Six of us made it for the slightly delayed start time of 9am, delayed due to a number of Christmas Celebrations on Saturday night. Joining me were Dave ‘D-Dub’, Elliot, Karl .. os Fandango, James S and JR. After some indecision over the precise route, we opted for ‘View to a kill’ and ‘Petrol Pump’ as the preferred route to Albury, before climbing the dreaded Water Lane to Newlands Corner.
Conditions were reasonably good initially, though despite the widespread frost most of the trails were already softening in the watery winter sunshine. The climb from the Youth Hostel up to Ranmore Common took its toll on Karl and myself who were paying a penance for our previous night’s partying by riding our single-speeds. We opted for the top half of ‘Wire in the blood’, though D-Dub inadvertently started on the second half as his mud-caked tyres refused to stop him in time. Mud-caked became the norm for all of us, as ‘Collarbone’ proved to be particular sticky. Although I remained upright, the conditions were defeating my new Maxxis Chronicle’s ability to retain any grip; with the rear’s Bontrager XR Mud faring little better.
Karl and Elliot showed us the way over the log roll on Trouble in Paradise, and we continued on a fairly direct route to pick up the North Downs Way and the start of ‘Petrol Pump’. At this point, Karl had had enough of his ‘double mudguard’ approach to keeping his ar5e clean, and modified his .. err .. elegant solution back to a single mudguard approach.
I managed to lose my way on ‘Petrol Pump’, dragging James with me through the undergrowth, and it seems a few others also struggled to see the exact route with the amount of leaf litter covering the ground. The trail was holding up quite well, given the conditions. We then made our way around the back of Shere, with Elliot leading us on the fast and fun bridleway descent into Albury.
Karl and I struggled up Water Lane, as the four ‘geared’ riders disappeared into the distance. For me, the reward for making it to the café was a large bacon roll along with the free mince pies being offered. Given our late start, and with various time constraints to be met, we opted for the direct route back along the NDW. After the obligatory laps of the concrete bowl, we said good-bye to James who opted for the road route home via Combe Lane, Green Dene and the A246.
As the Byway section ended, we encountered a police Land Rover, with the policeman wrapping ‘Police Aware’ tape around the damaged gate at the end of the Byway. It seems it’s the fourth time this year that the gate has been forced open by off-roaders who want to drive along the non-Byway section. Apparently, it’s £1,500 a time to replace the gate, which as Council Tax payers we will pay for !
Returning via Yew Trees Farm and the ‘Two Bridges’ climb, we had a minor delay while Karl attended to a few chain issues, before heading back to Bocketts. Though for JR and myself it was a quick diversion into Bookham for a reviving coffee at Domestique. An excellent way to blow away the party cobwebs, with around 40km covered and 700m climbed.