At the end of Friday’s ride Colin nominated me for the ride report, asking if I could get it done before the morning! To be honest though, I was bombed out after 13 miles across Holmbury and Pitch in the dark, followed by faffing in the rapidly cooling car park and a pint at the Volunteer. I was seriously tired and in the throws of an unpleasant post ride sugar dip. And I’m only just starting to recover!
For me, if not for everyone else, the evening’s activity had been tough going. Our group included Colin on his appropriately named Specialized Pitch, Lee, Jem, Tony, Rob and Mark. Both Mark and I were compromised by lighting issues, Mark’s bar lights packing up before we started.
Having donated the Trustfire helmet light I was planning to use to augment Mark’s existing helmet light I found myself with just my Exposure MaXx-D for the ride. Good though this is, you really do need to be able to see round the corners when you’re riding this kind of reasonably technical trail at night. I found myself having to slow down and couldn’t read what was coming too well so the added mental effort took it’s toll. For Mark, suffering with the opposite problem lighting wise and a lack of riding, it was a tough night too.
For the others, well they just scampered off. I was more than comfortable on the climbs until feeling the creeping effects of a sugar bonk late on but couldn’t live with the guys on the singletrack. We climbed up from the YHA at Holmbury without too much effort, heading for the lookout from where we got a good view of parts of the Southeast. Exactly which parts was open to debate but we definitely saw something. It was also apparant from up there just how dark the hills were and we seemed to be the only people out. Well, it was Friday I guess.
Turning toward Pitch we ran down toward the reservoir, missing out Reservoir Dogs but popping out nearby after Roadie Tony had stacked it into the rhododendrons, earning the nickname Roadie-Dendron from Rob. Sorry Tony, but that one’s going to stick! Up at the reservoir the ‘North Shore’ has been tweaked a bit more and we couldn’t resist riding the two foot high see-saw in the dark. Great fun, if somewhat lacking in the skills area – it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s dark or daylight though if that’s any consolation.
But Barry’s beckoned so it was onto BKB where the top sectioned has been recently tweaked. Not exactly smoothed out but a little de-roughened around the rollercoasters. I struggled along here, particularly finding some of the bermed corners tricky as I couldn’t see round them to what was coming next. Even so, the tricky waterfall at the end soon arrived and fortunately caused no problems so I must have been motoring well enough.
Rolling down the road to Peaslake it appeared as though the bus stop has been replaced with a giant chicken run but it was just where there’s some ‘improvements’ going on with the bus stop. What form they may take I can’t imagine. Swinging past, it was on up to Pitch Hill and a lengthy uphill trend for a few minutes as we headed up from the car park before turning sharp right for a bit more climbing.
It was worth the effort though as things started to speed up again, our route taking us over to Christmas Pud and a jump through the Clawhammer (Laddies’ Legs?) tree for the first time since my accident before the fast dash through the trees at the Ewok Run. For some reason I find it easier to jump through Clawhammer in the dark than in the daylight, I always end up thinking my bars are too wide in the daylight!
More singletrack followed and it really was proper dark in those trees. Finally we ended up on the T trails (T-0, T-1, T-2 and T-3) which brought us back into Peaslake. These are technical trails with tight turns, sweeping sections and sudden rooty drop offs and although I was enjoying myself I was still hampered in the lighting department. Although it’s possible I just wasn’t in the groove that night.
By now, I was starting to feel the onset of a sugar bonk – I wanted to be in the pub with a pint and lots of crisps but I still had a good 45 minutes to wait for that. Mark too had exchanged his manly thighs for two sticks of celery and was clearly suffering his own dip. We had to spoon him up the hill to the resevoir I think! But despite claiming he’d take the easy way back etc. etc. we all found ourselves hammering down Yoghurt Pots and Telegraph to end at the YHA. All good stuff.
Just as we reached the last drop off on Telegraph I mis-timed a hop off the lip and found myself rolling up the bank and off into the bushes, a small but embrassing error that told me it was good we were back at the cars! No harm done and fortunately no-one saw it! After packing away the bikes and gear we retired to the Volunteer for last orders, surprised to find it empty – was it really that late?
All in all another good ride which would have been better for me if I hadn’t started to hunger for food late on. It seemed quite strange to be out on a Friday, so much so that come Sunday I was quite wishing I could go out in the morning. This was out of the question though as Mothering Sunday duties meant a ‘home day’ for me, my wife and boys. Next weekend a big birthday looms (not quite for me yet) so I won’t be out, but it’ll be business as usual for the others I’m sure. Have fun!