Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 10 January – Reigate in the snow

Posted by Matt | January 11, 2010 | 19 comments so far

What a change from winter mud! With the unseasonal snow — how silly does that sound — still with us we ventured out once again across the North Downs to the widespread resignation of our collective spouses and family. People just think going riding in these conditions is bonkers, whereas we, of course, know better…

I’ll admit to a few doubts though as I dragged myself out of bed early on Sunday morning to get a decent breakfast inside me before the ride. It was pretty cold and the local roads, as elsewhere, are now covered in compacted snow and ice rather than the fresher stuff on Wednesday night. But it’s surprising just how easy it is to ride on and you can make easy progress provided you’re careful. To be honest, anyone used to riding on wet mud and chalk is going to feel pretty much at home. Except with snow you don’t get dirty!

Despite all that, it’s the slush that proves most tricky as it moves about under the wheels, leading in particular to a lot of understeer. Slow and smooth is the way to go, and if you have knee and elbow pads you really should make sure you use them. It’s an added bit of security that you’ll kick yourself for if you come off without them.

Having arrived at Bockett’s with one near miss under my belt after nearly taking out a runner as I came out of the alleyway and onto the A246, I was pleased to see we had a decent turnout of similarly-minded fools. Sorry, Moles! DaveW, AndyC, Erick, Keith, myself and DaveC were soon joined by Colin and then we picked up Jez shortly after as we set off. Our aim was a cross-country ride to the Reigate Tearooms which would prove an inspired choice. By the time we’d reached Leatherhead we were able to hook up with a late starting Tony to make it nine riders. Pretty good!

We soon settled into a reasonably comfortable rythmn which allowed for the compacted snow and slightly over-dressed conditions we found ourselves in. Alsation was a steady slog but quite easy so long as you managed to stay in the narrow track down the middle. Any loss in concentration and a wobble or veer to the side had you spinning energy away or floundering in 6-8 inches of snow. And with so much of the white stuff around you really didn’t want to get any more in your cleats than necessary. I’ll say again, flat pedals and grippy shoes is the answer but I haven’t the shoes to let me do that!

At the top Jez stopped for a brake related fiddle before we got underway again, up to the Tyrells Wood car park and over toward Headley. Again it was the slush on the tarmac that caused problems with DaveC lucky to get away with a big tank-slapper. Soon though we were back on firmer ground.

I couldn’t helped marvelling at how lovely the snow was, almost Alpine in its make-up with enough moisture to bind together nicely and provide plenty of grip, accompanied by a lovely squeak under compression. So long as you stayed on track, off-piste was not on at all.

Another hazard was frozen ruts as DaveW proved by endo-ing on a section which is normally a complete bog, fortunately with no harm to him or the bike. Up to that point we’d allowed the bikes a bit of a run as we made our way round the back of Headley toward the North Downs Way to Reigate. It was great fun which continued with only a few pauses for pushing all the way to Colley Hill.

Up on the tops the landscape opened up to give a good view of a snow-bound country across the Weald to the South Downs. Here and there in exposed spots the snow had drifted into 18 inches of soft powder but it was pretty much fast rolling everywhere and we were soon at the tearooms. Except they were shut! Bugger!

Luckily for us they were intending to open in 20 minutes or so which gave us time for a trip round Gatton Park and bit of exploring. It seemed as though few people had been our way and I really enjoyed carving through the powder on the downhills before we picked up the road to the school which was covered in lots of loose drifted snow to catch you out.

Just before the climb back to the tearooms we stopped to help three riders with a slipping EBB on a Charge Duster 8, with Dave able to spot exactly what was wrong. Having spread good karma we started the climb and despite me expecting to slip, slide and push all the way up it was in fact a perfect climbing surface. Unpredictable conditions indeed, underlined by a very sketchy circumnavigation of the tearoom car park at the top. Even the 4x4s were struggling…

After refueling on cake of the Eccles and tea varieties we started out on the return leg, having cooled considerably. You really need to keep moving in this weather. By the time we’d reached the memorial on Colley Hill again we’d warmed up and I don’t think any of us had a problem for the rest of the day.

A return via Tadworth is normally incident free and fast rolling but today events conspired against us. First we parted from a weary Jez who’d travelled to Bookham from his place on Epsom Downs, before Dave’s Intense Spider committed seppuku on it’s rear mech and hanger. An innocuous gear change, a small twig in the derailleur and that was that.

Dave has some experience in these matters though having been through this a few times more than he’d like and had a spare Intense mech hanger in his backpack which allowed him to cobble the drivetrain together using the remains of the mech. It was badly bent but at least allowed him to sort of singlespeed back without further incident.

More fun was to come though as we reached Tadworth Golf Course. The usual track across, which we expected to be covered with frozen puddles was in fact, invisible. Heaped across it were deep drifts of snow which quickly proved impassable as we all discovered at pretty much the same time, causing a mass comedy lurch and fall off our bikes! A bit of pushing and thrashing onward followed before we all stopped for a breather and stood the bikes in the snow before indulging in a snowball fight. Eight grown men spontaneously lobbing lumps of snow at each other on a golf course was huge fun and made me pine for the Alps even more. Must. Scrape. Some cash. Together!

As Colin said, we’re not likely to get such perfect snow conditions again on a ride for a long time.

The rest of the ride back was less troublesome but the relaxed mood continued as we stopped to chat to dog walkers and exchange a few words as we passed. By the time we arrived back at Headley we’d decided Secret Singletrack was on after being reminded the DoMTB boys had blazed a trail down there on Saturday. Thanks very much for that, it was hilarious! A quick hoon on a narrow path was perfectly possible with a bit of concentration and I flew down it, benefiting muchly from being first I think.

The final run down Alsation was equally memorable but had me twitching a bit as it was definitely faster than on Wednesday night, possibly not the safest thing for us to be doing but irrestible near the end of the ride. We dropped off Colin in Leatherhead, then parted from Erick and then Tony and Dave so it was just DaveW, Keith, AndyC and myself that mad eit back to the Bockett’s car park.

The final analysis had 24 miles on the clock for me (including about 2 and a half miles to/from my house to Bockett’s) plus a gargantuan 3250 calories burned according to my HRM. Well we were out for nearly five hours (oops!). More worrying was a peak bpm of 213 which I hope was an error!

Probably one of the best bike rides I’ve ever had.

Filed under Rides in January 2010


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 19 comments on ‘Ride report: Sunday 10 January – Reigate in the snow’

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  1. Andy661 says:

    And I missed it! Damnation!!

    Went to have an early cycle this morning and found a total flat as well so hopefully that is the end of my dramas for a while!

    Hope to catch up with you all again soon.

  2. Dave says:

    Mine said 4004 calories but doesn’t record peak HR. It may well be affected by other monitors if it’s not coded. Certainly Erick’s sets mine off.

    Judging by how tired I felt in the afternoon I reckon my 4004 calories was about right!

    Excellent ride though even if it was a bit expensive. Ordered a SLX rear mech and Cycleworks seem to have a mech hanger in stock so I’m back on track.

  3. Jez says:

    it was a good ride. I too encountered deep snow with my Epsom headed route across the golf course. Most was still ridable though. No snowball fights though so I missed out there.

  4. Bookham Toby says:

    I rode out with some guys to Holmbury; Yoghurt Pots demanded more skill than I have. The ride was quite an adventure -fire roads can become quite demanding – snow bound country lanes too.

  5. David Grant says:

    I’m the fella on the Charge Duster with the dodgy crank.

    Thanks for showing how to fix it, dont think I would have worked that out. We were able to carry on for another couple of hours and had a brilliant ride, great conditions. You might be interested in which is the site for the guys I normally ride with. There is also a link to one of our guys who lives in the Almeria area of Spain who has formed a group over there.

    Thanks again for the help yesterday – all the best

  6. tony says:

    My spouse wasn’t resigned. She was jealous! She couldn’t find any other ladies to enjoy riding with in the snow.

    I certainly felt like I’d used a few calories. However my HRM max was 174bpm (my max is ~188 when road racing at the near death stage). Maybe you need your’s checked Matt or we’ll have to take a defibrillator along with us.

  7. james says:

    I am sorry I missed it, family stuff. Will be riding on Wednesday and I assume the white stuff will still be on the hills, almost gone now in London.

  8. PIJ says:

    Aha! I was the chap in the shorts and on the Pace who waited patiently in the car park for you lot to come off the top of Colley – down that oddly fast footpath section. Agree; the golf course was fun. I spent most of my time taking photographs of the countryside – one in particular of my bike standing upright in the snow. Couldn’t, ahem, get to grips with the trail conditions though. One moment flying along, snow spraying everywhere, yet the next my front tyre would go all psycho on me and go off in a random direction. Unlike the mud it would soon find grip again, so in the end I just let it go, wrestling it back into line moments later.

    There were an awful lot of bikers out and about that day – most like you guys just happy to be out. Not sure about the knee and elbow pads though; sends an agressive message to the walkers surely?

    Whatever, it was an oddly brilliant day to be out. Er, nice to have met you!?!

  9. Colin says:

    What a hoot – even more out of control than I normally am. Great laugh too with comedy offs and snowball fighting.

    PIJ, I can remember seeing you waiting by the edge of the car park. Shame we didn’t get a chance to chat. If a walker is disposed to being upset by the protective gear, chances are they’ll find something else to get razzed up about in relation to us bikers.

    However, I can fully sympthasise with them getting the @rse with Tony’s repeat bell ringing when we come up behind them. Mind out Tony, you’ll get RSI !!

    Far more likely to cause trail rage and trail hogging than what we are wearing.

    I never had him down as an aggresive Campanologist !!

  10. PIJ says:

    Hi Colin – you make me sound like some kind of lost soul! Boo hoo! You were the second group that I’d encountered within quite literally minutes heading that way.

    I didn’t mean to get all defensive on the side of the walkers; we’ll never please the grumpy element, and the rest hardly notice us. I’m just a little wary of “The Powers That Be” that run the National Trust. I’ve had a couple of run ins with the old warden at Box Hill whilst out on my MTB [OK my fault both times… apparently one is not meant to ride into the toilets at Box Hill] and guess he’s not a fan of us lot. I’ve read that in parts of the country the land is becoming restricted access wise; i.e. horse riders and walkers only. We’re possibly a bit more enlightened here in Surrey, but I do think we are lucky at the moment – but that may change if we get too fast, or appear too agressive? Personally I think the full face helmets and protective gear do have a place, but possibly not near the ramblers?

    As for the bell. I’ve been moaned at for not having one, then moaned at for having one. These days I just shout out a loud “Good Morning!” but even that can cause distress. Not sure one can win here? Especially if you throw horse riders into the mosh pit as well.

    Eek! Getting all negative. Loved the review – keep it up.



  11. tony says:

    Yes I a full paid up member of the realBLA (Bridleway Liberation Army). Our weapon of choice the 99p bell. If things get serious then the bad boy comes out

    Bells are great. You ride along, give it a ping and without looking around walkers part (usually!). As they move to the side they are thinking of sit up and beg bikes being gently ridden across English village greens by old dears with the weeks shopping poking over the wicker basket.

    They turn around and aaahhh. Hairy arsed mountain bikers, but it’s too late and they have let then through. Damn.


  12. Matt says:

    I have to agree with Tony – it’s quite amazing how much goodwill a simple pinging bell seems to generate from walkers. I’ve seen it so many times. Unfortunately I don’t have one of my own (yet) so it only seems to happen when Tony’s around. Most people seem to appreciate the warning from riders and I’m very aware of how quickly a mountain bike can appear on a scene if you’re walking. Can be very scary.

    Phil, shame we didn’t get to say hello, for some reason I had a suspicion it might be you but you don’t start talking to men in the woods (that’s what my mum told me!). Of course, meeting in car parks after arranging stuff over the internet is a whole different business!

    I’m sure we’ll see you again soon!

  13. PIJ says:

    Hi Matt,

    No worries – as for talking to strange men in the woods…. eek! Don’t go there!! I was, after all, hanging around alone in a car park…. in shorts….

    Hope devised their own bell didn’t they? Installed it in the Pro II hub, the clever little tykes. All you do is freewheel along.

    99p and Mountain bikes? Has to be a mistake surely? You’ll be telling me that Argos sell mountain bikes for £60 next!! Please, for all our sakes, keep up the myth that anything MTB costs a week’s wages minimum – otherwise my wife will want more holidays, and I’ll get less bling.


  14. tony says:

    Hi PIJ

    My Missus has a Orange 5 Diva, with XT groupset, Revelations, carbon bars, Hope and Thompson finishing kit.

    There are no myths about the costs of MTB bits in our house.

  15. Andy661 says:

    Dear All

    Amazing what you can find on the web. Or something from the OFT to look at!!!

    This great bike is definitely what you want for downhill racing or tackling extreme terrain. It’s durable and incredibly comfortable because the suspension smoothes out the worst knocks and bumps, allowing more control on uneven surfaces. It’s also ideal if you have lower back problems, making riding a smoother experience.

    All this for just…..£139.99

    Rogate anyone?!!

  16. Dave says:

    What worries me is that Tony’s CRC link now goes no where. Some poor sod in CRC buying department is now trying to work out why they’ve sold out of bells……

    Phil, I’m hoping we will get some shirts sorted out soon, either that or we’ll be fixing Moles to the front of the bikes. (notice how I edited out “mounting” from that line). I was at the front though!

  17. Matt says:

    Do you think Tony meant something like this?

    70dB at 1 yard. Should be loud enough!

  18. tony says:

    No that defeats the point of the bell. Bells on mountain bikes are like subterfuge.

    This is what walkers mentally think of when they hear bike bells.

  19. PIJ says:

    Hi Andy661,

    now that is a cool bike! Suitable for any discipline by the looks of things. Pity I’m not a teenager otherwise I’d put all my bikes on eBay and just run with one of those. Nobody would catch me then.

    Dave – I did notice a certain sense of sartorial elegance about you as you zipped by! Stood out from the crowd as a man of taste.

    T-shirts are a bit of a faff; think of them as an expensive and time consuming hobby. UK printing can get lairy – my Surrey cyclist one cost me something like £250 for 30. And that’s before advertising them for sale. In reality even at £12 each I lose money. However, we are mountain bikers – we are not slave to any cost/benefits analysis! The t-shirts are fun to do, and there is a real sense of pride seeing people out and about in them. Just pull your fingers out [of the Moles] and go for it.


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