If there’s any one doubting the effect DealExtreme are making with their HA-III P7 MTB light, a cursory glance at what the nine riders who turned up for Wednesday’s ride were using would settle the matter.
Aside from myself, JohnR and Colin the other six (Matt, Hannah—yes, a woman—, James, Mark, Barrie and DaveW) were all running the DX light!
Now that the clocks have gone back you need decent lights from the outset of a night ride that you can rely on for three hours. Personally I really enjoy night riding and the benefit of the darker evenings is that there’s no more riding in that awful twilight where the lights don’t appear to be helping much.
Pretty soon, we may even have some mud to contend with too, adding to the effort levels as you plough through it in the dark woods rather than being able to pick a path round. It helps with the fitness levels I guess. But for now it seems a bit feeble to complain about the still-dry tracks (how long since we’ve had proper wet weather?).
Despite a lack of moisture though, the trails are sporadically wet in a few places to keep you alert. Progress is made harder by the significant amount of dry leaves on the ground as the trees lose their summer cladding. At times it’s actually pretty difficult to see the way forward, let alone dodge trail debris.
We soon found this out heading into Wiggly Wood, with masses of dead leaves obscuring the path. I found myself leading th enight’s ride and managed to briefly go off-piste but fortunately no-one was watching!
With nine riders, some of whom were new to night riding or unfamiliar with the route we ended up making frequent stops to make sure everyone was still together. Better that than having to hunt for a lone rider as we ended up doing with Mark at Pitch earlier in the year!
We headed over to Tanners and then on to the Impossible Climb which is, in fact possible! John’s mates have christened it so after some encounters with it in muddy and wet conditions but actually you can get up it and it’s not that bad. I’ve had a good run of luck climbing recently anyway on the Five which I put down to improved fitness and the decision to stick in the middle ring as much as possible. With the single pivot optimised for the middle ring I’ve found grip where others have floundered, spinning power away on their hardtails.
This time round it was the same story as myself, Barrie and DaveW waited at the top getting our breathing back under control, while the others waited for a tactical chain-throw to be sorted out ‘back in the pack’! At this point Barrie found he’d punctured so more waiting and some hot pumping action ensued.
Eventually we were under way again, up to Ranmore and then along Badger Run and Collarbone, contending with patchy fog which resulted in hopeless visibility with our lights reflecting back off the mist and more of those fallen leaves hiding lumps and bumps in the trail. By the time we’d reached White Down, Mark’s light was showing signs of giving up the ghost (how appropriate near Hallowe’en) and the fog meant I struggled to even find our next path through the trees. How many times have I ridden up here?!!
Through the singletrack then, eventually, and we were then heading toward the Drover’s Road via another of the local car parks. Heading down to Drovers I wished I had my Crud Fast Fender fitted (it’s on my singlespeed) as there was lots of mud up here getting chucked into my face. Hannah had a near-miss and nearly ended up in a huge excavation but got away with it.
Next we were off to the saw-mill as we headed toward Sheepleas. Initially the doubletrack along here was quite good, they’ve recently repaired it and where the rubble and hardcore was is now dressed with a cinder topping. Of course it couldn’t last but the smooth surface had encouraged me to up my pace a little. I ended up fish-tailing wildly as we hit normal trail conditions again, there was mud a-plenty and some dubious looking wheel ruts. Quite a scare and something to watch out for down there.
At this point Mark had to say farewell, preferring a steady roll back on the road using his headtorch than a fumble in the dark (ahem!) as his DX light had packed up. Low battery or equipment failure? Not sure yet. Our next task was to get up that damn hill from the saw-mill. This really is an impossible climb but we had a go anyway, all of us stalling at basically the same point and having to finish on foot. No easy task with wet chalk and clay to deal with on a steep incline.
The reward though more than makes up for it. A long, flowing run down to Sheepleas through a lovely sweeping trail with plenty of drops and gulleys to throw the bike down. It was a bit precarious with the leaf cover, I even felt my back end skidding round at one point but it all felt wonderfully controlled.
Next we crossed the Green Dene road and climbed up to Sheepleas itself. At the top we paused for Haribo and drink when Hannah found she’d run out of water. Being the gent I am I was more than happy to empty myself, sorry, my Camelbak’s contents into Hannah’s willing opening, even if I needed some extra manipulation from Matt! She’s a game lass though… Lee’s absence was sorely missed at this point!
Continuing on we traced a route down toward the A246 via some lovely singletrack through the trees, even if I screwed the trail blazing a little as I had no idea where the real path was. There’s a myriad of trails round here that must surely be worth exploring in more depth if only to make Newlands Corner rides more interesting on the run back. Great fun and we were soon back on the road at West Horsley before heading down to Lynx Hill.
We parted from Matt at near Orestan Lane and continued on to Effingham Junction. With just seven of us remaining and smooth flowing paths and trails I increased the pace a little. It felt just great to be speeding along through the darkness at an brisk but steady pace, even if the technical stuff was behind us.
Crossing at Efffingham over onto Bookham Common we kept the speed up and were soon back in Bookham where we parted from Barrie before I too peeled off.
All in all a comfortable ride, about 17 miles for me in dry, calm conditions. This weekend is a split group, four of us (myself, AndyC, Tony and DaveW) are heading to Borden for the Pronghorn Enduro and another competitive outing. It’s just the short 2-hour solo race for us which should make a nice change to our local trails. The rest I believe expect to be at Bockett’s Farm as usual.