It was Lee’s fault! Sometime during yesterday, as I was pondering a route for the evening’s ride I got an email from Lee suggesting the Brockham descent. Which kind of dictates the rest of the route too. I was happy enough to go along with it but I did warn him there might be some fall-out.
So, we headed for Brockham. DaveC asked this morning how it went and I summarised it to him in three or four lines, but where’s the fun in that? As it turned out there was the usual smattering of fitness, skill and enthusiasm spread unevenly across the group (John R has all the fitness…). Along for the ride were Jem, DaveP, Lee, JohnR, AndyLeeds, Nick, Matt, Keith and myself, heading out onto the hills after the obligatory 10 minutes for late arrivals.
Off toward Leatherhead we went, I half expected to pick up Colin but he was at home basking in the delights of a new born child and superstar status for his Inbred – congratulations on both counts Colin!
The only advantage I had over the others this evening was that being in front meant I largely avoided all the dust thrown up into the air by our passing. It really seemed to hang in the hot air for minutes afterward as I occassionally found out.
We soon reached Alsation and on cue two of them bounded up to the fence to welcome us. Just so long as they stay there… The climb proved easy enough with the Five gripping well over the dry roots even though John as usual showed a clean set of heals to me even without Tony to goad him on. As it was, by the time we reached the top Jem had bailed, opting for a trundle along Stane Street with DaveP. Too hot, too much recent work outdoors and probably too much Glasto last weekend!
We pressed on toward the Mickleham Gallops via Tyrells Woods golf course to pick up Chainbreaker. Again I led down with Matt close behind. The off-camber turns were a bit of a challenge with the dust proving an unreliable friend and limiting grip levels but it was pretty much as good as it gets. The log roll was perfunctory with plenty of grip on the run out for a change.
Next on the agenda was the High Ashurst climb. I’d like to claim my Mars bar off Rich from DoMTB as according to Nick the offers there for those who clean the climb. God it was hard work though.
As always I tried to limit my pace at the bottom over the marble-y stones before pushing on through the middle section. I was very pleased to have the extra grip from the Five over the rooty steps even with the front end wound up to 140mm. Once past that it was a question of hanging in there and turning the cranks to get to the top. If I hadn’t had John close behind I may have been tempted to pause but he kept me honest all the way.
It turned out John, Lee and myself cleaned the climb which was a good result. Nick was clearly suffering and was probably less than pleased with our route choice; shortly after he decided to bail out as we reached the Box Hill road and from what he’s told me it was the right decision. There was clearly a sugar bonk on the horizon!
The rest of us disappeared down the Brockham descent. My contact lenses continue to cause no end of problems making riding difficult. The Five took the roots and bumps in it’s stride though until we reached the oak where the trail splits. I went left and shortly after found the back end unbelievably wayward as the tubeless tyre let go big time.
Within yards I’d lost all the air and I was on the rim with no braking at the back. Eeek! I pulled over to inspect the damage as Lee and the rest arrived but I don’t think they realised what had occurred. Thank goodness it hadn’t been the front tyre to let go.
At first I assumed I’d burped out the air but closer inspection proved a big cut in the tyre face. I had my UST repair kit with me (it’s no bigger than an ordinary repair kit) and managed to mend the hole in situ thanks to the rim seal remaining intact. After a good few minutes to find and repair the hole we were on our way again. The whole process had been easier than swapping an inner tube.
By now we were at the bottom of the hill. Which meant climbing back up it! Our route was the usual haul up to the North Down Way to pick up the cheeky footpath to the Best Western restaurent. Seeing Matt ride the gnarly roots at the start of the footpath with ease on his P7 I decided to commit myself and found it equally rideable. That’s the first time I’ve properly tried it and it shows what you can do if you try. Of course, it was dry which helped hugely!
Our finale beckoned with China Pig begging to be ridden as the sky darkened. Matt disappeared (he seems to really be ‘on it’ recently) and I followed after a big of confusion at the top. I picked up a couple of solid clunks on the head from low hanging branches but enjoyed the run hugely. I didn’t ride it well but I didn’t find myself tiring particularly either. Near the bottom Matt’s passing was evident only by the dust sparkling in my LED light as it hung in the still air.
Incidentally, I’ve discovered a twist to the whole interferrence-with-wireless-bike-computers that the Exposure MaXx-D has been causing me. It is immensely frustrating to find that the trouble results from me turning the light down when I don’t need full power. This in turn causes more radio interference which results in speedo readings of up to 65mph! Keeping it on full seems to avoid the issue – I assume that the lower settings are achieved by the unit rapidly turning itself on and off. Still annoying that a £300 light can’t be properly shielded.
Nearly home by now. A tiring group had one last climb between us and rest in the shape of Norbury Park. We kept it simple with a run up to the sawmill, only John (him again!) challenging himself with the radio mast climb. Hat doffed John.
In all, about 17 or 18 miles by my reckoning. We’re thinking Sunday will be the usual kind of Surrey Hills ride and hope next week the weather holds for a Pitch and a Pint night ride. Fingers crossed.