Just when you thought that the weather was getting better. Mini tornado in Surrey.

The weather here in Surrey has been dire for a month now; heavy rain with the odd storm thrown in for good measure. Since the 23rd of December we've been having these storms that tend to blow down trees. You kind of figure that after a whilst the remaining trees would be tough old dudes able to withstand pretty much anything. However, the sodden ground seems to be an issue and each new storm brings fresh tree fall. On Saturday we had this five minute howling gale blow through. In my garden it lifted a 60kg ladder vertically and moved it a metre sideways. Just picked it up vertically. The sinks had wind coming up through the plug holes on the top floor of our house. Our rubbish bins were blown down the road. It vexed my Saturday night ride - for once it seemed prudent not to go out, not in a gale that can shift garden furniture about. Kind of figured it may cause some damage out on the trails, and indeed it did. [27/1/2014: On the radio today they are reporting that it was a Tornado that blew though Northern Surrey. That would explain things! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25908098]

This is what remains of a big tree over near Headley. Kind of lucky it blew into the field, eh? This would take some shifting off the trail. You can tell from the diameter that it is one big mother, although saying that it doesn't seem to have much by way of roots. Bonus perhaps; this is a notable bog spot, so now being open to the elements may well dry it out. And below is a tree over the Reigate Hill climb - the trail is now underneath it, just ahead of my front wheel. It's getting kind of hard to put together rides that don't involve a bike-a-hike at some point. Banstead Downs is especially bad in the hollows, and I gave up trying to follow the trail where AD mistook a tree for a clear route ahead.

Today was meant to be an interesting one. I'd been booked to guide a group of four keen cyclists around East Surrey, and was quite excited by the prospect. Even put a packet of biscuits into my pack. Off I went to the meeting point, no cyclists. Waited a bit, then popped around to the house of one. "Sorry, heavy night." Well no worries, stuff happens. To be fair it wouldn't have been the best day to show some relative newbies around hidden trails. It was one of the worst days I've been out in in a long time. Cold, wet and windy and for some time I struggled to see the fun in it. However, at the turn around point twelve miles from home the wind was now roughly behind me. Instantly everything felt warmer and I relaxed into the adventure, managing in the end to put in a credible 25 miles. Once a bit warmer the fun of being out took over and the ride was one of the more enjoyable for a long, long time. It was still hideously wet, windy and cold though.

You know how it is. You ride the same trails over and over again, week in week out. Eventually the rides morph into one and you can't remember what you did last Sunday that was any different to the previous twenty four rides. Today was not like that. Today was excessive. Today was memorable. Today I got soaked, I got muddy, I had to haul my bike over and through stuff. The downhill runs were generally death-grip, sideways affairs. I'll remember this one for a long, long time. It would have been a bad day to introduce people to the sport, but for an experienced cyclist it was a grand day out. Here I don't mean that in an "I'm a gifted God of a rider" kind of way, more that if you've ridden for a few years you'll have experienced several of these rather horrid days out and would have some inner knowledge base to enable one to plough on, to the point where it all actually starts to be fun. Very much life affirming. But then perhaps I'm in the minority here as I didn't see a single other mountain biker out. Not one. Where did they all go?

[However, let me put "bad weather" riding into some perspective here: http://45nrth.com/chronicles/post/jay-petervary-prepares-for-arrowhead-135]

Funny but given the wetness of the past month, and how bad it was today, the ride was characterised by a lack of mud. Sure, it was there but underneath the water. My trusty bike and I were relatively clean when we got home, and it took less than five minutes to clean the PACE. Any bike would have been suitable, even that precious susser you've got hidden away for the summer. There were also kind words said about Stan and his tubeless system for once. Over at Headley, just as my spirits were low, I noticed the dreaded Hawthorn branch stuck to my front tyre. Pulled it out [always a stupid thing to do, but then I'm not the brightest pin in the box] and was rewarded with a hiss. Soon followed by latex spraying out. Puncture gone. Result!

Talking of tyres, you do know that in the wettest winter for a good few decades, that I'm still running a semi-slick rear tyre don't you? My Maxxis Aspen somehow finds grip in all the mud and has so for got me through the worst gloop I've known in these parts. I'm bemused as to how it's doing it; perhaps I've learnt to pedal properly? No idea, but I'm impressed with how it grips. It'd be suicide to have one on the front, but as a rear tyre it is way, way better than it has any right to be. And whilst I'm talking bike, prior to the ride I stripped and cleaned the headset. Only took 5 minutes, and the bike felt better for it. As for the transmission, it's still knackered and all my fiddling doesn't hide the fact. During the ride the rear mech played up, pulling the chain off the middle ring. Touch annoying and post ride I bit the bullet, ordering in new rear jockey wheels [£18 for Tacx - wow!], an XTR chain and a new 9 speed [yes!] cassette. £70's worth of pain, which realistically isn't that bad for two years' worth of filth from Surrey, North Wales, Dartmoor and Belgium is it?

Anyway, the four newbies are welcome any-time again one day should they desire. However I have somewhat shown my hand here, and may well have frightened them off. Anyway, having had one good ride, I'm now happy with the mundane solo ones for another 23 weeks. Happy days indeed.