Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 27 February – Spring sun

Posted by Matt | February 27, 2011 | 26 comments so far

The picture you see here bears no resemblance to the kind of ride we had on Sunday. I just had to include it since it makes at least one of us look good!

Plenty of rain in the week, a well documented clag-fest elsewhere on the Surrey Hills and the need for a few miles meant we headed toward Epsom Downs for a change. On the way, we passed Headley at least three times!

Garry jumping at Headley

Bockett’s Farm was a busy place Sunday morning. We had DaveW, Tony, Paul901, PaulM, JohnR, KevS, BiketechMark, Garry, Keith, Ray, DaveC and myself out for a Sunday ride. I’ve spent two off-road rides this week sliding through deep mud so we decided to give Epsom Downs a go today as the trails generally offer a firmer surface.

We rode up to the sawmill and the top of the radio mast descent, passing (I think) some DoMTB riders heading the opposite way. After my mammoth mileage last week my legs certainly felt slow to warm up and my reflexes felt a bit slow too on the descent down to the A24 – the tracks are greasy as hell and have sudden float-off-to-a-big-stack patches. I enjoy sliding at low speed through this stuff but find myself panicing somewhat when you hit them at speed and try to follow previous tyre tracks.

After a slow ride through Mickleham village we started on the upward climb from Juniper Hall to the Gallops. It felt quite a comfortable pace really, once my muscles had loosened, and I must say those extra miles seem to have made me at least feel stronger. I’ve mentioned before but I think focussing on your heart rate for a few rides can make a big difference and gives you an excuse not to try to be first to the top!

Further slithering once past the Gallops brought us to the Tyrells Wood car park and then on to Headley, bound for the Cock. Paul901 started to suffer from the first (but not the last) of his chainsuck, a bit of bad luck which is just as easily put down to mass mud as it could be a worn chainring. We’ve all suffered this in the past but it’s very frustrating – could be a stiff link, worn chainring, mud etc. Always hard to cure as a result.

At Headley village we got the chance for a brief downhill run under the motorway which is a trail I quite enjoy if it wasn’t for the slog up the otherside of the relatively shallow valley. It’s steep enough and long enough to make you do some work although unlike our last run up here I wasn’t suckered into to tramping after Tony and Keith, our increasingly fast climbers!

After here it was time to head down Horse P!ss Alley which takes you down a long gulley-run to the back of the Epsom Racecourse and Langley Vale. At least that’s what it used to be and I never liked it greatly as a result – too much gulley, too much flint, too fast for error for me.

Now it’s been ‘sanitised’ with the addition of tons of granite chippings for at least two thirds of it’s length which has done nothing for entertainment and still leaves a rapid eventual transition to chalky gulley. Past that and the spring-like weather (rain) has made the clay very difficult to ride so it was more slithering and sliding down the last blast descent. I think we all felt rather short-changed by all that even if I have to admit the track is not there for our benefit really.

Having reached Langley Vale we took the climb back up toward Stane Street. This passed at a moderate pace which suited us all as the pack stayed nicely grouped by the time we’d reached the top. Further progress brought us to Stane Street proper and a real Somme of mud near the golf club which needed a good spinning speed, a bit of strength and some quick reactions to get you through dab-free. The downhill on the other side was just as much a challenge as there was more of that chuck-you-off mud to put the frighteners on you.

Having reached the top of Alsation we turned up, back toward Headley for a rendezvous at Ali’s tea room which made for a very pleasant 20 minutes or so sitting in the Spring sun. I’d felt a bit underwhelmed by the route I managed to steer us by so far but really enjoyed just sitting there catching the sun and chatting to everyone. And John will be interested, but maybe not pleased, to know my hot Eccles cake was very nice. A new experience for me and a shame I got the last one!!

With the moderate pace several of us had a few miles left in our legs but with time getting on we decided to head directly back to Leatherhead via Secret Singletrack which was riding very sweetly again today. Since I’ve put those new wheels on my bike I’ve found these flowy trails really suit the Five which bodes well for Swinley next week. For the third and final time today we passed Nower Wood, this time on our way home.

Life on Mars was an obvious choice and I’ve heard it’s a nice trail when it’s dry! As it was, we were reduced to a slow slide through the woods, still fun but not what it will later this year. The finish on Alsation was rather slippery affair but I didn’t really care as by now it was starting to feel positively spring like and for the first time this year I was warm in the sun. Bliss! However slippery it is now, we’ve hit a turning point I think.

Arriving back at Bockett’s saw us notch 20 miles or so, 22 for me door-to-door. As I said, the day was a trifle underwhelming in term sof route but it was great to see a few people join us that have been busy these past weeks and even better to see that Spring really is just around the corner.

Keep riding. Or, for some, why not think about starting!!?

Filed under Rides in February 2011


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

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  1. AWOL Colin says:

    I was def in the crosshairs of that parting shot! Did more than just think today – was up at 5:30 and rode to Winterfold and back.

    • Matt says:

      Oooh sneaky miles Colin… but it wasn’t just you I had in mind, there’s others I haven’t seen for a while too. Anyone remember MarkJ? And Lee??

      Only kidding, I was off the bike for ages a month or two back, I know how things go.

      Good to hear you’re back out on the bike but getting up at 5:30 sounds insane. I guess the riding over there was pretty good, if it stays clagged up on the Downs it might be worth us all driving over to Holmbury/Pitch for some riding fun.

      Looking forward to Swinley though…

  2. Tony says:

    First rule of secret training – it’s secret! Then everyone can be shaking their heads next weekend at Swinley – “did you see how fit Colin was” – “hasn’t touched a bike for 4months” – “amazing I wonder how he does it………”

    Your secret is out.

  3. pIJ says:

    I think the mud and general greyness is making route planning hard. Plan to miss the bad bits, and you also miss the good bits so everything ends up a bit average. I am disappointed over them messing with that drop to Epsom though; can’t be in anybodies interests that can it? Granite chippings being a natural feature of the area…. They did that on the NDW and once the granite washes away you get that horrid plastic sheeting appear.

    Eeek! I’m sounding all negative – guess I am seeing as how my home PC was eaten by a virus last night.

  4. paul901 says:

    My first MTB ride of the year and the mud, the chain locking, the sliding of wheels underneath and the entirely new combination of mud and roots together sucked the life out of me, or at least the enjoyment. I’m sorry the group had to wait as long and as often as it did today (unless folks enjoyed the rests and the banter) but it definitely felt like paying my dues to those beginner first steps of learning to ride off-road. I can’t wait to get onto dry trails (with as little single-track as possible!) and back onto tarmac. Highlight of the day for me was the Specialized Defroster boots, again. On our way to Langley Vale and before you go under the road, I was remembering my ride there last year in horrible pouring rain and the shock of cold over the feet every time I went through another puddle. Not a hint of water yesterday at any stage, I reckon footwear like that is worth any amount of money spent on upgrading the bike.

    I’m not sure Swinley is my thing so I will be tempted to drive down to Holmbury next weekend, if the mud stays away!

    • Matt says:

      Paul, you’ve had a bad week, that’s all! We all have those (or bad weeks and months in some cases).

      It’s a shame you didn’t enjoy yourself, but I suspect that despite the very real worries over gears, mud, lack of traction etc. it’s actually at root a lack of confidence to do with your fitness and holding others up. You’ve exhibited the similar worries this week on the road too, but like I said, maybe you’re just not ‘on it’ at the moment.

      Don’t feel too bad and look at the positives – we had great company, we had sunshine (yay!), we got muddy when others were sitting on their backsides and the trails and season will turn very quickly. And we live in the Surrey Hills!

      As you’ve shown before, you can do this both on and off-road but at root, you’ve got to want to. Keep at it, but don’t force it. 🙂

  5. Tony says:

    BTW great picture of Gaz. Unfortunately I didn’t see this air moment, since like true athletes, PaulM and I had pushed on without stopping for the cake shop. Great flapjack though, although maybe not up to the hot Eccles cake highpoint.

  6. DaveW says:

    A great ride on Sunday. Lovely weather, great scenery, fresh air, a fine workout and good to see my fellow Talpids and catch up.

    (BTW, according to Wikipedia, “the penis of talpids points backwards and they have no scrotum”. Although I think that only comes about (If you’ll excuse the nautical term) after stacking-it particularly heavily)

    The current muddy terrain is speed and energy sapping, but very good for fitness, stamina and developing skills. Hours spent riding this time of year will make all the difference when the summer comes.

  7. paul901 says:

    The lady serving us was hotter than the tea and cornish pasty (and that’s saying something), at least she was after the ‘calendar’ conversation. I reckong we would not have gotten out there alive if we weren’t careful.

    For those that missed it and god knows quite how the conversation ended up there, she likes the idea of us naked and muddy, covering our modesty with our bike lids with one hand and munching on one of their snacks with the other hand. The first 3 of us were christened Mr Jan, Feb and Mar respectively so if any of you were called by a month and puzzled, now you know!

  8. Markymark says:

    A fabulous outing with the warmest sun i’ve felt in a long while. If anyone wants to do that route again without the group, just follow my phlegm breadcrumb trail. Great pic of Gaz. The magic is still there after those early years of sponsored BMX racing on the now defunct Farnham track. Although my ring-piece twitches everytime he jumps nowadays as i just can’t help thinking “that’s another set of forks on their way back to Fisher” he’ll be wanting under warranty.
    Paul – you weren’t the only one with chainsuck dude – my last two rides have caused me issues and i’ll be replacing the granny and middle ring before Swinley. It’s just worn teeth combined with (most likely) a new’ish chain you are running. The pressure spot on the teeth combined with the mud/debris just doesnt release the chain properly. Very easy to think about chain/cassette changes and ignore the chainrings until you get suck. Change those two rings mate. Should be sweet after.

  9. Dave says:

    I had a very satisfied feeling as I rode home after the ride. Even though I wasn’t feeling particularly fresh I did enjoy a fair amount of time at the front of the pack and found the ride hard work but very enjoyable.

    I think the mud is fairly predictable in most circumstance and while you need to be on your toes for much of the ride it’s a question of keep your head up and see what’s coming. If you get caught in a slide, don’t panic, the tyres will grip eventually and then you can steer a line. I forget who said they were following me but thought I was heading into a tree and tried to steer away but had no luck but I was just waiting until I could see grip and then turned at the last moment. It’s a real test of mobility in the saddle, trust in the bike and sphincter control ;o)

    I am getting annoyed that my Garmin still saying sub 2k calories though…..

  10. KevS says:

    I thought the run to Epsom was a good choice of route from the wise old Moles given the conditions in most places were only fit for bog snorkelling …. dont go there Dave 😉

    Certainly enjoyed the ride with plenty of banter in the group as usual, interspersed with the usual amount of non sympathetic P#ss taking when someone had a comedy moment or had to dab in ankle deep muck.

    Highlights for me were seeing how dry it was up on Headley and than the run down Alsation watching Gary give it big air over the two driveway jumps before having to reign it back in as we all hit the patches of mud and the front tyre just squirmed away in any direction it liked so you just had to hang on and see if the MTB gods had decided to spare you or it was time for a major stack! 🙁

  11. paul901 says:

    I’d like to understand the enjoyment you got out of Alsation a bit better as that was my worst part of the whole ride. Even more than the locking up on the climbs and the mud and roots combination. My simple/novice mind said Alsation was unrideable and the further I went, the more I lost my nerve and backed right off. in fact I got off twice to check for flat tyres, such was the unnerving front wheel sliding and squirming all the way down there. Yet, clearly it is rideable because everyone else did it, minutes ahead.

    I know Matt and Dave kindly waited to give the usual encouragement and tips so in the cold (or thankfully warm) light of day, it’s clear to me I did not (do not) trust that the front will right itself. Is it really that simple, is there where I need more weight over the front wheels or do I have to do anything else. I would love to blame the FireXCPro but I expect you all would ride them down Alsation without a problem.

    • John R says:

      next time you should follow me down Alsatian – I am a lot more circumspect on the downhills than the jedi inspired Moles.

      Even so, Alsatian was absolutely my favourite bit – what the others say about getting a reasonable speed, looking ahead and don’t panic when it slides around a bit, are true.

  12. paul901 says:

    I should add that Alsation downhill was fun last year from May to about October!

  13. Dave says:

    Can’t comment on your tyres Paul as I was never a fan. The Mud-X that Matt, DaveW, Kevin and I all had on were as good as any tyre could be in those conditions I think. You know yourself that a rotating wheel will try and go in one direction so a little speed helps but the rest is down to experience. You identified yourself that you were not looking far enough ahead. Fear will slow you down and sometimes that is a good thing, just don’t dwell on it once the danger has passed.

    Having said that though, who is to say that riding in these conditions are for you at the moment. Plenty of riders don’t want to go out in this and that’s OK.

  14. Matt says:

    A final comment on the subject of the dealing with conditions. One of the reasons a lot of us prefer to ride all winter is a gradual acclimatisation to the wet and mud.

    I’m not surprised that someone who hasn’t ventured off-road for a while would find it very daunting, especially compared to the summer. I know I did when I returned to riding after breaking my collarbone.

    Paul, a few weekends of riding in this and you’ll not give it a second thought.

  15. John R says:

    I have just posted a pile more pics on Flickr including a series of Gary and Dave’s jumps in the Headley bombholes.

    Great ride, despite the mud and the way I could almost see the pennies clocking up every second in maintenance bills from quickly wearing components.

  16. Tony says:

    Fire XC certainly aren’t up to the same a MudX or Trailrakers in the gloop, but they are OK. I slipped around a bit and cursed myself for not swapping my front wheel for the Trailraker spare wheel sitting pristine in the garage, but I rode with Fire XC. They certainly were a bit “floaty” down Alsation but I kept DaveW in company all the way down. I was definitely going faster than was sensible!

  17. pij says:

    Paul901 – if the moles are off to foreign parts next week, then you are more than welcome to tag along with the slightly slower Muddy Ground set for a Sunday Spin.

    Fire XC – not up to any job that involves the following activity in my humble: Mountain Biking.

  18. paul901 says:

    They really do seem to get mixed reactions. If the mud is with us for a few weeks yet, what tyres might I put on instead?

    I really have assumed that my inexperience, caution and lack of confidence outweighs the tyres but if they will make a noticeable difference then it is worth me making a change.

  19. KevS says:

    Mud X’s without a doubt Mate! They still did their own thing going through Life on Mars though, like riding along on invisible muddy marbles, you just have to sit there and squirm about for a bit until the front tyre picks up the next available dodgy bit of grip, all good fun unless you are going way too fast!
    No substitute for getting out and riding in it to get used to the “Spring” conditions and confidence will build.

  20. paul901 says:

    Thanks Gents, do they do the tubeless option thing on my Mavic 117 rims (just posted on Ray’s thread on the forum with the same question before seeing this)?

    • Matt says:

      Paul, you can’t go ‘proper’ tubeless with the 117 rims but could think about ghetto tubeless (Google it!).

      Personally I’d just run the slime tubes that Ray uses as it will give you most of the benefits of puncture protection without any hassle.

      Full tubeless requires specific wheels, I’d recommend Stans Crest on Pro2 hubs, I’ll post a review this week. Hope do them at a good price.

  21. pij says:

    Ghetto tubeless is a horrid way to go. It will ruin your life.

    Hate to say it, but get some decent tubeless ready rims, use some decent tubeless tyres and the system is a piece of cake. I had the ghetto system and had nothing but trouble; even posted hate mail here. Now I’ve splashed the cash [Stan’s yellow rim strip plus the Olympic valves, and some Bonty X tyres], today I managed to swop out my front and rear tyres in around ten minutes.

    Yes, ten minutes. For two tyres. With the ghetto system you could spend 2 hours trying to fit one tyre, only to fail miserably. You will attain anger levels off the Hulk anger scale.

    But watch those Olympics – they puncture quite easily, so either sand the valve hole smooth or double up on the rim tape around the hole.

    Just don’t even think ghetto.

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