Oh dear! It really was one of those rides. What started off on paper as being a fairly ordinary run to Newlands Corner turned out to be rather an incident packed outing on the Surrey Hills.
We decided that given the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing recently we’d start our ride a little earlier than usual, meeting at Bockett’s Farm for an 8:00am start.
It didn’t seem to dissuade too many of us as 12 riders turned up, including DaveC, Tony, Barrie, Jez, Mike, Paul, MarkW, Paul901, Andy661, DaveW, Trevor and myself.
Our first experience of the trails today was a talcum-fine dust along the Admirals Track toward Polesden, I was hanging at the back and risked Baker’s Lung with the clouds of choking dust thrown up by the riders in front. I’m currently reading Grapes of Wrath, which deals with the fallout from the Dust Bowl disaster of the ’30s, and judging by today… no forget that! It’s a laboured analogy! But trust me, it was dusty!
At the top of the tarmac run to Yew Trees we found a sun and the word Moles! chalked on the road which was a suitably obscure reference to those in the know. Colin or Lee on an early run are my likely suspects, thanks for that guys!
However, we turned off for Hogden Lane followed by Pamplona as a change from Yew Trees. Hogden Lane proved similarly dusty and I couldn’t see much as I followed Mike down the descent, but once back on the Polesdon climb after Pamplona had fed into the top of Yew Trees things improved markedly.
We rode on, feeling pretty warm in the early heat. Although, as we found out last week with the sun up around 5:00am the morning was already advancing steadily. At the top of Ranmore we turned and had a fairly straightforward run along Badger Run and Collarbone to White Down.
Here we wound our way past the big fallen oak and found ourselves at the start of Reformation. This is a new trail that’s been quietly developed over the past months, I think by the Nirvana crowd and be warned. This is not for the novice rider.
I was feeling suitably circumspect as we headed off down it but initial impressions were that it was quite tame. Don’t be fooled. We took a wrong turn and found ourselves rolling along quite a nice bit of singletrack before we realised our mistake. Clambering over some underbrush we then found the trail we should have been on and proceeded to walk our way back up the hill.
Wow! That’s some effort. Off camber roots, steep, steep drops and some quite full on jumps are all tucked into this trail. Our walk uphill became a climb and I was starting to doubt my sanity as the trail itself proved to be a thin ribbon of chalk down some huge rollable drops.
At the top we turned and started down, with my saddle dropped a good few inches. Treat this with caution and keep your speed under control. I actually found it OK but then conditions were as dry as they get. Even so the preferred line takes you over some big jumps that I wouldn’t recommend and you have to make a conscious effort to avoid them, including a large gap jump.
But with a lot of care and sensible choices it turned out to be a lovely flowing run down which brought us out where we normally start our final runs down toward the Abinger Roughs, at the top of Blind Terror. The Reformation trail however takes you to the right and this is where things went wrong.
DaveW, he of the Jedi coaching school of riding, lead the way and handled the next big drop fine. I was a few riders back and was already dismounting to have a good look at what was to prove a nasty, loose, rooty, off-camber drop when Barrie, next man down, stacked it big time.
Over the bars and into a tree was the best way I can explain what little I actually saw (and what we could piece together later) before he came to rest, inert, in the undergrowth. It was a hurried, slip-slide on foot down the slope for us to reach him where we found a very dazed Barrie. It was a big incident.
He’s sustained some ligament damage (and a possible fracture) to his shoulder/collarbone as well as extensive bruising and concussion from the impact but I think he can consider himself lucky it wasn’t worse. After a while he was able to walk his way down to the road which only served to illustrate how steep the terrain was.
Tony was kind enough to shepherd him home by tarmac as it was really doubtful as to whether he should be riding at all. Get well soon Barrie, things are going to hurt for a few days that’s for sure.
The rest of us, feeling much more subdued that before, headed onward. The riding was hot but relatively simple as we rode a well-known path toward Newlands.
Unfortunately Andy was our next casualty, or rather his bike was, as a simple off left him with a pretzel for a front wheel! It took us a few hundreds yards to realise and then return to find him wondering what he was going to do about it!
DaveW took on the makeshift repair challenge by manhandling the wheel back into some semblance of circular and despite a certain wonkiness the end result wasn’t too bad.
Jez and Andy departed back to Bockett’s via the road with everyone advising Andy to take it slow and steady on his dodgy front wheel. Another knock and he’d be in for a sudden failure.
Our depleted party pressed on and to be honest I was enjoying myself quite a lot. The Greensand Way is always some counter-steering fun near Albury while the final hard climb up to Newlands held no horrors for me (with Barrie and Tony out of the way – sorry guys! ;o) ). Even so, MarkW was setting quite a pace and I was only thirty yards or so ahead of him by the summit.
After careful refueling with hot chocolate and Eccles cake for me we set off for home. MarkW cracked on as he needed to get back while the rest of us settled into a steady rythmn along what is always quite a busy path.
Paul901 left the rest of us to head off round to the reservoir while he continued along the Drover Road but after a canter down Collarbone and a blast along Badger Run we found him again waiting/resting at the top of the Yew Trees descent. Reunited, we blasted back down toward Polesden and back home after a painful slog up under the bridge.
All in all, an eventful ride and one which just goes to show there’s no such thing as ‘just riding along’.