Thursday 22nd January 2015

Brrr again? ...nah, not so bad.

Somewhat warmer than the previous Thursday night and it showed in the turnout! There were 16 souls escaping the telly tonight and at least two newcomers in Chris T and James G, a warm (sorry!) welcome to both and we hope to see a lot more of you in the future. I've a feeling there was another newbie but didn't get his name. I really could do with Mr Anderson back on the team!

Cameron continues to arrive just in the nick of time and delay the start by 5 or 10 minutes, this time a soft tyre taking a bit longer to fettle. There was no wind tonight so no need to seek shelter in the closest trees, a quick think by tk and we were off to drag poor Arthur past his front door yet again as we made our way along the Great Lime Road. The leader turned up the bridleway to Killingworth Village that we usually pass by, to make the initial warm-up bearable with new starters in the pack.

First bit of off-roading then was the skinny singletrack alongside the edge of Killy, fortunately someone has removed the fallen tree that we've been climbing over on the last few visits so it was nice to rip the whole length of it again without interference. From there we cruised up the waggonway to Hillheads before crossing the road and belting down to the crossroads short of Burradon Tower where Colin took the helm to Backworth. That's where Terry gave out his now familiar warning about not blinding car drivers as we set off against incoming traffic into the village, with those "brave" few in dark clothing sticking to the road and ignoring the cycle path with cars screeching behind them and swerving in front. One day I'll understand why anyone would do this. Not.

Time to drop down onto Terry's secret trail starting at the beginning this time, and somehow he managed to find a route through the now unfamiliar under-tree cutting, which has long since lost the original direction markers he, Tim and Ian M laid out three or four years ago. We popped out back onto the main drag after several stops to regroup, some of which helped. However, esteemed Ride Leader had taken a right instead of a left approaching this point which dumped us all out at the mid-point where we normally enter to do the Northern Loop!

So, once everyone had emerged and parked to snatch a breath, the Gollum was straight back in the same way chased hard by Dan as he tried not to make the same mistakes with the rest of the maze. Got away with it not too badly, covering most of the best bits but yet again emerging onto the red path some distance short of the proper finish. The only two that made it all the way were Mike and Mahmoud who had dropped off the back due to cramp in both legs. When they did get back to the group we discovered why he was having such a hard time so early in then ride.

He's just got his bike sorted, swapping his usual rubber of semi-slicks for some nice chunkies after his slippery debut 2 weeks earlier. Unfortunately though, he'd invested in some cycle shoes to match what most of us wear only to discover that cleated shoes don't get much purchase on flat pedals! We were pretty sure this was the reason he was cramping up, trying to keep contact with the flatties which would have had most of us screaming with frustration. We gave him 30 seconds to get some feeling back.

We continued out to the main road in West Seghill and halted again over the road to give him more time, then off again towards Whoop Hill (for it's whoop-de-doos), otherwise known as Thorn Hill (for it's puncture reputation), otherwise known as Sheer Hell (for both of the foregoing and more). Not many made it up the initial slope on the soaking, slithery, muddy grass but eventually we reached the crest and Lucy demounted her bakery, Lemon Drizzle cake tonight and it was p-u-r-r-fect.

Getting ready to pack up, there was a flurry of activity at one side of the clearing. A mechanical, very likely a puncture? No, one of our new recruits had decided, quite rightly, that his tyres were too hard for grip on this terrain and proceeded to let some air escape. Unfortunately, it was the valve core on his tubeless setup that had loosened rather than just the corenut, and it launched itself into the undergrowth, never to be seen again. The shout went up for a valve core and tonight Grant was the willing donor, with luck he'll get it back some time! And I have to apologise for not knowing if it was James or Chris who had the problem, I'll put this right when I find out.

Time for a change, thinks tk to himself, so goes on a bush tucker trail hunt while the others gorge themselves on Lucy's delights. On his return he advised Mike to lead Mahmoud down the tricky but straight and downward slot to the far end of the woods that dress this little mound to be met there by the rest of us after the latest diversion is attempted.

The Best Laid Plans

This should have been a straightforward case of follow-the-leader, who couldn't go fast because :

a] there was no trail
b] he was tired
c] he's too considerate
d] he was lost
e] he CAN'T go fast

As it turned out though, we managed to get well strung out and the clan that gathered down below was a shadow of the one that had set off from the top! After a few minutes Mike and Mahmoud appeared but no-one else. A short wait convinced terry that surely the rest had turned back after getting lost (eh, how?) and so he led the main body back along to the foot of the whoops, yelling "Hello" into the trees and shining the Bat Sign into the clear night sky but with no response.

It must have been a good ten minutes before a glimmer of light appeared in the distance while Mike was phoning Lucy in the castaways party. It transpired that they'd stopped somewhere to change Fiona's battery. If this ever happens to YOU, just keep going between two well-lit bodies until you can rejoin the main bunch - you'll manage just fine and it's much less stressful for the poor Ride Leader!

We exited the trail into the top side of Seghill and with Mike again offering to keep Mahmoud company on the tarmac, Terry took the others back onto the squidgy stuff for the next half mile as punishment, rejoining the roadie pair at the end of the village before heading back up to Backworth the way we'd come.

We split there with the Forest Hall Folk following Arthur towards Killingworth and the rest trailing Ian around to the new bypass at the Pavilion, and we were back to the starting point at 10:00 pm on a really nice night for biking. 13.6 miles, here's John's trace:

johns

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Next Sunday Ride (plus other odd days) - See our Facebook page.

Next Night Ride: Thursday as usual.

Thursday nighters are 10-25 milers, 7:00pm start at ASDA East car park, Benton, 3-3.5 hours and generally OK for fit new riders but you need decent lights you can see with, NOT CANDLES. You MUST wear a cycle helmet.

Sundays are generally much longer, 8:00am to 10:00am starts from ride venue ending around teatime, and much harder rides.

Other ad-hoc rides are always being organised, see our Facebook page. Gloves, waterproof coat, snack and drink recommended. Carry basic tools.

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