Dark shapes move urgently through the forest as if searching for something, their gaze sweeping the ground before them. In the deepening gloom, a heavy mist crawls up the escarpment from the south, shrouding them from watching eyes. Occasionally they stop to sniff the air and as they turn their searching faces back and forth a blinding light shines forth.
Nine riders were abroad tonight.
One of them was DaveW, so that may account for the air sniffing. The rest consisted of MarkJ, Trevor, JohnR, DaveS, Daniel, Tony, Colin and myself, who had all somewhat rashly committed to riding despite the weather warning from the Met Office. It’s riding like this that tests your commitment to the cause and with D2D not far off—and the ever-present worry it will rain there in the back of our minds—it’s a good opportunity for us to get some wet miles in. And boy was it wet.
Not damp. Not a fine summer rain. Not a clearing shower. No, just rain plain and simple, heavy, relentless and persistent. I stood watching it from my front door briefly before stepping out and making my way to the Esso garage, by which time I was already on my way to being wet through and frankly amazed that anyone else had bothered.
That left route choice to worry about. It was worth noting also that MarkJ could see virtually nothing due to his glasses steaming up and being rained on while DaveS was on his first night ride ever. As we joked with him later, there was no chance of him suffering a baptism of fire on this ride!
I finally settled on the idea of another run toward Effingham due to it’s non-technical nature. We set off through Wiggly Wood, splashing through puddles of standing water. Pretty soon we’d learned to stop mincing round them too, another indication of how wet it was. Well, once you’re wet, you’re wet.
Within a half mile I’d stopped to take off my safety glasses as I couldn’t see a thing through them and couldn’t even pick my way along a familiar trail. Even so, I couldn’t help getting a certain amount of enjoyment from our perversity in being out at all. Our spouses it seemed, on chatting to the others, all thought we were nuts but it was starting to feel like fun.
Splish splash through the woods, and on toward the Polesden Estate. Negotiating the right hand turn that we normally take off the descent to Bagden Farm showed a big hole has appeared in the ground, which will cause a crash if you don’t expect it, so watch out down there. It’s hard to say if it’s man-made or not, I really hope not.
By the time we crossed the old Dorking Road the water was streaming down the tarmac and everywhere else too. We ducked into the woods and headed over to pick up the Tanners Climb, it was hard to follow the trail and my cornering skills had escaped me for the time being as I appeared to have donned the Fairy Cape.
The Tanners Climb was dispatched without drama, except for Mark getting cramp in his legs which we missed because he was riding rear gunner anyway! After that it was on to Badger Run and Collarbone, which as I mentioned earlier was made much harder by the heavy mist rolling in from the south. It was so thick that even with my MaXx-D on low setting on my handlebars I had difficulty picking my line, it was real ride-off-the-edge-of-the-hill stuff.
Fortunately after Ranmore we turned north again and found the mist thinning but alas, no let up in the rain. The run down to the Drover’s Road from the reservoir was actually enormous fun as I followed a brisk Tony in and out of the trees. Grip levels were surprisingly good (must be those cheap Specialized Storm tyres I have on the singlespeed!) and with better visibility it was easier to pick your lines.
We carried on to double back on the Drover’s Road and then turned off toward Effingham, picking up the same route we’d taken last week but then taking the shorter option that DaveC and used to get home. It meant a lower mileage for the ride but was the right choice I think.
However, we still had the long run to Horsley to negotiate, I hung back to make sure everyone was clear on the route and then followed DaveS down the trail as we struggled to find the line amongst all the drooping foliage and vegetation.
Once at the A246 we crossed to Dirtham Lane and then continued on, with Colin having a huge tank slapper when he lost the front of the bike riding through what initially appeared to be an innocuous puddle. Fortunately he didn’t quite stack it into the chain link fence but it was close!
We finished, as last week, with a run down Orestan Lane and on to Bookham from there. Arriving home I had 12.5 miles on the clock but at least it was an early finish. I’m going to have to get some old towels for the garage (no Colin, not what you think!) to dry myself off though after rides like this as I squelched into the house afterward…
A fun ride showing our stubborn side and proof positive that the English eccentric is alive and well and riding the Surrey Hills. Tonight we were (very) muddy Moles.