Well today was a novelty for me. Getting out on A Sunday Moles ride on my own bike!
After a post Mayhem 2012 period of increasingly severe mechanical issues I’ve finally got the Five back to something close to decent condition, including a new set of Continental Mountain King 2.2 tyres, in contrast to the MudXs that lived on the bike for most of last year.
Today turned out to be a mixed bag riding wise. Generally, all was well but apart from a bit of an off on Golden Nugget the main problem was tiredness this afternoon! That tells me all I care to know about the effects sporadic riding has on you; it’s a bit like when you try a 100 yard sprint after years of sitting behind a desk – the mind is willing but the body just cries ‘enough!’ I’ll make a mental note to try and get out more…
So I had my own bike. That’s a good start but what threw me was turning up first at Bockett’s Farm. For a while I thought I’d somehow got the time wrong, or had turned up late and been left behind. The prospect of chasing riders up to Ranmore didn’t appeal but after a few minutes JonH turned up on what turned out to be his final Moles ride prior to his relocation to Greece. A few minutes later Keith arrived, then Tony, DaveC, Andrew, JohnR, Jez and James.
The biggest shout out was for Holmbury today so that’s where we went. Our pace was relatively leisurely along Admiral’s Track and then things picked up speed as we headed down the top of Hogden Lane, at least until we reached the first soft section at the bottom near Pamplona. With new tyres on I was a bit cautious whenever I encountered patches of mud today as those MudXs I’m used to really do shine where other tyres struggle. Next we turned left up Pamplona and climbed up to pick up the Yew Trees ascent to Ranmore. My instincts were correct in keeping a steady pace as Tony caught me up and then accelerated away up the hill. I thought – briefly – about attempting to follow but then reminded myself it was a longish ride today; I’m glad I did!
Once at Ranmore we headed over to White Down, along Yew Trees and Collarbone. All standard routes for us really but the surface was imbued with the classic summer rain slippiness; basically firm with just a top few millimetres of softness to provide a tendency for the wheels to shear away when you least wanted them to. We continued through Trouble in Paradise and then on toward Abba Zabba where we all chose the flowy chicken runs down. Dave plunged straight over and down Blind Terror, followed by Tony (I think) but I preferred to take the route round and then had a nice big whoosh down the roll-in to the road. Then it was over and down through the Numbskull woods with the Five feeling nice and predictable as the surface dried out.
The only part I’m not wild on currently is the attempt at making the log jump at the bottom into a double. It feels wrong to me as there’s not quite enough space after it before you’re onto the exposed roots (which get very slippery in the wet). I much preferred the flow before when it was a perfectly enjoyable ramp and jump but I could be in the minority. I just don’t think those woods need any gnarlification (Dave said there’s some North [Downs] Shore being put in higher up too).
Anyway after keeping an eye out for roadies (there’s a lot of them about these days), we got back down to riding, over onto the Abinger Roughs and then down Raikes Lane to start the climb up to the Volunteer. Again, nice, steady riding, giving us plenty of time to chat. Eventually we ended up on Holmbury Hill, opting for Car Park No. 9 rather than the Youth Hostel as our entry onto the much grippier, drier, sandy trails of the Hurtwood.
John quickly set about steaming off up the trail, causing consternation behind as he ignored our usual steady route and opted to stay on the sandy and at times quite steep main track. By the time he was disappearing into the distance common sense and a near mutiny behind kicked in and we reigned him back. Our route was quickly recalibrated and we headed off for Yoghurt Pots.
This has had some TLC recently with a new – and much faster – line appearing near the end of the top third of the trail which makes for a better flow. JonH shot off with Tony and I leading the chasing pack behind. Unfortunately Tony’s progress was curtailed by the need to stop to pick up his rear mudguard whie I continued, finding the trail more and more tiring as I progressed. It’s a great trail but hard work when you’re pushing with sudden inclines needing some intense work. Later I was glad to find my Strava time was just 2 seconds shy of Jon’s… as I said today Strava (OK, GPS recording) might be inaccurate, but the times don’t lie!!
Back up the hill we went to the lookout and then a long meander down toward the Reservoir with Andrew and Dave piecing the singletrack together nicely. We passed Graham and friend who are in serious, long mileage mode in preparation for an attempt on the South Downs Way in a Day and judging by their efforts they should be more than capable of it; certainly when I did it I hadn’t put in anything like the miles they are doing. Good luck to them anyway.
With Peaslake calling we had the delights of Barrie Knows Best firmly in our sights. James and I were tail end Charlies as everyone else headed off. The trail was in fantastic condition and I felt very happy with the performance of those tyres I mentioned as the bike started to answer some of my questions of a few weeks back. At the time, on Dave’s Gyro, I found myself wondering if the Gyro 29er was faster than my Five and while I’m still not sure on that one, today I felt I had the benefit of riding a bike that I’m very, very used to. That makes a big difference and despite catching riders ahead and being forced to pretty much ease off in the final third I took a nice chunk off my PRs on BKB. I really enjoyed that one!
After our standard Peaslake pitstop, during which we were threatened with the rain promised for today that never really materialised, we headed out of the village for a half mile or so before picking up the long bridleway descent down to the back of Abinger. My fitness, or lack of it, meant the hills seemed to become more numerous as the ride progressed and while I wasn’t struggling too badly I wasn’t full of beans leading the way. Instead I found myself sighing wearily up the climbs!
Out of the Abinger Roughs we started on the sandy trail along the bottom of the ‘A25 valley’ with Dave and I making rapid efforts to catch up with riders ahead. This section forms part of the mythical Deerleap Completa which has teased with the idea that it should be easy to set a fast time on for over a year now. Somehow the reality is that stringing four minutes of consistent effort together is quite hard, an example being today when Dave and I both caught – but couldn’t pass – riders ahead of us. So it is that my cap is doffed to Tony and in particular Andrew for the opportunity presented to them to set new PRs on the tramp back to Westcott.
Such was their pace that JonH was left behind to make his own way back to Ranmore while we waited for him to appear. Eventually we continued onto the Low Mediteranean climb where after 20 minutes absence Jon surprised us by popping out near the top of the climb after climbing the High Med goat track and indulging in some backwoods trail finding to meet up with us once again.
We were well and truly heading for home by the time we reached Ranmore with just Golden Nugget to come. The trails had turned back to soft again after the delights of the Greensand Hills to the south and this, combined with me catching an edge in the encroaching undergrowth at the top of Golden Nugget quickly had me upside down with the bike on top of me. It happened so fast! One moment blundering along, the next, upside down! After picking myself up I found the whole top section of GN to be rather hair raising as there was not a lot of grip, made worse by sudden doubts over my tyres. How quickly these things change. I was quite careful through the off-camber mid section but felt much better in the final third as the bike and I started to get a bit of air over the sharp ridges and roots.
The ride wound up with us making our way through the Polesdon estate and then retracing our steps along the Admiral’s Track to the farm, but not before parting from JonH at the start of the Admiral’s Track. We wish you well in Greece JonH, enjoy the feta and olives and console yourself that there’s a few KOMs out there that might stand for a while! And good luck to Jon and Al on the Portes du Soleil next weekend.
Arriving home I had 29 miles clocked and even had enough enthusiasm left to clean my bike. But I didn’t do a lot in the afternoon…