Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 5 January – Ranmore roaming

Posted by Matt | January 6, 2014 | 17 comments so far

A flooded River Mole at Thorncroft

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!

Frosty Mickleham Gallops

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.

Puncture on the North Downs flint

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

Cake 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!

Denbies vineyard in the winter sun

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.

Filed under Rides in January 2014


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years then a 2016 YT Industries Jeffsy 29er, he now rocks a Bird Aether 9 and a Pace RC-627.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 17 comments on ‘Ride report: Sunday 5 January – Ranmore roaming’

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  1. Elliot says:

    Nice route that one! Slithering down Life on Mars was strangely fun and the mud never had us trekking. Lovely morning for it too.

    I think Alan said this was only his second mountain bike ride? In which case he was doing very well, and hopefully having a good time along the way.

  2. Tony says:

    Sounds like you had a good day out in a reasonable whether window.

    Tactical Nuclear Penguin is one of those “why haven’t I ridden this before” delights. Although the trail above Alpine sounds good too.

    Even after this area for many years it’s a joy to still be finding great new little trails.

  3. Dandy says:

    Alsatian was an unexpected shock to my system. I’d climbed it last Sunday, and hadn’t expected it to be so much more slippy despite another week’s rain – I mean, how much wetter could it have got? Fortunately the routes improved after that, and as long as the muddy sections are pointing downhill then they can be great fun as you wrestle with the bike speedway-style. Losing the front wheel a couple of times on GN was a bit scary though 🙁

  4. KevS says:

    Despite the biblical amounts of rain we have endured for weeks it was a surprisingly good ride due to careful trail selection by young Gok of the Lower Bookham commune.

    Nice to see a good turnout of riders for our first Sunday ride of 2014, including a new face, even if “the dog” bit him on the first climb of the day. Hang in their Alan, it will get easier. 😉

    Picture 3 shows the Mole collective in its true glory, that is, doing absolutely nothing to help a rider fix his puncture, apart from Gok and Jonesey who is busy holding up a tree! :-)2014 0n the trails.

    Nice write up Matt, here’s to a good 2014 on the trails.

  5. Jonesy says:

    Great mornings ride and nice to see so many out.

    I’d notched up 25 miles by the time I got home. I was ruined and spent the afternoon on the sofa….snoring

    Great route, part from initial lung-barf climb, which nearly killed us all!!

    I like the trails up on Headley. Fast and flowing. I even managed a PB and decent placing on TNP, despite the sloppiness. In drier weather, I’d give that one a good go.

    B*****e Alley was a good new find. Thankfully, we all emerged with clean faces.
    Introducing a jump or two would turn that into a cracking trail.

    See you all soon….


  6. Jonesy says:

    An admirable front-end save on GN, Dandy.
    I think you could have styled it up a bit more though….

  7. Gordo says:

    Many thanks to
    1) Dandy for the expert shepherding
    2) Matt for not riding over me
    3) All for making the morning so enjoyable

  8. DaveW says:

    I don’t know who named B******e Alley or why that. Perhaps a sight seen on first riding it… Anyway that name leaves a bad taste in the mouth, so I propose we use the alternative name Bat Cave.

  9. Alan says:

    I really really enjoyed it yesterday!

    Thank you very much!


    • Matt says:

      Great to hear we didn’t break you completely! Only ridden off-road twice before, nothing like being in at the deep end.

      Quite honestly if you can summon the enthusiasm to ride through the worst of winter (and it really is particularly bad at the moment), then you’ll be fine the rest of the year. Make sure you keep the bike clean though, that mud is a bike wrecker.

      Just wait ’til someone starts talking to you about mud tyres and that kind of stuff…

    • jonesy says:

      Indeed, well done Alan
      A fine first foray into the filth.
      As Matt says, give the bike a very good clean and get all that crap out of the gears, and make sure to liberally douse everything in GT85 or similar!

      • Dave says:

        Actually…please don’t!

        GT85 dissolves grease and hence not a great idea. GT85 on the chain after washing to help disperse the water and stop corrosion. Gentle with the hose and no pressure washers to move the grease either! Good chain lube prior to the ride is then what I do, re-grease as required (in my case when something locks up!)

  10. Colin says:

    When I eventually get back into the filth, how on earth will I know which trails are which as they now seem to be named with symbols. Me confused !

  11. Alan says:

    Oh thanks for the comments.

    I spent about 1.5 hours cleaning the bike and it looks great now.

    I am buying new cleaning stuff tomorrow. For some weird reason I enjoyed cleaning it even though I was in the garden and was pretty cold and raining.

    Being so unfit, I definitely need some good new mud tyres to help me going up those horrible hills! The tyres on my bike are pretty bad and have terrible reviews on line.
    I was looking at some Maxxis, but the options seem to be endless.


    • Dave says:

      Hi Al,

      We’ve yet to meet but here’s my wisdom on the tyre debate. You’ll get plenty more.

      So, I’ve been riding (with Matt) since at least 1997 and between us we’ve tried lots of tyres in that time. I’m well in excess of 80kg and have been in excess of 90kgs by some margin. I mention this because on identical tyres, mine and Matt’s results can be totally different and he’s much lighter than 80kg!

      The “mud” tyre is basically an open tread with square knobs that allow mud to shed and the knobs to cut through to find the harder ground and hence grip. Usually nothing wider than a 2.0 profile. In general these work well, lots of riders use them and are happy with them. Examples include the Bontrager Mud-XR (I think is the current name), Maxxis Beaver and Specialized Storm. As with all tyres the pressure is quite critical to allow deformation and hence grip when it comes to roots. Here is my problem with this type of tyre, in my experience you can hit a root with the tyre carcass missing all the tread and slip quite easily. Not many other Moles seem to suffer from this though so overall I’d say this might be the way to go for you. The Storm is the cheapest RRP at £30 but the Mud XR can be had (try Triton Cycles) for a decent price in a pair.

      My current set-up tends to use all round tyres, maybe a larger one on the front. Such as a Specialized Purgatory on the Front and Specialized Ground on the back (both in Control carcass). I clear mud well enough from these treads and find they cope with roots more to my liking.

      Whatever you go for, I’m glad you are enjoying the riding! Fitness will improve by riding more, simple as.

  12. Alan says:

    Hi Dave,

    Thank you for your advice, it is really helpful.

    The Bontrager MUD-XR has great reviews everywhere I look.
    I think I am going to get those.

    See you soon.


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