Riding up to the usual meeting point at Hylands garage on a freezing cold evening with the threat of snow in the wind and clad in 53 layers of finest Merino wool base layers, 3 buffs, 2 pairs of gloves and a pair of Roadie overshoes, I met with only a couple of other riders brave enough to venture out from the warmth and comfort of home!
Hopping up and down by their cars trying to keep exposure at bay were Big Al and Ned (who usually rides with the Tunnel Hill Trolls) so without hanging about we set off with a loosely formed plan to ride “mostly” uphill in order to keep warm.
After a long dark winter it felt great to begin a ride in daylight and minimal lights were needed for the first few miles. A quick spin up and over Fetcham Downs and a noodle through the woods saw us spill out at the foot of the forest before climbing up to the top of Norbury Park. Following the bridleway up past the house and on towards the mobile phone masts put us out onto the fast downhill section towards Mickleham before I decided to hang a sharp right and duck back into the woods for a bit of a cheeky trail detour.
The trails were running dry and firm after all the arctic temps, frost and cold NE winds (MarkyMark, ex MTB’er and now Darkside Lycra clad addict can elaborate further on NE winds and their far reaching benefits to the planet and bikers in particular) and it was great to let the brakes go and the tyres roll without squirming around in the usual mud and Surrey hills clag! There is an inappropriate comment I could insert here about dry conditions, courtesy of our own Gok Mole but I am gonna keep this clean.
After a brief bit of tarmac up past Mickleham Church we rolled on down to the bottom of the flinty bridleway to begin the climb up to the cafe at the top of Boxhill. Big Al settled into his usual rigid singlespeed mode of standing up the whole way (dont know why he needs a saddle really as he never seems to be on it) and I settled in behind him with Ned for the long and painful grind to the top. It seemed like a slow slog to me and the legs felt dead but Strava said otherwise so I was surprised to see a PR for that climb even if it was a whole light year off the pace of some other Moles when uploading the stats from my Garmin! It just shows that sometimes your body feels rubbish but somehow you seem to make good progress, although all these things are relative and who really gives a Monkees anyway? Well quite a few do actually 🙂
Summiting the top of Boxhill the temperature had dropped and the cold wind was really biting as light snow flurries blew past so we headed into the trees and across to the Smith and Western pub then onto the road to take the right hand bridleway that shoots down the South side of Boxhill towards the Dorking road. This was a fast dry hooning session down the chalky trail and over the roots avoiding the big tree in the middle of the trail 2/3rds of the way down. I even saw a hint of trail dust being kicked up in my lights, remarkable, trail dust? What’s going on? Could this be … Nah forget it, summer is a long way away 🙁
We arrived at the bottom grinning and intact and then proceeded to lose the plot and traversed back and forth a couple of times like blind lemmings while looking for the trail back up to rear of the Smith and Western. Sadly we chose a trail to the East that climbed back up to the Box Hill road and what a killer climb this turned out to be. We have ridden down this before and it should never ever be ridden up, although Ned seemed to be the only one with the legs and gears to spin his way up to the top while Al and myself cussed part of the way up on foot, having had traction and gearing issues on the slippy chalky surface. Well that’s our excuse and we are sticking to it so there! 🙁
Having sweated and wrestled our way back up onto the Box Hill road China Pig followed and it was running very nicely although I think Al caught his helmet light on a low branch and this “wrecked his Strava time again”! 🙂
Working our way back up and over Norbury Park from Mickleham saw us take the trail round the East side of Norbury towards the top of Infestation, but before reaching this point Al broke the chain on his SS Lurcher while cranking up a steep rise and put his man vegetables in peril for the second time in a few days as he also had an “incident” on Leith Hill last Sunday! Ten minutes of faffage and repairs with the rustiest chain tool I have ever seen “tut tut” got him going again and we battered our way along and down Infestation before looping back round towards Roaring House Farm, but not before a small deer gave us all a heart attack by appearing to jump out at us in our lights but was actually stuck behind a fence, Wimps!
Arriving back at the garage after just over 2 hours saw 16 miles on the clock and 2000ft of ascent, enough for a Weds night and it was off home to warm my toes in the microwave while the other two jumped in their cars and probably cranked the heater up to max!