Sunday 16th

Easter Sunday, 16th April 2017 saw a rare opportunity for TK to get out on a bike with brakes following the start of another Cycle Speedway season for NMBC’s whinging BOF. Although the forecast looked half decent, the timing was wrong for a lot of folk so the turnout was low. It was, however, big enough to provide some laughs and a canny natter as we met up in the village of Kirkwhelpington on the Otterburn road around 0945. Or in the case of rare MAC traveller Chris Thompson, more like 10.15! I’d seen his car whiz past but it was travelling so quickly I didn’t spot the driver, and I’d also left my mobe at home so comms were down! However there are so many cars with bikes strapped on travelling to the Stanes this way I wouldn’t have guessed it was one of ours anyway! Once Chris decided he’d overlooked the village in his haste he did backtrack and caught us down in the dip after we’d almost left the main road and would have been well out of sight seconds later.

Take two.

Then There Were Five – Colin Mitcheson, Steve Bowden and Mark Sweeting being the other three, all meeting at ASDA and trooping westward to see if anyone else would show. I had deliberated on the possibility that the forecast of strong north-westerlies wouldn’t suit my frail condition so decided to do the whole ride in reverse. Well not the whole ride as last done in March 2007 but rather the revised (aka shortened) version I’d spent days plotting. Not only did I lop off five or seven miles at the turning point of the old ride but I had also studied the lay of the land and in particular the altitude profile I had on computer at home which would save 100 vertical feet of climb doing it in reverse. Good. As it transpired, very good because the weather became slightly less clement not long after we made the turn for home.

Most of the ride was tarmac (nearly all of it safe apart from an unavoidable half mile on the A68 – terrifying but only 4 cars passed us), gravel-strewn tracks or decent grass. And because of the last relatively dry fortnight – or I wouldn’t have considered anywhere east of the Lake District – the ground was deliciously firm under the wheels. Of course, it wouldn’t be a MAC ride without the odd stretch of impenetrable forest or unrideable agriculture so we took in a few of those. Not a lot of singletrack on this one which was a shame for the meaty bikes I was surrounded by, but that’s not what this was about anyway, just a good exercise session with some agreeable scenery and company.

Along the way we happened across one of the new wind turbine farms and couldn’t resist a close up inspection of one of the giant fans. We also happened upon two instances of dead sheep and lambs while passing through two farms, not so pleasant. If gates and lift-over fences were money we’d all be millionaires today.

Oh, I almost forgot the most memorable part. We’d decided to ignore the route I’d planned off-road just south of Sweethope Loughs and stick to the direct tarmac route as it had started persisting down and we were already fairly knackered. However, just as we were about to divert along the top edge of said puddle, Mark spotted a nice bare sandstone fireroad and jammed his anchors on. We turned back once we’d managed to slow to a halt and as luck would have it, I was first there and deemed it acceptable as an alternative to the black stuff. Bad decision. But because I’d been tricked into leading again it was all my fault that after a sweet few hundred metres we ended up with a whole mile of the gnarliest, barely passable stretch of bracken and very rough grass we’d ever had the misfortune to travel on (or since 2007 maybe!) which just about removed our last traces of energy before finally reaching safe haven of farm tracks again. Stevie proved invincible along here leaving the rest of us trailing well behind. All that was left was a couple of miles of mainly downhill hard surfaces and we got back to the cars shivering, not with excitement.

Mechanical woes amounted to nothing other than Chris having a bit of a sliding cassette issue which didn’t affect his gear changing, and Colin spotting Steve’s 92 tooth bottom gear cog deflecting quite a bit under power, again not affecting the bike’s performance.

What I’d like now is a nice rest and a beautiful sunny, wind-free day for my next attempt at a cross country ride. Thanks boys for coming along, and to Mark in particular for guiding me through the ride with his GPS, I would never have made it with just my map!

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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.

The Best Bike in the World arrives at ASDA!

Well, not actually in the store, but outside in the car park on Thursday night, and it was John Rivers who turned up with it, lucky s**! And as if to prove it's pedigree it resisted all of Matt Holmes' attempts to wreck it on a sharp-edged, very high kerb!

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The bigger the group, the louder the laughs!

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