Lest you get the wrong idea, no-one was injured during the course of Wednesday’s night ride. The guts I’m referring to are the ones that drive you to go out for a ride even when you know the weather isn’t the best.
After several recent occasions where I’ve been as guilty as anyone of not turning up for a ride because I thought it ‘might’ rain, Wednesday saw me wavering before finally committing to an evening in the woods.
It was in doubt right up to the last minute. At 6pm or so I thought I’d be out, then at around 7pm when I looked outside things were definitely damper. I thought that was that as it seemed most people weren’t planning to be out anyway but then I decided that I was going to go anyway.
A very rushed few minutes later and I found myself riding up the road with no water in the Camelbak, fully expecting to be riding alone, despite the lesson for us all that Danny’s experience of solo riding is.
However, at the garage I met JonH who was wanting to try his hand at night riding for the first time regardless of what anyone else was doing. After a few minutes to allow for the JohnR/PaulM (JRPM) factor we decided to head off.
Jon’s an experienced rider and has ridden with us a few times without me being present. We actually had a few things in common so despite the depleted company things were looking good.
I don’t particularly enjoy this time of year when the trails soften and the newly fallen leaves turn into a tracherous cover for wet roots and other trail debris but in a way it’s better to slowly acclimatise by regular riding – or so I tell myself. In a few weeks when the leaves have rotted a bit and the mud levels risen to their winter setting things will be fine again but this transition period can be unsettling.
I’m still running that Aspen on the rear and to be honest the first run through Wiggly Wood showed there’s still a firm surface and plenty of grip to be, albeit the bike is coming back very much muddied from the ride.
The pace was steady but there were no wheel-slippage incidents as we continued on our usual route to the Polesden estate. I did take it a bit easy on the downhills but the large volume low tread Aspen seemed to hook up surprisingly well for what is definitely a summer tyre.
Through the estate and onto the climb to Ranmore, with Jon pausing briefly to shed his jacket. Things were warm, in contrast to the night before when I managed 42 miles on the road in 6° – now that was starting to feel cold!
At Ranmore we continued with only the briefest of pauses, taking advantage of the fact it was just the two of us riding. Along Badger Run, then Collarbone which is softening and is rather slippery with all those roots and leaves.
Trouble in Paradise was also showing the effects of the rain with wheels starting to splash into ruts and the surface feeling a bit slimy, and the short path further on through the trees to the road had me thinking carefully about my braking and steering on wet roots!
We headed past the Reservoir toward the Drovers Road and splashed and slipped our way through the soft clay at a nice even pace. I was glad of the chance to rediscover trails which needed a bit more thought to ride them than usual but I kept thinking to myself that I could have been riding all these on my own – perfectly safely I’m sure as these are not technical but some of the later sections are. So I was glad of the company.
Back on the Drovers Road we sped along to break out back on the tarmac of the Ranmore Road for some few hundred yards before turning left for Chainless (where Tony dropped his chain in the summer).
Now the fact that this descent is wet, quite soft in places, narrow and relatively fast wasn’t helped by the knowledge that Jon has been training and competing in a few Downhill events this summer. I led the way too since I at least knew where I was going but have to admit to feeling a little under pressure!
By the final third I could feel the rear wheel was behaving a bit unpredictably but it wasn’t until we came out on the road that I found I’d flatted during the descent so we then had a short break while I replaced the tube. The bike was filthy, much dirtier than I’d expected so obviously my Mucky Nutz mudguard must be working well.
Puncture fixed we carried on to the Impossible Climb from the sawmill which lived up to it’s name although I was very surprised to get a decent distance up. Having hauled ourselves and the bikes the rest of the way we then had the flowing descent to the Sheepleas road ahead of us.
Once again I led the way, once again feeling a little pressure from myself. I rode it really poorly (I remember storming it on the Inbred in the summer), distracted by low branches and leaves obscuring my vision and I soon found myself in the gulley. Not my finest effort.
Back uphill again to Sheepleas and then we had the long run down to the A246 via the twisty woody singletracks. The downhill approach to this on the doubletrack nearly had me off with a rabbit nearly getting itself under my front wheel but as we threaded our way through the woods for a change I managed – if a little hesitantly – to navigate our way without making wrong turns. This was an achievement for me!
At Horsley we had simple, steady riding ahead of us back to Bookham via Lynx Hill and the tennis courts, through the woods to the slightly less bumpy than usual field and skirting Effingham Common to the station. Then, on across Bookham Common and home.
Thanks very much to JonH for coming out and saving me from myself, we managed to get back around 10pm with 18 miles on my clock – probably more like 16.5 miles from the garage.