For most of the past week the temperature has struggled to get above freezing, with temperatures – particularly at night – dropping as low as -8°C (about 23 degrees American). On the flipside, by the time we got home at lunchtime today it was 12°C (54F). Flip. Flop.
What it meant for night time riding this week was lots of layers of clothing and dry, hard-frozen surfaces. What this meant for us today was increasingly muddy trails, becoming stickier and more glue-like as the ride wore on.
Which of course was just the day for three of us to turn up with new winter boots.
Only Elliot scored full Dandy points however, for his pair of purple Fizik Terra Artica showstoppers. The man can’t resist a bargain.
At the start
We had quite a turnout today and could have had more. Tony, Elliot, Stuart, MarkC, myself and Richard started out from Bockett’s car park and picked up David (just back from Colombia) at the top of Crabtree Lane. Finally, Lloyd hunted us down at Polesden. That made 8 riders, with JamesS declaring a last minute stay in his burrow.
Not bad for the middle of January.
Overnight rain proved to have left little mark at the outset. The ground was still firm underneath a damp top covering and would remain that way for most of the morning.
After waiting about a bit for Lloyd he messaged to say he’d catch us up due to losing his garage door plipper. As this is Surrey, it could be time for a new garage.
He couldn’t have been too far behind us though, because One Plipper Lloyd caught us as we paused at the start of Yew Trees at Polesden. By then we’d collected David, so our eight-strong group headed onward.
What’s in a name?
The route today is a bit of a classic of ours with multiple names. As Keeper of the Archive, I am going to stick my neck out and say it is actually a standard Newlands run that loops back via the villages to the south of the Ranmore ridge.
Others will tell you it is a Reverse Newlands. I think that is supposed to mean the same route… in reverse. I guess it depends which end of the telescope you are looking through.
Others still have been caught out expecting a Never, Never Newlands run, where we make to go to Newlands then feint to the south and drop down to Shere via Petrol Pump.
Well, today, we definitely went to Newlands first! And from there, on to the Dabbling Duck at Shere.
Up to Ranmore
Most of the climbs to the north of Ranmore have suffered one way or the other from recent tree logging. You can’t have managed woodland without it being managed from time to time.
This has meant our favourite route via Alfred Pennyworth and Dearly Beloved has turned into a mess that the military would be proud to achieve on Salisbury Plain. Similarly, the Tanners climb ends with deep chewed up track near the top unless it’s frozen – c.f. our mid week night riding!
That left us with either Hogden Lane – which is a long grind – or the Yew Trees climb which is a slightly shorter grind after a brief, intense start.
We opted for Yew Trees. Which was exactly as advertised.
Along the top
At least we were still largely smiling when we reached Ranmore. From there we did Wire in the Blood, along Collarbone to White Down and then on to Secret Probation and Sauvage.
It was slippery stuff but I do enjoy this sort of riding where you are hunting for traction the whole time. No sudden movements and just try to balance front grip with forward movement.
Along the way we negotiated multiple fallen trees on the North Downs Way (some of us more successfully than others). A lot of trees have come down from recent winter storms and tonight (Sunday) may bring down more with 60mph gusts suggested.
Next we stopped for One Plipper Lloyd to invoke the Power of Zip Tie by fashioning a bodge for his down tube mudguard. After that, David called it a day as jet lag and a noisy front brake was not a winning combination for him.
Down, then up
We decided to throw in Sauvage since we were passing the entrance. Actually, Tony decided we should throw in Sauvage since we were passing the entrance.
Until that point, One Plipper was determined his recovery riding was going to stick to plan. If Lloyd’s plan was to gradually up the pace as the ride went on, he can put today down as a success.
Anyway, the consensus was Sauvage, so Sauvage it was.
It was running pretty well in fact. Softer than Friday when things were sub-zero, but reasonably well drained and grippy. As always, it taxes you aerobically for two thirds of the run where it can be quite pedally, before heading more steeply downhill over lots of rough roots.
I gave a 45 second head start to the others and caught up just as things got technical. I guess that means I’m ok when it’s flat!
From the sawmill, back up we went, and from there it was easy riding until we reached Newlands Corner.
A stop at Shere
Dropping down Water Lane proved fast and worth paying attention to, as some large gulleys are cut into the chalky track. In some places they are at least 12-18 inches deep and narrow enough to snag pedals if you drop into them. You don’t want to do that.
Crossing the Albury Estate next, things turned more sandy and reasonably well drained before we rolled in to Shere for coffee.
The milder temperatures and our highish work rate lulled us into choosing to sit outside the Yurt (for non locals, seriously a Yurt). But with the prospect of Covid running down the windows in the snug interior space, we opted for outside.
This gave us the chance to reflect on the Laws of Thermodynamics as we rapidly lost all warmth while drinking our coffee!
Home, and a chance meeting
The only way home is up from Shere, sooner or later at least. We went for sooner, with the long climb up Colekitchen. After a slow start I got into a rythmn on the off road section without pushing too much into the red. Did I mention recently I put my Garmin in the washing machine? Well, no heart rate data for me since, so I was going by feel.
While re-grouping at the top we were spotted by MattS as he passed us on his Salsa Warbird gravel bike. He tagged along with us for the next few miles which gave us a chance to catch up. He and his partner Gilly have been busy raising a baby (now toddler) which tends to take precedence over riding.
We parted at the White Down road as our group started to retrace our steps along the NDW and Collarbone, re-negotiating the fallen trees as we did so. Well done Mark!
Then it was Ricin’ Beans to Tanners Hatch and Connicut Lane to home. Or at least, to Bocketts.
A final winch past sandwich-munching Ramblers sat on the side of the brutally steep climb up to the old Polesden estate entrance elicited no more than murmours of surprise. Normally, we would be scolded with ‘could have rung your bell’ but maybe if they are not actually walking they are able to recognise our innate physical prowess for what it is?
Anyway, it was hard work and by the time I got home I’d racked up close to 29 miles. That’s plenty for a muddy ride in January!