At 6pm I was still on the M3 and had no idea who was planning to ride. I’d had a tough outing on the ‘dark side of the road’ the night before, and although I’d put my On-One and all the gear in the back of the car, and taken it down to Southampton and back, I still wasn’t bubbling with enthusiasm at the thought of a second night’s assault on the North Downs’ hills.
A quick check of the forum on the ‘mobile device’ at Fleet Services revealed it was JR’s birthday, and he was up for a celebratory ride. With only Lloyd acknowledging JR’s posting, I felt obliged to make the effort to get there in time.
Unfortunately, with problems on the Surrey stretch of the M25, it seemed that everyone else had hit upon the same cunning plan as myself, so I spent the best part of 30 minutes in the queue leading up to Hampton Court bridge. Apologies to anyone who spotted the naked chap lurking in the car park behind Hylands Garage as he removed the suit and tie and struggled into the lycra bib-shorts.
And so it was that five of us (JR, Lloyd, Paul M, James Pro & myself) set off on John’s chosen route (well it was his birthday), starting with a sneaky short cut through the car wash. JR was in an impish mood.
Our ultimate destination was the narrow and fast descent from Crocknorth Road through Effingham Woods to Honeysuckle Bottom. To get there we opted for the Admiral’s Track to Polesden Lacey, then down Hogden Lane and back up the flinty section to Ranmore Common Road. This was by popular request, with a few voicing their dislike of the Yew Trees climb after the Youth Hostel.
The descent down Hogden Lane was a real ‘hoot’, and I found myself treating the banked edges like a berm, and popping off from the small bumps that occasionally appeared on the sides of the banks. Unfortunately it was payback time for the fun, and I decided that I was definitely in the category that prefers the shorter, steeper climb past the Youth Hostel. The hardtail always seems to struggle for grip on these rougher climbs.
Despite his 37 years (cough) JR showed a sprightly pace up Hogden Lane that put all us younger riders to shame. Though it should be noted that it was the full-suss riders that climbed the quickest, so obviously it was the bikes that were letting us down, not our fitness. We headed straight over the road at the top, and as the bridleway headed down we put a right turn onto Collarbone (rather than straight on down Land Rover as last week).
Despite the previous night’s efforts, the legs weren’t feeling too bad, though all had to wait for me at the top of Whitedown as I managed to drop a chain due to some injudicious shifting. Not for me the attractions of a singlespeed, though I might be tempted when my legs have got more miles into them after their enforced winter lay off.
None were brave enough to tackle the log climb/feature tonight, before we blasted through the woods then over Critten Lane, then past the reservoir and right onto the Drovers Road. I was thinking we must have maintained a pretty good pace as there weren’t many stops, perhaps someone can supply some stats for the evening in a comment posting?
Turning left after the gate then along the track, Sheepwalk Lane to Crocknorth Road. Time for some more speedy fun, along this road for a mile or so then taking the left turn at the fingerpost to head down the long & fun descent under the “Lovelace Bridges” through Effingham Woods to Honeysuckle Bottom.
I managed to open up a bit of a gap as I led the group down, so no-one saw my ‘comedy moment’ as I attempted to leap the tree that had fallen across the path. I’m guessing that although my front wheel lofted over the obstacle without problems, the back wheel landed on or just before the tree. As the trunk was suspended a few inches over the ground, it acted like a pogo stick and the back end shot into the air as my weight was forward in my lame attempt to hop the obstacle. Over the bars I went, though fortunately no major damage was sustained.
I nearly got away with claiming that I’d merely stopped to highlight the obstacle for the following riders, but I wasn’t quite quick enough in pulling myself together. We completed the rest of the descent uneventfully, and headed left up to the sawmill. We all failed dismally on the ‘impossibly steep climb’ and enjoyed another hooligan descent to cross Green Dene (the road) before another climb up to Sheepleas.
Although most of us had ridden this route several times, this was the first time without Matt or Dave leading the way, so we were rather chuffed to find that our inspired guesses at each junction took us on the descent through the Sheepleas woods down to the A246 at Horsley.
At some point, we got to discussing how a Moles evening ride was ‘alcohol-free’ compared with some other local riders who shall be nameless (but you know who you are ! ). So after turning right and along a few hundred yards to the Duke of Wellington at East Horsley, naturally we had to stop and celebrate JR’s 37th birthday.
A notice board promised ‘cask ales’, but only a solitary Greene King IPA clip adorned one of the three hand pumps. However, the Surrey Hills Shere Drop barrel had just been tapped, so JR was able to enjoy a celebratory drink.
Only the one pint was supped, before we leapt back on the bikes (and immediately fell off again, in Lloyd’s case) and headed up the Ockham Road ( past the Pink Garlic curry house, very tempting) and along the side of Horsley Towers, through to join Orestan Lane and into Effingham.
By this time, our enthusiasm for off-road riding had been considerably dampened, and we continued on Lower Road into Bookham, with Lloyd then JR splitting to head home before Paul, James and myself got to the Anchor pub. It seemed only fitting to take on more refreshment at this point, so it was nealy 11pm when we finally cycled back up Eastwick Road to Hylands garage. It had been a great ride, with some great descents, and we’d all enjoyed the beer (or beers in some cases) which allowed us to forget the pain of the climbs.
I thought I’d got away with it, but just as I was pulling onto the drive at home, the phone rang and La Dandina demanded to know where the hell I’d got to. Darn. Luckily she was asleep by the time I’d finished faffing about downstairs, so I was spared the tongue lashing until the morning!