Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride Report: Sunday 30 January – Frost and Clag

Posted by Muddy John | January 31, 2011 | 15 comments so far

The bright frosty morning had Fetcham dog walkers were out in force, as I arrived at the Bockett’s Car Park.  It had also attracted a good crop of Moles.

Dave C, Tony, Dave W, Bike Tech Mark, Mark’s brother Gary (I think?), Paul, Canadian Rob, Ray, Kevin and Andy 661 made eleven of us – sorry if I missed anybody out.  And there was the promise of picking up another along the way.

With Leith Hill in mind, we took the usual Admirals Track, the dive below the two bridges, then up past Yew Trees to Ranmore. The ground conditions were excellent as the frost had worked its magic on any lingering mud. But I was feeling my lack of moleing these past few weeks, barely keeping pace with Paul who seemed very relaxed as he breezed to a halt by the road, with Dave W right behind.  After Landrover and Hole Hill, we took the Rockery Climb and just as we regrouped on Wolvens Lane we were joined by Jem – perfect timing.

The bombholes above Coldharbour were in great condition and my sense of well-being was boosted by the dappled sunlight through the trees we made our way to the Cricket Pitch.  Dave W led us on through his back route to the bottom of the Leith Hill climb, and before long we were propping up the bikes and digging in pockets for change.  The sun was shining out of a blue sky, but the north east wind had a Siberian chill and was gusty enough to topple some of the bikes, so everybody huddled against the south wall of the tower for tea and cake. 

Dave C ran into one of his old acquaintances, Lee, who had just arrived from Holmbury with the claim that “Yoghurt Pots is as good as it’s going to get before the summer”.  So we headed off to High Ashes Farm, led by Dave W through Windy Willows, some superb single track northwest of the tower.  That alone would have made for a great day’s ride, but after High Ashes came a brilliant blast down “The Mother”, leading out to Holmbury.

The first part of the climb – to Holmbury Cricket pitch – is always a grind, and at the five ways crossroad some of the moles took a well earned breather while a few pressed on to take in Yoghurt Pots.  Conditions were pretty good, with a couple of puddles to skirt around in the deeper pots, but the real challenge was avoiding the dad and two young sons gingerly walking their bikes.  My guess is they were about 5 and 7 years old – I don’t know whether to sympathise with him starting them off on his favourite trails, or to think him mad for taking “start ‘em young” to a new level. 

Telegraph Road was in good form, after which we waited whilst Bike Tech Mark cadged some tools to sort out a few problems involving cable ties.  After the drop into Holmbury Village Hall, Dave C led us along the track by the Volunteer to Abinger Roughs and the bottom of White Down.  That was where the moaning started.

To be fair, the clay field after the railway bridge was particularly claggy, but when I suggested White Down was the best route back to Ranmore I was thinking about how crisp it was early on the frosty Saturday morning.  Unfortunately the Sunday sunshine had melted the mud, and the whole climb had become one long clag-fest. That didn’t deter Paul and Dave W who were clearly in good condition today, but as various other moles slowly appeared there were views expressed that a more Mediterranean style route choice would have been better.

By now the distance and my lack of fitness was starting to tell, and I found the muddy slog along Collarbone draining, so when we started back down Yew Trees I coasted along as Dave W and Paul disappeared into the distance and by the time I arrived at the top of the two bridges, I knew I was running on empty.  As everybody regrouped it became apparent that we were missing an unlikely tail ender – Tony.

Everybody welcomed a few minutes rest but eventually the cold wind started to take its toll so two kind volunteers, Andy 661 and Kev, headed back to see what had happened whilst the rest of us headed home.  Subsequently it turned out that a flint had cut one of Tony’s tubeless tyres, so patching and use of an emergency inner was required before he finished the ride.

In total I had clocked 24.5 miles, and Dave C’s Garmin recorded 2,700 ft climbed – I can feel every one of them.

Filed under Rides in January 2011

Muddy John

About the author

John has been biking in the Surrey Hills since the late 1990s but only started riding with the MuddyMoles in 2008. In the couple of years since then he has learned more about mountain biking from the Moles than he learned in the previous ten.

Having remained loyal to his vintage pale blue and orange Stumpjumper hardtail since the last century, he has recently explored the limits of his storage space and his wife’s patience by adding an On-One Inbred Singlespeed and an Orange Five.

John is usually wearing or riding something blue and does not eat any raw fruit beginning with the letter T.

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  1. Dandy says:

    Seems like D-Dub was setting the pace for what sounded like a cracking ride. I hope to join you next Sunday, though the long-range forecast suggests it will for some more mud-plugging.

  2. Tony says:

    Good write up John. It certainly started out cold and very crisp, perfect riding conditions. I particularly enjoyed Windy Willows after Leigh Hill Tower which was new to me too. How had I missed such good singletrack!

    The ride certainly went wrong as we approached White Down. I felt good and lead along the road up from the railway line to the gate at the bottom of the hill. As I lead up the path a combination of defrosted clay and a gentle slope 100yds turned my Trek Fuel into a 35lb mud monster and my oh so lite Hope ProII- Stans Crest wheels into 3.5inch mud hoops. It was hard to even push the bike never mind anything else. I had to stop 3-4 times coming up White Down to clear the bike. Then as we headed along Collarbone (behind a visibly slowing JohnR), I felt the dread squirmy back wheel. I thought that I would get away with the sealant doing it’s stuff, but as I got to the top of Yew Tree’s single track, it was time to stop. Looking at my clay circle of a wheel I hoped that I would get by with just pumping up the tyre, but it wasn’t to be as a arrowhead flint fell out of the tyre revealing a 1-1.5cm cut. Pumping the tyre more was just leaking latex and there was nothing for it but a inner tube. Soon I was covered in mud and first Kevin and then Andy661 came to “help” (where was the quick release Andy? :)). The final straw was as a Avid Juicy (what a hateful pad replacement system) pad dropped out as the wheel came out. Thanks to you both, the help was highly appreciated.

    After much faffing I eventually got going and John even came back in his car to check I was OK. Thanks everyone.

    • PaulL says:

      I sympathise on the Avid Juicy problems. Just about a month ago I had a my first teenage tantrum against an inanimate object since, well… being a teenager – all due to an Avid Juicy brake system. I’ve figured out what I was doing wrong. In fact Avid have produce the first set of throw away brakes where you are supposed to throw the whole set away once the pads wear out. I’m sure that’s it.

  3. KevS says:

    Nice one John. Another great ride in crispy weather made such a diff compared to last weeks slippery mud slide to Reigate, roll on the cold weather. 😉

    The Mole pace was relentless on the way up to Leith Hill tower, we seemed to get up there in pretty quick time.
    Coming down on the North West side of Leith following DaveW through the excellent singletrack and bomb holes I foolishly found myself riding at number 2 in the group and thinking I had never ridden that area before that it was probably not the best place to be. As we weaved and dipped and dropped in and out of the trees DaveW quietly turned to me and mentioned the next drop coming up was a bit steep .. than I lost sight of him as he and bike disappeared down into a huge hole before my eyes and I thought .. NOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooo just before I dropped in and explored the full extent of my forks travel!!

    Much more singletrack was to follow down there, what a great area!
    However having lost so much height we than paid for it as we climbed back up before heading over to Holmbury and more grinding up past the cricket pitch.

    The ride towards home was fun but we all knew in the back of our minds that the White Down climb was still to come so tired legs or not up we went.
    Now I know there was some effing and blinding going up the slippery muddy chalk path (which had me chuckling as I engaged the granny again) but I found my Bontrager Mud x’s were coping fine if you just kept a nice steady rhythm. I think those running Nobby Nics were getting clagged up with the chalky clay and spinning out at times.

    Finally hauling ourselves back up the Yew trees climb I think we were all feeling the effects of the longer ride and extra climbing but as Tony was experiencing the worst side of running tubeless I went back down Yew trees to offer some support, joined by Andy661 as well.
    After a bit of faffage all was fixed and we dragged ourselves back up Yew trees (again) and made it to Bocketts.

    Rode home and noticed front tyre was going down, damn!
    This is the 3rd ride in a row that I have arrived home with a slow flatting front tyre, there’s lucky.
    Thing is, what to do now given Tonys tubeless incident? Stay tubed uo or go tubeless? 🙂

    • PaulL says:

      I’m sure some of those bomb holes where so tight the distance from ground to top of head was greater than the radius of the arc of the bomb hole, giving the strange sensation of head going backwards after swooping forward into the bomb hole. Maybe not. But it felt like it.

  4. Matt says:

    Bad luck with the cut Tony, that’s quite a big one but should be patchable? Very frustrating for you but we do live on chalk and flint!

    Looking forward to getting my Crest rims on the Orange and building some fitness back, I’ve gone for MudXs if they ever turn up which should mean winter will be over when I finally emerge 🙂

  5. Dave says:

    Still feeling wasted here with a throat that feels like a baboons arse! Probably nothing left for the immune system to use for energy after that ride.

    Little Alberts also lost the grip up White Down so I think the Mud-X have it in those conditions. So much for taking the “summer” bike out.

    The tracks on Leith Hill are so sweet it made it all worthwhile!

  6. Markymark says:

    A superb ride in sunny weather and dry hardened ground (99%). The pace was pretty rapid most of the way round, but i had to laugh as we commenced the Rookery climb on the tarmac driveway as everyone bunched up tight and slow and looked around for someone to set the pace up the track! Eventually someone took off and we pumped up to Wolverns Lane.

    As we came to the junction for White Down my heart sank and i muttered to myself (“who’s the ****s decided to go left…..i bet that field’s ****ed now the sun’s out… goddamn it… i do not want t clean my bike today…”). But we all followed like labotamised sheep, and, yes, the field before the climb turned every bike into something out of Fred Flintstones garage.

    Then came the ‘second best idea of the day’. “Let’s head down Collarbone!” An excellent choice if you want to turn a 35lb’er into a 40lb’er.

    Having re-discovered rubber tread pattern down Yew Trees i returned to the van with yet another big grin on my face and another decent 24 miles under the belt.

  7. kc says:

    What concerns me most is how Dave knows what the arse of a baboon feels like!

  8. Tony says:

    Well I now have a tubless patch and after riding on my new superlight the wheels I can’t go back. The cut is large but should patch no problem.

    Next time I’ll be out on a bike with more mud clearance!

  9. Andy661 says:

    Really good to get out with the group again.
    Nearly cleared the climb up to the Tower for the first time and should have made it but for too small a gear and the front lifting up. Won’t be long though 🙂
    My Nobby Nics fared the same as Tony’s on the muddy climb but the Whyte still had a good 2-3 inches mud clearance. Smoother pedalling technique and better legs required.
    After going back down Yew Trees to ‘help’ Tony and quick search for his quick release revealed it to be. . . In my hand!hand! Here to help anytime Tony 😉 If you’ve bought the worm tyre repair kit you’ll fix the tear no probs.
    Really enjoyable ride. Getting quicker on the Pots but enjoyed the new stuff too.
    A late sunday lunch was greatly enjoyed!

  10. Jem says:

    Baboons Arse (definition) What can I say ?

    Really enjoyed the ride up to the tower, then round Windy Willows and more. Fantastic single track, some of which I have never done.

    Thanks Dave W for leading the way round some unknown trails.

    Once I left you at High Ashes, headed back to the tower. Then took in Personal Hygiene, bomb holes by the cricket pitch, Waggle dance, summer lightning, usual route down Wolverns Lane to the Wooton Hatch.

    Feeling quite tired, but content.


  11. kc says:

    Followed your link Jem and all is now clear. Get well soon Dave

    BTW did you notice Muddy Horsburgh wrote the post? Do we have an urban rebel amongst us?

  12. PaulL says:

    Thanks for the write up John. I was going to criticise it for failing to point out that John spent much of the time leading the climbs, before noticing it was written by… John. Clearly being modest.

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