As we know, we’re riding in that AONB known as ‘The Slurry Hills’, and today it lived up to its name. Joining me for an XC ride ‘avec spice’ (or should that be, ‘epices’?) were D-Dub, Elliot (L.O.O.), James, ‘Old’ Karl, Mark, and Nick. Up, down, and around the North Downs ridge was the plan, with a tea stop scheduled for Gomshall (much enjoyed by Karl, as you can see).
The trails were typical of this time of year, a combination of dense leaf litter and heavy rain creating a greasy, grip-free surface that meant caution was the order of the day. Despite these conditions, much of our favourite single track was still rideable, though no PRs were likely to be set for any of the Strava segments.
The plan was, ‘View to a kill’, then around the back of Bagden Farm for the Tanners Hatch climb (given that my choice of the bridleway climb was not enthusiastically approved the last time I led a ride this way).
We chose the top half of ‘Wire in the blood’, before picking up the tricky slog up ‘Collarbone’. A few of us tackled the log roll on ‘Trouble in Paradise’, before ‘Short & Sweet’ took us down to White Down Lane.
‘Bingo Bongo Dave’ was next on the list, though none of us could remember Wob’s road avoiding route that Al showed us last time, so we were forced into the linking road section. We were amazingly still all in one piece, despite the lack of supervision by responsible adults that featured heavily in the forum comments leading up to this ride. As we climbed through Mountain Wood to the start of ‘Wonderland’, we said farewell to James who needed to head back to Ashtead.
Having safely negotiated ‘Wonderland’, it was to the saw mill and the long climb up to the North Downs ridge again before descending to Gomshall via ‘Petrol Pump’. We struggled to find the trail with all the leaf litter covering the ground, and after a diversion or two we made it to the A25 and the Tillings Café. Given our mud-splattered state, we gave the staff a break and chose the outside benches to cram their finest bakery products into our carb-depleted bodies. It had been hard going through that mud. The chocolate brownies were a popular choice; and my lime, coconut and blueberry slice was excellent.
As punishment for our gluttony, I took us back to the North Downs ridge via Cole Kitchen Lane and bridleway. Karl, who was on his singlespeed, could be heard making appreciative noises behind me as the trail wound ever upwards through the thick mud. The ‘Saw Mill’ descent and climb back up was in a similar state to the rest of the trails and paths. I followed D-Dub on his Cotic Simple down Saw Mill, and it was highly entertaining just watching him trying to keep the bike on the trail, though I was faring no better despite the 3” Dirt Wizards front & back.
We more or less retraced our route back to ‘Collarbone’, before tackling ‘Little Endor’, then finishing with a last hurrah down ‘Rip van Winkle’, with at least three of us braving the jump at the start. I think there was a refusal or two at the final steep roll-in, though. We returned to Bocketts via Polesden Lacey, but avoided Connicut Lane and took the option to cross Chapel Lane and head towards Crabtree Lane to avoid the worst of the puddles on the Admirals Track.
Unfortunately D-Dub flatted just climbing up towards Polesden Lacey, though given the Stans fluid bubbling around the spoke nipple, we suspected that rather than a straightforward puncture, it was a leaky rim. I put his leaky rim down to his vegetarian diet, myself. Matters were complicated as his Simple is fitted with an Alfine hub. But aided by a few pairs of hands, my ‘big bastard’ pump, and several helpful comments from the watching riders, we were eventually on our way.
Despite the conditions, a rather excellent ride in great company. A distance of 45km with 800m of climbing for me.