Wednesday’s ride made it four weeks in a row for me. It’s amazing how quickly you can slip back into a routine once you get going. Slipping and sliding was something I expected a lot of given our sloppy Sunday ride but things couldn’t have been further from the truth for us as it turned out.
I had two potential routes in mind when I was planning our evening. One was to head up to Tanners and then try and explore through the woods a bit round there since there’s a load of footpaths we’ve yet to sample. The alternative was a run over to Brockham. As D’Andy had the same idea, Brockham it was then!
This week we had PaulM, Steve, Ray, DaveW, Joe, D’Andy, JohnR and myself starting the ride. Despite Joe’s best efforts to persuade us toward his own neck of the woods at Abinger, we just fancied something different and more manageable. After riding up Crabtree Lane we skirted the big field and were soon heading toward Bockett’s.
The singletrack parallel to the bridlepath beckoned so I led us into the trees and soon found a rather nice flow on the Five. Where Sunday had provided us with a surface like the inside of a greased chip bag, a few days of dryness had turned the trails to a reasonably grippy proposition. It’s a great time of year as this happens as the vegetation is still at a minimum so you can literally see round corners.
Of course I’m not saying the place was mud-free. There’s still plenty of slop around but on this ride at least it felt as though you could predict where the limits were. A quick squirt round the back of the Leisure Centre and it was time to start up Alsation. After a longish road ride the night before I was more than happy to start near the back but gradually made up places on the long climb.
On the evidence of the trails so far we decided to try our hand at Life On Mars and I had a great time at the front trying to pick a line that allowed some forward progress in the deep mud.
I really enjoy this sort of thing, it’s just you and the bike at low speed using a bit of common sense, a bit of effort and a bit of luck to keep moving forward. I had to dab a couple of times and walked about five strides but was very happy the MudXs managed to find some grip from somewhere.
Boosted by that, we traipsed along to the Gallops to try Chainbreaker. Naturally circumspect at the prospect, within a few yards it was clear it was riding superbly. So long as your speed was controlled you could place the bike wherever you wanted without too much drama, even the log ‘drop’ – which now seems to be no more than about four inches – was quite straightforward.
Back on the road, headed toward the masochists dream of Happy Valley, Steve had a sudden and hard tumble on the tarmac trying to fiddle with his seat post while riding (a lesson there for us all) but pretty soon it was time to start the long drag to the top. Joe bailed out at this point, King William IV bound for a drink, leaving us to slog on.
Ouch! I started as slowly as I could once more, in no mood to burn myself out on the lower slopes as the climb winched upward. Gradually the effort increased as we gained height with DaveW on his Cotic Simple singlespeed doing extremely well. He finally spun out on an annoying rock within 30 yards of the summit which was undeserved as the Orange Five boys took first honours. John first, then me but only because DaveW had stalled.
The others soon joined us behind, putting up a very creditable group performance. Once we’d recovered we continued on toward the Bat Out of Hell run to Brockham.
Things started off uncertainly as we picked up the North Downs Way and traversed to the first downhill section. It was back to thick, nearly unrideable mud again as the bikes stuttered and stumbled along and I was starting to doubt the wisdom of this descent.
Once headed downhill though it was fine, again nicely grippy if you made sure you had your speed under control. The odd place was quite gloopy and you needed to be accurate (ie not too fast!) through the gulley sections but after the trail turned right it opened out into the classic swoopy singletrack I remember from last year.
The final section saw a badger sprint across the trail in front of me, my first of the year and John’s first live one. Shortly after that we met ‘The Reigate Lot’ headed in the opposite direction who we seem to see more and more of these days. As we crossed the railway bridge I couldn’t resist a quick leap on the bike which proved a bad move as the landing was more of the wet clay from Sunday. A treacherous surface which I entered at speed but at least the track is wide enough to just drift across!
Through Brockham village, we next turned across the golf course which continued the dry theme, offering some easy riding despite a cold wind. We took the singletrack past the club house which proved to be very tiring as it’s up a steady hill and through deep puddles of mud. At least it was a decent workout.
Paul headed for home as we came out onto the A25 while we dropped down to the A24 via Pixham Lane and then started on the Crabtree Lane climb. Aftera decent ride and effort this was a bit of a workout but at least it was the last real effort of the evening as we climbed right the way to the top before riding across and popping out by the big field where we started.
By now the temperature was noticeably colder (or at least it felt it when we arrived back at the garage) so I didn’t hang around. I still needed to clean the bike off at home but I was mercifully pretty mud free of mud after around 18 miles.
A really enjoyable evening