It seems, for the moment, that our late summer calm wants to run and run. Which explains why so many people are trying to make the most of it while they can.
Sunday saw a whole bunch of us turn up for a morning on the hills. DaveC, BigAl, D’Andy, Southside Johnny, Elliott, Karl, DDub, Lloyd, MarkP, DaveMc and myself for a start but we didn’t stop there. Within a mile or two of setting off we found a couple of extra riders, out on the hills to explore Ranmore, but off-course for the good stuff, so we invited them to join us. That added John and Christophe to the mix and later on we were somehow tracked down by a late-starting JamesS which brought our group to 14. That’s more than I’ve ridden with for a long time!
I’ve no idea how James found us to be honest. We headed up to Ranmore on trails that are noticeably softer than past weeks from a regular dose of periodic rainfall which slowly appears to be adding up. We’re not the Muddymoles for nothing though! D’Andy had in mind a meander to Newlands with the injection of some fun trails along the way.
First up was the top part of Wire in the Blood, greasy but sufficiently grippy to still be enjoyable, then we headed along Collarbone and Trouble In Paradise to the Drovers Road. The day was becoming one of those soft, golden days of autumn as the sun burned off the early cloud cover and cut through the bronzed leaves of the beech trees.
D’Andy’s aim was to manouvre us to Bingo Bongo Dave, which I confess I don’t think I’ve ridden this year. How did that happen? I know there was a time it was blocked and remember I used to find myself over-riding in search of a decent Strava time (1.05 was my best). This time things were quite a bit more slippery than optimum and I was happy to go with the flow whihc is really the best way to enjoy any ride.
Next up was a short detour up onto Sheepleas to come back down via Wrong Turn which is a nice non-technical bit of singletrack with just one obstruction in the form of a fallen tree across it which doesn’t do much except spoil the flow a little. You can clear with an exagerated bunny-hop or as I did with the front wheel over, a quick grind of the chainring and a clatter from the back end. Skillz eh?
Another trail I haven’t covered for month is Wonderland and I have to say I haven’t missed the long climb up to it. However, Wonderland proved excellent fun despite a slithery centre section on the off-camber uphill bit which dragged DDub down in front of me. Probably a case of sumer tyres and winter roots I think. Anyway, I most certainly wasn’t fast but it was all about the flow remember?!
Next was the long drag through the sawmill and up onto the Ranmore ridge again and despite a long week on the bike I found I was spinning up quite nicely. The reward, once we’d re-grouped and recorded our visit and JamesS had magically appeared, was Petrol Pump all the way down to Shere.
Petrol Pump has suffered in recent months, pretty well-trashed in places due to logging activity (not a euphemism). We ended up speeding downhill via a fast fire-road before dog-legging to the right and picking up Petrol Pump about half way along its original length; well some of us did, while others missed the turn and had to back track while we waited patiently at the bottom!
What remains is still fun, twisty, a bit jumpy in places and with loads of alternate lines through the trees to the road.
Having reached the bottom we picked up our usual route to Newlands along the bottom of the valley.
At one point as we crossed the sandy heathland round the back of Gomshall we passed a pair of walkers (the whole area was thick with walkers and trail runners today) and found our polite greetings were ignored – Dave and I were completely blanked. Soon it transpired one of the walkers was Lloyd’s wife who had spied him further up the trail and was naturally focused on seeing him rather than us. So I feel I have to retract my complaints that I was making to DC!
One last push stood between us and a bacon and egg roll at Newlands – Water Lane, which in the rising temperatures was plenty more effort than I really wanted. At least we got the chance to recuperate waiting for the very busy cafe to process long queues of customers. One old boy collapsed and needed attention from the St. Johns Ambulance crew waiting nearby – rumours that it was from hunger from the long wait were circulated but he did eventually get back on his feet.
Time waits for no-one and our return was back along our traditional route along the Ranmore Ridge once more with the group fragmenting along the way; first D’Andy, Elliott and DaveMc peeled off to sample No-name and Sawmill while the rest of us realised the time and pressed on, then the forward bunch started riding at Southside’s pace and DDub, JR, DaveC disappeared off ahead. They finally stopped to let us catch up near Ranmore.
Our last trail to show John and Christophe was Ricin Beans, which is now softening as the autumn wears on. I followed DaveC and we both had moments of unplanned drift at various points, but despite being slower than its peak it remains a great way to finish the day, especially if you blank out the following slog up Connicut Lane to the Polesden Road. We finally parted from John and Christophe pointing them in the direction of Bagden Farm and Westhumble.
With further attrition as riders peeled off, just DaveC, Karl, Big Al and myself rolled back into Bocketts car park after nearly thirty miles on the hills.