Last night was probably the first night ride I’ve been out on for a few weeks. A combination of our Welsh trip, family holiday and general lack of time accounting for my absence.
It was nice to be greeted by a few familiar faces then when I arrived at the garage.
Even with Darren, Adam and Amanda off competing in Transwales (of which more soon) we still had a decent turnout with JamesH, AndyC, DaveW, Lee, Jez, DaveC, Daniel, Andy661, Trevor and myself, with MarkJ stopping for a chat on his way back from giving blood. Tonight’s ride was Effingham oriented on account of the fact we haven’t been over there for a while.
We headed off up Crabtree Lane and then along Admiral’s Track toward Polesden, turning off shortly to pick up the bridlepath to Tanners Hatch under the stone bridge.
Our progress along there was made more interesting passing a local running club who seemed bemused by the fact that us MTB’ers hunt in packs too as we wove round them en masse. Alas we were to see them again all too soon.
The stone bridge descent is always an early opportunity for hoonage but Andy661 managed to cut his tyre with a flint on the way down, resulting in an unpatchable tube. Jez and myself, running near the back of the pack stopped to help (well, chat anyway and say hello to the runners passing us!). After a while Lee reappeared too, having been forced to repair a puncture on his own bike.
Eventually we got ready to set off, wondering if the others had understandably decided to press on ahead when it became clear that Andy’s rear tyre was also flat! Our recent puncture repair practice helped and we managed to get things back to a rideable status but not before nearly 25 minutes had elapsed from our initial stop!!
So we pressed on at a cracking pace, picking up AndyC at the hostel as he was riding back down to see where we were. By the time we reached the Ranmore Road we’d definitely warmed up as I didn’t hang around on the climb, despite struggling on the singlespeed. Must be getting soft from riding the Orange!
Everyone else was still waiting patiently for us and were definitely feeling the first, whispering chill of early autumn in the air. Without much ado we carried on to Badger Run and then Collarbone, again at a brisk enough pace.
On reaching White Down it was a little sad to see the failing light dictated us needing to run with our own lights on as we headed round the fallen tree and through the singletrack toward he reservoir. Lee very impressively rode straight over the huge log, something that I’m unlikely to attempt despite having tried to think my way over it many times.
At the reservoir we continued on the North Downs Way to eventually pick up the Drovers Road. This is a stretch of trail I really enjoy since it has so many possible routes along and off to the side despite not being at all technical. I guess I just like the fact the gradient is just slightly in your favour and you can carry good speed along it.
Turning back on ourselves at the Drovers Road, we cantered along the easy green lane for a half mile or so before the pack turned down toward Effingham. My—albeit internally stated—plan had been to run down to the sawmill but DaveC turned us to the more direct route back to civilisation before I realised. No problem though as after a short discussion and teeth sucking at the possible return time from a few of us (remember we’d lost a lot of time to punctures) the pack split with DaveC and a lightless Dan heading off while the rest of us took our chances with my dubious navigation skills.
For a short stretch of tarmac I was a bit concerned as my flock followed me on a search for Tony’s singletrack down to Honeysuckle Lane. I couldn’t see it anywhere and was just starting to worry when it appeared tucked out of the way on the left. I dived in with relief and had a hugely enjoyable time romping down the obscure trail, even if my singlespeed status might have been holding up others. It’s agem of a run.
At the bottom we turned up to the sawmill, passing the Fat Controller’s house before reaching the Impossible Climb *. I normally avoid stuff where we’re likely to have to walk but for this I make an exception. After some valiant efforts and some plodding though we were ready for the descent to Sheepleas.
This is another jewel of a trail, a bit on the short side but fast, unpeopled and with plenty to challenge including some big-ish drops into deep gulleys. For some reason I was having a great hardtail experience tonight and my progress at the front could almost be described as ‘ragging it’ as we raced downhill. I just felt great and could feel the back end of the bike drifting beautifully through the turns!
We soon crossed the Sheepleas road and climbed up a shortish climb that’s just enough of an effort to remind you you’re earning your descents. The reward was the mazy Sheepleas trails that took us down to the A246 near Horsley Towers. On the way down I nearly suffered a Badger Nadger attack similar to Colin as one ran out right in front of me on the tunnel-like singletrack. I was within inches of running it under my front wheel and nearly lost it into the trees but the badger was keen to escape rather than fight thank God!
So with the fun behind us and time against us we were left to spin at speed along back to Bookham, via Lynx Hill, Orestan Lane and the Lower Road, regrettably having to sacrifice a longer loop across Effingham and Bookham Common. We lost nothing in terms of entertainment as it’s all non-technical and fast rolling so I wasn’t too bothered but it’s always nice to rack up some extra miles.
All in all a great fun ride which saw us return with around 16 miles on the clock at about 10:00 after all. I thoroughly enjoyed the Inbred once again and feel bound to say that if ever a bike suited a rider my 2003-spec Inbred classic is one. It’s a pleasure every time I’m out. So much so that, in conversation with AndyC, I could even contemplate ditching the Orange and replacing it with a long forked hardtail with gears.
I won’t of course. But a Reba equipped singlespeed like the Inbred would be a great contrast to a Kawasaki green, Revelation forked and X0 specced Pipedream Sirius 853 wouldn’t it?
* Adam is the only person I know who’s cleared the Impossible Climb. He actually had to use his granny ring.