That new Summer Lightning trail on Leith Hill; what a cracker.

Summer Lightning.

Monday, the last of my annual leave days being blown on yet another bike ride, this time with PP. Seeing as all I've been doing the past few days has been riding my bike, I'm now past 105 miles this weekend and feel remarkably fit after having done so. Must say though that PP kept me honest today and it was hard keeping up with him for most of the ride. We rode in from Dorking, and he was ahead on 90% of the climbs, chatting away whilst I pretended not to be knackered.

PP has not done Leith Hill, which is partially explained by the fact that he's only really been on a handful of mountain bike rides. Indeed he went on two with me, bought himself an Orange 5 on the back of those two rides, and his first proper ride out was on Leith. That's a steep learning curve, but as you may see below he's not shy when it comes to doing stuff on a bike.

His first run down the new Summer Lightning and here he is getting air off the kickers. Hmmm, gonna have to up my game I think. He's already looking at carbon framed bikes. My only thoughts on this are that here he is, doing little jumps on his first ride, so how long before he's bored of it all and expects us oldies to do 10m gap jumps, or 200km in 48 hours?

Yes he's showing me up, OK? I'll admit that. Twenty years a mountain biker, and I'm shown a clean pair of heels by somebody who's ridden three times. But for me that's all part of the fun of it all, and why change is good. For sure if I'd taken him on the 70km loop to Guildford he may have grumbled a bit, but that's just distance. Any fool can do distance.

To come out on only your third ride, and not only take on the big hills, but do it well takes a bit of class. Isn't that what we all need now and then? Some fresh blood to shake up the old order? Either go with it and rise to the challenge, or continue doing endless loops to Headley Heath and back?

In return for the favour of shaking the tree, I went through with him what I was shown on the skills courses I did the other year. Now that did make a difference to his ride. Coming from a roadie background [hence being fit on a bike] cornering on an MTB was slightly different, but again the bugger just got it, did it, and rode off into the distance.

Really now. There should be some form of vetting process for new riding buddies shouldn't there? I now know how Alonso felt when Hamilton joined the team.....

Why Leith Hill again? Why not Pitch, Ranmore or anywhere else? Well, good question. Really it boiled down to time - the ride had to be completed within school hours. One hour lost due to commuting already meant we only had a few hours to play; 10am to 2pm really. Dorking is closest is all, so Dorking it was.

With a bit more planning, I'd have used Leatherhead as a base. Can't say I like the town, but it's not a bad base to ride from. Also given that he was on his new toy a cross country loop wouldn't have been the done thing now would it?

Must say for an eBay purchase he's got a very nice bike indeed; a 2009 vintage Orange 5. The forks need a full service, but the kit on that bike is sweet. Dripping with top line Hope. He's a bit concerned about some frame scratches, but that's him just being a bit OCD - wait until he's chucked it down a few rocky slopes. I did point out the various chamfers on my PACE, but he didn't look impressed.

Suspect, given the two punctures he got today, that he may well eye up some form of tubeless system any time soon. He's not had it long but has already swopped the 110mm stem, an oddity admittedly, for a proper 50mm unit. Not sure he even noticed the difference it made; maybe try this trail with the longer one fitted and then pass comment! Those Renthal bars I do like.....

On the various forums there have been comments about Summer Lightning crossing various paths, and that this would affect horses and horse riders. Quite a few posters have mentioned that they've never seen horses up there, so it's tosh to consider them. Today we got stuck behind four going uphill, and at the final tower push we got chatting to one rider aboard his horse, who promptly rode off to have a chat with another rider just up the trail. We saw four other mountain bikers, so today it was a  perfect 50:50 relationship. Perhaps the horse riders keep away at the weekends? It did seem that the new trails keep us out of their faces though, and we had the various mountain bike ones to ourselves.

So, 105+ miles, anything to tell? Well coming into Westcott for a chat with Nirvana Cycles I was within 2km of the shop when my left hand pedal went wibbly*. Couldn't stop as PP was on one and was chasing me down, so carried on for all of 30m before the pedal really shouted at me to stop. Bugger. The thing only tore the thread out as it came off, so that's a new crank arm for me, £60 please.

I'm sanguine about it; stuff happens is all. At least I've the tools to do it, and the part will be here in a couple of days. And as is my current policy of using my LBS, the part was ordered through them. Had a nice chat with the guys there; you try that whilst ordering bits from CRC or Wiggle. To get to Westcott, by the way, I tied my right foot to the remaining pedal - you try one foot riding!

After riding a lonely solo ride through East Surrey yesterday, and playing on Leith Hill today, well, the gnar is at The Leith, Holmbury and Pitch isn't it? Really enjoyed today, and came away with a degree of admiration for the trail builders. However, gnar doesn't build fitness does it? Slowly, slowly builds that so I still think there's a lot to be said for the miles I do in this part of the world.

PP is a fit guy, and I'm slightly older than him, so it's to be expected that he'd muller me everywhere but I didn't let him get that far ahead, even though sometimes it hurt. Think in my world, at my age, doing the cross country miles, followed by the odd gnar session at Leith, is a cool option. Sure the XC bit can be a bit boring, but it pays dividends when out somewhere proper with somebody fit as is.

Writing this, having spent four solid hours riding up and down Leith Hill I'm pretty solid; not tired or with any aches. Really folks, it's nothing special to be fit, just spend a few hours a week in the saddle. It may also have helped that last night the family dinner was pasta, and that was my food today; left overs.

The bike I took today was the venerable PACE RC303. It did well, as it should really being designed for this type of riding. PP's Orange shone it a clean pair of heel though, and there was the distinct sense of my holding him up on some of the more rubble strewn downhill sections.

Perhaps next time I should match him bike for bike? Difficult one really as the PACE is a cracking bike, let down by a slightly short head tube and old skool head angle. Rather oddly I fitted a 400mm seatpost when I built it; a 350mm item would allow more drop, as would the purchase of a dropper. But would you spend £200 on a six year old bike? Nope, neither would I. Indeed, I'm fairly convinced that one of the new On-One 45650B bikes would be ideal around these parts.

*post ride I took a look at the Shimano Saint pedals. Hmm, the left hand one has a partially seized axle; it catches at one point when rotated. There's also a degree of play. These are less than six months old; what utter crap quality. Not only have the pedals developed a degree of play, they have trashed my left hand crank arm. The axle must have been catching within the body - perhaps a bearing has broken down - and this catching gradually unwound them from the crank. As they partially unwound the thread cut into the axle, rounding it off. Ultimately the pedal just fell out. £60 for a crank, plus another £40 for pedals, none of which was my fault. Never again will I buy Shimano pedals.