Banstead Downs in the wet on a PACE RC303.

AD was in a golf tournament today; he's a professional on-line poker player by day and worth oodles of ££££'s, so he can do £500 rounds of golf on a Wednesday in Surrey. Me? On my own, bit bored, couldn't be arsed to do much at home so I went for a ride. Now last night it rained. It rained so much I expected to be at sea today, heading towards America post tsunami style in an upturned floating house with my neighbours all drowned and bloated in the water. And my wife wonders why my dreams result in poor sleep each night. Anyway, this hadn't happened clearly. I expected wet trails though and I was proven entirely correct.

Didn't fancy doing the Headley default loop again, but started off heading that way on auto pilot. Would have normally headed off to Caterham mid-week but the trails over there are boring beyond extreme now thanks to some fettling work. No to Headley, no to the North Downs Way, so where to go? Banstead of course! My much famed loop around the Downs.

Oh dear. The conservators have been at it. Or rather they have not. The little trail that ran off the A217, the one that's been there since mountain biking began, now seems to have fallen out of favour with the conservators. Where previously it was a nice, twisting track through some trees it is now a broken up mud fest blocked in parts by felled trees. It's horrid and not worth doing anymore. You wouldn't even walk it. There are no notices to say what's going on, so I'm guessing they want it to return to a heath state. Out of pure buggeration I rode the whole length of it, but it wasn't fun. Just deep sloppy mud. To me that's all rather odd. When it was a path there'd be muddy bits, sure, but for the main it was a good path and a test of skill. Now people can't even walk it, and cyclists and horse riders have been stopped from riding it, the path is in an awful condition; just deep mud for most of the length. No idea how that is better than a simple path.

Out I popped onto the golf course singletrack, and decided to ride to "Phil's Bush" near the M25. The golf course singletrack was also very poor, a surprise for what is often the best bit of riding around here. The first half was OK, but the second half was just one long puddle, and in parts a deep one. By deep I mean one particularly nasty git saw me drop to hub depth in water. That was a surprise as I'd not have said there were any features there to produce such a depth of water. Nice big splash followed by me swearing rather loudly. Almost an over the bars incident. It was actually quite good fun.

Well by then I was muddy as anything so it had to be "Phil's Bush" for the finale. Well blow me down, that's only been trashed by the Authorities as well. Where previously it was a mud fest through gorse, it's now a 15ft wide trail through, well, nothing really. It's very, very boring. The lovely bit of singletrack is gone. And where previously the mud was always so deep, and so long at around 300m, that it sorted the men from the boys, now any old dork can ride it. It was always horrid, but in a challenging way. Now it's just gone.

Now you may think that this meant a poor ride? Well it didn't really, just not a very good one in terms of speed or distance covered. In terms of fun quotent it had me smiling all night. certainly to get through some of the sections without dabbing I had to use all of my mud skills aquired over the years.

So the PACE. All week I've been thinking about removing all the bits and selling the frame on to fund the purchase of a Cotic. But I've also been a bit stuck as to reasons why I'd want to do that, other than to own an orange coloured bike. How much would a new bike improve today's spin out? It wouldn't have would it? The PACE coped very, very well and got me through some dire spots. I also realised whilst riding it that in three years all I've done to it since I built it has been to change the handlebar stem. And that was a slightly retrograde step that I'm pondering as being unwise; 50mm is just too short. By the end of the ride I realised that unless I was going to go in for a dramatic change, to a 29er or even Fat Bike, then a new frame would just be tinkering with things, changing the formula slightly. Tinkering that would cost around £600. Not really worth the effort or cash is it? I'd be getting rid of a capable bike I'm happy with, which is just silly.

Now lube. I've been trying Muc-Off four step urban chain lubricant for the past two weeks - mainly becasue it was in Tesco's when I went shopping the other week. The trail conditions are as bad as they ever are; thick mud and lots of standing water. The Muc-Off claims to be good in mud. Having tried it for 100 miles I'm bemused by the stuff. Can't tell at all whether it works or not. It goes on thinly and you have to put lots on. I then wipe most of it off. Out for a spin it's initially good, but then the chain goes really graunchy as if full of sand. Shifting is unaffected though. Then after some time it goes back to being smooth and lovely again, even though covered in cack. Can't tell if the lube is all gone or if it is doing its' job. Seems to work. But by heck it stinks bad. Lube your chain in the house and you can smell it in every room. Leave the house, come back hours later, and opening the door you are hit by smell. I now lube outside. It seems to work, stinks and cleans off easily leaving a really, really clean drivetrain but I'm still suspicious of it.