It seems somewhat churlish to complain about mud. After all, here at MoleHQ the Muddymoles have defined themselves by it. But really, I think we’ve had enough of it by now.
Putting a positive on it, as we near the start of March, perhaps todays grinding experience of wrestling with never ending Bastard Glue Mud™ was the sign of things improving. No? Not even if the mud is extra-sticky because it’s drying out? No, I thought not. It was simply a case of Too Much Mud.
We did our best to avoid it. We set course for Leith Hill hoping for drier, sandier trails and easier riding but by the time we’d dragged ourselves over from Bockett’s we were all running on empty I think, even though the riding was good fun.
Our group this morning welcomed Rui, new to the area but not to mountain biking and long-absent Darren, as well as Phoenix Tony who has revived – slightly – from a nasty flu to start his return to riding again. I’ve a friend whose sister in law spent three weeks in a coma recently with Swine Flu so it’s good to see Tony recovering. The rest of us were Lloyd, DDub, Elliott, Kev, Karl and Mark. After a bit of ribbing from John on the forum about my non-appearance last week there was no sign of him which was a little ironic.
We set off for Yew Trees and found the Admirals’ Track to be pretty muddy – a precursor to the ride itself. By the time we’d reached Yew Trees, John had magically appeared and Rui had a puncture from the savage thorns along Admirals. We’ve all been there!
So, down, then up Yew Trees, followed by a long slog up to Ranmore and was it my imagination or was even the climb itself, normally a firm surface, showing signs of mud? That became academic really as we crossed the Ranmore Road and headed down Badger Run where there was no doubt that the notorious Surrey clay was in great supply. Darren headed down Wire in the Blood II while the rest of us plugged away to head down LandRover, at the bottom of which could be smelt the burning Scent of Circumspection from our brakes. It was a fun ride all the way down but not one to be too blase about today.
The Rookery loomed and being tucked in behind Darren on the lower slopes I found myself pushing to keep up until a moment of lucidity helped me realise the error of my ways. It doesn’t help to have any delusional thoughts when its so early in the year. Even so, my HR was pushing the limits as the climb took its toll.
After catching our collective breath we carried on up Wolverns with plenty more mud to contend with despite being on drier ground. This resulted in some deep puddles near the crossroads and we opted for MarkyMarks’s alternate route to take us up toward Summer Lightning. Halfway along, Darren generously offered me the use of his Devinci Spartan which I hung on to for much of time on Leith Hill today. I was very reluctant to give it up and found it a significant contrast with my venerable Five.
As we reached the Tower, Tony’s lungs told him to take it easy while Ddub took us off on a magical mystery tour around the lower slopes of Leith. Great and varied were the trails we covered but my goodness they were tiring and as muddy as I’ve seen them. By the time we’d returned to the Tower for cake and coffee I think we were all starting to feel rather second-hand – I know I was. It was chilly and we ended up sheltering from the wind while far off over Ranmore we could see the sun was out.
After refueling, and with Tony back with us after a quite spin round by himself to keep warm we started for home. This was via the all-weather Summer Lightning trail from the Tower, littered today with small kids and excitable dogs. With the luxury of the Devinci this was a blast and despite being set up very firmly it proved to by a very stable and predictable bike to be on, although it has to be said Darren wasn’t showing any problems on my Five. The Devinci was very secure on the front end with the Pike’s its running and this was most obvious to me as we negotiated the rooty mess leading on to Waggledance where the bike went precisely where I wanted it to.
The ‘old’ Summer Lightning’ was next and here again the Devinci excelled, being far less work to go fast than I’d normally expect. After all that, climbing back onto the Five to return down Wolverns Lane was quite a shock to the system, as it felt far less planted with much slower steering. Who knows, perhaps the Four has this sort of thing covered?
From here it was a case of grinding out the miles home, with each of us slowly entering our own Circle of Pain as our legs gracefully but firmly gave up their willingness to co-operate. Every hill proved more of an effort than the last, first Wix Hill, then the long haul up High Med (where we parted from Darren), the the tarmac climb to Ranmore and a fast but vague blast down Dearly Beloved.
That left just the few miles up through the Polesden Lacey estate and the final, awful few hundred yards through the Somme of Connicut Lane. I don’t think I’ve seen the Moles collectively looking so tired as we finished our ride back where we started at Bockett’s Farm, the effects of heavy mud and fairly hard effort leading several to declare varying degrees of exhaustion as we compared Strava notes later in the afternoon.
I’m sure the trails are drying up!?