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.