Five were potentially out for a dark-side ride this morning, two made it. Iron Hands Keith had suggested an ‘early morning’ ride on the road, for reasons still unclear (but possibly food-and-alcohol-influenced) 3 were silent. Whilst main roads would have been feasible it was around -5c this morning and had both decided windchill would not be good even if the surface were manageable. Mole-fashion trail riding it was then, in concept if very little else.
I was late arriving at Keith’s. Hard ice on the car, faffing around to drop off one dirty road bike and collect my Whyte from family nearby and so on. Keith announced he had until 12 noon giving us about 2½ hours. Last week’s Christmas ride was my first ever on snow and the 20 miles was not as bad as I expected (until the singletrack began just as I thought the ride was finished). This week was on another level however. Still Padawan ice-training is not to be sneezed at and off we went from Bookham.
My punishment for lateness was the run up Hogden Lane to Ranmore Road. It was unrecognisable, in fact I had to ask Keith where we were as Hogden to me means cobbles for mile after mile, truly horrible. This was sheet ice, forcing you to try and pick any crunchy section to find grip. As we progressed (slowly), the centre section was the place to be for any kind of texture to the surface, alas it also had large flints regularly and turning the wheels was to be avoided if at all possible.
The downhill parts of it also showed what we were in for, unclipped often, grateful to get down without losing the bike underneath often, wheels twitching often, sighing with relief often. Truly unlike any other biking experience I have known and I have to question if I want to go out in it again.
In that 2½ hours we only covered 10 miles at best. No surface was reliable. If you find a rideable section of trail it was interwoven with hard lethal ice, if you found a section of road it was part tarmac and part skating rink. Somehow we made our way down toward Landrover but turned left instead, along and back up to the top, over towards Denbies and down the trial there to the tarmac part, round Denbies to the road between Mickleham and Polesden Lacey with the 1 in 5 climb back towards Fetcham and the surface had been so bad we decided to take that road.
That plan failed quickly when the bike went from under me on the road and I went up in the air as if I had slipped on a banana skin. I came down at speed on my backside and Camelbak, it was a wonder I had not hit my head hard and this was enough to tell us we would not be able to get up that climb on foot let alone wheels.
This is sounding miserable so let me intersperse with some positives. The Whyte was great for my skill level, I wouldn’t want more from it. The favoured £6 long sleeved Lidl base layer and Endura jacket/trousers combination were plenty warm enough, the Specialized Defrosters with studs were a revelation again. I hope Dave C will forgive me if I say I assumed them to be clumpy hob-nailed boots based on watching them in action this year, they are anything but. Comfortable, supple, great grip with the studs and simply fantastic warmth with ordinary winter Endura socks.
Picking myself up from the fall, we were probably 50 yards from the crossing between the foot of Dearly Beloved and the field opposite with the climb back to Wiggly Wood and took that, mostly on wheels. We finished in Wiggly Wood where the Master sped off and was out of sight quickly. Or so I thought until I detected the church bells and remembered Keith’s 12 noon curfew.
I rode faster determined to see if a magical spell would be undone in front of my eyes. As I reached the end there was no sign of him, just a Thomas the Tank engine on the ground, a couple of hamster wheels and a single, forlorn MTB shoe. I can only think Keith was away over the fields back in dishevelled trackie bottoms and hoodie, rushing home to resume cleaning the Mole bikes in the basement .
If you see him, spare a kind thought.