The forecast wasn’t great, and despite some pleading from the young ‘uns (swiftly dealt with), we set off at 0845 in a heavy drizzle.
“We”, were D-Dub, Lord On-One, Southside Jonny and myself. Lloydy had also threatened to put in an appearance, but we reckoned the heavier rain that fell earlier had persuaded him that the duvet was a more comfortable alternative. Unlike L.O.O., the rest of us hadn’t ridden for a week or more (‘cos we’re so busy working we haven’t got time to loll about all day riding bikes) that a steady XC-paced ride to Leith Hill was in order to try and restore some stamina into the legs.
The drizzle continued as we worked our way up Crabtree Lane for ‘View to a kill/Bat Run’, the first singletrack of the day. The narrow path leading to the start provided drama for some, but the trail was running well enough, though none were prepared to tackle the steep roll-in at the end. Grippy enough in the dry, I’ve ended up in the nettles enough times after rain that I didn’t even contemplate it.
Having reached Ranmore via the Youth Hostel climb, we spied a tall and familiar figure on a vivid yellow Santa Cruz Tall Boy exiting the Yew Tree climb. The final tell-tale clue to the riders’ identity was what SSJ described as the ‘scrotal sac’ attached to his lower back. This combination of bike and back-pack had enabled us to identify Lloydy from 100m away. A flat tyre had delayed his start, so we apologised for the unflattering comments we’d uttered at his non-appearance at Bocketts, and welcomed him along for the rest of the ride.
Having attained the dizzy heights of the North Downs ridge, we lost altitude via the top half of ‘Wire in the Blood’ followed by ‘Land Rover’. Despite only just uniting with Lloydy, we contrived to lose him again in Westcott, but managed to meet up at the bottom of the Rookery climb. I had an unexpected rider-to-ground interface on Wolvens Lane, but otherwise our ascent to Leith Hill tower via the Bomb Holes near the cricket pitch and ‘Bow to the wow’ was uneventful.
A wide selection of cakes were purchased at the tower, and with S-S Jonny’s legs noticing his absence from the bike after a few weeks of business travel, he conducted a quick ‘straw poll’ to identify a much-needed second helping. The Chocolate Fridge Cake won, after an enthusiastic endorsement from myself; so duly fortified, we tackled the complete ‘Summer Lightning’ trail back to Wolverns Lane. D-Dub led us briefly onto the edge of the hill to admire the views towards the South Downs, but although it had stopped drizzling by this time, we were still enveloped in a heavy mist and couldn’t see more than a few metres down the hill.
The familiar but welcomingly gentle gradient of ‘High Med’ saw us back up to Ranmore, and the group split to tackle either ‘Dearly Beloved’ or ‘Flinty Badman’. Although fun, those that tackled FB ended up off the trail at various times.
The only remaining drama of the day was SSJ flatting on Connicut Lane. Luckily, I’d purchased a new tubeless worm repair kit after I’d used up all my glue on repairing Al’s tyre a few weeks back, so once again was able to demonstrate the wonders that is a trail-side tubeless repair. As you can see from the pic, D-Dub couldn’t help but take advantage of SSJ’s helplessness!
With that mental image burning in your brain, it remains for me to say that we covered about 36km and 725m of climbing, with the sun coming out as we rolled back into Bookham.