April can be the cruelist month: Intrepid explorers get lost on Leith Hill.

AD has wanted to go riding on Leith Hill for a good year. So far I've managed to way lay him and not gone; I'm happy here and have no need to put bikes on to a car. But today he got his way and what jolly good fun it was too in the end, although admittedly I was a bit embarrassed driving up the hill. However, although we've both ridden the area, we've not ridden it enough to know where we are at all times. Today was a bit hit and miss. Actually more miss than hit but at least now we have some bearings to work from.

We parked right at the top of Leith Hill, in an old quarry. I wasn't mad keen on parking here as I suspected that the end of the ride would involve not a nice downhill descent, but an horrid climb. However as AD was driving and I'd no idea as to an alternative that was within the same time zone, then the quarry it was. From there I have no real idea as to where we went, none whatsoever. All I know is that we went down a trail known as Summer Lightning as it had a big sign saying, oddly and perhaps appropriately, "Summer Lightning" and promptly got lost at the bottom. Well 'lost' is a bit strong. More undecided as neither wanted to just turn around and ride back up a muddy trail. The intention being to cut across to Peaslake, but we ended up on top of Leith Hill again via Friday Street. That was D'oh! number one. Indeed that is best described as a bit of a cock up navigationally.

Time to get the map out. I'm not too shabby with maps but the OS map is an unwieldy beast and you don't get one out on a whim.

Funny but life is a little easier with a map and we did find a slightly acceptable route to Holmbury Hill. "Slightly" as one bridleway climb was near vertical and we carried our bikes up, but we'd had some good fun prior so a success it was. From there we found Yogurt Pots by dint of following somebody, and then followed the same people on to Telegraph. Now the start of this I don't really like as it's all over the place and I can never find the flow, but it's worth doing for all the little drops later on, which terminate in one of perhaps 75cm that you take at some speed. Easy on a full suspension bike, but a bit more effort on a hard tail. Great fun whatever bike you take. It was interesting following and being followed down Yogurt Pots. The guys behind wanted to pass as we didn't know where we were going, fair enough. But once past they didn't make any headway at all as in reality we were doing OK compared to them. Popping out at the bottom I think they were both surprised and miffed that they'd not smoked us. In reality none of us were fast and they were being a tad selfish is all. Luckily AD carries a loaded AK47 at all times and killed them right there and then, no messing, burying the bodies in a berm. We washed the blood off with the 3 litres of water I stupidly had in my Camelbak*.

At the end it was fairly easy to find Peaslake, although I muffed up again in not finding Barry Knows Best - we could have tried a bit harder mind, as we both declined to travel up the trail to the head as the lure of food was too much by then, so we turned downhill. Now AD has never been to Peaslake Village Stores so went for a large slice of pie instead of the more palatable cheese straws or slice of cake, which never left him on each climb afterwards. I suspect even now, some ten hours later, if he burps he burps pie. Peaslake itself is a nice enough place but today was full of testosterone, which I guess we both added to. Post food we hit the hills, but only after committing the cardinal sin of getting an OS map out in front of the roughty, toughty Big Boys [one of whom was amusingly wearing a german helmet with the word "Fucking" written large on the side]. Oh dear, not locals, let's lynch the bastards! So I put it away quickly and set off in what I thought was the right direction - i.e. one suggested to me by the end of my nose. Naturally this meant long and pointless detours of Telegraph Hill until we stumbled on a trail that AD recognised. After that it was plain sailing finding Leith Hill again - just follow the Green Sand Way. Well 'just' needs qualification as it is a long bastard of a climb, which is oddly unrewarding. It's one of those you just want to get over and done with. Having said this I think if we were both a bit fitter and had not climbed Leith Hill twice, it'd be a nice chatty climb up.

Interestingly I asked three groups of two riders which was the easiest way to Leith Hill. I'd a rough idea - basically it was always up and to the left of where we were but I was after a shortcut, hence the detours. The first group admitted they happily had no idea. The second set, on hardcore bikes and one with a Met full face helmet were totally and utterly useless. They were at the ultimate geographic start of Barry. One pointed right at Peaslake suggesting that was Leith Hill, whilst the other pointed at the bottom of Telegraph. Note to self; never ask anyone in a full face helmet, directions. Then I found the climb up to Leith Hill but AD wasn't happy, as by then I suspect he'd got disorientated. He thought we were heading for Guildford. Naturally I berated him his ignorance but just then two riders not wearing full face helmets appeared so I asked them. They were good people and confirmed that the long, rather boring climb ahead of us was indeed the way. For the next ten minutes or so I was silent but smug in my direction finding. Actually I wasn't silent at all and I harped on for ages about how clever I was.

Both of us managed to do a number of jumps and drops, which surprised me the most as I do not like jumps or drops. Well I didn't but after having done over 40 today, whilst not an expert or indeed anyone in possession of any kind of style, I can now see the appeal of them. I noticed that if I think how to do them, I end up braking and riding around the sides. If instead I just ride, they are easy. Well up to a point - we found a trail near the end of Telegraph that just looked daunting and we wussed out with good grace. And isn't that the key to surviving? Knowing your own limits and trying to ride just a little bit beyond them each time you go out? The award for doing the best drops goes to AD. He's just got them somehow and I lag way behind. But again, isn't that the point? To have somebody to chase skills wise? He can chase me up hills, whilst I chase him down.

On the subject of drops and jumps. Being an older mountain biker I can remember the time when climbing hills was the skill to have, not the poncy jumps. Jumps were for kids. Now everybody needs a 160mm susser that weights 32lb. Don't have one? Good at climbing hills? You're a nobody. Pity as I'm getting better at climbing, and have never been able to drop off anything.

We had no real dramas out and about. AD rode into me and fell off. I got the blame but seeing as how there was only the two of us in a car park the size of Manhattan, then I think his point lacks merit. AD naturally had a minor mechanical involving a rear brake spring, but it resolved itself pronto. Looks like he needs new pads again, the second set of rears this week. I don't think he drags his rear bake any more than the next person, he just seems to be unlucky. And my Rockshox Reverb was lovely. I don't think it is essential but it made life a tad easier. Certainly nobody really needs one, but seeing as how mine was only £130 new from CRC, well why not?

It was a shockingly cold day with lingering snow on the hill tops. The wind was nasty. All of the ramblers we saw were dressed up in full Arctic gear. We, however, were toasty thanks to our repeated ascents of Leith Hill. It was nice to get back to the car, and we both agreed that it is silly to park on top of hills. Perhaps the end of Telegraph would be better?

We did, by the way, find Barry but didn't have time to ride it. Personally I didn't mind as it's not my favourite trail in the area anyway. Plus isn't it a bit, well you know, passe to ride?

Post ride it was nice to have clean bikes. But.... my chain is in a right state being full of sand. I've washed it twice now, once with a chain cleaner, and then when that failed in a plastic bottle full of degreaser then really hot water. Even after that it's still full of sand. Bastard. Not happy with that but what can one do? Today was also the first day that I've used contact lenses on a ride for almost 15 years. Last time I used them was when you had to clean them in acid. Naturally I was always, and without fail, putting acid into my eyes so I threw them all away. But I've long known that the best peformance aid when mountain biking is actually being able to see where you are going, and this week a local opticians' had free testing, so why not? Initially they were horrid. Always with new seeing aids the whole world looks both clearer and bigger and comes up at you at an alarming rate. For the first hour I tip-toed around, braking for worm casts and such. Then I forgot about them and they were lovely.

A good but tiring day out. My top tip for the area is this; take a map and try to use it. Failing that just ride on one hill only until you get a drift of where you are at.

*We didn't really as that would have been a waste of water.