Last night was a bit of a shock to the system. It was brought to you by the words ‘fast’ and ‘dusty’ which at times threatened to overwhelm the riders at the back of the group. At one point there was more dust in the air than dry ice at a Whitesnake gig.
With other halves having social lives of their own it plays all sorts of havoc with our scheduling. Fortunately, enough of us were able to switch to Thursday that we still had in a good turnout for the ride. With high summer having arrived it’s too good an opportunity to miss.
Joining me at our usual start point last night were AndyC, Tony, Lee, JohnR and Andy from where we motored over towards Leatherhead to meet Colin and NeillP. So eight of us started off up the Alsation climb, having already put in a brisk couple of miles.
I’m not sure how it happened but enthusiasm levels were high last night and we put the hammer down. Knowing that a start on this side of the Hills offered a more XC ride than usual we decided to head for Reigate.
It was a move prompted in part by AndyC on his under-braked Univega and Colin and Lee on singlespeeds, plus the knowledge that we were all evenly matched for pace. As a result, the group made rapid progress with only short pauses to punctuate our journey.
Once up Alsation we headed for Nower Wood and continued across Headley, detouring only briefly for a short play on the bombholes. I’m back riding the Five with the intention of giving it some summer miles put in truth am struggling to get into a comfort zone with it.
I’m not sure why. Technically it’s superb but if I strip back the novelty of brakes and forks that work I’m left undersold by it. Bizarre given that most of the past 18 months have been spent on it but having ridden the Inbred for many winter and spring miles I’m missing that bikes’ sparkle.
The Orange to me feels very heavy on the front end, I blame the Pikes but as Colin pointed out a faster rebound might help. In contrast I can pop the Inbred around at will. Plus I have the increasing suspicion that five inches of travel is unnecessary for our riding, even if I’m clearly faster on the Five. Time for some careful decisions I think.
But back to the ride. We didn’t hang around once up on Headley as we headed for Reigate, an idea forming in my mind. I’ve wanted to show people the ‘cyclist’s please dismount’ descent for a long time as I used to ride it on my commute to work.
It’s lunatic fast but with a challenging hairpin halfway down and you can really get yourself into trouble if you’ve left the braking late as the ground drops steeply into the corner with the surface moving under you the whole time. Once past the turn, which has enough of a wall round the edge that you can berm it nicely there’s several drainage ‘jumps’ which will bounce you off very easily before another turn brings you out onto reasonably safe bridlepath; though even that has enough gradient for you to carry a lot of speed down to the road.
The problem is, this whole descent (or climb) is often frequented by walkers and horse riders during daylight hours so for a long time I’ve avoided it; it’s too dangerous. But with dusk falling and quiet trails last night was too tempting! We flew down it and I think more than a couple of us were startled at the demands of the trail. Very very good fun!
The downside of course is the need to get back up the hill. We ended up skirting Reigate Heath and picking up a bridlepath back up to the start (or end) of the chalky Colley Hill climb that brings you out back at the top of Colley Hill.
It’s super fast coming down but what you forget is how much work our modern bikes are doing keeping things on track. In the reverse direction, it’s the rider that does the work, lots of it as the gradient and chalky surface work against you. Even so I surprised myself by making it to the top, something I would not have managed if I hadn’t put in all that work on the singlespeed although I dropped to granny/third for the climb. I just dug in and kept turning, my concentration limited to what was three feet in front of my wheel.
On top of Colley Hill once more we returned to XC duties, flying past Walton Heath golf course before picking up the return leg to Headley. Secret Singletrack was begging to be ridden but the bracken is pushing it to the point of unridability. That’s not strictly true but the whole point is to flow down this trail and the bracken effectively stops this.
A final tramp to Nower Wood and back down Alsation on rapidly tiring legs left us saying goodbye to some while the rest of us clambered back up the valley to Bookham, a great evening in the bag. By the time we got back we were all weary but with light still just about in the sky it was a satisfying feeling of a job well done.
So that was a Sunday ride compressed into one evening with no tea shop in site. Although I made up for that at home!