With the weather forecast for rain over the next few days it felt like the last opportunity to get out on the trails of summer before the winter’s mud took it’s grip. Beforehand Lloyd had planned a couple of tempting routes “Ranmore, Badgers, Lovely Linda, Sheepleas, Effingham or ATTWT, Boxhill, CP, LoM, Alsation”; the secret language of MTBers!
So taking the last gasp of summer with us were KevS and Matt. I was definitely the odd one out on little wheels. It was looking good weather wise but as we arrived at Hylands it became clear that you had to be intrepid to be out.
Specifically you had to be wearing Intrepid shorts. Yes we all were wearing the new mole favourite. They are fine shorts indeed. Matt, as D’andy would have been proud to see, was fully colour coordinated. Perfect for a night ride.
We set off for wiggly woods, which set the tone for the ride. Bone dry, with a light dusting of the first of autumn leaves. Heading down to Freehold wood there is a sharp right turn followed by a sweeping left. It’s oddly never my favourite bend and tonight I nearly messed it up well and truly. As Lloyd in front took it gracefully, I slipped off the trail, skidded on the leaves, steered to miss a big lump of wood and not seeing a big branch behind it, hit it diagonally. I nearly went OTB but held it together, much to the amusement of KevS and Matt behind me. It was going to be one of those rides for me.
Next we took the slog – well for KevS/Lloyd/me – up to Tanners hatch and Ranmore, as MattS left us in his wake. At this point, a bad back that had been niggling me for a couple of weeks and a heavy cold that had kept me off the bike, made itself known. The ride to Ranmore was slow and painful. It was though a perfect evening to be out. We were all somewhat overdressed for 16C in October. Really it was amazingly warm for this time of the year.
Next it was ATTWT which was a tricky little devil tonight. It was so dusty (yes I know weird for October – Matt “Like riding on Talcum powder” – I didn’t get round to asking him how he knew that!) that grip was at a premium and spotting the line was difficult in the leaves. Obviously only a fool would have gone down first, so I did! I was riding my Trek Fuel which didn’t feel right, too little compression damping I think, which made me feel like I was a bit of a passenger. The low point of my skill free descent (figuratively and literally) was when I only just made the turn at the very bottom, stopping with my front wheel resting on the fence. Phew! The Trek also sounded like it had no grease in any bearings, it was a cacophony of horrible noises this evening, it really needs a serious service.
Across the A25, Matt again left us as we headed up to Boxhill. Lloyd and I took it at a more restrained pace (not that I had any other). We were soon across at China Pig, which I took relatively easy as it tried to kill D’Andy and I last time I rode it. I shouldn’t have worried. It was superdry and fast rolling. CP is even better now that the two obstacles at the end have been removed, making it a complete through run to the road. What a blast.
It was another winch to Staine Street. Here I decided to call it a night (really bad back now) as the others went up to Mickleham gallops for LOM. I waited for them at the top of Alsation. As we started off Matt and KevS went first and I fiddled with my light, giving them a good gap, which I closed at the bottom. Alsation, with the vegetation dying back is a complete ripper, with long sight lines, allowing you to really give it full beans. Talking of which Beanarillo was out walking his dog and saw our four sets of lights coming down Alsation from a Km away. I do sometimes wonder what we might look like from a distance on a night ride.
In summary it was a great ride in almost perfect conditions. A sort of memory banks ride to keep you going through the winter until these conditions reappear next spring. Fantastic!