After yesterday’s post about motivation I was keen to force myself out. Despite the early promise, as evening wore on it became warmer and wetter, prompting a thaw to the mud and some claggy conditions. A proper winter ride for a change then, even if hell is maybe too strong a word to describe it!
Meeting at the garage was an unusually early Paul, bucking his Sunday trend, DaveW, Tony, JohnR, James and Colin. Both Tony and JohnR arrived just as we’d stretched the ‘7:40 for laggards’ criteria as far as it could go and we were soon heading up Crabtree Lane.
My only agenda for the ride was it should avoid the Admirals Track and the subsequent thorn strewn climb that accounted for three punctures in one ride last week. So Wiggly Wood was first on the agenda, having picked up Matt who was worrying the horses in the field at the top of Crabtree.
The Wood was our first taste of heavy mud and it was hard work to keep the legs spinning on the greasy surface. I keep telling myself it won’t be long before the trails are dry and dusty again (has anyone else noticed light in the sky at 5:00PM lately?) but for now it’s classic UK winter riding conditions. Mud.
A short regroup and we were off toward Polesdon, with the flat section past the farmer’s field proving equally hard work thanks to recent hedge cutting and heavily churned ground. My best mincing option for getting past hedge cuttings is to go as fast as possible and try not to breathe in the hope that I’m ‘riding light’, which is nonsense of course but it seems to work!
Onto the descent and it was soon clear that grip was a luxury reserved for others as our unique combination of chalk and clay made itself felt. I minced the turn toward the Polesdon estate, taking it in two or three chunks rather than one smooth curve and still managing to lose the front end (but mercifully staying upright).
After a regroup it was on to the Tanners climb but I couldn’t resist chucking my Inbred up the wall ride just prior to this as the bike felt so nippy. Up to now I’d been leading quite happily but with a quick stop for James to sort a puncture I was starting to feel the pace by the time we started on the climb proper.
Just occassionally I find myself wishing for gears on the singlespeed and tonight was one of them as I ground up the hill, plodding along in my own rythmn as John and DaveW disappeared and I tried to catch Tony and Colin (who I think has secretly being doing some training!). Oh the pain, made worse by the Somme-like mud at the top where the logging activity has churned the ground.
At the top we turned toward McPherson’s Folly which is the bridlepath(?) just off the Ranmore Road a bit down from where the Trackway climb spits you out. It’s steep in both directions (no, really!) but tightens alarmingly as you near the trackway with plenty of slippy chalk and mud. But we had it all under control until Matt fell off at the bottom catching a rut. I do think Tony could have told him…
We sped down toward Dorking, nearly getting caught out on the singletrack near the bottom which was treacherous with big eroded gullies. I didn’t so much steer through there as plot a series of straight lines but we were soon heading into the back of Denbies Vinyard over some awfully claggy clay. So much so that Colin’s rear mech got thoroughly clogged, which is a plus point for running single speed in my mind.
By the time we’d reached the A24 Colin decided to call it a night and get back for an early bath while the rest of us slogged up Box Hill. It’s a miserable climb but was at least clear of mud. DaveW impressively disappeared up the trail, so far ahead that there was no sign of him while John, followed by myself came after. I just couldn’t get any closer than about thirty yards on John while Tony behind me had the same issue I think. I could see his lights flickering across my path but hampered as he was by a late meal he couldn’t close. I was shagged by the top but don’t think I cracked 9 minutes tonight.
Having reached the top we decided the next step was to head back down again via Jumiper Bottom, reasoning that Headley would be on the muddy side. Can that really be true? The moles actually avoiding the mud for a change? Yes, I’m afraid so! Crossing the car park we had the chance of startling a couple in a parked car as several thousand lumens of light turned their night into day. At least she could see to put her knickers back on as I passed though!
The Jumiper descent wasn’t too bad although there’s plenty of things to catch you out at the moment, eroded gullies and low hanging trees the principal hazard. DaveW came off half way down as he tried one-handed to steer and adjust his light with the other. There’s a moral to that story methinks! Fortunately no harm done other than a broken Crud Fast Fender.
It seemed weird to be turning for home via Mickelham when we got to the bottom though. It’s not so long ago that this route (give or take) would have been the extent of one of our Sunday rides, with a stop at the Box Hill tea to boot whereas now it just seems to be a bit on the short side. Not that it was physically any less demanding, a decent pace and all that mud was certainly taking it’s toll on me.
We finished with a climb back up over Norbury Park to the sawmill before finally reaching Bookham around 10:00PM, tired and rather cold in fact after a final mile or so of free-wheeling on the tarmac. All in all, I was glad I got out but it was heavy going. This weekend sees some of the moles attending the skills day with Astounding Adventures. Who knows what we’ll learn?!