Today was quite a day with a number of new faces as well as an appearance from at least a couple of riders who have recently been absent. Bockett’s Farm saw a gathering of riders that included Tony, DaveW, DaveC, Jez, Jem, Philip, Erick, Jenny and Barrie, totalling ten including myself. Later on we rendezvous’d with Paul and Joe at the Rookery bringing the number to 12 riders. Not bad at all!
So, who were all these people? Well, Erick (from Brazil), Philip and Joe from Northern Ireland (along with Paul who’s ridden with us before) and Jenny from Dublin gave a distinctly cosmopolitan feel to the ride. As always it’s good to welcome new faces.
Not only that but we had a few new bikes to coo over. DaveC has just built up an Intense Spider 29er, taking niche to a whole new art form, Jez was first time out on his new, improbably light Inbred 456 Ti and Erick was aboard a spanking looking Lapierre Zesty 314 demonstrating all the finishing detail I remarked on earlier this week; although the large volume, low tread Conti Race King tyres could have been better specc’ed!
But what about the riding? Well, Leith Hill was firmly in our sights so it was a case of getting up and over Ranmore as quickly as possible. A run along Admirals Track to Polesdon led on to a blast down Yew Trees and haul up the other side eventually popping out up on Ranmore. Everyone seemed comfortable with the pace so we headed on toward Badger Run.
At the end of that we turned left onto the LandRover Descent which was suffering a bit from the recent heavy rains. Not slippery as such, in fact it was well drained but the rain wash had eroded some of the roots more than usual. I found it quite enjoyable as I’ve finally got round to resetting the air pressure in my fork and rear shock on the Orange. Put it this way, a lot more air went in than came out with beneficial results. At last I can stop complaining about my Five!
At the bottom we crossed the railway and headed to the Rookery where we collected Paul and Joe. Then it was up the Rookery climb where my glasses steamed up almost totally; which is an unrelated comment on why I had to dab three quarters of the way up. It was only brief but telling – at least I was in good company with Tony and DaveC both needing to take advantage of the Mincers Toe during the course of their own efforts.
Up onto Wolverns then and a steady roll along to the top of Summer Lightning, interupted while DaveW countered the effects of a fat nail in his tyre and tube. I was definitely aware I hadn’t been out for a couple of weeks as the ride seemed to have consisted mainly of climbing to this point. I normally don’t notice.
At the head of Summer Lightning various groups seemed to converge. For a moment it seemed a ride-off was on the cards but we were headed onward to the bombholes which look totally different to the bracken-free conditions I last saw them under in the Spring. Then, almost without trying we were at Deliverance.
DaveW showed us how to do it, his recent Scottish experience with DoMTB clearly showing while the rest of us toyed with the idea. Joe gave it a go and got down it despite looking at a couple of points like he and the bike might be arriving separately at the bottom. By then I’d looked for too long even though I had thought I might give it a go. Everyone else appeared to agree so we pressed on for the Tower.
I had to make use of the Mincers Toe again on the climb up to the Tower but took a much more direct route thanks to the extra grip afforded by the Five compared to my usual singlespeed efforts. At the top it seemed the Fives had spawned with several in evidence (mostly ours), including a 6 foot 5″ blokes 20″ model. Good taste. We also bumped into LordOnOne off Flickr who was photographing our bikes, particularly DaveC’s Intense Spider 29er and said hi to Dave Farmer from Cycleworks out on his Sunday constitutional.
After tea and cake we pressed on to the Quarry via the play area and various trails which we really should put names to. I was starting to really enjoy the Five again as it took everything in it’s stride with little fuss. Finishing the run with Chocolate Jesus brought us out onto the road near High Ashes Farm for The Mother Descent to Holmbury. I had thoroughly enjoyed noodling the Orange round all the technical obstacles but we soon picked up speed.
I’m pretty certain my tubeless set up saved me from a couple of snake bite punctures as again the rain seems to have brought some pretty big rock debris into the middle of the trail and left the gully heavily eroded. I banged by front rim a couple of times but Jem was not quite so fortunate, being forced to stop with his own pinch flat.
At this point a quick assessment of time led to Tony, Philip, Jez, Barrie, DaveW and myself taking the bail out option to head back for a sensible finish time. The rest were Holmbury-bound so it would be interesting to see how they got on (and when they got home!). Our breakaway group rolled down via tarmac to the Volunteer Pub before picking up the Raikes Lane bridlepath back. I’d have liked to have done the Holmbury loop but was aware not only of the time but that I was already tiring after a break from the bike, as was DaveW.
We ended up on Abinger Roughs, setting a comfortable pace toward White Down. I wasn’t looking forward to whichever route we decided to take to get back up on to Ranmore but the White Down choice, while shortest, really killed me. With Barrie and Tony in the climbing group it was never going to be easy but by then the sun was fully out and I was just gritting my teeth to finish the climb.
But we did it. Then it was back via Collarbone and Badger Run (again) to Ranmore where we retraced out wheeltracks back down to Polesdon. DaveW by now was clearly tiring on the Yew Trees climb and I was of pretty much the same opinion when all of a sudden Jez floated past us as if we weren’t there. That Ti Inbred of his certainly seems to have magical properties!
By then the climbing was done so it remained only to roll back to the car park for a pretty decent 12:30 finish – I estimate that was a 23 miler today so not bad going.
It was genuinely great to see everyone today and I hope to meet up with everyone soon. Next Sunday has Swinley stamped firmly in our diaries which on the evidence of today on my Five should be a treat. See you there…