Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 18 November – Swinley

Posted by Matt | November 20, 2012 | 9 comments so far

The moles at Swinley

It might sound hard to believe but I haven’t been to Swinley in over 18 months. The subject came up on the way back from Wales and after finding out that Yoghurt Pots was going to be closed for maintenance at Holmbury, a plan was swiftly hatched.

This was helped no end by DaveC wanting to try out his new tow bar mounted bike rack. Despite the comedy looks of a tow bar rack on such as small car (we wondered if it would tip up at the back), the plan was to take Kevin and me with three bikes on the back.

It didn’t quite work out like that. First time teething troubles trying to find the optimum arrangement of three full sus machines meant Kevin ended up driving himself anyway (sorry Kev!) but eventually we made it to the Lookout car park where we were joined by JohnR, Al, JonH, Mike, Dandy, Andrew and Lloyd, making ten in total. After a bit of pre-ride faffing, we were off.

Dave’s plan was to try riding the Labyrinth/Deerstalker complex early in the ride when we had some energy and to try a few runs up and down. So we headed over, with the first mile or so revealing the trails were holding up well despite a few sloppy roots. Such a contrast to the Welsh slate of last week but with a low sun struggling to clear the trees and the tail end of a bit of frost it soon got us warmed up.

Passing the denuded jump gulley proved too much of a temptation for a couple of swift run but I could have done without coming I unclipped on the first tabletop proving my poor technique. I redeemed myself with clearing the double at the end, then we regrouped and headed onward.

Reaching the top of the Deerstalker complex showed the place was slowly filling up with riders massing. We headed off on the easier run, Deerstalker, and were soon carving our way down the trail, my recent Llandegla experience helping me no end. At the intersection we took the quick exit and then hauled our way back up the hill for another run.

Our group started to split up, with different people taking in different runs. I followed ‘fingerless’ Kev down Deerstalker, probably too close for his comfort, then the next run was my chance to follow Dave down Deerstalker 2. This proved a bit of a challenge on the gulley at the top which was buried under a mass of dead leaves but you just needed to let the bike run.

After another enjoyable run I returned to Deerstalker again although I’m not sure I rode it any better for sessioning it. My final run was Babymaker, following Dandy’s exuberant efforts over the tabletops and even managing to get one just right. Such a great feeling, Babymaker still makes me laugh for the time an over-enthusiastic Colin stuffed his saddle rails on an unfortunate landing.

With tiredness setting in we finished the complex via Labyrinth which I attacked as much as my tiring lungs allowed, finally carving the last turn too hard and finding myself in a gloppy morass blocked by a tree, something I think had been done by plenty of other riders before me.

Once we’d regrouped we headed off to the other side of the woods with Stickler our target, reached via Seagull. The lack of one-way running means you have to keep alert for riders coming the other way on all these trails.

It was my first experience of the new, extended Stickler complex and what an exhausting trail it is. Loads and loads of berms. If you want berms, this is the place to come. Big berms, small berms, berms filled with water, tight berms, open berms, slow berms, fast berms. Berms!

To be honest, while it’s a great warm up early in a ride and a good place to hone your skills – and let’s face we all need to practice riding berms – I can’t say I cared for it greatly. Maybe it’s just too long, maybe it’s the very artificial feeling nature of the man-made surface, maybe it’s the fact it’s hard to find a flow, but for me it was a bit underwhelming. Maybe it just needs some gradient to it?

Crossing over to Tank Traps it was more of the same really. I just found the surface (made of concrete-grade aggregate) too bumpy, too tight with too little grip to really enjoy. Don’t get me wrong, I was having fun for sure but I felt things weren’t gelling for me compared to the loamy surfaces on Deerstalker. It might just be that I had been spoiled riding Wales last weekend.

We finished the ride with a run down Corkscrew before heading back to a very busy Lookout for the obligatory tea and cake. Eccles cake, since you ask and very welcome it was too.

Overall, that made a great change to our normal riding on the Surrey Hills.

Filed under Rides in November 2012


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.

There are 9 comments on ‘Ride report: Sunday 18 November – Swinley’

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  1. Dave says:

    Really enjoyed the ride even though my lightheadedness and weird heart rate, which didn’t look too weird as an actual trace, put the dampener on the first section. I loved being able to do the Deerstalker area with some energy and feel more in control on the “slidey, slidey” sections.

    Just to correct a slight error in the track listing above, I’m not sure what the section is from the Hydrant to Stickler but Seagull is the section from the concrete blocks to Corkscew I believe.

    Really excelelnt and next time I’ll be able to take 3 bikes with some more prep and by ignoring the silly Thule clamp system.

  2. Andrew AKAK says:

    A lot of fun as usual. Conditions were pretty good apart from the low sun which made some bits tricky.

    Looking back I actually got better at the Deerstalker climb as well as the run down over repeated attempts!

  3. John R says:

    Swinley was a good suggestion and the conditions were very decent considering the rain we have had recently. And Dave’s revised route gave it all a different perspective. I think Matt suggested we should try and get out there once a month, to really get to know the place – if the Surrey Hills remain wet and greasy, that may be a god idea.

  4. Big al says:

    Great ride , really enjoyed riding my mojo again . It’s nice to have gears for a change !! Put in a Big effort on Stickler to improve my Strava time and got a PB but still only 40th place over a minute behind the KOM !!! . Cheers for leading the way Dave .


  5. KevS says:

    Really enjoyed Swinley again as it never seems to get too muddy compared to some of the trails we ride in the Surrey Hills.
    The suggestion to go there more often is a good un, especially through the dark wet winter months.

    Matt, cheers for hassling my rear wheel down Deerstalker. As it turned out it was a PR for me, albeit at glacial speed compared with you hardcore gnarr shredders!

    • Matt says:

      I’m not too sure how reliable Strava is in the these circumstances. My trace for Deerstalker is wildly different on each run and I can’t work out why the turn onto Labyrinth from the clearing is so far from the exit of Deerstalker which is only 10 yards away in reality.

      Also, you were still faster Kev than me on the day (but obviously not on that run). Dave also posted a quicker time than me and if I’m honest I can’t quite work out where I’m giving away ten seconds to dizzy Dave(!) and 6 seconds to 9-fingered Kev(!). I’d think we were all quite close.

      But if we are going by Strava’s claims then my time down Stickler of 8:55 (which included 20 seconds or so lost to riders holding me up and a complete stop at the intersection in the middle trying to work out where to go while waiting for riders to go past) is something I’m quite pleased with!

      I reckon with all those berms I could improve if I dropped my forks down a bit.

      I see Dave and I hammered Tank Traps though (very much relatively speaking…)

      • Dave says:

        Dude, I was totally stoked Stalking the deer man, it was badass! Railed.

        Anyway, the thing about strava in those conditions is it isn’t accurate, “period” as the Yanks say. With the lands stations working working you are no better than 3m in ideal circumstances. With that amount of trees around the conditions are far from ideal. It’s fun snake oil!

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