So it goes. Last week I got a load of abuse for picking a route that involved climbing a few hills, this week, with damper conditions it was time to be abused by a smaller group over the amount of mud around. Well, no apologies from me.
It certainly has rained a bit in the past few days so it was no surprise to find conditions were not the best. Mark, Andy, Matt and myself were the sum of mountain biking enthusiasm last night as riders failed to make it to the starting gate.
I had a route in mind that I hoped would at least keep us away from slippery descents and be a bit more XC than usual. With rain on top of recently dusty trails it was obvious that there would be a traction deficit at some point in the ride.
Looking at the Race King tyres on Andy’s spanking Lapierre Zesty 514 trail monster I also had a feeling we’d need all the help we could get. Incidentally, I do find the Lapierre name amusing in a puerile way – is it just me or does it remind you of ‘ladies parts’?!
Starting from Highlands Garage there’s a limited way up onto the Hills so it was through Wiggly Wood for a warm up and our first taste of the greasy clay. Passing the back of Polesdon we rode up to Tanners Hatch and then took the sneaky footpath straight on.
We rarely go this way and I knew it had one steep section but decided it was worth it for the variety. Despite all of us having to walk briefly it does at least get the bulk of the Ranmore climb out of the way reasonably painlessly; one day I’ll ride it in the opposite direction though, it looks peachy that way.
We then turned onto Badger Run and then Collarbone, mincing along at a far lower speed than usual in the conditions. There wasn’t much free mud but damp roots and teflon-slick clay and chalk really isn’t a combination to inspire. At least it was riding though and despite all that the evening was fine and mild.
At the end of Collarbone we turned toward the track to Abba Zabba, passing the huge tree. Mike from BrightonMTB has a vid of people riding it, I’ll have to post it here soon. We skirted it instead, encouraged no end by the knowledge that you really couldn’t trust one turn or any surface at all.
Working our way through the trees we picked up the Green Lane toward Newlands before turning off for the descent toward the Sawmill. Last time we came down there it was rough but dry and I can still hear Colin whooping all the way down.
This time, mud and puddles everywhere soon had us resigned to being thoroughly dirty and I found myself wishing I hadn’t been quite so dismissive of Crud’s new Fast Fender. I could definitely have done with one last night; who knows, maybe I’ll have to eat my words as well as everything else I got on my face last night?
After that we had a steep tramp up the hill. It looks enticingly interesting to ride down in the dry but uphill it’s foot only and the wet exposed chalk made it hard work. At the top I stopped to adjust my lamp bracket, pausing long enough for the Trail Pixies to do their work and deprive me of my cycle glasses. Of course I didn’t notice until several mile later when I couldn’t work out why there was so much crap in my eyes! Another reason for that Fast Fender.
We ended up above Sheapleas Common and managed to find the singletrack down to the A246 after a bit of fiddling. Here, with plenty of tree cover the ground was more encouraging and we could have a bit of fun as darkness closed in.
A short road blast to Conisbee Butchers saw us turning right and riding past houses we can only dream about. What an idyllic spot Horsley is, made better by our passing the tennis courts at the end. There was at least one fit looking woman amongst the many players there banging balls back and forth across the net but unfortunately we couldn’t stop! Sigh!
Matt parted from us as we turned toward Effingham so it was just three remaining to head down to the station, passing a huge field that had a thin layer of ground fog hovering above it. A lovely sight in the dusk.
By now it was easy rolling to get home. We passed through Bookham Common easily, spotting our third deer of the night standing in another fog shrouded field and chasing bats down the path. By the time we reached Bookham proper we were spinning along easily knowing that the slippery conditions were far behind us.
All in all I’m guessing at 17 miles for the round trip. Guessing because with my Exposure MaXx-D light I can’t use my wireless bike computer which really hacks me off. I had to swap out the Cateye one I had on the Inbred to a cheap wired one and now the Specialized one on the Five is also playing up. It really hacks me off this, especially as Exposure disingenuously claim things are fine. Well, fine that is if the units are kept a decent distance apart which is not what you do on a bike.
Despite that rant, a lovely ride. Not physically testing and nowhere close the highs we had at Swinley but a good night to be out riding.