Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole ValleyMuddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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Ride Report: Epsom Downs Loop, 29 March

Posted by Lee | March 30, 2009 | 8 comments so far

With the rather early Spring sunshine of the past few rides deserting us temporarily at times during last week, it was great to wake up on Sunday with a healthy dose of rays streaming through the blinds. Judging by the trees populating neighbouring gardens, the strong northerly wind had also died as per the weatherman’s predictions, so, bar the remnants of a fairly heavy frost, the scene was set for another enjoyable ride around the North Downs.

Meeting up at Bocketts was Tony, DaveC, DaveW, DaveP, Jem, Neil, Andy and myself. After general chatter and a short deliberation over general direction for today’s venture, we set off for a loop over to the fringes of Epsom Downs and back along Stane Street.

We rolled along quite happily on the easy surfaces down to the river before climbing up to cross the A24 and over to the start of Alsatian, where there was that general sense of foreboding hanging thick in the air. This is definitely one of my bogey trails, ascending it of course (catch it at the right time and descending it is an absolute thrill). It’s not particularly steep but it does drag, only to level out at a point, before cranking up the gradient just slightly once again. It’s also the first real climb we do to gain any height and, for me anyway, it’s a real leg warmer.

We gathered at the top to recover and then carried on up past the golf course to cross the road at Nower Wood before heading up to Headley, via a fairly sticky bridleway offering the first real sign that rain had fallen intermittently during the last week. By the time we reached the road at Headley we had gained all the altitude we were going to for a while, so we took the rather rutted track down through Great Hurst Wood to the edge of Walton-on-the-Hill.

A few yards on tarmac and we back on bridleway again, this time the long, chalky, flinty descent down to the back of the racecourse. A challenge at the best of times, today we had the added task of removing a ‘small’ tree that had fallen across the path. I say we in the loosest sense as it was actually DaveC, DaveW and Andy that did a great job of getting it wedged backed in its more familiar habitat.

We remounted and eventually spilled out onto the track to Langley Vale to regroup initially, but after an audible hissing sound emanated from Tony’s rear (tyre) it was clear his Dr Sludge tube had failed dramatically. Closer inspection showed a good centimetre split along the seam and a good coating of green slime on both tyre and rider. It was quickly fixed however and we carried on our way. Sadly our good progress lasted all of a few minutes as Tony, pulling away up the horse margin, was clearly puncturing again on the same tyre. It was fixed again quickly, but not before Andy had managed to stab himself with a small penknife being used to rid the tyre of offending thorns. The green slime on everything of before had made way for a fair few drops of blood. Nice.

Thereafter we traced a relatively straightforward course along Stane Street until we had reached the golf course again and, just yards from where Matt ripped off his rear mech not so long ago, Andy became the latest victim to a puncture. This one was a fairly lengthy stop, so by the time we got going again DaveP peeled off at Cherkley Court for an early bath while the rest of us carried along to descend Juniper Hill.

To reach the tea stop at Box Hill we had little choice but to climb again, this time up Happy Valley, and so with a general sense of resignation it was back in the granny ring for a few of us. Jem and Tony flew off together leaving the rest of us to battle it out with our own demons. I held sight of the two of them until not that far from the top but gradually slipped well off the pace, with Andy clinging to my tread as we both pushed ourselves to the limit. At the top Andy and I were not far from death whilst Tony was just finishing mending his ‘spare’ tube from earlier! Classic. A few moments later we were joined by the rest of the group and it made for a fairly silent roll along to the café for a welcomed rest.

Judging our arrival at the café to perfection (queue-wise) we were soon munching on treacle slices and sipping hot tea in what was turning out to be a lovely spring day once again. The café is definitely a pull for all sorts of rider but occasionally you see the odd one that definitely prescribes to the ‘all the gear…’ school of riding. Let’s just say our latest exponent was a chap in full ‘freeride’ gear riding an all-mountain machine familiar to many of the moles which was spotless. Clearly he’d just come straight up the Zig Zags!

We left our freeride friend to his strutting and headed back along towards China Pig as it was deemed a far better way of rewarding our climbing efforts than just going off the front towards Mickleham. After the insistence of the others I led out down the trail which was damp and under the trees quite slippy on the corners especially under the front wheel, with one or two close shaves. After a while I was conscious the others weren’t in close proximity, but I was in the groove and flowing nicely, so I kept pushing on and as anyone who has ridden this trail will know it’s not just a case of rolling to the end. You really have to work it to the end.

After a few minutes sitting on the fence at the end, I really began to get worried. I pitched the bike back over the stile and started going back up the trail, but thankfully the rest of the guys started to appear. It turned out DaveC had washed out on the trail fairly high up and had an altercation with a tree. It sounded nasty. Perhaps Dave can take us through it later. We dropped down into the car park and headed back along the road where we left Neil and DaveW, who headed back up Juniper Hill to Stane Street. The rest of us headed towards Norbury Park, but not before another chance meeting with our Freeride Friend confirmed our suspicions that despite his dress code and steed he was definitely more at home on tarmac than dirt!

We pulled up through Norbury for what was now the final throes of the ride, but we still managed a little more off roading (crazy I know) taking in the loop around Norbury, the rooty descent adjacent to Bocketts, before the wiggly route through the trees beside the bridleway back up to the main track back into the car park.

Here we left Andy, who as it turns out is one lucky boy. In exchange for his ‘five’ year old Whyte PRST-4 which developed a crack in a weld last time he was out with us, he is now waiting on the delivery of a new E5 frame with Maverick forks. Nice work. And great after service.

Today was punctuated, literally, by several stops that made for a reasonably late finish, but 23 miles on the clock takes my own three month total for the year to over 340 miles, which isn’t too bad. However, with our first child due in just two weeks I’m making the most of the sun, the dry trails and any chance to get out and ride. Today was no exception.

Filed under Rides in March 2009

Lee

About the author

As Baz Luhrmann said in his Sunscreen song: look after your knees, you'll miss them when they're gone. Well, until they do finally give up the will to live and screech to a halt like a knackered bottom bracket, I'm just going to keep riding because that's what I love.

Whilst I'm more full time parent and part-time biker these days, I still make the best of the time family life affords me, even if the fitness yo-yos massively.

I ride a Cotic Soul, which is currently single-speeded, and also a 2010 Trek EX-8 for drier times.

We are a pretty lucky bunch to live in such close proximity to the Surrey Hills, which gives us an embarrassing amount of trail choice. Some of my all time local favourites have sadly now been 'decommissioned', but with the likes of BKB, Summer Lightening and China Pig, there's still plenty to smile about whichever way you turn.

There are 8 comments on ‘Ride Report: Epsom Downs Loop, 29 March’

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  1. Tony says:

    Excellent write up Lee. The slime tube failure was very “deflating” but it did show, after the second puncture, how many thorns the tube had withstood.

  2. Dave says:

    I don’t know why you all moan so much about the Juniper Bottom Climb! It goes on a bit and has a nasty sting in the tail but you just have to grind it out. I kinda like it.

    So, my fellow moles did the CSI bit and think the front kicked out on a bare root which sent my mud filled tyres off towards a dead tree. I was just a passenger from that point. Couple of swollen fingers are easing up today, big painful bruise going to come out on my shin in the near future and I think my heart rate monitor chest sensor actually spread some load judging by the mark on my chest. Also found bruise on my right arm this morning. Jem sorted my bars out after a few jokes about the “straight” bars taking a massive impact to turn them into Mary bars and my new cycle computer was ripped from it’s bracket as the bracket gave up the fight. Could have been worse ;o)

  3. Nick (Easynow) says:

    Glad to hear nothing worse than bruising and a bent bar 🙂

    We were out in that area this sunday as well, starting from Ashtead, going out in a loop taking in Stane road, Box hill, reigate etc.

    Judging by your route writeup we must have criss crossed at least three times by my reckoning 🙂

  4. jem says:

    Nice write up Lee. I’m with Dave on the Juniper Bottom climb, feels good when your heart’s trying to jump from your chest. You know tea and cake and a well earned rest are just round the corner.

    Quite an impressive impact by Dave on the said tree as i followed. I was concerened for a couple of minutes that some damage other than bruising had been inflicted, as he appeared to be winded and in cosiderable pain.

    Thankfully only bruising.

    I have to say it. Tubeless!!!!!

    Sorry Tony.

  5. Andrew says:

    We (Graham, Nick and I) were up on Leith Hill on Sunday. We came down using the cut through to the deep bomb pit and Waggledance that we got from riding with the Moles a few weeks ago.

    Anyway, on the way back as we rested on Wolvens Lane at the top of the Rookery (by the newly smoothed out lip) we heard the unmistakable sound of a bike hurtling down the track above us. We moved forward to give him/them some room and turned round just in time to see the leading rider get some air.

    Unfortunately, he was upside down. He landed (still upside down) in the hedge at the side of the track with a big thump. He got up very gingerly and Nick extracted his bike from the hedge.

    After a chat and offers of assistance he walked off down the lane to the Wotton Hatch to phone for an ambulance with his friend pushing both bikes having concluded that he’d broken his collarbone. He seemed to be most concerned about what his wife was going to say.

    I just wanted to see if anyone on the site knew the rider and what the final diagnosis was.

  6. Richard says:

    I don’t know the rider but the final diagnosis is definitely too much speed and too little control 😉

  7. Matt says:

    Andrew, no-one I know that I’m aware of. The guys were riding Box Hill and Headley at the weekend so weren’t in that neck of Surrey.

    Sounds a big crash and the rider should think himself lucky to walk away from it. I got a bit of a tank slapper on going down there a couple of weeks ago and it’s easy to overcook it after a fast run down Wolvens.

    Rich, I’m thinking you have hit the nail on the head which is better than hitting the trail with your head…

  8. Nick (Easynow) says:

    Im pretty sure it wasnt anyone from domb, but I posted it there anyway.

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