It all sounds so simple on paper. Get on the bike, ride to Newlands Corner and back covering a distance of 26 miles or so; job done. But what that sentence conceals is the trials, tribulations and effort of taking ten riders, including three newbies across some testing North Downs terrain. Fortunately we all lived to tell the tale.
So 8:30 up at Bockett’s Farm saw Colin, Lee, Tony, Jez, myself, Dom, DaveB, Simon, Nick and Jerry leaving for the run across to Polesden. Perfect spring riding weather after weeks of low or no rainfall have given us some summer quality trails to ride and for the new riders it was a good choice of weekend to come. They didn’t even need to clean their bikes at the end of it.
The aim was to get up to Ranmore as simply as possible, so we headed for Yew Trees and slogged up from there before heading over to White Down via Badger Run and then Collarbone – for a change. After that we arrived at the real meat of the ride at Abba Zabba, but not before passing through the car park where we found the young couple enjoying themselves on Wednesday night, hearing a story from DaveB that put the badger into badger run and a philosophical discussion on gulling.
At Abba Zabba Colin, Dom and Tony—that I can remember at least—took the plunge with the rest of us working our way round the back ‘chicken run’, which has it’s own challenges. Next it was on to Blind Terror2, Colin, Dom and myself all finding out that the run out is currently a bit dicey – maybe it’s just the dry trails are letting us carry too much speed down? I certainly found stopping to be a bit of an issue at the bottom.
Next it was on to Blind Terror before heading over the road to Numbskull and the jump at the bottom. As I was on my hardtail I took the slightly easier wide route to the final bermed corner and let the bike pick up speed for the jump, surprising myself at how far I managed to launch it which then resulted in frantic efforts to slow down immediately after. The inevitable group of us ghoulish onlookers had just been treated to Tony nearly upending his Trek over the jump, followed but Nick crashing good and proper into the undergrowth so I was glad not to get it wrong.
By now we’d put most of the chunky stuff behind us with everyone largely in one piece if a little shaken and bruised as we picked up the Abinger Roughs. Despite a range of fitness levels we mostly managed to stick together, punctuated by frequent stops which gave the fitter riders a rest—as if they needed it—and ensured the rest of us didn’t get lost! At least the day was fine and everyone seemed more than happy to chat.
Eventually came the final big push to Newlands Corner which I dispatched in the same gear I used for the whole ride, middle/middle. I’m starting to think it actually makes you ride faster than using all the gears but Jez showed me how it’s done as he drifted easily past me and disappeared into the distance on his TinBred singlespeed. I do enjoy a good climb though!
Suitably refueled, the return journey brought us back along the North Downs Way still on trails that let you really crank up the speed if you wanted. Fortunately for me I’d put in a fast ride on Friday so was more than happy to wait for people who were understandably starting to feel the effects of 20+ miles riding. It was a fairly routine run back to Ranmore, but with the weather very much on our side it was enjoyable to be rolling along seeing summer take a step closer.
We parted with Nick along here as he stopped to sort out one of the suspension bolts on his Mongoose – after checking he had what he needed to repair things he planned to make his own way home, hope everything was OK Nick?
Once back on Ranmore we took a slightly different route down toward Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel down the Third Way climb we’ve taken in the past. Narrow, muddy tyre tracks at the top gave way to a fast, flinty surface which was long and sapping. Those of us equipped with Full Suspension made short work of it but I was getting rattled around a bit on my Inbred. As Simon said at the bottom, at least he now knew that if anything was going to be shaken off his new Kona it would have done so by now. And at least his fork seals have been broken in too…
Cruelly, the pain wasn’t over as we still had the nasty climb up under the stone bridge to deal with. It wasn’t too bad in the sense that the usual thick mud had at least dried out giving plenty of grip but it was a painful surprise for our new riders. But by now we’d broken the back of the ride and it was a straightforward return to the car park.
So, a long ride for everyone and a case of in at the deep end for our new riders. There’s no getting round the fact today had hard work, big miles and some pretty technical riding at times whereas usually our rides tend to major on just one of those qualities at a time. Summing it up though, ‘this is what we do!’
Thanks to everyone for their company and good natured banter throughout the ride and I hope you all made it back safely. I spent the afternoon watching a very wet Grands Prix, eating a nice meal and ‘resting’. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday!