Last night’s ride was atypical for many reasons. New riders, a fast pace, a trip over to the Abba Zabba complex and, to the satisfaction of everybody, completely dry trails.
It feels like we’ve earned it.
Arriving at the garage as usual I had no idea who was likely to appear. Pretty soon however I was joined by Polish Adam who had brought along a couple of friends, Amanda and Darren. Looking at their high-end bikes it was clear they were experienced riders; knowing Adam I was pretty certain they’d be reasonably quick too. So it turned out.
Minutes later our group was swelled by the arrival of Colin, Tony, James, AndyC and Lee making nine in total. After a bit of chat I settled on the idea of heading toward Abba Zabba, partly because it was still daylight (and that makes you think you can do anything!) and partly because if people have travelled a fair distance to see you it’s only polite to show them some good stuff. Amanda had come all the way from New Zealand…
So, off up Crabtree Lane, along Dog Sh!t alley (what is it with dog owners?) and then into Wiggly Wood, chasing Tony who was not showing any mercy. My legs were still feeling it from the weekend but I managed to hang on before I lead everyone past the big field and down the chalky descent to the Polesden Estate.
Bone dry everywhere.
After nipping across the road we were soon climbing up to Ranmore past the Tanners Hatch Youth Hostel with everyone still setting a pretty quick pace. As a result we were keeping together quite well so generally managed to keep the stops to a minimum.
The Tanners climb may now be dry (even the clag at the top thank God) but it is still a slog which had us all digging in hard. Leading the ride was a bit of a stress for me as you never know what people are comfortable with pace-wise and I was pretty sure the Adam and co could go considerably quicker than me.
Next on the agenda was a zip along Badger Run and onto Collarbone where I let the riders with gears and better fitness stretch ahead. In fact, in places I felt a bit graceless over some of the roots and ruts and was definitely feeling tired at the time. Having reached White Down though my spirits revived with the prospect of Abba Zabba coming up.
We were soon flying down the singletrack round there at speed, knowing there was no wet and rooty gotchas to catch us out and pretty soon we were at the top of Abba Zabba. Darren, Adam and Amanda threw themselves down it quite happily as did a few of our regular riders, with some clearing the tree on the up slope and others taking the more conservative line.
I took the chicken run, partly because Abba Zabba is my bogey obstacle and partly because I like the techy, noodly nature of the chicken run! If Abba Zabba would segue way seamlessly into that I’d be very happy.
Blind Terror came up next and I had already decided to give that a go, my first time in the dark as it happens. Conditions couldn’t be better at the moment as you can see all the way down and it’s lovely and dry. A few more weeks with all the trees in leaf and it will look quite different.
After that, across the road to Numbskull with everyone taking it easy on account of the deepening gloom. Even so, the final turn and jump at the bottom was quite manageable with everyone making it down to the road without mishap, although Adam had a brush with the undergrowth.
Popping out onto the road near Abinger Roughs we picked up the valley toward Dorking. We were setting such a quick pace I even think a run to Newlands could have been on the agenda tonight but instead we headed for the Denbies vineyard via the long trackway climb with gritted teeth and a little more tarmac than I’d really like. No matter, it was a great evening to be out with no breeze and just a sliver of a moon in the sky.
Coming down through Denbies was a great blast as I lead us all down the loose, flinty upper section before popping out onto the chalky mid part that disappeared behind me at high speed. That recent DIY fork service appears unaccountably to have given me quite a lot of confidence at the moment!
Back on the A24 we still had a bit of work ahead of us after Colin peeled off for home. Some of us were starting to feel the pace by now and understandably so but not Adam, Darren and Amanda who looked (to be honest) like they were just getting started.
A climb up Crabtree Lane lead us onto the River Run along to Norbury. Just steady, fast distance under the wheels really but still great fun to be out in the woods at night.
Our final flourish included the grassy slopes of Fetcham Downs where I paid the penalty of being the ‘rabbit sweeper’ out in front, nearly taking out several on the way down before taking the tree on the right hand side. Bad move, very easy to run out of trail there when your running at speed. Behind me Adam had a narrow escape by all accounts, nearly hitting the same tree.
By the time we reached the garage I knew we’d put in a good night’s entertainment and examining my HRM at home told the same story (average HR of 149, peak 181). Including about a mile and a half to home I had 18.5 miles on the speedo at an average pace of 10.2mph. All told that’s a lot to pack in over the course of a ride that took just 2 hours and 15 minutes including stops!
A good night. Adam, Darren and Amanda you’re very welcome to join us again but you got lucky tonight with the weather (and the fact we could keep up)! It’s not always quite so intense, but the chat’s a constant feature!