Isn’t technology amazing? Last night a small bunch of us headed out for a ride to Reigate and Gatton Park, using a route gifted to us by Phil (workshopmanualman) who’s left numerous comments on here under the pseudonym of PIJ.
Not only did we have a great ride but we found loads of new-to-us trails that are pretty much in our own backyard. All from someone we’ve never met!
Thanks to the wonder of GPS (and the Satmap 10 in particular), we had no trouble following an intricate route across the Surrey Hills. Those of us gathering for the ride (Darren, Amanda, Chris, DaveC, Jem and myself) were expecting a fast blast but we weren’t really expecting too much twisty stuff. But as it turned out there was plenty to entertain on what was basically an XC route.
First task was to climb Alsation, which has become less daunting over the year as the dry trails and summer fitness pay off. I remember getting off to push on a couple of Friday commutes when the greasy clay got the better of my singlespeed but no worries last night. I was on my ’98 Muirwoods with old-fashioned Conti Verticals, V-brakes and carbon rigid fork instead.
I’d forgotten what a punchy frame this is. It hails from an era when manufacturers were trying to emulate alloy hardtails with their steel frames and has no real give at the back at all. It’s an odd combination of front end float and back end punch that combines to monster it up the hills when it wants to.
We took in Life on Mars before circling Headley, past some very attractive and chatty girls on horseback and troubled only by a spectacularly offensive car driver who seemed to think that horses and bikes on country lanes were there just to cause him personal inconvenience. A complete tw@t.
Moving on we headed toward Walton on our regular Epsom Downs route which is not difficult except for the fast pace we were setting. Through Walton we turned into the woods near the Fox and Hounds pub and were into unfamiliar territory. What a nice change to ride something we haven’t done before!
The trail was mainly bridlepath with short sections of tight singletrack which was great fun in the deepening gloom. Eventually, after a good few fast miles we came out onto the A217 near Lower Kingswood. The route took us on some lovely, simple trails past farmland (a bit of a novelty for us) before squirting us under the M25 via a fast descent and into Gatton Park.
At this point we turned back uphill for the climb to the Reigate Tea rooms. From this point on I was on my usual route home from work so I knew the trails very well. The climb is a miserable one which I dug in on, even though Chris and Darren made it look easy.
At the tea rooms we stopped briefly to chat to some fellow riders returning to their cars before we continued onward. The climb up from the tea rooms normally kills me as I string it into one long slog up from the bottom of Gatton to the Colley Hill memorial without stopping. At least that way I know there’s not much more climbing for many miles!
By now we were all in a rhythm and had little to worry about other than cranking out the miles at high speed. Crossing the M25 again at the water tower however brought us onto some new singletrack again, through Margery Wood, which chopped off a section I’d normally ride and skirted us round the car park. It was tight, twisty and enormous fun riding through the loamy woodland although we had to stop to move a dangerously placed branch which has now given the trail the name of The Impaler!
Once through here it was back up to speed and we cantered across the golf course at a decent pace and on to recross the Dorking Road. I love this section as the gradient is just about on your side and you can really turn up the wick. However I could feel by this stage that my carbon forks were taking their toll as my neck was beginning to feel uncomfortable.
So, back thorugh Headley via a ham-fisted (for me) Secret Singletrack and then Life on Mars to the top of Alsation where we did our own version of ‘bicycle repairman’ as we helped a guy with a knackered freehub on his XX equiped Nicolai. Darren was the expert here as he’s broken a few of those himself…
By the time we reached Bockett’s Farm it was 9:00pm, so we’d done the 25 miles (26 for me from home) in around 2 hours 30 minutes. That was a fast ride by our standards but was one of the most enjoyable I’ve had this year. No need to think too much, just head down and go. Dry, still and clear conditions saw us home under a gibbous moon. Classic stuff really.