Ride Report – Surrey Hills, 31 August

1 09 2008

Well, it was the last day of summer and the day before the last day of summer was gorgeous, the last day of summer however was just like winter, but warmer !  Confused?  So must’ve been poor old mother nature.  Leaves were falling off trees, trails were puddle-strewn and roads were flooded but it was hot and humid, almost tropical.  Luckily as the day wore on the sun came out and we managed to get home without waterproof protection. 

The day had yet to unfold, and for various reasons what a day it was …

Warnings of thunder and lightning ‘zapping’ about the forum pre-ride, I knew this was going to be an interesting day.  I thought it’d be a lonely one too until we arrived at the sodden car park to an almost full house.  25 Muddy@rsers in total, flippin eck we really are all mental !  Muddy@rse jerseys were dished out and quickly whipped on by their owners, I was beginning to wonder if Muddy@rse waterproof jackets should have been in the kit line up too ! 

Anyway, after a reasonable amount of faff we all got together and headed off up the gradual climb towards the first killer climb we call Mystery.  Why Mystery ?  Well years ago when Rick and I’d heard about the Surrey Hills but never ridden there we just came and played and this was the first ever singletrack we came across.  It was an absolute Mystery where it went, we followed it, so we named it.  Simple and exciting. 

With 3 singlespeeders amongst us today this hill was going to be a killer either way.  Two options steep rooty singletrack or steep loose fireroad, both short but sharp.  We met at the top, lungs and thighs bursting in various directions.  Smiles on faces.  The trail was wet but being sandy drains really well, ideal for winter riding in summer!   I was riding new tyres, Bontrager ACX’s, one of them free from Keith Bontrager himself (ok we got a voucher at 24/12!).  We’d taken them to Austria where they performed really well but this was the first wet ride i’d done on them.  It took a while to feel secure but I was pleased with them overall, even in really slippy mud they dug in and being gumbi rubber they gripped well on the wet roots too.  That said this was my first wet ride since my crash and nerves had returned, I needed to get the fear out of my head.  Today was the day.

Rick singlesped-led his way to 5 Bar Gate and after a little navigational mishap I found my way there too-damn trails all look the same lol !  5 Bar Gate we headed through tight rhodedendron engulfed off camber singletrack trails toward Holmbury car park.  Jackets peeling off, the sun glimmering through misty cloud.  Onward up the singletrack ascent to Holmbury view point where we came across an unusual statue (http://www.flickr.com/photos/9462794@N08/2814622621/in/set-72157607041347082/).  Off to the newly opened Yoghurt Pots to take in the swoopyness on offer.  The first steep bombholes being replaced by flowing singletrack then into the big rooty step, more off camber rooty trails, dodging puddles if you took the low line and eventually spat out just before Telegraph Row.  You got it, Telegraph Row was next.  Section after section of fun sandy singletrack, everyone missing THE STUMP on the way, not to the end this time, onto Mutiny.  It was the steepest descent of today (well, except Deliverance) it was really muddy and slippy but everyone made it safe, can’t say the same about brake pads though.  The sand gradually destroying set after set.  Just ask Neil ! (http://www.flickr.com/photos/9462794@N08/2814625999/in/set-72157607041347082/)

Sanity restored we dodged raindrops to Leith Hill Tower and cake.  Energy levels restored we sped off down the rooty trail from the Tower as we headed over to Summer Lightning, splitting into two groups, the Mentalists took up the delights of Deliverance, Regurgitator and Crooked Hollow.  The sun was now out proper have we beaten the weather? 

Summer Lightning well it just flows nice, nothing too difficult to worry about, bermy in all the right places it’s just nice and rideable until you hit the gloop.  The end section was about as muddy as I’ve ever seen it, puddles filled with proper gloop, gloop that eats components for breakfast/dinner & tea.  We weren’t going back to the Tower today, it was down the technical singletrack the runs alongside the Greensand Way into Westcott.

The trail is tight, fence hugging and overgrown, dipping in and out the trees along the way with the odd just-about-wide-enough handlebar section to get through, some slippy rooty step ups and drop ins and rock strewn in places.  Rich and I hung back and blasted the trail, he giving me PMA as I went, helping me banish my demons.  All was well until the dodgy off camber section, you know the one I mean.  I decided to go high, halfway across thinking I’d made it my front wheel gave way without warning then snatched back traction, I kept it on line without losing height.  I’d made it through, whoops of encouragement coming from behind me, whoops of flippin eck that was lucky going through in my head.  Note to self, new tyres did well to hold on. 

Regrouping for a word of warning about the next section we headed off me spouting my mantra ‘give space’, this was the last technical section and the gulley is steppy, gradually encouraging you to increase your speed and it’s fun but the last step is big and takes no prisoners.  Unfortunately Chris took a tumble on the last step not sure exactly what happened but he faceplanted onto the barbed wire on the field boundary line.  Nasty !  Already being mopped up by Donna when I got there, Chris was then slowly walked down the trail while an ambulance was called, his wound was deep, he’d need stitches at least.  Luckily civilisation wasn’t far away and with everyone rallying brilliantly we quickly got him sorted and and he was soon off to be treated at Hospital.  (Thanks to everyone involved in helping out). 

We were at the furthest point now and that was the last of the technical riding for today so we re-spun up our cooled down legs alongside the picturesque North Downs on XC bridleway paths and gradually rounded our way back toward the promised pub stop at The Volunteer.   As time was now ticking by it was straight back to cars and for those who could back to the pub for a pint and pie (or was that thai chicken curry and  gourmet burger).  Sitting under a massive brolly the day’s events were mulled over, thoughts of Chris in our minds.  Luckily Donna and Rich live nearby the Hospital so they took his car and kept contact through the evening hooking up with him again when discharged.  He’s due to return today for a proper stitch up and we’ll hope all goes well and that we see him back on the trails very soon.  I’ll post progress when it comes in.

Today was a great ride with great chamaraderie and laughs and it was such a shame about Chris but accidents do happen, it’s in their very nature.  It’s raised some questions about safety and emergency contact and there’s a debate in the forum if you’re interested.  That said, I hope to see you on the trails for the next ride on 28 September, let’s keep it fun and let’s keep it safe.  Happy riding….Lisa

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