On Thursday night six of us met up at Stanmer Park to ride the Gary Fisher “G2 Revolver” course, which I had raced back in August. However summer was a faint memory with lights, winter tyres and base layers replacing shorts, t-shirts and sunshine.
The first short sharp climb was a mess of fallen leaves and wet roots leaving a few of the group struggling to find that blessed grip along with their breath.
Getting back together at the top of the climb talk immediately turned to who was running what tyres and which offered the best grip. This would be a recurring discussion point for the rest of the evening.
Another sharp climb and more leaves and roots. We all knew it was going be “one of those nights” where staying on the bike was the biggest challenge, no matter what tyres you were running. But if you don’t ride in winter you don’t ride!
The first technical descent was more of the same but in reverse. I tentatively made my way down the trail, with every root looking as though it wanted its chance to slide the bike from under me or send me diving over the bars. I managed to get down in one piece with a combination of riding and sliding. The others all made it with their own tales of near misses with trees and branches.
Pushing on we climbed up the main trail and then back down the next singletrack. Fortunately this is less technical and gave everyone a bit of breather and a chance to relax, perhaps even smile. Riding up to the lodges we hit the first bit of flat trail which was a welcome break from the deep piles of leaves, but not the roots.
We came across another group, someone calling out in the darkness “glad to see we’re not the only ones!” There’s a certain Dunkirk spirit at this time of the year, in the mud and wet of Britain. Onto one of the fastest sections of the G2 course but in the dark and wet of a November evening it was also one of the trickiest, equal parts fun and fear as we sped across the roots and slid the corners.
Crossing over the A27 we got to my favourite part of the course, where the trail gets tight and technical. Increase the technical factor by 10 to account for what felt like 3 feet of leaves with evil roots lurking just below and became quite a test. But it seemed like we got through this part of the course quicker, which suggested everyone had found their own way of hitting the roots just right so they stayed on. Or so I thought.
Climbing out towards the footbridge back over the A27 the roots finally got the better of everyone in turn, and we all found ourselves walking as the sea of roots on the narrow trail left us no other options. On the climb back into the park the wet chalk presented yet another hazard like an ice rink, and I found myself searching out every blade of grass or stone to find grip.
We took a well earned breather before embarking on the last section of the G2 course. This is the part with half a dozen or so fallen logs to get over. As if the never-ending maze of roots was not enough we now had super-sized and super-slippery obstacles to traverse.
Riding down the last singletrack section and into the bombhole led us to the sanctuary of the grass and the end of the course, with not a wet root in sight. Discussing the night’s ride we all agreed it had been good fun despite all the slipping and sliding. After all what else did we expect on a wet November evening at Stanmer.
P.S – if any tyre manufacturers are reading this please, please can you invest some of those R&D millions on a tyre which can handle wet leaves and roots in winter in Britain!