As always on rides where I have an influence on the route, today’s ride was dictated first by the food stop, and then by the trail conditions. Following our earlier visit to Ye Olde Sandwich Shoppe in Shere, I have been entering their weekly Facebook competition. This week I was the lucky winner of a free Breakfast Baguette, and determined to claim my prize.
As we were supping a few pints of delicious Otter Amber Ale on Friday night, it was apparent that there would be a high proportion of single-speeders on today’s ride. Sure enough, five out of seven riders sported the one true gear; long-time SS-ers Dave C and Lee were joined by recent converts Karl and myself, along with newbie Kev. Dave-Dubya was uncharacteristically running many gears due to a recent knee injury, and Chrissie was having nothing to do with this slavish following of fashion. Following the usual ‘bike-sniffing’ in the Bocketts car park, with Dave C’s handsome Salsa El Mariachi in vivid orange, and the Surly Knard 3” tyre on my Cannondale Trail attracting the most attention, we set off along the Admirals Track.
As this now has some very deep puddles beyond Crabtree Lane, we dived off left down the lane past Bookham (aka Wiggly) Wood. Passing Jill B walking her dogs (Jem obviously still in bed, the lazy … so & so), we headed up and right to pick up the bridleway again at the very South end of Bookham Wood. A rapid descent down to Chapel Lane followed, with a small delay for Karl to replace the customary part that always falls off, though it was only his chain today.
Slogging through the field to the Youth Hostel was soon followed by the slog of the Tanners Hatch climb. Slog was to be the order of the day, but in a brief respite we took the Ranmore Common Road to the start of the Drove Road. D-Dub had a narrow escape from a dunking when slipping off the bank as he tried to avoid a large puddle, so Dave C who was fed up with our mincing around, bravely showed the way through the middle. A fine technique, as long as you don’t stray into the deeper wheel ruts either side of the centre line. Where Dave led, others followed, and soon we were heading down Sheepwalk Lane to pick up the Crocknorth/Ranmore Common Road again.
From here, a dogleg right and left took us to Pump Pond Wood and heading Northwards to East Horsley. This was a route I first used when discovering single speeding during the summer. Although I was expecting it to be muddy, I knew the trail was generally downhill. However, I’d forgotten about the 400m of level ground that had now become a quagmire after January’s record rainfall. By the time we had returned to Honeysuckle Bottom for the climb back up to the North Downs Way, I sensed that an immediate route to the Shere Sandwich Shop was advisable. Being out front, I missed Lee’s contretemps with the wire fence that saw him lose the end of his lock-on grip, though it was retrieved and now secure in his pocket.
At Hollister Farm we took a fast and seldom-used (by us) descent into Shere, where we all piled thankfully into the Sandwich Shop for some much needed refuelling. Ploughing through the heavy mud, whether geared or on single-speeds, was seriously depleting our energy reserves. The grub was excellent (especially when it’s free), though the coffee could’ve been a little stronger; and we were grateful for the patience of the owner in allowing us to deposit mud all over the floor of his café.
We returned via the familiar bridle paths through the back of Gomshall to Abinger Hammer, then picking up the Abinger Roughs and the edge of Deerleap Wood through to Balchins Lane in Westcott. From here it was ‘High Med’ to Ranmore. At this point, our party split, with some opting for a contour around the side of Denbies to pick up the cycle track alongside the A24 into Leatherhead. It really had been an energy-sapping ride, and a few of us were coming back off long-term injuries and illness.
Meanwhile, four of us carried on up to Ranmore Common and after further debate we settled on the rapid ‘Dearly Beloved’ descent (well it was rapid until the giant trees were blown down a few weeks ago) and the climb up through Polesden Lacey to Connicut Lane. D-Dub bravely opted for the heavily-puddled Admirals Track to head back to his car, the rest wimped out and used the roads back to Bookham and Fetcham.
It was a great morning out, and good to see so many single-speeds in the group. I clearly needed the good hours kip I enjoyed after (a small) lunch though.
Edit: Stats for the ride were approx 40km distance and 660m climbed