In search of AD's bomb hole - this needs to be said in a French accent.

Let's just say:
  • Dog egg on AD's bike - ended up all over the place, including up his nose ;¬)
  • AD's slipping seat post.
  • AD's puncture at Headley... on the dog egg covered tyre.
  • I bent my rear mech hanger in a crash, pushing it into the new rear wheel. Actually I suspect that the bent hanger caused the crash in the first place.
  • One of our discs got so hot hacking down Reigate Hill chalk path that it started to smoke.
  • Fallen trees all over the place.
  • Mud.
All in all an eventful day!

Although it didn't start too well. AD wanted a late start, fair enough as I'd been in the pub all Saturday afternoon, but got to the meeting point later still. Waster. Anyway whilst I was there for 15 long, long minutes, there were a few riders milling about on pretty old bikes - they would have been new a decade ago by the looks of them, all long stems and clamshell frames. To be fair I spent a lot of time looking at the bikes with interest; old Specialized sussers that looked in decent condition. Made me want to get my 1997 Klein Mantra out. Well until reality kicked in - 1990's geometry, yeuck. Save it for a nice day with the kids. Anyways, I took this little group to be Resolution Riders; first nice Sunday of the new year, take the bike out as have not done that for ages. Give them a few week's.... Indeed possibly less. It transpired that perhaps this was a splinter group from the Bookham Comets, so had only ridden a few miles really. Even standing around at the cafe they didn't look too keen on setting off again. I like seeing people like that out - means there's more to life than mountain biking as they clearly have other, one assumes, better things to do. Hats off to them for being out.

AD had wanted a slightly later start due to having been out every night this year, which was fine but then compounded things by getting back late Saturday night as well so had had little sleep. His heart wasn't really in the ride at all, and he kind of limped around a bit until it was time to go home, detention done style. Now normally we're a bit time constrained so head straight over the bridge towards Box Hill for a quick blast. But to be honest I get a bit bored of going the same way more than twice, so simply did an about turn and rode down the hill I'd just come up. This meant we did an anti-clockwise loop to Headley.

Anyway I took the cheeky dog path to the right and was a little off-form but cleared the tree root in an ungainly fashion, legs akimbo, arms flailing, head wobbling. AD just cleared it as if it wasn't there, a mere twig, so I was a bit miffed and tried to leave him behind so that he wasn't aware of my shitty skills. Bad move. The fallen trees following the week's storms meant creative line choices. One was so creative that a tree stump pushed my mech into the rear wheel and bent the hanger. This threw me off the bike, but at the time I blamed my shitty absent skills even though I couldn't fathom why the bike had just stopped. Only later did I realise the truth when not only could I not change gear, but the mech was clearly at one with the rear wheel. Luckily it bent back and didn't appear to have damaged the wheel at all. AD looked as though he wanted to be swallowed up by the earth, so I figured he'd not noticed my crappy ride so far.

Going under the M25 and over the A217 AD's ride got better - he'd picked up a dog egg, got it on his glove, all over his handlebars and up his nose. He told me what had happened but really the smell gave him away way before he stopped to inform me. He stank all ride, bless. His face looked glum so I chopped the ride about a bit, avoiding the worst of the muddy sections. Or trying to avoid rather. This had the effect of lengthening the ride a bit but I think he'd have killed me if I'd pushed him into Ray Mears territory as I usually do. Through the woods on Banstead Heath we tried to find the location of his accident, but couldn't. One tree kind of looks the same to all of the others. The trail through here is usually muddy, so expected, and usually fun. Today it was just a slog in the granny ring, as you could neither get a run up to the mud to clear it at speed, and neither were the muddy sections short enough that you could torque through them. You had to find a gear that reduced slippage to an acceptable level. My legs burnt at the time, and 24 hours later my shoulders' ache. Wimp.

Oh and his seat post kept slipping around through Banstead, which took some time to fix. Funny how the most simple things are often the biggest faff. We've all been there; plasticine seatpost clamps that defy all efforts to fix.

At Headley we had a brew and a bit of a chat, but as we went to set off AD's front tyre was obviously flat. The tyre with the dog shit on. I wanted to laugh but his face suggested not a good option so I rode off to take a tactical piss. Once fixed, and when I'd managed to control the urge to laugh, we did a meandering route back to avoid mud - AD doesn't like mud at the best of times. Normally I completely ignore his route suggestions and just do mud and gorse, but bless, his heart wasn't in things today so I felt sorry for him. Wish I'd not - a golf ball flew past our heads on the golf course [where else? D'oh!]. Missed us by a few feet is all. They didn't even call out even though AD was in bright yellow. Gits. Probably live in Bookham.

The day was dry so we decided to take a real chance and hit the chalk path off Colley Hill. This can be a real bastard when wet, so one always tackles it with a bit of trepedation. The first 50m show off how slippery it is, but today this was disguised with leaf matter. But. Boy did we hit it, and boy was it a fast un, a real flyer down. I tried to keep with AD, and did pretty well, keeping within 5m but the final stop at the road burnt out what I think is my back brake. I stopped, there was a burning smell, some smoke in the air [cue guitar riff] which was oddly impressive, and a ticking sound as the disc cooled. Normally I'd investigate but it'd been so much fun literally smoking down there that I just stood around grinning.

I feel as though I should explain the chalk path a bit more. It's not an easy ride, and quite a few people walk their bikes down it. It's steep for a start, and in places you feel as though you will go over the handlebars. On the right there's a big drop, as in near cliff face drop of perhaps 60m. This drop comes at the sharp left hand turn, where the real steepness begins. It's pure chalk the path. Polished by walkers, torn up by the weather, often covered in green slime. On the way up it's granny ring, big cog, cough up bits of lung. On the way down, you release the brakes, accelerate to a point way past any comfort zone. You cannot drag your brakes - you'll slide. You have to brake in a straight line when you can, and brake hard. Each time you brake your heart jumps into your mouth; will the tyres bite? The top bit is testing enough. Water has cut big dips. When it's dry you can just plough through, sweep side to side or just jump them if feeling brave. When covered in leaves you just plough. The corner, now hit at some speed, can be a nightmare. Take it wide you're near the drop no room for error, so best to cut in and hit the bush, but then you hit chalky gravel. The path then steepens, but there are grooves and pits in the chalk. On an hardtail your vision goes; blurred due to the choppiness of the trail. But your mate on a susser is flying - so you have to as well otherwise lose face. At the bottom speed is a real issue; you have limited time to scrub of maximum velocity as there is a kerb followed by road. This is blind.

It's a real nightmare of a trail, but one that when you do it well brings a real smile to your face. Like today, with smoking brakes. You really do do this one on the edge. I've taken people down there who subsequently stopped speaking to me.

Sometimes a ride is below average but made brilliant through the suffering of others. I really enjoyed it, really did but suspect AD is still muttering new swear words under his breath.