Phew, that was a big one! 32 miles for a Sunday ride was a pretty decent effort, and had a few of us flagging by the end of the ride.
I said on the forum Saturday night I thought it was a tad ambitious, but nothing ventured, nothing gained eh?!
So, picture the scene. Late September, Bockett’s Farm, lots of sunshine, lots of dust and that ‘end-of-summer, this-can’t-last’ kind of vibe. It was only 8:30 and having ridden up to the farm in my Endura lost sleeve Jersey I already knew it was going to be a hot ride.
Our ride group today consisted of me, DaveC, JamesS, JohnR, Elliott, DaveW, newKarl, Matt (this week without Jilly) and Laurent, the prospect of a ride to Peaslake via Wonderland and Petrol Pump not putting anyone off.
As has been the case for a few rides, I was in no rush to force the pace over the first few miles, meaning a dusty descent of Hogden Lane in store for me. Things nearly went wrong at an early stage when JR braked sharply for a walker just as I was wondering if the dust was reduced if I rode close to the rider in front or backed off a little.
The result was a near miss between me and Elliott (who probably didn’t realise how close I was to hitting him in the concertina effect of Johns braking). Fortunately Elliott held a steady line as my front wheel overlapped his rear one to an alarming extent.
Once up on Ranmore I was starting to feel pretty warm from my efforts. The day before I’d put in 14 miles over Mickleham way, managing to give myself a sore back on the singlespeed, so it was only by this stage that I was feeling a bit more comfortable.
We dispatched Wire in the Blood, shortly after which Karl picked up his first puncture but already you could feel the trails were running really well. Collarbone and Trouble in Paradise came next, with DaveC correcting last weeks mishap by riding the tree (not for me), but then we were hit with Karl’s second puncture just after Short and Sweet.
Our efforts to fix that were a bit more protracted, and while we were hanging around by the side of the road near White Down I was amazed at how many road riders there were going past. No organised rides, just lots of riding groups with lots of riders. It makes you realise how popular cycling is round here, although they are missing out on a lot of fun at the moment. As we waited by the roadside we also briefly saw AndyW, out with his posse and bound for West Ranmore too.
Our plan had a been to ‘do’ Lovely Linda for a change (fnarr) but the attractions of Bingo Bongo Dave were too great. Sorry Linda… I’m glad we changed our minds as I had a blast on BBD, me and the Five just hooked it up perfectly today. This feeling stayed with me down Wonderland shortly after, which included a lovely float up and over the bank next to the first jump and a beautifully railed first berm as well.
I didn’t realise it at the time but that was probably the peak of my riding today.
Maybe it was a case of us going faster, maybe it was over confidence or maybe the sense of ride-it-while-you-can was creeping into our riding but as we steamed down Petrol Pump things got more ragged. A missed turn here, passing a post-OTB Laurent there (no injuries!), a wide drift following a very quick Matt onto the short bridlepath section ultimately led to a plunge into the bushes KevS style. I just couldn’t get the front wheel to bit down Petrol Pump today and DaveC and Karl shot past and showed me the way from there!
By the time we spilled out onto the A25 Big Al and Wobbem and co. were probably stuffing cake into themselves at Tillings (we’d met them at the top of Petrol Pump), but we had a few more miles to go before our stop.
The plan for the morning involved riding from where we were to Peaslake – I did say it was a bit of an ambitious plan didn’t I? Not crazy impossible but an effort none the same. So we rode round the back of Shere and crossed the railway near the sandy Heath, passing a hordes of Duke of Edinburgh hikers before entering Winterfold via the River Bed climb.
Except, there was no river (and a good thing too, having soaked myself along there on more than one occasion). It turned into a grind, and then into a fire road slog as the heat of the day started to make itself felt.
When we reached the top we were able to take SuperNova all the way down to Peaslake which again proved a great chance for some high speed action. Once again I lost valuable time drifting on one of the turns and could sense Elliott closing in but I managed to just about stay on track. It was majorly bumpy and I could particularly feel the vibration through the handlebars – maybe the rebound is a touch too slow.
Finally however we’d made to Peaslake and our timing couldn’t be better if you are cheese straw inclined as they were fresh out the oven and drooping in their heat. I had two and a coffee but I might have been sensible to top up the Camelbak with water as Karl did as I was running low.
We decided, given our efforts so far, to head back the simple way as we usual,y do. I’d been thinking of doing the Radnor Road climb to Yoghurt Pota but reckon we made the right call given how most of us wilted on the way home.
At the bottom of DaveC ripped a tyre and bent a rim, resulting in an extended halt while he found a tube for his wheel while all offered useful advice!
Then is was on across the Abinger Roughs and some fest riding to Westcott. By this time James and Dave were falling off the pace while I think the rest of us were also starting to feel the heat. I’d run out of water at this point but there was nothing I could do. It didn’t stop a spirited climb up High Med and when Dave and James eventually joined us at the top of Ranmore we headed toward Golden Nugget. Dave wisely opted to ride down on the road while we tackled this gem and I managed to get within a second of my PR (unlike my last run down there). The strange thing was I didn’t feel I’d really nailed it today so the GPS error was on my side for a change!
The limp home continued and by the time we’d regained Bockett’s we had a32 miles and feet of climbing, with the temperature reading around the 24° mark. Great ride everyone, once again!
And that was the last group ride of September…