Ninja trails. So stealthy that we didn’t see it coming, our trails seem to have transformed over the past fortnight from claggy mud-fest to peachy buffness. It’s all relative of course but it feels as though for the first time since November’s biblical deluge we’ve finally got some dry trails appearing.
Not that things are entirely mud-free yet…
We had a burst of enthusiasm prompted by the start of our second week without rain. Joining me for the first time in ages was DaveC, plus JohnR, JamesH, Paul, Adam, Colin and Joe.
Poor Joe. I’m sure he can elaborate on his miserable day in the comments but basically he had a ‘mare, culminating in having to bail within the first quarter of a mile as the proverbial final straw broke him. Joe, hope you try again with more luck soon!
After trundling up Crabtree Lane I remembered to switch on my Endomondo phone app to record the route (review soon). Ducking into Wiggly Wood I was soon sensing that people were feeling frisky (in an mtb sense!) as the trails proved to have drained quickly from their winter quagmire. Where just a few weeks earlier I’ve struggled for traction through here I could now feel my legs spinning at a nice comfortable pace. I know that Spring isn’t here yet, but at least I can see what’s in store. Bring it on…
Carrying on toward Polesden and our usual Tanners’ climb the great conditions continued as we started our first descent, piling down toward Chapel Farm before swinging sharp right toward the Old Dorking Road. Crossing onto the Estate we headed over to the start of the Tanners climb, where I couldn’t resist chucking my Inbred high up the bank to keep my momentum up.
By the time we’d settled into the long slog up though my initial rush of energy was subsiding. Time to dig in. After taking the opportunity of a chat by the Youth Hostel it was onwards and upwards. Even without DaveW, Tim and Tony with us tonight I had to suffer the ignominy of watching JohnR and Adam disappear off up the trail ahead. These days I’m distinctly mid-pack as our riders seem to cover all the various levels of bike fitness from sofa-sloth to greased whippet. So I just settled into a steady breathing and pedal cadence and did what I could.
Up on Ranmore John turned off for home as he’d promised his daughter he’d help with homework while the rest of us headed along first Badger Run and then Collarbone, starting reasonably quick as I spun after Colin (it’s alright for those with gears) and then slowing as the upward gradient started to take it’s toll.
At White Down we debated our route choice before plumping for Effingham, first negotiating the short sections of singletrack that take you over to the Abba Zabba complex before working our way along toward the Drover’s Road in a big loop that took us past the Reservoir.
As always, the mud was still apparant up here, nearly catching us all out as we blithely whizzed along before being caught up sharply by deep boggy mud-glue. It was just about possible to blunder over and through but it did cause a few moments of surprise.
Eventually we neared the start of the long descent to the A246 but disappointingly it was an arduous bounce across near-dry mud and ruts before a halting run down toward the road. It felt we were piste-bashing our way along as there’s clearly been few bikes down there for a while. A few more runs will probably smooth things out and let speeds increase but for now it was quite an effort.
At the road we crossed over, heading toward Effingham Station via more bouncy ruts across the big field after parting from Colin who was heading back via Orestan Lane. It wasn’t all bad though as there were definitely section where you could almost imagine the dust being kicked up. I was really enjoying the quick spinning in fact as this route so suits singlespeeds.
As we neared Bookham Common we were forced to stop for a while as Dave had a slow puncture, after which I switche dbikes with Paul. Both of us quickly found that just a couple of inches of height difference made a huge impact on how our bikes were set up, I don’t think either of us were comfortable. I also found the danger that all singlespeeders face, I couldn’t get used to Paul’s gear! In fact for the next two or three miles I didn’t change gear on his full-susser once but automatically stood up to grind when the trail grew tough. Which happened surprisingly often as the track was still mired in mud. I’ll have to re-calibrate my brain before I next ride my Five I think.
By now we were almost home, stopping briefly to bodge James’ loose casette before returning back to civilisation in Bookham and finishing the ride with a fast blast up the road. In all, there was a lot of chatting tonight, some fast riding and about 17 miles of work. Not bad for a Wednesday night ride.
Now if the weather could just warm up a bit that would be great!