Teesside Central CTC Section Annual Ride – Summer 2010 – the Real Story

Background to the Ride
Ian was up in his computer room one night in early November 2009 wondering what to do. He decided he must plan the CTC Summer ride. He was feeling frustrated as the Sunday rides were short and he wanted to relieve his frustration. He hit upon the idea of a local ride with endless hills and his eyes lit up as he thought of the enormous effort that some of the unfit cyclists (particularly GASBAGS) would need. (He was feeling particularly fit at the time and did not realise that by the time the cycle ride came up his main transport would be a car that moved between Stokesley and South Wales).
He opened his PC screen and little horns appeared upon his forehead. Within no time he had the idea for a route: Stokesley to Alston to Kielder to Edmundbyers and home. He knew he should be able to plan in steep hills to bypass any flat route. His eyes spied Hartside Pass that could be cycled up from Alston – 1904 ft with 5 miles up and 5 miles down – but even he thought that would be too much. The troops might rebel! His horns grew longer when he studied Kielder with tales about all the midges – if only there could be damp weather on that day.
Another reason that he chose the 3 locations to stop over was because each one had a Youth Hostel. Ian was not one of the softy GASBAGS who chose B&B’s – he wanted his group to share the atmosphere of the rest day and night. Could he squeeze the one lady member into the bunk room with the lads? He didn’t want her to miss anything but that might be going too far!
The team formed over the months. The normal CTC Sunday cyclists: Ian, Mick, Mark, Peter, Alison and Alec; GASBAGS members Mike & Jeff. Alec backed out with knee problem whilst Steve decided to come along and camp – and even persuaded his mate Greg to come along.

The Ride
June 17th, Home to Alston – 77 miles – Perfect hot weather with no rain
Ian had agreed that we would all meet at Hartburn at 8:30. However Jeff agreed that he would meet us at Croft, happy for the first 25 miles to have no-one to talk to (Jeff is one of the few people in the world who has run the Great North Run and talked all the time – unfortunately no prize for this momentous achievement). Ian and Mike were the first to arrive at Hartburn closely followed by Alison who arrived in a taxi – does this count as a full ride? The gap in height between Mike and Alison was almost half a metre – was Alison really the fine speedy cyclist that Mike had heard about? Mick arrived next, as always very cheerful with a twinkle in his eye. There had been rumours that Steve was bringing his mate Greg as his camping companion, and both turned up with fully laden bikes – no sharing of tents for these two. Greg looked to be a fine figure of a man, and very brave as he was taking on this challenge after only cycling 20 miles all year.
By 8:45 Mark and Peter had not arrived and we were ready for the off. Mike had met Mark two years previously and knew him to be a fast cyclist with the figure of a weight lifter. Mike had not met Peter but had heard off Jeff about this man who had a good sense of humour that kept everyone amused. Then the two cyclists came into view and we were off. Mike phoned Jeff to let him know we would be late so he decided to cycle on slowly by himself towards Staindrop – more miles with no-one to talk to!
Ian had produced “Map My Ride” maps to show the route and the altitude. When Mike had looked at these he almost dropped out as the oscillations on days 2 & 3 were immense and day 1 showed a flat ride initially but rising sharply towards Alston. Was this mental torture by Ian? Then Mike noticed that the maximum was only 1800 feet and that was on day 1 – easy.
Everyone was cycling along easily at first with the group stopping at times to let Greg catch up. We all caught up with Jeff who looked very happy to see us – he could check his vocal chords were ok. The waiting times for Greg were getting longer and just before Middleton the team stopped to wait…and wait. If Alison had been a knitter she would have time to knit a jumper by the time Greg finally arrived. Mike cycled with him briefly with Greg saying, “I don’t like to rush and enjoy looking at the scenery”.
By now Mike had realised that Alison was supremely fit as she shot past him. Mike put in even more effort and was soon onto his second sweatband. Alison jumped clear at one of the stops when Mike shook his head with the same effect as when a dog shakes his body on coming out of a river.
The first pub stop came at High Force with the first pint disappearing fast, and with Alison drinking a large grape juice with an alcoholic content – wine! Greg appeared after a lengthy time being pushed along by his mate Steve, who by now had a frustrated look on his face.
We arrived in Alston after cycling up an enormous hill and straight away looked for a pub. Mark and Pete found one very near the Youth Hostel but where was Greg? Steve had told Greg that he would dump his own kit and come back to collect him – could he carry a man plus bike plus bags strapped to his crossbar? However Steve did not seem to be in a rush as he lay back in the pub chair and let the beer slide down his throat with a contented look on his face. Greg phoned to say he had arrived at the Youth Hostel – the first to arrive!
After the first pint Jeff, Mike and Mick cycled swiftly up to the Youth Hostel keen to get their baggage on bottom bunks. Ian, Mark and Pete continued on drinking.
Steve and Greg erected their individual tents adjacent to the Youth Hostel but Greg looked to be a broken man. He had decided that he would cycle straight home the next day at his snail’s pace.
The showered team sauntered out back to Alston but soon ended up in the same pub as before – a full stomach with a few pints of beer was the preference to site-seeing. Now the full amusing nature of Peter came out. He couldn’t understand how anyone couldn’t watch “Countdown” or at least “Deal or No Deal”. He gave a demonstration of the Countdown song playing his lips like an instrument and singing “Diddly diddly diddly do – do!”

June 18th, Alston to Kielder – 65 miles – colder but still no rain
Over breakfast Mark proposed that we modify the route with words, “I’m not missing out cycling up Hartside Pass when we are so close”. He then explained that this hill involved cycling uphill for 5 miles then downhill for 5 miles and had the same slope as Alpe D’Huez in France but was just 5 miles shorter. Had the horns moved from the team leader Ian to Mark? The CTC members all nodded their approval – they would probably ask for more in a torture chamber. Greg looked on with a fleeting smile on his face knowing he would not need to cycle the hill but then being struck by the realisation that he had over 60 miles to cycle home.
The team set out and within half a mile were cycling up the hill. Mike was at the rear initially waiting till the lactic acid discharged from his thighs, and with his third sweatband around his head. Suddenly he was off overtaking Jeff then Ian and even Alison and arrived at the top just behind the super-fit four: Pete, Mark, Steve and Mick. The view at the top was magnificent though not on a par with Alpe D’Huez unfortunately. The discussion at the top was whether we completed the full five mile descent to Melmerby or turned off two-thirds of the way down. Mark was firm in his view, “I’m cycling the full hill”, and the rest fell into line.
Peddling Pete zoomed down the hill closely followed by Steve and Mark cycling almost side-by-side. These two almost had a disaster when three sheep wandered out onto the road. Jeff shot past Mike who was concerned about a bike shake – this turned out to be due to a loose steering column. Alison came in last and explained that she was very wary about cycling fast downhill since an accident she had on a mountain bike that had meant that she couldn’t cycle for 3 years. It was on this hill (or a future hill) where Ian shot past Alison screaming, “Whey-hey” – Ian lets his moustache down at times.
Jeff was getting upset that he had no-one to talk to so Ian proposed that we had a “Jeff-talk” rota. Those around Ian at the time did not jump at this tremendous opportunity so Ian, as a born leader, realised that he should take on this responsibility.
We were now back on Ian’s planned route with the bikes cycling uphill then downhill again and again. A pit stop beckoned at Newcastleton and the team stocked up with beer and pizza, though again Alison had alcoholic grape juice. Jeff decided to start early as he didn’t like being left behind. Mick was fretting as he felt his mighty frame hadn’t needed any more food and had watched as delicious pizza disappeared down throats. Mike said to Mick, “Let’s go”, and these two were off. Within a short time Mick had disappeared into the distance and Mike was overtaken by Peddling Pete and Mark. These two had still been eating pizzas when the Mick-Mikes had left so they must have eaten fast or cycled fast. All three soon passed Jeff with Mark slowing down for a chat-rota. Although Ian’s “Map My Ride” charts showed a continuous hill up to Kielder this was actually only about 400 ft over 14 miles, and the miles shot by. When Mike arrived at the Youth Hostel at 6pm Pete, Mark and Mick were stretched out. Not one to waste words Mick said, “That was tremendous”.
Something was wrong. We had heard awful tales of swarms of midges that ate people alive at Kielder and there were none. Both Mike and Jeff had bought some “Skin so Soft” which it is claimed fends off midges. Mike sprayed it on Pete’s legs below his three-quarter length trousers but hid the spray when Mark appeared in his three-quarter length trousers – he could be the test case.
Everyone was excited – even Ian though he is Welsh. England was playing Algeria at 7:30 and we were expecting a goal feast. Mike and Mick sauntered down to the pub first keeping a lookout for midges. The main bar had an enormous TV with the bar being almost empty. The crowd grew as the match time got closer and there was a buzz of excitement – much better buzz than the vuvuzulas! Unfortunately the match failed to live up to expectations, Algeria were the better team and no goals were scored at all. The normal statements could be heard, “Overpaid players”, “useless overpaid Foreign manager”, etc etc.
Someone said that now there were really swarms of midges so Mike put on his midge-net hat to the amusement of the others. No-one complained about midge bites on arrival back at the Youth Hostel so the jury is out on “Skin so soft”.

June 19th, Kielder to Edmundbyers – 55 miles – even colder but still no rain
Ian’s “Map-My-Ride” chart for Day 3 showed that the route was generally down for the first 27 miles then it rose 450 feet over 2 miles just before Corbridge. This would mean that Jeff would have the enjoyment of a hill ride before departing by train.
Mark and Peddling Pete set off at a tremendous speed along the road adjacent to the Kielder Reservoir, and didn’t stop till they reached Falstone. When asked about the sun reflecting off the water in the reservoir, they asked, “What reservoir?” Meanwhile Ian, Jeff, Mike and Mick were taking photographs of various scenes. Mick was especially keen to get a photograph of the barrage.
Jeff’s speed was increasing and there seemed to be little reason to leave the group due to lack of fitness. The team begged him to stay but he came up with a new excuse: he had sold a boat and had to get home.
We stopped at Bellingham for the normal tea/coffee and cakes then set off with Pete leading. He seemed to know the small roads to Corbridge better than the veins on the back of his hand. Our minds were on bacon sandwiches, with Pete making a beeline in Corbridge to a café with excellent sandwiches made from thick white bread and well-cooked bacon – delicious.
Ian had discovered a blip on the side of his tyre – not too surprising as the tyres looked like they had seen many better days. We all stood round chatting as Ian removed his tyre, disappeared to the bike shop, returned with 2 tyres (why 2?), and fitted the new tyre – you can’t beat watching work. Finally Steve thought he should help and pumped up the tyre.
We said our fond farewells to Jeff, and cycled up and down challenging hills – over 1200 ft in 8 miles. Alison was keeping up well with the other CTC members but Mike was finding the hill-climbing difficult. Mark shouted to Mike, “Just 5 miles to go to the pub stop.” The hill-climbing, sweating and enormous loss of fluid was making Mike’s mind confused and he assumed that this would be Edmundbyers. However it turned out to be a beautiful village called Blanchard. The local beer was delicious in the olde-worlde pub and we all sat in the bar named “Ladies”.
Just 5 miles to go and it should be easy. However we crossed the bridge and hit a steep hill with Mark’s chain coming off. Mike almost got off and walked but the sight of Ian, the leader, still peddling, kept him on his bike. Those that could cycled swiftly to the Youth Hostel in Edmundbyers.
Ian had booked us in the local pub to eat. This would be Ian’s last night with this CTC group so would speeches be in order? However Ian pooh-poohed the idea – not being one for speeches or sentiment. However did we see some top lip quivering under his moustache as he talked about his time in the CTC?
The Youth Hostel was run by volunteers and no breakfast was served. Ian checked in the pub but it was agreed that the charge of £9.50 was too much to pay,

June 20th, Edmundbyers to Home – 63 miles – warm day with no rain
Mike came downstairs to find Steve consuming enough muesli to last a week. Where would it all fit in Steve’s slim frame? Pete appeared and was distinctly unhappy. He had almost suffocated during the night with the after effects of the beer and food in the team’s stomachs. He stated that he had asked Mike three times to open the window with no result – a classic case of “What someone says is not what someone hears”. However Pete’s good nature soon reappeared.
The men were ready to leave by 7:45 but Ian, our leader, had agreed 8:30 the previous evening. There was no rushing a lady, which Alison certainly is, and we cycled off at 8:15.
Ian had not planned the route for this fourth day and the reins of command were passed to Peter with Mark as his deputy. Peddling Pete had the same philosophy as Ian, “Always take the hills no matter how steep even if there is a flat route.” Straight away we were cycling up a steep hill with Mike at the tail and no Jeff to be in front of. Pete had peddled off so fast that he had disappeared, and Mark had to step in to take us off to the left where we found Pete twiddling his pedals. Everyone was feeling tired but Pete looked at the group and thought, “I will now hit them with a 20% hill – that should finish them off.” After the long hill climb, with Mike pushing his bike for a short distance we arrived at a little place called Rowley. Ian said through gritted teeth, “I really enjoyed that.”
After cycling up and down several more hills we arrived at Lanchester and transferred to a cycle track along a disused railway line which went all the way to Durham. Part way along the track Mark shouted out then we heard “Bang”. Had Mark been shot? No but his front tyre had exploded, due to the tyre lifting off the wheel. Mark replaced the inner tube and pumped the tyre up to 60psi when again there was an explosion, “Bang”. Now Mike began to video the second inner tube replacement but this time there was not even a little bang. Mike had missed the chance of an excellent YOUTUBE!
We arrived in Durham all set for a hearty breakfast. Mark and Pete had cycled to Durham many times and knew of the perfect breakfast café. We arrived there, and Mike looked round upstairs but there was not a spare seat in sight though it had a capacity of 60. The team felt downhearted – we needed a good breakfast – all except Steve who was still digesting his muesli. Peter and Mark went back in the café and used their mouths to ask about seats, and to their delight some had become free. The breakfast was very hearty and set us up for the final push home.
Back on the route Peter had another hill for us to enjoy, Quarrington Hill, before we transferred onto the fast flat route through Trimdon, Fishburn, Bishopton and onto The Ship pub at Redmarshall, which was to be the final pub stop for the whole group. Everyone expressed the view that they were knackered. Ian was thanked again for all his work in organising the annual CTC rides over the years. This little group of fast long-distance cyclists who enjoyed café and pub breaks had gained momentum in 2002 when Ian and Mick joined. Now Mick would become the sole longest serving member and Ian’s role was being taken by Steve, who will probably still be digesting his muesli at the start of the next annual ride. Mark and Peter cycled off to their respective homes but the other five stopped by the Falcon Inn at Hilton for one last pint.

Back to Background

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License