Following the St David’s Day ride last Sunday the brightening weather saw the Moles diaspora spread far and wide.
Some of us went south toward Peaslake (Southside Johnny and his shovel), some rambled on Ranmore with the gnarrsters (D’Andy, Al and Nick) and the rest of us joined Lay-Dave on a trip to Newlands.
It was to be a simple trip. Simpler than we’ve done for a long time with the aim purely of turning the wheels and getting used to the Spring weather. Even I was lured from the delights of my en-suite renovations (not a euphemism) to join the Moles posse on a technically undemanding ride.
I’ve been out of the picture for a while. Mainly, the final quarter of last year when I barely rode at all, then more recently absent from Sunday rides while a programme of home improvement takes place. I haven’t done a great deal of mileage this year apart from a few night rides and some road miles, recently supplemented with a turbo trainer in the garage, so a simple spin to Newlands suited me fine.
Meeting at the usual Bockett’s start point were Lay-Dave in – partial – Red, ‘gangsta’ JamesS, D-Dub, Jemster (e)™, ‘Lord’ Elliott, Lloyd, Kev and myself. Off we went, expecting any moment to be ambushed by a photo-snapping Southside but of him, no sign. So we pushed on for Polesdon at a leisurely rate, negotiating the substantial puddles on the Admiral’s Track.
It was a fine morning. That’s a phrase for some reason I find a bit pretentious as it always reminds me of wine-lovers and connoisseurs of an epicurean bent. But it’s the only phrase I can find to describe the pleasure of riding in temperatures near double digits over ground that – broadly speaking – is drying out nicely. In fact, as we descended Yew Trees there was a hint of dust, as Jem pointed out, although from my point of view it might have been the haze from riding without contact lenses…
If this ride is to be described at all it will have to be using metaphor. If this ride was a style of clothing it would be – Dave’s shorts apart – a comfortable range of leisurewear for relaxing in round the home. Thick 100% cotton in plaid (hinting at a certain ironic individuality), yet with an accomodating waistband for long term comfort, this was a ride that didn’t need to try too hard.
In the spirit of such relaxed adventure, and with little wind to ruffle our collectively tousled good looks (the level of tousling varying by the amount of hair being curated), we continued from the top of Ranmore to Wire in the Blood, where Kev was so relaxed he actually lay down for a while. A surprisingly dry and relatively mud free Badger Run and Collarbone followed.
We navigated Trouble in Paradise, with the only misadventure being a clonk on Dave’s helmet trying to negotiate a low hanging branch without impaling himself on his K-edge style camera mount, which was holding his dashcam at an ill-advised angle. Just after here, the Short and Sweet trail is no longer short, nor sweet as it’s now obliterated for the time being by logging activity (again, not a euphemism).
Instead we following the main trail up to the Reservoir and then the North Downs Way toward the Drovers’ Road. I always enjoy this section of Ranmore, it’s not difficult but weaves nicely in and out of the trees beside the main trail. My description of this as a bimble prompted some discussion as to whether it was in fact simply a pootle. This conversation, as you can understand, should give you an even clearer idea of our ride than the concept of the Moles collectively in plaid leisurewear I think.
Soon we were on the Drovers’ Road and heading toward Newlands. It’s surprising how quickly it’s possible to get to Newlands Corner but the combination of a slight downhill gradient and a very simple trail allows easy progress. We stopped only for horses, people (if necessary) and Colin and Evan (who are also people, but speicifically people we know). Colin was just on his way back with his son and they both seemed to be enjoying their father/son morning. Weird seeing Colin on an MTB though(!).
An increasingly fast thrash to Newlands eventually had me drifting back in the peloton as I started to spin out on my singlespeed. Our extensive local knowledge meant that on arriving at Newlands we dived into the woods for a quick blatt on the sandy trails, only to find our dive was equivalent to a cartoon jump from a great height into an empty swimming pool. The trail we intended to pick up had strangley moved from where we expected it to be but we soon found it again only to somehow ride both down AND up it in quick succession. We cut our losses and headed for coffee and cake, a subject we have extensive expertise in. This week: lemon and blueberry cake (very nice) and a regular filter coffee (fine).
As we sat at Newlands the sun went in, the temperature dropped, and Lee appeared. These events may have been unconnected but they prompted us to head for home (bringing Lee with us largely for his talismanic properties I think). It took a few miles to feel warmed up again and by then our irrepresible thirst for gnarr in a so far gnarr-less ride led us to head down Sawmill for a kind of low-fat gnarr-lite snack. It was running quite well and I was starting to enjoy myself but it was soon over. We carried on down to the sawmill itself, with the ruts forcing us to clench and hold through some nervous moments before arriving at the foot of the impossible climb.
Just to prove it is impossible (except for those who have cleared it), the Jemster (e)™ decided to have a go at it on his e-bike, an effort that resulted in failure when the torque from his rear wheel overcame the available traction over the step up. At least he had the fun of the run back down to his waiting mates.
By now we were out of time and the necessary enthusiasm for the climb up to Wonderland, so we headed to the bottom of Bingo Bongo Dave (who has binged his last bong for a while) where we picked up the bridlepath back toward Oreston Lane and Effingham.
The final mile or two – the same as last Wednesday night but without the pub stop – brought us back into Bookham and relative civilisation via the medium of tarmac. In all it was about 22 miles and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing everyone in daylight for a change. I even went home and cleaned my bike, before metaphorically retiring for the night.