The inverse cycle law; when rides that should be good turn sour.

Ride 1.

Dropped my daughter off at a late party. Do I hang around like a mong for two hours outside some church hall, or do something productive? So I took my bike. The planned ride was the Impossible Climb up the Buckland Hills to the Hermitage, a spin around Headley, then pick up daughter two hours later.

So, the Impossible Climb. Got to the bottom of it, instantly got a No-See-Um in my eye. It went right in under the eye lid, so one weeping eye, can't see out of it. Deep joy. However I did manage to clean the Impossible Climb from bottom to top without a single dab. OK by the top I was deep into granny ring territory and using bits of lung long dormant, but I did it. It did help that the Land Rovers had compressed the trail, so instead of being flinty gravel it was a flat surface. So that was a result. At the top I was heading for Headley when two cyclists popped out in front of me and stopped right at the trail head. Had to skirt around them, but said "hi" all the same. This was to be a feature.....

Now summer, so no lights then? I'd opted to bring the Gemini 850 as you never do know when things may turn sour and I must say in amongst the trees I felt obliged to put it on to the low setting. Not to see but to be seen as it was quite dark in the dips. Invariably by about 8pm I was switching to the higher settings to see myself, especially when popping from bright sun to shaded gulley. What a lovely default light to have.

Headley, done, turn around, go home. Bumped into the cycling couple again. Caught them up as they seemed to be having navigational issues. Just said "hi" and went to pass. The male said something, but it didn't sound too positive, so I stopped thinking that perhaps it was a mechanical and they needed help. Nah, he was just being sarcastic so again I rode on. Now on Colley Hill there isn't a choice of path; you follow the North Downs Way. Or you do the cheeky lip ride on top of the escarpment. So that was for me, and I stopped in the little chalk pit to admire the sunset. Heard Mr Sarky and his missus ride past, so decided to let them go rather than encounter them again. So I sat down, took some rubbish photographs, sent a text or two, then ambled on only to catch them up pretty much instantly. Bugger. This time it did look odd and I felt like a stalker. Do you cycle past, or engage in conversation? Cycle past.... but had to stop for the gate, so asked about their ride. "We're from South East London doing 32km" was the answer. What an odd thing to say. Very non-committal, as if I'm going to cycle off and rob them blind whilst they are out. It became a very Dumb & Dumber 'Big gulps eh?' moment, and luckily he was rude enough to brake, so the odd conversation stopped and I could crack on.

Right, the flint gulley it is for me. Turned off, rode it at vision blurring speeds, pop! Oh bugger, a flat. Going too fast to stop, so carried on to the end and over the road. Could see that the tyre had been torn out so tubeless was pants. My third tyre in three weeks torn out on flint.

Bugger me backwards. Coming down the road was only Mr and Mrs Sarky. This was getting silly. I'd taken a little used route that took me off the normal trails and that terminated on a busy road, one a bit pants to ride on an MTB. Obviously his 32km map reading skills fell short of actually finding an interesting route. At some point in our meetings I'd felt the twat, as if I was stalking them. But now they could see me fixing my bike so did they stop or say "OK?" as they passed? Did they buggery. So our encounters revealed them to be the twats. It did nothing to fix my bike, but mad me feel better in a one eyed kind of way. But then they may well have seen me as the nutter as both arms were bleeding thanks to trail overgrowth. Whatever. I've had better trail encounters, even with the Boockham Commets, and they hate me.

In the end got back with one minute to spare. Glad I'd not stopped. Even odd trail encounters, one eyed riding, bad brambles or a ripped tyre was obviously better than the hell of standing around with parents discussing people carriers. But really, the ride was pants.

Ride 2, the next day.

Hmm, rear tyre still gashed but the inner tube I'd put in had gone flat. Took it out and it was an odd one filled with some kind of Stan's sealant that had gone off. It was full of little hard balls, one of which must have dislodged a previous seal. Caused me to dismantle the thing and look at the tyre gash. Could it be fixed with an ordinary tube patch? Can't hurt so I gave it a go. Only worked didn't it, so off I set with a happy heart and sloshing rear wheel. Didn't want to do the NDW again, so selected Route 21 to Caterham, which has of late been horrid double-wide. But the weather was 30 deg C and I wasn't thinking right. Boiled brain.

It's still not a brilliant route, all double wide gravel but there was an awful lot of solo cyclists on it, all happy, so it was actually quite pleasant all the way to Gravelly Hill at Caterham. I'd even stopped to move a branch from the trail and another cyclist had selected to help in real community spirit. Interestingly he'd got one of those Garmin mapping systems and that looked class. Not sure I'd be happy spending £400 on one, but it did look impressive as naturally it not only knew where we were but gave a detailed map as well. Not sure of his route finding though as he asked me directions to Tadworth, and said he was in a hurry. Seeing as how he'd come from Caterham and was then heading to Godstone at the time, I suspect he'd missed a right turn earlier on. Easy done, and no fault of the sat mapping unit, but..... He looked a fit man, which he'd need if he was going to Tadworth via several trips up and down the escarpment.

Speaking of which I found a bridleway back up. Now a bridleway is meant for horses, big ones like the Shire I'd just passed. So how come this particular path was only just wider than my handlebars, being fenced in either side. It was also alarmingly steep, so much so that although I cleared it, such was only done using all of my gears. In the wet it would be a nightmare. I did look at it with a view to using it as a gravity chute, but it's just too narrow for speed. Famous last words!

It's not an adventurous ride, just a two hour slog up and down hills really but today in the heat it was ideal. No thinking required. Only one bit was of any note. The Pilgrims' way down to Merstham was a rutted nightmare that dislodged my chain. It does have a nice little jump at the end, so OK'ish. The dust is an issue now though. You're hacking down a bone dry tail towards a corner, no need to slow down. As you enter the corner you realise that the surface is deep dust over gravel and you have no grip. Kind of fun, but you have to be wary on the downhill bits.

Got home and wife has some news. I've spotted a local out on a grey Orange Five, a guy who may have a child at the same school as mine. Almost caught him one day on the trails but he was way fast. I'd also spotted somebody at the school wearing one of my t-shirts but didn't get the chance to speak - could it be the same person? Well turns out that my wife got chatting with another lady who is Orange Five's wife, and he's keen on the t-shirts. How cool is that?

Two rides, one good one bad. You can't judge a ride by the route.