Author Topic: Friday Night Lights


Friday Night Lights
« on: July 21, 2019 »

Making all stops to Mare Tranquillitatis

I blame the moon.

50 years ago, Neil eclipsed Buzz to take that first small step for [a] man (he/him/heroic, I’m going to unabashedly say, being something of a fan of the phlegmatic Ohioan). I wanted to mark the event in some way. Having recently embraced my newfound biphasic nature, I’ve thrown myself whole-heartedly into night rides. Hello darkness, my old FNRttC.

This would be my first in ages. I even had to sign up with The Fridays again, not to mention Cycling UK for the insurance. Altogether most irregular for the committed velosoloist.

The weather forecast was, not to put too fine a point on it, horrendous. I don’t normally go out in the rain, because frankly, there’s no need for me to. But Eastbourne beckoned; or at least this ride did, “heaven’s waiting room” (there’s competition for the title) holding no particular attractions. The promised hills were a big draw.

Though a lot of people normally show up at these gigs, I was still a little surprised that 30+ others had also said Fuck It to the rain.

I was riding my Langster.

Last spotted being unceremoniously N-1’d

This was not my first choice for the promised conditions. That would be my straight-barred and steadier-as-she-goes Litespeed, unfortunately indisposed. Still, I’d gussied her up for the event, treating her to a new chain and the rare treat of a wash.

Deciding what to wear had consumed a good deal of time. As someone who usually fears overheating over overcolding, which is a word I feel completely comfortable with, I finally decided on a well ventilated jacket last seen on my end-to-end; an equally retired jersey allowing for much adjustment of zip and sleeves for fine-tuned temperature control; lycra shorts also long since forgotten since the move to a less tailored look; a lightweight hood; waterproof socks; and a nice pair of sealskinz gloves discovered in the loft at the last minute. And that’s enough about costume. It was all pretty comfy for quite a long time, though in the end, the rain will win, as it nearly always does.

Tim Decker gave his talk, which I confess not giving my undivided attention, familiar with the routine. He did surprise me by mentioning we’d be going on the Cuckoo Trail, which with its traditional debris I reckoned to be a haven for the puncture fairy.

Tim deputises a puncture fairy assassin

At the start I recognised Nigel, who came along on my jaunt to the America Ground; Patrick Piper of the Hastings Pipers, man|machine in Gore-Tex shorts providentially delivered that morning, just barrelled up from the coast; the equally indefatigable Jenny Hung, excellent ride documentarian from The Fridays’ Facebook page and admitted member of the #bromptonmafia; and Adam, from times past.

The London bits of these rides are one of the chief attractions. My pre-ride ride was somewhat ruined by Algerian Africa Cup celebrations, which yielded a nightmare of buzzing scooters and revelry guaranteed to irk this non-sports fan (I don’t even follow the Tour de France). We scooted through London ourselves. I was buzzing. I even went up one of the hills twice, for the pure fun hell of it.

Everything was going pretty well until the steep descent into Titsey, our North Downs-ramp.

Thomas Gresham of Titsey Place, originator of the phrase "tits up",
or so I shall inform Wikipedia

Never a big fan of lleh morf sllih (no, that's not Welsh), this one now slicked with rain and being reverse-attacked on my least confidence-inspiring bike, as it got steeper, I gripped the brakes tighter and tighter until forward rolling motion finally proved too much: I dismounted and walked. Can I safely call this a FNRttC first?

It was dreadfully embarrassing, especially given that I was also being shepherded by Tail End Charlies who take their tail end charlieing very seriously – even more so than in Simon’s day, at least from memory; though that may have been a case of Simon knowing that I’m fine if left to my own devices. Still, I was touched, especially when one of them refused to accept my apology for being such a sissyphus, which is not a typo and possibly not a goer. I wondered what information had been relayed to Tim at the front: “Houston, you’re not going to believe this…”

This changed the complexion of the ride, as I now feared the downhills to come. I would also rue not fitting new brake pads.

The halfway point at the Scout’s hut couldn’t come soon enough. Neil Armstrong was an Eagle Scout, btw, so when he said "The Eagle has landed," he didn't just mean the lunar module.

It was with brake-lever fatigued hands that I pulled my sandwich from my saddlebag, followed by a cookie. This humble baked good was actually a big event for me, my first big dose of sugar in over 8 months. I also had Pop-Tarts in their space age foil wrapper, just like the astronauts carried on Apollo 11. Or should've.

Nutritional requirements: YMMV

I surveyed the damage in my waterlogged saddlebag: 1 camera, screen wrecked thanks to an unsuccesful attempt at waterproofing using sandwich bags. (Electronics and water don't mix. Who knew.) Damp phone which fortunately survived. Completely soaked end-of-ride shorts, packed for a planned relaxed breakfast at a cafe in Hastings. 1 old Roman coin (doesn't everybody carry one of these?), extra damp. The obverse is [checking authoritative texts] some Roman guy, while the reverse appears to be Mercury, the god whose portfolio includes keeping an eye on travelers. Or perhaps I’m being fanciful.

We were witness to a car accident soon after relaunch. Though a minor fender bender, hearing two cars smack together never loses its auditory shock value. I couldn’t help but wonder if the driver had been rubbernecking our armada.

Kidds Hill had me practically Cheyne-Stokes breathing, which was infinitely preferable to white-knuckling it.

After we hit Uckfield

"Call the manager, Extinction Rebellion are in the forecourt"

I relaxed considerably, being on home ground or close enough. The Cuckoo trail was fine, except I had to stop about 50x to empty my clearly golf-ball sized bladder. There was a breakaway group which seemed to relieve Tim when they finally got around to breaking away.

The final stretch into Eastbourne was somewhat dystopian.

I caught the train to Hastings to keep a promise to myself

"This would be as bad for you as it is for me"

and watched, while defending my sweet sweet reward from seagulls deaf to reason, as a woman attempted to teach her grandson to ride a bike. One small step.

Needless to say, there was no moon on view, buck or otherwise. That was OK. Safe landings all around.

– “Look up! You’re brain training,” advised Mrs Coffee Cup to the boy. “He just steams into everything,” replied nan.
– I shall never take this bike on a wet night ride again
– and probably skip rainy rides in future. I’ve served my time.
– A rictus of terror telegraphed through the neck and and shoulders and down to the death grip on handlebars can apparently bring on TMD.
– I remain a less than ideal FNRttCer, being far too introverted to shout the usual polite warnings, [DATED REFERENCE ALERT] including “Car up!” Or "Car Front!", as I heard it last night, which is easier to process in the heat of the moment.

Cow up! Also saw poor Mr Toad making his precarious way across the road. Wonder if he made it to the other side.

Puncture tally: 9, not including my ego.

Three men and a bike

You may also be interested in
Friday Night Lights: A Glossary
Vaya con dios
Off. Or, why the hill at Titsey may have spooked me so.
"In the dark, all bikes are bling." – attributed to Ben Franklin
Our leader’s pep talk #notquite
Communal ride album & more pics
Infinite loops
One of the great questions of our time


« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2019 »
This apparently being my new official not-necessarily-Friday-night ride to not-necessarily-the-coast* thread:

Dublin to Shannon via some Mountains
" aren’t only about the show-stoppers. There has to be a show to stop, and much of it inheres in the quiet passages that connect the memorable episodes together." – Day 3: Naas to Portlaoise

On a fabled hilltop in Kildare town, in a churchyard that has seen its great cathedral rise from ruin many times in its 1500 year history, sit two stone structures, the yin and yang of Irish architectural symbolism... AKA, showstoppers, including a stairway to heaven.

* Which is presumably why they adopted the name The Fridays. Though as the night rides technically start at midnight, perhaps they should be called The Saturdays.


Friday Night Eye Chart
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2019 »
The back of a Tail End Charlie's jersey:

If you see this, they have failed and are expected to commit harakiri at the end of the ride.


Friday night and Saturday morning
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2019 »
Despite forecasts that looked less promising with each refresh – though the Vikings were surprisingly upbeat – I had every intention of going to Whitstable.

Det kommer til å "hoolie"

On the afternoon of the ride I even fit mudguards on my Sunday best bike, judging it to be more stable in the wind than the flighty filly I’d ridden to Eastbourne last month. The Lite-not-so-speedy, still my preferred option for less than ideal conditions, remains in surgery.

(Btw, WTF is it going to take to get some decent FNRttC high summer weather? Do we have to offer a sacrifice? I’d volunteer myself, having been laid out on roads on more than one occasion and therefore experienced in the posture, but my Yankee blood may not appease the Elemental powers-that-be.)

My wife remains skeptical of the sanity of cyclists who head out into such conditions.

She has yet to be convinced that the show must go on. As it was I had to conveniently forget my pledge to myself to skip meteorologically challenged events.

I was looking forward to meeting Kim, only the second female leader in my Fridays experience. My first picture was going to be of the pink legwarmers she promised in her epic email to be wearing.

The route and Whitstable itself would be getting a second appraisal, my first one years ago being somewhat less than fulsome. I was itching to post about it.

Bike fettled, saddlebag packed and contents properly waterproofed this time, checklist all checked, it was, in short, all systems go! Except it wasn’t.

By the usual metrics of feeling fine, I thought I was. However, there weren't enough Zzzzs in my system. Too many uncounted sheep.

It has recently come to my unwelcome attention that I am suffering from a severe sleep deficit. This diagnosis has proved difficult given that I haven’t been tired; have in fact, to a frightening extent, lost the ability to feel tired when I am perhaps most in need of a good dose of unconsciousness.

It was only by a self-assessment of my mental state that I realised that the candle I’ve been burning at both ends has finally taken a casualty. After declaring myself biphasic I’d been whittling away the hours I had been sleeping until they could be counted on a few fingers.

The chief symptom of sleep deprivation, for me at least, is extreme irritability, which is easy to spot as even run-of-the-mill irritability is not particularly in my nature.

A few days ago I had noticed myself having difficulty navigating a normal shopping trip without a red mist descending with the slightest provocation; mild traffic noise was unbearable, never mind a cheery “How are you?” My wife drove me home with my eyes closed to avoid excess stimulation, and I literally had to lie down in a darkened room. You know, the sort of thing you do when you *go* *to* *sleep.*

The cure sounds easier than it is, when you have trouble drifting off in the first place. One feels a bit like a kindergartener forced into nap time. But I have finally come around to the wisdom of turning everything off for a reasonable amount of time, and shall endeavour to take better care of myself.

As the clock ticked the final countdown, willing as I was to hop on my bike and head into whatever hoolie was being blown, I realised to my severe chagrin that I wasn’t up for it. While I wasn’t feeling especially irritable – certainly none of my fellow riders would’ve had their heads bitten off, or even nibbled slightly – a vexing little voice inside was telling me sorry, the tank’s still too low. It's going to be a long night requiring concentration and unflappability. There's another ride next month.

I texted Kim (“Who are you?” she asked reasonably; I’d forgotten to include my name) to tell her I’d be a no-show, and slept, perchance to dream of sleeping more often.

Demonstrating what should happen to people who skim carefully written emails

Now here I am sitting comfortably in bed writing this, while on a windswept shingle beach in Kent the veterans of Whitstable ’19: Off The Beaufort Scale have themselves a well-earned breakfast, doubtless a few stories to tell.

Aaaand the mudguards came back off before my not-so-well-earned breakfast

Reports suggest Beaufort wasn't blown away after all.

The legwarmers have been ID’d as maglia rosa, which I had to google, not being a sports fan or a colour therapist.

Well done to Kim for being the Friday’s first female ride leader

Not quite. Some of us remember a certain Claudine leading the way from Cardiff to Swansea.

Liberties have been taken with this ride report, but that wasn’t one of them.


How sweet it is
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2019 »
There isn’t anybody alive old enough to have bought a bottle of original Coca-Cola to quench their thirst or dissolve nails or whatever it is people do with the stuff. We’re talking classic Coke, with that extra kick, “an estimated nine milligrams of cocaine per glass. (For comparison, a typical dose or "line" of cocaine is 50–75 mg.) In 1903, it was removed.” I grew up drinking The Real Thing after it had gone back to lame slogans – seriously, have a click and a smile at most everything fore and aft. Of course, it helps when there’s been a genius ad campaign sprung from the mind of the master persuasionist himself.

Though I rarely do it these days, London to Brighton is, for me, the classic ride, probably because it was my first milestone after being born again in the late 90s. It’s long enough to feel like you’ve actually done something worth a celebratory drink, with the powerful kick of Ditchling Beacon, an honest-to-god hill no matter what the naysayers say when they’re ranking these things. This despite that Brighton itself holds so little allure that I stopped going all the way there, preferring to turn around at the top of the world and head for home in far East Sussex, satisfied, and grateful not to have to subject my bike and myself to Southern Railway.

The original FNRttC calendar was London to Brighton, over and over again, with a few trips to Southend and other fake* destinations thrown in.

The dopamine high of the Beacon induces an addiction in the susceptible which renders other rides less than the real thing.

*Of course they’re not fake.

When I saw it coming up, led by a man I’m going to call Classic Ade,

With a great beard comes great responsibility

I was a happy bunny. (Seriously, don’t do that. Youtubefoolery strikes again.) That the weather forecast wasn’t a torturous tease seemed a good sign, even if the moon was only at 86% full capacity.

My pre-ride ride through the tipsy city included a visit to the original starting point, Hyde Park Corner, the corner where they didn’t used to hang people.

The crowd at the National Theatre

Sorry, wrong slide. That's the nearby skater theatre

Laurence Olivier immortalised in The Puncture Faerie, above, and My Left Hand, below

The FNRttC gets better reviews

wasn’t quite as large as I was expecting. The final tally was in the 70s, which is entirely respectable, and anyway, bigger isn’t ipso facto better, even in a world of popularity contests.

There were an edifying number of first timers. I got a warm welcome from Tim Decker, Eastbourne ride leader; caught sight of pink legwarmers which could only belong to Kim Carter; and said hello to Stuart Affleck, who comes to pretty much every show. These rides are about the people: those you know, those you may come to know.

Tim stayed behind, the ultimate Tail End Charlie awaiting late-comers, and off we went.

The first stop, in Clapham Common, offered a classic view:

A private tree in the city is better than a golden toilet

We got the usual “Where are you going?” from onlookers as we snaked through south London, at one point passing a woman holding up a phone and squealing “The bikes! The bikes! The bikes!”

The staging area for the hill at Portnalls Road turned into a surgery as handyman Adam Bell adjusted the brake levers on a fresh recruit's rental bike which “really hadn't been fitted to her at all beyond it having the right saddle height.”

You might want to stand back, this could explode if I use the wrong Allen key

I could rebuild yours from scratch if you like

Is this the queue for the hill?

Why hello there

I spent much of the time near the front, taking care to hang just far enough back to avoid being picked for waymarking duty until being nabbed shortly before the descent tipping us over the North Downs.

Deserters will either be shot or introduced to an estate agent in Reigate, whichever is worse

Let me be clear: the system of waymarking is a beautiful thing to see in action, and is one of the charms of the FNRttC. I’ve done it loads of times, and enjoy the warm feeling of helpfulness as well as the funny sense of peace that comes with being a human signpost. But there are nights when you selfishly want to just ride, rather than stand around in the cold, secure in the knowledge that the event doesn’t attract many deplorables shirking the draft.

The hill down into Reigate was traffic strewn and plain awful. “Portnalls Road was the usual grind, and Reigate Hill the usual thrill,” according to one account, perfectly inverting my impressions of topography. I am honestly starting to wonder if I can keep doing these, so extreme has become my aversion to deep dives in the dark (though this one was well lit) unless it’s a route that's so familiar I could do it in my sleep.

Begging the pardon of any residents of the charming market town

The bottom has simply dropped out of my confidence in this regard (still love playing in London traffic, so bike handling confidence in general hasn’t eroded as middle age bites). Maybe I should trust the Force to guide me like Luke Skywalker; will await the opinion of cognitive behavioural therapists.

The food stop is an opportunity to get the first good look at company.

Low tech way to avoid identity theft

The trio on my right were the very picture of London sophisticates, the Guardian neatly folded into their recycling bins back home. Those to my left couldn’t have presented a greater contrast to each other: one was clearly a veteran parishioner of the congregation of the spoked wheel, while the other, half his age, was comfortably dressed for a rummage in the shed. It's all great.

There’s no cold like 4am cold after an hour in a heated building.

Outside the scout hut

"Check for punctures before we leave!" commanded our leader. I obeyed.

Last July Netflix released season three of Stranger Things. Personally I think the Duffer brothers should’ve stopped about two seasons ago, but we can never get enough of a good thing, can we, even if that means a few too many shots of Eleven getting all superpowery with her magic hands and bloody nose. Coca-Cola got prominent product placement in a gag about New Coke, a marketing disaster so comfortably in the past the company can now joke about it even as they take it all a bit too seriously:

“Stranger Things fans love the nostalgic vibe of the show, so to be able to bring New Coke back to life in a physical way takes the experience to another level. We hope people who remember New Coke can relive those memories, and those like me who weren’t alive in 1985 can appreciate the fact that a show that honors cultural icons of the time is honoring this one.”

Netflix isn't paying me for this advert for Netflix

There are some very nice photos out there of the misty morning. I didn’t take any. Please accept in lieu of those this shot of a group of us having recently cycled through the mist

a satellite photo of a large V for Victory we passed near the Beacon

and somewhat off topic, the notorious Lindfield butcher cutting a shank of tofu down to size, the meaty window dressing being a cleaver [genuine typo] clever bait-and-switch lure for carnivores.

I purposefully drank too little to rouse my bladder very often. Unfortunately this entailed not drinking enough to stay properly hydrated and fit for purpose. At least that’s my excuse for only going up Ditchling Beacon Bostall twice.

Rob Hatley calibrating his watch by the passing of hill climbers, which regrettably has a margin of error too great for Strava and these fast-paced times in which we live

What can I say: when you love hills, you have no choice but to do as your giddy heart bids. It may be I’m overcompensating for my fear of going down them. There’s a 2006 movie about magicians called The Prestige, in which the secret of the ‘Transported Man’ trick relies on [spoiler alert] short-lived clones. As long as my knees keep working, it shouldn't come to that.

My awe is reserved for people who, for example, decide a recumbent is a tool for this particular job:

I also have chapeaus to hand out to those who made a round or otherwise greater trip of it, including Stuart, who turned up at the National Theatre with 85 miles already on the clock. Any gathering of enough cyclists will find a few with apparent superpowers:

Note the taunt REST

As witnessed a number of years ago, our leader's special power is the ability to possess birds, like Bran in Game of Thrones, so he can be Tail End Charlie as well

Well done all, especially first timers who had nothing to fear but fear itself. Speaking of which, prepare to be freaked out:

Do you see an elongated head in the narrow opening of the hood, facing the wrong way?!?

It takes a real effort for me to see his actual head, or a bit of it, in the place it should be. Belongs on the Spooky ride.

The top of this part of the world is a natural photo op.

Little wheels, big hill

A sign from above?

Down up down down into not-Hove, then over to the marina, which appears to be in the middle of perdition.

It's difficult to ascertain if this is half an insult

Had a pleasant chat through the concrete architectural desert with fellow North American import Tacy (no 'r' even though it's right there next to the 'T' on the keyboard), my conversational starter being an admiration for her nifty saddlebag sporting petite panniers like wings folded over the rear tyre. The cardinal rule of bags: the bigger they are, the more you’ll carry – it’s almost uncanny.

After navigating the maze up to Wetherspoons I shared a breakfast table with Adam, who in addition to adjusting that brake lever, fixed someone’s pedals (R = Right, L = Left), retrained a chain to stay put, and fully serviced a random stranger’s bike – or cheerfully would’ve, if asked. Although I’ve sort of known him since the olde days, we’ve never had a conversation. I learned that he’s starting a bike shop in Bognor Regis, and his wife has a second career researching and sewing 18th century dresses. Do what you love, eh? Even if it’s silly hills.

"There's a posh-sounding bloke on the phone wondering if we do alterations."

With his generosity of spirit and skills, Adam is one of those people who practically embodies the FNRttC. It couldn’t keep running without what he represents, and I was saddened to hear that after Shoreham he’ll likely be too busy to carry on.

I’ve joked about how I was Simon Legg’s inspiration (he in turn has been my erstwhile muse), though never sifted out the whole truth. Adam reckons that something I wrote in a Dunwich Dynamo ride report planted the idea, which sounds plausible, so the lesson is, write ride reports! You never know who you’ll inspire to do great things.

Later we joined forces with Nigel, who due to his train doing a vanishing act was only able to join us towards the end; Matt and Tim Decker; Tom, who figured my fondness for singlespeed might predispose me to a spin cycle on a fixed round and round a velodrome; and Tim Hall, who you'll reliably see with a camera slung around his neck at these affairs (and wearer of antique hats, which forever puts him in my good graces). Together we considered the fate of a drunken buzzy captive,

pondered the advisability of Tim D. sawing someone in half after a few pints (he isn't a butcher; he belongs to The Magic Circle

Also an anagram, which is a nice trick

scroll down here for a few pics of another member), and might well have closed the place down if it wasn’t still morning when we called it a day.

Did I say these rides are about the people? It’s about their stories. The cycling is a bonus.

Adam led the way to the train station, where I discovered mine was cancelled due to something a bit worse than leaves on the line. Dreading an afternoon of uncertain services, I made the unwelcome decision to escape using a means of transportation I had control of, and headed back up that damned hill.

. . .

Coca-Cola has responded to the sugar tax by selling smaller containers, rather than ditching their recipe, which is undeniably a winner.