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Cestria CC does Piercebridge (21 May 2017)...

As usual Mal Grey, Club captain, set an engaging and interesting route for this Sunday’s club run, and we actually followed it to the letter in Mal’s absence. It has been planned that we might have an Intermediate group separate from the main club run but, in the end, we all went the same route and stayed together. About 18 riders left CLS in good, bright conditions into a SW wind. We headed straight down the A167 to Neville’s Cross where we turned right onto the A690 as far as Willington. It is sometimes difficult keeping a large group like this together and, to make it safe, we cycle two abreast (as the law says we are entitled to do so, as long as we are not *more* than two abreast). This morning, we got a few cars getting annoyed but nothing quite beat a young pedestrian (late 20s, I would guess) who shouted abuse at us. Having turned off the A690 at Willington, we headed south towards Bishop, but then turned right onto the lanes and onwards to Witton Park. My feeble efforts at cycling ahead of the bunch and then trying to get into position to take pictures were rightly mocked (right)! Our two lady club members, Donna and Joanne, both featured at the front of the group. After the quaintly-named hamlet of Windmill, we turned south again through Cockfield and eventually onto the A688 (not too busy) past Raby Castle (deer were hiding this morning) into Staindrop. The usual cafe is still closed, despite a sign saying the hoped to open in 2017, and the other cafe in the village was full of cyclists! Graeme suggested Piercebridge, which was on Mal’s route anyway, so we set off south again through Winston (which we often do in the opposite direction). Near the village of Eppleby we encountered the most extraordinary procession of tractors heading towards us, obviously going to a show or rally. Club chairman Mike Wyngard’s misspent youth came in handy as he was able to name several makes of tractor! Having reached the Roman Road, we turned north and into Piercebridge where we stopped at the first cafe, which turned out to be the excellent farm shop cafe. Shortly after our arrival, some of the Houghton CC’s club ride joined us, including several of their members know to us (Ranson bros in particular and Andy). We also had a cultural conversation about language. That’s all I’m saying. After excellent cakes and scrambled egg, our bunch headed north on Dere Street (bit of history thrown in for fun). One wonders what groupset the Roman soldiers might have used, had they been alive today. The smart money would be Italian Campag, but bear in mind most of them were foreign conscripts, I reckon they would have opted for Shimano since you get more kit for your denari. But that’s my opinon! Having reached Royal Oak, we crossed the busy A68 again and threaded our way to Shildon. Ron and I remarked how improved the town centre is, with the lovely block paving and attractive iron features. At Kirk Merrington, racing legs began to get itchy and Ron led an impressive charge up the bank, with eventual winner Christian succeeding at the top. Having regrouped, we all freewheeled down the hill to Spenny and onto Tudhoe. After the Sunderland Bridge roundabout, Graeme was the one with the Tom Dumoulin legs and began a spirited ascent of Cock of the...
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Cestria CC does the Reverse Killhope Reliability trial...

Sunday’s cycle to Nenthead and Allenheads was enjoyed by no fewer than 11 members, including intrepid lady member Donna McBride. The idea of the route was courtesy Mal Grey, who  more-or-less set a reverse of the Killhope Grimpeur route (more on that later). Peter Sturman had suggested we start at Lanchester at 9.15am, and we just about did this, with Peter having to dash home to collect his forgotten cycle shoes! It was bright and sunny with a slight side—to-tailwind on the way out. Having waited for Peter who past us in his car and then joined us near Rowley, we headed through Waskerley where the wind was not much of an issue. We split into a few groups on the road and regrouped at the top before the fast descend to Stanhope. Surprisingly, for such a lovely day, there was no that much traffic but we decided to take the back road via Brotherlee as far as Daddry Shield where we joined the main road again. The sun continued to shine as we forged uphill, and soon we passed Killhope museum and were at one of England’s two highest road passes. After a short but fast descent, we turned right (north) towards Allendale. Graeme had set off first, resolutely following Mal’s route on his Garmin. The next group got to the junction for Allenheads and decided to turn right, Graeme having passed through some minutes before. After a short discussion, everyone else decided to skip the Allendale option and head straight to Allenheads, with the Hemmel’s tasty offerings on everyone’s minds (it was about 12:15 at this point). Having reached the Hemmel without incident, we then sat down for various refreshment. Again, surprisingly, there were very few people in the cafe. With nobody opting for the Hemmel’s famous breakfasy fry (and remembering the sharp ascent out of the valley), we headed past the headgear of Grove Rake mine (a group is trying to preserve this) and then turned left (north) and up the steep ascent to Hunstanworth. Again, having regrouped at the top, we headed into Blanchland where we took the road through the quaintly-named Ruffside before arriving in Edmondbyers. Here Ian Gardner decided to return via Carterway Heads and the rest of us opted for the hairpins of Muggleswick. The views towards Northumberland were stunning with ait quality extremely good, and we eventually passed Rowley again. Having safely crossed the A68, we then split with some opting for Newbiggin Land (our outward route) and most of us taking Longedge Lane into Lanchester. It was a super day’s cycling and great fun – I had over 2000 metres climbing when I got back. Well done to new rider Mark Robinson who managed to pace himself around very neatly. This was identical to the Reliability trials we used to have in late March and everyone successfully passed the...
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Cestria CC does Morrisons, Darlington (5 March 2017)...

On a dry and sunny morning, a sizeable group left Chester Market Place heading south. Having crossed the A167, we headed up golf course bank for Lumley where the faster riders began to forge ahead and we split into two (fast and intermediate). I stayed in the Inter group and we steadily cycled though Leamside and then Coxhoe where we stopped briefly for a discussion about getting to Darlington. We headed down the A177 but then took the charming little lane towards Bishop Middleham and the turned west to Ferryhill Station. The roads were not too busy and we were able to chat and enjoy the spin. Having crossed the A1M junction at Bradbury, we turned south towards Great Stainton and managed a reasonable pace, despite a light headwind. Donna McBride was going well and attacking any little climbs. At Great Burdon, on the outskirts of Darlington, Peter MacGowan suggested a super route to North Road and we all made it safely at about 11.30am to Morrisons. It is a while since I’ve been there – it used to be a very regular feature for club winter rides, because the cafe is great value and you can see the bikes stored inside (and out of the way). The faster lads had already arrived at Morrisons, but we all left together at about 1230. We headed north on the A167 and then decided to split at Rushyford where the fast people kept on the A167 and the Inter group headed towards Bishop on the busy A689. It is a while since I’ve done this road – it’s narrow and busy, but we were only on it for about 3 miles before turning north again. Our little group consisted of Paul, Peter and myself with Donna, Ian and Malcolm chasing Steve and Christian up the A167. With a moment of relief we left the A689 and headed up the bank to Kirk Merrington. Our legs were tired then although Paul had a bash at the climb and did very well. Having regrouped and passed KM, we turned left through Spennymoor and on to Page Bank. The temperature felt changeable all day and when the sun was hiding it felt quite cool. We reached the A690 near Brancepth where we stopped for a photo shoot and parted company with Peter. Paul and myself headed up the Spennymoor CC Hill Climb (to the top of Buttons Bank where we split). It was a most enjoyable day and resulted in a very satisfying 60-ish miles or so at a comfortable average of just over...
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Cestria CC does Remembrance Sunday (13 Nov. 2016)...

Ian Gardner had planned another thoughtful and engaging Intermediate ride, and this being Remembrance Sunday he thought Sedgefield’s ceremony would make a good focus point. With military precision, two groups had been organised by Ian; one departed from Chester at 0900 and the other waited at Leamside at 0915 on a bright and sunny Sunday. After Leamside, the combined group consisted of about 14 riders, including our two stalwart lady members Joanne and Donna, joined by a prospective member Caroline (and her husband Norman). After climbing up the bank near West Rainton, we headed south through Sherburn and Coxhoe. Ian had planned to take the more direct A177 to Sedgefield, but due to a combination of a good pace and a light tailwind, he decided we should extend the cycle by heading around the back of Fishburn. The pace remained sensible and there were very few stops for stragglers (and a bit of excitement when the group headed to Trimdon village, and then decided it would be too long). Even with the extension to the route, we still arrived in Sedgefield in plenty of time (and had time to call to No. 5 cafe for a takeaway coffee). By 1050 or so, there was a very good crowd assembled at Sedgefield’s War Memorial, and by the time the church service had finished, I estimated about 300 people in total, standing around in a large circle. The ceremony was short and poignant, and after the immortal poetry of Robert Binyon (“They shall grow not old…”) and a very respectful two minutes silence, various local representatives laid poppy wreaths, and it was also lovely to see youth organisations such as the Scouts, Cubs, Guides and Brownies represented. The event finished at about 1120, and we then departed the way we had arrived but turned south again onto Butterwick Road and joined the busier A689 heading towards the A19. There is no doubt in my mind that it is always safer on such a road in a large group such as ours; in fact, there was not too much traffic, despite it being a lovely Sunday morning. We took the A689 all the way to Hartlepool where the planned lunch stop was the marina complex. This has changed enormously in the past 15 years or so, and there is a good variety of cafes and bars from which to choose. We decided to try a bar with a sofa in its porch – despite misgivings, I would say that they served the best vegtable broth I have tasted in recent years. They had outdoor tables and we were able to keep a eye on the bikes. Being in Hartlepool, I decided to raise the thorny subject of the monkey (what a great story!) and Ray was worried in case I would get the group chucked out! Curiously, the only animal you could see was a large statue of a stag and monkey lovers were wondering where the cuddly fellow was celebrated (apart from being the mascot of the local football team, of course). After lunch/cakes, we headed north on the coast road through Blackhall, Easington Colliery and Easington Lane. It’s a really good route when there is a light NE breeze, because you get shelter from the hills to your left, and from the various structures. This is Billy Elliot country and Easington is a permanent reminder of the coastal pit villages and their tiers of terraced houses. By this stage Stuart...
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Cestria CC does Blyth chippy

The opportunity to venture on a rare north-east trip looked too good to be true, and I was one of several to take up Mal Gray’s invitation for the main club Sunday run. We set off from CLS in reasonable conditions, with a light side-to-headwind striking us up the A167. Near Birtley, one of the group suffered a puncture, so we waited outside the gym and watched the number of dog-walkers enter (there were two, in case you’re interested! – Must be another exit). Unfortunately, the same rider suffered a further mechanical near Team Valley and had to turn back. Mal’s ingenious route took us to the bus-only route from Teams along the south bank of the Tyne as far as the Baltic. Here we crossed over the Millenium Bridge, and then took the cycle route along the north bank to Tynemouth Priory. Terry Ottaway took some super pictures here, with the North Sea spraying the riders as we passed. Despite the NE wind, there was quite a bit of shelter along this stretch, due to the town being to our north. We had another diversion as someone else got a puncture, yet fixed it in jig time. However, after Tynemouth, we were heading into a headwind although not too strong. We did have to stop a few times and regroup, due to being split at traffic lights and the like, but it was not too bad. Near Seaton Sluice, the heavens opened and we stopped to take shelter and put on capes. It was not too cold at this stage, and the rain stopped after a few minutes. Blyth beckoned and we arrived at the cafe at around noon, with most having chips and something else! After a suitable rest we headed west with a brisk tailwind towards Bedlington and Clifton (near Morpeth). It was a mix of ‘A’ roads and country lanes, with not too much of the former. Near Tranwell Woods, the Durham Chapter turned back, with the diehards continuing to head west. The light showers continued, but after reaching Standfordham it absolutely lashed and we had to stop and shelter for about 10 minutes on the dog legs before the reservoir (see picture). We then headed through Harlow Hill and deviated from Mal’s set route, due to being cold and wanting to get back. We hit the Military Road and headed back via Heddon and Throckley. Traffic was, surprisingly, not too bad and we got through Team Valley quite easily. At CLS we started to split for home and everyone thanked Mal for planning an engaging...
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My First Cyclo-Cross Race (Cestria CC, NECCL at Meadowfield, 8 Oct 2016)...

For some time I have been thinking about trying Cyclo Cross, a increasingly popular branch of cycling. Having possessed a cross bike for some years which I have used as a winter bike, I considered the prospects of making it ‘cross worthy’ and giving racing a go. I had lots of encouragement and great advice from clubmates and didn’t spend that much money on the conversion: removing mudguards: this should have been straightfoward but I discovered that the bolt securing the rear mudguard to the frame was seized and corroded. Fortunately the very good people at Cestria Cycles were able to drill it out for a modest cost of £10. cross tyres: again, having had a lot of useful advice, I opted for the Schwabe Land Cruiser 35 tyres. While not a specific cross tyre, they’re capable of excellent grip in reasonable conditions. Cost £16.20 for a pair from Halfords if you can get them (price includes my 10% British cycling membership discount) inner tubes: having discovered my 25C tubes did not inflate the 35C tyres, a trip to nearby Evans resulted in 2 x Specialized 28-38C tunes for £9 (including Cestria CC 10% discount). MTB shoes: with my own being worn and having little grip on the sole, I decided a pair of shoes would be useful. Wiggle had a pair of Shimano MT34s for £35 including P&P which have been great. I already had a decent set of newish MTB pedals, so was all set for the big day with a total outlay of about £70. Mal Gray had organised cross training sessions in August, but I was not able to make them. Having tried the bike on the road and experimented with different tyre inflations, I set off for Meadowfield a few days before the race. There I practised turning the bike, climbing the slopes and generally getting used to the setup. The one thing I didn’t consider was dismounting; in all cross races you need to get off and on your bike efficiently. On the day of the race I appeared in plenty of time to try the course. Mal’s ingenious course was a challenge to the novice but fortunately the weather had been relatively dry and there was no slippy mud. In practise I was comfortable on the climbs but the turns needed a bit of confidence and I was slow. Having gone round the course a few times, I said to myself that I would keep out of people’s way, try and follow some useful wheels and enjoy myself. I’m no novice to road racing but this was a different dimension. Due to the size of the Senior/Vets/Ladies field (there were a fantastic 76 starters), the race was started at the far end of the soccer field with everyone sprinting towards a quite narrow gap in the tape. We had been warned to keep to the tracks and not stray onto the tarmac since the fields were open to the public (all of whom sensibly seemed to keep off the common). When the starter’s whistle went, there was the syncronised sound of cleats binding, followed by a re-enactment of the Charge of the Light Brigade (who might have been more successful on bikes). I sensibly decided to stay at the back and let the marauders take the initiative. The course was superb and I enjoyed every minute. As planned, I tried to stick behind some experienced wheels and mainly follow them which proved...