Well, it’s not an Indian Summer actually. At least not according to some experts on Radio 4 last week.
An Indian Summer should be the term used for a reappearance of summer-like weather in late October/early November after Autumn has had a go at us first, and not merely an extension of the summer we’ve just had. Oh and it also has nothing to do with India…
Be that as it may – and clearly we’ve never had a summer this year anyway – the promise of temperatures in the mid 20°C range brought out a goodly number of moles for a run over toward Reigate. The original idea had been to give the ride a singlespeed emphasis in order for Keith to try out his new Carbon 456 frame and for the rest of us to get our winter bikes prepped for the coming months of darkness but as it happened the group split roughly 50:50.
The trouble with Inbreeding is things can easily get out of hand. My original Inbred was joined by JohnR on his later model, Jez on his Ti 456, DaveC on a 29er Inbred, and Keith on his Carbon spankiness, plus BigAl showed willing with his Ibis Tranny. Hmmm, bike names say a lot about us don’t they?! The rest of the group – by no means inferior for a surfeit of gears you understand – consisted of Karl, Darren, Amanda, PaulM, Rob, Dom and MarkW.
We set off down to Leatherhead, avoiding puncture alley in a bid to get rolling and were soon running along at a reasonable pace with DaveC leading the way. The combination of summer temperatures and autumn colour was a terrific boost to everyone’s enthusiasm levels I think.
Pretty soon it was climbing time on Alsation with the singlespeeders clear to see as most of us were standing on the pedals! Grip wasn’t an issue so it was just a case of grinding out the climb and trying to work out who’s bike was creaking the most. After this it was onto Life on Mars. It won’t be long before this is unrideable as it gets hideously claggy through winter and I was fully expecting to enjoy it in the proper direction later in the ride.
The group was moving well with minimal stops as we continued the climbing onto the Headley with the odd walker helping us by kindly holding gates open. So it was we pressed on en masse toward the North Downs Way, stopping politely for some friendly horse riders. It seems everyone was feeling good today.
At this point we veered away from our usual route to Reigate, taking the alternative ‘Debbie’ route left where the trail splits and heading out to Walton Heath golf course. Most of this passed with me barely noticing as I was chatting to Darren at the back of the bunch. After that we ducked into Margery Wood which I found a bit of a drag as it’s all uphill to the M25 and Reigate Hill. Not steep but definitely uphill.
We turned left here toward the Reigate tea room, I nearly stacked my bike trying to ogle a very nice runner with her dog (I’m like, so totally cool!) and we passed loads of walkers and families as we got nearer to the tea rooms, including hordes of DoE awardists looking even less impressed than usual at the prospect of a long hot walk in the sun.
Next a steaming run down through Gatton and into the woodsy singletrack that was more woodsy and singletrack than usual (maybe half-track) but still good fun, livening the otherwise dull monotony of a circuit of Gatton Park. Back the the tea room, it was onward with no plans to pay the silly prices they charge.
We increased the pace from grunty climbing to a steadier spin as the gentle decline back to Headley was now on our side. The pace picked up to a canter as we continued our Reigate in reverse theme by sticking to the south of the M25 for a change, with a rapid drop down and ound the big field on the NDW which has very little of anything to stop you if you don’t take the right hand turn correctly. The climb up the other is doable – for me with some tyre slip on the dusty surface – and is significantly easier than it was years ago before the clay section past the oak was sanitised. Back then you ran out of gears and power just as the trail turned really slippy.
As it was it was easy enough to keep moving, catch your breath on the drop after and then get the power down going up the green lane gulley which was also helped by a lack of the usual flinty rubble.
A quick regroup, then it was on to pick up the long climb to the Headley car park. I was leading and felt I was setting a reasonably steady pace up here without completely killing myself. I remember on of the first times Tony rode with us and destroyed me (at least) as he led us up here in heavy winter clay. Hope the knee mends quick by the way Tony (how’s that, I get Tony and Debbie into one ride report!).
Ali cafe at Headley was a good spot to stop and rest and she kindly warmed a large Eccles cake that I’d promised myself earlier, even though JohnR filched the only one that had been properly heated. I had to make do with a microwaved one which was one very hot cake. We spent a good time sitting chatting in the sun, so much so that my legs felt dead as we started off again.
We skirted Secret Singletrack and instead headed for Gear Selecta! (or the irony on our singlespeed ride) in the course of crossing Headley to the Box Hill Road. From here, China Pig didn’t just beckon but had (her?) arms open for us. Having ridden this Wednesday night I knew it was riding well but didn’t expect to enjoy it as much on the singlespeed as I had on the Orange. In fact it felt great, I felt I had more tyre grip on the top section than my MudX/Aspen freak combo on the Five, but lost a bit of ultimate speed on the pedally sections in the middle.
Despite all that, and maybe partly the effects of the Eccles cake I found I was working hard enough to feel a bit sick as I reached the final third of the ride, it was seriously strenuous in the high temperatures. Even more so than on Wednesday, I’d given myself lots of space and that translated into an uninterrupted and undistracted run all the way down what is a pretty challenging trail.
As we headed back to Norbury Park both DaveC and JohnR found themselves with punctures, Dave with a long shallow sidewall cut that his tubeless set up just could cope with. So it was time to remind ourselves of how to mend punctures. This process took a while and resulted in the longest stop of the ride – cake stop aside – with JohnR keen for us to point out he got his bike rolling again first. Well, that may be so but we were busy chatting at our end of the group!
The final long climb up through Norbury was rewarded with a fast blast down Infestation next to Bockett’s Farm, once again the Inbred proving a great trail bike. I’ve had this since 2003 and feel I’m pushing the frame harder than ever these days thanks to the quality of the Reba forks I use.
We were soon rolling into the car park with a 28 mile loop finally dispatched and on time for an afternoon of doing as little as possible!