The idea was for an early start again with an 8:00am off from Bocketts. We didn’t quite make it, owing to various last minute distractions but we were well ahead of our 8:40 ride time. I don’t think we aim to make this permanent but I do like the early return and IF we do get a Summer this year it’s a great way to avoid the full on heat of Midday! Here’s hoping!
So the team consisted of 15 riders with 14 bikes. Yep, the Ellsworth Witness was back out on the trails this time being ridden by Adam and Darren with Amanda on her Epic. Matt, Mark, Keith, Barrie, AndyC, James, Andy661, Paul, DaveW, Tony, John and myself completed the roll call.
I’d voiced the opinion that a ride over to Langley Vale and then back to Box Hill was a good idea and there being no dissenters we headed off that way. Although I started off strongly I was under no illusion that once the climbs of Alsation hit in I’d be sent to the back of the group and so it was!
Keith, on his new Five, paced, me up the climb and we made steady progress pushing hard up towards Nower Wood. From Nower Wood a quick road shimy towards the Cock at Headley before the run towards Langley Vale. A couple of climbs and a fast left hander that had me yelling to Adam on the front of the tandem to slow down but we all survived and made it to the top.
Here came the stoney, chalky descent that DaveW calls “Horse Piss Ally” was ahead of us but apart form a little softness on the soil it was the usual flinty, fast descent with a few deeper, tighter ruts than I remember! Excellent fun although the tandem riders both got to the bottom rubbing their right arms where some contact with a hidden branch had been painful.
From here the road tramp up to the start of Stane Street begins and again I watched as the quicker riders forged ahead. On the final drop down though I carried some speed as we entered the bridleway and managed to track Matt most of the way up until it levelled out. A fairly straight run back to the top of Alsation although the descent past the golf club is always interesting with a bit of moisture around.
James’ tyre gave out at this point and a tyre boot was put into action to protect the new tube. Once down we set out for the top of Chainbreaker where I took a fast and brake squealing line (changed pads, changed or cleaned rotors and the brakes still sound like a pair of fighting cats) thumping over the log and speeding off, just catching the slightly less elegant thumping sound of DaveW sliding off on the roots. No damage done and a lot of happy riders at the bottom before the slog of heading up the High Ashurst climb.
I like the climb but I could see the riders ahead too close together and I gather a few people had others off with no where to go. My legs weren’t in it but Keith’s effort is worthy of mention as he cleared the vast majority of the climb before failing at a root(?) as the trail turns left. No idea if anyone cleared it or how the tandem did.
Road dash to Box Hill for a tea stop and a quick chat while we tried to decide if China Pig was going to be too slippery. We decided to give it a go but it was a tad slippery although mention goes again to Keith, as while Andy and myself picked a route around a log pile Keith just road at it and cleared prompting the rest of the party to follow suit. More antics lay ahead as I slid off down the bank and then caught the others up as they too slid on a particuly tight off camber rooty turn. Given the right conditions it’s a great trail, add a little moisture and it’s a real handful!
At the bottom I suggested we head back to Norbury to do a bit of a loop that I’ve been doing with Jem. Nothing special but it adds some fast miles and I also watched the colour drain from Matt’s face as I suggested the Radio Mast climb. Off we headed and I have to confess I walked some of the climb as tired legs and no granny ring got the better of me. We did a few loopy sections to add some miles as the group stated to split so people could meet their various promises.
Amanda, Darren and Adam head off for another hours ride while the rest of us headed back. Something in the order of 24 miles and about 3000 calories for me so a pretty good ride!