A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words.
In which case, clearly there’s a story to tell concerning poor D’Andy here who assumed the mantle of crash test dummy for our evening ride on Ranmore.
Meeting at the garage earlier we were faced with an altogether more composed D’Andy wearing what can only be described as a sartorial statement in purple plaid. Either D’Andy is subtly passing comment on the transitory nature of youth, or he’s simply regressed to the point where he’s finally dressing himself in clothes his mother prevented him from wearing in his childhood. Either way, I’m not sure La Dandina knows what he’s donned shortly before setting off for an MTB ride or if she does, she’s past caring!
Our purple leprechaun was joined by JamesH, Lloyd, JohnR and myself with a simple plan to make sure we didn’t lose James this time and to make sure we didn’t exert ourselves overly on the night’s ride. We headed up to Wiggly Wood and soon found the perfect conditions for an evening ride, cool but windless and with firm, semi dry trails.
After that we headed down toward Polesden but were brought up short by the large fallen tree which has been blocking the path for several weeks. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, D’Andy soon set about attempting to construct a ramp over it. It was on the larger side of what I fancied and as D’Andy proved, there just wasn’t enough run in from a standing start to get over it, but he gamely gave it a go while we watched his antics, to no avail.
Then we were back riding, through the estate (shame ‘they’ have stepped the bank on the other side of the Dorking Road) and then climbing up to Ranmore.
I was on the singlespeed once more and feeling quite sprightly so soon settled into a steady rhythm up the steeper first section, unconcerned as JohnR steamed past me with an imaginary thought bubble above him which said ‘Strava’ in big letters). It turned out I managed a PB up to the Ranmore Road (it’s called Tanned Hides), setting a time of 4:52 which I’m very happy with seeing as I was on a mono-cog.
Once the others caught up we pressed on to Badger Run and Collarbone. The idea was a trip to Abba Zabba and then along the Abinger Roughs and up the nasty climb to the Drovers Road. Collarbone proved an arduous slog as the ground, while drying, is at that in-between glue-like stage that happens with clay. Throw in damp roots and while I enjoyed myself immensely at little more than walking pace, it was hard work.
Despite the idea of a more relaxed pace, we weren’t wasting too much time stopping so the flow was beginning to come. It helps knowing everyone is familiar with the trails and know what they are doing although Lloyd was starting to have problems with a front brake that wouldn’t bite. I upped the pace a little through Trouble in Paradise, then we pressed on toward Abba Zabba.
I lead our cluster of MTBers round the chicken run, intent on keeping the flow going all the way through the complex. Round the chicken run, over the low log, up the bowl on the otherside and then down the next short bank before coming out by the oak and heading straight down Blind Terror 2 before I had second thoughts. Perfect!
As we rolled to a halt next to the White Down road, Lloyd pulled up with a lose cleat, thinking with a dodgy brake and now the cleat his ride was over. That was without the contribution of James though who remarkably was able to produce a spare cleat bolt from his bag to keep him rolling. I’ve never seen anyone do that before!
So, underway again we crossed the road with D’Andy bringing up the rear while Lloyd headed down on the tarmac in view of his brake problems. He was in for a bit of a wait. As we headed into Numbskull the group split to the left and right to take on less technical options while D’Andy made the unlucky choice of rolling straight into the steep sided bowl. There’s a nasty step a third of the way down and momentarily distracted by the thought of riders coming in from the side, D’Andy stacked it hard.
The result was a copious amount of blood from a severe nosebleed, a thickened lip and a hefty bruise to the cheekbone. When your face is your fortune this could have been problematic, but since this is D’Andy we are talking about it added extra ‘edge’ to his already gnarly outfit. In fact he was quite concerned about how his shirt had stood up to the abuse!
Seriously though, it looked very painful and was very bloody. It’s not till you stand for any length of time on some of the slopes we ride that you realise how steep they are, how close the trees are and how much momentum is involved.
Undeterred, D’Andy was game enough to continue once he’d cleaned himself up a little. Reunited with Lloyd, we headed onto the Abinger Roughs, taking the meandering singletrack through which we normally do on the Newlands ride. I love these woods and really hammered the short downhill bits but soon it was time to take on the climb back up to the Ranmore ridge from New Barn Farm.
This is one of the hardest climbs round here, much worse than the White Down climb. It starts on deeply rutted, energy sapping doubletrack, then kicks up viciously as you meet the tree line before flattening a little, rounding a hairpin and then settling into a consistently steep gradient to the top. John disappeared up the hill but I was forced to stop and get off and walk for 50 yards or so on the steep bit before the hairpin.
Lloyd passed me at that point but eventually I caught and re-passed him near the top. In fact I was a bit disappointed to have walked as I reckon I must have dropped a minute of time. But my HR (on a leisurely ride remember) topped 182 up that climb!
Having taken a few minutes to regroup and recover we made our way to the North Downs Way and on to the Drovers Road to head toward Horsley. As we passed the old Cart Lodge near Crocknorth Road John spotted a rubber chicken lying in the bushes, a sight too tempting for our maverick D’Andy.
It was duly collected and tucked into his belt, squaking occasionally as D’Andy did something to it for the rest of the ride. It even fell off on the descent to Horsley and had to the re-collected. This fast descent has ridden far better, it was hugely draggy in teh top third but finally gave up some pace as we got lower down the hill. I was certainly shaken and stirred on the hardtail that’s for sure!
Into Horsley, we picked up Dirtham Lane and tracked through the woods to Orestan Lane and then back at a fast spin on the tarmac to Bookham. By way of reward we settled down outside the Anchor pub for a pint of Cornish Knocker which was a fine way to end the evening.
I got home, feeling a touch inebriated, with 15 miles on the clock. But what an eventful 15 miles they had been!
More photos of our night ride are on Flickr!