It was an XC kind of day. With perfect weather, I turned up at the car park as usual to find 11 other riders ready for a tour of the Surrey Hills. If my memory for names is accurate the list included Dave, Colin, Jem, Jez, Barrie, AndyC, Neill, Darren, Ian, Mark, Paul and myself. Surprisingly, only one Dave!
It also transpired Jem was there on a borrowed carbon Epic (maybe we’ll manage a review on that one), which coupled with three of the group being new riders (to us) and Barrie on his carbon Scott whippet decided the route. And as Dave pointed out, last week was Newlands so why not go long to Reigate this week instead?
Off we went, with the prospect of an Alsation climb for the second time in a week after Wednesday’s ride. I settled in behind diesel Dave, in no mood to push the pace up there after a couple of tarmac commutes, though I still remain surprised at how slowly Dave can crank those pedals up the climbs.
At the top we stopped for the third mechanical of the day (we’d had two punctures before we’d cleared Leatherhead!) as it became apparent Neill’s dérailleur was not going to make it. He headed off toward Ashtead while the rest of us carried on toward Headley where we lost Dave for a while. I forgot he hasn’t done the Gatton run before and with eleven in a group it’s hard to keep track.
Eventually we got going again but not before Ian had bailed near the Box Hill Road, realising we were going to take much longer than planned today. I guess we’ve been lucky with being light on mechanical issues for a while now and it came as a surprise to find things were more drawn out today.
We started to up the pace a little, conscious that time was ticking by as we headed on toward Reigate along the North Downs Way. It’s a pretty fast and easy route but it does have plenty of sharp drops followed by climbs to keep you on you toes and it certainly keeps the heart rate up.
Within a few miles we were up on Colley Hill with clear views across the Weald before dropping down the chalky descent to the back of Reigate, upsetting a walker along the way. What can you do? She could see us coming, I was first past and told her there were others behind but still she objected even though we were under control and on a bridlepath. Her problem I guess even though I can see why people would be scared of riders en masse and at speed.
By now we were near Gatton Park but Darren had to call it a day and headed off for a tramp home along the A25. We crossed the Reigate Hill road and were soon in Gatton proper, rolling easily along as the bridle-paths contour the hill. After our usual circuit of the perimeter (we really need a local to show us round!) we eventually arrived at the tea room for a block order of toasted tea cakes and some extended chat, as if we need much encouragement!
Our way back continued at a good old rate, turning on Colley Hill to head over to Walton Heath golf course before cutting through the back of Tadworth. There are so many bridle-paths round here that’s it’s easy to get lost but we know the route pretty well these days so it’s not really a problem.
What was a problem though was the clouds of dust suffered by anyone at the back; I got stuck there at one point and couldn’t see a thing! By the time we got home it looked as though we had tan lines. For once we took the view at Headley that Secret Singletrack wasn’t going to be worth the hassle, so we headed for the bomb hole play area for a few minutes of messing about. I could have done with a few more goes to get things right but as it was I seemed to have a lead-filled bike over the jumps and hops today.
Our usual finish down Alsation was a blast as always, having parted with Barrie at the top who was heading back to Ashtead. The rest of us got down in one piece and then it was time to drop off Colin and make our way back up to Bockett’s Farm.
All in, a good lengthy ride (25 miles), made longer by the many conversations going on throughout the ride. Nice to see everyone and get some decent exercise in at the same time, what better way to spend a sunny Sunday?