It was my birthday on Sunday and I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do more than go for a ride in the Surrey Hills with some friends.
With a few dry days promising drying trails and the Dusktildawners returning from their traumatic experience of virtual trench warfare last weekend at Thetford after months of riding as fast and as far as possible in preparation, I fancied a fairly relaxed, fun ride, mixing in a bit of XC with some nice singletrack and a few optional ‘light freeride’ challenges in the Surrey Hills, so I proposed my version of Davebus’s classic 3 Hills Ride.
Riders included Dandy, Jem, Matt, Robin, Amanda, Darren, Robin and Les (?). Robin showed up on a nice new FSR XC – apparently second hand, but looking absolutely pristine (when I see bikes like this I feel a mug for getting sucked into the whole boutique MTB world and spending thousands of pounds on each bike.
As nice as it is owning and riding top notch kit, it really isn’t necessary, as Robin proved during this ride, being one of the first up most of the hills and being one of the only ones completing some of the technical challenges).
The sky was overcast to begin with and Pitch Hill, our first summit, revealed a bit of a view down to the Weald through the low level clouds. Heading on down trails 0 and 1 there was a little mud, but the roots were pretty dry and we were able to set a good, fun pace.
Next was Deathstar, one of the gnarlier descents of the day. Some rattled down the whole thing, others escaped from the steep, rocky descent to take the various gentler, but off camber alternatives, and some pushed and scrambled down.
We rode down to the road next and up Holmbury Hill, starting past the exit to Barry’s, heading past the Reservoir and up to the viewpoint. By now the sun had burned through, lighting the woodland and the view to its best advantage. After regrouping, I attempted to extract the squeaking mouse from my brake callipers with a tire lever and we continued to Leith Hill via Yoghurt Pots (so good we rode it twice) and Upfolds Farm.
At the tower we indulged in tea and cake and sat in the sun chatting for a while. John headed for home at top speed, having made a commitment to his family and the rest of us headed back at a more sedate pace, via the play area, Yoghurt Pots, the quarry and Chocolate Jesus, along with a few other unnamed (as far as I know) bits of singletrack and technical challenges.
By now most of us were tiring and several had to be back at Peaslake by 12:30, so we headed straight back via High Ashes, Holmbury St Mary, Holmbury Cricket Pitch and Holmbury Hill summit once more, with the sunshine and good company making for an enjoyable climb.
We made our way to the Reservoir via singletrack and then took on Barry Knows Best at high speed. The conditions were perfect – just enough moisture to keep the dust packed down and provide some grip and no real evidence of gloop.
A great ride in nice conditions, with no injuries or breakdowns, good cake and company and I think only one off, made this a great birthday ride. Thanks all!