With cloudy skies above the epic that was about to unfold was not totally clear!
With the usual start from Bockett’s farm scheduled for half past eight, 4 riders decided to put a few extra miles in. Il Dandino started from Kingston at about 7am and Darren, Amanda and myself started from Epsom just before 7:15am. I led the latter group over Epsom Downs, up to Walton-on-the-Hill, Headley, SST, Nower Wood, Life on Mars, Stane Street, King William steps, Norbury Hill mast, Infestation and Bocketts.
I was trying out Amanda’s Titus El Guapo, having a couple of dodgy moments on the way out including a great ‘broady’ at the top of Infestation, forgetting about the reversed brakes! Darren and Amanda kindly switched these over at Bocketts car park and I put some more air in the tires, not being used to Amanda’s extra squishy setup (Paul901 would have a fit – I think we are talking less than 25 psi…). Amanda and Darren were riding their hardcore Elsworth tandem.
The group gathering at Bocketts included DaveC, Guy Turner, Keith, Il Dandino, Suren, Amanda, Darren, Jez, Les(?) Barry and myself.
The most popular options seemed to be a ride over to Leith Hill, or a ride to Leith Hill via Brockham and Redlands. The latter is quite a long loop and would restrict the time we had to play on the technical bits, so we opted for a straight to Leith Hill area jaunt, plus technical play time.
With a view to coming back via Yew Trees, we took the Hogden track to Ranmore. I started out taking it easy, conserving energy for what for me was likely to be a 45mile+ day, but on being passed by Andy Turnerguy that pesky competitive urge took me and I stuck on his tail until the last few hundred yards when I put on a spurt and made it to the top first.
DaveC and Keith spent some time wrestling with Keith’s tubeless flat, giving us all the chance to get our breath and have a chat, before heading for the Landrover descent, when Dave shot off at hight speed and proved very difficult to keep up with – maybe a bit of pent up frustration there from the UST wrestling exercise!
On we headed towards Coldharbour via Wolverns Lane, taking in the wiggly singletrack by the fence to the right, before seeking out some technical trails specifically requested by Dandy. As we took in a particularly technical loop I lost it going over a stump – the same spot where I fell last time I tried that trail. Thankfully a light tumble given that I was riding Amanda’s bike! A few sections of tight shore saw several riders pushing. I failed on the approach to one section, but cracked it on the second attempt. Later I spotted an error I thought I had made last time I’d ridden that trail and took the left fork rather than the right, finding a tall, narrow, windy and slightly wobbly section of elevated shore. Jedi took over here as I gazed on to the next section and rode up and over okay, but unfortunately Dandy wasn’t so lucky, taking a particularly harsh tumble off the side of the 5’ or so elevated shore as he tried to dab on a corner, forgetting that he had SPDs. The Met Parachute lid saved his face as the guard smacked the edge of the shore, but his leg took a harsh scrape to the right shin. He manfully got back on and continued, although declining a second attempt at the shore!
The next piece of trail was a twisty climb, with a few technical challenges – one of the hardest, a fallen tree, was cleared by Darren and Amanda on the tandem, whilst most of the rest of us pushed over it or dabbed. My excuse was that I didn’t want to damage the big ring on Amanda’s bike. Hopefully no one remembers that when I next ride that trail on my own bash ring equipped bike!
The payoff for that climb is (IMHO) one of the best downhill sections in the Surrey Hills. Jez went ahead of me, stopping on the road crossing half way down as I launched the first jump onto the road and the second jump into the next section of trail, hooning through to the end of the descent. It was great being first down and seeing the broad grins and wide eyes of each rider as they emerged into the clearing!
Dandy was particularly happy, having cleared the two jumps properly for the first time, virtually doing a victory dance with the excitement and satisfaction of owning that section!
Our tea and cake break was long overdue, so after a brief play in a drop off and jump area, some of us headed up to Leith Hill tower, whilst the others headed for home.
Keith was really suffering a serious energy ‘bonk’ by this time, somehow continuing to turn his pedals, possibly with the thought of tea and cake driving him towards the tower. On the way we saw a lithe looking guy of about 60 or 70 years old on a good but old XC bike and no helmet, slightly lost. We tried to direct him to Peaslake, but of course after some typical ‘turn left at the tree’ type directions we suggested he follow us up to the tower, after which we could direct him on bridlepaths.
Regrettably, on navigating the bombholes, our charge decided to ride down a steep roll in and his bike flew one way, whilst he flew the other, colliding horizontally with a tree, chest/belly first and collapsing in a heap on the ground. He had hit his jaw, but thankfully seemed able to continue after we checked him out and filled him with energy gel and water and setting him on the bridlepath up towards the tower.
After our tea break we started to head for home. I rode down Deliverance on Amanda’s bike to give it a proper test and Darren and Amanda followed on the tandem (!). By close to the start of Summer Lightning, the group had broken up and it was becoming clear that I was going to be late home, so I conveyed my apologies via DaveC and Darren, Amanda and myself split and headed back towards my place as fast as we – no, scrub that – as fast as I could!
We went via Summer Lightning, Wolverns, High Mediteranian, Ranmore Church and Denbies, joining Stane Street at Juniper Hill and following that to Epsom, before taking in the gradual climb over Epsom Downs to Dead Man’s Bench and then across the golf course and down Riflebutts alley to Epsom, getting to my house by five to two.
No idea how many miles. Quite a few and at a fast pace (for me). A fair bit of chafing and a new love for ‘El Guapo’ (And before anyone starts, I am talking about Amanda’s Titus bike and not Greg!).