If you’ve managed to get out on the bike any time in the past couple of weeks you’ll know conditions are pretty much as good as it gets just now. The absence of mud and the sense of mudfest-jailbreak meant we were zipping along nicely last night.
Setting off from the garage were DaveC, BiketechMark, his bro Gary, Colin, Lee, Tony, James, AndyC and myself. Nine riders all ready to rock. Heading up Downs Way for a change to collect AndyC we soon picked up the Wiggly Wood trail which provided a fast blast through the trees that soon had us panting.
Our usual route to Ranmore beckoned, down the quick descent toward Chapel Farm before a sharp right-hander (grippy at last after months of slip) took us toward the Polesdon Estate and the Tanners Hatch climb. As always we threw in plenty of stops for talk and chat but in between it felt as though we were riding at a good pace. Suited me fine.
Up toward Ranmore on the long drag and I was happy to settle into a steady effort, standing on the pedals to keep the singlespeed moving. Eventually Tony drifted onto my back wheel and passed me as yet again I had to follow another rider up. I’m feeling quite fit but there’s definitely quicker riders in our group. Perhaps when I dust off my Five (after a proper strip down and service – including forks natch!) I’ll be able to take advantage of having a few gears I can use?
On Ranmore Colin needed to bail out for an early bath while the rest of us continued toward Badger Run and Collarbone, headed for White Down. The front runners saw their first badger of the evening but as I was loping along near the back I missed it. Collarbone has dried out very quickly considering the awful condition it was in so there’s more of a flow along there now rather than a wheel-spinning grind.
At White Down we took the long descent toward the Abinger valley, heels down and practising the odd manual here and there as instructed by the Astounding Adventures girls. It certainly felt very stable on the dry chalk for a change and we all got to the bottom with the minimum of fuss before turning back toward Dorking.
We were still cracking along at a decent pace, aided by a calm, still evening and plenty of enthusiasm. Eventually it was time to climb back up toward Ranmore but rather than slog all the way to the top we span quickly along the trackway, running down right into Dorking via some short, twisty and quite lumpy singletrack at the end. Then we entered the Denbies Estate from the south side where I was confronted by our second badger.
For a moment I thought there was a possibility of a badger attack Colin-style. I was just opening the gate onto the estate as it was rounding the walkers shortcut but it fortunately scrabbled off into the undergrowth as the others neared.
By the time we came out onto the A24 there was still pleny of riding to be had as we climbed up Crabtree Lane to pick up the bridleway parallel with the river Mole that brings you out into Norbury Park. Winter grime had put this off-limits for a while but no longer and I had great fun jumping off the small drop-offs along the way.
As we neared home there was still energy for a climb up to Infestation and the final rooty descent of the evening. Once again my Five would have been fun down here but the Inbred gave a good account of itself, helped in no small amount by my lovely Elixir 5s. I’m really starting to rate these brakes for their stupendous stopping power when the occasion demands.
After a short spin along the edge of Bockett’s Farm we were soon back into Bookham for a very early finish despite notching (for me) 17 miles for the ride at around a 10mph average. Not bad going and perhaps it’s possible to see the benefits of regular winter riding now that the trails are on our side again.