Last night seemed a common consensus that if you haven’t ridden in snow this year it was your last chance for a while. The weather is turning and despite a good covering of snow in the morning by evening temperatures were soaring. It was nearly 0°!
So up at the garage we had a pretty good turnout. Barrie, DaveW, Colin, James, AndyC, Jem, Tim, MattP7, Tony and myself made 10 riders venturing out. With the rapid thaw there was plenty of slush around which was to make things difficult throughout the ride.
First off, up Crabtree Lane and Wiggly Wood. The idea was an Effingham run, partly to keep the amount of descending at a sensible level and partly to give Tim a gentle introduction to night riding on his ‘cross bike! Generally it seemed less of a handicap than you’d imagine but I’d prefer at least some braking options available to me.
Wiggly Wood was quite a slog and it was soon apparant that few people had passed this way since our last roll through last week. Having warmed ourselves up we headed toward Tanners Hatch via the usual route which soon showed there was lots of snow around. It was no easier than last week except this time we continued to the Dorking Road, discovering on our way that we were first to blaze a trail this way since the snow started!
Very hard work but we were getting used to making occassional dabs to stay upright, plus the odd section on foot. The difficult riding continued up past Tanners, the problem being that the still-fresh snow had one line and veering off it meant you had real trouble keeping momentum and staying upright.
It surprised me really, I sort of expected the trail to have been ‘bashed’ a bit more by walkers and the odd 4×4 (they’ve got to be good for something!) but as we started on the climb to Ranmore everything was pretty much pristine. I was managing to keep going on my singlespeed reasonably well but soon had to get off and push for a spell.
Ahead of me, Colin and Jem made full use of their gears as they rolled on. 50 yards of pushing saw the trail start to level off so I climbed back on the bike and followed the tracks made by the others (I think Tony and Barrie were also ahead of me by now).
It was a blessing following the tracks as although the problems of steering and balance remained at least there was something to follow and I wasn’t just blundering through the thick snow as Colin and Jem were forced to do. The slower pace than usual and the heavy going resulted in one of the hardest climbs I’ve had for a while.
At least my core muscles were given a good workout as I was standing most of the time and the inevitable wobbles forced me to keep moving my weight on the bike to compensate. My forearms were burning!
Eventually we ‘summitted’ and watched as an inept 4×4 driver slewed his vehicle across the verge before beaching it by the edge of the road. What he was doing off-piste I don’t know but it ended with him stuck and not going anywhere. Echoes of last week’s BMW there.
The Ranmore road was sheet ice degenerating into soft slush and so proved a continual challenge. We stayed on it rather than venture onto Collarbone which we fully expected to be more heavily snowed up than the Tanners climb. So we carried right through to the turn off toward Effingham, being passed by a truck with snow plough at one point which didn’t seem to be doing much to improve the road conditions.
By now we were starting to tire but pressed on, eventually picking up the descent which started with almost impossible mud as patches showed through the softening surface. There was still tons of snow around through and as we started on the descent it was hard to make out where the obstacles were until you rode over them.
Again there was really just one line and moving away from this brought plenty of heart in mouth moments. My concentration wasn’t great and despite moving at a reasonable speed I had a few ‘moments’ of fishtailing, fortunately without coming to grief.
At the end of that we crossed over and picked up the route to Effingham. This is normally a great singlespeed spin but the surface was very unreliable tonight. Following DaveW I could see him continually losing the front and back of his bike as the surface grip kept changing and I suppose it was the same for everyone else.
Crossing the field near Effingham proved to be equally as bumpy and unforgiving in the snow as it is in the summer and the next section which we usually blast along felt as though I was riding with two flat tyres. A very strange feeling!
By the time we’d crossed Bookham Common we all knew we’d had a proper workout, a reasonable pace, lots of dig-in-and-pedal-dammit! work and an intense rattling from the rough surfaces. Great fun then!
My HRM said I’d burned 1730 calories in just 13.5 miles which was far shorter than the route felt. I’m guessing the snow is starting to leave us but what’s left behind is going to be a muddy hell for a while. I’ll find out on my Friday commute to Redhill!