Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole ValleyMuddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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Ride report: Wednesday 6 January – Snow

Posted by Matt | January 6, 2010 | 10 comments so far

Snowymoles at Headley
Best. Night ride. Ever!

Well, certainly it was different as we tackled the deep, freshly fallen snow that is currently blanketing this little corner of Surrey. Despite temperatures well below zero we also managed to stay pretty warm until the increasingly slippery conditions brought our work rate down later in the ride.

Early enthusiasm across the Mole clan dwindled to just four riders stupid enough to ride out from the garage as usual. As I cycled up the road, which offered surprisingly good grip for my Specialized Storm tyres despite looking like sheet ice, I found Tony and together we made our way to the petrol station where Jem was waiting.

The biggest difficulty from the conditions was the heaped snow and slush near the side of the road, on the compacted snow/ice it was fine. Unless you tried to walk on it of course. Even so I wasn’t one to take chances tonight with both elbows and knees well padded.

Shortly after we were joined by Barrie on his singlespeed (as I was) and we were ready to depart. Jem suggested a circular route around the Norbury and Headley area and we were off.

Riding up Crabtree Lane we passed a group of people digging driveways and cars out of the snow. Not for the last time tonight we probably seemed slightly mad to be heading out but it wasn’t that bad. Honest!

But it was a relief to get onto the hills and off the road. Wiggly Wood seemed the obvious choice and it soon became apparant that it was going to be hard going. At least the snow reflected our lights giving great visibility for us. Wiggly Wood seems to have become a bit of a stand-off point for mountain bikers and walkers recently, with lots of logs placed across the track to slow riders.

I guess it is a footpath (though I doubt it’s any more ‘official’ than a deer track) but walkers seem to have decided to draw a line in the Surrey mud. We only tend to ride it at night anyway and can’t be ar*ed with the hassle but those logs are a bit of a pain, even though most are ridable. Tonight it was largely academic anyway as the snow smoothed off all the major lumps and there was no-one else around anyway.

Past here and heading along our usual track to Polesdon the snow proved increasingly hard going, being probably about 8 or 9 inches of cover in lots of places. Very difficult to keep the bike pointing in the right direction and almost impossible to keep momentum going as any attempt to freewheel brought immediate slowing. The key to the conditions seemed to be to keep rolling and float over the snow as much as possible rather than slow down and sink in.

It sure was fun as we all slipped and slid our way along. Soon we reached the turn-off to the cottage at the end of Crabtree Lane and off we went again, quickly reduced to a walk and push in the deep snow. Unfortunately this also meant cleats getting clogged with snow — if you have flat pedals and appropriate shoes you’ll probably find these best suited to the conditions than SPDs.

Eventually rolling again we headed down Crabtree to Westhumble, a scary descent on the snow covered tarmac that had us tensing and skidding all over the place. It’s true though that spinning wheels tend to want to stay upright and we made it to the bottom with just Jem taking a tumble.

By now it was clear the slush and snow was starting to freeze hard. A deserted A24 greeted us as we passed the Burford Bridge and started on the road to Mickleham. Our intention was to climb up over the Gallops. Passing another group of people staring disconsolately at their marooned vehicles it was worth reflecting that our one-wheel-drive transport was serving us pretty well.

That was until we tried to tackle the Gallops climb which saw us managing 30 yards before Tony suggested we headed up to Headley along the ‘little Switzerland’ road instead. Soon we were back on the more predictable road, working our way steadily uphill.

Although largely grippy, I was still caught out twice and dumped on my backside when the bike suddenly slipped from under me. Thankful for the padding I had on I was nevertheless abruptly jarred by the falls. Standing up made me realise the road was lethally slippery but then, I wasn’t trying to walk it was I?! I was soon back on the saddle and riding with Barrie while Tony and Jem stopped to help a BMW driver park his car by the roadside. For him at least the road was impassable.

For us, well, we kept going. Round the Nower Wood loop and up to the Tyrells Wood car park through very deep snow which proved very tiring, then we started our descent to Leatherhead via Alsation.

Near the normally claggy mud alongside the golf course Barrie was bounced clear off his bike by the frozen ruts while Tony managed to steer into the side of the trail (‘…I was going fine until I hit the tree!’) and bit further along. By the time we started Alsation proper it was clear that it wouldn’t be a night for jumping the roadway.

I led the way and had the luxury of a clear view ahead. I pedalled all the way down as every time I stopped I immediately started to slow down. Relatively of course, it wasn’t a fast descent but even so was quite a blast. There’s even a snowman with a holly crown standing right next to the roadway. I don’t think I imagined that…

As we came out onto the A24 again it was bizarre to see it still essentially empty bar the occasional vehicle. It does make crossing it much easier though. Heading down toward Thorncroft past Michael Caine’s house the earlier slush and snow had by now frozen solid. I had a bit of a wobble before Tony passed me doing his best speedway turn on the final corner.

Here we parted from Barrie and then dropped Tony off at the Leisure Centre while Jem and I slogged the final couple of miles toward Bookham. Up past the Thorncroft Vines was hard going but we started to get into a steady rhythm before climbing the last hill up from Bockett’s Farm.

All in all, 13 miles of snowy fun in difficult but not impossible conditions. It’s not every day you get to ride this stuff and I heartily recommend it. Not that I’d want it to be like this all the time but it does remind of just how awesome Jill from Up In Alaska really is!

Filed under Rides in January 2010

Matt

About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years he's now running a YT Industries Jeffsy 29er and a Bird AM Zero Boost.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 10 comments on ‘Ride report: Wednesday 6 January – Snow’

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  1. Dominic says:

    Think I am out tonight, I have been cycling to work everyday so far and i must say it seems easier and quicker than driving. Justget the occasional car going sideways to avoid.

    Am also going to be a dad in Febuary so not getting out as much as usual but do hope to join you lot for a ride soon…..

    Dom

  2. tony says:

    It was a slightly mad ride.

    From overtaking 4×4’s on the way up to the start and avoiding the shiny parts of the road.

    Meeting the guy in the BMW at Little Switzerland – what was he thinking of? He had no chance of getting up the hill. He didn’t have a clue how to drive, plus fat tyres and an auto? A sleep in the car or the Burford Bridge for him last night I think.

    Then riding up to Headley chatting to Jem. Suddenly noticing he wasn’t next to me and turning to see that his front wheel had just went.

    The ride down from the Nower car park where you couldn’t see the ruts in the snow (Barrie).

    Finally the cold. They reckoned -7 to -8 for us last night. I could beleive that since my water bottle turned “slush puppy” after about 30mins and was almost frozen soild by the time I got back.

  3. Mark says:

    Chaps,

    Hats off to the four of you. You are obviously all completely mad!

    I “ummed and arred” about it for most of the afternoon, then looked at the snow, the icy road surface and the weather report telling of -7 temperatures and thought that I would either, fall off my bike and kill myself or freeze to death.

    Cheers

    Mark

  4. Markymark says:

    I couldnt even get my 2.5ltr diesel 5-cyclinder low-torquing beast van out of our side road in Ewell Village, so top marks for carving out a 13 mile trail in 8 inches of (absolute quaLi’tay) powder. Two-wheel man-power rules. It’s been a while but hope to join you guys again soon – i still need lights for mid-week.

  5. Matt says:

    ‘will be a dad in February’… not long now then Dom, hopefully we’ll see you before then.

    MarkJ & Markmark – it was a blast! It was actually far easier to stay upright on the bike than walking to be honest. Plenty of warm layers and it was toasty.

    My HRM reckons I peaked at 184bpm and burned 1690 calories so well worth it. All that was missing was a hip flask.

    Tony, my Camelbak mouthpiece kept going crunchy too. Maybe the hip flask should be added to my list of essentials for winter riding?

  6. tony says:

    You probably used twice the number of calories that you would have done on a standard ride.

    Fatherhood must be catching. Fair play to Barrie for getting out last night with a week old little one at home too.

  7. James says:

    Well done guys, I really wanted to come but decided not too as I had to drive from Kingston and by the sound of it I made the correct decision. Sounds like the white stuff will be around for a while. Catch up soon, cheers for the call Matt 😉

  8. Bazza says:

    Cheers guys for last night, what a lot of fun and too many nearly off’s to count!… it was hard work last night but great to be out in it. It was so quiet out there, even coming back through Leatherhead was like a ghost town.

    Cheers Tony the little one is doing well and Mrs R too, so she said get yourself out, which scored her massive brownie points, which I am sure will have to be paid back with interest!…

  9. Andy C says:

    Throw in a few nips from that the hip flask, Matt, and the snowman would have seemed to come alive and have helped you across the road! I will try and remember my freebie Singletrack hip flask for Sunday. Cooking brandy to top up the hot drink? Or a single malt for savouring on its own? It’s even harder than working out what to wear.

    I was also intending to get out last night, but decided to drive down to Abergavenny when the temp was still around zero rather than face the sub-zero icy roads at 6am this morning.

    Hope to make it on Sunday.

  10. Orange Roo says:

    Sounds absolutely awesome! There’s nothing better than getting out in the powder & much more grip than you might expect.

    Hope to catch a ride with DaveW & the Moles again soon but have been coping with 24`C in Vietnam for the week!

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