This morning was a small window of opportunity in the midst of what seems like a never ending wall of water.
We’re the lucky ones. We only really have to complain about the mud, unlike many who are currently struggling with flooded homes and businesses.
I was determined to get out come what may. There was a distinct chill to the air on leaving the house but a clear sky, light fluffy clouds in the sky and even a bit of sunlight boded well. By the time I reached Bockett’s I was feeling pretty warm and looking forward to the route Dandy had proposed the day before.
A surprising number of other moles had come to the same conclusion about riding during the only dry period of the weekend. Massing at the car park were Kev, Dandy, DaveW, Gordon, Lloyd, Elliott, James, Nick and new guy Alan, making a ride group of 10 for our first ride of the year. Early in the ride we also picked up Lee at Thorncroft too.
Dandy’s route proposal was to stay relatively local given that the trails were likely to be pretty sloppy. There’s nothing like using the slop to tune into winter anyway. So Dandy pointed us to the Mickleham side of things.
First up was a slippery run along the bottom of the big field on the way down to Leatherhead. The river Mole at Thorncroft was running faster than you could run (probably) but we were on bikes and therefore, OK. After snapping a couple of shots, it was on to the Alsation climb.
Phew. That was one hell of a slog. Poor Alan was chucked in at the deep end in terms of brutal, mud heavy, steep and relentless climbing on a mountain bike. Some people might like that sort of thing but he wasn’t with us today, probably off skiing somewhere instead.
We floundered. We flailed. Some of us retched, hacked and coughed while others quietly sobbed inside their heads as we dragged our sorry arses up the climb. Nice one Dandy!
After resting fully at the top (we’d ridden nearly 3 miles after all), it was on to Stane Street, bound for the Mickleham Gallops. There was no question of nailing PRs today, the trails were just too greasy with big puddles and wet chalk to contend with.
Climbing (still) onto the Gallops we found them still frost bound as we crossed over the lower end and picked up the start of Bu**a*e Alley. I’ll happily admit I haven’t been that way before but it goes to show you should try anything at least once. This trail turned out to be a cracker.
It’s basically a fast and flowy singletrack meander round the side of the hills above High Alpine that eventually throws you out on the old trail down to Juniper Hall before the route was altered to run alongside the house.
I really enjoyed it even though I was probably in the minority of riders trying it for the first time. You can see that dryer conditions and more familiarity would yield even more fun.
After losing all that height, we took the opportunity in the cold weather to keep warm by climbing back up to the Gallops, much to the pain of Alan who by then probably felt he had enough experience of the uphill part of mountain biking. But up we went anyway.
A long, slow, steady grind up to the far end of the Gallops got us in position for Life on Mars which proved to be exactly what we all expected – very, very muddy. Gordon impressed me by taking a leaf out of Dandy’s Book of Pirouettes by gracefully sprawling in the mud in front of me while I did my best to resist the temptation to leave tyre marks up his back.
We then headed back along Stane Street, forking right before the Gallops to head to the start of another new trail for me, TNP (Tactical Nuclear Penguin). This was another belter and I can’t really work out why I haven’t ridden it before.
It’s a narrow string of singletrack, full of rather slippery tree routes which threads through the ridge above Mickleham village. There’s probably an optimal time mid Spring to ride this when it may be dry but without too much vegetation as you can tell the trail would close in during High Summer. All good fun.
We finally came out above Mickleham village, spoilt only by the drone of the A24. We took to empty tarmac and dropped into Mickleham village itself before a short tarmac run over to the bottom of Boxhill and then on to Westhumble station and a tea break at Pilgrim Cycles
Another first for me. I enjoyed a nice homemade cappucino (which really should have been tamped by a Chris King tamper) and some fruit cake while standing in front of a log fire which made stepping outside again a bit of a shock to the system.
By now we were getting close to home and Alan took the chance to let the train take the strain while the rest of us headed up past the Chapel and onto the Denbies estate to climb (again) up to Ranmore. We took things easy and caught some walkers and families out exploring the vineyard, with one father and buggy-ensconced child deciding to join our peloton for a short stretch before Dad’s lungs gave out.
Practically all the walkers we saw today were in good spirits but being chased by a man with a baby buggy was another new experience for me!
Up on Ranmore (once Lloyd had wrestled his wide-barred bike through the gates) we headed for Golden Nugget. This is basically a bit of a tricky customer in these conditions with – put simply – too much clay. I enjoyed my run down but it was a careful bit of navigation all the way down.
Despite following Gordon half of the way, Kev still held me up you understand, even though he was behind me. Just for the record, haha!
The final few miles saw riders gradually peeling off until a compact group of four made it back to the Bockett’s car park via an improbably wet Admiral’s Track.
By the time I got back home I just about notched 20 miles and was completely wasted during the afternoon. What a great start to the year.