This was my 4th maybe 5th time out with the welcoming BrightonMTB crowd on their regular Thursday night ride from the University so I’m finally getting to put names to faces, to bikes especially now its gotten lighter. The guy who gets punctures is Graham. Mr Rohloff and Specialized Man, have become Pete and Rich. We were down on numbers tonight so I could name them all which was a first. The sky is totally clear, it’s not too hot, and there is that orange low light streaming through the trees.
After the usual few minutes of banter and tech talk in the car park we make our way across the grass and up hill toward the woods, as ever my legs are unhappy about such a rude awakening from the slumber of the day job. But its only a few minutes before we settle into a steady cadence and start threading our way up the first of the singletrack and things become more comfortable. The trails have dried up nicely and are proving super grippy so we make progress fairly swiftly snaking through the trees. From previous experience, I am expecting to spend the next 2 hours avoiding cracking my knuckles on passing saplings, chatting, negotiating roots, grinning into corners, being handed Tangfastics, and wondering how it is possible that this lot manage to weave so many quality sections of trail together and not ride the same bit twice. I am not disappointed.
Mark is out front, he leads us past a group who seem to have set up camp in the middle of the forest for the night. We joke about them being city types working wirelessly from the woods. We cross the A23 over toward Brighton onto a new trail to me that tracks parallel to road, fast in sections and noodley in others. Graham is out back, on “Official Sweeper” duty making sure no one gets left behind. Next it’s back across the main road up to the upper lodges and down to a section called Tea & Cake (for reasons unknown to me) but by the time we are done with it thats just what I fancy, that or a pint.
Its over an hour into the ride so the next long haul of double track up out the back toward the Downs is harder than usual. Chris is on a single speed. That single speed is considerably faster than the rest of us and he is soon a speck in the distance. But hang on what’s this, I’m being over taken, quite quickly too. It’s like the Tour De bloody France all of a sudden! Someone’s broken ranks and is off after Chris, Its Graham the “Official Sweeper”. Shouldn’t he be staying at the back ….If anyone punctures now they could be stuck here for weeks!
Regrouping at the top we string together a whole bunch of shorter trails wheel to wheel before attempting a newer steep, loose and off- camber section. Its technical and vegetation rather than soil in places, more like adventure riding than XC. Graham gets attacked by an unruly young tree… Ronnie can’t stop smiling. The light is now fading and it’s time to head back, on go the helmet and handle bar lights. We speed back carving down a fast trail, my eyes are watering, this is seriously fun stuff. We pass the camp again this time downhill, now there is a fire raging, singing and laughter. They don’t seem to be getting much work done. One final steep bit of tree lined switchbacks and its all over and we are back onto the grass not far from the University.
All rides are good but this one was a cracker.
Steve – The bloke with the loud freehub.