St Leonards Forest & Tillgate Woods Ride Report

13 05 2007

Well, don’t know about you but I thought that was quite an epic adventure today. We all knew it was going to be tough but the rain and mud just upped the anti a couple more notches.

Didn’t put us off though did it ? 17 Muddy@rsers really is a fantastic turnout in such awful weather I was so impressed to see us all there in the pouring rain. We honestly thought we’d be on our own cos it was tipping it down, cheers guys you made it all worthwhile.

What a cracking ride though and we WILL do it again in the dry I promise. So after all the usual pleasantries and banter we headed out on the slippery double track for a leg warmer into St Leonards Forest. Not long after and we’re off on one of Pete’s hidden ‘little gems’, wet rooty, twisty singletrack which went on descending for ages before steepening up and becoming a bit more loose, over a log (a theme for the day) and then another slippery descent to our first watersplash. This one’s speciality is a slimey slickrock underbed and putting any power to pedals would have seen you getting wet feet and with a tight entrance, it was definitely a challenge. Lots of verbal encouragement ensured most people cleaned it.

Off up the hill and onto more singletrack, on the recce this trail is where we found ‘The Beast of St Leonards’ a 2ft adder with fangs out ready to pounce, today unfortunatley we just encountered more slimey mud. Don’t know about you but I thought this mud was deceiving. It looks like normal mud but has the same qualities as chalk, giving no warning when it gonna let go, one small wrong move and your off, and I should know I had two crashes to prove it, nice !

More twisting and turning through the trees till we reach the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of Petes little gems. A mile long singletrack with lots of varied interest, it’s tight and twisty, wet and slimey, rooty, off camber, full of rollercoasters, logs to clear, then even tighter just clearing the bars through ‘spooky wood’, round the bog into the clearing and it just keeps on going. Grin, grin, grin. Now for ‘Work in Progress’….

This is a steep, very loose, technical descent that is designed to test the nerve and brakes of us all. What a buzz ! Although Nigel’s brakes didn’t think so. Being the only one of us with V Brakes he struggled down, then it all became clear why, his brake block had somehow worked its way under the wheel rim and was trying it’s hardest to jam into the spokes, but he rode it. Well done Nigel !

Over the bridge, up the climb to the road and then the link to Tillgate. Another water splash, this time a nice roller, and out into … the rain ! It decided to tip it down now we’re out the trees, grrgghh! Heads down over the lumpy fields (sorry everyone on a hardtail) another little bridge and over the M23 flyover, into more woods where we picked up our first puncture. To add a bit of interest it started to clap thunder really loudly and rain even harder, luckily though we had no lightining (would have been interesting in those trees!!). Puncture repaired we’re off into the open and even heavier rain we reach Tillgate sopping but smiling 🙂

Straight away we’re on singletrack and it was tight and slippery with a small drop off to finish, doubletrack linked us to the ‘laughter zone’, why you ask? This bit of trail was soooo slippery some of us (mentioning no names) couldn’t get out the steepsided bank and ended up sliding all over the place. An ingenious chain gang and good teamwork got it sorted and once we’d dried our tears we were off again. This little section is technical, very rutted, very slippery, lots of off camber wet roots and that cheeky ‘laughter zone’ to get out off.

A quick regroup and we’re off singletracking again. It looked flat but was deceivingly aerobic, not till the very end did it descend with a bit of freewheel. We were now riding through puddles hub deep with not many alternative lines, lots of fun. Unfortunately, quite a few kids on mini bikes had the same idea as us today and they’d churned up the trail quite bad, especially as it was so wet. Again, the trail went on for ages, this time with with our ears and lungs being filled with the delights of the M23 which runs just alongside…here the kids on motorbikes got a little piece of my mind, maybe I needed to eat something!! Massive puddles now on the trail, really slippery churned up trails, which made climbing interesting.

A wrong turn (why is it always downhill?) saw our first proper crash of the day, Hobbz (aka Tim) went flying off down the slimey, rutted track really fast (he reckons at least 60mph 🙂 ), using the gulley for more grip, he hit the joining gully hard, front wheel didn’t climb out, he then slid a long down the trail and then whacked into the undergrowth. Luckily, he only got a pinchflat to show for his efforts (oh and a small leg scratch/bruise), you’re made of hardy stuff mate ! Back up where we’d just come from, into the trees again then we were descending on the downhill run where there’s quite a few gap jumps if you’ve got the bottle, I took the chicken runs but it was still good fun. After a comedy ride though REALLY deep slippy rutted puddles we then dipped off again into an even slippier singletrack loop full of bluebells (did you notice them ?) here we met watersplash no.3. This one was technical, rooty step entry, quite deep with all the rain and the right gear needed to get out the otherside on the steep bank. Off again singletracking, sliding our way around to watersplash no.4 and having to negotiate many fallen trees on the way. I could hear a swell of noise but couldn’t work out what it was …. “the groove in the middle” all 16 Muddy@rsers were giving me the line, couldn’t hear a word of it lol! Back I went and cleared it, steep drop in via a small committed groove into deep water but a nice easy exit, we were all buzzing 🙂 Short sharp climb saw the finish of the Bluebell Loop and we were heading home.

I think we were all glad it had been hard work in the mud and the demo bike I was on was running Specialised Revolution tyres, OK on hardpack, rubbish in mud. A quick munch to refuel energy levels and we’re off again, the rain had stopped and we were keen to get back to the hot chocolate and maltloaf at the car.

We retraced steps over the fields and used the road to link back to St Leonards Forest, we singletracked alongside the pretty little river with a steep climb to a higher trail with challenging off camber roots and mud (well on my tyres anyway) to another very steep climb onto the fire trail (I was in completely the wrong gear and failed miserably). Then into the final singletrack challenge of the day and it was tough and we were tired. It dipped and twisted all the way back to the car park with a few slippage incidents and another brake fail on the way (how unlucky). We were back…. 23.5 miles on the GPS and in these conditions it was the equivalent of at least 30.

By now the SUN HAD COME OUT, we couldn’t believe it but we laughed and enjoyed a hot drink and munch (cheers Mike for the maltloaf) before saying farewell and keen to know what the next ride was….. can’t be bad eh !

Despite the terrible weather, I know we all enjoyed today’s ride and would like to thank Pete for sharing his little gems with us and leading us round what was a difficult ride to keep together. Thanks mate I owe you a pint.

See you on the next one, the first Muddy@rse Killer Loop – Devils Dyke to Ditchling Beacon traversing the SDW, be warned though if the weather’s bad this could change so keep your eyes peeled for futher info & dates soon.

Cheers again to everyone for turning up and look forward to seeing you again at the next one.

Lisa

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