With the last day of the year falling on our regular riding day – a Sunday – it all felt somewhat ironic. For me at least, 2023 has been anything but plain sailing, with a dodgy neck that continues to hamper my riding.
Sunday was no different, with me chasing the last few miles to get to 2,000 for the year, a long way down on 2022 (with 3,500 miles) and even further from 2021 (a record 4,700 for me). I’ll detail the breakdown of 2023 miles later but for the purposes of Sunday’s ride it was ride or miss an already low target.
A break in the weather meant five of us set out – Elliot, MarkC, James, Stuart and myself – headed for the Dabbling Duck at Shere. Basically our classic ‘Reverse Newlands’ that never actually goes to Newlands Corner. We should really be calling it ‘Shere’ or ‘Not Newlands’ at the very least.
Lloyd remains hors de combat where he’s been since mid December with his septic lungs, while others were otherwise away or found their burrow rather appealing with a New Year party ahead of them.
We soon found lots of trail damage from fallen trees up on Ranmore, with a hike over them required on more than one occasion, particularly toward the end of Collarbone. The wind had been pretty fierce over the previous night.
What was worse though was the rain returned, at one point it felt like it was getting dark at about 10:00 in the morning! We pressed on using the tried and tested ‘one more trail’ approach to see if it got bad enough to call it a day. It got quite close I think looking at the faces of my riding companions!
With rain came mud – lots of it. I quite enjoy the sort of low speed slither this encourages as you pick a line of least resistance through familiar trails turned treacherous from the soaking.
Our path took us to Sauvage, ridden relatively sedately, then back up to the Drovers Road as the rain lifted. It still left the mud of course.
Petrol Pump was my highlight of the day, dampened a little by a smug walker who just had to tell me it was a footpath when I was trying to let him know there were riders behind me.
Community relations slipped further coming in to Shere.
As we passed the church Elliot’s rear wheel plopped into a pot hole causing a small amount of water to splash up. We’ve seen worse. But the uppity woman walking about a metre and half to Elliot’s right clearly hadn’t and started complaining loudly about the chance her jeans might get wet (they hadn’t). As I was behind Elliot I said to her ‘sorry about that, we’re not doing it on purpose…’
Her reply was we definitely were, and we shouldn’t be riding there at all. Hard to fathom a response to that – we were on a road, passing parked cars. Presumably she wouldn’t mind getting splashed or simply knocked down by a Surrey SUV but somehow a bike was too much.
We retired to the Yurt for coffee and cake, the only sensible response to public idiocy.
Suitably revived – but in my case, not entirely revivified – we headed home along the classic Abinger Roughs route with Elliot upsetting walkers at will. It was that kind of morning but at least the weather had dried up and the sun came out, making me glad we didn’t quit earlier.
We even managed to include High Med on our route home, followed by Big Babba Yagga down to the Tanners Youth hostel. In all, about 25 miles of mud and filth!