What a difference a week makes. Last week, it was snow across the Downs and ice at lower levels that had us shivering in our thermals. This week? Not so much…
We had eight riders showing up at Hylands Garage, with a recovering Lloyd having requested earlier in the day for a simpler ride to take account of his recently dislocated shoulder along with Lee, Tony, Big Al, MarkyMark, Darren, DannyP and myself.
Having umm’ed and ahh’ed over route choice Darren stepped forward with some ideas of his own which sounded refreshingly different to our usual options so we all deferred to him.
He headed off at a rate of knots which had us trailing in his wake, up Crabtree Lane and then hard left toward Bockett’s before ducking into some entertaining singletrack through the Hazels. We always seem to overlook this short section on our doorstep but on a night ride it’s fair game.
After a short blast through here we popped out at the bottom of the track down from Bockett’s Farm car park before shooting back into the woods round the corner for the singletrack toward the Farm buildings. I was on DaveC’s Inbred 29er again, still trying it out and getting more dialled to it as the miles progress although I do think it would be an even faster machine with a short travel fork and 2×10 gearing.
Those big wheels with 2.35 Nobby Nics were doing fine on the singletrack which almost unbelievably showed barely any trace of mud from the snowmelt and rain this week.
We crossed the A24 and gradually re-grouped with poor Lloyd wondering what he’d done to upset everyone I should think. Quickly we were zooming down the back of the Leisure Centre before starting up the tarmac climb toward Alsation. Except, for a change we didn’t go there.
Instead, a sharp left took us up toward Clinton Road, reached via a short but intense alley way climb. We couldn’t resist making our way up past Colin’s place, with a short text from him later on letting us know we’d been spotted!
We made our way up to the Beaverbrook roundabout and then Darren led us into the woods which parallel the A24 toward Ashtead. Under the beech woods you’d be forgiven for thinking it ever rained as the surface was just dry copper leaf fall everywhere but pretty soon we noticed the dirt jumps that have developed in these woods.
Blimey! They are massive, in fact I can’t think how you’d ever ride them. Maybe it’s just some crazed guy with a spade having a laugh at us? Really, these things are not roll-able! But whatever their history I’m surprised we’ve never been through here before, someone must have put in a LOT of work on these things.
The singletrack alongside was fast enough and fun enough for me. We were able to ride all the way to the M25 roundabout where we took the footbridge across and then up Ermyn Way, past Esso House where many years ago I first cut my teeth on the internet. How things change but I couldn’t help feeling a touch of nostalgia for the place which is so much of a landmark across the hills without many people actually knowing what it is.
Back onto bridleway, we headed toward Headley, re-crossing the M25 before making our way toward the Tyrells Wood clubhouse or at least the bridleway alongside. It’s short sharp climbs and descents along here but the Inbred felt pretty much in it’s element, rolling easily over the rutted mud which was quite soft in places and keeping a steady pace going.
Heading downhill was equally enjoyable despite an obvious lack of suspension on the front. Dave has a set of Straitline replacement levers fitted to his XT brakes and they really make the braking feel incredibly secure I have to say.
After a bit more work we reached the top of Alsation where we turned uphill again toward Headley prompted by Tony’s suggestion of Secret Singletrack which met with universal agreement. Somehow you just knew it would be worth the effort.
Having hauled our asses round to the broad field in front of Headley car park I had the luxury of a clear run down with Danny in pursuit. I really pushed that Inbred I have to say, recording my best time yet but still failing to beat Dave’s time of a few weeks back. I guess washing the front out and having to scrabble back onto the bike before Danny closed in on the dipping right hander before the road crossing didn’t help did it??
Despite noticing a touch of toe-overlap as I tried to clip back in (the clearance to the front wheel must be really tight) I have to say I enjoyed that run very much indeed and wonder how the bike would feel with those tweaks I mentioned (and possibly, thinking about it, a wider carbon flat bar for a bit of anti-buzz steering feel).
We all had a decent blast and I could hear everyone enthusing by the time we were all back at the road. Ahead of us was the attractive prospect of Life on Mars and we weren’t going to waste that by before that we said goodbye to Darren who was heading back to Dorking via the Gallops. Darren you did us proud on that route tonight!
Danny and Big Al disappeared down LoM but it quickly became apparant that the surface was very greasy indeed, much more in keeping with how you’d expect at this time of year. I homed in on MarkyMark who was struggling for grip on his new hardtail (review soon…) and in truth he was holding me up. Well he was until I realised my stadium level Four4th Lights were putting the trail in front of him into deep shadow. Nightmare, sorry Mark!
Without pausing we continued after LoM to string it together with Alsation, once again the Inbred was flying but I was pretty much spun out on my singlespeed by the time Tony caught and started ringing his damn bell. My roadie cadence helped but I had no more speed to give.
In Leatherhead once more we retraced our steps past Thorncroft Manor, losing Tony and an exhausted (I expect) Lloyd while our diminished group continued on toward Bockett’s.
Our eventual mileage was about 15.5 miles to/from the garage, all at what felt like a pretty decent pace for a night ride. I enjoyed it immensely, not only for the route novelty, which we’ll definitely do again, but also for the company and chat. Thanks to all, especially Darren for leading up.