The earlier post on the forum gained little firm response to my invite for an early start on Good Friday. This was not a surprise given it was a bank holiday and most of the moles would have been either tucked up in bed or on family duties.
Given this, it was a encouraging to see when I finally got free of work on Thursday evening the numbers had swelled.
The plan was to complete a 20 mile loop from Bocketts and then for me to continue on another loop for another 40 miles. I didn’t expect company on the whole route but maybe the two separate loops would entice some moles to get out on these sun kissed trails.
At 0700 sharp the Bocketts car park included 7 moles: DaveC, Matt, Tony, MarkyMark, D’Andy, Ray and myself. With the temperatures already reaching 15C and promising to reach the mid 20’s we headed off towards Alsation with DaveC setting a brisk pace. My thoughts turned quickly to the miles ahead and how hard this might turn out to be but I was zipping along on my new 29″ Air Niner. It rolled so easily and felt so light and responsive that on the first climb of the day I knew it was going to be an easier prospect than with a heavy full suss.
We moved steadily up across Mickleham Downs, passing the top of Life on Mars and up on to Headley Common. A short road brought us out on the Boxhill Road and in no time we were at the top of Bat Outta Hell; our first downhill of the day. The trail was in great condition and brought a smile to all as we regrouped at the railway bridge. The sense in dropping all this height and then riding a mile down the road to ride up the ridge again towards the top at the Western restaurant brings into question our sanity. But on this day, with this view, this blue sky and the magnificent colours and smells (more on this subject later!), the climb was pure magic.
The next trail we would take in would be China Pig. At the entrance I heard everybody say “oh I will be taking it fairly steady, everybody except D’Andy that is. I am too old and too wise to get caught out by these statements, preferring to get the feel of the new bike before I head butt the scenery I took up the rear. At the bottom the faces said it all. Beaming like a cheshire cat, Matt said that he couldn’t remember riding it faster, and one returning mole who was coaxing himself back to the trails after an injury enforced lay off, also attacked the trail hard; I suspect adrenalin and competitive spirit came into play!
Time was marching on and I knew two moles would be waiting at Bocketts for round two so we rolled down the road, picking up Staines St and then retraced the route in reverse down Alsation. I agreed to go first at a modest pace to trail-blaze and make sure that we did not startle any early morning walkers, horses or bikers, but found none. After a brief wait Ray and I decided to head on to Bocketts. We waited for MarkyMark and D’Andy and latter learned that the rest of the mob had been delayed by a puncture. Since they were not planning on completing the second loop we headed off towards the Yew Trees climb with some new company. Paul901 and KevS had pulled back the covers and struggled out to join us. Paul came in for a bit of abuse from D’Andy from the off for not provisioning some fine coffee for the assembled moles at Bocketts, I confess to thinking the same as the temperatures had already reached the mid 20’s and a coffee break would have been most welcome.
We headed on to Ranmore, CollarBone and the pile of logs. Sad to say I missed the failed attempt by D’Andy to clear the logs, but I did witness his perfect demonstration at Abba Zabba where he made the drop in and roll out around the tree look so easy. As he screamed with delight at the exit I knew he enjoyed it; and actually it isn’t that easy at all. We noodled are way through the Terrors and Numbskulls and then picked up the valley where D’Andy left us to cover his own way back to Bocketts via another trail or two as we headed off up the Rookery and on our way to Leith Hill.
A welcome break and refreshments saw the remaining riders, Kev, Mark, Ray and myself bid fairwell to Paul who had rode well on his first trail ride for a while and handed over the ride to Mark who guided us through some great trails (Mother and BKB) to Holmbury and then Peaslake for a sandwich. My plan was to now move on more xc trails to pick up Blackheath and then the Chilworth road crossing to tackle the south face of St Marthas. Thanks to Ray and Mark who kept us on course as we hit upon trails that they had traversed before. Resisting the urge to sit and watch the horse xc event with a bunch of female marshals, St Marthas sandy ascent came into view! After this many miles I knew it was not going to be easy and boy was it hot! We reached the south col and all agreed a brief rest was in order. The final section is steeper still but we all made it up and took in the fantastic view from the church. Sometime on a ride you get a real high and this was the moment for at least 3 of the moles. I am disappointed to report that, as we admired the view and reflected, the fourth mole let rip! This would not be the last time either. Apparently it is normal to fart 12 – 40 times per day, emitting between 0.5 and two liters of gas. You should only worry if you fart significantly more than this. Boy, fourth mole – you should worry! The only positive in all this was that it kept us amused all the way to Newlands via the Chantries and Pewley Down.
Newlands was humming with bank holiday revellers taking in the sun so it was a surprise we got served quickly and were back on our way. I had a darn conference call to dial in to later and sensed that if we did not roll fairly quickly I would be late, so we ran along the ridge, down Collarbone and along the normal route via Yew Trees to Bocketts at normal mole pace.
It was an elated bunch that unclipped at the car park. It had been a long, hot ride but we had taken it sensibly and from what I saw we were all in good shape.
When I got home I looked at the stats. The Garmin route is here http://connect.garmin.com/activity/81119424 but in summary the Bocketts loops will have been about 57 miles as the crow flies and with the additional legs to and from home I reached my 60 plus goal.
(I forget to take my camera, doh, but I noticed Matt taking a few images so maybe he can add some media to this post)