So that was January 2016. We’ve been to Tunnel Hill – in the rain. We’ve been to Frensham once or twice – in the sun. We’ve been out in the snow on Ranmore. And today, we were riding in our own rain cloud to Reigate.
Well I say it was our rain cloud. Obviously, anyone who ventured out in the murk today was welcome to claim it as their own. It’s just that it happened to be us; and as you’d expect, where there’s mist, and murk and general dankness, there’s mud. Lots and lots of mud.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Every ride so far this year – with the exception of Frensham – has been sloppy. At Tunnel Hill we needed snorkels, today we could have done with a different route entirely, pure and simple; the dreaded BGM (Bastard Glue Mud) was very much present. Fortunately, despite all this we managed to maintain high spirits; we being Lloyd, Andy, James, Elliott, Karl, DDub and myself, eventually to be joined by JR putting a whole new perspective on ‘turning up late for a ride’.
So seven of us set out with the aim of a simple ride to Reigate, soon expanded to include View to a Kill. This was every bit as slippery and greasy as you’d think it would be when you’re riding in a cloud in January but no less fun for all that.
D’Andy’s initial ambition was to drag us up to Ranmore as well to include Red, White and Rose before we headed for Reigate, but even he had to concede that heading off in the opposite direction to Reigate – and all the hard climbing this would involve – was effort for the sake of effort. As it turned out, we would be needing all our energy in any case, so I don’t feel I missed out on the R, W & R experience today.
To compensate we decided to take in Secret Singletrack on the way to and from Reigate today. First we headed into Westhumble and then to Juniper House for the climb up on to the Mickleham Gallops. It was greasy everywhere but at the top of the Gallops as we headed toward Headley we got our first real taste of the mud, which was deep and extensive. In places it was heavy and sticky, in others the composition was lighter but significantly wetter. The only real traction to be had was in our fondly held memories of the summer before, and certainly not under our wheels today.
Since running Defrosters I’ve had dry feet regardless of conditions and today was no exception although I’m less sold on my cycle trousers. They do at least keep the mud off but the damp comes through quicker than I’d like. I’d expected to over heat but soon found the main problem with riding in a cloud is how to keep warm – the best solution seemed to be to keep moving.
After wrestling the bike through the morass of mud I couldn’t say I was cold but I certainly wasn’t particularly warm either and this difficulty persisted as we climbed onto Headley and started down Secret Singletrack. It’s unusual for us to ride this so early in the day and it was enjoyable enough but the low traction nature of the day meant speeds weren’t excessively high. Somewhere along the way D’Andy picked up another rider as we climbed back onto Headley; he was heading toward Reigate as well but rather more tired than we were as he was on the return leg of his outing.
By the time we started on the run behind the cricket ground toward Pfizer and the NDW it became clear why he was so tired. The mud in this stretch was unlike anything I’ve seen there before and I’ve ridden this trail in some pretty miserable conditions. It was awful and it was more a case of navigating the bike rather than riding it.
Occasionally the bike was pointing in the direction I wanted to go, while ahead of me James was having a torrid time on his fatbike. Well I think it was torrid, it was hard to tell. Either he was seeking out the deepest, most cloying stretches of mud as a training exercise or like the rest of us, it was a simple case of survival. Hard, hard work for us all.
In fact, all the way to Colley Hill it was hard going. Once there we found ourselves exposed to the the wind, while remaining in our cloud. I was soaked through on my top half and had damp legs below and with summer gloves unbelievably I was feeling the cold just riding along. When we stopped for coffee at the Gatton tea room I was frozen and could hardly get my money out of my pocket – a situation others have often noted I suffer from. I had to put my Dyfi jacket on as an extra layer but didn’t feel comfortable until we’d got going again.
We headed back via Margery Wood which was when I finally started to generate some heat again as we slithered and slid between the trees. Across the golf course, splashing through puddles and more deep mud on the following tracks it felt like we were rolling along nicely. This came to a brutal stop as we headed back to the cricket ground.
What a slog it was through the mud again, although I admit I quite enjoyed myself as progress depended on careful line choice, a bit of luck and simple hard work to move forward while constantly correctly slides and avoiding getting bogged down at slow speed.
At Headley we were all keen to keep moving so Secret Singletrack was dispatched without too much effort, then we struck out for the top of the golf course at Tyrells Wood.
Here, finally we met JR who had been hopelessly delayed earlier with the untimely but not entirely unpredictable death of his brake pads on his fat bike. At least it shows he’s ridden it enough to wear them out but as a result he was on his Trek 29er instead. At the same time a group of four cross looking chaps – well they were on ‘cross bikes – stopped to pass the time of day so we had an outbreak of nicheness with fatbikes, different sized mountain bikes, semi fat tyred singlespeeds, and a Surly Fargo to discuss. Nice bunch.
Back down towards the Gallops we went, passing a bunch of people ‘filming’ a dead body being dragged out of the boot of a car (according what JR had seen on his way up) and ploughing straight into more deep mud. Our intent was Tactical Nuclear Penguin which I haven’t ridden for months and which, as with VtaK, was rooty, muddy and slick. And as with VtaK, it was also good fun so long as you weren’t pushing the limits of the Envelope of Pace.
All that remained after that was a long climb up through Norbury Park and more mud on Infestation which I handled by completely conceding to myself that I just wanted to get back in one piece. By now I was feeling pretty tired and just about dragged myself back to the Bocketts car park, my final mileage being 26 miles.
I may have over-egged the mud card here but I don’t think so. It really was a hard ride even though there was a lack of technical content and I didn’t do a great deal during the afternoon as a result; but despite all that it was another ride with great company and even if only very briefly – as we rode into Mickleham Village – we did see the sun today…
Hey look at that. It’s February!!