So here’s a summary for D’Andy’s benefit.
“A gnarly thrash round Pitch and Holmbury finished with a lovely pint or two of Shere Drop in the Hurtwood Inn”
Actually, no! I’m messing with you D’Andy!
In fact what happened was indeed a touch gnarly in places, and certainly felt like thrashing, but Ranmore and Effingham, rather than Peaslake was involved, much to the relief, no doubt, of an absent D’Andy.
At one point it looked like there would be a rare meeting of the three Molefathers for this ride. Dave was out again (in his underwear), making a seldom-seen appearance on a night ride, while MarkJ (MuddyMark on the forum) had tentatively suggested he might join us. As it happened, there was no sign after he was late getting home, but still we had Paul-2 bikes!-M, Kev, Dave, Adam, Darren, Amanda and myself making seven in total. Tony was out riding in circles somewhere, while D’Andy was in a pub.
We had no idea where to go but settled on a ride over to Ranmore and Effingham. I had put in a long ride on the road the night before so wasn’t keen to ride hard, so it was a surprise to find myself up the front with Amanda as we headed over to Polesden, putting in far too much effort to keep up and make conversation at the same time! In the end I had to ask her to ease up…
Even so, the pack were close together and soon I found myself in pole position heading down Hogden Lane to Pamploma which meant I was spared the dust everyone else was choking on behind. It wasn’t a night to be sat at the back.
Still the pace felt on the quick side, with a green Adam looking rather ill round the gills from a week in Spain – he was very quiet tonight! Amanda disappeared up the trail to Ranmore and I wisely decided I couldn’t keep up in the warm evening, sticking with Kev, Darren and Adam. It was brisk but do-able.
At Ranmore we picked up the classic Badger Run and Collarbone which were both lovely and fast – no mud at all, just hard dried ridges meaning the weapon on choice had suspension front and rear tonight; we were motoring where a couple of weeks back it was a 5mph trudge through glue-like mud.
It’s weird how you have to recalibrate when the conditions change. Things that once seemed an effort suddenly come far easier as the trails dry and they really are pretty good at the moment, dust excepted. After Collarbone it was time for Trouble in Paradise which it’s possible to ride nonchalantly, threading through the trees with great pace. The whole evening reminded me of the first D2D we did where you could hold a fast cross-country pace for miles through the Thetford singletrack.
This was helped by my Five feeling in good shape despite still being fitted with MudXs! I’m musing on swapping out the rear for the 2.25 Aspen I have but realise this may doom us all. As those MudXs wear in the summer trails they actually do perform pretty well, their only downside being a slight lack volume for the higher speeds. I certainly didn’t feel any concerns over tyre choice.
Dave took the baton and we motored along the North Downs Way despite Darren putting in a vote for Abba Zabba. With Mayhem on the horizon several Moles seem to be riding quite well at the moment and Dave is one of them; the pace across to the Drovers Road was pretty good with us steamrollering the dried up mud holes which normally swamp this stretch.
Once on the Drovers Road there seemed little point in throttling back so we continued at a canter, the Five feeling like the perfect mile-eater despite its baby sized wheels these days. With PaulM now a 29er convert, and Dave on his 29er it feels like 26ers might soon be in the minority on the Hills. To be fair, for the type of riding round here they would be a first choice for me if I was looking for a quick short-travel full suspension bike.
Onto the Ranmore Road for a short section of tarmac, we picked up the long descent toward Honeysuckle Bottom through Coles Copse. Whoosh!! The trail was empty ahead of me thanks to being at the front and the narrow ribbon of singletrack just visible enough and wide enough to make fast progress possible. It’s a splendidly bonkers descent under flint and brick bridges and spits you out on the Sheepleas Road. You can then take the tarmac past the Fat Controllers house to the Honeysuckle Bottom sawmill and the start of the Impossible Climb.
I’m pretty certain this climb was Possible last night. With my forks wound down I got further up it than I’ve managed before and really thought – just before I span out – that I was going to crack it. I was <
Pretty soon though it was back in the saddle for a fast descent back to the road at Green Dene. My goodness this section is fun! It’s all singletrack, steps, berms and gulleys, hampered somewhat by rampant Rhododendron growth. At one point I found myself ragging it after Adam (even thinking to myself ‘this feels quick’) before getting distracted by bushes covering my line. I very nearly hit a concealed stump – which would have been an endo for sure – and soon after decided to put the bike in the gulley and slow down!
There was no time to catch our breath. Over the road and up onto the Sheepleas tops, by now everyone was in a bit of a groove, pushing up the steeps and hooning the descents. I followed a very fast Dave down the chalky track at high speed before we dog-legged into the trees and – for once – I managed to lead everyone through the dense woods without path finding errors. The result was a nice twisty flow through the singletrack but no badgers were sighted tonight. In the past I’ve practically had one under my front wheel!
So we spat out onto the A246 near Horlsey Towers and rode down toward Conisbee Butchers before turning into Lynx Hill and heading back to Bookham via the bumpy field, Effingham and Bookham Common. Normally this would be simple, non-technical miles and a nice way to unwind after the fun, but special mention must go to Dave who – uncharacteristically perhaps – was steaming along. Quick across the field, then tracking me down to the station and then leading a fast dash across the Common.
In fact I remember following and wondering how he was managing this with a 1×10 setup. No doubt the 29er ups the gearing somewhat but my equivalent gearing on the Five had me in the big ring and in the upper-mid gears at the back. I can still vividly see the dust trail his rear tyre was leaving as I tucked behind while those further back were left to choke!
This is my kind of riding, a good mix of consistent speed, few stops and a bit of technical stuff thrown in. You feel as if you are travelling, rather than just noodling round in circles and the flow felt great.
All too soon – another measure of the unusual pace of the ride – we were finished, with just under 18 miles notched for me, a few of which were flat or tarmac based. Still good fun though and great company on what is turning out to be a bit of a classic night ride route.