Dov’è il gabinetto?

Dov’è il gabinetto?

Club Run, 14th April 2019

My ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:110 km/69 miles with 996 m of climbing
Riding Time:4 hours 22 minutes
Average Speed:25.2km/h
Group Size:29 riders, no FNG’s
Temperature: 10℃
Weather in a word or two:Expectedly cold?

Ride Profile

The forecast promised it would be cold, but the forecast also promised it would be bright and sunny with barely a cloud in the sky. Sadly, the forecast only got one of those things right … and from my perspective it was the wrong one.

Having commuting into work all week though, I knew what to expect. It would be a bitterly chill start, but would warm up later, so I planned accordingly, with bits and pieces I could discard as the temperature slowly increased toward the highs of, well … tolerable.

So gloves and glove liners, buff, headband, windproof jacket and Belgian booties on top of a thermal base layer and winter jacket. What I didn’t account for was my new helmet, which I’d been forced to buy to replace my vintage Uvex lid, after the rear cradle snapped. (To be honest, after 5 years of wear, I don’t think it owed me anything).

The new, helmet has a big vent in the crown which directs a super-chilled blast of cold air across the top of your head – great for the summer, but effective enough to have me considering a rethink of winter headwear.

My ride across was somewhat spoiled by new roadworks and traffic lights seemingly springing up all over. The worst were located halfway up my climb out of the valley, causing a somewhat awkward hill-start. Nonetheless, my timing was good and I manged to fit in a much needed pee-stop (the cold seemed intent on tap dancing over my old man’s bladder) and still arrive at the meeting point in good time.

Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

Naturally, despite the extreme cold, the Garrulous Kid was wearing shorts and equally as naturally OGL declared he was quite mad. To be fair, his legs were an unhealthy shade of blue. Meanwhile, all around riders were huddled with their arms crossed protectively over their chests trying not to shiver and, in one or two instances, actually succeeding.

“It’s brassic,” the Ticker declared, a Geordie turn of phrase to describe extreme cold, rather than an expression of Cockney penury.

This drew him to the attention of the Garrulous Kid who turned round, looked at him and blurted out, “What’s that old thing?”

Quickly realising a potential faux pass, he quickly added, “the bike, I mean the bike!”

Indeed the Ticker was on a vintage steel Colnago, his good bike lying in pieces as he wrestles with replacing the bottom bracket and gives it a general spruce up.

With the Garrulous Kid heading seemingly heading north of the border to university and showing no great aptitude for cooking, we wondered just how much fast-food he would consume and whether he might return looking like Jabba the Hut.

We suspect he may fall under the thrall of that great Scottish culinary tradition Deep Fried … oh just about anything. OGL suggested the infamous Deep-Fried Mars bars had started out as a joke that then became reality, while the Colossus recalled one place when he was at university that offered to deep fry anything for £2, just as long as it fit in the fryer. 12″ pizza’s, creme eggs, doner kebab’s with all the trimmings, literally anything. I could audibly hear my arteries calcifying just at the thought.

Aether stepped up to deliver the route briefing, we split into two, agreed a rendezvous and away we went.

I dropped off the kerb and joined the front group as we formed up before the traffic lights released. Out on the roads, G-Dawg led alongside someone who bore a striking resemblance to Zardoz, but obviously couldn’t be Zardoz, as he’s fatally allergic to riding on the front. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. Could it actually be Zardoz?

I checked the figure over for a nose-bleed caused by the rarefied air of being too far forward in the bunch. There didn’t seem to be any.

What about signs that Zardoz had been abducted by aliens and replaced with an exact replica? Hmm, I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for, but there were no obvious signs.

I couldn’t take the suspense any longer.”Who the hell’s that on the front?” I asked the Garrulous Kid in a voice loud enough to carry.

In reply, I got a deft, two-fingered salute from the mysterious figure. Well, well, well, it most definitely was Zardoz after all.

At the end of the lane the two of us nipped out in a small gap between the traffic, while everyone else was held up. I then found myself leading alongside Zardoz, as we soft-pedalled up the hill, allowing everyone to regroup behind.

On we pressed, discussing the incredible run of form displayed by Max Schachmann in the Tour of the Basque Country, his teammate and one of my favourite riders, perennial underdog Emu Buchmann, running up mountains, the potential for extreme chafing inherent in triathlons, whether youthful exercise bestows big capillaries in later life and the key, very important differences between an autopsy and a biopsy. The latter was of particular interest to Zardoz, who ruefully concluded, an autopsy is of no use to you whatsoever.

Swinging left onto Limestone Lane, we passed a caravan that had been parked up on the corner and I found myself barking with laughter as the Garrulous Kid wondered aloud if Biden Fecht (in his new guise as the Gypsy King) was about to emerge from its darkened interior and join us.

We made it to the end of Limestone Lane before Zardoz was persuaded to cede the front “and give everyone a rest.” We dropped to the back of the pack where we entertained ourselves giggling and complaining loudly at the sudden drop in pace and poor leadership of our substitutes on the front.

At one point, I found myself alongside the Garrulous Kid and learned that, as well as believing he’s now the clubs preeminent sprinter, he also thinks he’ll be a fantastic time-triallist. Well, he will be, once he “sorts out “some handlebar thingies.” Hopefully he won’t take advice from Crazy Legs, go to his LBS and demand strap-ons.

The Garrulous Kid then served notice that he’s serious and intent on entering the club 10 mile ITT this year, where he declared he would “easily” complete the course at an average speed of 28 mph.

Should he be as good as he thinks he is, that will be enough for him to post a time of 21 minutes, 25 seconds, which would comfortably eclipse last years winning time … by an entire two minutes and six seconds.

As well as suggesting I thought he was totally and completely delusional, I told the Garrulous Kid I’d actually be surprised if he managed to beat his contemporary and arch-rival (or perhaps the subject of his unrequited love?) the Monkey Butler Boy. Well, I guess we’ll see.

We cut across the Military Road, skirting Whittle Dene Reservoir where, once again, the banks were devoid of their usual contingent of anglers. That may be just as well, as the surface of the water was dotted with a bevy of swans, including a fair number in their ugly-duckling phase, with grey fluffy feathers still prominent amongst otherwise pristine and sleek white plumage.

We hauled ass up the hill to a small cluster of stone-built houses and a building site where a few more were under construction and we stopped to wait for the second group, before the split into longer and shorter rides.

Still blaming the cold, I wheeled slowly down the lane looking for a place to pee.


Leaning the bike against the hedge, I wandered through a gate, only to be met by a burly builder coming the other way. I was just about to retrace my steps when he called out,

“There’s a porta-potty up there, if you need a netty.”

I did, so I followed his instruction. How civilised, facilities good enough to even suit the Garrulous Kid, who never seems to be able to find anyplace in nature quite refined enough for his micturational tributes.

As I returned, mightily relived, I passed by Andeven. “Did that bloke just ask if you wanted a … a netty?” he asked.

I confirmed he had indeed.

“What’s that all about?”

I explained a netty is just the name for a toilet in the Geordie vernacular, although I must admit I haven’t heard it used in maybe 30 or more years. I do recall a school trip to southern Italy when the only phrase that seemed to stick amongst a dozen or so a teacher tired to force-feed us was, “dov’è il gabinetto?” – where is the toilet?

Or, as I perhaps mis-remember it, “dov’è il gabinetti?” – which perhaps hinted (wrongly, it would seem) at the etymology of the Geordie netty.

We didn’t have much longer to wait for our second group and we briefly coalesced, before splitting for different rides, longer and shorter, or faster and slower.

Once again, the longer route took us climbing up through the plantations, before we started the push toward Matfen. G-Dawg and Captain Black were on the front by the time we turned off for the Quarry and were immediately slapped in the face by a strong and bitterly cold headwind, that had seemingly sprung up out of nowhere.

It was a good time to hide in the wheels as the front pair battled manfully with both the incline and this sudden wind, dragging us to the top of the climb. Off we set for the cafe and, as usual the pace started to ramp up.

We’d been pulled into a single line as we hit the horrid drag up to the crossroads and started burning through riders at a high rate as they pushed through and then, just as quickly faltered and slipped back. I took a pull on the front and led up and over the crossroads, dropped behind Buster on the twisting descent, then took over again as we took a sharp left and drove up to the final junction.

Those contesting the sprint whistled past, but there was no clean break this week, so I tagged onto the back as seven or eight of us, in a tight, compact knot, hustled down toward the bends. Even if I’d wanted to attack (and I didn’t and probably couldn’t) I was boxed in and there was nowhere to go, so I eased and let the gap grow before sweeping through the Snake Bends and on to the cafe.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Kermit mentioned entering a race on Zwift and being surprised by the sudden, massive injection of balls-to-the-wall pace as soon as the virtual gun went off, or the virtual flag dropped, or however else they virtually start these virtual things. From my (admittedly limited) experience of actual racing, I have to say this sounds remarkably realistic.

I mentioned the dark rumours that Zwift were alleged to be sniffing around pro races and wanted to hold a “virtual prologue” for one of them. I was horrified by the suggestion, but Rab-Dee thought it could be interesting, although he admitted they might need to add some rider jeopardy and randomness to make it more televisual.

He was also worried that the upcoming Paris-Roubaix wasn’t difficult enough and was willing to apply the same techniques to this. Top of the list were spring-loaded cobbles, optional paths that riders have to choose, only one of which didn’t end in a punji pit and giant balls that would periodically bounce across the track, taking out the odd unlucky rider.

Kermit mentioned he was away next week to tackle the MOD Rocker, a sportive over the Army ranges around Otterburn. He thought he’d probably ride solo this year to avoid people barrelling precipitously through the feed-stations for a faster time, or deliberately hanging back at the start to be last through the timing gate, just so when you finish in a bunch they can claim to have ridden faster than you. Bad sportive etiquette and proof some people take things far too seriously.

On the way back I caught up with Taffy Steve, who is in the throes of replacing his thrice cursed winter bike with a Blessèd Beneficent Boardman (All praise Saint Chris!) He explained his sudden impetus for the change came when, freewheeling downhill alongside the Garrulous Kid, he could only watch in utter horror as the Garrulous Kid slipped slowly away from him.

As he declared, no other rider works quite so hard, so diligently and make so many sacrifices in order to maintain optimum descending weight in an attempt to maximise gravitational pull. He’s hoping a change in bike, to something that will offer less rolling resistance and run a little freer, will help him regain descending preeminence.

We had a chat about new hats too, having himself invested in a new helmet with MIPS. I complained about the vent in the top of my helmet that was freezing my scalp and the magnetic catch on the straps that I still hadn’t quite mastered. This in itself was enough to put Taffy Steve off the helmet as he declared all magnetism was witchcraft, totally unfathomable and inexplicable.

Starting from near the back as we hit Berwick Hill and the front group accelerated away, I found myself riding alongside G-Dawg as we tried to close them down.

“This could get hard,” muttered a prescient G-Dawg , just as we rounded a corner and found ourselves battering into a brutal headwind.

We dug in and ground our way over the top and then I set out downhill to try and I close the gap on the front group. Once again, I couldn’t quite bridge the last few metres and this time, there was no Monkey Butler Boy on a TT-bike to tow me across, but a flying Taffy Steve served just as well. He blew past, I latched onto his wheel and that was that. Job done.

Predictably last weeks “good” legs didn’t deign to hang around too long and I was starting to tire as we swung around the airport. As we entered the Mad Mile, I let the front group slip away and started to pick my way home solo, especially looking forward to the last leg with its predicted full on headwind.

Before that though, there was one more call of nature to attend to. I’m still blaming the cold and don’t quite feel ready to challenge either the Prof or the Plank in the smallest, leakiest bladder competition. Well, not quite yet anyway.

YTD Totals: 2,368 km / 1,471 miles with 31,797 metres of climbing


Nipple Knockers and Mods vs. Rockers

Nipple Knockers and Mods vs. Rockers

Club Run, Saturday 25th August, 2018

My Ride (according to Strava)

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

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 3 minute

Average Speed:                                26.5 km/h

Group size:                                         33 riders, 2 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    18°C

Weather in a word or two:          Chilly


Ride Profile

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

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

Main topics of conversation at the meeting point:

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

Odd, as he’s not a dentist …

Oh, ok, I lied, he is really.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect timing. Thanks guys.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh well, it’s been a good run…

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



Club Run, Saturday 21st January, 2017

My Ride (according to Strava)

Total Distance:                                  95 km/59 miles with 624 metres of climbing

Ride Time:                                          4 hours 11 minutes

Average Speed:                                22.6 km/h

Group size:                                         18 riders, 0 FNG’s

Temperature:                                    5°C

Weather in a word or two:          Grim


Ride profile

The Ride:

At the last minute I swapped the windproof winter jacket for the waterproof, windproof and slightly thicker version and as I dropped down the hill, lashed with freezing cold rain I began to suspect it had been a wise choice. The day was grey, dank and miserable with the cloud closed in tight, shrouding the hill tops and dulling all the light.

I had an uneventful jaunt across to the meeting place, arriving early enough that the only person already there and waiting was the Garrulous Kid, standing outside and being rained on. I indicated I was heading to the shelter of the car park and invited him to join me there. We’d all be soaked through soon enough, I couldn’t see the point in hastening the discomfort.

Main topics of conversation at the start:

The Prof arrived, peering uncertainly through ultra-dark Raybans to try and make out the faces sheltering in the gloom of the multi-storey. OGL suggesting his choice of eye-wear wasn’t best suited to the conditions, while G-Dawg expressed concern that he might have a dangerously myopic Prof trying to ride on his wheel.

The Prof tried to justify his clothing choice with an erudite quote and asked, “What was that thing John Hurt said?”

“Probably nothing, or maybe just urgh?” I suggested, reflecting on the actors very recent demise.

OGL volunteered Spike Milligans self-penned epitaph, “See, I told you I was ill,” but neither selection was met with any great appreciation by the Prof, who instead started wittering something about being gay and wearing pink shirts. Who knows?

OGL started to tell me about servicing some sturdy mountain bike and taking the big, 1½” headset apart to find there were only 3 ball-bearings left inside. I kind of lost the thread of the conversation after that, as I was left wondering how the bearings had disappeared from inside a sealed unit. I’ll never understand bikes.

The Red Max rolled up sans the Monkey Butler Boy, who he said had been laid low with a bad illness after skipping the club run last week in favour of a trip to the theatre. I suggested he was probably suffering from culture shock and concluded no good would ever come of cyclists dabbling with the liberal arts.

Having hung around long enough for all the brave and the good and true to join our merry throng, we decided it was time to set off and I followed the Prof as we led another 15 lads and lasses out into the grim weather.

Safely negotiating the first set of traffic lights, I almost came to grief, garrotted by a dog leash as an owner blindly hustled his pooch across the road against the lights.

A little further on and Richard of Flanders joined us, slipping across the road from the opposite carriageway and slotting in beside me on the front for the first part of the ride.

As we turned out of Brunton Lane a mass of blinking lights in the distance signalled the approach of another club and I suspect for the next few miles we may have merged to form one extraordinarily long, super-peloton – no doubt much to the delight of any following motorists. Or at least that’s what I’m guessing happened, as I was quite removed from things at the head of affairs. Anyway, none of the other riders passed us, so I’m guessing they were comfortable with the pace we were setting on the front, at least until they could find a place to turn off and pursue their own ride.


Up towards the airport, the verge at the side of the road had been well mangled by the less than careful passage of some poorly driven, large and heavy vehicle, patterning the grass with deep tyre-treads and spreading a thick carpet of muddy divots across the kerb and into our path.

Carefully negotiated, we then hit Dinnington to find the road was even worse, though thankfully this was largely confined to the opposite, southbound lane. Here traffic, to and through a building site, had left the road buried under a thick carpet of slippery, slimy, claggy mud and assorted effluvium. This was the road we’d been forewarned about last week and had deliberately avoided. Now, if anything it was perhaps worse and we made quick plans to alter our route back and avoid being sprayed by whatever dubious coating had turned the road such a deeply unpleasant colour, or worse, slipping and crashing down into a slick of frozen slurry.

With Richard of Flanders railing about the duty of care construction sites are actually obliged to afford the local environment, we pressed on in search of more welcoming and less problematic road surfaces.

As we made our way toward Shilvington, we agreed we’d done our fair share on the front and on cue we split to either side to wave the next pair through. I drifted slowly back down the outside of our line, looking for an opportunity to tuck back into the wheels, but only after carefully assessing each bikes mudguards, or lack thereof.

A space opened up invitingly behind G-Dawg, but one look at his short, seat-post mounted sliver of hard plastic positioned a good hands span above his rear tyre and I kept drifting, finally slotting in behind Jimmy Mac and his much more expansive protection.

After the briefest of stops, we pushed on again, with OGL determined to make a bee-line straight for the café in the face of the cold, dank and miserable weather. As we all turned that way I began to suspect, for the first time I could remember, we were all going to head straight in for coffee and cake.

G-Dawg had other ideas however and took a group of us off for a more extended loop around Bolam Lake, adding at a few more miles and a bit of climbing to our totals for the day. Nevertheless, this was to prove one of our shorter club runs.

As this longer, harder faster group approached the final climb, I could sense Biden Fecht trapped on the inside and eager to get out as the pace increased. With a shouted, “Come on, then!” I eased slightly and allowed gap to open so he could nip through. It was a manoeuvre I thought we accomplished with some aplomb, but unfortunately my slackening coincided with Son of G-Dawgs attack.

I was blissfully unaware of this, as he twitched violently aside at the last moment from what in aviation terms would be a very, very near miss and used the adrenaline fuelled horror of nearly running into my back wheel to catapult off the front.

G-Dawg, Son of G-Dawg and Biden Fecht whirred away to contest the sprint, a detached Geordie Shaw gave chase, while I led home the rest of our splintered group.

Main topics of conversation at the coffee stop:

Son of G-Dawg said he was already getting twitchy and looking ahead to setting aside the winter hack and being able to unleash his good bike, but I suspect winter isn’t done with us yet.

In the meantime, he admitted to being tempted by new direct-drive turbo that incorporates an integral freewheel, so you don’t need specialist tyres and its quick and easy to set up. As he described it, I couldn’t help but be impressed with his eidetic recall of the marketing hyperbole being used to promote the thing.

I suggested he was a marketeers dream and wondered which phrases in particular had resonated with him.

“Elite?” I suggested.


“Fluid technology?”


“Transmission belt?”


“Torque meter?”

“Yes, that too, but the thing that really swayed it … was the internal lasers!”

Lasers. Now I understood and so did every bloke at the table, as we all discovered we had a pressing need for a new turbo.

Jimmy Mac extolled the virtues of Zwift, which he said now lets you ride everywhere, including inside a volcano, or under the sea. He said you could even get it to simulate Classic routes like Paris-Robubaix.

“Or,” I suggested, “you can really turn it up a notch and select a club run through Northumberland.”

“When it will immediately simulate smashing your front wheel into a pothole and rip your chain off.” Son of G-Dawg added.

We then wondered if you could employ people to periodically douse you with buckets of freezing, muddy water for the full effect.

G-Dawg sought advice to try and sort out a malfunctioning rear shifter, discovered out on a ride where he found he could only change up and never down. He’d ended up having to stop and move the chain manually – once his legs began whirring round like a demented washing machine but still failed to generate any traction.

Funnily enough, after careful testing he found his front shifter works fine. I was quite surprised by this, given that he only uses it about twice a year, I thought it may have atrophied and dropped off.

We left the café in dribs and drabs of different groups, all with their own plans for avoiding the mud slick in Dinnington.

Our group was the last to leave and like last week, opted for an alternative loop around Stamfordham – slightly longer and hillier, but hopefully a little less dirty.

As we rode out, I found myself riding behind Geordie Shaw and wondering why his bike was making a loud rumbling noise and why he was so intent on riding out of the saddle. I finally twigged that he’d had a rear puncture and was just trying to escape off the main road before stopping to make repairs.

There then followed one of those priceless moments that remind me why I love club runs so much, as half a dozen blokes stood around in the freezing cold and icy rain, talking a complete and utter, but fantastically entertaining load of auld bolleaux™

It started when Geordie Shaw found the cause of his puncture, one of our special, super-tough, steel-tipped thorns, which laugh in the face of Kevlar puncture-protection strips. Having trouble removing this, I recalled how the Red Max had helped me out of a similar predicament by supplying a pair of needle-nosed pliers from the depths of his portable workshop buried in his bottomless bag of tricks.

When this failed to work, he’d resorted to removing the thorn with his teeth, while the large contingent of dentists our club seems to attract, looked on either with concern, or in gleeful anticipation of some expensive, restorative dental work.

[Since we had a diversion last week to discuss the collective noun for monkeys, I feel a similar need to identify one for dentists. The best suggestions so far are either a “brace” – or my own particular favourite, an “amalgam” of dentists.]

We decided that from now on the only truly manly way to deal with embedded thorns was with your teeth: clench, suck and spit – sort of like how crusty old cowboys tackle a rattlesnake bite, cutting a big X in the skin to suck the poison out.

Still struggling to remove the thorn, G-Dawg played Daniel to Geordie Shaw’s lion, suggesting using something to help push the offending splinter out. And lo! We discovered the only possible use for the 2mm Allen Wrench on a bike multi-tool.

This, I suggested was a great breakthrough for all cycling kind, its only drawback being the 2mm wide, perfectly symmetrical and hexagonal hole it left drilled through the surface of your tyre.

In a brief discussion about tyres, Son of G-Dawg revealed that his choice of winter tyre, Vredestein All-Weather, All Seasons, recommended inflation to a minimum 170 psi. I don’t think my track pump could even handle that kind of pressure and I’d be worried about it blowing out my rims!

We decided what Son of G-Dawg was probably riding were hand-made, silk, track tyres and only remotely “all weather” and “all seasons” if you only rode with them in a climate-controlled indoor velodrome. Jimmy Mac suggested even then, they’d probably recommend you replaced them every 500 metres.

As Geordie Shaw set to with his mini pump, the conversation turned to C02 canisters and how much pressure they would put into a tyre, which Son of G-Dawg reckoned was about 80 psi, but warned they were a bit hit and miss and only seemed to work effectively half the time.

“Plus, you can freeze your hand to the rim.” He added.

“And have to piss on it to release it.” I concluded helpfully.

Working frenetically to push air into his tyre, Geordie Shaw declared he felt the weather was changing and starting to warm up. I simply gestured at his strenuous upper-body work out, while G-Dawg stated it was probably the hardest he’d worked all day.

“You’re going to look at your maximum heart-rate spike on Strava and realise it wasn’t in the sprint, or climbing the steepest hill, but when you were trying to inflate your tyre,” he suggested.

Finally back under way, I had time to check with Carlton how his cheap gloves had held up last week. The verdict was pretty good and as he said, “Who needs Castelli when you have a Jet Service Station.”

Feeling much better than the previous week and without De Uitheems Bloem driving the pace up and beyond unbearable, I swung off for home having thoroughly enjoyed myself despite the atrocious weather.

YTD Totals: 518 km / 322 miles with 5,426 metres of climbing