This week, we had 8 (eight) riders out, meeting at Hylands Garage at the slightly earlier time than tradition dictates at 7:00PM. This is in fact some 9 (nine) hours LATER than D’Andy would prefer but most of us can only aspire to his life balance (I’m omitting the usual ‘work/’ precursor in that statement). Things are changing though, with an imminent promotion to our eminent friend making outrageous demands on his time; and soon, he and his boss will be on the same time-zone…
So, night rides it is then…
Our group consisted of some very welcome old faces in the shape of Darren, Amanda and Adam. While their faces may or may not betray their age [stage whisper: they don’t!], if anything all three of them seem to have even smaller bums than ever, an indication of their current state of fitness relative to our own. Also appearing for the evening show was Swiss Tony (how can he be called anything else with his new car??), JamesS, Electric Jem, D’Andy and myself. After a bit of chat, we headed for the hills.
What transpired was another medley of Winch ‘n’ Plummit riding D’Andy style. By that I mean that yes, D’Andy did in fact fall off but that we also strung together a convoluted route that had but one aim. To find a pub.
First off, through the Hazels where my un-erring sense of direction (more on that later) saw me navigating accurately where all others wandered off-piste. Next, a slog up to the sawmill and round the back toward Druids Grove. We didn’t ride the steps but the narrow, off-camber trail down to River Run after further confusion over where we were actually heading. It was quite a challenge riding over heavy leaf fall which was rather damp underneath, the local clay has been gradually but inevitably exchanging grip for slip.
We headed along to Westhumble, then UP Crabtree Lane to the cottages and a guerilla style field crossing to pick up View To A Kill. I was following Amanda who had very little traction on her fast-rolling but slow gripping race tyres. I can’t say I felt any more confident on my venerable Orange either.
After that, we turned right at the Folly and rode up through Denbies to Ranmore, the lights of the town twinkling away below us. Then it was straight back down again on Golden Nugget which is every bit as slippery as you’d expect during the first week of December! Again, Amanda’s tyres inspired little confidence but we were sure she’d catch us up on the long, long drag up through Ashcombe Wood.
She and Darren were at the rear and as we dog legged right I called out to Darren to make sure he knew where we were going. Something got lost in the translation as Amanda headed off down to the bottom of Denbies. This discovery took a while to reveal itself and while Amanda waited, Darren rejoined us and we headed for Red, White and Rose.
Actually it could have been simply White and Rose with D’Andy setting off confidently in the wrong direction, but after a quick about turn he led us down into the bombhole in pursuit of a painful and unplanned smack into the roots as his bike went sideways. This provided me – gratefully – with the opportunity to step over the same roots, once D’Andy had ascertained that much fear had left his body with all the pain he was experiencing! That’s what a heavy Red does to you.
I was mid-pack as we continued on our way but was quickly caught and passed by Adam and Darren. It was all I could do to keep my Five pointing where I wanted it and I did not feel comfortable at all down there. At the bottom, our wayward navigation sent us awry again, meaning a couple of off-piste step overs of fallen trees but finally we re-grouped by the start of After the Vino. Having started their ride in Mickleham, Darren and Adam headed off to find Amanda and a pub meal while we aimed for a few more trails before joining them.
We crossed the A24 and climbed up toward the Gallops, an initial idea of Tankslapper followed by Penguin being replaced by a Penguin-only option once we discovered that James had ridden Tankslapper already on his way over to meet us and none of us actually fancied another climb when we could just as easily go to the pub.
James left us to get home to mother and baby while everybody else set off down Penguin. Again, I found myself floundering around trying to point my Five in a direction that matched the line of the trail, I just can’t seem to get the Five to work properly at the moment. Maybe the bars are too wide which makes it feel very flexy and vague? Whatever the reason, once that was behind us we rolled down into Mickleham village and found Darren, Adam and Amanda in the Running Horses.
After a couple of pints it was time to head for home. This normally means trouble as with three miles go and a sodding big hill in the way the recently-consumed alcohol kicks in rather quickly. Just ask Jem last summer after his bike inexplicably exploded (there may have been a fence post involved). This time, by the time we got to the Hazels my un-erring sense of direction that I referred to earlier mysteriously vanished.
I was quite confident that I knew where I was going when I entered the Hazels but soon found the paths constricting around me. D’Andy and Jem bailed out and rode up the track while I insisted the path would open up shortly. What happened was I got thoroughly trapped in amongst the coppiced trees, unable to go forward or backward without getting slapped in my befuddled face by the whippy branches! The two pints I’d consumed probably weren’t helping matters either…
After what seem an age of confusion, and sensing the night go quiet around me, I eventually kind of stumbled through the undergrowth onto the main track to find myself abandoned. I headed up to the Bockett’s car park but with no sign of Jem and D’Andy I retraced my tracks and headed along the Admirals Tracks, again with no sign of my erstwhile companions. A text exchange later on confirmed we’d all made it home safely and I can assure you all I slept very soundly indeed!