Today’s ride can be summarised in one word. Wet. To that can be added the word ‘Very’.
This is going to be a short ride report. If I’m honest, I’ve only just dried out, so I will keep things concise.
It was a ride characterised by sounds; the sound of James’ home made rear mudguard flapping on his 4.8 inch rear tyre as we clattered down the trails. The sound of splashes through deep puddles and the sound of gritty drivetrain components facing their sternest test. Most dominant of all, the sound of brake pads squealing on discs at different tones depending on the harmonics created by pad thickness, wheel size, tyre volume and of course by how white knuckle the rider’s situation had become.
Added to all that racket was the sound of rain, drumming incessantly off leaves, lakes, ponds and off seven bedraggled riders who were soaked to the skin despite the advances made in modern ‘waterproof’ fabrics.
DDub was our expert guide round Tunnel Hill, a ride that covered largely MOD land and also included Karl, Tony, Lloyd, JamesS and Elliott. We started from Mytchett near Frimley and circled the Deepcut area of Porridge Pot Hill and Old Windmill Hill and out to Frith Hill. We also crossed and re-crossed the Basingstoke Canal, the ride starting out in lightly damp conditions but deteriorating into full rain mode by the time we were halfway round.
Much of the area – the first time I’ve ridden here – reminded me of an unspoilt Swinley and there’s loads of interesting singletrack. The bits that were good were very good and I look forward to experiencing them in the dry. The bits that were bad were nearing Bordon levels in terms of number and volume of puddles although none of it was unrideable. I also look forward to riding these in the dry!
Most of the trails were a mixture of a fairly grippy surface with lots of treacherous tree roots that caused sudden ‘handling imbalances’. The first challenging trail (where Tony straight-lined off the piste) nearly accounted for me too but with speeds quite low it was a case of not going for maximum hoon but picking careful lines instead. The result was a very good lesson in trail navigation through the day. I learned not to try popping off adverse camber slopes (got away with that one) and also how to hug a tree (which was a solid impact with no lasting effects, thankfully).
On a couple of occasions I was forced to employ the Celtic Gambit due to the steepness of the hills but generally it was a case of lots of sharp uphills followed by reasonably flowing singletrack. The final result was 18 miles of hard work with several of us pretty tired and cold by the end of the ride and all of us wet. Very.
No brake pads were killed during the making of this ride but I think most of us have shortened the life-span of those on our bikes considerably. It was great to ride different trails with an obtuse mind-set regarding the weather, but I’d like to return again when things are a bit drier. I was lucky that DDub had a spare pair of gloves (having left mine at home) as I don’t think I’d have got far riding bare handed (thanks DDub).
So as it turned out, our first ride of 2016 wasn’t even in the Surrey Hills! This will change for sure in short order.