The past three weeks have seen us putting in some remarkably similar routes, largely due to the terrible conditions we currently have. It’s been a mudfest, brought home to me on Friday with an arduous slog over to Redhill. I actually had to get off and walk up parts of Alsation as I struggled to turn my singlespeed’s cranks and find traction at the same time!
So today, we kept things simple in line with recent rides. It’s not going to be too long before we can stretch our legs a bit, with crocus showing through in my front garden. But at the moment it’s like the Somme out there…
At Bockett’s we had some obligatory faffing as I turned up having fitted a new tensioner and chain which was too long, causing slipping every quarter pedal turn. Fortunately shortening it solved the problem but for a minute I thought I’d have to return for an early bath. Last minute repairs and fitting new pedals and cleats take their toll.
Eventually, rolling out of the carpark to find the only stretch of freshly tarmac’d road in the county (on a little used farm track!) we had AndyC, Lee, Lee5.5, James, DaveC, Jem and myself. We ran down to Roaring House Farm and on round the big field (I’m guessing it’s called 30 or 100 Acre Field but have no idea how big and acre is!), before turning back up to the Admiral’s Track.
At this stage, the rain was coming down steadily and we found plenty of frozen puddles with an inch or so of fresh water on top. Things got wetter down Admiral’s with enormous puddles blocking the whole track so by the time we got onto the Polesdon Drive we were all unlikely to get any damper during the ride.
We continued on to Yew Trees which was greasy and sketchy before digging in for the long climb up to Ranmore. I just don’t have the same punch I had a few months back on the singlespeed but I’m hoping it’s just the drag of the mud. Today I had no capacity to edge Jem who was climbing relentlessly well today but at least it made a change from following Tony, DaveW or Barrie mid-week!
At one point on the climb Jem went down abruptly as he found the track to be covered in frozen mud despite looking innocuous. The camber quickly dumped him on the ground and nearl accounted for Lee too who was close behind. The rest of us pulled up in a squeal of wet disc brake.
So we turned toward Denbies with senses sharpened for more ice. Rather than take the banzai run straight down the over the loose pebbles we turned and cut down the side of the hill finding plenty of loose slop to keep us concentrating. It was easy to miss braking points but we made it with just Jem overshooting the sharp right turn before we hit more mud on the level track to the crossing point.
With Denbies behind us we turned toward Box Hill for the Box Hill climb. With just the one gear it was all I could do to keep the cranks turning as I followed Jem up the hill. By the summit I’d clocked a time of about ten minutes, painfully down on my best of around 8:30 and well short of Barrie’s 7:35 or so time. Depressing but at least there’s cake to reward you on a daylight ride!
We hung around chatting and refueling before riding over to Happy Valley with discussion going on about inflatable moles. I prefer Hello Kitty myself (Lee can supply the translation) but back to the ride. Down Happy Valley at speed proved to the the usual heart-in-mouth buzz at the top followed by a long rattley descent to the road which had my thighes burning in pain.
After a brief respite we continued to the Mickleham climb up the wet chalky track that proved every bit as energy sapping as it sounds. Once again I had to watch Jem float away from me up ahead but I dug in and started to find my own pace. At the top we continued rather than head over the Gallops since there was unlikely to be any extra enjoyment gained from a long haul over sodden grass.
Eventually we spat out onto Stane Street and set course for Leatherhead and the top of Alsation. Despite a final drag that would have brought ahorse to it’s knees we were soon starting down Alsation. I lead the way, knowing how slippery it was from Friday and I’m pleased to see that my impressions from then were spot on.
Slop, deep mud and evidence of recent hedge tidying all seemed to contribute to treacherous conditions. I lost the front and rear on several occasions and was grateful not to need to stop quickly as the bike skimmed and floated down the descent. To be honest by the time I reached the road I was glad I’d made it as really it was quite marginal. After many years of riding I’m starting to think the trails are in the worst state I’ve seen for a long time, much like our pot-holed roads.
By now it should have been plain sailing but there was still work for us to do as we climbed up past the Water Works alongside the Thorncroft Vinyard. This section has suffered quite badly with the weather resulting in almost zero traction. I had to resort to pumping the bike near the bottom to get it moving up the climb, giving my core muscles a good workout. We then followed the trail to Young Street which produced more tiring effort to keep forward momentum through the slop.
But it was the last of the slop as by the time we’d crossed the road we just needed to climb up the tarmac road to the Bockett’s Farm car park. All in all my ride notched 18 miles and at least the mud was wet enough to drop off easily with a good blast from the hose. These are I hope the dog-days of winter now but with Metcheck being decidely damp about next week, Spring can’t come soon enough!