Over night the weather has flipped from Bank Holiday mode to more summer like conditions. A relatively cold weekend was followed by a day of rain and then… Wednesday arrived with the temperature cranked over to ‘quite warm really’.
So, joining me at the garage were a selection of poets – sorry, riders – including JamesH, Barrie, BiketechMark, Adam, DaveC, D’AndyC, MarkW, JamesS, Keith, Trevor, DaveW as well Toby who wasn’t riding but had come to say hi after a long, dark-side inspired absence. In all, 12 of us started out for our regular jaunt.
I fancied a different direction to normal so we started quite easily, up Crabtree Lane and round the edge of the big field before turning up for the sawmill at Roaring House Farm. Once again I was on my singlespeed, prompted by the rain the day before and after three recent rides on it I’m starting to get my spinning legs back.
At the sawmill we turned toward the Dorking end of Crabtree Lane, an easy roll along tarmac, before picking up the cheeky footpath toward the Chapel Farm area. All was well as we zipped through the singletrack with the gradient on our side for a change but it didn’t stay well. Not for Keith at least who caught a handlebar on a trailing branch or something toward the end and crunched down heavily.
It soon became apparant that it was something more than just a tumble as he didn’t move and his breathing was making a terrible noise. The fall had knocked the wind out of him but BiketechMark was very prompt in giving him some first aid while he recovered, as the rest of us gathered round. After a few minutes Keith was back up on his feet but couldn’t remember what had happened and was clearly unsteady.
As soon as we’d reached the road he turned for home with DaveC in attendance to make sure of a safe arrival. I think there may have been a brief loss of consciousness and the latest from a sore Keith is that having taken himself to hospital this morning there’s a couple of broken ribs into the bargain. Get well soon Keith and thanks DaveC and BiketechMark for the assistance.
The rest of us moved on, round the back of Polesdon and onto the climb up to Tanner’s before taking the ‘middle way’ up to Ranmore via more cheeky footpaths. JohnR dubs this the impossible climb (which it’s not, especially for him) but it nearly proved impossible for me as my first big effort to stamp on the pedals uphill coincided with a kick from the back end over roots.
What should have been a nice smooth power delivery ended up with me spinning my rear wheel in mid air, with my weight heading forwards and down rather rapidly over the bars. Fortunately I didn’t go over but it was a close thing as the bike came to a rapid halt on the incline. For a moment I couldn’t even work out what had happened, it was like riding into a wall.
This trail may not be impossible (and I’m determined to work it in as a downhill return one night) but it certainly calls on a fair effort to climb and we were all panting at the top. From there it’s a simple spin to Ranmore, where we started off toward Denbies.
MarkW surprised us veterans as we span down the concrete road to the top of the descent by suddenly darting left toward the trees, showing us a nice ribbon of singletrack which brought us out on the parallel trail. We then carried on down the fast chalky descent, rattling down at high speed before turning sharp left for the flinty descent to the A24.
From here we headed for the dreaded Box Hill climb. I timed myself on the singlespeed and managed 7:40 which was not bad, but I was a way short from really pushing. I reckon a 17 tooth cog would have me shaving a bit off that. Adam on the other hand, despite suffering from nausea since the start of the ride managed to summit in 6:15 on his Turner, by far the quickest we’ve seen up there. I reckon a sub-6 minute climb is on the cards for him on his race bike.
The effort took it’s toll though, with Adam struggling for the rest of the ride with the unpleasant feeling he was going to be ill. I’d originally thought a Brockham descent and climb back up would be on the cards but with time getting on (and darkness arriving abruptly) we scotched that and headed for China Pig after parting with MarkW and JamesS.
China Pig. What can I say except that this unique trail is one of the more consistently challenging trails in the area. The rain of the day before hadn’t done it any favours with greasy chalk at the top causing more than a few moments of worry as the front refused to slow or turn as crisply as I’d have liked. Behind me, others were finding the same.
Ahead of me, DaveW, Barrie, D’AndyC and Adam disappeared, leaving me to chase JamesH, occassionally catching him and then losing him again until I passed him as he stalled on one of the sharp inclines. Overall though it’s down, a snaking ribbon of moss covered, rooty, twisty singletrack that provides quite a workout.
Arriving at the road we climbed back up onto the Mickleham Gallops, with Adam clearly suffering most uncharacteristically. Our path took us onto Stane Street and eventually out at the top of Alsation with me gaining the advantage of leading everyone else down.
It’s now getting rather overgrown which has a kind of telescoping effect on your vision as you’re limited to quite a narrow tunnel. I let the brakes off and went for it at a fairly high speed, topping 30mph which considering I couldn’t pedal due to the lack of gears on my bike is pretty good. Hugely enjoyable!
All that remained was a sedate run back to Bookham after dropping off Trevor at Leatherhead. A sighting of Venus (the Evening Star) over the Fetcham Downs illustrated how still and clear the air was as we reached home with the last remains of the day left to us.
I was quite surprised to see I’d notched 19 miles (including to and from my house) which was way more than I felt I’d done. If you can, make the most of these summer evenings, the trails are riding great and the lack of horse riders and walkers is a huge bonus!