With the weather improving markedly from Sunday’s cold and damp conditions we had quite a decent turnout for last night’s ride, despite core members Lee, Dave, Colin and DaveP being absent for a variety of reasons. Actually, we did briefly see Colin as he passed with his daughter on the tag along – he’d got in a swift ride over the hills while she enjoyed herself at Brownies!
Even so, we were joined last night by Mark, Tony, Rob, Mark, Paul, AndyC, Jem and Andy, making a nine strong group for a raid on the hills. With two riders lacking lights and three new riders I thought it would be worth playing ourselves in gently so we set off up Crabtree Lane and were soon into Wiggly Wood.
Worth mentioning were two experimental bikes last night for different reasons. AndyC is still waiting for his replacement Whyte E-120 frame and Maverick forks to arrive, the consensus being that it is probably being held hostage to fortune by pirates off the Somalian coast given the length of time it’s taken to arrive. As a result, his venerable—for which you could easily substitute the words ‘old’ and ‘knackered’—Univega is being asked to do things it thought it had given up long ago. More of that later.
Another, more successful experiment involved Jem who was out last night on Neil’s Whyte 19. Jem has been riding an Inbred Summer Season but has come to the conclusion it’s not really suited to his riding. With a Five and a Voodoo Wanga singlespeed already in his garage it seemed worth a try but really is more focussed on the Alpine conditions it was always advertised for. So, yesterday Jem got out to Holmbury with DaveP for back-to-back tests of Lee’s Cotic Soul, Neil’s Whyte 19 and his 456 Summer Season. After three round trips, including three runs down Telegraph (no doubt hoping to find our Babes in the Wood again) Jem felt fresh enough to come out again with us. On the Whyte 19.
It’s the first time I’ve seen one up close and have to say it’s a good looking frame even though the chrome look isn’t really my cup of tea. Jem reckoned it comfortably out paced the Soul and Summer Season in terms of comfort and chuckability, surprising given the fact this is made from aluminium. But there’s a lot going on with that frame with lots of carefully thought out profile changes including some rather funky looking chainstays. It’ll be interesting to see what Jem decides from here.
Back to the ride. After Wiggly Wood we zipped round the back of Polesdon, stopping for ten minutes while Mark faffed with his cleats. Surprisingly an assortment of knives appeared to help him clear the grot so he could get an allen key in; for a moment things came over all gangsta! Pretty soon though we were on our way up past Tanners Hatch.
The wippets disappeared up the hill with me grinding up on the singlespeed. As anyone knows who’s tried singlespeeding, there really is just one pace you can go at, the trick is to stay there as gravity draws you ever backwards as your legs tire. Unfortunately for AndyC he punctured and had to stop to make repairs; at which point his derailleur threw in the towel.
From what I can make out, it was more his jockey wheel objecting to the weekend’s abuses in the Surrey clag. At the top of the climb we waited. And waited. Things weren’t too bad as a huge group of female runners passed us but even that wasn’t enough to distract us from the lengthening pause in the ride.
Rob finally had to throw in the towel and head back home, unsure of his reception after departing his house under the radar! It’s a good point though to mention how nice his Five is looking in Pearl Black, almost a very dark graphite that serves to highlight the manipulated ally in the swingarm. Hope to see you soon Rob!
Finally AndyC appeared on a clearly hobbled Univega that wasn’t going to be taking any more part in the ride. A ginger roll back the way we came and a careful traipse from Polesdon was in store for him as we said goodbye and headed off to Land Rover. Fingers crossed for the new Whyte Andy!
The descent was the usual rooty entertainment, I started with the idea of noodling carefully round all the roots for a change instead of crashing over them but halfway down it was time to let the bike run. I keep smelling hot discs at the bottom of descents recently but still can’t tell if it’s me or someone else! Not that there’s anything wrong with using the brakes… Fortunately everyone made it down safely, it’s always a bit of a worry with new riders since you’ve no idea of the comfort zones but the descent seemed to go down well.
Having lost time though and with riders lacking in the lighting department it was time to think about the shortest and safest route back. Paul and Mark knew the area reasonably well but under the trees, with light failing fast it was asking a lot of them with limited visibility. So, we climbed imediately back up the trackway to Ranmore (passing on the dubious and painful opportunities that McPhearson’s Mount offered) before taking the simpler descent down through Denbies.
Once back in relative civilisation it was time for a quick tramp along the A24 to Norbury Park where we climbed up to the sawmill, during which time Mark’s chain chose to play up. This time it was the rear sprockets for a change but it still meant more waiting around for the group. So it goes; Tony and I were keen to point out it’s not like that every ride!
Eventually, after 15 miles or so of riding we made it back to our start point. Admittedly it was a stop and start affair but what riding we did was fun and intense at times, even if we probably spent half as much time again waiting around. No bad thing though, at least it gives you the chance to have a chat to everyone. I often find that I don’t get a chance to chat to everyone I’d like so I was quite happy!
Hope to see everyone again soon. By which time my Five may be alive again…