Having missed last weeks ride primarily due to apathy (is it just me or has all this rain started to get to you too?), I was determined to get out last night.
Not enthusiastic mind; just determined.
I’d managed a ride on Monday night, solo, shamed into getting out by Tony and MarkyMark’s efforts to ride in Sunday’s deluge. I was expecting it to be a swamp but it wasn’t really too bad, which gave me higher hopes than otherwise for Wednesday.
In the event, there was just a troika of riders out, DannyP, MarkyMark and myself. I couldn’t blame anyone for not being out as the rain started again just as we set off from the garage. It wasn’t heavy, just a misting really but it hung about all ride.
Up to Wiggly Wood and immediately I found myself struggling to keep pace with Danny who disappeared up ahead. I was riding the Inbred and really think it might be time to think about raising the gearing – 32:18 just feels too low to keep a comfortable pace up on level or slightly descending terrain. Of course, if I do up the gearing I will struggle uphill but riding a 32:17 equivalent on the 29er has given me hope!
But even so, last night I felt I had no power at all. I could grind away alright but the punch was lacking. Perhaps I was feeling the effects of sporadic riding in April followed by three nights on the trot this week (we managed a road ride on Tuesday night as well as my Monday effort).
Our route picked up on Lloyd’s suggestion on the forum, through Wiggly Wood, across to Polesden (and disappointment at seeing the bank now featuring a set of cut steps where you enter the estate), then the grind up from Tanners. I was, as expected, hard work as the trails are now sticky with mud; the kind that drags and saps at you all the way.
I was keen to keep the ride rolling so we had only a minimal stop at the top before continuing toward Badger Run and LandRover. Badger Run was pretty squirmy but fun and I rolled straight on down LandRover, again without pause. It was a case of showing it considered respect without mincing and everything felt nicely controlled. I quite like riding this sort of stuff on the hardtail as it ‘reconnects’ me to the trail. I know the Reba is going to track true and then it’s just a case of the back end following, in theory at least. Any thoughts of reconnecting with the trail by coming off and hitting it, hard, can go away though please!
At the bottom of LandRover the mad started to make itself apparant – not as vast puddles or the stuff, but in the fact the top surface was getting increasingly slippery, much more so than Monday night. It was easy to lose first the front end, then the back end is slow slides as we headed down to the railway. We crossed, then a short loop saw us heading back to climb up High Mediterranean.
At the point, Danny took off while I laboured away on the singlespeed with Mark stopping to chat on the long climb. Really, one day I’m going to take out my Muirwoods and see what it’s like to ride with the luxury of gears on a hardtail again!
After cresting the top of Ranmore we turned toward ATTW3 which promised to be a handful after our earlier experiences in the mud. And so it proved to be; after a mince at the top I have to say I rode it pretty badly all the way down. Clay, roots, Nobby Nics and this rider proving to be a sub-optimal combination.
After a few hundred yards on the A24 we turned up to climb Crabtree Lane and then pick up Jem’s Favourite into Norbury Park. By now I could feel the need for a snack coming on which added to my feeling of weariness. Jem’s Favourite was really nice though, the bikes fishtailing in turn as they hit patches of greasy mud as we progressed down the trail with a bit of gravity on our side.
Once in Norbury Park we headed up to the sawmill, then following the tarmac along to pick up the top of Crabtree Lane again along to the cottage. There’s a big tree down as the tarmac morphs into dirt which needed a bit of a climb to get over so watch out for that.
At the cottage pressed on, tyres and wheels bogged in cloying mud and startling an owl from its perch on the way. The singletrack path was slow going as wheels spun effort away breaking traction on each rise of the trail. At the end, we turned up toward Wiggly Wood again but first had to negotiate mud of unwarranted stickiness. It was the last thing I needed and it’s safe to say that although I was leading, I didn’t shake off Mark or Dan one little bit!
The reward was a slither through Wiggly Wood which I’m starting to enjoy in the ‘reverse’ direction. You couldn’t push because the track was if anything more slippery than when we started the ride but it’s a good skills boost to get used to losing and collecting each end of the bike in turn. I really enjoyed that.
I also really enjoyed getting home! It was a relatively short ride, and a relatively early finish as a result but I was glad to have got out. My Orange has been fettled in the gearage department recently (which was why I didn’t want to get it dirty last night) but having the ridden the Inbred it feels in need of a bit of tweaking too in terms of saddle and forks. So the revolving door of bike maintenance looks set to continue for a while yet.