Boom! It’s February! And with it, for the first time in a while, a sunny day to get out on the bike. Despite hoping otherwise, turnout was strangely muted, with Elliott, Kev, JohnR, new-boy Chris and myself setting off from Bockett’s Farm under a bright and clear sky.
Our first act on reaching the Admiral’s Track was turn on to the tarmac to avoid the extensive puddles so early into the ride. As it later transpired, this was a sensible move.
This was my first ride for a while as I’d let the weather cheat me out of a lot of activity in January. I’ve also had a fair bit of back ache which all started from a dodgy pedal thrust on my Trek singlespeed in December which had been waking me up at night. I must be getting old.
Fortunately, once on the bike and with a few miles of warm up it doesn’t seem too bad although I’m lacking any real kick to my riding. We continued our warm up with the short drop down Yew Trees followed by the long climb to Ranmore which had me quickly losing a layer at the top as I was by now too hot!
Expecting a lot of mud we decided to miss out Collarbone and pass on Scouting for Boys, heading along the Ranmore Road before ducking into the trees as we neared the Drover’s road to approach White Down from the top. It was indeed pretty mud the trails were quite busy with lots of runners out on some kind of event I think, or just taking advantage to the sunshine like us. It seemed to put most into a pretty good mood.
Despite the glorious sunshine it still paid to pay attention to the ground, with the mud making things pretty heavy going in place and with fallen trees appearing regularly. White Down was an enjoyable blast but there’s still the tree down at the bottom and the surface across the field at the bottom was a bit sketchy. We tracked along past Deerleap Woods and crossed over on Abinger Roughs on what was basically standard XC fare.
Our pace was steady, just enough for me in my present condition to feel I’d extended myself without going over the top. After a rather sideways decent to the A25 via Raikes Lane it was time for the low climb up past Paddington Farm toward Holmbury. This separated the men from the boys or rather the singlespeeders from everyone else with Elliott and John heading us up the climb.
As we continued past the Volunteer and up to Car Park 9 (John eschewing the Youth Hostel route) it started to feel more and more like John had planned today’s route purposefully to break us with climbing. The climb from Car Park 9 was brutal after ten miles or so or muddy climbing already behind us which led us to start ribbing John for his go large or go home approach to climbing.
Things changed when we picked up Yoghurt Pots, after a few minutes at the lookout which gave us a chance to look back and see just how far we’d dragged Chris on his first ride with us. Pretty soon Yoghurt Pots was entertaining us with it’s recently fettled lines which I think flow pretty well. My relative lack of fitness had me feeling pretty sore on the lower third but it was a nice fast, fun run. Then we went uphill again.
But only briefly. We headed directly for Barry Knows Best ignoring some of the usual side-trails as we had our cheese straw sensors locked on at Peaslake.
Such is the way Barrie’s has been built you wouldn’t really know it’s been raining hard for a couple of months. It was in very good condition and I was giving it full beans when my rear tyre starting to go flat on the final third. At first I thought I must have burped some air out on one of the turns but I could increasingly feel the rim making contact with the ground as we neared the end and after catching a rider as well I had to back of dramatically. It was a shame because my time was quite respectable (2:33).
I ended up riding slowly into Peaslake on the rim, which necessitated a long and convoluted emergency inner tube installation after realising the tyre hadn’t burped but punctured, we’d wasted Kev’s CO2, the fix to the hole with a worm didn’t work and the observation that all the latex sealant in the tyre had dried up. Finally, after an extended pumping session the bike was usable again.
We rolled out of Peaslake heading North to pick up Rad Lane and the long bridleway down to Abinger village on the A25. This turned out to be a long pedal downhill through heavy mud – thank goodness we weren’t trying to climb up – with our progress enlivened by a walker standing in the middle of the track and berating us at length for riding down a ‘footpath’. I’m starting to find this constant carping by grumpy walkers is getting pretty tedious. It’s not like we’re running around the countryside demanding money with menaces and loudly abusing everyone we come across, so quit getting so angsty.
After that our progress settled down to grinding out the remaining miles, and I’m sure Chris was starting to think every hill was just a little steeper than the last. After cruising Deerleap (apart from the mud and puddles there were several walkers around, then a group of horse riders further along), we finally started on the High Med climb. This was another steady paced climb, the a little wind on our backs and the bright sunshine starting to feel quite warm.
On Ranmore we chose Dearly Beloved and headed downhill. Dandy had mentioned earlier in the week that there were a couple of tree down but the two or three minor logs on the ground seemed pretty innocuous until near the end when we came across a couple of massive beech trees blocking the path. They might not get cleared very quickly!
The final grind was via the Polesdon estate and onto the bridlepath which was as muddy as you’d expect at this time of year. After parting from John we started down the Admiral’s Track for the final couple of mile when Chris made his first ride distinctly memorable by pitching off the side of the bank and sprawling full length into one of the lakes blocking our path. It was very funny and thankfully he was nearly home as if he’d managed that on the way out it would have been quite miserable. Kudos for Chris for taking it in good sport.
Arriving home I had 28 miles, 3000ft of climbing and very tired legs. Brilliant ride though, it was a pleasure to be out.