Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Ride report: Tuesday 14 September – Solo Darkside

Posted by Paul901 | September 15, 2010 | 8 comments so far

I’m not so sure even the hardy Moles would have enjoyed my ride tonight.

No trails to be concerned with, no mud, no scary moments on roots, no obstacles to bite. Just mile after mile of empty road, climbing, metronomic counting, relentless rain and flash floods.

I might as well have ridden in a Hollywood studio specialising in recreating storm conditions, or set a turbo trainer up in the bath and ridden under a continuous cool shower. This one beat last year’s soaking up the Zig Zag at Box Hill that saw thunder and lightning overhead.

The forecast said rain disappearing this evening leaving a clear, cool night. At 6pm no rain had arrived so all was looking good, a touch under 20°C and I left the gilets at home opting instead for long sleeved top for the inevitable drop in temperature. Little did I know none of this would make any difference.

I rode out to Cobham and Downside, on to Effingham Junction and Effingham Road to the A246 at Beech Lane. I got caught in the rain meaning I was wet in those first few ‘warm up’ miles so I had to concentrate on high cadence and steady heart rate so as to keep warm.

The climbing started and the rain continued, at the Ranmore Road crossroads I continued over for the Whitedown climb (South – the easy way) followed by its descent (18% at worst) onto the A25 and then headed East.

The descent was not too slippery and the lights were coping easily at this point. With about 12 miles on the clock I rode off the A25 into Hollow Lane for a trip round Leith Hill anti-clockwise, something I have been meaning to do for a long time.

The canopy of high banks, exposed roots and overall enclosure on Hollow Lane is a unique feeling. I have sped down it many times as quickly as possible whilst trying not to lose grip. To climb it instead and see how steep it is (it’s not that bad) was a personal highlight. I wouldn’t manage the gears that Tony or Barrie would push but I maintained a pace of 8 or 9mph, a cadence of 70 to 80 and a heart rate of 130 or less. Perfect for combating the wet clothes that threatened to cause problems if I started to feel the cold.

If you enjoy climbing this route is fantastic and this stretch is like the Zig Zag but much longer.

Once you are up to and around the top of Leith Hill the road gives you a mix of short climbs and descents, working its way round the Tower. You’re not quite at the top of course as the road doesn’t reach there.

I hit the wall at this point probably due to Sunday’s ride where I spent an unusual amount of time riding hard at the front but then it was my sort of route. XC and easy surfaces for the most part to Newlands Corner. I had eaten well for 2 days, hydrated well and also eaten a banana long before getting to the Hollow Lane climb. With 20 miles ridden tonight I came out of the Coldharbour canopy on the descent towards Dorking and forgot all about the energy drop as it hit me.

Rain, full-on, looked like it had been going for an hour, a layer of water on the road, shoes full quickly and squelching, glasses virtually unusable and the strong combination of twin Niterider bar lights and Joystick Maxx helmet light rendered useless. I could hardly see their assistance in front of the wheels and the mirror effect of the standing water meant I was at the mercy of the road surface.

The hardest part of the ride was after riding through Dorking and onto the A24 cycle path. 3 miles of soaking and I was like a drowned rat and I knew I had another 7 miles of it, most of which would be back on the road proper. Part of you wants to call the team car but what’s the point, you’ll stay warmer if you keep pedalling and don’t have to stop for a puncture.

A ride like this isn’t something you knowingly head out into but it’s quite a test once you are committed and satisfying to get through. As I reached home 2½ hours later and with 30 miles were on the computer I had somehow stayed warm, safe and I had achieved what I planned when setting off. There are times that riding a bike is a lonely experience and your only companion is your willpower.

The D2D riders will be feeling like this soon, somewhere in the middle of their 2nd or 3rd ride and will see me wrapped up, warm, hot drink never far away. Whilst it will appear that I couldn’t possibly know what they are going through, I do, and while the event doesn’t spark an interest in me, I am mad enough to do what the Moles do and go beyond the boundaries for any sensible recreational rider.

I don’t know why really, sometimes you’ve just got to get out and do it. A decent mug of hot chocolate, food and a hot shower can usually make you right again afterwards.

Filed under Rides in September 2010


About the author

Paul set foot (or pedal) on a trail for the first time in May 2010 with zero experience and zero skills awareness and a fear that his Whyte901 would be a very expensive whim. Whilst a convert to the trails he still rides 10 times as many miles on average on his beloved tarmac as a darksideaholic. Paul actually turned up to a Leith Hill evening ride and pulled a Viner road bike out of the car, waved, rode off and wasn't seen again until the pub later that evening.

He also confesses to having owned 3 coffee roasters, 2 expensive grinders, several elite coffee machines and a rotating stock of 10+ green bean coffee varieties at any one time. He spent 2 years developing a coffee grind reference table, has an RO water filter system for absurdly pure water, casually drops words like backflush, spritzing and Euro curve into a conversation, has compiled his own coffee roasting handbook based on 5 years of roasting and still denies obsession. Er, right.

There are 8 comments on ‘Ride report: Tuesday 14 September – Solo Darkside’

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  1. paul901 says:

    Publication caught me out so let me just add I am all too aware that I have yet to ‘enjoy’ MTB mudbath season. No doubt another unique experience awaits!

    ps. glad I’m not riding Weds night as those trails must be showing the effects of last night’s rain

  2. tony says:

    It sounds like biblical conditions Paul and it reminds me of a ride a did a few years ago in torrential rain. I was finding it harder and harder work on the way home and only discovered when I got back that it had been so flooded that my rims kyrsium rims had filled with water. They weighed a tonne.

    He’s hoping for beautiful dry trails at D2D. Gulp!!

  3. Andy661 says:

    I too headed out under cloudy skies last night with my D2D team mate James.

    There was light rain was the first few miles to Richmond Park but once in the park the trails and roots were mostly dry.

    However once on the far side of the park the weather gods started making a bit more of an effort with angry orange skies and an ominous buffeting wind.

    Finishing the first lap it really was starting to properly hose it down but still feeling reasonably fresh we turned round to do another lap, this time in the opposite direction.

    At the top of the first climb the heavens really did open and we literally could not see anything!

    We missed the entrance to the rooty descent completely and it was challenging to even follow the fire road!

    By now it was do or die so we pushed on. The descent down the woods by Ham Hill was basically done blind!

    However a shade under 19 miles with an average of 9.9mph so nearly on D2D pace and good wet weather training!

    And not a squeak from my bike. Bliss!

  4. Dandy says:

    It seems there were a few of us out last night. I was commuting, and just as I was about to leave for home at 7.30pm, the biblical storm that others experienced elsewhere hit the Heathrow area.

    I sat it out, and after 10 minutes the buffeting wind and lashing rain had abated, so apart from wet feet and damp legs, the ride home was fairly pleasant.

    It all counts as miles in the bank, chaps.

  5. DaveW says:

    The trails were fine last night. A bit muddy in places and slippy in others, but most of the storm waters had soaked away. Very little mud on the bike.

    It didn’t rain either :o)

    I did a road ride (shock horror) a couple of years ago and it started to lash it down as soon as I got to the end of my road. Cold rain, headwind, standing water, grim. I got so cold that I felt ill for days.

  6. paul901 says:

    The trails were certainly fine tonight (Thur), just got back from a quick 16 miles mix of road and trail to Mickleham Downs and back. Amazing how the ground soaks it all up and dries out in the space of 48 hours.

  7. TurnerGuy says:

    It’s all part of (mountain bike) Gaia…

  8. paul901 says:

    I may as well round this out with the 29 mile road ride tonight (Fri) just to complete the week. When thinking about tonight’s Friday ride I realised I stood at 74 miles this week so I resolved to mark up 100+ for the week. All the climbing was in 39 x 25 tonight 😉 Well okay, it couldn’t be less as that’s what on the 2nd bike.

    It probably sounds keen but it’s all psychological, I want to be in shape in the pit after all.

    “Hey, have you seen the pit bitch, christ he looks mean and fit and he’s not even riding”

    “Whoa, pass the word along, if you have a Mole behind you let ’em pass as soon as you can, these guys are serious!”

    (of course, I realise the Moles are chalking up 200 mile weeks getting themselves in shape, they’re just not ‘fessing up to each other about it)

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