Well this report feels like it’s been a long time coming! Probably at least a couple of months since I can’t remember the last time I went out on a night ride. With quite a few of us Moles suffering illness, work, winter blues and can’t-be-ar5ed stress things have tailed off for our regular night rides.
Hopefully, we’re back.
This week was a pretty good turnout with Ray bringing four of his mates along for a taste of the Surrey Hills. They included Mark, John, Steve and Greg (I think I got the names right), plus we had JamesH, DaveW and D’Andy all out for the first time in ages. So that made nine of us.
The trails last Sunday had been pretty dry so I was expecting more of the same (that’s ‘cos I’m now running MudX’s!) but it turned out to be the dryest I’ve seen since the glorious days of last summer. Thanks to the highish winds we’ve had the trails were bone dry; I didn’t even have to wash the bike when I got in. So Ray and his mates got dead lucky – the place is often a swamp at this time of year.
We headed off through Wiggly Wood, a cheeky little taster of the trails we had in store. Ominously the pack stayed close behind me and I soon found I was better off letting some of the faster ones go, particularly up the Tanners climb. First we headed down toward Chapel Farm before veering right and picking up the old Polesdon driveway before spitting out onto the Tanners track up past the Youth Hostel.
I had in mind a decent trek and was soon looking for excuses to throttle back on the climb while Ray’s mates disappeared ahead of me. I wasn’t worried, some people are faster, some people are slower and that was fine by me. I definitely still feel relatively unfit compared to last year but feel myself improving week by week.
At the top we made for Badger Run before turning downhill onto the Land Rover descent. I could feel DaveW tracking me down the escarpement even though I thought I was going plenty fast enough. Along with Tony (who was, er, eating sausage last night I think [!]), DaveW and myself are now both running Crest rims on Pro2 hubs and there’s a definite improvement in responsiveness using them.
At the bottom we waited while the others arrived, I think everyone enjoyed that one as with dry roots it felt so grippy. Then it was on toward The Rookery, stopping briefly for Ray to finally kill the squealing racket emanating from his front brake. At the same time, Mark realised his back wheel was pretty much free in its dropouts, thank God that hadn’t parted company with his bike on Land Rover!
The Rookery climb was painful for us all but offered no real technical challenge, just lots of effort. After getting our breath back we climbed on up Wolverns Lane. I had the luxury of leading and so could pick my lines, once more with an enthusiastic DaveW behind me. Gradually my advantage of being at the front paid off, plus I had a bit of luck in not stalling anywhere as I cleaned section after section. Definitely those wheels…
We split left before the trail up to Summer Lightning and started our drop back to Westcott, picking up the obscure singletrack that many would miss. Luckily we didn’t and we soon picked up speed on the twisting trails, heading toward Pinball, the long gulley that can quickly have you bouncing off one side or the other as you try to navigate your way down.
Immediately before that the ground drops from a small jump and it’s very easy to carry far too much speed into the gulley. Fortunately I stayed on but it was a close thing but the whoops coming from behind me told their own story.
Shortly after that a brick lined turn brought us onto a short section of singletrack and then out onto a bridlepath. Using the road and several more bridlepaths to get a nice bit of flow into the ride, we eventually spat out into Westcott village opposite the green and crossed over, headed back to Ranmore.
By now we’d managed to set a pretty intense speed round some challenging terrain and I hung back with D’Andy for a chat as we made our way up Mediterranean while the others disappeared ahead. As we neared the top D’Andy suggested we took in ‘And Then There Were Three’ on our way back down through Denbies, so after hauling ourselves up and past the church we regrouped in readiness for the descent.
Shamefully it’s only the second time I’ve been down here and I hung back to let more skilled riders show me the way. I ended up following DaveW and D’Andy down into the first roller coaster dip, clearing the mass of roots at the top which gave me a lot more confidence. Stepping the bike over logs, interspersed with flowy singletrack which speeds up as it gradually opens up before you, this is a cracking trail.
After rolling down to the A24 we parted from Ray, Mark and John who still had a tramp over to Langley Vale (they’d ridden over to join us!) via Stane Street. I was glad to be headed back to be honest and reckon those with me were starting to feel a lack of go-go beans too.
We finished with a climb up through Norbury Park and a simple but very fast run down past the Saw Mill and home to Bookham. Slightly later than usual (it was about 10:30) but I think we made the absolute most of the summer-like conditions, covering around 20 miles.
Today it rained and it looks like more rain is coming but I reckon the trails will hold up for a while. It’s good to be back riding.