Heres a summary report of a few rides we have had during this timeframe.
Sunday 15 May – Big Al’s loop to Holmbury and Leith Hill
This was a great ride where I spent much of the time wondering where the hell I was. Now considering how much time I’ve spent riding round here I was amazed. Briefly we crossed a road near Abinger Bottom and I got my bearings a bit there! It was a hard 30 mile loop in total but extremely enjoyable. We did break a couple of riders though through exhaustion.
Also last Sunday Dandy and DaveW hit Swinley. Luckily Dandy has provided a short and concise summary fo the ride!
Crunch time again at Swinley
Having entertained a couple of ‘Swinley/Tunnel Hill’ locals in our Leith Hill backyard back in March, it was time for the favour to be returned. So at 8am last Sunday, D-Dub and myself joined Dave & Tom over at Tunnel Hill. The plan was to make a decent XC ride over to Swinley, via Porridge Pot Hill and under the M3, and check out the effect of the recent forest fires on one of the South-East’s favourite riding spots.
From the start, we soon found ourselves looking up a pretty steep fire-road climb to the top of the first hill. However, the local mtb’ers have shown a little more imagination than the road builders, and we soon darted off to the side of the uphill track. The trail wound itself serpent-like across the track, gaining height in a series of singletrack switchbacks, that was both more fun and kinder on the legs and lungs. Once at the top, we got to sample some classic Surrey Heath singletrack; think Swinley with fewer riders.
It’s not just flowing singletrack, there’s a few drops and doubles to keep the more adventurous rider entertained. The Daves were soon sampling a five foot drop, though the sloping landing area meant they’d dropped another foot or more by the time they regained contact with terra firma.
Although the weather was sunny but cool, ideal riding conditions in fact, I was finding the pace quite hot as we tracked back and forth and slowly headed Northwards. I got the chance of a breather when my back brake disappeared. The retaining pin had dropped out, and both pads had disappeared! It was at this point that I was cursing my choice of three different brakes on three different bikes. My On-One has Hope Minis, my Pace 405 has Hope X2s, and the Pace 506 has V2s. All three take different shaped pads. I had one set of pads on me, but they weren’t Hope Minis
Using D-Dub’s superior eyes (I can’t tackle close work with my lenses in), we managed to insert my X2 pads and secure them with a zip-tie. They weren’t brilliant, but they did offer some stopping power and gave me a semblance of control. The ride resumed, with a steady pace being maintained as we tracked across the heath land and under the M3.
This was a newish route even for the locals, and we had a few ‘off trail’ moments as we vainly sought out a rideable connecting route. These were interspersed with a few familiar comedy moments as Tom practised not being able to unclip from his new SPDs as we came to a halt. Hands up who hasn’t experienced that ‘Oh ****’ feeling as you slowly topple sideways? He was showing great perseverance though. When I first used SPDs, I spent a pleasant hour in my back garden riding for 5-10 metres then toppling sideways onto the floor, much to the amusement and bemusement of my wife and children.
After a bit more climbing, much of it on singletrack, we crossed the A30 and reached the edge of Swinley Forest. We passed quite a bit of blackened scrubland, before entering the main forest near the Labyrinth. Despite the fact that the fires were only a couple of weeks ago, there was already a lot of bright green bracken shoots poking out of the scorched earth. It also confirms that the main mtb areas have been largely unaffected by the fires.
First off we tackled Deerstalker, then rather than exiting or moving onto the Labyrinth, we snuck up the side of Babymaker to session the tabletops. We all had a great time tackling this 4 or 5 times. I felt the On-One leaving the ground, though I wasn’t able to land it completely on the down slope. Unlike TH Dave, who executed a perfect leap which Tom and I admired as we pushed back up. Unfortunately for Dave, on the following (much smaller) jump, it appeared that he may have landed at an angle and the front wheel washed out dumping him in the dirt.
It was clear he was in a bit of pain, but as he got his breath back he was thinking he might have dislocated his shoulder. Although not a medical man, Tom knows a thing or two about dislocated shoulders having experienced it a couple of times, and he volunteered to put Dave’s back in for him. However, from the way Dave was moving his arm up, down and around, it was pretty clear that it wasn’t dislocated.
What was worrying was the large lump appearing on the collarbone. After the initial ‘natural anaesthetic’ that the body provides after a serious injury had worn off, it was clear that Dave was definitely ‘extremely uncomfortable’. We wheeled the bikes out and regrouped on the fire track, and we decided it was time to call the ranger. Dave managed to find the number via a smart phone, and I have added the number at the end of this ride report. While we waited, we cheered Dave up with a selection of horror stories gained from all our past experiences of broken limbs!
I also thought this was an opportunity to make a ridiculously low offer for his new Cube Stereo, on the grounds that he was probably falling out of love with mtb’ing at this point and I fancy a lighter bouncer than my ‘burly’ Pace 506, for more trail-oriented rides. Unfortunately the other 2 prevented me from taking advantage of a man in distress, doh!
Dave also remembered he had a triangular bandage in his pack, as by this time his shoulder was really starting to hurt and his arm needed supporting. It seemed like the Camelback goblins must have eaten the bandage, as there was no sign of it. Luckily for Dave, my aged and fading brain synapses are still firing sufficiently that I was able to dredge up a piece of advice offered by Danielle of Astounding Adventures. I recalled from a one day session with her and Jess in early 2010, that she suggested a buff was always a handy item of clothing to keep in the backpack. Not only will it keep your neck warm and can be turned into a hat (or a fetching pirate-style bandana if you have my origami skills); but more importantly, it also makes a handy improvised sling for shoulder injuries.
The bad news for Dave was that the only buff we had was the one tied in a fetching pirate-style bandana under my helmet. As we had been riding for over 2 hours, this item was now soaked with perspiration (only horses sweat). Clearly he was in considerable pain, as he was very happy to drape this sodden item of clothing around his neck and place his arm in a more comfortable position. Top tip, Danielle; and Moles will be pleased to know that a spare is now permanently kept in my back pack, so should the worst happen you won’t have to suffer quite as much as Dave.
The ranger appeared after 20 minutes or so, and from the copy of MBUK lurking in the back of his truck, it was clear he was likely to be sympathetic to Dave’s plight. We decided it was easier to call an ambulance to the Look-Out, where the ranger was taking Dave and his bike, rather than trying to organise family to collect him and get him to the hospital. The ranger took all the required details, including Tom’s so that he could collect Dave’s bike later with the minimum of hassle.
Unfortunately for us, Dave was the guide for the day, with Tom confessing to have little more than a vague idea of our route back. Luckily, D-Dub had been sneakily recording the route on his Satmap, so we took advantage of its ‘reverse route’ functionality, and, err, reversed the route.
Although some of the descents could not be ridden in reverse, what were climbs on the way out were now great little descents as we headed back to Tunnel Hill. Tom also provided us with some more SPD-related comedy moments; I made it 4 in total, plus a fine ‘save’ courtesy of a panicky grab at my saddle as we stopped to consider the route home. We’d been out for around 4 hours, and we covered about 20 miles, with 1250m of climbing. We’d had a fair amount of stoppage time courtesy of missing brake pads, injury, and scratching of heads as we worked our way back.
Finally, when I got home I made sure I got a set of pads for each of my brakes and stowed them in my backpack (along with the spare bandana).
Good luck, Dave, and I hope it’s not too painful and that you get mobile soon.
Injury update – D-Dub tells me that Dave had his collarbone break confirmed, and unfortunately the Doc said it’s quite a bad one, as we suspected after seeing a knuckle of sharp bone pushing against his skin! He is being seen again on Thursday, when they should know whether he will need a plate
The protocol for calling the ranger out is to call the Lookout Discovery Centre on 01344 354 409, give them your location and mobile number and they call the ranger. Don’t phone 999 as they won’t know where you are, how to get to you or which hospital’s area you are in.
A very unusual event where the three founding Molefathers actually got out for a ride together. Tarmac and 700c tyres were involved though, so we can’t dwell on that here!!
Sunday 22 May
10 Moles hit the trails again for a loop to Holmbury. This was more direct but we still covered some 28-30 miles so maybe not quite as direct as it was intended or maybe I just got the wrong idea. Ian joined us for the first time this year and left a destroyed man, exhausted and cramped up. Eeeek.
Secret Squirrel, whatever the trail to the left of Yoghurt Pots is called and Barry Knows Best all were in excellent condition, much improved by the damping shower early that morning. The interconnecting trails also made for great riding. JamesS briefly joined us and Jem roared over to meet us for tea. Some discussion outside the Peaslake Village store about not holding another man’s cheese straw is probably best forgotten.
There were probably other rides during the week and it’s probably fair to say that the Moles are getting quicker, but if you do fancy joining a ride, probably best to check in advance to we don’t land you with a 30 miler!