Anyone seeing our motley crew walk into the Hurtwood Inn at Peaslake after our Wednesday night ride might have been forgiven for thinking that mountain bikers are at least one sandwich short of a picnic.
After 2 hours of hard night riding across Pitch Hill we were all gabbling very loudly about the highlights of the ride. Things weren’t helped by the sight of AndyC turned out in a moleskin jacket (natch), white socks and black brogues teamed with his baggy cycling shorts. Now that’s how to make a sartorial statement! He was lucky (as are you all) that I didn’t have a camera with me.
I’ve missed our Pitch and a Pint rides. Last year we made it a regular feature of our mid-week riding, often sitting outside the Hurtwood Inn after a dry and dusty summer ride. It really is amazing how enjoyably a pint of brown beer goes down after you’ve done something to earn one like hammering a bike round the Surrey Hills. Unfortunately my attendance at these summer events was curtailed through injury so it’s great to resurrect them this year.
But what about the ride? Well, we had a good turnout for what in the end was a hasty change of plan from our normal Wednesday meeting point with DaveP, Colin, Jem, Tony, John, Jason, AndyC, Tim and myself all meeting at the Hurtwood Car Park No. 2 to head out onto the trails.
We weren’t alone, at least judging by the numbers of riders passing through the car park, including a tidily dressed quintet who all had the same tops and helmets on apart from their leader who was sporting an Evans shirt. Maybe a shop skills ride or something? The strange thing is though that once up on Pitch you never see anyone again so many and varied are the trails.
Our first introduction to the hill was harsh as we were immediately confronted by a tortuous climb up a fireroad. Normally we work our way up in a more circumspect fashion but for some reason our enthusiasm led to a real baptism of fire for us all as we charged uphill. I managed the climb on the singlespeed well enough but it was hard work.
More sedate climbing followed as we made our way up to the Judges Seat, broken up by swift detours through the trees to enjoy some great trails. Conditions could not have been any better with the dry loamy soil giving tremendous grip. I seem to be well tuned into my Inbred at the moment—a combination of better fitness and plenty of miles—and it’s perfect for this kind of riding. Really what more do you need than a four inch travel singlespeed hardtail?
Well, the answer was clear enough as I nearly caught myself out following Tony on his Trek EX 8. It’s becoming clear that this bike really is a very effective tool, particularly with Tony on board. Heaven knows how quick it’ll be if Tony’s threat to refit the original California spec tyres is more than a rash promise. In these conditions that’ll be one fast bike. Maybe I should get the Orange out again?
At the Judges Seat we turned toward Jellies Hollow (although I prefer to call it Jenny’s Hollow but that’s just the leering schoolboy in me!) which is a great sweeping run down over sharp rooty drops to the top of a steep gulley. We turned instead across the road and continued to mix short sharp climbs with great flowing trails. This included Christmas Pudding as usual and Ladies Legs which I jumped quite well for a change. Just occasionally I manage a decent lift and a smooth landing – must practice more if I can tear myself away from the rhythm of a ride.
Ewok Run was chaotic and the switchbacks were just plain silly. There is a line down that will get you to the bottom without dabbing as Colin found but for me there’s a couple of turns that throw loose dusty soil under my front wheel, making it wash out alarmingly. A wider sweep round the corners and a willingness to let the bike run seems to be the answer.
In between all this were short sharp climbs to keep the work rate up. I was pretty pleased with how I got on with only one gear, in fact I found myself steaming along at times, at one point inadvertently nudging Colin’s bars as I passed him (sorry!). The Inbred just seems to love being kicked up a hill in singlespeed guise as opposed to the more usual sit and spin treatment you tend toward with gears.
Our finish was the T-trails, starting with T-0. Various speculations have been made about why they’re named this way but I think the best explanation is they’re bones in your spine. Heathrow Terminals is another I’ve heard but regardless they offer a tough workout at the end of a ride.
Tony, in his words ‘kept me honest’ following me down what are very tricky trails to ride smoothly as they have such sudden and abrupt changes of direction (particularly T-1 and T-2). At times I was one the ragged edge, punching hard out of turns trying to keep up with Colin—which I didn’t manage to do—and standing one the brakes to lose speed. My work rate probably explains why this morning I feel I’ve spent two months in a Turkish prison but it was a great high to end on.
The final run was T-4 and 5 which really is a gotcha kind of trail with semi hidden tree stumps, big rooty drops and a roller-coaster flow that keeps you on you toes all the way. Colin ended up in his favourite bushes toward the end having simply overcooked it but we were all pretty much buzzing as we returned to the car park (via the last steep rooty descent).
A quick change and it was off to the pub to talk nonsense over a pint. Which brings me back to where we started.