The mythical North East passage from East Surrey to Leith Hill

For centuries now intrepid mountain biking explorers in the stockbroker belt of Surrey have been seeking a viable and direct passage between Reigate and Leith Hill; one that avoids the dangerous semi-permanent ice ridge traverse to Box Hill. Google Earth has long suggested that such a passage may well exist, but only when the frozen permafrost wastes of Reigate Heath have thawed sufficiently to allow easy access for anything other than a fat bike. Such a route, if it existed, would shave in excess of three minutes off the normal NDW to Dorking STRAVA time. Today was one such day; late summer has exposed a viable dry pathway over the heathland passage and Muddy here took advantage and thrust forward and upwards to Leith Hill....

Er, Muddy? What are you on? All you did was ride to the next town you twat.

Sorry, got carried away there. Or should have been. Well you know now where I went, and which route I took so really what is the point of this ride report?

Yes, today I rode solo from Reigate via the heath and on to Leith Hill, coming back via Westhumble and Box Hill. It was a fine day, I didn't need to be back so why not? A rather nice three hour spin, and I got home all happy and contented. Well until I realised that my chain breaker was lost. Reet grumpy I was then.

Well the "why not" is all the road work you have to do to get to Redlands that's what. Silly Muddy took a few "shortcuts" that ultimately cost time and had him carrying his bike over stiles and through ancient field systems with long abandoned buildings. Why do so many bridleways around here terminate as footpaths? You're happily following a bridleway sign, and then it morphs without warning into a narrow footpath through nettles, complete with multiple stiles. Annoys me it does.

As an hard core mountain biker [with reservations....] the improvements to the bridleways south of Dorking don't really do it for me. Foot thick pummelled and levelled gravel is boring. But then if it gives access to the country for children and disabled people, then I can't really argue with it. Just don't expect me to like it. And how hard core am I? Soon found out when I spotted all the secret mountain biking trails. I'm not going to spoil things by saying exactly where, but by heck some people must be insane to ride that stuff. Blind runs on to four foot drop offs to near vertical scree with no run outs. Now at least I know where all the knee pad brigade go to - but I bet only a handful of people can ride that stuff with confidence and ability. I could actually ride all of it, pretty confident I could. The resulting trip to the hospital may be nasty though. I've broken ribs on simple gate posts before now, so what would I be like on something vertical as against the horizontal?

Onwards and upwards, past the gnar that frightened me looked appealing.Normally the route up to Leith Hill from Dorking is a right old chore but the back passage way is easy, fnar fnar. No idea how but all of a sudden I was at the top of the hill, easy as anything, not even sweating. Oh look, Coldharbour, where did that come from. Passed a couple of other riders that were huffy and puffy - why don't people use the granny ring and spin up me wonders. I would have stopped at the tower café but by the time I got there felt duty bound to return home. Again I took an odd route off the hill, and not one that anybody rad would appreciate - terminated at a fishery. It was OK, just.

So, I've found an easy way to Leith Hill from Reigate, and then an even more boring way down the hill. Success was achieved through years of diligent map reading.... Well actually no more than five minutes with a map. Not sure if the hours' road work prior is worth the reward though? The return trip was much, much better. Climb up Box Hill then normal North Downs Way home. Off road all the way baby. And for once I didn't bother to chase down the roadies on the little bit of road near the Smith and Western. Mainly because I was an ickle bit tired is why, plus when somebody with less than 5% body fat whizzes by, all sinuous muscle, this near fifty year old has finally recognised the futility of such things. Now if I'd been closer to home or had somewhere to hide as I vomited up the last weeks' food after dipping into zone 6 for a few seconds had I given chase, well that may have been different. They were lucky is all I can say.

Kind of glad I bothered. I tend to avoid Leith Hill at the weekend as it reminds me of a middle manager away day where hoards of people engage in pointless team building exercises, acting all happy. But today, in cutting out the café all was well. Those mountain bikers I did meet at Leith were a happy, cheery bunch. Back over Reigate way normality was resumed and no cyclist answered my cheery hello at all. Makes me wonder whether I should continue avoiding Leith at weekends to be honest as it seems a much more friendly place. It was also interesting to note that the xc brigade from Reigate to Headley often look first at the bike, then the rider, where the Dorking crew seem so much less, shall we say, snobby or shallow? That or I was on a shite bike, my ancient PACE RC303 with first edition creaky Pike's. Hmm, what do we actually have here; aged, sweaty rider clearly out of his depth on an inappropriate bike receives sympathetic smiles from the big boys on their big bikes. It made me feel happy, OK? so Dear Reader stop being so cynical.

Wonder how long the trails are going to stop in such excellent condition?