Thursday, January 25, 2007

Veteran's Night

The celebratory TCA Burn's Night ride was accompanied by veteran cyclist Maalie whose cycling claim-to-fame was ownership in youth of a Claude Butler upon which he roamed the Essex countryside fishing and birdwatching. He arrived down from Cumbria to be greeted by the TCA co-founder, Worzel, at Headquarters in good time to meet the participating members, Matt and Jon as they arrived from work.

In deference to the veteran, a modest 14-mile road-route was selected taking us to the Hampshire Bowman in Dundridge, the home run via the White Lion, Soberton. By 6.30 pm the night was clear, calm and frosty and expectations for a pleasant ride were high. So began the extended ritual of kitting up , involving special skin-tight vests, extra thick socks, adjusting the straps of plastic helmets and the donning of fluorescent over-jackets. Matt's pink netting garment would have done justice to a lap-dancer's parlour. The follicularly challenged veteran questioned the slots in the helmets which would expose strips of his naked scalp to the freezing night air (indicated in picture below), but felt it was not the thing to point out that he anticipated strangulation by the tightness of the throat strap...

At length, with lights checked, chains oiled and toe-clips adjusted, the quartet set off into the night to explore the frosty (-4C) byways of Hampshire, with the veteran swerving wildly as he attempted to slot feet into toe clips on the move. As it happened, the ride started with the steepest hill of the course and, seeing the tail lights of the three spring chicken sprinting off up into the dark, the veteran was still trying to work out whether he should twist the handle bar grip forwards or backwards to change down through the gears. His leg muscles rapidly became metabolically anaerobic, and build-up of lactic acid obliged him to dismount and push the bike up the hill.

Thereafter, out of the consideration for the veteran, the pace was reduced and then began a most pleasant ride over the ridge-tops towards the Plough, Ursor major (a constellation, not a pub) in which, at this time of year, the pan-handle is oriented vertically down. All seemed to be going well until the vereran hit a rut and swerved violently. Applying both brakes to avoid crashing into Worzel's rear wheel, he slowed to a halt and, unable to release feet from the toe-clips quickly enough, he sort of toppled over and ended up on the tarmac. But no damage was done and the veteran was reassured that falling off the bike was in fact the initiation rite for formal membership of the TCA; Job done then.

With Jon hanging back to escort the veteran, a breathless conversation about their respective recent trips to Australia ensued. They conspired to form a splinter group and peel off at the nearest pub to continue their reminiscing in warmth and comfort, but this notion was stifled by the ride director who asserted that a scheduled stop at the Bowman was only just beyond the horizon. At length that pub was reached where welcome rest, warmth and refreshment [Stonehenge 'Spires' Ale, Ed.] of choice were enjoyed by all but Matt, who suffered in silence with an orange juice due to a New Year abstinence bet.

A toast to absent members, The Hampshire Bowman
(Left to right: Jon, Maalie, Matt, Worzel)

All too soon, the ride director ordered "Drink up" and it was back on with the helmets (frozen head syndrome alleviated by the loan of a thermal under-helmet skullcap; below, left) and flourescent jackets and out to confront the frosty night. The veteran noticed that the water in the bowl put out for dogs by the front door had frozen over... There followed an easy, largely down-hill cruise to the White Lion at Soberton where, knowing the back of the ride was broken, the stop was more relaxed. The veteran was hugely impressed by Matt's recall of historical football scores and Jon's knowledge of Australian birds.

The remaining couple of miles back to Headquarters, guided by Orion's Faithful Dog Sirius, passed with out incident, except for one last steepish hill where the veteran decided to invoke the ancient family motto Discretion is the better part of Fowler pushing the bike up the hill. In no time at all the quartet was welcomed by Strudles at H.Q. who soon had a suacepan of spaghetti bolognese bubbling on the stove.

Route Map:

(Posted by: Maalie)

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Into 2007 with the TCA

With John determined to put his best foot forward towards his New Year's resolution to "get a bit fitter" and Al keen to lose some of his "Christmas excess" we thought it best to make a start. We were not feeling particularly inspired though and, Jon having been up the Trundle earlier in the week, chose our 'old faithful', Hambledon #1 route (maps here). Jon was round to Al's pretty early but we dawdled over a cup of tea and a chat about our holidays and, having donned our usual thermal protection, eventually left at about 19:00. The rain of previous evenings had eased and, although it was overcast, we were left with a perfect evening for a cycle.

After a while Al had wished that he had also chosen shorts; with legging's and the new thermal base layer that Santa had left he was soon sweating profusely in the unseasonably warm weather. In truth there is nothing much to report - the ride was very similar to the recent outing at the end of November - the conditions were wet and muddy throughout guaranteeing odd looks from the locals at The White Lion at Soberton and Traveler's Rest at Newtown (had there been any locals), even before Al passed up the offer of a beer (month off; his New Year 's resolution). In fact the deserted pubs were perhaps the most remarkable thing - it felt like we were on the set of Day of the Triffids - there was no one else around!

The White Lion: Kicking!

Thankfully the mutant plants hadn't got to Trudy who was on hand to knock out a chicken curry for the TCA after their obligatory strip on the step and hose down. A gentle but enjoyable start to 2007.

Jon proposes a toast to absent members while
Al enjoys his blackcurrant & soda water
('Happy' New Year my a*se!)

(Posted by: Al)

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