A New Jersey, The Slow Group And A Rucksack


My new Cottingham Road Club winter jersey had finally arrived.

The sales pitch had been unequivocal :


Cott Jersey

However, it never said which Christmas did it ?

I had finally got my hands on the jersey in January and was now looking for an opportunity to get out there and show it off.

 The opportunity would present itself on the club ride scheduled to take place on Sunday the 24th of January. A relatively short ride of approximately 35 miles starting from Cottingham and taking in some local hills.


Donning my new jersey brought back memories of wearing new trainers to school.

Would I be picked on by the cool kids ?

Hey C’mon. These people are not children.

I was going to go round with Annette (The Missus) and that would mean a nice steady ride in the slow group.

There is nothing to be ashamed about being in the “slow” group.

Some people may assume a negative connotation with the “slow” group. But the slow group can be many things to many people.

It can be the “Let’s have an enjoyable ride and not kill ourselves today” group.

It can be the “Don’t worry how fast you can go, no speed is too slow “ group.

It can be the ” I shouldn’t have had a skin full last night, I may not hold my breakfast down here “ group

Alternatively it can be the ” This is just a stepping stone for me, I want to improve and get to the fast group “ group.

So having established that in fact we should revel in the name “slow” group that is exactly what I am going to call it ….The Slow Group.

OK glad that’s out of the way. Think I dodged a bullet there.

The Start

Weather conditions were benign. A very mild 11 to 12 degrees with a low probability of rain and a light south westerly wind blowing at 10 to 13 mph.

The wind would be against on some sections of the ride but mercifully would not be gusting. So a relatively light wind day was in store. Excellent !

When I arrived at The Olive Garden in Cottingham there was a very impressive turnout of approximately 30 riders including 5 new starts and 5 ladies.

I am sorry to say there were a few sarcastic comments along the lines of “Nice jersey Alan” followed by sniggering…peasants !

The ritual of splitting up into groups then began. I had to avoid at all costs being allotted into a faster group.

Adam took control. Well he started speaking anyway.

“OK any new starts here today ? Come and talk to me ! ”

“Let’s have the fast group out now. Who’s going in the fast group ?!”

Lots of shuffling and looking at shoes.

“Come on let’s have you ! ”

Some riders wandered out on to the road not quite sure about whether they should be in the fast group or not. They were re-assured by all the others who didn’t want to be in the fast group.

“Oh yes you are definitely in the right group there mate, you’ll handle that no problem ! ” ….I said.

Then the same process for the medium group.

“Come on who’s going to lead this group ?!” cried the RSM  ” I will choose someone if no-one volunteers ! ”

I suddenly found the need to examine all the screens on my Garmin in minute detail.

Then the medium group was off and into the distance and I could relax. Phew that was a relief. I had clung on to make it into the slow group. Huzzah !!

The only problem was that more than half the riders had the same idea as me and therefore there would have to be 2 slow groups.

I lined up with Slow Group “A” and off we went.

The Ride

It may well have been that I was actually leading this group. To be honest I wasn’t sure. Nobody usually pays much attention to what I say anyway. Just in case I counted who was in our group just so that if any of them went missing I could raise the alarm.

There were eight of us. Annette, Geoff, Tony, Tracey, Carol, Bill, James and ..who else ? Oh yes me ! That makes eight.

“This is going to be a slow ride isn’t it Alan ?” said Tracey.


I could only imagine that Tracey must have had a skin full the night before.

“Absolutely Tracey” I confirmed ” Slow Group. Slow ride, slow as you like …Slooooow !”

True to my word we made leisurely progress leaving Cottingham along Eppleworth Road, going under the A164 and turning right up Skidby Mill Hill.

There was a bit of a hullabaloo at the top of Skidby Mill Hill where people were preparing for the start of the Ferriby 10 mile run.

Cars were pulling into car parks and turning round bringing us to a halt. We were under a little time pressure as we had to get through Little Weighton before they closed the road at 9.30.

I am a little confused as to why it’s called the “Ferriby 10” when the route doesn’t go anywhere near North Ferriby? Please insert any derogatory comment about runners that you would like at this point.

We were going to take a circuitous route to Little Weighton. Down and up Beverley road which is littered with puncture causing debris and onto the A164 cycle path. We then turned left at Dunflat Road and left again onto Dunflat Lane that would take us to the outskirts of Little Weighton.

Before we got to the end of Dunflat Lane we came across the fast group that had stopped as one of their number had suffered a puncture. A flat on Dunflat Lane ! I said a flat on Dun….never mind.

Is it just me or do others get a little frisson of pleasure when coming across a faster group that has had to stop because of a mechanical? We passed trying not to look smug …..or was that just me ?

” Everything OK ? Do you need anything ? ……Losers !! ”

So down into Little Weighton and up the hill on the other side. We were getting a little strung out now. Annette was hanging off the back and a little negativity was creeping in.

” I am not feeling good at all. I am ruining your ride. Just leave me. I will be alright. ”

A little motivation required.

“This is the slow group darling which means we go as slow as is necessary for the slowest person. We will not be leaving you at all. They will stop up ahead in a short while and we will all be back together again. So just keep it going at a pace you can handle…..and for the love of God speed up will you !! ”

No I didn’t say that last bit. Also I don’t say “darling” to every rider by the way just to make that clear.

As we made our way to High Hunsley the fast group came steaming past us having resolved their mechanical issues and pretty soon they were out of sight and gone. Note to self, I am definitely in the right group today.

Then a long descent down Burgate into North Newbald. The more courageous of our group such as James and Tony giving it a good lash down the hill and the less courageous like myself pottering down on the brakes.

The Rucksack

In North Newbald we had a little stop to gather our thoughts about which way we were going next. Much to everyone’s relief we were taking the easiest climb out of North Newbald going along Beverley Road and Walkington Heads towards Bishop Burton.

This is a gradual climb over a few miles followed by a nice fast run down into Bishop Burton.

As we sped along on the downhill bit myself and Bill chatted about a certain local bike shop

Bill had not had a good experience recently with regard to customer service and I always think they look at me in a funny way. What ? That is a valid complaint.

I wouldn’t want to name the bike shop for fear of defamation laws and legal action but we were chatting about it just before we went into Ellerker …..no no I mean Bishop Burton.

Also as we approached Bishop Burton Geoff came past on one of his little sprints that he has started doing recently.


“Why is it Geoff ” I asked “that you are only doing these sprints on down hill sections and not on uphill sections ? ”

My attempted ribbing did not have any effect as the next down hill section between Bishop Burton and Cherry Burton he was off again, rucksack disappearing off into the distance…….what does he have in that rucksack ?!

After Cherry Burton we were on our way to Etton and we noticed a couple of cyclists coming in the opposite direction. This turned out to be John and Rob who had started in one of the faster groups but then decided that wasn’t such a good idea. They had dropped off the back and then for good measure taken the wrong turning. They were now doing the ride in the wrong direction.

These are just the kind of unfortunates, waifs and strays we are happy to see in the slow group. They turned round to come with us and now we were a group of 10.

We had a stop in Etton so Geoff could take some more of his clothes off. Maybe that’s it with the rucksack ? It actually starts empty and over the course of the ride he fills it with all his clothes ? Not that I’m obsessing about Geoff’s rucksack……what does he have in that rucksack ?!

After Etton came an uphill section up to High Gardham. A steady but taxing climb up to the A1079.


As well as the uphill gradient we turned into the wind on this section to increase the difficulty and unpleasantness. John and Rob were especially pleased as they had just come down the hill with the wind behind them only to turn round and go back up it again with the wind against.

My suspect leadership skills were demonstrated on the High Gardham climb when a car was reluctant to come past on the narrow road. I thought we could just stop in an upcoming passing place and let him go by. So I indicated to the group to do this.

” I’m not stopping here I won’t get going again ! ” came the bolshie response from a rebel behind.

Who was this trouble maker, this usurper, this rabble rouser ?

It was the Missus…..we won’t stop then.

Over the A1079 we had another little stop before pressing on back into North Newbald via the lovely descent of Stoneknowle Hill. This is always a bittersweet experience for me going down this hill as invariably we are on our way to Trundlegate.

The long straight road going down Stoneknowle allows a fast and safe descent. But you know that every wheel turn is taking you closer to the big T.

The Hurt Locker

We stopped again ( yes again ! get over it ! ) in North Newbald to regroup and prepare ourselves mentally and physically for the old foe of Trundlegate.

I sensed that some were more prepared than others. There was a distinct lack of enthusiasm to get going again. I wonder why that was ?

We could always just go to the pub and call a taxi ? Any takers ?

One of these days. One of these days.

So reluctantly we pedalled past The Tiger Inn into South Newbald and then started the climb up Trundlegate.

The group strung out pretty quickly. Everyone in their own little world of pain. The first section of the hill is the toughest maxing out at 10 %. I stayed with Annette to offer encouragement which was as always gratefully received.


“Keep it going darling !”

“Go away. Leave me alone ! ” ( Translation – ” Keep with me, don’t leave me “)

“You are doing brilliantly, just to this crest and it will slacken off ”

“Shut up, stop talking to me ! ” ( Translation – ” I am glad you are here talking to me. Thank you” )

At the top we all got together again and talked excitedly about how much we enjoyed coming up the hill.

We were on the last leg now down from High Hunsley into Little Weighton. We said goodbye to Bill at Little Weighton as he peeled off to go home. Then it was up Risby Hill and down into Skidby.

This is typically where whatever group discipline is left dissolves as the smell of the coffee in Cottingham becomes too much. The speedier riders will strike off for home which so long as there is someone hanging back with the slower riders is OK.

That someone was me with Annette who was still in good form.

“Why don’t you push off ?! I will be alright ! ” ( Translation – ” I will be very hurt if you leave me. Please stay with me ” )

Finally we arrived back in Cottingham after a very enjoyable 35 miles …mostly.

It was time to have a well deserved relax in the Olive Garden.

It was time to have an invigorating cup of coffee.

It was time to sneakily eat my own flapjack without the serving staff noticing

BUT, BUT , most importantly…..



It was time to try and take a peek inside Geoff’s rucksack when he wasn’t looking.