Sunday, June 19, 2016

London 2015 Day 24: Mountain Biking the Surrey Hills

London 2015 Day 24: Mountain Biking the Surrey Hills

A long day yesterday, but must do all the things! Up early and packed a water backpack, taxi to Victoria Station, grabbed an Almond Croissant, a "White Americano" (aka coffee with milk!) and roll!!

Some journal catchup on the train and a quick 50 min ride to Dorking ("sure is!"). Despite the name, the mountain bike hills here were anything but Dorky. A lovely small-town vibe, and super helpful staff at the train station sent me in the right direction. I cabbed to Nirvana Bike Rentals and grabbed a ride there, all set up, ready to roll, got a helmet and... ready to go? And then the fails began!

First off I broke the clip on the GoPro... uggghhh! Right before I started biking for the day! I tied it up, kinda janked, but it worked. I fiddled with a million things, water backpack, get the gloves out etc etc. and then I was off. I got over a big hill on the road, almost got to the path but passed it. "It's that-a-way, dear!" said a nice old lady! And up a verrry steep section (hmm, I wonder if this is the correct path or not?) Nothing was signposted, so without a map or a guide I was kinda wingin' it. The first hill seemed exceptionally steep so I started going down the other side. Bikes were zooming by me the other direction. I was about to turn around again and... my pedal FLEW OFF!?!?!?!!!!! Fail!!! The entire pedal arm... fail. Tried to put it back on but it came off again. Stamped it back on? Fail. No way I am gonna be able to bike with that for the next 4 hours,.. Ugh.

So, back I trudged through the mud and had to go back over that big hill and onto the road and back to the shop... with a bike with 1 crank/pedal. I mostly had to walk it. Fail!

Back at the shop... "Yep, that sure isn't gonna work, is it?" Nope! I got a new medium sized bike -- MUCH better. It was a better size frame for me, plus 2 pedals is generally a better plan of attack for a mountain biking course. This one actually was a 29er instead which normally I wouldn't ask for, but with such muddy terrain actually it was pretty great. They should really have suggested this. Anyway. All's well that ends well, and I headed back off on the trail with a bike that was better on all fronts. Also, the rear brake seemed to work on this one! Huzzah!

And off i went. I biked up and up and up, through lots of muddy sections. There were some big standing puddles so I managed to skip most of those with some of the side terrain areas -- nice, a little crazy as some closer-than-expected barbed wire right on those edge sections, but it was nice. Out of nowhere in this quiet path I heard a horse neigh in the distance! Ha! I guess he must have seen me riding MY trusty steed! Lots of sheep too, nice countryside and a perfect sunny day! The weather was glorious. I must have just missed rain in the few days before (given the mud) but the weather today was great.

I continued for a good while up to the top of Leith Hill, almost at the tower. I stopped at a place called Cold Harbour for a SUPER English photo with a phone booth, and to drop for an amazing "Roast Pub Dinner" for lunch, perfect. Great Yorkshire pudding, Apple Pomegranate Appletiser, wicked potatoes and gravy, and roast beef that was very tasty. I was SO hungry after the ride and this hit the spot.

I continued up Leith Hill looking for the continuation of the bike path and it was unclear. "Summer Lightning"... is that it?! It was "sortof" signposted. One guy told me to "just follow your nose". In translation, I think that means "It's not marked. You WILL get lost!" or "You will have no clue where you are going". :)

After some time I eventually got my phone out and used the GPS on it (without a data connection) to get a rough idea of where I was. I think I had kinda got some of the Summer Lightning trail but mostly failed. Still a beautiful day, so you just kinda had to roll with it. (ha). I probably was supposed to go around in circles for a while on the track at the top of the hill, but was so unclear. I (too soon) after got back to the main trail I had just come from... crap!!!! I knew I was going to get lost again and I didn't want to climb back up that steep section again knowing I wasn't going to stop again for a 2nd lunch at the top of it! The other option seemed to be to follow the same way I had come up, which I'd literally just done. "Yeah it's like this all the way back to the main road" someone told me. Nope! So I figured I'd just offroad it a bit and figure it out. Let's try this other random Bridle Path! (Everything was marked with "Bridle Pathway" here). Thinking I was so smart, I then proceeded to get lost for ages.

It was a challenging and muddy trail at times, dusty and loose at other times. Whew! Fortunately the weather outside was perfect. I am really glad the first bike broke on me and I had to get a 2nd one which was a 29er instead -- it really helped out on the insanely muddy adventure.

Back in Westcott (outside of "Dorking", haha), covered in mud and possibly manure of several animal types, I dropped off the bike and walked to a nearby pub called the Prince of Wales. Time for a well-earned beer. "Can I help you?" the lady asked me when I walked in. I thought it was a weird question since a mid-afternoon beer seemed like the classic thing to do post-ride. I asked, perhaps a very silly question at a British Pub, "Are you open? (pause)... For just a drink?" I said as the staff looked me up and down. (Still wearing my bike gear now, kinda sweaty, and still mostly covered in mud). "Yep", she replied. "Great! Let me go cleanup first!" I said with the oddly-placed enthusiasm only a Canadian has at a moment like this.

10 min later I emerged "Ahh, a human being again! 1 pint please!" And what a glorious pint it was.

I walked back to Dorking (45 min, whoops! Didn't really need more exercise today).

"Everything is a Public Bridleway here"

Got on the train and went back home via "London Waterloo" haha. Insta-hot shower!! Ugh sore! My feet were super tired after a 10 hr walk on Saturday too. I'm crazy.

I talked to Spring for a nice long chat, sweet love. A watch of Gogglebox (I love that show) and chat more to Spring, and then a late night walk for Hummus Beiruty (yes!) from my favourite local spot called Ya'Hala. Awesome food. And some fuzzy cola bottles, I figured I had earned them this weekend. A fun treat. Another busy weekend. A couple quick emails off to the Batkid folks, and some sleep.

Here was my route map for the day from Strava. You can see I didn't quite get to the top of Leith Hill, but good times nonetheless!

And here's a video of the day's fun!

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