Two night rides in as many weeks is pretty good going considering our recent track record. We normally take perverse pleasure in riding throughout winter but this year has been a difficult one collectively. With normal service starting to resume, this week we even had proper mud to contend with in contrast to last week’s dry trails.
Anyone who knows the Surrey Hills knows just how bad things can be when it comes to mud and this week was a case in point. Since the last day of Wodin, its rained quite heavily at times, most recently on Tuesday when I got drenched on my road ride home from work. The result was heavy clay, greasy roots and glass-slick chalk. Perfect!
Starting out from the garage we had JamesH, Ray, Steve, D’Andy and myself. I’d been turning over a route in my mind all day that might be appropriate in the conditions but couldn’t really come up with much other than some Box Hill flint climbing and the like. It didn’t really appeal so I’d pencilled in a route over toward the Abinger Roughs; fortunately Ray needed to head in that direction anyway.
A day on his MX had resulted in a stack down Hogden Lane and the loss of the indicator on his bike. So we headed out along the Admiral’s Track toward Polesdon Lacey and we soon wading through big puddles and dodging riders coming the other way – time was you never saw a soul on the hills past sundown but it’s quite common these days.
Just before Polesdon we stopped for Ray to fiddle with his bike as his tyre was going flat thanks to a hawthorn. Ray uses slime tubes though so after taking out the wheel and inspecting the damage it was just a case of putting air in and turning the wheel so the slime sealed the inner tube. So that accounted for ten minutes then!
Underway again we picked up Hogden Lane, stopping and slowing to see if we could find Ray’s bike indicator. No such luck, but it did give us a chance to see just how slippery the surface was and in a way I was glad hadn’t hit the fairly deep wheel ruts at speed. I hate being in gulleys and tyre tracks as I always end up looking too closely at them and stack it.
We turned to take on Pamplona which was not impassable even though I didn’t clear the initial chewed up bog at the bottom in one go. Once past this though I concentrated on spinning my way up the track, finding good traction with my mud tyres and soon stretching out a decent lead. It was hard work all the way along to the track that comes up from Yew Trees so I was glad to stop and wait for the others to catch up. We don’t ride Pamplona very often and on this showing, sometime before summer will be too soon!
An easy spin up to Ranmore led us onto Badger Run, which was a bit soft but OK and then Collarbone. I followed an impressive James, both of us dabbing just once as the clay caused no end of problems for everyone. It’s one of the things I perversely like about winter riding, slipping and sliding along a trail you’d normally see as a ‘connecting’ stretch to someplace else. With the treacherous surface though it was great fun catching slides over all the wet mud and roots.
At the end of Collarbone it was Steve’s turn to faff with a puncture, another good reason for tubeless I think as the bike was filthy. At the very least, an inner tube that fitted and some knowledge of how the pump worked is an advantage in these situations! Sorry Steve, just taking the mick!
The next section took us through the singletrack, past the fallen oaks and on to the road, then is was up past the reservoir. No, we didn’t head for Abba Zabba, not being completely out of our minds, we took the North Downs Way on to the long chalky descent to the Roughs. To get there turned out to be an enjoyable noodle round, trying to search out traction from a real mudfest. It helps to know where your going along here as ploughing straight on just leaves you with mud in your shoes.
I was slightly concerned heading down the descent as the trails were really very slippery and my worry was well founded. D’Andy eventually shot off ahead on his one-braked On-One, ending up somewhat closer to Guildford than intended while the rest of us pulled up to make the dog-leg left turn. I’d found myself having a few scary moments myself getting into a deep gulley on the left but managed to keep the bike heading straight with James close behind.
Once D’Andy had hauled his ass back up the hill we set off on the final couple of hundred yards of the descent. It gets steeper near the end and soon I found I couldn’t really see where I was going. The reason was a huge fallen bush or small tree blocking the trail which took a long time to register; by the time I’d pulled up there was no place for D’Andy to go but down as he locked his one – front – brake trying to avoid hitting me. Thank good for knee and elbow pads…
We picked our way onto Abinger Roughs and then turned for home, riding along the valley. I was trying very hard to keep my pace steady and found it makes a big difference to energy levels even though I also managed to pull ahead at times. By the time we crossed the road to skirt the big field I had the bit between my teeth and decided to up the pace. I absolutely flew down that trail to the farm!
After that it was a case of a brisk spin along tarmac to climb High Mediterranean as a nice even pace again. At the top we realised it was already 10pm, so instead of a number of ways back which would have added a few extra miles to the route we rode along the Ranmore road and then hooned it down – and then up – Yew Trees and back past Polesdon.
Arriving quite a bit later than intended, I think we racked up about 18 miles (my speedo had stopped for the middle of the ride). By the time I’d cleaned the bike at home, an absolute must after seeing all the clag on my Orange, it was nearly 11pm – the latest finish I’ve had for a long time. Good fun and I’ve time to ride the Orange to work on Friday so will see how the trails are drying.