Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Sunday 7 April – Swinley Blue and Red

Posted by Matt | April 8, 2013 | 12 comments so far

Muddymoles at Swinley, April 2013

Well this feels unfamiliar! After a dispiriting couple of months during which I suffered first a virus, then an (ongoing) mountain of work, Olympic levels of tiredness and a growing loathing of the miserable weather I finally made it out of the burrow and onto a Moles ride.

To add to the novelty we headed to Swinley to try the new Blue and Red trails that opened at Easter.

I know what you’re thinking. With just three rides under my belt since February 1 – a pub ride, a gentle road ride with DaveC and a slightly more arduous Friday afternoon with Dandy and DaveC, perhaps it was a bit ambitious to head off to Swinley? I thought so too but as the old saying goes you never forget how to ride a bike. Where your fitness goes is another matter…

Anyway, I had an incentive. We currently have a Salsa Horsethief 3 on loan for a bit of testing and Dave offered it to me for appraisal – quite handy really since my regular Five is currently out of action with a catalogue of ailments nearly as long as my excuses for not riding recently.

I’m new to 29ers but have enough experience of them to be interested and a modern 120mm travel 29er seemed just the ticket for Swinley. I’ll pick up on this in a later post but suffice to say the Horsethief 3 grew on me as the day progressed.

But back at the beginning of the ride I was a bit more circumspect. One of the things about not riding regularly is you not only lose fitness, you lose the ability to judge what you should be wearing, made particularly difficult during our recent winter of discontent. I went for winter biblongs under my favourite Intrepid Apparel gear, but seeing others dressed for every eventuality had me doubting my wisdom.

Not as much as I doubted StevenD’s choice of clothing however as he rocked up in a pair of 501 jeans straight out of the ’80s. Since he had no note from his mum to explain away this heinous clothing choice I henceforth dub him Levi for the remainder of this post. I actually thought he’d been unlucky enough to leave his riding kit at home and was gamely riding ad hoc but no, this was an intentional airing of Nick Kamen’s favourite legwear. At least Steven Levi kept his trousers on.

The rest of us – DaveC, Jem, Alan, Kev, Karl, AndyK, Martin, Elliott, Al, James, DaveW making up the bakers’ dozen – were soon saddled up and ready to ride for around 8:30am, a time at which you could just about feel some warmth creeping out from the sun.

The authorities at Swinley have spent a lot of time and money over the winter building (or extending) purpose built trails which have been graded as Blue and Red. The outcome is around 12-14 miles of all-weather trails but the flipside is a restriction of where you can ride, perhaps an inevitability given how busy Swinley gets.

We set off on the Blue which seems to have been classified as such purely because it’s shorter than the Red. The Red, while having a few sections of steeper trail didn’t really seem too much different to behonest.

Within a few yards of setting off on the Blue we were riding the first of many sweeping berms and low doubles which were all completely rollable but could also be launched off at will. The only thing stopping me pushing too hard was not knowing the trail well enough but even so the Horsethief was soon in the air. I was starting to enjoy myself, especially on the Whole Nine Yards.

Our first real uphill granted us the opportunity to watch Levi grind to a halt with a broken chain. After checking he had it under control we pressed on to tackle Stickler and then catch our breath waiting for Levi to join us.

Stickler showed up my fitness rather cruelly. The first two thirds were much more enjoyable than last time I rode them on the Five, and in fact I was held up by (non-Mole) riders ahead of me for what felt like quite a while but eventually as the trail cleared I had to sit back and watch as Elliott cruised away from me while my two-month layoff made itself felt. As I always say to new riders, we’ve all spent time at the back… I was pretty hot and bothered by the end of that.

Pressing on we took in the usual Tank Traps which I felt I could have gone faster through but there was a lot of traffic. I’m not sure at which point we transitioned from the Blue to the Red but there was a fair bit of fireroad here and there. I’m really not familiar enough with the area to reel off all the names of the sections but Seagull was in there, the delights of Jobber Hill followed by Deerstalker and the Labyrinth. The more I rode the Horsethief the more I was pleasantly surprised by it’s handling, even on twisty stuff like Labyrinth. In fact, by then I really wasn’t thinking of the bike at all, just happy to be out, glad to have the sun on my back and making the most of the day.

Some time after Labyrinth the Red led us into the first of a couple of mad sections of fast rollers and doubles that I found myself hooning down in a fast-as-you dare sequence of turns. Dimly you become aware that you are travelling stupidly fast but before that realisation sets in it’s over and the trail returns to it’s usual rolling flow. It was really a lot of fun, helped no end by the current conditions which are verging on dusty at Swinley. There’s another section nearer to the end of the loop which has a similar quality to it – where Elliott, following me, noted the Horsethief was getting me out of a lot of trouble. Which is a fair description, as my rustiness became more apparent as the ride wore on.

By the time we reached the final couple of miles – our flow interupted only by the unlucky Levi whose chain choked catastrophically again – I was starting to wilt a bit, but there’s a final gift from the trail pixies with a section of huge sweeping berms that are very much reminiscent of the end of Barrie’s on Holmbury Hill. Sorrell-esque in fact. A fantastic way to end the loop and pretty full on for a Blue I’d say, especially as by the time we finished (around mid-day) there were Dads rocking up with their kids. They all looked capable of riding it but those turns might draw an older rider into warp speeds that might overrun younger kids quite easily.

The last mile or so I was pretty beat, a reminder that my fitness has ebbed away and needs a few weeks of regular riding. I could hear the sugar demons whispering to me as we reached the cafe where a couple of Eccles cakes did wonders to revive me. Oh and thanks to Levi for the beer!

All in all, a great way to return to Mole activity.

Filed under Rides in April 2013


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 12 comments on ‘Ride report: Sunday 7 April – Swinley Blue and Red’

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  1. Elliot says:

    What a lovely day for a ride through the dust! Swinley is a bit further away so I rarely go there but the opportunity to try new trails of this quality on a day like that before the hordes and weather get to them was totally worth it. A few more runs for familiarity would have got me using the berms and jumps more enthusiastically. Also worth a mention are the properly proportioned muffins, hope to see these catch on elsewhere!

    A less than ideal combination of a new unridden bike with trails I’ve never traversed had me struggling to get into the grove but it could have gone worse. A few minor tweaks and more ride time have it feeling dialled now, though a hardtail wouldn’t be my top choice for those trails anyway. Seems to be what I was looking for, it reminded me from previous Trek/Fisher experiences that G2 geometry is the real deal, and most surprisingly the Bontrager Evoke saddle is actually quite comfortable.

  2. Andrew AKAK says:

    The problem with the red (aside from the lack of red grade features) is that there isn’t quite enough new trail and the old bits are not linked together as well as we have covered them in the past.

    My times on all of the blue segments were improved on Sunday, but I rode them better solo last week – I suppose the flow was better with a slower entry into the fun bits.

    Nice to see so many moles out and a bit of sunshine!

  3. stevend says:

    As you leave Stickler turn right to stay on the blue, turn left and right onto Tank Traps which is on the red. It is easy to add TTs to the blue loop by rejoining it at LSP, I have put some routes suggestions in the forum. The red disappointed me as well, they have even removed the loop from seagull and I see no need for that as it was a fun section.

    I have been riding in icy wind for what seems all winter and when my overtrousers are in the wash those jeans help keep me on my bike. 😛

    Thanks from Martin as well, he had a really good time. We are now trying to get our local group over to Swinley, one of whom is a doctor – bring your own medical support team 😉 though truth be told he is probably the most likely to have a fall.

    Really happy to meet up and ride with the Moles again, hopefully it will be a drier year and I will be over to enjoy the Surrey Hills

  4. MuddyJohn says:

    Very envious of you guys out at Swinley on Sunday. I was back from holiday too late on Saturday evening to get up for 0830 in Bracknell on Sunday – even allowing 10mins JRPM time.

    I got a couple of hours to Leith and back later in the day, and conditions were excellent with only one wet spot on the entire ride.

    Hopefully you will be back to Swinley again in May and I will be able to join you.

  5. Big al says:

    I to didn’t feel the Red lived up to its name . I think the Blue is a more complete trail and really good fun !!! Hopefully they won’t stop trail building but continue to improve what they’ve got .
    I am however looking forward to going back and giving it another go .

  6. DaveW says:

    When I saw someone riding over on a mountain bike in jeans I thought it was some spotty teenager on a jump bike, but no it was Steven! I assume that indulgence in his son’s beer allowance from the brewery led to him sleeping in them and heading straight out for the ride without changing… ;o)

  7. Colin says:

    Thanks for the ride report, very interesting that the red seems to be underwhelming while the blue gets the plaudits.

    Really disappointed I didnt make it along myself. Slightly unusual for a Moles Swinley ride not to have some sort of drama, other than Levi (like it) joinng me in a midlife crisis and riding in jeans.

  8. KevS says:

    Never mind all that other stuff about Blue and Red. Swinley Cafe serve the biggest Muffins I have ever seen! Nuff said. 🙂

  9. Karl says:

    Really great to be riding out again with the Moles..

    I was under-fit and over-biked, but enjoyed the sun, the dry, and the company. Not in love with the new trails, they felt a teeny bit sterilised to me, but maybe I should just have gone faster..

    Certainly worth another visit, and especially when the freeride section opens.

  10. Jem says:

    Although I have been getting out Matt, my fitness is a long way off the Moles pace 🙁 The blue trail at the start was really tiring.

    Not convinced on the red either, but by the sound of it there will be some improvements to come. Will wait in anticipation.

    All in all, I enjoyed various sections on both trails and look forward to going over again soon.

    Kev indeed did have his hands on a lovely pair of muffins in the canteen, trying to choose which one had the most squidgyness. So that he may fondle it whilst drinking his cuppa.

    Will hopefully be out again on a Moles ride soon.

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