Surrey Hills flooded out?

Yesterday, Saturday 22nd December, was just rain, rain and more rain, followed later in the day by a spot of rain. So it didn't look good for today's ride, but I still spent ages cleaning and applying lube to my chains, plus I reproofed my gore-tex jacket just in case. But this morning woke up to the sound of silence; no rain! However it was to be a solo ride as AD was shopping and KD is in Belgium. No idea why, but as a family we don't really seem to waste time shopping; we were in and out of Sainsbury's within 20 minutes and that'll do us food wise for the next four days. Presents? Well isn't that what Amazon is for? So today we were all free to have a day off. No point driving anywhere as the roads are all clogged up, so a ride for me it was. And a happy one it proved to be.

Right from the off I knew it was going to be muddy, so mentally prepared for a slog. But climbing up to Reigate Hill the trail was pretty good. On the top some guy was splashing through avoidable puddles, which looked very odd and seemed pointless. He was really splashing into the deep ones, the ones that every cyclist avoids. Little did I know.....

I didn't stray too far; 26 mile loop around to Headley Heath and back. Saw very, very few people about; they must all be in the shops with AD. The trails around Headley were their usual congealed muddy state, but luckily I was out on the Tassajara with the Bonty Mud-X tyres on, so there was no stopping me - just select an easy gear and plod on through the tougher sections, trying to avoid wheelspin. But everywhere else was just standing water and I was soon soaked through splashing, this even with three mudguards on my bike. They are pretty useless aren't they, MTB mudguards. For some sections the water was around 20cm deep or so for a good 100m run. By the time I got back to Reigate Hill I too was running through the deep puddles up there as by then they were nothing. It's always the case isn't it? Like when you first go out on to ice, for the first hour you're really nervous and riding pretty badly. Once you get a bit tired, a bit used to the conditions, you zip along without a care. That was today. Started off avoiding the puddles only to find the rest of the ride submerged in entirety.

You can see why my feet got wet.

Surprisingly I'd say that today wasn't actually that muddy a day out. Wet without a doubt, but not muddy. Although saying that coming down Reigate Hill I was sideways for a good 60m in some thick clay gloop. More like skiing really. That was interesting, and a little turtle headed moment, but I didn't slow down much, couldn't really, this to the annoyance of some walkers coming up the hill at the same instant as I was flying down. I'd say that they weren't annoyed at me, as it was clear that I wasn't really in control; more that they were looking past me at what I was riding on, perhaps thinking "bugger!"

If I'd been with another person I'd have stopped at the cafe at Headley as it was quite a warm day and I fancied a weak, overpriced brew. But obnoxious "Big Bollocks" was there wearing his shouty face so I didn't bother. Could have swung around to Box Hill as I wasn't too far away thanks to my meanderings, but found some emergency 30p Sainsbury's chocolate in the bottom of my bag so ate that instead of paying £6 for a cake and coffee at the NT cafe. Much better financially if a little sad. 30p bars of chocolate, alone on a heath? Whatever, I was happy and I've still got the £6 thanks.

Now yesterday I went to some trouble with my chains. Cleaned them off, then applied two coats of dry wax lube followed by two coats of a wet ceramic lubricant, and wiped the whole lot down afterwards so it all looked clean. I hate the way that winter, wet weather heavy lubricants last about four seconds before they look like shit and make that horrid graunchy feeling as you pedal along. Lot of trouble for nothing? Well no actually. By the end of my 26 miles my chain looked pretty good and was running smoothly. Not only that but all the muck just washed off - these days I always fit a SRAM split-link to all my chains. Get home, split the link, pop the chain in some degreaser then hot water, job done. OK it's only one ride, so I don't know if my lube mix really works, but I was happy so will try that again. You just have to make sure the wax is completely dry before the ceramic goes on. OK, OK I admit it's all a bit anal, well a lot, but you try riding these hills for over 20 years in winter and not ending up like me. At least I was out on a ride..... so there! Ya boo snubs!

My transmission after 20 miles.

The Tassajara ran faultlessly as usual. It reminds me of the original Orange Clockwork in that it is a do-it-all bike, this even with only 90mm of suspension travel. I've used it as my commuter into London [18 bloomin' miles one way along the joyful A23], as my back-up MTB for a few years, or fit it out with lights as my winter night rider. Even then I've not left it alone; it's been a 24lb semi-race machine with 560mm carbon bars and now a 26lb mud plodder with wide Salsa Moto back sweep things. I'm still waiting for cyclocross brakes to go hydraulic as then I will shove a drop bar onto the Tassajara as I'm 100% sure that in that configuration it will work even better. Why? Because it is a fairly long, straight backed kind of ride so drops may well work. Not sure that I could fit 700c rims in there, but narrower tyres are easy. Of course I could just spend £600 and buy a Kona Jake, but I like faffing with bikes to a degree. In any case I only work part-time these days so have not really got the £600. Come on people! Buy some t-shirts off me so I can buy a new bike. You know it makes sense.

Hardly any cyclists out and about. Saw six other mountain bikers in almost three hours. Three of which were travelling up on the North Downs Way near Reigate riding abreast as I came down. Not one of them moved in a bit so I could pass, so thanks there. Then there was Mr Splashy. The last two over near Headley I vaguely regognised and went to say "hello" but the leading rider got in first. Unfortunately he was wearing a Met full face helmet and I had no idea what he said. I just answered with a cheery "yeah, I am" as that seemed appropriate. Hope he didn't ask if I fancied a bit of humpy pumpy with him in the bushes.

Of course these solo rides out are my default setting and I don't find them dispiriting at all. Indeed I'm quite happy with my own company, and also in setting my own pace, direction of travel or time spent out and about. I'm fairly self sufficient and carry a full range of tools so most little mishaps I can deal with. Plus if I find the conversation boring I can change it in an instant. I'm also free to do stupid things.

Have I mentioned it was wet out ;¬) Hope the BBQ ride out on the 27th stays dry.

Anyway Dear Reader, thanks for reading my blog over the past year - been 40,000 hits so I'm doing something right. That or I attract a lot of automated spam bots. I'm not fussy. Have a Happy Christmas if I don't see you before the 25th ;¬)