I had been looking forward to tonight’s ride at Stanmer Park all week. The sun is shining and the trails are dry. All those cold, wet and muddy rides seem a distant memory and we’ve earned the right to some good riding after a long winter. I wore shorts in celebration.
As well as the good weather my other reason for looking forward to the ride was the fact I had recently cleared a new trail which I wanted to ride with the rest of the gang.
After getting some inspiration from Mike I had cleared an established but disused trail to make what I hoped would be some sweet singletrack, to add to the growing network at Stanmer. I had ridden the trail twice in both directions and was really pleased with my handiwork, but tonight would be the first time in the dark and with a group. Baptism of fire!
Arriving in the car park I suggested a route to Mike that would take in my new trail plus some of the other best bits at Stanmer. Mike reckoned I should lead the group. I was ok with leading until I realised how many people were riding. I think it was about fifteen. Yikes, I’ve never led a group that big! Riding and thinking ain’t easy, plus I was not sure my new trail was going to be any good. Double baptism of fire!!
Setting off across the park there was a real buzz amongst the group. Into the woods and up the first climb I found the entrance to the first piece of singletrack without any probs. Phew. On through the woods and looking back at the long snake of lights was fantastic. The group managed to stay more or less intact as we reached the first technical descent. Everyone down safely and then up and down another descent. Onwards and upwards.
At the top of the park we re-grouped and caught our breath. My new trail was coming next. Through the entrance and we were off. Bar and helmet lights on full beam just to make sure I didn’t lose my way. Imagine taking fifteen people down a dead-end trail! Actually, put that thought out of your mind!
It was all flowing really nicely. Stopping to re-group Graham said he was really enjoying it. Result! Off again and into the bit where you don’t have to pedal, just let the bike roll. Onwards and downwards through the final section and out the other end. Everyone seemed to like it and nobody got lost. I could relax now.
Climbing up to the other side of the park we rode the “big lump”. A few of the gang had a several goes just to make sure they could nail-it properly. It must have been a strange sight to see fifteen people standing around a mass of logs and earth shouting at each other in the dark. Just a normal Thursday for us.
Off again and the group were in high spirits. Could the trails really be this good after just a few days of nice weather? How long could it last? Dare we consider fitting summer tyres before April?
Graham led the way through the “tepee trail” where the last section of logs is just brilliant, and even better when it’s dry. Mike’s new long trail followed and was a firm favourite and in my opinion currently the best at Stanmer. Stopping half-way for Graham’s inevitable technical problem, although not a puncture this week but a broken chain. 😉
A great opportunity to discuss the night’s riding and gorge on Tang-Fastics, whilst Jo managed to find her glasses back up the trail. The sugar rush made the final section a real blast. In the darkness I heard “can we do that again?”. Not tonight, there’s still more riding to be done.
Up to the dew pond. Another opportunity to find our “zen” on the trail and ride effortlessly without pedalling. Back up to barb wire. Not the name of the trail but the fence you have to climb over to get to it. All the bikes over the fence and we were off.
Mike led the way and roared off straight into a tree. Ten out of ten for style! Emerging into the field at the bottom and the group had split in two. Waiting and watching the rest of the lights zig-zag through the trees we cracked jokes and revelled in the warm glow of a top night’s riding.
To finish we sped through Sussex Uni in full BMX Bandits mode, to the bemusement of the students and flew into the car park. A great night. See you there next week.
(Riding the orange Gary Fisher “Ferrous” and married with children)