Work is quiet at the moment and whilst at work on Monday my boss mentions he might not have anything for me to do the following day. This is music to my ears, for a start it means i can catch up on the sleep i missed out on from Sunday night whilst at a friends BBQ and secondly and more importantly it means i can run to the hills on a bike!
Slowly Tuesday morning rolls around and after a belly full of coffee and cereal, the forks swapped over on the joyus Vertex, Spandex slipped into, assos applied, Ipod set to random and camelback loaded with enough sugar to keep me fueled up I hit the road with a plan to link in four riding spots of the surrey hills in a days pedaling.
A quick spin down the road and i drop into my local woods to escape the tarmac roads, making the most of the dry and dusty conditions and heading toward the hills. Out of the woods after some deserted single track treats and onto back roads to get across to the fields and the start of the climbing.
I cross over the river using the bridge i am tempted to take a plunge in the beautiful clear water but the call of the hills is stronger. Down off the bridge and the gravel of the farm track crunches under my tyres as i wind up some speed and low and behold change gear and ramp up the speed as the random Ipod selection pics up tempo.
Soon enough the first climb appears it is a steady, chalky gradient of a bridleway and fast as due to the warm summer we are enjoying. Feeling fresh and warmed up i keep the pace up until i am and anerobic, grinning bufoon cresting the top and into a swooping rooty fire road descent.
Followed up by a nasty pinch of a climb of baby fist sized lumps of flint with the sole purpose of making the climb extra hard work. Once at the top it is a fast green lane blast along the north downs way avoiding the pond sized puddles and rejoicing in the dappled sunlight shining through the trees.
I hadn't quite figured out my route at this point when i saw a bridleway heading the direction i wanted. Dropped down it and was rewarded with a loose, sinuous, rooty descent into Shere. Another tarmac climb pops up which will be rewarded by a cup of tea and pork pies from Peaslake store.
Suitably refreshed I climb out of Peaslake and onto Pitch hill and the first hazy glimpse of the south downs.
A couple of Jelly Babies are consumed and it is onwards to Winterfold wood via Dirty Blue Jeans a steep somewhat worn out tech treat of a descent, first attempt is aborted as a touch too much speed into a section results in me having a roll in some bracken. Back up to the top and start again, this time with a bit less speed and unscathed i arrive at the bottom and begin the climb up to Winterfold and a second siting of the south downs.
I don't ride frequently on Winterfold and consequently get myself lost to see what i can find, a cheeky trail is found, some deer are disturbed and i am hungry. No food 'til the top of Holmbury though so with that in mind i head back over to Pitch Hill and drop down a trail i think i know and end up where i didn't intend too. No matter though as today is just about riding. I find my bearings and am about to turn into a section of trail i do know when i notice a stick blocking the trail, no wait a minute that's a dead snake, oh shit, no that snake is big, very much alive and as i am, is basking in the warmth of the sun. I step back a few paces calm myself down and reach for my camera. Snakes scare and unnerve me but i also have a fascination with them!
My knowledge of snakes is minimal i think i know the difference between a grass snake an adder and a sloe worm. I have no idea what this was but when it saw me it was not happy raised its head and started hissing loud enough for me to hear it over my Ipod. At which point i screamed and sprinted off with a glance over my shoulder to ensure it was not following me!
Down off Pitch Hill back through Peaslake and up Radnor lane and the climb to the top of Holmbury Hill where food and a rest awaits me.
Lying in the sun getting my breath back from the climb and inhaling a pork pie as fast as i can it feels so good to be back on a bike going at a pace i am happy with. my legs tingling with lactic acid, my stomach grumbling for more sustenance.
Sated i get back on the steed and head down Park Life. The trail pixies have been busy down here, the improvement is vast so much more flow and so many less braking holes! Out of Park Life and into Telegraph Road i realise part way down that by choosing this trail i have given myself another climb to get over so as to avoid the tarmac. Nevermind climbs make you stronger.
So onwards and upwards, stopping to help a lost Astana clad road riding brethren on his path to self destruction, he had been out for a few hours had eaten a bit of breakfast a little bit of lunch and still had another 50Km to do and seemed disinclined to stop at Peaslake stores for tea and cheese straws (apparently its a right of passage for those who can stomach dairy) I wished him well and started on the penultimate pinch of the day up to Leith hill tower and from there onto one of my favorite bits of trail namely summer lightning which once again didn't fail to disappoint.
Starting to feel a little tired now and one last pinch left out of Westcott back up onto the top of the north downs. This was the moment i had been saving the caffinated gel for, popped that in along with the remainder of my water a stick of liquorice and off up the four minute climb. And then a nice payback dropping down the hateful flinty climb from earlier.
And then the spin back through the fields and stop at Mums house for freshly baked carrot cake, a mighty fine omlette and a nice cooling beer. (cheers Mum!)
Riding bikes all day long is so good!