Subject attacks again.

The Subject is caught.

Cut to an aerial shot, showing a long straight road. Head-on and still a little distant a group of riders can be seen, approaching fast and in single file. Having been caught again, The Subject is now sitting second wheel.

The camera pulls back slightly revealing this view is actually one being contemplated by a large, black fly of an indeterminate species. The fly performs a lazy barrel roll, drops down and heads buzzing toward the approaching riders.

The road rises, ever so slightly.

The Subject pulls out from the wheels.

The Subject attacks again.

Briefly, the view shifts to the fly’s perspective and CGI special effects are applied. The view becomes heavily stylised, a multi-faceted picture of bikes and riders through the eyes of the fly.

It focuses on the group approaching.

And zooms in… to focus on the attacking lead rider.

And zooms in…to focus on the face of the attacking lead rider

And zooms in… to focus on that riders gaping mouth, through which he’s trying to draw enough oxygen to fuel his thrashing legs, pounding heart and gasping lungs.

The black maw of the fully open mouth looms and draws the fly in …

Blackness engulfs the fly.

The camera pulls back to focus on The Subject again. He’s coughing, spluttering and trying not to gag on a sudden obstruction that’s rattling and vibrating in his throat.

The Subject’s done, he’s caught and blinking away the tears in his eyes, he drops back. Back past Jimmy Mac, past the Big Yin, past Keel, past G-Dawg, before finding a space and slotting in on the wheel of the Colossus.

He follows. Hanging on. Still at high speed.

There are two very distinct, very loud cracks as G-Dawg smashes through a pothole no one had the wit to point out.

G-Dawg: “Ooph!”

Centimetres from his rear wheel, the Colossus twitches to one side and bangs across the shallower edges of the hole, avoiding the worst. The Subject quickly yaws away to one side and manages to miss the hole completely.

It all happens in an instant. The group presses on, seemingly having sustained no damage, until G-Dawg realises he’s blown out both tyres and they’re rapidly deflating. He comes to a rumbling stop.

The Colossus continues, charges across the gap, past a slow riding, Lone Dissenting Voice (who has just emerged from a side-road) and to the front of the group. The Colossus contests the sprint, then calmly turns around and goes back to help G-Dawg with his double puncture.

Meanwhile, The Subject rolls through on the back of the group and makes his way to the café.

Cut.


Scene: In the café. The Subject is standing in the queue loading his tray up with coffee and cake. The Lone Dissenting Voice stands behind him, waiting to be served. A rather jolly, corpulent civilian approaches and addresses the Lone Dissenting Voice.

Jolly Man: “Well, well, well it’s Captain Kamikaze.”

The Subject tries to suppress his grin, the Lone Dissenting Voice studiously tries to ignore the Jolly Man.

Jolly Man: [unperturbed by the silent treatment and in no way deterred, continues] “Hello Captain Kamikaze, thrown yourself under any 40-ton artics recently?”

The Subject scurries off, before he bursts into laughter…

Cut.


Scene: In the garden at the café. Two of the benches have been pulled together in a line and are overrun with cyclists. The Subject is sitting at one end, talking with Jimmy Mac and Rab Dee about the Giro d’Italia. At the other end sits the Big Yin and the Garrulous Kid.

Rab Dee: “I’m looking forward to a lazy afternoon watching the Giro and listening to Sean Kelly’s commentary about turds and trees.”

Jimmy Mac: “Reminds me of the story of how Billy Twelvetrees was always called 36 by his Irish team mates.”

The Subject was just about to add that Yates’ commentary has never been the same since Ulrika Greenedge became Mitchelton Scott, when the Lone Dissenting Voice a.k.a. Captain Kamikaze, plonks himself down opposite the Big Yin.

Lone Dissenting Voice: “The speed today was shocking.”

The Big Yin: [feigning innocence] “Yeah, It was a bit slow wasn’t it?”

Lone Dissenting Voice: [utterly devoid of humour] “It’s ridiculous, the Saturday runs were set up 50 years ago as a social ride.”

The Big Yin: [reasonably] “Well, yeah, that was then. It’s different now and things change naturally over time, they evolve and …”

Lone Dissenting Voice: “No! No they bloody don’t! Not over time!”

The Subject: “Err … eh?”

Lone Dissenting Voice: “The pace of the Saturday rides is stupid. It’s why we’ve had a 50% drop in club membership. It’s why some of the old stalwarts don’t ride with us anymore. It’s why numbers on Saturday rides are falling.”

The Subject: [sotto voce, shaking his head] “No. No. No and no.”

Luckily, the group are distracted, when the Garrulous Kid spots Rab Dee’s espresso cup.

Garrulous Kid: “Hey, that’s a tiny cup!”

Garrulous Kid: [bending down to look under the table] “Is there a midget here?”

Slow fade.


The Scene: Still the café garden. The cyclists are packing up to leave, minus the Lone Dissenting Voice who left early in order to “ride home at a sensible speed.”

Szell weighs up an order card left lying on one of the tables so the servers can identify who has ordered what.

Szell: “Isn’t this the kind of number we could put on our backs?”

He proposes sticking it to the back of the Lone Dissenting Voice’s jersey and starts looking for some glue, or tape.

Szell: “I know, jam. That’ll work.”

Luckily, the group makes to leave before Szell can put his plan into practice.

Cut.


The Scene: Returning home in high spirits, the group are powering along with the Garrulous Kid and The Subject on the front, chattering away and laughing. As they approach the final climb, up to Dinnington, Taffy Steve accelerates up behind the Garrulous Kid.

Taffy Steve: [chanting] “Old fat bloke coming for you, Old fat bloke gonna catch you…”

With a girly-shriek, the Garrulous Kid accelerates away.

Over the top, he sees the Lone Dissenting Voice, labouring along on his own.

He sweeps past.

Seconds later, everyone else sweeps past too.

Lone Dissenting Voice: [grumpily, as he disappears out the back] “I could hear you lot coming a bloody mile away.”

G-Dawg: “We’ll all have our names entered into the little black book now.”

The Subject: “Yep, it’s a club run, it’s not an excuse for us to be out enjoying ourselves.”

Fade to credits.

The End.

All options available[Still!]


YTD Totals: 2,780 km / 1,571 miles with 32,346 metres of climbing

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Blowhard

Blowhard

Club Run, Saturday 28th October, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  103 km / 64 miles with 1,319 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 19 minutes

Average Speed:                                23.6 km/h

Group size:                                         10 riders

Temperature:                                    14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Windy


 

28 october
Ride Profile

With the clocks being turned back on Saturday evening, this was likely to be my last ride across to the meeting point in the near dark for at least a couple. I intend to enjoy the extra hour of morning daylight while I can, it isn’t going to last.

The clocks going back is also the final sign that we’re slipping inexorably toward winter and the weather is likely to become increasingly discouraging. Rider numbers will slowly decline from now until Spring, depending largely on what each Saturday throws at us on a week by week basis.

Based on numbers across the past three years, typically means the average number out on the club runs from November through to February will be less than 20, while for the rest of the year the average is around 27.  November then is end-point for those who hibernate over the winter, endure the hellish purgatory of turbo sessions, or switch sports entirely. All seem to give up the club run as the weather becomes less accommodating. The smallest group I’ve been out with has been confined to a Magnificent 7, hopefully that’s as low as we’ll get, but you just never know what Mother Nature has in store.

The declining number of riders were likely to be especially problematic this week, as the “Usual Suspects” – those who can be relied on to turn up in most weathers, were already seriously depleted – the Red Max was enjoying riding in what looked like a beautifully warm Spain, Taffy Steve was off on a visit to the Isle of Man, while Crazy Legs, G-Dawg and the Colossus had taken Rab Dee off toward Kielder on one of their occasional mountain bike forays. I guessed it was going to be a much diminished ride today.

To compound the issue, the wind was strong and gusting and it would be a real grind to push through, with plenty of sudden, capricious gusts and crosswinds demanding a little more care and concentration.

Not only was I expecting a smaller, quieter club run today, but in fact everywhere seemed quiet early in the morning as I set off. The traffic was relatively light and as I crossed the bridge, the oily, black and surprisingly still river was, for once, completely empty of boats and rowers, both upstream and down.

Climbing out of the valley on the other side, a massive stretch of the road surface appeared to have been combed, stripped of its surface tarmac and left coarse and corrugated. Hopefully this will eventually result in a nice, new piece of shiny smooth tarmac, but for now it meant a juddering, jarring, bone-shaking climb.

I knew the 4ZA wheel hubs on the Peugeot desperately need a service, but my LBS is having difficulty sourcing the parts from Ridley. Surprisingly, the hubs haven’t miraculously sorted themselves out through constant riding and the rumbling and shaking on this stretch of “not-road” convinced me to bite the bullet and swap the wheels out for some cheap alternatives I’d bought last week.

The last section of my run in to the meeting place was not only blissfully smooth by comparison, but all downhill, in a straight line and with the wind at my back. Even better, for the first time every traffic light in a series of four or five was burning a solid green for me and I whipped through them non-stop and was soon at the meeting point.


Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

The Rainman, our younger, better-looking, Dutch substitute for the now departed De Uitheems Bloem, was the only one waiting, having just finished his night-shift and deciding the ideal way to relax was with a bike ride into a gale force wind!

After a freezing commute on Friday morning I’d seriously over-estimated how much cold weather gear I needed and the first order of the day on stopping was to strip off glove liners, buff and gilet. Sadly, neither the Rainman or I could do anything much with the thermal base-layers we’d both ill-advisedly chosen.

The Prof rolled up and told us it was windy out on the roads. He’d devised a route for what has become known as “the training ride” – a slightly longer, possibly faster first group that leaves independently of the main club run, but meets up at the café for the ride back. Although the title “training ride” has generated a certain amount of derision in some quarters, whether the name is appropriate or not, doesn’t really matter – it gives us more choice.

I was actually tempted to join the Prof’s early ride this time out, but figured that with key stalwarts missing, the club run could be out-gunned and under-manned in the wind and we’d need as many as possible to share the workload today.

Caracol and Mr. Boom arrived next and told us it was windy out on the roads. The Prof had a cunning plan to find shelter, which he demonstrated by squatting down behind Caracol’s back wheel. Sadly for him, his plan never reached fruition as Caracol too decided he would be doing the normal club ride.

Four intrepid “trainee’s” then slipped away early on their ride, as Princess Fiona rolled up to tell us it was windy out on the roads.

OGL arrived to tell us it was windy and we had another short requiem for all the local bike shops slipping out of business.

We even waited an additional five minutes before leaving, but as expected, numbers were down to a meagre 10 lads and lasses as we pushed off, clipped in and rolled out. Caracol led the way and had just barely dropped his front wheel off the kerb before he was being lambasted for riding too fast!

“That might be a new club record for the fastest telling off, ever” he declared.

I wasn’t so sure, as I seem to recall the Red Max receiving a similar condemnatory diatribe even as he made to swing a leg over his stationary bike.


I joined Caracol on the front and we battered and battled together against the wind for the first 30km or so, chatting whenever it dropped enough so our ears weren’t overwhelmed by its rushing thrum. In this piecemeal way we discussed, among other things, who would win a stubbornness contest between OGL and Sean Kelly’s bad-tempered Irish donkey and just how long you could defer domestic chores by riding a bike. (Hint: there is no escape and they always come back to bite you on the bum.)


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I also found I had a disturbing and distracting gap between boot top and leggings that was becoming naggingly chilled, otherwise our progress was quite pleasant despite the conditions and certainly not too cold, although I did have a shaky moment when swerving around a car on a narrow bridge and feeling my rear wheel sliding out on the mud and leaves at the side of the road.

We stopped at Stamfordham to reassess and plot a new course and Ovis and Biden Fecht took over on the front for the next stretch.

I’d dropped back and was chatting to Princess Fiona as we made our way toward the Quarry Climb. She felt we were going to get the benefit of a tailwind, but remembering how much the approach zigs and zags and just how exposed the landscape was around there, I wasn’t so sure.

Either side of us and a fusillade of shots boomed out. We’d either found a Northumberland shooting party, or the wind had blown us right off course and we were heading toward Raqqa. I finally spotted the ragged line of shotgun toting “sportsmen” and their beaters, but for the life of me couldn’t see what they were blazing away at. Thankfully Caracol, whose eyes are obviously much sharper and younger than mine assured me there were birds in the air (or being blown out of the air) and this wasn’t a vigilante-toff, anti-cycling protest. Relieved there was no need to dive into the nearest ditch, we pressed on.

Slim Michael and Caracol took to the front as we climbed around the first corner and with the wind temporarily at our backs, they started to build the pace. A surprisingly struggling and gasping Zardoz somehow managed to wheeze out a desultory, enfeebled “somebody say something” plea, just before his prayers were answered and OGL issued a stern, “Easy!” directive.

It wasn’t to be though, the boys up front decided it was time to stretch their legs – and off they romped.

Up front, Slim Michael, Ovis, Caracol and Biden Fecht topped the climb and swung left. I eased up after them and then pulled over to wait for the stragglers. Zardoz followed me up and then slipped off to the right, taking the shorter route to the café, while Mini Miss and Princess Fiona turned left without pause.

A while later and a good distance back, OGL finally hove into sight, honking up the climb in a massive gear as usual. “I’m getting to old for this,” he declared, rounding the corner, “I might have to swap out the 26 on the back for a 28.”

Well, if recognition is the first step toward self-awareness, progress of sorts. And in other news, dinosaurs were found to be roaming free and still very much alive in the wilds of Northumberland, while pigs were seen taking to the air (but were sadly gunned down before they could make good their escape).

I dropped in front of OGL and pushed on up the slope toward the junction, where I found the rest of the group had actually stopped and were waiting.

We pressed on toward the café, managing to stay together until the road dipped down and around a sweeping bend. Using this as a springboard, Slim Michael and Ovis charged away and I gave chase, dragging Caracol across the gap.

Down toward a junction and negotiating a sharp right turn, we now had the wind at our backs for the final run in and would be difficult to catch. Biden Fecht confirmed this as he worked hard to try and close the gap, but eventually ran out of road.

Meanwhile Caracol and Slim Michael whirred away off the front, Ovis did a quick calculation and determined he couldn’t live with their pace, so wisely didn’t try. He throttled back just a little and I was happy to cling to his wheel as we pushed on. Ovis kept glancing back, waiting for the sly beggar on his wheel to come around and mug him at the last, but even if I’d wanted to I’m not sure I could have out-sprinted him, so just sat in and let him drag me down to the Snake Bends.

I caught up with Zardoz at the junction with the main road and we ducked down the lane to avoid the main drag and its speeding traffic. Between slaloming around a shocking number of potholes, he confessed he’d been really struggling today and felt having just a couple of weeks off the bike had seen his form almost instantly evaporate.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

I was just about to upbraid the café for their unseasonable and ridiculously premature Christmas cake, when I noticed the spider and cobweb-decorated cupcakes and realised the figures on the supposed “Christmas” scene were actually meant to be scary ghosts and not fat, jolly snowmen.

Mini Miss rightly contended the crosswinds on the Quarry Climb were nowhere near as bad as those we always seem to find we we take the route up through Angerton, which is exposed and seemingly always windy, even on the calmest of days. It’s always a forceful headwind too – even on the one day we reversed our route and travelled down instead of up its length. How does that work then?

At the table, Caracol remembered the lump of flapjack he’d been hauling around in his back pocket and added that to his energy intake. I wondered if it was home-made and could rival Rab Dee’s recipe. I suspect he uses iron filings and a heavy duty engineers vice to craft something so dense it has its own gravitational field and can bend light. If offered any, I usually politely decline, as I’m sure even the smallest nibble would instantly add two or three kilos. Perhaps though, additional ballast would be good on a day like today.

Caracol took me to task for suggesting Rab Dee would ever sink so low as to use iron filings and he believed the secret ingredient was likely to be more high-tech and possibly titanium.

Unwittingly, Ovis may then have revealed the real reason for his sudden upsurge in fitness and form. He’s been deflecting attention from this by suggesting it’s a result of repeated hill intervals he’s doing through a dodgy area of town (with the extra incentive that he daren’t stop in case his bike gets nicked).  Now, he admitted to carrying an entire malt loaf on all his rides, as it’s easily compressed into a solid brick of gooey-goodness. I’m beginning to suspect his new-found strength is fuelled entirely by Soreen and expect it to make the WADA list of banned substances very shortly.

Talking about plans for next year, Ovis has entered the lottery for a place on the Fred Whitton Challenge and suspects the Wooler Wheel, Lakeland Loop and Cyclone are likely to be on his inventory too.

Even more impressive than the Fred Whitton, Ovis mentioned that Princess Fiona’s plans include a first participation in the Barcelona Iron Man Event (Iron Woman? Iron Princess?)


Caracol, Ovis, Slim Michael and Biden Fecht hatched a plan to take a longer route back and I tagged along, although it seemed horribly counter-intuitive to leave the café and turn back into the headwind.

After the first few hills I realised my legs were totally shot and the pace they were setting up front wasn’t sustainable. As we hit Whalton and they took a course heading further north-east, when I needed to be travelling south-west, I baled and started to plug my way homeward, battling the wind on my own terms but, more importantly at my own pace.

The roads still remained relatively quiet and the only accompaniment I had was a grey squirrel darting in front of my wheel as I trekked through Ponteland and the whirling leaves, that scuttered and skittered across the road around me, rats’ feet over broken glass, in our dry cellar … or something like that, anyway.

On the last leg and pushing up Heinous Hill, I found the wind to be an ally at the last, funnelled between the buildings and onto my back, giving me a forceful nudge up the slope. Then it was back to battling head first into its seemingly strengthening force, as I traversed along the hills crest, before the final steep ramp upwards and finally home.


YTD Totals: 6,386 km / 3,957 miles with 73,042 metres of climbing

Attention retention …

Attention retention …

Club Run, Saturday 7th October, 2017    

The Planned Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  74 km / 46 miles with 550 metres of climbing

Group size:                                         16+ riders and 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    15°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and breezy


 

downdy ryalls
Ride Profile

The Ride …

… as it (maybe) happened and with invaluable input from Taffy Steve:

While the Gang of 4 were away, wallowing in pie at the hugely enjoyable Wooler Wheel, the typical Saturday morning club run naturally continued in our absence. And so it should – it is of course (and rightly so) – much, much bigger than one individual, or group of individuals.

The recently established, best-practice of actually pre-publishing a route beforehand, so everyone knew where we were heading, what to expect, how far and hard it would be and when and where they could join up if they were delayed, seemed to be working smoothly and the overwhelming majority appear bought into the concept.

The pre-ride planning has also ensured we are being more creative in our route plotting, trying out different things and establishing options to avoid a very stale, same-old, same-old routine that has noticeably plagued our rides in the past.

Being an equitable, egalitarian, sort of guy, I especially like rotating the ride leader, so we could share the burden around, publish routes beforehand and allow anyone to step up and have a go if they wanted to.

This Saturday’s volunteer was Taffy Steve and even though I was away, I knew the route planned and it looked like being a good one, with a descent down the Ryals and one of my favourite clambers, back up through Hallington.

Taffy Steve had even given consideration to where the group could split to allow a slightly shorter, slightly easier path to the café for those less inclined toward self-flagellation and it even seemed to have received the royal seal of approval from OGL.

What could possibly go wrong …

Shouldering the additional burden of not only being ride leader, but providing the highly essential, ultra-important, some would say indispensable role of blerg scribe (oh, ok, it’s none of those things then) Taffy Steve sent through notes from the front-lines, allowing me to piece together my own, highly romanticised and wholly fictional account of what actually took place … or, in other words, pretty much the same thing I do every week.

Still, too badly paraphrase Winston Churchill, the writer writes the history … so, this is what actually happened, taken directly from Taffy Steve’s notes …

 


 

Early signs were promising, with a route published and agreed and a shortcut for OGL. Astonishingly he even endorsed it with a favourable comment and the job seemed like a “good un.” How was Taffy Steve to know it was going to unravel faster than an obese bungee jumpers cord, as he stood outlining the intended plan for the day.

He’d just reached a point of explaining that, at the roundabout the group were heading right, up Broadway, when OGL, obviously not a George Benson fan, unexpectedly piped up with a “No. We’re not going that way.”

With the same remarkable obduracy shown by his forebears facing impossible odds at Rourke’s Drift, our plucky Welshman stood his ground, “It’s my ride this morning, we’re following the agreed route.”

OGL spat the dummy and stormed off with much fugging and rugging and rumba-rarring, suddenly finding himself riding away, alone and in (not so splendid) isolation.

The rest of the group hastily apologised to Arriva for the large dummy mark left in the side of the 508 bus to Blyth and the ride pressed on, OGL-less.


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Carlos Sastre demonstrates the correct way to ride and retain the dummy

An outbound ride into the wind then followed without further incident, apart from those on the front noting that the Goose’s booming voice was so dominating you always knew exactly where he was in the group. G-Dawg suggested if Goose ever managed to even casually mention the word “stop” somewhere in his general discourse, everyone would likely interpret it as a shouted, emergency command and instinctively slam on the anchors.

At least one FNG was out with the group, a girl riding with flat pedals and she did remarkably well, holding her own all the way to the turn for the quarry. Here Sneaky Pete led a small group off toward the café, while the rest set sail for the Ryals – for the third week in a row.

This time though we were swooping down and not struggling upwards, topping out at 40 mph, even into a steady headwind. Great fun for all, but especially G-Dawg on his fixie. Who knew legs could spin that fast without spontaneously combusting?

The Garrulous Kid clamoured to turn around at the bottom and ride straight back up and started badgering and pestering all and sundry to go with him, but lips curled disdainfully and heads shook in negation – not again!

Seemingly undaunted, the Kid set out alone, up the Ryals for the third week in a row, which must be some kind of record even among the most masochistic of hair-shirted, flagellants.

There is a feeling the Garrulous Kid is turning into an OGL mini-me, complete with the incurable logorrhoea, highly embellished tales on infinite loop and an inclination to stomp off alone when the collective will diverges from his own.

Still, Taffy Steve reports his prep for the hill climb has reached a truly remarkable zenith – not that there’s any pressure on him to actually deliver …

For the rest, Hallington awaited and, after all the climbing, a pause to regroup. A remarkably ordered (for us, anyway) bit of through and off followed, everyone forming neat lines and rotating like pros on a team time trial, as the speed slowly built. Things were going smoothly until Jimmy Mac’s twitching nostrils picked up just the faintest whiff of coffee and, spurred on by the irresistible promise of cake, he shot down the outside of the line and powered away.

Rab Dee, riding in the livery of Mario Cipollini then put in a burst that Super Mario himself would have been proud of and latched onto the speeding Jimmy Mac, the pair using the tailwind to their advantage, quickly accelerating to warp speed and opening a telling gap.

Taffy Steve Captain Black, G-Dawg, Caracol and someone Taffy Steve enigmatically describes as “the Cockerney,” quickly organised the chase, but even combined, their efforts were too ragged and not enough to catch the speeding pair up front, who were able to hold the gap all the way to the café.

A brief respite from the effort of the chase was apparently spotting the Monkey Butler Boy, thrashing away in the opposite direction, all the while being royally castigated, impugned and bellowed at by a mad Italian coach driving close behind in a trail-car. Looks like he’s found the perfect father-surrogate as a coach.

Meanwhile, there was no sign of the Red Max himself who had apparently been laid low with a mystery illness. Taffy Steve reasoned this had to be the hardest man-flu ever, as we’ve all seen Max defying doctors (and Mrs. Max orders) to rise from his sick-bed and grind out the club run,  reduced to a snail’s pace and all the while obviously suffering from the effects of some dire malady.

At the café, OGL apparently displayed selective amnesia and general bonhomie was the order of the day, with no apparent left-over rancour, or mention of his earlier hissy-fit. I doubt we’ve heard the last of it though.

Conversation briefly turned to the malingerers enjoying themselves up in Wooler and then to the more pressing demands of next week’s hill climb. Taffy Steve was relieved to learn that, the Red Max is already planning a fly-by that will allow anyone with a modicum of sense to avoid the actual timed ascent of Prospect Hill. Perfect he suggests “for those of us that don’t want to sound like a broken vacuum cleaner for 36 hours afterwards.”

Homeward bound, the accompanying south west wind made rolling back a real joy and another grand club run was ticked off in good order.


 

Wooler-Wooler-Huh, Tell Me More, Tell Me More…

Wooler-Wooler-Huh, Tell Me More, Tell Me More…

The Wooler Wheel Classic, Saturday 7th October, 2017  

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  104 km / 65 miles with 1,451 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 10 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.9 km/h

Group size:                                         4 riders and 521 others

Temperature:                                    15°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and breezy


wooler
The Route
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Ride Profile

The Ride:

A Saturday morning with a difference found me up before the sun, wolfing down a quick breakfast and heading out into the still-dark for an hour long drive into north Northumberland to start the Wooler Wheel Classic sportive.

This was to be my third participation in the event, which this time around was confined to a 100km ride, rather than the early season Borderlands ride of over 170km or 107 miles. The Wooler Wheel events are usually low-key affairs, characterised by good routes and incredibly helpful, friendly and supremely well organised marshals. Combine this with what promised to be bright and dry, if chilly weather and the fantastic scenery of the Cheviots and it had all the promise of a great day out.

All of this, before I even mention the piece de resistance, the real kicker that makes the event almost unmissable – never mind the free T-shirt, but every rider is rewarded with a hot drink and lavish helping of pie and peas on completion. Pure, unalloyed genius.

A Gang of Four planned to meet up to tackle the ride together, Crazy Legs, Ovis, Richard of Flanders and me. As a consequence, the first order of the day was likely to prove the most onerous, locating my ride partners and getting everyone organised to set off at the same time.

As luck would have it, I joined up with a long stream of bike-carrying traffic on the way to the ride headquarters and was fairly certain I’d spotted a celeste Bianchi and a blue Orbea on a car upfront – Crazy Legs and Richard of Flanders travelling up together?

Instinct was correct and directed into a field to park, I found myself pulling up only one car removed from two-thirds of my group. Good start.

We went to sign on, trudging through the livestock pens of the cattle market, where numerous carbon steeds waited placidly to be auctioned for their riders to set them free. Crazy Legs looked around the bleak, basic shed, concrete ramps and gated pens. “It’s depressing, isn’t it?”

I agreed, it was far too easy to see them using it as a set from Sophie’s Choice or Schindler’s List (or Ark for the bibliophiles amongst us.)

We all signed on, collected our bikes, attached the event numbers and made our way toward the start, eagerly scanning the crowd for the distinctive blue and yellow of Ovis’s Rochdale Tri top as we went.


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A quick stop at the port-a-potties and then we stationed Richard of Flanders outside the main hall, Crazy Legs ducked inside to search for Ovis, while I rode around toward the start gate to see if he was loitering there. Our searches proved fruitless, so Crazy Legs dialled up Ovis on his mobile and we learned he was currently deeply engaged … in the crapper.

“Ah,” Richard of Flanders said, “I thought I heard someone thrashing around in the stall next to mine.”

We all turned our attention to the long line of port-a-potties and watched and waited, as each one disgorged at least one relieved cyclist, all apart from the one slap bang in the middle. Finally, the door swung open and a fellow that looked like Ovis staggered out into the fresh air, breathed deeply, saw our welcome committee and ambled across.

He was difficult to miss in a new, very bright high-viz waterproof, but it wasn’t the electric blue and acid yellow kit we were expecting. Much to Crazy Legs’ relief, he did unzip his jacket to reveal the stalwart Rochdale Tri kit lurking safely beneath.

Bikes were recovered and we made our way through the pens toward the start gate. I swung my leg over the bike, put my left foot on the pedal and pushed off. My foot slipped instantly off the pedal, I stumbled, the crank whirred around and cracked me in the right shin. Ouch.

I tried again. Same result and then again. I now had a large dint and corresponding bruise in my shin. It still smarts and I’ve been wearing one sock at half mast all week now.

Taking note of the slippery state of my cleats, a hangover of the damp grass, mud and assorted animal effluvia, I concentrated hard and very carefully tried again. With a satisfyingly loud click, pedal embraced cleat and we were off, riding through the timing gate to a cacophony of beeps like a short-circuiting answerphone.

Richard of Flanders kicked the conversation off in style, by suggesting that for the Christmas Jumper ride this year we should all wear smoking jackets, or smirking jackets if we are to continue to pay homage to Ashingternean speak in this blog blerg.

Crazy Legs however is nothing if not bang-up-to-date and countered that the more modern, discerning smoker would demand we wear vaping jackets, not smoking jackets. I’ve no idea what a vaping jacket looks like, but it sounds intriguing.

The first hill bit and Richard of Flanders, naturally in full Belgian team kit, slipped slowly off the back to tackle its incline at his own pace. The rest of us waited to regroup at the top, where Crazy Legs waved through other cyclists, declaring we were “waiting for our classics rider” – not all that happy on the hills, but essential later on in the ride for when the echelons formed in the crosswinds.

Indeed, the wind was to be our constant, nagging and awkward companion for much of the ride, although we were anticipating the last few kilometres at least to gift us with a tailwind – the only issue was getting to this point. Luckily Ovis was on a 3-Shredded Wheat day, or in his own understated words, “going quite well at the moment.”

On we went and I started counting the roadkill, but soon ran out of fingers and toes. I wonder what the death toll is for small furry critters on the roads of Northumberland? At one point, passing the seemingly unmarked, unsullied corpse of a grey squirrel, we debated the relative appeal of a Dead Squirrel Club and whether it would sound more interesting than Chris Boardman’s Secret Squirrel Club.

Another, “ah, poor furry animal” quickly turned to a “yeach” moment as a potential, fluffy squirrel-corpse turned out to be a rather large and fearsome dead rat. Then the highlight of the day as Crazy Legs spotted a dead frog, although it wasn’t quite up to the standards of the splattered, flattened and sun-blasted toad we’d seen on the road up the Col du Glandon.

Richard of Flanders kept himself distracted and us entertained with a series of Viz jokes and recollections and suggested we’d know when he was struggling as the constant flow of verbiage would slowly dry up.

As he started singing “Howay the Lads” in a non-regulation Geordie accent, Crazy Legs mused on what a strange group he found himself riding with – a Lancastrian, a Yorkshireman and someone who lives so far south of the river he’s practically a Mackem…

Another hill and climbing past a group of girls, one of them looked across at Crazy Legs and squealed, “Eee! That’s my bike.” For one moment I thought there was going to be a bit of a tussle over the provenance of a certain celeste Bianchi, but it soon became apparent she merely meant she had the same make and model and an unseemly catfight was avoided. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and we pressed on – I’m not sure it was a fight we could have won.

Yet another hill and a marshal guided us down a left turn and told us not to miss the lady with the jelly babies. Sure enough a couple of hundred yards further on and we found the lady with the jelly babies, holding out a large bowl that she proffered to each passing cyclist.

Like a pro in a feedzone, Crazy Legs swept passed, extended a long arm and grabbed up a few treats without stopping. I pulled up long enough to grab an ample fistful and thanked the Jelly Baby Lady for providing “the best part of the ride” – even though I knew it was a lie – jelly babies are good but pie is better.

I set off in pursuit of my comrades, somewhat hindered as I chewed my way through mouthfuls of jellied sweetness that made breathing just a little bit awkward.

Another turn and up onto Branxton Moor and we were climbing up past Flodden Field, the scene of a bloody skirmish in 1513 when a band of belligerent Scots accused an Englishman of stealing one of their classic Italian velocipedes … or some other, equally as heinous transgression.

Ovis suggested a contingent of archers had travelled all the way up from Rochdale for the bash, but confessed he didn’t know how they’d got there. I naturally suggested the Trans-Pennine Express, which was all that was necessary to set Crazy Legs away on a Kraftwerk inspired song cycle.

Luckily I heard him singing “we are the robots” just before he became engaged in some exaggerated, robotic-style arm-waving, otherwise I would have been swerving across the road trying to avoid some imaginary potholes I thought he was trying to point out in a really eccentric style.

More climbing, just for a change and we stopped at a road junction to regroup once again. Here a couple of riders from the Berwick Wheelers swept past, giving Ovis a long appraising look. Crazy Legs suggesting they were just checking out his Rochdale Tri jersey which bore a remarkable resemblance to their own livery.

Back together again, we caught and passed the two Berwick Wheelers, who sat on for a while, before deciding we were going too slow. One of them pulled out, overtook us and suddenly realised just how strong the headwind was, as his pace immediately dropped down to match ours. We naturally had no intention of looking a gift horse in the mouth and piled onto the shelter of his back wheel, happy to have someone to share the workload with.

The other Berwick Wheeler then joined his compadre on the front for a long stint, before ceding the front to Crazy Legs and Ovis again, as we continued in a long arc that would draw us back toward Wooler.

The cohesiveness of our impromptu group was ruptured on the next climb and then lost for good as I punctured on the descent. An audible Phztt…Phztt…Phztt announced a rapidly deflating front tyre, while sounding like a cartoon bomb rolling over and over on its fuse. We stopped and pulled over to make repairs.

Underway again, a long descent deposited us onto the Milfield Plain, where scores of ominous black carrion crows circled us cawing loudly and watching eagerly for any faltering cyclist to provide a quick meal. The seemed to particularly gather around Richard of Flanders, who’d gone ominously silent and was looking perhaps the most likely to give them what they were waiting for.

We were starting to close rapidly on the finish now though and Ovis was happy to announce only two more climbs. I could only remember one of these, where our route took us up onto a narrow track the curved past a farm, a short sharp and very brutal ramp that formed a real, late sting in the tail of the route.

I remembered the climb from the 107 mile Borderlands run as it had almost brought me to a grinding halt. This time the approach seemed different as we swung left onto the climb, whereas I’m sure we approached from the other direction on the longer route.

While the approach was different, the severity of the climb was the same and I chased my chain up the cassette and hauled myself out of the saddle to follow Ovis. The pitted road surface was invisible under a thick blanket of mud, which at least evened out some of the bumps. Luckily it was bone-dry, or traction would have been a real issue.

Nevertheless, the slope claimed its sacrificial victims, one being the rider just in front of us who came grinding to a halt with cramp in both legs and lamenting the fact that this hill always seems to defeat him. As we eased over the first of two ramps another rider approached from behind muttering to himself and swearing like a trooper with Tourette’s – “rugga-fumba-rumba-bashta-gronk!”

“Does it help?” I enquired.

“Yes, I think so,” he politely replied.

He then swung round the corner to the bottom of the next rise and with a full-blooded roar of “Baaastard!” attacked the slope full on. As he winched his way around the corner and out of sight, his voice trailed faintly back down to us, “It definitely helps …”

Ovis was right and there was one more hill of note, but it wasn’t as bad as anything that had gone before and we were now pushing on and eager to finish. A few more miles saw us all through the “Welcome to Wooler” sign and then we were swinging right into the Cattle Market and back over the timing gate to finish.

T-shirt collected (and almost instantly snaffled by Daughter#1 when I got home) and more importantly with “pie vouchers” clasped in sweaty hands, we made our way to the event canteen for our much anticipated reward.

The steak pie was great, the paper plates and pliable plastic forks not so good – perhaps we’ll carry our own cutlery next time? Crazy Legs even went with the healthy option and had mushy peas with his (one of his five a day) and everyone seemed to agree the meal really hit the spot.

There was then just time for a Gang of Four, group picture and we were packing up to head home. As ever the event remains one of my favourites and I’ve no doubt we’ll be back next year for one, or both of the Wooler Wheel rides.

Oh, did I mention the pie?


YTD Totals: 5,888 km / 3,658 miles with 67,189 metres of climbing

 

 

Shiny Happy People and the Strava Nazis

Shiny Happy People and the Strava Nazis

Club Run, Saturday 6th May, 2017          

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  114 km / 71 miles with 1,131 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 23 minutes

Average Speed:                                25.9 km/h

Group size:                                        34 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                   14°C

Weather in a word or two:          Cold and breezy


 

6 may
Ride Profile

Another chilly Saturday. I don’t think I can recall getting into May and only having had one ride warm enough for shorts. Today certainly wasn’t going to be the exception and it felt like my knee and arm warmers combined with long-fingered gloves were just the bare minimum.

Shock! Horror! Could Donald J. Trump actually be right and is climate change a complete fallacy. Well, no children – don’t be ridiculous, of course not.

Crossing the bridge I was distracted by a strange, piping, peep-peep-peep call as a pair of unusual looking white gulls with grey-chevrons on their wings and long, curved beaks skimmed low over the parapet and carried on downriver. Avocet’s perhaps, if I read the RSPB bird-identification website correctly, but really, really don’t trust me on that.

As I approached the Cobblestone Runway I was held up by a new set of temporary traffic lights. At first I thought perhaps they’d recognised how horrible the new road surface was and had set about rectifying the problem. But no, of course not, they were actually digging up the other side of the road no doubt in preparation for the installation of another anti-cycling, stealth-rumble strip on the opposite carriageway.

(Chatting with work colleague Mr T. he’s encountered something similar and is blaming Northumbrian Water and whatever contractors they employ. You have been warned.)


Main topics of conversation at the start:

Despite the depredations of the wind and occasional discomfiting road surface, I made it to the meeting point in good time, but I still wasn’t the first to arrive. That honour went to Facebook-postin’ carbon-stress-loadin’ Guiness-slurpin’ pie-chompin’ platter-spinnin’ real-ale-swilling curry-gobblin’ all-azione Thom-Thom – who had arrived from the opposite direction and been blown in from the coast in record time.

Either that or, by his own admission, he was having a spectacularly glorious good day.

We had a brief chat about Holdsworth and Holdsworthy bikes and wondered if there was any link between the two – I’d seen the Holdsworth business “empire” referred to as Holdsworthy before, but didn’t honestly know the answer to that one.

Benedict had planned and posted the ride for today and I think everyone must have underestimated his magnetic appeal and winning personality, as the pavement was soon crowded with well over 30 riders, which included an unusually high proportion of lasses too.

Crazy Legs looked on in mildly irritated disbelief at the massive turnout, which you couldn’t even attribute to the weather as it wasn’t sunny and was still decidedly chilly.

As he’s due to set the route and lead the ride next week, he vowed that if the turnout for his ride isn’t at least half as popular as Benedict’s he’ll stamp his foot loudly and quit in a fit of pique. This almost had the feel of a self-fulfilling prophecy though, as a load of us are due to be missing next week, either off for a training camp in sunny Majorca, or grinding their way through the Cheviot Hills in this year’s edition of the Wooler Wheel.

The Red Max suggested his hallowed bike shed was uncharacteristically unkempt at present, as he admitted defeat in his search to locate a spare crankset he was generously donating to the Crazy Legs Time-trial Bike Build Project. (CLTTBBP – JustGiving reference #OG7783682). I wondered what could possibly have caused such a disruption to the natural order of things and Red Max blamed a badly misunderstood, natural phenomenon known as “Monkey Butler Boy.”

I just hoped the sacred ziggurat of used bottom brackets escaped unsullied and still sacrosanct.

There was only time to salute the plucky winner of the first stage of the Giro – even though no one could remember his name (isn’t it fun when the sprinters teams screw up?) – and we were off.

(Chapeau of course to relatively unknown, Lukas Postlberger and the deeply unfancied (without Peter Sagan) Bora-Hansgroe team for winning Stage 1 of the Giro in such an impressive and surprising way. If he’d listened to Crazy Legs he would have immediately retired, as it just wont get any better than this.)


As we streamed out onto the road I dropped in beside Zardoz as we chatted about our cycling experiences “back in the day” – rock hard chamois inserts, wooden brake blocks, tweed plus-fours and having to be preceded everywhere by a walking man waving a red flag. The days before Shimano existed and when you either had expensive, market leading Campagnolo kit, or something markedly inferior. And most people chose Campagnolo.

We hadn’t gone far before we spotted a bulging black bin bag by the side of the road. Imagining something as horrific as last weeks “bag o’ bloody birds” we gave it a wide berth, only to find it appeared to be filled with nothing more sinister than grass clippings. Why?


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Spinning along at a decent pace, despite the increasingly problematic headwind, we were soon skirting Whittledene Reservoir, calling a quick pee stop and giving Zardoz the chance to slide backwards and well away from the front of the group. Here we discovered that Crazy Leg’s chain was slipping every time he applied too much pressure through the pedals.

He attributed this to perhaps mixing up his spacers when re-assembling the cassette after cleaning. He now toured round our group, looking for someone else with Campagnolo gears so he could compare cassettes, only to realise he was the only one who wasn’t riding a Shimano equipped bike, as even Andeven astride his fabulous, pure-bred, Italian Colnago had an Ultegra groupset.

Off we went again, with Crazy Legs trying to contain his problems by riding off the front and easing gently up the hills, or hanging off the back. The usual, short-sharp climbing brought us to a T-Junction, where we usually swing right and then sharp left, but today our route took us directly left and we began a long straight descent into the Tyne Valley.

We then hit the A69, four crazy-ass lanes of speeding traffic we’ve engaged with in a few breathless games of Frogger before. This time the junction spat us out at an actual crossing point, with a safe-haven of space half way across, where we could gather ourselves before a final dash to safety.

It wasn’t long before we were all stacked up behind Crazy Legs, crowded onto this small, tarmac meridian, in a weird game of cyclist sardines.

“Just watch,” Caracol suggested, “Crazy Legs will spot a gap, try darting across, then his chain will slip and we’ll all pile into the back of him and be killed in a massive accident.”

Luckily it wasn’t to be, and in bits and pieces, dribs and drabs we managed to scuttle across to safety, regroup and press on down, down into the Tyne Valley.

The valley floor led through a massive gymkhana, row upon row of shiny 4×4’s and horseboxes parked on one side of the road and lots of fat, little girls jiggling on fat, little ponies and bobbing along on the other side. For a brief moment I thought we might lose G-Dawg to the lure of the attendant chip, waffle and do-nut vans, as he turned his big, puppy-dog eyes in their direction and his nose started twitching at all the attendant fast-food smells, but he somehow managed to restrain himself.

A bit of climbing, a bit of regrouping and we were heading for Aydon, then more climbing across the bridge that soared back over the A69 and yet more climbing to escape the valley. From here we picked out a course for Matfen and the Quarry Climb and then the mad, helter-skelter dash to the café.

The indefatigable G-Dawg was once again on the front of things, with Andeven alongside as we turned off for the Quarry and straight into a buffeting and chilling gale.

Our two leaders were both equally effective, despite a massive contrast in styles. G-Dawg pushed a huge gear in stately, slow motion, while a languid Andeven spun unfussily up the inside. Both did fantastic work driving us straight into the vicious block headwind and keeping the pace high.

Near the very crest of the Quarry Climb, Zardoz shimmied and shook and hurled himself clear of the pack, darting to the top before everyone else, then we regrouped and G-Dawg once more found himself on the front.

He then turned his puppy dog eyes on me, a look he’d obviously been perfecting ever since we’d passed the takeaway trucks at the gymkhana. Against all better judgement, I felt duty bound to reward his herculean efforts and take over on the front to give him a breather before everyone started battling it out for the sprint finish.

Pushing ahead, I took us round the last junction and onto the road down to the Snake Bends, at least having the benefit of being able to pick my own line down the horribly pitted and broken road surface.

I was joined on the front by Benedict and I tried to push the pace on, tucking in low to help minimise wind drag and even attempting to accelerate over the small humps and dips along the road, each one of which soon began to feel like a major climb to me.

I battered away for as long as I could, which probably wasn’t all that long, desperately trying to remember how much further we had to go and then, suddenly I was done. I looked back to check the road was clear, then swung wide, sat up and let the pack off the leash, as they howled past and away.

At the back I found Crazy Legs still glass cranking to try and avoid his chain slipping. He offered up the shelter of his back wheel, but even that was too much and too fast for me and he was soon rolling away.

As we crossed the main road and skipped down the adjoining lane I’d just about recovered enough to catch Crazy Legs and we had a chat about how today’s route was on the limits of how far we could go and hope to be back at a reasonable time. We’d have really been pushing it if we’d had a mechanical or a puncture and as it was we’d still likely be late leaving the café and getting back home.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

We managed to dart into the café just in front of a bunch of burly mountain-bikers and joined a very long queue, which seemed to be moving with glacial slowness. I caught Sneaky Pete just as he was sneaking off home and he warned us about dark mutterings of discontent among the other group, who apparently weren’t  quite bought into the new world order.

As we waited to be served, Crazy Legs admitted he’d quite enjoyed his enforced, glass-cranking “recovery ride” – which made a pleasant, very occasional change from a lung-bursting sprint. He said it was particularly welcome after riding last Saturday, Monday and then Tuesday night at our newly inaugurated chain-gang session.

I mentioned I myself had ridden Saturday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday … only to learn that “commutes don’t count.”

Crazy Legs revealed that Taffy Steve is a bit of a Strava Nazi and once, when he’d inadvertently recorded a turbo session on Strava, Taffy Steve had  heaped opprobrium on him from the first to the last pedal stroke of following weeks club run. By the same token he reasoned commuter rides shouldn’t count.

Well, bollocks to that. If you can say it didn’t happen because it wasn’t on Strava, then by default, if it is on Strava then it must have happened. Anyway, I’m quite proud of my single-speed commutes up and down the Heinous Hill, even if the front chainring is admittedly the size of an asprin and the rear sprocket bigger than a dinner plate.

At the table, Crazy Legs imparted how his son has become a connoisseur of dad jokes, which he’d realised when a simple query of, “All right, son?” was met with the hoary old, “No, I’m half left.”

We then had a round-robin of crap dad jokes:

“What do you call a blind elk? No idea.”

“What do you call a dead, blind elk? Still no idea.”

“What do you call a fly with no wings? A walk.”

Our collection was then topped, tailed and signed off in unbeatable style when Son of G-Dawg wondered, “If you pour root beer into a square glass, does it become just beer?”

Meanwhile, Crazy Legs’ issue with his cassette led to a discussion about cassette spacers and how G-Dawg was desperate to find someone who could make him coloured ones. He wanted some in yellow to add just a little more co-ordination to his bike and have yet one more excuse to keep his cassette spotlessly clean.

Crazy Legs suggested that for anyone with an 8-speed, a rainbow coloured series of spacers would always ensure you assembled your cassette correctly and avoid any embarrassment caused by slipping chains.

I could just imagine him, beavering away in his garage and muttering to himself, “Now, how does it go again? Richard of York gave battle  …”

Meanwhile, the BFG revealed he has no such issues as he keeps all the instructions he’s ever got with any bike components handily pinned to his fridge door with magnets. He (and his family) now enjoy easy access to instructions on assembling a cassette in 17 different languages, complete with multiple exploded diagrams.

Suddenly, Zardoz started chuckling away and when we looked at him quizzically chortled, “Root beer in a square glass. That’s funny.”

He then revealed he’d once been working in New York and learned that the natives would always suggest the best way to keep an Englishman happy in his old age was to tell him lots of jokes when he was young…

I had a chat with Famous Sean’s as we queued for the loo. He hadn’t been out with us for a good long time, but gave the new, split group option a big thumbs up and said how much he’d enjoyed the ride.

Meanwhile Crazy Legs had a chat with Rad-Man who’d been with the second group and he to said the ride had been great and he was more than happy with how things had gone.

Later, Facebook-postin’ carbon-stress-loadin’ Guiness-slurpin’ pie-chompin’ platter-spinnin’ real-ale-swilling curry-gobblin’ all-azione Thom-Thom, also riding with the second group would, true to his name, take to Facebook to declare that it had been an “excellent ride.”

None of this stopped OGL collaring Bendict and suggesting some of the older club members were unhappy with the arrangements, felt the club was descending into chaos and complain how the second group had been left with no strong riders to sit on the front all day and shelter them from the wind!

He then came by our table to reiterate the same points.

I personally haven’t spoken to anyone who doesn’t think the changes we are trying to implement aren’t for the better,  but would suggest everyone is open to discussing how we could sensibly improve things and the best way forward.

Hmm, well, maybe not everyone…


We set off for home and I rode alongside the BFG as we tried to guess what the square box  prominent in G-Dawg’s rear pocket could possibly be. We finally decided it was a pack of 20 Rothman’s King Size cigarettes that he (probably) carried only for show.

With us running fairly late, I took early leave of the group, skipping the dubious pleasures of Berwick Hill and Dinnington to swing right and cut a big corner off by looping back through Ponteland.

From here I decided to try and trace a different route home – crossing the River Pont and then turning immediately right. I thought I had swung too far to the west and I was back tracking, but checking the route on Strava afterwards it was pretty direct and threw up lots of other alternative  ways I could take for a bit of welcome variety.

I was even more delighted to see I’d secured the 4th best time ever on a short, Strava segment called Hillhead Barps, which I only mention as it gave me bragging rights over ex-club mate, work colleague and the much younger, super-strong racer Nick Spencer. By a whole second.

I made it home just shy of 6 hours after leaving, having completed over 70 miles and feeling suitably tired. Still, I guess the “officially recognised” Strava riding’s over for another week so I can rest up. Well, unless I’m tempted out by our newly instigated Tuesday night chain-gang, although to be honest, I can’t think of any other style of cycling that I’m less suited to.


YTD Totals: 2,727 km / 1,694 miles with 29,968 metres of climbing

Can’t Bring Me Down

Can’t Bring Me Down

Club Run, Saturday 11th March, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  103 km / 64 miles with 986 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 12 minutes

Average Speed:                                24.5 km/h

Group size:                                         28 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    12°C

Weather in a word or two:          Pleasantly cool with late showers


ride profile 11 March
Ride Profile

The Ride:

An extended period of warmer, dry weather saw a shuffling of the hierarchy in the Sur La Jante stable … or to be more accurate and less prosaic … the dingy, old bike shed. As a result, the ratbag mountain bike was relegated to the very darkest recesses, where it will sit and moulder until I can work up some enthusiasm for spending time and money on its sorry old carcase, or until the return of winter weather sees it dragged once more, limping and disabled into reluctant use.

To be honest it needs some real TLC as its slowly disintegrating round me. It’s already lost 70% of its functionality now, with only 8 of the original 27 gears in working order. The headset rattles like a bag of drop-forged spanners, while the 1½ functioning brakes have been possessed by a shrill and malevolent banshee. This evil spirit emits occasional and erratic blood-curdling screeches, like a rabid, feral cat being slowly dipped in boiling water.

Tucked in beside the MTB, the Pug got a good clean, wax and oil, before being prescribed bed-rest and set on reserve for emergency purposes only. Hopefully I won’t have to think about it again until at least October, when I have plans to upgrade most of the groupset from an awkward blend of Tiagra and Sora, to a more refined Shimano 105.

Out from its hiding place, the single-speed Trek has been shod with a new set of (Vittoria, naturally) tyres and last week it once again became the commuting bike of choice. And … from the other side of the shed … from its specially reserved space of splendid isolation, rising like lions after slumber, the Holdsworth has once again been unchained and unleashed.

The decision has been made and will not be retracted, best bikes are being broken out up and down the country and there is to be no turning back. Even the threat of rain showers later on Saturday wasn’t going to change anything.

Friday night saw me then, prepping my old friend Reg for Saturday’s ride, his first outing of the year. I’ve some new tyres (with added graphene!) to slap on at some point, but to be honest last years Corsa’s still looked to have plenty of life left in them, so that particular change can wait a while.

Saturday morning saw me dropping down the Heinous Hill faster and more assured than I had at any other time this year, revelling in pure speed, how the bike felt solidly planted and the turbo-charged tick-tick-ticking of the freewheel. I’d forgotten just how much fun this cycling lark could be.

Everything just seemed tighter and more refined, the brakes bit immediately and effectively, while gear changes were crisp and flowed smoothly. The transition was relatively smooth too, as I only once found myself reaching for a non-existent thumb-shifter.

Pushing out onto along the valley floor, the verges were scattered with the bright orange,yellow, purple and white studs of budding young tulips. It certainly feels like spring is just around the corner and it was beginning to look that way too.

A brief halt at the traffic lights on the bridge gave me the chance to watch the rowing club warming up with a serious of half-hearted shuttle-runs. There were at least 40 of them, several crews were already out on the water and there’s yet another club on the far bank. When did rowing get so popular?

Back underway, I found myself once again negotiating a serious of roadworks and temporary traffic lights, but seeming to catch my urgent need to maintain forward motion, this time I seemed to hit every one at just the right time and blew through them without delay, arriving at our meeting point in good time and in good order.


Main topics of conversation at the start:

As I pulled up in a bright blaze of vile red, poisonous black and bilious yellow, G-Dawg solemnly informed us that OGL had already issued a doom-laden proclamation. Apparently we  would be engulfed by rain of biblical proportions should we dare to spurn the will of the weather gods and try riding anything but winter bikes today.

We all naturally assumed the worst and that Horner’s Theorem™ would apply anyway. This rule 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” try to include in our route.

Jimmy Mac looked to be the only one still out on his winter bike – apparently, his good wheels had been mysteriously detained in OGL’s workshop where they’d only gone for a quick service and tune up. I suspected this was just a ruse to ensure OGL wasn’t the only one out on his winter bike. Of course he announced they were now ready to pick up, but … oops … not in time for today’s ride.

We had an FNG in the shape of a new arrival to the North East, recently transplanted from his native Devon and looking for a good club to join. I’m not sure how he wound up with us…

An ex-racer, he would later find a kindred spirit in beZ and the pair would eventually leave us tootling, old guys and gals, to go try and rip each other’s legs off. In the meantime, he took the time to introduce himself to everyone, complete with a firm, manly handshake. A good first impression, though I’ll be hugely impressed if he can attach more than a handful of names to an array of too similar, anonymous looking, helmet encased, sunglasses wearing bike jockey’s.

Grover wheeled up for his first ride of the year, much like the budding tulips, a truly profound indication that spring is just around the corner. Recovering from our mild surprise and rubbing our eyes to make sure it wasn’t just a miradjee, someone wondered if Szell might be next up, although it was quickly agreed we’d have to wait another month or two before the emergence of this particularly exotic butterfly from its winter chrysalis.

There was a long and involved discussion about Jess Varnish and the state of our national cycling federation, apparently beleaguered amidst a sea of troubles. An expectedly myopic OGL wouldn’t have a word said against British Cycling, while Taffy Steve reasoned that if you employed a straight-talking, foul-mouthed, Australian bully for a coach, you should know exactly what you’re going to get. Meanwhile, Tom-Tom suggested bullying and sexism had no place within any professional institution, least of all the highly public, elite end of sport.

I didn’t have anything sensible to add to the discussion, but felt compelled to mention Jess Varnish was an obvious talent and she had a real good finish on her.

“Yes, satin semi-gloss.” Taffy Steve agreed, while the Prof just looked on befuddled and wondered what the hell we could possibly be talking about.

Our 9:15 Garmin Time start was somewhat delayed by OGL collecting club membership fees, which prompted the Prof to ponder what actually happened to the princely payments our president procured.

“You might as well take a big stick and go and stir up a hornets nest.” G-Dawg suggested in the shocked silence that followed the question.


A bumper pack of 28 lads and lasses were soon pushing off, clipping in and riding out in two long snaking lines.

I spent time sitting toward the back of the pack with Sneaky Pete as we rolled out, Taffy Steve and Crazy Legs shouldering the burden of the work on the front as we clambered out into the countryside via Berwick Hill.

Rotations off the front and a brief stop for a mechanical and then for the Prof to pee, saw the order change and I spent some time chatting with Grover (who was definitely not enjoying his first ride since November) and then the BFG.

At some point OGL led us out briefly out onto the A696, two lanes of screaming death metal, notorious for speeding and dodgy over-taking manouvres. We all got stacked up at a junction waiting to cross against the fast moving, high volume traffic heading north on what is, after all a major route up to Scotland. We stood there far too long, all crowded together and feeling vulnerable to anything travelling south with too much pace or not enough attention, before managing to effect an exit.

“Great,” Taffy Steve quipped, “Looks like Punishment Ride Number 8.”

That’s what you get for riding your best bike without permission, but the weather had been so fine for the past week that we failed to find any dodgy, dirty roads. Still, you can’t say we/he didn’t try.

At one point, I caught up with Keel, who is enduring life in a call-centre while he waits for his chosen industry to pick itself out of a slump to get his career back on track. He’s still plumbing the depths to try and find the lowest base level of human benevolence, empathy, compassion and understanding. This week’s candidate for Caller of the Year had excused their ignorance and rudeness by suggesting, “I can’t help it that I’m upper class and you’re working class.”


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Next up was Cowin’ Bovril who revealed he’s planning a trip to the Alps with Carlton in June. Funny he should say that …

The road finally spat us out at the bottom of Middleton Bank, with Crazy Legs turning left, away from the climb for a slightly longer run to the café, simply because it’s a direction he’d never taken before. Just as he swung away, Sneaky Pete sneaked off after him, while I hesitated, before deciding not to follow.

Hitting the steepest ramps of the climb, I then found myself at the back and boxed in as the BFG drove a small group off the front. In giving chase, Tom-Tom opened up a small gap which I nipped through and I dropped onto his wheel as he passed a struggling Taffy Steve, caught in an unequal fight with both the slope and a rubbing tyre.

As the road straightened, I swung past Tom-Tom and dragged him across the gap to the front runners. Over the top, there was to be no regrouping after the climb this week,  both the BFG and Keel working hard to push the pace up on the front as we closed on the café. I drifted to the back of the group and followed the wheels as we swooped down through Milestone Woods and up the first and steepest of the rollers.

Here the BFG popped, swung over and was swept away. Half-way up the final climb, Keel also blew, G-Dawg, Jimmy Mac and Biden Fecht romped away to contest the sprint, while I tusselled wheel to wheel with the Prof for the minor places.


Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

G-Dawg and Crazy Legs have organised an off-road , mountain bike excursion around Kielder next Saturday. Sounds like fun, but I suspect any kind of route more challenging than a riverside path is likely to shake my mountain bike to destruction. Besides this, it’s much too soon after re-discovering the joy of riding the Holdsworth again, so I had to pass.

Completely independent of Carlton and Cowin’ Bovril, Crazy Legs has also arranged a trip to France,  where he’ll re-enact Hannibal’s epic journey across the Alps. Captain Black, Goose and me have all volunteered for the role of the elephants, reasoning we probably climb like enormous, lumpen pachyderms anyway.

We fly to Geneva on the weekend of the Cyclone, with the idea of driving to France and setting up a base camp within striking distance of Alpe d’Huez, the Galibier, Col de la Bonette, Col d’Izoard and all those other legendary climbs that cyclists can usually only dream of. That should keep us well occupied for 3 or 4 days.

We represent then … drum roll please … “The 4 Riders of the Alps Bucket-List”  – although my carefully pre-prepared blerg title, has been somewhat ruined as Crazy Legs’ brother-in-law, or aunties, uncles, nephew’s son, or some such distant relative  will also join us.

The BFG too, might venture out, if the timings coincide with his human phases of the moon and even the elusive, semi-legendary recluse, Hammer has threatened to join us, although I understand he’ll be flying out by private jet and will probably take up residence on his super-yacht in Monaco for the duration.

While there’s no contest in a choice between the Alps and the Cyclone, the trip does mean I’ll miss the annual slug fest around Northumberland for the first time since 2010.   This not only breaks a 6 year tradition, but means there’s a sportive-sized hole in my annual schedule, which the talk at Saturday suggested could be filled by a return to the Wooler Wheel. There seems to be a lot of club interest in the ride, which I haven’t done for a couple of years, so it’s definitely-maybe a possibility.

Captain Black also helpfully reminded me of the post-ride grub the organisers provide, which is, I have to admit a real incentive and could yet sway my decision.

Crazy Legs wandered up in his role of Hannibal to discuss trip arrangements, picked up Princess Fiona’s Oakley’s by mistake and made to wander away. Called to account, he did have the excuse that her prize, expensive Oakley’s were identical in absolutely every way to his knock-off, uber-cheap Fauxley’s. He placed both pairs side by side to prove his point, but luckily didn’t shuffle them around and ask us to pick out the genuine article.

The Prof exulted in his original Ray Ban X-Rays, which he felt were old enough to be seen as not only a true classic, but apparently wholly original and positively vintage.

“And you’ve only ever had to replace the lenses 13 times and the frames 6 times.” Captain Black quipped.

With OGL dithering over another coffee, most of us were done and dusted and so we split the group and left.


On the way back I was chatting to Taffy Steve about local sports “heroes” – inevitably ours are cerebrally-challenged ex-footballers of dubious abilities, who manage to get continuous media work despite relying on the most mundane prognostications, unedifying insight and some truly banal cliché’s.

I told him how one famous son of Tyneside had rang the University demanding a place for his daughter and, on being told her qualifications simply weren’t good enough, had actually resorted to the cheesy old, “Do you not know who I am?”

(Of course, I always enjoyed the (probably) apocryphal story of the outraged airline passenger who used the same, “Do you have any idea who I am?” line, only for the ticket agent to fire up the public address and loudly announce, “We have a passenger here who can’t remember who he is. If anyone can help him, please come to gate 17.”)

I also had a laugh at Chris Waddle who it seems has singularly failed to master the word “penalty.”

“That’s a stone-wall pelanty!” he’ll shout excitedly down the radio, while I shake my head and sigh. No Chris, it’s not.

“That is good though,” Taffy Steve mused, “He can’t pronounce penalties and he can’t take them either.” Ooph!

As we made our way down Berwick Hill, the driver of a large white panel van we’d obviously delayed on his massively important journey for the briefest of nano-seconds, decided we didn’t have any right to be on the road. To make his point he decided it would be a good idea to overtake, pull sharply in front of us and then execute an exemplary emergency stop, in the hope that we would all pile into the back of his van and die in a horrible, mangled heap.

Sadly for him, our brakes and reflexes were more than adequate to cope with this utterly ridiculous and dangerous stunt and we all stopped admirably and without incident, albeit there was a fair bit of shouting.

Taffy Steve pulled up alongside the open window of the still rocking van to calmly inform the moronic driver that he’d been a very naughty man indeed and suggested we had 20 witnesses to a very clear case of dangerous driving, before riding nonchalantly away. These pronouncements seemed to leave the loon gibbering, spluttering and chittering incoherently in outraged apoplexy, while we all filed past and continued our ride. Complete and utter arse hat.

Exiting the Mad Mile, I latched onto the BFG’s wheel as his new lair lies a little way along my route home and so I enjoyed a bit of company for the first quarter of a mile or so. Then I was off, riding solo and still thoroughly enjoying myself.

Crossing the river, I was approaching a supermarket entrance, and noticed a car with Probationary driver plates waiting to pull out onto the road, piloted by a young, female. Feeling sure she’d noticed the vulnerable cyclist, or at least the line of cars stacked closely on my rear wheel, I gave it no further thought, until she pulled out directly in front of me.

I had no choice but to swerve into the opposite lane, which was thankfully empty, while wildly gesticulating with a universal “WTF” waving of my arms, which she studiously ignored. I passed down the left-hand side of the car as she slowed to turn immediately right, banging on the side-panel to try and get her attention and at least have her acknowledge I existed. Eyes fixed very firmly straight-ahead, there wasn’t even a flicker that she’d done something irrefutably stupid and wrong, before she turned the wheel and drove blithely away.

Y’gads, they’re everywhere! But, despite it all, malicious, ignorant or simply inattentive, asinine drivers failed to puncture my good mood. I can’t wait for next weekend and the chance to do it all again.


YTD Totals: 1,228 km / 763 miles with 13,060 metres of climbing

The Hold Steady

Club Run, Saturday 21st May, 2016

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  114 km / 71 miles with 1,056 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 9 minutes

Average Speed:                                26.4 km/h

Group size:                                         24 riders, 1 FNG

Temperature:                                    19°C

Weather in a word or two:          Bright and passably warm

Main topic of conversation at the start:

I’d donated a pair of arm warmers to Taffy Steve because they were far too big for my puny, spindly arms and just a tiny bit too tight to even wear on my legs. He modelled them for his ride in and wondered what kind of idiot needed a big L and R on each cuff so they would know which arm to put them on.

I held out both my arms so he could see the corresponding L and R on the cuffs of my sleeves and explained this was even worse because these weren’t individual arm warmers, but a long sleeved base layer, with a logo on the front breast, a label inside the back and a scooped neck at the front so you know exactly which way to put it on. Or maybe not.

This left us wondering if cyclists could be unintentionally set up as the sporting equivalent of the dumb blonde. It reminded Taffy Steve of awful Irish “comedian” Jimmy Cricket who featured in The Krankies Klub with The Krankies and Bobby Davro. Now there’s a Iine-up that could still make me break me out in a cold sweat.

As well as lame catchphrases, Jimmy Cricket was of course famous for wearing wellies with a big L and R incised on the front, but wait, there’s more, as he hilariously wore these on the wrong feet. I know, side-splittingly funny.

This in turn reminded me of a very old and fetid joke about C&A knickers, but let’s not go there and then lead to completely unfounded speculation that posited OGL as the Bernard Manning of the local cycling club scene.

With the weather being a bit of a lottery as to how much rain we might get and exactly when, Crazy Legs revealed he’d packed his non-waterproof waterproof. Taffy Steve was imminently disdainful of any waterproof jacket and explained he must be putting them on inside out as the outside would remain dry, while the inside quickly became sodden.

An interesting article about changing cycling club culture that the Hammer had posted on our Faecesbook page caused a little, but in my mind not enough debate. I may yet have to return to this topic, much like a dog to its own vomit.

Main topic of conversation at the coffee stop:

Crazy Legs revealed someone had invented a pump integrated into a seat tube, but of course you had to dismantle half of your bike to access it. It apparently weighs in at a measly 718g and is yours for a mere $50 plus P&P.


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We decided the design could be improved if it worked in situ, the piston action perhaps providing a degree of suspension to smooth out a few bumps in the road. Even better if it was always connected and the bumps inflated your tyres as you rolled along. The problem then of course would be that on the horribly rutted and potted roads around here you would very quickly inflate your tyres beyond rock hard and unrideable, right up to spectacular blow out levels.

Thoughts turned to the Giro and I suggested (wrongly as it turns out) that no one with a team in our club fantasy Giro league had selected Valverde. Crazy Legs suggested this was because no one liked the wheel-sucking, drug-cheating, play-it-safe, selfish and unrepentant-doper, not even his own Movistar team mates.

He cited an early stage in the Giro when Visconti wouldn’t leave a breakaway in order to help his supposed leader, feigning radio problems before blatantly arguing with his DS and adamantly refusing to drop back to help.

There was further speculation that Valverde was so unpopular he didn’t have any friends on Faecesbook, no connections on Linked-In and no followers on Strava.

Crazy Legs complained his team of fantasy picks had been systematically decimated, his bad luck particularly epitomised by J.C. Peraud, simultaneously riding both his first and very last Giro, given joint team-leadership responsibilities and not even surviving long enough to ride a single metre on Italian roads.

This in turn brought up discussions about the proposed Giro 2018 start in Japan and how long a rest would be needed to recover from a 14-hour transfer. As a solution we came up with the idea of twinning – one rider completing the first few overseas stages before handing over to another rider to finish things off.

We then decided it would be more fun if the riders were “twinned” by lottery and it would be interesting to see who they were paired with and their reactions when the draw was made, for example when an overall contender had to rely on say Marcel Kittel to climb the 3,778 metres up Mount Fuji.

I suggested the riders could actually pick their twins, like choosing sides for a playground kick around and how informative it would be to see who was last man selected. Crazy Legs though scolded me for being silly, as it was obvious who would be the last man picked: the ever unpopular Alejandro Valverde obviously.

He then caught Son of G-Dawg fiddling with his phone and accused him of being caught quickly and surreptitiously unfriending Valverde on Faecesbook. We waited for the phone to ring and a Spanish accented voice start to plead with Son of G-Dawg not to follow through with the unfriending –  but sadly it never happened. Perhaps Balaverde (the Green Bullet) had other things on his mind at the time?


Ride profile 21 May
Ride Profile

The Waffle:

Despite having everything set out and sorted the night before, I found myself strangely short of time and dashing around early Saturday morning trying to get ready and out the door to ensure a timely arrival at the meeting point. It wasn’t to be and leaving over 10 minutes behind my usual schedule, I considered shortening my route, but thought if I just pushed a little faster than normal I could still make it before we set off for our regular and prompt 9.00 o’clock start (i.e. at 9.20 on the nose).

I dropped quickly down the hill and turned straight into a headwind that had me even more concerned and gave a little extra impetus and no small measure of unwelcome resistance to my charge. My usual early morning ramble now had a measure of urgency that saw me crouched low over the bike and trying to keep a high cadence.

With one eye on the time display of my Garmin, I passed the 8.42-mile mark (which I knew I’d hit at exactly 8:42 a couple of weeks back when I was on schedule) and checked to find it was only 8:35. I’d somehow made up the missing 10 plus minutes, gained another 5 and was now in danger of being much too early. I dialled the intensity back to a more, steady pace I could actually hold, but not before I’d set 4 Strava PR’s with my efforts.

For the day I’d chosen the most extreme version of kit matching imaginable to go with my black, red and yellow bike with the Lion of Flanders bar end plugs, yellow and black Vitorria Corsa tyres and carefully selected black red and yellow, BMC/PowerBar water bottle. This consisted of a Planet X Flanders jersey and shorts in yellow, black and red emblazoned with the Lion of Flanders, my new, very, very shiny, very, very red and very, very plasticky Chinese shoes and yellow socks also emblazoned with a black Lion of Flanders.


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Is this going too far?

The whole was topped off with a new Carnac aero helmet in black, yellow and red which, just to change things up a little, was emblazoned with the Lion of Flanders across the crown. According to one of my esteemed work colleagues this makes me look like an angry wasp, although I prefer to think the look is more akin to a benevolent, bumbling bee.

Lots of people … I was going to say complimented me, but I think just commented on my kit choice is the more accurate description. They did however all suggest I was at the very least “well co-ordinated.” There you go, I’m not the best rider in the club, nor the fastest, nor even the most stylish, but just for this one day I was the most co-ordinated and at my age you’ve got to take your victories where you can find them.

Crazy Legs suggested the whole look was ruined because my sunglasses didn’t match and I had to sheepishly admit I had some in a fetching shade of black, red and yellow on order, they just hadn’t arrived yet. Hmm, there’s a book called obsessive compulsive cycling disorder, isn’t there? I wonder if it’s catching…


 

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The anointed time arrived and 24 lads and lasses pushed off, clipped in and rode out under intermittingly bright and sunny skies and occasionally dark, overcast patchwork cloud. All the weather forecasts had predicted that we were likely to see rain at some point during the day, the only question was exactly when and with what intensity and duration.

I completed the first part of the ride alongside the Monkey Butler Boy, fresh from conquering the Wooler Wheel and growing fast. Too fast. I’ve tried to persuade the Red Max to stop feeding him, but apparently he has well-honed foraging instincts and is surprisingly feral.

At one point we were split with cars in between the gaps and stopped at a junction to regroup. It was here that we learned we’d lost Szell, who had turned for home after only a few miles with no indication of why he’d abandoned. Perhaps he was just disappointed our intended route didn’t involve an ascent of Middleton Bank.

Pretty much from the re-start I found myself on the front with Caracol where the wind became particularly noticeable and occasionally head-on and energy sapping. Nonetheless we pushed things along at a steady pace until we reached one of our traditional places to stop and split the group.


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The Red Max tried to persuade the Monkey Butler Boy that the long route was actually the shortest way to the café. Armed with a keen sense of mistrust, perhaps common in many father-son relationships, but I suspect especially well-honed between this pair, the Monkey Butler Boy wasn’t buying it. Perhaps remembering the “shorter, easier route” that took in the Ryals a few week past, he needed a great deal of persuading to accompany the longer, harder, faster group and a bit of bribery as well, managing to offload his rain cape from his own back pocket onto his dad.

At one point we passed by what I can best describe as a dead duck in the middle of the road, (it was a duck and it was indeed dead) though it looked surprisingly intact. Disappointingly there was no one within our ranks to claim the carcase.

The pace increased as we approached the Quarry Climb and when Andeven spun away up the outside with Caracol in pursuit, I accelerated to follow, cresting the climb to find Crazy Legs in close attendance on my rear wheel, apparently just in case I tried a long, long break for home!


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I had time for a brief chat with Aveline, who’d had her rear wheel fixed and was pleased to find it no longer sounded like a bag of loose spanners, or made her feel seasick with the constant wobbling and then the pace started to build for the run to the café.

A sudden burst off the front saw a gap opening and with a massive effort, out of the saddle with the bike skipping and bouncing, I managed to bridge as last man across as we fractured into two groups.  I hung on as riders rotated off the front, an improvised paceline that whipped the speed up even higher.

Crazy Legs rolled back from his stint at the spearhead and slotted in front of me, while Son of G-Dawg charged off the front. Moscas tried surging up the inside, but couldn’t close the gap and we slowly crept up and then parallel with him.

Crazy Legs now manoeuvred so he was riding practically down the white line to try and find the least damaged piece of road surface. It helped, but not by much, as wheels continued to bounce and everything shook viciously.

I moved to overtake him, but was straying into the opposite lane and a car, still quarter of a mile away took exception and started flashing his lights furiously. Being sensible for once and realising my overtaking speed was likely to be akin to glacial creep, I eased, slipped back and tucked in again.

The car swept past and I tried once more, hitting the front of the pack just behind the front runners in time to sit up and ease back for the Snake Bends. As usual, great fun mixed with a little danger and some pure exhilaration.

From the café Taffy Steve again found himself leading the charge home and opted to pull over and let someone else batter ahead into the wind. I was still feeling good so joined Sneaky Pete on the front, trying to contain his over-exuberance and try and limit the number of “Steady!” cries we were generating from behind.

At one point he suggested, “Steady’s all you’ll ever get from me” I would have laughed, but I was too out of breath trying to keep pace with his incessant half-wheeling. Retired folk these days eh? You just can’t control them.

I actually thought we did a damn fine job pulling everyone home to the point when half turned off and the rest were able to slingshot around us and charge down the Mad Mile.

A good ride and the rain never did manage to catch us, but it’ll have to keep me going for a week or two as I head off on holiday. How inconvenient. No doubt I’ll miss more vintage runs full of of fun and frivolity and, who knows maybe even a welcome return for Captain America. Enjoy the peace.

I’ll be back…


YTD Totals: 2,932 km / 1,821 miles with 28,170 metres of climbing

Wooler Wheel Borderlands Sportive – Saturday 16th May


My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                     172.6km/107 miles with 2,593 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                             6:58 hours

Group size:                                            8 less 2 (then 5, then 2, then 1)

Weather in a word or two:               Changeable


wooler wheel


No Club Run this week, as a bunch of us found ourselves getting up at an unfeasibly early, God-forsaken hour of Saturday morning to travel Even Further North™ in order to start the Wooler Wheel Borderlands Sportive at 7.30am.

For those who are geographically challenged, or lacking an encyclopaedic knowledge of the hidden rural enclaves of deepest, darkest Northumberland, Wooler, according to the event manual, is located in the far north-west corner of England, “perched perilously between the steep foothills of Cheviot and the Milfield Plain”. Strange, it didn’t seem all that dangerous a place when we got there, and I don’t recall much seismic activity in the Border Region from my Geography ‘A’ Level. Mind you, since I achieved that I think we’ve actually entered a completely new geological time period, so maybe things have changed.

Climbing out of Wooler, the route bends east to the North Sea, then turns quickly north before we get our feet wet, to run parallel to the beautiful Northumbria coastline for a while. Climbing over the border into Jockland, it then runs west along the Tweed Valley, climbing steeply to Scott’s View, dropping down into Teviotdale, and then climbing again, up and over the Cheviots to return to Wooler. Hmm, I’ve used climbing four times in that paragraph – that seems about right.

The Event HQ was located in a cattle market, which, although providing plenty of space and parking, did leave me with a somewhat sacrificial feeling, as we were herded through the dark and empty cattle pens to sign on, slipping and sliding down the same concrete ramps that I’m sure give our hooved bovine friends a similar feeling of nervous uncertainty.

From parking, to sign on, to fitting numbers to the bike, to lining up at the start gate, I managed to find, lose, find again, partially lose, search for and then find all 8 of the club lads and lasses set to ride, as well as a few others who were doing the shorter 100km route. Organising cyclists is an utterly thankless task, much akin to herding spooked cats in a thunderstorm. It was unsurprising therefore that by the time we’d rolled through the start gate minutes later our numbers were already down to 6, with 2 riders AWOL and never to be seen again. Maybe they fell foul of the hidden perils of the Milfield Plain?

The weather was bright and breezy for the most part, occasionally interspersed with sudden heavy showers, and a westerly wind that seemed to gather in strength as the day wore on. This necessitated several stops to pull on and take off rain jackets as the squalls blew past. Other than that the day was warm enough to go without overshoes and just arm and knee warmers.

Out on the road, and one of our number started romping up the first serious hills like a supercharged and enraged Armstrong chasing a Simeoni break, but I wasn’t remotely tempted to join in. It’s been over 30 years since I’ve ridden over a hundred miles so I adopted a much more cautious and conservative approach, dropping to the back and matching pace with our slowest rider as I tried to casually spin out a low gear. It was surprising to find cyclists already walking up the hills, I hope they were on the shorter route.

We hit the coast for some spectacular views of Holy Island and the Farnes, and our first headwind, slowing progress and demanding a bit more grunt, but were still clipping along at a decent pace and chattering merrily as we crossed the border into Scotland.
The first water stop was an opportunity to recharge bottles. Luckily mine was still fairly full as the group taste-test concluded the replacement water was “minging” and tasted heavily of chlorine. The contents of several bottles were summarily jettisoned when we called a quick pee stop.

Our first marker was at around 36 miles, where I reckoned we’d completed the first third of the course. It was at this point that I realised just how far 107 miles actually is and how long the ride was going to take. It was around this time that we lost the first of our number who, deciding the pace was too high, sensibly dropped off the back to continue in a more leisurely manner.

50 miles came and went, and the chatter in the group became less and less while legs became heavier and heavier.

75 miles and we’re mainly riding in companionable silence, occasionally stopping to don or doff rain jackets as the weather couldn’t make its mind up. We’re now faced with a series of ramps that lead us onto the climb up to Whitton Edge and the 301 metre highpoint of the route. Up ahead, in what appeared to be an argyle chequered jersey of white black and purple, a rider was weaving across the road trying to keep his momentum going as he struggled with the incline. He ran out of road and shuddered to a halt on the verge. I rode around him and followed his companion, also clad in argyle like a Garmin-Cannondale negative. This rider had bright pink fluorescent socks (why?) that looked so absurd that I was momentarily distracted from the pain in my legs, and I followed him to the top.

A quick chat with a photographer at the water station there confirms there are only a couple of serious climbs left, and we tip over the summit for a scary-mad, narrow twisting, descent down to the valley floor. For the first time all day I’m in the big chain-ring  with enough momentum to carry me over the a few minor hills without changing down and I take a long pull on the front.

Now I’m fixated on my Garmin and the slow countdown, always having to add 7 to the quick calculation of 100 minus however many miles the computer shows that we’ve done. I’m beginning to really hate those extra 7 miles, and whoever was so untidy or just too lazy to devise a ride with a nice round number, and I’m becoming a little too fixated on them.

Several cruelly hard ascents follow. They would normally be nothing to fear, but given the distance we’ve covered already and the “grippy” road surface, they have us slowing to a sustained and painful crawl. 100 miles come and go under our wheels, and there’s just that awkward, bastard, tail-end, untidy, cast-off, the uncalled for and damned inconsiderate runt of 7 miles left.

I note 102 miles tick past, ride some more, look down and the screen still resolutely shows 102 miles. I ride some more, telling myself not to look, and then I do, and it still says 102 miles. Maybe I’m cracking up?

Finally, agonisingly the screen ticks over to 103 and we’re on the last leg. We’re strung out along the road now, heading in and burning whatever meagre supplies of energy we have left. I’m clinging to the rear wheel of the first rider in our group as the miles squirm past. 104-105-106 miles and now the road is pan flat, but there’s a savage headwind. I’m slowly detached from the wheel in front, but as I turn into the finish strait my companion has slowed and is waiting (what a gent!) and we freewheel across the finish line together reminiscent of LeMond and Hinault conquering L’Alpe in ‘86 – although I suspect our ride was much harder.

lemond-hinault-alpe-d-huezhinaultlemond-
The Wooler Wheel – like Alpe D’Huez, only harder.

All that was left was to collect our (rather tasteful) T-shirts (immediately bagged by daughter number#1) and enjoy a traditional pie and peas meal (haute cuisine to us Northerners, and a welcome savoury break from sickly sweet gels and energy bars.)

All in all a great day out, and a fantastically well-organised event with clear sign posting and marshalls on all the major junctions to not only point the way, but control what little traffic we encountered. The countryside was somewhat wild and remote, but beautiful and the weather decidedly changeable – I was very surprised to find I had sunburned calves at the end – thankfully tiredness numbed the pain.

YTD Totals:         2,160km/ 1,342 miles with 23,474 metres of climbing