It seems the Surrey Hills have turned into quite a dangerous place recently, what with Colin and Mark both fighting off badger attacks. Perhaps Andy really is onto something when he muses that they’re fighting back against the mole hegemony. Or perhaps it’s not just coffee he’s taking on board first thing in the morning!
Whatever the reason, it wasn’t without a certain trepidation that we ventured out last night on our regular ride…
Joining me for a mid week thrash were AndyC, AndyW (ghostrider), AndyLeeds, DaveC, Mark and Colin. With late summer upon us I can tell we’re starting to benefit from regular riding with most of us managing a reasonably regular routine. With surprisingly dry trails in spite of rain on Tuesday we positively raced along, recording 10.7mph average over 20 miles of fun riding with a lot of catch-yer-breath chat in between. We’re not trying to race, honest!
Up through Wiggly Wood, with Dave getting his first chance to try out the Nukeproof Reactor light he’s been generously sent to review. We’ve also got a Luu light from On-one on it’s way for comparison so I’ll hold off giving first impressions when I didn’t even have it on my bars, but bike lighting currently seems to have reached a pretty high standard. Personally I think the attention needs to switch to high output, low profile helmet lighting to balance things up a bit.
Unfortunately last night I lacked my normal TrustFire helmet light. If anyone has inadvertantly picked it up from the MTB LED lights test we did last week I’d be grateful for it back; as it is I know Dave has my allen keys so that’s something at least! So I was relying on my Exposure MaXx-D instead which really was plenty to be honest, I’d just like to have been able to see round the corners too!
Once past Wiggly Wood we turned left toward the cottage at Crabtree Lane before heading down to pick up the radio mast run along the river Mole and into Norbury Park. A lovely run with the odd rise in the ground to bounce off, letting you carry loads of speed up the incline into the Park. The hard surface meant it wasn’t too painful a drag up and into Norbury, I’ve been hounded by Flix along here in the past and really struggled up the last bit. Last night it was just knackering.
We then shot down to the A24 and I nearly outbraked myself into the bend where Nicola took a tumble a year or so back. Just carried too much speed in and the off-camber bend just doesn’t give enough bite, so I ended up keeping straight until I’d got enough grip back to turn.
Once onto the A24 we crossed over and ran up past the pub to the start of the climb up to the Gallops at Mickleham. Two thirds of the way up we stopped for a chat and got caught and passed by a massive group of riders who turned out to be (at least in part) from AndyC’s ski group in France. A small world but there was no snow around last night.
AndyLeeds bailed at this point, a recent meal and limited recent running taking their toll so he turned back for an early bath. The rest of us dragged on up the final part of the climb before turning onto the Gallops. It was certainly a weird sight seeing 10 plus riders from the ski group making their way up about a quarter of a mile ahead of us, all with their rear lights flashing away.
At the top we continued over to Tyrells Woods and round onto Headley. I thought we’d managed to lose the group for the second time in a week after Mark and I took rather more time to navigate round to Headley than the others but fortunately this time we were on the same page.
Crossing Headley, was pretty straightforward and by now we were finding the evening perfect for riding. A warm breeze didn’t seem to affect us, we rarely stopped long enough to get cold, Colin was menaced by a rat at some point — the usual sort of thing. It didn’t take long before were up on the Headley road and heading toward the top of Box Hill.
At the Smith & Western (which I kept calling the Best Western for some reason) we turned off and back onto the mud free doubletrack to the start of China Pig. Here DaveC picked up a couple of nice helpings of dog sh!t on his wheels. It’s a bug bear of mine that people let their animals crap wherever they want – usually it’s near the start of a bit of trail where some lazy arse of an owner struggles to stumble 100 yards to let their animal answer the call of nature. The trailhead at Crabtree Lane is like this, basically a sh!t strewn alley of faeces. Grrr!
So I let Dave go well ahead of course! No way was I getting a faceful of that stuff! Mark and AndyW were both new to China Pig so while Andy followed Dave, AncyC and Colin I trailed Mark for the first few hundred yards before a stick in his derailleur gave me the chance to nip past.
What a run I had down China Pig. It’s nice and dry at the moment and while I really would have benefitted from a helmet torch I got on fine with the MaXx-D even with tight and sharp direction changes.
Up, down, round and along goes China Pig, over exposed roots and off camber sections, under low hanging trees, down steep declines and up sudden sharp inclines for just long enough that you’re beginning to feel pretty tired by the time you reach the end. It’s the best bit of natural singletrack on the Hills I reckon and shows a good trail doesn’t have to be painstakingly chipped out by hand by dedicated riders. Although I’m very grateful they do!
By the time we’d reached the end we were all buzzing, especially Disco Diva AndyC but it was time to start the run back. We retraced our path through Mickleham Village before re-crossing the A24 and riding past the farm and into Leatherhead where we dropped Colin off and shortly after, DaveC and Mark.
That left just three for the last couple of miles. Despite a quick pace and a good number of miles I was still feeling sprightly, even when AndyC shot off down the bridlepath to Young Street at a fair rate of knots. I love popping out on the bypass late at night when sometimes you briefly find it empty of cars. Tonight was one of those nights. The road looks like black oil as you pop up onto it from the track.
At the farm AndyW headed up on the tarmac climb to Bookham while AndyC and I continued on toward Roaring House farm and round the big field there where I nearly ran Andy off the track by turning right unexpectedly! We then had a simple climb up to Crabtree Lane again and a run down Turd Alley (as I described earlier) and we were done.
Not bad. 20 miles, back about 10:20, good pace and not a Badger to be seen. Nice one.