This week’s ride report is brought to you by the letter ‘P’. That’s Peaslake and punctures if you’re looking for the concise version.
While we’re talking in summary fashion, the basic facts are three new riders joined us (Graeme, Pete and Al), a range of two-wheeled contraptions (including a ‘cross bike, a 29+ rigid hardtail, a rigid 96er, several 29ers, several not-dead-yet 26ers, four singlespeeds), a long ride to and from Peaslake, lots of climbing and 30+ miles of fun. Oh and at least five punctures.
The fuller story – if you’re curious – is as follows. It’s possible I might have scrambled some of the details as I was starting to flag by the fifth puncture stop but I’ll do my best.
It all started with a chance rendezvous with D’Andy at the end of my road and by the time we’d arrived at the Bockett’s Farm car park it seemed we were amassing a decent sized group. There was Graeme and Pete from the Sussex-based Dirt Devils, a group we’ve seen many, many moons in the past whipping our asses on a fast ride across Headley. Then there was DaveW with a mate, AlanSD off DoMTB who had ridden over from Banstead, DaveC on his orange Salsa, Chris on a nice looking Kinesis FF29, Karl and we were shortly joined by Colin on his Whyte ‘crosser; a far braver man than I in these conditions.
Heading up the Admiral’s Track we were joined by JR on his singlespeed, making our group a total of 11. Sadly, no BigAl today who’d managed to bash his knee the day before, nor Tony or Keith who were out bashing out 70+ miles on the road. Kev was in his burrow, with domestic plans for later that morning and I’m not sure where Elliott was (praying for snow?!).
So a splash down the Admiral’s Track, then down Yew Trees and up to Ranmore with Scottish Al suffering the first puncture thanks to hedge cutting near Polesdon. This soon turned into puncture two when we were up on Ranmore itself!
It’s times like this when I’m reminded how good tubeless systems are (especially if you have access to Dave’s compressor), as I have spent seven largely trouble free years riding tubeless. It’s not a fool proof system but it really does make a difference. I remember once – pre decent lighting – being out on a solo night ride climbing up from Yew Trees when I suffered a multiple puncture-fest from similar hedge cutting (at least six thorns in each wheel!). The memory of that long walk home with no mobile phone, rapidly depleting battery power for the lights and no means of fixing the bike has stuck with me. Scared the willies out of me at the time!!
But that didn’t help Al today. Eventually we were underway again and heading along Badger Run, from where we turned and pointed the bikes down the first technical drop, Landrover. It was pretty claggy in places (mostly just before each rooty step) and a several of us had a few twitchy moments but it wasn’t too bad. How Colin managed on his ‘cross bike I have no idea.
Next up was a run along the valley toward Abinger, with only a particularly low hanging tree and a bath of liquid clay under it presenting any problems for some riders. We continued on to Abinger Roughs and after much slogging up short but unforgiving climbs and a spot of dog dodging we soon pointed our bikes down Raikes Lane to the A25.
Crossing the road we started up the long climb to Holmbury, past Paddington Farm with the first few hundred meters stuck behind a tractor towing liquid manure. It served only to illustrate that DaveC and DaveW (what is it with Daves?) have both been – thankfully – much subdued in the curry department of recent months. The climb itself was despatched without too much trouble but it is a bit of a slog – and so far slogging seemed to be what we’d been doing all morning.
This continued up onto the Hill itself, with a brutal climb on an increasingly well drained surface taking us up to Yoghurt Pots. Here we were greeted with a site I haven’t seen before whilst mountain biking, that of a man prostrate on a large fallen log, having a snooze (or at least a lie down). This was most odd. It turned out his ambition was greater than his current fitness and he’d over-cooked it climbing the Hill (we knew how that felt) and while his mates headed off down Yoghurt Pots, he’d felt the need to rest.
Actually, we were a bit concerned because with the basic clothing he had he was at risk of hypothermia if he really took ill. But after we’d all had a storming run down Yoghurt Pots and met up with his mates at the bottom it turned out they had it under control and someone was dispatched to collect him. As we climbed back up we passed him sensibly heading for home.
So we continued out ride to Barry Knows Best (BKB). The past couple of times I’ve been down here have been terrific but progress was hampered today by a substantial tree which is blocking the trail in the top third. It’s a case of dismount and climb under (with no elegant way of doing that), before trying to get back into the groove. Despite that I really enjoyed myself on Barrys today.
We refueled, as is the MTB-way, at Peaslake Stores before heading for home. With Colin taking the road for a domestic commitment, the rest of us allowed our enthusiasm to lead us into climbing back up Radnor Road in order to retrace our steps home. This, as always, is quite painful after a prolonged halt for food.
Climbing Holmbury Hill from this side is always hard with some short, sharp ascents but after circling the trig point we headed for Yoghurt Pots for the second time. This time round it was no less fun but despite managing to go faster at different points on the trail than the first run I somehow managed to record an identical time. What are the odds of that?!
Our return continued with a run down Telegraph Road, rightly advised by Pete to avoid the gloopy first section and concentrate on the fine running rest of it instead.
By now, time was starting to be a bit of an issue. DaveW and Al certainly needed to get back, with those extra miles to Banstead required and a big climb over Ranmore still to do. We managed to keep the group reasonably together while we climbed up the back of the Volunteer and headed down the Raikes Lane descent (carefully on account of the unreliable furrows) but I could sense people were in varying degrees of distress as we crossed the A25 and climbed back up the steep bridleway to the Roughs.
At this point, John was forced to stop with a puncture and having crossed the field to hold the second gate open I had a long wait while efforts were made to sort things out a few hundred yards away from me. Time clicked on and I was starting to feel cold by the time Karl joined me as the wind had stiffened noticeably through the morning. By the time the group was rolling again Dave and Al had been forced to push on ahead.
We continued to make our way back to Ranmore, passing lots of walkers today who seemed in pretty good spirits and happy – on the whole – to say hello. However, we hadn’t got quite out of the valley before John bike once more ground to a halt – with another puncture.
By now our supply of 26er tubes was dwindling and the wind was making us all cold but fortunately D’Andy and Karl were able to help while the rest of us enjoy a chilly chat. When we finally got moving again and started to climb up Hole Hill John was noticeably suffering with tiredness and another puncture. I even tried to give him a push up the last few yards to little avail. John told us to head on as he was just going to take the last few miles more slowly with repeated pump sessions, so on we went.
Nearly there. Despite the temptation to storm up High Med (on account of my ‘don’t waste a tailwind’ mantra), in truth I was too tired. I managed to spin up without going over 150bpm instead (I averaged 140), which is very unusual for me. After we’d all re-grouped on Ranmore I decided that the time was just too late for me to tackle Golden Nugget so I plumped for the Yew Trees descent instead while the remaining riders headed toward GN.
By this time I was cold, very hungry and starting to feel the whispers of a bonk. So much so in fact that after winching up from Yew Trees I stopped for an emergency gel to get me the final two or three easy miles home. All the way I was thinking ‘please don’t puncture!, please don’t puncture!) as I had no wish to add myself to the list of rubber casualties at that point.
I finally rolled in the front door at 1:30pm with five hours(!) and 30 miles on the clock.
Nice to see everyone today, bad luck about the punctures but despite that an enjoyable Sunday morning.