An early downpour left many of us with a bit of a problem this morning, hesitating over riding at all and if so, what to wear. Not an easy choice given the likely warmth of the day but by the time we’d all met and covered a mile or so I think everyone had worked out their best compromise.
As it happened, it didn’t ride at all during the ride!
Today’s numbers were always going to be hard to predict. Keith is away, Lee was mentally broken last week (sorry Lee!), Jem remains mojo-less and Colin and DaveW were planning to be out scouting new trails with the Diary of a Mountain Biker folks. Even so, we managed a decent number of 11 riders, including JamesH, D’andy AndyC, Jez, Tony, Barrie, DaveC, JamesS, Paul, Mark and JohnR all ready for a run over to Newlands Corner (pictures of the day are on Flickr).
The Five count amongst us was also high with DaveC, myself (finally!) and JohnR all riding Orange’s popular workhorse. John’s was a demo model but he seemed very happy with it… For me, it was a first time in 700 miles or so to be riding again with gears again which took a bit of adapting to, plus the bike is probably 3 or more pounds heavier than my singlespeed. Even so, it was fun to have some rear suspension again.
So off we went along the Admiral’s Track toward Polesdon for a fairly standard route up to Ranmore. I found it noticeably different to the experience on the Inbred and remain troubled by the need to sort a few things on the Five from a maintenance point of view; plus of course that extra weight was soon felt.
We all dug in and soon found ourselves up on Ranmore where there was a good few riders around. I don’t know if it was from the Denbies Wiggle event this weekend or not and although not overrun by numbers of riders, there were certainly more about than usual.
We carried on to Badger Run and then Collarbone which was a lot less dusty than the other night thanks to the morning rain. Despite this, the additional effect of the damp was to make the roots quite slippery!
At White Down we turned toward the Abba Zabba complex via the short sections of singletrack. I was making the most of the Five but didn’t wholly trust those roots particularly as I’m still running very worn Fire XC Pros. My plan to buy some Nobby Nics has been thrown by DaveW putting fat 2.25 Racing Ralphs on his Cotic and by AndyC saying he found NN’s a bit slippy and Mark making another vote for the RRs. Maybe a 2.25 NN at the front and 2.25 RR at the rear might be the way to go?
At Abba Zabba we watched first Tony, then Mark, then Andy make unsuccessful attempts on it, Andy nearly disappearing into orbit carrying a lot more speed than was reasonably required to make the turn! Very funny!
After that Jez managed it and Andy went back for another go which paid off this time. Me? I went round the techy chicken run of course. My mental block on Abba Zabba doesn’t extend to Blind Terror II though, which I rode feeling extremely comfortable, after a long pause while Barrie repaired a flat. Again, Andy rolled this too before we all took on Blind Terror 1, rolling up the high bank on the other side.
To be honest, we’re not sure of the names of these runs although we know they apply to this neck of the woods. It’s just that recently we’ve heard different sections being called different things so who knows if we’re right or not? Still, you get the idea.
Over the road and Barrie suffered a frightening moment by getting a wobble on down the steep roll-in, ending up unclipped with his legs flapping in the breeze but fortunately with no serious harm done. Dave then showed us how it’s done and several others followed with the rest of us picking noodly lines (but just as enjoyable) down through the trees toward the road. I even had a nice little jump over the log at the bottom!
By now we were down on the valley floor and soon settled into a steady rolling pace through the Abinger Roughs and on toward Newlands via Shere and Gomshall. It wasn’t technical, just a nice steady ride through the Surrey Hills. One of the things about the Newlands ride is that you feel you’re actually travelling somewhere and by the time you reach the final climb you certainly feel as though you’ve arrived!
I was in the forward group for the climb and would like to say the half dozen Land Rovers we met coming off the hill put me off. In truth though I was just about hanging on to Barrie who was singlespeeding his way up, while JohnR showed what a fine XC machine the Five can be sometimes by disappearing off ahead at speed.
By the time we’d covered two thirds of the climb Tony drifted past us too but I had no legs for the fight. It could be the 74 miles I’ve done since Wednesday night but really I’m just not fit enough to sustain those kinds of 100% plus a bit more climbs. At least my recovery rates are looking pretty quick these days though.
Eccles cake, coffee and the sight of the attractive girls grilling bacon in the kitchen at Newlands partially revived me but it wasn’t long before the wind chill was pulling core temperatures down. Getting underway again we headed back toward Ranmore via the North Downs Way.
It was another fast-ish pace along the tops with the odd stop here and there for diversions. First we took a turn riding the strange circular concrete thing, trying to see how many could get in on the action. About half a dozen I think it was before JamesH slipped down the slope, knocking off his Bud bar end cap in the process (look out for a review of the Mucky Nutz bar end caps shortly).
Once back on the Drover’s Road we turned into the trees to take the track to the underground reservoir near Abba Zabba, having an enjoyable times twisting between the trees on a very rutted but hard baked path that had me pleased I had full suspension. We passed a huge expanse of bluebells in the woods too which I’m sure will be a familiar sight over the next few weeks. Perfect springtime.
Collarbone and Badger Run in reverse were punishing over more roots and I think we were all starting to flag by the time we reached Ranmore. Saying goodbye to Mark and Paul we steamed down toward Yew Trees at high speed; I kept expecting to see walkers but the way was clear all the way down as I cranked the big ring.
Things were a little lairy at the left hander back onto the final run to the Yew Tree climb where I found myself having to brake hard for the turn on loose gravel. I nearly didn’t make the turn at all but managed to slow just enough and then it was a question of digging in for the last uphill slog with gritted teeth.
And that was it really, 26 miles in total across the North Downs at an average pace (believe it or not) or 11mph – not bad for such a large group it must be said. Well done all!
I was knackered in the afternoon though!