Last night we got out for a ride round what seems to be becoming one of our standard winter routes, probably because it’s compact, stays relatively mud free and finishes with a flourish at the end.
Tony, Lee, John and myself headed out at the usual time onto the Surrey Hills, our ranks diminished by a combination of tired, coldy or busy riders choosing to stay at home. Maybe the recent rain had something to do with it as I have to admit I was not looking forward to the prospect of claggy mud again after a week or so of fine dry trails. When I arrived at our meeting point I saw Lee was thinking exactly the same thing – and I mean really thinking!
But we went out anyway and at what felt like a reasonably quick pace, through Wiggly Wood before a sharp left to the cottage at the top of Crabtree Lane. Even the Alsation was staying inside last night but surprisingly I didn’t feel too cold, even with summer gloves and just my Embers baselayer and Gore Phantom jacket to keep the weather at bay.
Despite the heavy rain of Tuesday night the trails were not bad either. Not great mind you, but firm enough that you could cope with the squirming and fishtailing caused by the greasy surface, knowing the tyres would bite eventually. But it was hard work, not helped by each of us taking turns to stretch the field, peloton style. I need to make a mental note about that for next time.
By the time we reached the sawmill I was ready to admit I was struggling. Fortunately, lengthy pauses to make space for our usual gossiping saved us from an ignominious burn out and we made our way round the loop that brought us back near the radio mast. After more gossip I led everyone down the fast descent, hitting 31+mph with one contact lens barely in my eye, winking like a good ‘un to get it to seat while wondering when my steamed up glasses would clear! It was a bit hairy!
We all nearly got caught out by the heavy clay at the bottom of the descent, nervous shouts telling when the front of our bikes suddenly stepped sideways followed by some wild fishtailing and then it was onto the road to Mickleham and the start of the climb up to the Gallops.
More hard work was to follow. I always know I’m struggling when I’ve got riders just sitting there on my back wheel on a climb and last night was no exception. Blinded briefly by some illegal 4×4 drivers who were picking their way down I hope we managed to get our own back with our high power lighting. Not that we were out lamping or anything, Dave was at home so there was no extreme lighting with tripods to be seen. But give Dave time eh?! (haha!!).
Once onto the Gallops, John, Lee and Tony stretched away from me and I really struggled to keep up. By the end though I’d closed the gap, probably because they’d slowed themselves a bit. It was just one of those nights when everyone has a similar natural pace which meant whereas sometimes I can pretend to be waiting for others while I catch my breath, last night I couldn’t.
Fortunately, it was time to head for home, once again down past Tyrells Wood golf course (where there are still a few trees blocking the path from the heavy snow a few weeks back) and then onto Alsation which I took as fast as I dared. It helped being in front and I made the most of it on my Inbred, skimming the ground and enjoying an unusual level of confidence.
We parted at Leatherhead, Tony and Lee heading off toward Fetcham while John and I slogging it back to Bookham via Roaring House Farm. Another enjoyable ride with no punctures to spoil the flow and the sneaking suspicion that the trails are going to turn properly spring like anytime now.