As the week has moved on, bringing with it baking sunshine and hot, dusty trails, it seems unlikely that last Sunday morning I was looking out the window wondering if I might have to invoke the Rain Clause. In the end, I’m very glad I didn’t.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Rain Clause it simply states that it is perfectly acceptable to abandon any ride plan IF it is raining before you leave the house. Unlike the immutable Three Laws of Mountain Biking, this is a get out of gaol card for anyone who feels a social obligation to ride when common sense clearly tells them not to.
Heavy showers had been predicted for Sunday prior to the weekend and I was fully expecting ominously darkling skies when I woke on Sunday morning. Much to my surprise, the day dawned clear and sunny and it was game on. Our intention had been a pure XC ride – in Dave’s words – ‘[a] longish ride, low on gnarr, [that] would suit any of the new riders who have been looking to join us recently’. What this actually means is a 28 loop to Newlands Corner; a good leg stretcher but lite on technical riding.
So at the Bockett’s Farm car park were Kev, Dave, D’Andy (nursing sore ribs…), Tony, Elliott and new rider Russ, making seven riders in total.
My back has been causing me discomfort for some six months now, so instead of trying out my newly revamped singlespeed I opted for the Orange, a classic XC machine for the Surrey Hills. We found a bit of mud and some large puddles on the Admiral’s Track and a runner passing in the opposite direction muttered ‘you’ve got the wrong colour there mate’ when he saw my white Intrepid jersey! But really the main problem we had to contend with all ride was the heat and humidity.
By the time we’d reached Polesdon I was already feeling warm in my long sleeved top (you have to wonder ‘why choose that?’), and resorted to pushing up the sleeves. The drop down Yew Trees followed by the steep climb only served to heat me up even more and I settled into a steady effort rather than hammer at the long run to Ranmore. By the time we’d reached the Ranmore Road my back was feeling a bit freer but I still chose to back off on the climbs wherever possible. To be honest it doesn’t seem to make much difference to my back the next day but stretching seems to be the way to go.
By now we had settled into a steady pace, along Collarbone and on to White Down. With pure XC on the menu we dropped down to the south side via the White Down descent rather than the usual Abba Zabba complex which made a pleasant change. I was a bit concerned that I managed to pull my rear brake back almost to the bars (air in my Elixirs…) but it soon cleared and the front was fine. After that it was on to the Roughs where we found a couple of Dorking Cocks for a chat.
So it was hot, the trails were dry and our pace was steady with no excessive thrashing up the climbs. It really was turning out to be the ideal XC ride. We made good progress over to Shere, then Gomshall, then crossed the railway and on to Blackheath, by now riding in sand more often than not. The temperature started to ramp up but despite one or two moments where fat drops of rain spattered us the promised rain stayed away.
More of a problem is how overgrown everything is. I got a good thrashing from just about every bramble and bit of bracken we encountered but that’s high summer for you isn’t it?
Soon we had St. Marthas in our sights. This turned into a bit of a train as most of us followed in close formation while Tony and Elliott disappeared off up the climb thanks to superior fitness and in Tony’s case a very XC and lightweight Pronghorn between his legs (!). They were gone.
After catching our breath we winched up a bit further before picking up the jumpy trail down to Guildford Lane through Liddell Copse. This was great fun and it felt like I had plenty of air, with the Five in its’ element. It’s a shame it was over so quickly as the trail is nicely judged with plenty of space around and over the jumps.
A short drag up the hill on the tarmac rewarded us with a fine view toward Dorking as we emerged onto the downs around Newlands Corner and pretty soon we were queuing for cake at the cafe. Which was to prove our FIRST cake stop of the day… I was disappointed to find they had no Eccles Cakes, so settled instead for a chocolate muffin which was pleasant enough I suppose.
Now even on an XC ride we need a few moments of fun and having primed ourselves with the jumpy trail of St. Marthas, D’Andy led us round the Newlands Corner play area after our coffee break prior to heading for home. All good fun and it’s nice to ride natural bombholes rather than tweaked-by-man trails for a change.
Our return leg was along the Drovers Road/North Downs Way back toward Dorking. This is an easy run, quite an effort when people crank up the speed but quite comfortable today.Dandy had a nice little diversion to show us which started as nice flowy singletrack and proved to be quite entertaining, excepting the root bonanza near the end which confirmed in my mind that it was a dry weather only trail thread. We needed to winch ourselves back up to the Drovers Road again after that and by now I could see people starting to wilt!
We meandered back to White Down but rather than head down Collarbone we headed for Little Endor, a new trail for me which will remain largely undiscovered for a while since it’s so vague and overgrown that it’s basically invisible. I had no idea where I was but just followed Dave who seemed to have some ability to divine where the trail was.
We soon came out on Ranmore and headed back down the Yew Trees route back to Polesdon, Tony making short work of dispatching the climb up under the Two Bridges while the rest of us gasped like beached guppies. All this effort had worked up a thirst so we decided we’d finish our ride at Cafe Domestique in Bookham which is slowly building a business for locals and passing cyclists alike. I thought the cappucino they served was excellent, thanks to Tony (I think) paying for it, while others indulged their chocolate cravings with some chocolate and beetroot brownies…
So, a relatively easy ride technically ended with a second cafe stop and some tired riders thanks to some 28 miles of hot and dusty trails.