Today saw my return to off-road riding, my first outing this year. In fact, it was over a month since I’d last been out on the Orange and that in itself was a rare occurrence during the latter part of last year. So it was with a fair amount of trepidation that I approached today’s effort.
It’s not the only riding I’ve done recently. That honour went to the new Specialized Elite road bike in my garage but frankly I hadn’t given myself too much of a work out on that either, just in case. For the next few weeks my motto is going to be ‘Think spin!’ as I ride my way back into fitness.
At the car park today was a fair number of us Moles. Barrie, Jez, Andy661, JamesH, Tim, Emma, Jason, PaulM, myself and eventually DaveC! Our plan was to stay fairly local as we had an idea things were going to be heavy going on this side of the Surrey Hills so we headed out at a leisurely pace toward the Admiral’s Track.
I can’t say I’ve missed the run along here and the subsequent climb up to Ranmore via Yew Trees but it passed easily enough. I was really forcing myself to keep a low gear and low pace and just keep spinning, knowing that too much too soon was just going to leave me feeling fed up with being back to square one.
At Ranmore we turned onto Badger Run which felt rather slippy under wheel. With no winter running I’m in at the deep end with my 2.25 Nobby Nics as I try to get a feel for grip levels. Mind you if you don’t commit to a line you’re always going to struggle aren’t you? So I tried to just go with the flow.
Looking for that flow proved rather difficult as we continued onto Collarbone toward White Down as it’s customary winter surface presented itself. Greasy clay and wet roots, with sections of soft sapping mud found us all drifting and fishtailing our way along the trail and I soon remembered to try and ride in straight lines as much as possible.
At White Down we headed round to the Abba Zabba complex, taking the sensible chicken runs as much as possible. With the damp surface they’re still a bit challenging but being on the Orange meant I had most of the aces stacked in my favour. I’d forgotten what a quality bike it is and was starting to enjoy myself!
The gentle pace we’d been setting continued as we hit the tarmac before turning toward Westcott, running along the valley parallel to the A25. I always enjoy the view down the valley toward Dorking with Ranmore on the left and true to my motto was quite happy to spin along.
Our untaxing route saw us ascend High Mediterranean (don’t even think about suggesting MacPherson’s!) to bring us back up to Ranmore. From here we headed toward Denbies and I finally got to ride a trail the others have been talking about for months.
It’s a tricky run down toward the vinyard, providing a nice alternative to the more established routes and pleasingly avoids potential contact with walkers and other riders which has to be a bonus. Dave’s called it ‘And Then There Were Three’ as it’s ‘the third way’ but I couldn’t help noticing it’s in three sections too which helps the logic! Great fun, my inexperience with it (and Tim in front of me) meant I didn’t clear it all in one go but it looks promising once everything dries a bit.
By the time we reached the A24 I was starting to feel a bit tired so Jem, Jez and myself decided to head back while the rest headed up Box Hill for a tea break and a few extra miles.
Our route back included the Crabtree Lane climb and Jem’s favourite (River Run) which hadn’t been on my agenda but I got talked into it. Enjoyable though it was coasting rather than caning it along there I was glad I’d made the decision to quit early. I wasn’t suffering a dreaded sugar dip by any means but I sure felt like I’d been on a bike ride and was happy to call it a day.
All in all, probably the best part of 19 miles in mixed conditions. It was great to finally see everyone again and to see the sun as well, a bit of a bonus after weeks of shivering from home to car to office. Most important of all, I can start to call myself a cyclist again!