It's 2014, we're in the UK, wettest winter ever, and the trails are drying out. What gives?

You read that right folks; today dry lines were emerging on the trails. For literally miles there was no mud. Doesn't that make a difference to ones spirit? In celebration I put in a thirty mile, four hour spin. In the south's wettest winter for 240 odd years that's not bad is it? True the trails are a long way from actually being dry; that would be a tough call after two month's where we've had something mad like a years' average rainfall. Going up "The Impossible Climb" to the Hermitage was a chore thanks to deep mud, big bits of flint plus the addition of logs cut from fallen trees. The usual culprits on Headley Heath were pretty thick, as was the final push to Box Hill. Heck knows what's been going on at Box as the trails are really churned up. Looks like footfall for once has done the damage, and I guess half term school holidays' don't help. I'd say the majority of the mud today was on Box Hill. The trail down Juniper Top was awful, real slippy slime, and the Rangers are screwing with that one, putting in gates. I don't use that trail very often as it's a bit boring, so they can do as they please, but it was a nice climb to weed out the Big Men. Now they'll have a pause for breath.

For what seems like the first time in ages it was a solo ride out, so I was free to mince where I liked, and happily mince about I did. My route was not what you'd call a classic, more a meander to look at places I'd not been to in months. Kind of did Reigate to Headley, bit of a broken loop of the Heath, on to Box Hill, then along Stane Street and around Epsom to home. Expected the trails to be in very bad condition, but they have survived very well indeed. Box Hill, as mentioned, has been trashed and isn't worth the effort right now, but everywhere else is good to go. Stane Street was surprisingly gulley free. Most of the trees have been cleared, with the exception of Mickleham Downs where Surrey County Council have closed one trail.

Box Hill was interesting as I was the only mountain biker there. You know how it is for train commuters? They do the same thing week in, week out and get into a routine. They sit in the same place on the train and give the Dead Eye stare to anybody who has the temerity to sit in their seat one morning. Box Hill was kind of like that. I sat on a bench right in the middle of the seating area. When I got there it was all empty, so why not? Well clearly people who are not Roadies should use the tables over to the left. Shock, horror I was sitting on a bench reserved for those inclined to ride on the road. Some group dressed in red clearly use the middle seats on a Sunday, and I was in the WRONG PLACE! But really, a mountain biker at the Box Hill cafĂ©. Whatever next. But I wasn't the only one, as apparently walkers should also be using the new indoors cafe. I watched a few walkers join the queue, and they got pushed and hemmed in by cyclists after cake. Can kind of see why people don't like us, as I'm fairly confident that's how us mountain bikers behave at places like Peaslake or Leith Hill. Note I'm not exempting myself here either - it's probably some kind of recessed tribal behavior that one exhibits when in a group of like minded souls?

Anyway, I digress. No issues with Roadies, honest. Used to ride the road for years, mainly commuting into London. The red group was a very small contingent of people there, as were those with big guts falling out all over the shop. Lycra and fat are never good combinations. The majority looked fit as f*** and that was impressive to see. As were some of the bikes. The Chinese must really have gotten the hang of carbon as the majority of the frames were constructed of it. Nice looking rigs. Indeed when I went back to my bike, it looked a fat tyred, slow piece of muddy crap. As I guess so did I, but that's OK as I am. Certainly felt it when getting back on for the loop home.

Talking as we were about attire, I wore my £30 Decathlon helmet today. It's way more comfortable than it has any right to be, and for those days when you are not on it, just pootling, it's not at all hot. For £30 it's a bit of a Billy bargain. However I do recognize that the styling isn't to all tastes, and I look like some kind of trail constable. I'm kidding nobody here - it's a cheap lid that I like essentially for the cheapness.

On Thursday's night ride the trails were alive with mountain bikers. Yet today, sunny, dry and with great trails, I saw three. Yup, in over four hours, on common routes I saw three other cyclists. Two looked to be doing the same as me; a cheekily extended ride in the spring sun. The leader was happy as anything, but his mate looked like he could kill and had a right sour face. Being dragged around then mate? We should have swapped places as I'd have been happy to chat and pootle.

All ride I'd been in among the trees, sheltered from the weather. From what I could see, it looked a nice day out. Yet with over 25 miles in I popped out onto Colley Hill into what can only be described as a blast. The wind was whipping up the escarpment and stopped me dead as I cycled into it. For some time it was an headwind but near the memorial it suddenly changed direction and I flew along at some speed. That was welcome I can tell you, as by then all my food reserves had gone awol.

My PACE RC303 kind of behaved itself. Last week I replaced the transmission, and today had a happy time adjusting the rear mech so that the gears shifted positively. Funny, but I went to some expense on the gears yet didn't go so far as changing a single cable. They looked fine when I took them off, and a dribble of oil helped wonders. Remarkably those are the original cables; over four years and 6,000 odd miles in all conditions, and they are fine. And now, coming out the other side of a wet winter, the Maxxis Aspen rear tyre was fine as anything. I'd not suggest for one second anybody else copy me, but really, do we need to change tyres from summer to winter?

Not an average winter ride; too long for that. Yet it was exactly that; an average ride, except one suited to a mid-summer day. It was the kind of route you'd throw together for a three hour spin in July. So at home my legs were a bit tired and I needed food. But as always bike comes first; figured as the ride had been on drying trails, then the bike would take five minutes to clean. How wrong. The mud from Box Hill had dried, so was a bugger to shift. And being an essentially dry ride, what mud had gotten onto my bike was like glue, except with leafy bits in. It took an hour to clean, worse than any of the wet rides out. Contrary to popular opinion, cleaning a bike is no fun but all the same has to be done. At least now the bike is ready to go again, and may well get treated to a cheeky Wednesday evening spin.

Unbelievably this took almost an hour to clean. Mud glue anybody?

I've no idea why the PACE has become my go-to bike of late. It's not my fastest bike, and neither is it the most fun to ride. It's possibly one size too small for me. Yet I'll use it nine rides out of ten. It's not as good a bike as my Tassajara, yet that bike lies unused. My Orange 5 is way better, but again that is stuck in the corner gathering dust. The PACE is just a comfy ride that can do most things OK. It's a dependable machine that I know will get me through 95% of stuff and will always get me home. I built it, I maintain it, I like it. To me it's like an old Land Rover. There are better machines, but somehow it has a bit of honest, working class in it and can be fixed if need be with a bit of bailing twine. I'll probably have this thing forever, and can't at the moment think of any reason to change. That's not to say that all ride I didn't think of ways to get the On-One fat bike into my stable.....