The Really Random Recon Ride Report.

Good evening punters, since everyone seems to love the ride reports on RSU so much I’ve decided to write one of my own. Hope you enjoy!

A bit of background first, Dave (Kington99) is coming over to mine this weekend for a bit of south coast Muni, and I’ve been a little lax when it comes to getting on the trails, especially when my 26" has the 127mm distance cranks on it. So, this afternoon, I decided to air my 170mm cranks and head into the local woods to check out the route I’m planning on riding with Dave on Saturday. I’ve Munied this route before, with the University MTB club, but never on my own and not for a good month or more. The weathers been variable recently, ranging from torrential downpours to irritating drizzle, via a small snow flurry and this morning, blazing winter sunshine, so I was worried about the state of the trail and if it would still be a ridable condition.

After swapping the cranks & strapping the pads I’m off & out, riding under the slightly overcast skies I’ve come to expect from this winter. The temperature is just below 10C, so I’ve got my Defect T-shirt and my Southampton University pac-a-mac on, to keep the chill off till I get warmed up. The route to the local woods is a 3km tarmac-path based affair:

(The direction on this route is reversed; I’m starting from the right and heading to the left side)

And after a nice swooping descent down the steepest & longest hill I’ve ever managed to climb, I ascend into the golf course, turning sharp left and following the public footpath/cycle route down to the sports centre. The damp conditions and cold temperatures seem to have put people off venturing outdoors and I pass only 2 people, both walking dogs along the path. No comments received therefore no comments given, I continue down the curving path to the T-junction at the bottom of the first real challenge: The ascent up the sports field. A large terraced affair, the sports fields are set up along a long and tiring slope, and it’s just the thing to get my stiff legs back into action after a prolonged absence from doing this kind of mad stuff.

The hill peaks and I’m thrown out onto a small road around the back of a housing estate, skirting the top of the fields. It’s swoopy but easy and the long cranks make short work to the slight rise. Straight on and onto a dirt track and I’m there, the entrance to Lords Wood.

The route is pretty complex, taking in an initial downhill route that’s pretty technical, emerging on some really nice fireroad and then a steady climb to the top of the woods, where I exit onto local tarmac roads. I’m really warmed up by this point, and I’ve dispensed with my pac-a-mac, instead relying solely on the warming qualities of my Defect T. I’ve been taking it pretty careful up to now, letting myself get back into the stride of everything, and now the short distance ride to the next technical section lets me get more comfortable with ironing out those riding issues like snaking. I pass an old lady walking her dog and get a “That looks like hard work” for my trouble, I respond with “It takes a lot of practice!” and carry on my way.

Before very long I’m at the motorway bridge, crossing the M27 after a long left hander. I like to mount the pavement here and stay off the road, so I do so, only to find that there’s a camper van parked right across the pavement, over the top of the other carriageway! I ride back onto the road, skirt round it and cross the bridge, back onto local backroads. After another couple of hundred metres, and some kafuffle with a car that was stopping for something other than me, which I misunderstood as common courtesy, I hung a right onto the most technical section so far. An off road track that can only be described as rather under-used, it is potholed and coated with leaf litter where its not flooded from months of rain. It’s tricky to stay on, wading through inch deep mud, trying to skirt small lakes that stretch across the whole track, and attempting to keep to the firm ground, little of which is evident from the even coating of leaves and mud.

Soon enough the trail starts to curve downhill to a motorway underpass and the pools of water disappear, replaced by smooth gravel uncovered by water flowing down the hill. I spin easily along the ground, and try to pick up speed for the difficult ascent that awaits on the far side of the underpass. It’s dry and flat under the motorway, and keeping my speed up to aid in the climb is pretty easy. Problem is it’s a very long one, so I lose momentum just as it starts to flatten out and have to start tractoring to make it to the top. Blood properly pumping again, I hang a right where the trail reaches the main road and head back across the motorway. A quick glance along the motorway & I can see the van still on other bridge, a considerable distance from me.

After the bridge is easily the best part of this route, the claustrophobic alleyway that leads back into the woods after my rather civilised excursion on local roads. Narrow, technical and fast, its a massively fun ride for all the dangers. Too small to put your arms out properly you ride tucked in, arms by your sides and balancing with your body. Trees whip by at insane speeds and roots jump out to unbalance you at every turn. The ground is solid but even, coated with leaves that hide each obstacle. It’s riding by feel, but without the balance to do it confidently. Pulse racing and heart pounding I execute carving turns that dodge between trees where the gap is barely wide enough, and too soon I am back on wide single-track that weaves its way back towards the golf course.

Soon enough I’m in safe ground, skirting the chain link fence by the golf course and heading steadily uphill. The light is even and enough to see by, but the odd surprise keeps me awake, be it a close growing bush, low branch or hidden stump. The ground is less leafy and more stony, which makes riding easy but bumpy. I’m too soon wishing for more challenging terrain, and soon enough it comes in the form of a steep uphill combined with close growing holly bushes and a very wet, narrow trail. I take it steady to keep my traction even, and I emerge onto a wider path that runs across the top of the golf course, scant feet from its perimeter. I’m forced to dismount once, as there is a tree growing across the path that is too low to duck, and too wet to hop over now the lichen has taken to it. A few hundred metres down the trail and I’m at the junction point, where the trail splits. Left is an enigma, I remember riding it but am not sure of the route, its like a rabbit warren of crossing trails and I can’t be sure of my sense of direction now the light is fading. To the right, a short berm-filled track leads back to the main fireroad out of the woods, flat, wet, boring, done it before. I take the left; it’s the controversial choices that make life interesting after all.

Then things get interesting. A leaf coated trail, hidden under a thick canopy that block out the light and turns things quiet. All I hear is the whoosh & click of my uni, the whip of foliage as I pass by. the normally ever present traffic noise is gone, replaced by a creepy silence. I speed up, trying to eke more fun from this taxing trail, as it swoops and curves unpredictably, passing under low trees that force me to duck quickly and without proper planning. After a particularly close escape and following a quick downhill I come to an opening, a leaf covered clearing in a small hollow. I forget caution and try to carry my speed over the clearing and up out of the hollow, and as I cross the bottom the leaves part beneath me and I sink 4 inches into thick slime. I’m thrown from my uni and aim for solid ground, hand automatically whipping out to save my saddle from a muddy fate. A foot finds high ground above the quagmire and I pull the uni after me, leaving a rather amusing tyre track trench that stops half way.

I remount on solid ground and pick my line carefully, tractoring up the slope and out of the hollow, aiming to stay on the rapidly narrowing trail. Every so often a root forces the uni sideways, and my momentum is the only thing keeping me upright as I plow through the mud patches and skim the bushes and stumps, trying to avoid a pedalstrike. All too soon the trail swoops downhill to a road, I recognise as the entrance to the wood.

A quick glance at the time, 50 minutes… not bad. The fading light forces me to concede an end to the ride, and I set off home. However, the most random thing about the whole ride happened mere feet from where I started my homeward journey. compensating for a slight downhill, I put my weight onto the back of the saddle. I hear a loud clunk and feel something give… Alarmed I attempt to slow the uni, leaning back and putting more weight on the back of the saddle. It decides to give up, and hinges back on the rear seat post flange! I’m deposited on my arse in the road, and my uni, neck broken and saddle facing the sky, tumbles down the road before me.

Looks like I’ll be priority ordering a new seatpost for the weekend! I strap my uni to my backpack, and hike home, to a cold beer, chips and a pizza.


Excellent write up loose, rides like these always put me in the mood to make an effort and get out on the muni at the weekends. Like the memory-map images a well. Cheers