Cold, thick porridge. Riding off-road pre-winter in Surrey.

Now you may be surprised to hear this, but I've been doing some work of late. Friday I did a 14 hour day on my feet, and Saturday was over ten hours out in the cold. It's not hard physically in the sense of lifting and moving about this manning a stall, but the cold gets to you over time and that is draining. I'm not moaning; it just is what it is, fair play.

So this morning, setting off into -1 deg C frost it was hard going this off-road cycling mallarcky. Toasty warm in my new pertex; it's great that stuff. Just pop the top on over your summer wear and away you go. Within a mile I was venting heat. Within two I was cursing the thick, slowly defrosting mud. Boy was it hard going today. The mud is still reasonably thick from all the rain we've had, and the frost hasn't dried it out yet. It was like some thick porridge had been laid down and it was tough in parts to ride through, especially the rutted bits. My twenty mile spin out felt like thirty and took me over two hours with no stop. Quite enjoyed being out on the bike, but it wasn't a brilliant, world class ride. Very average in fact. No speed, no carving turns, just plod, plod, plod. At Headley I heard one guy call out to his mate "could we do the shortest route home please?" which summed up the day. It also made me think, as this guy had said more prior, generally of the vein that he didn't know where he was. I'm guessing he was from Ashtead / Leatherhead way as he said "home" not "car". How can you not know the way back from a location essentially in your back door?

It needs to get proper cold, proper dry out there to improve the trails back to fun. They've been a slog for far too long now and it is hard to justify mountain biking to strangers. But really keeping at it through all weathers is a good thing. Not only does it maintain a base level of fitness, it makes you look proper hardcore! Although to be honest there are few benefits to riding in thick mud. Sure you develop some bike skills, but if you did a pro's and con's chart and evaluated it properly, you'd wait until a dry day and then go out.

Ah, yes, hardcore. It was cold enough in most parts to make my eyes water - mainly because I wear normal glasses, not because -1 deg C is badness. So on some parts I couldn't see where I was going. By the golf course I minced down a section and was caught by some oddball on what looked like a hybrid on 700c wheels. He looked a cross between some guy coming home from work and another going shopping, and he had a grimmace on. But fair play he was fast, but not fast enough to pass naturally. Fast enough to make me think and put a bit of effort in. My mincing around allowed him to make a pass which wasn't good, so I gave chase. Bad move in treacle mud. In passing him back I bust a gut, so a bit of an own goal there. Should have just let him go.

Did try and have a chat with some guy on a suspender near the duck pond, but he just looked at me in the way that Londoners do; you a nutter or what? Sorry, forgot that we're not meant to speak to each other and all that, do accept my apologies.

Some parts of the ride were way colder than others. Any bridge over the M25 was an ice fest, as were some of the trails over near Headley. Where the four wheel drive lot had been through they'd spread water all over the trail. For perhaps a quarter of a mile / half a km the trail was just ice. Made for interesting progress. Luckily I didn't fall off but that kind of thing puts in a certain mind set and it took me a good ten minutes to stop being a pansy and get back into the ride. The low sun was also difficult to work with on the return leg. For long sections I was riding one handed trying to shield my eyes.

Eek! What an ambassador for the sport I am. So far we've had miserable riders, ice and cold, horrid mud and now blinding sun. Sorry people, sometimes being a mountain biker just isn't fun. Times like these you just have to suck it up and get out there.

An average ride in average pre-winter conditions. Nothing special but nice to be out all the same. Bring on the cold.