Group Therapy

All three groups together

All three groups together

Our club organised their first Reliability Ride for August from Dumfries across to Bridge of Dee, Loch Ken then Corsock. It was a bit later than the traditional time in Spring but enjoyable nonetheless and different from our usual club runs.

We divided into 3 groups – 15, 17 and 19mph average over 55 miles. It’s definitely different riding in a group to a set time. Unlike club runs you suddenly become aware of a collective goal driving the pedals around which everyone in your group is responsible for – MAKING YOUR TIME!

Group One looking rather pleased with themselves!

Group One looking rather pleased with themselves!

I rode in the 19 group and I never felt we were on top of our average speed…it seemed to constantly elude us. It certainly made for an interesting ride and I found us talking more tactics than we ever would on a normal Saturday. We tried through and off, someone at the front riding tempo and, for the final section, two guys at the front drilling it. We certainly sounded like the crossest cycling group in Scotland at times with some choice expletives especially along the Loch Ken section.

anxiety eased - we made our time

anxiety eased – we made our time

Unbeknownst to us at the time, our anxiety was nothing compared to the 17 group who suffered 4 or 5 flats. This would be enough to have you heaving your bike over a dyke but it didn’t puncture their resolve or their motivation and they arrived with 17.7 on their garmins…chapeau. They had the biggest group which can bring its own problems.

f*** another puncture!

f*** another flat!

Cool as cucumbers were the 15 group who we passed on the Loch Ken. They seemed to be gliding along unworried and well organised.

We finished the official part of the ride at Pringles Pub in Corsock – great grub and I discovered people more fond of cake than myself. I enjoyed the day and the way that your own efforts are part of a bigger purpose.

One Day in a Hundred

Every now and again you have a day on the bike which turns out to be the opposite of what you expected.

Criffel brooding in the distance

Alert! This morning started with a change in the weather forecast. Not admittedly on a par with Michael Fish and the great storms in 1987. But wrong enough for you to think twice about cycling. It was supposed to be dry and cold but this was undermined by the torrential hale storms battering the roofs as I toasted my bagel. The weatherman was saying things like ‘this thick cloud is snow’ and ‘long icy stretches in the south-west’ as though he was surprised. One day I am going to take those guys to court for the amount of times they’ve made my heart sink an hour before a ride.

A quick rethink of cycling clothes and I made my way down the road for early miles with some of the boys. The Bankend road was different from what I was expecting. Huge floods from the fields left the road submerged. I was wishing my bike had a persicope! As well as the standing water which made our route resemble a drowned world, there was fast running water everywhere and riding parallel with the swollen Nith, it was hard to tell where land ended and river began.

The watery flatlands of the Solway

I had a feeling in my creeking knees that somehow today was going to be different. We then had two punctures in quick succession. As always, puncture repair always brings out the best repartee from cyclists and this morning we were blessed. We had one cyclist who worked on the nearby Caerlaverock wildlife Reserve and the other a Farmer. Plenty of conflicting comments on wild life. I tried to chip in by telling them I could do a great Hooper Swan call.

Hooper or Whooper?

The problem was…no such bird exists but the Whooper swan does! These elegant birds were then described by the farmer as ‘huge footed vermin…’ So it went on.

With the double puncture blow, we missed the main club run by over 15 minutes. Was the next 3 hours going to be spent exchanging wildlife insults? I suggested we rode the route sensibly as cycling can be a funny old sport and you never know what’s up the road. Perhaps the main group were having similar problems (with punctures and flooding as opposed to Autumn Watch trade-offs).

Having coped with the deluge around Bankend we then headed over to Beeswing ( a quiet road punctuated by a serene loch on our right). No deluge but unbelievably we encountered snow. We could see the main group’s tyre tracks woven ahead of us as we rode in single file. This bitter enemy of the cyclist helps improve your butt clenching muscles. Luckily it was turning to slush when we arrived.

What? flooding, snow, sun and then a massive flock of oncoming sheep…are you making this up?

Then the sun came out triumphantly. I said to the boys we’ve seen it all today and one replied ‘Except fire.’ Let’s not tempt it. Trying to stuff a flapjack in mouth at the time I noticed red markings round the foil. My mouth had started bleeding. I know I’m a glutton but I didn’t realise I needed my jaws re-configured.

We met up with some of the Club near Corsock including my old cycling mucker, Harky who told me he’d ordered his new Cervelo. I was pleased for him but readers please also see one of my previous posts on Bike Envy.

We rode down Corsock Moor. I don’t dislike anything in cycling apart from the descent off that moor. Why? Well the bike busting cattle grid, the stones, leaves, blind corners and creeping verges are reason enough but the biggest source of dislike must be that in the many years I have cycled over that descent, the road has NEVER been dry.

after the sheep attack…Brian and Ian

Just as we reached the bottom we were met by a bizarre sight; a huge flock of sheep funneling up the narrow road towards us. We jumped up onto the high verges. Our journey was nearly over. I said it was not so much Three Men in Boat as Four Men on a Bike except that one of us was missing. Colin had got ahead of the sheep attack. We battered along Irongray to catch him but he had literally disappeared! Missing poster needed.

Cycling into town, the dark clouds were gathering again for another ration of rain. I got home before the afternoon showers arrived. Over a bowl of homemade soup I could only laugh. Every one in a hundred days do you get a ride like this – all the seasons rolled into one, punctures, a bloodied mouth and wildlife up close – an entertaining way to cycle those winter miles. We’ll be on time for the next Club Run!

Grinning on the way home through the lens flare – John, Alex, Brian and Ian