Clogging It

See my mojo: along with my bike it’s the most important bit of kit I’ve got. It’s the thing that gets me up in the morning and gets me doing stuff. When my mojo’s gone AWOL, even the simplest of tasks become a bind and the tough stuff’s not even worth thinking about. LCFN feeds off my mojo and my mojo feeds off it, and to be a fully functioning individual, I need those two talking the same language to each other.

I mention it because running into last weekend, I was on a real roll, my best in ages. I’d found a zest for working hard again and the miles were starting to come at a rate not seen in a long, long time. Got my mojo working. The evidence of that, if I needed it, was a week past today when I got out the door just after 6am to bang in 31 fast miles before heading to the airport: last weekend was Ross Taylor’s stag weekend in Amsterdam. It seemed strange sat drinking beer on a bus at half ten in the morning with a bunch of lads who quite probably had just fallen out of their pit. Not on my watch.

I know from hard earned experience that the biggest disruption to LCFN, apart from being laid up injured and eating like I was still out there on the bike, is an enforced layoff involving bevvy. Amsterdam had the potential to do some serious damage: a predominantly young team of twenty six guys out on the town for three days straight was always gonna be a challenge. Fortunately however, my old head told me that staying out till 4am was not the optimum way to bridge back to back full on weeks, so I stuck to grazing all day long and turning in at midnight. But you know that feeling when you just long for a nice cold non-alcoholic drink? That was me by Sunday night. I had the option of heading out the door when we got home late on Monday afternoon but my sensible head told me otherwise. At 64, I’m finally starting to rein myself in: just a wee bit.

The first ‘attraction’, once we’d checked into the hotel, was a jaunt on beer bikes. If you’ve never seen one, a beer bike’s a contraption about the same size as an old stage coach from the wild west, with five pedalling seats down each side, and a row of dead weight seats across the back. The driver sits upfront steering the cart and generally barks out the orders to his crew. Between the two banks of riders, on the main deck as it were, is a table. Ours housed a couple of crates of ale. I did say there were twenty six of us: that’s two thirteens. Two beer bikes, ten cyclists on each and three lazy bones down the back.

Now anyone that knows the Taylors knows that we do competition. We do serious competition. Anything and everything. Ross, my brother Mike and his eldest Rob were on one chariot. Chris, Finn et moi were on the other. With beer in our bellies, it was always going to end up as a race. If you’ve ever been to the ‘Dam, you’ll know it’s flat, well sort of, but it also has lots of canals and every time the road goes over a canal, it goes ever so slightly uphill, then down the other side. Gentle but hugely punishing, especially when you’ve shifted the best part of six pints before the event. Also, when the cart’s going downhill, you can’t keep up with the pedals so they break free of your legs and whack you on the shins. A few of us drew blood. For my part, I was the anchor man on our wagon. While the others took it in turns to get down the back for a rest, my LCFN legs, despite having done 31 miles twelve hours earlier, just kept driving the wagon on. We started out line astern, with us as rear gunners. I suggested to Chris, who immediately repositioned himself up by the driver, that we could have this lot. All we needed was a break in the traffic for say, fifty yards behind us and we’d be away.

Think Wacky Races…

It was fantastic fun. Imagine ten blokes piling it on with every last ounce of beered up energy that they had, egging each other on, whilst baying at the other crew. It was like a scene from the Boat Race, played out in slow motion under street lights, with onlookers incredulous at the carry on on both sides. Our driver gave the order and we just went for it: he pulled out into the middle of the road and we gained half a length in no more than twenty metres. Then we were level. We had both momentum and the competitive banter to go with it: the other lot were a beaten crew. Once we had three quarters of a length, the driver cut ‘em up and we eased back, knowing full well that they’d want revenge. Twice they tried, and twice we headed them off with gamesmanship from an almost level position. To give the other crew their due, they did do us away from the last rest stop, while we were still rounding up our mob from a photoshoot, but only one team had the satisfaction of an overtake on the road, and it wasn’t Ross’s team… 😊

The rest of the weekend was made up of tenpin bowling, beer, glow in the dark crazy golf, more beer, live EPL football, with beer, the Grand National, and beer, lazing about, with a few more beers, pool, and beer, and darts, of course with beer. A word about the darts: I was drawn to play Uncle Mike and two worse darts players you’ve never seen. It was a standard game of 501 ending on a double and when I tell you that we both ended up on double one and the game took forty five minutes, you can imagine the carry on. I lost when elder lobbed a lucky one inside the wire. It was just as well really because he had a plane to catch: I was just holding out for 1-1.

Anyway, a weekend of revelry didn’t exactly set me up for a big week on the wheels. As I mentioned earlier, I passed on Monday’s ride, then took the granny gears for a leisurely 25 on Tuesday to re-ignite the legs: upped the miles a wee bit through Wednesday and Thursday but fell asleep in the chair watching the football on Wednesday night. Leicester have that effect sometimes…

However a hard earned hundred and something this week has brought up 29,500 miles and if I may adapt a line from the song, I would ride 500 more. I’m starting to focus on 30,000. Although it’s a distant memory, I still fondly remember walking out at Celtic Park with Vanessa Riddle at 10,000 miles. I remember even more vividly heading up to Inverness with Mouldy to meet Laura and spending a day with Eileidh at 20,000 miles. Those two days, along with the trip that Mouldy and I did over to Belfast, remain the highlights of the journey. So 30,000 has to be special too. A couple of my mates from the 80’s, Lardy and Kev, are both backers of LCFN and when Lardy asked me if there was a one day challenger that I hadn’t done on a bike, I thought “Five Ferries” for 30K miles. So we’re doing it. It won’t be the ride that cracks the barrier because that’s probably going to happen the first week in May, but on Saturday 3rd June, Lardy, Kev and myself will park up early at Wemyss Bay and leg the 30 miles down to Ardrossan on the A78 while it’s relatively quiet (and into the wind no doubt). Thereafter it’s another 50 miles with heaps of climbing, and five boats to get us back to Wemyss Bay before nightfall. I gather that Kev had a puncture on his run out today: cannae be having any of that when we’ve got boats to catch. We’ll all need to practice wheel changes like they do in F1.

Anyway, by today, I was starting to feel a bit more like my old self and despite the rubbish weather (6C, wet, and blowing one off the coast) I fancied a wee trip out to Saltcoats. The advantage of that run, apart from the way it breaks down naturally into two and three mile segments, is that once you turn for home, you’re basically assured of a tail gale for fifteen miles. It’s hard work going out, especially into the rain, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun coming home.

In fact, just a week after being in the Netherlands, I guess you say I was clogging it. Boom Boom!

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