There are some days when everything feels like an effort. Like the bike isn’t connected with either the ground or your brain. For me, I’m glad to say that today was not one of those days. Perfect weather seemed to bring out a rare spell of highly enjoyable riding.
We had another large group assembling for the traditional Sunday ride at Bockett’s Farm today. I counted DaveC, Kevin, Lloyd, Lewis, Emma, Darren, D’Andy, MarkW, PaulM, Barrie, BiketechMark, Paul, Rob and Andy making up a group of 15 riders.
The morning chill had us shivering at the start, a sure sign the weather is due to change. For today though it was golden leaves, sunshine and nicely damped trails thanks to recent rain so conditons couldn’t have been more ideal.
Almost immediately out of the car park we came across our first hazard of the day (and season) as the 50 yard stretch to the first bridlepath was strewn with hawthorns from a recent round of hedge maintenance by the local farmer. I couldn’t see how, with 15 riders, we would all escape puncture-free but somehow we did which was certainly a good omen.
Dave and I had decided Leith Tower was a suitable run for the group and I headed off up the Admiral’s track with Dave shepherding at the rear. It’s always hard to know how fast to go but we stayed reasonably well-together as we headed to Polesdon, my recent relative lack of miles making itself felt in my lungs, chest and legs.
Our usual run down to Yew Trees and climb up to Ranmore passed without much incident apart from Paul losing his water bottle and only realising a couple of miles later. After a regroup we took in Badger Run before turning down toward Landrover.
I like this descent as it’s one you can pick a tidy line down, which I was in the process of doing up front before Darren steamed past me. At that point I found myself tucking in behind him and relying on the powers of 150mm travel on the bike to get me down in one piece instead!
All safely at the bottom we next crossed the railway line and continued on toward the Rookery. The banter and chat was in good voice today with plenty of snatched conversations to be had through the group as riders caught, passed and generally swapped places as we went along.
The Rookery climb is no longer the technical challenge it used to be, instead a lung tester but not much more. As we paused at the top we ran into Jess and Danielle from Astounding Adventures for the first but not last time of the day as they were out on a guided ride. It was great to catch up with the girls again.
Wolverns Lane, with it’s many meandering turns called. I can’t think of any better way to gain height while still enjoying yourself as the slow turns force a constant need for weight shifts and feathered brakes to make real progress.
As we reached the high top path which lifts you up above the Lane itself I encountered a couple of riders coming down the path at speed and was less than impressed to see they had no intention of checking their high speed.
My understanding is you should always yield to riders climbing but they just charged past after giving me a few moments where I thought I was about to get properly clattered by them. I had a wire fence on one side and a ten foot drop the other and was on singletrack so had few options. They just launched off the side, nearly collecting Andy on the way with no apology. By far the least impressive bit of riding I’ve seen for a while.
We continued on, and despite my tired legs managed to keep a flow going as we headed up to the start of Summer Lightning and then continued on via the bombholes to the top of Deliverance. After that, a few minutes of twists and turns brought us out to the cricket ground.
We met Toby of Dorking Cocks fame here who was busy getting things ready for the November 5 fireworks, although we thought he was just building some platforms with all those pallets!
With a tea break calling we headed for the Tower via a nice roll-in that Dave showed us and then onto some twisty singletrack that spat us out into the gulleys near the foot of the Tower climb. I had to engage the granny but made it to the top via a gently meandering route without too much drama.
Here we indulged ourselves with tea and cake (fruitcake for me) while we watched a load of runners coming up the same climb we’d just completed having set off from Dorking. Fair play to all of them but it’s more fun by bike!
Heading back, we took in Personal Hygiene, which was fun as usual, before working our way across the more open hillside to the cricket pitch again where we continued to see streams of runners. We ducked back into the woods and soon reached Deliverance again.
Maybe it was the fruitcake but I was feeling pretty good and was more than happy to give it a go after seeing Darren just get on with it. Myself and a couple of others (D’Andy?) did it too and I must say I felt quite comfortable. Sometimes I ride it, sometimes I don’t depending on how I feel. It’s not one I expect to do everytime by any means.
I led the field on from here to Waggledance and for the first time in a while could ride my own pace along here without anyone in front. You have such an advantage doing this as you’re not distracted by other people’s lines and I really enjoyed myself with a fast run.
Next on the agenda was Summer Lightning and I was really starting to feel a flow, so much so that each section felt much shorter than usual. I guess I was just going faster than normal as Dave pointed out! Well, it’s all relative.
It was also hard work and leading a group of fast riders back down toward Wolverns was taking it out of me. I had to stop to ‘bunch the field’ (ie. catch my breath) at the crossroads, then it was back on it again. I launched both the jumps along here quite tidily but further back PaulM had a stack which sounded quite nasty even though no harm was done.
We finished our efforts on Leith Hill by retracing our steps down the Rookery and then it was back up to Ranmore via High Mediteranean. I refused the offered White Down climb and with a few riders starting to show signs of flagging I didn’t think Macpherson’s was a fair ask either!
Having reached Ranmore again the group split. Lloyd and I both needed to get back on time (which I barely managed) and Lewis and Emma were glad to shorten the route as Dave led the others off toward Denbies and an extra few miles.
As it was, the return to the car park saw me notch up 25 miles (albeit with a mile and a half from my place) so it was a fair old ride and we hadn’t really been hanging around on some of the singletrack.
If I could place an order, I’ll have a few more days like today please!