As I set out for the hills on Sunday evening the lights of the houses I passed were just coming on, supplemented by the first weekend of Christmas decorated porches and windows. It all looked rather festive but after a pretty gloomy day it was trying to rain in the 6° temperatures in Bookham and that certainly didn’t feel too cheery…
I didn’t manage to make the ‘normal’ mole ride this morning, for a variety of reasons, but after a couple of laps of Bookham Common with the boys I decided I really should try and get out there ‘for real’. Not expecting anyone else to be up for it at short notice, it meant I was reduced to riding solo, not something I would recommend when you are off the beaten track. At night.
Unlike much of the night riding I’ve done, it felt very desolate out there. No walkers, no horses, no riders, not much of anything in fact except a stream of cars coming home down the Polesden drive. It suited my mindset really but I was keen not to push things too far.
First off, riding solo often means fewer stops and a quicker pace once a drop of adrenaline has kicked in. That’s a bad recipe, so I settled into a steady pace that I felt I could maintain. Added to that I was conscious that I still have the Maxxis Aspen on the rear of the Five which – despite working surprisingly well – isn’t really the ideal mud tyre for Surrey clay!
So I headed up to Polesden with the idea of covering the kind of route we’d normally do on a Sunday group ride, but in the dark and solo. Passing the field near the NT car park I finally realised that the man standing in the field some distance off in a dayglo jacket was in fact a scarecrow after I couldn’t work out why he was so… static.
Yew Trees was just fine despite the recent rain but the long climb up to Ranmore from there showed the mud is pretty much here. The sky still had a vestige of light, fading fast at just past 4:00 but enough to show that early attempt at rain had pretty much passed, with clear skies behind.
Up on Ranmore it was a right toward Badger Run, leaf-strewn and well mulched, concealing splurges of mud which dragged the Five back without warning. That Aspen was pretty good, floating a bit but finding enough traction that I didn’t spin much effort away at all. It seems to clear quite quickly but as I got onto Collarbone it took a bit of finesse to keep things going.
I was making decent time though and to be honest felt quite happy with the rear being a bit loose. Sure, I wouldn’t attack anything technical but so long as the front went where I wanted to (and with a Mud X it wasn’t an issue), I was quite happy.
So I span on, through Trouble in Paradise and onto the short singletrack that spits you out opposite the car park. All was well, so I decided I was up for our normal riding route down through the Abba Zabba complex.
Of course I was pretty careful and took my familiar chicken run down, carefully feathering the brakes. My latest Four4th Genesis light on the helmet (all 1700 lumens) is truly superb and worked a treat. The benefit of riding solo of course is on stuff like this you can set your own pace, so I was able to roll down through the woods, down the big roll-in to the road, then across, down the sketchy roots to the top of whatever the mahooosive roll-in is called, then right, and round the edge to finally come down over more roots to tackle the final turn and approach to the jump.
This final section was a bit lairy but I kept things on track and with a sigh of relief I popped out moments later onto the road knowing the technical stuff was all behind me. I’m not sure if riding that on my own was really a sensible thing to do (it was cold, very dark and absolutely desolate) but it’s done now. Perhaps not something to make a habit of though.
So I was onto Abinger Roughs where I decided to take the left hand meandering way we sometime take. I don’t know it that well except when following others and some of the downhill twists and turns had the Aspen drifting a little. My ignorance paid me back when I took a wrong turn and found myself back in the middle of the sodding climb up to the big green field!
Anyone familiar with the Newlands Run will know the route from here. Down to Abinger, along to the back of Shere, across to Sandy Lane near Gomshall and on to Albury from where it’s a long drag of a climb – but not as nasty as St. Marthas MuddyMark!! – up to the car park at Newlands Corner. It’s nice easy rolling but by no means a walk in the park and I knew there were no refeshments at the top of the climb.
As it was I stopped briefly at the top to top up on some Haribo Tangtastics before the return leg along the North Downs Way. The run back was the slow beginnings of tiredness setting in; not a sugar bonk thanks to those Haribos but a definite dig in for home.
Even so, I had enough energy (and curiosity over that Aspen) to take the less travelled path just past the point the trail meets the BOAT at the big metal gate along the Ranmore ridge to the Reservoir. It’s always slippy and slidey along here and I just wanted to see how I got on.
Very well it must be said as those side knobs seem to whittle out traction despite the big carcass (they’re 2.25) giving a fair amount of float. I’ll be switching to MudX before the next ride, but they coped; which makes me think we should just man up over our tyre choices sometimes!
The final run along Collarbone saw me treating it with a lot of respect however, then it was Bagder Run and back to Polesden and Bookham for a round trip of 23 miles in 2 hours 25 minutes, a moving average of 9.9mph.
I was happy with that and am going to suggest we use a Sunday near the Winter Solstice for a Sunday night ride as a way of doing something a bit different. Start at 4:00pm and do a normal Sunday ride to either Newlands or Reigate I’d suggest.
Just remember to bring your own cake unless we can persuade Paul901 to meet us with a mobile coffee supply!