Last night was another reasonably quick blast across the Surrey Hills. With the ground nice and hard and a decent sized group of 11 riders gathering for our regular Wednesday night ride I was hoping to put together a route to keep everyone happy.
So, setting off from the garage were JohnR, Matt, AndyC, JamesH, DaveW, MarkBiketech, MarkJ, Darren, Adam, Amanda and me which is a good number by any measure. That’s without some of our other core riders too who were variously engaged elsewhere so we must be doing something right.
One thing I’ve worried over recently is the pace of our rides as we have a broad spread of speed potential. I don’t like to over-tax people but at the same time some riders like to stretch their legs a bit; overall I hope we’re setting the right balance. The slower riders tend to get pulled along by the faster ones and by keeping the stops as brief as possible I think it’s helping everyone – but I wouldn’t mind some feedback. It’s a difficult balance.
So, it was a brisk ride without really caning it last night. We headed off through Wiggly Wood and onward through Polesdon and up to Ranmore, taking full advantage of the splendid ride conditions to enjoy ourselves in what is still daylight now until around 8:30 or even later. What a contrast to the many winter rides of mud slipping effort as we dragged ourselves up to Ranmore.
It’s still effort of course, it’s just that now the trails are dry we’re going a bit quicker. Even so, I let the fit boys (and girl) disappear off up the Tanners Climb, preferring to take it easy. In spite of that Matt and myself still found ourselves winding up the pace as the climb neared the end having tracked James up the hill.
At the top we were passed by a local trail running club who stopped for a brief chat as we caught our breath. There was about 20 or so runners, which is a strange sight seeing them emerge from the trees in bright lycra. Not like us ‘normal’ looking mountain bikers eh?! We could teach them a thing or two about trail fashion I’m sure, or at least D’AndyC could!
Next on the agenda was a fast run along Badger Run and Collarbone to White Down. My Fire XC tyres are now well worn as we all know but they certainly provide an advantage in terms of pure rolling speed. It’s just the turns which require a bit of circumspection as I’ve found myself almost bringing the bike to a halt before turning in some cases, so unsure am I that the front will bite.
At White Down we headed through the woods toward Abba Zabba, where I’m shamed to admit at least half our group took on and tamed the notorious roll-in-and-squirt-up-the-opposite-bank before turning at the tree. I still couldn’t get over my current mental block, preferring instead to use the chicken run—fun in itself— before we found ourselves at the huge roll-in which is Blind Terror.
Strangely this doesn’t bother me at all and having done that and the whatever the next bit is (Blind Terror2? Numbskull? – we really need to clear up this confusion!) we crossed the road for the next section. I managed to catch my (ahem! man bits!) on the back of the saddle on the first rooty section before rolling, winded into the long steep roll-in that DaveC usually does.
I haven’t tried it for ages but it was all good tonight as I followed it down and round all the way through to the jump at the bottom. By then my earlier saddle interface problem left me just able to roll over the jump with less grace than I’d have liked!
It was noticeable that this side of the Ranmore ridge was much colder than up on top as we set off again for the Abinger Roughs. My plan was the long climb back up to the North Downs Way which would soon have us all feeling pretty warm again! After a short-ish blast along the Roughs we turned right and headed uphill.
What a struggle that was! I set off with mixed feelings and soon Adam and Darren overtook me as we headed into the particularly steep and nasty lower section which had me picking my granny ring for the first time for ages. By the time the right hand turn arrived Amanda was closing in and it wasn’t long before she too went past me. It’s a long haul up to the top but at least it’s steady rather than technical and although I started to catch Amanda again near the end I was just glad to have finished the climb!
Adam and co. all remarked how we’re spoiled for climbs like this round here and while that’s not how I’d look at them it certainly is worth remembering that Swinley residents like Adam just don’t have this on their doorstep. Er, you earn your descents, as they say! All that aside, I think we were all glad to have put that behind us especially since that would be the last of the long climbs for the evening.
That’s not to say the work was over though. We picked up the North Downs Way and were soon on the Drovers Road, heading back toward Dorking. Instead of a quick return though we turned toward the Horsley area, spinning along quickly on non-technical trails.
Eventually we picked up the long Horsley descent that brings you out opposite Dirtham Lane. Bumpy at the top, it soon smoothed out into a long, fast, dusty run. I had the advantage of a clear route after holding back while MarkJ freed off his chain so had a very fast run down, dodging the low hanging branch that came as a bit of a surprise before finding the air increasingly dusty as I started to near the end where everyone else had recently passed through.
Darren managed to damage his tubeless Racing Ralph tyre for the second week running on his descent which makes me a bit worried for the Nobby Nics I’m getting (2010 Allgrounder versions are supposed to be tougher). Having said that, Darren probably wasn’t hanging around down there!
As the time was starting to get on a bit by now, Matt, MarkJ and JohnR headed off to Bookham the quicker way via Orestan Lane, while the rest of the group upped the speed a little and set off through the woods to Effingham, kicking up clouds of dust in the process.
Our close running group was soon stretching our legs and the final miles or so across Effingham and Bookham Commons were pretty quick. Well, in the abscence of technical trails you have to get something out of it don’t you? Mostly, for those behind me (who was route-finding at the front) it was Baker’s Lung on the choking dust I think! But we certainly didn’t hang about.
After that effort we returned to Bookham for about 10 o’clock having covered somewhere around 18 miles or so across a mix of varied terrain. A great night ride for me, I was starving by the time I got home but happy with how things turned out. A decent meal and a glass of wine finished things off perfectly for me!