I was lucky to get three great evening rides in this week, on three different bikes. Although we had a fair bit of rain on Monday night, the trails were still running very nicely, and on the last ride (Thu evening) I was eating dust.
An early evening (5pm start) with Chris; fitting this in before Chris headed off on a week’s tour of North East Europe (work, not pleasure). I was on the Surly Instigator, and after meeting Chris at Bocketts we headed up Crabtree Lane for ‘View to a kill’. This time I managed to successfully demo how to ride the final drops, although we also spotted an easy out just beforehand for those that don’t fancy the steep roll-in (or for when it’s wet).
Climbing up to Ranmore via Ranmore Common Road and the ‘Dearly Beloved’ bridleway that brings us out opposite the church, we headed for the top section only of ‘Wire in the blood’. Annoyingly, someone had felt it necessary to lay large branches across the trail to slow us down, and they succeeded as we stopped to remove them.
From here it was our standard route to Bingo Bongo Dave, via Collarbone, Trouble in Paradise, Sweet ‘n Short, and North Downs Way. Where the NDW meets the Drovers Road, we headed straight across towards the Crocknorth Road, to cut out two sides of a large triangle. It was pretty boggy towards the end near the farm and Sheepwalk Lane. BBD was in great form, and from here we took in Mountain Wood and Wonderland, kicking my favourite tree as I went past.
We missed out on Sawmill, as we didn’t want to run out of light, so after climbing back up onto the ridge and across to the reservoir, we took in the top half of Abba Zabba to White Down Lane. As is customary with my, “This is how you ride this” demos, I got stuck at the top tree and inelegantly paddled my way around and down. It was the lack of light in the gathering gloom, honest. From here it was a straightforward contour along the bottom of Reformation to the White Down climb and Collarbone, then forking left to take in Little Endor and back to the Ranmore Common Road.
We returned to Bocketts via Rip van Winkle – I didn’t ‘wimp out’ of the jump at the beginning, I was just showing Chris the less jumpy line – then down to the Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel. Connicut Lane and the Admirals Track which saw us back at Bocketts with 37km and 650m of climbing for me.
For the second Wednesday running it was a 6.15pm meet with Adam and his colleagues from the Specialized UK office, based up the road in Chessington. Having shown them the delights of Mickleham last week, we ventured up to Ranmore and Westwards (a secondary aim of Monday’s ride with Chris was a scouting session, mainly to work out the timings). There were 9 of us in total, with JR able to join us for an early evening start.
Like Monday, we headed for ‘View to a kill’ to start, with the group splitting at the end to take the drops or the easier lines. I was riding my Cannondale single-speed, so with rigid forks I chose to demo the easier line. At Bagden Farm we headed for the Youth Hostel, and took the steep footpath ascent up to the Yew Trees track. It was a challenge on the single-speed, and I just about made it.
Also like Monday, we took in the top half of ‘Wire in the blood’, this time with no debris blocking the way. We also took the same route to reach the Drovers Road, this time heading straight for the ‘Sawmill’ single-track descent. After taking a minute or so to find the start, my excuse being that I’m normally approaching from the opposite direction, we all enjoyed the fast and swoopy descent.
Wonderland was next, where we were entertained with a fine demo from Zac (who rides for Shere Clothing) who gave us a tail whip as he cleared the first large gap with ease. Further on down at ‘my jump’, hereafter known as ‘Dandy’s Demise’, we met Paul the trail pixie who was just lowering the lip of the jump slightly. His aim was for riders to naturally flow around the berm and tackle the jump without pedalling, and he felt the lip was making riders pedal too hard and fly into the jump … I certainly agree with him. Good work, Paul. Again, I gave the tree a kick as I went past.
From here we more or less completed the ride as we had on Monday, the only difference being that light (or the lack of) forced us to miss out Rip van Winkle and take the Yew Trees track down into the valley and up to Polesden Lacey. Another 34km and 580m of climbing on the clock for me.
With rain forecast for Friday, three mature and experienced Moles met up to sample the still dry trails. I don’t want to hear any comparison between our antics and those of the delinquent pensioners in ‘Last of the summer wine’. So Compo, Clegg and … err, sorry … Karl, Kev and myself heading back over to Ranmore. This time I wanted to head a little further to the ‘Petrol Pump’ descent through Netley Woods into Gomshall. All three of us had lights for later, so should we be forced to seek emergency rehydration en-route, we could still make it back in reasonable safety.
So this time I’m riding the Santa Cruz full-susser, and had no excuse on ‘View to a kill’, leading Karl and Kev down the steeper sections. We took the same route as the previous night over to the Drovers Road, and without the rigid-forks I comfortably rolled over the now heavily rotted logs on Trouble in Paradise. I also stayed upright on the noodly bit around the fallen tree, having had a comedy ‘off’ the night before. (‘Dandy in crash’ shock news).
Avoiding the temptation of the Sawmill descent, we headed along the NDW to just past the top end of Colekitchen Lane, a little further beyond where the track up from the saw mill meets the main track. Here we took a great little trail with some small jumps that flows really nicely. Unfortunately it’s a steep ride back out, and we used the excuse of a fallen tree to push the first section. Back on the main track, we headed even further West to pick up ‘Petrol Pump’. What a fantastic trail this is, it just goes on and on, being one of the longer trails on the North Downs ridge. Thumbs up all round, I think.
As we headed into Gomshall, the lure of the Gomshall Mill proved too great; so it was beers and crisps all round. With Kev not finding the pint of mild to his liking, I polished off his brew and away we went. My approach to drinking and riding is to only have one pint at each stop. Twenty or thirty minutes of riding soon works off the immediate effect of one pint, and restricting yourself to one means you don’t get too settled and lose that will to ride any further.
With beer inside, we took the relatively gentle route (once we’d got Hackhurst Lane out of the way) across the Abinger Roughs and past Deerleap Woods to Westcott. It was time for lights as we climbed back up to Ranmore via the gentle ‘High Med’ climb, where we picked up the bridleway opposite St Barnabas’ church to the start of Golden Nugget. A fun, though careful, descent saw us take a right turn into Westhumble and into the Stepping Stones.
Kev returned his pint of Doom Bar as being too warm, and replaced it with the excellent Tillingbourne brewery’s ‘AONB’; which I was already drinking. As it was only going to be poured away, the barmaid offered Comp … err, Karl, the offending pint. As Karl was driving, it fell upon me to uphold the honour of the Moles and drink another of Cle … err, Kev’s, pints. As well as new trails, I also introduced packets of Snyders pretzels (Honey & Mustard, and Jalapeno) to the guys. Like the trails, they were also a hit.
From here it was a gentle (not) climb up Crabtree lane, and then a contour to Norbury and a straightforward return to Bocketts. Finding myself at the back on the final descent, I could taste the dust kicked up by the two bikes ahead of me. After another 42km and 670m of elevation, and a fantastic evening’s ride with the nights closing in, I hope that’s not the last taste of dust for me this summer.