After our mammoth ride on Sunday, where we all managed a minimum of 26 miles over to Leith and Holmbury Hills—and some riders quite a bit more—it was time to rein in our sights for last night’s ride. With the weather people repeatedly suggesting a drenching was on the cards it was also time to stay closer to home. So Box Hill and Headley it was then.
Despite the threatened weather it turned out fine really, a little humid but nice and warm, at least with my merino base layer and gore jacket on! I was soon zipping off the sleeves after the first bit of singletrack, a useful feature of the Phantom jacket that I’ve used time and again. For the record, we had Dave, Keith, Matt, Mark, John, Tony and myself on the ride last night.
So off we went through Wiggly Wood, it quickly becoming apparant not only that the trees have put on a lot of leaf over the recent weeks while we’ve been elsewhere but also that the intermittent rain we’ve had this week hasn’t really affected the trails a great deal. Basically, pretty good riding conditions.
Partway down the decent that follows we turned sharp left toward Crabtree Lane and then followed that all the way down to the Stepping Stones pub. I was more concerned by the damp tarmac than anything on the trails to be honest. After crossing the A24 we headed for the start of the Box Hill bridleway climb.
Over on DoMTB there’s a current thread on timing yourself up the zig zag climb. As I have no road bike I can exempt myself from this although ‘our’ Tony Dendron (RoadieTony on DoMTB) has set some impressive times. He’s also suggested a second challenge covering the bridleway climb on MTBs. I said to him last night I had nearly responded to that idea but hadn’t got round to it. ‘What were you going to say?’ he asked, to which I replied ‘I’m still not sure!!’ This whole thing seems a recipe for pain in my mind…
Anyway Tony disappeared into the distance with John in tow, both of them setting an impressive pace up the climb. I started by thinking I’d just wend my way up but found the singlespeed Inbred really demands it’s own rythmn; I didn’t have the power to steam up there but I also didn’t have the alternative of spinning so I just had to dig in a bit. By the time I’d reached halfway I’d turned pink to match my bash ring(?), well on the way to being bright red in the face by the time I reached the top. Hard work, but I’ve no idea of my time – Tony and John reckoned between them somewhere between 9:30 and 10:00 minutes; by which time they’d had a chance to cool down.
Next on the agenda was Headley with the intention of picking up Secret Singletrack. We’d first mooted the idea at Colin’s suggestion and although I’ve no idea what happened to him last night the idea just stuck. First though we had to get there.
Mark’s ever-inventive gears decided tonight they were going to give him the grief he’s come to expect, ditching the chain at the start of one of the sharp climbs on Headley. A 10 minute faffage session was just a precursor of what was to come.
Blasting across toward the Headley play area, Tony punctured. As we waited for him and John to arrive at our rest point the time ticked away while we were nibbled by insects. After 5 or 10 minutes, Dave went back to see what was up. A few minutes later, Dave returned to say things were sorted but was surprised to see Tony and John hadn’t followed; after another 5 or 10 minutes, they finally arrived. At which point, the response to our witticisms suggested that a sense of humour bypass was imminent so we pressed on! Anyone for puncture school!?
Fortunately we were soon back on track, having a brief muck about on the play area where there’s now a small double to add to the list of things I can’t ride, before heading off to Headley car park. Without Lee around the car park was empty for a change or perhaps the people that frequent these places are getting fed up with being interupted by half a dozen mountain bikers with stupid levels of light output disturbing their activities! Instead, we were treated to Tony’s tale of coitus interuptus while out walking his dogs, so now we have not only the Babes in the Wood but some proper dogging too!
Back to the business at hand (ahem!), we shot off down Secret Singletrack at speed, distracted somewhat by the bracken’s rapid growth and low hanging branches. The trail has a great flow to it even if it’s a bit short for my liking – Rob has apparantly a couple of other trails he’s found which might give us something more to string together which sounds interesting.
As it was we were soon crossing the Headley road after a slightly wild decent on my part. I’d misjudged my speed somewhat and while the back end flapped in the breeze I was wildly pumping and feathering my front brake to keep things under control and heading in the right direction!
Our final run of the ride saw us climbing up to Nower Wood and picking up the usual trail past Tyrells Wood and onto Alsation, which for me passed at high speed. My speedo had 30mph on it from that decent which was plenty fast down what is a rapidly narrowing ribbon of singletrack as the summer vegetation starts to take hold. By the time I’d reached the bottom I had that slightly trembly feeling you get from knowing you’ve pushed it and got away with it.
Parting from Dave, Mark and Tony at the Leisure Centre it just left the rest of us to climb back up to Bookham via Bockett’s Farm. By the time I’d arrived home I was feeling pretty good even though my legs were tired from the cumulative efforts of singlespeeding over the past few weeks. The Orange is due to reappear in the next week or so which means I’ll have to retune my riding to having suspension and gears available to me as well as a much heavier bike. Should be interesting.
Thanks as always for the ride company, as always it’s a great way to spend an evening.