This Sunday proved to be a bit of a last minute affair. Initially the plan was a Swinley ride, but over the course of the week I was reminded that Cycleworks had their annual demo day over at Holmbury Hill, while one of our local Swinley guides was exeriencing a tough week.
So I bailed out and booked up for the demo day!
We’ve been to a fair few demo days with Cycleworks over the years. This time around the format was very similar to previous occasions – plenty of home made cake (mmmm, Lemon Drizzle cake!), 45 minute laps of the Hill and demo bikes from Whyte, Specialized, Orange, Yeti and the odd Niner thrown in.
I haven’t been for a couple of years personally, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover some of the trails included were pretty technical and yes, I’m looking at you Secret Squirrel in particular. With many of the bikes shod with minimal tread rubber it was a bit of an eye opener for some!
More of that later this week. This is a ride report after all and in a fit of enthusiasm I was shocked that DaveC took me up on the suggestion that we ride over to Holmbury to attend, rather than turn up in the car. Actually, Dave may even have suggested it himself.
So, 7:00am on a Sunday (yes it does exist) saw Dave and I meeting at Hylands garage, both of us on 29er singlespeeds, Dave on a Kona Big Unit and me on the Inbred 29er. A ride to Holmbury is a nice test of the cross-country suitability of this kind of bike, especially as we were looking for the quickest route there, which also turned out to be pretty non-technical.
It was just slightly chilly as we set out and I had a few minutes of wondering if Dave had decided to back out or not. But he duly rocked up and we were off.
I think the early start had messed with his head as we headed toward Polesden as he even suggested we took the route under the stone bridge and up past Tanner Hatch. Well, that suited me. With drought conditions at least benefiting the ride quality of the trails we made good time along the bridlepath.
As the stone bridge descent dropped away in front of us I let the Inbred go and shot off down the hill, having a brief issue after the first left hander with trying to stay high on the bank as the bottom of the track is quite heavy with hoof-churned mud. Eventually I dropped into the middle of it as I couldn’t hold the line any further but the bigger wheels dealt with the surface well, despite a brief drop in speed.
Back on firmer ground I picked up speed again. Despite only running the Inbred 29er for a few weeks (I now have 119 miles on the clock) it feels a very intuitive and neutral bike. I have to remind myself it has no front suspension as it seems to float over roots, particularly at speed.
Anyhow, the fun over it was time for the climb. This is where you notice the negative singlespeed and large wheel effects as the drag up to Ranmore is a bit of a grind. Even so, you do eventually get to the top and the benefit of having a small group (i.e. two!) meant there was little waiting around. We pressed on toward Badger Run and Collarbone.
To be honest it was a great feeling to be out so early. There was no-one about and it felt like you had Surrey to yourself and once Dave and I had settled into a singlespeeding cadence the mile seemed to fly by.
We sped down the White Down climb, with only the final section reminding me the rigid suspension has it’s limits as I sensed a loosening of traction crossing onto the high bank. It wasn’t exactly an incident but more of a polite nudge to tell you to concentrate really.
We were cantering along by now, the bikes loping easily past Dearleap Wood toward Abinger Roughs in a still, hazy light as the sun was gradually overwhelmed by mist. Ducking into the Roughs we continued at the same comfortable pace, threading our way through deserted woody singletrack that rises and falls in convoluted loops to the top of Raikes Lane.
From here we could see the mist shrouded Hills ahead of us. It always feels a little odd to ride familiar routes in the reverse of what you’d normally do and as we plunged down to the A25 with steep, sand stone banks to you side and over-grown trees above I was surprised to notice it quite a fast, steep drop!
Steep drops mean only one thing though, which is a long haul up the other side and so it is with Raikes Lane. From the farm on the A25 it’s a long pull up to the Volunteer pub. Dave and I were both expecting worse though, which meant it turned out to be quite an easy climb. It felt like it took the same time to climb as it normally does to descend it which is clearly not right but there you go.
Once on the tarmc at the Volunteer it was just a case of a steady spin up the hill to Holmbury Village Hall in Felday glad. We arrived just as the Cycleworks crew were organising themselves with Dave and I the first to have a look around the bikes, Dave nabbing himself a go on the Orange Five 29er test mule for the first ride.
I’ll transpose his and others thoughts of the bike we rode to this site later in the week and add a word or two about my test rides on a Whyte 29C hardtail and Specialized Epic Comp Carbon 29er. To be honest 80% of the bikes there must have been 29ers and in such a grouping they no longer look weird.
As the morning wore on we saw Jem, PaulM and Colin what’s-his-name turn up for their test rides as well as getting to chat to other riders and sighting Big Al with is riding buddies. Our ride tops are certainly eye-catching!
By the time I’d completed my two test circuits it was time for me to head back to Bookham, with Dave cramming in a few more circuits safe in the knowledge that his other half was going to turn up to drive him home! This probably was a big factor in him riding over in the first place so I wasn’t too surprised.
What did frustrate me was losing my white Shimano 520 SPD pedals; partly my own fault, I put them down while talking to Cycleworks’ ‘tri-girl’ Issy – who is an old friend – and they must have been picked up and put on a test bike. I’d like them back please, but in the meantime, thanks very much to Tom for lending me some XT SPDs to get me home!
So I rode home alone. It was quite nice. By the time I’d reached Abinger the sun was back out and it stayed out for the rest of the day. The climb up White Down on a singlespeed 29er running 32:19 was a bit of an effort it must be said but I was home in just over 50 minutes which is pretty good going I reckon.
All in all, a very, very enjoyable morning covering 28 miles.