Mindful of the eponymous JRPM factor, I arrived in plenty of time for the Wednesday night ride. As expected there were some newer riders; Jon H, who has quickly got the knack of posting on the forum to check there is going to be a Wednesday night ride, and Ross along for his second ride with the Moles.
As usual for a Wednesday, Kevin was out and there was a welcome return from Dave W – a stalwart of dark winter nights last year. It was also good to see a rare but welcome appearance from Lee, a regular Wednesday and Sunday Mole long before I started who has become increasingly committed to family duties. And at first un-noticed, lurking at the back of the pack, was an athletic looking Paul 901 – my surprise at seeing Paul out for a night ride was tempered by the realising he was on one of his road bikes, but it was nice to see him stop by. The eventual arrival of Tony signalled it was time to head off – and on this occasion, inspired by Kevin last week and some comments from Tony, I had a plan and led the pack up Crabtree Lane and towards Wiggly Woods.
Instead of the usual Tanners route, this time we dropped down to Bagden Farm and started up Dearly Beloved. Sadly this route choice was not greeted with universal approval and I noticed that Dave W and Lee were both on single speeds. The initial steep chalky section was a challenge, especially for those without the luxury of changing down a few gears. Halfway up the easier woods section it started to get misty and we were surprised by downhill pack of night riders – on balance, probably the fun direction to be doing the run.
At the church it had got foggy and we headed down the road peering through the murk for the start of McPhearson’s Mount. Everybody seemed to enjoy the fast descent over a golden carpet of leaves and I hoped it made up for the previous climb. Across the railway and a cheeky cut through the woods brought us to the edge of Westcott when Ross dropped off the end of the pack with a flat. Luckily it was a tubeless and the magic latex quickly did its job, because with a quick pump up it was soon firm and ready to roll.
From Westcott we climbed up by the church, eerie in the gloomy fog, and along to Logmore Farm. Inevitably there was another climb, short and a brutal for the singlespeeders, but it had to be done. The reward was a blast down Wolvens Lane and the Rookery before returning to Westcott and debating where to head next. We soon settled on the Goat Track, parallel to High Mediterranean, then on Tony’s suggestion headed for some more downhill action on TTW3.
The mist had made the ground slippery, and I was on the final segment when I unexpectedly hit a loose branch on the trackway and smacked straight into a nearby tree. I now know that when you hit a tree trunk it doesn’t have any “give” at all, and the immediate sharp pain in my shoulder and chest immediately brought to mind other Moles’ exploits. But after the immediate pain subsided I found I was just winded, and gingerly headed down to join the group, thankful no bones were broken.
Heading up the start of Crabtree Lane we debated the name of the run through Druids Grove – with suggestions of “Jem’s Favourite” or “Ladies Favourite”. Whichever the name is, it was fast and fun, but the final climb felt a lot longer than Lee had promised. In deference to the single speeders we skipped the remorseless climb past the radio mast and headed up middle track towards Norbury for a descent of Infestation. After that riders progressively peeled off for home before the final climb up Roaring House Farm and down to the garage.
My Garmin showed 17 miles in two and a half hours, with 2000ft of climbing. I am not out next Wednesday, so perhaps the route will be more single speed friendly.