Sunday, 28 December 2014

Braving the Elements

Three intrepid riders assembled at the bus stop on a very icy Sunday morning; myself, Brian and Harry, both making an appearance courtesy of the East Tyrone CC. The decision to brave the elements was borne out of sheer inexperience and foolhardiness on my part, and years of experience and Tyrone-style-tenacity on theirs!

After waiting for a few minutes, Bergmeister rolled up (on four wheels, not two!) and, with regret, announced that most had decided to be sensible and stick to the turbos for the day. He did, however, assure us that Bones was on his way, so the CCC:ETCC ratio would be tilted back in the right direction. Before parting, Berg sagely advised us to stick to main roads and avoid hills where possible (more on that later...). After a frantic sprint to catch Bones (having arrived slightly late, he’d already resigned himself to the prospect of a solo outing and had sailed down the Knock carriageway) the foursome was complete and a route was devised.

Continuing down the Knock carriageway (and away from the treacherous Saintfield road), we turned right onto the Upper Newtownards Road and motored along nicely all the way to Ards town centre. Punishing ourselves briefly on the sharp kick on Upper N street, we joined the carriageway and again fell into a spritely rhythm and were in Bangor in no time. The coastal road provided the perfect opportunity to relax the pace a bit and enjoy the view, the crisp sea air, and the sun, which was finally making an appearance! With the promise of a coffee stop in Donaghadee, and some people still with energy to burn, we organised a paceline on the straight from Groomsport and arrived at the Manor Cafe in record time. Other people had obviously had the same bright idea as us, because it was packed, but with the sun starting to warm us up, we had no objections to sitting outside.

Refreshed, we started thinking about the journey back. The roads being a bit more accommodating with the rise in temperature, and with Harry (and me) keen to have a go at Scrabo, we headed back along the Cotton road before beginning the arduous climb (easy all the way up, then 18% at the top!). A couple of slippy patches caused a scare, but our lesson was well and truly learnt; STAY AWAY FROM THE SHADOWY PATCHES! The view from the top was outstanding, but the cold setting in again meant we didn’t hang around for too long.

A very gentle descent preceded the trip home back along the Newtownards road, where we caught up with two other riders (I can’t remember what club they were from, but with ~ 60 miles already in their legs, they worked up to a frightening pace and pulled us all the way back to the Knock lights – no complaints on our side! Thanks again guys J).

We parted ways at the end of Shandon Park, all glad that we’d made it out for the day, and that the weather improved significantly as we went along. Thanks again to Colin, Mark, Brian and Harry – hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. We’ll hopefully get them down again for a run in some less inclement weather.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Two (un)Wise Men

Two wise men (some would say not wise) left the east, there was no bright star to follow only the bright sun of a perfect winters day and the lure of coffee.
Being so close to Christmas and with it being "Panic Saturday", Retro man and I were a bit pushed for time. A quick plan was formulated with a coffee stop around "crazy daves" or Killyeagh.
The route was a simple enough one, up the Saintfield Road to Carryduff, swing a left towards Saintfield and along the Lisdoonan Road. From Saintfield we threw in a few of Bergmeister's speciality wiggles and also a few of Retros recommendations, popping out in Crossgar. We then turned towards Shrigley, heading for Killinchy. Our coffee stop was called at The Muffler as we decided "crazy daves" might be choca block. How wrong we were, on arrival it looked as if every cyclist in County Down was here. Great to see so many bikes, a sure sign that coffee is good!!
After second breakfast we ventured home along the Ballybunden Road, Ballygowan and Moneyreagh.
Nice to be back out on the bike again after the dreaded doom and what a cracking day.
Looking forward to seeing everyone out tomorrow with their tinsel, the plan is to stop somewhere for a festive lunch or panini and possibly a pint.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A Victory Over the Odds

Today was a victory over the odds. Anyone who saw me at the Christmas night out would've given 100/1 that I wouldn't make it out this morning, and anyone who saw me this morning would've given 1000/1 that I wouldn't take Sam for the 30's on the way home. Sometimes it just works out....

After being on good behaviour last night Retro and Bones were looking bright and breezy at Forster Green. Bullet had missed us last week so was determined to be early this time. I was a bit under par, but determined to push through.... I also decided to opt out of navigating as I helplessly swung off the back up through Carryduff and out to Ballynahinch (thanks Bones for pacing me back).

As my head cleared I decided it was about time we got off the busy main road and called a left into Drumaness. Right in the village took us to Brennan's where we crossed on to New Line Rd and Tannaghmore Rd. We turned on to Demesne Rd and Manse Rd eventually following Druncaw Rd and Dromara Rd. The plan was for me to lead out the start of a session into Dundrum, but clearly I was still underpowered and Bullet didn't wait long before taking off.

After getting in out of the cold and consuming some rejuvenating bacon we saddled up again and doubled back as far as Claragh Rd. Just for kicks we took Drumquoile Rd before turning right down Cauleys Pipe Rd which took us round to Carnreagh Rd (a hidden gem), then down Drumgavlin Rd and in the back way to Spa. At this point the rain started and we goretexed up for the final push home down the main road from Ballynahinch.

Bullet is too young to have met the late Davey McCall and therefore missed out on his advice of "never tow a sprinter to the line", but he knows now.... Thanks to everyone for looking after me in the first hour. Good training and a great hangover cure.

Christmas Night Out!

 A big thanks to everyone for a great Christmas night out. It was a brilliant mix of old and new faces and the nicest bit was that you couldn't tell the difference. 
Festivities started at the Jharna and then moved to the Albany. As predicted things heated up and a few new nicknames were earned - I can't wait to get Snake Hips out on a bike! A huge thanks to Steve "is that a selfie stick in my pocket or am I pleased to see you" for organising it, to those who stayed sober and chauffeured us around, and to Miss T and MTB Girl for adding some much needed glamour. Finally thanks to the Pro, Snake Hips and Scotty for dragging me to a night club til after 2!!!! Where were you this morning?!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Scott of the Antarctic

Descending the North face of the Eiger this morning (some call it Newton Park) through flurries of snow I knew it was going to be a proper winter epic - it was, but fun too. We're going with a Scott of the Antarctic theme in honour of the weather, my bike and our own Captain's Captain Oates impression - if there had have been a tent for him to walk out of into the blizzard he would've - "I may be a while". Hopefully whatever's working on him will clear soon.

Four of us said goodbye to the CTC at Forster Green and set course for Oxford Island. Unsurprisingly it was four old hands with winter bikes and full winter kit, although Retro was wondering if he could get a refund on his gloves until he remembered they were a Big G freebie.... We headed out through Drumbeg, then on to Sandy Lane and the towpath to the centre of Lisburn. On towards Ballinderry, Aghalee and Aghagallon.

That was where the real fun started, as we hit a weather front thick with sleet. In true Rule #9 tradition we dug in and ploughed on for Oxford Island. Nightmare (sorry Nitemare) is flying after his 60days of purgatory and our full-time pro Retro isn't far behind, their horsepower made a big difference as the wind strengthened. The weather brightened as we reached lunch although some poor wee squirrel may not recover from a run in with Nightmare - apparently he likes animals more than people so he hopes its okay.

As we were warming up inside, a smiling 1st Cat arrived - it turns out he'd been partying til 5, turned up late at FG and been pointed the right direction by the CTC! That meant five #badass badges will have to be awarded. 1st Cat gets a special one he can put on despite his fat fingers (do you think the gloves mighta shrunk in the wash?!).

From Oxford Island we took the lanes to Moira and then out Meeting Street and Bottier Rd on to the flatlands. The weather was still vicious, but with five experienced riders wanting to keep warm the pace was still descent as Nightmare wound us round the lanes. Eventually we turned off Blaris Rd and took the towpath all the way back to Drumbeg - although the weather had brightened again, very few walkers were risking it, so it was amazingly empty.

Nightmare and 1st Cat turned off, leaving the rest of us to cruise on to Shaw's Bridge. A tough day, but a really fun one and one that made me very grateful for the invention of goretex and overshoes. Thanks to everyone for sticking together and giving Retro's hands a big round of applause. Proper old school winter training 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Butch & Sundance Ride Again

All the best westerns had sequels, so I'm calling this "Butch & Sundance Ride Again". The weather wasn't brilliant, but it'll get worse before it gets much better. Both being exponents of Rule #9 and therefore men who "love the work" we headed out the carriageway into a west wind without much fuss. We climbed up from Purdysburn village and over to Drumbo before taking in Ballycarngannon Rd and Gannon Rd heading us for Boardmills and Bailies Mills. Through Annahilt we crossed over towards Kinallen.

Given that Sundance had unfinished business back at the ranch and that we'd already earned our #badass badges we decided to forgo a coffee stop (I think it was 5 degrees at this point) and take a left towards Ballynahinch. With two riders who've been steering steel horses round the lanes of Co Down for too many years to mention it was never going to be the main road home....

Burn Rd and Laurel Rd took us over through Ballycreen, then from Magheraknock on to Hillside Rd and Lough Rd. Just for a change we flicked across the main road on to Lisbane Rd and Cargy Rd eventually on to the Killynure Rd where the old gunslinger showed he's still got it. By the time I wiggled home from Carryduff there was only 2.5hrs on the clock, but if the other guy isn't out those miles count double!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Yellow Polkadot Bikini

When used in the context of "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini" bitsy is a great word, when it refers to riders everywhere I'm not such a big fan. But that's the point, it's not my club or any other individuals, so there has to be room for different types of ride.

The Big Lad is coming back from an op and was clear he wouldn't be out for long. The pace out to Temple made sure of it. We turned right and took the traditional route to Bailies Mills where he turned for home. Lanterne was on an off day and announced his departure after Annahilt. The kick into Kinallen almost claimed another victim, but Philip dug in bravely. As Capt and I tried to pace him back the pace in the bunch ahead seemed to lift meaning a hard chase.

Capt needed home early and turned off Gail Bog Rd for Dromore. We took Flough Rd and at the end pointed Philip in the direction of lunch in Banbridge. The rest of us took Drone Hill Rd, although I exploded just before Cappagh nearly taking Jeff out the back. Into Banbridge Nightmare was calling for more speed and I threw in a kamikaze grenade to mix it up.

While most of us ate lunch, 1st Cat and Bullet did a 20 min loop to work up an appetite. Back on the road we took Ballymoney Rd across Dromore. Nightmare had to take a call and while my decision to wait for him was morally correct, it was tactically naive while Retro was throwing coal on the furnace up ahead. The chase pulled the legs out of me and it took a few pushes from 1st Cat to get me back in the wheels - 2 weeks of inactivity then 2 days back-to-back takes its toll.

We took a slightly different route to Hillsborough taking in the monument, then the traditional route to Carryduff with it all kicking off over the last few miles. Credit to 1st Cat for towing around 2 litres of ballast and a few riders.

Strava link courtesy of Jeff:

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Surprisingly just Butch and Sundance out today, I take it the wet roads and draw of Christmas shopping kept the rest at bay. I had a vague memory, from late on during wedding celebrations in Edinburgh last weekend, of a recommended cafe in Waringstown. I was a little vague on the details, but I knew a bridesmaid wouldn't lie to me....

Butch plotted a course taking us through Purdysburn, Drumbo,... Hillsborough, Blackscull, Donaghcloney and then via Hall Road to Waringstown. There we called at the Post House Cafe and found its under new ownership, so it is the right place. It was a great find and a nice alternative to the Killyleagh/Balloo/White Rocks routes and somewhere we'll be back.

Coming out of the cafe I was half expecting to be "greeted" by 500 Mexican soldiers, but instead we had a chat with one of Butch's work colleagues. Alive, we took Mill Rd and New Forge Rd towards Magheralin, then on to Orange Lane. I wasn't paying a lot of attention and seeing as it was just us desperadoes, I let Butch drag us a bit further away from home, cutting back via Culcavey and Ravarnet.

After keeping it nice and steady all day, we took in the climbs of Lisnoe Rd and Gardners Road to get the heart rates up, although two pretty bad run-ins with dogs lifted them even higher. Butch nearly lost an ankle and I braced for a Rottweiler impact at one stage.... Another fun day out and quality winter training. It was a little further than usual for a Saturday, but worth it.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Nitemares sufferfest

Bergmeister was off partying this weekend so its a short write up. 7 riders departed from Forster Greens along some cold and icy roads with Nightmare leading the way. Luckily for some underdressed riders the sun quickly appeared as we headed for Castlewellan. 5 riders had a quick stop at Urban Coffee on main street in Castlewellan for buns and coffee while 2 eejits did a circuit of Castlewellan. We regrouped after 30 mins and Nightmare led us back to Belfast along the hilliest route he could possibly think of! We suffered together along the roads to Dromara and then back to Carryduff. All in all a great day with about 100kms done in 4 hours, well done to everyone for making it round!

Strava link:

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Two loners

Just two lonely souls out making the most of the weather. 

Just Joe and myself at the bus stop today. Joe hasn't been out for a while (drinking got in the way) by his own admission he was out to pay penance for his sins, I was just off nights so looking for an easy enough spin. Sunny skies and very little wind we were spoilt for route choice.
I called coffee stop in Comber. So off we headed on a route avoiding hopefully the worst of yesterday's puddles.

The plan was a route up Carryduff, branching off towards Saintfield then ducking onto some of the smaller country lanes to test the waters excuse the pun!!

Popping out at Saintfield the smaller lanes weren't as bad as expected so we cut across towards Listooder heading in the general direction of Crossgar. We ended up in Kilmore,then straight through the roundabout Crossgar and out towards Derryboye. Baloo was next on the hit list and buy this time Joe was starting to feel his absence a little. I opted to stay on the main road which would deliver us safely into Comber. Today's coffee stop, seen us living it up at the Georgian house, who ever said Castlereagh cant do classy?!

Over coffee and scones a route was devised homewards via Scrabo and the Castlereagh hills. The Berg has a saying "bend em don't break em" Joe was about to find out the true meaning of the term.

We took it at steady pace homewards, into ards then left up towards the back of Scrabo and a few twists and turns onto the Comber Road. Being the good sport that he is Joe was up for the tough slog home over Peartree Road then the Gransha Road.
Through the Braniel and down the Ballygowan Road seen is home with roughly 70km in the legs.

Great riding today for Joe despite his long absence. It's amazing the motivation a free jersey gives you, eh Joe !!

Apologies for this rather short and not very sweet blurb but my bed is calling. It's gonna be a lonnnngggg night!

Strava link:

Monday, 17 November 2014

Dirty Dozen

We had a Dirty Dozen out today including two newcomers, Derek and Derek. Also on duty were Capt, Retro, The Chairman, Nightmare, Miley, the Bullet, Philip, Lanterne, Jeff and Berg. I'd planned the route based on a North East wind and the idea of an extra loop for the hardmen - it almost worked out perfect.

The route was as simple as our average rider - through town, out the Shore Road, up the Doagh Rd and along Upper Road to the far side of Carrickfergus. A right and left towards Barrycarry and then on to Islandmagee. It turned into a beautiful morning and we were rewarded with beautiful scenery. Derek, Derek and Lanterne took the option to turn right for Whitehead and locate a coffee stop, while the rest of us turned right to hit the hills.

Jeff, Miley, Bullet and Retro gave it full gas while the rest of us used our brains. Capt knew the way and guided us from Lower Rd (which seemed pretty high to me) on to Middle Rd. Retro, Miley and Bullet decided to pay Portmuck and its 20% climb a visit and set up a roadblock in front of me in Mullaghboy to make sure I got split from the group. In the absence of photographic evidence I don't even believe they did it! The rest of us took the road round by the Gobbins with stunning views to Whitehead, where we joined up with the others in the Old Tea Rooms.

Refuelled we aimed for a direct hit on Belfast via the shoreline. With the exception of Islandmagee it wasn't the most inspiring route - busy roads by our standards, but it allowed us to keep things together and knowing we have a coffee stop in that area opens up a few more options for the future.

Ride of the day goes to Retro who kicked ass with riders well over 30yrs his junior - respect! Finally a belated Happy Birthday to MTB Girl, have to get you out soon

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Shower Dodgers

Two riders dodged the showers (successfully) through Comber, down to Wacky Dave's and back towards Saintfield yadda yadda yadda same old, same old. What made this ride particularly fun was a child of the early seventies and a child of the late sixties, reminiscing about kids TV of the seventies. So pop quiz Mike Reid Runaround style - name the shows?

On a serious note, we did exactly what we should do at this time of year. We rode steady (chatting speed), turned small gears and kept our heart rates down, pedalling up hill and down for a bit over 40 miles. Coffee was short and sweet, so home for 12:30. On a less serious note sorry to anyone confused by two middle aged men shouting "little old lady", "strawberry", "chocolate", "RUNAROUND" and "Hugh Pugh Barney McGrew Cuthbert Dibble Grub". Good fun

Monday, 10 November 2014

Star Trek

I'm in one of those moods again, bored of writing the same old thing. I was also trying to come up with a more complimentary nickname for Crash and following the medical theme came up with Bones, which is my excuse for the Star Trek theme....

I don't know ten Star Trek characters, but accompanying Bones, we had Resurrection as Scotty (Capt she can'ne take any more); Nightmare was Spock (we know he's only half human); Hannibal and me split Kirk (he'd use any excuse to take his shirt off and fight monsters, and I've met a few alien chicks); Jeff was Chekov (he just steered whatever way we told him but never actually knew where he was); Mike was Sulu (George Takei, say no more) and Retro as Lt. Uhura (no explanation necessary). Brian on his first Sunday run and Neil were anonymous crewmen, who just prayed they'd make it to the end of the episode alive!

Spock reckoned what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them, so took us on a snaking route along Sandy Lane and out the towpath through Lisburn. We skimmed Culcavey and wiggled to Waringstown and the outskirts of Lurgan onto the traditional "bun run" route to Tandragee. Straight through and into the Scarva Tea Rooms for a well deserved coffee. This wasn't just a new stop for some of the guys, it was a new county....

With 40 miles now on the clock we climbed towards Banbridge, turning left at the top on to Blue Road. This is lumpy territory, but the group was riding together really well, trying to use the joint strength and not leave anyone behind. After Lawrencetown we took a right through Blackscull and on to Ballygowan Rd for Hillsborough. A puncture held us up a bit, but gave plenty of opportunity to abuse Sulu and Uhura. After that we got a glimpse of our friend, the effortlessly glamorous MTB Girl heading the other way.

By Hillsborough most people had 60 miles in the legs and with the cold weather energy was in short supply. Thankfully there were enough helping hands to go round (we've all been there and will be there again) and we all kept a decent pace across to Carryduff. Around 70 miles of lumpy terrain with a really good group, who got some great training. The Enterprise will be fuelling up for another mission next week.