Last night was a reasonably late finish (at 10:20PM) after a fairly hard ride across the North Downs that took in the delights of Alsation (uphill), Gear Selecta!, the Brockham descent and a China Pig finale. It might have been all the time we stood around chatting in between that accounted for that!
We started with a nicely sized group of nine, made up of Colin, Mark, D’Andy, DaveW (curating a Swinley chin scab), JamesH, ‘Lord’ Jez Ma-jey, JohnR, PaulM and myself. I’d been turning over a choice of three routes in my head all day but finally settled on the Brockham one as we set off up Crabtree Lane.
At the top we stopped for a chat with Cathie and friend, who was out on a taster ride. Of course, I had to point out we were the hardcore group in case there was any more doubt than usual after D’Andy’s rather fine ‘helllooooo!). I think he was momentarily confused at seeing Cathie’s new bike which has been pimped almost as hard as his own unique steed!
Getting underway again we soon passed Hannah and a group of friends; it seemed that everyone was out last night! Anyway, we headed toward Bockett’s, taking The Thickett (the overgrown and twisty cheeky footpath DaveC showed us) down before picking up the singletrack alongside the big field. It was a warm evening (20°+) and we were soon nicely warmed up.
Round the back of Thorncroft, those of us at the back choking on dust, then it was time to start on the Alsation climb. I normally crank this out at a brisk but not super-fast pace but tonight I felt the pressure of being the first up, so turned up the wick.
By the time I reached the top, only John was behind me and I suspect he may have been able to go a touch faster; even so we;d both pulled a good lead on the rest and had time to get our breath back as we waited.
Inevitably it seemed at every rest point last night we managed to extend the time with lots of chat, showing what a good bunch of folks we have riding with us these days. Eventually we pressed on, up past Tyrells and then round onto Headley.
After a brief play on the bombholes there DaveW offered to show us Rob’s Alternative Route across the Heath which turned out to be an absolute blast of twisty singletrack with lots of up and down gradient and a nice flow to it. After several riders came to grief grabbing non-existent gears on the final climb James suggested we call the trail Gear Selecta! which sounds great to me if it’s not already been gifted a name by Rob.
I managed to pick up some lovely dog mess on my tyres as we made our way onward toward High Ashurst which I took the trouble to attempt to clean off despite some less than constructive comments from the others (!), before we carried on toward the road.
The final gravelly descent followed by a sharp ‘up’ had me braking into the uphill turn for the first time I can remember as the Orange was flying last night. I was quite surprised!
The Brockham descent was next on the agenda, all of us know this so we just rolled straight on down with me at the front. It might be familiar but it’s still a dangerous run with gulleys and roots (plus a big tree Colin!) to negotiate safely before the final 50 yards of rooty stutter bumps threatens to hurl you off to a painful crash in the trees. Fortunately we got down in one piece but not without some dramas.
Round the back of Brockham, across the golf course and a River Mole crossing near the nursery led us onto the climb back up to the Best Western Steak House. I really like this climb, it’s not particularly arduous (except the wobble along the edge of the field at the start) and the views south to Brockham and beyond are stunning on a still summer’s evening.
A the top you’re rewarded with a half mile of twisting singletrack that’s entered via a steep, rooty section. I rode it confidently last night so it’s possible I’m starting to get ‘into’ the Nobby Nics I’m now running but then again, conditions are super dry too.
Crossing the road we had China Pig in front of us. Half the group sped off while the rest of us spent a few minutes substituting one of my excellent Four4th lights for Jez’s L&M unit which had a dead battery. PaulM was also using my other Four4th unit on his helmet so I had to make do with just my Exposure MaXx-D on the bars. It limited me on the twists of China Pig but I think the guys we quite impressed with the Four4th lights.
They certainly sped off at a rate of knots while I played myself in carefully to a trail I know can bite, especially as fatigue starts to kick in toward the end. Sure enough, I started to catch them near the log obstacle which the Orange handles just fine. I enjoyed the ride all the way down, forced to brake sharply at times as the Exposure couldn’t light it’s way round the tight twists but generally everything felt perfect.
Reaching to road the group started to split, Paul off to Dorking while Colin headed up onto Stane Street and I suspect a quick run down Alsation. The rest of us carried on to Norbury where Mark split for Fetcham which meant just six of us remained to haul ourselves up to the sawmill. Tellingly, we stayed on the tarmac all the way up!
Once there we could feel the end in sight so after a fast blast downa dn up the chalky bridleway to Roaring House Farm it was back to the garage. Another highly enjoyable ride under the wheels, another 18 miles or so for me and a good mix of fast and hard riding with gentler paced effort. Lovely.