Having spent the past few weeks riding at a decent pace to take advantage of the blessedly dry trails I was starting to feel the burn a bit after Sunday’s mammoth 30 miler over Leith Hill and the surrounding area.
Last night I had it in mind to ride at closer to seven or eight tenths in order to give myself and the rest of the ride group a break. But, you see, I can’t help myself! So it was that I found myself at nine tenths or so after all…
Initially I wasn’t sure if I was really in the mood to ride last night but with a decent turnout at the garage waiting to greet me a plan soon formed. Joining us again were Polish Adam with Danny, Amanda and Darren, all of whom were on rather exotic machinery. Most striking of all were Amanda and Darren on a fully suspended Ellsworth Witness Tandem, a sight I’ve never seen before on the Surrey Hills. We also had JamesH, DaveW, Jez, AndyC and Tony to bring the ride group to ten riders.
Setting off at the usual time it didn’t take long before we got into a comfortable rhythm that seemed to suit us all. Darren and Amanda told us to just pick the sort of route we’d normally do but I was a bit unsure of how they’d cope with the extra length of the tandem. A fast run through Wiggly Wood soon put those fears to rest though as they proved to be highly skilled in getting the tandem down the trail. Good communication between driver and stoker seems to be a pre-requisite.
So, any niggling worries put to bed we concentrated on getting up to Ranmore via the Polesdon estate and Tanners Hatch climb which provided the usual mix of fun and effort. With daylight increasingly on our side though it’s becoming ever easier to work a line up the hill without blundering over energy sapping bricks and other trail debris.
After a short regroup at the top (I was trying to keep the stops to a minimum given the pace everyone had) we carried on along to Badger Run and straight over to Collarbone. Dust levels, particularly for anyone near the back of the group were starting to rival Thetford levels but the trails themselves are still very bumpy from ruts that have rapidly dried. In a few weeks those should start to get broken down, smoothing things out a bit.
So far, so last week really but Tony and I had a different route in mind to the Abba Zabba complex although we passed close by there. I think our tandem riders were well up for some drops but we headed instead past the reservoir and over toward the Drovers Road via the normally claggy clay trails up there. They’re now very bumpy but bone dry and it was quite a blast twisting through the trees at a decent speed.
By the time we came out onto the Drovers Road Tony took us off down another heavily rutted trail toward the Ranmore Road which I’m guessing is impassable in the winter unless you have 4HD (4 hoof drive!). I was expecting us to head straight down to the sawmill at Honeysuckle Bottom (itself a great high speed blast) but Tony had a better idea.
Taking us along the road a short distance we turned off onto a narrow ribbon of trail which took us down toward the Sheepleas Road at high speed, rattling us over bumps and with some sizable logs thrown in. You really needed to keep your eyes open to either hop over or avoid these, they wouldn’t have been something you could hit unprepared but it was a great laugh.
After we’d checked everyone was in one piece we turned left and took the road up to the sawmill for the start of the unrideable climb. You’d think this would put people off but it’s a necessary step to get to where I wanted us to go and it’s always a laugh to see what’s possible up there. I and the other singlespeeders made a creditable attempt, then the tandem crew surprised us by getting a good distance up. Then Adam, forced to drop into his granny ring for a change proceeded to ride the whole thing at his second attempt!
So it’s not unrideable after all… Hat doffed to Adam I think.
The reward for our efforts was the reason we’d come all this way as what follows is a nice contouring trail that brings you down to Sheepleas via a fast flowing trail with plenty of big steps and gulleys to entertain you. It’s over far too soon but certainly kept everyone on their toes but once we’d crossed the road and climbed up onto the tops again there was more singletrack to entertain us.
We were soon dipping through the trees into a mazy warren of singletrack that lead gently down to the road at high speed. It’s a great bit of trail and I think everyone enjoyed the dusty paths and tight turns in amongst the trees.
After that it was time to switch into XC mode for a pretty quick blast through East Horsley and and up past the tennis courts at Lynx Hill before blasting round the relatively level paths toward Effingham. This is the only time really when I suffer by having the singlespeed as it’s so fast I spin out my one gear but it’s still fun and a good chance to work on keeping the cadence smooth.
Our final run back was across Bookham Common to come out into the Glade at Fetcham, then a quick run up the road to get the group back to their cars. All in all I notched up 18 miles last night and we were back at 9:50 having had much fewer stops that usual. Respect is due to Amanda and Darren on their tandem but a big thanks to all for a good night’s ride.