There’s been a bit of discussion recently about our mid-week rides. Not dissent as such but just a feeling that occasionally things have been quite fast. Well, you can’t please everyone and it’s not often we up the pace but even so, tonight we decided to end with the pub for a change.
Of course, one person’s fast is another’s slow. Dave offered to lead up a relatively local ‘quick loop’ with chips and beer as an added inducement. Joining us tonight was a strong line up of 13 riders which included Lee, Tony, D’AndyC, Darren, Adam, JamesH, Paul, MarkJ, DaveC, Keith, Matt and Harriet. Lee was out on his disco white 2010 Trek EX 8 which looks rather splendid and more than ready for some pink detailing, while Harriet was joining us for the first time.
With the knowledge that a quick loop was in prospect I was out on my singlespeed after some very fast rides recently on my Orange. I figured I’d be able to sit more mid-pack and still get a workout but it proved a bad mistake. In the past four weeks or so the trails have speeded up so much that my winter-geared singlespeed was out of it’s depth and it didn’t take long to reach terminal molocity.
It may have been unsuitable for my singlespeed but it didn’t cause Dave any problems on his 29er singlespeed though. He shot off through Wiggly Wood at great speed, in fact I’m not sure I’ve ever travelled so quickly in company through there as I tracked his progress.
Behind us Mark took a tumble which I think was to affect his ride for the rest of the evening. After a pause while we regrouped and Mark adjusted his seatpost (ahem, get a Salsa!) we were soon off again, skirting the farmer’s field before turning left to pick up the footpath to Crabtree Lane.
I was following Harriet who, if she doesn’t race bikes should certainly think about doing so, and was soon working harder than I expected to keep up thanks to my low gearing (32:18). Along the way I managed to ride like pants and get swiped by a big swathe of nettles, grrr!
At the Dorking end there ensued a lengthy pause while Mark’s bike needed some inner tube attention after he pinch flatted on a root (it really wasn’t his night), after which we turned back toward Norbury Park via the river run trail. By now I was happy to sit near the back as there was no point holding up people with my comedic spinning but that just meant I was subjected to the dreaded dust which was quite substantial with 10 or more riders ahead of me.
Once in Norbury I held back to shpherd a clearly struggling Mark while the others headed off ahead, round the Updown Wood loop and back to the sawmill. Quite honestly it was a great evening to be out in these woods and I was enjoying myself a lot. I could tell we were close to home already and was seriously thinking about doing theh whole loop again but Dave had further twists to show us.
First we turned left past the sawmill and circled round past rooty turns, stately beech trees and back to where we’d started before heading down the sharp and fast down-and-up which eventually spat us out near Roaring House Farm. A quick blast up the road brought us to some cheeky footpaths which I’ve never ridden before as they’re normally overrun by (quite rightly) indignant walkers at the weekend. But it doesn’t count on weekday evenings does it?!
Half of us lost the lead group which resulted in an alternative path being explored that brought us out halfway up the track to the Bockett’s car park. Sighting our fellow riders we then commenced on a tight and twisty wend through the trees to reach them, so much more fun than taking the open track but a bit of a challenge with my extra wide bars.
Having enjoyed that and curious to see the proper trail we had missed we went round to try it all again. The part we had missed turned out to be fast and quite a challenge with dusty, off camber turns and trees in close proximity although it was much shorter. Dave was uncatchable for me with his familiarity helping to a degree. But never let anyone tell you 29ers don’t change direction quickly! We’re going to call this trail The Thickett.
After that we threw in a few more treats, with me starting to realise that we really have excellent (if occasionally illegal) riding right on our Norbury doorstep. I don’t think we travelled more than a four mile radius tonight.
So, back up to the sawmill via Dave’s first Fetcham Downs loop before nipping along to the start of Infestation which was dispatched in the deepening gloom. Fast, highly rooty and incredibly dusty it provided amusement for us all and thankfully no pinch flats. By this stage Mark was just about hanging in there as the sharp pace started to tell. It’s not just me that leads fast rides!
But I was just getting into my stride. Back up once more to the Fetcham Downs we retraced our earlier wheel tracks before turning right and down to the corner of the Big Field. Close to home, we had a few hundred yards more of woodland singletrack before running back out onto Crabtree Lane for the trip back to the garage.
If I’d had gears, or at least better gearing I think I would have done another loop back out toward Dorking as we’d managed at the start of the ride, before taking a more simplified route back but it wasn’t really necessary. Besides, after around 13 miles in a bit over an hour and 20 mins or so there was a pint waiting in the pub, as well as a jumbo sausage and chips from the chippy. Food of champions!
It just shows you don’t need to go far to have fun.