Sunday 10th

So not for the first time there was a decent number of hardy souls to get 2016 off to a decent start for NMBC. Those present:

John Rivers
Alun Morley
Paul Dodds
Paul Webster
Steve Bowden
Ray Foster
Mark Sweeting
Terry Kirkup
and Comeback Man, Ian Mundy

Seven of us left Holystone just after 9:00 am and took one of the quicker routes to Blyth to team up with the Pauls, scheduled for 10:00. As we approached South Beach on the Links path we ran into the Muddybum Maestros – Willie and Julie – out walking the dog, probably the more sensible option with the conditions the whole country is suffering just now. Good to catch up with them again, even for just a quick gas.

Some very nice kit on show today as usual, no sign of any “winter hacks” amongst this bunch of committed riders. Particularly special of course is John’s fantastic YT device, while Alun had treat his Whyte to a set of very nice carbon wheels if you ignore the excessive diameter (but more to come of that later) and Terry was looking for a sterner test of his Trek’s 11 speed conversion after its apparently faultless initiation on Thursday night.

Both Pauls were at our Ridley Park rendezvous on time and I think we were too, after which we made our way up the coastal edge of Blyth and onto the riverside. We’d been just about blown down to Seaton Sluice but turning north had the wind making its presence felt. I think Ian was ready to go back home at this point after such a long, and he admits lazy, layoff from biking activity.

It’s 3 or 4 years now since the local council destroyed what little interest there was along the riverside path by tarmacking its full length but it did at least speed up our arrival at Furnace Bridge where the Giggler showed us how high the flooded river had reached up its banks last week at the height of the floods, and of course the thing was still raging wildly today. It wasn’t too long before we met our first fluid obstacle with fifty metres of the path completely submerged under the brown torrent just short of Bedlington Bridge. That meant a short backtrack up the steep slope to the upper path which a few of us weren’t ready for after Alun had just taken us through Purgatory along the edge of the river where traction was nil but laughs were many as the bikes travelled more sideways than forward. Strange that he’d just bought some fairly expensive carbon boolies but his tyres had hardly a trace of tread!

As we reached Humford Mill we knew the stepping stones would be a few fathoms under water so Mr Dodds turned us up the bank and into the woods where he proceeded to show us the quickest way down the steepest drop with absolutely no grip available for braking or otherwise. He toppled over gently at the bottom while the rest of us refused to be conned into following, so we awaited his return before continuing on a nice fast run back down to the main riverside path again. We stopped a couple of times to take in the scenery and when it was time to leave the weir after a short posing session Mark was informed one of his gloves had just floated off to Norway, whereas some basket had just hidden it for a laugh. We had one!

The next two miles were probably the hardest of the day where sustained effort was required, the heavy, slippery mud making the going pretty slow and very tiring, although somehow Alun’s baldy tyres didn’t seem to be preventing some very impressive climbing regardless of the ground conditions. We had a couple of pauses to get our breaths back and one entertaining forced stop where a massive old tree had fallen over the path. In an attempt to find the easiest way past the timber, Ian very nearly sampled white water rafting on his arse when the bike decided to head south on its own down the steep slope! Time for another photo shoot.

The final chunk out to the main road above Hartford Hall was straightforward and by that time the word “home” could be heard echoing through the treetops. Not so however, the vote going the way of another unplanned extension through Plessey Woods. Didn’t see Ian smiling at this point, he was knackered, although the distress had now moved from his chest to his legs. Anyway, as a “casual” he didn’t get a vote, so off we headed west through the trees.

The little wooden bridge at the entrance was obviously enticing as opposed to the usually calm and very shallow ford, but only to everyone except Paul D who just ploughed straight into the water waist-high and even stood there half submerged for some time to allow photographic evidence of his brilliance to be recorded. I wonder why we never encountered any dog walkers or pedestrians through here today? Our path through the woods proceeded without incident, unless you count heavy breathing from one of the brethren. Most of the riverbank edge track was passable with care and as always pretty enjoyable if a little noisier than normal but to the force of the water.

Just the long drag up the side of the A1 from Stannington to cover now and we’d be home and dry – yes, not a drop landed on us from above, yet. Paul W turned off towards the Snowy Owl headed for home at Blyth while his normal fellow traveller stayed with the bunch for some extra punishment. That was soon provided by Alun (again!) when he surprisingly turned into that dreaded field behind Seaton Burn which is very hard going when it’s dry, and simply tear-jerking when wet as it is now. We struggled to join him down next to the A1 at the foot of the woods. Unfortunately, that’s when he discovered that it wasn’t his rear brake causing slight problems but a clean break right through the nearside chainstay on his 3 year old Whyte. Flippin’ typical after just doing an upgrade on it! That meant no alternative to a push home for Alun. At least we were just at the end of Dudley Lane with his home less than 2 miles away, so off he went pushing. May have heard him crying as we left?

With Ian not looking any fitter or happier after the exertions thus far we declined Ray’s insistence that we finish off with a flourish through the park, and so took the immeasurably easier way through Weetslade instead and arrived back at base around 3:00 pm with 34 miles clocked.

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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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