Route 21 to Caterham in search of Oxted trails

Naturally if I was really keen on finding new stuff, I'd trawl through STRAVA and see what the locals have been up to, and follow. However, that for me is cheating. I kind of like those periods of time where you find nothing, and end up riding the same trails over and over again. Kind of condenses the mind and gives thinking time; brain down time in this hectic world. Hence to a degree why on this day I took my parts-bin special Gary Fisher Tassajara on narrow summer tyres; tyres that I bought used for £1.50 each. My intention was to pootle, to meander.

There I was, riding to Oxted when out in front of me, on the most boring trail, pop some downhillers in full on gear on full on bikes. They came out of some bushes on the right, giving alarm to some dog walkers. If I'd been ten seconds earlier, then I'd never have been alerted to that bit of trail. Very nice it was too, in a "I'm here now, may as well ride it" kind of way. You wouldn't make a point of riding ten miles to get to it, but for the area it was decent enough. Adds spice to the ride.

Another thing that added a bit of spice was my new Garmin Edge 200. Simple bit of kit; just average speed, distance etc.. How did it add spice? Well I'd set it to automatically stop when I do. Thought it would prevent it recording cafe stops, wee stops, lost stops etc.. What it did do was stop recording pretty much all of the time. My trails on Sunday were steep, rooty affairs. Bit of a climb, slow down, get ready, line up, pop over the root. Problem was the Garmin would record this as a stop, so it would stop. It then buzzed at me. The first time it did this, I looked down, looked up, fell off. That one hurt.

After an hour of this I could recognise at a distance the familiar buzz from roadies at junctions. Never noticed that noise before.

At Godstone Green tea rooms the cafe was full, which was a pity as I quite fancied a coffee. Sure I could have gone to the Knights garden centre up the road, but there's no life there, so I wasn't. As it was some guy took pity on me and asked if I'd like to sit with him? Frankly no. He had a head wobble and those inch thick glasses mad people wear. Yet I was in a good mood by now, and that bit of my brain that says "coffee!" overrode any normal sensibilities, so I sat next to Mr Wobbly Head. My turn to be pleasant, so I asked him how his day was going? He turned out to be convival company and interesting. His thing was natural herbal remedies, which is not my thing really, yet sometimes I'm reasonably open minded. Having made wild garlic pesto and elderflower cordial the other day, and still eating my plum jam from ride found windfall last year, herbal remedies are a small conceptual step really. He proved amiable company and I was glad to have spent time with a stranger. Ultimately isn't that the point of life?

This Route 21 thing is a ride of two halves. The first, outward leg is very much through dense woodland, with roots, singletrack, fallings off, climbs. The second half, past Oxted and back, is all open countryside, smelly with cow expulsions. Neither is better, or worse, than the other. Singletrack is fun, sure, yet being amongst cattle farms and open fields also has it's own rewards. The ride slows down as the country opens up. Quite refreshing in a British country kind of way.

It wasn't a fast ride, it wasn't an exceptional ride, it was an average ride. Sometimes, though, that's all it takes and I enjoyed my downtime immensely. What I didn't enjoy was uploading my ride data to STRAVA for the first time. Although a pootle, it was disappointing, and slightly gob smacking, to find that some riders had been down my trails at almost four times my average speed. My average speed, it must be noted, was an honest 15km/h. At times that felt reckless. How do people do over 50km/h on gravel, through trees and around blind bends? I began plotting to buy a new downhill specific bike, and thoughts were of sectioning bits in early morning starts.

So STRAVA got deleted from my 'phone. I can see the appeal of being competitive, but online against unknown comabatants? Not for me thanks.

Back to the pootle on an unsuitable bike please. I like the random things that such slowness throws up.