Single-speeds 2 – Gears 1
Sunday was always going to have a ‘single-speed heavy’ presence, given the rain that has been falling, as the Moles try to preserve what’s left of their drive chains for the summer (guffaw).
Assembling in glorious morning sunshine, we had Elliot, Chris and (fanfare of trumpets) Colin, representing the geared fraternity. Colin and Elliot represented the extremes of our sport, with Elliot aboard his Salsa Beargrease fat bike, and Colin on his narrow-tyred Whyte cyclo-cross machine. Manning up were myself (naturally 😉 ), Big Al (who had parked near Coldharbour and ridden over to Bocketts), DaveC, Karl, Kev and Lee. Leith Hill was our chosen destination and refreshment stop.
I was again entrusted with route leading, so naturally after ten minutes or so the group had managed to split in two and lose each other. I felt certain I’d told everyone that we were turning right half way down the descent from Bookham Wood to Bagden Farm, in order to pass Polesden Lacey and arrive at Ranmore Common via the more SS-friendly Yew Trees climb. The message clearly hadn’t reached everyone, and only five of us made it to the Chapel Lane crossing. With no phone signals reaching Bagden Farm, for the second week running we slogged up the Tanners Hatch climb on the single-speeds. Happily the group were reunited at the top.
Land Rover was our route off the ridge; and it was a buttock-clenching, white knuckle ride for me as my cheapo mechanical discs gave up entirely at the back. The front set were able to slow me down, but there was no way they were going to bring me to a halt should I find a tree across the trail.* Thankfully everyone made it down in one piece. Wolverns Lane was next, which meant the Rookery climb to get there. Kudos to Kev and Lee who made it to the top without a ‘tactical pause’.
We said goodbye to Al at the junction on Wolverns Lane, as we headed through Simon’s Copse and down into the hamlet of Broadmoor. Our route to Leith Hill was a surprisingly SS-friendly, mud-free route; taking us past the end of ‘Windy Willow’ and up to the tower. By this time, refreshments were very welcome indeed. We said goodbye to Chris at this point, as he opted for a more leisurely return to our start point.
Given the work that’s taking place on the Summer Lightning extension, we took the direct route down from the tower, opting for the right hand bridlepath taking us up towards the cricket pitch. On the way we sampled some of the new trails. Nice work, trail pixies. Avoiding the taped off areas, we reached ‘Deliverance’. Various options were selected, as each rider sought out their preferred route to Waggledance and Summer Lightning. As ever, the return down Wolverns Lane was great fun, and I selflessly pointed out the best route by blundering into heavy mud created by the churning wheels of the 4 x 4s, while everyone following me headed in the opposite direction.
By this time, the legs of the SS-ers were feeling the effects of the 20-odd miles we’d covered so far. High Med and Golden Nugget were quickly dispatched, leaving only the final climb to Polesden Lacey and Connicut Lane. I said my goodbyes and headed down into Bookham, leaving the remainder to tackle the Admirals Track’s puddles. My final stats were approx. 40k covered with 800m of elevation, all completed in a glorious morning’s sunshine, as the pictures illustrate.
*Thanks to Dave for the advice to buy the Shimano Deore discs from Merlin for £67.50. They have now been fitted.
The Pen (knife) is mightier than the Saw
Taking advantage of a predicted dry morning, Tony and myself met at 8am for a 90 minute blast around Mickleham and Norbury. Predictably, I got into an argument with a walker; equally predictably, Alsatian was a ‘dog’ to climb (I suspect that has been cracked before), with the rear wheel scrabbling for grip after the weeks of rain.
A fun blast along Stane Street took us up to the Gallops and we headed off to the ‘Bat Cave’. On the way up to the Gallops, Tony had been discussing his recent wood chopping purchases, comprising of a large axe (which he’d understandably left at home), and a flexible saw (which he had stashed in his pack). We were delighted to stumble across a tree blocking the route, and before I could unclip Tony had leapt off his bike and was uncoiling the (Chuck Norris –style) flexible garrotting device (aka saw).
Disappointingly, one of the end handles was missing, and after a while we gave up on the saw approach and reverted to Plan B, the serrated blade of my Swiss Army knife. After a couple of minutes, by which time I’d worked up a fair sweat, we decided we could now break the branch with our combined weight on the weakened cut. We both felt like prize plonkers when the branch snapped away from the trunk where it had split from the tree. Oh well, it gave us a chance to play with our toys.
After a fine run down the Bat Cave, we headed back up Stane Street for Snail/TNP. Again, this was great fun, as much because of the two wheel drifts rather despite them. We were both lucky not to slide into the gate at the end of the Snail, as we cadence-braked desperately on the chalky slope. Across the A24 and up to Norbury, before a fine run down Infestation and on to the delights of the Cova Coffee Shop in Bookham. 20k and 400m climbed in 90 minutes of riding time.