Well we’re in to February which can be no bad thing. Today’s ride can best be described in terms of stats I think – 10 riders, 24 miles, four punctures, one broken chain, one big crash and one late finish. Quite an eventful ride then.
But that’s only half the story really as Dave, Colin, Jez, Jem, Andy, Tony, Nick, Toby, Nick and myself headed off toward Ranmore from Bockett’s Farm car park. In complete contrast to Wednesday night, the trails seemed to have magically drained over the last few days against my expectations. Not that my expectations can be relied on really.
A quick whizz down Yew Trees resulted in our first puncture of the day, Tony suffering from the hedge cutting work we’d passed through near Crabtree Lane I think. A lengthy pit stop resulted from it being the first time the tyres had been off his new bike which left us sheltering under the trees from the cutting wind but once we got on our way again we soon warmed up.
Ranmore, then the Landrover descent came and went, the roots on Landrover seemingly more exposed than usual. But, remarkably, it was pretty grippy and dry and as we headed over toward Wolverns Lane via the steppy climb it was apparant that Leith Hill was holding up even better. Even Wolverns was an enjoyable in–and–out spin through the trees that let us get into a good rythmn and led us eventually to the head of Summer Lightning.
Tempting as it was to give it a try, we decided to head off toward the tower via the bombholes and a quick ponder at the top of Deliverance. It may come as a surprise to hear that’s the first time I’ve seen it, although I’ve spectated from the bottom. Somehow, I’ve never been able to find the top and as we stood there it looked magnificent. With the trees still in their winter slumber there was a good view all the way down with the shed nicely framed at the bottom. I admit that had we stood there a bit longer I might have given it a try but as was remarked later in the ride, it was a cold day to be waiting for an ambulance!
So up to the tower, I managed to clean the climb nicely which I was pretty pleased about. It’s one of those technical plus endurance climbs which is do-able but needs thinking about so I was pleased to reward myself with a coffee and a large slice of fruit cake. Puncture number two manifested itself as we were starting off though, the worst time really since we’d had a chance to cool down but we amused ourselves circling the play area while Nick sorted his bike out.
Unfortunately, meandering through the trees heading toward the quarry Nick notched up his second and our third puncture! That’s the way it goes sometimes but we were soon on our way to the quarry where again I was tempted, this time to try the massive roll-ins halfway down which I’ve done in the past. As with Deliverance though it was time for the sensible hat, so we did Chocolate Jesus instead which I’m not sure that was much easier!
The Mother beckoned us onward and we fairly flew down it making full use of the grippy track and the shelter from the trees, popping out near Holmbury where we parted company with Toby who was off to cover Holmbury too. A few of us, myself included, where running out of time chips so we rolled down to the Volunteer and picked up the bridlepath off Raikes Lane toward the farm on the A25.
It’s a quick, sandy track with wheel ruts all the way down and once we’d arrived at the bottom I was getting increasingly worried at the abscence of three of our riders. After a few minutes we turned back and met Nick, Andy and Nick at the farm house to find out that one of the Nick’s had wiped out big time on the descent, caught out by the ruts before being pitched off and spinning on his back down the trail, all watched by Andy and the other Nick. Lucky not to have high sided himself and still in one piece if a little dazed, Nick was nonetheless able to continue much to everyone’s relief.
By now it was becoming more urgent to get back so we crossed the A25, picked up the Abinger Roughs and headed to White Down for a sod of a climb all the way back up to Ranmore. A bit more time would have given us a more leisurely climb via a different route but our masters were calling. Actually, we were guiltily calling them when Dave broke his chain on the climb (well, Colin just texted!) to make our excuses and promise we’d be back soon.
Dispatching Collarbone with my now customary caution we slogged to Ranmore, then flew back down Yew Trees before climbing to Polesdon. As we reached there, Colin pointed out my front tyre was soft and by the time we’d got near the old gate house it was flat. Knowing I only had a mile or two to get back I said goodbye to the others thinking a swift fix would see me home.
Big mistake. First, it happened I’d stopped in the most exposed part of the whole area and the wind was whipping viciously in from the side. I’ve covered over 150 miles since my last (tubed) puncture and a lot longer since needing to repair a tyre trailside as my Orange is tubeless. So hunting around for Park patches in my pack I found just one very old one.
Getting the tyre off proved an effort in itself due to the wind chill on my hands and even at this point I was starting to get worried. Once I’d tracked down the thorn and pulled that out, then turned my attention to finding the puncture hole I was getting more and more uncoordinated with the whistling wind stopping me from hearing where the air was coming out!
Eventually, I tracked the hole down, tore off the patch and stuck it to the tube only to see it blow away again in the wind… At which point I felt like sobbing! I managed to find an old vulcanised rubber and glue repair kit in my bag but the cold seemed to make the glue do very strange things, it was sort of congealing before it got anywhere near the tube and felt a bit like I was handling snot from the trail pixies. I slapped it liberally on and just knew it wasn’t going to work so I whacked the patch on top of that, shoved it all back into the tyre and pumped like mad hoping the pressure would press the rubber and patch to the face of the tyre.
Wonderfully, it held and I managed to get air into the tyre. Shoving bits of kit back into the Camelbak left and right I climbed back on the bike, still being knifed by the howling wind up at Polesdon and tramped it back home on the road. As I got into my road the tyre finally gave out and I rolled up the driveway on my rim, mightly relieved but knowing that my wife would not be impressed at me getting back at nearly 1:45. Worse was to come as I barely managed to stay awake all afternoon (untouched by my magic cappucino machine), although I did managed to hang a picture later on!
The moral of the story is not to abadon your riding group even when you’re so close to home and make sure your kit is serviceable. I just didn’t want to hold people up any longer but at one point I really thought I was in trouble, I was so cold and tired.
A great ride though with lots of twisty technical stuff, plenty of variety and hard work in the mix too. Nice to see Jez for the first time in a few weeks and Nick and Nick who were riding with us for the first time.