You might have thought that the long hot summer of 2018 has been barely marked by the Moles, but you’d be wrong. Even so, for our first get together after the holidays the weather decided to take a turn for the worse.
Over recent weeks we’ve had riders in the Alps on road bikes, riders in the Alps on mountain bikes, riders in the Loire on road bikes, riders in Cornwall, riders in Yorkshire and even – stretching this story a bit further – riders in Canada. Yes, we’re led to believe that even West Coast D’Andy has been joining in the fun.
All this is to say it’s been hot and we’ve been busy enjoying it to the full. But change is a-coming or at least today, we got a little reminder that nothing lasts forever. Maybe those extortionate parking charges at Bocketts Farm might one day be rescinded too?
So, after celebrating Tony’s 50th this weekend (Happy Birthday Tony!), I was inspired to join a Sunday ride once again. We met sort of at or near Bocketts (see above), in a group that included Kev (retired), Jem, James, Mark, Tony, Lloyd, Elliot and myself. Mark very nearly didn’t get further than his first turn of the pedals after finding out the hard way his stem needed tightening but pretty soon we were underway.
Jem was our conductor for the day and his ride composition started with a run down to Leatherhead and then a climb up Alsatian to the accompaniment of a chorus of groans. There’s a reason we don’t often drag ourselves up here these days and it involves the words ‘slog’ and ‘hard’. JR would have been sorry to miss it.
Despite this, the pain didn’t last too long and there was a good reason to get on with things today. Rain was predicted for 11, which meant we didn’t have the luxury of gentle progress. Once we’d cleared Alsatian we headed UP Life on mars and then segued smoothly onto Lloyd’s Left Leg (?). The trails are at their late-summer peak and are flowing very well and this one has become a bit of a favourite with me recently.
From there, we headed to the Gallops and indulged ourselves with Vietcong which today was handing out a bit of a whipping from the excess foliage. Another favourite for me, a bit pedally in places but I like the way the top flowy and jumpy sections tighten into something quite technical at the bottom. To be honest, the YT handles this sort of thing very well, making my life easier and a lot more fun.
Jem then changed the tune a little. Uphill again, this time the long climb up Happy Valley (or Juniper Bottom if you insist). Oooof! This is a grim drag but the plan was China Pig 2 or whatever we will end up calling it. Great fun for sure, tight and twisty with a nice steep off-camber bit in the middle and a finish back a the bottom of Juniper Bottom. It’s only the second time I’ve ridden it but it’s worth the climb.
By now we were looking increasingly at our watches and consulting various weather apps. It was going to rain, it just depended when. We decided to grab a quick coffee from Pilgrim Cycles at Westhumble which is actually more like a measured and considered preparation of the coffee rather than a quick grab and go. In fairness, I think they had only just opened for the day! The coffee was very good, the fruit was also good but as we finished up, there were the first tell-tale drops of rain in the air…
Time to get going. Up onto Ranmore via the Denbies gates, then Rumble in the Jungle. This is yet another cracking new-ish trail, and another that will at some point this autumn dump us all on our arses when the currently reliable surface turns back to mud in short order. It’s a question of when…
The rain finally came as we stepped out onto the road and headed toward the old Dorking entrance onto the Polesden estate. It wasn’t too heavy at that stage and quite warm so in a way was quite welcome; but arriving home about twenty minutes later, I found I had no inclination to stay outside and clean the bike! In all, it was great to ride with the guys again, and 16.9 miles was more than I was expecting given the short amount of time we had available. Well done everyone!