To be fair, I ripped the label ‘mechanical farce’ off Elliott. Who may be correct in his assessment…
You see, the picture above is us before we even got started. On leaving the house this morning I found my cranks barely turned at all and riding up to Bockett’s did nothing to free them. Whatever was troubling my bike, it felt like riding up hill even when I was going downhill on tarmac. Something was wrong.
An in depth investigation in the bright sunshine eventually found my derailleur was hanging off. After tightening it, things were fine, so it was time to go.
At that point, James rocked up with some barely-there brake pads. Which should be simple to fix, just pop the back wheel off and the usual brake pad swap. Except, James’ bolt through rear axle turned out to be very secure.
So another dance ensued trying to free off the bolt with a variety of ill-suited tools, until eventually D’Andy’s improbable strength won the day. His inner hero subsequently shattered his tyres levers trying to push the piston back in but after continued faffage we were ready to go. Again.
This time we got away, well past 9:00 with vague plans for a route. So vague in fact that we were to continue to cobble a semblance of intent together for the rest of the ride.
Still things were great. Great weather, great company (John, Elliott, James, D’Andy, Lloyd and myself) and a great deal of mud and slop.
We rang the changes by avoiding – mostly – View to a Kill (John and Lloyd didn’t get the message) and heading up to Tanners via Bagden Farm. Once there, a painful climb got us to Ranmore with more discussion ensuing over where we were going. It turned out my subliminal (mmmBACONmmm) thoughts would lead us to Newlands Corner, but how was the Question.
The Answer was along the very wet Drovers Road (which nearly swallowed James’ fat bike whole) to Sawmill for a highly entertaining slither downhill, with things getting a bit ‘speedway’ at the bottom over the off-camber roots. Then it was back up to the Drovers Road, and along toward Newlands, battling lots of cars which were heading the other way for an orienteering event. They looked lost to me.
We reached Newlands in a rush after some enjoyable noodlage parallel to the main path, which was very busy today. The final mile of so was pretty much flat out trying to keep up with Lloyd (who was leading), slipping and sliding round walkers, runners, bikes and horses and fishtailing through plenty of mud. But at the end of that, well, mmmBACONmmm…
This all sounds like it happened in no time at all. Nothing was further from the truth; our arrival at Newlands had taken us nearly three hours to achieve and has taken me less than 500 words to describe. So we needed to get back by a relatively direct route. This kind of thinking led us, on commencing our return journey, to decline D’Andy’s possibly ill-advised suggestion of White Down Slinger down toward the A25 but did see us – dispensing with timekeeping – agree to Petrol Pump.
Which was a really good choice for maximising our days’ enjoyment and less so on achieving a prompt return. It was in pretty good condition although not ‘running fast’, and most of us lost our way in places due to ambiguities with where the path actually was, but it was highly entertaining in any case.
By now we were heading toward a late finish; we traipsed the A25 back to Abinger, then up onto the Roughs, passing a couple of impressive mums out with their very young kids, including one in a child seat and one being towed in a buggy! Somehow they were moving forward up some pretty muddy and energy-sapping ground which demanded a lot of respect. It was enough effort just moving myself.
We knew that High Med was the best way to get back and things were fine for a short while as we blasted along. However, as we reached Westcott John’s rear tyre flatted and the latex proved insufficient to seal it.
So began a lengthy stop as first D’Andy’s wonder worm was deployed, then the tyre was found to have unseated from the rim, then an inner tube was pressed into action with a large hole all to itself before finally, John’s rear tyre had a different tube installed, the tyre seated on the rim and air inserted. We were off! Again!
After that, it was every man for himself in his own circle of pain climbing High Med, which despite the possible help of a tail wind felt like bloody hard work! Even more so was the final drag up to Ranmore as we neared the four and a half hour mark to our morning’s efforts. Somehow it felt like a ride of Epic proportions with only a bit over twenty miles recorded.
Ricin Beans made perfect sense to us, seeing as we’d struggled with grip all day and it was a good choice if you wanted to go mud surfing with little to suggest your tyres were up to the job of anything approaching steering control. It was brilliant fun as instead the bikes just drifted through the turns and we all got to the bottom with big smiles intact.
More pain awaited us dragging our very tired legs up through the Polesden estate before we finally finished on Connicut Lane, and an easy run home from there. I finally rolled to a halt with five hours on the clock, and just 26 recorded miles which seemed a poor return for such a long ride. Roast chicken and a half bottle of Rose greeted me as I entered the house after cleaning the bike, so it appeared that we timed it right after all!