In my mind is a simple mud index scale for assessing trail conditions. This week, for the first time in a long time it was raised from ‘Seasonal’ to ‘Substantial’. Only time will tell if we hit ‘Apocalyptic’ in the coming months…
It rained all of Saturday, at times rather heavily, augmenting an already damp week. After a pleasant evening in Jem’s man-cave (not a euphemism) in the company of local moles, watching D-dub find oblivion on Friday night, the generally accepted opinion was that the trails would have deteriorated and therefore an XC ride to Reigate made sense.
This opinion may have been formed with the aid of alcohol but its’ plausibility stuck in our minds, so that by the time we set out on Sunday morning, Reigate it was. Our ever revolving carousel of riders dumped Karl, Elliott, our world-renowned fluffer D’Andy and myself in the Bockett’s Farm car park, while Kev, Lloyd, DC and Jem among others stayed at home. DaveW did make a brief appearance but sans riding shoes which necessitated a return home and a rendezvous later in the ride.
Our route, for those who profess an interest in such things, was our classic XC route to Reigate and Gatton Park, essentially down to Leatherhead, up Alsation and past Tyrells Wood to Headley, then on to Reigate via the North Downs Way. It’s actually a route I’m very familiar with as I use it occassionally for my commute to work.
There are no technical challenges to speak of. It’s a bit of a slog really as Reigate is higher than Leatherhead so you are always trending slightly uphill despite numerous short, sharp ups and downs, but at least the return is quicker than the outbound journey as a result.
This week, the main feature was mud. Well, mud, and lung busting spasms of uphill activity fighting for altitude. The first was the Alsation climb which set the tone for the day by being masked by lots of wet leaf matter over the top of a slippery clay-based surface. I’m not convinced that keeping it on the clay was the way to go today really.
At the top of Alsation we briefly met Keith (Rotorist) from DoMTB who was heading in the opposite direction. We gamely plugged on, and met DaveW at Headley before continueing toward Reigate, both us and the bikes picking up a steadily increasing cloaking of mud. I was regretting riding without a down tube mudguard or clear glasses as the mud was getting thrown into my face on the descents.
The mild weather at least seemed to attract a lot of horse riders, walkers, runners and families out and as we neared Reigate we saw more and more. At Reigate we set off round Gatton Park but conditions were treacherous, and my progress through the trees was politely described by Karl as circumspect (translation: I was holding him up!).
My circumspection was understandable. I just didn’t trust the surface which was sodden and covered in fallen leaves to the extent you could barely see the trail. The trails were taking a toll on me and by the time we reached the Reigate Tea-Rooms I was wilting. I attempted to recover by the invocation of cake but despite a very moist Salted Caramel Chocolate cake (which was enjoyable but rather sweet) the gusty wind chilled me very quickly.
I was really feeling the cold, so I had to Tango up in my very orange Howies Dyfi jacket which I was to wear for the rest of the ride, along with the effects of the Salted Caramel Chocolate cake. What goes down can also, sometimes feel like it’s coming back up! In contrast karl appeared impervious to the wind chill but as he says, he ‘runs very hot’.
The ride back was similarly uneventful, with an enjoyable wobble through Margery Wood followed by the cut across the golf course. The soft ground made our already muddy selves a moving billboard for the Moles and very likely confirmed in most people’s minds that mountain bikers are crazy. We were plastered.
Secret Singletrack is quickly returning to its’ optimum riding state though as the bracken dies back, it’s a shame the children’s play area makes the top section so exposed as it’s now a lot less secret than it was! We had a blast through there and then parted from DaveW (whose car was parked at Headley) before heading for home. We indulged ourselves with Life on Mars which I can tell has plenty more surface water (and mud) than the planet itself, despite anything NASA might tell you.
A final run down Alsation, with D’Andy and Elliott pulling away while I again held up Karl rounded out the bulk of the ride, leaving us only to haul ourselves back to Bockett’s at a relatively early 12:00. The afternoon promised to be a leisurely one for me as I took my son and his cousin to see James Bond’s Spectre at the cinema, along with MarkJ and his missus. This proved to be the ideal recuperative option as with 24+ miles in my legs I was beat!
So, last week mist. This week, mud. What’s next??