I have to confess a hat-tip to Chrissy here who first noted that Sunday’s ride featured a big turnout and an appearance by Lord Lucan himself.
It would be rude not to with a perfect morning of riding in prospect, even if D’Andy’s route planning ultimately proved a little ambitious.
Bockett’s was bursting with Moles when I turned up on my rigid Marin Pine Mountain. A range of bikes was on display from DC’s Segment with a 27.5 x 3.0 Purgatory-shod front wheel, to Colin’s purposeful Stanton, to Big Al’s 9:Zero:7 fat bike, not forgetting Kev and his minty green Orange Four. My bike was certainly going to be the most travel limited option of the bunch!
Did I mention DC? I did indeed, a long awaited appearance from the depths of the Bookham man-cave scene. I can say with certainty that the air on the Surrey Hills is fresher, even with DDub joining us. Making up the rest of the group was D’Andy, Karl, Elliott, JR, MattS, Colin, a rarely sighted Big Al (he’s always moving so fast…), Kev and myself, making 11 in total.
D’Andy’s route planning had us heading up and around Mickleham via a circuitous route. Along Crabtree Lane (ducking through the twisty woods) we set off for View to A Kill which is back to its best after some recent tree surgery. It running better than it has done all year now the roots are bone dry although the trail got very chattery with my rigid fork on the Marin. The tyres are very willing but the braking can get quite tricky even with only 10 psi in the wheels. After putting about 120 miles on the bike I’m starting to understand it’s character a bit more with every trail currently revealing new information.
For example, after a broad debate about how to climb Ranmore, D’Andy’s initial idea to climb up through Ashcombe Woods was accommodated (but not exactly embraced) by the rest of us. Here, I found I did like having a 42T crawler gear after all. Once we’d regained our composure and our colour had returned to normal at the top of the climb, Red, White and Rose was the next opportunity to see what the Pine Mountain could do. The trail turned out to be quite a handful as there’s such a washboard surface to it that will never suit a rigid bike, while I was definitely holding up Kev and getting tired in the process. That’s not to say I wasn’t having fun though.
Navigating our way past Westhumble (and the hoardes of road riders heading for the Hills), we skirted the bottom of Box Hill and climbed up to Mickleham, meeting Graham and Nick on the way. The idea was to do the Penguin and then climb back up to Mickleham but Plan B was evoked which saw us heading to White Honky instead. I know what your thinking. You? White Honky? On a rigid bike?
Well, I was curious to see how the bike would handle things. With no dropper I found the easy top section flowed really nicely, the first log drop was fine and if anything I found keeping MattS’ Solaris in sight was not too difficult even as the trail got steeper and the turns tighter. In fact things were going well. Even the step-down was navigated safely and I was well in line to make the next turn when Matt and Karl experienced a refusal on the steepest part of the trail, some 30 feet of left hand turn and plunge to the final easy section of the trail.
In turn, I had to dismount (and without a dropper I struggled to remount) but I’m not sure I would have been able to get down myself although I was mightily impressed with the bike for comfortably getting me as far as it did.
The winch back up via Alpine also proved straightforward for the Marin while the fast flowing route of Bat Cave was perfect. Following DC as a sighter, I felt confident heading down Tankslapper with the rigid fork allowing me to turn the back end quite easily with a twist of the hips. Verdict so far? Bike is compromised but has potential and fun can be had with a bit of commitment when the trails are dry.
So that was Mickleham done. Colin headed for home, while the rest of us returned to Ranmore. Retracing out steps brought us back to the end of R, W and R and onto a long drag to the top of the ridge past the vineyards. It was feeling warm and naturally we all focussed on Cafe le Creme waiting for us in the Ranmore car park, much to the chagrin of D’Andy who wanted a detour to Wee Willie Winkie. The call of cake was strong although the waiting can be long; that’s the price you pay for individually made coffee out of a Citroen van.
Not that anyone was really that bothered. It was sunny, there was loads of riders and walkers about and it was still relatively early. As compensation for D’Andy’s missed trail we set of after coffee for Rip van Winkle. After some recent adjustments it was flowing extremely well and I enjoyed myself a lot although the subsequent slog back up the hill with a recently consumed Rock Cake was a bit of a struggle. Our aim was to drop off the other side of the Ranmore Ridge via Wire in the Blood, the dry and increasingly dusty trails meaning it would seldom be running much better. I was almost tempted to ride the root drop at the end but this moment past very quickly!
The route took us along the valley floor toward White Down and once again a long climb faced us to regain the altitude we’d recently lost. I do actuallly enjoy this climb a sit’s so steady but today was one for breaking records up here. By now we realised that a) we were all getting tired and b) the final Bingo Bongo Dave and Wonderland trails were a step too far for us if we were to get home at a sensible time. Personally the Marin was not helping after an intense morning of trail riding.
Instead, we did Little Endor before finishing with Ricin Beans, feeling fast and flowy all the way. Unfamiliarity led me to pull up and let the field past when DDub in front of me was halted by a large tree across the trail, but the built up ramp turned out to have an easy downslope on the other side which would have kept momentum rolling freely. As it was I caught up on the tail of the train by the time I’d reached the bottom, again the flowing trail suited the Marin nicely.
The midday heat seemed to kick in with a vengeance on the final climb up Connicut Lane under the Stone Bridge which told us – if there was any doubt – that scrubbing the Western end of Ranmore had been a good idea. We got home from there with just one minor incident as DC caught an edge on the ruts of Bockett’s Tunnel and went down, fortunately without any real harm done.
The final numbers – 24.5 miles with a claimed (but possibly nor credible) 2,900 feet of climbing. I didn’t do very much in the afternoon!