A small, but perfectly formed, group of 4 had arrived promptly at the Hyland Garage by 7.30pm. From the forum responses, all expected had arrived (D-Dub, James Pro, Lloyd & myself), so we headed off at 7.40pm (no need to hang around for PaulM and JR, our normally late arrivals!).
Having been over towards Effingham on a couple of recent rides, we opted for the other direction and D-Dub and myself cooked up a ride that took in a few Box Hill and Headley highlights.
The chosen route was Wiggly Wood, then straight on down to ‘Dearly Beloved’ (is that the name?) avoiding the right turn half-way down that heads back up and then towards the Youth Hostel. Except for James, who lost that bit of the discussion, and being slightly off the back turned up and right anyway. He had the good sense to head down the road to join us at the bottom once he found no-one waiting at the top road exit. We were headed up for Ranmore, to track East and descend via ‘And then there were three’.
The trails were in excellent nick, and not too dusty either; though this could have been because there were only 4 of us and not the usual 10-12. On Ranmore, I forced the group to wait as I exchanged pleasantries with a Ski Club guide that I occasionally bump into during summer evening rides. It was a brief stop as his group were less polite than the Moles, and I let him go as his mates (?) rapidly disappeared into the distance.
I was on the hard tail, as we all were except D-Dub, and I was enjoying the challenge of working the bike over the roots rather than simply rolling over them. I find that regularly swapping between bikes means it only takes a minute or two to adjust my style accordingly. But with the fun over for now, it was past Ryka’s café and then the bridleway up Box Hill. Dave set a personal best of 6 mins 54 secs, I believe. The rest of us were a little more sedate, and considerably closer to double digit minutes.
Having recovered at the top, it was across the top of Box Hill to China Pig. Knowing I tend to run out of steam half-way through, I headed off last. Familiarity meant that I was in the right gear and knew what to expect on the off-camber, uphill and rooty section, though ahead of me it looked like others had been caught out. We headed left at the end of China Pig to climb via the grassy path rather than going all the way down to Happy Valley. Unfortunately I didn’t tell D-Dub this part of the plan, so we made him climb back up again (serves him right, the whippet). The views were fantastic looking back across the valley as the sun was setting.
Back at the top, thanks to my navigational skills we had a minor detour and nearly headed back down towards China Pig’s half-way point, before we retraced our tracks and headed back across to Headley Heath. We had an enforced stop for a breather as my chain snapped when I shifted into the granny for a short but sandy uphill section. Secret Singletrack was great fun, though having volunteered to lead the way (D-Dub was minus one light), I blundered off into the bracken in an attempt not to miss the first right turn. Unbelievably, this is the first time I’d ridden SS this year. About 30 seconds later, I passed James who had done something similar.
It was over the road and across to ‘Life on Mars’, this was great fun and apart from the final uphill section. I was keeping close to D-Dub (though he was down a light, remember, so he couldn’t see that well). Apparently the lack of light nearly caused him to miss the first log across the path, but he took it in his stride (well that’s how it looked from 4 yards back, anyway). Then it was a fast blast down Alsation, and we said goodnight to Lloyd as he headed back via the path towards Leatherhead Leisure Centre. The 3 of us got back to the garage around 10.25pm. With a small number of riders we had few stops, and my legs were feeling pretty tired at the end. Just time for a healthy banana in the car before heading back for a nice cup of Horlicks (thanks to Paul 901 who has reminded me how great Horlicks tastes at night after a ride).