The Club Run

I haven’t posted all that much lately because i haven’t been riding all that much. the weather, work and a lack of racing conspired against me. However, i have defaulted nicely back into the life of the club cyclist, and have got out and about on the club runs. When i lived in London the dulwich paragon club runs were my first rite of passage into cycling as a social activity, even if me and a few friends did refer to them as the ‘dulwich paraplegics’ on account of just how unbelievably slow their saturday morning club ‘runs’ were.

BSCC club runs follow a similar pattern to all other club runs up and down the land. they are between 50 and 60 miles with a tea stop in the middle and certain unwritten rules tend to be observed:

1. those without mudguards shall ride at the back or risk grave opprobrium from those falling victim to the spatter of slurry, unless you are a ‘tall, bespectacled’ world trike champion and misjudged the weather, in which case all is forgiven, despite the double spatter effect.

2. those riding fixed fight their own masochistic battle with the gradient, and each other, whispering gear inches and silently hoping the club captain avoids the nastier climbs.

3. the advent of the tea stop will become immediately apparent due to the increase in pace and kierin-style sprint finish. this is not, as some have suspected, a piece of fartlek, but simply a mad dash to be first in the queue for the chocolate malteser cake at a local garden centre.

4. the wetter the weather, the filthier the lanes, the grottier the conditions, the better the club run. if you close your eyes for a brief second you can almost imagine you are sean kelly, leading the bunch over the pavé in one of the spring classics.

You will never be Sean Kelly

5. no-one gets left behind – mechanicals are dealt with, hillclimbers wait at the tops of climbs and the group bunches together on turnings to ensure everyone is on board. recently i sliced the carcass of my tyre, but someone happened to have a piece of an old tyre cut to size to boot it with and thus get me home. however, if your 30 year old raleigh dynatech titanium frame cracks catastrophically at the head tube, you’re suddenly very much on your own, even if the club run peloton is in the middle of the north somerset triangle, with the nearest signs of life being a three-eyed farmer accompanying his yearlings to market.

beyond that, it’s a social event, newcomers are welcomed with open arms, if a little cautiously, humour and conversation drives it forwards, and you can bag all your exercise for the week in 4 short hours.

it was very mucky this week, and last week.

this is the club captain’s red and gold chariot:

look on my works ye mighty, and despair!

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uphill/downhill

bristol south have a number of trophies on offer over the course of the season. i’ve won the hillclimb and hardriders cups this year – which i am really pleased about. can’t beat a bit of silverware in the cupboard in this day and age. it’s a bit alarming that the cups are so old and shiny – the hillclimb trophy in particular was donated by the Wills family in 1923; it feels quite precious.

almost the last pot to be awarded is the ‘uphill downhill’ – or david hill trophy. it’s awarded for a cumulative points score over a short hillclimb, followed by a freewheel distance event back down the same course. in theory, this evens things out between the borderline-manorexic mountain goats and the fatty-boom-boom power merchants. i came along because i am no longer racing and wanted to do the clubrun; to ride out to a garden centre somewhere in the middle of nowhere and eat carrot-cake whilst wearing lycra and neoprene booties, startling the sunday shoppers looking for mulch; to talk about winter riding, tyre diameters, and whether robert millar really did ride through the dark months with a 20mm tubular inside of a 23mm high-pressure clincher. he did, according to dan.

i signed up for a laugh, riding my heavy steel raleigh quadra amidst a sea of modular woven carbon fibre. the hill hurt, i felt a bit yucky, but went for it anyway. halfway up i got a puncture – not a sudden, catastophic decompression, more a sort of catherine-wheel of fizzing, fishy tyre air. i got out of the saddle, leant forward to take my weight off the back wheel and stamped on the pedals in an attempt to get to the top before the tyre expired beneath me. it seemed to work, by the time i’d crossed the line i had about 20psi left, which was just enough.

i had to walk down again, thus forgoing the freewheeling excitement. as it happened, i won the uphill bit, by quite a few seconds, but came predictably last in the downhill. andy won the trophy, the 6th time he’s done so. he’s the club captain, and comes from one of the club’s dynastic families. it was a brilliant morning’s fun in the filthy lanes.

Winter Cycling

I managed to stay in last night, thus waking up refreshed and ready to ride this morning. It was a nine o’ clock start, heading off out into the lanes with a group of like-minded fixed wheel cyclists. the weather looked promising, no real rain to speak of, and only a slight dampness to the roads from the overnight rain.

there were a few heavy showers, but the real fun started out in the lanes north of bristol. on at least four occasions the surface water was above bottom bracket height, meaning wet feet, even with neoprene overshoes. i’ve never known it so damp; the ground is saturated and everything that falls from the sky runs-off immediately and accumulates. it made for an entertaining excursion; the masochism of the winter cylist. added to this were the ridiculous number of horses everywhere (replete with fairly mardy riders, despite our generosity and respectful wide berthing) with the ironic exception of the bridlepath (steve’s idea, a muddy quagmire).

at one point we were paced by a derny bike, with an exciteable dog. club-runs like these are absolutely brilliant for seeing unexpected things; there is something fantastic about things being random. the dog seemed so very happy to see us. it made me smile a lot.

the cake stop heralded the sight of an unusual machine; the trike-tandem. can’t be cheap. pretty amazing though with an enormous ovalized and pretty flat tube along the bottom. a George Longstaff.

i regret cleaning my bike yesterday, including the wheels. it now looks like it’s been ridden by an incontinent ebola sufferer through the bog of eternal stench.