Well, last night we nearly didn’t make it out of Bookham after an unfortunate incident which left Tony’s bike threatening all behind with a custom Crud guard. It’s those mudguard vigilantes again.
In fact, what happened was that Lee and Tony managed to trip over themselves just as we went to cross the road and head up Crabtree Lane. With a masterly combination of poor timing and dodgy balance, Lee managed to fall into Tony who then managed to fall into the road. All that the rest of the group heard was a muffled crack from behind. By the time everyone had sorted themselves out, Tony’s vintage Crud guard was snapped clean through leaving a jagged stump that was a cause for concern for the rest of us following all evening. They don’t make them like that anymore…
Having sorted all of that out the night Moles this week (DaveC, Lee, Tony, JohnR, MattP7 and myself) started the Crabtree hike up to the Downs. I was keen to try and mix the route up slightly so for a change we headed off down the very greasy and waterlogged Admiral’s Track toward Polesdon before heading round to Hogden Lane.
The rain has quickly turned the Surrey Hills back into what you’d expect them to be at this time of year. After such a long dry spell the weather is making up for lost time (not as much as Cumbria, granted) with the result that there’s wet roots, slick chalk and plenty of mud to catch the unwary. Even so, the run down was good fun, made more interesting by my heavily worn Panaracer Fire XC Pros. 2500-odd miles out of them and they’re now basically semi slick – not the ideal tyre for the conditions that’s for sure.
At the end of the descent we turned left to head up to where the Yew Trees climbs passes the farm. First off, the usual muddy puddle here has returned although it’s still firm underneath. But having negotiated that a bigger obstacle presented itself in the shape of a young bull stood in the middle of the track.
It turns out Dave is our very own bovine version of a horse-whisperer though, as he went ahead to usher it along and into a field somewhere. The rest of us hung back, having no wish to get into a race with a startled bull. We’ve christened this track ‘Pamploma’ now at Lee’s suggestion after the famous Spanish ‘running of the bulls’ festival!
So after an eventful route we eventually made it up onto Ranmore. Where to go from here? Well, whatever way we went was going to head downwards so taking the bull by the horns—sorry—I suggested the Landrover descent. Instead of taking Badger Run we stayed on the tarmac to the car park and picked up the run from the top which gives a bit more time to acclimatise to the gradient. Or more time to pick up speed—you choose!
I followed an impressive Dave down, staying well back to give him some breathing space as he was on his rigid 29er. It all looked well under control as we picked a careful line down over treacherous looking roots, eventually I might learn to look further ahead as well. As it was, my dodgy tyres gave me enough reason to take it easy but we all made it down in one piece, including Lee who was also riding his carbon forked rigid singlespeed. Two carbon forked bikes on one night ride doesn’t happen very often.
At the bottom a quick discussion led to us deciding to head toward Abinger Roughs. Despite the wet weather you can at least rely on this area to stay reasonably dry and to be honest conditions weren’t that bad all night so long as you stay alert for sudden puddles and stretches of mud.
Once we had run along a couple of sandy miles we turned to head back up the hill via the long descent we did a few weeks back. It’s tricky enough downhill but a much harder proposition going up as it starts surprisingly steeply before levelling off for a couple of hundred yards, switch-backing to the right and kicking back uphill.
With lots of water run-off and big patches of bare chalk it was no surprise to see we all had trouble. Fortunately I was on my Orange so with granny ring engaged for the first time in ages, ProPedal on and the fork wound down I concentrated on keeping forward momentum going with the help of a nice compliant back end to roll over the rocks and roots. Even so, I had to worry my prostate more than is desirable trying to juggle balance and grip!
At the top we decided to head for the Honeysuckle Bottom Sawmill which meant a slippery and amusing trip through the woods to the Drovers Road, negotiating deep clag and puddles along the way. After that it was plain sailing really, a speedy run down to the sawmill on simple doubletrack giving me a chance to confirm the Mucky Nutz Bender Fender continues to impress. It doesn’t stop everything but considering it’s diminutive size makes a fair job at cutting out most water and spray. Once again I ended up with minimal mud on my face by the end of the evening.
Having passed the sawmill, followed by the house with the railway in the garden (this is Surrey after all!) we then had a simple roll along the road to eventually come out on the A246 at West Horsley. After a quick whizz up the hill we turned off down Dirtham Lane and eventually came out into Orestan Lane and were soon home in Bookham.
Another 17.5 miles for me, home by 10:00 and dry-ish ride. Not bad, just time for some pasta and white wine to finish off the evening!