It’s 6:45 and I still haven’t got myself or my bike ready for tonight’s ride. Lurking in the garage is a sorry looking Inbred which has had little more than a cursory clean from it’s last ride, mud still streaking the fork legs. It’s problem is the chain tensioner. My limited mechanical skills meant it played up badly on my ride home from work last Friday, with the chain hopping off and the slack causing it to slip and strip teeth off my Middleburn chainring. Grrr!
An attempted bit of fettlage on Saturday has improved things in an NHS kind of way. As in a lot of time spent but no real progress. In fact, if anything the tensioner now has less tension than a housewife on Prozac. I on the otherhand am not happy, but after a bit more fiddling, a quick change of clothes into my overhot but mud shielding biblongs (they’re not tights!) and a lot of equipment faffage I’m underway, heading toward the garage.
Within a 100 yards I’ve dropped the chain; then again; then once more. By the time I’m halfway I’m creeping along trying to keep some positive tension on the chain through smooth peddling and thinking that maybe tonight might be finished before we get underway. Fortunately, once at the garage DaveC and Tony (my crack team of bicycle-repair men) snap into action. The problem is threefold. No spring tension because I need a cone spanner to adjust this; a slipping spring which needs pliers to bend out so the spring stub can locate in the tensioner body; and a badly mashed cage on the jockey wheel which keeps catching on the chain.
After many minutes of attention, giving the chance for other riders to roll up for the ride, Tony and DaveC have applied their collective experience to the problem and a fix is in place. I’m not sure how I’ll feel standing up and mashing the pedals tonight but we’re ready to go. The group by now consisted of DaveC, Tony, JohnR, DaveW, MattS and myself.
In all the confusion though I have no idea where we’re headed! At the top of Crabtree we prefer Wiggly Wood to the Admirals Track as it’s become clear why it’s called that. It’s underwater at the moment! So Wiggly Wood it is. There’s an inch or so of draggy clay all along here now which makes it a decent warm up even though we have to stop and clear the trail of small logs which have been placed across the track too large (just) to hop over. Either a disgruntled walker or someone looking to spice up their ride.
I’m still suffering somewhat with the tensioner cage which continues to catch on the chain links meaning a quarter turn of the pedals now and then to free it up but we head on in spite of this toward Polesdon. There’s plenty more mud but I don’t mind this sort which at least provides entertainment correcting slides. It’s the rain I’ve grown to loathe but tonight it’s dry.
By the time we reach the Polesdon estate we decide to renew our acquaintance with the tensioner cage with Tony taking the pliers to it. After a short fettlage session he manages a bodge which saw me fine for the rest of the ride as my confidence in it gradually grew. As we sarted onto the Tanners slog I could even stand on the pedals without worry even though I had to ride ‘piano’ as the roadies say (‘pianissimo’ to the Italians or ‘gently’ for the rest of us). As the climb dragged on I slowly started to pass riders until finally I’d left DaveW and the others behind and had a clear view ahead of… well, mist, mud and slurry really from the recent logging activity.
Even so I reached Ranmore first, a distance ahead of the others. It was my only triumph of the evening! By the time we’d regrouped and thought about LandRover, John suggested heading down McPhersons instead and on to Dorking. Not having tried this at night we all agreed and had quite an ‘interesting’ time on the chalky gully down McPhersons before turning onto the trackway down to Dorking West station. At the end, a short run through the trees brought us back out onto the road after sampling typical Surrey riding at this time of year. Mud, chalk and roots, what’s not to like?
Shortly John guided us onto the Denbies estate near where James May built his Lego house recently and then we were passing the Denbies B&B. I wonder what the residents thought of our powerful lights illuminating their conservatory as they sat there in post-prandial repose?
There was more climbing ahead of us as the group decided a honk up Box Hill was in order. DaveC bailed out at this stage but the rest of us carried on. DaveW and myself had to stand on the pedals all the way up, he and John disappeared into the distance while I concentrated on slowly (oh-so-slowly) catching up with Tony. I was paying for that Tanners blast!
By the time the top was breached, John estimated his time at 8:50 or so while my singlespeed effort was about 15 seconds or so further back, which wasn’t bad; in fact I’d have been quite pleased if DaveW hadn’t had time to get to the top and catch his breath by the time I arrived! Good effort Dave.
A short debate enabled John to once again determine we would head back down Juniper Tops. I haven’t been down here before but we’ve slogged up it a few times most notably during the frosty days of New Year. It’s a hard climb but heading down had it’s own challenges. I followed what appeared to be Land Rover tyre tracks which was fine until they petered out leaving me at a bit of a loss. Given that I was travelling at speed and leading the peloton it was more than disconcerting especially as I hit the soggy clay at the bottom. Thankfully we were soon back on familiar ground allowing me to gloss over my confusion.
From Juniper Bottom we were just a short distance from home via a tarmac run through Mickleham and then up and over Norbury Hill. I hate this climb but it’s a hell of a lot better with company compared to my Friday commute. I rarely come this way but last week tried it to get some variety to my riding; on my own I suffered a very painful lesson in shorter (distance wise) isn’t always better.
All that remained was a roll down the other side from the sawmill and a short climb up to Downs Way where we all parted after notching 14 miles or so. A bit down on mileage for a night ride but quite enough to keep the fitness levels up. Within days the shortest day will be behind us and we can start looking forward to New Year and lighter evenings again so every little helps really.