muniing with bikes

Ouch. I’m aching today.

I went on a little ride from Dorking with some bikes on Saturday. Knowing I was going to be a bit slower than them, I set out from Dorking station at 9.15, an hour early, and headed up on the first climb of the day, a steep road climb, about a mile long, up to Ranmore Common. From there, it was off road, on a wide trail, which was pretty muddy, and a bit weird, with low visiblity due to fog and invisible roots and rocks conspiring to send me sliding from one side of the path to the other at full speed. I got to White Down, which is a steep hillside, with a really nice fast bridleway coming off it and gave the bikes a call, we arranged to meet up at the top of a trail called ‘Barry knows Best’, about 4 miles away, down and then up the other side of the valley, and they’re about an hours ride off it.

I shot down off White Down, legs spinning like a very spinny thing, and headed over on an easy bridleway to Peaslake, a little village with a lovely shop. I had some time to spare, so I stopped at the shop and got myself some samosas and started up the road to the meeting point. At the meeting point, I discovered I’d got there first, and sat down to eat my samosas, pausing a few times to demonstrate the unicycle to passing riders, and to be asked where the top of ‘Barry’ and ‘Golden Birdies’ and ‘Reservoir Dogs’ and the six other names people use for the same trail was.

The bikes turn up, and there’s something odd about them, they’ve all forgotten gears. However being wusses, they’ve still got brakes and freewheels. We head off down ‘Barry knows Best’, a super-narrow twisty singletrack winding along the side of a hill for about a mile, with loads of exposed roots, drops and things. The trail has recently been tidied up and is riding fantastically fast, which is great, although with the bikes disappearing into the distance on the smoother bits, I’m wishing my geared unicycle was working. At the end of the trail, it heads steeply down to a road, I hit this section with a bit of impromptu freeride, bombing off the side of the trail and only getting back on lower down by luck, and suddenly I pop out onto the road down a weeny little drop. Unfortunately, despite the lack of gears and stuff, these appear to be pretty speedy bikers, the sort that do races and commute miles every day and have much less need for rests and things than most normal humans. I’m supposed to be in training anyway, so I guess this is a good thing really.

Then back into Peaslake, where I eat cake, and the rest buy some pies. We’re all full up of food, so of course we start off straight up a hill, the time it’s Pitch Hill, the ascent starts with a super-steep tarmac climb, followed by a slog up on a fire-road. Half of the way up, we’re suddenly rewarded with a wicked piece of singletrack, imaginatively named ‘Trail 1’, again this is tight twisty stuff through the trees, but this time with a bit more descent, and that much faster, I overtake one of the bikers as he’s having mechanical issues, so for once I’m not last out of a trail. Then it’s up the hill and onto ‘Trail 2’ and possibly ‘Trail 3’, which are another couple of long sections, getting more technical and bumpy as they go. The great thing about this riding though is that whilst it throws you off a lot, the woodland ground is soft, so you can crash hard without hurting.

After this, we get to a car park, and head up into Winterfold Woods, looking for a trail called ‘Christmas Pudding’. This is almost flat, but despite that is a fantastic trail, really fast, forcing you to keep up momentum and jump roots and stuff, whilst taking corners that are insanely tight and cause some of the bikes some trouble getting round them. We then follow this with a bunch of unnamed singletrack trails across to the top of Barry Knows Best again, then a trail across to the top of ‘Telegraph Road’, named because it roughly follows a line of telegraph poles through the trees. This was one of the first technical trails I ever rode, and I’ve always had a soft spot for it. Ridden slowly, it’s just a matter of staying in the singletrack, taking a bunch of little drops to start with and then a really pick-your-way down technical descent at the end. Ridden flat out trying to keep up with bikes, you’re flowing round the corners and flying off every drop and landing them a foot in front. I hit the end of the road, a switchback followed by a steep descent, and then suddenly quite literally hit it, flying off in a deep muddy puddle with a log at the end of it, that looked like an inch deep, but turned out much much more, launching me with a big clunk.

From here, we head down the road to the Volunteer, a local pub for the millionaires who live in the area, and most people have a cheeky half or a pint, I’m feeling somewhat tired by this point, so I stick with a coke and some cheddars, the even more expensive than London prices are a bit galling, but I really need it. After the drinks, we head up a thankfully short, stupid steep bridleway and down a long muddy one, and start off on the 5 mile ride home. Nothing much to say about this, except it takes in a lovely field edge singletrack that’s always been a favourite on my coker rides, with a nice view over the valley, and by the time we get back to the station I’m practically unable to stand, I’m just not used to riding so fast with so few breaks.

I grab a fried egg roll at the station, and we’re off up to London on the train, where my host tortures me by making me ride the 6 miles across town to his house, where all is forgiven as vast quantities of home made pizza are produced and consumed and vodka is drunk.

What a ride. I think it was only 30 miles or so, but riding on my 26, almost all on hilly singletrack and without any long breaks, it certainly felt like a lot. The ride across London after was a bit of a killer.

Anyone else go riding with bikes? It’s an odd experience, usually on group muni rides, I’m somewhere near the front, so I get to have a fair bit of rest, whereas this was much more like I’d ride on a solo muni ride, in that I didn’t get much rest, except that when I started getting tired, I didn’t extend the resting times, there was no opportunity for laziness.


I went riding with SUMBC (Southampton University Mountain Bike Club) during the first 2 weeks of uni, seemed the best way to learn the local trails and get to know some other mud-pluggers. But it always seemed like I was at the back (especially on XC rides), and holding everyone up. After a few distance rides (a few miles, nothing more than an hour at a time), I only went out with the bikers on the DH course, and now I don’t go out with SUMBC at all. I will start group riding again though, even if it is only to the jump course and DH track.