Last night started differently so it made sense to throw in a bit of a different route too. Although at times my route planning skills were called into question (being the only rider on a fuss sus machine), I think it worked out pretty well in the end.
We started from Cycleworks in Leatherhead at about 7:40 after spending 45 minutes or so at their Open Evening for their revamped store. I have to say, after just one beer and a handful of crisps I could easily have been persuaded to have a couple more and that would have been that as far as this report goes. It looked like being a successful evening.
As it was, ten of us met up there for the ride – Dave, Colin, Tony, John, Matt, Jason, Jem, Neil, Lee and myself; we also bumped into Davebus who was in there for a bit of kit for his Prince Albert build, plus John who joined us the other day and DaveW (who was the only one to make an effort clothing-wise). Jes (from All Biked Up) was also there so it was good to catch up. I hardly recognise people without cycle helmets on!
I wasn’t alone in finding the beer appealing but eventually we tore ourselves away and set out on the ride. Since we were in Leatherhead we headed out toward Alsation, more than a few of us I think aware of alcohol we’d consumed. At least it helped take the mind off the Alsation climb but that was soon behind us and we were on to Nower Wood.
Once up there we turned right toward the Mickleham Gallops. It’s seems a bit repetitive but, believe it or not, the trails were dry and dusty. Well, I have to note it for the record don’t I? Anyway, once on the Gallops we didn’t stay on them for any length of time as we turned immediately left and headed off through the rapidly thickening vegetation on Chainbreaker.
I can’t decide what bike I’d have enjoyed more down there. The Inbred has been a faithful friend over recent months and I’ve got really comfortable with how it handles but with some tired old Hope Minis that need a service, it’s underbraked to say the least. The Orange, in contrast with it’s Mono M4s is spot on and even after just two rides back on it I’m loving it, especially that bolt through hub on the front wheel. It’s super precise and I thoroughly enjoyed my run down Chainbreaker on it last night.
The downside of coming down Chainbreaker though is that you need to then regain all that lost altitude climbing up High Ashurst. Conditions were ideal last night, normally it’s the sort of climb only the super fit can expect to clean each time and then only with luck on your side too. The minute there’s any dampness around you lose too much grip over the roots.
There’s a long loose first third to the climb which leaves you tiring just as you reach the point where you need to dig in. The next 20 yards or so then need a bit of power to step up over some roots and keep the wheels turning, after which you just need to hang on. By then the tricky bit is done but the pain increases massively as it remains steep all the way up.
Last night I just about cleaned it, something I only expect a few times a year at best. In fact we tend not to come up here very often so that makes my successes even more infrequent. I just had to dab momentarily as Matt pulled up in front of me and I lurched onto a different line which spun out my rear wheel. But after that brief moment I managed to keep going all the way to the top. It was my fault really in not leaving enough space between me and the rider in front.
Having reached the top we then carried on to the Box Hill Road. It was too early to turn back by taking the Headley route and I had a better run in mind. Reaching the road we immediately crossed straight over for the descent down to Brockham. I love this descent but again we haven’t done it much recently as it needs to be dry. There’s just too many places where it’s chalky and muddy (read slippy and slippy!) for it to be a sensible option year round.
As it was we flew down there, especially me on my Five! Everyone thought I was taking them down death runs on purpose but it hadn’t occurred to me that others were on hardtails. I’ve ridden this on the Inbred many times anyway and it’s just as much fun, in a different kind of way. Dave had the hardest time on his rigid 29er which had so much shake going on his front fender fell out! By then my brakes were cooling at the bottom but even I have to admit the newly cut steps at the bottom don’t add anything positive to the experience. Despite the joking, I think that went down well with everyone.
Passing Rob’s place we then had yet again to regain the altitude we’d thrown away in such cavalier fashion. The switchback climb up to the Best Western restaurent on Box Hill is not difficult apart from the overgrown section along the field but it goes on a bit. At least there’s spectacular views of Brockham to take your mind off it and there’s the added bonus of the singletrack blast at the top to look forward to. I nearly rode down past the big tree at the start of it but had to dab while resting my nethers on the back of the saddle. Ouch! That was the first time I’ve tried to ride that bit and obviously I need to work on it!
After all the fun on China Pig the other day it was the default choice to head down off Box Hill and Colin certainly wanted some of it. A particularly cheap trick worked a treat to get him to the front of the group (!) at which point he disappeared off down the trail at speed. That was the last anyone saw of him until the bottom I think. Excellent stuff down there though, one of the best singletrack sections in the area lasting up to 6 or 8 minutes of flowing downhill fun but I have to say I rode it better on Sunday; no complaints though.
So we’d had some testing climbs and some equally testing descents by the time we reached Juniper Hall. Neil turned off here to head back toward Ashtead while the rest of us carried on to the bottom of Box Hill and then over the road to Westhumble to start the Crabtree Lane climb. Two thirds of the way up we then picked up the Druids Grove bridlepath toward Norbury Park which was super fast tonight. I was following Lee and found if I was more than 20 yards back I kept getting the dust from his wheels in my face so I had to stay close!
After that it was up to the top of the hill and round the side to the start of Infestation which was just as much fun as it was on Sunday. If anything I thought I’d picked much better lines but overcooked it again over the big roots near the bottom. Well, at least I had my full sus…!
The group split at the bottom with some of us heading back to Leatherhead while other turned for Bookham. By the time I got home I’d racked up 19 miles but felt surprisingly good for it, so much so I took my road rat hardtail into work at 6:30 this morning. Another great turnout and highly enjoyable evening with beer and chat, a different start point and a different route all adding to the variety.
I really can’t wait for Swinley on Saturday!