Thursday 12th February 2015

Just follow the front man

Wow, are things getting back to "normal" now, with 21 riders out tonight? And again the Westerhope, or should I say West Side Section of NMBC contributed at least four bodies to the collection tonight. We were that size group until we'd reached Hillheads, or just beyond it on the way down the track to Burradon Tower when Mike's Trek freehub decided to go awol. That meant he had to push back to the top of the hill and return to ASDA, his ride most unfortunately cut short. That's two freehubs in two rides as my Fuel EX9 went the same way on Sunday.

Tonight's route was, unsurprisingly, based on 0.5 of an idea, nothing set in stone and more likely to be set in mud. We'd already made the first navigational error as we shouldn't have been down here at the crossroads, but Matt had shot off in front to be followed by at least half a dozen others, with Terry screaming at them to stop but having no effect. Never mind, one attribute we can proudly claim to have is adaptability (most people would call it "wrong turn syndrome").

The instantaneous re-jig saw the RL turn right at the settlement and plunge into that fearful field crossing. With the front end travelling very quickly and the ground in Field One rough but firm, the tail became well strung out, and by the time Lucy had led us out onto the Seghill road way below it was a good five minutes before we had everyone gathered again.

Terry led into the A19 singletrack and that went pretty well until he was bundled out of the way by Dan and Matt as he stumbled over the raised manhole at the half way point. We had another short wait at Sandly's Letch while the others caught up. Another surprise here for the regulars as TK took a left to Annitsford rather than the more usual right to Seghill, where we crossed the dual carriageway and headed into Dudley along the tarmac bridleway where Paul was becoming very curious about our destination. Why even bother to ask, who would know the answer?

dead ant, dead ant

Well, it was Dead End time again, as Terry led the field into a cul-de-sac with no sign of what he thought may be an escape route. However, he'd become slightly confused with his direction of travel! Incredibly, he then used the direction of a passing flying skip to deduce that he'd come to far, so a short retrace of the previous step did indeed locate the bridleway alongside the East Coast main line he was looking for. Taking an immediate right off this when noticing a sliver of singletrack somehow put us exactly where we needed to be, although a lucky guess at the next intersection was almost missed with little trails branching off in all directions. Once again that aeroplane proved an invaluable directional aid.

The next obstacle was a gate marked with a stern warning to telephone the signal box and ask if it was OK to cross the line. While we were reading it there was a sudden "whoosh!" as a 125 hurtled past at mach three. Oh dear, scary. After considerable study and with a great amount of uncertainty someone (nameless, of course) decided to cross and eventually the rest followed, painfully slowly under the circumstances. They must have been tired with the pace so far.

At least the terrain had now become recognisable to the Leader and he shot off along the familiar skinny mud line, but once again the ground was surprisingly firm and rapid progress was made over to Damdykes. Great name, that. We gathered on the little bridge over the A19 but there were a few LEDs glimmering in the far distance. After quite a wait the missing parties arrived and we learned that Dan's cranks had come loose on the crappy home made thing he was trying to ride.

Colin led off the bridge as we encountered the first real sticky mud of the night but fortunately it was a short run to the new building site at Arcot where once again we regrouped. Time to hit the fields, but this time it was Terry's turn to chicken out and call a retreat after he encountered impassable bog. We took to the road route instead before jumping off once more into the trees and perfect ground conditions although no-one believed there was a trail in here, as we headed north and east ending up back on the road after a nice little loop. I think we'd accidentally strayed onto a footpath so I won't say any more, sorry.


Back on the road there were two punctures to contend with - Mark's Lapierre and Simon's Giant. Didn't take too long to get those sorted and we moved to somewhere safer for our bait halt. Once again the Doc came up trumps, this time with a choice of cookies - either cherry and white chocolate or hazelnut and milk choccy - wonderful. Jonathan had a chance to fettle his "soft" tyre here but chose not to - mistake! Dan had to tighten his cranks, or attempt to, with the help of the tensioner plug from Grant's Yeti which resulted in one damaged multi tool - not Dan's unfortunately! Never seen a setup like this before - a whole clump of headset spacers trying to take up an inch of bare axle, dismal failure. He'd have to do it yet again a bit nearer home!

Onward with Colin leading over the railway crossing and onto Crammy's main drag. Terry took the lead again and surprised some of the team as he dropped down some steep steps before racing away through what was left of the trees. We stopped half way through at the path crossroads where once again it took quite a while for the catchup to finish. Once again we bombed it into our last muddy field of the night which had the legs feeling heavy this time. It was a relief to emerge onto firm ground again at Moor Farm.

cool it

We crossed the A19 at the pedestrian lights but were halted by Jonathan's tyre becoming properly flat, costing us enough time to make a speedup on the home run necessary. Lesson here - if there's work doing on, do yours at the same time! By the time we got mobile again cold had set in with most of us after being not too bad up to now. We stayed on tarmac up to Burradon, took the bridle path into Killingworth but then the RL made another unusual move in crossing Killy Centre and entering the old village where we normally pop out at the start of our rides around here.

Grant was first onto the track to Forest Hall but overshot Terry's intended entry to the trees, although we joined up with him at half way after making another slight error and hitting solid brambles at the top! The lead trio of Ian, Grant and Terry pulled out a small lead over the rest of the field to finish the off-road stuff with a flourish, very enjoyable.

We'd been dropping people off at various points as we got closer to town, with Mark and Xanne being the first two. That only left the haul along the Great Lime Road to complete the ride at 10:05 pm after 14 miles reasonably pacy, but the incredible, and supremely fir Paul still needing to ride back to his Blyth home!

See Lucy's Strava trace below for the route, which we'll all deny of course.


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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 bigger the group, the louder the laughs!


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