Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 3 January – Holmbury and Pitch Hill

Posted by Matt | January 3, 2010 | 24 comments so far

Do moles hibernate? Well, this one certainly has over the past few weeks to my shame. With early December starting much as November had finished (in other words very, very wet) and a fair sized mileage racked up for the year I just lost all my enthusiasm for more punishment. Throw in a recent head cold which stubbornly refused to lift and the Christmas holiday saw me manage one ride. Today’s.

But what a great day to return to the saddle. Crisp, sub-zero but with blue skies overhead and frozen mud under wheels you couldn’t hope for a better winter’s day to be riding on.

Meeting at the Holmbury YHA car park at the slightly more sociable time of 9:00 for a change were 14 riders. DaveC, Jem, Colin, Tony, AndyC, Ellie, James, Keith, Tom, DaveW, Lee, Andy661, Lee and myself which is a pretty good turnout by my reckoning. It was particularly nice to see people who for one reason or another haven’t been out recently – AndyC (with mended hand but demolished bank balance judging by his new Pace), Tony (with mended collarbone), Colin (with a finally assembled Ti 456), Lee (actually on his bike). All great to be able to wish a Happy New Year to, as well as welcoming Andy661 and Ellie to their first rides with us.

First off is the long climb up toward Holmbury Hill, a steady slog which soon had us warmed up and getting acquainted with the permafrost conditions. Rather than carry on to the summit we turned off toward the Reservoir area which proved to quite tricky with the ice-slick roots – Jem at one point in front of me nearly high-siding himself as his back wheel snapped viciously out of line.

Soon we’d re-grouped at the top of Barry Knows Best which provided me with my first opportunity to try out the newly remodelled ending. What can I say, I thought the whole run was superb as the firm conditions let you pick a line quite late round roots that you knew would be slippery. At one point I managed to get full travel off one of the jumps before the trail turned sharp left onto the new section.

There’s definitely quite an improved flow along here now rather than the previous, increasingly rooty, crash and bash along to the Waterfall. Now you have smooth berms (with one monster sweep near the end) that allows the fun to continue to the end of the trail, even if I did get stuck behind someone riding extremely slowly toward the end. I hope I didn’t startle them too much.

It’s amazing what the semi-pro Redlands/Friends of Hurtwood group are achieving with the land owners across Holmbury and Leith these days, this running on from the work on Yoghurt Pots and repairs to Summer Lightning. Despite appearances to the contrary, this stuff isn’t building itself…

Back to the ride. Passing the chance of an early cake stop we headed round the corner to Car Park Number 2 and started on a climb up Pitch Hill. For a while it seemed it was all uphill but sometimes you just need to pay your dues. We were soon turning off through the trees for a nice technical run into Car Park Number 3 at Mill Plain.

Just after this we crossed over the road and climbed round past Caution! Steep Slope—my new Heart Rate Monitor was disconcertingly showing 189bpm at this point—and then after passing the Windmill we came to Two Headed Dog. We let the group in front of us go, then it was our turn, with some choosing the ‘chicken’ run (some chicken run) and the rest the easier left hand side.

I managed to completely screw things up after DaveW had climbed back up to impressively take on the suicide right hand run. I was first down the slope Dave had climbed and only found out too late he’d managed to drag the fallen sapling onto my preferred line. This might not have been too much of a problem if my weight was in the right place but unfortunately I was a bit forward and heading off into the bushes trying to avoid the displaced tree. A complete roll over the bars soon followed!

The benefit was I found myself looking at a nice Garmin GPS unit as I picked myself up, much to the relief of the rider from the group ahead of us who just then returned to look for his lost toy. Had I not fallen we might not have found it so there’s luck for you.

Rolling again we crossed the road into Car Park Number 4 at Horseblock Hollow and headed up to the Judges Seat through proper winter wonderland woods where we again caught the other group of riders. Despite some of them making it look very easy we all decided not to take on Judges Seat challenge. I’m sure with some speed it’s relatively easy but I’m also sure that for now I don’t have the bottle to try it. Instead we headed down the rollercoaster trail to Jellies Hollow and crossed back over the road toward the bombholes.

With that behind us it was on to the optimistically named Gone in Sixty Seconds a few times then back down a very steep and technical trail that switchbacked it’s way down to the fireroad. I managed to get down but it was proper arse off the saddle contortionism for me and I nearly had another off when my shorts snagged on the back of the saddle.

By now my sense of direction had faded somewhat as we picked up the fireroad toward Christmas Pudding. I knew where I was going but don’t ask me to find it on a map! James’s tyre decided at this point it didn’t want to be as closely associated with it’s bead as it had been, necessitating a Colgate tyre boot/gaffer tape solution from Lee and Andy which saved him for the rest of the ride – just!

We darted off down Christmas Pudding and slipped between the Ladies Legs (I can’t believe I write this tosh!) to join the others and then disappeared into the always amusing Ewok Run. After an agricultural interlude tramping through the mud we crossed back over the road somewhere before following the singletrack all the way back to Peaslake. We seemed to pop out improbably quickly back at the Walking Bottom (Number 2) car park so I really must have lost my bearings.

But Peaslake meant cheese straws, flapjack and tea from the Village Stores which was very welcome as Keith went to get some new brake pads from Pedal & Spoke, the new bike shop. They fitted them for him but given the cost I’d have expected them to come in a fur-lined pouch with their own limited edition certificate of authenticity.

They must be really special pads but more likely the shop is capitalising on the fact that riders shopping there are in desperate need. Understandable but a shame given that there’s a knowledgeable audience of bikers in Peaslake who would appreciate a few deals on everyday components. With some nice bikes stocked and available for hire it could work to the shop’s advantage in the longer term.

After we refueled we were left with a climb up Radnor Lane and an ultimate destination of the Holmbury Hill summit which caused my tired legs to protest but there was no alternative. By the time we’d reached the lookout we were at least warm again and as time was pressing on we were soon heading down Yoghurt Pots.

Anyone riding Yoghurt Pots at the moment needs to take great care though. The rain of the past weeks has not been easily absorbed by the sodden trail and the sandy surface now has a slick coating of ice over the top of it causing lots of slips and falls in our group, so beware. Fortunately there was no harm done but I had to take evasive action as Jem skidded in front of me and then James binned it on the last corner.

Telegraph Road too was in a state of permafrost but was at least more predictable as we made our way back to the car park, AndyC whooping it up behind me as he put the new bike to good use. Looking at the impressive kit he’s running he’ll be busy writing reviews for a while once he’s had the chance to put some miles on it…

Talking of which I think we just about scraped 13 miles today, as ever with Holmbury it’s surprising how it always feels like more. But the real news is that everyone had a great time I think which I hope sets us up well for the coming year. Remember, the days are getting longer…

Filed under Rides in January 2010


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

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  1. KC says:

    First apologies to the group for holding you all up whilst getting the brake pads sorted. I got my just reward when I returned home to find that one of the pads from the rear had escaped, leaving me with yet more expense! I washed off the bike, wash off myself and bought some Superstar pads. Hopefully I will get them in time for the Weds night ride!!

    Great to be out again and whilst the conditions were icy in parts it felt much better than struggling through thick mud.

  2. Nick Wilson says:

    Hi Matt,

    Was a gorgeous day out on Sunday, myself and a few friends did a loop around holmbury and pitch. The conditions were awesome, did see quite a few near misses!!

    Though I am a regular customer in pedalandspoke and have previously bought some brake pads from there and I paid retail price, but that was expected. The two guys in there didnt charge me for fitting (which most shops do..been charged 15 pounds once front and rear) even though it was a right pain to do. I popped into another local bike shop for pads..paid 21.99 per pad for some XTRs once, I didnt expect a discount.

    Haven spoken to them and found out they both are keen riders and support the hurtwood control so I dont think they are capitialising on the riders. Having seen some of their other products they do offer some good deals. They are running a business and cant be expected to give every rider discounts as much as we would like 🙂

    I wish them all the best and hope they keep on doing a good job!

    Nick Wilson.

  3. Andy661 says:

    Thanks to everyone for making my first proper ride so enjoyable 🙂

    Highlights for me were:

    Gone in 120 seconds [!], i will get better,

    Doing my best Imperial Stormtrooper impression on the Ewok Run [massive tree hug ;-)],

    Doing some actual jumps in Telegraph Poles! There’s hope for me yet!

    Looking forward to next weekend and some improved fitness!

  4. Matt says:

    Hi Nick, I don’t really begrudge Pedal & Spoke their costs and let’s be honest, having them there is a darn sight better than not. Brake pads must be one of their biggest sellers and they need to make a profit.

    All I’d say is there’s cheaper sources of brake pads if you plan ahead. I can fit them myself and £20 for a set of pads? No thanks!

    Even so, I run the same pads as Keith and thought I had a spare set with me but what do you know? I left them behind – so I need to plan better myself!

  5. kc says:

    I hope that Pedal & Spoke survive and do well. I was just lazy and should have replaced the pads ages ago. You live and learn and now I will have a spare set in my tool kit!

  6. Andy C says:

    Holmbury=Lost Brake Pad Central?

    Putting the On-One that Ellie was riding back into the car (having cleaned it under the gaze of a group of envious Moles with my new toy, a Mobi V-17 power washer – Cycleopedia have one left in stock), I noticed that it had lost a front pad.

    A quick search and Ellie located a pad, which on closer examination was not one that fitted the Hope Minis. Then we realised that we had been parked next to Keith, so I have a present for you as it looks as if it still has quite a bit of life left in it.

    It was great to give the Pace it’s second outing, and so far it seems to be living up to my expectations and the whole is proving to be more than the sum of its parts.

    For anyone who has not dragged their bike out of the shed or garage for 2010, do so this week-end. I believe the cold snap is forecast to run until the w/e, and the trails are great in their current frozen state, with the exception of the odd road crossing and Yoghurt Pots / Park Life. Stick to that resolution and get out there now!

  7. Nick Wilson says:

    No fair point, we always forget things…I once forgot my seat 🙁

    Luckily the boys at pedalandspoke sorted me out with a spare which was really kind.

    KC I ve lost plenty of pads in the Surrey hills too

    Im sure I might bump into you both at some point one one of the runs

    Happy biking!


  8. Colin says:

    Hey guys, really good to get out again and what a superb day for a comeback. Great to see some new faces and those returning from injury or just simply not being arsed to ride lately (like me).

    Also good to see that despite the recession, Andy has indeed done his level best to single handedly support the bike industry!

  9. kc says:

    Great news Andy!

    Luck must be on my side

    I shall add it to the other 3 sets of spares that I will now carry!

  10. james says:

    It was a really good ride, thanks again to Lee and Andy for sorting out my tyre, those Speed Kings really have been shite. Was an odd stroke of luck as Jem gave me a spare tyre that same morning! If anyone has a matching 2.4 winter mud tyre that is surplus to requirements I am your man!!

    Should be up for Wednesday night but may have to wait a couple of weeks to do another Sunday, family comes first. I will be up for Swinley but don’t do it for a couple of weeks till I can get another pass!!

  11. tony says:

    There are Speedkings and Speedkings if you know what I mean James. The standard speedkings aren’t a patch on the Black Chilli and Protection (grippy and tougher sidewalls in normal english) versions. Although I probably wouldn’t run any speedkings in the winter mud anyway. Something like a Panaracer Fire XC is a good winter all rounder.

    Andy has taken bike fetish anodising to levels only previously seen the early ’90s. It was like a flashback.

    Great ride yesterday and super conditions, even if they were a little “chilly”. Although I did spend a little too much time vainly fiddling with the lever between my legs!!

  12. PIJ says:

    Tyres! Speed Kings are very good, but I’ve just switched from them to a rear Maxxis Aspen with a Maxxis Ardent on the front; both 2.25. Very impressed with them so far – can be a bit twitchy when it gets really slippery, but for me that adds to the fun. The Aspen looks as though it shouldn’t grip at all, but it finds it on the climbs readily enough. Not been brave enough to run one on the front yet! Both are fast rolling in a winter-style if you get my drift? [Got mine from NextDayTyres – seem to offer a good service, but are not the cheapest around.] I did try a Super Tacky High Roller the other week. Advice? Don’t!! Drag, drag, and more drag. Like riding with your brakes on.

    As for the bike shop charging £20 for pads…. seems the going rate as C & N in Redhill charge the same. Some of these guys are really finding it hard to survive, so give them a break – and www. suppliers are hard to come by on a Sunday ride! At least pads from a LBS are going to fit – Disco Brakes etc. sometimes don’t.

    Our little group hit Epsom Downs on Sunday – same conditions as you guys experienced. Really, really good day to be out. Especially as the horse riders seemed to be absent from the trails.

    Keep enthusiastic you guys!

  13. Jem says:

    Great to see so many Moles out all at once.

    Great to see new face’s (welcome Andy, Ellie, Tom) and some that have not been seen for a while.

    Great to be out on such a beautiful day.

    Great to fall off and not hurt myself.

    All in all a GREAT DAY!

  14. DaveW says:

    It was a cracking ride. Thanks everyone. Glad you all survived yoghurt pots okay – when we shot down there in the advance party I was sliding all over the place, but thankfully just about stayed on. It was SO nice to ride on firm trails after all that slop of the last few months.

    You’ll be glad you got rid of those speedkings James, especially when its wet. I really rate Panaracer cinders as an all-round all-season tire.

    Not sure about the Ardent/Aspen combo PIJ – sounds a bit sketchy, but some people like that kind of thing (e.g. Conti users ;o)

    Highroller ST is totally the other end of the scale – nice and sticky – good on the front for extreme descents. Too slow for the rear though.

    I’m currently enjoying a Minion 62a front and Trailraker rear on my 5 which seems a really good combo for more agressive winter riding. Planning on sticking a 62a highroller on the back in the summer.

    I’ve ordered a pair of 62a Maxxis Medusas for the Simple from nextdaytires – looking forward to trying them out – I’ve been hearing good reports from Jem.

    Nuff tire geekishness already!

    Not sure if I’ll make Wednesday as my wife is working Wednesdays now and doesn’t get back until around 7, making it a bit tight for me to get there. Should be out at the weekend though. Looking forward to that Swinley jaunt in a couple of weeks (!?)


  15. PIJ says:

    Hi DW,

    you’re right – we could go on for ages about tyres. I like a bit of slip as it stops me from going at 100% all the time, plus it makes me think of the trail conditions a bit more. I chopped out my Speed Kings as soon as it got slippery – they do grip, but there was always that nagging doubt in the back of my mind.

    It does seem that all of a sudden tyres are where it is at in terms of gaining extra performance. For ages they were just round black things that looked like 1970’s motocross tyres. Hell of a boring subject though. Maxxis seem to be a bit more on the boil than most. Nuff said.

    Trails are real fast. I was out on my newly built but old skool Pace, and had an absolute blast. All of us out that day were grinning – or were we grimmacing from the c-c-c-cold? Epsom side of things was frozen solid, but we didn’t encounter too much ice.

    Looking forward to the weekend!


  16. erick says:

    Hey Guys,

    it seems that you had a quite a bit of fun. Weather forecast for the weekend is looking good, it seems that the dry/frost conditions will last for a few days.

    We might even have some snow!

    I ordered a 4-pack of brake pads from Superstar yesterday, got them today. Brilliant! Cheap, super fast, and they even included a pack of Haribo in the bag.

    See you guys on Sunday.

  17. Dave says:

    I was toasty warm with my Specialized Defroster, Sealskinz Merino inner socks AND Endura winter socks as well. I also had the Sealskinz glove liners but Cathie has them now as they came out of a 40 degree wash a few sizes smaller…..bummer! Socks were OK though.

  18. Andy C says:

    Merino inner socks? Sounds fantastic. I wore a pair of Polaris socks under my Seal Skinz outers, but the ‘plates o’ meat’ were still a little chilly, possibly because the circulation was being affected because of the thickness of material. And a snip at £7 with CRC.

    My hands, on the other hand, were fine ‘n dandy in my Seal Skinz Waterproof Winter Winter Gloves, no liner required. I do confess to owning some silk glove liners for ski-ing, and may employ these tomorrow night if I make it out. No doubt Tony also has a pair as part of his extensive silk underwear selection?

  19. tony says:

    My extensive silk underware (well sock and glove liners) kept me nice and toasty warm. I’d have a look for “green lacy camo silk underware” for you Andy, since this must be your next purchase, but I’d rather not google that at work! I’m sure that there are specialist shops for your taste.

    BTW did you notice the other Pace full susser when we stopped at Peaslake.

    10 a penny 🙂

  20. Andy C says:

    Pah! Bet he didn’t have green Chris King hubs or matching bars and groupset?

    I’m thinking of starting a ‘Pimp my Pace’ web site, and maybe a line in green silk underwear. Not sure about the ‘lacy’ though, I wouldn’t want people to think I’m a tart.

  21. tony says:

    Did I notice the missed opportunity for an bit of extra colour on the seatpost?

    Perhaps on your “Pimp my Pace” website you could have a link to the Chris King hubs in spinning action. So much more subtle than the Hope alternatives!

    I had a completely silent Sachs 8speed freewheel on one of my bikes once, it was eerrie to ride. It made me think that the Chris King expense might just be worth it for the quiet.

  22. Andy C says:

    More ‘green bling’ for the seat post area is on order in tha shape of a Salsa anodised seat clamp. Actually, the ‘Black Mamba’ serving to keep the crud out of my sliding seat post mech also hides the clashing red seat post collar. After all, I wouldn’t want it to look like a Christmas tree 😉

  23. Derek says:

    Hi Guys, I regularly ride the trails at Holmbury and think i’ve found most of them now, a map from one of the local shops helped greatly, the refurb’d BKB is fab. With regard to Pitch, is it a case of just riding and trying out what looks like singletrack or is there a map of some sort ? No marker posts i suppose ? Keep up the good site !!!

  24. Dave says:

    Hi Derek,

    I don’t know of any map for the T trails or any of the other stuff over there I’m afraid. I’m sure that once the rain and mud die off though we could arrange to meet you over the one Sunday and show you the basics.

    Email us (top right of site)

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