Our first ride in May seemed like a great opportunity to head back toward Leith Hill. After missing the last two weekend rides with, err possible alcohol issues, it was a relief just to make it out onto the trails, now properly dry again and with a much increased amount of leafery as spring progresses.
Joining me today were Dave, Tony, DaveP, Lee, Jez and Keith. I was on my ‘pink’ singlespeed and fancied seeing what it would be like over a long run with no bail out options so Leith seemed ideal. Unlike last week we decided not to travel under the radar and opted for a simple ‘to the Tower and back’ route which nonetheless saw me racking up 26 miles by the time I returned home.
Starting out, we quickly—and unusually—upset some walkers up near Polesden Lacey who were walking down the Yew Trees bridlepath. Now as you know, this bit’s quite fast but it is a bridlepath so you really should expect riders. We always try to keep things sensible but with two people either side of the path, plus two jumpy dogs on one side and another on the other it was a bit dicey.
One of the walkers took particular exception to our arrival and while I admit we probably appeared quite quickly out of nowhere he seemed unnecessarily irate, bellowing at us in a way I haven’t been spoken to for a long time. I might have been at fault, jumping the drainage ditch and carrying a bit of speed down but we had slowed by the time we’d reached them and were well clear of the dogs. I didn’t bother trying to argue with him at least – I was more interested in the climb that was coming!
Once up on Ranmore we had to say goodbye to Jez who was struggling fitness-wise. He reckoned it was a dodgy hamstring but strangely looked the same way I’ve looked the past two Sunday mornings! Hope you’re feeling better now Jez! After that we dropped down the other side via Scouting for Boys which always seems to get steppier and faster as you go down it although the dry trails meant it was actually quite fun. We worked our way over to Westcott for the Rookery climb up to Wolvens Lane which was a bit of a challenge on the singlespeed. I had to stop once but made it the rest of the way which was quite encouraging at least.
The thing with a singlespeed is that while you’re moving you’re actually moving at a reasonable pace as you settle into what a 32:18 gear allows. When things get steeper, you stand up and push and when you can’t push anymore you get off and walk. Simple really.
So up Wolvens we went. I quite like Wolvens personally, it’s got stuff to enjoy both going up, where you wend (what a word!) through the trees in a steady flow and going down, when you tend to just hoon! We made good progress up the Lane and followed the straightforward route to the Tower via a short descent just after Wolvens and a long steady climb up to the start of the Tower Hill climb.
As usual, Tony made it look easy but he did at least have the advantage of gears. I made it up to the Tower with a couple of stops on the singlespeed where we met Colin who had been supposed to be out early and solo with the intention of finding Windy Willow. Which seemed to have been only partially successful on all counts.
With my bike parked up while we loaded up on cake I found first one guy taking pics of it (he wasn’t a rider, just someone out looking for interesting shots I think) and then got chatting to Rich and his mate who had spotted the bike and worked out we were from the Muddymoles! Nice to talk to you Rich and I look forward to hearing about the Nicolai when it arrives!
After out refuel we turned to head back with a few differences to our route to keep us entertained. First off, Personal Hygiene was calling, today it seemed quite easy although Lee and I both briefly pondered at the steeper run on the left with the step halfway down. I enjoy Personal Hygiene although I don’t seem to have ridden down the Tower Hill climb for ages as a result. Shame, cos that’s fun too!
Colin and DaveP had left us at the Tower to head towards Colin’s car (dave needed to get back) so it was just Keith, Dave, Lee, Tony and I that headed toward the cricket ground and the bomb hole complex that brings you to the top of Deliverance. None of us tried Deliverance today, it seems to have become much more steppy over the past month or so, so we headed over to Waggledance and waggled over to Summer Lightning for some fun.
Tony went ahead to get pics but I nearly took him out after jumping over the log drop on the first section, then Dave positioned himself for some pics half way down the second. Dave’s shot of Lee caught the trail ten seconds after his passing through as Dave activated the self timer! So it goes.
It always amazes me how tiring man-made trails can be, I find you work your upper body quite hard as you man-handle your bike through all the twists and turns. Today was no exception as we made our way back to Wolvens and Wolvens itself offered little respite until we caught Lee who had strung himself up on some barbed wire after bouncing off a holly bush!
Fortunately he hadn’t actually skewered himself but he was properly stuck until Dave rescued him. Then it was the expected hoon down the sandy trail, I love the bit near the top of the Rookery climb where you can repeatedly launch off some quite bigs rooty steps. Down Rookery, then it was over to Westcott again, this time with a long climb ahead of us. For some reason we yet again headed toward McPherson’s Mount and although I wasn’t expecting to clear it on the singlespeed I was amazed at how well I managed.
Basically I got about as far up it as most do with gears before they spin out. There’s this tricky bit near the top where you either spin out on a loose bit of dirt or you get past it and realise you just need to hang on for a few more yards to clean the climb, all the time with things starting to go a bit cloudy around you as vital organs start to shut down. Well, so I’ve heard. I just ground to a halt at that point!
By the time we reached Ranmore it was time to be thinking about the quickest way back. By now I was starting to feel a sugar bonk coming on but I managed to accompany everyone bar Keith (who was heading back promptly) down through Denbies. After spinning along the A24 as fast as my slowing legs would go I left Dave, Lee and Tony at Norbury and climbed up to the sawmill and back to home via Roaring House Farm. Just in time really as I was pretty pleased to get back and just wanted to stuff my face with biscuits and crisps to get my sugar levels back up. So I did!
Another great ride with the boys with some physically arduous riding and some technically challenging stuff too. Roll on Wednesday night…