Somme like conditions in the Surrey Hills result in bike attrition.

Choices, choices today. Go with TN to Peaslake or AD around to Box Hill? AD had first dibbs and was easy for a local ride; keep it local means we gain the 40 minutes drive time to Peaslake as ride time here. It may have been the wrong choice in some ways [mud] but the correct one in others [40 mins extra ride time].

Conditions here were unexpectedly dire. It's not rained for a time, so the trails should be dry, yes? Nope. I rode in from Leatherhead yesterday and the trails were muddy but OK. Drying out in parts even. Today, here in Surrey, we woke up to the thickest fog for a long time and this fog must have wetted the trails out. It was as muddy today as it ever has been around here. The thick, porridge mud was back and all of the trails were covered in a thin, greasy slime. It was really slippery out there, and my Maxxis Advantage tyres didn't like it one bit, as didn't my ten speed transmission. Neither AD or myself could see where we were going for most of the ride. Myself because my glasses were permanently fogged up, and AD because sans glasses he kept getting mud in his eye. For the deeper bits we tried every scheme to get through; speed, dodging to the sides, or ploughing through slowly. Nothing really seemed to work and we stalled a silly amount of times in the thicker bits. Now you may think a bit of mud would be easy to get through. But here in Surrey we share the trails with horses. Some of the mud was easily 40cm deep, and of thick consistency for perhaps 100m stretches.

But did it make us miserable? Did it heck. It just added to the ride.

Well, what ride there was.

AD broke the granny ring on his bike ages ago. Bent it on a rock over near Holmbury. His "fix" was to bend the offending bit back, but it has never really worked, as I can attest as he'd gradually used up my supply of 9 speed split-links over the past six months. His chain keeps on breaking on small climbs. It broke today way over on Stane Street, just as we'd blasted past some guy doing 4mph. We past at about 25mph, slightly aggressively either side of him as he was right in the middle of the slight downhill; we really didn't expect him to be so slow, or to just essentially stop. AD got past and stopped dead as his chain broke on the next rise. Now AD hates gremlins and was most miffed. I didn't need to look back to know something was up as the loud, near constant stream of swear words gave the game away. He was even more miffed when I pointed out his bottom bracket was fubr. Not only did it sound horrible when rotated, it had some alarming side to side play. So from happily razzing down some trails to being utterly pissed off in ten seconds flat. Not bad. The repair tally needed at some near point in the future; one bottom bracket, one granny ring, one chain and possibly one cassette. £150? post Christmas. Nice. It was also amusing to see slow guy pip AD to the top of the hill and we exchanged smiles. I suggested to him that if AD had not started to swear loudly at his bike for the missed gear changes, then he it may well have been kinder to him. Naturally now that AD had a busted bike, albeit temporarily fixed with another split link, my last 9 speed one, we had to cut our ride short and head home via any route that avoided short, sharp climbs.

To add to his tally, both of us may also need new brake pads at some point. Coming off Colley Hill there is a nice straight run down a reasonably steep section parallel to the A217 where you pick up speed fast. But at the same time it runs over chalk so you have to be careful at the top. The bottom bit we just went for it, letting the bikes run. As it joined the road and we had to stop the air was filled with the smell of cooked brake pads.

Where did we go? I'll post a map as I took my SatNav tracking device with me [see here for the GPS route]. It's quite a nice little spin out, if a little hard in today's conditions. In the end we rode for well over three hours, used about 1,000 calories and had some great fun in the process. We covered 40km [or 50km if you include the road sections to and from our start points], and hit a maximum off road speed of 50km/h. For a lot of it, however, we minced about in the mud very, very slowly. [Note: My SatNav may be lying as to the figures - on reflection Reigate to Stane Street can't be 20km can it? It sounds reasonable, given my meandering route, but it also sounds 30% too far as a gut reaction. I'll have to check the accuracy of my I-GotU device on @trip against another device.]

Oh yes, we had a little race as well. Near the golf course, up by the M25 bridge, two bikers were stopped chatting as we rode past. Said "hello" and rode on. AD then got some mud in his eye so stopped a little further down the trail. As we started off these two blasted past at some speed, and I figured we'd not see them again. However we gradually reeled them in as we headed for the singletrack and AD was content to sit behind them past the golf course. But "once a twat, always a twat" MG here decided to make a pass on all three, which I somehow did through the singletrack itself. Bit of a stupid move really, and far too soon; should have waited until the trail opened up as when it did I was pooped from the effort and didn't have much in reserve to keep the lead rider off. I did for a good 300m until I went the wrong way mincing around a mud section and the guy just pipped in front. He didn't get away so face saved, but he was fast and took interesting lines. It would be good to ride with him, but we've no idea who he is. His mate was slow and we didn't see them again. AD, by the way, upped his ante and gave good account of himself being right up our chuffs all the way. Whoever the guy was he enjoyed the little race as he had a great big smile on his face, fair play.

Other than these two, and the slow guy on Stane Street, we didn't see any other mountain bikers once away from the Reigate Hill NT car park. Where did they all go? We did a mainstream route, no off piste action, and even stopped at the Headley cafe. Nobody else out. The slow guy was at the cafe and I said a cheery "hello" to him.

And by heck don't you see a lot of roadies cycling past Headley these days. I'm guessing that they are doing the Olympic Box Hill circuit. Nine times for men, the route covers just over 15km, so if you do all of the laps that's some serious mileage. I've mapped out my own MTB circuit and will do it soon so as to be able to post the map up on here. Should be fun.

Slight deviation here. I think the fog must have caught a lot of people out. I didn't see a single road cyclist with lights at all, and visibility was pretty bad up top. I'm not criticising - the fog wasn't present in the towns and you only hit it near the tops of the hills. Leaving home you'd have thought it a fine if overcast day. I only had a front light on becasue my wife had been out and given me prior warning.

Another cracking ride out for everybody I think.

Of course we can't forget about TN and Peaslake. I saw him some four hours after his ride and he was still in his cycling clothes. Not a speck of mud on him. Peaslake and surrounds was mud free. He did BKB twice, and said that Peaslake Village was heaving. So we saw nobody here on the North Downs and it was really muddy. Over on the three sandy hills it was dry and full to bursting with cyclists. Go figure.