Thursday 19th February 2015

And now for something completely diff...

After that brilliant 21-person turnout the previous Thursday it was something of a surprise to find just 12 of us here on a beautiful, and slightly miilder evening. It had, however, been frightfully windy the night before and that continued all day, but of course Mother Nature is well aware that Thursday night is Bike Night and courteously switched it down to a pleasant breeze for us, as is her habit. Once again the Western Branch was active, and Lee D joined us once more. Dan had somehow managed to scrape enough bits together to complete his Lapierre for one of his occasional appearances while the rest were all regulars. Lucy managed to refrain from issuing a verbal to matt, who arrived in plenty of time but seemed to take forever to get the ugly 451 ready for action. Close investigation by Colin and I reached Matt's own conclusion that his lower jockey wheel was no longer a wheel, just an obstacle to chain movement. Off to the medic who just happened to have some WD40 in her kit which eventually got it turning freely. The bottom bracket needed similar attention, as did the freehub before the thing became easy to pedal again. Distinct lack of TLC Matthew!

What to do, what to do?

As a Ride Leader, uppermost in my mind is variety, and over the last six months or maybe more, no ride has been totally repeated, with twists, turns and even the odd newly discovered sliver of earth being used to mix it up as much as possible. We've also had a decent influx of new members over that period and I want to get them well established before boring them stupid with the same old repetitive rides the old hands are used to! Having said that, I'm sure everyone appreciates the restrictions we have on us both in terms of time available and distance to be covered. There are also other considerations such as looking after newcomers when you've no idea of their fitness levels, where people live and how long it will take them to get home afterwards, the weather itself and a few more things.

Established members will be well aware of my hatred of a certain tract of land. No, not the runway at Newcastle Airport - that's Number Two. Yes, the one behind Holystone Farm that leads up to Killingworth Village End. I honestly dread it, but it just happens to serve as a useful route changer so tonight I had to bite the bullet, grin and bear it, put up and shut up. Amazingly I got away first to be joined by Lucy, and she kept my rhythm going (keep those thoughts clean please) as we scurried over the two fields to make my best ever time gate-to-gate. Maybe it wasn't Lucy, maybe it was the new bike. Nah, the Doc gets my vote.

Ignore that last paragraph, that was last week's ride, iriot!

We dropped off the side of the Shiremoor Bypass onto the old road and into the field, TK leading into the railway singletrack hotly pursued by Olly (on that stupid, plastic, droop-handlebarred thing he calls a crosser, oh my). At Backworth Crossing we continued straight over towards Seghill Tip, but taking a right over the line rather than the more usual trail to Terry's Secret Stuff. Most of tonight's riders won't have seen this bit. Amazingly the ground was quite firm, none of the recent bogtrotting to do as we reached the Tip before turning right, just in case that infamous mudbath up ahead was still in it's seemingly everlasting porridge state.

Mud, I see Mud!

When we got back on the bridleway to Holywell the leader charged off to the left very abruptly onto the short, squidgy but excellent wiggly singletrack into the estate. Olly was the only one able to keep up as the screams and shreiks emanated from behind. Seems that Dan had bogged down and brought a few others, Lucy included, to a screeching halt. Amateurs.

 Right or left next? With everyone pointing right towards the coast, it was obvious the leader would go left, so down he plunged toward the Dene but became tangled in the brambles after entering the bush too soon. Someone else found the right entry point a bit further upstream and the team followed along the nice little riverbank path. As we emerged at the top of the exit slope Terry took the lead again but stopped where the Tip Trail ends. He slysly encouraged Dan to go first after he'd warned about a fallen tree over the trail before leading the others off in the opposite direction. B@st@rd!

He did stop and wait at the start of the next field however, with Daniel declining his offer to lead over the next bit, wonder why? Once again the slightly rutted nature and odd slice of mud were only suited to Olly's skinny CX tyres and Terry's huge Nobby Nics while everything in between had some issues with this field crossing. Arthur was in trouble here, his eyes streaming and making visiblity hit-and-miss but he battled on gamely as we did the next skinny rut up to the top of Seaton Delaval where he was forced to turn back for home.

Matthew led down Double Row where we turned into the start of the Tree Line, but after letting everyone else lift their bikes over the timber rail Terry took it upon himself to scarper off to the right. This particular path has become slightly overgrown as it's used very rarely but it was excellent fun battling through the undergrowth with as much momentum as possible while lying over the handlebars! Once over the dyke at Lysdon Farm side and back onto terra firma, he was straight back into the trees at the first opportunity trying to seek out a trail he did know quite well once upon a time, but here a combination of fallen trees and a state of panic meant it took a while to find the one he was looking for. That took us back down to the tree line again and another regroup before heading up to the Keel Row and into the fields behind Matt. Once again the mudfest at East Crammy end caused a bit of turmoil and delay but it wasn't long before the leader had picked out a suitable hill from which to get a glimpse of the Northern Lights which Olly reckoned would be pretty impressive tonight. Unfortunately we were hampered by the lights of Blyth and low cloud on the horizon, so we settled for Lucy's beautiful coconut delights and a little rest halt.

Unfortunately the next ten minutes under unfamiliar trees failed to produce the promised trail and instead turned into a bit of a chore as we tried to recover ourselves form - you guessed it - impenetrable forest! More than a few moans and groans from the ever-lengthening tail until we managed to break free onto nice grass again, after which we headed downhill to open ground. That didn't last very long either when the same old fool decided to hit the final copse just short of Seaton Delaval, resulting in a few hundred metres of decent going before the slight issue of a nasty, brown drainage trench presented itslef. Fearless Colin managed to extricate himself and then guide the others to a safe crossing point, nice to see tarmac again for a few seconds!

It was time to head for home now so we took to the trees again at the bend in the road and skittled along past the Mummy to the foot of Thorn Hill. We took a right at the far end up to the west side of Seghill before turning along the Annitsford access road. Bit of tarmac now to reach Burradon via Killingworth, and a new wiggly way through the estates when only the front two kept sight of each other and we had to perform a search and rescue for the others. Could have done with Mark S here to guide us through the Maze of Garths, but eventually the surroundings became recognisable again as Terry instructed Dan to do a sharp left and we rampaged through the Simonside singletrack back-to-front, indeed a rarity and it proved pretty exhillerating for most of us with plenty cheesy grins at the far side.

That just left the Holystone Farm dual track descent after Dan departed for home via tarmac, and this immediately became a race down to the fram with first man away Terry lasting little more than the first few hundred metres before cardiac arrest arrested his progress, much to the delight of Lucy who screamed away to the gate chased by the others. Good one, thank you Girls and Boys.  

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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