Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 13 February – It never rains

Posted by Matt | February 13, 2011 | 20 comments so far

It never rains when I have my MudXs on my bike. Well, that truism lasted all of 8 days before they got their first proper test in the Surrey clay on a cross country run to Reigate and back. They gave a pretty good account of themselves too.

That aside, having managed to avoid the chap for months, we once again bumped into PIJ as we rode ‘his’ route to Gatton Park and Reigate, via Walton Heath.

Meeting at Bockett’s as usual we had Ray, Keith, Barrie, PaulM, DaveW and myself, just the six of us today as DaveC remains unwell – must be catching! – and some of the others had Swinley on their mind. Barrie didn’t fancy Leith, we did Newlands last week, so Reigate it was!

The rain was never far away today although to be fair it was disappointing more than anything else after Saturday’s perfect blue sky weather but at least it was mild, as long as we were moving. It was soon obvious that the dry trails of Wednesday have given way to winter mud – if not slop – as we headed for the Alsation climb.

My fitness is improving rapidly but I’m still no where near the form I had last summer and climbing Alsation hurt, with a sprightly DaveW and Barrie up front and Ray ahead of me too. Half way up we met Lloyd and his mate, both nursing hangovers and clearly suffering. After trailing us to Tyrells Wood they left us behind, obviously preferring to die alone! They were headed to Reigate too.

We pressed on, skirting Headley and heading down the long run toward the Epsom Downs under the motorway. My bike continues to feel fantastic after its’ recent wheel and tyre upgrades, money well spent in my view. Passing under the motorway we passed a runner who had paused for us and I’m pretty sure it was my old PE teacher, Mr Mitchell. I guess I should have stopped and said hello but suspect he wouldn’t have had a clue who I was!

Onward up the long drag to the road, once again Barrie and Keith had pulled away but we had DaveW, Ray and myself in a train, all of us suffering as we put the hammer down. With no wish to back off it was a relief to finally reach the road for a breather, waiting while Paul caught us on his demo Ibis Mojo that he was trying today. A lovely looking bike that clearly wasn’t designed for a Surrey winter.

Heading onto Walton Heath we managed to get a little off track and were surprised to see Lloyd and his mate again making steady progress as we regained the correct path – clearly they had not been too far behind us. We split from them again at the golf course where our lack of GPS was showing as Barrie and I tried to force fuzzy brain cells to recall the exact route.

Fortunately, our collective memory was ‘good enough’ and we soon had everyone back on track with a few minor excursions. I picked up a hawthorn at one point and prevaricated over removing it, knowing it was a going to be a fair sized hole. When I did pull it out, there was an immediate hiss of air leaving the tyre but after rotating it so it pointed directly at the ground the latex in my tubeless set-up did it’s job. I was underway again within 20 seconds, very pleased to be running tubeless.

We soon popped out on the A217 and followed it for half a mile before crossing it and picking up the trails again. Paul remarked that the noise and rush of the road really contrasted with the peaceful surroundings we were enjoying as the normal world rushed about its business. We weren’t hanging around though it must be said, short sharp climbs interspersed with stretches of flat farmland.

I could feel the wind had picked up with a chilly blast and there was rain in the air but at the workrate we were at it wasn’t hardly a problem. Before long we’d started on the fast descent back under the motorway and down to Gatton Bottom which I think we all enjoyed as it was pretty quick.

From there it was a long drag up to the Tea Rooms. Thankfully at that stage we were oblivious to the challenge PIJ had set to see who can climb it the quickest. Regardless, it wasn’t going to be me today as Barrie, DaveW and Keith took the lead with me having to make do with fourth in the race to rendezvous with DaveC and Jem for coffee. We also caught up with Lloyd and friend again who had made it there despite their handicap.

Ray and Paul were both suffering from their tyres on the greasy climb whereas mine did perform remarkably well, seeming to find traction in the thickest mud. Throughout the ride today I found myself warming more and more to the Bontrager Mud Xs as they went about their business with the minimum of fuss, finding traction in the unlikeliest places and sliding predictably when the laws of physics took over.

At the Tea Rooms we once more bent over and let the Urban Kitchen take unseemly advantage of us, although we’re getting wise to them. I contented myself with a Snickers and coffee, getting change from £3 and next time will bring my own provisions. It’s a shame because normally we’re happy to pay for food as it means you’re supporting a local business, but when they’re taking advantage of you it wears thin. Even the attractive dog walker we got talking to felt the same.

The ride back started badly as we had all cooled quite drastically in the biting wind at the Tea Rooms. It took a long time to get some heat back, way past the Monument at the top of Colley Hill but by the time we’d ducked into the shelter of the trees on the other side of the M25 and had started on the singletrack things were better. Riding along the exposed Colley Hill you could see the rain and wind driving in the from South so the trees helped a lot.

The singletrack was quite testing as it was mainly clay and roots but it’s not hard to find an enjoyable flow through here and my trust in the MudXs continued to grow. By the time we’d slithered back onto the road I was well happy and we started to gradually crank up the pace as the six of us proved surprisingly able to maintain a consistent spin.

We flew across the golf course where I had the feeling the wind was helping us or at least wasn’t blowing full in our faces. Barrie was hampered by topping out on his singlespeed as the rest of us snicked into higher gears. By the time we reached the road no-one was cold anymore.

Back round onto Headley, the notorious stretches of thick mud proved no hindrance as long as you picked a careful gear and line. Pulling up the hill I was leading but starting to tire when PIJ and a mate came into view. The resulting chat was just what I needed at just the right time. It’s beginning to feel like a game of Where’s Wally as once you know what to look for you start to see him all the time!

Secret Singletrack presented itself next, after we parted from Barrie and I shot off down there, seeming to hit things just right as the bike with those wheels and tyres felt to sorted. I lost the front end to a sliding rip of a sound on roots as we rounded the tree by the gorse bush but just kept going without too much drama as the bike seemed to know it’s own way down the trail. I loved it.

My hopes we high for Life on Mars once we’d reached Tyrells again but alas the trail is in a poor state after a winter of use. The top half is thick with mud that’s hard to negotiate with any finesse and the off camber sections just want to throw you off the trail entirely, while the logs – easily negotiated – are there to stumble over when you’re running relatively slowly. Normally the pace is quicker and flow more obvious. It’s not until you reach the lower woods that the trail dries a little as you climb uphill and the smiles start to return but even so, today you needed a good imagination to realise why this is normally such a cheeky trail.

The last part of the journey was a blast down Alsation, friskily leaping the road crossing before reigning in our enthusiasm at the final turn with horses ahead of us. My legs had felt tired al ride but I was pleased at how they were hanging in there and by now I was feeling very comfortable despite the slowly increasingly rainfall.

The day ended with a final drag to the car park up the tarmac before we parted and headed home. I had 25 miles on the clock and we were back by midday which was a measure of how fast we’d been going in pretty heavy conditions.

Filed under Rides in February 2011


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.

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  1. Lloyd says:

    My mate and me were feeling exceptionally rough after a late evening with plentiful wine. Not feeling up to mole ride we decided to take a leisurely ride to Reigate. I was therefore surprised when the moles hove into view at pace and even more dissappointed (farewell leisurely ride) to be invited to tag along. Not wishing to spurn the friendly invite we agreed but after a brief and painful attempt to stay with the group we dropped off again. However, with a few (well quite a lot actually) judicious shortcuts we made it to the tea rooms ahead of the group. The long slog up seemed to have cleared the worst of the hangover and the ride back was very enjoyable. Got back in better shape then I left.

  2. pIJ says:

    Ha ha! Nice to have bumped into you guys again – and apologies for not recognising you initially; I was having severe vision problems and could just about make out the trail, let alone faces. By the time we bumped into you I’d been off the trail and into the gorse more times than I care to remember.

    Glad you’re making use of that route; lots of variables, and I avoid the A217 on the backwards leg – go straight over the island instead, follow the road for a km and take the bridleway to the right. It’s not an interesting diversion though – possibly better to take a 2nd right at the sign and go straight up to the Sportsman. I’ll have to datalog a little circular around Banstead Heath for you.

    You were not alone in wanting a break. There appeared to be an Evan’s Sportive on, and each and every rider looked a tad miserable. Perhaps not the best conditions to be introduced to the Surrey Hills. But then again perhaps it was as we had an absolutely cracking time. Well we did until we hit Colley Hill again – we stopped in the shelter of some trees to watch the rain curl up and over the hillside. The north side of the hills was where it was at yesterday.

    Coming down Reigate Hill was interesting….. My mate Stu [AD] had worn out both sets of brake pads by then and took the hill sideways.

    25 miles was good going; 5 more than we managed. Wonder how the sportive lot faired?

    Oh, the wheels look trick by the way!

  3. John R says:

    Mud Xs, Mud Xs, Mud Xs . . . . . will there a a positive review of them soon on the MM website, Matt? Mine are sitting in the shed waiting to be fitted but I won’t have a chance to do that until the end of the month – which will probably precipitate a change to drought conditions for the Mole Valley.

    I got out early Sunday for a quick blast up The Rookery and along Wolvens Lane, getting home before 10 for my youngest’s 18th birthday and before the rain really set in. Hopefully see you all in a couple of weekends.

  4. Tony says:

    I slept in! Usually the boy wakes us up early but not this weekend. I’m not sure whether this is progress, alarms for Sunday morning?

    I must say I wussed out and did an hour on the turbo trainer rather than heading out in the rain on the road.

    • Matt says:

      Shame on you Tony! I was expecting to see you even though you’re ‘girly’ comments on the forum suggested you were mentally not up for it!

      You missed the chance to go out and get properly muddy on the Surrey Hills. I had to hose myself down as well as the bike yesterday but it was a good workout.

      See you next time etc.

  5. kc says:

    It was a gloopy ride! Energy sagging but great to be out with you guys again and the pace was pretty impressive given the mud.

    Just can’t wait for the dust to arrive and sitting in this sun-baked office the weather gods seems a little unfair today.

    My recollection of the MudX from the Rockhopper was very positive; in stark comparison to the lack of grip with the tyres I had on the 5 yesterday which seem much better suited to slate and rock. (Panaracer Rampage)

  6. paul901 says:

    After a long road ride on Saturday when the clouds were merciful for 4 whole hours I watched my Daughter’s horse-riding disintegrate on Sunday morning. She needs to take a break or take in some 1-to-1 having reached one of those progress-blocks and we’ve all been there with one or more activities in our long years. I’m not sure whether to be pleased or not that I may return to the Sunday rides regularly as a result.

    I take it Mud X is a winter tyre and that the FireXCPro I have are for fairer weather?

  7. StevenD says:

    @Paul901, Mud-Xs are great in any conditions and especially mud and snow. They grip well and the mucky stuff clears quickly so most riders use them from October-March/April.

    You could use them all year, but the payback for some incredible grip in technical areas will (obviously) be a lack of speed on dry, firm ground.

  8. PaulM says:

    man that was tough going! But in many ways the conditions i wanted to test the ibis in. I wanted to see how it would perform xc as a potential all year round bike. Shame i didn’t have more appropriate tyres though. I just couldn’t generate any pace at all with those clagged up nevegals and was dropped on everything not downhill!
    But all credit to the others, they were flying anyway!

  9. Barrie says:

    Hi All
    great to be out again and although it was raining and muddy, it was still good fun. Mind you as somone else mentioned it was hard work! and talk about having to hose myself down when i got back!!

  10. pij says:

    The Reigate Hillclimb now has a name – 5 minutes of Hell. I’d originally suggested a start at the Gatekeepers’ Lodge, but this has since been moved to the road gate just past the Millenium Stones on Gatton itself. Follow the bridleway to the top – right hand path, stopping the clock at the Gatton information board just prior to the roadway.

    My night ride tonight I did it in 06:59. Muddy conditions.

    As a comparitor I can do Box Hill in 08:30 so I’m no whippet. Age 45, so Senior Class?

    No gauntlett laid down here – just a personal challenge.

    [For a bigger challenge just start at the Gatekeepers hut – my time 12:24]

    • Matt says:

      Oh dear Phil, now you’ve done it. This is on my ride home tomorrow so I’m going to have to try timing myself now.

      When it started from the Gatekeepers Lodge I could ignore it as I ride two thirds of the way up Wray Lane before heading round the back of Gatton to this point, now I have no excuse!

      But it is very very muddy out there (he said, getting in his excuses early)

  11. PIJ says:

    Yeah, there’s always a danger of spoiling a ride once you start timing things – Box Hill used to be a happy little daydreaming plod before I discovered DOAMB; now it is a nightmare. I’m pretty sure I lost a riding buddy because of starting the timings.

    But then again, how do you know you’re getting any better or fitter if you don’t start to measure things? It’s only a few minutes…. and in any event you’re a whipper-snapper so sub 5 minutes there. Ha ha!

    Go Matt, go Matt, go!

  12. PIJ says:

    That’s an odd route to take back? If I may ask, why do you go that way? Surely it adds considerably to your journey home? I can understand going up Wray Lane, but then cutting back to Gatton does not compute. I can only guess on traffic avoidance?

    • Matt says:

      It does sound odd doesn’t it but there is a logic. Bear in mind when I ride on my own I tend to push it (something to do with adrenalin I think).

      Riding cold from Redhill town centre is a bitch, so I prefer not to ride to the top of Wray Lane, especially when it’s dark and the cars hoon up there. As soon as I can I turn right round the back of the house and into the woods, then give myself a rest (OK, a fast blat) down to the school and the memorial stones).

      Then it’s the pain of the climb, much, much worse when you don’t stop at the tea room but continue onward to Colley Hill. From there I can take my normal golf course route home.

      If I continue up Wray Lane I still get a painful climb (especially if I turn off into the woods to go UP and avoid the traffic), at least this way I get an extra mile or so and a slightly gentler climb – all things being, er, relative!

  13. pij says:

    Makes sense, as the guy I ride with looks a sweaty mess once he’s climbed to the tea rooms on the road…. and locals like me cut the corners going up in their cars at speed!

    Have you tried north out of Redhill on the A23 to Carlton road, then upwards from there? More of an even drag upwards and you’d get into a good rythym. You could then do the full Monty from the gatekeepers’ cottage!

  14. pij says:

    …not do a “full Monty” in the sense of the film! Oh dear, I’ll set the howling Moles off again on a pervy detour…

  15. pij says:

    Who was the dolt that invented this “5 minutes from Hell” ride then? Today, in the mud, I took 08:51 – two minutes longer than I did the other day.

    This is not an easy option as compared to Box Hill….

    • Matt says:

      You’ve only got yourself to blame Phil, I meant to say I timed myself on Friday, when I climbed it trying to keep my HR under control (topped out about 165, or thereabouts I think). Set a time of 6:45.

      I reckon it’s going to get a lot faster as it dries out and as our fitness improves but don’t want to get sucked into timing myself every time – it’s hellish enough already!

  16. pij says:


    6:45 is good going in the gloop – I think it helps if very few people have been along the trail. Wednesday night it was OK, but this morning it was really churned up and I had no grip from the rear in any gear. Naturally I was a little mad at myself for having started all this off in the first place.

    Other than that the ride was, well, actually it never improved at all and the mud was awful – see for my photographs.

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