The Old Crown Challenge
Didn't I Hear gNick Say There Weren't Any More Hills...

I 1 And it did come to pass, that on the nth day (no-one is quite sure which, but most theologians tend towards Thursday), the Lord did look down upon the Earth, and saw that it was flat, and really not very interesting. So he did cause parts of the Earth to rise up into the firmament. And the Children of the Lord did name the lumpy bits in the middle of northern England "the Pennines". And the Lord looked upon His work, and saw that it was good.

2 And in the evening did the Lord slump down in His favourite armchair, and did plant His feet upon His coffee table, and did scratch His balding bonce, and He did read the part of the Manual pertaining to the causing of the Children of the Lord to invent Things. And thus it did come to pass that the Children of the Lord did invent the recumbent. And the Lord looked upon His work, and saw that it was good.

3 And later that same evening (or possibly another), the Lord did read another part of the Manual, and it did come to pass that in Preston was born one of the Children of the Lord. And this Child of the Lord did eventually become known as gNick Green, and it was the opinion of many that he was a few Sausages short of a European Championship. And the Lord looked upon His work, and saw that it was equipped with comprehensive instructions and recipe book, and He did go down the Pub.

4 And at some point in history, people who were not Children of the Lord, for they did worship the false idol Stykbyke, did write letters unto the Cycling Press, saying, "These recumbent thingies are all very well, but they're as much use up hills as a uranium-enriched chocolate teapot, aren't they?" And these heathens, who were called by some, Roadies, did sit back with self-satisfied smirks on their faces, and did not go down the Pub, for Lo! they were miserable.

5 And the Children of the Lord, who were righteous in His sight, did read these blasphemous utterances, and did discuss them in the Pub, and elsewhere, and did form the opinion that while the heathen Roadies might have a point, they, the Children of the Lord, did not cart around wide-ratio freewheels and triple chainsets just to impress small children asking "How many gears has it got, Mister?". And they did also venture the opinion that charging up the lumpy bits at high speed was a mug's game, especially if there wasn't a decent Pint to be had on the other side. And they did form the opinion that the Roadies were a bunch of xxxxxxxx (deleted in the interests of public decency), and did decide to Act.

II 1 And thus it did come to pass that the Prophet gNick did come up with the idea of a route across the lumpy bits, which could be taken at a civilised pace, and did terminate at a Pub of quite remarkable niceness. And the Prophet gNick, and his idiot lieutenant Legs Larry did recce this route, and saw that it was indeed good. But then it rained, and gNick and Legs Larry did decide not to bother riding back, and went to another Pub instead.

2 But, by virtue of extensive encouragement, and abusive phone calls, and general Rudeness, the Prophet gNick was prevailed upon to "organise" this pilgrimage a second time. And thus it did come to pass that The Old Crown Challenge did cease to be a concept, and did become the first-ever Mass Ride for HPV's. And although it was not quite on the same scale as that organised by the worshippers of the false idol Stykbyke, that did take place between London and Brighton, it was felt that this was probably a good thing. For the prospect of thirty thousand followers of the false idol Stykbyke trying to ascend Kilhope Moor did alarm the Children of the Lord, for yea and verily, most of the former were ignorant in the use of the Gear Lever. And the prospect of the selfsame people trying to go down the other side did make the Children of the Lord frankly grateful that the eventual turn-out was five.

3 And the five who were righteous in the sight of the Lord were named thus: the Prophet gNick Green, who did decide that his new mount (known as G2, or Black Bess, or the Rainbow Warrior, depending on how much he had to drink last night), being slightly deficient in the important area of Brakes, was not entirely suitable, and thus did revert to the old faithful gNash, and did tweak it by fiddling with the gears a bit, of which more anon.

4 And from the green and pleasant Southland did come Legs Larry, who did bring with him his Kingcycle, which he did cause to be fitted with a 24-34-46 chainset in place of the 30-40-52 that it did usually carry. And Lo! it did come to pass that, due to the nature of the front end of the Kingcycle, it did not prove possible to get the front mech. far enough down the tube to provide reliable changes onto the big ring, and thus Legs Larry did have to surprise it into gear.

5 And from the esteemed Borough of Bridlington did come Peter Marshall, who owneth both a Peer Gynt and a Speedy, and did bring the latter, which he had caused to be equipped with mudguards, and also an intriguing arrangement of tubes and Far-Eastern Blackburn-copy racks place side-by-side, and other Things, which did allow him to use conventional panniers thereupon. And Peter did ride from Brid up to Great Lumley, and thus did show himself to be a True Follower of the Lord.

6 And the above-mentioned three, together with the High Priestess Jane, did have dinner, and then did go unto the Pub.

7 And the Humble Reader did scratch his (or her) nut, and did say "I thought he said five, and that's only four, or probably three if you don't count the High Priestess Jane whom we all know not to be terribly enthusiastic about cycling, be it on Stykbykes or anything else". And the Writer did respond, and spake, and said "Don't jump the gun, OK?"

8 And thus the next morning, the Children of the Lord did get up, and did drink coffee, and yea and verily, did eat bacon sarnies, and did fiddle with their trusty steeds until they were reasonably sure that only their knees were liable to break down. And at some point in the middle of all this did arrive a car containing a creature with, apparently, the countenance of a warthog, and the general demeanour of something the cat did drag in, accompanied by someone else, only smaller. And then it came to pass that the Writer did insert his contact lenses, and gave thanks unto the Lord, for he was now able to see that he had been in error, and that this was Murph and Christine, and not, as he had feared, Sir Leon Brittain and Les Dennis.

9 And while we are on the subject of Technical Matters, let it be mentioned that Murph had equipped his Kingcycle with a 26T inner ring, and it was good. And he had also equipped it with a short-arm Shimano Exage 300 rear mech., due to the depredations of the Black-Bearded Criminal Sandy Donaldson, who had contrived to break his old one on the Social Tour, and it, while not exactly bad, was not brilliant either. And Christine did have the same boring old Kingcycle as most of the other Children of the Lord, only smaller.

III 1 And Lo! the Children of the Lord did depart from Great Lumley for points West, except for the High Priestess Jane and Christine, who also did depart for points West, but later, in the Murphymobile. For the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, had caused to be fitted unto Christine's knees a mileage detector. And should the knees in question be called upon to cycle 49.9 miles, then they would be happy. But should the knees be forced to cycle 50.1 miles, they did become grumpy, and miserable, and painful, and lots of other things neither loveable nor useful in the least. And many did not believe it, until they did witness it with their own eyes, and saw it to be true. And thus Christine did decide to miss out the not-very-exciting part of the route between Great Lumley and Stanhope.

2 And thus gNick, and Peter, and Murph, and Legs Larry, did set off, and being mindful of the damage wrought by going too quickly the previous year, they did set a steady and gentle pace, apart from the downhill bits, where it was every Child of the Lord for him (or her) self.

3 And they did descend the odd descent, and did climb the odd lumpy bit, and at, if memory doth serve the Writer correctly, Willington, or possibly Crook, the Prophet gNick did bring the Holy Chain Tool to bear upon Murph's chain, and did rid it of about six stiff links, thereby rendering it less prone to impromptu gear changes, and it was good. But alas! it was seen that the poxy short-arm derailleur was incapable of coping with large quantities of homeless chain, having been intended only for the use of the Roadies, and thus it did come to pass that Murph's chain was more than somewhat dangly.

4 And from Crook, the route did start to get a bit more interesting, for there was a nice long plummet. And the plummet did continue, but only on the other side of the roundabout, which did carry the A68 across the path of the Children of the Lord, and some of the Children of the Lord did brake, and were sore afraid. But Legs Larry, being a fat b*****d, was fast down the hill, and did see the approaching roundabout, and did cross his fingers and did pray unto the Lord, and was rewarded with a gap in the tin boxes, and did zoom through the roundabout, and off into the distance, and there did exceed fifty miles per hour, and there was great rejoicing.

IV 1 And at this point, the Writer did run out of cigarettes, and thus did take himself to the offy, and did buy some more.

V 1 And from here the Children of the Lord did pass through Wolsingham, and Frosterley, and the road did run along the Valley Of The Shadow Of Death, which on closer examination did turn out to be the river Wear instead, and was called Weardale. And the Children of the Lord did arrive at Stanhope, and did meet the High Priestess Jane and Christine, and did unload Christine's Kingcycle, and did drink, and eat of the Sacred Choc Chip Tracker Bar, and there was great rejoicing.

2 And thus it came to pass that the Children of the Lord (Pedalling Division) were now five in number, and they did remount their trusty steeds, and did continue to both ride Westwards along Weardale and to boldly split infinitives which no man hath split before. And the Humble Reader did raise up a lone voice crying in the Wilderness, and spake, and did say "That's enough old jokes, Larrington, just get on with it!"

3 And the Children of the Lord did ride, and did pass through such places as Eastgate, and Westgate, and St. John's (who?) Chapel, and probably Daddry Shield as well, only it's not in my road atlas. And thus it came to pass that they did arrive at the Holy Hamlet of Cowshill, and did turn the corner, and did espy a sodding great big hill. And there was much weeping, and wailing, and gNashing of teeth, some of which were in the mouths of the Children of the Lord.

4 And by the application of Rude Words, and fingers, and even derailleurs, the Children of the Lord did persuade their machines into bottom gear, and did plod up the hill, and did stop at the top, and admired the scenery, and did almost anything to avoid riding off again. For they could now see in the distance the shape of Kilhope Moor silhouetted against the sky, and they looked upon it, and saw that it was Big.

5 But the Children of the Lord did finally gird up their loins, and did once more continue, and did ascend another stonkingly steep hill, and did pass the Kilhope Lead Mining Centre, and did turn the corner, and spake with one voice, saying "Oh bloody 'ell!"

6 For they had arrived at the bottom of Kilhope Moor, which the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, had placed in their path, and it stood 2266.611 cubits high, and the gradient thereof was 1:6, and the road surface was that nasty coarse stone chipping stuff. And the Children of the Lord liked it not.

7 But it came to pass that the Children of the Lord did finally arrive at the summit, and did sit around, and did congratulate themselves, and did smoke, and put on their jumpers, and even inadvertently sat down in puddles, until they did realise that this was not getting them any nearer to the Pub. And thus they did stand around waiting for a car-free launch window in which to best attack the descent. For yea and verily, the descent of Kilhope Moor is a series of steps, and the gradient of the first is 14%, and the second is 18%, and that of the third is 17%, and it was here the previous year that Legs Larry did reach 54.5 m.p.h. according to the Oracle Avocet 30.

8 And Legs Larry did depart, and then swore mightily, for he had been overtaken by a poxy Nissan, and also a Ford Fiasco, while still travelling at low speed. And Legs Larry did approach the second step, and did realise that the Navigators of the Ancient World were right, and that he was about to ride his faithful Kingcycle off the edge of the Earth. But then he did see that it only looked that way, and Old Mama Gravity2 did have her say and Legs Larry did accelerate through fifty miles per hour, and was happy. And then the worshippers of the false idol Tynbocks did put their brakes on, and Legs Larry did do likewise, for he had no wish to examine the exhaust pipe of a Fraud Siesta from the inside, and thus did have to crawl all the way down to Nenthead, and was sore vexed.

9 And the Prophet gNick did decide that the way in which the gNash was wont to part company with the road at the slightest provocation was not going to do his prospects of reaching his first wedding anniversary much good, and did put on the brakes.

10 And the Writer was too lazy to find out what Murph, or Christine, or Peter, did upon this descent, but the general consensus seemed to be that it was too spooky to be real fun, as the corners couldn't be seen until the Children of the Lord were on top of them, and there were stories that Roadies had been killed at some of them. And so the Children of the Lord did cruise the road into Alston. which was fun because even the uphill bits were downhill.

11 Except that Murph had a puncture.

12 And then they did come unto Alston High Street, which did descend steeply. And it was surfaced with cobbles so large that they would bring a look of envious surprise to the face of the average Dutchman, and had to be traversed at a speed so low that little old ladies on foot did pass the Children of the Lord, while the children of Alston did point, and laugh, and shouted "What is it, Mister?".

13 But the Children of the Lord were not deterred. and did reach the foot of the accursed High Street, and did find the High Priestess Jane once more, and did scoff sandwiches. And they did also listen to a pair of dreadful bagpipers3, who did play some vile and loathsome dirge in order that a newly married couple and their entourage might enter the hotel opposite, for no readily apparent reason. And the High Priestess Jane and Christine did sneer, and were heard to give voice to the sentiment that the bridesmaids' outfits were "a really horrible colour".

VI 1 And it came to pass that the Children of the Lord did realise that once again they would have to be on their way, and they did do a runner in the general direction of Hartside, before the bagpipers re-emerged.

2 And the ascent of Hartside was good, for it was later established that it had been built originally by Macadam, who had kept the gradient constant, for the benefit of Horses; and this did also benefit cyclists, who are able to find a comfortable speed and keep it up all the way to the top. Although the distance from Alston to Hartside summit is about two leagues4, so the Children of the Lord did say Rude Words anyway, as a matter of principle.

3 And on reaching the summit of Hartside, which is to be found some 2532.75 cubits above the level of the Sea, the Children of the Lord did descend the other side, and gave praise unto the Lord, crying "WHOOOOAAAAA!", and "YEEEEE-HAAAAA!". For the descent is of the same steepness as the ascent, but hath lots of interesting twiddly corners therein, and for a change Legs Larry did not get held up by the devotees of Tynbocks.

4 And at the bottom of Hartside lieth the Temple Of Melmerby, which is called by some6 The Village Bakery, which is a tea-room worthy in the sight of the Lord, for it hath upon its menu all sorts of healthy organic-type eats and unlimited coffee supplies, and is generally beezer. And the Children of the Lord did gather here and did munch scones, and did drink tea, and coffee, and did observe that, to no-one's surprise, the High Priestess Jane did eat carrot cake.

5 And thus fortified, the wanderers did set forth once more, and did have a fairly nice zoom through to Langwathby, although here a d***head in an Escort van did pull out in front of Legs Larry while he was exceeding the speed limit through the village by some fifty per cent. And Legs Larry did overtake this miscreant, and did make a Certain Gesture unto him, which did suggest that the driver was married to his left and right hands.

VII 1 And the Prophet gNick did witness this, and did laugh immoderately.

VIII 1 And down the road from here, the Children of the Lord did come across "the last little hill", to quote the Prophet gNick. And the base of this was marked by the High Priestess Jane, sitting in the car, and Legs Larry and the Prophet gNick did notice her, and did shout unto her "Wakey Wakey", for she was reading a book. And thus the High Priestess Jane did wake up, and did shout at Peter, and said "Turn right here", or words to that effect. And Peter did think that he was being shouted at by a loony, and thus did not turn right as directed, and did continue towards Junction 40 of the Forbidden Highway which is called in the tongue of the Tynbocks Worshippers "M6", until Murph and Christine did also shout. And Peter was chastened, and did turn back, and did ascend Beacon Edge.

2 And it came to pass that Beacon Edge was far from being a little hill, and was steep, and was long, and was generally less fun than a big bag full of humourless things impersonating John Major. And Legs Larry did curse and swear, but not half as much as the Prophet gNick, who had discovered that various parts of his lower limbs were taking offence at having such cavalier treatment meted out unto them, and had gone on strike.

3 But the Children of the Lord did finally ascend Beacon Edge, and then did drop down the other side, and there was great rejoicing. And then the Children of the Lord did find that they did have to come to a juddering halt, in order that they might turn onto the A6, and there was no rejoicing whatsoever.

4 And the route did climb a bit, but not so much that the Children of the Lord were tempted to say Rude Words, and then it did drop down to the roundabout, and across to Junction 41 of the Forbidden Highway which is called in the tongue of the Tynbocks Worshippers "M6".

5 And from here the path of the Children of the Lord did follow the B5305, in the general direction of Wigton and Sebergham. And some of the Children of the Lord did see a Sign, and the Sign spake, and said "Watch out, there are steep hills hereabouts", or words to that effect. And some of the Children of the Lord were sore afraid.

6 And others of the Children of the Lord were merely sore; for at the point at which the Forbidden Highway which is called in the tongue of the Tynbocks Worshippers "M6" had been left behind, the Prophet gNick was calmly stooging along just behind Legs Larry. And the next time Legs Larry did look back, the Prophet gNick was nowhere to be seen. And Legs Larry did shrug his shoulders, and thought unto himself "No sense in wasting valuable drinking time", and did stooge onwards, becoming ever more worried that he didn't actually know the way.

7 But it came to pass that, just past the mysterious Radiohenge7, Legs Larry did see a Sign, and the sign spake unto him, saying "Turn left here, if thou wouldst travel in the Way of Truth and Beauty", for it did point unto the sacred place of Hesket Newmarket. And Legs Larry was happy, and gave thanks unto the Lord, for he, too, was secretly fearful of the earlier Sign near Junction 41 of the Forbidden Highway which is called in the tongue of the Tynbocks Worshippers "M6" regarding steep hills, even though he was fairly sure that he wasn't that lost.

8 And Legs Larry did turn left, and did grind up a hill which, if the Prophet gNick were to be believed8, was not there. And at the top of this hill was a Sign, which spake, and said "Millhouse 1" and also "Caldbeck 3". And Legs Larry, being not entirely unfamiliar with the Territory, did some mental arithmetic, and decided that this could only mean that the sacred place of Hesket Newmarket was some two miles distant. But then he did descend into the abyss, or one of its near neighbours, for a considerable distance, and did pass clean through Millhouse and out the other side, and then did see another Sign. And this Sign spake, and said "Millhouse 1¾" in the direction from which Legs Larry had come. And it spake again, saying "Caldbeck 2", in the direction in which Legs Larry was travelling.

9 And Legs Larry was confused, and said Rude Words.

10 But it came to pass that not long after this Legs Larry came upon a wondrous Sign, which spake (they all do that, Sir), saying "HESKET NEWMARKET", and shortly afterwards another, saying "The Old Crown". And he noted that sitting on a bench close to the latter was the High Priestess Jane, with a pint of Great Cockup porter clutched in her hand, and he knew that his Pilgrimage was at an end.

11 And Legs Larry did pass through the portals of the Temple, which was called The Old Crown, and there did effect the purchase of a pint of Blencathra bitter, and there was Great Rejoicing. And Legs Larry did apologise unto the High Priestess Jane, saying "I'm sorry, but I appear to have lost your husband".

12 And the High Priestess Jane answered, and said "Don't worry, he can't have gone far".

IX 1 And it came to pass that at Various Intervals, the rest of the Children of the Lord did show up, and bought drinks, and drank thereof, and spake, and said things like "If I were to tell you how much I needed that, I wouldn't have time to drink it".

2 And then the Children of the Lord did whizz off to their accommodation, and did shower, and did remove their cheesy track mitts, and did generally do their best to turn themselves into normal members of the human race.

3 And the Lord looked upon this with a wry smile, for He knew that it was a hopeless task.

4 And the Children of the Lord did gather back in the Old Crown Inn, and did eat, and drank, and were merry.

5 And the Children of the Lord did return to the Temple, and did partake of Skiddaw bitter, and Blencathra bitter, and Great Cockup porter, and Old Carrock strong ale, and also of Doris' 90th Birthday ale, and did scoff inordinate quantities of curry, and drank more beer9, and went to bed, which was fortunately only twenty-five yards from the Pub, except in Peter's case, where it wasn't.

X 1 And the following morning, the Children of the Lord did turn round and go back again, except the Prophet gNick. For the Prophet gNick's left knee had seized up in the night, and did not work, for Lo! the Prophet gNick's left crank was, to coin a phrase, well-bent.

2 But the remaining Children of the Lord did ascend Beacon Edge, and descend it again, and did take Tea at the Temple of Melmerby, and did ascend Hartside. And Legs Larry did say unto Murph, "Me Rominger", even as he did overtake. And Murph did pull a wry smile, and did reply "Me Abdoujaparov".

3 And the Children of the Lord did plummet six miles into Alston, and did grin mightily, and then had lunch.

4 And then the Children of the Lord did ascend Alston High Street, and there was much weeping and wailing and gNashing of gears, and then did proceed via Nenthead to Kilhope, and then did plummet in a Big Way down the other side.

5 And the Oracle Avocet 30 upon the Kingcycle of Legs Larry did say Vmax = 64 m.p.h. And Legs Larry was greatly pleased, and did give vent to loud and incoherent shouting. And Murph did exceed the design capability of his speedo, which did commence its second lap of the dial.

6 And from Kilhope, the Children of the Lord did discover a Nice Thing, namely that it is in the nature of rivers to flow downhill. And yea and verily, the road did do likewise, and the Children of the Lord did hurtle along at quite alarming speeds, and did arrive in Stanhope quite a long time ahead of the Prophet gNick and the High Priestess Jane.

7 And here did Christine decide that enough was enough, and Peter did wrestle with his escaped mudguard.

8 And the remaining Children of the Lord did zoom along the remaining bit of Weardale, and did then grind up more hillocks in the vicinity of Durham, until they did reach another Holy Place, the Temple of Tap And Spile in Framwellgate Moor. And the Children of the Lord did look at their watches, and did mutter "Chiz", for Lo! the Temple was shut.

9 And the Children of the Lord did sit upon the pavement until opening time, and then did partake of beer, and then did depart hence.

10 And Legs Larry and Peter did finally arrive back at Great Lumley, and did mutter something along the lines of "well, that wasn't too bad, was it?".

11 And in the morning they all went home.

  1. about 1700 feet
  2. a marvellous phenomenon. She even leaves it on at weekends
  3. not intentionally
  4. six miles
  5. as near 1900 feet as makes no odds
  6. including its owners
  7. being a large infestation of radio masts in a field
  8. never a good idea
  9. or malt whisky in Christine's case

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