Sunday was our last day ride before the Dusk til Dawn that you may have heard we’re entering this year. Talk about a build up! We’ve had some concerted miles from riders, various exotic kit purchases and a lot of anticipation for what is, basically, a jolly. If we can sort out a phone connection we may even manage a bit of Live Blogging from the event in true Web 2.0 fashion. It’s a big if.
I’m not under any illusions, but my mum always said I was special so I’m aiming for a class win. Of course, there’s only me in that particular class but never mind… That aside, we had a decent turnout for what was another of those early autumn days which you don’t think can be repeated until the next one happens to come along. With bone-dry conditions, hazy sunshine, a crisp morning and near 20° temperatures it was no surprise to find plenty of takers for our Sunday ride.
Having singlespeeded into work on Friday (28 miles round trip over two 14-mile, hour-and-15-minute blasts) I was looking at a steady spin for this last pre-event ride. Instead, Dave scadalously ambushed me with a ‘Jem and I have been thinking…’ curve ball. No matter, the suggested Leith and Holmbury Hill loop from Bookham seemed the ideal thing to take advantage of the weather.
The thing is, these circa 30-mile runs aren’t too much of an issue at the moment from a fitness point of view (excluding the time they take up). In fact Jez and Paul had ridden over from Epsom and Dorking respectively so I was in no position to argue! In all then, we had DaveC, Jem, Ian, Eric, Jez, Paul, Barrie, PaulH, Keith and myself heading out from the Bockett’s car park at 8:40.
First off was the usual run along the Admirals Track toward Polesdon, followed by the Yew Trees climb which would have had Colin thanking his luck for having missed it. Personally I really enjoy the run downhill and then the jump over the drainage gulley but can see Colin’s point about a lack of run-off. In winter it can get a bit sketchy I’ll admit.
But it was a means to an end which saw us pop out onto Ranmore before heading for the LandRover descent to Westcott. There not one but two trees down on this section at the moment. The first one is just past the steppy roots which for a change we picked a line through, before negotiating round the side of the fallen tree. The second is a bit stouter which requires a brief scramble under it.
Knowing that we had some miles ahead of us we didn’t waste too much time but kept rolling to the Rookery climb. I managed to climb this without dabbing which was a result for me, helped by the dry surfaces and a clear run ahead of me. The Orange climbs like a goat anyway despite (or because of?) just having the one pivot, so the only strain was on my heart! Then the usual sandy spin along Wolverns Lane beckoned.
After reaching the Summer Lightning trailhead we turned toward the bombholes and then passed the top of Deliverance and on to the cricket ground before lining up the Tower climb. By the time I’d successfully managed that I was ready for a big slice of fruit cake and a cup of coffee. Breakfast of champions and all that. Fortunately I also snaffled away a spare Eccles cake for later which turned out to be a wise move. Since all this extra riding (and I’m only talking about an extra ride a week or so) I’ve found myself properly hungry at all sorts of strange times. So I just keep eating!
Keith decided to turn for home after this as he was on a comeback ride after injuring his hand, while the rest of us followed Dave down through the Leith Hill woods. Natural trails again, as I’ve been mentioning a lot recently, are just fantastic. We ended up riding over a big tabletop (for want of a better phrase) which featured a sheer approach, a swift transition at the top and a swooping run out.
It was actually pretty easy but to be honest I only rode it because I was under the impression Dave had done it on his first introduction to it. As did the rest of us I think. It turned out, his shout from behind a screen of trees meant he’d stalled at the last moment (probably still acclimatising to his latest bike) which would have produced a lot more mincing from us if we’d known.
We pressed on, smoothly negotiating Chocolate Jesus (unless you’re Barrie travelling far too quickly!) before heading off down the Mother to Holmbury village at high speed. So much dust down here! I was getting used to my Camelbak tasting gritty but needed the water in the warm conditions; normally I just don’t drink enough.
Next followed the frankly miserable climb up past Holmbury Cricket Ground (I always think it strange that these cricket grounds (Leith, Holmbury and Headley) are situated in such obscure places. Still, probably not a bad way to spend a weekend afternoon if the beer’s flowing I should think. We on the otherhand had the rest of the climb to do. It’s so relentless this climb after 20+ miles that I couldn’t wait to get it over with.
At the top we swung round to pick up Yoghurt Pots. Except yoghurt is the polar opposite of that trail at the moment. The usual gloop has disappeared and I can’t recommended a visit enough while the weather holds. Jem took us down the new, more direct run which I’ve never tried before, missing out the rooty step and I have to say the berms and turns that have been put in by the Redlands crews have worked a treat.
The new section pulls you into the the Pots proper on a different line that sees you swooping up and round their flowing curves with a huge grin on your face. There’s bombhole after bombhole with some abrupt direction changes but you can carry so much speed through there now. Of course, I’ve no idea how they’ll hold up in the winter…
Telegraph Road too was in good nick. By then I was realising my tubeless tyres were a bit low on pressure, the front one in particular must have been close to 20psi. The extra grip was welcome but the occassional squirm of the tyre wasn’t and I was a bit worried I’d roll it off the rim if I wasn’t careful. But having left my pliers with Colin, and having tried to unscrew the latex-seized valve manually in the morning without success I was leaving it well alone.
That didn’t stop me coming unclipped on the run down to the Hurtwood Car Park just as I hit the big root step a third of the way down the incline which caused a few moments of consternation. I threw back my weight and got away with it thank God.
With Leith and Holmbury behind us we were now well and truly on the homeward leg which meant Ranmore would soon be in front of us. First though it was time to pass the Volunteer at Sutton Abinger and onto Raikes Lane toward the Abinger Roughs. I always pass the Volunteer reluctantly, feeling it would be the ideal spot for a spot of lunch on a North Downs epic but we’ll save that for another day.
As we climbed up from the A25 toward the Roughs I could feel myself tiring noticeably and grabbed the first opportunity to eat that Eccles cake. The last thing I wanted was a sugar bonk to arrive just as White Down loomed.
Last time we came down White Down it was pouring with rain and I could have sworn there were cow pats everywhere. Well, there were and they were still there, as I saw all too plainly as I ground up the chalky climb. I managed to dig in and, only getting overtaken by just the three or four riders near the top. Hats off!
Collarbone was soon dispatched and I had flashbacks to my accident as the conditions are almost identical but this time all was well. Then we retraced our tracks along Badger Run before coming out once again at Ranmore and a steady roll down through Yew Trees again, our progress hampered by various other trail users as the weather seemed to have brought everyone out.
Basically then, that was it. I had 28 miles on the clock by the time I got home so you can take off 2 and a half for the Bocketts to Bocketts round trip. Norbury Park seemed over run by loads of ‘recreational’ riders on hybrids and touring style bikes who seemed to have found a circular route printed in the local paper and decided to try it out. Good choice of day, hope they had fun but some of their machines seemed a touch fragile for the surface they were on. Maybe that”s just mountain bike snobbery though?
All in all and good ride which had miles, smiles and hard work. I’ll settle for just the smiles at D2D.