So it rained again. Really rained. It’s as if the weather has decided to make up for the three month gift of little or no rain that extended into October by making sure that November has seen some of the wettest rides I’ve done for a couple of years. From the beginning of the month with the Bordon Enduro we’ve endured wet rides virtually every week since, on both our Sunday and mid-week efforts, to say nothing of my Friday commutes.
To be honest, it’s beginning to feel like a test of character and today was a case in point. Not enjoyable as such but certainly satisfying in its’ own way to be able to drag ourselves to Newlands and back in rotten conditions.
Starting from Bocketts Farm as usual, we had DaveW, DaveC, Erick, Tony and myself heading out with the idea of Newlands in our heads. The details we’d work out on the way. Immediately the Admirals track showed us exactly what we could expect with lots of off-camber chalk, flint and water. Boy, was there water. By the time we’d endured that splashy traipse over to Polesdon, negotiating hub deep 20 yard puddles on the way we were well and truly soaked, made worse by the solid rainfall coming down.
I’d left the house wondering what to wear—it’s not just women who agonise over these things it seems. I ended up going for my usual summer gloves, socks and shoes which was a big mistake. Within a short space of time my toes had gone numb and then shortly after my fingers did too and it plagued me for most of the ride.
At Polesdon we headed down and up Yew Trees and on to Ranmore, I was quite happy to just sit in the group and plod along but we gradually got strung out with DaveW and Tony heading up the ‘peloton’. Fortunately with such a small group you can keep going with fewer pauses which was best given the conditions. Spare a thought for Clive and Jem at the Brass Monkeys Enduro which would have well and truly lived up to its name today.
At Ranmore we turned along the road and then headed down Landrover for the second time this week. To be honest I wasn’t exactly in control coming down there today, in fact I was cacking myself! Fortunately we all got down in one piece but it really wasn’t the ideal place to be riding. At least we then knew we had many XC miles ahead of us which would save us from our own stupidity.
The run along the valley, and then the Abinger Roughs was unusually sapping given it’s quite sandy. But with puddles everywhere and some miserable rain coming down it was one of those days when you had to pedal even on the downhills, accompanied by the ever-present sound of brake pads and components wearing out!
Even so we made progress, and soon we were past Shere and heading toward the climb to Newlands. Considering my past record I even managed to recognise when I needed a pause for more fuel in the shape of a chewy bar but then I really didn’t want a sugar bonk today. As it was I was tired after my ride to work on Friday (get this, I averaged 11.8mph over the two legs to Redhill and back) and the constant mud takes a lot out of you when you’re constantly trying to pick a line, correct over or understeer and keep some forward momentum. It was hard work.
By the time the Newlands climb appearing I was getting used to riding through a stream bed as the water coursed off the hills. The mid section of the climb is starting to show some water erosion after being sanitised a couple of years back with the result that it needs a bit of commitment to get through with some energy in reserve for the rest of the climb. I just kept spinning away with my head down, grimacing at the pain of the ascent with the sound of Tony close behind.
At the top it was very cold from the wind chill and once again I regretted my clothing choice as we stood eating bacon rolls and chocolate at the cafe. We bumped into Graeme, Andrew and Nick who we haven’t seen for a while and had a nice chat with them but really there were very few riders out today. Sensible souls.
The run back started with us all very cold and apart from DaveC and Tony nattering away at the front I think the rest of us were suffering with the uphill gradient and plentiful mud as we sought to get some warmth back into our limbs. Despite the pit stop I certainly felt low on energy levels for the rest of the ride as we made our way toward Ranmore.
Eventually we picked up Collarbone for a very careful meander past the spot of my injury with wet roots everywhere waiting to catch out the unwary. At the end of that we turned sharp left up the steep hill toward the Ranmore Road which turned into quite a technical climb as I struggled to maintain some forward momentum over deep mud and leaf mould. I managed it, just, but it was exhausting.
Tony’s idea was we would pick up the flinty Hogden Lane back toward Polesdon which at least had the advantage of avoiding the nasty Yew Trees climb at the end. It wasn’t suited in any way to DaveC’s rigid forked 29er and even DaveW, myself and Tony had to pedal steadily to keep any speed up on the downhill.
Running through the middle was a stream at least three or four inches deep which we ended up either crossing repeatedly looking for some firm grip on the banks or getting into and splashing our way along. Despite being completely soaked it was a hoot as we pulled away from Erick and DaveC.
Near the bottom Tony passed me and DaveW but shortly after that Dave and I had a bit of a tangle as he lost grip on a muddy camber and pitched sideways into the bank. His Five slid down into the stream bed that I was in and I rode over his rear wheel and swingarm, narrowly avoiding his pedals as I forward rolled off my bike and into the water, landing heavily on my dodgy shoulder. We both ended up soaking wet and lying in the mud and crap, laughing! Dave, I hope your bike’s OK!
Picking ourselves up I realised we must have been pushing along OK as we’d pretty much got ourselves sorted out by the time DaveC and Erick arrived on the scene. To be honest, it’s always disappointing not to have more witnesses to a comedy crash that results in no injuries!
We continued onward, with the final extended climb up to Polesdon to come. Another one of those tricky climbs where you’re constantly looking for a clean line and as Tony commented, wondering how high up the bank you can push it looking for grip. Given Dave and my recent experience, not very far…
Even so there was enough grip to roll the Five up the hill, letting it find its own way in the conditions. At the top we parted from a tired looking Erick who was heading toward Effingham station. I hope you made it OK Erick as the heavens seemed to open as I got home. I can only imagine how a cold and wet Erick must have felt dragging himself home on the train!
The last section of trail, retracing out steps along the Admirals Track was a bit of a blast. By now wet to the skin I made no effort to avoid the puddles I’d earlier minced through. What was the point? At home I hosed the bike, then myself and had a well deserved shower as the rain came down in earnest.
But it had been an enjoyable ride. I’m sick of the mud already but really it’s just going through that horrible wet phase with loads of standing water. Hopefully the rain will take a back seat soon and we can enjoy the gloop without being constantly drenched in the process.