The reason is for most of the past four months I’ve been frustratingly sidelined with neck and shoulder pain.
I’ve not been out for the count completely (at least not recently), but certainly I’ve been turning in limited miles as my running total for the year will attest. Just 887 so far vs recent years where the annual total has been close to 4000. I will be lucky if I reach 2000 this year.
But I am just pleased to be riding.
It might not be the first time I’ve been out as I’ve done some gravel rides with a few of the moles, but today was a definite step forward. Today I managed not only a relatively long 27 miles in mud, but was out for over 4 hours. All this bodes very well for future rides.
Actually I was out Friday night too with Lloyd, MarkJ, Gordon, Tony for some winch and plummet, culminating at the King William where we met a recovering MarkC, Reece, Stuart and Tom for beers and burgers. That was an excellent evening.
Today, we had six of us – Lloyd, Elliot, JamesS, JR and Richard and myself – and unlike last week, all made it back in the same group. Well, just about; Richard took a massive detour at Colley Hill but eventually found us at the Junction 8 cafe on Reigate Hill…
Off to Reigate
We struck out for Reigate after an afternoon of heavy rain the day before courtesy of Storm Antoni. Knowing the trails would be greasy we opted for a bit of XC which was the ideal option for me.
It turned out the trails were holding up quite well but there was plenty of caution around wet chalk (both uphill and down) and there was a greasy top layer of mud in general. Sometimes this was quite deep, Elliot reckoned a 6 on the BGM™ index which I think is a trifle high but it was certainly muddy. With new Hutchinson ‘downcountry’ tyres on my Bird, I was even more cautious but initial expectations grew more positive as the ride wore on.
Along with the enjoyment of being on the Bird again, I was pleased to find my base stamina appears OK. I wouldn’t say it was anywhere near to where it has been but it was better than I thought. Maybe those low drag tyres have other benefits too?
The ride over to Reigate certainly tested my legs as it is generally uphill all the way. We climbed up to the Mickleham gallops, then on to Headley, then onto the North Downs Way to Reigate. It wasn’t until after we had reached Reigate Hill that we realised we had lost Richard who had taken a wrong turn at Colley Hill and faced the descent of ‘Cyclists Dismount’ to Reigate Heath.
While Richard made his way back up to the cafe, we went on a loop of Gatton Park, through the trees along the sweeping chalky and muddy singletrack. As Lloyd said, the traction control light was metaphorically blinking at him all the way. I actually enjoyed myself on tyres that seemed to be surprisingly capable as long as you gave wet roots plenty of respect.
JR beat us easily to the top of Reigate Hill – easily enough to wring out his third lung and pack it away in his ‘in case of hills’ emergency kit that he keeps in his top tube bag (I’m pretty sure that’s what he keeps in there). The rest of us made it up in our own circle of pain, to be rewarded with cake and coffee at the cafe.
On the way back, JR coined the term nano-gnarr for the little blips and bumps that an enterprising rider can pop off. We had a surprisingly controlled slither through Margery Wood before crossing the golf course at Walton Heath, which is gearing up to host the AIG Women’s Open next week.
With tiredness creeping up on us, we picked up the singletrack alongside Mickleham Gallops before skipping Pink Sock for the pleasures of Pot Noodle. I actually set a PR which I was quite pleased with. Small victories and all that.
To finish, I eventually notched up 27 miles after methodically discarding other riders to their respective end points along the way. A thoroughly enjoyable morning, hopefully the start of more to come.