It is never an auspicious (nor indeed pleasant) start to a club ride when one is overtaken by a gritting lorry en-route to the roundabout. Expectations were therefore low for a large turnout, and so it proved. Excuses started to arrive by both electronic and verbal communications: Julian had gallantly completed the arduous Strathpeffer to Liverpool leg of his winter world tour, Elvis was missing presumed decorating and Katrina was preparing for a CX race tomorrow. Squadron Leader Rabbit had been summoned by the Inverness Rowing Club, not to compete, but instead to commence filming the long-awaited sequel to his debut vlogging hit. **Spoiler alert** - in the new film, Jim gives a brief guide to completing a 10 minute clean of a rowing boat, set to an original soundtrack showcasing the work of a local up-and-coming bagpipe-based techno band called simply "Aye".
Eventually our numbers were swelled to 4, namely Innes, Ian, Pilot John and myself. Ian had forgotten to bring any tools or tubes with him, and dared the cycling gods to punish him by repeatedly mentioning the p-word (puncture, that is, not Paradise papers, although we may come to them later). Ian's oversight at least deflected attention from the fact that I was alone in not having mudguards amongst our group. The weather was not looking too favourable, and staying dry today seemed to present a challenge akin to the one facing David Moyes as he attempts to bring his trademark brand of flowing football to the barren environs of Plaistow.
The Pilot offered a Magical Mystery Tour, being re-run of a recent Wednesday ride. What it initially lacked in magic, it more than made up for in mystery, as we set off up the Leanig, then along a twisty route through Highfield Park, Ord Muir, Urray and Fairburn, before arriving at our coffee stop in Muir of Ord. It was only upon reviewing John's strava route profile later that we realised that his tour had drawn a perfect scale picture of a saxophone, whilst simultaneously avoiding the worst of the rain. Maybe there was magic in the tour after all... This was my first visit to the Bad Girl Bakery, and after some initial unease as to why the Pilot insisted we gain access via the tradesman's entrance at the back, I was pleasantly surprised. Good cakes and coffee and a very friendly and welcoming manner greeted us.
Talk over coffee was dominated by the week's "Paradise Papers" leak in the news, in particular the naming of RRCC's very own Julian as the inspiration for Lewis Hamilton's ingenious aircraft-leasing arrangements. The leaked documents detailed a complex series of transactions between businesses registered offshore, culminating in a cycle-leasing business registered on the Isle of Dogs. Julian had established tax residency by cycling one lap of the pub carpark on the island, before receiving a tattoo loosely based on a VAT-exemption certificate, and leaving the Isle by road an hour later. In the best BBC tradition, it should be stressed that neither Julian nor Lewis Hamilton have done anything illegal.
After coffee, the Pilot decided that a hill was needed to warm us up. He initially tried to throw us off the scent by instructing us to turn into a (very flat) cul-de-sac, before unleashing a monster of a hill upon us. At the top of the hill, I was able to recover my breath whilst the Pilot, summoning his inner teenager, took a string of selfies to be posted on the RRCC Facebook page. Some was proper Dench like, apparently??
We descended back into Muir of Ord, and then as the rain began to fall retraced our steps, with John and Innes escorting Ian as far as they could, just in case the cycling Gods decided to have the last laugh by punishing a man travelling sans inner tubes.
And then home, to clean the bike. Now if only there was a handy video blog showing me how to do that...