Despite the dire forecast, assembled at Bocketts were Big Al and Jonesy (both having ridden over from Dorking), ‘Old’ Karl and Lord On-One aka Elliot (both having driven over), and Colin and myself (the locals). With my waterproof gilet over the top of a thin DH-style top, I was feeling quite smug to have braved the conditions and been rewarded with just a light drizzle and general dampness. Only Elliot was wearing a full waterproof top, maybe he knew something we didn’t?
Mickleham had been suggested, and we quickly agreed on a stop at Ali’s tea wagon on Headley Heath. A modicum of ‘gnar’ was on the menu, and we were all suitably ‘tooled up’ with front suspension and hardtails; Al on the fat Puffin, Jonesy on his Slackline, Colin on his Nimble 9, me on the Instigator and Karl on his … err, something or other. Only Elliot had pulled a full-bouncer out of the stable, his Horsethief.
So it was Crabtree Lane and ‘View to a kill’ to start. I followed Jonesy and Al, and felt controlled enough to attempt the final steep roll-in despite the conditions. I nearly made it, but as on Friday’s ride, the front wheel slid away from me right at the end of the turn. Up to Ranmore via the bridleway from Ranmore Common Road to ‘Dearly Beloved’, where there’s still a big tree down that requires a trip through the undergrowth to navigate around it. I had wanted a quick detour to Wee Willie Winkie, but as I was languishing at the back on the climb, the message never got to the front and they headed straight to Red White & Rose(ATTW3). Here’s where the fun started!
Before the descent, Colin nearly took out Jonesy, who had suddenly accelerated past on his inside as he realised Al was going to set off first. So it was Al that led Jonesy and Colin, with me bringing up Karl and Elliot in the second wave.
We three had to slither to a halt as there’d clearly been an ‘incident’ amongst the front runners. Al had gashed open the side of his On-One Floater rear tyre. A sharp flint embedded in the trail was identified as the culprit. It’s still there, as it would need a pick axe and crow bar to remove it.
As the pictures show, it was well beyond a tubeless ‘worm’ repair, and despite me providing the toothpaste tube tyre boot and duct type, it was unlikely to be much more than a temporary ‘get me home’ fix. So it was goodbye to Al, who headed back to his car just before the deluge started.
The remaining five of us continued the slithering down to the end of the trail, and Karl and I certainly had our ‘moments’ as the tyres struggled for grip on the slimy leaves covering the greasy chalk.
Ascending Stane Street, it was Jonesy’s turn for a puncture, having picked up a large thorn trimming somewhere along the way. TNP also proved a handful, with Jonesy finding ‘Road Mole’s diagonal root’ from a few weeks back. He somehow ended up with his back wheel four foot up a tree.
Climbing up to the Gallops, we decided it was time to head for Ali’s tea waggon as the rain was now bucketing down. We hoped to tackle some of the fun Mickleham trails on the way back, when we also hoped the rain might have eased. After a quick play on the small jumps area at the edge of Headley Heath, we were rewarded with the disappointment of a missing tea wagon.
It turned up as we were sheltering under the information board, but as she was going to be another 15 minutes or so setting up, we headed back out into the rain. By this time I had my goretex jacket on to keep the wind off the now soaked gilet and thin top. Karl just ‘manned up’ in his thin summer top.
‘Secret Singletrack’ was running nicely, considering the conditions, and we headed back to the Gallops and ‘White Honky’. This started off well, but as the switchbacks steepened, carnage ensued. None of us stayed upright on the greasy chalk, yet it was only two days earlier that Jonesy and I had ridden it with no drama whatsoever. See our complete humiliation here in this Go Pro clip, courtesy of Karl.
With the only significant damage being to our pride, we returned to the Gallops via ‘Cliffhanger’ (the ‘High Alpine’ descent in reverse). We couldn’t let the ride pass without Karl having a mechanical, so from this point on his chain fell off at regular intervals.
Back on the Gallops, ‘Paranoid’ was next up, before finishing with the ‘Bat Cave’ and ‘Tankslapper’. In contrast to White Honky, Tankslapper’s berms were perfectly rideable, though I did wimp out of the jump at the end today, as I was uncertain whether I’d remain upright on the landing. Here we said goodbye to Jonesy, who returned along the A24 to Dorking, and shortly afterwards it was goodbye to Colin as he headed North towards Leatherhead.
Karl, Elliot and myself returned to Bocketts via Norbury Park and Infestation. A combination of soaking wet skin and the boneshaking effect of the roots caused one knee pad to fall down on this last descent. I didn’t want to stop and readjust as I was really enjoying myself, but it’s surprising how vulnerable you feel when you no longer have the crash protection you’re used to.
At the bottom, I parted ways with the remaining two as they returned to Bocketts. Having missed out on a cake stop, I did have to refuel with a large slice of fine carrot cake at the Domestique Café, washed down with an equally fine cappuccino. Brian was more than happy for me to drip water and drop mud over the floor and chair, as it’s all melamine and laminate, and easy to wipe clean. He might have cursed me after I left though.
Somewhere between Headley and Mickleham the rain had eased, but we were all soaked through by this time which, thanks to the unseasonably warm temperature, wasn’t half as grim as it might have been in more normal November temperatures. At least the bike (and me) were easy to hose down at the end of the ride. I’m sure we all felt quite smug once we’d cleaned ourselves up, though it was galling to see the sun make an appearance later in the afternoon.
35km and 670m of climbing for me, including the additional distance to and from Bocketts.