Last night proved to be an interesting ride for several reasons. Ultimately the prospect of slippery, muddy trails failed to be a sufficient draw for many of our regulars which meant just Jem, James, Del and myself turned up at the garage for the off. We were joined later by a late starting Tony, who met us after his kids’ parents evening at the top of Alsation (strange place for a parents evening I hear you say!).
So, leaving Bookham my idea was to do a Headley ride in reverse, if such a thing is possible. We headed down past Bocketts Farm along the cheeky singletrack by the big field before crossing Young Street and heading down to the river Mole at a fairly brisk pace as I’d agreed with Tony we’d meet near the Leisure Centre. As it happened we were a few minutes late but a quick phone call revealed he was half way up Alsation so we agreed we’d meet at the top.
Crossing the A24 was a bit fraught as we blinded most of the drivers coming down the hill and got a few horn blast for it but we all made it across safely and started on the climb. It’s a smidge less slippy than it was the other day but standing on the cranks still means carefully balancing the weight distribution to make sure you don’t spin all that effort away. Hard work.
We then carried on to the top of the golf course having picked up Tony before continuing round to Headley. At the foot of Secret Singletrack I had to stop to sort a mechanical as my doofer/chain tensioner (call it what you will) had dropped the jockey wheel. After a bit of fiddling it seemed the problem was the bolt was stripping slightly but we managed to persuade it to grip for a bit more.
Finally we set off across Headley, with us all deep in conversation as the miles passed at a fair old rate. I’m pretty pleased with the way I’m able to dig in on the climbs at the moment, almost relishing the pain involved (and believe me it does hurt!).
The sharp declines and ascents across here really take their toll though. Having reached the road near High Ashurst we were forced to stop again for more doofer fiddling and by the time we’d made it to the Box Hill road it was in a sorry state.
Patched up as best as possible we quickly sped along the road to the descent down to Juniper Bottom. It was oh-so-tempting to try China Pig but with wet greasy mud everywhere and knowing there’s plenty of off-camber roots down there I decided to head straight down the valley. What an eye-opener that was!
Thinking back, I don’t think I’ve ridden the descent for months. DaveC recently climbed it with James and mentioned he’d been confronted by a wave of water coming down (not as much as I found at Bordon though…) and the evidence was there to see.
Huge ruts and gulleys seem to have been cut in to the surface near the top which meant I had to chuck the bike around and over them to avoid going over the bars. Weight back, hop the front wheel over and all should be fine.
By the time we’d reached the bottom, the trail pixies had decided to claim the jockey wheel on my doofer which had obviously bounced clean off. At first I was worried I’d bust a spoke or something on the gulleys but it was just the chain flapping off both rings!
Within a short space of time though we realised that Tony hadn’t appeared. Fearing the worst, we turned and dragged ourselves back up the trail, I was able to keep the chain on with the positive tension coming from steady pedalling. Fortunately, just as the trail decided to really get steep Tony appeared out of the darkness and in one piece, nursing his bike down with a front puncture. Thank God for that, I was starting to wonder if another injury was on the cards.
Puncture fixed we trundled down to the road and again my chain miraculously stayed on. But it was clear I didn’t have many trail options open to me. With the fast pace starting to tell anyway we rode back through Mickleham village before climbing up through Norbury Park.
The climbing was ideal for keeping the chain in place but it didn’t do my legs any favours! Eventually though we rolled down through the park and on to Roaring House Farm and home for a respectably prompt finish. I had 15 miles on the clock at 9.9mph average by the time I got home.
A special mention needs to go to Del who it turns out is a director of Four4th bike lights (pronounced ‘fourth’). He’s a UK based engineer and manufacturer from Farnborough who has developed some very impressive looking LED MTB lights that chuck out a claimed 1200 lumens from a tiny unit – all very neatly CNC machined and anodised.
Del was kind enough to take my broken doofer off me for repair with a special anodised finish which I’ll be very interested to see. As for the lights, suffice to say he had plenty of output for his (and everyone else’s) needs – a set for review is on its way soon so watch this space.