Back in my skateboarding days I used to love poking around Guildford to find tucked away spots to shred with my friends. Now I am fully (mostly) grown up and living an adult life I spend my free time looking for tucked away spots around the world to cycle.
The Surrey Hills have been on my radar for a long time, but for one reason or another I’ve never made more than a brief foray into them on my bike.
When I finally chose my new CX bike in December, I knew it had to make the trip to UK with me. It’s a tough sell financially, because schlepping the bike back and forth across the Atlantic ain’t cheap, but I reasoned that the pleasure of finally hitting the hills would soon massage away any cost concerns.
So I found myself on Christmas Day in the afternoon unpacking my bike with help from my trusty soon to be six year old nephew and my brother. It was a good bonding moment, unpacking the brand new and never before ridden Cannondale CAADX. Immaculate condition made it easy and fun to assemble in record time.
The weather over the holidays was typical UK, wet, windy with brief periods of bright sunshine. I knew from my family schedule that I wouldn’t be able to rob long rides or steal away for a day’s effort, so I opted to keep it short and dirty.
From my mom’s house I am right away through the Chantries Way Carpark into Chantry Wood. I love the deep pines, the rolling hills to the left, the wide muddy double track pathway and the warm wet air. It’s not a fast ride through the woods, but I make a bit of an effort up and over some sandy sections. There’s definitely not much rolling going on here – but a lot of resistance. It’s great to have the light bike and narrow drop bars riding through this terrain – much as I love mountain biking, it’s not really as much fun through these cross sections.
The mud is so deep in sections that my bike will stand upright all by itself.
Across Halfpenny lane I continue westbound, cutting along the single track towards Tillingborne and eventually to the road where I can loop back alongside the A25 and Newlands Corner.
Over the coming fortnight, I repeat various versions of this loop, sometimes dropping down through Shalford, Wonersh, Blackheath and across the heath to connect back around Tillingborne.
There is a very nasty flint road climb to the Parking Lot at Newlands Corner which is a real leg sucking leech after grinding and humping through mud and sandy trails.
The bike feels great over the half dozen rides or so that I complete. I hardly need to make any modifications on the trail, my only complaints were poor choice of oil – used lightweight wet weather oil that just seemed to wash off. On the 2nd to last ride I catch a thorn and a slow leak. Without a tubeless setup I have to stop and start for CO2 a few times, until finally on the last ride I run out of CO2 and am forced to walk/scooter the last kms home. The good thing with the CX tire is that the 35ml rubber wraps nicely around the rim like a muffin top making a smooth surface to flat ride on.
Even with the rain, the wind and the generally horrible conditions on the ground I have the best rides ever. It’s such a pleasure to be in this countryside, which I’ve loved for decades, ever since being a boy and walking the hills with my Dad and Grandad – I can see them now striding along, all corduroys and polo mints.
Next time when I have more time, I’ll head back for some longer day rides and start linking up with the South Downs Way heading towards Brighton. If you’re around this summer and want to ride with then please let me know!!