Many Rivers to Cross!
The first day of summer dawned an hour earlier than expected, and at a freezing 3 degrees I was tempted to roll over and pull the duvet back up. But the BrightonMTB lot had been very encouraging so Stumpy and I headed out for the day.
Met at the car park to see 7 fit, fast, young-looking guys with some nice bike porn between them and within minutes we were twisting and turning through some fun, fast-flowing singletrack through the trees with nice little root obstacles and a fair splattering of mud. The guys were going a pretty good pace but always checked that I was hanging on ok.
Then came the first river crossing, this had caused traumatic nightmares for one of the group who dreamt of slipping on the green, wet slab and going over the bars into the stream. Sounded bad. But when we got there it looked tempting, a nice little rooty slippy descent followed by a twist into the stream and shallow line across. Pete showed us all the best line and we all got across dry and intact.
More fun twisting and turning and by now all ideas of being able to come back another time to ride these trails on my own were gone. I had no idea at all where we were. On asking the guide, Pete, where we’d been he wiggled his finger around in circles over the map … so not sure he knew where we were either!
Next, we crossed over the M23 and more flowing single-track around Tilgate Forest until we spied some freshly built jumps and berms. We all had a bit of a play until out of the trees came a tiny little guy on a very large Orange he was the track builder and gave us repeated demos of big leaps into the air. When he took his helmet off for a chat we found Captain J who was well into his forties; had a body made predominantly of metal pins; and very few of his original teeth. Clearly this jumping thing is harder than it looks.
And so to the third of the river crossings, the exit looked easy but the entry point was difficult. There were 2 options, a gentle but very rooty drop in or a steeper but rootless drop in with a turn on exit. All stood around to inspect, discuss and ponder when suddenly Ian and Brian invented a new route taking a running jump off the 3-foot edge straight into the river and then pedalling out the other side, respect! Pete cleanly demonstrated the rooty entry, Graham the smoother entry and that left Alex and I. I knew I would endo the rooty entry but Alex very kindly did that for me catching his front wheel on an underwater stick and ending up as a slightly bedraggled but smiling heap in the river. So, I took the smooth line, successful entry and crossing but dabbed on exit.
The rest of the ride included more flowing singletrack, some nice undulations; slippery roots; more mud; and a jump park at which Ian got some big air impressing us all and Alex got some big air impressing himself.
All in all, a really good ride, really high percentage of singletrack, very well guided by a colour co-ordinated guide, very friendly bunch, nice distance, felt nicely tired at the end.
Everyone was very kind, thanks guys